’65 Years of Broadway! The Best Musicals, Abridged’ at 2nd Star Productions

 Come to the Cabaret – 2nd Star style!

2nd Star Productions is hosting its 4th annual cabaret. This year’s theme was inspired by the Broadway shows that, since 1949 when it was first introduced, took home the Tony Award for Best Musical.

This show is an entertaining, lively, two-hour songfest performed by a talented crew of singer-thespians, all “stars” of 2nd Star Productions. During the two hour show, the cast performs approximately 60 songs – some classic showstoppers and some not as well known.

How they remembered all those songs without notes, cuecards, or memory implants, I’ll never know.

Produced and directed by cast member Nathan Bowen, the cast of 13 endeavor to sing a song from nearly every one of the Best Musicals.

Back row (left to right): Josh Hampton, Emily Mudd, Cheramie Jackson, Daniel Starnes, E. Lee Nicol, and Nathan Bowen. Front row (left to right): Laura Brady (accompanist), Michael Mathes, Alexandra Baca, Pam Shilling, Sophia Riazi-Sekowski, Geneva Croteau, and Cheryl Campo.
Back row (left to right): Josh Hampton, Emily Mudd, Cheramie Jackson, Daniel Starnes, E. Lee Nicol, and Nathan Bowen. Front row (left to right): Laura Brady (accompanist), Michael Mathes, Alexandra Baca, Pam Shilling, Sophia Riazi-Sekowski, Geneva Croteau, and Cheryl Campo. Photo courtesy of 2nd Star Productions.

The show set is simple – and easily moved. There is a small, black raised platform, about four inches from the floor. Behind it is draped two backdrops featuring handpainted renditions of city buildings. Along the sides of the room, usually a church meeting space, framed posters of hit Broadway shows were displayed atop pipe racks draped in black. On either side of the platform was a double row of seats. Beneath each seat were an array of props, folders and note cards. Items used by individual performers throughout the show. When they weren’t onstage, they were in the seats – often singing along with those onstage.

About 70 people crammed into the space – and were not disappointed.

Stage left, there was a piano. Musical Director and accompanist Laura Brady performed masterfully on the piano throughout the show.

The scene-stealer in this show, no doubt about it, is the younger Sophia Riazi-Sekowski, who is not yet into her tween years.

The young talent sings with the conviction, emotion, passion, and knowledge of a person at least twenty years older. Her acting chops are right up there with the older members of the 13-member ensemble. She adroitly handles “I Whistle A Happy Tune” from the 1952 winner The King and I as if she attended its premier. Later on, she takes the reins with 1977’s winner Annie with her wistful version “Maybe” and the “The Letter” from Billy Elliot the Musical (2009).

Nathan Bowen sweats a little doing triple duty as director, producer, and performer – but his hard work paid off. Bowen thrilled with his solo rendition of  the 1961 winner Bye Bye Birdie’s “Put On A Happy Face.” Bowen also performed in duets and emsemble pieces throughout the show.

Lee Nicol and Daniel Starnes both handled many of the male solos, though Michael Mathes nearly stole the show with his rendition of the famous Frankie Valli song, “Sherry” from Jersey Boys (2006). Singing in falsetto comes naturally to Valli, who’s done it for more than 60 years. Yet, Mathes expertly handled the high notes and sang with a flourish.

Josh Hampton, who performed in small and large ensemble pieces, got his moment in the spotlight with Avenue Q’s (2004) “What Do You Do” … He was especially hysterical in the all-male performance of “Hello” from The Book of Mormon (2011).

All the adult females turned in stella performances, too.

Cheryl Campo sang emotionally, her face and body movements wringing out every note, in Sound of Music’s (1960) “Climb Every Mountain,” “Nothing” from A Chorus Line (1976), Sunset Boulevard’s (1995) “As if We Never Said Goodbye,” and the 1998 Lion King’s “Shadowland.”

Another strong singer was Pam Shilling with her renditions of “Send In The Clowns” from 1973’s A Little Night Music and “Memory” from Cats, the 1983 winner.

Alexandra Baca, Geneva Croteau, Cheramie Jackson, Emily Mudd, and Caelyn D. Sommerville also turned in stellar performances.

Mudd was memorable in her solos from “Buenos Aires” from Evita (1980), “Moonfall” from The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1986), and “Think of Me” from The Phantom of the Opera (1988).

Ditto for Jackson in The Pajama Game’s “I’m Not At All In Love” (1955), Baca’s “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music, and Croteau’s version of “Lovely” from the 1963 A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

The next two performances will be taking place in a Cape St. Claire shop, The Shop, that has recently opened as a six-station beauty salon by day, and, in the evenings, an intriguing entertainment space to showcase community talent. It has already been the site of another music-filled evening, and a “Paint Night” event.

Unlike a lot of venues in Baltimore, Washington or Annapolis, parking is free and just steps from the door. The performance I viewed was at the All Saints Lutheran Church in Bowie. Another parking mecca.

65 Years of Broadway! The Best Musicals, Abridged is filled with classic Broadway showstoppers sung beautifully by a cast of terrific singers. Don’t miss it!

Running Time: Two hours and a 15-minute intermission.

65 Years of Broadway! The Best Musicals, Abridged plays on  March 13 and 14, 2015 at 7 PM at The Shop in the Cape Street Claire Mall -1380 Cape Street Claire Road, in Annapolis, MD. For tickets, call (410) 757-5700, or (301) 832-4819, or purchase them online.

 

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Wendi Winters
Wendi Winters is a writer, reporter, columnist and photographer - and a former NYC public relations executive. A good portion of her career has been in public relations - backed by solid experience in fashion retailing, wholesaling, textiles, marketing, advertising, design and promotion. She owned her own successful fashion public relations/advertising/special events/runway show production firm for seven years. As a journalist, she was the first freelancer to bring a journalism award home to The Capital - and then earned two more awards. Since May 2013, Ms. Winters has been a full time staff member at Capital Gazette Communications. Prior to that, she freelanced for the company for twelve years. Including her three weekly columns, she writes more than 250 articles annually. Her writing byline has appeared in Details Magazine, What's Up? Annapolis Magazine, and numerous others. She's been a feature writer for Associated Press Special Features and for Copley News Service. For years, her fashion critic columns ran in the NYC weeklies Manhattan Spirit and Our Town. Since moving to this area in 1999, as a D.C./Baltimore-area theatre critic, her reviews appeared in Theatre Spotlight and The Review. Plus, she was a Helen Hayes Awards nominator for two terms. Mother of four, she continues to be active as a Girl Scout leader and a regional church youth advisor. You bet she can make a mean S'More!