A Theatre Lover's Guide to DC/Capital Area Theatres – April 2010 Offerings

By: Mar. 26, 2010
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As the Helen Hayes Awards ceremony on April 5th honors performances and productions from the past year, DC theatergoers will be hearing two gorgeous scores by Jason Robert Brown and Jeanine Tesori, and seeing a new opera about a boxer, a splashing pool on stage, Tyne Daley as diva Maria Callas, Maurice Hines tapping his way on the Lincoln Theatre stage, Mrs. Robinson seducing Benjamin, a red balloon thrilling young audiences, Harvey Fierstein wishing he was a rich man, tales and songs from a Scottish Jewish composer, a new children's show with lots of princesses, a little musical with the title in [ ], a triumphant mounting of a short-lived Broadway musical, and a wordless Kafka classic performed in Georgian style. The crocuses, cherry blossoms, and azaleas will be in full bloom, as the nation's capital will be awash in beautiful colors. It's the perfect time to visit and see some great shows in our DC area theatres.

SPECIAL EVENTS:

April 15th to May 9th, Son of a Stand Up Comedian, at MetroStage in Alexandria, VA.

He's a Scottish Jew, always dressed to kilt, a funny guy, a great storyteller, guitarist extraordinaire, and composer of one of my all-time favorite musical scores – Rooms, which had a successful run last season at MetroStage. This month, Paul Scott Goodman brings his one-man show to this intimate venue, and knowing this unique and talented man, it will be a swell time. Paul's songs tell stories of love and hope, and I want to know how Arthur Miller fits in with all of this. I can't wait to interview him and see this show full of his unique humor and beautiful music.

April 17th to April 25th, Shadowboxer, at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at The University of Maryland, in College Park, MD.

The University of Maryland School of Music presents a world premiere of a new opera based on the life of Joe Louis, the heavyweight champion of the world at the University of Maryland School of Music, with music by Frank Proto, libretto by John Chenault, directed by Leon Major, and conducted by Timothy Long.

"The world premiere of a new American opera based on the life of one of the greatest boxers who ever lived. Joe Louis "The Brown Bomber" became a hero to the whole country in an era when a black hero was all but unthinkable. But what happens to a hero when the glory fades and the bills come due? This new opera by Frank Proto and John Chenault brings the triumph and tragedy of an American icon to new life in a stunning production featuring projected images, an onstage jazz band and a 12-member chorus" I'm hoping it will be a knockout.

OPENING IN APRIL 2010 - MUST-SEES:

(1) The Last Five Years by Limelight Theatre, from April 9th to April 24th, at the Kreeger Auditorium in the Jewish Community Center in Rockville, MD.

When the sound of two cellos, a violin, guitar, and piano fill the Kreeger Auditorium with Jason Robert Brown's gorgeous score for The Last Five Years, I know I will get chills up and down my spine. I always do when I attend a production of this show. I have worn out two copies of the original Off-Broadway cast CD with Norbert Leo Butz and Sherri Rene Scott, because I love this show and score.

I am so glad that a new professional theatre company – Limelight Theatre – is producing The Last Five Years, and I am so thrilled that producer Jan Stewart and director Jay D. Brock have selected two talented young local actors - John Loughney and Carolyn Myers - to play and sing the lead roles of Jamie and Cathy. That alone is reason to celebrate and to buy tickets. I can't wait to hear them sing this wonderful score, and to hear the five-piece chamber orchestra introduce new audiences to this gem of a show, and to the genius of Jason Robert Brown. Listen to some of the music here.

(2) [title of show], from April 6th to June 27th, at Signature Theatre, in Arlington, VA.

It's a perfect fit for Signature Theatre's ARK theatre, a small show for a small theatre, and it will be a blast watching four of our best musical actors - James Gardiner, Sam Ludwig, Erin Driscoll, and Jenna Sokolowski having a ball with Hunter Bell's funny book and Jeff Bowen's wonderful score. If you are a musical theatre fan, you'll love [title of show]. It's filled with references to Sondheim, to Herman, to Rodgers and Hammerstein, to Andrew Lloyd Webber, and more.

The show, which had a successful run Off-Broadway, and ran 102 performances on Broadway, is about two young writers (Hunter and Jeff) who are really, really trying to write a new musical. With their crazy friends Heidi and Susan, they, accompanied by their friend Larry on the piano, sing and disagree and sing again and again until they decide to write a musical about what they should write about. Pretty clever - isn't it? It's all pretty loony stuff and lots of fun, so make time to see this really entertaining little show. You'll find out pretty quickly during the first song, why this show grabbed the hearts of so many NYC theatergoers.

