‘Two from Galilee’ at Apollo Civic Theatre

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Two from Galilee is a Dramatic Musical version of the Biblical story of the birth of Jesus Christ. It’s based on the book by Marjorie Holmes, and is created and written by Robert Sterling and Karla Worley, and  is arranged and orchestrated by Mr. Sterling.

Mary (Chaste Martin) and Joseph (Ryan Perry). Journal Photo by Ron Agnir.
Mary (Chaste Martin) and Joseph (Ryan Perry). Photo by Ron Agnir.

Instead of placing the characters and situations on a pristine, religious pedestal, Director Michael W. Stiles and Musical Director Catherine Fronck wisely showcase the humanity in the immortal story. Mary could literally be the girl next door. Mary and Joseph are a frightened, young couple in love and completely unsure what the right thing to do is. They constantly seek guidance from their parents, who try to guide the couple in the direction God wants them to go.

The musical, though set centuries ago and re-telling the most famous story ever, is entirely relatable as it showcases ordinary people dealing with their hopes, fears, doubts, and faith as they are chosen for an extraordinary purpose.

As Mary and Joseph, Chaste Martin and Ryan Perry are an incredible couple. The chemistry is evident and the portrayals are nuanced and very sincere. Martin is charming as the Virgin Mary, with a natural innocence and sweetness. Her portrayal of Mary as a young, frightened girl in love who is chosen to be the mother of the Savior, is very honest and layered. Martin has an extraordinary voice, with a powerful sound and the soaring ballad “All I Ever Wanted” was incredibly beautiful.

Ryan Perry is excellent as Joseph. Showing Joseph’s transformation from a young, quirky suitor to an angry, jealous fiance and eventual hopeful husband and father was no easy task, and Perry skillfully handled the changes to show the character’s gradual development. His Act II solo, “Say a Prayer,” was phenomenal, and he nearly stopped the show.

Myrtle Holland (Hannah) and Jim Holland (Joachim), Mary’s parents, have a wonderful comedic chemistry and their duet “Going Through the Motions” was an extremely touching and poignant moment, showcasing both actors’ dramatic skills as well.

Full cast. Photo by Ron Agnir.
Full cast. Photo by Ron Agnir.

Likewise, Gail Farmer (Timna) and George Perry (Jacob), Joseph’s parents,are an outstanding pair and hilariously overbearing as the well-intentioned parents who want the best for their son. Interestingly, (as art imitating life or life imitating art) George Perry and Ryan Perry are father and son in real life, and their close relationship was evident in their moving and emotional portrayals onstage. Gabrielle Tokach also deserves special mention for her warm and caring portrayal of Deborah, with a strong stage presence in an intimate scene with Martin which nicely opened the show.

Dan Henderson (Melchior), Phillip Oberholzer (Balthazar), and Adam Wilson (Kaspar), the three wise men, are absolutely hilarious. The quirky mannerisms and eccentric character voices are a great addition to an already outstanding comic relief effort and the pair was reminiscent of the Scarecrow/Tin Man/Lion comedic trio from The Wizard of Oz. Their dancing camels, comprised of ensemble members in animal costumes, were also adorable.

Two from Galilee features a luscious, rich score with gorgeous solo ballads and energetic ensemble numbers, showcasing the great voices in the cast. At my performance, there were some sound issues, and at times the orchestra overpowered some of the  ensemble singers who were not miked. I am confident these issues will be resolved quickly.

The set, designed by Ann Alter, was very simplistic and authentically designed to look like stones and sand in an Egyptian desert. There is a main central staircase leading to a multi-layered platform upstage, which was used very effectively in the full cast musical numbers and several dramatic solo moments. The side balconies of the theater were also used to great effect for the chorus to sing during the birth and nativity scene and the ballet dancing onstage, choreographed by Kat Ward, was fluid and lovely.

The costumes by Beth Wasson were beautifully detailed, with every principal character in an easily identifiable color or pattern. The Biblical robes were simply decorated with bright colors and the Nativity and Angel costumes were pure and lovely. Likewise, the lighting by Amanda LeMaster was beautiful, adding a wonderful layer to the ethereal Nativity scene and powerful effects to some of Mary’s and Joseph’s solo moments.

 From L to R, Dan Henderson (Melchior), Phillip Oberholzer  (Balthazar) and Adam Wilson (Kaspar). Photo by Adam Blackstock
From L to R: Dan Henderson (Melchior), Phillip Oberholzer (Balthazar), and Adam Wilson (Kaspar). Photo by Adam Blackstock.

Two from Galilee also features ensemble members Becky Raynes, Robert Brennan, Levi Bailey, Sam Knupp, Alissa Fry, Shari Shrewsberry Martin, Amanda Padrutt, Alex Vreeland, Rachel Yates, Alaina Fry, Karen Bayer Walling, Levi Bailey, Kali Yates, Makenzie Yates, Natalie Yates, Rachel Yates, Stephanie Moore, and Belinda Moore.

Two from Galilee is a divine production filled with holiday joy, humor, wonderful singing and dancing, and overflowing with inspiration. It’s a holiday treat for the entire family!

Running Time: Two hours, with a 15-minute intermission.

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Two from Galilee plays through December 14, 2014 at Apollo Civic Theatre – 128 East Martin Street, in Martinsburg, West Virginia. For tickets, call the box office at (304) 263-6766, or purchase them at the door.