Cowboy Junkies: Major Concert at the Avalon July 27

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The Avalon is excited to be hosting Cowboy Junkies just 2 weeks after their latest record hits the streets. “All That Reckoning”, will be released on July 13th.

Although they’re famously free-riding, mythically rugged individualists and their music is highly addictive, the four members of the Cowboy Junkies are neither cowboys nor junkies. They make up the hip, hybrid Canadian indie band with a rich repertoire of originals and classic covers wrapped in an aura of mystery. The Cowboy Junkies – the little, but hugely classy, cult band – returns to perform July 27th, at 8p.m. in Easton.

The band is playing great these days, Margo is singing better than ever.

“We’re inspired by the material we’ve recorded for our new album and we’re having more and more fun reaching deep into our catalog.”

At the Avalon, they will be going acoustic and electric, performing new material, classics, deep cuts and fan requests. They’ve recently added David Bowie’s “Five Years” to their repertoire, supplementing the extensive list of covers they can draw from.

When asked what keeps the Junkies’ core group of devoted fans (affectionately called llamas) traveling to all their shows, the band refers to it’s authenticity.

“We hope it’s because we put on a good show, but I think it’s also an authentic performance. We’re a band that’s been performing together for thirty years and there’s a real, honest connection with the audience on most nights. I think that’s a rare thing these days.”

For more information on all upcoming events, visit avalonfoundation.org, or visit our blog, or call 410-822-7299.

Chesapeake Brass Band in Fountain Park July 7

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The Chesapeake Silver Cornet Brass Band in 2016 on their 20th Anniversary.

Come on down to Fountain Park this Saturday, July 7, for the second in Chestertown’s Music in the Park summer concert series, featuring the Chesapeake Brass Band. The music will begin at 7:00 pm and last approximately 90 minutes. Bring something to sit on as only limited seating is available. Admission is free.

Formed in 1996, the Chesapeake Brass Band is comprised of amateur and professional musicians from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware. Following the brass banding tradition, it is an all-volunteer organization.

The Chesapeake Brass Band was the National American Brass Band Association champion in their division in 2013.

The band has won numerous awards over the years, including placing first in their division at the North American Brass Band Association Competition in 2013. This year the band was Runner Up in their division at the Dublin Festival of Brass in Dublin, Ohio.

The band performs a varied repertoire of contemporary and traditional brass band music throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. The concert at Chestertown will feature music from stage, screen, TV, and the circus. Among the tunes will be a “Salute to the Armed Forces”, “Slaughter on 10th Avenue”, “Rhapsody in Blue” as well as Barnum and Bailey’s favorite march. Cornet and Euphonium solos will also be part of the evening’s program.

Dr. Russell Murray -Musical Director of the Chesapeake Brass Band

The band’s musical director is Russell Murray. Dr.Murray earned his Ph.D. in Musicology from the University of North Texas. He has taught music history and directed early music ensembles at the University of North Texas, Texas Wesleyan University, and Rice University. He is currently Professor and Chair of the Music Department at the University of Delaware, where he is the director of the Collegium Musicum and is also on the Core Faculty of the Women’s Studies program. He has been at the University of Delaware since 1991.

For more information, see their website.

If you are an accomplished brass player or percussionist looking for a new challenge, the Chesapeake Brass Band has openings. Contact the band at chesapeakebrass@aol.com or call 302-530-2915.

In case of rain, a concert may be rescheduled or a rain location may be sent to the email list and listed on a sign on the stage in the park on the day of the concert. These free programs are sponsored by the Town of Chestertown with support from The Kent County Arts Council & Community Contributors. To help make these programs possible, please send donations payable to the Town of Chestertown to Music in the Park, Chestertown Town Hall, 118 N. Cross Street, Chestertown, MD 21620.

The Chesapeake Brass Band in concert.