Note: Helen Hayes Award-winner Heidi Blickenstaff played Heidi; Susan Blackwell played Susan, Hunter Bell played Hunter, and Jeff Bowen played Jeff in both the Off-Broadway and Broadway productions. Here, Matthew Gardiner, brother of James, directs the Signature production.

(3) Master Class, from March 25th to April 18th, at the Eisenhower Theatre at the Kennedy Center, in Washington, DC.

As part of the Kennedy Center's celebration of works by playwright Terrence McNally called Nights at the Opera, the Tony Award-winning Best Play Master Class is being given a new production starring Tony Award-winner Tyne Daly (Gypsy) and directed by Stephen Wadsworth. Eyebrows were raised when Tyne Daly was selected to play the late and great operatic diva Maria Callas, but my friends who saw her performance in previews could not stop raving! I can't wait to watch her torture her students in her master class. That should be a blast!

Joining Tyne are Jeremy Cohen as Manny, Laquita Mitchell as Second Soprano (Sharon), Ta'u Pupu'a as Tenor (Tony), and Alexandra Silber as First Soprano (Sophie). Ms. Silber just received raves and awards in the West End for playing Julie in a revival of Carousel. Watch highlights of the production here. I can't wait to hear Alexandra sing on the Eisenhower Stage, and stand up to Ms. Callas. It will truly be an event.

(4) The Triumph of Love, from April 14th to May 9th, at the Olney Theatre Center, in Olney, MD.

In November 1997, I took a bus up to NYC to see a new musical based on the 1732 Pierre de Marivaux commedia dell'arte play Le Triomphe de l'Amour. I knew nothing about the plot or the book, but I did know that some of my favorite Broadway musical stars were in it. The cast included Susan Egan as Léonide, Christopher Sieber as Agis, F. Murray Abraham as Hermocrates, Betty Buckley as Hesione, Nancy Opel as Corine, Roger Bart as Harlequin, and Kevin Chamberlin as Dimas. I remember waiting outside for Betty Buckley for almost 90 minutes for an autograph after the show. What can I say? I'm a big fan! Unfortunately, the show only ran 85 performances at the Royale Theatre, but I loved Jeffrey Stock's beautiful score and Susan Burkenhead's lyrics.

So what is it about? Thank God for the Olney press release. Here we go! "Spartan Princess Léonide, with her maid Corine in tow, invades the home of the stern Hermocrates and his sister Hesione. Léonide's goal is to win the love of Hermocrate's pupil, the ravishing Agis, who is the rightful heir to the Spartan throne and has been raised to loathe her. Assisted by Agis' servants, Dimas and Harlequin, Léonide adopts various identities, male and female, ensnaring both Hermocrates and Hesione in an attempt to win Agis' affection, and in the process, teaching all involved the meaning and importance of love in their lives." Got that?

Now, Olney Theatre Center is finally bringing a local production of the show to its main stage, directed by Clay Hopper, who describes the show as a "lush springtime musical farce, full of gender-bending seductions, and plot-twists that will make your head spin." The cast is first-rate: Patricia Hurley (Princess Léonide), Helen Hedman (Hesione), in addition to Helen Hayes Award-winners - Stephen F. Schmidt (Hermocrates) and Lawrence Redmond (Dimas). Rounding out the cast are Jake Odmark (Agis), Andrea Andert (Corine), and JJ Kaczynski (Harlequin). The production is in great hands with Helen Hayes Award-winning musical director Christopher Youstra waving his baton. If you'd like to see something bawdy and funny, come to Olney to see The Triumph of Love.

(5) The Red Balloon, from April 30th to June 13th, at Adventure Theatre in Glen Echo, MD.

I am so glad that Adventure Theatre's US Premiere of The Red Balloon will showcase one of my favorite short films, Le Balloon Rouge by Albert Lamorisse, which is now adapted for the stage by Anthony Clarke. The story is about a young boy named Pascal who discovers a red balloon while walking to school. It's not easy having a helium-filled new friend. His grandmother won't allow it in the apartment, the adults sneer at him, and his fellow students are jealous. Bullies attack him and destroy the balloon, but the other multi-colored balloons come to the rescue and take Pascal on a balloon ride over Paris. Let's just say his future happiness was "up in the air". There's lots of great puppetry in this production!

Adventure Theatre's production is directed by Roberta Gasbarre, Josh Sticklin (Pascal), Ali Walton (Little Girl), Bette Cassatt (Madame Elaine), Jessica Aimone (Maman), Danny Pushkin (Albert), Daniel Mori (Puppeteer), Vishal Vaidya (Headmaster/Puppeteer), and Emma Jaster (Bully/Puppeteer).

