A Theatre Lover's Guide to DC/Capital Area Theatres - August 2010 Offerings

Now that The Capital Fringe Festival has finally packed up its tent, (read all 132 reviews of the Fringe reviews and reflections here), DC theatergoers are being offered some musical offerings this month including new productions of the popular musicals Chess, Nunsense, Buddy--The Buddy Holly Story, The Fantasticks and Side Show. There's a lot of good "buzz" going around town about a DC premiere of a recently Tony-nominated Best Play, to be produced at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. If you are visiting the Nation's Capital, come visit one of our many theatre venues.

SPECIAL EVENT

DC Black Theatre Festival, from August 1st through the 8th.

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There is a new theatre festival about to grace eight venues around the DC area. Washington DC's first-ever Black Theatre Festival will be offering 70 theatrical performances by local and national artists, theatre companies, producers, and writers. Among the offerings will be a series called "Intimate Conversations; History Told Through the Eyes of Those Who Were There," celebrating the "giants" in Black theatre. There will be many workshops including a round table about the state and future of black theater in America, a directing workshop, children's workshop, acting, and a "One-Act Battle" - a nightly one-act play competition hosted by Bus Boys & Poets, visual presentations, and monologue Competition and after each performance, as well as a nightly After Party featuring live music and entertainment, and a lively discussion with audience members and performers. Tickets are only $15.00 for all shows and just $10.00 for all workshops.

OPENING IN AUGUST MUST-SEES:

(1) Nunsense, from August 5th to September 19th (and some limited dates TBA through November 14th during the run of RENT), at Toby's Columbia, in Columbia, MD.

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After tearing up the dance floor in their wonderful production of Toby's Hairspray, cast members MaryLee Adams (Sister Mary Leo), Jesaira Glover (Sister Mary Hubert), and Heather Beck (Sister Robert Anne) are joined by Jessica Ball (Sister Mary Amnesia), and Jane C. Boyle (Sister Mary Regina) as a group of wacky nuns in Dan Goggin's crowd-favorite musical Nunsense. With this amount of amazing talent on the in-the-round stage at Toby's Columbia location, it will be a very funny production and these Sisters will sing the hell (Oops! Pardon me Sisters! - the heck) out of the funny score. Look, the story is really stupid but it's lots of silly fun, and you never know - you might develop some good "habits" if you see the show.

"Nunsense begins when the Little Sisters of Hoboken discover that their cook, Sister Julia, Child of God, has accidentally poisoned 52 of the sisters, and they are in dire need of funds for the burials. The sisters decide that the best way to raise the money is to put on a variety show, so they take over the school auditorium, which is currently set up for the eighth grade production of Grease. Here we meet Reverend Mother Regina, a former circus performer; Sister Mary Hubert, the Mistress of Novices; a streetwise nun from Brooklyn named Sister Robert Anne; Sister Mary Leo, a novice who is a wannabe ballerina; and the delightfully wacky Sister Mary Amnesia, the nun who lost her memory when a crucifix fell on her head. Featuring tap and ballet dancing, an audience quiz, and comic surprises, this show has become an international phenomenon."

Hairspray's Mark Minnick returns as Director and Choreographer. Ross Rawlings is the Musical Director.

(2) The Fantasticks, Through August 8th, at Infinity Theatre Company at Children's Theatre of Annapolis, in Annapolis, MD.

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Alan and Anna Ostroff are bringing their Infinity Theatre Company's production of The Fantasticks - the longest-running musical in the world - to Maryland's state capital. It's always exciting when a new company comes to our area, so I am eager to see if this production is truly fantastic.

"A magical musical from a simpler time, about a boy, a girl, and two mischievous fathers, which tells a romantic tale of lost innocence and enduring love. Under the influence of a band of fantastical players, led by the mysterious charmer El Gallo, the young couple basks in the mellow moonlight, then must suffer the harsh sunlight - learning that, "without a hurt, the heart is hollow." Songs include: "Try to Remember," "They Were You," and "Soon it's Gonna Rain."