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A Laugh a Minute at “Short Attention Span Theater” at the Garfield Center

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Dan Guidice as Barry and Diane Landskroener as Lois in “Kung Foolery” in Short Attention Span Theater 2018 at the Garfield      Photo by Jeff Weber

The Garfield Center’s Short Attention Span Theater, or SAST, is an eagerly-awaited feature of Chestertown’s summer arts season.  This year’s SAST – the 14th annual–brings eight 10-minute plays onstage and is a real feast for theater lovers.  As usual, the emphasis is on comedy, and this year’s selection gives some of the area’s best actors plenty of opportunities to get the audience laughing.  This is an evening of pure light-hearted entertainment not to be missed.

David MacGregor’s “Just Desserts,” directed by Diane Landskroener, riffs on a situation almost everyone has experienced – the co-worker who steals everyone else’s food (especially desserts) from the office refrigerator. One worker Joyce (Jennifer Kafka Smith) decides to take things into her own hands, to the consternation of her office mates, played by Zac Ryan, Phebe Wood, and Melissa McGlynn.  Everyone denies being the thief but Joyce has a clever plan to unmask the “pig.”  Zac Ryan, Phebe Wood, and Melissa McGlynn will remind you of all your old officemates as they swing from hot denial to indifference to a chilling desire for revenge followed by sympathy for the thief then back to self-absorption and indifference.  McGlynn’s antics are particularly funny and Phebe Wood is a breath of fresh air as the young, energetic coworker who tries to “understand” the pig and makes you wonder exactly who she is talking about.  A wonderfully absurdist take on the daily office routine.

Jim Landdskroener as Ronald and Brad Chaires as Clarence in Short Attention Span Theater 2018 at the Garfield      Photo by Jeff Weber

“All Over But the Shouting,” by local playwright Brent Lewis, takes us to a nursing home where two brothers (Jim Landskroener and Brad Chaires), have been abandoned by the staff which has fled from an impending disaster. Facing apparent doom, the two go over all their old quarrels, then gradually, grudgingly, realize their common bonds. Chaires and Landskroener are both believable and amusing as they hash over every prank, every fight, every perceived slight from the past 70 plus years. A comic delight. Mark Sullivan directs.

Kirby Powell makes his directorial debut with “Misfortune,” by Mark Harvey Levine. A couple in a Chinese restaurant opens their fortune cookies with unexpected results. Who writes a cookie fortune like this? The husband demands a new cookie, then another!  The plot builds as the cookies’ messages become more and more unreal – with a surprise ending I admit I didn’t see coming. Nice jobs by Zac Ryan and Georgia Rickloff as the couple and Beverly Hall Smith as their waitress.

Jim Landskroener directs “Kung Foolery,” by Brett Hursey, which takes the stock situation of an awkward visit by an inlaw to the brink of absurdity and then plunges over. Gretchen Saches plays the loving and patient wife, while Dan Guidice is hilarious as the apparently over-reacting husband. But the payoff arrives with the appearance of Diane Landskroener as the mother of all mother-in-laws! The physical humor in this one is wonderful as Barry leaps about the stage, practicing his “moves” in preparation for the arrival of his dreaded mother-in-law.

“Binged There, Done That” is first up after the intermission, and playwright Ken Preuss takes the audience through the history of a relationship that makes “whirlwind” seem like slow-motion.  The ridiculous time-compression of the relationship is explained by the gimmick that the characters are “binge-watching” their relationship, with all the unlikely twists you might expect from a TV soap opera. Lis Engel, Jennifer Kafka Smith, Bryan Betley, Dan Guidice, Bryan Zachowski and Robbie Spray are all highly amusing as the couple nonchalantly and cheerfully describe their first kiss, first fight, first child.  Robbie Spray capers convincingly as the over-grown child Ron-Jon while Jennifer Kafka-Smith is perfect as the maternal yet coyly flirtatious mother-in-law. Hester Sachse is the director.

