Garden theater ready to launch its 37th season

Production: The Annapolis summer group opens tomorrow with `Rock Around the Dock.'

May 30, 2002|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

If summer in Annapolis began Friday with the Naval Academy's commencement, tomorrow evening it will be in full swing when the Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre opens its 37th season with Rock Around the Dock, an original music and dance revue, playing Thursdays through Sundays until June 28.

Later in the summer, the outdoor stage is set for classic Shakespeare and Broadway offerings, including Twelfth Night on July weekends and the Neil Simon-Burt Bacharach musical Promises, Promises in August.

The company's annual productions take place in a 200-seat courtyard theater at 143 Compromise St., the site of an old blacksmith shop across from City Dock.

Rock Around the Dock represents the first original show in Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre's 36-year history and celebrates the kind of rock 'n' roll music that flourished in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

The production is directed by Jeff Hitaffer and Kevin Wheatley and choreographed by Kimberly Stevens, with Matt Hutchison coordinating the 10-piece band made up mostly of local college students. A cast of nine singers and eight dancers will join the live band on stage.

Singers include such seasoned professionals as Kevin Cleaver, Andrea Elward, Jessica Hyman, song and dance men Hitaffer and Joe Rose, along with experienced singers who also know how to move and are making their debut with the Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre.

Dancers include veterans of the theater troupe and of Chesapeake Music Hall. One impressive dancer from the Mustard Seed Dance Company - Chase Taylor, a Catholic University sophomore - will celebrate his 18th birthday by studying opera abroad in scenic Amalfi, Italy.

When the stage shifts to Shakespeare in July, the cast of Twelfth Night will include Annapolis Symphony Orchestra's music director Leslie B. Dunner, who wants to stretch creatively in new directions and who will play Feste the Clown and perform on the recorder. The cast also includes the orchestra's box office and marketing manager Lauren Kirby, who will play Maria.

Hayley Clark, a trained dancer and fine actress who has performed for the past six Summer Garden seasons, will play Viola, Daniel Sullivan will play Sir Andrew and veterinarian-actor Larry Richman will again grace the stage in this romantic comedy stressing the madness of love, filled with mistaken identity and gender crossing.

"This is a great show and a Shakespearean play that is easy for the audience to identify with, and this time it will be set in Nantucket," director Anne Rottenborn said Monday evening. "Leslie was looking to do something else creative, and he'll be great [in an] important role that links the players. He has also composed some special music appropriate to the Nantucket setting of our Twelfth Night."

Summer Garden's season ends with Promises, Promises, the 1968 musical version of the 1960 movie The Apartment about junior executive Chuck Baxter, who lends his apartment to various higher-ups to pursue their affairs .

The musical includes such songs as "I'll Never Fall in Love Again," "Wanting Things" and "Wherever You Are."

"I'm pleased that we have a great cast with Joe Rose playing Chuck Baxter and Andrea Elward playing Fran Kubelik," said director Bob Rude. "They can handle the Bacharach music that's not easy to sing with its tricky rhythms. Also, they're excellent actors who will do well in their roles."

All shows run Thursdays through Sundays, beginning at about 8:30 p.m. Season tickets are available at $28 by calling the box office at 410-268-9212. Additional information is available by visiting the Web site at www.summergarden.com.

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