Fells Point Corner Theatre Connects with Love & Information

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Approx. Running Time: 2 hours with one intermission

Love is an emotion and information is tangible but both have so much to do with each other. People are weird and things are important and that’s just how it is in this world we live in. Both love and information are acquired and expressed differently by everyone and Fells Point Corner Theatre attempts to address this in their latest offering, Love & Information by Caryl Churchill, Directed by Deidre McAllister and what we get is an abstract, frenetic presentation of those different processes.

Deirdre McAllister takes the helm of this production and the staging is on point dealing with at least 40 small vignettes, ranging from 30 seconds to a few minutes, but McAllister is on top of it. The theme of human dealings and interaction with electronics and technology is clear and, though it all seems jumbled, McAllister seems to have a grasp on the material and presents it in a solid presentation. Helping McAllister’s vision is a simple, minimal but effective Set Design by Michael Vincent of just solid light color walls and a few set pieces such as a table and some chairs. Though sparse, the design works well with the piece and the very different stories each vignette tells and Vincent is to be commended for his keep-it-simple design.

Lighting and Sound Design by David Crandall is spot on making for smooth transitions and engaging visuals. His use of local music from Horse Lords, adds to the charm of this piece and fits perfectly with the production as a whole. Adding to the rich technical aspect of this production is Projection Design by Chris Uehlinger, who has yet to disappoint, and his design works in tandem with Crandall’s design adding interesting levels and textures.

The cast of Love & Information. Photo: Shealyn Jae Photography

For the performance aspect of this production, I’d be amiss if I didn’t say this ensemble of nine performers is stellar and giving 100% effort. I may not like the material, but these well apt actors keep the piece engaging and entertaining.

To name a few, Willard Brewington III is splendid as “The Child Who Didn’t Feel Pain” and Caitlin Weaver impresses in the same short as well as “Memory House.” Nina Kearin shines as a cynical bystander discussing God with Jesse Rivera, who plays a convincing messenger wanting to “spread the word of God.” Isaiah Mason Harvey is superb in his shorts and works well with the material and with his fellow cast mates making him one to watch. Along with the aforementioned, Carolyn Koch, Autumn Koehnlein, Megan Livingston, and Michael Makar round out this phenomenal cast and all give fantastic showings.

Final thought… Love & Information is a frenetic, intense piece that requires your utmost attention because if you blink, you might miss something and, though it’s not my cup of tea, the production itself is well put-together. Being so fast-paced, it seems a bit jumbled, at times, and the saving grace is that it is broken up into vignettes; some a few minutes, some no more than 30 seconds, and you get a lot of information (and love) thrown at you in 90 minutes. Overall, the performers are top notch and the staging is superb. Though I don’t like the material, I was certainly entertained and the performance is well worth checking out.

This is what I thought of this production of Love & Information at Fells Point Corner Theatre.… what do you think?

Love & Information will play through February 2 at Fells Point Corner Theatre, 251 S Ann Street, Baltimore, MD 21231. For tickets, call 410-276-7837 or purchase them online.

Email us at backstagebaltimore@gmail.com

Like Backstage Baltimore on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram!

It’s a Spooky Christmas With A Christmas Carol at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Approx. Running time: 2 hours with one intermission

We all know the story or have heard it (or at least bits and pieces of it) throughout our lives and it’s a good story and a staple for the holiday season. Of course I’m talking about Charles DickensA Christmas Carol, which, incidentally, I didn’t learn until recently is the story they sing about in “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” in the lyric “there’ll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories from Christmases long, long ago!” In Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s latest production, A Christmas Carol, Adapted by Ian Gallanar and Directed by Scott Alan Small, we’re taken back, once again, to Victorian England to learn a lesson of compassion, love, and the Christmas spirit (or spirits).

Gregory Burgess (Ebenezer Scrooge) and Michael Toperzer (The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come). Photo: Brandon W. Vernon

For those unfamiliar, and I can’t imagine it’s many, A Christmas Carol concerns itself with Ebenezer Scrooge, an old curmudgeon miser who wants nothing to do with Christmas until his old partner, Jacob Marley, who has passed on before him, comes to him carrying heavy chains made from his horrible actions while he was alive and  a warning that three ghosts will visit him, The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, to teach him what the season is all about. Marley warns him to change his ways or else he’ll end up with the same fate and even heavier chains.

Scenic Designer Daniel O’Brien keeps it simple with a unit set and pieces that move in and out to create the spaces in which each scene is set. Kudos to O’Brien for the attention to detail in the pieces and the dark, Gothic color scheme that is most appropriate to the period. The set adds great value to the production, as a whole, and helps move the story along rather than hinder it and O’Brien is to be commended for his efforts.

Costumes are challenging for a period piece, even for a professional theatre company, but Costume Designer Kristina Lambdin and Hair, Wig, and Makeup Designer Sandra Spence are on point with every stitch and curl. No detail was too small and Lambdin and Spence transport the audience right back to Victorian England with their superb designs and they deserve their own round of applause for their work on this production.

Tamieka Chavis and Gregory Michael Atkin. Photo: Brandon W. Vernon

Some would consider this production a musical because of all the music provided pre-show, in-show, and pre-Act II, but I can’t help but think it more of a play with music. That being said, Music Direction by Grace Srinivasan is exquisite. Every song that was chosen is apropos and she guides her cast in to tight, harmonious performances that add that something extra special to this production. I couldn’t mention music without mentioning Donna Korn, credited as Musician, and she is phenomenal in her craft, though other very apt cast members join her in accompanying the cast in their songs, Korn takes the lead playing several instruments throughout, flawlessly. Hats off to Korn for her strong, delightful showing.

Along with music, Dance usually isn’t far behind and Choreographer Nellie K. Glover gives us engaging and enjoyable choreography that is in the style of Victorian England, so it’s clear she’s done her homework. Intricate group numbers are upbeat, sophisticated, and tight and are just a joy to watch from the audience.

Scott Alan Small takes the helm of this piece and it’s clear he has a tight grasp on the classic, well-known story from a bygone era. He puts his own seasoning on this yearly production and his staging is smooth, keeping up a steady pace that moves along nicely. Most, not all, know the story coming in, so Small isn’t trying to rewrite the story, but presents it in a charming manner rebooting the relatable characters, making them fit into his vision. Hats off to Small for a job well done.

Gregory Burgess and Bethany Mayo. Photo: Brandon W. Vernon

Moving to the performance aspect of the production, the adage that comes to mind is “you win some, you lose some.” Most of the performances are splendid with an apt ensemble that is giving 100% effort and thoroughly enjoying themselves on stage and with each other which makes the overall performance enjoyable.

One interesting performance, to be delicate, is that of Company Member Gregory Michael Atkin who takes on the dual role of Fezziwig, Scrooge’s former and jovial employer, and The Ghost of Christmas Present. Now, I’m all for camp and I usually enjoy it immensely, however, Atkin’s style of camp just stuck out like a sore thumb in this production. I can see what he and/or Director Scott Alan Small is going for, bringing a modern twist to an old story, but Atkin just seems to go over the top repeatedly. Seeing him portray both roles with no real contrast between the two, it’s just as if he’s disregarded the characters themselves with no real character work. The flamboyance, the overt sass, and needless ad lib is a bit too much for this reviewer, but, hey, everyone’s a critic, right?

