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

Is there any better place to celebrate the Fourth of July than the Nation's Capital? If you're in town for the fireworks and concert on the Mall, consider popping into one of our local theatres. This month's MUST-SEES include The Capital Fringe Festival and Hip-Hop Festival, pirates, a high-flying nanny, a supreme trio, a boar with a flapjack, a crazy one-man Lord of the Rings, those loveable Tony Award-winning puppets, lots of plaid, a household of singing sisters, Stew's "strange" score, and a concert version of a Rodgers and Hart classic musical. There's something for everyone in July on our DC area stages.

SPECIAL EVENTS:

(1) Capital Fringe Festival, from July 8th to July 25th in 18 venues around DC:

You never know what you'll see at "The Fringe", and with over 130 shows this year, there's lots to see. There are musical, plays, solo performances - some great, some good, and some - well - that's The Fringe. DC Theatre Scene will be reviewing all the Fringe shows, so check in to their Fringe Festival page and find out what the MUST-SEE shows are. I'll be writing three "Fringe Musical Scene Stealers" articles. Hope to see you FRINGING with me.

(2) DC Hip-Hop Theatre Festival, from July 6th to July 10th, at five venues, including The Kennedy Center, in Washington, DC.

If you love Hip-Hop come to DC for the 9th Annual DC Hip-Hop Theatre Festival. The great thing is that all the events are FREE. The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities and the New York City Hip-Hop Theater Festival are once again joining join forces again to mount the Festival, and are bringing the NYC Festival to DC.

OPENING IN JULY 2010 - MUST-SEES:

(1) Mary Poppins, from July 1st to August 22nd, at The Kennedy Center's Opera House, in Washington, DC.

It's not the Disney sugary movie we all loved as kids. It's more loyal to the darker side of the P.L. Travers books, and although it uses some of the Academy Award-winning score by Richard and Robert Sherman, this stage version of Mary Poppins will surprise you and entertain you and your family. With some new songs, lyrics and what they call "additional music" by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, and an amazing Tony Award-winning set design (and costume design) by Bob Crowley, it's a jaw-dropping and visually stunning production. And I am so happy that DC audiences will be able to see the charming performance of original London and Broadway cast member Gavin Lee as Bert. Joining Gavin is Caroline Sheen as Mary Poppins.

How can you go wrong when a show has "Chim Chim Cher-ee," "Let's Go Fly a Kite," and "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" in it. Matthew Bourne's choreography is marvelous, and it's worth the price of admission just to see the cast perform "Step in Time". Watch the Broadway cast perform "Step in Time" here.

(2) If You Give a Pig a Pancake, from July 2nd to August 15th, at Adventure Theatre, in Glen Echo, MD.

When you have 4-time Helen Hayes Award-winning actress Holly Twyford (appearing as Felicia) in a children's show and Jerry Whiddon directing it, it's an event that you don't want to miss! Branda Locke joins Holly playing Laura.

In partnership with Lexington Children's Theatre, Adventure Theatre is bringing Marianne Pendino's adaptation of Laura Joffe Numeroff's children's classic. "If You Give a Pig a Pancake follows a little girl who is hostess to a challenging piglet, whose never-ending wishes lead them from the kitchen table to the bathtub to the backyard". Michael Bobbit provides the choreography. As you can imagine, this little piggy goes hog-wild. I can't wait to see Holly ham it up.

(3) One Man Lord of the Rings, from July 5th to August 1st, at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, in Washington, DC.

If you ever saw Charlie Ross's insane performance in his One Man Star Wars, you expect an equally hilarious in his new One Man Lord of the Rings. Cramming almost 11 and a half hours of "Ring" films, and playing 42 characters in his 65 minute performance sounds almost impossible - but not for Charlie.

It's another one of those "you gotta see it to believe it", and I can't wait to see how he does it. And you gotta hear those sound effects that come out of him...

(4) Pirates! A Boy at Sea, from July 6th to August 15th, at Imagination Stage, in Bethesda, MD.

It's the second part of the Pirate plays at Imagination Stage, and it joins last month's How I Became A Pirate as a MUST-SEE. "1718. Place: the high seas. Jim finds himself first captured by pirates, then rescued from the deep by sailors from the British Man-of-War, the action has deep connections to Jim's life. The strict McGovern reminds Jim of his Dad while the fun-loving but enigmatic Freely reminds him of his estranged Mom. Combining laughs with drama, playwright Charles Way ties all the elements together into a nail-biter perfect for older children".

