Baltimore/Washington Backstage - March 30,2007

 Oh I wish I wasn't going to be out-of-town this week-end for one of the greatest actors of our time will be here for the week-end, Roger Rees. While his stage work is remarkable (maybe best known for his Tony-winning masterful portrayal on Broadway's historic  8 and ? hour long "The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickelby" or his unforgettable leading role in the musical, "A Man of No Importance"), many will recall him from his roles on "Cheers" (Kirstie Alley's friend Robin Colcord), "The West Wing" (English Ambassador Lord John Marbury) and this week on "Grey's Anatomy".  I first met him while he was the Artistic Director of the Williamstown Theatre Festival.


Beginning Friday night, March 30, you can catch this  62 year-old thespian in a world premiere one-man show at the Folger Theatre: "What You Will: By and About the Bard." What an opportunity. What better actor to do this after his 22 years with the Royal Shakespeare Company.  Advertised as "a hysterical, historical, and histrionic celebration of Shakespeare", this maybe once-in-a-lifetime opportunity has five performances until April 1.  Next up at the Folger (marking its 75th Anniversary) will be "The Tempest", running from May 9-June 17.  Call 202-544-7077.


Baltimore is still buzzing about "Spamalot". As we bid adieu, I wanted to report on a hilarious incident during their last performance in Baltimore. I've previously referred to actor Darryl Semira and neglected to mention that one of Darryl's roles included  playing the Marcel Marceau character in "white face". Well, Sunday night, March 19, the show was being "signed". So you can just imagine how hysterical it was when Darryl pointed to the two "signers" as he was doing HIS signing. The audience roared!


And who was the lucky patron in seat D101 who had the opportunity to get on stage with the cast in Act II. None only than former head of the Baltimore County Schools Library, Jim Atell. I'm sure he'll treasure his Polaroid photo given to him about his "one minute of fame".


A bit of good news about Baltimorean Robbie Roby who had a blast performing FINALLY in Baltimore. Next up for Robbie? He will finally get his first role on Broadway on May 15 as a "dance captain/swing" in "Hairspray". Congratulations to the Robbie and the whole Roby family!!


Did anyone catch "The Jersey Boys" touring edition on "Jay Leno" last week? They weren't bad. Although the actor playing Frankie Valli is no John Lloyd Young.


Also on NBC, the winners were announced March 25 on "You're the One That I Want". The two winners who will star on Broadway in "Grease": Laura Osnes (20) and Max Crumm (21).  Did anyone notice the first comment by one the Producers after the winners were announced was "I feel like calling Ticketmaster to buy tickets." Was this necessary?

I was, however, really pleased they show the rest of the cast of "Grease" which opens on Broadway in June. But, why did they not include the actor's names along with the names of the characters they will play? It wouldn't have been difficult.


Did you catch all the Tony winners on network television this week? Patti LuPone on "Ugly Betty" ,  "Jersey  Boys'" Christian Huff in "Law and Order", John Cullum in "Law and Order, SVU") and Roger Rees in "Grey's Anatomy" (mentioned above).


I had the pleasure recently to attend Parts I and II of Tom Stoppard's trilogy of plays entitled "The Coast of Utopia". I'll be reporting more about this after I see Part III "Salvage".  If you can, by any means necessary, get tickets. Do not miss this astonishing bit of theater. Go to to view scenes and music from Parts I and II. It's a terrific web-site. The music by Mark Bennett (a frequent contributor at Center Stage) is stirring.


This is quite the hot-ticket in New York. I was able to talk to Tony-winner Brian Stokes Mitchell and met the host of "Inside the Actor's Studio", James Lipton.  At the stage door wearing his "Round House Theatre" hat, was actor/playwright Austin Pendleton. The Round-House recently did his play "Orson's Shadow".


Coming next on MPT's "Artworks This Week" (April 4 at 7:30 p.m.) will be a segment on the Everyman Theatre's "And A Nightingale Sings" which runs through April 29. My thoughts on this production directed by Artistic Director Vince Lancisi are mixed. While I thought the first Act was slow, I thoroughly enjoyed Act II when stage veteran Rosemary Knower just took the play by the horns and gives an unforgettable performance. The cast on the whole does well with material which is less than stellar…maybe this is the reason it is not performed much. But, I heartily agree with my colleague, James Howard, who in his review raved about Beth Hylton. Her performance alone is worth the cost of admission. I look forward to seeing her again and again. For tickets, 410-752-2208.


The Everyman also announced its fundraising gala "SALUT! Everyman Goes to Town" on Saturday, April 28 at  6 p.m. at the France Merrick Performing Arts Center (across the street from the new home of the Everyman. Featured will be the World Famous Count Basie Orchestra. The modern version boasts 19 musicians. I bet the place will be JUMPIN'!! Tickets are $175 ($75 of which is deductible). Call the number above no later than April 18 to RSVP.