Xander Martin and Steve Torres. Photo: Brandon W. Vernon

On the other end of the scale, however, there are many highlights and standout performances in this production. To mention a few, Tamieka Chavis is absolutely delightful and authentic as Mrs. Fezziwig, among other characters. Her portrayal of this bubbly character just makes you smile from the moment she steps on stage and she has a certain presence and air that is second to none. I’m looking forward to seeing more stage work from her. Also, Steve Torres gives a good showing as the meek but caring Bob Cratchit giving a lovely performance with a natural delivery and purpose, showing he has a good grasp on this character. Along side Torres, Molly Moores as Mrs. Cratchit (and a shining moment as Scrooge’s old teacher, Miss Winthrop), and all the Cratchit children, especially young Temperance Oppel, are charming as the down and out but still loving Cratchit family.

Other mentionable performances come from Michael Toperzer who takes on the role of the ever optimistic, only living relative of Ebenezer Scrooge, Fred. Toperzer gives a strong, confident performance and works well with his castmates, especially in scenes with Fred’s close friends, including Kate Forton who gives a humorous and warm presentation as Caroline, a tipsy and fun-loving young woman.

Bethany Mayo, as the Ghost of Christmas Past gives an admirable performance, if not a little stiff, at times, but walking around lit up like a Christmas tree (though an beautiful and elegant Christmas tree) can be a little distracting for anyone.

Scrooge himself is portrayed, once again, by Gregory Burgess and this performer seems to completely embody this character. After playing a role repeatedly for several years, one would think it would get stale, but if it is, you won’t know it watching Burgess as he masterfully navigates through the story with a confident and consistent performance that brings Ebenezer Scrooge right off the page and into the real world. His dedication and character work is clear and he has a deep comprehension of this character making for a near flawless showing. Kudos to Burgess for his efforts and hard work.

Gregory Burgess and Lance Bankerd. Photo: Brandon W. Vernon

A standout in this particular production is undoubtedly Lance Bankderd, tackling the role of Jacob Marley. Bankerd has this role down pat and from his facial expressions to the spooky character voice he uses, his stage movement – everything is superb. He brings this small, but significant character to life and is in your face with no bones about it. He has a tight grasp on what the purpose of this character is and what this character is saying, which makes his performance impeccable all around. I can say, arguably, his performance is almost worth the price of admission and you don’t want to miss it.

Final thought… A Christmas Carol is always a good bet around the holidays, albeit a common one. This script is part of the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s annual holiday tradition and it suits them well. Every production is different and I actually saw one a couple of years ago and this current one happens to be much more entertaining and engaging so, it’s an evolving production with a revolving cast and different directors so, it doesn’t get stale. There are a few curious acting choices in this production, but overall, it’s a fun-filled, loving telling off the Dickens’ classic. The production is well put-together and polished and keeps it simple which is how it should be. Kudos to the cast, crew, and production team for a solid, entertaining production.

A Christmas Carol will play through December 24 at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company7 South Calvert Street, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 410-244-8570 or you can purchase them online.

Email us at backstagebaltimore@gmail.com

Like Backstage Baltimore on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter and Instagram!

Travel Can Be Murder with Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express at Everyman Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Approx. Running time: 2 hours and 20 minutes with one intermission

Murder mysteries pop up daily in hamlets all over the world in community theatres, church theatres, and small theatres and audiences can’t seem to get enough of them. It’s always pleasant to see when a professional theatre takes on the challenge of a classic and well-known piece and adds the polish it deserves. Everyman Theatre has done just this with their latest offering of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, Adapted by Ken Ludwig, and Directed by Vincent M. Lancisi.

For those who may not know, Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express concerns itself with a murder, of course, of an American tycoon and nine potential suspects on a luxury train with the world-famous Detective Hercule Poirot, who is on this particular passage by chance, to solve the case before the murderer can strike again.

Bruce Randolph Nelson (Detective Poirot), Danny Gavigan (Samuel Rachett), Deborah Hazlett (Helen Hubbard). Photo: Teresa Castracane Photography

The technical aspect of this production is a tour-de-force for Everyman Theatre. Now, I have yet to be disappointed by any Set Design from this company and Daniel Ettinger always impresses, but this design is A+ top notch. Transforming from a small, elegant café to the Orient Express itself with sliding walls and set pieces takes this production to the hilt of good design. The art deco detail is remarkable, and the dark color scheme adds to the tension and mood of the entire piece. Ettinger is to be commended for his brilliant efforts for this production. In the same vein, Sound Design and Original Music by Pornchanok Kanchanabanca is just as inspiring, transporting the audience into the story with a period score and sound effects that blend in and enhance the production rather then take away from it. Kudos to Kanchanabanca, as well, for an exquisite design and score.

Period pieces are a challenge in themselves, but costuming a period piece takes a champ and Costume Design by David Burdick with Wig Design by Anne Nesmith is not only stunning but authentic, placing these actors in the time accurately and with exquisite detail. Hats off to Burdick and Nesmith for their superb designs.

The Cast of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. Photo: Teresa Castracane Photography

Vincent M. Lancisi, Founder and Artistic Director, takes the helm of this piece and he knocks it out of the park with a well-staged production that has great pacing, and a clear understanding of the material. Scene transitions are smooth (with help from Daniel Ettinger’s Set Design), and the character work is excellent. Agatha Christie’s work is, of course, well-known but this title is definitely one of her most well-known works but Lancisi has stepped up to the challenge and presents this story in a tight, polished production that makes for a thrilling night of theatre.

Moving on to the performance aspect of this piece Danny Gavigan gives a marvelous performance as Colonel Arbuthnot while doubling as Samuel Ratchett, though the contrast in appearance was nothing more than a wig and clothes, but still enough to be believable and he has a good grasp of both characters. He has a good chemistry with Hannah Kelly as Mary Debenham, and Kelly gives a charming, strong performance as a young woman who is both independent and wants to love and be loved at the same time. Kudos to both Gavigan and Kelly for solid, confident performances.

Taking on the role of the young, beautiful, and confident Countess Andrenyi is Lilian Oben. Though Oben’s delivery is a bit off, due to a curious accent she’s attempting, her character work is splendid and she seems to have a tight grasp on her character making for a robust and enjoyable performance, overall.

Bruce Randolph Nelson (Detective Poirot), Lilian Oben (Countess Andrenyi), Jefferson A. Russell (Monsieur Bouc). Photo: Teresa Castracane Photography

Not all characters are guests on the Orient Express and taking on the roles of Monsieur Bouc, a type of executive for the company that owns the train is Jefferson A. Russell while M. Scott McLean takes on the role of Michel, the conductor, and doubling as the humorous Head Waiter. Both Russell and McLean have a comedic responsibility in this production and both pull it off beautifully with flawless timing and delivery. Even in the intense bits of this story, Russell manages to bring levity with his character and it’s worth mentioning the small, but hilarious run McLean has as the Head Waiter in the beginning of the story in which he embodies this snooty character who gets his comeuppance in the end.

