Baltimore/Washington Backstage - February 21, 2008

By: Feb. 21, 2008
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One of my favorite plays of the year was the Center Stage production of Hearts. You may recall actor Merwin Goldsmith who played cards in his underwear and had a stutter.

Well, I noticed he's performing in New York in Mike Leigh's Two Thousand Years, directed by Scott Elliott. This play about a Jewish family in London is getting rave reviews (as is Goldsmith) and I look forward to seeing it shortly. Leigh is best known for the films Life is Sweet, Secrets and Lies, and Topsy Turvy.It has been extended and will run until March 22 at the Acorn Theater, 410 West 42nd Street. 212-279-4200.


Thank goodness for PBS. Last night, they televised the Tony-winning revival of Stephen Sondheim's musical "Company".  This is the production directed by John Doyle (which means the actors walk around carrying instruments) and starred Raul Esparza. While Baltimore's WMPT will not repeat the program, you can watch it on WETA in DC on Sunday afternoon, Feb. 24 at 3 p.m.


The Academy Awards will be televised Sunday night, Feb. 24 at 8 p.m. The film Enchanted has three songs nominated. Kristen Chenoweth and Marlon Saunders will sing "That's How You Know", Jon McLaughlin sings "So Close" and the film's star Amy Adams will perform "Happy Working Song". I'm rooting for the song "Falling Slowly" from Once performed by its stars Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. The IMPACT Repertory Theatre of Harlem will join Simone Nash for the song "Raise It Up" from August Rush.


And don't forget to set your VCR's, DVR's, or circle on your calendar Monday Feb. 25 at 8 p.m. when ABC televises Lorraine Hansberry's Raisin In the Sun.  This is a recreation of the award-winning Broadway revival directed by Kenny Leon featuring Sean Combs, Phylicia Rashad, and Audra McDonald. You can see Rashad and Combs interviewed on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" Feb. 22.

 I noticed the wonderful Tony-winning Jennifer Ehle (Escape from Utopia) starring on a recent "Hallmark Hall of Fame" film "The Russell Girl".  While film lacked a lot, Ehle was once again outstanding.


Noticed the television series "Eli Stone" has Broadway veterans Victor Garber and Laura Benanti. (It really is an interesting show. Give it a shot.)


Another series, "The Lipstick Jungle" featured Kerry Butler (Hairspray  and Xanadu) and in a small role was Baltimore's Andre DeShields (The Full Monty).


On the latest "House" I noticed the wonderful Erica Gimpel. I'll never forget her portrayal of a prostitute in the terrific 2003 Center Stage production of  Intimate Apparel.


And my final television reference, on "Boston Legal", Scott Bakula (Shenandoah) sang a beautiful ballad "Once Upon a Time".

 Now to films. I highly recommend "In Bruges". This English film was written and directed by the Irish playwright Martin McDonagh (The Beauty Queen of Leenane) and stars Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and Ralph Fiennes. I noticed playing a small role, Zeljko Ivanek, who performed in McDonagh's acclaimed Broadway hit, The Pillowman.  I must admit that I have been to Bruges and it was wonderful to see this great Flemish town getting all this attention. Wait till you see Gleeson enjoying his Belgian waffles (they're sold everywhere) topped with whipped cream.


Allow me to report on the enjoyable Baltimore Symphony concert featuring Art Garfunkle.  Guest conductor Steven Reineke opened the program with his own wonderful "Celebration Fanfare" (which he should have announced from the stage since there was no listing of the music in the program).

 But the audience was there to hear Garfunkle and he didn't disappoint.  He wore his typical costume of jeans, white shirt, loose tie, and vest and admitted to using glitter in his hair.  He mentioned his five favorite composers: Stephen Sondheim, Paul Simon, Jim Webb, James Taylor (accompanying him on the piano was long-time Taylor pianist Cliff Carter), and Randy Newman.

 His first act lasted 35 minutes and included ten songs such as "The Boxer", "Scarbourgh Fair", "Mrs. Robinson" and Antonio Jobim's "Quite Nights and Quiet Stars".

 After intermission, the packed Meyerhoff, heard the BSO do a wonderful arrangement of the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby". Garfunkel then did a beautiful rendition of Billy Joel's "And So It Goes" (used in Movin' Out), "Bridge Over Troubled Water", "Sounds of Silence" and "Cecilia" which brought down the house. He ended the nostalgic evening with "Sleep Tight My Love". It was an evening to remember.

 I wanted to remind readers of the Kennedy Center's undertaking  presenting readings of ALL of August Wilson's plays. They offer outstanding casts and directors.  The plays and dates:

 1900s: Gem of the Ocean (March 4-8)

1910s: Joe Turner's Come and Gone (March 6-8)

1920s: Ma Rainey's Black Bottom  (March 9-11)

1930s: The Piano Lesson (March 12-15)

1940s: Seven Guitars (March 14-16)

1950s: Fences (March 16-19)

1960s: Two Trains Running (March 20-25)

1970s: Jitney (March 22-26)

1980s: Kind Hedley II (March 23-27)

1990s: Radio Golf (March 28-29)

For more information, call 800-444-1324 or visit

 Went to opening night of High School Musical at the Hippodrome. It was unusual to have the Baltimore Ravens' marching band performing at a "pep rally" prior to the show. The audience was filled with many first time theater-goers, many under 10. And they all had a blast. I had predicted after my first viewing of the televised version of Disney's HSM that one day this would end up on Broadway, and after viewing this production, I stand by my prediction.  What a fun show it is, filled with an energetic cast.  I couldn't help notice there are four alumni from Mamma Mia! in the show.

