City playwright draws from `Rags' for musical


May 05, 2002|By Christina Bittner | Christina Bittner,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

A NEW MUSICAL featuring the music of Scott Joplin will premiere at 8 p.m. Friday at the Chesapeake Center for Creative Arts in Brooklyn Park.

Rags to Riches, described as a "madcap musical melodrama," was written by Baltimore playwright Michael Hulett. It is a production of the Musical Artists Theater, and it is based on the 1890s play From Rags to Riches by Charles A. Taylor.

Hulett's works are well-known in theater circles. His play Alexander and his adaptation of The Wind in the Willows have won national playwriting competitions. Basin Street and an adaptation of A Christmas Carol have been off-Broadway productions in New York, and he has two other plays that have been optioned for Broadway.

Hulett often works with composers on his plays, but this is the first time he "collaborated" with a deceased one.

"The biggest drawback was [that] I couldn't ask him to change a note," Hulett said. "Fortunately, I didn't have to. The music is just as he wrote it.

"The good thing," he added, "is that we didn't have any arguments."

"I went through all of Joplin's music. Many people know Joplin's rags because they were used in The Sting, but Rags to Riches takes place when the music was written. I discovered that Joplin wrote very beautiful, accessible melodies. His syncopated rhythms fall easily onto natural speech patterns," he said in an interview recently.

The story centers on the adventures of two orphans, Flossie and Ned. Unaware that they have inherited a fortune, the two fall prey to Charlie, the play's villain.

"Basically it's a romp. The villains aren't all that evil, and the heroes have their foibles. They're real people caught in ridiculous situations. That's what makes it so funny," Hulett said.

The Musical Artists Theater is a new theater company that is dedicated to the presentation of musical theater as an art form.

"When most people think of musicals, Oklahoma! and My Fair Lady come to mind. On Broadway they are working with million-dollar budgets, and when it involves that much money, you go with what works," Hulett said.

"But it also can be a creative process. Our goal is to develop original musicals, showcase contemporary American works and mount innovative productions of the classics. It's another media to explore a dramatic idea. Just because it is sung doesn't mean that it has to be a comedy," he added.

Performances are scheduled for 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays from Friday through May 26. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12.50 for children age 12 and younger, and $12 for members of the Chesapeake Center. The center is at 194 Hammonds Lane.

Information: 410-636-6597.

Variety show scheduled

The Brooklyn Heights Players ninth annual Dinner and Variety Show will be held Saturday at Brooklyn Heights United Methodist Church, 110 Townsend Ave.

A lasagna dinner will be served at 5:30 p.m., and the show will begin at 7 p.m. The show will feature music, improvisation, dance and comedy sketches.

"It's our ninth dinner and we usually have a sellout," church spokeswoman Cindy Wacker said.

Admission is $12.50 for adults and $5 for children ages 6 to 10. Children 5 and younger will be admitted free. To reserve tickets: 410-789-3688.

Lecture on nutrition

Sue James will speak at the Pumphrey Senior Nutrition Site at 10:30 a.m. Friday. James is a registered nurse and licensed dietitian with Nutrition Perspectives.

She will provide the latest information on how to maintain a healthful diabetic diet. The presentation will include a food model display, a 40-minute lecture, and samples of healthful meal plans.

Registration is required. The Pumphrey Senior Nutrition Site is in the Lloyd Keaser Community Center, 5757 Belle Grove Road.

Registration: 410-222-4434.

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