CHARM CITY STAGE DOOR – 07/18/2006
The Maryland Arts Festival at Towson University’s celebration of women, with Beehive: The 60’s Musical and the American Musical classic, Gypsy, and the award-winning one-woman show The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, starring Julie Herber closes this weekend: Congratulations on a terrific summer! See you next year! Dates and performance times vary widely for these events, as do ticket prices. For more information, call 410-704-2787 or go online at www.towson.edu/maf.
(Gypsy review posted on BroadwayWorld.com – Baltimore on 07/05/2006. Beehive review posted on BroadwayWorld.com – Baltimore on 07/03/2006. )
An interview with Gypsy’s Kathryn M. Lyles posted on BroadwayWorld.com – Baltimore on 07/17/2006.
SPOTLIGHTERS: CHEKHOV JUST FOR LAFFS
Perhaps an evening of rib-tickling belly laughs is not always the first thought that comes into one’s mind when hearing the name Chekhov. The themes of his plays, though, are the stuff of wonderful comedy---the never-ending conflicts between men and women merely trying to cope with the world, with the tedium of life, and with each other. Directors John Sadowsky and Mary H. Pohlig, and translator Paul Schmidt bring to life some of this world-class playwright’s greatest short plays in an evening of hilarious vaudevilles. Tickets are $15 for adults with discounts for Seniors, Students, and Baltimore Theatre Alliance members.
The cast features some of Baltimore’s favorite veteran actors, including J. R. Lyston, Mark Squirek, Kathy Ireland, and Branch Warfield. Baltimore newcomer and Loyola professor of theater, Charlie Mitchell is making his Spotlighters debut with this production. The cast also features talented newcomers Russ Addis and Taylor Craig.
Tickets may be purchased at the Box Office one hour prior to each performance. Tickets may be placed on Will Call by phoning the theatre at 410-752-1225, or from the website: www.spotlighters.org. Will Call Reservations are strongly recommended. Cash and Credit Cards are accepted at the Box Office. Tickets may be purchased on line at www.missiontix.com using a credit card.
(Review to be posted on 07/19/2006 on BroadwayWorld.com – Baltimore.)
COCKPIT-IN-COURT : THE MUSIC MAN & MORE!
Cockpit-in-Court at its home at CCBC-Essex as usual – 34 years in a row, and now for July they have three truly classic shows. First up is the musical Mary Martin made famous, Peter Pan, presented by the children’s theatre group whose home is the Essex campus. Peter Pan runs from July 7 – 16, Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM, Sundays at 2PM. Then, on the main stage is Meredith Willson’s family classic The Music Man will run at Cockpit in Court Summer Theatre from July 21 through August 6, with performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 3pm, and one Thursday performance on August 3 at 8pm. Ken Kemp of Gaithersburg plays Harold Hill in this production, opposite Kimberly Hart of Fallston as Marian Paroo. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm, with one Thursday night performance on August 3 at 8pm. Tickets are $18 general admission, $16 seniors and CCBC alumni, and $12 for children 12 and under. Tickets are available in advance by calling the Box Office at 410.780.6369.
Closing out the season in the upstairs cabaret is the mystery classic, An Inspector Calls, running from July 28 – August 6, Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM, Sundays at 2PM. For tickets and more information go to www.ccbcmd.edu/cockpit.
(The Music Man to be reviewed on Baltimore.BroadwayWorld.com – 07/22/2006.)
TOBY’S DINNER THEATRE FOR THE SUMMER
Local theatre icon Toby Orenstein has great summer fare in two locations – her original Toby’s of Columbia and now the terrific new Toby’s of Baltimore. And that great fare takes place at both the dinner table (sumptuous buffets are featured at both locations) and on the stage! At the fabulous new Toby’s in Baltimore (located at the newly renovated Best Western at the Baltimore Travel Plaza) the terrific Footloose:The Musical continues its successful run throughout the summer. This don’t-miss production features two of Baltimore’s most thrilling new performers, Kurt Boehm as Ren and Becca Vourvoulas as Ariel. For more information, and to make reservations (you REALLY should) call 1-866-99TOBYS or go online at www.tobysdinnertheatre.com.
(Review of Footloose posted 06/20/2006 on BroadwayWorld – Baltimore.)
An interview with Mr. Boehm and Ms. Vourvoulas posted on 07/14/2006 on BroadwayWorld – Baltimore.
Toby’s Columbia just opened its summer show, Buddy: The Buddy Holly Musical, which will run through September 3, 2006. For more information about this rock n’ roll event, call 1-800-88TOBYS or go online at www.tobysdinnertheatre.com.
(Review posted 07/10/2006 on BroadwayWorld – Baltimore)
NOW PLAYING AT THE 25th ANNUAL BALTIMORE PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL
The Baltimore Playwrights Festival is in the midst of it 25th year of bringing new, exciting works to the stage. Running through July 23rd at Fells Point Corner Theatre is “The Past is Present” a collection of one-act plays: Willie Baby by Joe Dennison, Carol Weinberg and Kimberley Lynn, directed by Marianne Angelella; Memory Garden by Mark Scharf and directed by Sharon Weaver; Wilderness by Mark Scharf and directed by Miriam Bazensky; and Miss Alice Plays by Rich Espey and directed by Mark Squirek. Show times at FPCT are Thurs – Sat at 8PM, Sun at 7PM and tickets are $14 General/ $12 Seniors and Students. For more information go to www.fpct.org or call 410-276-7837.
For more information about the entire festival, go to www.baltimoreplaywrightsfestival.org or call 410-276-2153.
