- WELL NOTED: THE 2007-2008 MUSICAL SEASON IN REVIEW
- By Joel Markowitz
I am a very fortunate man. This year I saw many wonderful musicals and musical performances on our local professional, community and children’s theatre stages.
Here are my favorites.
JOEL’S BEST MUSICALS OF 2007-2008 (IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER)
42nd Street (Act Two)
Act Two continued their exceptional work with their toe-tapping and colorful production of 42nd Street. When the curtain rose and dozens of dancers tapped their hearts out, I had goosebumps. Hats off to Kristianne Oristian (Peggy Sawyer) for her peppy toe-tapping performance as the small town girl who saves the day, and to Ellie Borzilleri (Dorothy Brock) whose portrayal of the aging diva Dorothy Brock was a revelation. It was exhilarating watching the ensemble of young tappers and singers. Kudos to tap dancer extraordinaire Michael Brick, and Matt Dicken whose “Lullaby of Broadway” brought down the house. Congrats to Scott Selman for his eye-popping sets and crisp sound, Gigi Buscaglio and Nancy Newell for their thrilling choreography, and to musical director Keith Tittermary and pit orchestra of young talented musicians for their fine work. Director Kevin Kuchar, you never cease to amaze me with your talent. What a great night in the theatre!
All Shook Up (Musical Theater Center)
I saw two productions of All Shook Up in one week, and when I walked into Musical Theater Center’s production, I was immediately blown away by the extraordinary cast-Max Henney as Chad, Max Talisman as Dennis, Ethan Kasmett as Dean, Gabi Deluca as Sandra, Rachel Lipman as Lorraine and Erica Finci as Sylvia, and the ensemble. Everyone sang their songs beautifully, and you could understand and enjoy every lyric And most of all, everyone on stage and in the audience was having a great time. Now, that’s what great theatre is all about! But for me, the highlight of the evening was the performance of Emily Madden, who played Natalie and “Ed.” Emily stole the show with her comedic talents and her fabulous singing. Special kudos to Diane Hamilton and Laurie Newton whose ingenious and fun choreography filled the F. Scott Fitzgerald theatre with total joy. And to director Daniel McDonald, whose performances at Toby’s have enriched my life, you took these young actors to a higher level and your direction deserves a major Mazel Tov! And what a pleasure to hear musical director Barry Hamilton and his band not drown out the young actors. Wow! What a great production!
Bat Boy-The Musical! (Landless Theatre Company)
Landless Theatre Company’s wild production of Bat Boy: The Musical proved that they can compete with all the biggie theatres when it comes to producing terrific musicals. But, what sets them apart is that they pull them off in a teeny, tiny space at DCAC in Adams Morgan. With a small band and a terrific cast lead by the energetic and 19 year old boy wonder Matt Macist as Bat Boy and Edgar, and sweet singing and ever-suffering Esther Covington as Meredith “Mama” Parker, this production drove me batty with delight.
Jerry Springer: The Opera (Studio Theatre’s 2ndStage)
Total lunacy! You had to be there to experience the chutzpah-filled performance by Ron Curameng, who pampered the stunned audience as Montel and Jesus. Hats off to young Florrie Bagel who stole my heart as Baby Jane, and to local favorites Bobby Smith as Satan and Larry Redmond as the despicable Jerry Springer for their wonderful performances. With brilliant direction by Keith Allan Baker and Matthew Gardiner and Matthew’s clever choreography, it was a theatrical experience local theatergoers will not soon forget. I predict more Helen Hayes Awards will surely fill Mr. Baker and Mr. Gardiner’s mantels. Thanks for making hell so much fun!
La Cage Aux Folles (Toby’s -The Dinner Theatre of Baltimore)
Director Eric Potter and his incredible singing cast of Cagelles opened the show with so much spirit and acrobatics, that the audience went crazy. The fun never ceased until the final bows. With a heart-warming performance by Larry Munsey as Albin and Zaza, (he also designed the colorful and hysterical costumes), and Darren McDonnell as Georges, this production of La Cage aux Folles was a barrel of fun and warmth and love. It was the best of times! Fantastique!
Man of La Mancha (Keegan Theatre)
Mark Rhea sure knows how to direct those slimy and grimy productions at Keegan Theatre, and when he got his hands again on this 10th year anniversary production of Man of La Mancha, this Broadway classic was a powerful and funny evening of whores and windmills and great music. With David Jourdan’s very human and touching performance as Cervantes and Don Quixote, and Michael Innocenti’s heartwarming take as the loyal and loveable Sancho Panza, this Man of La Mancha – with its imaginative staging – had audiences leaping to their feet to congratulate this very talented cast.
A New Brain (Kensington Arts Theatre)
It’s one of my favorite musicals and KAT didn’t disappoint. Boasting wonderful performances from cast members Tim Adams, Lisa Anne Bailey, Andy Izquierdo, Randall Jones, Ryan Khatcheressian, Duane Monahan, David M. Mortetti, Katie Pond, Karissa Swanigan, Susanna Todd, and a great band – Dana Gardner, Virginia Gardner, Lora Katz, Scott Richards, David Rohde, and Bob Weber – William Finn’s touching and emotional musical came to life, and reminded me why its score is one of my favorites. And my musical highlight of the year? Listening to Ryan Khatcheressian sing my favorite song from a musical -“Sailing”- with incredible beauty.
Natascia Diaz and Doug Kreeger burn up the stage in 80 minutes of sheer joy and energy. Boasting a brilliant score by Paul Scott Goodman and a funny and clever book by Mr. Goodman and his wife Miriam Gordon, Hearing Natasica Diaz with a Scottish accent is an experience I’ll never forget. Doug and Natascia sang so beautifully, that I am praying that they record the score soon. Bravo to the gorgeous lighting and crisp sound design by Herrick Goldman and Daniel Erdberg. I thought I stepped into the Zipper Theatre when I walked into MetroStage. Scott Schwartz – you are genius.
tick, tick… BOOM! (MetroStage)
I’ll never forget Stephen Gregory Smith, Felicia Curry and Matt Pearson’s gorgeous harmonies at MetroStage in Jonathan Larson’s not-so-well-known show. What a pleasure to watch three of our most talented young performers burn up the stage with their energy and gorgeous voices. And what Felicia did with “Come to Your Senses” would have registered a 5 on the Richter Scale.
Titanic-The Musical (Toby’s – the Dinner Theatre of Columbia)
Toby Orenstein, musical director Chris Youstra, a director (who won a Helen Hayes Award this year for his musical direction) and an incredible singing cast of 25 turned an overblown Broadway production into an intimate, powerful and gorgeous theatrical experience. It was so real that I almost brought a life preserver with me when I came back for a second visit.
The Visit (Signature Theatre)
All year, theatre goers were buzzing about the chance to see Broadway legends Chita Rivera and George Hearn at Signature Theatre’s Kander and Ebb Festival. And what a production it was – beautifully directed by Frank Galati – who kept things moving all over and off the stage and in the aisles. Having the chance to listen to John Kander and Fred Ebb’s little known score was a thrill, as was watching the legendary Chita Rivera as Claire. But for me, it was the performance of George Hearn that gave me chills. That gorgeous voice singing “You, You, You” was the highlight for me. Thanks to Signature Theatre for this wonderful festival and a chance to see The Visit and The Happy Time, two shows that hopefully will be produced for many years to come.
Special Kudos to American Century Theater for its entertaining reading of Peter Kellogg and David Friedman’s Stunt Girl, and to Larry Kaye for directing the wonderful cast, led by the fabulous Peggy Yates.