Jen Friedman and Brianna Johnson with Xocko (on the arm and hand of Thomas Martinez)  in “The Stand In” in Short Attention Span Theater 2018 at the Garfield      Photo by Jeff Weber

“The Stand In,” also by Brett Hursey, brings a young actor to an audition for a local theater. Jen Friedman does her usual hilariously over-the-top job as the theater’s ultra-bossy director, while Brianna Johnson plays the increasingly non-plussed actress who finds herself playing second fiddle to Xocko – a sock puppet. As the young actress Mandy at an audition, Johnson is clearly talented, portraying a wide range of emotions from love to anger to grief.   The premise is funny in its own right, and Xocko the puppet (played by Thomas Martinez) definitely hams it up by playing dead, miming vomiting in a bucket, and adding hats to portray different characters. Brad Chaires makes his directorial debut with this delightful spoof on television, Hollywood, and the “thee-ah-tah.”

Theater manager Brian Betley directs “L.A. 8 A.M.,” which shows a brief moment in the lives of two young people as seen by two announcers who know what their future holds. McGlynn and Paul Cambardella act as announcers while Tilly Pelcaar and Kirby Powell play the young couple. Mark Harvey Levine’s script is by a good margin the most serious of this year’s SAST offerings.  The outrageous, campy costumes of the two narrators–flashy fur coats, brightly-colored high heeled shoes, and heavy theatrical make-up–create an almost eerie ambiance and contrast to the ordinary clothes of a young couple getting ready to start their day. This one makes you think – about how we live our everyday lives and how we never know what the future may hold as we casually go through our daily routines.

Lis Engle as Sylvia in “The New Me” in Short Attention Span Theater 2018 at the Garfield      Photo by Jeff Weber

The evening concludes with local playwright Rich Pauli’s “The New Me,” directed by Melissa McGlynn. A woman tells her husband the scientific fact that after seven years, every cell in a person’s body has changed. Since it is their seventh anniversary, she is a new person who has nothing in common with the woman who married him. Lis Engle is appropriately flamboyant as the woman, and Dan Guidice plays the husband – doing a nice job of tracking his gradual acceptance of the situation – that this is not his wife.  The final dance scene and the “new” wife’s costume change add just the right touch to this comedy.

Under the overall direction of Diane Landskroener and Mark Sullivan, the show runs smoothly, with smooth transitions from one play to the next and enough variety to keep things from settling into a predictable pattern. The simple but effective set — a wall with two doors, varied by different bits of furniture to match the different plays — helps make the necessary scene changes fast and efficient. The clever and often surprisingly appropriate music selections between (and during) the separate shows were chosen by Sullivan with input from the directors. Butch Clark does his usual professional job with the lights — and gets an impromptu bit part during one show. (Wait for it!)

SAST runs through July 8, with performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. on Sunday. Audiences at the evening performance get a bonus – a one-minute play festival directed by Tia Glomb. Immediately before the main performance.

Tickets are $15 for general admission; students’ tickets are $5. For reservations, call the box office at 410-810-2060 or visit Eventbrite (https://www.eventbrite.com/e/short-attention-span-theatre-tickets-41830127036?ref=ebtnebtckt) to buy seats online.

“Binged There, Done That” cast – Short Attention Span Theater 2018 at the Garfield        Photo by Jane Jewell

Curtain Call for Short Attention Span Theater 2018 at the Garfield      Photo by Jane Jewell

L.A. 8. A.M. – Short Attention Span Theater 2018 at the Garfield        Photo by Jane Jewell

Jennifer Kafka-Smith as The Mother in “Binged There, Done That” in Short Attention Span Theater 2018 at the Garfield      Photo by Jeff Weber

Brianna Johnson in “The Stand In” in Short Attention Span Theater 2018 at the Garfield      Photo by Jeff Weber

Lis Engle as Sylvia and Dan Guidice as Edward in Short Attention Span Theater 2018 at the Garfield     Photo by Jeff Weber

