Theater Info for Maryland

The Mornington Players Closer than Ever

By • Jul 22nd, 2011 • Category: Reviews
Closer than Ever
The Mornington Players
Dundalk United Methodist Church, Baltimore, MD
Through July 24th
2:00 with intermission
Reviewed July 16th, 2011

Walking in to this production, it does not set high expectations. There is untraditional seating at tables, and the set was unremarkable and, in places, sloppy, such as the wording of “Closer than Ever.” However, it does not take long for the cast to demonstrate that initial first impressions are not always right. This very talented cast brings the music alive, and the coffee-house feel is perfect for the production. Closer than Ever is basically a musical review that deals with the different types of human relationships that we encounter in our lifetimes. Some are more humorous, and others are extremely deep and touching. Mornington Players does an amazing job of really getting to the emotional heart of these songs and allowing the audience to connect to those moments in their own lives.

The strongest performers in the ensemble were Ryan Gieger, Jim Gerhardt, and Lisa Pastella. Geiger is the baritone, and he has a beautifully supported tone. He reaches the zenith of his performance in the song “If I Sing,” where he connects to such a deep emotional place with such intense realism that the audience experiences deep catharsis. Gerhardt is the tenor, and he has an incredible stage presence to accompany his strong voice. He has several great moments as a result of his full immersion in the various characters and situations, whether comedic or dramatic. Pastella firsts shows off what an amazingly talented young woman she is in the number “Miss Byrd.” This calls for her to show the complex levels of a character, and she does so with skill. She also just had a really nice voice with a wide range.

Monica Areford gave an initial negative impression because her make-up was heavy. One issue with her performance was that she had such a powerful voice that it sometimes was too much combined with the enhancement of the microphones. She was, however, fairly good most of the time. She stayed in character, had a general likeability, and was at ease on the stage. She did a really nice job in “Patterns,” both vocally and with the character, although it was noticeable the one time that she made a compulsive gesture in a count of four while the rest were in counts of three.

The weakest member of the ensemble was Ashley Sanford. She suffered from being very one-dimensional in a specific caricatured performance that was not appropriate in many of the songs. Her voice was also not dynamic. It was one-dimensional as well and showed no real levels or depth. Sanford would be very good in a role that was appropriate for the character that she had created but does possess the same versatility of the rest of the cast that was required for this show. For instance, her character worked well in the first song “She Loves Me Not” but was never again quite right.

While Musical Director Michael Clark (no relation to ShowBizRadio Editor Michael Clark) obviously did a wonderful job with musically directing the show and was a beautiful pianist, his additions to the vocals were much weaker than the other voices. He also did not bring a lot of emotion to his performance.

The overall sound set-up was great. For the most part, there was an excellent balance between the piano, drums, and the voices that was accomplished with just a few microphones. The lighting was nice and was very impressive for a small space. It was well done for the most part, although occasionally the spot took a few seconds to catch up. The choreography was simple, appropriate, and very cute. It set the stage into many pretty little pictures.

Director Ken Ewing did a beautiful job of bringing all of these elements together. There were so many little moments that showed the touch of a very skilled hand in creating realistic moments. In fact, the direction was so flawless that it was almost never seen and just melded into very believable and organic staging.

Minor issues aside, audiences should not let the unconventional show and unconventional venue keep them away. The one thing that this show most needs is people going to see it. If you have not yet had a chance to pay a visit to The Mornington Players, the time is Closer than Ever.


  • Monica Areford, Michael Clark, Ryan Geiger, Jim Gerhardt, Lisa Pastella, & Ashley Sanford

Production Staff

  • Director: Ken Ewing
  • Musical Director: Michael Clark
  • Choreographer: Katherine Sheldon
  • Stage Manager: Chelsea Fluck
  • Percussion: Robert Gersten
  • Kitchen Manager: Christina Ewing
  • House Manager: Leigh Squires

Disclaimer: The Mornington Players provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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recently graduated from the University of Maryland with a Bachelor's degree in mathematics, and began working with a marketing company out of Baltimore. During his time in school he would frequently perform his staple portrayal for the D.C. based Stroyka Theatre; all the while juggling his alternative position as filmographer.

One Response »

  1. Thanks for the review! I think there is some confusion on songs and/or performers, Ashley Sanford was not in the song She Loves Me Not, it was Monica Areford.