Helen Hedman (Princess Dragomiroff), Beth Hylton (Greta Ohlsson). Photo: Teresa Castracane Photography

Helen Hedman as Princess Dragomiroff, a set-in-her-ways curmudgeon Russian Princess who gives Poirot the run-around, and Beth Hylton as Greta Ohlsson, a delicate, but steadfast woman who isn’t really cut out for murder, or seems not to be anyway, have a good rapport and work well off of and with each other. Hedman takes on this role with gusto and embodies this character giving her just the right amount of slyness and secretiveness that is required while Hylton does not disappoint with her portrayal of Greta. Hylton has a good comprehension of this complex character and plays her with a fine balance of sensitivity and boldness that makes her interesting. Hedman and Hylton are to be commended for their efforts in their performances.

Highlights in this particular production are Tony Nam as Hector MacQueen, the personal secretary and Guy Friday of Rachett, and Deborah Hazlett as Helen Hubbard, an obnoxious, rambunctious American on holiday. Nam knows his character and plays him with purpose and confidence giving a sensational performance and blending an air of self-assuredness and delicacy in his character. Hazlett, too, knows her character through and through and plays her brilliantly with a sass and slight darkness that is absolutely appropriate. Hazlett is a calculated whirlwind portrayal and gives a top-notch performance. Both give strong, confident, and authentic performances making them the highlights of this production.

Bruce Randolph Nelson as Hercule Poirot. Photo: Teresa Castracane Photography

The standout in this production is, hands-down, Bruce Randolph Nelson as Hercule Poirot. Detective Poirot is the pivotal character in this piece and Nelson knows him inside and out. With the perfect balance of drama and comedy, Nelson makes Poirot, a quite fussy man, likeable and engaging at once. He plays the character with a no-nonsense but compassionate attitude that shines through in his stage movement and his delivery, of which he has a deep understanding. Nelson’s performance is not one you want to miss this season. Kudos to him for a job quite well done.

Final thought… Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express is a classic Agatha Christie story that will hold up through the ages. Murder and mystery are two topics that we, as humans, are fascinated by, whether we like to admit it or not. If it weren’t the O.J. Simpson case wouldn’t have gotten ten minutes of air time! But Agatha Christie has this genre down to a science and Ken Ludwig’s adaptation doesn’t stray to far from it making for successful material. The performances were strong, the staging was smooth and engaging, and, overall, it’s a polished, well put-together production. Technically, this production takes the cake and Set Design is top notch, worth the price of admission. This is a great addition to Everyman’s season and it’ll be a mystery to me if you don’t get your tickets ASAP.

Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express will play through January 11 at Everyman Theatre315 W Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 410-752-2208 or you can purchase them online.

Email us at backstagebaltimore@gmail.com

Like Backstage Baltimore on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter and Instagram!

Baltimore Center Stage Traverses the Waters with Men on Boats

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: Approx. 90 minutes with no intermission

Some could argue that adventure is in our nature. We want to know what’s around the bend and some even see it as a duty. Years after we became an independent nation, there were still many areas of this vast land that were uncharted but a handful of brave people decided it needed to be done. One of those stories is told in Baltimore Center Stage’s latest offering, Men on Boats by Jaclyn Backhaus, Directed by Jenny Koons. It’s a story of aforementioned adventure, the unknown, fighting spirits, and history that is told and sometimes skewed as the years go by.

In a nutshell, Men on Boats covers the Powell Geographic Expedition of 1869 where expedition leader Major John Wesley Powell, under the direction of the U.S. government, was to chart the Green and Colorado Rivers and was the first time anyone besides Native Americans traversed the entirety of the Grand Canyon. Through many trials and tribulations, the expedition was a success and settled into American history. Men on Boats is unique that there’s not one male to be seen and told with a humorous lean.

Scenic Design by Stephanie Osin Cohen is more of an insinuation and it works beautifully for this piece. Cohen uses a huge, beautifully painted backdrop of a canyon that transports the audience to the natural wonder and glory in which this story takes place and the use of simple but effective props and set pieces helps tell the story and keep it moving along. Just as with the Scenic Design, Lighting Design by Stacey Derosier and Sound Design by Elisheba Ittoop work in tandem to set the moods of each scene and the attention to detail from both Derosier and Ittoop transforms the space into the isolated, uncharted area and puts the audience smack-dab in the middle of it all. Kudos to all, Cohen, Derosier, and Ittoop for their splendid efforts for this production.

Hahnji Jang’s Costume Design is on point and adds authenticity to this humorous but true story. Each character has his (her) own individual style, but when all together, fits into a smooth and wonderful design.

Taking the helm of this production is Director Jenny Koons, who clearly has a deep comprehension of this material and has presented a polished production that is to be commended. Her staging is near flawless and the pacing is spot on, especially in the action bits where the group of adventurers are bravely forging the uncharted waters. The challenge of having women represent men may not be as challenging as it was in the past, but there’s still a certain challenge and Koons has stepped up to the plate and knocks it out of the park. With her guidance and understanding of the text, she presents this story with a seriousness that enhances the humor that’s weaved throughout making for a charming and enlightening evening of theatre. Koons should be applauded for her work on this production.

As for the performance aspect of this production, this entire ensemble brings this story to life with dedication and 100% effort making for a clean, polished production. They all have a tight grasp on their characters and make them their own with authentic portrayals and natural delivery. They all make the intense physicality of the staging seem effortless and all should be applauded and commended for their work on this production. Kai Heath as Hall, the group’s main cartographer with an air of optimism, and Sara Porkalob as Hawkins, the crew’s curmudgeon but caring cook, bring much of the humor with their curmudgeon but faithful, caring characters. Their comedic timing is splendid and they have a great chemistry between them for being such contrasting characters and both have a strong presence on stage making for delightful performances.

Bringing a certain wisdom, Haruna Lee as the reserved but observant Old Shady interjects with quips and song the keep the group moving forward and Lee seems to embody this character and makes him likable even though he doesn’t say much. She gives off a strong, silent type vibe and works perfectly for this role. Patrena Murray as John Colton Sumner, a brave and able adventurer who brings his own brand of wisdom, shines in this role. She plays him in a way that easily shows both his hardened personality as well as his gentler, kind side and Murray is to be applauded for her authentic portrayal. Elena Urdaneta takes on the role of Bradley, the youngest and most wide-eyed of the adventurers, and her performance is both charming and inspiring. She understands her character’s objectives and moves forward through the performance with purpose. Urdaneta’s portrayal puts you in Bradley’s corner from the start and, overall, she gives a strong, confident performance.

