Articles Tagged With: Kevin McAllister

Dreamgirls at Toby’s Dinner Theatre

And I’m telling you— you ARE going to Toby’s Dinner Theatre this autumn to see Dreamgirls. It’s more than just a dream— it’s a fantasy come true with sparkle, energy, enthusiasm, and raw talent that will blow you away. Dreamgirls, appearing live on the Toby’s stage as the fall musical of the 2017 season, is filled with the heart and soul of the 60’s and 70’s,

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A Little Night Music at Signature Theatre

Purchase your tickets, la la la! Queue up at the entrance, la la la! Unfold your program, la la la! Hi-ho the glamorous life! It’s so much more than a weekend in the country if you’re venturing to Signature Theatre’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. Opening the 2017/2018 with this simplistically elegant classic, Director Eric Schaeffer sets the 28th season in motion with a glorious performance of smiling nighttimes and sensual characters entangling themselves around and through one another all whilst dripped and draped in one of Sondheim’s convoluted albeit romantic,

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Review: Titanic at Signature Theatre

In every age mankind attempts to fabricate great works at once magnificent and impossible. And impossibly magnificent is the success of the maiden voyage of Signature Theatre’s production of Titanic. With Story & Book by Peter Stone and Music & Lyrics by Maury Yeston, this spellbinding production is a floating city of magnificence in the ephemeral way that only theatre can be. Directed by Eric Schaeffer with Musical Direction by James Moore,