Take the kids and grandkids to Glen Echo Park. Stick'em on the merry-go-round, bring a picnic, and see The Red Balloon at the wonderful Adventure Theatre.

(6) Sophisticated Ladies, from April 9th to May 30th, by Arena Stage at the Lincoln Theatre, in Washington, DC.

The Duke is back and so is legendary tapper Maurice Hines, as he stars in and choreographs a cast of incredible hoofers and singers all tapping away on the Lincoln Theatre Stage to Duke Ellington classics, including, "It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing," "Take the 'A' Train," "Satin Doll," and "In a Sentimental Mood". Maurice is joined by Broadway veteran and Arena Stage favorite Marva Hicks. Also appearing in the cast are Wynonna Smith and Keith Lamelle, who have appeared in other productions of the show, and DeMoya Watson and Hollie E. Wright, who appeared in Maurice's Broadway show Hot Feet. Richard Riaz Yoder, Sabra Lewis, and Tony Mansker round out the cast.

After holding auditions in DC, Maurice Hines selected two local brothers - John and Leo Manzari - to be in the production. John will be in the cast, and Leo is a swing. Here's a video of Maurice the two Manzari bothers, "The only brothers that I chose out of DC".

Sophisticated Ladies is directed by Charles Randolph-Wright, with musical direction by David Alan Bunn. I can't wait to see the costumes Helen Hayes Award-winner Reggie Ray has created for the production. The Lincoln Theatre Stage will be swingin'!

(7) Metamorphosis and Metamorphoses, from April 9th to May 22nd, by Synetic Theatre at the Rosslyn Spectrum, in Arlington, VA and through April 10th, at Elden Street Players, in Herndon, VA.

You can only imagine what visual delights and athletic feats we will see when Derek Goldman directs and adapts Franz Kafka's famous novella and Synetic Theatre's multi- Helen Hayes Award-winning choreographer Irina Tskikurishvili lends her genius to this production. "Plunging deep into the writer's psyche and his response to 'the Jewish Problem', Kafka's Metamorphosis explores one man's descent into madness. Along with an innovative sound experience, Goldman's staging brings startling new life to this grotesque classic." I'm getting chills already! Can't wait to hear the score that composer Konstantine Lortkipanidze has written for the show.

The cast includes John Milosich as Gregor Samsa; Clark Young as Franz Kafka; and Charlotte Akin, Steve Beall, Frank Britton, Caitlin Cassidy, Vince Eisenson, Annie Houston, Catalian Lavalle, and Matt MacNelly in the ensemble. Who ever knew that a dung beetle could be such a good dancer?

Through April 10th, At Elden Street Players, a community theatre in Herndon, Virginia, there is a large pool in this small performance space as Evan Hoffman directs Mary Zimmerman's adaptation of Metamorphoses. "A modern adaptation of Ovid's thrilling mythological stories, all of them with modern relevancy such as King Midas, Orpheus and Eurydice, Alcyone and Ceyx, and Phaeton; and they are told with a strong element of choreography and lyrical dialog. So, what is the challenge? Most of them are told in and around the large pool of water on stage. Our audience is in for a very special production of this Tony-nominated Best Play that they will never forget". Watch a video of director Evan Hoffman talking about his splashing production here. View pictures of the cast, and see stunning pictures of the production here. 

(8) The Graduate, from May 1st to May 23rd, by Keegan Theatre at Church Street Theatre, in Washington, DC.

OK - I loved the movie and can't wait to see the play, even though I am told by the Keegan Press release that this production is "not about 'Plastics', not about the nylons, not about Simon & Garfunkel, not about a leading man and woman that in life were only six years apart" and invited to  "come be startled by a different look at the iconic story about a boy learning to be a man".

I'd like to see what this brilliant theatre company will do with Terry Johnson's stage adaptation of the 1963 novel The Graduate by Charles Webb, and how different it is from Mike Nichols' Academy Award-winning movie. I want to see what happens to two of my favorite movie characters - Benjamin Braddock and Mrs. Robinson, played in the 1967 film - by two of my favorite actors: Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft. I missed the Kathleen Turner version in NYC, and I am so glad that I will see Sheri S. Heren playing Mrs. Robinson and Tom Carman playing Benjamin, two actors I really admire. Joining Tom and Sheri are Jenny Donovan (Elaine Robinson), Slice Hicks (Mr. Braddock), Michael Innocenti (Priest and Others), Jane Petkofsky (Mrs. Braddock), Eli Sibley (Stripper and Others), Colin Smith (Mr. Robinson), and Joe Thornhill (Psychiatrist and Others). Kathleen Akerley directs. Well here's to you Benjamin, and of course - here's to you Mrs. Robinson!

