Intimate evenings of music snuggle comfortably into the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts, whose Cabaret Series won Connecticut Magazine's Best Cabaret award in 2011 and 2012. Candlelit tabletops exude a cozy nightclub ambiance around a cabaret stage topped with six acclaimed acts each year and a fresh coat of peanut butter each night. The University of Connecticut brings many more acts to its larger main stage, with a special emphasis on jazz and classical luminaries and music and dance from all corners of the globe.
The Connecticut Repertory Theatre, the producing appendage of the University of Connecticut’s Department of Dramatic Arts, casts visiting professional actors and talented university students in its plays, musicals, and contemporary performances. This summer’s marquee boasts three musicals: Guys and Dolls, Seussical the Musical, a musical journey through the works of Dr. Seuss, and My Fair Lady. A cast of veteran performers, including Broadway entertainers Terrence Mann, Eileen Fulton, and Charlotte d’Amboise and comedian Steve Hayes, breathe life into the shows in the same way a stack of old books can breathe life into a fire. Performed 12 times over the course of independent 10-day runs, each musical offers up a surfeit of opportunities for reveling in drama and singing along inside your head as loudly as possible.
A crack rings out from the jousting arena as armored knights clash in the pursuit of honor, while sword-swallowers thrill crowds with their death-defying art, jesters spin windy jokes, and townspeople in 15th-century garb roam the grounds tearing into turkey legs with their teeth. The Connecticut Renaissance Faire hosts these medieval-theme blowouts every year, including the Robin Hood Spring Festival and King Arthur’s Fall Harvest Faire. Under the themed umbrella of each gathering, actors caper about a constructed medieval village, engaging in Old English–flavored conversation and clapping games with fair-goers. In a tented marketplace, vendors sell beaded crafts, art, and tyrannical-king repellent alongside stands serving mead, beer, and other satisfying sundries. Although the shows and events vary at each fair, past spectacles have included archery displays, pub sing-alongs, and costume parades.
The instructors at Fit Club believe that getting in shape should be fun. That’s why each of their cardio classes, such as Booty Beat, Flirty & Dirty, and three types of Zumba, are designed to engage cores and slenderize frames while keeping the mood upbeat and invigorating. Even the boot camp puts a joyous spin on the otherwise strenuous routines associated with boot camps, emphasizing positive reinforcement rather than shouting and intimidation. Small, 15-person boot camps keep things personal, encouraging interaction and mutual motivation between students.
Parkade Cinemas doesn't need a marquee lit up in flashing bulbs or spotlights waving through the sky to get the community through its doors. The film buffs behind the independently run theater know that the focus of the movie experience is the movie itself, so they don't try to overshadow it. And by leaving their decor understated, they've created something distinctly familiar. The red curtains lining the walls around six screens, the blue and white tile leading to the candies in the concession stand, the gray seats whose arms hug audiences during the scary parts are all emblematic of movie-going. These, coupled with the second-run Hollywood blockbusters and the regular live performances from comedians and magicians, make Parkade Cinemas a staple of the community.
Entertainment is important in Hartford Road Cafe. Weekly events include jazz open-mic nights on Sundays, trivia on Tuesdays, and performances from local bands on Thursdays and Fridays. To accompany these feasts for the ears, the caf? offers a full menu of casual American cuisine, which includes bacon-wrapped scallops baked in a sherry-maple-butter sauce and pesto-topped salmon served over seasoned risotto and asparagus.