The Lyric announces season lineup

Theater: Included in the series are `Miss Saigon,' `Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk,' with Savion Glover and `Some Like It Hot,' with Tony Curtis.

Theater

March 14, 2002|By J. Wynn Rousuck and Mary Carole McCauley | J. Wynn Rousuck and Mary Carole McCauley,SUN STAFF

The 2002-2003 season at the Lyric Opera House will be a trip down memory lane, featuring return engagements of a number of Baltimore favorites, spiced up with a few newcomers to town, including Miss Saigon and Some Like It Hot, starring Tony Curtis.

"Miss Saigon makes it certainly the most exciting season we've presented," said Nicholas A. Litrenta, president of Performing Arts Productions, which books the series. "I'm equally as excited about Some Like It Hot. It is a completely new musical featuring one of America's favorite stars. I think it's going to be an absolute joy for the public."

Repeating the practice instituted for the current season, the subscription lineup will consist of four shows. A half-dozen others will be available as subscriber options, the largest number of options Performing Arts has presented.

Here are the subscription offerings:

West Side Story (Oct. 15-Oct. 20): Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents' landmark 1957 retelling of Romeo and Juliet will receive an all-new production. Previous revivals played the Lyric in 1996 and 1998.

Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk (Nov. 26-Dec. 1): George C. Wolfe's inventive chronicle of African-American history, related through dance, played the Mechanic in 1999. This time it comes to town starring its Tony Award-winning choreographer, Savion Glover, last seen at the Lyric two seasons ago in Savion! The Concert.

Miss Saigon (Dec. 26-Jan. 5): The Broadway production of this updated version of Puccini's Madame Butterfly by the creators of Les Miserables received a great deal of attention for its lavish staging, which included a helicopter. Promising that Baltimore will also see a helicopter, Litrenta said, "This is a large production, but it is not the behemoth that toured before."

Some Like It Hot (April 8-13): Librettist Peter Stone has revised his script for this new rendition of the 1972 Broadway musical, Sugar, based on Billy Wilder's classic 1959 movie. On film, Curtis played one of two musicians who disguise themselves as women to hide from the mob. On stage, he plays the tycoon who falls for one of the women. The Jule Styne-Bob Merrill score will feature five additional songs, including one from the movie. The reworked musical may be headed to Broadway.

Five of the six subscriber options have played Baltimore before: Lord of the Dance (Oct. 25-27), Stomp (Jan. 28-Feb. 2), Defending the Caveman (March 27-29), Rent (April 1-6) and Fosse (May 6-11). The sixth, the local debut of Mannheim Steamroller's Christmas Extraordinaire (Dec. 20), will be presented at the Baltimore Arena. The popular music group will transform the arena into a giant Christmas garden, complete with a full-size electric train.

Subscriptions to the main four-show series range from $108 to $236.50 and are currently available to renewing subscribers; the series goes on sale to new subscribers March 24. For more information, call 410-494-2712.

`Master Harold'

At just $12 a ticket, the Vagabond Players' staging of Master Harold ... and the Boys might be the best theater deal in town.

The show's three actors delve into their characters' considerable complexity, and Steve Yeager directs with a subtle touch - an attribute he might not have had much chance to demonstrate in his two best-known gigs: the film Divine Trash and a stage production of Jekyll and Hyde.

Athol Fugard's play explores the conflict between close personal ties and ugly racial realties in 1950s South Africa. Hally, a precocious teen-age boy, struggles to reconcile his feelings for his alcoholic father, his ineffectual mother, and the two black employees of his family's tea room. Sam and Willie have provided Hally with the only consistent affection he's ever known, but their relationship is threatened by a corrupt - and corrupting - society.

As Hally, 15-year-old Alex Borinsky is poignant and persuasive in a role that would daunt older, more seasoned actors. Alex lets us see Hally in all his callowness and vulnerability, as the boy wrestles with what it means to be a man in that culture - and with what type of man he wants to become.

Michael A. Kane is impressive as Sam, the play's moral center. He is strong enough to see exactly how fragile his young friend is, and to forgive the unforgivable.

In some ways, Willie is the expendable partner in Fugard's trio, but G. Scott Spence's deceptively simple performance helps the audience see that Willie is a kind of mirror: abused by his society, he abuses his girlfriend in return.

Tony Colavito's set, with its worn lilac wallpaper and Formica tables, evokes a diner that is on the edge of deteriorating from "homey" into "rundown."

There are a few missteps: At times, Alex raced through his lines, and some of Yeager's directorial cues are overly portentous. Every time a telephone rang, the three actors would look at each other, and then at the phone, and then at each other. Finally, someone would walk over so slowly it was as though gum was stuck on his shoes.

These faults are minor, though. The ending of Master Harold is somewhat ambiguous, and Yeager has chosen the most optimistic interpretation. We leave the theater full of hope - not just for the trio in this play, but for us all.

The Vagabond Players production of Master Harold ... and the Boys runs Fridays-Sundays through March 29 at 806 S. Broadway. Tickets cost $10-$12. Call 410-563-9135.

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