I have seen dozen of musicals the last 6 months and I recently had the fun assignment of going through stacks and stacks of programs to select musical performances that ‘stopped the show’ and made the audience applaud wildly. So here they are. Congratulations to the honorees, and thank you for bringing so much joy to your wonderful performances.
I asked everyone to set up their Showstopping song, to talk about their roles, share fond memories of the production, and to tell us where we can find them next performing on the stage.
(1) Nancy Anderson singing “The Boy From…”, at Side by Side by Sondheim, at Signature Theatre.
For Sondheim fans – “The Boy From…” is not one of the composer’s well-known songs, but it may be his funniest. Nancy Anderson’s hilarious performance made me laugh so hard and the audience roared along with me. I’m still laughing as I’m writing this.
Nancy: The song “The Boy From…” was written for a 1966 Off-Broadway review. The lyrics were by Sondheim and the music by Mary Rodgers. It was intended as a spoof on “Girl From Ipanema” which was by Jobim and originally performed by Joao and Astrud Gilberto and Stan Getz (1962). It’s about a girl who falls in love with this Spanish/Portuguese guy but she doesn’t understand why he doesn’t seem interested in her. The song implies why. At first I didn’t relate to the song at all.
When I first heard it, I thought it was hysterical, but translating that into performance alluded me. I didn’t think I was funny. NONE of us thought I was funny. I asked the director what the heck I should do, cuz we were gonna start previews in a few days and I didn’t want to bomb. He wasn’t sure either what I should do to make it funny. So I went home and watched 300 Youtube videos of amateur performances of the song, NONE of which I thought were funny. But the ones that bordered on funny were given a very simple treatment. It seemed that the less you do…the less you TRY to be funny, the funnier it is. But I was still sure I was gonna bomb. So we embarked on our invited final dress rehearsal. I took a big breath before turning around to sing the song, thinking “Here goes nothin’”, and people just laughed and laughed. If you noticed, after each time I sang the song, I would curtsey and then turn to Jon Kalbfleisch at the piano and shrug, as if to say “I don’t know WHY, but they’re laughing!!” In truth I did finally see why it was funny, but I needed the audience to tell me why.
Side by Side by Sondheim is a musical revue, so there are no characters. I think the tricky part of doing the show was to figure out how to seamlessly shift from narration as ourselves into the character that would sing each song. Fond memories? We just laughed and laughed and laughed until the very last day. The director, Matt Gardiner, Jon and Gabe at the pianos, Matt, Sherri and I and all the stage managers – we just made each other laugh. It helped that Matt, Sherri and I were perfectly willing to be COMPLETE IDIOTS.
(2) Ivanna Barrie as Mama Noah, singing “Ain’t it Good?”, from Children of Eden, at Musical Theater Center.
Ivanna has powerful lungs and she shook the roof of The F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre at the Rockville Civic Center with her rousing rendition of the gospel-like “Ain’t it Good?” I heard people in the audience shouting “Hallelujah!” And those were a group of Jewish parents and one appreciative theatre-goer – ME!
Ivanna: “Ain’t it Good?” is a song celebrating the survival of Noah and his family’s long journey on the ark. As the family loses hope and prepares for their end, a dove flies back to the ark with a plant from an olive tree. the family then sees stars in the night sky and the rain ends. “Aint it Good?” is a celebration of life and how good it is to be alive.
“Ain’t it Good?” was a challenge for me to sing, because when I started learning the song it was pretty low in my range. This song also requires me to belt in my higher range of my voice, and because I do not have a voice teacher I had to self teach (with a little help from Michael of course) myself how to belt that high without straining my voice. At first, I didn’t know how to produce the energy to sing “Ain’t it Good?”, but that problem was solved the moment I stepped foot on stage.
I played the role of Mama Noah. Mama is a loving, sweet, diva~like mother of three. She wants her children to be happy no matter what, but she understands the severity of Yonah staying on the ark. I originally wanted the part of Eve in this production of Eden. I didn’t know much about the show when I received the role but then I listened to “Ain’t it Good?” and fell in love with the part. As the show date drew closer I got more and more excited to be Mama. Every day I interpreted each line in a deeper way and connected more with the character. That brings me to my connection to Mama Noah. I really had to release my inner diva when playing Mama and especially in “Ain’t it Good?” I really had to let myself go and not worry about the way I looked and that helped me improve as an actress.
Musical Theater Center’s Children of Eden Has been one of the best experiences in a show I’ve ever had. Just being up on stage with people I love was incredible. I loved everyone I worked with including the amazing cast, the director, the music director, the choreographer, the producer and everyone else who helped to make Eden possible. We all got along and helped each other both on stage and off.
Well, I am only going to be a sophomore in high school so I’m not expecting anything huge – but I am definitely going to keep on with theater. My dream is to be on Broadway so I plan to keep on pursuing that dream. Honestly, being on stage is my passion and my life, and I am never going to stop performing.
(3) Milagros Diaz as Yonah and Sean Watkinson as Japheth, singing “In Whatever Time We Have”, at Children of Eden, at Musical Theater Center.It’s one of my favorite duets from a musical and Milagros and Sean sang it so beautifully, with such passion and love, and the harmonies were lovely. It just melted my heart.
