I always enjoy spending time in the quaint and creative environment of the Gaithersburg Arts Barn. It was especially fun last night, because of the wonderful jazz set that preceded the Tasty Monster Productions performance of Personals. The United Jazz Ensemble, comprised of Mike Noonan, John Pineda, and Dominic Smith, was delightful, and one of the highlights of the evening.
Personals is a light-hearted musical review that tells the story of a group of men and women of various ages who take to the internet and personal ads in their perpetual but frequently unsuccessful quest for love. Written by the creative team behind the hit TV show Friends, the script is good, but I was underwhelmed by much of the musical scoring.
The talented cast includes Matthew Baughman, Renana Fox, Kristen Jepperson, Ken Kemp, Heather Bagnall Scheeler, and Luke Tudball. I particularly enjoyed the performances of Luke Tudball, Kristen Jepperson, and Ken Kemp. Luke Tudball, who directed the show, has wonderful energy and charisma, great resonance in his voice, and well-developed acting chops. Kristen Jepperson, who plays multiple roles, is consistently funny, and her musical abilities shine. Ken Kemp is very well cast as a vulnerable middle aged hopeful who still believes in love. Heather Bagnall Scheeler did a very nice job with “Imagine My Surprise,” as did Renana Fox, who delivered a touching performance of “Michael.”
The overall level of performance on opening night was inconsistent. With a very strong jazz set opening the show, once the musicians switched to the score itself, many of the cast seemed in need of stronger musical direction, appearing at times to be under-rehearsed and memorized, and insecure in many of their harmonies. In a show that is a musical revue, with one song following the next, this became a critical issue. This said, the cast did shine as a company in “Nothing to Do with Love,” and “Moving In With Linda,” which was a highlight moment of the evening.
We are so lucky to live in an area where there are so many opportunities for artists and so many options for audiences. The Arts Barn is a wonderful venue, and a perfect venue for the kind of shows favored by Tasty Monster Productions. Here’s wishing them both the very best.
Personals runs Fridays at 7:30 pm and Saturdays at 7:30 and 9:30 pm, July 27-Aug 4, 2012 at the Gaithersburg Arts Barn – 311 Kent Square Road, in Gaithersburg, MD. Tickets are $20/$18 for City of Gaithersburg Residents. For tickets, call (301) 258-6394 or purchase them online (you have to register first).