Rodgers and Hammerstein’s tale of love amidst war comes to Olney Theatre

Rehearsal of “There is Nothing Like a Dame” with star Jessica Lauren Ball from the classic musical “South Pacific,” coming to Olney Theatre Center. COURTESY PHOTORehearsal of “There is Nothing Like a Dame” with star Jessica Lauren Ball from the classic musical “South Pacific,” coming to Olney Theatre Center.   COURTESY PHOTO  Every actor has a dream role, said Jessica Lauren Ball. Hers is Nellie Forbush, the affable nurse whose love for a wonderful guy is almost undone by her prejudices, in the musical “South Pacific.”

“It’s been at the top of my list,” Ball said. “I love Rodgers and Hammerstein in general, and this is a wonderful show.”

Rodgers wrote the music, and Hammerstein, the lyrics. Hammerstein co-wrote the book, with Joshua Logan.

Even when she was in high school, Ball’s friends kept telling her she’d make “an amazing Nellie Forbush.” Ball agreed she is energetic and a “cockeyed optimist,” as the character Forbush describes herself.

So, “excited” is an understatement of how she felt, said Ball, when director Alan Muraoka cast her in the role for Olney Theatre Center’s production of the 1949 Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, which opens the theater’s 2018-2019 season.


Olney’s “Crucible” finds new life in Miller’s classic drama

Choreographer Kelly Crandall d’Amboise with Dani Stoller, other cast members, rehearsing ‘The Crucible.’ COURTESY PHOTOChoreographer Kelly Crandall d’Amboise with Dani Stoller, other cast members, rehearsing ‘The Crucible.’ COURTESY PHOTO  As literally written and usually played, Abigail Williams is the antagonist of “The Crucible,” Arthur Miller’s 1953 dramatized and fictionalized play about the Salem Witch Trials.

The seductive 17-year-old has had an affair with her married 35-year-old employer, John Proctor, and subsequently lost her job. Still in love with him, she takes advantage of the mass hysteria to accuse his wife, Elizabeth, of witchcraft in the hope of replacing her.

But Dani Stoller, the Abigail in the Olney Theatre Center production, sees her as more complex, with more justification for her actions.


Olney Theatre shows life is worth living with “Every Brilliant Thing”

Alexander Strait (left) takes direction from Jason Loewith in Olney Theatre rehearsal of “Every Brilliant Thing.” COURTESY PHOTO BY TIMOTHY HUTHAlexander Strait (left) takes direction from Jason Loewith in Olney Theatre rehearsal of “Every Brilliant Thing.”   COURTESY PHOTO BY TIMOTHY HUTH  There are bucket lists everywhere, even in the popular song “My Favorite Things” from “The Sound of Music.”

Then there’s “Every Brilliant Thing,” an ever-changing list of objects and experiences that make life worth living. In a play of the same name, a young boy compiles such a list, in an effort to persuade his mother, who had attempted suicide, not to do it again.

“Every Brilliant Thing” is the next production at Olney Theatre Center, opening Feb. 28. It marks the premiere of the one-person play, which Duncan Macmillan wrote with the cooperation of Jonny Donahoe, the original performer.

Jason Loewith, Olney’s artistic director, is staging the production.

It was serendipitous that “Every Brilliant Thing” came to Olney. Loewith happened to see the script in a London bookstore, bought it, and read it on the plane ride back.

“I burst into tears on the second page, and then into laughter,” he said. “The play is poignant and wonderful.”


The One Man Christmas Carol shines in Olney

DSC 7167 copy christmas carolPaul Morella as all the characters in Olney Theatre’s one-man show of “A Christmas Carol.” COURTESY PHOTO “A Christmas Carol” – dramatic versions of Charles Dickens's beloved holiday novella – abound this time of year. But one may be unique in the County.

In Olney Theatre Center's production of “A Christmas Carol,” Paul Morella portrays the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, as well as 49 other characters in a one-person show, including the three Christmas ghosts, the Fezziwig family and Tiny Tim.

He even portrays three or four characters at once, with a mere turn of the head.

This “Christmas Carol” grew out of an earlier one-man show in which Morella played defense attorney Clarence Darrow at the Arts Barn. A staff member asked him to return the following year and give the same treatment to “A Christmas Carol.”

At first, Morella thought “it wouldn't work.” Later, he changed his mind.


Puppets share stage with people in Olney Theatre’s ‘Our Town’

Wedding of George and Emily copyGeorge (left) and Emily (right) – William Vaughan and Cindy De La Cruz – stand with Jon Hudson Odom as the Stage Manager in Olney Theatre Center’s production of "Our Town." COURTESY PHOTO  The creative mind works in unexpected ways.

