Review: ‘Broadway Bios’ at Bethesda Little Theatre

If you’re looking for a fun family evening of singing and dancing, look no further than Bethesda Little Theatre’s entertaining Broadway Bios. 

Cast of 'Broadway Bios.' Photo courtesy of Bethesda Little Theatre.

Cast of ‘Broadway Bios.’ Photo courtesy of Bethesda Little Theatre.

Real life characters of Broadway musicals are on the Writer Center’s stage as Bethesda Little Theatre introduced their new original musical revue, Broadway Bios. Historical figures as diverse as Eva Peron, Thomas Jefferson, Fanny Brice, and Gloria Estefan were highlighted in this engaging and often ambitious production, with an energetic cast, ably directed by Laura Holmes.

The show’s format was led by Narrator Eric Sander introducing each segment by interviewing the main character, which segued into several numbers from their accompanying show. Represented were characters from well-known classics like Gypsy, Evita, Barnum, and Funny Girl – as well as characters from lesser-known shows like Chaplin, Bonnie and Clyde, and Scandalous, which were warmly received by the audience.

As an ensemble, the cast works hard and brings varied talents to the stage. Alice Page Smyth and her crew have done a great job of costuming the performers, with lots of bright colors and flashy jewels, and there’s some top-notch choreography by Karen Fitch and Cathy McCoskey that gives an extra spark not often seen in local small theater shows.

An audience favorite was the last performance of the first act, an ensemble arrangement of “Sunday” from Sunday in the Park With George, with the cast slowly forming a picture-perfect recreation of the painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” by Georges Seurat, from which the Broadway show was inspired.

Naturally, there were some standouts in this production; especially strong vocals included Michelle Hakes’ impassioned “Rose’s Turn” from Gypsy; Jane Raftery’s Fanny Brice belting out “Don’t Rain on My Parade” from Funny Girl; Sandy Burns Gorton’s passionate Evita Peron singing “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina”; and Alice Page Smyth as Aimee Semple McPherson in Scandalous, with her emotional rendition of “I Have a Fire.”

Not to say that there weren’t some notable performances among the male cast members. Starting with an amusing group cover of “But, Mr. Adams” from 1776. Joseph Rozenshtein carried several numbers with his strong tenor voice, and Martin Bestimt was a delight as the colorfully-clad showman of Barnum, whose ensemble number closed the show on a high note.

Sandy Burns Gorton sings "Don't Cry for me Argentina.' Photo courtesy of Bethesda Little Theatre.

Sandy Burns Gorton sings “Don’t Cry for me Argentina.’ Photo courtesy of Bethesda Little Theatre.

Special kudos to Musical Director and pianist Jeffrey Hayes and percussionist Stew Williams on drums. It’s an impressive feat to make two musicians sound like a much bigger presence, and they did a fantastic job of backing up the onstage performers in a small theater setting.

All in all, it was a fun evening with an enthusiastic and talented cast, so grab your grandma and the kids and head over to Bethesda next weekend for the final performances of some delightful numbers that will have you humming all the way home. Community theater groups like the Bethesda Little Theatre (who, incidentally, donate their proceeds to charity) deserve your support for all of their hard work, and don’t we all deserve a little bit of Broadway in our hectic lives?

Running Time: About two hours with a 15-minute intermission.

Broadway Bios plays through April 10, 2016 at Bethesda Little Theatre performing at The Writer’s Center-4508 Walsh Street, in Bethesda, MD. For tickets, call (240) 479-4835, buy them at the door, or purchase them online.

LINKS:
Inside the Numbers: Behind the Scenes Of Bethesda Little Theatre’s ‘Broadway Bios’ Part 1: Rehearsing “But Mr. Adams.”

Inside the Numbers: Behind the Scenes Of Bethesda Little Theatre’s ‘Broadway Bios’: Part 2: ‘Bienvenidos a Buenos Aires!’

Inside the Numbers: Behind the Scenes Of Bethesda Little Theatre’s ‘Broadway Bios’: Part 3: ‘It’s Willamania Time!’

RATING: FOUR-AND-A-HALF-STARS10.gif

Review is by Guest Reviewer Beth Landing.

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