Milagros: My Showstopping song is “In Whatever Time We Have.” I sang this duet with Sean Watkinson in MTC’s production of Children of Eden. In the song, Japheth (Sean) tries to convince Yonah (Me) to stay with him, and not sacrifice herself. Yonah is torn between following God’s will and staying with the love of her life. When Yonah starts to sing, she realizes their love is too powerful to ignore, and gives in to Japheth’s arms. In some ways this song was easy to sing because Sean is an amazing actor and we worked very well together. However, the hard part of this song was how high we had to raise the stakes. Imagine giving up everything you’ve ever had in order to be with the one you love! That’s what it was like every time we sang that song together. I think everyone can relate to this song if you’ve ever had to give up or risk anything for someone you love. Our duet was filled with passion, strength, trust and most of all love!
Sean: “In Whatever Time We Have” is about Japeth having to leave Yonah and him saying if their time together is all they have, then they will be spending the rest of their time inseparable. I related to this song in the same way any young male would – it’s about being in love and having nothing else matter in the world – and there are times I have those feelings. This song vocally was very hard to sing but acting wise also. The intensity had to be so high and the chemistry had to be there or else the song would not work.
Milagros: My role as Yonah was by far my favorite role! In her song “Stranger to the Rain” she confesses how all of her life she’s had to live through hardships but it has all made her stronger. I wanted to play Yonah because her character is a lot like me. Being a part of the race of Cain doesn’t define her, she defines herself by her strong values and beliefs and I’ve had to deal with similar circumstances being from a different country and culture. Despite being in the face of adversity, Yonah found love and overcame all obstacles – and that’s what I respected about her character the most.
Sean: My roles in the show were Cain and Japeth. Both of these characters are rebellious and questioning characters. They both have longings that are beyond what they are allowed to have. I wanted to be these roles because I felt I related to these characters more than any of the other characters. I also wanted to be Cain because I have two brothers and they have both played the part of Cain, so it was nice to see what they did and see what I was doing differently. Like my characters I too am someone who wants to do something major with their life, and I too would take risks to accomplish that.
Milagros: Every moment of the show was memorable! We all became a family, and I think it definitely showed on stage. I loved how every night I noticed something new and unexpected. If I had to choose my favorite memory – it would be the whole rehearsal process. I loved getting to know everyone as his/her character.
Sean: The best memories I have were the four shows themselves. They all were so different from one another but not in a way the audience could see, only the cast. Something new and exciting would happen and the audience wouldn’t know but the cast would be loving it. Also just telling that story with those specific songs is something I will never forget.
Milagros: I am attending Montgomery College this fall, and hope to pursue a double major in psychology and theater! So hopefully you’ll see me on the MC stage soon! 🙂
Sean: I am next going to going to Ireland with Singular Sensations from Musical Theater Center. I hope to be performing in Act Two @ Levine’s production of Spring Awakening.
(4) Maria Egler as Melpomene (Medussa) and Tierra Strickland as Calliope (Aphrodite), singing “Evil Woman” at Xanadu, at Toby’s Dinner Theatre of Baltimore.
I have honored the force of nature Maria Egler so many times in my articles that I’ve lost count, and I’m sure Tierra Strickland will make more of my future Showstopper articles. Their vocals on “Evil Woman” were astounding and gorgeous and – believe me – these two were really evil and really funny! They tore up the place!
Maria: “Evil Woman” takes place while my character is bemoaning the fact that her younger sister Clio has been granted the position of “Leader of the Muses” instead of her. Through the course of the song, Melpomone and Calliope (played by the lovely and talented Tierra Strickland) hatch a plan to place a curse on Clio that will get her put to death. I enjoy singing the song so much because Director Dan McDonald gave us the permission to take our characters to whatever extreme we wanted. Choreographer Laurie Newton gave us some fantastic moves and back-up dancers! (Who doesn’t love back-up dancers?), and Music Director Cedric Lyles – along with his rocking band – gave such shape and soul to the number, and got the vocals he wanted out of us with encouragement and confidence.
Tierra: “Evil Woman” is a song done by the Electric Light Orchestra and it is about how the evil sisters, Melpomene and Calliope, attempt to set up their muse sister Clio by placing a love curse on her so that she will fall in love with the mortal Sonny Malone, an act that is against the law of Zeus. I am in no way an evil woman in real life but I can relate to the song because I can be fun and silly just like my character. The song wasn’t very hard to sing. It is a little low for my voice but it was not hard to sing. I had a lot of fun with the song, Maria who sings it with me, and the other actors on stage who dance and help to make it come alive.
Maria: I play Melpomene, the oldest of the 9 sisters, and the Muse of Tragedy – She has some control issues and a sharp tongue. I wanted to play the role because I thought it was very funny and well-written. There is also a lot of room for interpretation and playing with the onstage audience…which I love!!!
Tierra: My role in the show is Calliope who is considered the comedic side kick to Melpomene. She can be a little ditsy and child-like sometimes……most times, but she is smarter than she appears. She sees things for what they are literally, but she can’t see pass that without Melpomene explaining it to her. Because Calliope is my debut role at Toby’s Dinner Theater I would have taken any role, however, I’m glad they cast me in this role because it allows me to showcase my comedic side. Like myself, Calliope is funny, silly, smart, and at times a bit child-like. But on the flip side she is intuitive and very much in touch with reality.
Maria: We JUST opened, but it is such a wonderful group of people who I can guarantee we are going to be making lots of wonderful memories this summer.
Tierra: Oh, the memories…… I remember when I first found out I was cast. I was out in public and I nearly fell out. Now I’m about 6 feet tall so when I say I shrunk to about a good 3 feet, gradually as I came down to my knees and cheered silently while still on the phone with Vickie, you can only imagine what that looks like! I also remember when we were choreographing Xanadu. Originally my character wore skates in the show. So while skating we were coming to the end of the number and my “traffic pattern” got mixed and while trying to avoid colliding with my other cast members, I ended up falling flat on my butt for the first time! I remember laughing the hardest as my cast mates helped me up. Needless to say the skates were taken out of the equation.
