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!

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!

Review: Carrie the Musical is on at Stand Up for Theatre

By Jennifer L. Gusso

Running Time: 2hr 15 minutes with intermission

Carrie the Musical starts with a glimpse at the way that it will end. Sue is covered in blood, under an interrogation light, and bodies are strewn across the stage or hanging in the back corners. Stand Up for Theatre pulls the audience right into the scene of devastation and into caring about Sue and her story. Making the audience care about the characters is what this production of Carrie the Musical, Directed by Ed Higgins with Music Direction by Brandon Seehofer and Choreography by Lenore Florez, does the best. There is an incredible amount of heart on display in this production, with each performer truly giving it their all and embodying this world. Unfortunately, the production does suffer from some technical missteps that can be jarring. However, overall, what the end product lacks in polish, it makes up for in passion.

Because Carrie discovers her telekinetic powers in the course of this story, Carrie the Musical calls for some technical tricks that don’t quite deliver in this production. When Carrie moves a stool, an arm is scene pulling the wire from behind the platform. A falling cross doesn’t really translate as being telekinesis. Although Billy is shown hanging in the beginning scene, that never actually happens during the prom massacre. The cabinet in which Carrie is pushed doesn’t have a back, which really pulls away from the intense scene with her mother. Some other tricks, like the cup on the table, do work well – but, when the technical falters, it does lessen the impact of what are some pivotal moments.

The other technical issue that is the most troubling is the sound balance. Modern scores, like Carrie, were written for an age in which performers use microphones. They were not written to be belted at all times. Sometimes, in a small space and with softer backing tracks, this can still be pulled off. However, between the complexity of the score, the acoustics of the room, and the volume of the backing tracks, the performers in this production should have been using microphones. The end result was often one of two things. In some cases, the soloists were hard to hear over the music. In other cases, pushing too hard to go over the music sounded like screaming or just went flat.

Despite the technical mishaps, this was still an overall compelling evening of theatre due to the strong acting performances of the cast. Every member of the ensemble created a unique and different character and stayed consistently in the moment. Director Ed Higgins did a good job in creating staging that gave life to classroom and crowd scenes by having realistic, but not distracting action, going on across the stage. The reactions of the teenagers in these situations was so spot-on that is seemed spontaneous and genuine.

The story is told by Sue Snell (Sarah Mackin). Mackin is one of the performers that is best able to navigate around the sound issues in order to showcase her beautiful voice. She does an excellent job of bringing Sue’s conflicting emotions to life in both her line delivery and her subtle nonverbal reactions. As her boyfriend Tommy Ross, Anthony Case has a lovely quality to his voice and a genuine likeability that showcases the softer side of Tommy. As her mean-spirited and spoiled best friend, Chris Hargensen, Triana McCorkle oozes with viciousness and plays the perfect mean girl. A truly standout performance comes from Jake Schwartz as Billy Nolan. He really commands attention on the stage and demonstrates a real skill at adding comedic moments. Schwartz brings a level of polished nuance to his performance that is next level.

As Carrie White, Michaela Saul definitely has the hardest vocal challenge. Navigating the sound issues and the score ultimately proves difficult for her in places. That being said, her acting performance is absolutely top notch. Even when she comes out for her curtain call, she is still sobbing and emotionally drained from literally giving every inch of her inner self to Carrie’s intense breakdown. Saul is able to capture both Carrie’s naïve innocence and her deep pain as she immerses herself in the role. Causing much of Carrie’s pain is her mother, Margaret White (Jenifer Hollett). Hollett gives an unnerving performance. She says and does horrible things with an innocent and wide-eyed look on her face. It is a very effective character choice that really ups the intended unease felt in her scenes.

In the midst of all the crazy, the true heart of the show is Lenore Florez as Lynn Gardner. Her performance is absolutely captivating. She knows how to command attention, make the audience fall in love with her, and then push the scene’s attention to another performer. She demonstrates a sophisticated level of technique in both her acting and vocal performance. She is both inspiring and genuine. “Unsuspecting Hearts” is easily the perfect embodiment of the level of real emotional connection that is what worked best in this production.

