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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.

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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.

Win Tickets Here!!!

Win Tickets Here!!!

Theatre News
March 14th, 2009

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I saw Billy Elliot in NYC this past week- a review will be
posted later this week.
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Opening March 20th weekend is the much anticipated production of, SWEENEY TODD, at the Spotlighters Theatre. Directed by Fuzz Roark with musical direction by Michael Tan this production promises to be a highlight of the spring theatre season in Baltimore.
Get your tickets now, it’s only a 4 weekend run.
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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.

Enter for a chance to win a pair of tickets to see Lily Tomlin

Email your name and address to: stagesbalti@aol.com. Drawing will be held on Tuesday March 31, 2009 from all names submitted. No purchase necessary and you can only enter your name one time. Winner will be notified by email on Wednesday April 1st.
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Unfortunately the tour of Forbidden Broadway that was to play the Bethesda Theatre for several weeks has been cancelled.
To submit theatre news email: stagesbaltimore@aol.com
(list web news as the subject)

Check the Showtunes Tab

Spring Awakening review follows the news

Theatre News
March 7th, 2009

The Baltimore Theatre Alliance held their latest Cabaret at the Spotlighters Theatre last Sunday night. Hosts Fuzz and Elania offered a lobby reception at 6pm with tasty goodies and a cash bar. The show began at 6:30 with musical numbers by Loch Raven HS production of Cinderella and the Spotlighter’s upcoming production of Sweeney Todd. Various soloists rounded out the cast with an eclectic selection of showtunes.

The entire evening only cost $15.00 and the proceeds go to BTA. It’s a great evening of entertainment and networking. Meeting old and new friends who are all theatre oriented people.

Michael Tan handled the musical duties and gave a heart-felt speech at the end of the
show explaining why it was a joy to work with these new talents.

The next Cabaret is Sunday May 3rd at Spotlighters at 6pm. Tickets can be purchased in
advance on their website which I highly recommend. You don’t want to miss it.
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The BIGGEST news this week is the unofficial announcement of the 2009-2010 season for the Hippodrome Theatre. Currently signed are engagements of the National touring companies of- ‘In the Heights’ the 2009 Tony award-winner for Best Musical and the very entertaining, ‘Mel Brooks Young Frankenstein’. There will also be a sit-down (more than two weeks) of- ‘The Phantom of the Opera’. These are just the confirmed show with several more yet to be announced. However I know the smash hit‘ Jersey Boys’ is not coming to town anytime soon, but the rumors are still flying about a long run at the National Theatre in DC. Other possibilities that I have seen announced for the road include- August: Osage County, Disney’s Mary Poppins (see next item below), Curtains (but looking for a star name to tour), Xanadu, Dirty Dancing and WICKED is now repeating cities it has already played.
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The Kennedy Center has announced their official 2009-2010 schedule of the shows playing the venue. (Just remember they charge Broadway rate ticket prices and service charges)

October – The Sydney Theatre Company’s production of A Streetcar Named Desire
starring Cate Blanchett as Blanche DuBois.

Nov/Dec – August: Osage County

Dec/Jan – Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein

March/April – Terrence McNally’s “Nights at the Opera” Festival
– Master Class
– The Lisbon Traviata
– Golden Age (premiere)
June 2010 – Thurgood

July 2010 – Mary Poppins

Kennedy Center Spotlight Concert Series:

Oct 9 – Cheyenne Jackson
Nov 14 – Christine Ebersole
Dec 12 – Karen Akers
Apr 30 – Daniel Evans & Jenna Russell (Sunday in the Park with George stars)
Jun 4 – Jessica Molaskey & John Pizzarelli
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Shortly we will be running a contest on the website to win tickets to see-
Lily Tomlin
The Russian tour of Swan Lake
And
Chicago with Tom Wopat
all at the Lyric Theatre.
They will be soon be announcing the return to Baltimore of big musical for a 4 week engagement plus other shows at the Lyric. You will read it here first!!!!

Information on how to enter the contest to win tickets will be on the website next week.
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The Greenbelt Arts Center will open the popular drama, Amadeus, with a run from March 13th until April 4. Their phone number is 301-441-8770 and the locations is 123 Centerway in Greenbelt.
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Olney Theatre Center is presenting the area premiere of an original play by
Mark Twain, ‘Is He Dead? now until March 8th. =============================================

