`The King and I' triumphs as 40th anniversary show

Success: The cast and crew of the Children's Theatre of Annapolis shine with professionalism in all areas of this major undertaking.


Arundel Live

March 23, 2000|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When Children's Theatre of Annapolis chose "The King and I" for its 40th anniversary production, could its directors have known what a huge undertaking that would entail -- or that the cast ranging in age from 8 to 18 could meet the demands of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical extravaganza?

CTA managed not only to succeed, but to triumph in almost every aspect of this difficult show. Mianna Jopp has done a superb job as director, Neena Keller-Demack has created enchanting choreography, and Eileen Eaton has done a masterful job with the singers and the dozen musicians who make up the orchestra.

The professionalism of the stage crew in its speedy changing of sets and the artful skills of the costume designers and assemblers also contribute mightily to the excellence of this production.

Most important is the magnitude and array of talent displayed by the young cast. Remarkably poised 17-year-old Kathleen Scott managed to become the schoolteacher Anna, a character at least twice her age. A Baltimore School for the Arts senior, Kathleen has great stage presence in addition to superb acting, singing and dancing skills.

Exhibiting strong acting skills and impressive maturity, 16-year-old Ben Dillard makes an exciting CTA debut as the king. The Northeast High School student is convincingly imperial as he deals with his subjects and grapples with the many "puzzlements" of the state.

In the role of Tuptin, 17-year-old Jessica MacMillan reveals a lovely singing voice and considerable acting ability, and is especially strong in her narration of "Small House of Uncle Thomas." Another outstanding player is Valerie Nebbia, 16, who plays head wife Lady Thiang and delivers a memorable "Something Wonderful."

Outstanding among the dancers is Chase Taylor, a 15-year-old who was stunning with his spirited dancing as Simon Legree in the ballet sequence.

Whether dancing together in the delightful "Small House of Uncle Thomas" ballet or singing in a choral rendition of "Getting to Know You," the assembled cast is magical. Indeed, every member deserves mention. Praise is due 10-year-old Matthew Stangle of Arnold who plays Anna's son, Louis; Jason Linker of Annapolis as Kralahome; and Dylan Roche of Severna Park as Chululonghorn.

Others are Kelsey Sherman of Annapolis as Princess Ying Yaowiak, Jacqueline Illuminate of Arnold who plays Eliza in the ballet, Patrick Cook of Pasadena as Lun Tha and Ben Greenfield of Cape St. Claire, who plays the sea captain and a priest.

Just as praiseworthy are: Jesse Bingham of Severna Park, Angie Boss of Cape St. Claire, Meg Bradshaw of Davidsonville, Kerry Deitrick of Severna Park, Lisa Delancy of Arnold, Sarah Espinosa of Arnold, Lea Erculiani of Crofton, Lara Jabin of Annapolis, Natalie Kaja of Millersville, Courtney Semmes of Severna Park, and Emily Wilson of Davidsonville.

And a bow to dancers: Allison Durgin, Jamie Hanna and Emily Strotman of Arnold; Brian Hoffman, Amy Merrick and Jennie Sweigart of Cape St. Claire; and Eric Eaton of Pasadena.

Children ages 8 to 11 play the king's children. The princes and princesses are: Chase Bender Bergeson of Arnold, Stephanie Cole of Edgewater, Chris and Samantha Engler of Arnold, Lindsay Espinosa of Arnold, David and Elizabeth Grindrod of Millersville, Carlee and Lydia Jabin of Annapolis, R. J. Pavel of Crofton and Annie Sherman of Annapolis.

Performances continue this weekend -- at 7 p.m. tomorrow, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday -- at Anne Arundel Community College's Pascal Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are $8 general admission, with discounts for seniors and groups of 20 or more. Call the CTA information line at 410-757-2281 and leave a message.

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