Friday, November 27, 2015

An Olney holiday hit, 'Guys and Dolls'

Nicely-Nicely Johnson (Tobias Young) and the cast of Olney Theatre Center's production of Guys and Dolls. (Photo: Stan Barouh)

The Olney has done it again.

And just in time for the holidays.  

The Maryland regional theatre has produced another sparkling musical for all ages to enjoy with non-stop action, song, and dance.

What better entertainment for the whole family?

Miss Adelaide (Lauren Weinberg) and the Hot Box Dolls in Olney Theatre Center's production of Guys and Dolls. (Photo: Stan Barouh)

It's Guys and Dolls, all about gangsters, love (what is a story without love?), and lots of humor.  Throw in a wedding or two, and a wedding dress that puts icing on the cake.

"Luck Be a Lady,"  "A Bushel and a Peck," "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat" are some of the familiar tunes you'll find yourself humming at show's end.  Why, just to hear the title of the last makes me want to kick up my own heels and try some of those fancy steps.  (Good luck.)

It might have taken the script a while to get the ladies out on the floor, but here they came, giggly and flirty, adding glitter to a performance you know is going to be a lot of fun.

Oddly enough, the stars of the show are the male dancers who leap, kick, jump, and split legs mid-air in unison while wearing suits.  Under the direction of Michael Bobbitt, these ice-skaters on stage draw shouts of affirmation and guffaws from the audience, smitten by flawless conformity.

Not to discount the happy quintet of female dancers and their chatter, but it's the men folk who carry off the wonders of them all.

The singing is exquisite, led by the soaring Jessica Lauren Ball whose voice could carry a gangster to heaven. Miss Ball  plays the stern and inflexible Sarah Brown whose hairstyle and apparel (with necks no lower than a throat clasp) match her name and persona. (Rosemary Pardee dresses the characters in 1950s garb.)   

Ms. Ball's co-star, Matt Faucher, is exceptional in voice and delivery as well, and bears a strong resemblance to actor  Fred MacMurray (1908-1991).
Paul Binotto is a convincing Nathan Detroit and with a name like that, you need explanation? Lauren Weinberg, Miss Adelaide, is his giddy girlfriend of more than a decade, a delightful combination of Marilyn Monroe and Gracie Allen,  George Burns' ditsy dame

Naturally, the law in the form of wrinkled, open trench-coated, crooked glasses Lt. Brannigan (captured realistically by Ron Heneghan) is hot on the criminals' trail, including Big Jule's (Richard Pelzman) whose size is enough to send Brannigan under or over the bridge.  (Early on, Pelzman's heft grabs attention when the cast lays out the story's tone, and he comes on stage, a blind man with stick.  Look out!)
One of my favorite characters, although it's a minor role, was acted by Valerie Leonard, the authoritarian and strait-laced General Matilda B. Cartwright until she's swept off her feet by circumstances and joins the action, at least, for the dance number. (The hair stylist is not listed in the program but deserves recognition for timely coifs.) 

Daniel Conway skilfully designed the backdrop to camouflage the onstage orchestra which blends in well with New York's night and day cityscapes and changing skies. 

Olney's orchestra seems to get better with each show.  Timothy Splain is the music director and Doug Lawler conducts seven while he plays piano. 

There is reason for that constant smile and good cheer from Olney's artistic director Jason Loewith and theatregoers know why.

Give the people what they want: big shows, lots of dazzle, good for all ages, live orchestra, and skip the obscenities, if you will. Thank you very much! 

Give me theatre or give me theatre, and that's all she wants for Christmas.

The ensemble and cast includes Andre Hinds, Ethan Kasnett, David Landstrom, Tony Thomas, MaryLee Adams, Evan Casey, Ben Cunis, Leo Erickson, Jocelyn Isaac, Amanda Jillian Kaplan, Julia Klavans, Nurney, and Tobias Young.

Other key crew members are Jerry Whiddon, director; Colin K. Bills, lighting; Jeffrey Dorfman, sound; Nancy Krebs, dialects; Josiane M. Lemieux, production stage manager; and Debbie Ellinghaus, managing director.

Although I have already nominated Olney's The Producers for Helen Hayes Awards, more Olney nominations are in order for these Guys and Dolls:

Outstanding Musical

Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical

Outstanding Director of a Musical: Jerry Whiddon

Outstanding Choreography in a Musical: Michael Bobbitt

What: Guys and Dolls: A Musical Fable of Broadway with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser. Based on a story by Damon Runyon

When: (Update) Extended through January 3, 2016 at 8 p.m., Wednesdays through Saturdays, with weekend matinees at 2 p.m., and Wednesday matinees, Dec. 2, 16, and 23, one Tuesday matinee, Dec. 22 and no shows on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Where: Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney, MD 20832

How much: Tickets start at $38, with discounts for military, groups, seniors, and students.

