`Amelia' a musical journey

Aviatrix: A locally written and produced show about the famed pilot comes to the Chesapeake Arts Center.


Howard Live

July 01, 2004|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Excitement was building at a recent rehearsal for the world premiere of the musical Amelia's Journey, which opens July 16 at Chesapeake Arts Center.

Cast members were on hand last weekend, as were the playwright, composer, director and choreographer. The cast and crew have been in rehearsal since March.

In 1990, composer-lyricist and Annapolis attorney Doug Schenker came up with the concept of creating a musical about aviatrix Amelia Earhart and publisher and promoter George Palmer Putnam.

Schenker described his musical score as "following the relationship between reluctant celebrity Earhart and Putnam, who exploited his media contacts and used multiple commercial sponsors to create a superstar who wrestled with the demons of celebrity."

More than a decade ago, Schenker persuaded playwright Linda Page, also of Anne Arundel County, to join him in bringing theatrical life to Amelia and George, from their first meeting in 1928 until her disappearance in 1937.

Page said, "When she first met Putnam, Amelia vehemently disliked him, but she ended up marrying him." She described Earhart as "not a very good pilot who may have become one if her promoter had allowed her time to sharpen her flying skills."

Page, who is excited the play is finally going to be performed, said, "It is so much fun to watch the wonderful actors and actresses bring this story to life."

On Saturday, choreographer Vicki Smith rehearsed the dancers. Director Eloise Ullman said, "I have the perfect cast from seasoned veterans to wonderful new actors. I am excited about our opening. While Amelia Earhart should be familiar to almost everyone, the perspective Doug and Linda have put on her story is different and exciting."

The show has two leads who seem predestined to play their roles.

Scott Tanski, who plays George Palmer Putnam, said, "I came to the audition with a friend and was really just along for the ride" when he was persuaded to try out for the part of George. Tanski said he considers George "a challenge to make into a tower-of-power force to be reckoned with."

Director Ullman came across Mary Simmons' name in her address book, having met her earlier through a friend. Recalling that she had the right physical characteristics for the part, Ullman invited Simmons to audition for the Earhart role. Simmons, who had devoted most of her time recently to family, said she felt the time might be right.

Immersed in the role of Amelia, Simmons has even branched out into another aspect of her character; she had been able to "obtain an authentic vintage flight jacket ... and caps, goggles and silk scarves" to costume her Amelia properly.

Amelia's Journey opens July 16 with shows at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 3 p.m. Sundays through July 26 at the Studio Theater of Chesapeake Arts Center. For tickets, call 410-636-6597.

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