Ceci Fernandez as John Wesley Powell, the confident and optimistic leader of this expedition, and though her portrayal has a tendency to go over the top, at times, Fernandez has a tight grasp on what this man is about. Aside from the camp, which she is good at, she plays Powell with a balance of sincerity and comedy, that enhances the story and keeps it interesting and she should be commended for her efforts. In the same vein, Jessica Ranville tackles the role of William Dunn, the more practical and skeptical crew member who loses faith in the expedition that causes rifts. Ranville knows this character and understands the material well making for a praise-worthy performance overall. Her chemistry with the ensemble is top-notch and moves the action and story along nicely. Along with Powell, Dunn seems to be the heart of this expedition and both Fernandez and Ranville clearly understand this and should be applauded for their strong, solid performances.

Highlights of this production are Keren Lugo as O.G. Howland/Tsauwiat and Eileen Rivera as Seneca Howland/The Bishop. As the Howland brothers, these two are seemingly the antagonists of the story, but there’s a certain quality Lugo and Rivera put into these characters that bring out their considerate and caring sides. The chemistry with each other and their cast mates is spot on and they have a great understanding of the characters they are portraying. They are absolutely hilarious in their portrayal of the chill, level-headed Native Americans who help the adventurers along. The dialogue is funny enough, but their delivery and on point comedic timing had me laughing out-loud making for a delightful performance from both. Kudos to Lugo and Rivera for robust and confident performances, overall.

A standout in this production is Natalie Woolams-Torres as Frank Goodman/Mr. Asa. As one of the funnier characters in this piece, Woolams-Torres plays Frank Goodman brilliantly. Her grasp of the text and the comedy of this role is clear and her portrayal and timing is near flawless. What makes her a standout is the authenticity she brings to the role with a natural delivery of the text and understanding of the character. Hats off to Woolams-Torres for a superb performance.

Final thought… Men on Boats is fun look at a very real event in history and told from a very unique point of view. As with any theatrical telling (or any telling from anyone who doesn’t have first-hand experience), who knows what really happened on the Powell Geographic Expedition of 1869, but you don’t need to be a history buff to enjoy yourself with this production. With an apt ensemble comprised of all female performers taking on the roles of men it takes a minute to adjust you quickly get pulled into the story because of the talent and efforts of these fine performers. There are bits of hoke but it’s balanced with points of poignancy that makes for a delightful evening of theatre. From the Set Design, to Costume Design, to performance, this is a well put-together, polished production that settles nicely in Baltimore Center Stage’s season and one you won’t want to miss.

This is what I thought of Baltimore Center Stage’s production of Men on Boats… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Men on Boats will play through December 22 at Baltimore Center Stage, 700 North Calvert Street, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 410-332-0033 or you can purchase them online.

Email us at backstagebaltimore@gmail.com

Like Backstage Baltimore on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram

Little Women Makes a Big Splash at Strand Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: Approx. 2 hours and 15 minutes with one intermission

(l-r) Surasree Das, Kay-Megan Washington, Elizabeth Ung, Katharine Vary, and Anabel Milton. Photo: Shealyn Jae Photography

The bond between sisters is a strong one that is not easily severed if at all possible. In Strand Theatre’s latest offering, Little Women adapted and Directed by Erin Riley, based on the novel of the same name by Louisa May Alcott, this sentiment couldn’t be more true and it’s a production you won’t want to miss.

In a nutshell, if you are unfamiliar with the story of Little Women, it concerns itself with the four March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, and their loving mother, affectionately known as Marmee, and their next door neigbors. Through the years, each March sister finds her own way and in Riley’s adaptation, from sister Jo’s point of view, we see the effects each life has on the others. Reiley’s choice of having Jo March’s tell the story, her story, helps move the story along smoothly and keeps the audience engaged from beginning to end.

Surasree Das and Kathryn Falcone. Photo: Shealyn Jae Photography

With a brilliant Set Design by Laurie Brandon, the audience is placed smack dab in the middle of the story in the Victorian era. Strand Theatre never ceases to amaze me with what they can do with their space and Brandon’s design is no different. A splendid and detailed Costume Design from Amy Rawe Weimer completes the setting beautifully and the to designs work in tandem to transport the audience into the lives of these women easily. Kudos to Brandon and Weimer for their efforts on this production.

Erin Reily also takes the helm of this production with help from Assistant Director Ruta Douglas-Smith. Their staging is top notch and the pacing is on point. The character work makes each character an individual and their grasp and comprehension of this material is clear. The dialogue and scenes are easy to follow and smoothly played out. It’s easy to see the love Reily and Douglas-Smith have for this story and their presentation is spot on. Both should be commended for their work.

(l-r) Kathryn Falcone, Kay-Megan Washington, Surasree Das, Anabel Milton, Katharine Vary, and Elizabeth Ung. Photo: Shealyn Jae Photography

I can confidently say this is one of the tightest and dedicated casts I have come across this season and each pulls his or her own weight making for a charming production, as a whole.

The ensemble is led by Surasree Das, as Jo March, and she hits the groung running, embodying this character with ease. Her natural portrayal of this strong-minded young woman is superb and pulls the audience in and has you rooting for her throughout. She has a deep understanding of this character and gives a solid, confident performance.

In the same vein, her sisters, Meg, Beth, and Amy, played by Elizabeth Ung, Katharine Vary, and Anabel Milton, are equally excellent in their portrayals and the chemistry between these women is natural and strong. Ung plays the older sister Meg with a gentleness that captures your heart while Vary shines as the fragile Beth while Milton, in contrast, is brash and confident as the youngest sister Amy. All together, they form a formidable troupe that makes one stand up and take notice.

Bill Brekke and JC Payne. Photo: Shaelyn Jae Photography

Joining the March women are Kay-Megan Washington as Marmee and Kathryn Falcone as Aunt March and Hannah (Falcone also tackles Hair Design and Styling and it is absolute brilliant). These women give strong, confident performances and are standouts in this particular telling. Washington portrays the matriarch of this family effortlessly and seems to have a great understanding of this character who is just trying to keep things together during times of strife. Falcone, in the same vein, is simply amazing in her portrayal of the old, crotchety Aunt March in both manner and delivery and the contrast in her portrayal of the loving and sweet Hannah, the March’s maid, is flawless. Hats off to Washington and Falcone for their beautiful, dedicated, and strong performances.

Alexander Scally and Elizabeth Ung. Photo: Shaelyn Jae Photography

The male characters in this story, Mr. March, Mr. Laurence, Laurie, Brooke, and Bhare are taken on marvelously by Bill Brekke, JC Payne, and Alexander Scally, with Brekke and Scally taking on dual roles. Bill Brekke is believable enough as Mr. March and Mr. Laurence but at times seems a little stiff and scripted, but his chemistry with his cast mates is top notch and he holds his own. JC Payne as the young, energetic, fun Laurie, knows his way around the stage and gives a wonderful, seamless portrayal as his character grows from childish young man to responsible adult. Scally, too, shines in his portrayal of Brooke, family friend and tutor who finds his way into the heart of the eldest March sister. He plays Brooke with a nice balance of straight-forwardness and gentleness that makes for a superb performance and his contrast in playing Bahre, a seemingly rough and gruff German professor, is spot on making for an impressive performance overall. In short, Brekke, Payne, and Scally should be applauded and commended for their efforts and work on this production.