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The fireside is blazing bright, and they’re caroling through the night! This Christmas will be a very special Christmas— just so long as you head over to ArtsCentric, now residing at The Motor House in Baltimore’s Station North Arts District, and celebrate the holiday season with their production of Sincerely, Holidays. The third in the Sincerely series, Conceived and Directed by Kevin S. McAllister, this beautiful musical revue celebrates African-American holiday musical traditions and is so full of joy that you’ll be bursting at the seams with the holiday spirit before the evening is over. With Musical Direction by Cedric D. Lyles, this joyous event is cause for celebration; you’ll leave with your heart filled by the true spirit of Christmas. With a simple set by Lee Lewis to put folks in the holiday mood— a tree, some presents, a giant teddy bear— the orchestra, led by Musical Director and Arranger Cedric D. Lyles, gets set right across the back of the play space so that everyone in attendance can really see and feel the passion and intensity with which the four-piece band (Jordan Chase on guitar, Kevin Ellis on percussion, Michael Kellam on bass, and Lyles at the keys) puts forth when they play. Lighting Designer Lynn Joslin runs away with the wild illuminating tools needed to really pump up the experience when it comes to lighting this show. Using all sorts of special colors and blends, Joslin finds the right feeling for each of the chapters of the show on either side of the intermission and gets that underlying aesthetic firmly cemented in place to properly compliment the performances as they happen. Director Kevin McAllister, who also outfits the cast in fabulously fashionable threads of the season, divides the show up into six chapters, three on either side of the intermission. The logical progression of this show structure keeps the audience engaged in the total experience. There’s a good old fashioned holiday sing-off and show-down between the ladies and the gents in the opening section of the show, as well as tribute to variety show hosts that features Nat King Cole and various guest stars. Like all of the performances in the Sincerely series, McAllister includes a bit of audience interaction and improvisation to showcase the versatility of his performers. This section also includes some crooning and singing outside of the holiday scope, which is a nice way to further display the range of styles the performers can achieve. The back side of the show includes a gospel section, which McAllister uses to open up the second act. Feeling much like a true holiday service in a very spirited church, Christmas hymns flood the stage and the inspiring heartfelt sentiment behind these songs carries in waves to the audience. McAllister includes a deeply sentimental message of peace and love in the middle of the second act as well, reminding everyone about the true spirit of Christmas. Closing out the show with a lively upbeat finish, it becomes an all-inclusive sing-a-long with just the right vibe to get the house bouncing and singing along, making for the perfect conclusion to the much-needed joyful noise of the evening. McAllister presents not only music but the history of the music with carefully crafted narrative speeches to introduce each of the segments as they roll along, delivering heartfelt tributes to the artists with projections of their likeness on the screen as well. Musical Director Cedric D. Lyles, who keeps the keys rocking from the moment starts right through to the engaging and energetic finale, is a masterful leader when it comes to the energy, tonality, and overall functionality of the show’s music. Whether guiding the girls or the guys through their blended harmonies, pairing them off against one another in the musical show-down that kick-starts the show, or focusing more intently on duet harmonies like during the “Some Day at Christmas” segment of the show, Lyles gets the perfect sound echoing out of these nine performers. Adding his own delectable voice to the mix for various songs in the opening segment— like “That’s What Christmas Means to Me” where he wails away— Lyles gives a well-rounded performance as both singer and player from his spot back-center stage in the pit. Nine other performers lend their exceptionally talented voices to the performance, blending and mixing together for group sounds throughout that are filled with the joys, elations, and spirits of the holidays. Kymon George Carriker, Bryan Jeffrey Daniels, David Hammett, and Marquis James make up the gentleman’s section of the performance duos in the opening section of the show while the quintet of ladies, featuring Kelli Blackwell, Denae’ Fielder, Raquel Jennings, Shayla Lowe, and Pam Ward, hold their own against these jovial gents in the sassy and ferocious sing-out showdown. All nine of the performers are not only talented of voice but fleet of foot and exceptionally well-motivated to move to Choreographer Shalyce Hemby’s enriching dance routines. Featuring a world of two-stepping style that does a great many eras of musical styling justice, Hemby finds a great deal of choreographic movement that is custom tailored not only to the musical numbers featured in the show but also to the talented skills that each of the performers brings to the stage. A special shout-out is well deserved by Miss Jaya Cuffie, who appears just before the Whitney Houston tribute and dances a beautiful ballet while Raquel Jennings sings “Who Would Imagine a King?” Jennings, who possesses powerhouse vocals like the other eight members of the company, really sparkles when she takes the lead during “Santa Bring Me a Man for Christmas.” Falling on the floor in soul-searing desperation, Jennings brings an inferno of fire that fuels her vocal expression for this number, driving home that need and sparking up a fire that would roast everybody’s holiday chestnuts! Singing and bouncing in the background for the introduction of Nat King Cole and his variety show, Jennings blends her vocals divinely in moments when others are meant to be the leader of the scene. Pushing with enthusiasm in all of the group numbers that the girls carry in the beginning, Jennings is a radiant streamer of vocal tinsel, a shiny and illuminating addition to the Sincerely, Holidays tree. Pam Ward, who features as a wonderful fourth in the quartet— “Who Took the Mary out of Christmas?”