Singing siblings never get to do a stage duet

September 26, 1990|By Winifred Walsh | Winifred Walsh,Evening Sun Staff

Edward J. Peters and Joyce A. Shipley, a brother and sister singing duo who regularly play the Baltimore musical dinner theater circuit, have sung in seven major shows together but have never shared a song.

"Except in reviews and post-shows," says the tall, imposing blond Shipley. "Never in a legitimate musical."

Shipley's strong lyric soprano voice and Peters' vibrant baritone were recently heard in the successful run of the David Shire/Richard Maltby Jr. musical, "Baby," in the Upstairs Cabaret at Cockpit in Court.

"The subject was pregnancy," says Shipley. "I played an older woman surprised by a pregnancy."

"And I played a guy who badly wanted to have a child with his wife and couldn't," says Peters. At 27 the six-foot, ash blond actor is one of the most sought-after leading men in town.

A veteran already of 28 productions as singer, actor, dancer and choreographer, Peters is currently in rehearsal for Shalimar's Dinner Theatre version of "Guys and Dolls" (Oct. 12-Dec. 31), in which he plays the role of Sky Masterson.

Dinner theater actors are usually paid a minimum sum. Waiting tables before and during the show can bring a bonanza in tips.

"The first time I waited tables I dropped drinks all over a critic's wife," says Shipley, cringing at the memory.

"I find waiting tables gets the adrenalin flowing. You learn how to channel that adrenalin into the character," notes Peters, who admits he occasionally has slipped and dropped utensils or water glasses on the floor. "You can't let it worry you," he says.

Peters burst into local theater at the tender age of age 21 when he portrayed the title role in the impressive 1984 Cockpit In Court production of the musical "Barnum." Since then he has sung his way through "Bye, Bye Birdie" (Albert), "My One and Only" (Billy Buck), "Carousel" (Billy Bigelow), "A Chorus Line" (Gregory), "Camelot" (Lancelot) and numerous others.

"Crazy things happen on stage, too," laughs Peters. "I was probably the youngest Beauregard in history in an Act II production of 'Mame' when I sprained my ankle and finished the run on crutches." The actor has also spanned stage years (with effective makeup) to play the villainous Dr. Carasco in Towsontowne Dinner Theatre's "Man of LaMancha." "Makeup helps me get into character," he says.

Sister Joyce, 13 years his senior, has appeared in more than 30 shows and reviews. Her favorite roles have been: Agnes in "I Do, I Do," the Mother Abbess in "The Sound of Music," Aldonza in "Man of LaMancha" (with her brother), Marian in "The Music Man," Kate in "Kiss Me Kate" and, more recently, Miss Mona in the Harborlights production of "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas."

"I loved doing Mama Rose in 'Gypsy'," she says. "That was a stretch for me."

In her present role, Shipley literally kicks up her heels as the Reverend Mother in the Harborlights production of the nonsensical musical farce, "Nunsense" (directed by husband Edward M. Shipley). It is the Maryland dinner theater premiere of the show and runs through Nov. 11.

"I am an emcee type in the convent, introducing all the acts and singing and dancing with the rest," she says. "We have more choreography in this than was in the original. It is the physically worst show I have done in years. I'm all bruised up," she adds with a smile.

Shipley is the oldest of the six children of Anne (an amateur singer) and Raymond Peters (a former band leader). "Eddie is the baby of the family," she says.

A graduate of Towson State University where she received her bachelor's degree in voice performance, Shipley was advised by her singing coach to think about an operatic career. She chose instead marriage and motherhood.

"My son Eddie is 16 and David is 10," she says. "I wanted to be with them. I taught music at private schools for five years but now work as a secretary at St. Joseph's Church. They are very understanding about matinees and sick children."

Shipley has sung in the past with the Chesapeake and Harford opera companies. "But they are no longer around," she says. "I would love to audition for the now revived Annapolis Opera Company and sing the more challenging roles . . . the ones that wreck your voice," she laughs.

Shipley takes time off between shows to lead a normal life with her children and study with vocal coach Ron Gretz, professor of music at Essex Community College. "But brother Eddie is in one show after the other," she says. "He has the compulsion to perform."

Peters attended Towson State University where he studied theater. Currently he is enrolled in a business management course at Dundalk Community College. "Something to fall back on," he says.

"I would like to pursue a professional career," says Peters, who portrayed the corrupt Emcee in the White Marsh production of "Cabaret" this season. "My most challenging role," he says.

Last season the actor danced and sang the main role of Don Lockwood in the White Marsh version of "Singin' in the Rain."

"I have always admired Gene Kelly," he says. "I want to play all the roles he played. But I would like to get a better grasp of acting. Someday I envision doing the leads in 'Sweeney Todd' and 'Man of LaMancha.'"

"That's down the road, something to look forward to," encourages sister Joyce.

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