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“Annapolis Bluegrass” Kicks Off Music in the Park Summer Concert Series

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The Annapolis Bluegrass Coalition in 2017 Photo: Mike Hartnett (fiddle), Larry Conner (guitar), Roger Green (mandolin), Terry Wittenberg (banjo), Jim Duvall (bass)

Bring your dancing shoes for this Saturday’s Music in the Park concert featuring the Annapolis Bluegrass Coalition.  The music starts at 7 p.m. in Chestertown’s Fountain Park and continues until about 8:30 p.m. One of the area’s most popular groups, Annapolis Bluegrass Coalition, combines instrumental virtuosity with close harmonies in a mixture of bluegrass standards, originals by band members and a few “out-of-genre” tunes adapted for the bluegrass style. The band will concentrate on bluegrass standards for its Chestertown set, as well as a selection of originals by band members.  Come join the fun!

The band leader and founder is Roger Green, who plays guitar and mandolin, and sings both lead and harmony vocals. He also writes most of the bands original material.   Larry Conner plays guitar and also sings lead and harmony vocals.  On banjo and vocals is Terry Wittenberg. Rounding out the group are Mike Hartnett on fiddle and Jim Duvall on bass fiddle.

For more information on the band and to hear some of their music, visit the Annapolis Bluegrass website at www.annapolisbluegrass.com

Music in the Park performances begin at 7 p.m. in Fountain Park and run until about 8:30. Annapolis Bluegrass is always one of the best-attended performances of the series and a limited number of seats are available. Audience members are advised to bring folding chairs or blankets.

In the event of rain, the concert will be rescheduled if possible.

These free programs are sponsored by the Town of Chestertown with support from The Kent County Arts Council & Community Contributors. To help make these programs possible, please send donations payable to the Town of Chestertown and designated for “Music in the Park,” to 118 N. Cross Street, Chestertown, MD 21620.

The Chestertown Music in the Park schedule is below followed by the schedule for the three Thursday evening Riverfront concerts sponsored by Washington College.

Chestertown’s Music in the Park:

Saturday, June 23 – Annapolis Bluegrass

Saturday, July 7 – Chesapeake Brass Band – marches, popular and patriotic songs

Saturday, July 21 – Music from Broadway  –  songs from various musicals, movies, and similar popular songs

Saturday, Aug – 4 – Swing City – big swing band era songs – 1930s-40s style

Saturday, Aug 18 – Legacy Day soul band – Soulfied Village – block party 6-10 pm  DJ + Live Music all evening – crafts, exhibits, food, beverages, dancing in the streets

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You also won’t want to miss the Thursday Evening Washington College Riverfront Concerts

Washington College sponsors a series of three Thursday evening concerts during the weeks when there is not a Music in the Park concert.  Theses concerts start earlier – 6:30 pm and go for about 90 minutes.

The three Washington College Riverfront Concerts are:

Thursday, June 28            Sombarkin (gospel/spirituals/acapella vocal trio)

Thursday, July 12              Ultrafaux, Gypsy Jazz on July 12th with special guest mandolinist Danny Knicely.

Thursday, July 26              High & Wides CD Release Celebration (Americana//bluegrass)

The Washington College Riverfront Concert Series takes place on the Custom House Lawn on the riverfront at the end of High Street. Concerts begin at 6:30 pm. Rain dates move to the Wilmer Park Pavilion. All concerts are free and open to the public.  Bring blankets or chairs or just sit on the grass.

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The Bay Country Chorus to Perform at Avalon Theatre June 10

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The Bay Country Chorus is presenting an afternoon of fine music on Sunday June 10.  The Show will be held at the Historic Avalon Theatre in Easton beginning at 2 pm.