Maria: Next up I will be in The Sound Of Music at Olney during the holiday season.
Tierra: Right now……what ever comes my way. I’m ready for anything, including Broadway. This has been such an incredible experience for me especially since this is my first professional production that runs for more than a weekend! For me, home is where the stage is!
(5) Leora Goldbloom-Helzner as Eve, singing “The Spark of Creation”, at Children of Eden, at Musical Theater Center.
I have been in awe of the very confident every time I have watched Leora perform and sing in several musical productions at Musical Theater Center and Theatre Lab over the past few years. I’ve watched her gain confidence and have heard her voice grow even stronger and more beautiful. Her sparkling and joyful rendition of “The Spark of Creation” was full of energy and longing and her voice was simply gorgeous.
Leora: Eve is a very curious character. Her love of learning and exploring new things makes her particularly noteworthy in the eyes of the audience as well as in the eyes of the character of Father (God). Right away, God can tell that Eve is the ball of enthusiasm that would eventually ruin the innocence of the Garden of Eden. The song, ‘Spark of Creation’ is Eve’s realization that she wants more than beauty and happiness; she wants intellect and knowledge that she can find for herself. The acting required in this song is especially essential to help convey Eve’s feelings to the audience. The excitement was a blast for me and the belting, yet challenging at first, became an immense enjoyment. I believe that more than the melody, the lyrics of this song are the memorable part of this song. Eve has so much to share to the world. She communicates that “when you’re born with an imagination” people are so much more capable of doing what they want to achieve in this world.
Eve, as I said before, is the curious character who wants to find happiness for herself. She loves her father and she loves her husband, Adam, but she feels as if something is missing. If everything is always perfect, Eve could never experience imperfection and making choices for herself. I have my own personal connection with the character of Eve because I always love to wonder and dream for myself. Eve also has that state of mind.
There are many fond memories I have from performing in this show. For one, I had participated in this show six years ago. I was in the children’s ensemble playing both a storyteller and an alligator, but nevertheless, I absolutely loved the experience. I looked up to all the talented people playing the main characters and I idolized them. I was so honored to be able to play Eve in the show when Musical Theater Center did Children of Eden again. I was an older kid now. I felt much closer to our wonderful director (Danny Tippett), choreographer (Kurt Boehm), musical director (Michael Axler), and producer (Laurie Levy Issembert). The production team and cast made this experience so memorable. I loved every single person involved in the show. Overall, the long lasting friendships gave me such joy throughout the whole production process.
Along with my brother, Ari Goldbloom-Helzner, I will be working in the children’s chorus in the opera, Tosca, at the Kennedy Center in September of this year. I am so excited to be able to participate in a professional show with my brother. Then, there is always the annual Spotlight on Broadway put on by the Musical Theater Center’s performing groups Singular Sensations, Upbeat Unlimited, and Opening Act. I always enjoy this experience because I have spent many years with these same people and I love learning about new shows and performing musical numbers from those shows.
(6) Miranda Levin as Lady Larken, singing “In a Little While”, at Once Upon a Mattress, at Act Two @ Levine.
While she sang “In a Little While”- I just fell in love with Miranda Levin’s Lady Larken and wanted to smack Sir Harry (played with the proper arrogance by Ethan Millstone) for the condition Harry left her in. With her soaring soprano – Miranda’s rendition of “In a Little While” tugged at my heart. It was beautiful.
Miranda: In the courtyard, Lady Larken has to tell Sir Harry that she’s pregnant with his child and she tries to convince him to marry her. Before doing so – Sir Harry has to find a princess for the prince. It’s a mess!
“In a Little While” was actually one of the hardest songs for me to sing – not vocally but emotionally – because what Lady Larken was feeling was love and I had trouble connecting with that because at a young age its hard for me to connect to such raw emotion. I portrayed the role of Lady Larken, who was a lady-in-waiting to the queen and who played the love interest to Sir Harry. I related to this character because while she was an adult – she was still very child-like (like me) and carefree and innocent, and that was what drew me to this role.
This show has brought me so many great memories, The cast/crew and I would sing songs from the radio to pump ourselves up before they called “Places!”, and that made me feel like we were all one big family – and we still are.
(7) Nurney Mason II as Mereb, singing “How I Know You”, at Aida, at Montgomery College Summer Dinner Theatre.
I had heard that Nurney Mason was a great dancer, but what I learned the night I saw Aida was that he was an equally fine actor and singer. His passionate rendition of the melodic “How I Know You” and the reprise of the song was the highlight of the performance of Aida that I attended. I have heard other actors/singer perform this song, but rarely have I heard this song sung with so much passion.
Nurney: I would say my Showstopping Song is the “How I Know You” reprise in the second act. The song comes after Aida leaves Mereb and the Nubians for Radames. Previously Zoser, Radames’ father, decided to kill Aida because she was in the way of Radames’ marriage to the princess and the throne. Soldiers come to the Nubian camp to apprehend Aida, Nehebka pretends to be Aida, and the soldiers take her away to kill her. This is where the song comes in because Mereb is heartbroken that Aida would leave her people for a man who is Egyptian. The song isn’t too vocally demanding, however it is all built upon character. At the climax of the song Mereb says; “I thought I knew you princess, but I never understood. I don’t know you.” I feel this is how he really feels about Aida in this moment. The song is all about seeing someone’s true colors after you thought you knew everything about them, which a lot of people can relate to.
