DCMetroTheaterArts’ Summer 2015 Scene Stealers: Part 1

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The summer of 2015 brought many Scene Stealing moments and here is Part 1 of some of our favorites.

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Hassan Allen as Hero and Molly Janiga as Philia Singing “Lovely’ in A Funny Happened on the Way to the Forum at Montgomery College’s Summer Dinner Theatre
Molly Janiga (Philia) and Hasani Allen (Hero). Photo by Steve Wolf.
Molly Janiga (Philia) and Hasani Allen (Hero). Photo by Steve Wolf.
“The comically stereotypical young lovers, Hero (Hasani Allen) and Philia (Molly Janiga) are adorable, over-dramatic, and earnest. Allen, mercurial and childlike, glides, spins, and skips around the stage as Janiga cutely preens and flirts, making you root for them to get married as soon as possible despite the preposterous fact that they have only seen each other from afar and never spoken before the beginning of the story. While singing “Lovely” they are endearing and silly and delightful.”-Caroline Simpson
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 Jimmy Carter from the Blind Boys of Alabama Singing “If I Had a Hammer” at the Columbia Festival of the Arts
Jimmy Carter. Photo courtesy of Media MIkes.
Jimmy Carter. Photo courtesy of Media Mikes.

“At the finale of the concert given by the Blind Boys of Alabama at the Jim Rouse Theater for The Columbia Festival of the Arts on June 19, 2015, lead singer and original group member, Jimmy Carter, stole the show with a unique rendition of “If I Had a Hammer.” He sat on the front of the stage shaking hands with the audience and had everyone rocking in the aisles.

This was no longer Pete Seeger’s folk song, but more a twist on the Isley Brothers’ “Shout.” It was one of those performances that create a memory that will never fade.”-Susan Brall.

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Noah Chiet as Adam in the Last Scene of One in the Chamber at The Mead Theatre Lab
Noah Chiet and Liz Osborn. Photo by Ian Armstrong.
Noah Chiet and Liz Osborn. Photo by Ian Armstrong.

“The play as much as promises that 16-year-old Adam, who accidentally shot to death his brother, will make an auspicious entrance at the end—and Noah Chiet’s extraordinarily moving performance in the role does not disappoint. Chiet makes transparent to us a tortured soul who is suffering unbearable guilt and does so in a way that plunges the entire play into deeper emotional authenticity.”-John Stoltenberg

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Paige Cilluffo as Dani and Ashton Schaffer as Marty Singing “Going to Heaven” in Dani Girl at James Madison High School’s Advanced Drama Class
Paige Cilluffo (Dani) and Ashton Schaffer (Marty). Photo courtesy of Ashton Schaffer.
Paige Cilluffo (Dani) and Ashton Schaffer (Marty). Photo by Christina Guenther.

Along with 9 year-old Dani, (played by powerhouse singer Paige Cilluffo), whose leukemia has returned, 10 year-old Marty (played by the enthusiastic Ashton Schaffer) sing “Going to Heaven” with great excitement and hope that they will find an answer to the big question of this powerful musical: “Why is Cancer?” The chemistry they have together is so real that the roller coaster of emotions of the song and their energetic delivery lead to many tears being shed by me and other audience members.”-Joel Markowitz

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Felicia Curry as Nancy Singing “As Long As He Needs Me” in Oliver! at Adventure Theatre MTC