— with Kelli Blackwell, Cedric D. Lyles, and Denae’ Fielder, is a fierce vocal talent to have in the mix of the holiday production. Riffing and wailing away in duet with Shayla Lowe for their solo features during one of the gospel hymns, Ward showcases her vocal prowess with ease. Lowe, who gives the narrative introduction to the variety show segment, does her finest character work when appearing on the Nat King Cole show as Pearl Bailey. Complete with the intoxicated personality and physicality to match, Lowe pays fine homage to the larger than life personality with her song and stumble routine in this moment. But her crowning moment of vocal glory is the duet that she shares with Kymon George Carriker. Bringing the house to tears— even choking up their fellow performers on stage— Carriker and Lowe sing a blended rendition of “Someday at Christmas/My Grown Up Christmas List”, which calls to the forefront of everyone’s mind all of the strife we face in the world and how peace and love is what we really need. Carriker, who is an adorably cherubic addition to the cast, showcases a great deal of character work in both the improv section of the show—near the end of the first act— as well as at the top of the second act when the gospel portion of the program gets underway. Getting to put his vocal talents on display in the non-holiday section of the show, where he takes turns with other performers crooning and serenading various audience members on stage— Carriker proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that he’s got the vocal chops to run with the big kids when it comes to this holiday revue. David Hammett, who catches the eye frequently throughout the program but especially with his dancing during the “Little Drummer Boy” call and response portion of the first chapter, is another crooner who takes his moment in the spotlight outside of the holiday numbers. Much like Carriker, Hammett really puts his skills on display when it comes to putting the moves on the audience members, both during the interactive portion and the dance party near the show’s end. Denae’ Fielder is a sassy vixen whose rendition of Eartha Kitt is purrrfect! Sidling into the role during the variety show segment, her version of “Santa Baby” does the legendary singer a great deal of justice. Performing with even greater justice in her tribute to Whitney Houston, Fielder’s voice shines during “I Miss You Most at Christmastime.” A delight as both a soloist and ensemble singer, Fielder fits perfectly into the quintet of girls featured in the show. As does the boisterous and vocally proud Kelli Blackwell. With a soulful voice belting to the heavens— particularly during the finale of “Joy to the World” where she sings along and invites the audience to sing into her microphone with her (an ultimate and thrilling experience if you’re fortunate enough to have it!)— Blackwell is a singing sensation all throughout the show. But it’s her wild and wicked rendition of the worm as ‘grandma Kelli’ in the improv section that is most memorable. Or her shenanigans with her flute and then later with her angel wings; Blackwell has such a blast of a good time that her jubilant spirit is simply contagious! Marquis James and Bryan Jeffrey Daniels are in mini competition all their own for show-stealer when it comes to the performances they are laying down. James and Daniels are both exceptionally gifted of voice and with emotional expression when it comes to singing. Their character work in this production is what has them really standing out. James rocks onto the scene during the variety act as Louis Armstrong, delivering a sensational rendition of “’Zat You, Santa Claus?” and really gets that smooth verve going in that number with his highly stylized delivery. Second only to his Prince tribute near the end of the performance— where Daniels gives a stunning rendition of “Purple Rain”— his homages are aces all throughout the show. But Daniels squeaks ahead by just a hair when it comes to show-stopping, scene-stealing moments. With Nat King Cole being the mildest of his over-the-top performances, Daniels is well recognized for his vocal ability in this character as well as his wailing falsetto as Michael Jackson in the Jackson 5 cover of “I Saw Mommy Kissin’ Santa Claus.” Daniels’ wild attitude informs a great many of his numbers and characterizations, keeping the show full of holiday hilarity. It’s the feel-good show of the season. There is love, joy, happiness, and heartwarming sentiment that just cannot be beat. It’s what the world needs, especially this time of year, and you’ll leave feeling relieved and full of the grace of the holidays! It’s a show that must be seen, it’s the show that the holidays are begging for. Don’t miss Sincerely, Holidays this Christmas at ArtsCentric, you’ll find yourself more in the true spirit of Christmas if you do. Running Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes with one intermission Sincerely, Holidays plays through January 1, 2017 at ArtsCentric on the main stage of The Motor House— 120 W. North Avenue in the Station North Arts District of Baltimore, MD. Tickets are available for purchase at the door or in advance online.

