Summer Garden members shine in `Me and My Girl'

August 12, 1999|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

"Me and My Girl" is the happiest show of Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre's current season.

The show is fresh, not overly done and redone here, but it also feels comfortably familiar with its 1930s Hampshire setting and catchy tunes about enduring love and keeping to your proper social niche.

A big hit in 1937 London, rewritten and revived in 1984, "Me and My Girl" became an even bigger hit in 1986 on Broadway, where it ran for 3 1/2 years and captured a number of Tonys, including one for best musical.

The story is filled with laughs as Bill Snibson and Sally Smith are thrown into high society when he inherits the title and estate of the Earl of Hereford. Both the title and estate will become permanently his if Bill can behave like a proper gentleman, including giving up his girl Sally.

A cheerful ensemble drew in the audience with the opening number, which included some clever staging that reveals a car built of round and rectangular suitcases. Players dismantle it and carry off the baggage to Noel Gay's cheery tunes.

Familiar players are showcased to reveal previously undisclosed talent. As family solicitor Herbert Parchester, Ronnie Schronce lights up the stage with singing, dancing and comedic skills far beyond my expectations.

Another player I'd seen only in supporting roles, Andrea Elward, brings star power to Lady Jacqueline Carstone. Funny and sexy teaching Bill about the livelier aspects of art and literature in "You Would If You Could," Elward also sings "Thinking of No One But Me" and "The Sun Has Got His Hat On" beautifully.

Joe Rose plays Bill Snibson as if made for the role, all but inhabiting the lovable, irrepressible Cockney character, who remains loyal to his friends and to his sweetheart. Draped in ermine, with a coronet atop his head, Rose is hilarious as he practices being lordly, confronting ancestral portraits that talk back and parade with him across the stage. He spouts malapropisms, promising Sally, for example, that she can get her "fingers manacled."

Rose is hilarious as he walks saddle-sore, takes pratfalls, and in the next moment, leaps athletically atop tables to become the consummate song-and-dance man.

Much of the show's charm comes from Andrea Hughes-Ostrowski as Bill's girl. She puts her heart into every song. As convincing a Cockney and every bit as lovable as Rose, Hughes-Ostrowski's Sally is wise and generous of heart, and after her transformation when "she's really got it," she becomes the fairest of fair ladies.

Ed Wintermute delivers a wry portrayal of Sir John Tremayne that conveys his long-suffering devotion to Duchess Maria and his later conspiratorial support of Sally. Wintermute's duet with Rose, "Love Makes the World Go Round," is a high point in the show. In the cameo role of Sir Jasper Tring, Arthur Anker delivers a good-humored performance, reflecting the fun he's having on stage and communicating that age is only a number.

Director Bob Rude has brought together a terrific cast and allowed them to display their talents. Music director Anita O'Connor has done a superb job with what is a deceptively simple score, filled with songs that are unusually long and often in unusual keys. O'Connor and Kathy Garrett gathered some top local musicians to produce the best music tape I've heard so far at ASGT.

Choreographer Jennifer Sjolie has designed a memorable evening of dance. Technical coordinator Peter O'Malley served as lighting and sound designer and crew chief as well as set designer, along with Bill Smith.

"Me and My Girl" is presented at 8: 30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday through Sept. 4. Reservations: 410-268-9212.

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