Seven who stole the show this Fall
By Joel Markowitz
It’s highway robbery when all of a sudden in the middle of a play or musical, a performer comes on the stage and grabs the show away from the leads. You say, “Wow! Who was that person?” So, here are seven scene stealers from shows I saw this Fall.
(1) ASHLEY AUSTIN
Playing Lois Lane and Bianca in Winston Churchill High School’s production of Kiss Me Kate.
She may only be a sophomore, but I could swear that Ashley Austin was a veteran of musical comedies. With her huge infectious smile and powerful voice, and oozing with pizzazz, Ashley stole the show with her toe-tapping and swirling and gliding renditions of Tom Dick or Harry and Always True To You In My Fashion. What was so amazing about Ashley’s performance was that when she was on that actor-filled humungous 60 foot by 30 foot Churchill High School stage, everyone else disappeared, because you couldn’t take your eyes off the multi-talented actress/singer/hoofer Ashley Austin. That’s a great feat!
A special nod to the 32 piece orchestra conducted by Kristofer Sanz. The sounds coming from that huge orchestra pit rivaled any Broadway orchestra I have ever heard. It was sheer bliss listening to that wonderful Cole Porter score played by such a talented group of young musicians. Bravo to all of you! Cole Porter would have been proud!
(2) MILES BUTLER
Playing Tiny Tim, Young Scrooge, Second Gentleman, Ignorance, Boy and part of the ensemble in Synetic Theater’s production of A Christmas Carol.
Watch out for Miles Butler. He’s 15 and going places. This year, Miles has been all over our theatre community. He played Alfred in Studio Theatre’s production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, where they dressed him up in some bizarre costumes, and Synetic’s production of Macbeth, where he played Fleance and Macduff’s son.
In Synetic’s production of A Christmas Carol, Miles runs around the stage (with the rest of the cast), and shows his versatility by playing Tiny Tim and Young Scrooge with innocence and much heart. You could have sworn that he really met Jesus when he played his Tiny Tim death scene. I’ve seen actors play dead, but I almost called an undertaker in while watching Miles.
Miles has a unique look. His face is not a face of a 15 year old, but that of a veteran actor, which he is quickly becoming. It’s hard to believe that he’s only a sophomore at George Mason High School in Falls Church.
On Press Night, our newest Kids Stages reviewer Hunter Kieserman attended his first show (check out his review here). Before the show, I introduced him to Miles’ parents, who I see everywhere in local theatres, volunteering as ushers and beaming about their son’s accomplishments. At the post-performance reception, Hunter and Miles shared a few moments talking about the show and Miles’ performance; Here were two 15 year olds grateful that they were both experiencing the power and beauty of theatre. I was beaming.
(3) GIA MORA
Playing Winged Victory and Kay in Arena Stage’s Christmas Carol 1941.
In the middle of Arena Stage’s Christmas Carol 1941, a stunning, gorgeous Gia Mora brings heart to the show by knocking the socks out of Henry Krieger (composer of Dreamgirls and Side Show) and Heidi Birkenhead’s song “Heroes of the Homefront.”
While Gia sang these lyrics, with her heartfelt delivery,
LET’S HEAR IT
FOR THE WEARY WIVES
WHO DO THEIR BIT
FOR EVERY GAL
WHO BOOSTS MORALE
AND LEARNS TO KNIT
TO ALL THE ONES
OF METAL SCRAP
TO DUMP A TON
OF TROUBLE IN
THE FUHRER’S LAP..
.. my mind was flooded with memories of stories told to me by veterans and relatives who sacrificed during World War II, and I was deeply moved.
Gia Mora has that unique ability to grab an audience and not let go for the entire production. What great performances she gave this year as Tabitha Wheelwright in A Prayer For Owen Mean at Round House Theatre, (for which she was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award for Best Supporting Actress), the hysterical and evil Mrs. Pinch in The Araboolies of Liberty Street at Imagination Stage and in Woolly Mammoth’s She Stoops to Comedy as Alison Rose, the ex-lover of Alexandra, who has not gotten over Alison (Gia), who poses as a man to audition for a role in a regional-theater production where Alison (Gia again), has been cast as Rosalind. (OK-it was a little confusing, but great fun!).
And here, at Christmas Carol 1941, Gia, again, brings warmth and humor to a small role and does big things with it. Go to Gia’s fabulous website and listen to the Gia Mora Quintet:
(4) AND (5) ANNE STAUNTON ADAMS AND RICH FOGG
Playing Carrie Pipperidge and Enoch Snow in MAD‘s production of Carousel.
Philanthropists Gilbert Mead and his wife Jaylee Mead were active in MAD, “a special interest club at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center” . In the early 1970’s Gil was the musical director for most of their Fall shows from Pajama Game in 1971, to Can-Can in 1986, and was also involved in many of the Spring productions. After he retired from Goddard, Gil returned to coach MAD quartets for The Music Man (1998) Fiorello (2002) and State Fair (2005). And Jaylee starred in many of the productions.
