Youths take the stage in 2 musicals

A sure sign that summer has arrived is the Talent Machine Co. rehearsing for two shows - one for ages 5 to 14 and another for ages 14 and older.

Bobbi Smith started the tradition of showcasing talented youngsters in 1987 and expanded her vision until her death in 2001. The legendary choreographer presented three shows a year - two in the summer and one for the Christmas holiday season.


Known for their high energy, Talent Machine shows set a benchmark for youth productions. Bobbi's sister, choreographer Vicki Smith, and daughter Lea Capps, TM's executive director, continue to keep her dream alive.

The older cast will be featured in composer Jerry Herman's classic musical Hello, Dolly! on July 13-15 and 19-22, while the younger set will star in Barnum, The Circus Musical on Aug. 2-5 and 9-12. Both will take place in Key Auditorium at St. John's College in Annapolis.


Nearly 50 children began rehearsals in May for Hello, Dolly! under the direction of Talent Machine alumnus Steve Love, with Capps serving as choreographer and Emily Petty as music director.

At Talent Machine's rehearsal headquarters at StageWorkz recently, Love appeared to have everything well under control, with the leads seemingly at home in their roles. After her April triumph as Sarah in the Merely Players production of The Little Princess, 14-year-old Christina Bartone, who plays Dolly, looked like a pro as she delivered her lines with sass and sparkle during a Saturday rehearsal. Equally at ease were Andrew Siske, 14, as Horace Vandergelder and Lydia Ramsey, 13, as Irene Molloy.

This Jerry Herman musical was written with Ethel Merman in mind, but after she and Mary Martin declined, the show opened on Broadway with Carol Channing in the lead role in 1964. The show went on to win 10 Tony awards, including best musical, best composer, best actress and best choreography.

Choreographed by the legendary Gower Champion, Dolly ran for a record 2,844 performances at the St. James Theatre. It was the longest-running Broadway show until Fiddler on the Roof.

After Channing left the production, a long list of stars, including Ginger Rogers, Betty Grable, Pearl Bailey, Phyllis Diller, Merman and Martin were cast in the role. In 1969, the film version of Hello, Dolly! - directed by Gene Kelly and starring Barbra Streisand and Walter Matthau - was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won three.

The story centers on widowed New York matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi, who has a few sidelines such as giving dance and mandolin lessons. Her clients include wealthy bachelor Horace Vandergelder, whom Dolly hopes to marry to get his money circulating among deserving people.

Two stock clerks - Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker at Vandergelder's Hay and Feed Store in Yonkers - are potential clients of Dolly's, along with Vandergelder's niece, Ermengarde, and her beau, Ambrose Kemper. Dolly arranges for everyone to meet at young widow Irene Molloy's hat shop, where plans are made for everyone to meet that evening at swanky Harmonia Gardens. Then the fun begins.

Tickets are available at $10 each for adults and $8 for children ages 7 and younger online at www.talent, or 410-956-0512.