A cornucopia of songs

Review: Chesapeake Music Hall's production of "The Best of Broadway - Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance" is filled with spirited performances.

January 10, 2002|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Chesapeake Music Hall owner Sherry Kay Anderson has worked hard to keep her Anne Arundel dinner theater thriving for seven years at a location, on Busch's Frontage Road, where others have failed. She has been director, choreographer, set builder, chef and costume designer.

Her performing talents were evident Sunday, when she sang a selection from Mame to open the music hall's presentation The Best of Broadway - Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance.

The production showcases 22 singers and dancers performing music from the music hall's major shows. The cast delivers three dozen songs in a show that should appeal to casual theatergoers and serious fans of Broadway musicals.

Anderson started the show by singing "It's Today," as the cast arrived onstage.

Then, with everyone in place, "Good Ol' Burlesque Show" from Sugar Babies sent the energy level into the rafters, where it remained most of the afternoon.

Actress Carol Cohen filled the gaps created by costume changes by reminding us what a heavenly Mother Superior she had been in Nunsense and its sequel, Nunsense II. Cohen then expressed the enduring affection of a Jewish wife for her husband of 25 years when, as Golda, she sang a duet with Jason Fulmer's Tevye in "Do You Love Me?" from Fiddler on the Roof.

Fiddler illustrates the advantages of this type of variety show. Although I found Jerry Vess and Lynn Garretson's "Miracle of Miracles" quite touching, and "Matchmaker" was fun when sung by Mary Armour-Kaiser, Nicole Anderson and Amber Wright, the idea of sitting through an entire Fiddler is not so appealing considering that these few tunes convey the play's charm.

Many in this show wear several hats. Vess, a skilled director, is an actor who invests every role with honesty, whether he's a losing ballplayer singing "You Gotta Have Heart" from Damn Yankees or revving up his star power as Doolittle dancing and singing "A Little Bit of Luck" from My Fair Lady.

Other CMH troupers include Shannon Benil, Andrea Elward, Kevin Cleaver, Dean Davis, Peter Kaiser, Leslie Rauch, Kevin Wheatley and Charlie Rogers. Every one of them can play a lead, moving into the star spotlight with ease.

Joe Rose has always displayed a winning trouper-star combination, whether heating up the floor with his dancing or turning on the vocal magic as Curley with "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning" from Oklahoma!

Armour-Kaiser displayed great versatility in several numbers. She invested "Growing Up Catholic" with deep conviction, then became the perfect Lucy, singing "Schroeder" from You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. She hilariously dropped all inhibitions as she strutted as stripper Tessie Tura in "Gimmick."

Like Armour-Kaiser, Tere Fulmer reveals the essence of her characters. She can play a Jewish mother in Funny Girl or a victimized clerk in Little Shop of Horrors. And she can belt out a song with the best of them - anything from the up-tempo "An Old- Fashioned Wedding" from Annie Get Your Gun to a comic "I Taught Her Everything She Knows" to a near-operatic "Make Believe" in duet with her husband, Jason.

Finally, there's 14-year-old Nicole Anderson, the theater owner's daughter, who revealed her amazing versatility in a dozen numbers. She was one of the boys in Big River, a high-kicking dancer in "One" from Chorus Line, Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz and a charming Louise in "All I Need is The Girl" from Gypsy. She is a natural who can't help stealing every scene she's in.

There's so much to enjoy in this show - and it's a bargain at a $25 a ticket.

Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance will be presented through January. Reservations: 410-626-7515.

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