We had a joyful and magical time with the MTWichita premiere of the Andrew Lloyd Webber / T.S. Elliot classic. CATS was directed and choreographed by CATS veteran Dana Solimando (and her assistant Billy Johnstone – who was also quite delightful in the role of Skimbleshanks). Other guest stars included MTW favorites Garrett Long as Grizabella, and E. Mani Cadet as Old Deuteronomy. Nicholas Saverine joined the cast and was unforgettable as Gus, the Theatre Cat. The gorgeous music was brought to new life with the conducting of Thomas Wesley Douglas.
(We also had some unexpected drama when company member Stephanie Martignetti had to go on as Grizabella for two performances, with only a couple hours’ rehearsal! She was thrilling and terrific, and we so appreciate her keeping the show going until Garrett Long’s sudden throat virus passed!)
The only returning title for MTW last summer was the award-winning Damn Yankees, featuring such flavorful hit songs as “Whatever Lola Wants,” “Two Lost Souls,” and “You’ve Gotta Have Heart.” A quartet of Broadway veterans headed a spectacular cast, bringing this show to vivid new life. James Brennan was devilishly entertaining as the evil Mr. Applegate, stopping the show nightly with his vaudevillian panache in “Those Were the Good Old Days.” Audiences and critics also raved about the fantastically talented JoAnn M. Hunter, who made her MTW debut as the tempting Lola. Young Joe Hardy was perfectly personified by the wonderful Chris Peluso, and the beautiful and gifted Alma Cuervo brought depth and complexity to the role of Meg. With direction by Mark Madama, choreography by John MacInnis, and musical direction by Flint Hawes, Damn Yankees proved to be a very happy occasion for us. We also appreciated the generous sponsorship of the National Endowment for the Arts in making this production possible.
In Hairspray it’s 1962 – the ’50s are out and change is in the air. Baltimore’s Tracy Turnblad, a big girl with big hair and an even bigger heart, has only one passion–to dance. She wins a spot on the local TV dance program, “The Corny Collins Show” and, overnight, is transformed from outsider to irrepressible teen celebrity. But can a trendsetter in dance and fashion vanquish the program’s reigning princess, win the heart of heartthrob Link Larkin, and integrate a television show without denting her ‘do? Only in Hairspray! Welcome to the ’60s!
How terrific it was to finish our summer with this uplifting and hilarious show! It turned out to be one of the most screamingly funny shows we’ve ever done, and surprisingly moving, too.
Our own brand-new production was helmed quite brilliantly by Greg Graham, who worked with director Jack O’Brien and choreographer Jerry Mitchell on the original Broadway show. Our cast starred the incredible Blake Hammond re-creating his Broadway role as Edna. And we were just thrilled to feature talented MTW alumni in several of the leading roles, including the showstopping Annie Funke as Tracy, absolutely sweeping the audience up in her enthusiasm and charm. Other Broadway veterans included Ray DeMattis, absolutely charming as Wilbur, and Audrie Neenan (so funny in last year’s The Full Monty) playing a variety of roles. Guest stars also included handsome Todd DuBail as Corny Collins, delicious Christi Moore-Leslie as Velma, and powerhouse Altamiecé Ballard as Motormouth Maybelle. Other wonderful performances were turned in by Alex Stoll as Link, Deanna Glover as Penny, Robert Hartwell as Seaweed, and Stephanie Martignetti as Amber. The all-new sets and costumes, created by J Branson and Tiia Torchia, brought 1962 Baltimore to colorful and humorous life on our stage. Erin Kennedy Lunsford created outrageous hair styles, and musical director Thomas Wesley Douglas made the show rock!