Final thought… Little Women is a tour-de-force for Strand Theatre and is a beautiful adaptation of Lousia May Alcott’s classic that pulls it nicely into the 21st century. The script is splendidly put together, the staging is on point, and the performances are top notch. All should be commended for their efforts on this production and you don’t want to miss this production this season. Get your tickets now because they will probably be hard to come by the longer you wait.

This is what I thought of The Strand Theatre’s production of Little Women… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

 Little Women will play through December 22 at The Strand Theatre, 5426 Harford Road, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 443-874-4917 or you can purchase them online.

Email us at backstagebaltimore@gmail.com

Like Backstage Baltimore on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram

Elf the Musical Brings in the Holidays at Tidewater Players

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Approx. Running Time: 2 hours with one intermission

It’s that time of year, again, when even the most jolliest of Christmas enthusiasts are saturated with holiday shows and reviews. If I see one more adaptation of A Christmas Carol, it may be my last. However, ‘tis the season, and it’s to be expected so, I trudge on. At least there are a couple of new holiday shows that have come to light in the last few years and Tidewater Player’s latest venture, Elf the Musical, with a Book by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin, Music by Matthew Sklar, and Lyrics by Chad Beguelin, is a modern holiday show with a fresh look on how we see the holidays. This production is Directed by Laurie Sentman Starkey, with Music Direction by Stephanie Carlock Cvach, and Choreography by Carissa Lagano.

Briefly, Elf the Musical is based on the film Elf, starring Will Farrell and James Caan, featuring the likes of Bob Newhart, Ed Asner, Mary Steenburgen, and Zoe Deschanel. Buddy the Elf is actually a human who was mistakenly brought back to the North Pole and raised as one of Santa’s little helpers but has always felt like he didn’t belong. The truth is discovered and Buddy travels to New York City to find his real father, meeting a slew of characters along the way including a Stepmother, a stepbrother, and a love interest, all while keeping his cheerful elven charm and humor about him.

The cast of Elf the Musical. Photo: Tidewater Players

Overall, the production value is good, but though there is a minimal set consisting mainly furniture pieces with a few larger pieces, some of the scene changes were a little clunky and the vamp of recorded music was not synced up as well as it could be making it more of an annoyance than a distraction. Speaking of recorded music, it really did nothing for this production. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of canned (recorded) music for live theatre productions, but I can understand the need for it. Without a live orchestra, the recorded music seems to suck the energy out of this production even though the performers are keeping up a good pace.

Music Director Stephanie Carlock Cvach seems to have had her hands full with this score. It doesn’t help that the music and lyrics are a bit elementary and kitschy but, what can you do with a holiday show except throw some camp at it? Sometimes less is more. Though most of it is performed nicely, there are a few spots that could have had a few more rehearsals with both featured soloists and the entire ensemble. There are times when the cast seems to be out of sync not only with the music but with each other and it jolts the audience out of the magic. Some performances are better than others, but overall, Cvach seems to do her best with the material she’s given.

The cast of Elf the Musical. Photo: Tidewater Players

Carissa Lagano tackles Choreography in this production and though appropriate, it’s a bit on the lackluster side. The movement seems to be all over the place at times but the cast seems to be enjoying themselves and it gets a splendid reaction out of the audience. I could see what Lagono was going for, and it has the potential to be marvelous, but again, it could be the material she has to work with. In general, Lagano does a terrific job and, just like the music, with a few more rehearsals, her choreography has the potential to shine.

Amanda Lynn McDowell as Jovie. Photo: Tidewater Players

Laurie Sentman Starkey takes the helm of this production and aside from a few clunky scene changes, it is a good showing, overall. She seems to understand the material and presenting an adaptation of a popular and loved film is challenging, not to mention that the holiday aspect. She balanced the comedy and poignant bits nicely and though apparent, her character work might be delved into a bit more. She keeps the pacing beautifully but the ending seems rushed and frenetic. Regardless, Starkey presents a well rounded, charming production.

Moving on to the performance aspect of this production of Elf the Musical, it is absolutely clear that this entire ensemble gives 100% effort, like Samantha Jednorski, who takes on multiple roles and makes each of the individual and engaging, and all are having a blast working with each other. They work hard and should be commended for their efforts, each and every one of them.

To name a few, taking on the roles of Buddy’s human family, Bob Willenbrink, Eva Grove, and Michael Amhein portray Walter, Emily, and Michael Hobbs, respectively, and all give good showings. The strongest of the three would be Eva Grove who gives a charming performance as the wife of a workaholic who is trying to get her husband to spend more time with the family. She makes the most of her stage time and makes the role her own.

Michael Amhein and Dickey Mahoney. Photo: Tidewater Players

Tackling the role of the cynical Jovie is Amanda Lynn McDowell and though her character is supposed to be deadpan through most of the story, McDowell may have taken it a bit too far at times. This could be actor choice or direction, but it didn’t add any variety to her role. Vocally, McDowell has a stunning lower range and shines in her featured numbers such as “Never Fall in Love With an Elf” and “A Christmas Song.” Dicky Mahoney takes on the main role of Buddy the Elf and seems to be having a great time with the role and his jovial energy is consistent throughout the production. In the same breath, it seems, at times, Mahoney is trying too hard and it comes off as insincere with wide eyes and yelling the dialogue. However, overall, his performance is delightful, if not out of place, and he’s giving his all with a great presence, making for a strong, confident performance.

Lisa Standish as Deb. Photo: Tidewater Players

A definite highlight in this particular production is Lisa Standish who takes on a supporting role as Deb, Walter Hobbs loyal and efficient assistant. She has a good comprehension of her character and play her with a flawless balance of seriousness and comedy. Her delivery of the dialogue is natural and her gestures and mannerisms make the character believable from the start. She has a strong stage presence and seems to embody this character. She gives a superb vocal performance, especially in her featured numbers such as “In the Way” and “The Story of Buddy the Elf.” Standish is to be commended for her work and effort in this production.

Final Thought… Elf the Musical is a delightful, modern holiday romp that is sure to become a classic. It’s definitely family-friendly with enough “grown up” jokes to keep all of the adults engaged throughout. Though it doesn’t have the same oomph as the Will Ferrell film, it still pleases the audience and gets the message of the real meaning of Christmas across. Tidewater Player’s has a lot of heart and it’s easy to see their folks are giving 100% effort on stage and are truly enjoying themselves. The production has its flaws, is a little haphazard in spots, and tries too hard in others, it’s still a fun and funny production that will please the entire family.

This is what I thought of Tidewater Players’ production of Elf the Musical… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Elf the Musical will play through December 8 at Tidewater Players at The Cultural Center at the Opera House121 N. Union Street, Havre de Grace, MD. Purchase tickets at the door one hour before show time or purchase them online.

