Colonial Players do right by `Guardsman' musical

Review

March 17, 2006|By MARY JOHNSON | MARY JOHNSON,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

This season's musical at Colonial Players is Enter the Guardsman, which was written by Scott Wentworth, with music by Craig Bohmler and lyrics by Marion Adler. It was adapted from Ferenc Molnar's 1911 play The Guardsman into a charming backstage musical that premiered in 1997.

The plot describes a husband's attempt to rekindle his wife's affection after six months of marriage when he suspects she has reached "the limit of her romantic attention span." He decides to send her roses from "the famous poet" Anonymous.

The husband -- referred to as the Actor -- eventually disguises himself in uniform as the Actress' secret admirer, testing her love by playing the role of the Guardsman. Does the Actress love the Actor who is her husband or the Guardsman who is also her husband in disguise?

Amused at the Actor's dilemma, the Playwright narrator advises the Actor to deal with the Guardsman by "challenging him to a duel," cautioning that he "can't untwist the plot because it will have you beside yourself."

If this plot seems familiar, a similar idea was used more than 200 years ago by Mozart in his opera Cosi Fan Tutte about two young men wagering on the faithfulness of their girlfriends by pretending to join the army and returning in disguise to test their fidelity.

Composer Bohmler and lyricist Adler produced a tuneful, clever score containing a rousing march title song performed by the company, a catchy tango titled "Drama" by the Playwright and Dresser, a lovely, haunting "Waiting in the Wings" sung by the Dresser and a lilting "My One Great Love" sung by the Actress and the Guardsman.

Colonial's production is directed by veteran actor-director Lois Evans, who brought this tale of theater life to the company, noting that it "reflects a true theatrical company effort backstage and onstage and is a team effort." This production also reflects Evans' sense of joy, which she brought to the task and to her cast.

A true ensemble production, Colonial's Guardsman features an excellent cast to do full justice to the score. Extra applause should go to Mark Hildebrand, who served as music director in addition to playing dual roles as the Actor and Guardsman. Hildebrand proved that he not only knows his way around a tune but is a skilled enough actor to bring both characters to humorous life -- the loyal, vulnerable husband and the romantic, flamboyant and charmingly insecure Austrian guardsman.

As the Actress, singer Wendy Baird has the requisite stage presence and attractive persona. Baird conveys her character's romantic yearnings together with a slyness and sophistication.

Duncan Hood is perfectly cast as the Playwright, who is also the couple's confidant. Hood invests the role with warmth and an insouciance to deliver a polished performance with excellent singing and dancing.

Marti Pogonowski brings distinction to the rather anonymous role of the Dresser, delivering two great songs -- "You Have the Ring" and "Waiting in the Wings" -- and joining Hood in a memorable "Drama" tango.

Supporting players Jamie Hanna as the Assistant Stage Manager, Scott Nichols as the Wigs Master and Andrea Elward as the Wardrobe Mistress contribute to the success of a spirited production.

The show runs weekends through April 8. Tickets: 410-268-7373.

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