Expectations about grieving clash in Unexpected Stage’s ‘sad comedy’

Emily Morrison and Ruthie Rado, play the widowed daughter and mother-in-law in Unexpected Stage’s “How to Be a Good Little Widow.”  COURTESY PHOTOEmily Morrison and Ruthie Rado, play the widowed daughter and mother-in-law in Unexpected Stage’s “How to Be a Good Little Widow.” COURTESY PHOTO  One thing Ruthie Rado likes about the D.C. area – to which she returned after years away – is its “rich artistic community that feels like a community.”

Life is different for Melody, the isolated character Rado plays in “How to Be a Good Little Widow.”

At 26, Melody finds herself a widow, when her slightly older husband dies in a plane crash. Many of those around her, especially her mother-in-law, Hope, expect Melody to mourn a certain way. The older woman belongs to a widows’ league, whose members know “all the rules.”

Because Melody had moved cross country to marry Craig, she lacks a sense of community. She had never been to a funeral before, and expected life to be different.

The “sad comedy,” as playwright Bekah Brunstetter called her work, is Unexpected Stage Company’s next production.


Highwood Theatre presents student productions of musicals ‘Godspell’ and ‘My Fair Lady’

Students rehearse for the iconic musical “Godspell,” one of two Highwood Theatre summer productions. COURTESY PHOTOStudents rehearse for the musical “Godspell,” one of Highwood Theatre's summer productions. COURTESY PHOTO  Summer may be overall slow, but Highwood Theatre is gearing up for two student musical productions.

First, there’s “Godspell” – this year’s Musical Theatre Intensive program for seventh through 12th graders.

The show, with concept and book by John Michael Tebelak and music and new lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, brings vaudevillian elements and diverse musical styles to a contemporary take of the Gospel of St. Matthew.

Henry Gottfried, an actor who appeared in the first national tour of “Bright Star” and the TV production of “Peter Pan Live!” is directing.

“This seemed like a stretch of the muscles,” he said.

It’s also new for Gottfried to be directing kids this age.

“But young actors are pretty gung-ho” he said. “Because this is summer camp, these kids have chosen to be there.”


Singer-songwriter Hayley Fahey underscores the voice of women in music

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Derwood-based singer-songwriter Hayley Fahey.  COURTESY PHOTODerwood-based singer-songwriter Hayley Fahey. COURTESY PHOTO  The love of music was like mother’s milk to Hayley Fahey.

“My mother used to sing songs to me in my crib,” said the Derwood-based singer-songwriter. “Both of my grandmothers sang and played piano.”

Music filled the house, mostly of her father’s preferred singers – Eva Cassidy, Stevie Wonder, Dixie Chicks, and Bob Marley – exposing the young Hayley to a “variety of genres.” The singer herself started writing songs when she was a child.

Fahey performed in church and school choirs and “did all the high-school musicals,” but technically, her first time on stage was in a musical revue at Roberto Clemente Middle School.

She feels so grateful to the school, Fahey said, that she volunteers there as a performer. Fahey also is a special guest, announcing the winner of the Battle for the Bands, then rehearing and recording one of her original songs with the winners.


Capital Fringe Festival includes area theater groups and performers

Actor/playwright Meshaun Arnold performs in the one-person play “Spook,” one of various productions in the Capital Fringe Festival in venues across Montgomery County.  COURTESY PHOTOActor/playwright Meshaun Arnold performs in the one-person play “Spook,” one of many productions in the Capital Fringe Festival across Montgomery County. COURTESY PHOTO  The annual Capital Fringe Festival expands audiences’ appetites for independent fringe theatre, music, art, dance and unclassifiable forms of live performance and visual art, according to the Fringe web site.

Participating in the 2018 event, running July 7-29, are County-based theaters and solo performers.

Edge of the Universe Players2 aims “to address the most basic, and yet, perhaps most-mysterious questions about human existence” said Bill Goodman, producer.

This year’s production is “The Vandal” by Hamish Linklater – an actor with stage, film and TV credits.

