- GREAT MUSICAL PERFORMANCES 2007-2008
- by Joel Markowitz
Here are 17 performers who made their mark in our local musicals in the past year, and whose performances I loved.
- (IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER)
- Florrie Bagel as Baby Jane
- In Jerry Springer The Opera (Studio Theatre’s 2ndstage)
I’m a Florrie Bagel fan and have been since I first heard her sing at the Signature Sings Broadway in Ballston. Recently, Florrie was heard singing “Since I Gave My Heart Away” at The Stephen Schwartz Project at MetroStage, and now she is wowing audiences as Baby Jane, the Diaper Man’s playmate in Jerry Springer The Opera. Florrie finally gets to show off her operatic prowess and sings the heck out of “This is my Jerry Springer Moment” in Act 1. But wait until she arrives in Hell, where she sings the haunting and spine-chilling “Jerry Eleison.” At that moment, Florrie steals the show from right under Satan’s pitchfork! At intermission, I heard several audience members ask, “Who is that Baby Jane actress? She’s great!” I turned to them and said, “That great talent is Florrie Bagel. I’m her biggest fan. She’s going places!”
- Jessica Ball as Maria Rainer
- In The Sound of Music (Toby’s – The Dinner Theatre of Columbia)
It was so nice to see someone playing Maria who didn’t try to impersonate Julie Andrews or Mary Martin. From the opening, “The Hills Are Alive,” I knew I was seeing a different kind of Maria – very perky, high-energy and loveable. And with her gorgeous soprano, Jessica gave new life to “DO-RE-MI” and “The Lonely Goatherd” and “I Have Confidence.” This tough Maria had more heart and less sugar. It was really Something Good.
- Ellie Borzilleri as Dorothy Brock
- In 42ND Street (Act Two)
Ellie was 15, and a sophomore at Walter Johnson High School, when she appeared as aging Broadway Star Dorothy Brock in Act Two’s toe-tapping production of 42nd Street. She played the arrogant Prima Donna with the maturity of a veteran actress. But, for me, her rendition of “I Only Have Eyes for You,” was the highlight of the show. You can hear her sing it here:
- Ron Curameng as Montel and Jesus
- In Jerry Springer The Opera (Studio Theatre’s 2ndStage)
When a zaftig man bares all in a diaper, sings like an angel while playing the Son of G-d, you have a divine performance for the ages. I never thought Ron would top his performance as the Engineer in Toby’s production of Miss Saigon, but he did! I’m still shaking my head – or should I say – my depends!
- Felicia Curry as Susan and Others
- In tick, tick… BOOM! (MetroStage)
As Susan, Jon’s girlfriend, Felicia Curry continued to WOW local audiences with her powerful vocal talents, and in tick, tick, BOOM! she reminded audiences what a great actress she is, too. Also playing several loony roles – the lead in one of Jon’s musicals, his agent Rosa Stevens, and a marketing exec, Felicia has audiences laughing, but when she stood on the stage to sing the emotional “Come To Your Senses,” she had the audience cheering! I’ll never forget it! The walls were shaking. Our interview with the cast is here.
- Natascia Diaz as Monica P. Miller and Doug Kreeger as Ian Wallace
- In Rooms (MetroStage)
I fell in love instantly with Natascia Diaz’s kooky Scottish-accented Jewish Monica P. Miller and immediately wanted to smack and shake Doug Kreeger’s hard-drinking Ian Wallace. Natascia and Doug rock MetroStage for 80 fast-flying minutes – performing Paul Scott Goodman’s brilliant score and lyrics. It’s a team effort, and Natascia and Doug come through with the two most energy-filled performances of the year!
- Michael Innocenti as Sancho Panza
- In Man of La Mancha (Keegan Theatre)
When I interviewed Michael Innocenti at The Source Festival, he walked in with a beard, and I didn’t recognize him. He told me he was growing it for his role as Sancho Panza. Frankly, I didn’t know that this man, who I loved as Mickybo in Keegan’s production of Mojo Mickybo, could sing. Michael’s Sancho was not the silly, pathetic Sancho I have seen over and over in many other productions, but a confident, loyal and very human Sancho. “I Like Him” and “A Little Gossip” were sung with great respect for Don Quixote and Michael sang them beautifully. I liked him.
- Andy Izquierdo as Gordon Schwinn
- In A New Brain (Kensington Arts Theatre)
Andy Izquierdo proved once again why is he is one of the finest young singing actors we have in our area. His performance as Gordon Schwinn in KAT’s production of A New Brain was both funny and heart breaking! I’ll never forget his beautiful renditions of “And They’re Off,” and “I Feel So Much Spring.” What a great performance and what a great talent. Andy should be performing in the “bigger theatres.” Eric, Molly and Joy – put this guy to work!
- Janice Lorraine as The Young Alberta Hunter and Others…
- In Cookin’ at the Cookery (MetroStage)
Janice Lorraine can do it all, and as the young Alberta Hunter, she was like an Eveready Bunny. A triple threat, Janice could act and sing and make you laugh, as she played a whole slew of characters. But, it’s her Satchmo impersonation that still sits on my desktop. I listen to that 30 second clip when I need a lift. You can hear it here. Janice was really cookin’!
- Sam Ludwig as Stoker Fred Barrett
- In Titanic (Toby’s -The Dinner Theatre of Columbia)
When 20 year old Sam Ludwig shoveled coal into Titanic’s huge furnace and sang in his beautiful lyric tenor,
“For a record speed I believe we strive!
For the maiden ship that’s too hard to drive
If you push her faster than seventy-five.