While Stand Up For…Theatre may have some technical issues to polish and perfect as they move forward, they are definitely not lacking in talented and passionate performers. Carrie the Musical tells a story that, although larger-than-life, is largely relatable. These actors, with their relatable performances, find and bring to life the people in the story – and, ultimately, it is caring about these people that matters most.

This is what I thought of Stand Up for Theatre’s Carrie the Musical… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Carrie the Musical will play through November 9 at Chesapeake Arts Center, 194 Hammonds Lane, Brooklyn Park, MD 21225. For tickets, call the box office at 410-636-6597 or you can purchase them online.

Email us at backstagebaltimore@gmail.com

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

Radio Golf is a Hole in One at Everyman Theatre

By Mike Zellhofer

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

Radio Golf, directed by Carl Cofield, now playing at Everyman Theatre, is the final installment of August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle. This is a series of ten plays, each set in a different decade, that depicts the African American experience in the twentieth century. All of them are set in Pittsburgh’s Hill District except for one. 

Jamil A.C. Mangan. Photo: Teresa Castracane Photography

The play follows successful real estate developer Harmond Wilkes (Jamil A.C. Mangan) in his bid to become the first Black Mayor of Pittsburgh. The entire play is set in Harmond’s campaign office in the Hill District, where he is involved in a neighborhood revitalization project. Set Designers Christopher & Justin Swader have captured the feel and look of the office as though it were transported from the Hill in 1997. They capture every detail from the hanging lights and block glass windows to the combination of brick and distress plaster walls. I especially like the open ceiling displaying the steel girders, paying a nice homage to the Steel City.

Anton Floyd, Jamil A.C. Mangan. Photo: Teresa Castracane Photography

Wilkes is joined by his business partner Roosevelt Hicks (Jason B. McIntosh) and his wife and campaign manager Mame Wilks (Dawm Ursula). Hicks is his high school friend and the Vice President of Mellon Bank, as well as his primary investor. There plan is to raze a block to build a high-rise apartment complex with upscale shops. His plans quickly go awry when he discovers that he does not own all of the property on the block. Additionally, he is met with some neighborhood resistance from Sterling (Anton Floyd) and Elder Joseph Barlow (Charles Dumas). Harmond is left with the dilemma to tell his partner and stop the project, or to move forward and become the neighborhood savior thus helping his campaign.

Chalrles Dumas, Jamil A.C. Mangan. Photo: Teresa Castracane Photography

Cofield was a perfect choice to direct this production. He has a thorough knowledge and understanding of the material and his actors have embraced his vision. Cofield brilliantly brings to life both the comedy and the drama that Wilson has penned and makes his characters real and believable. “Although Radio Golf is set in 1997, August Wilson saw into the future and started this conversation around life in America for upper-class Black folk,” says Director Carl Cofield. “How important is success if you’re denying and destroying your family’s history and culture in order to get it? It’s a modern examination of what the American Dream means today and has huge resonance in Baltimore and other urban centers.”

Dawn Ursula, Jamil A.C. Mangan. Photo: Teresa Castracane Photography

Resident Company Member Dawn Ursula was fun to watch as Mame Wilks. She proved that behind every great man is a great woman. She stands by her man and you can feel the love she has. She is also not afraid to remind him that she is a strong independent woman who is destined for greater things. Ursula does a wonderful job acting both sides of her character.  

