Actress Joanna Gleason in new show at Quick Center in Fairfield Nov. 8
FAIRFIELD — “This is not your standard cabaret,” explains actress Joanna Gleason of her new show, Out of The Eclipse. “This is part memoir, part cabaret, part Ted talk and part catharsis.”
Gleason, who won a 1988 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance as the Baker’s Wife in the original Into The Woods, is likely most recognizable for her roles in films such as The Wedding Planner, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Boogie Nights, and more.
Her latest endeavor, Out of The Eclipse, is a deeply personal and meaningful mash up of song, humorous stories, and deeply personal insights. The show will premiere in Connecticut at the Quick Center for the Arts at Fairfield University on Friday, Nov. 8 at 7 p.m.
She wrote Out of The Eclipse after a dark period in her life — the loss of both parents within a four-month period in 2017. As she emerged from the darkness and back into the light, the idea of the show came to fruition. Although inspired by loss, it is a funny, charming and playful masterpiece.
In collaboration with arranger and music director Jeffrey Klitz on piano, Gleason’s show explores how the funny, magic moments of her life were like little bits of stardust that illuminated the path to move forward after loss. “I started to remember how astonishing my parents’ lives were. When the swelling came down from the loss, things became more clear.”
As part of this clarity, Gleason explores all the different roles we each play in our life - as children, parents, and caregivers, explaining, “Humor and love were the greatest currency in our family, and it’s important we share our stories.”
When the solar eclipse of 2017 fell between the deaths of her two parents, Gleason did not immediately assign meaning to the event. It took both time and faith in people to help her progress from dark to light, and to understand that as part of the eldest generation in her family, it was now her turn to “illuminate the way” for her children and grandchildren. She now sees the eclipse as a sign that marked her transition.
Music, ranging from a Yiddish lullaby to the music of James Taylor, Rodgers & Hart, Paul Simon and Steven Sondheim, is strategically integrated into the stories. Gleason is accompanied by the Moontones, a group of three exceptional singers (Michael Protacio, Christine Cornell and Christiana Cole) and musicians Jeffrey Klitz on piano, Katherine Spingarn on cello, Justi Rothberg on a variety of stringed instruments, and Shane DelRobles on percussion.
A sequel to her 2014 Into The Light cabaret show, Out of The Eclipse ran to sold out crowds and critical acclaim at the legendary Feinstein’s/54 Below in New York City in March and July 2019. New elements of the show were added between the two runs as Gleason started to understand the impact the stories had on both her and her audiences.
One of the most rewarding aspects of the show for Gleason has been seeing its effect on the audience.
“People who didn’t know each other before the show actually stayed afterwards to share stories of their family and experiences amongst themselves,” she said. “I heard comments such as, ‘It’s like you were talking about my family,’ and there was a sense that we are all in this together.”
Gleason also shares how her parents live on through the vocal inflections, gestures, expressions and sayings that she remembers of them, and finds herself now repeating. “We keep close to our loved ones by letting parts of them inhibit our own behavior. I learned that ‘you’re on your own’ is not the same as ‘you’re alone.’”
The universal human experience of unpacking family relationships, sharing stories and ensuring you “wear everything in your suitcase” are ones that we can all relate to.
After the Nov. 8 performance at the Quick Center for the Arts, Gleason will appear at The Renberg Theater in Los Angeles in February 2020 before embarking on a tour.
Tickets for Out of The Eclipse are available through the Quick Center Box Office at www.quickcenter.com or 203-254-4010. Limited space is also available to attend a private dinner reception with Gleason following the show.