Towsontowne's 'Can-Can' doesn't miss a step


An entertaining version of the saucy, naughty Cole Porter hit, "Can-Can," is currently on stage at the Towsontowne Dinner Theatre through June 14.

With a clever book by comedy writer Abe Burrows, the show, set in 1893 Paris, is a satire on French law and is based on what was then thought to be an obscene and licentious dance, the Can-Can.

Chorus girls flounce their petticoats and their high-kicking legs in this so-called daring dance which is being performed in La Mome Pistache's cafe in Montmarte. An overly conscientious judge who never falters from executing the letter of the law takes it upon himself to investigate the matter personally.

Inexperienced in matters of the heart, the judge soon finds himself in love with the charmingly seductive but calculating cafe owner who lands him in a peck of trouble. Through Pistache he meets a colorful array of zany artistic types and becomes involved in a police scandal. But these bizarre circumstances ultimately teach him a lesson in love and living.

The original production, directed by Burrows and choreographed Michael Kidd, opened on in 1953 and ran for 892 performances at the Shubert Theatre in New York. It starred the French actress Lilo as the enticing cabaret proprietor and Gwen Verdon as the lead dancer.

The story line is formula, but the key lies in the spirit of the show and its musical charm.

The familiar Cole Porter songs seem as fresh today as they ever were. Some outstanding numbers include: "You Do Something To Me," "What Is This Thing Called Love?," "It's All Right With Me," "Just One of Those Things."

Directed by F. Scott Black, who is also featured as the judge, the local production zips along at a fine, brisk pace. The vocal and dancing chorus, though small, is full of vigor and vitality.

The Garden of Eden dance sequence performed by the ensemble and slickly choreographed by Ernie Ritchie is one of the best. The number satirizes Victorian censorship by comparing it with the post-apple period of the Garden of Eden.

The role of Pistache is a tour de force for the talents of local professional actress Sheryl Ryanharrt.

Ryanharrt knows how to sell a song with all the vibrancy of the true French chanteuse. She warbles "C'est Manifique" and "I Love Paris" with sweet poignancy. But the actress-singer is especially delightful when she roams through the audience, plaintively complaining in song, "Every Man Is A Stupid Man (except the jerk you love)."

J.R. Lyston turns in a side-splitting performance as Boris, a Bulgarian sculptor who possesses a great ego but little talent. Alexsandra Auty delights as his dancing mistress and Klaude Krannebitter does well as a powerful art critic out to destroy the sculptor and win his girl.

Good support is given by Everett Rose, Andrew Cesewski and Todd Starkey. The live musical direction is by Gerald M. Smith and the excellent costumes are by James J. Fasching.

The entire production is dedicated to the memory of the company's late long-time associate (and Ryanharrt's husband) Richard Byrd, who worked on the "Can-Can" production until a week before he passed away.


In Brian Friel's lovely play, "Philadelphia, Here I Come!," which winds up this weekend at the Spotlighters Theatre, Gar, a young Irishman, agonizes over his decision to move to America.

He ponders his past and frustrating relationship with his father. This is done through Friel's interesting stage device of using two Gars, one the Public Gar and the other the Private Gar.

The two Gars are at odds with each other. The private Gar is perceptive and wise and represents the truth that the timid Public Gar constantly denies himself. Gar and his father never had much to say to each other, the latter being stoically uncommunicative.

Now on the last night before he moves, after all the silencecome the words. But it is too late.

This sensitive play has been directed with a rather heavy hanby William Kamberger Jr. Much of the warm Irish humor is lacking. David Flury is believable as the less forthright Public Gar, but it is Bill Chappelle who turns in an outstanding performance as the Private Gar.

Frank Greene as the father and Babs Dentz as the kindheartehousekeeper lend excellent support. Others who execute their roles well are Tom Blair, Rodney Atkins and Cliff Jarrett.

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