By Marco Mazzarino
It isn’t often that you walk away from a performance of (mostly) adolescents giddy and excited. Especially if none of the performers are friends or family members. The production of Dynamic, by Take The Stage Performance Company, was one of those rare times.
I brought my elementary-age daughters along for what I hoped would be a fun Friday night out. “We’re going to the Bender JCC of Greater Washington,” I said. “To see a show.” I thought it would be a good opportunity for them to break away from watching Hamilton clips on YouTube. I didn’t expect it to be a testimony to the love of craft, perseverance, and dedication, which is exactly what it turned out to be.
I didn’t tell my kids much about what they would be seeing, so before the show began, while casting their eyes around the assembled crowd, they began to question me again. Ultimately, of course, it comes down to one question: “Why should I see this show?” As we were pondering that question, the lights went down and the performance began.
To our delight, Take The Stage Performance Company, under the leadership of Artistic Director Susan Thompson, does a fantastic job of training young performers to be their best on stage. Under the guidance of musical director Walter “Bobby” McCoy, the musical revue kicked off with “A Wild, Wild Party,” from Andrew Lippa’s musical The Wild Party, an upbeat number that set the tone for a quick-paced performance that never dragged. The company’s strengths were on full display from the get-go: masterful choreography (by Chryssie Whitehead and Rachel Leigh Dolan), clever costuming, and enthusiastic performance by a stage full of young actors who cared.
Bouncing easily through the first set, the ensemble deftly performed and, quite frankly, made it look downright easy, which we all know isn’t the case. Their first numbers included “The Kid Inside” from Is There Life After High School, “More Life” from Now. Here. This. and “13” from Jason Robert Brown’s musical of the same name.
As in years past, the talented stable of Take the Stage instructors choreographed and directed their pupils through well-performed routines. During the performance of “Dirt” from Sweet Smell of Success by Marvin Hamlisch and Craig Carnelia, the thirteen performers sang and stepped while using newspapers as props as if they’d spent their morning commutes reading newsprint on subways, and not reading from glowing rectangular screens. It proved, decisively, that the attention and care went beyond mere constructions; the directors and teachers had prepared the cast very well, and the actors bought in. Their beaming faces and confident performances ensured our good time.
When we arrived at intermission, my kids were all smiles. Having laughed through a goofy and comical “Heart” from Adler and Ross’ Damn Yankees, we were treated to cheerful renditions of “Good Morning” from Singing In the Rain, where the vocals really stood out, to more comedy from “The Book Report” from You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. The first act’s final number, “In the Same Boat,” from Curtains, by Kander and Ebb, easily caught my kids’ attention. “It made me want to be a mermaid,” my 5th grader said, with the thoughtful candor of someone who suddenly believed it was possible.
The brief intermission allowed us to catch our breath and rest our cheeks for a few minutes before spiriting us away through another musical half, starting with the upbeat “Spread the Love” from Sister Act. The performers were costumed in black pants and sparkling gold tops.
Throughout the evening, my elementary-age companions commented on the costumes, noting how good they looked, and it was true. There was a harmony evident not only in the aesthetics of the choices but in the comfort of the performers. Everyone looked stellar, from tuxedo to jersey, summer dress to sequined dazzler. If there was an uncomfortable fabric anywhere in the mix, they certainly didn’t show it. When they were were wearing a hodgepodge of comfortable street clothing for the song “You Will be Found” from Dear Evan Hansen, the tones of blue and gray enhanced the emotional depth of the piece; red dresses dazzled in “Toledo Surprise” from The Drowsy Chaperone, another wonderfully choreographed piece that showed off the masterful abilities of these young performers; the flowered dresses on the six performers during “It’s a Perfect Relationship”, of Bells Are Ringing fame, was a cute and sprightly visual pop to another well executed dance number.
By the time the company finished a rousing rendition of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ubiquitous “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Carousel, we had been treated to an hour and a half that felt as if it passed too quickly. Imagine that.
So, ultimately, it comes down to that question: “Why should I see this show?”
As I said to the girls, (who spent the ride home gushing about the performances, the singing, the costumes, and the courage it takes to get up on stage), seeing the show made me happy. It was enthusiastic. It was thoughtfully executed and skillfully composed. It expressed what’s best about art: the simple joy of doing it, by performers with the pride to do it well.
Hats off to anyone that can learn to perform like that.
“Would you see it again?” I asked. “Definitely,” they said.
And there you have it.
Running Time: Two hours, including one 15-minute intermission.
Dynamic plays through February 25th, 2018, at Take the Stage Performance Company, performing at the Kreeger Theater, JCC of Greater Washington – 6125 Montrose Road, in Rockville, Maryland. For more information on Take the Stage, go online.