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The Music Men

Kevin and Jim Built the Best Little Musical Theatre in Westport

“I think, right now, people need to laugh,” muses Kevin Connors.

I and Jim Schilling, Kevin’s partner in life and business, nod energetically in agreement. Yes! Please! Entertain me!

And they will - Lend Me a Tenor. Rocky Horror Show, I Hate Hamlet, and Sunset Boulevard. They’re going to delight and entertain us next season, because we’re all desperate for a chuckle.

Kevin and Jim are co-founders of the professional award-winning non-profit Music Theatre of CT (MTC). (Kevin is the Executive Artistic Director, Jim is the Managing Director.) 

For 35 years they’ve produced and directed (and starred in) a never-ending swirl of plays and musicals for every conceivable audience, while running a popular conservatory for kids and adults on the side.

MTC began in Fairfield’s Andrew Warde High School in 1987. Their first play in the defunct school, Ebenezer!, was “…a twist on the Christmas Carol,” Kevin explains. “It has an Ivan Boesky character.” Is Boesky still alive? I wondered aloud. We all looked at each other and shrugged.

Shortly after a year they built the perfect sliver of a theatre in Westport’s Colonial Green with seating for 45. The space invited intimacy and immediacy of performers to playgoers. On this tiny stage they re-imagined all shows of all sizes, even large shows, reducing the casts to 14 at most. They produce shows like Evita and Ragtime with dexterity and confidence.

Audience members were invited to purchase beer or wine and drink during the performances (which they still do). This was thrilling - well, thrilling to those of us who enjoy wine with their shows - at this time, Broadway shows prohibited pretty much everything but inhalers and Epi-pens into their inner sanctums.

Kevin and Jim plucked talent from New York and surrounding summer stock theaters. Discerning theatergoers and drama students dotted the audience, loving the palpable energy from each cast. Kids and adults attended classes and performed in shows.

Soon they were “exploding” out of their beloved theatre and began exploring larger spaces. After 13 years they found their current spot, a former kitchen cabinet warehouse at 509 Westport Avenue in Norwalk and built a black box theatre.

In this black box they nurture talent like composer Justin Paul (“he could never walk by a piano without playing it.”), cast Broadway veterans such as Adam Pascal and Joanna Gleason, and develop new shows as well as standard favorites. They expanded seating to 110 seats, due to growing demand but still maintaining intimacy.

They work with ABC students in Westport and developmentally challenged adults through STAR in Norwalk. Children from the Norwalk Housing Authority are invited to attend an annual workshop to put together a show for their parents, an ongoing partnership that’s fully funded by corporations and the State of CT. 

“Theater teaches life skills,” Kevin explains. “An opportunity to express themselves, to work as a team, to learn problem solving, in a way that’s fun.”

Though life will allow for drama later, right now MTC is all about fun. And figuring out what Boesky’s up to.

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