Fred Neil and about 75 other people who seek relief from the daily grind of their jobs are taking a break to sing in the rain this summer.
They're not just going to sing though. With the help of the Howard County Summer Theatre production of "Singing in the Rain" at Mount Hebron High this year, they're going to dance, tap, act and laugh their way through the downpour.
"It's amazing that people from so many different backgrounds like teachers, engineers, lawyers and accountants can pull together so well to produce a really good show," said Mr. Neil, a state employee from Columbia and former WCBM News & Sports producer and co-host. "There are people here who have never performed before and always wanted to, and then there are people who are show veterans.
"But we get together every summer because of our love for the theater," he added. "The Summer Theatre gives them an opportunity to perform outside of their daily jobs. It's a nice break."
The group is into its 18th year of production and auditions usually start in the beginning of May. The summer theater group, which relies on volunteers, has presented plays like "Fiddler on the Roof," "My Fair Lady," and "Brigadoon."
In the beginning, the group was created as a vehicle for interested actors and actresses in the county who wanted to maintain their talents throughout the summer. However, as the years went by, the theater group was opened to anyone interested in performing, said director Tom Sankey.
"We're after a professional type product in the end, but because we're all volunteers, we're mostly looking to have fun," said Mr. Sankey, a math teacher and school show director at Mount Hebron High. "Seeing how many people put on a production like this and how well it works is why you do it and come back each year to help," Mr. Sankey said.
Although they work with a small budget out of their ticket sales from year to year, the group boasts a talented cast and crew, he said. They include engineers who created a water contraption to produce rain on a mock stage, and a conductor who traveled with national tours for "Gypsy" and "Singing in the Rain."
"What I do here I do everywhere because it's my job," said orchestra director R.L. Rowsey, who also conducted shows for Toby's Dinner Theater in Columbia. "This isn't a job though, it's a really nice community activity that gives me a chance to work with people who really want to perform.
"To do this, you're committing all of your summer," Mr. Rowsey said. "It gives people who don't normally get the chance, to shine a little bit."
The theater also gives families, co-workers, as well as teachers and their students an opportunity to act together. Like Marilyn Binder and her family.
"When my older daughter was in the third grade, she auditioned for "Annie." She enjoyed it so much I joined the following year," said Mrs. Binder, a Columbia resident and speech pathologist for Baltimore County schools. "My 11-year-old daughter has been in it for five years and we even got Dad to join once.
"It's a learning experience and a good opportunity for people in the community to come together and do something good," she added.
Newcomers like Tracy Adler, who moved to Pikesville from California two years ago to get married, said she enjoyed the "great working atmosphere. We're all trying to attain the same goal . . . the success of the show." Mrs. Adler, a drama teacher at Wilde Lake High, said "People work really hard and they're very ** nice, that's why we work so well together."
Mr. Neil agreed. "We're like a family. We have a reunion each summer but we always leave room for new members," Mr. Neil said.
"Singing in the Rain" opened Friday and will be performed again at 2:30 p.m. today, and at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. General admission is $6; tickets for seniors and children under 12 are $5.