When I initially auditioned, I was only shooting for a place in the ensemble, and I didn’t really consider being a principal. Aida is only my second show, my first was RENT at Towson University as Angel, and I will admit I simply wanted to dance/sing in all the big numbers. I was surprised after I was cast as Mereb, and I knew that a lot of work would have to be done. After I did some character analysis work on Mereb, I realized that I do have things in common with him: Mereb is very witty and funny, which are two things I think I am. (Key words: I think.) Mereb also believes in the ‘greater good’ and will sacrifice things he wants in order to make things work. It’s another thing I would like to say I have in common with Mereb.
The fondest memory I have is performing “The Gods Love Nubia” at the end of the first act. The song comes after the Nubians find out that the Nubian king had been captured and they felt that there was no more hope for them. It was such an empowering moment as a cast to stand there and deliver these amazing lines through song. My favorite part of the song is the a capella section towards the end, all that is heard is our singing and clapping. It moves me every single time we perform it and it’s become my favorite song of the show.
The next show I will be in is Meet Me In St. Louis, which is also at Montgomery College Summer Dinner Theater. Yes, I am doing both shows back to back and I am absolutely thrilled! I am a part of the ensemble – which is great because now I will know what it is like to be a principal character, or an ensemble member and it’s only my third show. I feel absolutely humbled and blessed by my experience at Summer Dinner Theater.
(8) Kevin S. McAllister as Burrs, and Jamie Eacker as Queenie, singing “What is it About Her”, at The Wild Party at Teatro 101.
This was a rare moment in this ‘roller coaster of emotions’ musical where we actually could understand why two people who seem to despise each other – lasted so long together. And to listen to Kevin’s rich and gorgeous baritone and Jamie’s seductive voice weaving in and out in Andrew Lippa’s beautiful “What is it About Her” — well it was beautiful and frightening at the same time. It was great acting and fantastic singing. It was riveting.powerful, and scary.
Kevin: At this point in show Burrs realizes that Queenie could actually be genuinely attracted to another man He initially thinks it a game she’s playing just to make him jealous – but he soon starts to see there may be something more to her connection with Black. He could be losing her and he can’t handle it so he begins drinking. The song is the first time we see a softer side of Burrs. He talks about everything this woman is to him from her smile to the softness of her hair before he determines he’s not giving her up without a fight.
I think I related to the song by connecting with the idea of seeing all you’ve ever wanted just slipping away and being powerless to stop it. It’s a tough thing for anyone. To be honest, the song was hard to sing but I looked forward to it every night because it marked the beginning of a major shift in the character. It’s one of those songs I love singing. It really allows you to play with power and control of your voice while allowing you to make choices as an actor.
Jamie: For the first time Queenie is breaking down her walls. As she keeps making up excuses for Burrs’ (Kevin McAllister) physical and mental abuse she is slowly realizing that she doesn’t want it anymore. It’s her push and pull between what she has known for three years and something new. Queenie is very tempted to just fall into Black’s arms, but how to leave Burrs when they have been through so much. (I sure had a few secrets floating around when I was singing this song.)
Kevin: Burrs is a man of passion and sometimes that passion manifests itself in dark ways. His passion/love of Queenie drives his every move and when he realizes he is losing that control over her, and he soon begins to lose control of himself. I wanted to play the role because I knew it would be a challenge for me. I had never done anything like this and when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped at it. I can honestly say in the beginning I struggled because I judged the character. I couldn’t understand how anyone could think abuse was love. But once I came to understand that we all express love in different ways, I realized in his own twisted way Burrs believes he is giving Queenie the best of himself. He is giving all he has to give to Queenie and he can’t understand how she doesn’t feel that. Once I gained that understanding I found so many new ways to play the character and love him and his motives.
Jamie: Queenie! “…Queenie was sexually ambitious… so delicious!” As a vaudeville showgirl she knew how to have some fun, but behind the act and the makeup there was a woman looking for the deepest of love. Something that as a girl you dream of and as you get older think isn’t attainable. Sinking my teeth into this script is all I wanted to do as soon as I got the call to play Queenie. She’s exciting, wild and more importantly she’s honest and relatable. That’s exactly what I had to do, just be honest. I was ready to delve deep into myself and use whatever I could to make Lippa’s script my own. Being able to relate to Queenie was…. easy. We both share some fears and both have walls.
Kevin: I would have to say the cast was the best. Their energy was electric every night both on stage and off. I can remember relaxing in our dressings rooms passing around a bag of Crazy Cores Skittles before we went on stage. So good!
Jamie: Every night was a party! What more could you ask for? Seriously, from the first rehearsal I knew that Teatro101 had something special and if you saw it you know what I’m talking about. The fact that the audience was not only feet, but inches away from you was exhilarating. There was no hiding your feelings, you had to leave your heart on that stage and we did every night. My favorite party moment would have to be at the very end of the show when I sing “How Did We Come To This.” It was a therapeutic release from the rollercoaster ride I had just been on.
Kevin: I am very excited to be portraying the roles of Jim Conley, Riley, and Newt Lee in the Ford’s Theatre production of Parade this fall.
Jamie: Next up is some fun in the sun for the summer and then ringing in the New Year with Hairspray at Signature Theatre!
Thank you Joel for naming me a “Show Stopper!” I am very excited and honored. The Wild Party was by far one of the best experiences I have had thus far. Thank you David Gregory and Katie Harrington and the entire cast for making it so!