Duration: A little over two hours and one intermission.

Refreshments: Available for purchase and may be taken to seats.

Parking: Abundant, free, and on-site

For more information: 301-924-3400

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Bad Thanksgiving

Photo by Patricia Leslie

The last Thanksgiving we spent together as a family before my ex and I divorced was a memorable one which makes me laugh now when I think of it.

I cajoled and pleaded with my friend, Suzanne, to come over and join us and help lighten the atmosphere.  Things were pretty tense and unpleasant at our house, and we needed a non-partisan to join our table and spread something besides doldrums.

Suzanne did not want to come.  She had her own grown children to attend to, and I can't remember exactly how I convinced her to participate in our happy meal, but she arrived nonetheless, with apprehension and fear that she was entering a snake pit.

I used to always like starting up the Thanksgiving meal on Tuesday, getting out the china and silver, setting the table, walking through the yard and finding nature's pieces for the table centerpiece.  I spent all Wednesday and Thursday preparing the dishes, the turkey, and all the trimmings, accompanied by a bottomless mimosa which I drank all of Thanksgiving Day and still do on holidays.  They taste so good!

When it came time for our Thanksgiving meal that year, my soon-to-be ex passed the word to one of our children that he needed to work on the roof right then and there, and he would not be joining us to eat.

It was a sunny day, and heaven forbid, rain would fall eventually, and although we had no leaks, it was as good a time as any to pound nails in the roof.  

Over our heads in the dining room.  

While we ate. 

And celebrated relative harmony. Without both of us at the table, there was more opportunity for conversation and less likelihood for an argument, never a good item on the menu.
Photo by Patricia Leslie

I am proud to say we as a family are from the SEC, and if you don't know what that is, you don't know the SEC.  Anybody "up here" who thinks he or she has ever been to a college football game has never been to a college football game unless it was REAL college football, namely in the SEC (and especially Ole Miss and tailgates in the Grove).
Ole Miss and Arkansas, Nov. 7, 2015/ Photo by Patricia Leslie

We were mostly (or soon-to-be) graduates of the University of Tennessee, save for Suzanne a proud graduate (and cheerleader) at the University of Georgia which, that year, was on top of the SEC (before the East/West split.  Don't ask me).  Tennessee's football team that year (as in subsequent years) was in the toilet, and the subject, unfortunately, came up at the table, amidst the hammering heard up on the roof.  

While we ate. 

And raised our voices to be heard.

The sorry state of Tennessee football may have been discussed all of 30 seconds before my son, Robert, exploded, angry at Suzanne for having attended the University of Georgia. He jumped up from his seat, pounding his way up the stairs, hollering something, never to join us again.

Well! I thought.  And Suzanne may have thought the same thing.  Could she help it she went to Georgia long before Robert was born?

I don't recall any disagreements at the table with William, our youngest child, but I do recall thinking about our daughter's fiance, Daniel (U. South Carolina), who was visiting and sharing Thanksgiving with us.  

I wondered what Daniel thought about our family and why in the world he would want to be part of it, but he did.

In a little while, his fiancee, our daughter Melinda Jane (Virginia Tech), complimented me on a new dish I had prepared:  "This is good, Mom," she said. Praise from her was rare.

Oh, I said, I am surprised you like it, since it's an oyster casserole.

With that, she leaped from her chair, ran around the dining room table and into the kitchen where she hurled her mouthful of oyster casserole in the sink and gagged.

This is a true story.

A few silent seconds passed before Suzanne turned to me and said in a hushed tone:  "I think I'll leave now."  Who could blame her? 

Suzanne did not wait for pumpkin pie with real whipped cream.  She stole silently out the side door, happy to leave our mad house.  It was.

Soon, Daniel and William left the dining room table to go watch football and soothe Melinda Jane, recuperating from oyster casserole on the den sofa.

The hammering ceased.  

Alone at the table I sat, but a lifesaving mimosa stood nearby and that, with pumpkin pie and real whipped cream, puts a magnificent finishing touch on any meal.

From Google Images


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Veterans Day at the U.S. Navy Memorial, Washington, D.C.

