Extra! Extra! A Murder is Announced at Artistic Synergy of Baltimore

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: Approx. 2 hours with one intermission

A good murder-mystery is a staple of community theatre and you don’t get any better than a tried and true Agatha Christie tale. She had it down to a science and have had readers and audiences guessing and scratching their heads for the past nine decades (coming up on 100 years in 2020) and many have adapted her novels into stage plays, including Christie herself. Artistic Synergy of Baltimore’s latest production, A Murder is Announced by Leslie Darbon, Directed by Michael Crook and Assistant Director Lou Otero, brings one of those stories to life, having us scratching our heads and wondering… whodunnit?

(l-r) Jim Gerhardt, Donna Zubrowski, Chloe Scully, and Ashley Gerhardt. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore

A Murder is Announced, the novel, was first published in June of 1950 and both the novel and the play concern themselves with an announcement in the local paper of a murder to be committed at a planned birthday party at a local boarding house. The house is owned by Letitia, a staunch, soft spoken woman, who has an old friend living with her, Dora “Bunny” Bunner (the birthday girl), as well as her adult niece and nephew, Julia and Patrick, who she hasn’t seen since they were small children. Joining the fray are the maid/cook/housekeeper, Mitzi, a steely Russian, and three neighbors, Edmund Swettenham, his mother, and the famous and inquisitive Mrs. Marple. At the party, a fuse is blown momentarily, an intruder breaks in in the dark, scaring the party-goers, and when the lights come back up, the intruder is dead on the floor. Enter a patient Inspector Craddock, and you have the makings of a good old fashioned Christie mystery.

Donna Zubrowski and Ashley Gerhardt. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore

Though no Set Designer is listed in the program, the design for this production uses the intimate space wisely. One is transported to a parlor room of a small English country house with not bells and whistles which is absolutely appropriate for this piece. Rachel DiGraizia and Joshua Perry (the two names listed as “Set Construction” and the only two names associated with the set in the program) have put together a sound set that helps the action of this mystery and assists the staging that the audience should be watching carefully.

Speaking of staging, Director Michael Crook and Assistant Director Lou Otero seem to have a strong vision and have executed it beautifully. Staging a murder-mystery is no small feat, one must understand the script, but also the action and has to work that out within the space he or she has. Crook and Otero’s staging is smooth and easy to follow and it shows they have a deep comprehension of this material and the presentation is praise-worthy, indeed.

Jim Fitzpatrick and Catherine Shinaberry. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore

Moving on to the performance aspect of this production, Jim Morgan pulls double duty in supporting, but important role as Rudi Sherz/Sergeant Mellors, the unfortunate intruder and a constable, respectively and he pulls both characters off nicely with decisive blocking and dedication to his roles. Claire Levine takes on the character of Mrs. Sweetenham, a neighbor, and though she seems stiff and scripted, she seems to understand the frailty of her character and makes a good showing.

Donna Zubrowski tackles the role of Dora Bunner, a childhood friend of Letitia’s and a woman who seems to be slipping slowing but surely into dementia, forgetting simple things and remembering things from the far past. Zubrowski has a tight grasp on this character, but gives a rigid performance with a deliberate delivery that makes it unnatural at times, but her chemistry with her cast mates is fantastic and she plays the character adequately enough to get the point across nicely. In the same vein, Chloe Scully takes on the role of Phillipa Haymes

Ann Marie Taglavore, Phill Vannoorbeeck, and Donna Zubrowski. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore

Phil Vannoorbeeck takes on the role of Patrick Simmons and Ann Marie Taglavore portrays Julia Simmons, the young brother-sister team who may or may not have ulterior motives for visiting their sweet, old aunt. Both Vannoorbeeck and Taglavore give strong, confident portrayals and know their characters well. Vannoorbeeck may be playing the character a bit larger than he should, at times, but still comes off as believable and natural. Taglavore is the stronger actor, giving a smooth, natural performance and delivery are both natural and effortless.

Catherine Shinaberry and Mel Tillery. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore

A few highlights of this production are Jim Gerhardt as Edmund Sweetenham, Mel Tillery as Mitzi, and Catherine Shinaberry as Letitia Blacklock. Gerhardt is comfortable in his role and has a great presence on stage with natural delivery of the dialogue and a solid take on the character. Shinaberry is aptly cast in her role of Letitia, and, though she is too soft spoken at times, making it hard to make out what she is saying, she seems to embody this character nicely and has a strong comprehension of her character. Tillery is phenomenal as Mitzi and is the one to watch whenever she’s on stage. Her delivery, in a believable Russian accent, is impressive and her energy is second to none, making for one of the strongest showings in this production.

Jim Fitzpatrick, Catherine Shinaberry, and Ashley Gerhardt. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore

Rounding out the cast we have the sleuths, Inspector Craddock played by Jim Fitzpatrick and the loveable, famously intuitive Mrs. Marple, portrayed by Ashley Gerhardt. These two are the definite standouts in this production and pull their characters off effortlessly. Fitzpatrick is near perfect in this role and he seems to completely embody this character. His delivery is flawless and his chemistry with the rest of the ensemble is on point and it makes for a strong, faultless performance. Gerhardt, who may be a bit young to play Mrs. Marble just yet, still gives an impeccable performance, regardless of this. She knows the character well, and she portrays her with a certain charm that makes you like her from the get. I’m a big fan of Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote (who is probably structured after Mrs. Marple), so I’m pretty hard on any character that resembles her, but Gerhardt hits it out of the park with this performance. She’s a wonderful character actress and seems to become this character making for a standout performance, overall.

Final thought…A Murder is Announced at Artistic Synergy of Baltimore is well put-together presentation of a great Agatha Christie story with mostly solid performances and a solid vision from its Director and Assistant Director. Being it’s a murder-mystery, there are times when the dialogue seems to drag along, but, it’s the nature of the beast… things have to be explained thoroughly, so, the excessive exposition is a necessary evil. The story is dated, but definitely not stale, and is still relatable today. Murder and/or mystery really never go out of style. Get your tickets now. You wouldn’t want to miss this classic this season.

This is what I thought of Artistic Synergy of Baltimore’s production of A Murder is Announced… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

A Murder is Announced will play through May 5 at Artistic Synergy of Baltimore, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, 8212 Philadelphia Road. For tickets, purchase them at the door or online.

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Review: What’s the Buzz at the The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Artistic Synergy of Baltimore?

