J. Wynn Rousuck | WYPR

J. Wynn Rousuck

Maryland Morning Theater Critic

J. Wynn Rousuck has been reviewing theater for Maryland Morning with Sheilah Kast since 2007. Prior to that, she was the theater critic of The Baltimore Sun, where she reviewed more than 3,000 plays over the course of 23 years. Her feature coverage for The Sun included a comprehensive series chronicling the development of the Tony Award-winning musical, “Hairspray.” Judy got her start at The Cleveland Press and at Cleveland’s fine arts radio station, WCLV. Her broadcasting experience also includes a year as an on-air theater critic for Maryland Public Television.

A member of the Artistic Advisory Committee of Young Audiences of Maryland, Judy is also a freelance teacher for the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth and the Hippodrome Foundation, Inc. (the Hippodrome’s non-profit partner, which focuses on education and outreach). She was a faculty member at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s Critics Institute in Waterford, CT, for two decades; she is a former National Endowment for Humanities Journalism Fellow; and she was a visiting student at Brown University (2007-2008), under the mentorship of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Paula Vogel. Judy and her husband, Alan Fink, share their home with two dogs, who enjoy hearing their “Master’s Voice” on WYPR.

Felicia Chapple

It's Thursday, and that means theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck is here with her weekly review of the region's thespian offerings. She joins Tom with a review of Arena Player's Crowns: A Gospel Musical

After 17-year -old Yolanda's brother is shot and killed in Chicago, she's sent down south to live with her grandmother, who is an active and respected member of her church community. Crowns is a show that focuses on African-American church women and as the title suggests, big, stylish, hats play a major role in the musical. The hats are used to convey history, tell the women's stories and to impart social rules.

TiaJuana Rountree gives a standout performance as Grandma Shaw and Khadijah Hameen's singing is nearly show stopping. Crowns, which is inspired by a portrait book of the same name, has been performed all over the country, this is first time it's being performed in Baltimore. 

Photos by Teresa Castracane

It's Thursday, and that means theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck is here with her weekly review of the region's thespian offerings.  Today, she joins guest host and Midday senior producer Rob Sivak with a review of the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company's revival of the 1960 classic musical, The Fantasticks.

The longest-running musical in Broadway history -- and still a perennial favorite of theater companies across the country and around the world -- has a simple, Shakespeare-inspired storyline, at whose heart is a 19 year-old boy and the 16 year-old girl next door. Their controlling fathers scheme to lead the unwitting pair into romance, but the matchmaking goes terribly wrong. The lyrical and sentimental musical, with book and lyrics by Tom Jones and music by Harvey Schmidt, is filled with memorable songs.  The Fantasticks is Chesapeake Shakespeare Company's first musical.  Directed by Curt L. Tofteland.

The Fantasticks continues at the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company through Sunday, May 21st.

Photography by Katie Simmons-Barth

Theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck stops by each Thursday with her latest review of a major stage production. This week, it's "Dorian's Closet," at Rep Stage in Columbia, Maryland.

“Dorian’s Closet” is a new musical getting its world premier at the Rep Stage, that's loosely based on the life of Dorian Corey.  She was a legendary female impersonator who yearned for fame, but who also gained notoriety for a startling discovery made after her death.

The musical chronicles Dorian’s rise in the underground club scene in New York City in the 1980s through her death in 1993. “Dorian’s Closet” is a sobering and inspirational odyssey about the drive to turn dreams into reality. Directed by Joseph Ritsch.  Book & lyrics by Richard Mailman and music by Ryan Haase; choreographed by Rachel Dolan, with Musical Direction by Stacey Antoine.

Dorian's Closet continues at Rep Stage through Sunday, May 14.

Photo by Stan Barouh

It's Theater Thursday on Midday, and that means our theater critic, J. Wynn Rousuck, joins Tom with her weekly review of the region's thespian offerings. This week, it's The Magic Play, the latest work of 2015 Helen Hayes Award-winner Andrew Hinderaker (Colossal). He returns to the Olney Theatre Center with another unique story combining passionate theatricality with a touch of genuine theater magic.

