Production shows `Best of' the stage

Musical: With strong performances, this show is a must-see.

Howard Live

Review

January 09, 2003|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

With the current production of The Best of Broadway - Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance, Sherry Kay Anderson celebrates her eighth anniversary as owner of Chesapeake Music Hall, the only dinner theater in Annapolis.

The multitalented Anderson again directs, produces, choreographs, designs and creates costumes and decorates sets while often serving as chef for this second annual "Best of" production. She also finds that she's "gotta sing and dance," lighting up the stage as she re-creates her roles as Mame and Gypsy's Mama Rose.

The now-slimmer Anderson looks better than ever while displaying her star power in numbers such as "If He Walked Into My Life" from Mame. As Mama Rose of Gypsy, she gains extra magic singing "Everything's Coming Up Roses" to her lovely daughter Nicole as her stage daughter Louise.

The production showcases 18 singers and dancers performing three dozen songs from many of the music hall's major shows. With their unique charisma and versatility, several performers also qualify as leading ladies.

Carol Cohen, who was in Butterflies Are Free, the first Music Hall production in February 1995, re-creates her past portrayals. As Golda from Fiddler on the Roof in her duet "Do You Love Me?" with Allan Hoffman's Tevye, she expresses the enduring affection of a Jewish wife for her husband of 25 years while exploiting every comic nuance. Later, she becomes a deliciously nasty Miss Hannigan singing "Easy Street" from Annie, and in "Look Ma, I Made It" transforms herself into a heavenly Reverend Mother of Nunsense II. To top it off, Cohen serves up an irresistible stripper Electra in "Gimmick" from Gypsy.

Proving her versatility and high-wattage star power, Tere Fulmer belts out a hilarious "Moon Song" from Mame, following it with a touching "Somewhere That's Green," recalling her unforgettable Audrey, the victimized clerk in Little Shop of Horrors. And Fulmer becomes every inch a baroness, while revealing an impressive soprano voice, to do justice to The Sound of Music score in "How Can Love Survive?" with Hoffman and Jeff Davis.

Whether portraying a Copa girl, a nun, an orphan or a stripper, Mary Armour-Kaiser knows how to light up the stage and steal every scene with her dynamism and comic talents. Proving to have equally high-voltage talent, adorable Katy Smith in a lovely "Over The Rainbow" re-creates her Dorothy from Wizard of Oz, and creates magic with her real-life fiance Ronnie Schronce in Sound of Music's "I Am 16 Going on 17."

Shannon Benil is an integral part of every number she graces. Nicole Anderson also proves herself a versatile trouper, appearing as a chorus girl in Mame, an orphan in Annie, a down-on-her-luck resident of "Hooverville" and an energetic, high-kicking dancer in a dozen numbers.

The males could not match the ladies, with only Hoffman able to fill the leading-man category. Recently seen as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, he is at his best in "Do You Love Me?" and "Tradition," and he delights in "Dentist" from Little Shop of Horrors.

The dearth of male star power is reflected in the omission of the biggest songs that identify shows such as Sound of Music, Show Boat and My Fair Lady. This is not to diminish the formidable dancing talents of Schronce, or the distinctive charm of Davis, who re-creates his slick Rooster in Annie.

"The Best of Broadway - Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance 2003" continues on weekends through Feb. 15. Chesapeake Music Hall's box office: 410-626-7515.

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