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Crank Up the Fun

Everyone’s a standout in The Talent Machine

Layne Seaman as Sheila, the Diva; Tarn Kelsey as Seymour, the chess player; and Lily West as Patty, the overly cheerful cheerleader.


The Talent Machine Company brought back The Talent Machine — its namesake and the original 1988 show that helped to make children’s theater a summer staple in Annapolis — to St. John’s College just in time to provide relief from the heat.
    The seven-to-14-year-old cast shared the message of the first show, launched by Bobbi Smith: With some talent, a lot of self-confidence and an enormous amount of work, you can make your dreams come true.
    Don’t let the children’s theater category fool you. Anyone who’s a child at heart will love this show, with songs and dances adapted from a variety of musicals, including Grease and Les Miserables.
    Everyone’s a standout in The Talent Machine but there are notables: 
    • The harmonies on Hard Candy Christmas, with Sheila (Layne Seaman), Shy (Camryn Bowcutt), Mary Ann (Julia Daniel), Kay (Colleen Coleman), Patty (Lily West), Mindy (Charlotte Kuethe), Tony (Sierra Basilio) and company members Megan Donaldson, Cami Gore, Summer McKinney, Katie Peacock and Julia Rach.
    • The fast pace singing and dancing of Ease on Down the Road, which gets us from Annapolis to Eastport to meet Professor Gusundheit (Megan Bowcutt), inventor of the Talent Machine, a device that might help the kids polish their talent for the show. 
    • The near-tear-inducing The Rainbow Connection, with lovely harmonies by Diz (Logan Donnelly), Sarah Berry, Anton Bilonog, Mackenzie Carroll, Rebecca Cross, Ainsley Ellis, Sam Ellis, Reilly Koebel, Emily Luzier, Alexandra Murphy, Lucy O’Brien, Emily Small, Abbie Smith and Jordan Taft.
    • The tricky tap number We’re in the Money, with kids dancing on coin risers. 
    • The can’t-get-it-out-of-my-head Mr. Cellophane, with the geeky Seymour (Tarn Kelsey) ditching his smarty-man exterior to reveal his inner songster.
    Everyone changes over the course of the show, but none more than Shy, who sings Not for the Life of Me. Bowcutt is supported by Mary Ann, Sheila, Bobby (Gabe Needle), Warren (Justin Henderson), Seymour, Erin Daniel and Timothy Kandra. It’s a far cry from her initial take on the talent show, when she admits, “I’m scared that I’ll always be scared.”
    Megan Bowcutt, mother of Camryn and one of the parent-volunteers for Talent Machine, got more than she signed on for as the Coach/Professor. But she betrayed no nervousness on stage. “It takes a lot of courage to get out there,” she says at the beginning as Coach. Courage was everywhere in The Talent Machine. 
    Like many who come through Talent Machine, director Amy Sonntag — with the company from age nine to 18 — went on to study musical theater. She then toured the world with Disney. Today, she’s an occupational therapist who still gets to use all the skills she picked up while with Talent Machine.
    “It’s like my family grew up,” she says.
    Director: Amy Sonntag. Musical director: Cyndi Wallman. Company manager: Susan Krepps. Producers: Lea Capps and Rachel Luthcke. With Jasmine Caffee, Brooke Carson, Annalie Ellis, Samantha Esterling, Whitney Green, Logan Heflin, Elizabeth Miller, Chrissy Scott, Jenna  Small and Aidan Smith.
    Playing July 12 thru 15 at 7:30pm FSa; 2pm and 6:30pm Su at Key Auditorium, St. John’s College, Annapolis. $12 w/discounts; rsvp: 410-956-0512;

Love your commentary! I agree- Rainbow connection brought tears to my eyes as well. Those sweet little innocent faces prove there is hope for our future.

The show is awesome! It is a must see if you enjoy a lively show with talented kids who love to sing and dance!

Shy was impressive as was Sheila. Great pipes.

I saw this show last weekend and its like Broadway before they get famous. When you see how young they are after the show it will blow your mind! So talented.