“‘The Vandal’ appeals to us for several reasons,” said Goodman. “Most importantly, it invites the questioning of the nature and significance of the human experience. The play has three colorful characters and interesting and strange stories; it has ambiguity in the sense that certain events may or may not have happened. “


Madcap Cole Porter musical on stage at Rockville Musical Theatre

Melani Drummer as Reno Sweeney surrounded by sailors in the musical “Anything Goes.” COURTESY PHOTO Melani Drummer as Reno Sweeney surrounded by sailors in the musical “Anything Goes.” COURTESY PHOTO  Prolific, multitalented composer-lyricist Cole Porter wrote many shows, but two in particular have endured. One is “Kiss Me, Kate,” a play-within-a-play about a troupe of actors putting on Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew.”

The other is Rockville Musical Theatre’s next offering, “Anything Goes.”

The action takes place on a ship, with an odd collection of characters, including: a sexy evangelist-turned-nightclub singer; a debutante and her British lord fiancé; a stowaway in love with the debutante and masquerading as a gangster; and actual gangster Public Enemy Number 13.

Melani Drummer is playing Reno Sweeney, the nightclub singer – the role originated on Broadway by Ethel Merman. She did her first musical, “The Wizard of Oz,” at age 9, and her first professional show, “The Commitments,” at 16. She then went on to study musical theater, performing all around the world, including South Africa.

“Since moving to the United States, I took a 10-year sabbatical from acting to raise my children,” she said. “In the last two years, I returned to the stage to play Jack’s mother in Way Off Broadway’s ‘Into the Woods’ and Dorothy Brock in Sterling Playmakers’ ‘42nd Street.’”


Blues Festival celebrates beautiful music in Downtown Silver Spring

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Robert Lighthouse Performing at the Silver Spring Blues FestivalSwedish-born musician Robert Lighthouse performed at the Silver Spring Blues Festival. PHOTO BY MATT HOOKE  SILVER SPRING — Singers pined for old lovers, protested social ills, and asked the timeless question, “When I get drunk, who’s gonna carry me home?,” at the 10th annual Silver Spring Blues Festival on Saturday.

The 12-hour-long concert featured 12 artists performing on two stages in downtown Silver Spring. The show marked the end of Blues Week, a series of concerts in the area leading up to Saturday’s festivities, in which 1920s-era blues classics shared the stage with new original songs to create a lively mix of styles.

Alan Bowser, former president of Silver Spring Town Center, started the Silver Spring Blues Festival in 2009. He created the festival to be something unique to Silver Spring, and to help support local businesses.

“Over the years we’ve grown from one stage from two stages. We’ve gone from all-electric blues to electric blues and acoustic blues. We’ve gone from one day to Blues Week because there wasn’t enough time for just one day of blues,” said Bowser.


Alice and Isaac folk duo celebrate release of debut album

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Folk duo Alice and Isaac performed at Round House Theatre to celebrate the release of their debut album, “What I Was Thinking.”  PHOTO BY MATT HOOKEFolk duo Alice and Isaac performed at Round House Theatre to celebrate the release of their debut album, “What I Was Thinking.” PHOTO BY MATT HOOKE  BETHESDA — Performing at Round House Theatre, the same theater where they first met during a production of “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley,” folk duo Alice and Isaac celebrated the release of their debut album, “What I Was Thinking,” a series of upbeat love songs.

The guitar-mandolin duo, whose real names are Katie Kleiger and Brandon McCoy, met two years ago but did not play music together until this past December. The delay resulted from Kleiger’s moving to New York City after the “Miss Bennet” production. Kleiger and McCoy reconnected after she moved back to the area, and the duo started playing together between showings of the play “The Book of Will” at Round House Theatre. The name “Alice and Isaac” comes from the names of the characters they performed in the play.

“We were playing just for ourselves (in the Green Room), and every now and then someone would sit down and listen,” said Kleiger. “But I mainly felt we were in the way, taking up this shared space.”

McCoy and Kleiger are actors by trade, and their musical-theater background showed through with polished two-part-harmony vocals. The concert is part of Round House’s move to become a more-diverse arts space, according to McCoy.