I was so impressed with this young group of actors. John Jeffrey Martin (Troy), Shakiem Evans (Chad), and Bobby List are the male leads and they are terrific. Arielle Jacobs (Gabriella), Olivia Oguma (Kelsi) and Helene Yorke (Sharpay) are the female leads and they are likewise incredibly talented. But it is Ellen Harvey (Ms. Darbus) who almost steals the show. There are 13 terrific musicians in the pit led by Robert Sprayberry plus a percussionist who has been placed in a "remote location".

Basketball plays a large part of the musical yet you won't see anyone take a shot. However, I do wish someone would put up a basketball net that reflects it has been used at least once.

No matter what your age, IF you can snag a ticket, you'll enjoy HSM. It runs until  March 2, 2008. For tickets, 410-547-SEAT.

 Next up at the Studio is Alan Ball's All That I Will Ever Be running through March 9 in Stage 4. 202-332-3300 or visit

 The Turn of the Screw continues at the Everyman Theatre. Megan Anderson and Bruce Nelson do a splendid job as the entire cast. It ends this week-end. On deck is August Wilson's Gem of the Ocean which runs March 19 to April 27. Jefferson Russell portays Citizen Barlow. You may recall his excellent performance in 2005 in the Everyman's Someone Who'll Watch Over Me. 410-752-2208 or visit

 Many of Baltimore's restaurants have extended "Restaurant Week" till the end of February. Try a new place prior to your next theater experience. Visit or call 410-468-1624.

 Center Stage continues with Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are DEAD directed by Irene Lewis. It runs until March 9.

 Just announced by Center Stage is the cast for A Little Night Music. I've seen full page ads for this Sondheim musical in "Tthe Sun" and "Style" magazine. And who is playing the grande dame Madam Armfeldt? None other than Polly Bergen!! Yes, THAT Polly Bergen. Also in the cast is Stephen Bogardus, Tony-nominated for the 1995 play Love! Valour! Compassion. I recall seeing Bogardus perform in the off-Broadway production of Fallsettos. The play runs March 13 through April 13 and I predict will have a buffo box-office. Visit For tickets, call 410-332-0033.

 Last chance to see the delightful production of George Bernard Shaw's Mrs. Warren's Profession ending Feb. 24 at the Rep Stage in Columbia. 410-772-4900.

 Also final call for the musical Ella  at the new temporary location of the Arena Stage in Crystal City through Feb. 24. This production is outstanding. Don't miss it. Coming next as part of the Arena Stage's Arthur Miller Festival will be Death of a Salesman (March 14-May 18) in repertory with A View from the Bridge (beginning March 21-May 17) Call 202-488-3300.

The Comedy of Errors ends Feb. 24 at the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival. 410-366-8596.

 Argonautika continues its successful run at Washington's Shakespeare Theatre. This is adapted and directed by Mary Zimmerman.  You'll laugh and be amazed. Through March 2. 202-547-1122.

 The Tony-winning play Doubt is at the Olney Theatre Center running from until March 9.  301-924-3400.

 The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company presents Henrik Ibsen's A Doll House through March 2. 866-811-4111 or visit

 For you book-club members, head to the Round House Theatre in Bethesda for The Book Club Play.  It runs until March 6. 240-644-1100.

 The Bay Theatre in Annapolis will be presenting Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie Feb. 22 - March 29. Their pay-what-you-can performance is March 6.  Post-show discussions with the cast will be offered on March 2 and March 16. Call 410-268-1333 or visit

The musical Pageant continues at the Spotlighters through March 9. 410-752-1225.

Dundalk Community Theatre offers Other People's Money running Feb. 22 to March 2. 410-752-6369.

One of the most talked-about shows in the area is Six Queens and an Inflatable Henry at the Mobtown Theatre through March 8. This is a 90 minute musical mystery tour surrounding the dead brides of King Henry VIII. This is a U.S. premiere. 410-467-3057 or visit and

Coming to the Folger Theatre Feb. 28-April 13 is Macbeth, conceived and directed by Aaron Posner and Teller. YES…that Teller of Penn and Teller. He also designed the magic. This could be really something. Call 202-544-7077 or visit

One of my favorite actors Robert Prosky and his two sons will perform in Arthur Miller's The Price at Theater J March 8-April 18.  Sunday, March 9 and Tuesday, March 11 are Pay-What-You-Can previews. 800-494-TIXS. I've heard good reports about this production recently performed in Philadelphia at the Walnut Street Theater.

 Why not head to see Sam Shepard's Fool for Love at the Spooky Action Theater in the Black Box Theatre on the campus of Montgomery College. Kasi Campbell directs. Call 202-248-0647


 Variations Project by the Run of the Mill Theater at the Theater Project Feb. 26 and 27. Send your resume to with "Varitions Audition" in the subject line.

I Never Sang for My Father at the Spotlighters March 8 & 9. Write to

 Pump Boys and Dinettes, Into the Woods, Anansi: Tales of the Trickster Spider, Late Post Revue (cabaret style) March 18 at the Theatre on the Hill at McDaniel College. 410-857-2599.

 ZANA, DON'T  at the Kensington Arts Theatre Feb . 26 and 27 at 7:30 p.m. I LOVED this musical. 240-396-4307 or visit

 Bus Stop at Reston Community Players Feb. 22 and 23. 703-758-8886.

 Sylvia at McLean Community Players Feb. 24 and 26.

 Enchanted April at the Little Theatre of Alexandria Feb. 23 and 24.

 For comments, write to



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