`Cinderella' opens summer theater season



While Commissioning Week may mark the unofficial start of summer for some locals, the season begins for downtown theater lovers with tonight's debut at Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre.

The outdoor theater across from City Dock on the site of a colonial blacksmith shop is celebrating its 40th season of presenting three shows under the stars from Thursdays to Sundays through Labor Day.

Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella opens tonight and runs through June 24 followed by Urinetown The Musical in July.

The season ends with Cabaret from Aug. 4 to Sept. 2.

"We decided to select a 40th anniversary season that would create a buzz, with Cinderella drawing intergenerational groups," said Carolyn Kirby, president of Summer Garden's board of directors.

She added that Urinetown will draw interest from Summer Garden's traditional audience and a new generation of theatergoers.

"Cabaret opened on Broadway the year we were founded and is a classic, like us," Kirby added.

Nicole Roblyer-Fickes, who played the title role in the Garden Theatre's 1985 production of Annie, is back as the director and music director of Cinderella.

This alumna of Children's Theatre and the Talent Machine Company taught music and chorus at Severna Park Middle School and St. Mary's High School and has directed shows for the first three groups.

"Having performed here for many productions, it's exciting to be on the other side of things as the director," Roblyer-Fickes said. "It helped going into the project, knowing the stage and the difficulties of performing outside without a curtain and natural lighting for most of the show."

She described Cinderella as "family-oriented and just the right length for small children, filled with enough fantasy and imagination to keep their attention." It also seems to offer enough musical and comic entertainment to please most theater-going adults.

But unlike most Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein shows, Cinderella has not become part of national musical comedy heritage as have South Pacific, Oklahoma and Carousel.

The only musical that Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote specifically for television, Cinderella originally appeared in 1957 starring Julie Andrews. A 1965 version starred Lesley Ann Warren, and one in 1997 featured Brandy Norwood as Cinderella and Whitney Houston playing the Fairy Godmother.

Yet its score - including perhaps the best-known song, "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful?" along with "In My Own Little Corner," "Ten Minutes Ago" and "A Lovely Night" - was unfamiliar to me.

Also unfamiliar in this Annapolis production are several actors making their Summer Garden debuts in leading roles.

Rebecca LaChance, an acting student at Carver Center for Arts and Technology in Towson, who has been seen in several regional productions, is Cinderella.

The Prince is Michael Burgtorf of Ellicott City, a junior at American University.

Maureen Card, last seen at Summer Garden playing Mistress Page in The Merry Wives of Windsor and now making her second Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre appearance, will play the Fairy Godmother.

About 20 additional players - some new and some familiar to Summer Garden audiences - will complete the Cinderella cast.

Vicki Smith serves as choreographer, and Caroline Kemmerling works as production and stage manager.

The theater is at 143 Compromise St. in Annapolis. Season subscriptions for all three shows cost $39 for adults and $30 for students and seniors. Individual seats cost $15 for adults and $12 for students, seniors and groups of 20 or more. Reservations: 410- 268-9212.

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