Comedy World Premiere – A FOX ON THE FAIRWAY
By Ben Ryland
One might suspect that you are in for a great time when the pre-show announcements include the statement- “This show may not be ridiculed.”
And a great time is what you get at Ken Ludwig’s newest farcical offering, A FOX ON THE FAIRWAY. You also get the funniest comedy in many years to grace a local stage. Signature Theatre goes all out for their production bringing in John Rando (URINETOWN on Broadway) to direct plus several Great White Way actors too. All is first-class here including James Kronzer’s contemporary set of a county club lounge and bar.
Jeff McCarthy (URINETOWN, SIDESHOW, CHICAGO) is brilliant as the manager, of the Crouching Squirrel Country Club, Bingham and on the day of the annual golf tourney he makes an outrageous bet on the outcome with a friendly rival. Quail Valley’s County Club Director Richard (Andrew Long) is all braggart, funny and full of himself while wearing a variety of horrible golf sweaters that need to be seen to be believed. Helen Hayes Award winner Holly Twyford plays Pamela another administrator at Crouching Squirrel in cahoots with Bingham and she is a lover of all things alcoholic. A secondary couple of employee lovebirds become engaged at the onset which sets all the problems and craziness into motion.
As in every classic farce all hell breaks loose and builds upon the incredible occurrences and folly within the narrative. Unbelievable circumstances slam into the best laid plans constantly uprooting the intentions of the characters.
Sex works its way into the plot as Pamela and Bingham then Richard and Bingham’s wife discover their attractions for each other. Bingham is unhappy in his marriage and explains his “wife is like Alaska, but with no drilling.” All of the characters have great comedic lines including Richard’s total lack of understanding but repeated usage of verbal clichés- “to the spoils, go the victor” “when pigs die” and my favorite- ‘the sock is on the other shoe.” Pamela who seems drunk during much of the later half of the show declares “after 2 or 3 bottles she starts to feel it,” you get the picture. If, like me, you have no interest in golf that’s ok too because it’s not necessary. Golf is just the vehicle you take on this wonderful journey. Plus it is explained early on by Pamela that the game and sex are similar, “you can enjoy both without being any good at them.”
Farce is really impossible to explain without giving too much away so I will stop here and suggest that whatever you do, you must not miss A FOX ON THE FAIRWAY.
Ken Ludwig’s A FOX ON THE FAIRWAY
at Signature Theatre in Arlington
Now until November 14th
Tickets and info at www.signature-theatre.org
HOW THE OTHER HALF LIVES
by Priscella Mack
Located just east of Lancaster, PA. is a great dinner theatre called Rainbow Dinner Theatre.
For twenty-six years, Rainbow has been serving up great comedy theater and great food.
Their latest show, “How the other half Loves” has plenty of laughs and tender moments.
As the show opens, we see Bob Phillips (Scott Russell) and his wife Teresa Phillips (Theresa Walker) having a spat.
Teresa is a stay at home mom, and she can’t understand why Bob comes home late from work.
Meanwhile, we see the life of Bob’s boss Frank Foster (Joe Winters) and his wife Fiona (Cynthia DiSavino).
Frank and Fiona live the high life of parties and having all the conveniences in life.
But, even with all the goodies of the modern life, Fiona may not be happy with what her husband Frank can offer to her.
Throw in the zaniness of the uptight couple William Detweiler (Crag A. Smith) and his wife Mary, (Sarah Buck)
and now you have a show.
The audience knows that Bob Phillips and Fiona Foster are having a secret affair, but the other four cast members don’t know that Fiona and Bob are cheating behind their spouses back.
Bob and Fiona do a great job of keeping their spouses and friend’s off guard to what is happening.
Funny lines and physical humor add to the show.
In the end, we have experienced lots of laughs and maybe we understand more, how true human nature works.
“How the other half Loves” runs until July 31, 2010.
The next show is “The Busybody.”
For a great night out and a great show and meal, please call Rainbow Dinner Theatre at 1-800-292-4301, or 1-717-687-4300.
TRIUMPH OF LOVE at Olney and OLIVER at Toby’s Baltimore
By Ben Ryland
TRIUMPH OF LOVE the play by Marivaux was turned into an entertaining musical in the late nineties by James Magruder, Jeffery Stock, and Susan Birkenhead and premiered at CenterStage before being retooled for Broadway. The clever, funny and tuneful show added stars for the New York run but it didn’t catch on and closed after an undeserved short run.
When was the last time you saw a show with a philosopher which turns out joyous and fun. Prince Agis has sworn to kill Princess Leonide who he believes stole most of his kingdom of Sparta. This information was offered by his aunt and uncle themselves with ulterior motives for more power. Unfortunately the princess wants to study with Uncle Hermocrates. It is full of subtle sexuality and some not so subtle as when the Uncle tells the prince to go and ‘wax his cannon”.
