Howard County Summer Theatre sticks to its script with `Joseph' and casts those who have a familial bond -- both on the stage and off.

Staging a family-friendly show

Howard Live

Arts and entertainment in Howard County

July 08, 2005|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,SUN STAFF

When Jonny Norman is on stage in the lead role of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, he has real-life family connections in addition to the family drama unfolding in the musical.

Norman's brother is playing one of Joseph's 11 brothers, and Norman's father is playing a butler.

Members of the company say a family feeling -- both literally and in the camaraderie of the company -- is a hallmark of the 31-year old Howard County Summer Theatre.

People often perform alongside their spouses, children and siblings. Among the cast and crew, "It is definitely a family-like atmosphere," said Norman, of Ellicott City. "You expect to see people every year."

The company opened its eight-performance run last night at River Hill High School in Clarksville. Performances continue through July 16.

Ticket sales will benefit two charities: Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland and Prepare for Success, which provides school supplies for Howard County children.

The show, composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber with lyrics by Tim Rice, tells the biblical story of Joseph, the favorite son of Jacob, who is given a multicolored coat.

His jealous brothers sell him into slavery, but he rises to become the assistant to the Egyptian pharaoh and is later reunited with his family.

The musical is entirely sung, with no spoken dialogue, and will use a 57-member children's choir, bringing the total number of on-stage roles to 132. Dozens more volunteers perform in the orchestra, make sets and costumes and handle technical aspects.

"It is always a large cast with many family groups and individuals involved from all walks of life, from age 6 to 70," said director Tom Sankey.

This year, the principals of Mount Hebron and Centennial high schools are in the show, along with several teachers and students. The cast also has mothers, lawyers and at least one professional actor. Norman, 22, is an electrical engineer.

Sankey, a math teacher and drama director at Mount Hebron High School, has directed the past 22 summer theater shows. He said the group's mission is "to provide quality family entertainment at a reasonable cost."

Amanda Tschirgi of Ellicott City credits Sankey with fostering a family-friendly atmosphere in the company, as well as for the audience.

She joined the company as an actor when she was in high school and has served as choreographer for all 22 of Sankey's productions.

"I especially loved his vision for working with kids and families," she said. Her daughter, Laura, 15, is in the cast, and daughter, Ali, 6, is in the children's choir.

"I think the family that sings together stays together," said Veronica Clarke of Ellicott City. She is one of two narrators, and her husband and two sons, ages 17 and 13, are in the show, too.

She said, "It's wonderful because everyone is so enthusiastic." It is an entirely volunteer show, she said, so, "you know they're here because they want to be."

As the cast gathered for its final dress rehearsal Wednesday, Sankey brought the message of unity home.

He said he did not want to hear anyone say that he or she is just a member of the chorus because "that to me cheapens what this whole thing is about."

He said every actor "is so invaluable to what is going on onstage, and that is what is going to bring this up a level."

The Howard County Summer Theatre will perform at 7:30 tonight and tomorrow, at 2:30 p.m. Sunday and at 7:30 every night, July 13 through 16. Tickets cost $12, or $10 for children and senior citizens, and are available at, at Music and Arts Center in Chatham Station or at the door. Information :410-461-3830.

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