'Talent Machine' a great vehicle for youths' pizazz Energy, commitment shine through in singing, dancing

July 07, 1992|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,Contributing Writer

"Talent is like shad," said Mrs. Edgar Leventritt, the sponsor of the prestigious piano and violin competition that once bore her name. "When it runs, it runs."

Indeed, there is a great deal of young theatrical talent running over at the Annapolis Summer Garden Theater, where "The Talent Machine" is already off and running in its fifth consecutive season.

Like its predecessors, the 1992 version takes the singing and dancing talents of young performers from our area and weaves them into a show-biz revue that revolves around the now-familiar Norman Vincent Peale-Wizard of Oz plot.

In truth, the skimpy story outline represents no great loss, since the production numbers are the show's bread and butter, anyway.

Last Tuesday evening, the "Talent Machine" cast and crew braved a thunderstorm and a delay of nearly 90 minutes and came through with a show of commendable energy and pizazz. There wasn't a hint of letdown or distraction in the spirit of these youngsters, who range in age from 8 to one grand old man of 15. The level of commitment was very impressive, indeed.

There was much to admire:

* An excellent medley from "Les Miserables," highlighted by Laurie Frank's sensitive singing of Cosette's ballad, "On My Own," surely one of the most hauntingly beautiful songs of recent years.

* A strikingly inventive "Under the Sea" from "The Little Mermaid," as the house goes dark and a school of colorful creatures from the deep takes the stage in familiar splendor.

* Erin Roasacher's lovely account of the "Beauty and the Beast" song as Sara Snyder and Jason Diedrich pas-de-deux elegantly to her sensitive singing.

* The talented Blewett family, which provides no fewer than four cast members. Christie is an excellent lead in "Gettin' Out of Town" and "Goin Cortin' ," while younger brother Joey is hilarious as the appropriately named "Diz." John Jr. is in the chorus, while dear old dad, John Sr., contributes a very nice "If You Believe" in his role as "Coach."

* Young Matt Garrity taking command of the stage with his voice in Andrew Lloyd-Webber's "Could Become a Star" and with some high-steppin' hoofing in the "Gotta Dance" sequence.

* The colorful, upbeat patriotic medley that closed the show and provided a wonderful lead-in to the Fourth of July.

* The exceptional dancing of Jessica Crouse, an 11-year-old Key School student who moves with the assurance of a woman twice her age. In fact, the entire cast moves exceptionally well, especially in the opening "A Chorus Line" sequence and in some stylish go-go moves in the finale.

At times, this year's plot organization seemed even more frenetically disjointed than usual. At point in Act I, the action moves from "Goin Cortin' " to "Wipe Out" to "Hard Candy Christmas" all in the space of about 45 seconds. It makes no sense at all.

"Y'all Got It" from "The Wiz" was poorly delivered, and the Elvis-like song from "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" was hampered by a malfunctioning sound system.

Act II is far better-paced than Act I, which easily could have lost three or four songs and still been of acceptable length.

I also have a word of caution to the many show-moms in my vicinity who saw fit to talk through the entire production about who wasn't smiling and whose cummerbund was about to come loose. The audience comes to see your children perform. Let them do so in silence.

The world doesn't want to hear about the labor pains. It just wants to see your babies.

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