Brett Schneider plays a talented magician (like himself) who has won acclaim by maintaining absolute control over his performances. He has tried to do the same with his love life, but when his lover forces him toward some painful emotional reckonings, it threatens even his confidence as a magician. Hinderaker's play weaves a tale of emotional conflict and sleight-of-hand wizardry.

The Magic Play is directed by Halena Kays, with magic created by Brett Schneider.  Jim Steinmeyer serves as magic consultant.   Also in the cast are Jon Hudson Odom and Harry A. Winter.

An advisory from The Olney Theatre Center:  The Magic Play is recommended for ages 16+ for mature themes, strong language and intimate situations. It is not a magic show appropriate for children.

The Magic Play continues at the Olney Theatre Center through Sunday, May 7th.

photo by Jeremy Daniel

Theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom each Thursday to share her impressions of the region's thespian offerings. This week she's here with a review of the touring company production of the Broadway musical Something Rotten!, now playing at Baltimore's Hippodrome Theatre.    

A musical comedy brought together on stage by the director of Aladdin and co-director of The Book of Mormon and the producer of Rent, Avenue Q and In the Heights, Something Rotten! tells the story of brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom, two Renaissance-era playwrights mired in the shadow of their rockstar contemporary, Will Shakespeare. After a fortune-teller informs them that the next big trend in theater will involve plays that feature singing, dancing and acting at the same time, the brothers decide to produce the world's first musical. Their efforts provide Something Rotten!'s driving energy.

The musical's New York production opened in April 2015. The National Tour commenced in January of this year, with three Broadway principals reprising their roles: Rob McClure as Nick Bottom, Adam Pascal as Shakespeare and Josh Grisetti as Nigel Bottom. The touring cast also features Maggie Lakis as Bea, Blake Hammond as Nostradamus, Autumn Hurlbert as Portia, Scott Cote as Brother Jeremiah and Jeff Brooks as Shylock.

The original musical is directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon, Aladdin), with music and lyrics by Grammy Award winner and Tony Award nominee Wayne Kirkpatrick and Golden Globe Award and Tony Award nominee Karey Kirkpatrick, and a book by Tony Award nominees Karey Kirkpatrick and best-selling author John O’Farrell.

Something Rotten! continues at the Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore for a limited engagement from Tuesday, April 18 to Sunday, April 23.

Photo by Glenn Ricci

Theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck, who joins Tom each Thursday with her impressions of the region's latest stagecraft,  this week reviews what Submersive Productions likes to call its "immersive" new offering at Baltimore's historic Peale Center, called H.T. Darling's Incredible Musaeum Presents the Treasures of New Galapagos and Astonishing Acquisitions from the Perisphere.

Like previous excursions by Submersive Productions, H.T. Darling's Incredible Musaeum, based on a concept by Lisa Stoessel, engages the audience in a non-traditional theatrical setting. It encourages playgoers to explore the former Peale Museum's three stories of interconnected rooms, each not only filled with art, curios and exhibition-style display cases, but also peopled with live actors and puppets.

The titular H.T. Darling, played by mustachioed Sarah Olmstead Thomas, is a well-to-do explorer who has just returned from an expedition to a fanciful region of outer space called the Perisphere, and an alien planet he's named New Galapagos.  Darling shares the artifacts he's brought back with him in his Incredible Musaeum, where each audience member chooses his or her own path through the rooms, and through the evening's strange and cleverly organized events.

H. T. Darling's Incredible Musaeum is directed by Lisi Stoessel, Susan Stroupe and Glenn Ricci.  Mr. Ricci is also Submersive Productions' co-artistic director, with Ursula Marcum.

The cast also includes Josh Aterovis (Clayton, a museum guard),  Francisco Benavides (The Groundskeeper), Caitlin Bouxsein (a museum guard), David Brasington (Carol, a curator), E’Tona Ford (a museum guard), Emily Hall (shopkeeper-shared role), Brad Norris (Cedric), Martha Robichaud (shopkeeper-shared role), Trustina Sabah (Aku Maxilla, “humanoid specimen”), Lisi Stoessel (Maude, a curator),  and Alex Vernon (Dr. Percy Warner).  