No longer relegated to second place, Tinker Bell stars in own show

Michelle Polera as Tinker Bell and Carlos Castillo as Peter Pan in Adventure Theatre show. COURTESY PHOTOMichelle Polera as Tinker Bell and Carlos Castillo as Peter Pan in Adventure Theatre show. COURTESY PHOTO  Whether she’s a speck of light or a fairy in green, Tinker Bell is an indispensable character, first appearing in J. M. Barrie‘s 1904 “Peter Pan” and its novelization, “Peter and Wendy.”

She was also in multiple film and television adaptations of the Peter Pan stories – including the 1953 Walt Disney animated film “Peter Pan” – besides being the unofficial mascot of the Disney Company.

Tinker Bell is considered Peter’s sidekick, necessary but not sufficient to carry the story.

Except, that is, in “Tinker Bell,” a world premiere by local playwright Patrick Flynn at Adventure Theatre MTC.

“It takes a character – relegated to an appendage to Peter – and looks at the whole story from her point of view,” said Nick Olcott, the director. “The play doesn’t begin and end with Peter Pan.”


Imagination Stage’s “Charlie Brown” highlights joys and honesty of childhood

Snoopy (Joe Mallon) and title character (Christopher Michael Richardson) enjoy special friendship in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” at Imagination Stage.  COURTESY PHOTO Snoopy (Joe Mallon) and title character (Christopher Michael Richardson) enjoy special friendship in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” at Imagination Stage. COURTESY PHOTO  Television specials, feature-length movies, books, dolls and figurines, a popular line of greeting cards, not to mention a hit off-Broadway musical production that has had countless revivals. What fictional character based on a comic strip receives all those honors, even after his creator has passed away?

Charlie Brown, that’s who. He and five of his pals from the Peanuts comic strip likely will bring joy to audiences in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” the musical now at Imagination Stage.

Christopher Michael Richardson plays Charlie Brown, described as an everyman with changing moods but ultimate optimism.

“Through Charlie Brown, we learn a lot about being happy and finding the positive,” said Richardson, who recently finished a run of “The Wiz” at Ford’s Theatre as the Lion. He also appeared in “Elephant and Piggie: We are in a Play!,” a production of Kennedy Center’s Theatre for Young Audiences.


Persian music and minimalism meet at Rhizome

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Bassist Ernest Jones and drummer Dave Miller join headliner Martin Bisi in a performance at the Rhizome.  PHOTO BY MATT HOOKEBassist Ernest Jones and drummer Dave Miller join legendary musician/producer Martin Bisi in a performance at the Rhizome. PHOTO BY MATT HOOKE  WASHINGTON, D.C. — With his eyes closed, engrossed in the music, and sweat dripping down his face, the Washington D.C.-based musician Kamyar Arsani sang the words: “You are Nothing but a God,” as he performed at the Rhizome near the Takoma Park Metro station in Northwest Washington, D.C.

The show displayed tremendous diversity, with Arsani’s Persian music accompanied by a set of minimalist music by Takoma Park musician Jason Mullinax and headliner Martin Bisi’s noise rock.

Arsani’s music hails from a rich tradition of Sufi mystics. He took a bare-bones approach to his set, with two instruments, his voice, and the daf. The daf, a large, handheld frame drum with metal ingots attached, is an ancient instrument, its roots stretching back hundreds of years. Arsani paid tribute to this heritage while also giving the instrument a modern touch. Arsani’s first set, a collection of original compositions, showcased the new, while his second set, an adaptation of a poem by the 13th-century Sufi poet Rumi, featured the old.

The Iranian-born Arsani began the performance singing in English, before switching to Farsi. He used dynamics, masterfully switching from bombastic, impassioned sections to subdued, quiet moments, when his voice became only a whisper.

“I saw people getting shot, screaming ‘freedom’ in Farsi, and just getting shot like it was no big deal, but it was a big deal for me,” said Arsani. “When I play my instruments that’s one of my first thoughts, is ‘How can I speak to that energy? How can I channel the feelings that those people went through?’”

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