November 23, 2017
Arts & Entertainment
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ASGT’s Upcoming Season Appeals To Contemporary Tastes

Dylan Roche
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May 3, 2017

“Sister Act,” “Full Monty” And “In The Heights” Will Liven Up The Outdoor Theater Experience

A quick look at this year’s lineup of productions at Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre shows that the downtown-based nonprofit organization knows how to keep up with the times and bring a wider audience in to experience a live performance.

“We have started to steer away from the classic Broadway musicals and go toward something a little more contemporary as we try to engage a younger audience,” said Ashley Gladden, public relations director.

Instead of traditional fare, ASGT is rehearsing to bring audiences stories of rebellious nuns, steelworkers turned strippers, lucky lottery winners and other surprises.

“Each show has a common theme of community and diversity, but it will be different from what people are used to,” Gladden said.

The season starts on May 25, the Thursday before Memorial Day, and continues through the Sunday before Labor Day. Let’s take a look at what’s on the schedule and what directors are working on in rehearsals...

 

Sister Act

May 25 - June 17

When showgirl Deloris Van Cartier witnesses a murder, she’s put in protective custody in the one place the cops are sure she won’t be a found: a convent! Disguised as a nun, she finds herself at odds with both the rigid lifestyle and the uptight mother superior, but when she uses her unique disco moves and singing talent to inspire the choir, Deloris breathes new life into the church.

Director Clare Shaffer — who described “Sister Act” as a wonderfully over-the-top show bursting with energy, strong characters and sharp dialogue — said one of the great joys of working on this musical is developing a host of different personalities and characters. Because the show emphasizes the transformative power of friendship, Shaffer wants to see each nun in the convent be a distinct person rather than see all of them lumped together as a group. “We’re spending a lot of time fleshing out really specific comedic bits, really specific reactions,” she said.

She’s also excited about the show’s visual elements, which will emphasize the juxtaposition between the nightlife and the convent, as well as the upbeat choreography. Because she’s a big believer in “incorporating the ensemble to the nth degree,” her version of “Sister Act” will showcase a variety of talents pulling triple duty as actors, singers and dancers.

 

The Full Monty

June 29 - July 22

Six unemployed steelworkers in Buffalo, New York, are low on both cash and prospects. While spying on their wives at a girls’ night out, the men realize just how much the women enjoy watching male strippers. Jealous and out of work, the group of lovable misfits devises a daring and titillating way to make some quick cash and get back on their feet.

When he first read the script for “The Fully Monty,” director Mason Catharini was struck by how socially relevant the story was with its depiction of people out of work and trying to figure out what to make of themselves. His goal now is to “approach it with sincerity and live up to what’s happening to actual people.”

Self-described as a collaborative artist, Catharini enjoys seeing what other people bring to the table, and with a story that’s all about comedy, community and camaraderie, he’s eager that he’s working with a group that brings a lot of youthful energy. “The artistic team is a little younger; they’re eager go-getters who want to continue on in this business, so we’re all eager to make our mark,” he said.

 

In the Heights

August 3 - September 3

In New York’s largely Dominican-American neighborhood of Washington Heights, the windows are always open and the breeze carries the rhythm of three generations of music. When Usnavi, owner of the corner bodega, discovers that he sold a winning lottery ticket worth $96,000, everyone on the block spends three summer days fantasizing about how they would spend the small fortune and finally achieve their dreams.

Though Washington Heights might be a little bit different from Annapolis, director Darnell Morris sees it as something that’s going to speak to everyone. “It’s a show that brings all types of people together. The scenes are so universal,” he said. “It’s different from anything that’s shown at Summer Garden before.”

Because “In The Heights” revolves around a community, Morris is interested in seeing his version — as, he explained, many other productions before it have done — develop its own identity based on the group of talents involved. “The cast and crew grow into a big community, and that’s something that’s reflected in the performance,” he said. “I’m excited to see what kind of community we form and what tone that sets for the production.”

 

All shows run Thursday through Sunday (plus select Wednesdays) at 8:30pm in ASGT’s open-air theater at 143 Compromise Street in downtown Annapolis. For ticket information, visit www.summergarden.com.


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