Photo by Patricia Leslie
The Lone Sailor statue by Stanley Bleifeld at the U.S. Navy Memorial, Washington, D.C. with the wreath laid by Veterans Day guest speaker and Vietnam War Honor of Medal recipient Robert Kerrey, 72, who was a Navy SEAL (1966-69), governor of Nebraska (1983-1987), and U.S. senator (D-Nebraska) (1989-2001).
Photo by Patricia Leslie 
The U.S. Navy Band played before and after the ceremony on a beautiful day with temperatures in the mid-60s, chirping birds, and a respectful crowd of about 200 persons who listened quietly. Behind the band is the Naval Heritage Center.
Photo by Patricia Leslie 
Navy troops stand at the ready.  Across Pennsylvania Avenue is the National Archives building.
Photo by Patricia Leslie 
The colors are presented.
Photo by Patricia Leslie 
 The colors are presented.
Photo by Patricia Leslie 
Standing at far left (without a hat) is Sen. Bob Kerrey.
Photo by Patricia Leslie 
The colors advance.
Photo by Patricia Leslie 
Sen. Bob Kerrey spoke less than five minutes at the 15-minute ceremony. He praised Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1927-2003) for boosting the Navy Memorial presence on Pennsylvania Avenue. The time the senators spent in the Navy were "the most important years of our lives," Sen. Kerrey said. Those who serve in the military "are obliged to remind those who have not, how important the Armed Forces are to our nation."
Photo by Patricia Leslie 
Sen. Kerrey at the Lone Sailor statue where he laid the wreath. Note the Navy flag dipped in deference to the American flag.
Photo by Patricia Leslie 
Sen. Bob Kerrey and a Navy officer return to their seats.
Photo by Patricia Leslie 
At the ceremony's conclusion, the troops marched away while the band played "This is My Country," and a lady danced solo in front of the podium.
Photo by Patricia Leslie 
When the music ceased, the people said "ohhhhhhh" for they wanted more, which was not to be.  

"What?" asked a man of his lady friend.  "Where's 'Anchors Aweigh'?" It just seemed natural that it should be part of a concert by the Navy band.  It was expected.

Said a bystander, "Well, maybe they played 'Anchors Aweigh' before it started," but someone else said, "They didn't."  

Well, maybe next year!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Grammy nominee to play free noon concert, Nov. 4, St. John's, Lafayette Square

Noah Getz
Grammy nominee, composer, musician-in-residence at American University, and worldwide performer, Noah Getz will play saxophone with organist Michael Lodico in a free noontime concert Wednesday at St. John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square.

On the program is Esprit de la Lune (Spirit of the Moon, 2012) by Australian composer Andrian Pertout (b. 1963, Santiago, Chile) which Mr. Getz co-commissioned for a performance at King's Chapel in Boston. 
Michael Lodico/Photo, St. John's Episcopal Church
Mr. Lodico, a Fulbright Scholar, is the interim director of music ministry and organist at St. John's.  He teaches at St. Anselm's Abbey School and performs with harpist Rebecca Anstine Smith as the Lafayette Square Duo who will play at St. John's March 2.

These free noon concerts are monthly presentations of the church's First Wednesday series held every month through June.
St. John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square/Photo by Patricia Leslie

St. John's known to many Washington residents as the yellow church at Lafayette Square, is often called the “Church of the Presidents” since beginning with James Madison who was president from 1809 to 1817, every president has been a member of St. John's or has attended services at the church. A plaque at the rear of the church designates the pew where President Abraham Lincoln often sat when he stopped by St. John's during the Civil War.  

This year the church celebrates its bicentennial, and its history and that of its stained-glass windows are told in books and booklets available at St. John's.

First Wednesday concerts begin at 12:10 p.m. and last about 35 minutes. Food trucks are located at Farragut Square, two blocks away, for those on lunch break.

Saxophonist Noah Getz and organist Michael Lodico will present Esprit de la Lune by Andrian Pertout

What:  First Wednesday Concerts

When: 12:10 p.m., November 4, 2015

Where: St. John’s, Lafayette Square, 1525 H Street, NW, at the corner of 16th, Washington, D.C. 20005

How much: No charge

Duration: About 35 minutes

Wheelchair accessible

Metro stations: McPherson Square (White House exit), Farragut North, or Farragut West

For more information: Contact Michael Lodico at 202-270-6265.

Future dates and artists of the First Wednesday Concerts are:

December 2: Madrigal Singers from St. Albans & National Cathedral schools will sing seasonal music.

January 6, 2016: Concert organist Janet Yieh will play works by Brahms and Widor.

February 3: Bob McDonald and Friends will sing to celebrate the crooner's centennial in "Sinatra Turns 100."

March 2: The Lafayette Square Duo with Rebecca Smith on harp and Michael Lodico on organ will play a composition by Peter Mathews. 

April 6: Soloists from St. John's Choir will sing.

May 4: The U.S. Air Force Strings Chamber Orchestra with harpsichordist Brandon Straub will play Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 5.

June 1: Concert organist Roderick Demmings, Jr., will play virtuosic works by Bach, Wammes, and Widor.