Stars align for presentation of 'Magic Under Glass'

Last summer, Toby’s talented teens performed “Magic Under Glass” as a concert version with no big sets, minimal costumes and little movement on stage. Yet, the show – especially the passionate singing – brought the audience to its feet.

This time around, a “wow” factor has been added to the Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts revised production at Howard Community College on Aug. 2-4.

International designer Lee Anderson created special costumes for cast members who play “spirits” and “magic trees.” Anderson’s efforts, together with Kristin Clark’s original outfits, add yet another dimension to the fantasy rock musical. Picture a 20-foot shrouded tree swaying to the beat of music. Or a spiffy Victorian lass twirling her umbrella covered with colorful flowers and a cloaked pianist attached to a bizarre instrument that magically awakens him to play on command.

You don’t need a magnifying glass to see the impact Anderson and other local artists have made on the new version, based on a popular book by Jaclyn Dolamore. Emmy-winning author Sean Paul Murphy is credited as screenwriter. Columbia’s own ASCAP award-winning Michael Kline scored the music.

The plot takes place in a fairy kingdom at war with a neighboring monarchy. Nimira, a dark-haired beauty from an aristocratic family, accepts an invitation from a mysterious magician, who invites her to sing with a robot that can only be turned on with a silver key. She soon learns that evil magic surrounds her and Erris, a cursed prince who is trapped in a robot body. Choreographer Christen Swingos keeps the large cast on its toes in some upbeat and jazzy numbers, a brief respite from gloom and doom.

CCTA’s go-to gal, Isabella Lopez, plays the heroine with grace and aplomb. Her voice calms the chaos that surrounds the Holland household where Spencer Franco keeps that special key and a lot of secrets. Stephen Dransfield has grown into his automaton character with a powerful presence. You almost believe he is part of his piano. Kudos to Isabella’s younger sister, Alessandra Lopez, a scene-stealer with her poignant singing.

Indeed, this project is a big deal for all involved.

As co-directors Toby Orenstein and Jessica Binder began to tackle their dreams of taking an original musical to the world stage, the first step was to call on Ross Scott Rawlings to serve as musical director. Allan Nason, a noted music supervisor for major Hollywood films, came aboard and American Latino TV featured the musical, interviewing CCTA cast members and hosting a live performance in New York City.

Now, word has it that Hollywood producers are interested and are expected to attend the Columbia performances.

Even with all the hullaballoo surrounding the show, Orenstein remains grounded and clearly focused on the mission of all her shows. She points a finger towards a young performer during a recent rehearsal, and in her gruff, yet loving voice, bellows, “Tell the story...singing is extended speaking…and always remember you’re telling a story.”

And what a story it is!

Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts Teen Professional Theatre performs “Magic Under Glass” at Howard Community College Smith Theatre, 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway, Thursday and Friday, Aug. 2-3, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Aug. 4, at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Tickets are $15 online and $20 at the door. The show now has a Website www.magicunderglass.com where fans can download the professionally recorded single, “Down in the Field.”

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