The show will have performances by the Bay Country Chorus, Harmony on the Bay, a ladies Sweet Adelines International chorus from Centreville and the Gospel Souls from St. Luke’s church in Cambridge all sung in the a cappella style. Special guests at this event will be the Pride of DelMarVa, an award winning male barbershop chorus from Milford DE.

Tickets are $15.00 and are available through the Avalon theatre box office (410-822-7299) or on their web site the (avalonfoundation.org).

Ken and Brad Kolodner Quartet at The Mainstay May 18

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The dynamic father-son duo Ken & Brad Kolodner are joined by Rachel Eddy on fiddle, guitar and vocals and Alex Laquement on bass. They weave together a mesmerizing soundscape on hammered dulcimer, banjo and fiddles and push the boundaries of the Old-Time tradition into uncharted territory. Regarded as one of the most influential hammered dulcimer players and Old-Time fiddlers in North America, Baltimore’s Ken Kolodner has joined forces with his son Brad Kolodner, a rising star in the clawhammer banjo world. Together, they infuse their own brand of driving, innovative, tasteful and unique interpretations of traditional and original fiddle tunes and songs. They perform tight and musical arrangements of original and traditional old-time music with a “creative curiosity that lets all listeners know that a passion for traditional music yet thrives in every generation.” At this concert, they add bassist Alex Lacquementwho locks everything together with his commanding approach and multi-instrumentalist Rachel Eddy (fiddle, banjo, guitar and vocals), a former member of the Old-Time supergroup Uncle Earl.

The Mainstay (Home of Musical Magic) is the friendly informal storefront performing arts center on Rock Hall’s old time Main Street. It is a 501(c)(3), nonprofit dedicated to the arts, serving Rock Hall, MD and the surrounding region and is committed to presenting local, regional and national level talent, at a reasonable price, in an almost perfect acoustic setting. Information and advance ticket sales are available on the Mainstay’s website http://www.mainstayrockhall.org.

Upcoming Mainstay performances include:

May 14 – Joe Holt welcomes Tom Lagana
May 18 – Ken and Brad Kolodner Quartet
May 20 – Chester River Youth Choir
May 21 – Joe Holt welcomes Michael DeMaio
May 28 – Joe Holt welcomes Tom McHugh
June 2 – Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet
June 22 – Barbara Parker with Joe Holt and Camillo Carrara
June 23 – Grand Ole Ditch
June 30 – Charlie Byrd Tribute with Chuck Redd All-Stars

“Sweeney Todd” at the Garfield — a Review by Peter Heck

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Anyone who enjoys the theater should make it a point to see Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler, currently playing at the Garfield Center for the Arts.

Directed by Shelagh Grasso, with musical direction by Julie Lawrence, Sweeney Todd is an intense, sometimes overwhelming, story of murder, cannibalism, injustice – and love.  With a touch of humor. That’s a tall order and the Garfield production comes through.

Originally a 1973 play by Christopher Bond, Sweeney Todd takes its material from the Victorian “penny dreadfuls”– one of which introduced the murderous barber Todd in a serialized thriller, “The String of Pearls” in the late 1840s. It was so popular that it was turned into a play even before its final installment, and numerous spin-offs followed. Bond added a level of psychological sophistication to the Victorian original, and the London production of the play inspired Sondheim to adapt it as a musical in 1979.

The sailor Anthony rescued and befriended barber Sweeney Todd.      Photo by Carmen Grasso

The original Broadway production featured Len Cariou in the title role and Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Lovett, his partner in crime, with Hal Prince directing. It ran for 557 performances before going on a national tour. It won an astounding eight Tony Awards, and followed up with nine Drama Desk awards – including best musical, best male and female actors, best director, and best score. Not surprisingly, it has been revived numerous times, with a 2007 film adaptation starring Johnny Depp.

