I can’t stop thinking about the best time I had in the theatre so far this year-spending it with 26 of the most talented singers and dancers, and some terrific musicians, at Elevate at Take the Stage Performance Company at the Rockville JCC.
Filled with ‘showstopping’ songs, and co-directed with much love by Diane Hamilton and Susan Alexander Thompson, the musical revue opened with the jubilant “Live in Living Color” from Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman’s Catch Me If You Can. Filled with eye-popping costumes of every color of the rainbow, and some athletic choreography by Tony Award nominee Lisa Stevens, it was the perfect way to introduce the audience to the talented full company. It was a “WOW!”- the first of many WOW!s to come.
Stephens was joined by local choreographer Diane Hamilton (who brought back many wonderful memories of her work on many Musical Theater Center musicals I covered several moons ago), Broadway choreographer and actress Jennifer Swiderski, local award-winning choreographer Donna Reese, and the multi-talented Susan Alexander Thompson. It was like a ‘Who’s Who’ of great choreographers!
All five put these talented young dancers through a real workout. But, boy how those young hoofers loved performing every step-to-the-right, and arm raise to the left, and all the spinning and stretching!
The enthusiasm was infectious and the effort was ‘effortless.’ There was a love and well-deserved pride in the auditorium as the performers’ Mom and Dads, brothers and sisters, Grandparents, friends, and relatives cheered them on.
The musical writing team of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul had several songs from their shows performed in Elevate. Jennifer Swiderski choreographed “Waving Through the Window” from Pasek and Paul’s Dear Evan Hansen, (which had a critically acclaimed recent run at Arena Stage,) “Morning Glow” from Pippin, which opened the Second Act, “Middle of the Moment: from Pasek and Paul’s James and the Giant Peach (now playing at Adventure Theatre MTC), “Lost in the Brass” from Band Geeks, and staged the funny “If You Would Only Listen” from the new Broadway hit School of Rock, and “Rules, Regulations, and Respect” from Zombie Prom, with music by Dana P. Rowe and lyrics by John Dempsey.
Lisa Stevens also choreographed “Somewhere Hovering Over Indiana” from Pasek and Paul’s A Christmas Story: The Musical and the chimney sweep broom-tapping “Step in Time” from Mary Poppins, which sent the audience on a high-flying mood just in time for intermission. Stevens’ energetic choreography for the finale -“Raise You Up” from Kinky Boots – ended the show the way it began – with much enthusiasm, energy, and overflowing happiness.
Co-Director Diane Hamilton had her dancers tapping up a storm in “Forget About the Boy” from Thoroughly Modern Millie.
Co-Director Susan Alexander Thompson staged “When I’m Gone” from “Pitch Perfect,” with music and lyrics by A.P. Carter and Luisa Gerstein; and Kander and Ebb’s very funny “Coffee in a Cardboard Cup,” which starts slow and speeds up to a caffeine frenzy.
Donna Reese choreographed Stephen Sondheim’s “Everybody Says Don’t” from Anyone Can Whistle, and the extremely energetic “Come to the Fun Home” from this year’s Tony Award-winning Best Musical Fun Home, with music by Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron.
I can’t congratulate Directors Susan Alexander Thompson and Diane Hamilton enough and their fellow choreographers for their extraordinary work with this young ensemble. And even more amazing was that they put it all together after losing and rescheduling lost rehearsal time because of the snow closings that attacked the DC area.
And congrats to Musical Directors Barry Hamilton and Michael Axler and their fellow musicians Brian P. Butler and Nathan Hilburger for their wonderful playing and for never drowning out one performer at my performance! Now that’s a major accomplishment!
And special kudos to the endless work of Costumers Sandra Eggleston, Becky Ehrlich, Alix Milam, Julie Mintz, and Natalie Vankos, and Costume Mistresses Elizabeth Gensler and Tina Valenti. The costumes were beautiful, and colorful, and there were so many of them!
And a special mention to Stage Manager Andrew Dodge and Assistant Stage Manager Julie Roedersheimer; Sound Designer Jos. B. Musumeci, Jr.;Lighting Designer Brian S. Allard, and the Props team of Wendy Wells (also the Production Coordinator), Rob Wells, and Summer Wells for all your fine work.
And, most important, congrats to the entire cast for their excellent performances: Simone Arrington, Daniela Brigatti, Anna Corbin, Alex Dobbins, Ava Ehrlich, Penny Gallagher, Abigail Gasson, Maya Gensler, Rachel Herman, Jack Husted, Matthew Johnson, Avery Jones, Kelsey Keza, Lyndsie Lewis, Elisa McCaw, Ellie Metz, Matthew Milam, Allison Mintz, Ally Nalibotsky, Lauren Perl, Lizzie Perl, Mikayla Reich, Alexa Vinner, Eliana Weiss, Summer Wells, and Kaleigh Young.
Your dancing and singing were were extraordinary. I had a wonderful time and I look forward to your next production.