Forming a new theater company in Anne Arundel County might seem somewhat risky considering the number of entrenched companies. Colonial Players, Pasadena Theatre Company, Merely Players, Second Star and Bay Theatre are all vying for the same general audience.
But that risk hasn't deterred 32-year-old song-and-dance man Jeffrey Glenn Hitaffer from forming Top Hat Theater Productions, which is in rehearsals at Chesapeake Arts Center with Jesus Christ Superstar, scheduled to open Aug. 5 and run weekends through Aug. 14 at the center's 900-seat main theater.
Challenges like filling theater seats don't frighten Hitaffer, who when performing at the now-defunct Chesapeake Music Hall regularly put away his tap shoes and rushed to cover the midnight shift at the Eastern District of the Baltimore Police Department.
Having served as a police officer from 1997 until 2001, when an 800-pound gate fell on his back to sideline him, Hitaffer says he now dedicates himself "to working out every day so I will be physically better than ever. I am currently processing for the Anne Arundel County Police Department, where I hope to finish my career in law enforcement. There is no job in the world like it. I have yet to find anything as mentally challenging and satisfying as being a police officer."
Always interested in music, Hitaffer wrote more than 20 songs before becoming involved in theater in high school, an interest he pursued at Anne Arundel Community College while studying law enforcement. He has brightened the local theater scene at Chesapeake Music Hall, where he played the title role in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and appeared and directed for Merely Players and Annapolis Summer Garden. He most recently was featured in Second Star's Damn Yankees, where he set a grueling athletic pace for his "Washington Senators" teammates while spending his free time casting Superstar and attending to other Top Hat tasks.
Hitaffer is a talented director who created exciting theater when he brought the first rock 'n' roll sound to Summer Garden. Directing Merely Players' West Side Story, he used the depth of the stage to place a rock band at the rear, bringing an extra dimension to the action and creating interest between scenes.
At a Superstar rehearsal this month, Hitaffer seemed to enjoy discovering new talent, and relished old friends returning to the stage for this production.
He clearly appreciates the support of 22-year-old Jamie Hanna, who worked with him as fight choreographer coach in West Side Story and now has a financial interest in the new company.
From what could be observed at rehearsal, Top Hat's first production has drawn some highly talented cast members.
Tickets for Top Hat's "Jesus Christ Superstar" are $12 for CAC members and children 12 and younger and $15 for nonmembers. Call 410-636-6597 or visit www.chesapeakearts.org for information.