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: Approx. 2 hours with one intermission

Growing up is difficult – there is no way around it, and it’s even more difficult for kids who realize they have something special about them, when their peers don’t. A lot of kids who compete in spelling bees across the nation probably feel this way. Some of us have a knack for spelling while others have a more, shall we say, challenging time, and sometimes, kids who are able to spell well are looked at differently by their contemporaries. Artistic Synergy of Baltimore’s (ASoB) latest production, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, with Music & Lyrics by William Finn, and a Book by Rachel Sheinkin from a story conceived by Rebecca Feldman, gives us a peek into this world of spelling bees with a humorous, but poignant and authentic presentation to which we can relate in some way or another. This production is Directed and Choreographed by Atticus Boidy with Music Direction by Rachel Sandler.

In a nutshell, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee concerns itself with the trials and tribulations of 6 kids who happen to be great spellers, a former champion who revels in the bee, an unexpected comfort counselor out on parole, and a high-strung, odd vice-principal who all learn a little about themselves in the duration of an afternoon at a spelling bee.

The Cast of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Artistic Synergy of Baltimore.

The first thing you’ll notice in this production are the A-MAZING voices of this ensemble. Under the direction of Rachel Sandler, who has done a splendid job with this production, this ensemble is strong, tight in their harmonies and most give unforgettable performances. Even with recorded music instead of a live band, it’s easy to forget because of the phenomenal vocal work going on up on the stage.

Set Design by Atticus Cooper Boidy has got to be the cleanest, and most well thought-out design I’ve seen at ASoB. The space is intimate but Boidy has managed to use it wisely and transport the audience to an elementary school gymnasium without going overboard. It’s simple, precise, and appropriate for this piece.

Direction, also by Atticus Cooper Boidy, is interesting. He’s decided to change the look of the characters up a bit, which is refreshing, but in a way takes away from the original feel of the piece. His staging is a little clunky, which is a challenge when actors are playing more than one character, but because the actors are so apt, the staging that is slightly off, is pulled off nicely by them. Along with staging, Boidy puts on the hat of Choreographer, but, it seems he may have been spreading himself too thin and it’s the choreography that suffers the most. It’s a bit uninspiring, but this show isn’t about the choreography, it’d definitely not a show in which the choreography has to be stellar, but in this particular production, there are problems. It just seems haphazard, as if it were thrown together last minute, but again, the ensemble comes to the rescue with their performance and are bale to muddle through with what they have to work with and make it look good.

I’d be hard-pressed to pinpoint any standout performance in this production as they were all brilliant! There are a couple of performances that could have used some work, however, including Scott Sanders who takes on the role of Vice-Principal Douglas Panch. Sanders’ portrayal is a bit dry and stiff, but he pulls off the role nicely, though his comedic timing could use some work. The actor taking on this character has to be top-notch as it’s an acting role with no featured musical number to back it up. Again, Sanders does well, and I’m thinking he’ll grow into his character throughout the run of the production.

Ashley Gerhardt is on point with her portrayal of Rona Lisa Peretti and casting couldn’t have been better. Her vocal prowess is splendid and her character work is superb. Her renditions of “My Favorite Moment of the Bee” and the poignant “The I Love You Song” (in which she takes on the role of a spellers mother) are absolutely beautiful and makes for a strong performance all-round.

Mitch Mahoney, the out-on-parole Comfort Counselor is played by Jim Gerhardt, who takes this role and makes it his own. He has a good grasp on this character and plays him with the right amount of toughness and under-the-surface compassion – a blend that makes for a great character to play. Vocally, Gerhardt is in top form and his performance of “Prayer of the Comfort Counselor” is inspiring.

When it comes to the kids in the bee (played by adults, of course, adding to the hilarity), all of these actors are spot on. Max Wolfe, being the youngest actor in the ensemble is a little scripted and unnatural in his role as Chip Tolentino, the Boy Scout who was last year’s champion, and he seems to be trying too hard to portray a child. Vocally, he seems to understand his songs like the hilarious “My Unfortunate Erection (Chip’s Lament)” but he pushes a bit hard to get the tune that might be a little out of his range out and it looks like he’s uncomfortable with the song, but… he does give it 100% and gives a good showing, keeps up nicely with the more experienced ensemble members.

Amy Haynes Rapnicki takes on the role of the uptight, youngest contestant, Logainne Schwartzandgrunenierre, and Matt Wetzel, an impressive character actor, tackles the role of the gentle, slightly-off Leaf Coneybear. Rapnicki is a trip as this character and she has a very good comprehension of this character and plays her appropriately. Using an over-exaggerated lisp for the character, she still manages to get her lines out clearly and her delivery is spot on. Vocally, Rapnicki is a powerhouse and not only belts out her featured number “Woe is Me,” but also knows how to act the song making for a delightful performance. Along with Rapnicki, Wetzel takes on a character that requires delicate handling and he does it flawlessly. His portrayal of a young man who has to wear a helmet, for reasons unknown to us, is warm and charming. He knows this character and embodies him and all his gentleness and innocence. His featured number, the funny and pleasant “I’m Not That Smart” is a joy to experience.

Olive Ostrovsky, the quiet, abandoned little girl, is played by Caitlin Grant and the straight-forward, obnoxious William Barfee is played by Tommy Malek. Both of these actors couldn’t have been casted better. Their chemistry is effortless and their portrayal of these characters are near perfect. Grant understands the turmoil of her character and her relationship with her absent parents and, though Olive is more the “straight-man” in this comedy, she plays the role well, holding her own against the comedy. Her vocal performance is notable, especially of the sad, haunting “The I Love You Song” and her impressive rendition of “My Friend, the Dictionary,” which kind of explains this character and why she does what she does. Malek, plays William Barfee just right. This character could be easy to over-play, and I’ve seen a few actors do it, but Malek keeps it natural while not losing the comedy of this character, which is a feat in itself. His vocal renditions of “Magic Foot” is humorous, but precise and his take on “Second” is controlled and direct making for an all-round strong and confident performance.

Lindsey Litka, who takes on the role of the stead-fast, monotone Marcy Park, is one to watch in this production. Litka’s look for this character is a bit different, but it doesn’t affect her performance in the least. She seems to have a deep comprehension of this character and she plays her to the hilt. Without much emoting of feelings, Litka is impressively able to portray this character in a way that we, the audience, feel the chaos that’s just under the surface. Vocally, Litka is a definite power-house and there are no-holds-barred when she belts out a tune that makes the entire theatre take notice. Her performance of “I Speak Six Languages” is phenomenal (all while dancing and running around across the stage), and she is even noticeable in the ensemble numbers, but not so much that it takes away from any number.