The cast includes Alan Ostroff (Matt), Anna Roberts Ostroff (Louisa), Anthony Morelli (Bellomy), April Stace Vega (Harpist), Darron Cardosa (Mortimer), Gary Leimkuhler (Hucklebee), Laurence K. Cantor (Henry) Michael Padgett (El Gallo), Robin Cannon (The Mute), all NYC based actors and performers. David Libby musical directs and Tina Marie Casamento directs the production.

(3) Chess, From August 10th to September 26th, at Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA.

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With the first professional Washington area production of Chess, Signature Theatre's Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer has brought together some of Broadway's finest voices - Euan Morton, Jeremy Kushnier, and Jill Paice - and this year's Helen Hayes Award winner Eleasha Gamble to sing the amazing score by ABBA's Bjoern Ulvaeus and Benny Anderssen and Tim Rice's brilliant lyrics. Can you imagine this group of amazing singers performing "One Night in Bangkok, "Anthem," "I Know Him So Well," "Heaven Help My Heart," "Nobody's Side," and "Pity the Child"? 1988. The two greatest chess masters -- one American, one Russian -- competing to be the best in the world. And yet their greatest contest is for the love of the same woman.

Amidst political intrigue and international conspiracies, American Freddie Trumper and Russian Anatoly Sergievsk fight to take the queen in a romantic triangle that mirrors the heightened passions of the Cold War".

The big question is, "Will they be able to improve Richard Nelson's not-so-great book?" For this production they have combined the books of the 1984 London and 1988 short-lived Broadway productions and have fine-tuned them. It will be interesting to see how that pans out. But who cares? It's this gorgeous score that counts (that's why we have seen many concert versions of this show in recent years), and with this cast - we are in for a real treat!

The Chess cast is Christopher Bloch (Gregor/Molokov), Eleasha Gamble (Svetlana), Jeremy Kushnier (Freddie), Gregory Maheu (Nikolai/Ensemble), Euan Morton (Anatoly), Rachel Boyd & Anna Grace Nowalk (rotating in the role of Young Florence), Jill Paice (Florence), Chris Sizemore (Arbiter), Russell Sunday (Walter), and the ensemble includes Jonathan Atkinson, Jamie Eacker, James Gardiner, Katie McManus, Christopher Mueller, Bayla Whitten, and Rachel Zampelli. Music direction and new orchestrations are by David Holcenberg (Mamma Mia). Karma Camp provides the choreography.

Watch a short video of cast members Euan Morton, Jeremy Kushnier, and Jill Paice talk about Signature Theatre's upcoming production of Chess here:

(4) Side Show, From August 12th to September 4th, at Teatro 101, in Baltimore, MD.

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After watching their stupendous production of Violet earlier this year, I can't wait to see what Artistic Director David Gregory does with one of my favorite musicals Side Show, the cult musical about the famous Hilton Siamese twins. Henry Krieger (Dreamgirls) and Bill Russell (lyrics and book) has written one of the best scores for a Broadway show - socked with beautiful ballads emotional powerful songs capturing the "Freak Show" and Burlesque - like "I Will Never Leave You", "Who Will Love Me As I Am?", and "You Should Be Loved".

"Side Show is based on the true story of Siamese twins Violet and Daisy Hilton. The story is a moving portrait of two women joined at the hip who became stars during the depression era of the 1930s, finding love, fame, and even disappointment along the way. The original Broadway production, featuring Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner, was nominated for four Tony Awards, (including a "joint-nomination" for Ripley and Skinner)."

What's so great about seeing a show at Teatro 101 is that it's a small and intimate "in-your-face" space -- a 60-seat theatre, with a live orchestra. There will be a photo exhibit in the lobby with pictures of Freak Shows.

Side Show is directed by David Gregory and musically directed by Julie Parrish. Its cast includes cast members from Violet and Toby's regulars Shelly Work and Amanda Rife as Daisy and Violet Hilton, Larry Munsey as Terry, Chris Rudy as Buddy, Kevin McAllister as Jake, and a cast of ensemble freaks that include Rich Buchanan, Tammy Crisp, Erin Donovan, Jay Gilman, Ryan Haase, Beth Higbee, Amy Luchey, Kelsey Luchey, Rob Oppel, Danielle Robinette, Katie O. Solomon, and Kristen Zwobot.

