Welcome to STAGES BALTIMORE ON THE WEB

TWO   BIG    ANNOUNCEMENTS:

This website will go down in late September due to the fact that we are moving to New England. Until then there will be no more local reviews (I have stopped working for the newspaper) however the page for SHOWTUNE VIDEO MADNESS will remain active with updates and theme night information. Concerning SVM…

My weekly theatre promotional event (participation) – SHOWTUNE VIDEO MADNESS will cease after Tuesday September 20th after an almost 3 year run. We will have a farewell party and the premiere of season 3 of GLEE with doors opening at 7:45pm.  I hope you can join us for the party or any Tuesday night until then.  The Club Hippo will continue with a showtune Tuesday but details are still being worked out. I wish them well and hope that you support it. The management and staff have been wonderful to us with this crazy video idea using showtune videos and they couldn’t have been more supportive.  The Tony Party, Emmy Awards Party and the Phantom’s cast late-nite Cabaret along with Memorial Day and Pride Block showtunes were the best of times. All were benefits for BROADWAY CARES/EQUITY FIGHTS AIDS. Please don’t forget to support the fight.

–  To all our fans of this webpage and SHOWTUNES:   we want to thank you very much for your support and patronage over the last 33 months, but frankly it’s time for me to get out of this hell-hole formerly  known as charm city.

Wishing you all the very best in the future. 

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Finally, it has just be announced that the new Broadway themed TV show, “SMASH” will premiere on NBC on February 6th. With a cast of mostly New York stage actors, music by the “Hairspray” team and produced by Steven Spielberg.

It’s about the making of a Broadway Musical about Marilyn Monroe and all the songs will be stage oriented within the show.

Can’t Wait!!!!

Advertisements

TONY AWARD Party for Broadway Cares in Baltimore

Club Hippo & SHOWTUNES VIDEO MADNESS

is pleased to announce

  The 4th Annual Baltimore Tony Awards Broadcast Party                           as a benefit for
BROADWAY CARES/EQUITY FIGHTS AIDS

Sunday June 12th – Doors open at 5:30pm
Very Limited Seating

The Party includes:
A Silent Auction
Broadway Flea Market
Live Performances Pre-broadcast
SHOWTUNE VIDEOS
and fun food/
Cash Bar

Advance Reservations:
Reserved Table for 6 – $40
Reserved Table for 3-4 – $25
(pre-paid)

General Admission
Advance Reservations – $5.00
At the Door – $8.00
(No one Under 21 may enter the Club Hippo)

Admission will be taken at the door for general admission in cash
Credit Cards accepted for the Bar and Auction Items only

100% of proceeds will be sent to BC/EFA

To reserve your table or advance reservation:

410-488-5180


email- stagesbalti@aol.com
or at SHOWTUNES VIDEOS Tuesday nights at the Club Hippo
info at http://www.stagesbaltimore.wordpress.com

Big Theatre News

Theatre News
April 25, 2009

Finally the rumors have been confirmed. JERSEY BOYS will open at the National Theatre in DC on October 10 for a two month run (or more?). Tickets go on sale on Sunday May 10th. This is the first tour stop I know of on the East Coast. It is not to be missed.
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The Hippodrome has announced the rest of their 2009 – 2010 season and there are a few
hightlights including the previous announced shows- YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, IN THE HEIGHTS (which will not play DC any time soon), and a 4 week sit-down engagement of PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. All other shows play for two weeks with the exception of MAMMA MIA.

10/20 – FIDDLER ON THE ROOF
11/23 – MAMMA MIA (non-subscription)
12/? – DREAMGIRLS
1/12/10 – YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN
2/23/10 – IN THE HEIGHTS
3/16/10 – STOMP
SPRING – PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
6/1 – THE 39 STEPS

Subscription prices are $124 to $557. There were many complaints from patrons last year about the kids theme season which included, CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG and
THE GRINCH. But the Hippodrome will not feature any controversial shows this time after playing AVENUE Q and the upcoming SPRING AWAKENING.
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Center Stage has also announced their new season this past week and for financial reasons will cut their schedule back for mainstage shows and add a Cabaret schedule at a later date. All in all they will offer “at least 14 wildly varying productions in two theatres.”

– THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
– AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
– LET THERE BE LOVE
– THE SANTALAND DIARES
– MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM

Check out the Center Stage website for more information- http://www.centerstage.org
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SHOWTUNES VIDEO MADNESS at the Club Hippo has a full schedule of upcoming theme nights in April/May. The event is every Tuesday night, 8:30pm – 12:30am with free admission. EVERYONE IS WELCOME………………….

Tuesday April 28th –
Ticket giveaways for the May 3rd Cabaret for the Baltimore Theatre Alliance held at the Spotlighters Theatre

Tuesday May 5th –
Ticket giveaways for the DCC production of THE FULL MONTY.

Tuesday May 12th –
The 60th Anniversary of SOUTH PACIFIC party

Tuesday May 19th –
TBA

Tuesday May 26th –
Movie Release Party “EVERY LITTLE STEP”

Tuesday June 9th –
Ticket giveaway for LOOPED at Arena Stage

south-pacific-martinsouth-pacific-2009

Phantom of the Opera’s DIVAS AFTER DARK

THANKS TO ALL WHO ATTENDED THE ‘DIVAS AFTER DARK’ BENEFIT. We gave Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS a check for over $1,100.00. Also thanks to the staff and management of the Club Hippo and especially our “Divas” for a great (and x-rated) show……………………………….
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The Club Hippo & SHOWTUNES VIDEO MADNESS
presents

“DIVAS AFTER DARK”

A Late – Night Cabaret starring cast members from the
National Tour
of
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA

Wednesday April 21st at 11:30pm

‘DIVAS AFTER DARK’ is a fun, entertaining and
a bit risqué musical review.

BROADWAY CARES/EQUITY FIGHTS AIDS
WILL RECEIVE ALL PROCEEDS

The show will feature songs, dance and an appearance by the
BROADWAY BOYS

Admission is $7.00pp (over 21 only) and doors open at 10:30pm with general seating. Standing room and seating is limited. The evening will also include a silent auction of “Phantom Treasures” and other theatre items.

Pre-show fun will be provided by
SHOWTUNE VIDEO MADNESS

a weekly event at the Club Hippo every Tuesday night
beginning at 8:30pm.

———- For more information ———-
http://www.stagesbaltimore.wordpress.com
http://www.clubhippo.com

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For more Press information:

Contact – Ben Ryland 410-488-5180 or stagesbalti@aol.com

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Theatre Reviews –

 

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

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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.
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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

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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
Crazy For You - 2009
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?
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A brand new theatre company is offering the area premiere of a popular recent nominee for the Best Play Tony Award.little dog 3 - mobtown “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.

crowns-31
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

website-postcard
Theatre News
March 28th, 2009

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Check out the Baltimore Theatre Alliance website and their new blog.
Links are on the sidebar
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ABJ Productions has announced their second ‘Yuri’s Night’, an extravaganza of other-worldly magnitude on April 11th at the Warehouse Arts Complex in DC.
Tickets are $20 for the 8pm until 2am theatrical event and it is for those over 21.
“Countdown to Yuri’s Night” is like the St Patrick’s Day of outer space, an anniversary salute to Yuri Gagarin’s first manned space flight.
Over twenty visual artists will participate plus performances from Trixie Little and The Evil Hate Monkeys, Miss Saturn, Dieter’s Dance Party Drill and more.