(9) Edward C. Nagel, as Bertram Wooster, JB Tadena, as Cyrus Budge, and Michael Shenefelt, as Gussie Fink-Nottle, singing “The Hullo Song”, at By Jeeves, at 1st Stage.
I just adored ‘The Hullo Song” and Edward, JB and Michael’s performance of it. It was silly and endearing and lots of fun. It was the big crowd-pleaser of the final matinee performance that I attended. The audience just loved it and laughed uncontrollably. You needed great comic timing to pull it off and these three talented gents did!
Edward: As the act one finale, the “Hullo Song” is the pinnacle of the mistaken identity situation. With menacing character’s threatening him on multiple sides, Bertie is desperately trying to cover his blunders and smooth things over, but can only do so by spinning a ridiculous story about the English tradition of post-dinner-reintroductions. The challenge of the song is in communicating that Bertie is thinking on his feet, while still remaining convincing enough to sway the other characters into belief. Add in the speed and a bit of handwork, and you have what could easily turn into a mess. Musically, the song had a broader range than some of the other numbers. In his other songs, Bertie tends to sit nicely in either baritone or tenor territory, but this one meandered through both. Even though it was vocally tiring, there was the nice payoff during the harmonies at the end, which I looked forward to every night.
JB: Well, it’s actually a bit complicated. Bertram Wooster (Nagel) used his friend, Gussie Fink-Nottle’s (Shenefelt) name in court, so Gussie had to claim Bertram Wooster’s name when he introduced himself to the Magistrate that sentenced Wooster in court. When Bertram eventually meets Cyrus Budge, he accidentally introduces himself as Wooster, and doesn’t immediately remedy it, as Budge is a physical specimen in love with the same woman as Gussie who just happens to be the Magistrate’s daughter. And so it goes, when Bertram and Gussie are in the same room with Budge, to keep their identities anonymous they come up with a way to persuade him that they reintroduce each other in England. Yadda, yadda, yadda, and hilarity ensues.
Michael: Cyrus Budge, the American, catches the end of a conversation between Bertie Wooster and Gussie Fink-Nottle regarding their swapped identities. Wooster and Fink-Nottle play it off by saying that it is ‘an English tradition’ to forget names and constantly reintroduce oneself. “The Hello Song” is a comedic trio expounding on the tradition. The harmonies between Budge, Wooster, and Fink-Nottle took a few days to learn, but, vocally, it was an easy song to sing. The challenge of this song was having good comedic timing while staying true to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rhythm and melody.
Edward: Bertie is sort of an interesting case as a character. I grew up watching the Fry and Laurie interpretation and reading the novels, where Bertram seems a bit more clueless. In this show he has to be both blissfully unaware of whats going on, and narrate the story. Luckily, Jeeves is there to push things along and drive the plot. In a show that ends with three engagements, Bertie is the quirky best friend who causes a huge mess, and then miraculously cleans things up at the last-minute, though again, Jeeves does most of the cleaning. I loved having the opportunity to play this character. These stories are such a huge part of my teenage years. I like to think I’m a little more capable and intelligent than Bertie, but I enjoyed getting to see things through his relentless optimism. I don’t think that I’ve met anyone who’s gone to the same lengths to protect their identity, but I think that this song could be relatable to anybody who has forgotten the name somebody that they just met and who also knows the generic conversation starters from awkward run-ins with acquaintances, a la “How’s business been?”. Aside from the unorthodox rhythm of the piece, it wasn’t a particularly hard song to sing. It carried a pretty tedious and repeating melody and we had to change it a little during each verse to keep it from getting stale. But, I feel that the audience found the final harmonization at the end of the piece to be pretty charming.
JB: Cyrus Budge III, Jr. is kind of the antagonist (if you can call it that) of By Jeeves. He’s an American Jelly Magnate that is trying to expand his father’s jelly empire overseas. He’s very competitive and is pretty much his own number one fan. His crass behavior is by no means malicious, but he comes off as just a little unpalatable. I wanted to play the character because whenever you play a caricature of sorts, I feel like you’ll never be afraid that you’re going too far with it. It’s okay for it to be a little over the top, because characters in these stories are larger than life. I think it’s great to poke fun at ourselves sometimes and I can do that a lot with Cyrus. It’s funny to see how silly we actually look when we get a little over competitive and when we can’t stop talking about ourselves.
Michael: My role in the show was the nerdy, romantic, and altogether hopeless Gussie Fink-Nottle. I am smitten with Madeline Bassett and my plan to win her affection is one of the major plot lines. I can relate to Gussie in that I have been the head-over-heels goofball before when it comes to a girl. Gussie does take nerdy to the extreme, however, and that was fun to stretch my acting ability. I wasn’t familiar with the show before auditioning and being offered the role. I accepted the role because the 1st Stage Theater is in my home town and I have really wanted to work there since it opened four seasons ago.
Edward: I feel incredibly lucky to have been a part of this show. I only recently finished school, and I could not have asked for a better group to work with on my first show outside of academia. There was always such a fantastic energy coming into rehearsals, and an incredible amount of respect and trust for each other and each other’s work. I will always remember the first read through. We walked in, most of us not knowing anyone else in the show, and had each other in stitches. Everyone was so open, and welcoming, and already had a clear idea of where their character was headed. I found an incredible group of professionals that I can count on, onstage and off. Everyday they helped me to find something new in the show – or the way a sentence was worded – that opened my understanding of the character and helped keep the show fresh and alive.