It's freaky how much great talent will be on that small stage.

(5) In The Next Room or the Vibrator Play, From August 23rd to September 19th, at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, in Washington, DC.

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DC Theatregoers love Sarah Ruhl and Director Aaron Posner and now the "buzz" around town is that tickets are selling quickly for the DC area premiere of her new play In The Next Room or the Vibrator Play, that was recently nominated for a Tony award for Best Play.

"At the dawn of the electrical age, a new medical device is developed to treat and pacify "hysterical" women, but it unknowingly produces a very different result. Pulitzer Prize-nominated playwright Sarah Ruhl, author of The Clean House and Dead Man's Cell Phone, both huge hits at Woolly Mammoth, shares this story of repressed sexuality and physical exploration with equal doses of humor and emotion."

Woolly regulars Kimberly Gilbert (Mrs. Daldry) and Sarah Marshall (Annie) are joined by local favorites Jessica Frances Dukes (Elizabeth), Katie deBuys (Mrs. Givings), Eric Hissom, (Dr. Givings), James Konicek (Mr. Daldry), Cody Nickell (Leo Irving). With Aaron Posner at the helm, I am going to slide in there and get a ticket quickly.

(6) Buddy--The Buddy Holly Story, Through September 12th, at Toby's Baltimore, in Baltimore, MD.

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Toby Orenstein and Ray Hatch remount and co-direct one of their biggest hits - the extremely entertaining Buddy--The Buddy Holly Story at their Baltimore location. The first production was mounted three years ago at Toby's Columbia location and was in-the-round, so it will be interesting to see how the proscenium stage in Baltimore adds to this new production.

The great news is that Matthew Schleigh is back as Buddy, recreating his Helen Hayes-nominated performance. Matthew can do it all - sing, act, and he plays a mean guitar as many Fringe Festival-goers witnessed this past three weeks where he starred in Dizzy Miss Lizzie's Roadside Revue: Finn McCool. Ray Hatch (who is a busy man in this production - co-directing and choreographing) has also returned as the high-energy scene-stealing MC at the Apollo.

The cast is filled with talented Toby's regulars David Bosley-Reynolds (Hipockets Duncan), Steve Synk (Joe B. Maulin), Kevin Eikenburg (Jerry Allison), Nick Lehan (Radio Engineer), Elena Crall (Maria Elena), Alan Hoffman (Murray Deutch), JorDan Klein (4th Cricket), Daniel L. McDonald (Norman Petty), Maria Egler (Miss Santiago), Dan Sonntag (Big Bopper), Nick Lehan (Jack Daw), and David Gregory (who's directing Side Show - see #4 above) as Ritchie Valens. The Snowbirds are played by Jessica Coleman, Maria Egler, and Amanda Ross, and The Hayriders are played by Alan Hoffman, JorDan Klein, Daniel L. McDonald, and Dan Sonntag.

Sit back, tap your feet , snap your fingers, and sing along to all those great Buddy Holly classics: "Ready Teddy", "Everyday", "Peggy Sue", "Chantilly Lace", "La Bamba", and "It Don't Matter Anymore".

ALSO OPENING IN AUGUST 2010

From August 11th to September 5th, Cat's Cradle at Longacre Lea, at Catholic University, in Washington, DC.

From August 11th to August 29th, Separated at Birth, at dog & pony dc at Mead Theater lab, in Washington, DC.

From August 19th to September 5th, Twelfth Night, at The Shakespeare Theatre Company's at Harmam "Free for All" at Sidney Harman Hall, in Washington, DC.

From August 25th to September 26th, Dinner with Friends, at Olney Theatre Center, in the Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab, in Olney, MD.

From August 25th to September 12th, Travels with My Aunt, at Rep Stage, in Columbia, MD.

From August 28th to October 3rd, Something You Did, at Theater J, in Washington, DC.

From August 27th to September 5th, Cherry Smoke, at Round House Theatre, in Silver Spring, MD.

ALREADY OPEN AND PLAYING THROUGH AUGUST 2010

Through August 7th, Company at The Little Theatre of Alexandria, in Alexandria, VA.