My two favorite characters were Sterling Johnson (Anton Floyd) and Elder Barlow (Charles Dumas). Floyd is that slap in the face that brings you back to reality that we all need. While he may have fractured a law or two (he just wanted to know what it was like to have some money), he has a clear sense of right and wrong. His delivery is fresh, pointed and he is a joy to experience. Floyd gives the attitude needed to play Sterling. I can’t wait to see him in another production. Dumas gives a performance you don’t want to miss. He is the paternal, soft, loving sage that we all have somewhere in our families. He reminded me of my own mentor. I would ask him a question and he would talk for twenty minutes, the whole time never answering my question. Then, two or three days later, a light would come on and I’d realize what he meant. Dumas’ performance is that way. As much as I enjoyed watching him, it was days later that I finally appreciated him. He is slow, steady, and powerful and will keep you thinking about him days after the show. I challenge you to follow him closely. There is wisdom behind what he says and does. Pay close attention to his reaction to other performers.  

Dawn Ursula, Jamil A.C. Mangan. Photo: Teresa Castracane Photography

Jason B. McIntosh (Roosevelt Hicks) and Jamil A.C. Mangan (Harmond Wilks) are perfectly cast to play against each other. McIntosh does an excellent job as the comic relief as well as the man on the rise. His performance is focused and crisp. He sees an opportunity and he goes for it. One of the underlying questions in the play is whether or not Hicks is being used. McIntosh does an excellent job keeping the question unanswered. He goes with the flow, yet you can see him pause to think when challenged. I thought he gave a compelling performance to support either side without giving a definitive answer. From the opening scene Mangan shows that the stage is his. His deep, loud voice grabs your attention and keeps you entranced throughout the production. You firmly believe that he has worked his way to the top and he is a man to respect. Mangan takes you along with him as he experiences a myriad of emotions. His acting has you quickly feeling for him and going through his struggle together with him. Mangan has the ability to make you feel as though you have been in his shoes. A truly phenomenal performance.

This is what I thought of Everyman Theatre’s Radio Golf… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Radio Golf will play through November 17 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!

Lizzie Borden Took an Axe in Lizzie: The Musical at Guerrilla Theatre Front

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Approx. Running Time: 2 hours with one intermission

Picture it: Fall River, MA, August of 1892. Most say, “Lizzie Borden took an axe, gave her mother 40 whacks, when she saw what she had done, she gave her father 41.” We’ve all heard it at one point in our lives and when we got older, we may have delved more into the story. Along with writing reviews for theatre, and participating in theatre in most of my free time, I am an admitted and proud true-crime junkie, and the story of Lizzie Borden up there with the handful of stories and events I (and many others) cannot get enough of. My head exploded a little (in a good way) when I heard the Lizzie Borden story had been turned into a musical, and not just a regular musical, but a rock opera with a modern twist and I was even more ecstatic when I was invited to a performance from Guerrilla Theatre Front earlier this month. Directed by Greg Bell, with Music Direction by Megann Baldwin, Lizzie: The Musical, is an instant hit and one show you need to put on your calendar.

The Cast of Lizzie: The Musical. Credit: Shealyn Jae Photography

Set Design by Aaron Elson is nothing short of perfection. His design incorporates the space at Creative Labs (which one might call a warehouse basement, if that’s a thing), and it blends in so naturally with its surroundings. The raw material look of the entire set sets the mood the moment the audience walks in and the grunge works wonderfully with the production as a whole. Kudos to Elson for his creative design.

Amy Bell, Marie Bankerd, and Maggie Flannigan’s Costume Design is on point in bringing this 100+ year old story to life as well as dragging it into the 21st century. It’s a kind of “Modern Victorian,” if you will with corsets and lacy gloves, high-top boots, and floor-length dresses, all in dark and dank colors that set the mood of this grizzly but infatuating tale. The wardrobe choices for this production are suited nicely to the cast and they seem comfortable and confident in every garment making this a truly successful design from Bell, Bankerd, and Flannigan.