Of course the prince and princess fall for each other. The plot evolves into a clever farce with the princess adopting various disguises with all of the participants involved in the intrigues. Enhanced by the wonderfully funny lyrics performed by a first-rate cast again it proves that love cures all. Director Clay Hopper describes the show in the press notes as, “It’s bawdy. It’s whimsical. It’s a lush springtime musical farce, full of gender-bending seductions and plot-twists that will make your head spin.” And by all means, don’t blink.
Most of the action takes place in the topiary labyrinth of an 18th Century Greco-French estate with a beautiful collage of sunflowers representing the real orb. The lovely set is designed by Cristina Todesco and lit beautifully by Mark Lanks.
Patricia Hurley handles the role of the princess with aplomb in the difficult pivotal role. The entire cast is up to the strong characterizations and sing the score well.
TRIUMPH is a little known show that deserves more productions and a better reputation in the world of musicals. Don’t miss this opportunity to enjoy it in this fine production.
Triumph of Love – Olney Theatre Center, Rt. 108 at Sandy-Springs Road
Now until May 9th, Call 301-924-3400 or http://www.olneytheatre.org
OLIVER at Toby’s Dinner Theatre in Baltimore
Before the British invasion of Andrew Lloyd Webber and producer Cameron Mackintosh the only English musical of any weight on Broadway was Lionel Bart’s OLIVER. Opening in 1963 it won the Tony award for Best Musical and has been playing on world stages ever since.
It’s a big show with multiple set changes and a large cast so it is often produced for the lucrative summer theatre time frame or Christmas.
Containing great hit songs including- ‘Food Glorious Food’ ‘Where is Love?’ ‘As Long as He Needs Me’ and ‘Consider Yourself’ it too is a joyous show.
Oliver is full of the squalor of Dickensian London as it portrays the “high life” as the ultimate place to attain to after being born into the slums. Some by fortune, some by force and others by thievery. Iconic character, Fagin, keeps the orphan boys under his thumb and teaches them to steal putting quite a nest egg for his impending retirement. But doing theft for murderous villain Bill Sikes has a way of turning against most folks.
Sikes mistress, Nancy a saloon girl, tries to mediate between the thieves and the villain but she too is under his thumb at all time.
With atmospheric sets and lighting this is a fine production directed by Shawn Kettering and at under two hours running time is a perfect show for adults and kids. And believe me there are tons of kids in the cast; it’s even totally double cast. Our performance Oliver was ten year old T. J. Langston but he is tiny and seems more like 6 or 7. But he’s got the stuff to sustain the role and sing it touchingly. David Bosley-Reynolds is obviously having a great time playing Fagin and plays him to the hilt. Alan Hoffman as Bill Sykes all violence and murder and a proper villain for the show. Other actors play a variety of characters, most of them Toby’s regulars, and are equally good.
As Fagin and his band steal from the rich and live hand to mouth lucky Oliver was born for better things. His mother running away after conceiving him out of wedlock drops him off at the orphanage where the story begins. Through a variety of circumstances it all comes together in an almost totally happy ending except for the sacrificial death of a major character who saves his life.
Check out this glorious production at Toby’s with their feast before the show.
OLIVER – Toby’s Dinner Theatre, at the Best Western Travel Plaza on O’Donnell Street just of I-95 north of the tunnel.
Now playing until June 6th.
Reservations: 410-649-1660 or http://www.tobysdinnertheatre.com
Two Summer Theatre Productions Worth Attending
By Ben Ryland
It seems that there is less and less summer theatre available in the Baltimore area every year. Thankfully there are two recently opened shows that you should check out.
Cockpit in Court at ECC presents ‘Crazy For You,’ a revisal of Gershwin’s classic ‘Girl Crazy’ which made Ethel Merman a star with her show-stopper- “I Got Rhythm.” The story is similar to the original where a NY banker heads out west to foreclose on a theatre property in Dead Rock, Nevada. Of course the banker, Bobby Child, is a frustrated song and dance man (this is a 30’s musical after all folks). The theatre owner has a daughter……you can figure out the rest. But within the comic mind of playwright Ken Ludwig (Lend Me A Tenor) the story becomes a wonderful farce full of colorful characters, mistaken identities, a couple of love stories and of course an effort to save the theatre. If it seems a bit Mickey and Judy (“let’s put on a show and raise the money’) believe me it is- they starred in the 1943 movie version called Girl Crazy.
But the major factor in ‘Crazy For You’ are all the wonderful Gershwin tunes including many interpolated from other shows that the brothers created. The song list in the program reads like the American Songbook. Hit after hit, dance number after dance number director Robert Oppel and choreographer Stephanie Skinner have created an almost carbon copy of the Broadway production. Utilizing professional sets and over the top costumes it is old fashioned musical theatre heaven.
It’s great to hear a full orchestra overture which seems to have recently disappeared along with show curtains. Here we get both, plus a car on stage.
