SEUSSICAL, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, GREASE, SOUVENIR, AND THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK BURN UP OUR SUMMER STAGES
Whew! It may be hot and humid outside, but inside – our local stages are sizzling with great shows and great performances.
GIVING A WHO-T ABOUT THIS SEUSSICAL
In 2000, I was eagerly awaiting Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahren’s new musical Seussical to hit Broadway. This show, based on Dr. Seuss’s beloved characters, had a rocky start as it sputtered through numerous rewrites on the road, and rumors were abound that the creative team were literally killing each other.
I saw the show in NYC and just hated it. It was a Cat-In-The-hat-astrophe, overproduced, boring and watching Cathy Rigby twist and turn as that annoying feline was insufferable. The critics hated it too and when the box-office faltered, Rosie O’Donnell came in to play The Cat In The Hat, only adding to the torture of watching this NYC disaster.
Because I am an Ahrens/Flaherty fan-they had written my favorite musical of the last two decades, Ragtime –I bought the cast CD because it was on sale for $1.99 at Kemp Mill Records. It remained unplayed on my shelf until I returned home from a spectacular production by Musical Theater Center, on Sunday, June 23rd, where KIDS were in the show.
And that was the key –Seussical is a kids’ show and the NYC production failed to exude the joy and laughter that children feel when read Dr.Seuss’s tales, but MTC’s production did. From the opening song, “Oh The Thinks You Can Think,” to the closing “Green Eggs and Ham,” this theatre ham loved the show.
The cast had so many talented young actors in it – Jonny Perl as Jojo, Jillian Aplan as Gertrude McFuzz, Christopher Wolf playing The off-the wall Cat In The Hat, Laura Citren as Mayzie, and Casey Klein as the hysterical General Genghis Kahn Schmitz, and too many other talented actors (too many to list here) that comprised the large cast of Bird Girls, Cat Helpers, Wickershams, Cadets, Fish, Citizens of Who, Jungle Citizens, Circle Animals and Circus Spectators.
MTC’s Seussical had heart. I wish Lynn and Stephen could have seen it. They would have grinned as much as the proud parents, grandparents, and well behaved sisters and brothers, who applauded wildly and beamed all through this Seusstacular production.
And take a look at those incredible costumes that Georgette Feldman put on that cast-gorgeous and colorful and hilarious. Congrats to director Lisa Carrier for carrying it off and to musical director Barry Hamilton and his talented orchestra for bringing Steven and Lynn’s once neglected score to life.
I think I’ll play that CD now… This was an afternoon I really gave a Who-t about.
INTEVIEWING THE CAT, JOJO AND HORTON
I sat down with Jonny Perl (13) (Jojo), Christopher Wolf (13) (The Cat In The Hat) List in here.
and also with Max Talisman (14) (Horton) (remember Max as Noah Gellman in this year’s Helen Hayes’ Award winning Best Resident Musical Caroline, or Change at Studio Theatre – that kid with the incredible voice?) to talk about their roles and the show. Listen to their enthusiasm and love for the theatre and the beauty of
Max and Jonny’s beautiful harmonies as they sing from my favorite song from Seussical, “All Alone In The Universe”.
“I have wings
I have wings.
Yes, I can fly
I can fly
Around the moon
Beyond the sky Beyond the sky.”
Here’s the interview with Max
MTC: Stephen thanks you, Lynn thanks you and I thank you!
ESTABLISHING ROOTS WITH SEYMOUR
I’ve been wanting to sit down with David James, two-time Helen Hayes Award Winning Actor (The Wizard of Oz in 1998 and Godspell in 2004, for productions at Toby’s) for a long time, and it finally happened on Sunday, June 23rd after he fed that man/blonde woman eating plant at Little Shop of Horrors, now playing at Toby’s-The Dinner Theatre of Baltimore.
And what a fun time it was, talking about David’s love for performing, his botanical experience in school, on the stage and in his backyard, and how that extremely scary plant comes to life in Toby’s production. David shares a snippet of “Suddenly Seymour.” Here it is.