Lighting Design by Jim Shomo and Sound Design by Charles Hirsch work in tandem to create the feel for the entire production… ROCK. The intense light show puts you in a legit rock concert and the audience is encouraged to dance around, cheer, and whatever else mood takes them! Shomo seems to have a good grasp on this material and has created a design that fits in perfectly with strobe effects, flashes of light, blackouts when necessary and it’s easy to see he’s no stranger to this Lighting Design game. Hirsch had some challenges to deal with, including a non-traditional space, but he seems to have overcome the challenge and given us a good design, overall. Both Shomo and Hirsch are to be commended and applauded for their efforts on this production.

The Cast of Lizzie: The Musical. Credit: Shealyn Jae Photography

Blending in perfectly with the lights and sound, but also making a splash are the Projections by Christopher Uehlinger. His choices were impeccable and fit in with ever scene. The split screen and background projections kept the action moving onstage, but didn’t hinder it or get in the way. More and more projections are being used in theatrical productions and Uehlinger seems to be ahead of the game and I’m looking forward to seeing more of his work in other productions in the area and beyond.

Music Direction by Megann Baldwin is top notch with a top notch pit orchestra to boot! Her comprehension of this score translates beautifully to her cast and the melodies and harmonies soar throughout the theatre. The heavy rock style is not lost on Baldwin, either, as she navigates through this non-traditional musical with ease like a light in the darkness.

JacQuan Knox as Alice. Credit: Shealyn Jae Photography

Greg Bell takes the helm of this production and his Direction of this piece exemplifies his grasp not only on this story, but the style of the piece, and his work is spot on. His staging is simple, but effective and his casting is just about perfect. His vision is presented clearly and the mix of rock concert and traditional theatre mesh effortlessly making for a fresh, engaging production that will have you interested from beginning to end. Bell is to be commended for his impeccable work on this production.

Moving into the performance aspect of this production, this quartet is nothing to mess with, Each and every lady in this cast has come ready to smash it with their A-game and that just adds to the beauty of this production. Not only do they smash it musically, they each seem to have a tight grasp on their respective character and play them to the hilt.

Caitlin Weaver as Emma. Credit: Shealyn Jae Photography

JacQuan Knox as Alice, the reserved friend and secret lover of Lizzie, is a joy to watch and with her honeyed vocals that seemed to be reserved until she let it all out with bursts of intensity that drove the song and sentiment home. This character, Alice, seems to be the one who has the steadiest grasp on real life and Knox portrays that authentically and confidently.

Caitlin Weaver, as Emma, the elder Borden sister, is a highlight in this piece as she navigates her way through this crazy story and she does it with a great confidence and presence that does not falter throughout. Every time she stepped onto the stage, she had a mission and accomplished it through her passionate portrayal of this character. Vocally, Weaver knocks it out of the park, especially in featured numbers such as “Sweet Little Sister.”

Parker Bailey Steven as Lizzie. Credit: Shealyn Jae Photography

In the titiular role of Lizzie, Parker Bailey Steven is a powerhouse and left me wanting more. She effortlessly transitions from the shy, awkward young lady of domineering parental figures to a strong, confident woman with just a look, a gesture, and voice inflection. Her take on the infamous, complex Lizzie Borden is not a performance to be missed and she pulls it off with ease. With a hint of Stevie Nicks mixed with Janis Joplin, and Ann Wilson, Parker Bailey Steven effortlessly rocks the stage and makes this part her own.

The standout, however, in this production is Siobhan Beckett as Bridget “Maggie” Sullivan, the sulky, scheming maid of the Borden household and sometimes narrator. I can’t say enough of about how much life Beckett gave me in her portrayal of this character. The character was spot on and she seems to embody this sly character with natural delivery of dialogue and movement and gesturing that has purpose. Vocally this woman can wail and makes the audience stand up and take notice. Her pure, distinct voice resonates throughout the space and gave me chills at points (which is not small feat). She takes this part, chews it up, spits it out, and gives a strong, heartfelt performance that sticks with you long after the show is over.