The show has the same wonderful designers as How...: Tom Donahue's set is slightly different, with lighting design by Jason Arnold, costumes by Brandon McWilliams, choreography and musical direction by Helen Hayes Award-winners Stephen Gregory Smith, and Christopher Youstra. Sound design is by Chris Baine and Kristen J. Bishel is stage manager. Back once again is that amazing cast of Michael John Casey, Colleen David Frankenberger, Jr., Tim Getman, Phillip Reid and Josh Sticklin. Janet Stanford directs. Can't wait to make waves again with those pirates!

(5) Forever Plaid, From July 7th to August 1st, at Olney Theatre Center, in Olney, MD.

Whenever Bobby Smith is in a show or directing one, then you know you are in for an entertaining time, and luckily for local musical theatre lovers like me, Bobby is directing Stuart Ross' 1990 Off-Broadway hit Forever Plaid at Olney Theatre. He knows the show well because he performed in the Off-Broadway production. Joining Bobby is musical director Aaron Broderick, who musical directed this year's Helen Hayes Award-winning Keegan Theatre's production of RENT, and who is presently musical directing Keegan's production of Stephen Flaherty, Lynn Ahrens, and Terrence McNally's musical A Man of No Importance.

OK the story is silly: Sparky, Smudge, Jinx, and Frankie practice four-part harmonies in the basement of Smudge's family's plumbing supply company, and finally get their break and get heir first gig". On their way to pick up their "plaid" tuxedos, they are killed in a car crash. But thanks to "divine intervention" they get to perform their gif for all of us in the audience.

There's lots of great songs in the show, including "Three Coins in the Fountain", "Love is a Many Splendored Thing", "Perfidia", "Cry", "Heart and Soul", and "Lady of Spain", and cast members Patrick Thomas Cragin (Frankie), Ben Lurye (Sparky), Ben Martin (Jinx), and Dan Van Why (Smudge) will sing the heck out of these great songs from the 50's.

(6) Babes in Arms, from July 8th to July 11th, at American Century Theater, in Arlington, VA.

I always enjoy going to American Century Theater's "Rescues" Series in the summer. In the past, they have presented the musicals One Touch of Venus, Call Me Mister, and Stunt Girl. This year they are presenting a concert version of Rodgers and Hart's Babes in Arms. The plot is also kinda thin, but who cares when you can hear these classics: "I Wish I Were in Love Again," "My Funny Valentine ", "Johnny One Note," "The Lady Is a Tramp," and "Where or When"? It's only $15, and free for subscribers. It sells out quickly, so buy your tickets ASAP.

(7) Passing Strange, from July 14th to August 8th, at Studio Theatre's 2ndStage, in Washington, DC.

How can you miss when a sassy new musical is full of sex, drugs, rock n' roll and Stew's incredible Tony Award-winning score? I saw the show in NYC and had the chance to interview the show's Tony Nominee Daniel Breaker. I didn't get it all when I saw it in NYC, but I'll tell you that it was exciting and new and I loved the music and the cast.

Helen Hayes Award-winning director Keith Allen Baker has assembled a talented cast: Jahi A. Kearse (Narrator), who tore the stage up in Cool Papa's Party last year at MetroStage, Aaron Reeder (Youth), who has a velvety voice to die for, Helen Hayes Award-winner Deidre LaWan Starnes (Mother), Jessica Frances Dukes (Marianna), and an exceptional ensemble: Lulu N. Fall, S. Lewis Feemster, Courtney Gatson, Baye Harrell, Deborah Lubega, Sean Maurice Lynch, Juan Carlos Sanchez, Helen Hayes Award-wining member of the ensemble of RENT at Keegan Theatre, Shaunte Tabb, Derek Thomas, Natalie Tucker, and Eric R. Williams.

Stew is quoted on the Studio Theatre website: "We did our play assuming that everybody had smoked pot as a teenager, that they knew what Amsterdam was all about, that they'd experienced racial alienation, and assuming they'd been as oppressed by their own community as they had by the outside world. We didn't go in thinking, "Oh my God, we're going to Broadway now--we have to make it understandable for everyone." We assumed that everybody had a little bit of outsider in them." And boy will Stew's score sound great in the capable hands of another Helen Hayes Award winner - Christopher Youstra.

(8) Avenue Q , from July 15th to August 15th, at Shakespeare Theatre Company's Lansburgh Theatre Theatre, in Washington, DC.