The plot revolves around a London barber banished to the penal colonies of Australia on trumped-up charges by a crooked judge who had designs on the barber’s wife. Now fifteen years later, the barber has returned to England, accompanied by a young sailor, Anthony Hope, who rescued him at sea. After telling Anthony a version of his tale, Todd goes to a meat pie shop on Fleet Street, where the proprietress, Mrs. Lovett complains about how hard it is to find meat. He asks her about her upstairs apartment, which he reveals that he himself used to rent under his former name before he was arrested. She tells him, in turn, that his wife committed suicide and that the crooked judge adopted his then-infant daughter Johanna.

Mrs. Lovett agrees to rent him the apartment and promises to keep his secret. She also gives him back his old set of razors which she has kept all these years, so he can go back into business as a barber again. But Todd has sworn revenge on the judge, and that decision shapes everything else that happens.

Meanwhile, Anthony has seen a beautiful young woman singing out of her window, and falls instantly in love with her. Her name, he learns, is Johanna – then the judge and his beadle chase him away, threatening bodily harm if he returns. Unwittingly, he has fallen in love with Todd’s daughter.

Back on Fleet Street. Todd wins a shaving contest against an Italian barber, Pirelli, allowing him to call himself the best barber in London. The judge’s beadle, impressed, makes an appointment to come back for a shave – which Todd sees as a chance for revenge on one of the men who framed him. When Anthony then appears and tells of his love for Johanna, Todd promises Anthony he can use his shop as a meeting place for their elopement.

But before that can happen, Pirelli and his assistant Tobias appear and Pirelli asks for a shave. Mrs. Lovett takes Tobias downstairs for a meat pie, and Pirelli reveals that he knows who Todd is and tries to blackmail him. So Todd slits his throat and Mrs. Lovett makes Tobias an assistant, pretending that Pirelli has been called away on business. And she sees the need to dispose of the body as an opportunity – after all, she still needs meat for her pie business!

From there, the plot moves inevitably toward its conclusion – a dark and bloody apocalypse in the great tradition of the “penny dreadful.” Needless to say, this is not a play for young children – perhaps not for anyone disturbed by the sight of stage blood, or who thought Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” was too gross. However, it’s important to note that while the plot has numerous on-stage murders, there is really not a lot of blatant on-stage gore. But there’s no excuse for anyone else to miss this production – one of the most powerful in the local theater in recent years.

Grasso has assembled a top-notch cast, with many who are making their first local appearance.

Christopher Wallace, who directed CHT’s recent production of Witness for the Prosecution, plays the title role. He does a nice job walking the fine line between Todd as a victim of injustice and as a monster – both aspects of which come to the fore at different times. A memorable performance in a difficult role.

Jane Copple, who has a long string of credits in Church Hill Theatre musicals, is a good fit for the role of Mrs. Lovett. Her voice is one of the best in the cast, and she conveys the comic aspects of the character well.

Max Hagan, who has a theater degree from Sewanee, gets to show off a nice voice as Anthony Hope. One of the most sympathetic characters in this generally dark play, he could be seen as the moral center of the play.

Thwarted lovers Anthony and Johanna in “Sweeney Todd” at Garfield Theatre        Photo by Carmen Grasso

Natalie Lane, who previously appeared in the Garfield production of My Fair Lady, plays Tobias, the young boy who becomes an apprentice to Mrs. Lovett in the pie shop. Her voice is excellent and she is convincing as a London street urchin.

Matt Folker is cast as Judge Terpin, the main villain of the piece, and Nic Carter plays Beadle Bamford, his unsavory henchman. Both do fine jobs of embodying the entrenched evil that ends up creating a serial murderer, the “demon barber of Fleet Street.”

Jane Copple as Mrs. Lovett, Christopher Wallace as Sweeney Todd, and Melissa McGlynn as the Beggar Woman/Lucy in “Sweeney Todd”, a 2018 production at Garfield Theatre.      Photo by Carmen Grasso

Melissa McGlynn plays a beggar woman who turns out to have a more significant role in the plot than first appears. A solid performance from one of our local theatrical stars.

