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Theatre Reviews

Decisions — and life — put to music

 

     Jason Robert Brown is a Tony Award-winning composer, lyricist and playwright best known for his work on Parade, The Bridges of Madison County, and The Last Five Years. Prior to those successes, Brown in 1995 debuted the self-penned Songs for a New World, a musical revue now playing at Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre through July 20.

2nd Star Productions’ Gypsy Rose Lee is Vaudeville, baby!

 

     If it’s challenging to walk in the shadow of greatness, treading in two great shadows is daring. It’s an achievement of another order of magnitude to shine your light so brightly as to blend all three images into a moment of greatness. That’s what it was like watching Debbie Barber-Eaton play Rose, as in the mother of Gypsy Rose Lee, the hallmark, powerhouse role for both the late great film star Rosalind Russell and for stage virtuoso Ethel Merman.

Like ice cream on a hot day

 

      It takes a little chutzpah and a lot of hard work for a community theater to try to perform Crazy for You with the original Broadway choreography. With plenty of both, Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre has scored. The dancing awes, and the music and singing soars, riveting the audience for a full two and one-half hours (plus a 15-minute intermission).      Crazy for You takes us back to the 1930s with music by George and Ira Gershwin performed by a nine-piece live orchestra.

StoryTellers’ Bowie Playhouse debut

     StoryTellers Theater Arts Academy is now rehearsing an adaptation of the Tony Award-winning musical Les Miserables, which will mark the company’s Bowie Playhouse debut May 2 to 5. Founded in 2016 by mother-daughter team Terry Sweet Bouma, artistic director, and Alyssa Bouma, production director, StoryTellers has mounted seven productions in venues across the area, from Into the Woods and A Midsummer Night’s Dream to A Tribute to Patsy Cline and Twelfth Night.   

Lots of heart in this musical ­autobiography of recovery

     William Finn is best known for writing and composing The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee Falsettos with his collaborator, writer and director James Lapine. Soon after Falsettos opened in 1992, Finn was rushed to the hospital with what turned out to be arteriovenous malformation: an abnormal formation of blood vessels in the brain. He survived, with A New Brain the result of Lapine’s insistence that Finn keep a record of his own recovery. 

Highschoolers shone as ­highschoolers shining

     School of Rock is a success by all measures.       The 2003 movie starred Jack Black, who won an MTV Movie Award for Best Comedic Performance and was nominated for a Golden Globe Best Actor. In 2015, Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes rewrote the movie for stage with new music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. It was nominated for four Tonys.       Magic happened when Southern High School Drama Company brought the musical spectacular to Harwood.

Five out of Five Licks

       Under the direction of Jeff Larson, this Twin Beach Players theater treat, Certain Souls, written by New York Times editor Ken Jaworoski, is as warm, as buttery smooth and as salty as a bag of crisp, freshly popped popcorn can be. You might even lick your fingers from the back row.

Teens did Broadway-quality show

           Victor Hugo penned Notre-Dame de Paris in 1831 and created some of literature’s most enduring characters: the courageous Gypsy girl Esmerelda, the dashing Captain Pheobus, the dour Archdeacon Frollo and the partially deaf, physically deformed bell-ringer Quasimodo. Hugo’s captivating story continues to thrill audiences in film and stage productions, most notably for moderns the 1996 Disney animated film with its award-winning soundtrack and happy ending.

Little Mermaid’s sea creatures sing and sign

       Disney’s The Little Mermaid features a unique element when it opens this weekend at Annapolis High School: American Sign Language.          A complete, complex language all its own, American Sign Language uses signs — made by moving the hands — along with facial expressions and body posture.

Don Quixote’s swashbuckling ­optimism will send your pessimism packing 

     In these times of acrimony, hypocrisy and hate, is it an impossible dream to believe in chivalry, goodness and love? Not according to Don Quixote, the would-be knight errant whose comic yet sincere optimism and swashbuckling bravery send pessimism packing every time. There’s a lesson there for us all.