Days after hearing Annapolis Chorale's "Messiah" at St. Anne's Church, we complete the holiday traditions by reflecting on another rewarding year of performing arts in Anne Arundel County.
We are fortunate to have a major performing arts venue at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, with its four resident companies — Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, Ballet Theatre of Maryland, Annapolis Chorale and Annapolis Opera — each offering a season of performances.
In 2013, Maryland Hall continued its mission of providing community participation in the arts and added new excitement by cooperating with Rams Head to offer concerts like its sold-out Michael Bolton holiday performance Dec. 17.
Maryland Hall hosted several magnificent performances in 2013. One certainly was Ballet Theatre of Maryland's sublime October offering of "Beauty and the Beast," with its magical retelling of a beloved fairy tale in the troupe's best offering in memory.
Lead dancer Calder Taylor attained new heights as a Beast of ferocity and tenderness. Also at the peak of her dance artistry, Meagan Helman created a Beauty with a natural grace that may well redefine the role. Supplemented by the strong Ballet Theatre dance troupe, Helman and Taylor interpreted the captivating romance of Dianna Cuatto's choreography.
The Annapolis Chorale had a stellar year in which musical director J. Ernest Green conducted two top performances in both popular and classical realms. In September, Green started the season auspiciously with "One Singular Sensation: A Celebration of the Music of Marvin Hamlisch."
In this show, he honored the work of his late friend and mentor in a fascinating series of hit and unfamiliar tunes interpreted by six of Hamlisch's favorite performers. Star power rarely seen on a local stage was combined with stellar home talent to produce a memorable musical evening.
Green followed this with another outstanding show, his opening classical concert featuring a triumphant performance of Leonard Bernstein's "Chichester Psalms" by the Annapolis Chorale and Chamber Orchestra that realized the magnificence of this modern work. Bernstein's 20th-century hymn, featuring American music set to Psalms in Hebrew, is a work that seems to speak to our souls. This concert was truly an event of musical excellence.
Another prominent Anne Arundel arts venue is the Robert E. Kauffman Theatre at Pascal Center for Performing Arts at Anne Arundel Community College, where a stunning highlight of 2013 included the January concert production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Jesus Christ Superstar," featuring professional and student artists.
Douglas Brandt Byerly, chairman of the college performing arts department and founder of AACC Opera, delivered an amazing rock opera in concert. Brilliant casting showcased Robert Bradley as Judas, Benjamin Lurye as Jesus and Emily Sergo as Mary Magdalen. Together they delivered a professional, emotionally rewarding, amazing performance to begin January with a highlight that's warmly remembered in December.
Other milestones on our entertainment scene included summer season shows produced by Infinity Theatre, in its third season. In June, "Always … Patsy Cline" displayed great emotional power in telling the story of the friendship between singer Patsy Cline and devoted fan Louise Singer. The two were brought to life by gifted actor-singer Jenny Lee Stern as Cline and Robin Baxter as the riotously uninhibited Singer.
Infinity's July offering, "She Loves Me," introduced us to an old-world story spiced with humor and romantic intrigue. Top-notch talent supplemented by fabulous musicians polished this largely unknown gem to high luster, ranking among the best of Infinity's summer offerings.
Another delightful surprise came this year with "Little Shop of Horrors" offered by 2nd Star Productions, an incredibly fresh and fun take on this 1982 Motown-influenced musical. Local song and dance man Nathan Bowen seemed destined to play amateur botanist Seymour, and Hannah Thornhill — complete with Brooklyn accent — proved a triple talent as she sang, danced and acted her way into our hearts as an incredibly authentic Audrey.
Other 2013 highlights include Annapolis Shakespeare's production of "Pride and Prejudice" in April; Annapolis Summer Garden's enchanting "Into the Woods" in August; and Compass Rose's third season offering of "Sound of Music," an October show that featured a stellar cast delivering a splendid version.
Reflecting on this year of outstanding performances augurs well for 2014 — which starts with a packed schedule in January. We are indeed enjoying happy holidays as we look back, and we'll stay tuned for a vibrant new year.