It's only July, and already this has been an uncommonly good summer for theater in Annapolis.
We've had a colorful "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" and an impressive "Midsummer Night's Dream" from the Summer Garden Theatre. A deft version of "Little Shop of Horrors" still runs at the Chesapeake Music Hall.
In the provinces, the Pasadena Theatre Company's "Steel Magnolias" at Anne Arundel Community College tugs nicely at the heartstrings, despite some uneven characterization. And let's not forget Second Star's "Carousel," which had me blubbering in Bowie back in June.
But note for note, step for step, and year for year, the most impressive show of all may be Talent Machine's "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," now in production weekends at Key Auditorium on the campus of St. John's College in Annapolis through Aug. 9.
I watched "Seven Brides" with a dear family friend, a pianist who accompanies some of our local performing arts organizations but had never seen a show directed by Bobbi Smith.
"These kids are better than any college cast or dinner theater show I've ever seen," she said at intermission. "They're unbelievable."
Who am I to argue?
Granted, "Seven Brides" is not the most magical musical score ever written. But this tale of mountain man Adam Pontipee's sudden marriage, and his new wife's attempts to turn her untamed brothers-in-law into suitable suitors for proper young ladies, can be a charmer in the right hands.
Numbers like "Goin' Courtin'" and the "Social Dance" inspired Smith to fill the stage with eye-popping choreography that is brought off most stylishly by her ensemble of 20 college, high school and middle school students.
They tumble, they toss, they catch, they kick, they jump, they throw; and they do it all with sizzling energy and with smiles every step of the way.
The Talent Machine has been souped up for this production with the addition of John Guyton, who stars as Adam, the carefree man of the wilderness whose place at the head of the table becomes threatened by the gentility of his new wife.
Adam's songs will test the upper range of any baritone, and Guyton is equal to the task. His on-stage demeanor befits a veteran of some 200 community and professional productions.
Natalie Roers, a sophomore at Towson University, is a sparkler as Millie, Adam's beautiful wife. She moves, her voice is pretty and strong, she can play for a laugh and, when things take a more serious turn, she's convincing in her love for Adam despite a script that doesn't help her much.
All six brothers are delightful. Talent Machine fans will be happy to welcome back Matt Garrity, who cut his show business teeth hoofing with Smith back in the 1980s and now is a sophomore at the University of Virginia. He's all over the stage dancing as Caleb.
Ray Perry, Dan Sonntag, Matt Kenchington, Jake Thornhill and James Flanagan round out the fraternity, and there's not a runt in the litter.
Flanagan, of Archbishop Spalding High School, is a good tenor whose "Love Never Goes Away" trio with Adam and Millie is the musical high point of the show.
I've been to my share of weddings and have yet to see brides dance with more authority than Jessica Crouse, Colleen Rossiter, Lorraine Boozer, Sarah Snyder, Lindsey Middleton, and Brae Keller.
Talent Machine's "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" plays weekends at Key Auditorium through Aug. 9.
Pub Date: 7/30/98