Ursula Marcum and Jess Rassp are the play's puppeteers.

H. T. Darling's Incredible Musaeum is playing at the historic Peale Center, where its run has been extended through Sunday, May 14.  Ticket and showtime information here.

Photo by ClintonBPhotography

It's Theater Thursday on Midday, and time for our weekly visit from theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck, who joins Tom in the studio with her review of the new musical at the Everyman Theatre here in Baltimore.  Its subject couldn’t be more topical:  Los Otros  (The Others)delves into the complexities of immigration, cultural identity, sexuality, and coming of age.

It's a timely reworking of the musical that debuted at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles in 2012, from Tony Award nominees Michael John LaChiusa (music) and Ellen Fitzhugh (book and lyrics), who joined Tom on Midday back on March 24 to talk about their new production  at Everyman.

Directed by Noah Himmelstein, with musical direction by Jon Kalbfleisch, Los Otros presents as a series of vignettes in which two Californians, Lillian and Carlos (played by Judy McLane and Philip Hernandez), recall moments from their past in which their personal experiences -- as a white woman and a Hispanic man -- are woven together with their feelings of both "otherness" and cross-cultural intimacy.

Los Otros continues on stage at Everyman Theatre until Sunday, April 23rd. 

Photo by Richard Anderson

It's Thursday on Midday, and that means theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins us with her take on thespian offerings in the Baltimore-DC region. This week, she's here with her review of Twisted Melodiesthe one-man musical show at Baltimore's Center Stage about Donny Hathaway, a successful singer-songwriter of the 1970s best known for his duets with Roberta Flack. 

Written and performed by Kelvin Roston, Jr., and directed by Derrick Sanders, Twisted Melodies is an intense, emotionally charged play about Hathaway's brilliant but tragically short career.  Inspired by artistic genius but tormented by mental illness, Hathaway's poignant struggles are compellingly interpreted by the multi-talented Roston. 

Twisted Melodies' run at Baltimore Center Stage has been extended thru Sunday, April 23.

Photo by Shealyn Jae

It's Thursday and that means it's time for Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck to join us with a review. This week, she joins guest host Rob Sivak to talk about "Trust," the new production now on stage at Fells Point Corner Theater in Baltimore until Sunday, March 19th.

Here's how Fells Point Corner Theatre describes this off-beat play by Steven Deitz -- one of the country's most prolific regional-theater playwrights:

"A rising star and a faded one. A radio DJ. A Bohemian. Guitar picks, pick-ups and wedding dresses waiting to be worn. In a fast-paced, grungy grind, how can anyone be trusted when temptation trumps all?  From the creative team who brought us previous year's productions of Other Desert Cities and Detroit, Director Michael Byrne Zemarel combines with the talents of Valerie Dowdle, Cassandra Dutt, Laura Malkus, Rachel Roth, David Shoemaker and Mark Scharf to bring you a play about rock'n'roll -- and the ones it leaves behind."

"Trust," by Steven Deitz,  is on stage at the Fells Point Corner Theatre in Baltimore until Sunday, March 19th.

Photo by Richard Anderson

Midday's theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom in the studio -- as she does most Thursdays -- with her review this week of The White Snake, on stage in the renovated Head Theater at the newly named Baltimore Center Stage.

Based on an ancient Chinese fable, The White Snake uses mystery and magic to tell a fantastical tale that's staged in grand-spectacle style, intertwining traditional and modern storytelling techniques.  

Two animal spirits -- White Snake and Green Snake, played by Aime Donna Kelly and Eileen Rivera, have taken human form as a beautiful woman and her sly servant. White Snake falls in love with a poor pharmacist’s assistant (played by Joe Ngo), but their relationship is condemned by a conservative monk (played by Peter Van Wagner), and their newfound happiness is threatened by tragedy. 

The White Snake was written-adapted by Mary Zimmerman, and directed by Natsu Onoda Power.  Nicole Wee is the costume designer,  Hana S. Kim is the scenic and projection designer, and  Jeff Song is music director.

The White Snake is at Baltimore Center Stage until March 26th.  Ticket and showtime information is available here.

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