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Entertainment

Baltimore Backstage: Theater group marks 50 years, burlesque takes Center Stage, Shakespeare meets hip-hop and ‘Bridgerton’ beckons fans to visit

Young Victorian Theatre Company celebrates 50 years

COVID-19 can’t stop the Young Victorian Theatre Company’s 50th anniversary season production of “The Pirates of Penzance.”

“We’ve had a bit of a challenge this year because we’ve had a couple cases of COVID, including me,” said Brian Goodman, who has served as the general manager of the Young Victorian Theatre Company for 46 of 50 seasons. “We’ve been able to set up a virtual rehearsal so the people who are under the weather can actually watch the blocking being done, so we haven’t missed any rehearsals because of illness.”

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With the pandemic postponing their performances since 2019 and cutting into their anniversary plans, the company is celebrating five decades of producing Gilbert and Sullivan operettas for Baltimore crowds every summer.

“We started as a little student organization, and now it’s a fully professional group, 25 piece pit orchestra, great opera singers, we have a $200 thousand a year budget, we have half a million dollars in permanent endowments,” Goodman said. “We’re a true Baltimore institution.”

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Since it began as the Gilbert and Sullivan Theatre in 1971, the organization has been honoring the dramatist and composer duo, who Goodman called “the forerunners of the modern Broadway musical.”

“Even ‘Hamilton’ has a salute to Gilbert and Sullivan right when George Washington walks in. He says, ‘I am the very model of a modern day Major General,’ which is right from “The Pirate of Penzance,” the show we’re doing this year,” Goodman said.

The production will include modern political and cultural references to engage current audiences with the opera that first premiered in New York City in 1879.

“Gilbert and Sullivan used to update their shows when they would do them time and again,” Goodman said. “So, it’s taken a lot of hard work, but this has been my major community involvement and I’ve been happy to do it.”

Before their official return to stage on July 10, the company will be presenting excerpts from the show at the 50th celebration gala on July 7 at Hampden’s Wine Collective.

Young Victorian Theatre Company will present “The Pirates of Penzance,” at the Gilman School July 10 at 3 p.m.; family night on Thursday, July 14 at 8 p.m.; 8 p.m. on Saturday, July 16; and 3 p.m. Sunday, July 17. Tickets range from $25-$40 and can be purchased at yvtc.org.

Burlesque at Center Stage encourages bodily freedom

After the overturning of Roe v. Wade, burlesque troupe The Naughty Menagerie is offering a sanctuary to appreciate bodily expression.

“Burlesque is a really fun, exciting way to express your identity, to express your bodily autonomy and we want folks to know that they’re safe in the space,” said Sedusa, 25, who co-founded the troupe with fellow burlesque artist Rosie Beret.

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The two performers, who prefer to go by their stage names, are coming together to produce “Rosie Beret’s Showtune Cabaret” at Baltimore Center Stage’s Deering Lounge on July 9.

Featuring nine cast members, the show will be the group’s first performance at a theater since launching in 2020 with “Bite Night,” a virtual vampire burlesque show that took place around Halloween. Soon after, the troupe began gigging at Charm City’s The Crown.

Sedusa, who first worked with Rosie when they were co-presidents of a burlesque troupe with Maryland Institute College of Art, said there’s a lot that goes into making the Naughty Menagerie come to life, from promoting the shows to selling tickets to coordinating rehearsals.

But it’s more than just getting butts in seats, it’s about creating a safe environment in what Sedusa described as a “very vulnerable space.”

“You are taking off articles of clothing in a very fun and entertaining way for the crowd, and we want to make sure that the performers feel like they have agency during that process,” said Sedusa.

She said the July 9 performance will be a “fun, live action, variety, burlesque performance, really highlighting musical show tunes and jazz numbers,” and will feature an interactive intermission with a raffle that includes gifts from the performers.

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Hip-hop meets Shakespeare in ‘Julius Caesar’

Appreciators of the Bard and hip-hop fans alike can come together for Fools and Madmen’s adaptation of “Julius Caesar,” which opens at Baltimore’s Motor House July 8.

When they applied for a 2017 city arts grant, Caitlin Carbone Hernandez and Joshua C. Thomas knew they wanted to combine Shakespeare and hip-hop into productions they could present to Baltimore City schools for free. After receiving the grant to create their adaptation of “King Lear,” the two have been working to make William Shakespeare’s stories accessible for all audiences.

“Our mission is to combat racial disparity in classical theater by changing the voices and the cultural lens through which we tell the story,” Hernandez said.

Having performed the comedy “Much Ado About Nothing” last year, the collaborators thought “The Tragedy of Julius Caesar,” would provide a show with a clear message to take into schools.

“This is something that we know students likely will read in school and we also had a concept in mind of centering toxic masculinity and intimate male friendships on stage,” Hernandez said.

To bring their vision from page to stage, the two brought in Mari Andrea Travis as the director and choreographer. With intimate seating in the round, the show will feature a live band and original music created by Thomas along with interactive moments that will allow audience participation.

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“We have a few songs where people can sing along. We like to get everyone hyped up in there and have a good time, because it’s not just about sitting and watching a play,” Thomas said.

Fools and Madmen’s production of “Julius Caesar” is at Motor House Baltimore July 8, 9, 15 and 16 at 8 p.m. and July 10 and 17 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at motorhousebaltimore.com.

Take a trip back in time for ‘The Queen’s Ball: A Bridgerton Experience’

We rarely travel beyond Baltimore’s arts scene, but sometimes you have to hit the road for an event that’s been luring locals to get dressed up and take a trip not only to Washington, but to the 19th century.

Fans of the hit Netflix show “Bridgerton” and series novices alike, can attend “The Queen’s Ball: A Bridgerton Experience,” an interactive, touring event that transports guests to Britain’s Regency era (officially 1811-1820). The D.C. tour, which opened March 31, is co-produced by Netflix, Shondaland and Fever.

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“The experience features immersive rooms with costumes from the show, stops at iconic locations from the series including the Artist’s Studio and the Modiste, as well as an audience with the Queen to try and win Her Majesty’s favor,” said Greg Lombardo, vice president of Netflix Live Experiences.

Baltimore native Morgan Jones, 26, attended the event with a group that included her mother, who does not watch the show. Despite that, they both had fun.

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“It’s such an interactive experience, you don’t have to watch the show to be able to follow what’s going on, or to have a good time or to dance,” Jones said.

Guests learn about the Regency era, see Bridgerton costumes, experience elements of the show like the artist’s studio and Madame Delacroix’s Modiste (dressmaker), and receive “an audience with the Queen to try and win Her Majesty’s favor,” said Lombardo.

And because it’s a ball, there’s dancing. “It was like a dance party really,” said Jones.

As a fan of the show, Jones considers the experience “icing on the cake,” but she said it’s worth the trip from Charm City to D.C.

“I feel like for people in Baltimore, it can be a good experience to just go somewhere and get out of your comfort zone,” she said. “Have fun, dance and wear clothes from a different time period and just enjoy yourself.”


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