BEST THEATRE WEBSITE OF THE WEEK: A Chorus Line
Go to www.achorusline.com. The blogs by cast members are terrific and very revealing about the timelessness of this classic, soon to return to Broadway. I have my ticket already. Do you?
A DAY IN NEW YORK CITY: NEW VOICES
Seems my colleague Charles Shubow (see his Backstage column of 07/16/2006) were both in New York at the same time and didn’t know it! Followers of my column know that in recent weeks, I’ve made the trip up to New York several times recently – the last 3 weekends, in fact. This past Saturday, as luck would have it, a friend of mine and I decided we needed to hit the Big Apple and see a few things. This particular friend of mine is a true musical theatre enthusiast, and is particularly drawn to the newer voices in American Musical Theatre, and it was a pretty full day of just that!
On the way up, we listened to a “new” old voice – where have these guys gone??? – Harman and Herrmann, writers of one of my all-time favorite shows – Romance/Romance. Two one act musicals about, you guessed it, romance, made up the evening. 4 actors – including Scott “Quantum Leap” Bakula and the delightful Alison Fraser play all the parts in both one acts. The songs are witty, intelligent and very tuneful – “The Little Comedy”, “Rustic Country Inn”, “Words He Doesn’t Say” and “Night It Had to End” are particularly wonderful.
2 PM SHOW: When we got to the city, the first show we saw (my second time, his first) was by “new voices” Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin, writers of The Wedding Singer. By far the most traditional of the shows that day, the show offered us a chance to mentally cool down and have a lot of fun. In the few weeks it has been since I saw first saw the show, it has improved 10-fold. Everyone in it seems to have settled in, and is taking chances and just plain old having fun now. The threat of imminent closing has (thankfully) past, and knowing you have a job for the longer term would make anyone relax. Laura Benanti and Amy Spanger continue to do sweet, charming work – Spanger is especially terrific – and the most improved actor on Broadway award goes to Stephen Lynch as lead, Robbie Hart, who is finally showing that he deserved that Tony nod, after all. He has really loosened up and gotten REALLY funny! If you like old-fashioned musicals and really loved the 80’s, The Wedding Singer is for you!
5 PM SHOW: Next up, after a mad dash in a cab (35 blocks in 20 minutes!), was [title of show], which has resumed performances at the Vineyard Theatre in Union Square. This little gem – 4 actors, 4 chairs, about 5 props, and a piano is all there is – proves that less is more. WAY MORE! It is the only show I can think of in recent years that has lived up to its hype 100%. Actually, it is even better than its hype… For the TRUE musical theatre fan, [title of show] does for musical writers and composers what A Chorus Line does for actors auditioning. It is the chronicling of the process of creating a musical from scratch – in fact it is the process of creating [title of show] by the creators of [title of show] – Hunter Bell, Jeff Bowen, Susan Blackwell and Heidi Blickenstaff created and are the cast of [tos]. So it is TRULY a first hand look at the creative process. It is hilarious, full of great songs, and is surprisingly touching. Don’t worry you needn’t have ever written a show to get it, though it helps if you have ever seen a show. And if you are a true “show queen” or musical theatre enthusiast, you’ll get a kick of the obscure references to shows like Kwamina, The Rink, and Dude, and you’ll really love the phone messages that play between scenes – Amy Spanger (I guess I’m a huge fan) and Emily Skinner’s messages are particularly fun. And to add to the fun, most of the cast of Avenue Q (as you know, one of my new favorites, also by “new voices” Jeff Witty, Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez) was there at the show, too! Jennifer Barnhart, the terrific Mary Faber, and my favorite Rod/Princeton understudy, Jonathan Root (see last week’s column). After a nudge from my friend, I got up the courage to say hello to him. And he was gracious and funny! And in a hurry – he had just over an hour to eat before doing HIS show! GET TO THE VINEYARD! This is an important show, one you will regret missing. It only plays for 8 weeks. Oh, and they have the CD on sale in the lobby, but it won’t be available until the 25th of July. (That week it’ll be my CD best bet, I guarantee it!)
8 PM SHOW: Then after a quick bite in Chelsea, it was off to the final show of our day, Spring Awakening, a new musical by “new voices” Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater. The show, directed by Michael Mayer – from this, you’d never have guessed he was responsible for Thoroughly Modern Millie – is based on a long banned play by Frank Wedekind. It follows the sexual awakening for German school children. It is frank, open, graphic, and quite the mental exercise. It is also very honest and deeply moving. Spring Awakening challenges viewers in many ways, and is near brilliant. The staging is mind-blowing, sharp and simply riveting. Playing at the Atlantic Theatre Company, the show, with good reason, has been extended through August 5. Rumor has it, they are looking into a longer run and a commercial transfer. Keep your fingers crossed! This piece deserves to be seen and heard - PLEASE RECORD THIS SCORE. The cast is made up of mostly unknown young actors (all of whom will be famous in the very near future – talk about your new voices!), but does feature Lea Michele, who does stunning work here. You may have seen her as Young Eponine or Young Cosette in Les Miz’s first go-round (she is set to play Eponine in the revival) or you might have seen her as Little Girl in Ragtime. She has grown up to be a fine young performer. The show also features, as the male adult figure, Tony-winner Frank Wood (Side Man). I will warn you, the sexual talk is explicit, as are a few of the scenes, but none of it is gratuitous, and the show itself is a scathing attack on closed minded sexual ideals. Again, a show not to be missed.
So, the future of the American Musical, from mainstream to avant-garde, is in great hands. Let’s remember this the next time some declares the art form dead!
Thanks for reading, James.