Email us at backstagebaltimore@gmail.com

Like Backstage Baltimore on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram!

Fells Point Corner Theatre Rises with She Stoops to Conquer

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Approx. Running Time: 2 hours with one intermission

In today’s climate, the empowerment of women is of the utmost importance (along with the empowerment of many other under-represented communities), but we mustn’t forget that folks have been talking and writing about this sort of thing for centuries. In Fells Point Corner Theatre’s latest offering, She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith, Directed by Lance Bankerd and Barbara Madison Hauck, we are reminded of the struggles and ingenuity of woman through the ages.

Briefly, in She Stoops to Conquer, Mr. Hardcastle wishes for his daughter, Kate, to marry Sir Charles Marlow, a shy but attractive young man. Marlow and his friend Hastings travel from London, but are tricked by Tony Lumpkin, Hardcastle’s step-son, that Hardcastle’s home is an inn. Hastings is involved with Constance, who is being pushed by her aunt, Mrs. Hardcastle to marry Tony, whom she is not keen on. While thinking Hardcastle’s home is an inn, Marlow and Hastings behave badly, but when Marlow meets Kate, he is shy and awkward. Kate disguises herself as a barmaid to see how Marlow really acts and he’s the complete opposite. When he learns her true identity, he is embarrassed. Eventually, after some slapstick and farce, the confusion is cleared up with a happy ending. Make sense?

I didn’t know much about this piece aside from recognizing the title, but have come to the conclusion it’s not my cup of tea, so to speak. The attempts to update this piece seem only to do with costuming which didn’t make much sense, at best. I wasn’t sure where Costume Designer Rache Austin was trying to go. It was a mix between 80s punk, 70s glam, and a dash of the Roaring 20s that was all over the place. The bold colors are nice to look at, and, in general, it’s a creative, bold, and consistent design, but since the dialogue stays pretty much in tack, this particular design doesn’t seem beneficial to the piece as a whole. It’s not a bad design (and I can tell Austin knows the craft well) just a bit ill-fitting for this production.

Set Design by David Shoemaker is spot on and he is to be commended for his use of the space. Being a farce, multiple entrances and exits are required and Shoemaker has managed to give us as many as we needed, no more, no less, and his base design helps move the piece along nicely adding and subtracting appropriate set pieces, when needed. Kudos to Shoemaker for a well thought out design.

Ari Juno and Corey Hennessey. Photo: Shaelyn Jae Photography

Taking the helm of this production are veteran Director Lance Bankerd and novice Director Barbara Madison Hauck. Now, Directing a period piece can be a challenge and updating a piece can be even more of a challenge and must be handled delicately. Overall, this production is a good production and everyone involved is giving 100% effort, but, with that said, it doesn’t seem to live up to its full potential. The staging is suitable and the pacing is on point, but the characters aren’t always fleshed out and believable, on the whole, save a few. Technically, Bankerd and Hauck do give a phenomenal showing with tight staging, but the character work is lacking. It seems these actors are simply reciting the dialogue without knowing exactly what it means. This could be an actor problem, but in the end, the Director(s) should be watching closely and guiding these actors. Regardless of these criticisms, the production value is terrific and Bankerd and Hauck should be proud of their efforts and they should be commended for tackling such a challenging piece and Hauck is to be applauded for her Directorial debut. I’m looking forward to seeing more from both of these fine Directors.

Moving on to the performance aspect, as stated, the entire ensemble gives a valiant and concerted effort and all are to be commended for their commitment to their roles. Gareth Kelly, Ari Juno, Christian O’Neill, and Thomas Peter work well in their supporting roles and help move the action along nicely with impeccable comedic timing and understanding of the quick entrances and exits of farce. They all work well with and off of each other and it’s easy to see they are enjoying every minute. All are to be commended for their work on this production.

Corey Hennnessey takes on the role of the impish, childish Tony Lumpkin who starts all the trouble with his mischief and though Hennessey has a tight grasp on his character, he plays him a little too nonchalantly with grand gestures and flamboyancy that, at times, can be a bit much for the intimate space. That being said, he does have a great presence on the stage and is absolutely dedicated to this role giving a strong, confident showing.

Elizabeth Norman tackles the role of the strong-willed, intelligent Kate Hardcastle and though she seems to understand the character, in her delivery of the dialogue, I must admit I’m not convinced she has a tight grasp of the text. Much of her performance seems to be simply reciting the text rather than a full understanding of what she’s saying and the connection and authenticity is lost. However, she does have a solid presence and is confident on stage making for a delightful performance.

Taking on the role of Constance, a ward of the Hardcastle’s who doesn’t seem to have say in what happens in her life, is Hannah Folger and she portrays this character beautifully. Her delivery is natural, and her comprehension of this character is clear. Folger knows her way around the stage and is comfortable in this role making for a robust and charming performance.

Elizabeth Norman and Ian Charles. Photo: Shaelyn Jae Photography

A couple of highlights in this production are Richard Peck and Lindsey Schott as Mr. and Mrs. Hardcastle and these two actors shine in these roles. Peck plays Mr. Hardcastle as the straight man in this piece and he plays him seriously enough that it enhances the comedy and his chemistry with his cast mates is impeccable. He knows this character and plays him splendidly with subtle but spot on reactions and mannerisms. In the same vein, Schott is hilarious as Mrs. Hardcastle, a woman who is trying to stay on top of things and in control. She takes the role and makes it her own and balances Mrs. Hardcastle’s deviousness and tenderness nicely. Schott knows this character well and gives a durable and entertaining performance, overall.

The standouts in this production are, hands down, Albert Lolu Collins as George Hastings and Ian Charles as Young Marlow. From the moment these two step onto the stage, it’s clear they are believable and committed to their roles. Collins is a bit hard to understand at times in his British accent, but he plays this character in a way that makes him likable from the start, and his understanding of his character, his presence and assurance makes for a strong performance.

Ian Charles is exquisite in his portrayal of Young Marlow and he is to be applauded for his efforts. His comprehension of the role, comedy, and farce are spot on and he seems to embody this character. He does quite well with the staging and every movement has purpose and that, in tandem with a natural, easy delivery of the dialogue make for an outstanding performance.

Final thought… She Stoops to Conquer is a piece of theatre that should be experienced by all theater makers and lovers at one time or another. I’m glad I’ve finally been able to experience it myself and the story is well put together. For being over 200 years old, it still makes a point and holds its own. This particular production has its flaws, but, overall, is a tight production with a dedicated cast and production team. The language (or use of language) may be unfamiliar at first, but still easy to follow if you pay attention. This is an important show that seemed to be ahead of its time concerning women empowerment, but it’s still relevant and makes sense for today’s audience. Through comedy and farce, this piece shows that, after 200 years, some things never change. If you want a fun, delightful evening of theatre, you’ll want to check out She Stoops to Conquer at Fells Point Corner Theatre.