After Gilbert Mead’s Kennedy Center Memorial Concert, Ted and Barbara Ying, who are members of The Ushers, invited me to attend MAD”s production of Carousel. Ted was starring as Billy Bigelow while his wife Barbara was starring as Nettie Fowler – the “June is Busting Out All Over” singer.
What moved me the most were two wonderful performances by Anne Staunton Pipperidge and Rich Fogg as Carrie Pipperidge and Enoch Snow. Rich has performed in area theatres for over 30 years, and both he and Anne have appeared in other MAD productions. Rich’s favorite MAD role is PT Barnum in Barnum, and Anne has appeared as Fiona in Brigadoon and Anna in The King and I and as Marion in The Music Man.
I knew I was in for a treat when Anne sang “Mr. Snow” with great assertiveness and confidence in her beautiful soprano voice. Later in the show, Anne and Rich’s gorgeous rendition of When The Children Are Asleep was spine tingling. It’s one of my favorite musical theatre songs, and I’ve never heard it sung with so much heart and love like Anne and Rich’s rendition. It stopped the show and my heart went pitter-patter.
(6) ANDY IZQUIERDO
Playing Orin Scrivello/Mr. Bernstein/Mrs. Luce and Skip Snip in Kensington Arts Theatre’s (KAT) production of Little Shop of Horrors.
I first saw Andy Izquierdo in Elden Street Players Watch Award Winning Blood Brothers, and I was astounded by his talent and his performance as Mickey. I named the production, my favorite musical of the 2005-2006 season.
And since then, I have been following Andy’s career. His performances in other KAT productions – Assassins (Balladeer/Lee Harvey Oswald), Urinetown (Bobby Strong) were equally brilliant.
So when I found out that he was playing the psycho dentist in Kat’s production of Little Shop of Horrors, I and other members of The Ushers were elated. Andy delivered big time. His Dentist Stuck In The Bubble scene was both frightening and hysterical, and even with the helmet cutting off his air supply, his vocals were beautiful! I was all choked up!
I asked Andy to describe all these character she played in the show:
“In the first act I played Orin Scrivello, DDS. I describe him as a sadistic dentist with the personality of a deranged (and slightly psychotic) game show host. He can be very funny and downright cheerful at times– but also very nasty and violent, especially toward Audrey. Orin also has a very unnatural attachment to his profession– and derives great pleasure from inflicting pain on his patients… and others.
In the second act, I played four very different characters. Three of the characters I played appeared in one song “The Meek Shall Inherit,” which involved a couple of VERY quick changes. In the song, I first play Mr. Bernstein, an executive with NBC who is trying to get Seymour to do a home gardening television program. I then come back on 40 seconds later as Mrs. Luce, the British wife of the Life Magazine editor. She is offering Seymour a chance to appear on the cover of the December 30 issue of Life. The third character in the song is Skip Snip, the Southern agent from William Morris. Skip is trying to persuade Seymour to sign on with his agency. These roles were so much fun and really challenging because they not only involved doing quick changes, but also portraying completely different accents… and genders!
The final character I play in the show is Patrick Martin– the botanical marketing executive who is ultimately responsible for sending the man-eating Audrey 2s across the nation. Although not specified in the script, I turned Patrick into a slightly shady Cuban businessman with a very flashy (and questionable) sense of style. He’s a combination of several of my relatives– both male and female…”
And as if performing all these roles weren’t enough, Andy also created the costume design and makeup and hair design for Little Shop of Horrors. This man’s dedicated to his craft.
(7) KATIE McMANUS
Playing Homeless Woman and Lisa in The Foundry Players’ production of A New Brain.
I am a huge William Finn fan and his song Sailing from his musical A New Brain is my all-time favorite song from a musical. So, when I heard from Katie McManus that she would be starring in The Foundry Players production of the show, I spread the word around town to the theatre community to go see and hear this incredibly talented singer/actress perform her showstopper Change. And it would give me another opportunity to hear “Sailing” performed. When Katie slithered down the long Foundry auditorium as the Homeless Woman and emerged on the stage to sing Change, I was in musical theatre heaven.
I first saw Katie as The Baker’s Wife in Little Theatre of Alexandria’s production of Into The Woods, and I knew then that I was seeing a rising star. Her performance as Little Becky-Two Shoes and as Sarrahina in Nine, both at KAT, were equally impressive. As one half of the connected Hilton Sisters -Violet-in last year’s sensational production of Elden Street Players production of Side Show, Katie sang the hell out of Henry Krieger’s score., And now, here she was doing the same with William Finn’s masterpiece.
I named Katie and Jennifer Lambert’s stunning performances as Violet and Daisy Hilton as two of last year’s best performances in a musical. I am praying that Katie auditions for the Homeless Woman for (KAT’s) Kensington Arts Theatre’s production of A New Brain in March 2008. Please Katie!!
Hats Off to these scene stealers! You put me in musical theatre seventh heaven! Can’t wait to see you in your next productions.