(9) Violet, from April 30th to May 22nd, at Kensington Arts Theatre, in Kensington, MD.

It's the musical I wish more theatre companies would produce; it's a show full of emotion, an emotional story, and a score with lovely ballads: Gospel, Rock, Country, and Rhythm and Blues. There are many toe-tapping songs. It's my favorite Jeanine Tesori score (with lyrics and book by Brian Crawley). Two months ago, I saw an amazing production of Violet at Teatro 101 in Baltimore, MD, and now Kensington Arts Theatre will be mounting their own production, directed by Caroline Angell. The cast is perfection! The leads are Autumn Seavey as Violet, Allie Bannigan as young Violet, Darius T. Epps as Flick, Patrick McMahan as Father and the Preacher, and Eric Jones as Monty. The ensemble includes Felicia Akunwafor, Liz Weber, and Chad W. Fornwalt. Music direction is by Valerie A. Higgs. The power and beauty of Violet will ring out all through the former armory.

Set in 1964 in the deep south, Violet is based on The Ugliest Pilgrim by Doris Betts, Violet is the story of a young girl who is accidently scarred in an accident, and she sets out on a bus trip to find a preacher to heal her. On her way, she finds love with a black soldier who teaches her about courage, inner beauty, and true love. When Flick sings the gorgeous and heart-warming "Promise Me Violet" at the end of the show, you will know that finally her journey of self-doubt is over and she has found true love. Take someone you love with you, and enjoy the journey.

(10) Fiddler on the Roof, from April 13th to May 9th, at The National Theatre, in Washington, DC.

I was in NYC the night Harvey Fierstein took over the lead in the revival of Fiddler on the Roof at the Minskoff Theatre, and the result was astounding. Harvey Brought so much heart and joy in the role of Tevye, the ever-suffering milkman, and critics and audiences loved him in the role. So did I. Yes, it took a little while to get over the gravely voice, but after about 30 seconds, Harvey had you in the palm of his hands. When he sang "Chavele" in the second act – tears started flowing down my cheeks. I have seen dozens of productions of Fiddler, and never have I seen an audience cry their eyes out when this song was sung. Now DC theatergoers will have a chance to see his joyous performance at The National Theatre, so run and buy tickets.

Jerome Robbins' original choreography is being reproduced by Sammy Dallas Bayes, who is also directing the production. Harvey is joined by one of my favorite Broadway veterans - Mary Stout, who plays Yente and Golde, Tevye's wife is played by Susan Cella; Motel, the Tailor is played by Zal Owen; Perchik is played by Colby Foytik; and Lazar Wolf, the Butcher, is played by David Brummel. L'Chaim!

(11) The Dancing Princesses, from April 14th to May 30th, at Imagination Stage, in Bethesda, MD.

I've been waiting a long time for Helen Hayes Award-winning musical director Christopher Youstra's musical, for which he has written the score and lyrics, to finally hit the Imagination Stage, and it's an event that no one should miss! "Set in the Roaring '20's, the show is a new musical take on the old Grimm's tale. After the death of his beloved Queen, a grief-stricken King banishes dance from all the land, much to the distress of his people, including his two daughters, Lara and Lena. But the girls find their way to a magical world where jazz music, the Charleston, and their mother's indomitable spirit are alive and well. Finally, the girls, his loyal lieutenant, and a muckraking newspaper man bring the King to his senses. He lifts the ban and everyone rediscovers the joy of living".

The book is by Allyson Currin and the show is directed by Kathryn Chase Bryer.  Doesn't that sound like a great show with a meaningful lesson to teach the whole family? Congratulations, all!

(12) The Mikado, from April 9th to April 25th, by the Washington Savoyards, at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, in Washington, DC.

It's my favorite Gilbert and Sullivan operetta because the puns are a-flying. The  hilarious Mikado r eturns to the Washingto Savoyards, with musical direction by Shawn Burke-Storer, and direction by Cindy Oxberry. The fantastic leads are David William (The Mikado), Allan Palacios Chan (Nanki-Poo), Scott Kenison, (Pooh-Bah), Sean Pflueger (Pish-Tush), Laura Stuart (Yum-Yum), Jennifer Randall (Katisha), Sarah Powell (Peep-Bo), Daniele Lorio (Pitti-Sing), and Jase Parker (Ko-Ko). I can't wait to hear Jase Parker - the best pitter-patterer I have ever heard - sing "Behold the Lord High Executioner" and tell us how, "I've got a little list - I've got a little list!"