Felicia Curry (Nancy). Photo by DJ Corey at The Graham – Georgetown.
Felicia Curry (Nancy). Photo by DJ Corey at The Graham – Georgetown.
“Felicia Curry is my all-time Scene Stealer and now she adds another honor for her roof-shaking performance of “As Long As He Needs Me.’ Her rendition had the crowd cheering wildly after she finished this emotional roller coaster of a song. With her clear diction and powerful voice this amazing performer knocked the heck out of this showstopper. You just wanted to shout “Hallelujah! Run to your man!” But then at the end of the show you wish she would have run the other way. Another earthshaking and Scene Stealing performance from one of our most gifted local talents.”-Joel Markowitz
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Keith Hamilton Cobb as Othello in American Moor at Anacostia Playhouse
Keith Hamilton Cobb in ‘American Moor.’ Photo courtesy of American Theatre.
Keith Hamilton Cobb in ‘American Moor.’ Photo courtesy of American Theatre.
“To say someone stole a scene from himself in his own one-person show might strain credulity, but Keith Hamilton Cobb did exactly that, in a brief passage during which he delivers (lives, actually) Othello’s famous speech about the war stories he told Desdemona. Ironically Cobb has framed the semi-autobiographical play in part as a black actor’s ambivalence about playing the Moor. Yet when Cobb lets loose with that speech, his full-on performance is suddenly so moving and luminous that one wishes one could see him in the whole role at once.”-John Stoltenberg
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Thembi Duncan’s ‘My Sweet Black Babushka’ Monolog in Plot Twists at the 2015 DC Black Theatre Festival
Thembi Duncan. Photo by Victoria Ford.
Thembi Duncan. Photo by Victoria Ford.
“The piece is a monodrama by Josette Marina Murray performed with awesome emotional force by Thembi Duncan. It tells a mother’s story of raising her baby boy in a family of strong women only to see him grow up and be shot dead in too-familiar circumstances of racist police action. As Duncan portrayed the shocking action that the mother takes in response, the audience sat riveted and experienced the kind of catharsis that truthful acting can convey.”-John Stoltenberg
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Rick Hammerly as Fagin Singing “Reviewing the Situation’ in Oliver! at Adventure Theatre MTC
Rick Hammerly as Fagin. as he is 'Reviewing the Situation.' Photo by Mike Horan.
Rick Hammerly as Fagin as he is ‘Reviewing the Situation.’ Photo by Mike Horan.
“Rick Hammerly is one of our most versatile actors/comedians/singers and he had to be all three to pull off this very difficult song. There’s humor in it and it has some coloratura, and a lot of pitter-patter in it. Frankly – it’s a bitch to sing! I kidded with Rick during the run about how difficult it is to perform and I reminded him that since he performed in Hedwig and the Angry Inch on stage (and received a Helen Hayes Award for his efforts) this was a piece a cake. Maybe a sliver of that cake-but a huge undertaking, and as usual, as I review this situation, the result was glorious.”-Joel Markowitz
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Gracie Jones as Betty/Cynthia Reprising “I Want This Life” in code name: Cynthia at Pallas Theatre Collective
Gracie Jones (Betty Thorpe AKA Cynthia). Photo by Teresa Castracane Photography LLC.
Gracie Jones (Betty Thorpe AKA Cynthia). Photo by Teresa Castracane Photography LLC.
“When Betty/Cynthia sings the song the first time, the life she wants is a retreat to domestic conventionality and a release from her notorious role as seductress and spy. But by the time she reprises the song near the end of the show, “I Want This Life” is all about Betty’s returning to espionage with gusto:

WE ALL HAVE SPECIAL WEAPONS
A KISS / A BED / A KNIFE
WE USE THE GIFTS WE’RE GIVEN
I CHOOSE THIS LIFE

It’s a power anthem of re-upping and Gracie Jones belts it out of the park.”-John Stoltenberg

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Rachel Bay Jones as Heidi singing “So Big/So Small” in Dear
Evan Hansen at Arena Stage
Ben Platt (Evan) and Rachel Bay Jones (Heidi). Photo by Margot Schulman.
Ben Platt (Evan) and Rachel Bay Jones (Heidi). Photo by Margot Schulman.

“Near the end of the second act Heidi, Evan Hansen’s loving mother, rescues him from his despair and embraces him in maternal redemption. She does this with a song called “So Big/So Small” that she sings to him on a sofa holding him in her arms. Its music and lyrics (about her steadfast love for him) are deeply moving, and Rachel Bay Jones’s performance is so heart-wrenching that all eyes are on her, and none are dry.”-John Stoltenberg

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Dyland Ngo as Tobias Singing “Not While I’m Around” in Sweeney Todd: Prog Metal Version at Landless Theatre Company

Dylan Ngo (Tobias). Photo by Brandon Penick Photography.
Dylan Ngo (Tobias). Photo by Brandon Penick Photography.
“The character of Tobias, the young protégé of the competing barber (Pirelli) is played with charm by Dylan Ngo. Ngo artfully manages the transition from the earnest protector (as he emotionally sings “Not While I’m Around” to Mrs. Lovett) to the traumatized realist in the searing (pun intended!) “Final Scene.”-David Friscic
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Robert Michael Oliver Performing ‘The Raven’ in Embodying Poe at the 2015 Capital Fringe Festival
Robert Michael Oliver in ‘Embodying Poe.’ Photo by The Performing Knowledge Project.
Robert Michael Oliver in ‘Embodying Poe.’ Photo by The Performing Knowledge Project.

“In a jam-packed 60 minutes – we are here with this tortured soul – and there is no escape! And if Sinatra was the greatest seller of lyrics, Robert Michael Oliver is the greatest seller of Poe’s words. His delivery is sometimes heart-wrenching, sometimes funny, sometimes surprising, and sometimes scary. His energy is boundless and his stage presence haunting. He’s a force of nature….And of course in the hands of this master “The Raven” was an experience I won’t soon forget.”-Joel Markowitz

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Ren Pepitone as Cassandra is Introduced with a Woeful Scream in The Pretties at Glass Mind Theatre 
Ren Pepitone as Cassandra. Photo by Britt Olsen-Ecker Photography.
Ren Pepitone as Cassandra. Photo by Britt Olsen-Ecker Photography.
“In Glass Mind Theatre’s production of The Pretties, Ren Pepitone plays the tormented oracle, Cassandra. One long, drawn out scream is her introduction, the prelude to her tale of personal woe. First raped by Ajax, then cursed by Apollo, she’s now a spoil of war to King Agamemnon who continues her suffering. As if it weren’t a horrible enough life to know the future and be utterly unable to change it. Pepitone’s performance is passionate and visceral. She hooks you in and pulls you personally into her pain. It makes for a breathtaking scene in an already intense play.”-Morgan Woodle.
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Ben Platt as Evan singing “Words Fail” in Dear Evan Hansen at Arena Stage
Ben Platt (Evan Hansen). Photo by Margot Schulman.
Ben Platt (Evan Hansen). Photo by Margot Schulman.