JB: From the new and unexpected things that happen on stage to watching Matt Dewberry dance backstage to Alison Corke’s and Edward C. Nagel’s “Love Arrives”, there is no shortage of great memories. I am lucky to have been a part of this production with such a fun and talented cast and crew.
Michael: The cast of this has some of the nicest people you will ever meet. I enjoyed every minute spent on and off the stage with the cast of By Jeeves and our lovely and talented director – Stevie Zimmerman.
Edward: My next step on the stage is coming up really quickly. I’ll be joining Robert McNamara’s remount of The Importance of Being Earnest at Scena Theatre. The show is gender cross cast, so I’ll be playing Miss Cecily Cardew. It’s a little more of a shift than I was expecting after By Jeeves, but I’m having a lot of fun with it! After that I hope to keep auditioning and working the area; building my resume and getting more experience. I have a lot to learn when it comes to life as a theater professional, so hopefully I can keep finding these projects which challenge me, and push me in directions I have never gone in before. Eventually I would like to look back and say that I never played the same role twice.
JB: Nothing at the moment, but I’ll pop up sooner or later.
Michael: I have an exciting year coming up. I am currently in rehearsals for a run of Shakespeare’s Macbeth which is being produced by The Impossible Theater Company (ITC). ITC is DC’s newest professional theater started by Nick Jonczak, graduate of American University, who spent the last year as Arena Stage’s managing director fellow. Macbeth opens August 3rd and will perform at the Warehouse Theater in DC. I will then head down this fall to the Orlando Shakespeare Center where I will start a nine month acting fellowship. Orlando Shakes’ season includes such great plays as: The Importance of Being Earnest, Romeo and Juliet, God of Carnage, and others.
(10) Carly Neely as Lucy Harris, singing “Someone Like You”, at Jekyll and Hyde, at Kensington Arts Theatre.
Carly’s powerful rendition of “Someone Like You” was haunting, gorgeously sung, and filled with intense yearning. It’s not an easy song to sing with a lot of high notes to hit – but Carly hit those notes effortlessly. It was flawless!
Carly: “Someone Like You” is about Lucy Harris feeling there is suddenly hope for her and potential for her future after meeting with Henry Jekyll. Despite being trapped in her life as a prostitute she’s stumbled upon Dr. Jekyll and believes that he can provide her with an out from this life, and with the love that she has never had. While I have never felt as trapped as Lucy does, I have absolutely felt that surge of hope and possibility that comes with falling head over heels for someone in an instant; that tumbling of thoughts and emotions and scenarios.
To me, Lucy is a big wave of emotions and reactions. She does try to take hold of her life but so much of the time the character is free-falling in one direction or another and I think she does this to escape the stifling of her circumstances. She believes if she truly commits or throws herself into something it can happen for her. I admire her impulsiveness and how she loses herself in the moment, jumping into things head first regardless of the outcome.
This show was a terrific time. I had been away from theater for several years and it was so exciting to get back into things. Lucy was a big challenge for me since it’s not a role you can ‘test the waters’ with, I had to cannonball into the part. The cast was extremely talented, supportive and down right hilarious at times and while I enjoyed working on solo numbers, the most memorable and fun times were those spent working on group numbers or duets. Kensington Arts Theatre is an amazing company.
At this moment in time I have no future performances lined up, but I am hoping to stay on the local theater scene if I can!
(11) Lisa Pastella as Madelaine True, singing “An Old Fashioned Love Story,” at The Wild Party, at Teatro 101.
When The Wild Party – with all its doom and gloom – needed a lift – in came Lisa Pastella, and she brought the house down with her rousing and naughty ‘An Old Fashioned Love Story”. It was like Ethel Merman on speed. It was outrageous and so entertaining and ir stopped the show. It was a tour de force!
Lisa: Madeline True has spent the beginning of the party flirting with all the women, but she is getting no takers. An Old Fashioned Love Story is Madeline’s continued hunt for “prey” but she becomes increasingly unsuccessful! This song was incredibly hard to sing because your comedic timing needs to be perfect while belting high E’s and playing to the audience!
I knew Madeline was a part I wanted to play as soon as I heard her song. It is hilarious! I really wanted to be part of an ensemble show. Madeline is a very crass (she just knows what she wants!!!) and strong woman. I like to think that I too am strong, and sadly at times I am also crass! 🙂
This was such an ensemble show. We all worked together and had a blast! Working with this amazingly talented group of people is a memory I will cherish forever!!
Up next I am performing in Closer Than Ever, directed by Kew Ewing at Mornington Players, opening July 15th! After that I will be starring in my most important role to date – bride, in my November wedding!
(12) Jonny Perl as Adam, singing, “The Hardest Part of Love”, at Children of Eden, at Musical Theater Center.
I have been watching and listening to Jonny perform and sing in musicals at Musical Theater Center since he was a little guy, and frankly, he is one of the sweetest, smartest and talented young actors and singers I know. As he has gotten older, Jonny’s voice has become more beautiful and more powerful. His rendition of the reflective and emotional “The Hardest Part of Love” brought tears to my eyes.
Jonny: While Children of Eden is freely based on the first nine and half books of Genesis, it is most importantly a story of family and parent-child relationships. In this song, Noah reflects on the difficulties of being a father to a son who makes his own decisions. By the end of the song, he realizes that “the truest part of love…is the letting go” and decides to grant his son the freedom to choose his own future. It is in the same song that G-d (who is called ‘Father’ in the show to further emphasize the family themes) realizes he has to let humanity choose its own destiny. I feel like this is a song that so many people can relate to. The show’s themes are universal to every father, mother, and child. Anyone who has ever had a kid or a parental figure has at some point struggled with differences in the generation gap.