That is the truth
I swore I was watching a young actor who was going places. I saw the NYC production and heard three different actors sing “Barrett’s Song,” but when Sam sang it, a wave of emotion swept over me, and I wiped a few tears away, because I knew that this good man was never going to make it off that ship alive. Now, that’s real talent.
- Matt Macis as Edgar/Bat Boy
- In Bat Boy: The Musical (Landless Theatre Company)
At 19 years old, Matt Macis performed the role of Edgar and Bat Boy like a veteran – with great discipline, athletic prowess as he sang the heck out of the score. Watching Matt writhe and jump and slither and do all kinds of batty things – in the small cramped DCAC space -was a revelation. You had to see it to believe it. It drove me batty.
- Emily Madden as Natalie
- In All Shook Up (Musical Theater Center)
Emily was 14 years old, and a sophomore at Walt Whitman High School, when she appeared as Natalie, the grease-monkey who falls in love with Chad, the town rebel. When overhearing Chad tell others that he only likes to travel with men, Natalie puts on a hat and smears herself with oil to create a beard. In a show filled with many plot twists, (It sounds Shakespearean, doesn’t it?) Chad eventually falls in love with “Ed”/Natalie, and everyone in the town is paired off with the right person. Not only did Emily act up a storm, she played both roles with great warmth, frustration and humor. Emily sang and danced her heart out. I loved her renditions of “One Night with You,” and “Fools Fall In Love.” For performing double duty, Emily deserves a double Brava!
- Katie McManus as The Homeless Women
- In A New Brain (The Foundry Players)
Watching Katie McManus single-handedly steal The Foundry Players production of A New Brain from the “guys,” didn’t surprise me. I’ve seen her do this before! As the very angry Homeless Woman, she blew the Foundry Church roof off with her rendition of “Change.” She was so convincing that I offered her 2 quarters. Katie’s a mini-Merman. I was so happy to see her in Man of La Mancha at Keegan Theatre this month. When she opened the show with her glorious singing, I knew myself and The Ushers members who joined me that evening, were in for a treat. Local audiences had the opportunity to see Katie when she went on as Suzanne for the great Tracy Lynn Olivera in Signature Theatre’s production of The Happy Time. I can’t wait to see her as Lizzie in Kensington Arts Theatre’s production of 110 In The Shade. Molly, Eric, Keith, Joy and Toby – give Katie a call.
- Larry Munsey as Albin and Zaza
- In La Cage aux Folles (Toby’s – The Dinner Theatre of Baltimore)
Larry’s rendition of “I Am What I Am” was so stunning, that I was left emotionally drained and speechless, as he stormed out of the theater after completing Zaza’s powerful anthem. Larry’s Albin and Zaza were so cuddly and loveable that this Jerry Herman musical will always have a special place in my heart.
- Stephen Gregory Smith as Jon
- In tick, tick… BOOM! (MetroStage)
From his first opening song, “30/90,” Stephen Gregory Smith, as the young, just-turned-30, pained and confused Jonathan Larson, had the audiences at MetroStage eating out of his hands. It was his first starring role in a musical on our local stages, and this Helen Hayes Award Winner proved that he deserves more leading roles. Blending gorgeous harmonies with his two fabulous co-stars Felicia Curry and Matt Pearson, Stephen offered an honest interpretation of Jon – unsure, scared, bluntly honest and fearless about pursuing Jonathan Larson’s dream of composing great music and a great musical.
- Corrieanne Stein as Kelsi Neilson
- In High School Musical (Musical Theater Center)
Corrieanne was 11 years old and a 6th grader at Robert Frost Middle School when she appeared as Kelsi Neilson in MTC’s production of High School Musical She didn’t have an 11:00 number and wasn’t the lead, so how did Corrieanne steal MTC’s production of High School Musical? Playing Kelsi Nielson, the composer of the high school musical, which is an updated take on Romeo and Juliet, Corrieanne played the composer with gusto. In the beginning of the show, she lacked confidence, while at the end of the production, she was assertive and confident. Every time she was on the stage, you saw a professional actress with a bubbly personality and great stage presence. She brought instant smiles to me and the other audience members. I saw Corrieanne as Roberta in Signature Theatre’s production of Saving Aimee, and as Little Miranda in The Tempest at The Shakespeare Theatre, and it didn’t surprise me when I heard that she had made the cast of the NYC premiere of Billy Elliot, where she will be playing Margaret Gormley, a ballet girl. I can’t wait to see Corrieanne on the Imperial Theatre Stage. Go get ‘em kid!
BEST MUSICAL PERFORMER OF 2007-2008
I met him in the dark when the power went out at a production of Sweeney Todd (the darkest production of Sweeney Todd I have ever seen!) two years ago at Kensington Arts Theatre. It was on this PEPCO-less night, that I was first thrilled by Sam Ludwig’s gorgeous lyric tenor and his great acting abilities. This year this 20-year old rising star has graced our local stages in 4 wonderful productions and gave 4 fantastic performances.
First, his performance as Stoker Fred Barrett, and for being raked over the coals at Titanic – The Musical, Sam received critical acclaim. Next, he appeared as Jean-Michel, the rebellious son in La Cage aux Folles, where his romantic rendition of “Anne on My Arms” brought cheers from the audience. A stint at Olney Theater Center’s production of 1776 followed, where, as the Courier, Sam stopped the show singing the haunting “Momma Look Sharp.” And this month, he returned to the Olney Theatre Center as Huckleberry Finn in the National Players’ production of Big River, where his twangy accent and voice filled the Olney Mainstage with Roger Miller’s Tony Award Winning score.
For his fine work this year, I am honored to name Sam Ludwig my musical theatre performer of the year. Congrats Sam!
Bravo to all these fine performers. I look forward to seeing you in your upcoming shows.