2 theaters live up to tradition

Shows do go on, after a fashion

February 15, 2005|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

Over the weekend, audiences at Baltimore's two regional theaters got a firsthand lesson in the famed stage tradition of "the show must go on" -- at least most of the time.

During the first preview performance of the rock musical Two Gentlemen of Verona at Center Stage on Friday, the actress playing Julia, one of the female leads, injured her vocal cords. She finished the performance, but Saturday's show was canceled because Center Stage does not budget for understudies.

Audiences at Two Gentlemen on Sunday found an insert in their programs informing them that Julia would be played by a member of the chorus, Toni Trucks. Then director Irene Lewis came on stage and explained that Lisa Datz, who was to have played Julia, would be out of the show for one to three weeks. Because her replacement, Trucks, would be performing after only one day's preparation, Lewis cautioned that the actress might carry some note cards.

The director also explained that some pictures of Julia are used in the show and the audience might notice a discrepancy because Datz, the original Julia, is blond, and Trucks is African-American.

Meanwhile, Trucks' role in the chorus was played by Karina Michaels, the production's assistant choreographer, and Michaels' singing was enhanced by offstage vocals by actress Tina Stafford, wife of one of the actors in the cast.

Janis Silverman, a subscriber who attended Sunday's performance, said Lewis' pre-curtain speech immediately won the audience's sympathy and had everyone "rooting" for Trucks. And though Trucks did carry notes, "she didn't use them. We figured it was her security blanket," Silverman said, adding, "She did a good job."

At the end of the performance, Silverman said Trucks and Michaels came out together and received a standing ovation. And at the end of the curtain call, Datz also came out and took a bow.

An even more sudden change happened at Everyman Theatre on Friday. Just before curtain time, Lance Coadie Williams, who plays the male lead of Dr. Joseph Cardin in The Children's Hour, suffered an asthma attack. The curtain was held for a half-hour while paramedics worked on Williams backstage.

Actor Kyle Prue, who had understudied the role but had never performed it, replaced Williams with 15 minutes' notice. Prue's performance earned him hardy applause Friday, according to stage manager Mandy Hall.

Prue also played Dr. Cardin at both Saturday performances, but Williams was back in the show in good health Sunday and is expected to complete the run, which transfers to Rep Stage in Columbia on Feb. 25.

"Never a dull moment in live theater," Everyman artistic director Vincent M. Lancisi commented yesterday. "Things like this keep us on our toes and at the top of our form. Sometimes it's against all odds, but the show must go on."

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