Children of Eden has been one of my favorite productions since I was nine years old. One of the show’s major themes is how character traits and traditions are continuously passed from one generation to another. This is why Adam and Noah are played by the same actor, to show the passing of traits from generation to generation. Both Adam and Noah are very faithful to Father and protective of their families. Adam experiences the same conflicts with his sons that Noah does with his family. I find it remarkable that the problems experienced by the first family of man still occur in today’s families. This show is a reminder that things today are just as they were then, but it is never too late to make new beginnings.
Family and tradition have always played an important role in my life, and so it was really special to share this experience not only with an incredibly talented cast of kids who play a family, but also with my actual family. It was a real treat to share the stage with my little sisters. Special thanks to the creative team for putting up with our casts’ “shenanigans”.
I don’t know what’s next for me on stage. I’ll continue to rehearse as part of MTC’s performing ensemble Singular Sensations, practice piano, and sing in my school’s Chamber Choir and see what auditions come up in the fall, and I’ll be writing a column for MD Theatre Guide called ‘Teen Scene”, where I write about young actors and their productions in the DC area.
(13) Daryl Spiers as Andre, Cliff Walker as Ken, Nova Y. Payton as Nell, Iyona Blake as Amelia, and Lauren Du Pree, singing “Black and Blue”, at Ain’t Misbehavin’, at The Washington Savoyards.
The joint was jumpin’ with jivin’ and toe-tappin’ songs by the late great Fats Waller, but when the mood turned serious and the five incredible harmonizing voices of its brilliant cast blended into one – it was breathtaking. I won’t ever forget it!
Daryl: Thank you for naming me a Show Stopper in your upcoming article in Maryland Theatre Guide. It was an amazing experience playing the part of Andre, in the Savoyards production of Ain’t Misbehavin’. I had only seen one other production of the show directed by the late Mike Malone, previous to performing it, but was quite fond of Thomas ‘Fats’ Waller’s music. During rehearsals I was soon to discover Mr. Waller’s genius in close harmonies, complex rhythms, and style variation. Even the quick wit and comedic timing built into the score brought his spirit to life, and helped to shape all five characters. I got the chance to work with Mr. Andre DeShields in another production, so I was especially excited to explore the role he originated.
Cliff: The song is “Black and Blue” and it lands close to the end of the show. What’s so great about the placement of this song is that the entire evening has been filled with lots of laughs, hot and jumping music, and an overall jovial mood. Daryl and I have just finished singing a hilarious song, “fat and greasy”. “Fat and Greasy” is a song where the audience gets involved by clapping and singing along. So, when the piano begins to play “Black and Blue” the audience, the theatre, the show, and the actors begin to take a dramatic and somber turn. The song is basically asking the question, “What did I do to be so black and blue?” This song beautifully speaks of racism and how one may ask the question “Why was I born?” into a world that hates me simply because, “…what is on my face”. I definitely relate to this song by simply being a young African-American man. Although, I’ve never asked the question, “Why was I born?” I can surely understand the pain of being judged, feared, and disliked based on the color of skin. All I have to do to feel this pain is to simply try to catch a cab after a long rehearsal or being watched intensely in a department store when other patrons are not.
This song is not an easy song to sing for two reasons: the harmony and in Daryl and I case breathing. Daryl and I just finished running and singing around the theatre which takes a lot of energy. So, to sing “Black and Blue” right after it took some time to regain your breath to even sustain the notes. Also, the harmonies are so tightly stacked that it is so important for you to truly know your part or it could ruin everything.
Lauren: “Black and Blue” is very different from the rest of the numbers in Ain’t Misbehavin’. Most of the songs are very comedic with sexual inuendos, but “Black and Blue” has a much more somber tone. My favorite line is “I’m white inside, but that don’t help my case. Cause I can’t hide what is on my face.” I relate the most to this line, because it means to me that there is something so wonderful inside of you, but fear of judgment and rejection stops you from letting it out. The hardest part of learning this song was the difficult harmonies, but once we got more comfortable with the music, it was easy to connect with the words and each other onstage.
Daryl: My character (Andre) was the ‘player’ type, who sees nothing wrong with dating multiple women at the same time. He’s the ladies man, very smooth and seductive but also fun and energetic. Andre’s ‘show stopping’ moment would have to be The Viper’s Drag, a song about the effects and pleasures of marijuana. I know not your “after school special” entertainment, definitely for the mature audience. I had such a great time performing this number, in red pants, a white collard shirt with sleeves rolled up and a fedora tilted to the side with a “might immensely” rolled joint hidden inside. The stage is smoke-filled and the band is in a drag time that compliments the turning, sliding and gyrating choreography. I have had to sing while dancing in many other shows before, but this was especially challenging because I had to be descriptive in my story telling with clear diction, and sustain pitches while dancing and moving across the stage…and make it ALL look effortless.
Cliff: My role in the show was Ken. A fun-loving and hilarious guy, who loves to drink, dance and romance the ladies. I was so excited to play this role because I love how he is so funny! Ken also sings “You’re Feet’s Too Big” and that was so fun to do every night. It’s one of my favorite songs in the show and I had a great time performing it nightly. My father who passed away some years ago enjoyed this song as well and I thought of it as a tribute to him and how funny he was.
Lauren: I portrayed the role that Charlayne Woodard originated on Broadway. It was a lot of fun, because she’s young, sassy, silly, flirty and fun-loving. It was easy to relate, because I share a lot of those traits. However, I did have to portray “the other woman” in a lot of the numbers. That was fun, but not necessarily true to my character.
