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Ivoryton Players Director Joyce Beauvais has a full slate of performances set up, including an upcoming benefit concert featuring vocalist Ronny Whyte one Saturday, April 30. (Photo by Rita Christopher/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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Cabaret artist Ronny Whyte, a versatile performer whose talents include piano, vocals, arrangement and jazz, will perform on Saturday, April 30 at the Centerbrook Meeting House in a benefit for the Ivoryton Players, a community theater group sponsored by the Ivoryton Playhouse.
Whyte will interpret classic numbers from the Great American Songbook. He is a regular on the New York entertainment scene, appearing at locales like Michael’s Pub, The Village Gate, and Birdland. He has also performed at Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Oak Room of the Plaza, and St. Regis Hotel. Whyte appears regularly at Midday Jazz, a weekly concert at St. Peter’s Church in midtown Manhattan. Appearing with Whyte will be bassist Boots Maleson.
Ivoryton Players Director Joyce Beauvais, an longtime theater professional who once ran her own Manhattan supper club, Chez Beauvais, has known Whyte since the beginning not only of his career but also of hers, when both appeared together in summer stock at a Theater in Boothbay Harbor, Maine.
“Ronny is a fabulous musician, a great piano player, a singer who really can interpret a song,” she says.
Whyte appeared often at Chez Beauvais in the days when she ran the club.
Deborah Mott, a member of the Ivoryton Players, will also sing at the upcoming benefit. Mott, who studies with Chester voice teacher Karli Gilbertson, has a family background that includes singing at the highest level. Her late mother Laurel Hurley was a leading artist at the Metropolitan Opera in the 1950s and l960s.
“I think she sang Musetta more often than anybody else at the Met,” Mott noted, referring to one of the principal roles in Puccini’s La bohème.
Mott, however, will not be singing opera but, like Whyte, will focus on the great songs of American popular music.
Since coming to this area in 2013, Beauvais has been a one-woman theater whirlwind on the shoreline. In addition to the Ivoryton Players, she has established theater groups in East Lyme and at Chester Village West. Two years ago, the Ivoryton players put on Neil Simon’s Fools and last November presented The Man Who Came to Dinner by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. The company is presently rehearsing a performance of selected scenes from Simon, along with material from Noel Coward, Thornton Wilder, and Oscar Wilde, for a staged reading on Saturday, May 21 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, May 22 at 2 p.m. at the Centerbrook Meetinghouse on Route 154.
The Ivoryton Players encompass a wide range of theatrical experience from those with considerable background in performance to actors for whom the group represents a first time on stage. There are no tryouts to join.
Karen Burzin of Ivoryton, in her first production, saw something about the Ivoryton Players in a playhouse news bulletin. She had never acted; she had even been rejected for her high school play, but she wanted to try.
“I needed to do this; it was on my bucket list and it did sound like fun,” she said.
After a small role in The Man Who Came to Dinner, Burzin felt more assured.
“I gained self esteem from this. I learned I can do it,” she said. “This is not for my kids, not for my husband, this is something I am doing for me.”
At the other end of experience spectrum, Rick Cortellessa of Old Saybrook has studied acting and appeared in many community theater productions, but still finds challenge at the Ivoryton Players.
“It adds to my growth as an actor,” he said.
For him, there is great pleasure in seeing people new thespians progress and in encouraging their development.
Doreen Breault of Centerbrook is one of those who has made just such progress. When she first joined Ivoryton Players, she was not on stage, but did technical support. In the upcoming production this May, she is doing a scene from The Matchmaker with Cortellessa.
Laura Thoma of Guilford had stage experience, but it was as a dancer and choreographer.
“Dance is physical; acting is about using my voice,” she said.
Still she is doing some choreography for the Ivoryton Players, a musical number from Sweet Charity that will be part of the May performance.
Ellen Atwood, who works as an office administrator for St. Joseph’s in Old Saybrook and St. Mark’s in Westbrook, has been in the Ivoryton Players for several seasons, but the discovery that she liked appearing on stage was a long time coming. She was so shy in college she opted to take a failing grade rather than get up and speak in front of the class. Now, not only does she appear with the Ivoryton Players, but as a result of her experience with the groups, she is also doing community theater in Norwich.
“I have a love affair with theater,” she said.
Whatever the level of experience with theater, one thing all the Ivoryton Players agreed on was Beauvais’s skill in blending them into a cohesive and workable troupe.
“Good theater ensemble doesn’t always happen. It can be divas and outsiders, but we’ve all been together through tragedies, accidents, deaths. We all care,” Deborah Mott said.
Beauvais loves directing the Ivoryton Players, but there is something she misses: acting herself.
“I miss it desperately,” she said.
But as she readied for the benefit, she had more immediate concerns. She was on a telephone call to arrange for parking supervision at the Ronny Whyte benefit while talking to a visitor about her enthusiasm for his performances.
Seating at the Centerbrook Meeting House for the show is first come, first served. A reception will follow the performance.
Ronny Whyte Benefit Concert for the Ivoryton Players
Saturday, April 30 at 7 p.m. at the Centerbrook Meeting House, 51 Main Street, Centerbrook. Tickets are available at the Ivoryton Playhouse Box Office or by calling 860-767-7318.
Ivoryton Players staged readings of scenes from plays of Oscar Wilde, Thornton Wilder, Noel Coward and Neil Simon is on Saturday, May 21 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, May 22 at 2 p.m. at the Centerbook Meeting House.
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