This is what I thought of this production of She Stoops to Conquer at Fells Point Corner Theatre.… what do you think?

She Stoops to Conquer will play through December 15 at Fells Point Corner Theatre, 251 S Ann Street, Baltimore, MD 21231. For tickets, call 410-276-7837 or purchase them online.

Email us at backstagebaltimore@gmail.com

Like Backstage Baltimore on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram!

Destiny Calls and Third Wall Productions Goes with Man of La Mancha

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Approx. Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with one intermission

We all need an escape sometimes. Life isn’t fair and can be quite hard to deal with, so, we all have our own little defense mechanisms to help us get through. Sometimes, folks actually get lost in their escape and it’s hard to come back to reality. However, who has it worse? The person lost in his or her escape or the people out here in the real, hard world? In Third Wall Production’s latest offering, Man of La Mancha by Dale Wasserman, with Music by Mitch Leigh and Lyrics by Joe Darion, we are able to take a peek into one man’s madness and/or bliss, whichever you want to all it, as he imagines a world much better than the one he’s actually living in. His dreams aren’t his escape… they’re his reality. This production is Directed by Mike Zellhofer, with Music Direction by William Zellofer, and Choreography by Timoth David Copney-Welton.

In a nutshell, in case you’ve never heard of Man of La Mancha (which might be impossible), it is inspired by Miguel de Cervantes’ 17th century novel, Don Quixote, but only inspired by. Man of La Mancha is a play within a play where Cervantes himself, as well as other prisoners who are awaiting the Spanish Inquisition, perform the story of the “mad” knight, Don Quixote, who is actually an old, dying man refusing to let go of his ideals and passions.

Lance Bankerd as Don Quixote. Photo: Stasia Steuart Photography

The Scenic Design by Jordan Hollett and Pat & Amy Rudai is impeccable. The creativity and attention to detail is wonderful and, though it’s a unit set, allows itself to fit into every scene with the addition of small set pieces. It’s practical yet pleasing on the eye, making for a great combination. The motorized door/ramp is quite impressive and adds value to the production as a whole. Kudos to this team for their innovative and charming design.

Lighting and Sound Design go hand in hand and Jim Shomo (Lighing Design) and Charles Hirsch (Sound Design) hit the nail on the head with this production. Both Shomo and Hirsch are masters of their crafts and both Lighting and Sound Design helped move this production along subtly, without hindering or taking attention away from the action. Shomo has a distinct knack for mood lighting and setting the mood for each scene beautifully, while Hirsch adds just the correct amount of effects without overloading and keeps the balance just right. Both Shomo and Hirsch are to be commended for their efforts.

Maggie Flanigan takes on Costume Design and it is on point. Flanigan has a great comprehension of this piece and wardrobes the ensemble to the nines. Each character whether ensemble or featured is appropriately and splendidly dressed, adding to the authenticity and fanciful nature of the show. She’s done her research and has created a wonderful design that is to be applauded.

Timoth David Copney-Welton, a Baltimore theatre fixture, takes on Chorographer duties in this production and he knows his ensemble and helps them shine. Though not heavy choreography, it is entertaining and helps tell this classic story. Innovative and creative, the choreography is a joy to watch and every single ensemble member seems to be having a blast performing it. Along the same lines, Music Direction by William Zellhofer is top notch. With such familiar music and songs, Zellhofer has this cast in tight harmonies and the featured performers are well-rehearsed and spot on. Copney-Welton and Zellhofer both give great showings in their admirable work on this production.

Mike Zellhofer takes the helm of this production and it’s clear he has a tight grasp on the material. His staging of this piece is engaging and keeps the audience interested. The transitions are smooth and simple keeping the pace balanced. The characters come to life and his vision is apparent in every move and scene. It’s always challenging to take on Direction of such a popular, classic piece, but Zellhofer faces it head on and creates an enjoyable, clean, and polished piece that makes for a delightful evening of theatre.

Jessica Preactor as Aldonza. Photo: Stasia Steuart Photography

Moving on to the performance aspect of this production, it’s worth noting that every ensemble member, whether featured or not, is giving the utmost effort in their roles. They all work quite well together and each has a hand in helping move the story along nicely.

To name a few, Timoth David Copney-Welton as Padre and Annmarie Pallanck as Sancho both have a great understanding of their characters and their objectives. They are charming as a quirky priest and a fiercely loyal servant. Copney-Welton plays Padre with just enough sincerity to make the role funny and he seems to embody this character. His rendition of “To Each His Dulcinea” rings throughout the theatre and is a joy to experience. Pallanck is, at times, a little stiff and scripted, but still oozes the charm and giddiness of the character that makes her likeable from the get. Her performance of “I Really Like Him” is both funny and sincere at the same time making for a beautiful moment. Both give strong, admirable performances in this production.

A highlight of this production is Jessica Preactor, who takes on the role of Aldonza/Dulcinea, the young woman to whom Don Quixote takes a shine, and she hits the ground running. Vocally, she’s a powerhouse with a strong, clear voice that resonates and her performances of her featured numbers such as “It’s All the Same,” “What Does He Want of Me,” and “Aldonza” are picture perfect, just as her character work is, really getting to the nitty-gritty of the character and presenting her beautifully.

The standout in this piece is definitely Lance Bankerd, who tackles the role of Miguel de Cervantes/Don Quixote. Bankerd’s character work is second to none. He becomes this character in both manner and look with ease. Watching him, he seems to actually transform from Lance Bankerd into Don Quixote and it’s awesome to watch. One thing I really admire about Bankerd is his ability to act out a song. His vocals are marvelous, indeed, but he’s not worried about a perfect vocal performance and that’s what makes a good actor great. His renditions of the standard “The Impossible Dream” is outstanding, strong, and heartfelt. This performance is almost worth the price of admission! He knows what he’s singing about and exudes it with every word and note, same with his other featured numbers, including the lovelorn “Dulcinea.” Major kudos to Bankerd for his fine work in this production.

This is what I thought of Third Wall Productions’ production of Man of La Mancha… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Man of La Mancha will play through November 17 at Third Wall ProductionsSt. Thomas’ Episcopal Church, 1108 Providence Road in Towson, MD. For tickets, you can purchase them at the door or online.

Email us at backstagebaltimore@gmail.com

Like Backstage Baltimore on Facebook!

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram!

The Baltimore Theatre Collective is Spooking it up with the Creepy-Kooky Cabaret!

TWO NIGHTS ONLY!

Tonight, November 14 and tomorrow, November 15, The Baltimore Theatre Collective (previously known as The Purple Light Theatre Company) opens its season with The Creepy-Kooky Cabaret, featuring local talent performing frightfully fun songs that just give us a little reminder that the spooky season is still upon us!

Creepy-Kooky Cabaret performers. Photo: Rachel Sandler

The Creepy-Kooky Cabaret will feature Caitlin Grant, Lindsey Litka, Heather Moe, Jim Baxter, Zach Husak, & Tommy Malek with music direction by Rachel Sandler and accompanied by a live band. Selections will include numbers from Beetlejuice the Musical, Young Frankenstein, The Toxic Avenger, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Little Shop of Horrors, and The Rocky Horror Show… plus many more.

