Young talent delivers a nice 'Meet Me in St. Louis'

March 18, 1994|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,Special to The Sun

"Meet Me in St. Louis" doesn't present its audiences with as much of the eye-popping talent as we've seen from the Children's Theatre of Annapolis in the past, but that is the nature of the enterprise.

Many scrupulously trained CTA leads of recent years -- especially the male ones -- have moved on to college, leaving behind a nucleus of very young talent that will become the experienced stars of tomorrow.

How young? Two-thirds of the "St. Louis" cast is 15 or younger. But, boy, are they getting on-the-job training in this show!

"Meet Me in St. Louis" is a light-hearted story of the lives and loves of the Smith sisters back in turn-of-the-century Missouri. The tuneful score features such hits as "The Trolley Song" ("Clang, clang, clang went the trolley"), "The Boy Next Door" and, of course, the famous title song. If you can't place these songs, conjuring a mental image of Judy Garland should help.

CTA's current superstar is Laurie Frank, a junior at the Baltimore School for the Arts who, at 16, is already a seasoned performer capable of committing grand larceny in scene after scene. As Esther Smith, she has that elusive knack of making everyone else on stage better by her very presence, and her songs ring out stylishly.

Liz Bennett is also very fine as Rose, Esther's older sister. Their duet, "How Do I Look," is the artistic high point of the show.

The male leads are handled quite capably by Brock Ballard, a high school sophomore, and Joe Curro, a freshman. They have the talent to be very fine actors if they continue to work and grow. The remainder of the Smith family come off well, especially Katy Smith as the hilarious little "Tootie." But it would be nice to see the talented young lady who plays their maid enter more willingly into the fun of the show. Last Sunday afternoon, she mailed it in.

With the exception of a finale that all but fell off the stage, the ensemble numbers were very engaging. Choreographer Patrick Wenning has the kids moving smartly despite an accompanying tape devoid of any rhythmic impetus.

Director Peter Kaiser has mounted a handsome production on the Pascal Center stage. If your kids are like mine, they'll be particularly intrigued by the trolley car that actually goes all by itself!

"Meet Me in St. Louis" will run tonight and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Pascal Center for the Performing Arts at Anne Arundel Community College. Tickets are $6. Information: 757-2281.

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