Final thought…The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Artistic Synergy of Baltimore is one of the best, if not the best production I’ve seen at this company. The cast is top-notch and filled with new folks not regularly seen on the ASoB stage which adds to the freshness of the experience. The set is precise and appropriate, using the space wisely, and the staging is engaging making for an all-round great theatrical experience. The story alone is a great story but this ensemble really takes this material and performs it exquisitely making the characters their own and breathing new life into an often produced show. You really don’t want to miss this production. Get your tickets now.

This is what I thought of Artistic Synergy of Baltimore’s production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee will play through March 17 at Artistic Synergy of Baltimore, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, 8212 Philadelphia Road. For tickets, purchase them at the door or online.

Email us at backstagebaltimore@gmail.com

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Review: Oklahoma! at Artistic Synergy of Baltimore

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: Approx. 2 hours and 30 minutes with one 15-minute intermission

If you dream of a place where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain and the wavin’ wheat can sure smell sweet when the wind comes right behind the rain, well… you can traverse to the great state of Oklahoma, or you needn’t go any further than Artistic Synergy of Baltimore to experience their latest offering, Oklahoma! by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, Directed by H. Ray Lawson, with Music Direction by Jeff Baker and Choreography by Suzanne Zacker. This well-known classic is reincarnated to give us a glimpse into a simpler time and happier endings.

The Cast of Oklahoma! Credit: Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Briefly, Oklahoma! takes place in a territory (not yet a state) not long after the turn of the century when there was a spirited rivalry between cowboys and farmers. Curly, a cowboy, and Laurey, a farm girl are quite in love and the story mainly revolves around these two characters. Laurey is pursued by the sullen, dark farm hand, Jud Fry and threatens her budding romance with Curly. Throw in a spunky Aunt Eller, a whippersnapper of a cowboy, Will Parker, and a curious and spirited young woman, Ado Annie, who likes when men talk “purdy” to her, and you have the makings of a good, old-fashioned, feet stamping musical.

Music Direction by Jeff Baker is superb as this strong ensemble sings through this soaring Rodgers and Hammerstein score with ease. The use of canned music takes away from the energy of the piece, but that’s not to say it’s not energized and upbeat as the cast gives a good showing of this familiar music.

Austin Barnes and Suzy Zacker. Credit: Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Choreographer Suzanne Zacker seems to know her cast well and has created interesting and engaging choreography that is performed well by the ensemble. It’s worth mentioning that Zacker is a highlight in this piece, taking on the role of Dream Laurey, during the “Dream Ballet” number. Her grace and elegant movement during this number is impeccable and is certainly a praiseworthy performance that keeps you enthralled and entertained.

Ray Lawson takes the reigns of this production and he should be applauded for his Direction, presenting this piece with a balance of the familiar and freshness. It’s always challenging to produce a tried and true story but Lawson wisely sticks with the traditional staging and seems to have a good comprehension of this material. The pacing is on point and the two and a half hour run time is no more or no less than what is needed to present this piece and still be entertaining for the audience. The ending of the show is a little lackluster, ending on a whimper rather than a bang, but I’m chalking that up to using recorded music, and I’m sure the cast will improve this ending with each performance. Overall, his vision is clear and it is a well thought-out, well-rehearsed production.

Austin Barnes as Curly and Josh Schoff as Jud Fry. Credit: Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Moving on to the performance aspect of this production, Josh Schoff  takes on the complex and meaty role Jud Fry but, unfortunately, is a little weak in presentation. He certainly does not bomb in this role and he seems to have a good grasp of the character but also seems to be just going through the motions. His eyes dart all over the place and he rarely makes eye contact with his cast mates which loses that connection he must have to make his character work. This may seem like a knit-picky flaw but eye contact and that connection is essential for this role. Vocally, he’s a little shaky but emotes adequate emotion needed in songs such as “Poor Jud is Daid” and “Lonely Room” which redeems his performance a bit. With that being said, he looks near perfect for the role and is comfortable onstage and with a little more effort, could take this character to the hilt.

Donna Zubrowski as Aunt Eller. Credit: Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Tackling the role of the feisty and spunky Aunt Eller is Donna Zubrowski and she is perfectly cast in this role. Zubrowski brings a certain authenticity to the part and her choices are befitting of such an endearing character. She has a great chemistry with the ensemble and is comfortable in the role making for a delightful performance. To go along with the more comedic characters, Lou Otero gives a humorous take on the role of Ali Hackim, the traveling salesman who finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time and in the site hairs of a couple of young women of the territory. Otero has a good comprehension of his character, even if his accent is a little wonky, and he has good comedic timing.

Joe Weinhoffer as Will Parker and Kristin Miller as Ado Annie. Credit: Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

The young, optimistic couple Ado Annie and Will Paker are portrayed by Kristin Miller and Joe Weinhoffer, respectively, and both play these roles splendidly with an absolute believable performance and great chemistry. Miller embodies the giddy, immature, but yearning Ado Annie and, gives a terrific vocal performances as in her featured (and well-known) number “I Cain’t Say No.” Weinhoffer is brilliant as the lovelorn Will Parker and effectively and poignantly portrays the love his character has for Ado Annie. Vocally, he gives a commendable performance, especially in his featured number “Kansas City” where he also gets to show off his movement skills along with the rest of the male ensemble.

Mea Holloway as Laurey and Austin Barnes as Curly. Credit: Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Leading this ensemble are Austin Barnes, as the loveable and upstanding Curly, and Mea Holloway, as Laurey, the simple, independent farm girl. These two actors definitely know their characters and have a firm grasp on the material making for a strong leading duo. Barnes has a booming, smooth voice and is a powerhouse, making the audience take notice from the get with his rendition of “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’.” He fully embodies this character and gives a  jovial flair to Curly, as it should be. He has as great presence on stage, giving a strong performance. Holloway is suited nicely for her role but seems a bit subdued and stiff at times It seems she lights up when she has lines and interaction but falls flat in between those instances and the character is not consistent in that aspect, drawing away from her obvious skill and talent. Her voice is absolutely appropriate and beautiful for this score and she gives a stellar vocal performance, shining in her featured numbers such as “Many a New Day,” “People Will Say We’re in Love,” and “Out of My Dreams.” Overall, the two work well with each other and, though a little forced at times, the chemistry is there and makes for a good showing.

Final thought…Oklahoma! at Artistic Synergy of Baltimore is a well put-together production that does this classic, familiar piece justice. The pacing is good (for a show that could easily seem to go on forever), and the ensemble is strong, overall, and seem to enjoy working with each and off of each other. The traditional staging still holds its own in our modern age and the tunes are still delightful and will have you tapping your toes or drawn in to their poignancy. They just don’t write ‘em like this anymore! It’s definitely a fluffy, feel-good piece of theatre that works well for community theatres like Artistic Synergy of Baltimore and it’s a wise choice to produce the classics to remember where our modern shows came from and to introduce them to a new, younger audience. This production of Oklahoma! is definitely one you want to check out.