“The musical tells the story of Evan, a high school student,and charts for him a character arc that is a profound trajectory of conscience. Despite Evan’s good intentions in deceiving others, he comes to realize that he has totally, totally screwed up. The deception he committed was so wrong he cannot stand himself. And there comes a point in the second act when Evan falls apart emotionally in a morass of crushing guilt in his song called “Words Fail.” Ben Platt’s performance, stellar from start to finish, becomes at that moment like a searing solar flare, an embodiment of such sorrow and remorse that we are stunned into awe.”-John Stoltenberg

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Harrison Smith as Hysterium Singing “I’m Calm” in A Funny Happened on the Way to the Forum at Montgomery College’s Summer Dinner Theatre
Harrison Smith (Hysterium) and the Courtesans. Photo by Steven Wolf.
Harrison Smith (Hysterium) and the Courtesans. Photo by Steven Wolf.
“Hysterium, one of the family’s slaves, is brought fully to life by Harrison Smith. Smith is a physical actor, meaning he does not just speak his dialogue, but his whole body joins in through deliberate, purposeful, and constant movement, which is in full view in “I’m Calm.”-Caroline Simpson.
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Nathan Jan Yaffe dancing as a Vietnamese civilian in Occupied Territories at Theater Alliance
Nathan Jan Yaffe. Photo by Nathan Jan Yaffe (a selfie).
Nathan Jan Yaffe. Photo by Nathan Jan Yaffe (a selfie).
“There comes a point in this devised piece when an American soldier sexually assaults a female Vietnamese civilian. She wears a long dress that covers her; we do not see her face under her broad hat for it is masked—and we watch in horror as the soldier rapes her then slays her then flings her corpse about the stage like a rag doll. The choreography is so chilling it seems inhuman, impossible for anyone to perform much less survive. I learned that the artful illusion, uncredited in the program, was performed by a dancer named Nathan Jan Yaffe. He was absolutely breathtaking, and is hereby given the acknowledgement and acclaim he deserves.”-John Stoltenberg
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A Special Scene Stealer Honor to Dani Girl at James Madison High School’s Advanced Drama Class
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“Not only did he direct Dani Girl, but Ashton Schaffer, who is a cancer survivor, also starred as 10 year-old cancer patient Marty in the show. He also raised the money to pay for the rights to put the show on. What I saw in a small performance space on Friday, June 12, 2015 was simply remarkable, moving, and a night in the theater I will never forget.
The 'Dani Girl' team. Photo courtesy of Ashton Schaffer.
The ‘Dani Girl’ team. From left to right, bottom row, Neveen Shawish, Julia Mann, Paige Cilluffo, Ashton Schaffer, Neal Going. Top Row: Kyle Cooper, Ben Parsell, Bryan Covell, and Mitch Coomer.

Congrats to cast members Paige Cilluffo (Dani); Neal Going (Raph); Julia Mann (Dani’s Mother) and Ashton Schaffer (Marty) Musical Director Ben Parsell (who also played piano); Assistant Musical Director Christina Guenther, musicians Kyle Cooper on drums and Bryan Covell on Cello; Technical Director Chad Robertson; Technical Assistant Josh Laney: and Mitch Coomer for his excellent lighting.”-Joel Markowitz

LINKS

DCMetroTheaterArts’ Summer 2015 Scene Stealers Part 2.

Read about our other Scene Stealers honorees.

Previous article‘Tying the Knot’ at Fells Point Corner Theatre
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Joel Markowitz
Joel Markowitz is the Publisher and Editor of DCMetroTheaterArts. He founded the site with his brother Bruce to help promote the vast riches of theatre and the arts in the DC Metro area that includes Maryland, Virginia, and DC theater and music venues, universities, schools, Children's theaters, professional, and community theatres. Joel is an advocate for promoting the 'stars of the future' in his popular 'Scene Stealers' articles. He wrote a column for 5 years called ‘Theatre Schmooze’ and recorded podcast interviews for DC Theatre Scene. His work can also be seen and read on BroadwayStars. Joel also wrote a monthly preview of what was about to open in DC area theatres for BroadwayWorld. He is an avid film and theater goer, and a suffering Buffalo Bills and Sabres fan. Joel was a regular guest on 'The Lunch and Judy Show' radio program starring Judy Stadt in NYC. Joel founded The Ushers Theatre Going Group in the DC area in 1990, which had a 25-year run when it took its final curtain call last year. Joel is a proud member of The American Critics Association.