Through August 8th, A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur, at Quotidian Theatre, at The Writer's Center, in Bethesda, MD.

Through August 8th, Passing Strange, at Studio Theatre's SecondStage, in Washington, DC.

Through August 14th, How I Became a Pirate, at Imagination Stage, in Bethesda, MD.

Through August 15th, Las Aventuras de Tio Conejo, (The Adventures of Uncle Rabbit), at Synetic Family Theater, in Arlington, VA.

Through August 15th, Pirates! A Boy at Sea, at Imagination Stage, in Bethesda, MD.

Through August 18th, Stella Morgan, at Keegan Theatre, at Church Street Theatre, in Washington, DC.

Through August 21st, Serenading Louie, at American Century Theater, in Arlington, VA.

Through August 22nd, If You Give a Pig a Pancake, at Adventure Theatre, in Glen Echo, MD.

Through August 22nd, Mary Poppins, at The Kennedy Center's Opera House, in Washington, DC.

Through August 22nd, Noises Off, at Keegan Theatre, at Church Street Theatre, in Washington, DC.

Through August 22nd, The Savannah Disputation, at Olney Theatre Center's Mainstage, in Olney, MD.

Through August 29th, The Importance of Being Earnest, at Scena Theatre, in Washington, DC.

PHOTOS

(1) The cast from Toby's - The Dinner Theatre of Columbia's production of Nunsense. L-R: Heather Beck (Sister RobertAnn), Jessica Ball (Sister Amnesia), Jane C. Boyle (Rev. Mother), Jesaira Glover (Sister Hubert), and MaryLee Adams (Sister MaryLeo). Photo Credit: Kate Wackerle.

(2) The cast of Infinity Theatre Company's production of The Fantasticks. L-R: Anna Roberts Ostroff, Alan Ostroff, and Robin Cannon. Photo Credit: Jill Steinberg.

(3 Members of Signature Theatre's cast of Chess. From L-R: Euan Morton, Jill Paice, and Jeremy Kushnier. Photo Credit: Chris Mueller.

(4) Graphic Design from Teatro 101's production of Side Show by Kurt Thesing.

(5) In the Next Room, or the vibrator play at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company Show Art Concept & Design by Kate Landis Loewengart & Judy Luke. Illustration (c) Ronald J. Cala II/i2i art

(6) Matthew Schleigh as Buddy Holly in Buddy--The Buddy Holly Story at Toby's Baltimore. Photo Credit: Kirstine Christiansen.

________________________________________________________________________

-- Joel Markowitz writes about theatre in Washington, DC, Philadelphia, and New York for DC Theatre Scene. Follow Joel's Theatre Schmooze column here and his podcast interviews here. Joel can also be heard on The Lunch and Judy Show radio program starring Judy Stadt on WTBQ 1110 AM in NYC.

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Joel Markowitz Joel Markowitz grew up in Buffalo, NY. At a young age, between shoveling snow and eating hot Buffalo wings, he fell in love with theatre, particularly musical theatre. Moving to the DC area after graduating from Syracuse University, Joel founded The Ushers Theatre Going Social Group, where he leads groups to performances in the DC area, and theatre weekends in NYC and Philadelphia. This year, The Ushers is celebrating its 21st anniversary. Joel also coordinates Broadway Bound Meetup groups in the DC, Baltimore, and VA areas.

In May 2011, Joel became the Editor and Senior Columnist for Maryland Theatre Guide, after writing his popular column Theatre Schmooze, and recording interviews with DC, Philadelphia, and New York actors, directors, and composers for DC Theatre Scene for 5 years. Joel is also a regular contributor on the weekly NYC radio program ‘The Lunch and Judy Show’ where he talks with host Judy Stadt about theatre in NYC and the DC area. Joel is a fan of Stephen Sondheim, William Finn, Jason Robert Brown and Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. His favorite musicals include Ragtime, The Secret Garden, Spring Awakening, Gypsy, The Light in the Piazza, Sweeney Todd, The Last Five Years, and In The Heights. He is a huge supporter of children's theatre. Joel is also a Buffalo Sabres fan, so you may see him at hockey rinks, as well as at stage doors, where he schmoozes with the stars.


 
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