This is what I thought of Artistic Synergy of Baltimore’s production of Oklahoma!… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Oklahoma! will play through March 18 at Artistic Synergy of Baltimore, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, 8212 Philadelphia Road, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, purchase them at the door or online.

Email us at backstagebaltimore@gmail.com

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Review: Clue the Musical at Artistic Synergy of Baltimore

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

 
Running Time: Approx. 2 hours with one 15-minute intermission
You may be familiar with the board game of who killed someone with what and where, or you may be familiar with the 1985 slapstick, farcical, star-studded comedy film with a script I can recite in my sleep. Either way, if you know either of these things, you’re familiar with something known as Clue! And if you’re not, you should be! You can start with Artistic Synergy of Baltimore’s latest offering, Clue the Musical (Book by Peter De Pietro and Music by Galen Blum, Wayne Barker, and Vinnie Martucci, with Lyrics by Tom Chiodo), Directed by Nickolas Epps, with Music Direction by Jeff Baker, and Choreography by Temple Forston. It’s worth mentioning, if you are an uber-fan of the film, like I am, you will not see any of that here, but you will see the same zany characters and will be in for an amusing evening of an original story and music that may or may not help you solve this musical murder-mystery!

Hasheem Brin as Mr. Green. Credit: Artistic Synergy


Set Design by Nickolas Epps, Emma Hawthron, and Temple Forston is minimal but suits this production. A few chairs, a makeshift bar, a small desk, a rickety table that I think is supposed to represent a pool table, and a printed backdrop of the layout of the mansion is all that dons the stage and, though a little more effort could have been put into the design, it works well for this piece and the space.
Temple Forston takes on the duties of Choreographer and, this too is minimal. Some box steps and hand gestures make up the majority of the choreography and I’m wondering if the musical numbers would have been better suited to blocking rather than choreography. None of the choreography really stood out but, to her credit, Forston does give the actors simple, but appropriate moves and it blends well with the performance though it could be tightened up a bit.

Rick Long as Colonel Mustard. Credit: Artistic Synergy


Though a Costume Designer is not listed in the program, Epps states in his Director’s Note that along with having the opportunity to direct for the first time, this is also his hand in Costume Design. The costumes, I must say, are top notch and near perfect for each character. Each has his or her own, individual style and the costumes bring these characters to life. From Miss Scarlet’s slinky red dress to Mrs. White’s authentic, traditional maid outfit the costumes are impressive and kudos to Epps for his handy-work.

Wayne Ivusich as Professor Plumb. Credit: Artistic Synergy


Music Director Jeff Baker, a veteran of the Baltimore theatre scene who does great work did seem to have his challenges in this production. First, this production uses canned (recorded) music and it only features the piano. Running through the sound system, it sounds “tinny” at times but the cast does a fantastic job following along. Vocally, the cast does an admirable job with the songs given to them, even if the songs are a bit blasé and elementary (the songs themselves, not the performances of the songs). Harmonies come and go and energy is a bit low but, again, it’s mainly the material and not the performances. Aside from a few missed lyrics, the cast get through the score and Baker did the best he could with the material given to him.

Stacey Cosden as The Detective. Credit: Artistic Synergy


Director Nickolas Epps takes the reigns of this production of Clue the Musical and as a first time director, Epps does a commendable showing and the missteps taken will be ironed out with experience. This particular show doesn’t call for a ton of blocking but there seems to be nil to none in this production. Actors enter, they stand center stage (or elsewhere), recite their lines, and exit. Though one has to pay attention to the dialogue, the scenes fell a bit flat because of lack of movement to make it interesting. The individual character work is good and each actor found his or her own twist on these well-known characters. Transitions were a little messy and the comedic timing is a bit off but those are things that can be fixed as the run moves along. Casting is near perfect and each actor fit nicely and believably into his or her character. I respect Epps for taking on a full-fledged musical as his first foray into directing and I understand it can be overwhelming. However, Epps, with the minor first-time Director stumbles, seems to have handled it well.

Olivia Winter as Miss Scarlet. Credit: Artistic Synergy


It’s always difficult to portray such well-known characters and the characters of Clue the Musical are quite well-known. This is mostly because of the 1987 film and not necessarily the board game, and this makes it even more difficult for an actor. However, the ensemble for this piece is a small one and each and every one of them give 100% to their performances. They are a dedicated bunch and make the most of their characters giving some strong portrayals.
Hasheem Brin takes on the role of the conniving Mr. Green and though he is scripted and seems a little uncomfortable and scripted at times, he gives a respectable performance and Olivia Winter, as Miss Scarlet, definitely has the look and mannerisms down pat. Meanwhile, Stacy Cosden takes on the role of the no-nonsense Detective (a rather new character to the Clue universe), who shows up toward the end of Act I. Cosden is confident and seems to understand her character, giving a commendable performance.
Colonel Mustard and Professor Plum are portrayed by Rick Long and Wayne Ivusich, respectably. These two gentlemen are well cast and completely embody these characters. Long, as Col. Mustard, is committed and rigid, as the character should be and has a great look for the role. Ivusich, as Professor Plumb, wholly becomes this scheming, pretentious gentlemen and his British accent is spot on. Both give delightful performances.

Ashley Gerhardt as Mrs. Peacock. Credit: Artistic Synergy


As the promiscuous Miss Scarlet, Olivia Winter is a perfect match for this character and she gives a strength and confidence to this role. With her slinky red dress, she doesn’t over-do the promiscuity and actually portrays Miss Scarlet with a certain amount of vulnerability making for a lovely portrayal. Ashly Gerhardt tackles the portrayal of my favorite character, Mrs. Peacock. Gerhardt takes this role and runs with it. She’s not trying to be a carbon-copy of the film version of Mrs. Peacock and she adds her own flair which makes for a superb performance. Vocally, Gerhardt is stunning and gives a kick to the rather uninteresting songs as in her featured number, “Once a Widow.”

Ciahna Heck as Mrs. White. Credit: Artistic Synergy


Rounding out the cast is James Gilbert as Mr. Boddy and Ciahna Heck as Mrs. White, two highlights of this production. Gilbert has a great command of the stage and gives a confident and authentic performance as the character who helps the audience along throughout. He could cut some of the adlibbing and asides that break his character and become somewhat annoying, but he has a great grasp of his character and is believable. Vocally, Gilbert has a smooth bass/baritone that resonates throughout the theatre and makes one take notice as in numbers like “The Game” and “The Murder.”

