Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre's "Shout! The Mod Musical" is a star-studded show that rates a hearty shout of approval.
After success with the 1950s-style jukebox musical "The Marvelous Wonderettes" in 2011 and the nostalgic song-and-dance musical "Swing" in 2013, Annapolis' "theater under the stars" has established a winning formula that relies on a strong ensemble to deliver chart-topping favorites from the past.
First produced in 2006, "Shout!" was created by Phillip George and David Lowenstein. Set in London in the 1960s, the show features about two dozen songs that were hits for female singers, including Petula Clark's "Downtown," Dusty Springfield's "Son of a Preacher Man," Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots are Made for Walkin'" and other hits. including "Goldfinger," "I Only Wanna Be with You" and "To Sir with Love."
The songs are interpreted by five singers identified only by the color each wears. There's Yellow Girl, an American expatriate and Paul McCartney fan; the insecure and socially inept Red Girl; image-obsessed and fashionable Blue Girl; happily domesticated young wife Orange Girl; and Green Girl, a sexually liberated party girl.
Completing this all-female cast is "Shout!" magazine advice columnist Gwendolyn Holmes, consulted by all five women for advice.
Directing this production is Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre veteran Jerry Vess, who had the director's chair in "Wonderettes" and proved adept at assembling a cast of girl singers.
In his eighth Annapolis Summer Garden directorial stint, Vess again proves skilled at assembling a cast to bring freshness and spontaneity to every song. Vess is also set designer and deserves praise for designing the troupe's cheeriest set in memory.
Brightening this happy production is music director Anita O'Connor, whose talents have been displayed in local productions at Children's Theatre of Annapolis, Bay Theatre, Dignity Players, Colonial Players and Compass Rose. O'Connor's musical insights are brought to life at each performance by a quartet of musicians conducted by pianist Ken Kimble.
Having served as director and choreographer for Annapolis Summer Garden's "Smokey Joe's Cafe," veteran Jason Kimmel is choreographer for his second show with "Shout!" delivering fresh spontaneity and sparkling vitality.
Also contributing substantially are sound designers Dan Caughran and Linda Sharpe, lighting designer Alex Brady and costume designer/coordinator Julie Bays.
The show takes its title from "Shout! magazine — read religiously by the quintet of girls who take the advice of columnist Holmes, played with comic sincerity by Ginny White.
Making the magic happen onstage is a rainbow of stars, starting with Orange Girl, perky and positive striving for marital bliss and coping with disenchanting reality. In a role requiring strong acting and singing, Jamie Erin Miller delivers both in abundance.
The only married character, Miller's Orange Girl subscribes to the sappy sentiment of the song "Wives and Lovers," telling housewives always to "get ready for love" and expressing her own feelings in the heartfelt "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me."
Obsessed with physical perfection, Blue Girl is given pizazz by Kara Leonard, who knows how to strut her stuff — audaciously and with comic flair. She delivers a show-stopping "Don't Sleep in the Subway" and later leads a liberated strut in "These Boots" before making a surprising revelation.
Mariel White makes an exciting Annapolis Summer Garden debut as Red Girl, who bursts out of her bashful shell in her soaring version of "To Sir with Love," and later leads a rousing "Those Were the Days" that invites the audience to join in.
Another debuting star is Brittany Zalovick, who nails the Green Girl and her sexual liberation, carrying it to comic heights in her hilarious spoof of the theme from the James Bond film "Goldfinger." Zalovick later delivers a memorable "I Couldn't Live without Your Love."
Katie Gardner defines Yellow Girl with her sunny radiance and all-American drive, giving every dance move zest and each song extra spark, notably in her rousing "Son of a Preacher Man" that closes the first act on a high note. In the second act, Gardner delivers a terrific "I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself" before nearly bringing down the house in a spectacular "Shout!" to close the show, leaving the audience shouting for more.
"Shout!" adds up to delightful light summer entertainment that takes audiences on a romp through the swinging '60s, guided by a bouncing, miniskirted, boot-shod quintet that kicks over barriers to an irresistible beat.
"Shout! The Mod Musical" runs at 8:30 p.m. Thursday Sunday through July 19 at Annapolis Summer Garden Theater, 143 Compromise St., Annapolis. Tickets: summergarden.com or call 410-268-9212.
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