Daryl: I will take with me some fond memories of this production of Ain’t Misbehavin’ experience, in the process I developed strong friendships and reconnected with old ones in the cast, who were some of the most AMAZINGLY TALENTED group of artist anyone could ever work with. I felt so fortunate to share the stage with Nova, Iyona, Cliff, Lauren, Darius and the band.
Cliff: My memories of performing in Ain’t Misbehavin’ are all great. This is my dream show and I’ve wanted to do this show ever since I was a child in junior high school listening to the soundtrack that I brought with my allowance after seeing the televised version on cable. Working with such great people who are all incredibly talented, funny, and kind was a joy. Michael Bobbitt and Darius Smith are great to work with because they are geniuses at what they do and are very hard-working but they have a way of making the experience fun and relaxed. They also are great because they are very much about you (the performer) adding your own ideas to the creation of your character. Also, what can I say about the cast? This group of beautiful, talented, and funny people were the best I’ve ever worked with. They are all so so good and just watching them made me want to do even more. Everyone definitely brought their very best to the experience. I hope to work with them again
Lauren: The best part of Ain’t Misbehavin’ was the great people I got the chance to work with. I love everyone in the cast and crew, and we had a ton of fun for every performance. Another fun part was interacting with the onstage audience members. We never really knew how they were going to react, so it was a surprise every night.
Daryl: Well I’m working on a musical drama that I conceived and wrote called 330 In The Water, I hope to bring this project to production in the fall. Thank you again for considering me a Show Stopper, what an honor! I look forward to reading the article,
Cliff: What’s next for me on the stage? Well being a working actor sometimes you don’t have an answer to that question. I have some promising prospects and I’m currently writing a solo-show based on Langston Hughes short stories. However, whatever is next for me on the stage I hope it will be as great of an experience as Ain’t Misbehavin’ was.
Lauren: I’ll be in for colored girls… in the DC Fringe Festival at Studio Theatre. Performance times are here.
(14) Christopher Thorn as Aldolpho, and Lisa Ann Bailey as The Drowsy Chaperone, singing “I Am Aldolpho”, at The Drowsy Chaperone, at McLean Community Players.
Chris Thorn was totally outrageous as the Latin Lover Aldolpho and Lisa Anne Bailey was perfectly tipsy as The Drowsy Chaperone, and when Chris sang “I Am Aldolpho” with his Desi Arnaz-like accent, the audience went wild! When Lisa Anne joined in – it was so hysterical that the audience and I couldn’t stop laughing hysterically. And we could see that Chris and Lisa were having the time of their lives performing this number – and it was infectious. What a blast!
Christopher: The song “I Am Aldolpho” is about, fittingly, Aldolpho. He presumes everyone who is anyone should know who he is; when the Chaperone mispronounces his name, there is no choice but to strongly and powerfully correct her…. Through song! He woos the Chaperone while lauding his accolades and triumphs thus whipping her into a frenzy of love. It was a challenge, much of the song reaching the top of my range as a Baritone. I grew as a singer by the time rehearsal was complete and was up to the task. Part of the charm of The Drowsy Chaperone is the classic feel of the music and this song was no exception. It was terribly fun to sing.
Lisa Anne: Just seconds before the song Drowsy was opening “When will love come crashing thru my door?” and enter Aldolpho – for Drowsy there was her answer and for Aldolpho, the bride (or so he thought) he had been sent to woo away from the groom. The song is a self written bio of Aldolpho’s prowess, interrupted by the necessary seduction and Drowsy herself. The song was sheer comic delight to sing; the hardest part was not not laughing at Chris.
Christopher: Aldolpho is the greatest gift to women the world has ever known, in his own mind. As a Baritone, it’s one of the most fun modern roles a man can play. When I first heard the Cast CD of The Drowsy Chaperone, Aldolpho was who I zeroed in on immediately. I knew I wanted to try for the role if the chance came up. Do I relate to the character? Not on the surface. I am certainly not god’s gift to women by any means, though hopefully my wife would put up a strong case. I am, however, a true romantic and though I tend to be a bit more tactful than Aldolpho, I can at least understand him on that level.
Lisa Anne: The Drowsy Chaperone – chaperone to the bride and infatuated with “the drink” – is also Beatrice Stockwell – an aging Broadway actress, a bit of a diva and has a tendency to overact. Why did I want to play the role – Dear Lord, who wouldn’t? The fact that I personally am not like her is what made her so fabulous. I’ve not been a Broadway actress, I’m not a diva or an over actor and I am not an aging actress, I’m merely well-seasoned!
Christopher: I have nothing but fond memories from playing Aldolpho at McLean. Lisa Anne Bailey was an amazing woman to sing and perform with. A true star! Aldolpho has become one of the few roles I could play again and again without ever growing tired. The cast and crew were brilliant, supportive and I have some new lifelong friends because of the experience.
Lisa: The Drowsy Chaperone is an amazing comedic opportunity that will always be in my top ten. The “family” that was The Drowsy Chaperone at McLean was the most supportive group I’ve ever worked with. Patience is something that none of them lack none more importantly than my dear Chris Thorn! The show was ‘good for what ails ya’ night after night!
Christopher: Next for me is a baby boy this October! That is my focus for now, but I will be back on stage just as soon as life permits.
Lisa: I’ll be off stage this year directing – first Nine at The Arlington Players in October, and then I Love You Because at The Reston Community Players in March.
See you back on the stage 2012/2013 – if all goes well!