When Aaron Posner was staging “Measure for Measure” at the Folger Theatre in 2004 – a production that incorporated puppets – he pointed out to their designer Aaron Cromie that his creations looked “lively and human” during rehearsals but “so dead” during a break.

Posner made a mental leap, that should he direct Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town,” puppets would represent the dead people in the third act.

From there Posner went on to the idea of using puppets more extensively, as he is currently doing as the director of the Olney Theatre Center’s production of “Our Town.” 


Re-envisioned “My Fair Lady” mostly delights at Olney

My Fair LadyDanny Bernardy and Brittany Campbell star in the Olney Theatre Center's production of "My Fair Lady." COURTESY PHOTO  Virtually any production of “My Fair Lady”  – one of the best-beloved musicals ever – is always welcome.

Based on George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion,” with books and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe, the 1956 Broadway hit has seen several revivals, inspired a major Hollywood film, and is expected to return to the Great White Way next year.

Who doesn’t know the story of the uneducated British flower girl transformed by the sophisticated phonetics professor, who, unbeknownst to him at first, changes as well? And who doesn’t love such delightful songs as “The Rain in Spain” and “On the Street Where You Live?? Happily, the show can be seen now at Olney Theatre Center. With its fine acting and singing and clever, but mostly minimalist set, this production overall rekindles the affection and admiration many of us feel for this classic musical and will no doubt win over younger generations as well. The production’s “fair lady,” Brittany Campbell, has a “loverly” voice (to quote one of her songs), which soars above the difficult high notes of “I Could Have Danced All Night.” But also packs a vengeful punch in “Just You Wait, Henry Higgins.


Center Stage: Olney’s “Fickle” does commendable nod to French theater

xFickle photoPerformers in the production of “Fickle," now playing at the Olney Theatre. COURTESY PHOTO

OLNEY — An amusing production of “Fickle” is running at the Olney Theatre based on the French play “The Double Inconstancy.” In the play, a prince, his servants and countryside peasants interact together in a series of comical twists.

“Fickle” begins when a prince falls for for a peasant girl named Silvia (Kathryn Tkel) and kidnaps both her and her husband, Harlequin (Andy Reinhardt), bringing them to his castle.

The Prince, played by Christopher Dinolfo, is a naïve fellow who enjoys wearing costumes and thinks that impersonating others is the way to win over Silvia’s heart. Meanwhile, Harlequin as the starved peasant is played for laughs since he is obsessed with eating cheese throughout the play.


Center Stage: Morella’s adaptation of “Christmas Carol” is a feast

Paul Morella in A Christmas CarolPaul Morella from Olney Theatre's "A Christmas Carol." COURTESY PHOTO

OLNEY — Alongside its smash hit production of “Mary Poppins”, the Olney Theatre Center is also running “A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas” for the holiday season.

Paul Morella, one of Olney Theatre’s favorites, returns from his role as Otto Frank from his previous Olney show “The Diary of Anne Frank” to perform “A Christmas Carol” entirely by himself.

Although “A Christmas Carol” is popularly performed by a cast of characters, the Olney Theatre is unique for offering the experience “the way Dickens intended” by having one person narrate and act out the story himself.

As a result, Olney’s production retains much more of the dialogue and literary imagery described by Dickens in his novel.


Center Stage: "Mary Poppins" at Olney Theatre Center is 'practically perfect'

Mary PoppinsPatricia Hurley stars as the iconic magical nanny in "Mary Poppins," playing at the Olney Theatre Center through Jan. 1. COURTESY PHOTO  

OLNEY – At the Olney Theatre Center, a practically perfect production of “Mary Poppins” is running throughout the holiday season.

“Mary Poppins,” the heartwarming story about a magic nanny who appears out of nowhere to raise two troublesome children, is quite possibly the best ‘feel-good’ play of the year at the Olney Theatre Center.

The colorful and vibrant sets and the excellent acting, complete with quaint English accents, makes this play feel truly like a slice of Disney has been put on stage.


Center Stage: Olney Theatre shines with new "Diary of Anne Frank"

anne frankThe cast of Olney Theatre Center's "The Diary of Anne Frank."   COURTESY PHOTO  

OLNEY – For a heart-wrenchingly humanistic performance, look no further than “The Diary of Anne Frank” at the Olney Theatre Center.

Within the first 10 minutes of watching the Franks and the van Daans move into their cramped quarters, all sense of time is lost as the actors’ enrapturing performance fills the beautifully-crafted stage.

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