Theatre Reviews

What’s old is new again

     In 1925, the so-called Scopes Monkey trial adjudicated creationism versus evolution in a battle of legal titans. John Scopes, a substitute teacher in Tennessee, had been charged with breaking a local law that banned the teaching of evolution. Allowing himself to be used as a test case, he became the subject of one of the most closely followed trials in American history, broadcast across the country by radio.

Solving the mystery of Beethoven’s greatest work

      B — as in Bach, Beethoven and Brahms — is the most revered letter in music. One of the three great Bs, Beethoven, devoted five years to the works of another B composer, B as in so-so, like a B actor. 

See these shows — and reach for new levels of understanding

     I admire the local community theater company Twin Beach Players in North Beach, Maryland. 

Hear those old spectacular songs sung by strong new voices

     When Annie Get Your Gun opened on Broadway in 1946, it was a star vehicle for the brassy, trumpet-voiced Ethel Merman. Irving Berlin’s songs became legendary, from the lively There’s No Business Like Show Business and Anything You Can Do to the romantic They Say It’s Wonderful and I Got Lost in His Arms.

Fake News, 1644 Style

       Mistaken identities, a hero’s fondness for unashamed exaggeration and the quest for love permeate The Liar, Richard Wilbur’s modern interpretation of Pierre Corneille’s 1644 farce, his most famous comedy. Under the deft guidance of director Steve Tobin, Compass Rose Theater’s production is not only well acted and well staged but also an ageless play you want to watch.

Qué Calor! 

         The hottest thing in Annapolis these days isn’t the weather but Lin Manuel-Miranda’s In the Heights, playing through Memorial Day weekend at The Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre. Under the direction of Darnell Patrick Morris, the same guy who brought us Avenue Q and Hair Spray, this production is so outstanding it’s easy see why the Hamilton composer’s show won the 2008 Tony for Best Musical.

Come to hear kids tell you what’s on their minds

   Scene: An up-and-coming Bayside town. The building, a Boys and Girls Club, is charming in a functional way, surrounded by playgrounds and parking lots, filled with laughter and noise. Rooms are utilitarian. Walls are speckled with flyers for team meetings and reading club dates.             Despite its sensible nature, the building shimmers with the energy of kids unleashed.

Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre, 2nd Star Productions and Colonial Players take top Ruby Griffith Awards

 If dinner and a show sound like an ideal date night but you’re reluctant to drive to the city and drop $75 a ticket, consider that some of the area’s best theater is right in your own back yard at a fraction of the price. Such was proven last month for the 10th time in as many years when three troupes from Anne Arundel County nearly swept highest honors at the 45th Annual Ruby Griffith Awards.  

Dickens’ last becomes a whodunnit

            Charles Dickens’ commentaries showed the often dark and ­dreary reality of life in Victorian England. So why is a group of teenage actors of The Talent Machine Company dancing and singing a Dickens’ story at St. John’s College?             The author’s death in 1870 left The Mystery of Edwin Drood unfinished, opening the door to creative interpretations. The first modern major theatrical adaptation was a musical comedy.

Bringing the Book of Matthew to Life

Godspell was originally a college project by the show’s author, John-Michael Tebalak, then a student at Carnegie-Mellon in Pittsburgh. Another student, Steven Schwartz, was brought in later to add a score, which of course includes such musical staples as Day By Day and Light of the World. Debuting off-Broadway in 1971, Godspell was a smash. It still is all these years later because of its simple staging, relatively uncomplicated music and the universal and timeless message of the Book of Matthew.