Baltimore ‘Tap Dance Kid’ appearing on the Cockpit in Court Stage 25 years after his debut- Gary Dieter is all smiles as Bobby dancing throughout many songs. Becca Vourvoulas is wonderful as the theatre owner’s daughter he falls for, Polly Baker. Her beautiful voice wrapped around Gershwin lyrics soars into the rafters.
There are many other standouts within the large cast in this entertaining production. It only runs until August 2nd so get your tickets now. Who could ask for anything more for about twenty bucks a ticket?
A brand new theatre company is offering the area premiere of a popular recent nominee for the Best Play Tony Award. “The Little Dog Laughed” has been popping up all over the country but it took a new group to bring it to Baltimore. Teatro101 in residence at the Mobtown Players Theatre has ‘an artistic vision of producing LGBT works, foreign plays, new works, and even musicals using unconventional and unexpected concepts’.
David Gregory plays Mitch Green, an on the verge of super-stardom movie actor with
intermittent bouts of homosexuality. In a drunken stupor he calls a male escort service while in New York looking at a Broadway play as a possible movie venture. Of course that play revolves around a gay love story, but more on that below. When the rentboy shows up he is a sweetly innocent (and straight) soul looking for love. Within the 4 character story his girlfriend turns out to be a bigger hustler in her own way than he is. He falls for Mitch who is not ready to go public and would prefer they just stay in bed and sleep side by side. However the boy wants a relationship, and love. Something he is not getting from his girlfriend.
Narrated in a different way by Mitch’s agent, Diane, she is the Hollywood player of the story trying to save the actors’ career as well as her own. The play takes many twists and turns including said gay play turning into a hetero love story for the movies after a ‘take away all the rights of the playwright’ contract who, though never seen, is kicking and screaming about them screwing up his original work. (The film needs to play multiplexes after all). Diane is a barracuda, not lovable but fully in charge. Actress Shannon Maddox has the role down but she is too young and not worldly enough to pull off the characterization completely realistically. But as the role is written she does portray the agent’s bluntness and power.
The best in the cast is Ryan Haase as Alex or Bryan or whatever name you want to use when you pay him. Haase is a local actor to watch and had the entire audience on his side. When the final scenes arrive and Diane has made everything work to HER advantage, outcast Alex is the real winner- stronger and ready to make his life work by changing it.
I really liked the light-handed direction of Joseph Ritsch; “The Little Dog Laughed” is a play that should unfold in front of the audience not be thrust upon it. His style of the production has made it the most affecting version of Douglas Carter Beane’s play of the three staging’s that I have seen in the last year. I wish Teatro101 well in future efforts.
Performances continue at the Mobtown Players Theatre until August 2nd.
By Ben Ryland
The gospel themed musical, CROWNS, has just opened its 4th production by Arena Stage in Washington for a short run through April 26th. Mixing traditional hymns with new songs by Michael Cunningham and Craig Marberry, this time the show is being staged in the majestic Lincoln Theatre in the neo-trendy neighborhood of U Street, NW.
Basically without a plot the show is a structural mess if you require theatrical entertainments to have a narrative; here you have plot points and heartfelt stories to move the evening along. Much like a church service the pivotal role is the Reverend (as well as other roles) performed by the lone man in the cast of 7.
Phillip Boykin, new to the show, has a powerful singing voice surely touched by God and is the best actor on the stage in an ensemble where there are no weak performances. The women lead by Center Stage and Arena Stage favorite, E. Faye Butler and Marva Hicks knock the audience out of their seats earning ovation after ovation for their vocal pyrotechnics. Natasha Yvette Williams, Kara-Tameika Watkins, Mary Millben and newcomer Zurin Vallaneua (in her professional debut) tell the stories through dialog and song of their elaborate hats which encompassed their actual life stories.
Into this mix is a street kid from Brooklyn, sent to live with grandmother in this sleepy southern town after her brother is killed on the streets. There she is exposed to the African tradition of women wearing crowns; “can’t go to see the king in his house on Sundays without your hat.”
She is taught ‘hat-etude’ explaining the reasoning behind collecting hats- how they dip, bob and sway in church, and like china are passed down to the next generation. The men don’t get it, but give in to keep their women happy. Sometimes under threat! Don’t mess with these ladies.
Beautifully sung and performed (sometimes rattling the roof of the Lincoln Theatre) it’s not difficult to understand the popularity of this work. And at 90 minutes the running time is perfect to sustain its vision without a beginning-middle-conclusion style of a narrative plot.
This run of CROWNS is short so don’t delay, but be aware the parking around U Street is tough. Go early and enjoy a nice meal at one of the myriad of restaurants including the famous Ben’s Chilli Bowl right next door.
CROWNS – produced by Arena Stage at the Lincoln Theatre, 1215 U Street. DC
Now until April 26th
Tickets and directions at- http://www.arenastage.org