The Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore is Maryland's flagship facility for music education, and you'd expect offerings bearing its imprimatur to reflect that lofty status.
The production of "The Boy Friend" put on Tuesday at Maryland Hall by students of the Peabody Preparatory music theater class was impressive, even with those high expectations.
"The Boy Friend" is light, frothy British fare that played first in London in the early 1950s and, if memory serves, helped make Julie Andrews a star.
With its cutesy story of British schoolgirls finding love at a boarding school in southern France, "The Boy Friend" is anything but profound. But it's a charmer, and the performers (most of them youngsters) brought off Robert Neal Marshall's direction in fine style.
Colleen Rossiter of Arnold brought poor little rich girl Polly Browne to life with a perky, sweet voice and bright comedic flair. Her facial takes were priceless.
Matthew Fitzgerald, her leading man, also was fresh and cute as Tony, the young fellow gone AWOL from Oxford who finds love while masquerading as a messenger on the Riviera.
Theresa Cantone and Michael Carter were delightful as the mature couple who also get bitten by the love bug. And I admired Jackie Bays and Jon Waller, who Charlestoned with such flair as Maisie and Bobby.
Most of the ensemble numbers sounded polished and secure, accompanied, as they were, by one of the strongest pit orchestras we've had down here in the provinces in a long time.
Alas, there was only one performance. Peabody should consider longer runs. If that means leaving Maryland Hall to pick up more dates elsewhere, so be it. If it means paring down the orchestra to more economical levels, I say do that, too.
The public needs to see more of Peabody Prep.
Additional performances would have given the technical people a chance to learn how to control the body mikes, which were crackling all night long, causing crescendos loud enough to cross a listener's eyes.
A few more shows would have given conductor David Neal an opportunity to hone dynamics so that his singers could be heard over the orchestra with greater regularity.
But whether performances are added or not, Peabody must insist that audiences not take flash pictures during shows. Bulbs going off are distracting to actors and viewers, yet there were at least half a dozen parents snapping away. Maryland Hall looked like the Super Bowl at halftime.
These young actors seemed to have great respect for the proper decorum of the theater. Too bad their moms and dads had no clue. Crack the whip, Peabody.
Pub Date: 5/21/98