I was also just a little disappointed at the Center Stage production of "Ah Wilderness". Maybe there is a reason this isn't done very often either. When it began, I thought I was seeing the musical "Ragtime"…a young boy, similar costumes, similar families…and even music.  I just wasn't crazy about the play.  I can't fault the direction by Melia Bensusssen, a newcomer to Center Stage and I expect she'll be back. The acting on the most part was terrific. But I agree with actor Tom Bloom (who I remember from "Henry IV with Kevin Kline at Lincoln Center)  who said on "Artworks This Week" LAST week, this play rises or falls with the leading man, Bob Braswell. I'm not sure if was the character he was playing (a young Eugene O'Neill) or his mannerisms which I found quirky. The set is by Broadway veteran, James Noone and it frames the play quite well. I really enjoyed the use of music and the disappearing piano (a la Radio City Music Hall, it's on a hydraulic lift going up and down during the performance). The actors do a wonderful playing various instruments which makes the evening entertaining.  While not by any means my favorite play of the year at Center Stage, it still was enjoyable. I call it "O'Neill Light". Oh…kudos to the dramaturgy dept. at Center Stage. The program is full of fabulous material.


Good news about Center Stage's Artistic Director, Irene Lewis. She will be directing the wonderful Alice Childress play "Trouble in Mind" this fall at the Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven, CT.  This will run Oct. 26-Nov. 17.  Lewis did an outstanding job directing this terrific work earlier this season at Center Stage with E. Faye Butler (who you can see soon at the Signature Theatre in a few weeks with Carolee Carmello in Kathy Lee Gifford's "Saving Aimee").


Speaking of Center Stage, you may recall how I thought the choice of Stoppard's "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern" was just a tad disappointing since so many other local theaters do it. Well, you can see "R and G" at the Studio Theatre in DC in the Mead Theatre opening May 16.


Now, about the Studio. I last visited this bold theater many years back to see Tom Stoppard's "Indian Ink". I was so looking forward to see their version of "The Pillowman", the acclaimed play by Martin McDonagh (yes, the same McDonagh who wrote "The Cripple of Inishmaan" at the Everyman last season). Jeff Goldblume starred on Broadway in this riveting play and taking the same role here is an actor you should recognize, Denis Arndt ("Picket Fences", "LA Law", "24" and "Boston Legal").  This scary, powerful, nail-biting work should NOT be missed. Besides Arndt,  Director Joy Zinoman (also Artistic Director) has assembled a magnificent cast. Playing the role of Katurian, an author of short stories which one may characterize as being full of graphic violence, is Tom Story. I will NEVER forget him. He's chilling, realistic, powerful, yet vulnerable all at the same time. His special needs brother is played by Aaron Munoz. Wow…what performer. The "Bad Cop" Ariel is played by Hugh Nees (who I actually saw in "Indian Ink"). Tremendous.


Do not miss "The Pillowman". Let me repeat this. Do not miss "The Pillowman". I won't wait so long anymore to see a play here. You shouldn't either. It runs through April 27. Call 202-332-3300. For a nice dinner a block away, I was impressed with the Logan Tavern, 1423 P St. NW (202-332-3710).


I also highly recommend Theater J's "Family Secrets" by Sherry Glaser. This was a huge hit Off-Broadway and you can see for yourself the reason why. Glaser's one-woman 80 minute non-stop show is a fast-paced look at families. Whether she's a teenager with typical adolescent problems, a housewife, a husband, she nails these roles. After you see her in labor, I cannot imagine ANYONE deciding to have a child!! But, the character you will never forget is Grandmother Rose, a feisty character in her '80s, who describes her second chance at love, and when she invites you to attend her Passover Seder (how timely), you'll find a tear in your eye.  It's a remarkable piece of theater. "Family Secrets" runs until April 15. For tickets, 800-494-TIXS.


Opening tonight at the Spotlighters, the long-awaited "The Mineola Twins" by acclaimed playwright Paula Vogel.  This is a Baltimore premiere by the Pulitzer prize winning author of "How I Learned to Drive" done so well by Center Stage a few years back. It runs until April 22. This will be a hot ticket. So plan accordingly. Call 410-752-1225.

You have until April 8 to see "frankie & johnny in the clair de lune" at the Arena Stage. Call 202-488-3300.

Closing Sunday April 2 "Bach at Leipzig" at the Rep Stage. Call 410-772-4900.

Finally, if you want to see a good place to look for theater reviews for the DC area as well as informative podcasts (the new rage), try I think you'll really enjoy it.


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From This Author Charles Shubow