Here's a short summary of The Mikado, and you'll see what craziness and fun you will have in store when you come see the show:

"Nanki-Poo is escaping marriage to Katisha, Yum-Yum thinks Nanki-Poo is cute and would rather marry him than Ko-Ko, Ko-Ko wants to marry Yum-Yum but would also like to keep his head, and the Mikado would like his son back. Pooh-Bah is, of course, Lord High Absolutely Everything, but Ko-Ko has his little list. Bring some hot Koko, and have a great time!"

OTHER SHOWS OPENING IN APRIL 2010

April 6th to May 23rd, The Liar, at Shakespeare Theatre's Lansburgh Theatre, in Washington, DC.

April 8th to May 2nd, El retablillo de Don Cristóbal, at Gala Hispanic Theatre, in Washington, DC.

April 10th to May 16th, Public Enemy, at Scena Theatre at H Street Playhouse, in Washington, DC.

April 12th to May 8th, HOODOO, at Capital Fringe Headquarters, in Washington, DC.

April 13th to May 9th, The House with Two Doors, at Capital Fringe Headquarters, in Washington, DC.

April 14th to May 2nd, On the Verge, at Rep Stage, in Columbia, MD.

April 14th to May 9th, Sixty Miles to Silver Lake, at Studio Theatre, in Washington, DC.

April 15th to May 16th, The Old Settler, at African Continuum, at Atlas Performing Performing Arts Center, in Washington, DC.

April 16th to April 24th, Searching for Gabriella, at In series at Source, in Washington, DC.

April 16th to May 16th, The Trip to Bountiful, at Quotidian Theatre Company, at The Writer's Center, in Bethesda, MD.

April 16th to May 2nd, The Seven Ages of Mime, at Happenstance at Montgomery College Performing Arts Center Theatre 2, in Silver Spring, MD.

April 21st to June 6th, Hamlet, at The Folger Elizabethan Theatre, in Washington, DC.

April 22nd to May 9th, Your's, Isabel, at Capital Fringe Headquarters, in Washington, DC.

April 30th to June 5th, Souvenir, at Bay Theatre Company, in Annapolis, MD.

April 30th to May 9th, Chicks, at Bonifant Theatre Space, in Silver, MD.

    ALREADY OPENED AND PLAYING THROUGH APRIL, MAY AND JUNE

    Through April 4th, Sweeney Todd, at Signature Theatre, in Arlington, VA.

    Through April 4th, Zelda at the Oasis, at Venus Theatre, at The Play Shack, in Laurel, MD.

    Through April 6th, The New Musical Adventures/Flat Stanley, at Adventure Theatre, in Glen Echo, MD.

    Through April 10th, Henry V, at The Shakespeare-Theatre Company's Sidney Harman Hall, in Washington, DC.

    Through April 10th, The Zoo Story, at Theatre du Jour at the DC Arts Center, in Washington, DC.

    Through April 11th, Clybourne Park, at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, in Washington, DC.

    Through April 11th, Richard II, at the Shakespeare Theatre Company's Sidney Harman Hall, in Washington, DC.

    Through April 17th, Stalag 17, at American Century Theater, in Arlington, VA.

    Through April 18th, Dancing at Lughnasa, at Keegan Theatre, at Church Street Theater, in Washington, DC.

    Through April 18th, Humble Boy, at 1st Stage, in McLean, VA.

    Through April 18th, In Darfur, at Theater J, in Washington, DC.

    Through April 25th, Da, at Olney Theatre, in Olney, MD.

    Through May 2nd, Reasons to Be Pretty, at Studio Theatre, in Washington, DC.

    Through May 16th, The Fool at the Circus, at Synetic Family Theatre, in Arlington, VA.

    PHOTOS

    (1) Paul Scott Goodman in Son of a Stand Up Comedian. Photo credit to Chris Mueller.

    (2) The Last Five Years at Limelight Theatre with John Loughney and Carolyn Myers. Photo credit to Joseph Tessmer.

    (3) [title of show] cast: from left to right: Erin Driscoll, Sam Ludwig, Jenna Sokolowski, and James Gardiner. Photo credit to Chris Mueller.

    (4) Triumph of Love at Olney Theatre Center.

    (5) From left to right: Leo Manzari, Maurice Hines and John Manzari in the Arena Stage production of Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies. Photo credit to Scott Suchman.

    (6) Jaclyn Young in Metamorphoses. Photo credit to Paul T. Gernhardt.

    (7) Harvey Fierstein in Fiddler on the Roof. Photo credit to Joan Marcus.

    ________________________________________________________________________

    -- 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.

     

     

     



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