CCBC presents Lynn Nottage’s Las Meninas, March 19-23 at the theatre center at Essex Community College. 443-840-ARTS
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AMADEUS opens at the Greenbelt Arts Center March 13 for a run thru April 4th.
301-441-8770
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Arena Stage in DC is presenting a star-studded production of Edward Albee’s- ‘A Delicate Balance’ until March 15th. The pivotal roles are played by two original cast members from the Broadway production of ‘Angels in America,’ Kathleen Chalfant and Ellen McLaughlin. To obtain tickets for this 1967 Pulitzer Prize winning play are available at:www.arenastage.org or 1-202-488-3300
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Signature Theatre in Arlington has extended their production of, ‘The Little Dog Laughed’ until March 15th. Tickets: http://www.signature-theatre.org. See the review on this website.
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The Vags has a new production of Harold Pinter’s- ‘Old Times’ which runs from 2/27 – 3/29
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Toby’s Dinner Theatres:Baltimore-
‘Sophisticated Ladies’ until March 15th (‘Disney’s Beauty & Beast’ next)
Columbia- ‘High School Musical’ & ‘My Way’ in repertory.
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The Hippodrome has a busy couple of months ahead with the following shows-
Riverdance – 3/10 – 15
Celetic Woman- 3/17 & 18
CATS- 3/24 – 29
A Bronx Tale- 4/14 – 26 (starring ChazPalminteri)
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Warner Theatre in DC-
Jesus Christ Superstar- 3/17-22 (Starring Teddy Neely)
RENT- 5/26-31 (Starring Adam Pascal & Anthony Rapp)
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National Theatre in DC-
A Chorus Line – 3/10 – 3/22
Chicago – 3/31 – 4/12
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Bethesda Theatre-
Forbidden Broadway – beginning 3/12
Menopause: TheMusical – beginning 4/14

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

Spring Awakening, Caught with its Pants Down.
By Ben Ryland

The original 1890’s play, Spring Awakening, by Frank Wedekind (translation: Jonathan Franzen) is currently being performed by the Mobtown Players at Clipper Mill. This is the original work that the recent award-winning musical was based on. I have seen neither before and what I have seen from the musical and its score was not that impressive. Staging can be everything but since the show is not still running after only a couple of years (compared to RENT) I am still left wondering about its youthful appeal.

Maybe it is merely the sexually explicit scenes of masturbation and circle jerks, or for the most depraved among, us the young teen age rape sequence. God help me to understand but I just don’t get it. And I was a teenager once.

Having school boys with Rhodes Scholar vocabularies, the repressed mentality of the adults and an unexplained not of this earth ringer thrown in at the finale was lost on me. The term Moral Order is thrown about by all concerned in this German based story which is an unintentional (?) precursor of the atrocities of the early to middle last century of hatred and violence that was demonstrated by the same factions.

If Spring Awakening is supposed to be a primer on budding adolescent merging sexuality we are all in trouble and the tragedies of last century becomes more comprehensible from start to finish. Unfortunately the popularity of the musical with young people once again demonstrates we have once again learned nothing from the lessons of the past.

Moritz and Melchior are best friends in an expensive prep school along with a large cast of equally underachieving students. They speak in pompous prose in a style that in addition to being completely unrealistic is misleading disguised as sophisticated. They are just a bunch horny school boys trying to justify their actions much like the protagonists of Lindsay Anderson’s cult favorite film of the 1960’s- ‘if…’ So similar in fact that the resultant death and destruction are in much the same vein if not in exact execution.

You are aware that this is a heavy, edgy show by oblivious hints. With minimal staging, the actors speaking often in the dark, and the pretentious staging- Damn it you must know this is an important work. So important that is has been totally forgotten from the classical cannon of drama until the musical appeared. What can be more pretentious than that? Oh yes, I know: it was banned from production after being written for many years so it has to be ground breaking and truthfully provocative!

Crap…..

Using actors from the Carver High School acting program makes it even more so since most adults in the audience seemed to be shocked at what these budding adults, just past puberty, were portraying onstage. The adult’s response was almost like being caught by a coworker at a porno theatre in the 70’s by attending this show. The actors friends in the audience even tittered at many of the sexual high-jinks mimed onstage much like Jack McFarland’s reactions (in televisions ‘Will and Grace’) whenever someone innocently mentions balls or heinous.

Josh Kemper is intense as Melchior and is an actor to watch in the future. His counterpart Chris Magorian as Moritz is less effective in his pivotal role rushing through his incomprehensible dialog-at a break neck speed. As he continually questions the metaphysical qualities in life and customs he looses the audience because of his inarticulation. The splendid Melanie Glickman as Wendla fulfills her role of the sexually uninformed female but trying to keep up with the boy’s part of the sexual equation. Women are beaten, and expect it in this society so sexual and emotion repression can only manifest its worse in them. Wendla’s mother even allows a butcher to botch an abortion that kills her raped 14 year old daughter.

What seems to be the inspiration of the oft-mentioned conceptual visionary of this production, the late Terry Long, is that old dramatic standby- MORE is less. Done in a more chamber style staging this Spring Awakening might be more humanistic and approachable. At a running time of three hours and 15 minutes is very similar to Les Miz in performance but without the laughs.

Spring Awakening – Mobtown Players at Clipper Mill
This Friday and Saturday
http://www.mobtownplayers.com