Shannon Whitaker is well cast as Johanna, Sweeney’s daughter. She displays a beautiful singing voice in her featured number, “Green Finch and Linnet Bird.”

Zack Schagg, Howard Messick, Zac Ryan and Kendall Davis round out the list of characters with speaking parts, and all do good jobs. Likewise the chorus – which includes a large number of familiar on-stage faces – is an impressive presence, acting, as Grasso said after the opening night performance, almost as a Greek chorus, telling the story in operatic style. There is a wonderful “madhouse” scene in which Anthony goes to rescue Johanna from the lunatic asylum.  The lunatics–in particular, Marcia Gilliam–are delightfully mad. And then there is the “more pie” scene where the local townspeople wipe their lips and swing their mugs of ale while calling for “more pie”.  All in song!

The set, designed and built by Carmen Grasso, is astonishing in its own right. The main piece, sitting at center stage, swivels around to show two different fronts – one Mrs. Lovett’s pie shop, the other a generic street scene. On a second level, it shows Todd’s barbershop – including a chute down which he drops the victims of his butchery so the “meat” can be used for pies.  A very clever and useful feature!  And this is just the centerpiece – there are levels upon levels all around it, with chorus members lurking to observe and add their voices where the score calls for it. There’s even scaffolding out in the audience, behind the orchestra pit. Be sure to look all around you as the play goes on – there’s a lot happening!

“Sweeney Todd” performance at Garfield Theatre          Photo by Carmen Grasso

The costuming convincingly recreates the look of 1840s London working and middle class.  In the early scenes, both Lovett and Todd’s clothes are worn and not of the highest fashion.  But as the “pie” shop prospers, both characters sport a posher look, with Todd in a good-quality suit and Mrs. Lovett wearing a fashionable dress with a beautiful–and obviously expensive–embroidered shawl. Johanna, the barber’s daughter, looked lovely in a white gown and long flowing tresses.  A great wig!  Good job by costume designer Barbi Bedell and her crew.

In fact, despite the complexity of the choreography and blocking and the large number of characters onstage at any given time, the play feels very tight. Grasso has done an impressive job bringing everything together into a unified whole. This only adds to her already high ranking among directors in the local theater community.  A special mention should also go to choreographer and assistant director Greg Minahan.  Minahan comes to the Garfield with an impressive list of credits that include singing, dancing and choreography on Broadway in such productions as CATS and Peter Pan.  Locally, Minihan has acted and directed for both Shore Shakespeare and Church Hill Theatre.

A couple of quibbles. The dialogue was sometimes hard to understand – especially with characters singing in Cockney accents. Occasionally, lyrics were covered up by the orchestra – especially in some chorus pieces. This may improve as the cast settles in. And the lighting seemed dimmer in spots than it might have been.  There were also a few opening-night glitches such as when actors moved out of their spotlights.  But nothing that really detracted from the enjoyment of the production.

“Sweeney Todd” performance at Garfield Theatre      Photo by Carmen Grasso

Sondheim’s music is complex and challenging.  Some songs are gentle and sweet, expressing themes of love and loyalty, such as the duet “Not While I’m Around” between Mrs. Lovett and Tobias.  But Sondheim also uses dissonance–sometimes high-volume dissonance–to convey the more shocking emotional elements of the story.  This is, after all, a story of murder and mayhem! And the music reflects that.  Those who are more attuned to the musicals of Rodgers and Hammerstein or Lerner and Loewe may want to adjust their expectations accordingly.   I myself lean more toward Gershwin and Porter but found the music in  Sweeny Todd to be both powerful and dramatically effective.

There’s plenty of energy, and the orchestra seemed to be very tight. The quality of the singers’ voices is universally high. There were a couple of points where two singers in a duet appeared to be in different keys – but without having the score right there, it was hard to tell if this was intentional or not. Again it was not enough to detract from the overall excellence of the music.  Of course, given the theme of the show, it is consistent for the music–though quite lyrical at times–to also be uncomfortable at other points.  Kudos to Julie Lawrence who brought it all together.

