Choices abound in performing arts

May 14, 2006|By MARY JOHNSON | MARY JOHNSON,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The county of Maryland's capital boasts a performing arts array that might be the envy of areas twice its size, thriving culturally despite its proximity to Washington and Baltimore, where several first-rate theaters, world-class symphony orchestras and major opera companies compete.

Theater

Anne Arundel County's cultural hub is Annapolis, where three major theater companies are located: Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre. celebrating its 40th season; Colonial Players Inc., completing its 56th year; and relative newcomer Bay Theatre Company, ending its fourth season.

Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre at Main and Compromise streets, where a Colonial blacksmith once practiced his craft, offers three shows under the stars from the end of this month through Labor Day - in the recent past doing opening and closing musicals with a Shakespeare play in midseason.

Forgoing the Bard, Summer Garden opens May 26 with Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, which runs through June 24, followed by Urinetown, The Musical for July and ending with Cabaret from Aug. 4 to Sept. 2.

"We decided to select a 40th-anniversary season that would create a buzz," said Summer Garden's Carolyn Kirby. Anticipating Cinderella drawing intergenerational groups, Kirby added: "This show has the bonus of featuring our 1985 Annie - Nicole Roblyer - as director, Urinetown is a relatively new show that we hope will interest our traditional audience and a new generation of theatergoers. Cabaret opened on Broadway the year we were founded and is a classic, like us."

Information: 410-268-0809 or www.summergarden.com.

Colonial Players Inc. is an all-volunteer company that offers a five-show season of classics and occasional challenging new works to spice up its seasons.

Colonial's season begins in September with Michael Frayn's World War II drama Copenhagen, which focuses on a historical meeting of two physicist colleagues. This will be followed in October with Eugene O'Neill's classic, A Moon for the Misbegotten. After the traditional A Christmas Carol, January brings Matthew Barber's gentle comedy Enchanted April followed in March by the season's musical, Jekyll & Hyde by Bricusse and Wildhorn. The season ends with Ken Ludwig's comedy Moon Over Buffalo.

Information www.cplayers.com.

Bay Theatre Company, Annapolis' only professional theater, is completing its fourth and most successful season with Moliere's classic comedy Tartuffe running through June 3 at the theater's location in the lower level of the West Garrett office building at 275 West St.

Delighted with the company's success, Bay co-founder Lucinda Merry Brown said, "My partner, Janet Luby, and I make decisions together on choosing shows, and we keep up the artistic quality. Our success with Barefoot [in the Park] is helping to pay some of the costs of Tartuffe. We have a huge difference in costs over volunteer theater because we hire only professional actors, often Equity ones whom we pay according to scale. We've never done a show for less than $20,000, and Tartuffe costs considerably more than that.

"For 2006-07, we are doing an expanded season of four plays, and we plan to offer better seats hopefully in a larger space here."

Bay Theatre opens Sept. 22 with William Inge's Picnic followed in November with the musical A Man of No Importance and in February a thriller - Ira Levin's Deathtrap. The season closes with the first play, Table Manners, of Alan Ayckbourn's The Norman Conquests trilogy, which Bay Theatre will continue the next season.

Information: www.baytheatre.org or 410-268-1333.

Chesapeake Arts Center. North of Annapolis in Brooklyn Park at 194 Hammonds Lane is a former middle school converted six years ago into an arts venue called Chesapeake Arts Center, housing a 900-seat main theater and a 150-seat studio theater where a number of companies offer year-round shows. CAC has been a regular participant in the Baltimore Playwrights Festival, and last season presented Attention Span, an innovative play-reading series that failed to attract an adequate audience.

Much more successful with a regular following are C. J. Crowe's interactive Do or Die mystery productions where audiences are promised they will "die laughing." Next in the current series is Murder at the Oh No! Corral scheduled for May 20.

"The Chesapeake Arts Center continues to grow in theater, concerts and education," said Executive Director David Jones, who pointed to past successes, including "a spectacular show by Chinese dancers from Beijing and a performance by the national touring company of Menopause, The Musical and three successful shows in Studio Theatre by resident company Winters Lane."

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