James Gilbert as Mr. Boddy. Credit: Artistic Synergy


Ciahna Heck knocks it out of the ballpark as Mrs. White. Her British/cockney accent is on point and one can tell she’s giving her all for this role. She has a stupendous command of the stage and is very natural making for a superior performance. Along with her character, Heck is a standout, vocally, with a strong soprano (and singing in accent) that is well fitting in her featured song “Life is a Bowl of Pits.”
Overall, the entire ensemble has a good chemistry, allowing them to work well off of each other and with each other making for a pleasing evening of comedy-murder-mystery theatre.
Final thought… Clue the Musical is NOT my favorite show of the season but not because of the performers or performances… just the show itself! It is a humorous and nostalgic presentation of a familiar board game I spent hours playing as a child. However, if you are a fan of the 1985 film (of which I DEFINITELY am), you’ll see the characters have the same names, but you won’t see any of those rib-tickling one liners or crazy characters that made the film a cult classic. Clue the Musical takes these sinister characters and gives them a comical turn with upbeat songs and convoluted situations that leaves the audience scratching their heads until the ultimate reveal at the end of the evening. The script is a bit trite, the canned music is traditional and a bit uninspiring, but the performances are dedicated and quite admirable. I wonder… will you be able to figure out whodunit?
This is what I thought of Artistic Synergy of Baltimore’s production of Clue the Musical… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!
Clue the Musical will play through September 17 at Artistic Synergy of Baltimore at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, 8212 Philadelphia Road, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, purchase them at the door or purchase them online.
Email us at backstagebaltimore@gmail.com
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Review: Charlotte's Web at Artistic Synergy of Baltimore

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy
chalottes-web
Running Time: Approx. 1 hour and 45 minutes with one intermission
A pig and a spider. Who’d have thought a friendship between these two animals would change the lives of millions of kids throughout the world? It certainly changed mine when I first saw the animated film, Charlotte’s Web, based on the story by E.B. White, and heard Debbie Reynolds utter the words “Greetings and salutations!” With a star studded cast of voices, this film taught me about death, moving on, and hope, making it a classic in children’s cinema. Artistic Synergy of Baltimore‘s latest venture, Charlotte’s Web the Musical, a staged version of the beloved story, with Music and Lyrics by Charles Strouse and Book by Joseph Robinette, with Direction by Melissa Broy Forston, Music Direciton by Michelle Harmon-Bruno, and Choreography by Jennifer Otero, may not be a carbon copy of the cartoon I watched repeatedly, but the story is still familiar and the lessons taught still remain.

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Simon Gusso, Cordelia “Cordy” Gusso, Bryonna Davis, and Gregory Aerford. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore


Melissa Broy Forston takes the reigns of this first attempt of children’s theatre by Artistic Synergy of Baltimore and is more or less successful in the attempt. She has gathered a beautifully diverse cast of characters of dedicated blooming actors who give their all. Forston keeps the story moving and the use of a minimal Set Design (also by Forston), allows for quick scene changes and smooth transitions. The actors make their entrances and exits on time and, though they may have a lot to learn, Forston seems to have put them on the right path.
Choreography by Jennifer Otero is fitting of the production and the actors with whom she is working and the actors seem to have picked up the simple, but appropriate dances and perform them with gusto and hit their marks.
Michelle Harmon-Bruno takes on Music Direction and, though contending with canned music that sounds straight out of a 1980s video game, she still has the young cast singing their hearts out and interpreting cute songs such as “Eating,” “Who Says We Can’t Be Friends?” and “Don’t” as only children can. Aside from a few hick-ups and microphone issues, the ensemble performs the music well and look to be having a great time doing so.
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Alexis Arthur and Simon Gusso. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore


Concerning the performance aspect of this production, overall, the young ensemble does well with this piece and seems to understand the story they are telling and though there is much more to learn, these fledgling actors seem to be well on their way, including Jasmine Artis, playing Goose who has a booming voice and good stage presence, and the cool, well-rehearsed Madi Anne Cosden, who takes on the role of Templeton, the seemingly selfish, curmudgeon barn rat who ends up caring more than he lets on. Chloe Davies takes on multiple roles including Owl, Reporter, Concessionaire, Judge, and Announcer and makes the most of all of the roles. Among these aforementioned actors, the entire ensemble deserves kudos for a job well done!
Taking on the role of Wilbur is Simon Gusso. Gusso goes all in with this role, taking on the persona of the young pig who has no control over what happens to him but learning how to deal with whatever is thrown his way. He knows his lines and, what’s more, has a good comprehension of his role and gives a commendable performance.
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Raychel Nguyen, Simon Gusso, and Madi Anne Cosden. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore


Taking on the titular role of Charlotte, the gentle spider, is Alexis Arthur and she certainly makes this role her own. She portrays Charlotte with an authentic gentleness that is required of the character and, vocally, she is strong and gives a quite delightful performance.
Lurvy, the Zuckerman farmhand, is humorously played by Gregory Areford, who is a perfect match of this role. He has a good stage presence and isn’t afraid to be a clown, which is a good attitude for any actor to have.
A standout in this piece is young Raychel Nguyen, who takes on the role of the loving and sensitive Fern, who saves Wilbur and raises him for the first few months of his life. Nguyen seemingly has some experience on stage and has a good technique allowing her to project well, speak naturally, and hit her marks. She gives a believable performance, embodying the character nicely.
Final thought… Charlotte’s Web the Musical at Artistic Synergy of Baltimore is a sweet, fun re-telling of a childhood favorite that teaches important life lessons in way that doesn’t necessarily sugar-coat but explains in a way children will understand. The cast is works hard and gives 100% effort to the production making for a charming evening of theatre.
This is what I thought of Artistic Synergy of Baltimore’s production of Charlotte’s Web the Musical… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!
Charlotte’s Web the Musical will play through August 6 at Artistic Synergy of Baltimore, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, 8212 Philadelphia Road, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, purchase them online.
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Review: Bye Bye Birdie at Artistic Synergy of Baltimore

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: 2 hours with one 15-minute intermission

The Cast of Bye Bye Birdie. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore


The 1950s was an interesting, white picket fenced, bobby socked, and black and white time in America and, though problems were bubbling under the surface, it was a simpler time. Elvis Presley broke through with his pelvis-shaking rock and roll, but there was still a certain innocence to his bad-boy persona and we couldn’t get enough. Artistic Synergy of Baltimore’s latest production, the classic Bye Bye Birdie with a Book by Michael Stewart, Music by Charles Strouse, and Lyrics by Lee Adams, takes us back to that bygone era and to a small town to give us a taste of nostalgia and a peek into 1950s suburbia. Bye Bye Birdie is Directed by Jeff Baker (who may or may not have been the Music Director, as well, since a Music Director is not listed in the program), with Choreography by Suzy Hasselbush, Set Design by Colby Aerford, Daniel DeJong, and Stanton Zacker, and Costumes by Amy Rudi.
Set Design by Colby Aerford, Daniel DeJong and Stanton Zacker is innovative, considering the space they had to work with. Artistic Synergy of Baltimore certainly doesn’t have the smallest stage in Baltimore, but it is still an intimate space and the use of spinning flats for different scene settings is practical and efficient. They don’t clutter the stage too much with set pieces but a few well-placed items give the idea of where the action is taking place and leaves space for the large cast. The painting and detail work by Ann Pallanck and Amy Rudai expresses the time period very nicely with bright, light colors and sets the mood nicely. The minimal, but appropriate Set Design adds value to this production, as a whole.

The Cast of Bye Bye Birdie. Artistic Synergy of Baltimore


Amy Rudai also took on the duties as Costume Designer and this aspect of the production is certainly a highlight. Rudai’s attention to detail is impressive and instead of going with the usual poodle skirts, saddle shoes, and cardigans, she manages to give us an authentic representation of the time in which this piece is set with below the knee knitted skirts, plain white athletic shoes for the young ladies, and plain jeans, Jack Purcell-looking shoes, and t-shirts/sweaters for the young gentlemen and suits and dresses for the adult cast. The Conrad Birdie costume could have had a bit more pizazz and glamour rather than looking like an ordinary “greaser” and the wardrobe for Rosie Alvarez look a bit out of place (I keep thinking 80s for some reason – could be the broad shoulder jackets) and a particular costume in Act II for “Spanish Rose” is unnecessary but overall, the costume choices are spot on and Rudai’s work is impeccable.
Choreography by Suzy Hasselbush is charming and appropriate for her cast. It’s obvious she knows her cast and has choreographed accordingly which is of the utmost importance for any choreographer. Now, that’s not to say anything is dumbed down for this cast. There are some impressive numbers including the opening “The Telephone Hour” and the trio for “Put on a Happy Face.” Hasselbush’s work lights up the stage and keeps this piece interesting.

The Cast of Bye Bye Birdie. Artistic Synergy of Baltimore


Baltimore theatre veteran Jeff Baker takes on Direction of this production and does a superb job. He understands the piece well and even though it’s musical comedy and poking fun at 1950s middle America, he takes it just seriously enough to tell the coming of age story in a meaningful way. He doesn’t shove the fact of the 1950s down our throats with clichés and obvious bits, but let’s the story unfold through the script and the performances. His casting is decent and he’s given us a well thought-out production.
Since no Music Director is listed in the program, I’m going to assume Mr. Baker took on those duties as well, knowing he has taken on this role in numerous productions in the past. The ensemble, as a whole, sounds fantastic and they blend well and harmonize together beautifully. The musical numbers are well rehearsed but it is unfortunate that it was decided to use canned music for this production (that’s recorded music, for those who might not be in “the know”). Bye Bye Birdie has such a wonderful score, it may have been nice to hear a live orchestra playing along supporting this dedicated ensemble. There were some hick-ups, skips and missed musical cues for actors that may have been smoothed out if a live orchestra and conductor were in attendance, but overall, the cast was ready and worked well with the recorded music.

Jennifer Hasselbush and Stanton Zacker. Artistic Synergy of Baltimore


Moving into the performance aspect of Bye Bye Birdie, Stanton Zacker and Jennifer Hasselbush take on the roles of Harry and Doris MacAfee, the poor, defeated parents of Kim MacAfee and Randall MacAfee, with the former having been chosen to give heartthrob Conrad Birdie one last kiss before being shipped off to the Army. Both of these actors were dedicated and comfortable with their roles and portrayed them nicely. Hasselbush somehow embodied a mother of the 1950s and is very authentic in her interactions with her family making for a strong performance. Zacker is a bit scripted and lets some golden one-liners zoom right past but he is still believable as the frazzled father of a teenaged girl and his chemistry with his fellow cast mates is strong. Vocally, Zacker is impressive, as is Jennifer Hasselbush. In numbers such as “Hymn for a Sunday Evening” and the popular and standard “Kids” they were entertaining and gave very respectable performances.

Matt Peterson as Conrad Birdie. Artistic Synergy of Baltimore


The role of Conrad Birdie… the Birdie of Bye Bye Birdie, is tackled by Matt Peterson and he gives a good showing of the heartthrob, pop icon, Elvis Presley-esque character but, overall, I would have liked a little more suave, brooding, sex appeal and charisma. Yes, again, it’s a musical comedy, but if you’re gonna play a character inspired by Elvis Presley… work it, especially the charisma! The costume may have had a hand in it as well, as stated before, being dressed in just some jeans, a t-shirt, converse shoes, and a leather jacket. He looked more like a T-Bird from Grease than the most famous man in the country. However, that being said, Matt Peterson does NOT give a terrible performance does an admirable job in this role. He is dedicated to this role and certainly looks the part. He’s comfortable and does have a strong stage presence as well as a terrific, albeit soft, voice.

Melissa Broy Forston as Mae Peterson. Artistic Synergy of Baltimore


Melissa Broy Forston takes on the hilarious role of Mae Peterson, the helicopter mom (when helicopter moms weren’t cool) who hounds and guilt trips her adult son into seeing things her way. Forston takes this role and hits the ground running. She’s confident with a strong stage presence and her comedic timing is splendid. She understands this character and the humor and embraces both giving a strong performance.

Hunter Lubawski as Kim MacAfee. Artistic Synergy of Baltimore


Hunter Lubawski takes on the role of Kim MacAfee, the sweet, naive teenager who wants to grow up too fast. Lubawski is cast perfectly as this character and she’s comfortable in this role. She gives a worthy vocal performance and is radiant in her numbers such as “How Lovely to Be a Woman” and “One Boy,” exuding that innocence and tenderness this character requires and her transition from young child to young woman is subtle but certain and her performance is commendable.

Olivia Winter as Ursula Merkel. Artistic Synergy of Baltimore


Often, you’ll see a performer in a supporting role who just stands out in a production and in this production that performer is Olivia Winter as Ursula Merkel, Kim’s fanatic, loyal, and number-one-Birdie-fan. Winter is definitely a highlight of this production because of her enthusiasm and dedication to her role. She’s got a beautiful voice that is highlighted in numbers such as “The Telephone Hour” and her character choices for this role are near perfect. She shines during ensemble numbers like “A Normal American Boy” and “Honestly Sincere” with her natural and confident performance. I’m looking forward to seeing future performances from this young actress.