Check it out – http://www.outofthisworldparty.com
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SWEENEY TODD IS A SMASH HIT
The Spotlighter’s production of Stephen
Sondheim’s masterpiece is selling quickly.
Don’t miss this production & be sure to read my review below.
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Playing at the Lyric Theatre on Friday April 3rd is, An Evening of Classic Lily Tomlin.
The show is a nostalgic and warm presentation of Tomlin’s greatest hits with more than a dozen of her famous characters. The show is at 8pm and tickets are available at
http://www.ticketmaster.com. Congratulations to Terri R. who won a pair of tickets on
this website for the show and those who also won at SHOWTUNES this week.
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Playing the Lyric
Tuesday April 21st & Wednesday April 22nd is
CHICAGO
starring Tom Wopat.
Join us at SHOWTUNES
Tuesday 4/14th for a chance to win tickets.
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AMADEUS is currently playing at the Greenbelt Arts Center through April 4th
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Men Fake Foreplay will open at the Bethesda Theatre on May 27th and run until
June 7th. It is funny, yet insightful commentary on relationships and the battle of the sexes according to the press release.
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The Nationally recognized and multi-awarded Signature has announced their 20th Anniversary Season on their two stages:
Dirty Blonde – August 11 – October 4
SHOWBOAT – Nov 10 – Jan 17, 2010
I Am My Own Wife – Jan 12 – March 7
SWEENEY TODD – Feb 9 – April 4
[title of show] – March 30 – June 20 (Area Premiere)
Sycamore Trees – May 18 – June 20 (World Premiere Musical)

Signature will also host 4 Cabaret shows each covering musicals from their 20 years

Hold the date: Saturday August 8th for their free annual open house & outdoor concert.
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FYI –

Steve Martin supports theatre in an Oregon High School

When the school superintendent shut down a student production of Martin’s play, “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” after receiving 137 signatures by ‘community members’ complaining about the adult content in a play about the lives of a young Picasso and Einsteins fiction meeting.

Steve Martin wrote a letter addressed to the citizens of La Grande, Oregon
to the local newspaper which printed it in it’s entirety.

(Excerpt: “Because of the controversy, I recently reread the play, and frankly, I could understand how some parents might object to certain lines if they were to be delivered by a 16 or 17 year old. Yet I do believe that the spirit of the play and its endorsement of the arts and sciences are appropriate for young eyes and minds.
“I would like to offer this proposal: I will finance a non-profit, off-high school campus production (low budget, I hope!) with the cast…so that individuals, outside the jurisdiction of the school board but within the guarantees of freedom of expression provided by the Constitution of the United States, can determine whether they will or will not see the play, even if they are under 18.”

Steve Martin: A man that puts his money where his convictions are. Bravo!!!
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The annual BROADWAY CARES/EQUITY FIGHTS AIDS FLEA MARKET will be held in NYC’s Time Square area on Sunday September 27th. This has not been announced yet but stagesbaltimore has been informed prior to the formal press announcement…………

If you have gone before you know how much fun it is, if not- Check out their website for more info: http://www.bcefa.org They have tons of photos and information about last years event. And now is the time to buy your matinee tickets for one of Broadway’s Big Hits that Sunday.

As always we will sponsor a non-profit bus trip for the day to the event (I think this will be the 12th year for the buses) so start saving your money now. Details will be available in a week or two. We always sell-out.

To submit theatre items email:
stagesbaltimore@aol.com
(list web news as the subject)
Thanks.

Sweeney Todd at Spotlighters

SWEENEY TODD Scares Up Audiences at the Spotlighters
By Ben Ryland

The Audrey Herman’s Spotlighters Theatre has produced an intensely atmospheric
production of Stephen Sondheim’s masterpiece, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of
Fleet Street. Yes, it is the musical about cannibalism- but get over it. This is the finest musical of the 1970’s in scope and execution with a wonderfully terrifying yet witty libretto by Hugh Wheeler.

I found the original Broadway premiere by Hal Prince over-produced minimalizing the actors and the story. As elaborate but wonderful as it was in the then Uris Theatre (now the Gershwin housing WICKED), I have always preferred the small more intimate productions. In this regard the Spotlighters have outdone themselves again under the producing wizardry of Fuzz Roark.

