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'Take II' keeps on rockin'


Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre has extended its season through Sunday, ending the way it began in May, by rocking the dock with high-voltage talent.

"Rock Around the Dock - Take II" is a bolder, brassier show with a dazzling set constructed of yards-high wedges of vibrant color that makes a great backdrop for a dynamic ensemble of singers and dancers.

Directors Jeff Hitaffer and Kevin Wheatley, who conceived the idea of opening the company's current season with a rock show, are back directing this latest incarnation.

"We learned from the first show, and we've continued to learn in rehearsals and at every performance since opening, refining and improving the show," Wheatley said.

"Some great people from the first show returned for this one, and some talented new people are also on board, and we have a more exciting set this time around. Chances are that if we do the show again next season, we'll be able to improve it even more," he said.

Hitaffer added, "We brought in some great choreographers this time, and we brought back Matt Hutchison's band, Fools and Horses. To replace guitar player Kent Warren, who is back at school, we have amazingly talented local Annapolis guitar player/actor/performer Tim King."

In addition to King on lead guitar, the band is made up of Hutchison on guitar, Jeff Hitaffer on bass guitar, Tim Hutchison on drums and Bill Dixon on keyboard. The latter two were part of the first "Rock Around the Dock."

One major difference in this encore production is the brilliant choreography that brightens almost every number, adding exciting backup to the songs, moving the performance to a multidimensional singing, dancing, instrumental rock show.

Vicki Smith of Talent Machine/StageWorkz fame choreographed several numbers including the opener - an intense "Rock This Town" featuring the whole cast.

Lesley Rauch proved she can do it all by choreographing many dances and lending her own formidable dancing skills to nearly every number. Another dancer-choreographer adding sparkle to the show is Amanda Cimaglia.

Rounding out the skilled quartet of choreographers is Jennifer Combest, who created the final number "Old Time Rock and Roll" featuring the entire cast.

Great choreography wouldn't work without phenomenal dancers - something this production has in abundance.

Terrific male dancers are rare, but here we have a quartet of young men, some revealing that unmistakable high-energy, superb technique that is a Talent Machine trademark.

The same dynamic qualities shone in the female dancers.

Returning singers who seem even better this time around include big-voiced divas Laurie Frank, Amy Molineaux and Lauren Simmet, singing steamroller Jessica Hyman, and the elegant, versatile Andrea Elward.

Song-and-dance man Joe Rose turns in another bravura performance, as does Jeff Hitaffer - this time doing triple duty as director, performer and bass guitarist.

Returning singer David Thompson delivers a heart-felt tribute to Elvis with "Walking in Memphis," and another Elvis tribute is nicely handled by Kevin Wheatley in "Can't Help Falling in Love."

Outstanding new singer Kelly Wheatley sings an intense "Lie to Me" that almost smokes with feeling. She was joined by John Rose, who seemed enraptured by the sheer joy of singing. When he joined his brother Joe on stage, a remarkable synergism occurred.

Catch "Take II" this final weekend, tomorrow through Sunday. Call the box office at 410-268-9212 for tickets.

(Some unfinished business: When I saw Summer Garden's previous show, Promises, Promises, I incorrectly identified the actress who played the part of Marge MacDougal. The role actually was played by Rachel Zampelli, who deserved my praise for her comedic skills. )

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