THEY GO TOGETHER-SANDY AND DANNY SCHMOOZE
I’m not a big Grease fan, but the energy that’s rocking five-time Helen Hayes nominated director/choreographer (for Godspell (1999), West Side Story (2000), Bandstand 2000 (2001), Joseph.. (2003) and Crazy For You (2004), all at West End Dinner Theatre) Mark Minnick’s slick production at Toby’s-The Dinner Theatre of Baltimore, which I saw on Sunday, July 1st, is infectious. And that’s due to the brilliant cast that includes the two leads, Jake Odmark, who plays Danny and Jessica Ball, who plays Sandy.
On Sunday, July 1st, I met with Jake and Jessica after they removed their leather, and asked them to talk about their roles and their theatre studies at James Madison University and Catholic University. They sing snippets from their favorite songs in the show- “Alone At The Drive-In Movie, and “Totally Devoted to You.” Can you feel the chemistry? They go together well.
Listen in here.
A FAMILY OF ACTORS
I could hear a family behind me at Grease talking about theatre and so, as I often do, I walked up to them to introduce myself, and what I learned from the beaming grandfather, Bob Sheehan and his lovely wife and daughter Katie, was that three of the grandkids were thespians. Dan Sonntag was in this performance as Roger, subbing for Matthew Moore, (Dan had so much energy on the stage that I was exhausted watching him) and Amy Sonntag who was there to cheer on her brother Dan, was about to tour with a Disney production and brother Andrew was about to open in Studio Theatre’s production of Reefer Madness. I kidded with Bob that I hope one of his grandkids actually picks a paying and steady occupation.
After I interviewed Jake and Jessica, Vicki Hirsch and her Mom Mimi, who are my regular Toby’s guests, drove to Studio Theatre where they were going to usher for the 7:30 PM performance of Souvenir.
As we arrived, I saw actors Bobby Smith and Larry Redmond outside the main entrance, and next to them was a young actor who looked like a Sonntag. And behold, here was the third Sonntag thespian – Andrew Sonntag.
I introduced myself to Andrew and told him about meeting his family at Toby’s and talked about his brother Dan’s energetic performance and Andrew’s upcoming show and how Reefer Madness rehearsals were going.
What a small world! Here’s a picture of the proud Sonntag Mishpachah at Toby’s and Andrew at Studio. Break three legs Amy, Dan and Andrew!
SPECIAL THANKS TO THOSE HIGH-FLYING WITCHES AND DARRYL…
As Kander and Ebb wrote: “Gee, how lucky can you get.”
Meeting and interviewing Marc Kudisch, Emily Skinner, Jackie Piro and Christiane Noll at Signature was such a joy. I have been fans of all four of them, schlepping to NYC to see their shows and concerts. Sitting down with them and kibitzing with them was truly a wonderful experience. And what an honor to have them autograph the many Playbills and CDs I brought with me.
To hear their passion and respect for each other, for their show, and for the Signature family, reminded me how theatre not only can entertain, but also brings talented actors and technical specialists together, and also creates lasting friendships. Thanks Emily, Jackie, Christiane and Marc for podcasting with me and Lorraine. I’ll never forget it, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that I will visit you soon backstage in the Big Apple.
Listen to the podcasts:
A LOVE LETTER TO NANCY AND J. FRED
Please forgive me Nancy for badgering you on the metro, in the street, and at local productions this year to play Florence Foster Jenkins in Souvenir at Studio Theatre. I told director Serge Seiden before I podcasted him in November at Studio Theatre for The Long Christmas Ride Home, that there was only one actress that was born to play this role-YOU. You and J. Fred, a hysterical but caring Cosme McMoon, have won and touched the hearts of your fans, your audiences and all the critics. Watching you and J. Fred on the stage is theatrically orgasmic. You both hit all the right notes!
Thank you Dear Heart!
Read Gary’s review
Who was Cosme McMoon? Was he really Edwin McArthur, a famed accompanist of opera great Kirsten Flagstad? Read on…