Musical Director Michael Tan has accomplished the near impossible: making the rich, full score sound rich and full with just 3 musicians. Plus the fact that the show is almost entirely sung (often revived by opera companies and concert versions) the band gets quite a workout.

Director Alexander D. Carey is used to mammoth undertakings having directed last seasons- Angels in America: Perestroika. He has a cast of newcomers, Spotlighters regulars and even an opera student in his Sweeney cast.

Carlos del Valle portrays Todd the barber driven to become a monster; an actor who has never sung in a musical previously. He was a bit tentative and swallowing his lyrics early on opening night but relaxed into the well-rehearsed role quickly becoming fully chest- voiced in his singing. His strong performance both vocally and ‘facially’ struck terror into the ‘very close to the stage’ audience. Veteran Andrea Bush as his accomplice (and the one truly mad character in the show) had Mrs. Lovett’s vulnerability perfect and you truly felt her longing for a normal life within the disgusting slums of London.

Other standouts included David Gregory as Anthony (and movement choreographer), Kristen Zwobot as the Beadle, Troy Hopper as the horny judge, Drew Gaver with his sweet voice as Tobias and Jeffery Coleman’s beautiful operatic voice as Pirelli.

FUZZ Roark and Crystal Soveroski have created an atmosphere of claustrophobic beauty in their realized set for this production. With her paint and styrofoam creation it puts those big budget venues with their minimalistic sets to shame. It alone may be worth the price of admission. If you have never seen an intimate chamber-style production of Sweeney Todd, which reveals all of its creative and performance glories, this is the one to see.

Spotlighters Theatre – 817 St. Paul Street, Baltimore
Tickets: http://www.spotlighters.org
Now until April 19th (many performances are already sold-out)
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THE SPITFIRE GRILL
The beautifully restored Fulton Theatre has been presenting equity shows for a while gaining a reputation in the Lancaster area for outstanding productions at affordable prices. This summer they will stage, Les Miserables on their wonderful stage but currently they are offering a rarely produced musical- The Spitfire Grill, based on the 1980’s film.

The plot follows Percy Talbot, a woman just released from prison to the parole system stewardship of the sheriff of Glead, Wisconsin. He gets her a job at the Spitfire Grill run by Hanna, a bitter elderly woman impossible to deal with. The town is dying a slow death after the closing of the quarry but not all is what it seems.

Hanna lost a son in Vietnam and recently her husband, becoming bitter and mean. The characters are introduced in a breakfast expository sequence abound with gossip.
When Hanna breaks her leg she needs Percy along with her daughter in-law Shelby to run the grill and her rough exterior begins to soften. Her nephew, Caleb has had the grill up for sale per her request for a while with no takers. When Percy suggests a national raffle to get someone to take over the business the three women put the plan quietly into action. Each entry must enclose a letter stating why they want the grill and a $100.00 bill.

Advertising the town and surroundings as being ablaze with “colors of paradise” mail bags of entries arrive full of heartbreaking stories in the requests to move to Glead and take over the business. They are “hope in a mail bag.”

The second act brings the heartbreak of Hanna’s family out of the shadows including Caleb being jealous of his wife Shelby’s part in the raffle. All is precipitated by the appearance of a long lost relative opening old wounds. But Percy becomes fulfilled and has her own epiphany at the discoveries.

The Spitfire Grill is almost entirely sung with music, lyrics and book by James Valcq and Fred Alley. This is their first show I have seen but I hope it’s not the last. The songs move the narrative along with a melodic, rich style of musicals in the 80’s and 90’s. The older audience at the matinee I attended loved it as did I.

It is difficult to single out performances in this fine singing and acting ensemble. The beautiful production transports the audience into this world for a few hours that you will remember for years.

THE SPITFIRE GRILL – The Fulton Theatre, Prince Street, Lancaster
Now through March 29th
Tickets and more information on the theatre- http://www.thefulton.org.

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