At Hippodrome, a long roar from `Lion King'


February 10, 2005|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

The Lion King will play a 14-week engagement, the longest of any touring show in Baltimore theater history, at the Hippodrome Theatre this summer.

"It hasn't played the mid-Atlantic. It has a huge following from the family standpoint," Marks Chowning, executive director of the Hippodrome, said of the musical's ability to sustain such a long run. "I think it just has the same kind of broad appeal that the really successful, long-running shows have had."

The run begins June 2 and concludes Sept. 4, more than a month longer than the previous record setter, Les Miserables, which played nine and a half weeks at the Mechanic Theatre in 1990. Chowning said there won't be any additional extentions because the production is booked into another city immediately after Baltimore. A final block of 50,000 tickets goes on sale tomorrow for the last three weeks' performances.

The Lion King is setting another Baltimore record as well. The most desirable seats are being sold for $135 as what Disney calls "premium ticket packages." The price also includes a piece of souvenir merchandise, a commemorative program and a commemorative ticket - add-ons that Chowning estimates are worth approximately $50. (The previous top price at the Hippodrome was $79.)

Tickets ($26.50-$135) can be purchased at the Hippodrome box office, 12 N. Eutaw St.; at Ticketmaster outlets; at www.BroadwayAcrossAmeri; or by calling 410-547-SEAT.

`Dog in the Manger'

The gutsy little Chesapeake Shakespeare Company has branched out and produced a work by the playwright known as the "Spanish Shakespeare," Lope de Vega. Last year, a Royal Shakespeare Company production of his Dog in the Manger earned the play renewed attention. Not to be outdone, Chesapeake Shakespeare commissioned its own translation, by Baltimorean Bob Alleman.

A great deal of effort has gone into this production, which features a cast of 14 and costumes so beautifully designed (by Kristina Lambdin) and crafted, they would be at home at almost any professional regional theater.

All of this is in service, however, of an early 17th-century romantic comedy that has neither the breadth nor depth of Shakespeare. Diana, a widowed countess, learns that Teodoro, her male secretary, plans to marry one of her ladies in waiting. Purely out of jealousy, Diana decides she must have him. Teodoro then rejects the lady in waiting on the vague chance that Diana might overcome the stigma of marrying below her station. In other words, Diana's a schemer; Teodoro's an opportunist. Both are heartless, and they deserve each other.

Teresa Castracane and Scott Graham portray these unsympathetic lovers competently, but matter-of-factly. The most notable performance is that of Valerie Fenton, whose wronged lady in waiting is an endearingly comic portrait of misery.

Indeed, the entire production is competent, but it never quite takes flight. Much of the problem is that director Isabelle Anderson and translator Alleman fail to find a consistent tone. Alleman tosses in a few jarring modern references. And Jeff Tremper, as Teodoro's lackey, does everything but handstands in an attempt to inject slapstick into the proceedings.

In the end, you can't help wishing that the good folks at Chesapeake had stuck with the Bard and let sleeping dogs lie.

The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company performs at the Howard County Center for the Arts, 8510 High Ridge Road, Ellicott City. Show times are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Saturdays, through Feb. 19. Tickets are $18. Call 410-752-3994.

Center Stage auction

Center Stage's 28th annual radio auction will be held from 8 a.m.-midnight Sunday on WBAL (1090 AM). A record 800-plus items will be up for bid. Highlights include tickets to a taping of Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, use of Cal Ripken Jr.'s skybox for an Aberdeen Ironbirds game at Ripken Stadium, and a four-hour tour of Washington on a Segway, a personal transportation device.

The complete list of auction items can be found at www.auc and will also be published in The Sun on Sunday. Over the years, the auction has raised more than $3 million for the theater. For more information on the auction or how to bid, call 410-986-4025.

In other Center Stage news, director Irene Lewis has cast the second dog she needs for the rock musical Two Gentlemen of Verona, which begins performances tomorrow. The lucky canine is Violet, an 8-year-old basset hound belonging to Kimberly Warren, a Center Stage subscriber. Two Gentlemen will be Violet's theatrical debut.

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