Review: Sincerely Holidays at ArtsCentric

The fireside is blazing bright, and they’re caroling through the night! This Christmas will be a very special Christmas— just so long as you head over to ArtsCentric, now residing at The Motor House in Baltimore’s Station North Arts District, and celebrate the holiday season with their production of Sincerely, Holidays. The third in the Sincerely series, Conceived and Directed by Kevin S. McAllister, this beautiful musical revue celebrates African-American holiday musical traditions and is so full of joy that you’ll be bursting at the seams with the holiday spirit before the evening is over.

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She’s Your Dreamgirl: An Interview with ArtCentric’s Crystal Freeman on playing Effie in Dreamgirls

Your dream is about to come true if you open your eyes to what’s in front of you! And that’s the ArtsCentric production of Dreamgirls now playing at The Motor House in Baltimore’s very own Station North Arts District. Live for one night only— well, one night each Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evening over the course of eight weekends— they will indeed be your Dreamgirls as only the fine talents of ArtsCentric can be!

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Spring Awakening at ArtsCentric Summer Institute

All shall know the wonder of purple summer who are lucky enough to have attended the ArtsCentric Summer Institute’s production of Spring Awakening. Presented as a final showcasing of the Summer Institute’s hard-working students under the Direction of Artistic Director Kevin McAllister and Musical Director Cedric D. Lyles, this stellar production of young performers brings their radiant vocal talents to light in a show that rings true for adolescents of today despite being set in a time long ago.

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The 32nd Annual Helen Hayes Awards 2016

“The theatre community here <Washington DC> is something other cities can only dream of.” An earnest and rewarding quote pulled directly from the lips of David Ives, this year’s recipient of “Outstanding Original Play or Musical Adaptation” at the 32nd Annual Helen Hayes Awards Ceremony. Just one of 236 nominees being celebrated over the course of the evening, Ives’ statement captured the tone of the evening early on with the aforementioned quote given during his award acceptance speech.

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Review: Ragtime at Toby’s Dinner Theatre

Giving the nation a new syncopation, Toby’s the Dinner Theatre of Columbia proudly presents a masterful production of the treasured Ahrens and Flaherty musical Ragtime. Rolling on the wheels of a dream, the production is Directed by house Artistic Director Toby Orenstein and Co-Artistic Director Lawrence B. Munsey. With Musical Direction by Ross Scott Rawlings, this evocative, soul-searing musical brings forth a hunger for justice and presents to theatergoers all across the Columbia and greater Baltimore and Washington Metropolitan areas a sensationally talented cast with earnest heart and emotional depth.

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Review: Freedom’s Song: Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War at Ford’s Theatre

We cannot escape history; the good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly. 150 years ago on April 14, 1865 one of the greatest forefathers of our country was assassinated inside of Ford’s Theatre while attending a production of Our American Cousin. Commemorating this national event that helped shaped the nation as we know it today, Ford’s Theatre has commissioned a brand new musical Written by Frank Wildhorn,

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Review: Five Guys Named Moe at Arena Stage

You can’t eat away the blues. You can’t wish away the blues, heck most of us can’t even sing away the blues. But Arena Stage, in a co-production with Cleveland Play House is going to blow away the blues with their production of Clarke Peter’s Five Guys Named Moe. Directed by Robert O’Hara with Musical Direction by Darryl G. Ivey, this bouncy musical zinger features the greatest hits of Louis Jordan.

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The Cast of "Sincerely, Me!" at ArtsCentric

Sincerely Me! at ArtCentric

This is all the music that your grandma ever prayed to. This is all the music that your mama ever cooked to. This is all the music that your aunt ever sang karaoke to. And this is all the music that your little sister ever twerked to. This music is the music that made music what it is today. The stories of African-American female artists who paved the way, set the tone, and made pop,

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‘Story of My Life: The Freak Flag Chronicles’ at Toby’s ‘Shrek’: Part 1: Heather Beck (Gingy)

Let your freak flag wave! Let your freak flag fly! Never take it down, never take it down and raise it way up high! For everyone at the Toby’s Dinner Theatre production of Shrek the musical to come and see! That’s right, folks! We’re hitting the swamp and the city of Duloc to uncover the truth behind these fairytale creatures! In a brand new interview series entitled ‘Story of My Life: The Freak Flag Chronicles’ we’ll venture into the story of six of Shrek’s characters and find out what life is all about in the land of unusual fairytales!

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‘Shrek’ at Toby’s Dinner Theatre

Once upon a time there was a little place called Toby’s Dinner Theatre that was nestled in the wooded highlands of Columbia, Maryland. And during their 35th year they decided to mount a little musical called Shrek. It was a pretty impressive musical, with Music by Jeanine Tesori and Book and Lyrics by David Lindsay Abaire. Fairytales, well you’ve never heard or seen one quite like this, but there’s a freak flag to wave for everyone at this up-tempo,

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