Siohhan Beckett as Bridget Sullivan. Credit: Shealyn Jae Photography

Final thought…  Lizzie: The Musical is a high-energy, modern, engaging success that looks at one of the most enthralling true-crime events in this country’s history. Pulled right into the 21st century with rocking, in-your-face music, this isn’t your run of the mill musical theatre experience but it is an experience you do not want to miss, especially if you like your music loud and hard. With wailing actresses reminiscent of the Wilson sisters (Heart), Grace Slick, and Stevie Nicks, who will melt your face with their amazing vocals, staging that keeps you in the story, and a score that tells the story well with a modern twist, this is the show to see. Do yourself a favor and get out to see this show. You won’t regret it in the least and will leave thoroughly satisfied.

This is what I thought of Guerrilla Theatre Front’s Lizzie: The Musical… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Lizzie: The Musical will play through October 25 (8pm & 11pm) and Oct 26 (8pm & 11pm) at Guerrilla Theatre Front, at Creative Labs, 1786 B Union Ave, Baltimore, MD 21211. For tickets, purchase them at the door or online.

Email us at backstagebaltimore@gmail.com

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

Go Go Go Just Off Broadway with Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

By Kara M. Bauer

Approx. Running Time: 90 minutes with one 15-minute intermission.

*DISCLAIMERPlease note, one or more persons directly involved in this production are members of the staff of Backstage Baltimore. This individual or persons directly involved with the production did not write or participate in writing this review. The only editing performed on this piece was for grammar, punctuation, and organization. No content editing (adding, changing, or omitting words) were completed without the expressed permission of the author.*

In all my years in theatre I have seen countless theatre companies produce Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I myself have been involved in numerous productions of Joseph and each time I am amazed at the creativity that directors and actors bring to the stage. Each production that I have seen and  been a part of has attempted to spruce up the familiar tunes, scenes, and characters, usually without success. Fortunately for us, Just Off Broadway’s production, Directed by Tammy Oppel, with Music Direction by Patty Delisle and Choreography by Katie Gerstmyer, brought something new that I have never seen before.

When you attend the show, I encourage you to spot the absolutely hilarious props! See if you can find the cheeseburger beret and the razor scooter. The creative team really came together and provided the Baltimore theatre scene with a great production of Joseph. That being said, no show will ever be perfect– as a professional theatre teacher and director I know this. All we can do is ask that the actors put their everything into a role and hope that it works out. Despite some minor criticism, I would consider this production a success. This is definitely a production that you would not want to miss.

The moment I walked into the theatre, something felt different. I’ve been to several productions at Just Off Broadway and the first thing I noticed was that the pit had been moved. When the overture began, I immediately knew that the creative team had made the right call. Under the direction of Patty Delisle, the orchestra’s first notes brought back so many memories for me of waiting anxiously behind the curtain for an entrance. Andrew Vida is also to be commended for his creative light design. I can say with confidence that I have not met a more professional high school student (and I teach high school). He attends Calvert Hall College High School and hopes to pursue technical theatre once he graduates this coming year. Unfortunately, the issues with the microphones took me out of the performance at times. No theatre company is immune to technical difficulties. I recall a time when the microphones completely stopped working during a production that I was involved with. Due to the microphone issues, it was hard to hear every single line and note.

Unless you are familiar with the story of Joseph, it is somewhat hard to follow. The person I came with had never seen Joseph before and was constantly asking me to clarify what was happening on the stage. The chorus was too overpowering when a soloist was taking the lead and the orchestra volume was too intense during certain scenes. One thing that I enjoyed was the ability of the actors to blend their voices together. The harmonies during “Close Every Door” were perfect to the point of giving me goosebumps. I can look past the technical errors to a degree because the entire cast was not only vocally capable, but proved itself able to pull me back into the story with their intoxicating harmonies. While preserving the professionalism and style of the original work, Just Off Broadway has preserved its meaning as well. “Close Every Door”, while Joseph, played by Josh Schoff, is singing the famous lyrics of Tim Rice, “I do not matter. I’m only one person”, words that certainly resonate with anyone who has ever felt alone,  cast members turn their back to him, symbolizing his complete neglect and loneliness.