Alana DiSabatino as Rosie Alvarez. Artistic Synergy of Baltimore


Taking on the role of Rosie Alvarez, the loyal, love-lorn, secretary, and girlfriend of Albert Peterson is Alana DiSabatino. DiSabatino has a good command of the stage and does an admirable job with this challenging role and seems quite comfortable and dedicated. She understands her character and embodies the objectives and wants of Rosie, namely, becoming Mrs. Albert Peterson. She certainly entertains and keeps things moving in solo numbers including “What Did I Ever See in Him” and (especially) “Spanish Rose” though, the costumes and choreography might take away from the exceptional vocal abilities of this talented actress, leaving her breathless, at points. Overall, DiSabatino gives a praise-worthy and thoroughly entertaining performance.

Seth David as Albert Peterson. Artistic Synergy of Baltimore


Last but not least, Seth David as Albert Peterson, who is a standout in this piece. Though he may not look like the clean-cut, suit and tie gentleman of the mid-century business man with his modern looking long hair pulled back into a pony tail, he still embodies all the qualities and insecurities of this character. He works well with both Melissa Broy Forston as his overbearing mother and Alana DiSabatino as his pushy, but patient girlfriend, balancing his characters interaction between the both of them. His transition is seamless from a dedicated, allegiant son to a confident, independent man is believable and he manages to keep the character likable throughout. Vocally, David is a powerhouse and performs his numbers such as “Put On a Happy Face” and “Talk to Me” near perfectly with an impressive grasp of the choreography given to him making for a superb performance.

Seth David and Alana DiSabatino. Artistic Synergy of Baltimore


Final thought…Bye Bye Birdie is a fun, lighthearted piece that’s perfect for community and small theatres and Artistic Synergy of Baltimore gets it right with this production. They have a very dedicated and talented cast and crew and the production is well-thought out with a good pacing. Aside from the canned music, the cast handles the material well and they make this classic, often-produced piece their own making for an enjoyable evening of theatre.
This is what I thought of Artistic Synergy of Baltimore’s production of Bye Bye Birdie… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!
Bye Bye Birdie will play through March 19 at Artistic Synergy of Baltimore, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, 8212 Philadelphia Road. For tickets, call the box office at (410) 288-4281 or purchase them online.
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Review: Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Artistic Synergy of Baltimore

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy
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Running Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes with one 15-minute intermission

The cast of Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore

The cast of Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore


There are quite a few shows that are staples in small and community theatre and you will see them pop up weekly in small hamlets and big cities across this great country. Some shows are just so good they never get old and some, well… let’s just say they’re familiar and comfortable. Artistic Synergy of Baltimore’s latest offering, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, with Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Lyrics by Tim Rice, is definitely in the category of never getting old, having been a continued success for nearly five decades. This production, Directed by Mike Zellhofer, with Music Direction by Edward Berlett, Choreogrpahy by Temple Fortson, Set Design by Jordan Hollett, Lighing Design by Jim Shomo, Sound Design by Charles Hirsch, and Costume Design by Lorelei Kahn, shows the ingenuity of a small theatre and manages to put on a well-crafted, fresh production of an old favorite.
The Cast of Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore

The Cast of Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore


Set Design by Jordan Hollett is far from extravagant and is quite subdued, but a simpler design works for this piece because a Director and Set Designer can create a traditional setting or more whimsical and it will still work. Depending on the theatre and the space, the Set Design for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat can be a spectacle, but Hollet has decided against this and has gone with a couple of panels on either side of the stage with crudely painted Egyptian and desert scenes and a large, blank white canvas that stretches across the back of the stage reflecting the very colorful light show that happens throughout the production. His set pieces such as a very cartoon-y camel (that looked fabulous, but had some technical trouble the day I saw this production) and a bulky “chariot of gold” work well with this production and do not take away from the story but add to it. Overall, Hollett’s work is minimal, but compliments the piece very nicely.
Lighting and Sound Design go hand in hand with this piece and where the set may be simply, Lighting Design by Jim Shomo is nothing short of a spectacle, in a good way. Shomo uses all the colors of the rainbow (at least all the colors mentioned in song) and lights the entire stage up like NYC’s famed night club Studio 54 in its hey-day. With what looked like state of the art equipment, the lighting is top notch. It’s worth mentioning there are a few heavy strobe effects that aren’t mentioned in the program or in the curtain speech, so, consider this a heads up! In general, Shomo has created a well thought-out design that adds great value to this piece.
Sound is always a challenge for a small theatre (especially in unique places such as church basements) but Charles Hirsch tackles this challenge with the resources he has at his disposal. The space at Artistic Synergy is intimate, not small, but intimate and when you throw a full orchestra right next to the audience, there are going to be some balancing issues. However, there weren’t as many as there could have been and the actors who had featured roles had microphones that made their performances easy to hear, so, Hirsch was able to find that balance to make for an enjoyable performance. One thing I will say is that this is a loud show. I mean more so than the usual loud of a live performance with a live orchestra. There are parts of this show that are downright rock-concert loud and in this space, they might want to pull back just a tad, but, overall, it’s a very nice balance.
Wayne Ivusich and Jim Gerhardt. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore

Wayne Ivusich and Jim Gerhardt. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore


Costume Design Lorelei Kahn is very fitting for this piece and many of the costumes are more of a suggestion of the setting rather than full blown costumes. The design is modern and traditional mixed and all of the actors seem very comfortable and everyone is uniform, which adds to the precise look of the piece. In a hometown homage, Jacob proudly displays his Baltimore Ravens jersey which went over very well with the audience in attendance. Joseph’s 11 brothers have a base costume of jeans, sandals, and different colored button down shirts and it’s a smart move because, for each scene, a costume piece is added or taken away depending on what is going on in the scene. The more traditional costumes, such as Egyptian guards, harem wives, and servants are all simple, but very effective and Kahn’s design is attentive and fitting for this production.
The Cast of Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore

The Cast of Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore


Choreography by Temple Fortson is tight and precise, for the most part, and the cast seems to be comfortable in every dance and, more importantly, they seem to be having a blast, thus, leading to the audience having a blast right along with them. The dances aren’t too complicated that the cast of varying experience can’t handle, but not too simple that they’re simply doing jazz squares in every number. Fortson’s choreography is high energy and full of variety, keeping the story interesting for both the ensemble and the audience, alike. Kudos to Fortson for her work on this piece.
Music Direction by Edward Berlett is superb as this ensemble and featured performers sounded well-rehearsed and confident in each number. The harmonies were present and the performances were tight, in general, and easy to understand. If you are familiar with the piece, you’ll be singing along (in your head, hopefully), and if you are not familiar, you will easily understand the vocals to follow along with the old biblical story. I must also mention the talent and impeccable sound of the live orchestra that took this production to a new level. I wish the names of the orchestra members were listed in the program (there could at least be an insert, these guys and gals are great!) because, just like Berlett is to be commended for his Music Direction, the orchestra deserves many kudos for their near flawless performance.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is a sung-through show, meaning it’s all music, singing, and dancing with little to no script so, one could argue this type of show only needs a Music Director and Choreographer but there still needs to be a vision and Director Mike Zellhofer gives us a new look at this classic. Presenting an overall traditional staging, Zellhofer makes it fun for both the cast and the audience, and not taking the piece too seriously, but getting the story across smoothly with action that is easy to follow and not taking too much liberty and making it hokey, which is a danger when it comes to shows like this. Zellhofer seems to keep everything under control and crafts a very well-though out production that is a joy to watch.
The Brothers. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore

The Brothers. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore


Switching to the performance aspect of this production, I want to mention that the entire ensemble does a fantastic job moving this story along and it’s easy to see each cast member is fully dedicated to this piece and is giving his or her all making for a very successful production. The voices are strong, the choreography is tight, and the chemistry is great as everyone looks as they are having a stellar and fun time with each other which, in turn, makes it fun for the audience.
The roles of Jacob and Potiphar are taken on by Wayne Ivusich who seems to have a very good time with these roles and is comfortable and confident with his performance. He has a good command of the stage and, vocally, is fitting for these roles. He understands the humor in these characters and runs with it making for a strong performance.
Amy Rudai and Lisa Rigsby take on the roles of the Baker and Butler, respectively and they give very good showings as these characters. Traditionally, these characters are doubled and played by two of the brothers, but it was refreshing to see the gender-blind casting for these roles and these ladies pulled them off very nicely. Vocally, they could have been a little stronger, but overall, they gave admirable performances, holding their own against the “guys” and they seems to have a blast with these roles.
Of Joseph’s 11 brothers, there are a few featured roles with and Rueben, the eldest of the Children of Israel, played by Nick Ruth, is one of them. He performs the featured number “One More Angel in Heaven,” a fun country-western style song with a built in hoe-down in which the entire ensemble is dancing and singing about the demise of poor Joseph. Ruth does a commendable job with this number and though it is traditionally sung with a southern twang, his “Baltimore accent” is prominent, but it adds a certain charm to the performance. With a good command of the stage, Ruth gives a good showing and the number itself, is fun going from a slow and steady tempo to a high energy, upbeat tempo making for an pleasant performance.
Asher, portrayed by Bill Bisbee, is another brother who has a featured number called “Those Canaan Days,” in the style of a traditional french ballad. Bisbee does a fine job with the french accent and the other brothers give him fitting backup. Though a slower paced song, the ensemble does a great job keeping it interesting and funny. Vocally, Bisbee gives a strong performance and he’s confident and performs with ease.
Jim Fitzpatrick and Jim Gearhardt. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore

Jim Fitzpatrick and Jim Gearhardt. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore


Baltimore theatre veteran Jim Fitzpatrick tackles the role of the Elvis Presley impersonating Pharaoh and he tackles it with gusto. More than just a suggestion of the King of Rock and Roll, Fitzpatrick dons an entire Elvis Presley costume from the pompadour wig and large sunglasses down to the bell-bottomed jumpsuit and gives 100% to this role. His vocals are spot on and his performance is high-energy and he makes a superb showing.
Featured brother Zebulon is played by Joe Weinhoffer and though, usually performed by the brother playing Judah, Weinhoffer performs the featured Caribbean themed 11:00 number, “Benjamin’s Calypso,” with the purpose of defending a wrongly accused little brother, Benjamin. It’s easy to see Weinhoffer is having a delightful time performing this number and the ensemble enthusiastically backs him up. Vocally, he is strong and comfortably holds his own against the ensemble with a very good presence on the stage.
Joe Weinhoffer. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore

Joe Weinhoffer. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore


The Narrator is traditionally one of the only featured female roles and for this production at Artistic Synergy of baltimore, this role is split between Mea Holloway and Melissa Broy Fortson. At this particular performance, Mea Holloway takes on the role and though she does quite well, her performance isn’t without a few minor issues including lyrics and timing/cues. Also, at first appearance, with her darker makeup and frequent scowl, she’s a bit harsh looking for the usually jovial Narrator making her seem irritated and preoccupied and it affects her performance. At one point, because of the positioning of a speaker she became a headless storyteller as she was spotlighted from the neck down but her head disappeared behind the shadow of the said speaker – a simple blocking issue any experienced actor would have fixed immediately. Regardless of the minor issues, she has a strong, beautiful voice and, aside from the aforementioned timing/cue problems, she gives an admirable showing in this piece.
Joe Weinhoffer and Jim Gearhardt. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore

Joe Weinhoffer and Jim Gearhardt. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore


The titular role of Joseph, the lucky and favorite son of Jacob is portrayed nicely by Jim Gerhardt and he gives a strong, confident presentation. He makes the role his own and has a strong, clear voice to back up his performance. Though it is every actors responsibility and prerogative to make a role or song his or her own, occasionally, it’s wise to keep songs simple. In my experience in musical theatre, tenors love their money notes. How can they not? They feel good and they’re fun to sing. However, it is important to understand that every last note of every song does not have to be taken up an octave or harmonized to a higher note and, in this case, Gerhardt frequently toys with the melody and it loses that special something when it’s overdone. With that being said, his performance is absolutely commendable and he gives a fresh look at the character. His performance of “Any Dream Will Do” and “Close Every Door” (money note included) are very good and he is comfortable with this character and gives a strong, enjoyable performance.
Final though… Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Artistic Synergy of Baltimore is community and small theatre at its finest. With familiar nods to our charming little town of Baltimore and some very talented folks, it’s definitely worth checking out. The ensemble is dedicated and gives 100% to the performance and everyone is having a great time on stage and with each other, making for a fun, upbeat, feel-good show that can be enjoyed by all.
That’s what I thought about Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, playing at Artisti Synergy of Baltimore… what did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat will play through December 18 at Artistic Synergy of Baltimore, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, 8212 Philadelphia Road, Baltimore, MD. Tickets are available at the door (cash, check, or credit card) or purchase them online.