Most dinner theaters don't make a point of creating original material, but F. Scott Black's Towson Dinner Theatre is doing just that with a dance revue titled simply, "Dancing." Created by local director/choreographer Todd Pearthree, the show opens Thursday.
"What we've done is taken pre-recorded tracks and put dances to them," explained Pearthree, who said he's wanted to do a show like this for about a decade.
Pearthree is known for directing stage musicals, and the revue will include reconceived versions of songs from such shows as "Ain't Misbehavin' " and "Chicago." But not all of the numbers come from stage shows. "For instance, we took the Alfred Hitchcock theme, 'Funeral March for a Marionette' and we put a tap dance to that,' " Pearthree said.
There's even a country-western number, "If You've Got the Money, Honey, I've Got the Time," which includes a clogging sequence.
"Dancing" represents Pearthree's return to dinner theater after a six-year absence, during which he has worked at theaters throughout the Baltimore area. One of the busier local directors, he has two shows coming immediately on the heels of "Dancing." "Broadway Beats," a Gershwin revue he created for the Peabody Opera Theatre with faculty member Eileen Cornett, will tour various venues from Feb. 19-April 21, and "Kiss of the Spider Woman" will run at Theatre Hopkins from April 16-May 16.
In the meantime, you can catch "Dancing" at F. Scott Black's Towson Dinner Theatre, 100 E. Chesapeake Ave., from Dec. 31-Feb. 28. Show times are 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 6 p.m. Sundays, with dinner beginning 90 minutes before the performance. Tickets are $17.85-$34, including dinner. (Opening night, New Year's Eve, is sold out.) Call 410-321-6595.
Bits and pieces
"Jitney," August Wilson's play about gypsy cab drivers in Pittsburgh in the 1970s, will be taped for New York's Theatre on Film and Tape Archive -- a prestigious repository of tapes of live theater productions -- while it is at Center Stage. Co-produced with Boston's Huntington Theatre Company, the production is one of several versions of "Jitney" tooling around the country this season, but the Boston-Baltimore version is the front-runner to move to New York.
Looking back at Center Stage's previous production, "As You Like It," there are several interesting tidbits to report. A number of alert theatergoers may have done double takes in the lobby thinking they spotted the original star of "The Parent Trap," Hayley Mills.
Their eyes weren't fooling them. Mills, who is dating Firdous Bamji (the actor who played Jaques), attended several performances, graciously granting autographs to all who asked. Local theatergoers may remember seeing Mills on the other side of the footlights two seasons ago when she starred as Anna in "The King and I" at the Mechanic Theatre.
The Mechanic and Center Stage also have another actor in common. Tom Flynn, who played the heroine's father, Capt. Corcoran, in Center Stage's "H.M.S. Pinafore" last season, will be back in town playing the nightclub singer, Magaldi, in "Evita" when that show comes to the Mechanic Jan. 12. Flynn's Broadway credits include "How to Succeed in Business" and "The Who's Tommy."
Finally, a word about the cat who played a cameo in "As You Like It." The feline Thespian, named Sudden, was cast as Rosalind's house pet. In real life, Sudden belongs to actress Diana LaMar, who played Rosalind. The New York-based actress rescued several strays outside her apartment two Halloweens ago, and two of the cats have been her traveling companions ever since. The theater even drew up a contract for Sudden.
Theater-lovers won't want to miss "It Happened on Broadway: An Oral History of the Great White Way" (Harcourt Brace, $35). Written by Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer, a husband-and-wife team of professors at Dartmouth College, this newly released volume is chock-full of theater lore from more than 100 actors, choreographers, composers, designers, directors, playwrights, producers, press agents -- even critics.
Consider, for instance, these impressions of Eugene O'Neill from Philip Langner, head of the Theater Guild, the producing company founded by his parents. (Langner also booked shows for the Mechanic for a number of years.)
"O'Neill was always very kind to me. He was lean and muscular, a strange, absentminded kind of person who would wander about our house in a world of his own, so concentrated on what he was thinking that you could speak to him and he'd never hear you. When I was in my early twenties, he invited me to his Park Avenue apartment for tea. He and Carlotta [O'Neill's third wife] spent the entire afternoon telling me how terrible life was. 'You must have a hard time of it, my son,' they said. 'Don't you agree that things are really grim?' Before I left, they presented me with Spengler's 'Decline of the West.' When I finally got away, I had the sense of having spent some hours inside a dark Eugene O'Neill play."
And here are a few words about the legendary George Abbott from James Hammerstein (director, producer and son of Oscar Hammerstein II): "George Abbott -- actor, writer, director, producer -- died at the age of 107. He had his last hit when he was 96. He was austere, honest, objective. You would refer to him as 'Misterabbottsir' -- one word. After George Abbott, if you worked for another director, you had too much free time."
And from John Kander (Broadway composer of such musicals as "Cabaret" and "Chicago"; his newest show, "Over & Over," based on "The Skin of Our Teeth," opens at Signature Theatre in Arlington, Va., next month): "Opening night, if the show was a hit, Mr. Abbott would have a glass of wine, dance with his favorite chorus girl, and celebrate. If the show was a flop, he'd have his glass of wine, dance with his favorite chorus girl, and say, 'Well, this time it didn't work.' "
AXIS Theatre. "Telling Tales," a collection of stories by Migdalia Cruz relecting the diversity of Latina experiences. 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Jan. 5 at 3600 Clipper Mill Road. All female cast. Latina women and women of color are encouraged to audition. Background or love of dance and movement is a benefit. Be prepared to read directly from the text. Call 410-243-5237, Ext. 336.
Pub Date: 12/28/98