"Talent Machine", the young people's Broadway review presented by the Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre, has become something of a summer ritual in these parts, and the inevitable 1993 incarnation is in production Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights at the City Dock.
In some respects, this year's model has changed little from its predecessors. The plot, centered as it is around a goofy professor who helps kids find theatrical talent they didn't know they had, remains a slender vehicle, and there are some sequences ("Hard Candy Christmas," for example) that still make no dramatic sense whatsoever.
But let me report that I found "Talent Machine" '93 more enjoyable than all the other installments in the series that I can remember, and I recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone who would like to be impressed by all the young talent we have in our area.
0 To begin with, this is unquestionably the youngest cast I've seen director Bobbi Smith work with. Many of her older performers have moved on to college or to the ASGT junior production of "42nd Street" which opens this month.
The younger kids are an absolute delight to watch. Their energy never, but never flags and, in many cases, there is considerable talent working in tandem with all that adrenalin. As always, Ms. Smith puts them through their paces, steadfastly refusing to treat them like babies. The songs often are quite difficult, and the choreography is demanding. Musically, the kids often sound like kids. But there is nothing juvenile about their dancing. They step high and fast while exhibiting admirable polish and care.
The principal larcenist among these young scene-stealers is a 12-year-old from The Key School named Jessica Crouse, who sings quite well and dances up a veritable storm throughout. Her dance to "Solo Saxophone," from "Miss Saigon," in which she's assisted by Michael Wright, is the high point of the show.
I was also most impressed with Molly Klein as the bashful girl who comes out of her shell just in time to lead the final production number of the talent show with real pizazz.
The ensemble numbers also turn up some winners. "All That Jazz" is particularly stylish, as are the Crouse-led dances, "Gettin' Out" and "Good Morning".
The littlest kids are very cute in "I Won't Grow Up," and even though they can't quite sing Eric Clapton's "Tears in Heaven," they sign it beautifully.
The talented Charles Alexander makes his ASGT debut as the kids' nutty mentor, and he is a riot, especially in his "You Ain't Never Had A Friend Like Me" from "Aladdin". Yes sir, Professor Gesundheit is nothing to sneeze at.