In every production, TheaterWorks aims to create a safe space for voices of all kinds in the midst of bustling downtown Hartford. Banners outside its newly restored Pearl Street home base playfully symbolize this mission with a lion bearing a live mouse within its jaws as tenderly as a child carrying a frog that’s probably magic. The company specializes in high-stakes dramas with social implications from playwrights such as Moises Kaufman, Richard Greenberg, and David Mamet.
Hartford Stage, a resident theater company backed by talented actors and professional-quality production values, delivers a diverse collection of modern and classic plays each season. Its version of Charles Dickens’s Yuletide ghost story draws inspiration from Dorothy’s journey in The Wizard of Oz, earning accolades from MassLive and the grudging respect of winged monkeys wearing Santa hats. Bill Raymond, a veteran actor who has appeared on The Wire and Law & Order, morphs into crotchety miser Ebenezer Scrooge for his 12th consecutive season amid other famed characters such as Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim. As spirits from the past, present, and future hover across the stage in the spooky yet touching tale, Scrooge discovers the true meaning of Christmas and the use-by date of spiced eggnog. Teeming with carols, snowflakes, trapdoors, and Victorian scenery, the family-friendly show mesmerizes eyes and warms hearts with its lesson about hope, love, and forgiveness.
The Music Theatre of Connecticut, an Equity acting company fueled by leading talent from Broadway, celebrates 25 years of award-winning performances with a winter production of John Cariani's popular romantic comedy Almost, Maine. Set in a tiny, mythical town on a midwinter's night, the tale explores how love appears, disappears, and morphs into a bat when dawn approaches. Nineteen characters populate nearly a dozen vignettes, which intertwine to reveal how chilly weather, a remote location, and the magical glow of the Northern Lights comprise an ideal recipe for both romance and heartbreak. The plot unfolds in a 50-seat studio theater, whose prime sight lines let guests glimpse the actors' subtle gestures and tattoos of Laurence Olivier.
At Summit Studios, aspiring singers and musicians can learn to play a variety of instruments and sing under the tutelage of experienced instructors. During the private, 30-minute lesson, students can saturate their brains and portable chalkboards with the theory behind guitar, piano, saxophone, clarinet, trumpet, or drums. Meanwhile, in the voice lessons, expert warblers can train croaky cords to emanate mellifluous vibrations through a focus on breath support, intonation, and sight-reading.
Energetic instructors at Work It lead cardio, dance, and fitness classes seven days a week, cycling through yoga poses and spinning around poles in workouts that avoid gym monotony. Cadres of exercisers move to blood-pumping Latin–based choreography in cardio-heavy Zumba courses ($18/class), where alternating quick and slow tempos create a temporal distortion field previously accessible only to the funkiest physicists. Introductory pole-dancing courses ($25/class) let practitioners build strength and confidence as they twirl aerobically around metallic dance partners who never slip or insist on solo river-dancing routines.
The consortium of professional instructors at Fred Astaire Dance Studios, which was cofounded by the legendary toe tapper himself, shepherds students of all ages and skill levels through lessons that span the style spectrum. Low-pressure private sessions allow enthusiastic teachers to fine-tune individual students' techniques and form, using their expert eyes and mechanical dancing shoes preprogrammed to do the Charleston. Patrons can learn how to cavort through classic waltz and fox-trot romps or swivel through the modern steps of salsa, swing, or samba. For dancers hoping to hoof it up in a social setting, the group practice parties provide a one-night extravaganza of instruction, demonstrations, and amateur firewalking.
At Encore Dance Academy, tiny feet pirouette and leap across a safety-sprung wood floor during a classic ballet class. That’s just one of the ways the instructors get bodies moving in dance classes for wee ones as young as 6 months to adults. The roster includes jazz, tap, hip-hop, and musical-theater dance forms, led by experienced instructors certified in CPR and first aid. They create an energetic and friendly atmosphere in which dancers of all ages can feel free to express themselves through movement. To carve out toned physiques, adults can groove to the Latin beats of Zumba, which includes free babysitting so parents can bust a move without duct-taping their child to their chest.
The dance center also hosts birthday parties and camps, come summertime, that encourage kids up to age 8 to step into the rolls of divas and rock stars while learning a dance step or two.