Backstage tale to make local debut

Colonial Players to present `Guardsman,' a musical on 2 actors' dramatic marriage



Enter the Guardsman, a musical/romantic comedy about a man who begins anonymously sending roses to his wife when he senses that she's getting bored with him, will be offered by Colonial Players this month as their musical for the season.

At rehearsal this week the mood of the director and cast seemed upbeat as they readied the regional premiere of this 1997 musical comedy with roots in Viennese operetta.

Opening at Colonial Players East Street theater on March 10, Enter the Guardsman is adapted from Ferenc Molnar's 1911 play The Guardsman, set in late 19th-century Vienna. It is a backstage tale about an acting couple recently married and already seeking new adventures.

Molnar's play became a 1931 movie starring Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, the quintessential acting couple.

This show's authors - librettist Scott Wentworth and lyricist Marion Adler - are also a husband-and-wife acting team who created this musical confection with composer Craig Bohmler. It premiered in London in 1997, winning the "Best Musical of the Year" award in an international competition held in Denmark.

After debuting in 2000 in New York to mixed reviews, the show has enjoyed success in regional theaters across the country.

In this musical where the characters have generic names, the story is narrated by The Playwright, a friend of both The Actress and The Actor, married only six months. Sensing that his wife may have already grown bored with him, The Actor starts sending her roses before disguising himself in a military uniform as a secret admirer.

The Playwright discovers that the wife's admirer is actually her husband, who is aware of his wife's history of romances enduring only six months. The Actor has taken on the role of The Guardsman to become his wife's lover, creating a situation where he actually becomes jealous of himself.

At Sunday's rehearsal, director Lois Evans said, "This is a frothy, light-hearted romantic musical comedy with music that has never been recorded. Our musical director Mark Hildebrand has orchestrated his version of this delightful music for our show. This is a show that everyone should enjoy, and I encourage parents to bring their children along because this is truly a show for the whole family."

Adler's lyrics have been described as graceful and original, and Bohmer's music is full of solid tunes. This score has been compared to Sondheim's "A Little Night Music."

Having a backstage locale, this musical should be well suited to Colonial's in-the-round space. The characters are an ensemble of people we would expect to be working at a theater. In addition to the playwright and actors, the roles include a wardrobe mistress, a stage manager, a wigmaker and a dresser.

The Colonial cast includes Mark Hildebrand and Tom Magette, who will share the role of The Actor, Wendy Baird as The Actress, and Andrea Elward as The Wardrobe Mistress. Also in Colonial's cast are Jamie Hanna as The Stage Manager, Duncan Hood as The Playwright, Scott Nichols as The Wig Maker, and Marti Pogonowski as The Dresser.

The show runs Thursdays through Sundays beginning March 10 and ending April 8. Show times are 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 2:30 p.m. on Sundays, with one Sunday evening show March 21 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for full-time students and seniors. For tickets, call the Colonial Players box office at 410-268-7373.

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