Energetic Talent Machine heads down `42nd Street'

Tap-dancing, tunes mark show within show set for three weekends

July 22, 1999|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Expect a "42nd Street" paved with talent when the young cast of Talent Machine Company dances in July 29 for a three-weekend run at St. John's College. Talent Machine is known for imaginative choreography and high-voltage energy -- exactly what this show needs.

This musical began life as a 1933 Busby Berkeley movie. Berkeley was known for his imaginative filming of elaborate Hollywood production numbers. Twenty-seven years later, another legendary dance man -- Gower Champion, a choreographer, director and dancer -- revived it on Broadway. It opened in 1960 and became an enduring hit with its lively tap-dancing and great songs, running for eight years with 3,486 performances.

The Harry Warren/Al Dubin score includes: "You're Getting to Be a Habit With Me," "Shuffle Off to Buffalo," the title tune, "Lullaby of Broadway" and "We're In the Money."

This backstage musical, a show within a show, centers on the problems of producing a hit show.

Small-town, stage-struck Peggy Sawyer is hired as a chorus girl for "Pretty Lady." Dorothy Brock is the fading star who breaks her ankle during the show's tryout. Peggy is waiting in the wings, dreaming of becoming a star.

After back-breaking rehearsing and heart-breaking romancing, a star is born to help pull the show together, as everybody tap-dances to a happy ending.

Talent Machine Company, an Anne Arundel County theater group for youths high-school age and younger, has assembled a cast that should bring new life to the classic show.

A recent graduate of St. Mary's High School, Jessica Crouse, 18, plays Peggy Sawyer. (Crouse, who has been lighting up Talent Machine productions for nine years, will go to college in New York this fall.)

Kathleen Scott, 16, who played Dorothy in Second Stage's spring production of "The Wizard of Oz" and is a 2-year TM veteran, will bring her lovely voice to the role of Dorothy Brock.

Versatile Daniel Sonntag, 17, proved he could portray a middle-aged man when he played Emil Debeque this spring at Archbishop Spalding High School. Now, fresh from his TM stint as the Cowardly Lion in "The Wiz," Sonntag has the leading role of director Julian Marsh. Veteran TM player and tenor James Flanagan, 18, seen in the title role in "The Wiz," and in Spalding's "South Pacific" as Lt. Cable, plays Billy Lawler, the male lead in "Pretty Lady." Corinne Becker, 17, of Severna Park, plays wise-cracking writer Maggie Jones, and Jake Thornhill, 17, the acrobatic "Wiz" Scarecrow, plays writer Bert Barry.

Talent Machine founder Bobbi Smith has choreographed and directed every show in the company's 11-year history. Known for her skill in developing and showcasing young talent, Smith has all the prerequisites to make the show's big production numbers come alive.

Talent Machine Company's "42nd Street" runs from July 29 through Aug. 14 at St. John's College in Annapolis. Performances are at 7: 30 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and at 6: 30 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are $10 and may be ordered by calling 410-956-0512.

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