As the cast made their way onto the stage during the overture, it was easy to see which actors were genuinely invested in their role. Most of them were, but a few actors seemed distracted. One great challenge as an actor is to be completely immersed in their character. Jason Crawford Samios-Uy, Chris Thomas,  B. Ever Hanna, and Kate Forton were a few of my favorites throughout the performance. Their facial expressions, crisp clear vocals, ability to harmonize, and overall pizzazz on stage kept me engaged and entertained throughout the performance. I legitimately laughed out loud when Hanna and Forton were performing “One More Angel”, they are truly a dynamic duo. Also worth a “ention is the falsetto voice from Micah Rufsvold, which was used both for comedic relief as well as musical entertainment. There are lots of reasons to see this show, but the “One More Angel” number really takes the cake. It’s also worth mentioning and the effervescence of Elton Knupp as the Narrator, who skillfully and beautifully keeps the action moving on stage while telling the story with confidence and on point vocal ability.

One thing that confused me at first was the costume choices. There were hardly any costume changes and most actors were in street clothes the entire time. I have never seen that done before. My one criticism is that I would have loved to have seen a few more costume pieces used to help the audience understand when the brothers took on various roles like the Baker and Butler. This was also the first production of Joseph that I have seen where there were no set changes. Props and various benches were moved by the cast seamlessly and allowed the flow from one scene to the next without too much interruption.

Despite the small stage, the choreography was effective, creative, and enjoyable. Katie Gertsmeyer is to be commended for her fantastic skill as a choreographer. Each movement appeared natural for the characters, easy enough for all cast members to perform, and yet still appeared complex. The cast obviously worked extremely hard to pull off some of the choreography. One dancer in particular stands out in my mind. Samantha Jednorski, featured as Mrs. Potiphar, was one of the highlights of the performance. Jednorski has been involved in theatre for years; her expertise in the theatre realm shines through. Her facial expressions, reactions, and vibrant attitude was a true pleasure to witness. Speaking of cast members talent, I was extremely impressed by B’Jion Wright, Naphtali and the Butler, As someone who directs shows at a high school level, the first thought that ran through my mind when I saw her take the stage was, “Wow! This is a perfect example of an actress who has all the essential components to be successful! I wish my students could see her on stage!” Wright has the presence about her; total investment in her character and the skills to make it happen. I was also extremely impressed by Patrick Jay Golden’s performance as Pharaoh. Despite the simple costume, his characterization is what sold me on his solo. I even had the privilege of touching the hand of Ramessess *swoon* when he came into the audience to keep theatre goers on their toes.

I am very much looking forward to the Just Off Broadway’s 2020 Season. Their theme for the upcoming season is #RunningAway. I am very curious to see if they run away with their imagination or if they end up with their heads in the clouds. No matter what, I know the next shows they produce will be a real treat, just like Joseph.

This is what I thought of Just Off Broadway’s production of Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat will play through November 3 at Just Off Broadway at Epiphany Lutheran Church, 4301 Raspe Avenue, Baltimore, 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!

Things Get Crazy at Milburn Stone Theatre with American Psycho

By Jennifer L. Gusso

Running Time: 2 hours and 20 minutes with one intermission.

American Psycho at Milburn Stone Theater was truly one of the strangest and most fascinating theatrical experiences. From beginning to end, it was a surreal and gripping journey that is still bouncing around in my mind as I work through of all of the complex plot points and the detailed production points that brought this interesting story to life. For fans of something out-of-the-ordinary, risqué, and thought-provoking, this is the perfect production to immerse yourself in and then dissect afterwards.

