Let’s go ahead and declare this the beginning of the fall theater season. Yes, the state’s major regional theaters don’t really get going until October, and most of the plays and musicals opening this week are part of the 2023 summer seasons, but the heck with that. The air is crisp and the stages are filling with the kind of fare we associate with the colder, darker months. There’s a new musical drawn from the New Testament at the Goodspeed, a playwrights festival in Norwich and a gay-themed musical satire in New Britain, to name a few.
Another sign of Autumn: Alt-rock and indie acts are swarming back now that the students have moved back in. There are still a few big outdoor festivals still happening, including the Hartbeat Music Festival at the riverfront and don’t forget the Hartford Pride block party on Church and Pratt Streets on Sept. 9.
Here are some of the top things to do and see this week in Connecticut arts.
Beck and Phoenix
Hartford HealthCare Amphitheater, 500 Broad St., Bridgeport
Alt-rock icon Beck and French pop band Phoenix aren’t just touring together, they released a single (“Odyssey”) earlier this year. So you probably expect them to do a little performing together when the tour hits Hartford HealthCare Amphitheater on Sept. 6 at 5:45 p.m. $20-$174. livenation.com.
Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center, 300 Main Street, Old Saybrook
Massachusett-based comedian Gary Gulman gained national recognition by talking about a downbeat subject: His battles with depression. There was a documentary about him, he’s done specials and his latest tour brings him to The Kate on Sept. 7 at 7:30 p.m. It’s nearly sold out. $38. thekate.org.
Machine Gun Kelly
Mohegan Sun Arena, 1 Mohegan Sun Blvd., Uncasville
Bridging old-school and modern rock and rap, and a fine movie actor to boot (playing metal drummer Tommy Lee in “The Dirt”), Machine Gun Kelly’s celebrity is well deserved. The “wild boy” and self-labeled “mainstream sell-out” is at Mohegan Sun Arena on Sept. 7 at 8 p.m. $49.50-$395. mohegansun.com.
Norwalk Oyster Festival
134 Water St., Norwalk
Milford had its oyster festival, now it’s Norwalk’s turn, Sept. 8-10. Features include Gary Levox of Rascal Flatts, The WOW Water Circus, the dog act Canines in the Clouds, a visit from the Amistad Schooner and more. $15, $10 seniors, $5 children. Children are free on Sept. 10 with a paid adult ticket. Separate prices for ferry rides and other excursions. seaport.org/norwalk-oyster-festival.
Chestnut Street Playhouse, 24 Chestnut St, Norwich
A weekend of new works by local playwrights acts as a fundraiser for the Chestnut Street Playhouse on Sept. 8-10. Friday at 7 p.m. there’s an opening reception plus some short plays by Emma Montieth. Saturday at 7 p.m. brings “After” by Mike Ackerman and “Love in the Time of Nothing” by Jayne Hannah. The festival ends Sunday at 2 p.m. with “Mother’s Day” by Ava Molnar and “The Infinite Cost of Love” by Michael R. McGuire. $20, $12 students and seniors. Festival passes are $50, and $30 for students and seniors. chestnutstreetplayhouse.org.
Connecticut Theatre Company, 23 Norden St, New Britain
“Zanna Don’t” has been around since 2001, when its writer/composer Tim Acito workshopped it at the student-run Yale Cabaret in New Haven. The show about a world that is largely gay and where fairy godmothers are a thing has had productions around the world, including off-Broadway and in London. The Connecticut Theatre Company does the latest Connecticut production Sept. 8-24. Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. $26.75, $61.75 table seating for two. connecticuttheatrecompany.org.
Justin Paul & Friends
Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, Westport
Justin Paul, who grew up in Fairfield County and lives there still, co-wrote the dear musical “Dear Evan Hansen” as well as songs for the movie musicals “La La Land” and “The Greatest Showman.” Paul is hosting a benefit for Westport Country Playhouse Sept. 9 at 8 p.m. with an all-star roster of Broadway and London musical stars singing his songs (and others), including Kelli O’Hara, James Naughton, Naughton’s son (and O’Hara’s husband) Greg Naughton of the band The Sweet Remains, Aaron Tveit, Jessica Vosk, Loren Allred, Andrew Barth Feldman, Mykal Kilgore, Raissa Katona Bennett, John Treacy Egan, Ben Fankhauser, Jacob Heimer and Stacie Morgain Lewis. Many of the talents, like Paul, live in the Westport area. The concert also serves as a tribute to Mark Lamos, who is leaving his position as the Westport Country Playhouse’s artistic director in January. Sept. 9 at 8 p.m. $300-$500; the $1,000 seats are sold out. westportplayhouse.org.
Nutmeg Ukulele Festival
Eno Memorial Hall, 754 Hopmeadow St., Simsbury
The humble four-string ukulele earns its own day-long festival of community play-along, workshops and more on Sept. 9 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The teaching artists are some of the stars of the uke community: Jim Rosokoff, “Jumpin’ Jim” Beloff, Anne Ku and Jim Lenn. Inaugurated last year and becoming an annual tradition, the Nutmeg Ukulele Festival is sponsored by Simsbury Meadows but held indoors nearby at Eno Memorial Hall. simsburymeadows.org.
Hartbeat Music Festival
Mortensen Riverfront Plaza, Hartford
Here’s who’s playing the latest local band waterfront music gathering known as the Hartbeat Music Festival: The winner of the School of Rock Battle of the Bands (at 11 a.m.), Khay Larhon (at 11:45 a.m.), Mixed Company (at 12:15 p.m.), Nathaniel Hintz (at 12:30 p.m.), A Marquise & Friends (also at 12:30 p.m. on a different stage), Righteous Continental (at 1:15 p.m.), Bryan Alfred (at 1:30 p.m.), JOATA (at 1:40 p.m.), Ysanne (at 2:15 p.m.), Undercover Cameo (at 2:30 p.m.), Stattic (at 2:45 p.m.), Kelsey Blackstone and Jason Lapierre (at 3:15 p.m.), Balkun Brothers (at 3:30 p.m.), Nikita (at 3:55 p.m.), Adversity (at 4 p.m.), Jake Kulak and the Modern Vandals (at 4:30 p.m.), The Sparkle & Fade (at 5 p.m.), Ian D’Arcangelo (also 5 p.m., elsewhere), Bap Pack (at 5:45 p.m.), Esor Rose (at 6 p.m.), festival co-founders The Professors of Sweet Sweet Music (at 6:45 p.m.), the KC Sisters (at 7 p.m.) and Javier Colon (at 8 p.m.). That is as powerful a lineup of contemporary local rock talent as you can get. Sept. 9 from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. riverfront.org/hartbeat2023/.
Jeff Rosenstock, Sidney Gish, Gladie
College Street Music Hall, 238 College Street, New Haven
The indie hipster concert of the week (maybe the month) is Sept. 9 at 8 p.m. at New Haven’s College Street Music Hall with Long Island punk Jeff Rosenstock (formerly of Bomb the Music Industry! and The Bruce Lee Band), Boston-based singer/songwriter Sidney Gish and Gladie (from Philadelphia). $25. collegestreetmusichall.com/.