Who would have thunk it? The 2004 Tony Award-winning Best Musical Avenue Q is being mounted in the most unlikeliest of venues - The Shakespeare Theatre's Lansburgh Theatre. DC audiences rushed to the National Theatre production in 2008 (it starred one of my favorite performers Rob McClure), and that production won the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Non-Resident Production. The cast includes Kerri Brackin (Mrs. T, Bear, and others), Nigel Jamaal Clark (Gary Coleman), Brent Michael DiRoma (Princeton and Rod), Jacqueline Grabois (Kate Monster, Lucy and others), Lisa Helmi Johanson (Christmas), Tim Kornblum (Brian), and Michael Liscio, Jr. (Nicky, Trekkie Monster), The ensemble is: Jr. Charles M. Baskerville, Ashley Eileen Bucknam, Ben Hart, JuliAnna Lee, and Zach Trimmer. Jason Moore directs, Ken Roberson choreographs, and Michael McAssey is the musical director.

From http://eventful.com, where you can also watch a video promo: "Avenue Q is the story of Princeton, a bright-eyed college grad who comes to New York City with big dreams and a tiny bank account. He soon discovers that the only neighborhood in his price range is Avenue Q. still, the neighbors seem nice. There's Brian the out-of-work comedian and his therapist fiancee Christmas Eve; Nicky the good-hearted slacker and his roommate Rod--a Republican investment banker who seems to have some sort of secret; an Internet addict called Trekkie Monster; and a very cute kindergarten teaching assistant named Kate. And would you believe the building's superintendent is Gary Coleman. (Note: They have made some changes to the script because of the actor's recent death). Together, Princeton and his newfound friends struggle to find jobs, dates, and their ever-elusive purpose in life."

If you are thinking of seeing it for the first time - go! It's so much fun, has the hummable and funny score, and it will leave you with a big smile on your face. Check the Avenue Q Tour website here for photos and short video interviews with the cast.

(9) Little Women - The Musical, from July 16th to July 31st, at McLean Community Players at Alden Theatre, in The McLean Community Center, in McLean, VA.

Little Women - The Musical is based on Louisa May Alcott's classic 1869 semi-autobiographical novel. I saw the show in NYC with Sutton Foster as Jo and Maureen McGovern as Marmee in September 2005, and again when it tour made its final stop at The Kennedy Center with Ms. McGovern in July 2006. Now I am really looking forward to seeing Brent Stone (Professor Bhaer). Mimi Preda (Jo), and Lisa Anne Bailey (Marmee)- three of my favorite local performers - in McLean Community Players' production of Jason Howland (music) and Mindi Dickstein's (lyrics) and Allan Knee's (book) Little Women. Other cast members include Maddy Curtis ("American Idol's" First 2010 Golden Ticket Winner, as Beth) and WATCH Award winner June Schreiner (Amy). Rounding out the talented cast are Roberta Chaves (Aunt March), Mark Hamberger (John Brooke), Jessie Roberts (Mrs. Kirk, Jolene Vettese (Meg), Bob Chaves (Mr. Laurence). and Glen North (Laurie). Bill Schreiner - who was a regular on my favorite soap opera "General Hospital" (playing Darren Blythe) - is the director.

One of the main reasons that the show is a MUST SEE is because Elisa Rosman is musical directing and Cathy Oh is choreographing. I have seen and enjoyed their work at, among others, Kensington Arts Theatre, The Elden Street Players, and Reston Community Players. And I can't wait to hear Lisa Anne Bailey sing those two gorgeous songs, "Here Alone" and "Days of Plenty".

(10) Dreamgirls, from July 28th to August 8th, at The National Theatre, in Washington, DC.

Broadway director/choreographer Robert Longbottom (working with co-choreographer Shane Sparks) brings his new version of Dreamgirls to The National Theatre for only 11 days, so run and buy your tickets. My friends who saw its premiere at The Apollo Theatre in Harlem last November, said it was fabulous. I am so glad that DC theatergoers will have a chance to see it.

"Dreamgirls tells the story of an up-and-coming, 1960s singing girl group, and the triumphs and tribulations that come with fame and fortune. Hopeful talents Deena Jones, Lorrell Robinson and Effie White are performing as The Dreamettes when ambitious agent Curtis Taylor, Jr. discovers them. He lands them a job as backup singers for the soul and rock 'n' roll sensation James "Thunder" Early and begins to guide their quickly rising career. However, when the beautiful Deena emerges as the star of the group rather than the full-voiced Effie, the girls are brought to personal and professional crossroads". Those of you who saw the wonderful film version in 2007 that won an Oscar for Jennifer Hudson will be happy to know that the song "Listen" will appear in this stage production as a second act duet between Effie and Deena. Henry Krieger's score is one of my all-time favorites. This production will look great because several Tony Award-winning designers are involved with scenic design by Robin Wagner, costume design by William Ivey Long, and lighting design by Ken Billington.