Josh O’Donnell and the Cast of American Psycho. Photo: Thomas Amorin/Amorin Photography

The entire show rests in a world that is part dream, part 80s music video, and part bad trip. The entire production team melds their contributions seamlessly together, so that it is hard to know where one ends, and one begins. Under the helm of the artistic vision of Director Andrew Mitchell, staging, choreography, lights, costumes, and sets become one. Set Designers William Bryant and Brandon Gorin have constructed a perfect blank canvas that continually melds into representations of a variety of locations, both real and imagined. It is a white stage with white walls (patterned right out of an 80s set) and white floors that are ready to be painted upon. There is also the occasional, well-planned use of the scrim at the front of the stage. The giant side walls open up slightly, which allows scenes to slide easily in and out of use, so that entire show continues to flow in a constant and appropriate stream of consciousness. 

That very consciousness is displayed across the stage through a masterful use of projections and lighting. Lighting & Projection Designer Patrick Yarrington’s design is easily the most stunning and breathtaking use of lighting ever. At times, the projections create the flying feel of an IMAX movie. Other times, the racing lights take over, so that the characters are floating within. In the beginning of Act Two, the frenzied race of the night club scene and murder come together in a brilliant use of flashing strobe and shadows on the walls. Sometimes, the red of the stage is almost blindly with the characters’ desperations. Blood splatters and spills down walls. And, then sometimes, it all goes stark white again as a brilliant contrast and shift in the scene. Each cue, each color is clearly carefully selected to echo the emotional core of the show. Complimenting the lighting design and the careful attention to color is the costume and prop design by Dann Combs and Eddie Hurley. Characters and scenes display intentional color patterns that add to the visual lushness of the production.

Heather Bounds and Josh O’Donnell. Photo: Thomas Amorin/Amorin Photography

The dreamy, trippy, 80s vibe spills over into the sleek choreography by Tommy Fisher-Klein. The perfectly synchronized ensemble tumbles through a fluid escapade of various dance techniques used to push forward the thematic conceptions of the show while also including some fun throwbacks to decade-appropriate moves. Adding to the continued fluidity and constant moving and tumbling of the script and the emotions is staging by Andrew Mitchell that feels choreographed, in the best way possible, as each moment transitions seamlessly into the next. All of this visual beauty is then augmented by the auditory beauty of the harmonies of the cast under the musical direction of Charlie Hannagan.

Bringing this complex vision to life is a powerful cast of performers. The ensemble works well together and mostly exists as a cohesive unit. A particular standout in the ensemble is Liz Hamill. Her vocals at the beginning of “In the Air Tonight” are stellar. Several others do a good job of making quirky side characters have authentic life, such as Alex Vanderlak (Luis Carruthers), Ry Miliner (Tim Price), and Emily Elborn (Courtney Lawrence).

A strong and memorable performance comes in the hands of Alex Quigley as Paul Owen. He is naturally at-ease and charismatic onstage. The perfect amount of grating and self-absorbed brings to life the character of Evelyn Williams, played by Evelyn Schiavone. She is the ideal contrast to the sweet and unassuming Jean, played by Heather Bounds. Bounds has an especially lovely voice, as showcased in “A Girl Before,” and really has some meaty moments to show the strength of her dramatic acting abilities.

However, really, this experience is all about being Patrick Bateman. That is exactly what Josh O’Donnell does with incredible skill. It becomes increasingly harder to take your eyes off of his frenetic performance. He becomes increasingly more lovable, charismatic, and charming, while, in the same moments, becoming increasingly more terrifying and unhinged. He walks this electrifying tightrope of an existence that is riveting to watch. O’Donnell is also a natural dancer, which allows his movement in musical numbers to be effortlessly creepy. 

American Psycho is a dark and twisting thrill ride. The complex plot is filled with things to think about and discuss. The production value at Milburn Stone is top notch. This is definitely worth checking out.

This is what I thought of Milburn Stone Theatre’s production of American Psycho… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

American Psycho will play through October 20 at Milburn Stone Theatre at Cecil College, 1 Seahawk Drive, North East, 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!