Tickets are available online at https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4429978.

There are two ticketing options: $18.00 General and $28.00 General + Libations (includes TWO complimentary adult beverages – house red or white wine and beer)

The Creepy-Kooky Cabaret will play at Genesis Arts, LLC, 9194 Red Branch Road, Columbia MD. The show begins at 8:00 PM.

For more information, drop by The Baltimore Theatre Collective’s Facebook page here!

Scottfield Theatre Company Gets in the Spirit (or Three) of Christmas with Scrooge! The Musical

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Approx. Running Time: 2 hours with one intermission

Well, it’s about that time of year again, and holiday shows are abound. Some new, some old, some fresh looks at old stories, and so on and so forth. I’m sure at one time or another, we’ve all heard the story of Ebenezer Scrooge and the three ghosts of Christmas (past, present, and future), and the story finds its way into our lives, even if we don’t know it by heart. This season, Scottfield Theatre Company has decided to join the fray and present Scrooge! The Musical, by Leslie Bricusse, based on and taken directly from the 1970 film Scrooge. This production is Directed by William Price, with Music Direction by Dominic LaFrancesca, and Choreography by Becky Titleman. It’s a delightful telling of the classic A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens that should hit the spot during the holiday season.

Scrooge! The Musical. Photo: @machpe

I’ve got to admit, Bricusse’s adaptation isn’t really my cup of tea. For being such a classic story, the book just drones along and the music is, in a word, uninspiring with sing-songy nursery rhyme melodies and lyrics that are a bit too on the nose, limiting the songs. Little jokes peppered in fall flat and the attempts of humor and updating the dialogue a bit end up just being annoying. However, this is by no means a reflection on the ensemble. This ensemble gives an admirable performance and they are dedicated to the material, however droll it is. Kudos to the entire ensemble for pushing through and giving a wonderful performance.

Set Design by Director William Price is simple, but exquisite. The backdrops and unit set pieces are well designed and executed and puts the audience smack dab in the middle of Victorian London and Price is to be commended for his design as well as kudos to Jimmy O’Burrill for his Set Painting and Construction. It’s authentic design with attention to detail that is quite impressive.

Another challenge for period pieces is wardrobe but Gay Lynn Price has tackled and overcome that challenge with her impeccable Costume Design. Price has managed to wardrobe every character, featured or ensemble, with period fitting clothes that adds great value to the production, overall.

Music Direction by Dominic LaFrancesca is impressive and he’s worked quite well with this ensemble. The music, as stated, is nothing spectacular, but LaFrancesa has this ensemble on point with near perfect harmonies soaring throughout the theater. Each featured number is well-rehearsed and even with recorded music, the performances are on spot on. Kudos to LaFrancesca for his efforts in this production.

The Cratchets. Photo: @machpe

Becky Titleman tackles Choreography for this piece and there are a lot of upbeat, fun numbers that require choreography, but unfortunately the dancing, overall, seems a bit lackluster. The ensemble seems to be having a blast with the dancing and they are superb in their performance, but from the audience, it just fell a little flat. There is a lot of unison moving without a lot of variety but, again, the ensemble’s performance keeps it entertaining and Titleman seems to know her cast and creates choreography that helps them shine.

William Price, who takes the helm of this production, seems to have a clear vision and a tight grasp on the material, and though the production as a whole is entertaining, it is stagnant at times with bouts of what I call “stand and bark” with not a lot going on, especially during the music numbers where there are opportunities for choreography. There are points when there the stage is a little too full, but at least the actors have something to do, however, sometimes, less is more. Transitions are smooth and simple, keeping the pacing up nicely. Price’s understanding of the material is clear and his staging, if at times a bit tedious, is charming and makes for a good showing.

The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. Photo: @machpe

The entire ensemble is into this production and it definitely shows that that are enjoying themselves, which is really what it’s all about. To mention a few Ariel Edler as The Ghost of Christmas Past makes a fantastic showing with good character work and a beautiful voice that resonates through the theater, especially on her featured number, “Love While You Can.” In the same vein, Elizabeth Marion shines as The Ghost of Christmas Present with a great command of the stage and good comprehension of her role. She has a natural delivery of the dialogue and embodies this role and her featured vocal parts in “Finale Act I” keep the audience interested and engaged. Finally, Josh Hannas, portraying The Ghost of Christmas Future, didn’t have much to do but appear and point, he still gives off a sinister air and the costume is on point (high-five, Gay Lynn Price)! A few honorable mentions include Phil Hansel who plays a ghostly Jacob Marley with a strong vocal performance of his featured number, “Make the Most of This World.” Also, Charlie Johnson as Nephew and Young Scrooge gives a good showing, but can be a little scripted at times, but overall gives a strong performance. We mustn’t forget the Cratchets, played beautifully by Hayden Floros and Lisa Rigsby, who have great chemistry and work quite well together.

A highlight in this production is a young Erin Acerno, who takes on the role of Kathy, Bob Cratchet’s daughter and seemingly closest sibling to Tiny Tim. This young lady hits the ground running with this role and knows her way around the stage. She takes this character and makes it her own and, vocally, she’s a powerhouse. Her clear, strong vocals rings throughout the theater and her featured vocal parts makes one stand up and take notice. I’m looking forward to seeing what this young lady is going to accomplish, theatrically.

The standout in this production of Scrooge! The Musical is James Fitzpatrick, who takes on the titular role of Ebenezer Scrooge. Fitzpatrick was born for this role. He completely embodies this character and it’s a good fit for him. It’s clear to see he’s giving 100% and then some for his performance and it pays off. He’s a joy to watch as the crotchety old miser and his transition to the kindly, enlightened man at the end of the story is clean and believable. His comedic timing is spot on and his grasp of this character makes for a brilliant performance. Vocally, Fitzpatrick shines, especially in his featured numbers such as the humorous, “I Hate People,” and poignant “I’ll Begin Again.” Fitzpatrick is certainly the one to watch in this production.

Final thought… Though this particular adaptation was not my cup of tea, it’s still a good presentation of the timeless Dicken’s story. It stays in the time period and the story itself is a classic but the book, music, and lyrics just fall flat in this telling, and the recorded music takes away from the energy of live theatre that may have helped give this adaptation a boost. That’s not to say that the performances aren’t spectacular, because they certainly are. Every ensemble member gives 100% effort and the production, overall, is polished and very entertaining, but there’s only so much you can do with lackluster material. However, ‘tis the season for this lasting tale and Scottfield gave their all making for a delightful evening of theatre.

This is what I thought of Scottfield Theatre Company’s Scrooge the Musical… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Scrooge the Musical played through November 10 at Scottfield Theatre Company at The Cultural Center at The Opera House, 121 N. Union Avenue, Havre de Grace, MD.

Email us at backstagebaltimore@gmail.com

Like Backstage Baltimore on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter and Instagram!