The cast of 26 includes Moya Angela as Effie White and feature, as The Dreams, Syesha Mercado as Deena Jones, Adrienne Warren as Lorrell Robinson, and Margaret Hoffman as Michelle Morris, with Chaz Lamar Shepherd as Curtis Taylor, Jr., Chester Gregory as James "Thunder" Early, Trevon Davis as C.C. White, and Milton Craig Nealy as Marty Madison. Watch a video of the show here:

ALSO OPENING IN JULY 2010

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

From July 21st to August 21st, Serenading Louie, at American Century Theater, in Arlington, VA.

From July 24th to August 22nd, Noises Off, at Keegan Theatre at Church Street Theater, in Washington, DC.

From July 28th through August 22nd, The Savannah Disputation, at Olney Theatre Center, in Olney. MD.

From July 31st to August 29th, The Importance of Being Earnest, at Scena Theatre, in Washington, DC.

ALREADY OPENED AND PLAYING THROUGH JULY AND AUGUST 2010

Through July 3rd, American Buffalo, at Studio Theatre, in Washington, DC.

Through July 3rd, Gretty Good Time, at Theatre Alliance, in Washington, DC.

Through July 3rd, Othello, at Synetic Theater, at The Kennedy Center's Family Theater, in Washington, DC.

Through July 4th, Trumpery, at The Olney Theatre Center, in Olney, MD.

Through July 7th, There Are Little Kingdoms, at Keegan Theatre's New Island Project at Church Street Theater, in Washington, DC.

Through July 11th, A Man of No Importance, at Keegan Theater at Church Street Theatre, in Washington, DC.

Through July 11th, Completely Hollywood (abridged), at The Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater, in Washington, DC.

Through July 11th, LEGENDS!, at Studio Theatre, in Washington, DC.

Through July 11th, Mrs. Warren's Profession, at The Shakespeare Theatre's Sidney Harman Hall, in Washington, DC.

Through July 11th, Much Ado About Nothing, at Chesapeake Theatre Company, at PFI Historic Park, in Ellicott City, MD.

Through July 17th, Johnny Meister and the Stitch, at Solas Nua, at Flashpoint, in Washington, DC.

Through July 25th, New Jerusalem, at Theater J, in the DCJCC, in Washington, DC. Check out Tim Treanor's interview with playwright David Ives here:

Through August 1st, Hairspray, at Toby's The Dinner Theatre of Columbia, in Columbia, MD.

Through August 15th, Adventure of Tio Conejo, at Synetic Family Theater, in Arlington, VA.

PHOTOS

(1) Gavin Lee as Bert in Mary Poppins. Photo by Joan Marcus.

(2) Holly Twyford and Branda Locke who play Felicia and Laura in If You Give a Pig a Pancake at Adventure Theatre. Photo by Bruce Douglas.

(3) Charlie Ross in One Man Lord Of The Rings. Photo by Lisa Hebden.

(4) Artwork from Pirates! A Boy at Sea, by Kristina Swarner..

(5) The cast of Forever Plaid at Olney Theatre Center: Top to Bottom: PatRick Thomas Cragin (Francis), Dan Van Why (Smudge), Ben Martin (Jinx), and Ben Lurye (Sparky). Picture courtesy of Olney Theatre Center.

(6) Babes in Arms poster.

(7) Jahi Kearse in Passing Strange at The Studio Theatre's 2ndStage. Photo by Scott Suchman.

(8) Avenue Q's Kerri Brackin, Michael Liscio, Jr. as Trekkie Monster, and Jason Heymann. Photo by John Daughtry.

(9) The cast of McLean Players Little Women - The Musical, Back Row L-R: Brent Stone (Prof. Bhaer), Roberta Chaves (Aunt March), Mark Hamberger (John Brooke), Jessie Roberts (Mrs. Kirk), Mimi Preda (Jo), Jolene Vettese (Meg), Lisa Ann Bailey (Marmee), Bob Chaves (Mr. Laurence). Front Row L-R: Maddy Curtis (Beth), June Schreiner (Amy), and Glen North (Laurie). Photo by Traci J Brooks.

(10) The cast of Dreamgirls at The National Theatre: Dreamgirls: L to R: Adrienne Warren (Lorrell), Syesha Mercado (Deena), and Moya Angela (Effie). Photo by 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. 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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