Now wai-a-ait a minute! You know Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre is going to make you want to shout! Kick your heels up and shout! Throw your hands back and shout! With their groovy new musical midway through the summer of 2014, Shout! The Mod Musical takes the stage by storm with five fabulous females—4 Brits and a Yankee—who highlight the smashing sounds of the 60’s that kept England swinging like a pendulum all through the era of women’s liberation and free love. Bursting with vocal color, this catchy little musical—created by Phillip George and David Lowenstein—will have you clapping and singing along in the audience to all your favorite tunes as these groovy girls grow-up and redefine their personal colors. Directed by Jerry Vess with Musical Direction by Anita O’Connor, this show has everything a good Brit needs to sail through the 60’s with a swing in her step!
With a vivacious set decked out in eye-popping colors, Director Jerry Vess, who serves as the show’s Set Designer, really creates a titillating aesthetic backdrop for the colorful show. The letters of the show’s title are outlined in each of the primary show colors with splashing accent patterns thrust in shadow behind them while the left and right walls are an electric lavender with bright, multi-colored dots spread out all over them. Vess’ hints of groovy fashion include beaded curtains with rainbow rings all in the beads, each shading a side entrance to the stage.
The colors say it all from the set to the costumes, and Costume Designer Julie Bays keeps it simple. Dresses that are suited for the era; nothing too short, nothing too risqué, while still looking smart and sassy. Each girl has one main dress that represents their color, and an outfit change in the second act which progresses the timeline of the show. The kaleidoscope dresses reserved for the penultimate number are quite flashy and the perfect approach to the transition of the decades, welcoming in the 70’s with flare. Bays even includes a series of true British pride for the curtain call and big finale; making the Union Jack a proud fashion statement.
Lighting Designer Alex Brady certainly kept the colors popping throughout the production, but at times the repetitive multi-colored light show that just kept blinking the same colors on and off became boring. With the plethora of options available because of the intense color focus in the show, a wider variety of lighting effects and colored light use would have better served the show. Brady did however create moments of brilliant mystery at the top of Act II with the lead-in to “Coldfinger” playing with shadow and spotlights to create these effects.
Choreographer Jason M. Kimmell pumped the show with an electric vibrancy of perpetual motion. Even if at times the dance routines were little more than shuffling back and forth in place with coordinated arm movements, Kimmell kept the girls constantly groovin’. Larger ensemble numbers feature ‘gesture dancing’ like during “Wishin’ and Hopin’” where the girls go through a series of motions that either physically articulate the song’s lyrics or are an iconic representation of dance moves from the 60’s like the snorkel or the v-eyes. “These Boots are Made for Walkin’” becomes a number filled with ‘strike-a-pose’ type moves and involves a large dance break that showcases a variety of moves that cover mostly every major dance from the 60’s.
Creating a quirky cameo role, Ginny White takes on the aloof columnist Gwendolyn Holmes. With a properly prim and polished British accent, White brings her voice up into an airy octave, like Glinda coming home to England with dotty advice on fashion and popular trends. While she only appears briefly throughout the show her little bubbles of advice to the girls are ridiculously funny, as is the fluffy manner in which she presents them. Her chimerical charm and saccharine disposition is cloyingly sweet and adds a frosted flavoring of ineptitude to the show in a comic light.
Red (Mariel White) is the youngest and most inexperienced of the colors, having no idea how to define herself as a woman. White plays the mousy character, uncertain in all aspects of life but especially in love. It takes a while before she discovers her vocal prowess, but this falls in line with the character’s progression throughout the show. Her big solo in the first act, “To Sir With Love” starts out as a demure and rather soft number but as she discovers the meaning behind the words, White embraces the song really comes into her own by the finale of the number. Having fully transformed by the time she reaches “Those Were the Days” it is no surprise to hear her deliver this number with zesty spirit.
Orange (Jamie Erin Miller) is the more mature, maternal figure of the color group. Miller does have a solid voice but at times feels disconnected from what she’s singing, particularly during “You Don’t have to Say You Love Me.” Her most intense moment on the stage is during the final letter addressed to Miss Gwendolyn Holmes; boldly making her opinion of the twit-witted critic known. There is truth an heartache behind her song “You’re My World/All I See is You” a duet shared with Blue (Kara Leonard.)
Leonard, as the blue girl, delivers a stunning rendition of her half of the aforementioned duet. Clear consistent pitch with raw emotion supporting her sustained notes, Leonard accepts the heartache and change that her character encounters at this point of the show. A funnier moment, balancing out the heavy emotions of her character’s trajectory, comes early in the production when she is the poster child for a new anti-wrinkle skin cream. The faces she pulls, while pulling on her face, create quite the uproarious stir among the audience.
It all comes down to Green (Brittany Zalovick) and Yellow (Katie Gardner.) It’s impossible to say who deserves the title of ‘best in show’ as both women do an exceptionally phenomenal job of singing, dancing, acting, and all around giving the show their all. Two drastically contrasting characters, Zalovick and Gardner have no direct duets the way Orange and Blue do, but do appear together in the full group numbers, bringing strong melodies and harmonic blends when necessary to make these numbers sound complete.
Zalovick is a sassy, saucy, fiery incarnation of singing and dancing talent upon the stage. With looks that range from ‘stun’ to ‘kill’ her presence on the stage is highly effective, particularly during “These Boots are Made for Walkin’.” Leading the pack during “Goldfinger” her sensual body language and slick voice is practically channeling every Bond Girl in existence through that moment. Zalovick brings comic acting into play during her little segment about how to break up with men; her accent of the four British ones being the most authentic and consistent. Regardless if Zalovick is featured in the number, if she’s on stage eyes are on her between her sultry and demanding presence, and her ferociously intense gazes. Zalovick even undergoes a transformation of sorts, finding a moment of vulnerable honesty in “I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love” where her smokin’ sassy exterior melts away into true love.
Gardner, as the American in England, is a chipper and bubbly burst of sunshine that comes blazing through the mix. Her acting bit with Paul McCartney is a scream. Employing the comic tactic of taking herself far too serious for “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself,” this number becomes hysterical for those watching her pine over McCartney’s wedding announcement. With an intense stage presence she brings both of her big solos— which respectively end the first act and then the show— to sensational heights. “Son of a Preacher Man” becomes an epic number with Gardner working her exceptionally talented voice to really sell the song to the audience. It becomes a push of sinful sunshine as energy is flowing through her spiritually, physically and vocally. Her sensational belt carries both here and again in “Shout!” at the end of the production; a brilliant addition to the cast rounding out the rainbow with flying colors.
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours with one intermission.
Shout! The Mod Musial plays through July 19, 2014 at the Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre— 143 Compromise Street in historic Annapolis, MD. For tickets call the box office at (410) 268-9212, or purchase them online.