Sweeney Todd, as noted above, is an intense, gripping theatrical experience, and Grasso’s production pulls no punches.  Note that it is a long show, running just under three hours.  The local theater community deserves high marks for bringing this show to the Garfield and bringing to it such an effective performance. Go see it.

Sweeney Todd runs at the Garfield through May 13, with performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 3 p.m. Sundays. For reservations, call 410-810-2960 or visit boxoffice@garfieldcenter.org.

The local beggar and mad woman confronts Anthony.  Sweeney Todd at the Garfield Theatre. Photo by Carmen Grasso

Another victim of the Demon Barber meets his fate in “Sweeney Todd” at Garfield Theatre.      Photo by Carmen Grasso

Mrs. Lovett and her assistant Tobias in “Sweeney Todd” at Garfield Theatre.     Photo by Carmen Grasso

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Mid-Shore AGO to Sponsor Festival with Mid-Shore Musicians

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On Sunday, May 6 at 4 pm, the Mid-Shore Maryland Chapter of the American Guild of Organists will present a Festival of Hymns for Brass, Organ, Timpani, Handbells, and a choir of around sixty voices.  The event will take place at Christ Church in Easton located at 111 S. Harrison Street.

This year’s festival is the third such event hosted by the nearly four-year old chapter.  Each year, the event draws both musicians and attendees from throughout the Delmarva region, and this year’s festival will feature the largest combination of musicians to date.  The choir will be comprised of singers from as far away as Odessa , Delaware, and will include many from Talbot County.  A professional brass quintet and timpanist will also add festival flare to this popular annual event, along with the region’s premier community handbell ensemble, Bells of the Bay.  Featured music will include hymns favorite and new using various combinations of the gathered musical forces as well as a solo organ piece presented on one of shore’s largest instruments.

The Mid-Shore Maryland AGO sponsors a full lineup of events throughout the year to promote both Organ and Sacred Music.  Each year, the guild sponsors clinicians and musicians at both the national and local level  who  lead in workshops and various programs designed to assist and enhance music in churches throughout the area.  For the second year, the Mid-Shore AGO has also underwritten Pipedreams, a nationally syndicated program of organ music which can be heard on WSCL 89.5 FM radio each Sunday evening.

This Sunday’s hymn festival is free and open to the public.  Doors will open at 3:30 pm, and a freewill offering will be received to support this and other events sponsored by the Mid-Shore MD AGO.

Master Organist Ken Cowan Returns to Chestertown for 23rd Year May 4

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Ken Cowan will make his 23rd consecutive appearance at Emmanuel Church on May 4th. This remarkably talented organist has played every year to enthusiastic followers since Emmanuel’s Harrison organ was installed. Besides displaying a huge variety of organ compositions at his recitals, all of the music is memorized.

Recent feature performances have included appearances at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa California, Philadelphia’s Verizon Hall, Spivey Hall, and Walt Disney Concert Hall, as well as concerts in Germany and Korea. In addition, Mr. Cowan has been a featured artist in recent years at the national conventions of the American Guild of Organists held in Los Angeles and Minneapolis, has performed at many regional conventions of the AGO, and has been featured at several conventions of the Organ Historical Society and the Royal Canadian College of Organists.

Ken received the Master’s degree and Artist Diploma from the Yale School of Music/Institute of Sacred Music, studying organ with Thomas Murray. Prior to attending Yale, he graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia where he studied with John Weaver. His major teacher during high school years was James Bingham, Organist/Choirmaster at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, in Buffalo, NY, which is not far from his hometown Thorold, Ontario, Canada.

In 2012 Mr. Cowan joined the keyboard faculty of the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University as Associate Professor and head of the organ program.

For more information and ticket information please go here