At the bottom of the Playbill, there is a profound note from Director Ryan Michael Haase, referencing the three women characters in StillPointe Theatre Initiative’s production of Vanishing Point, A New Musical. “Approach these three women with open minds and open hearts. They CHANGED history and we are merely celebrating their journey. Be inspirited. I am.”
Aviatrix Amelia Earhart, evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, and author Agatha Christie are the three women who indeed changed history in professions that at the time still very much belonged to men. What links together these phenomenal women and newsmakers of their time is that they all mysteriously vanished for a period of time. Agatha disappeared for eleven days, Aimee for three weeks, and Amelia vanished completely.
With book and lyrics by Rob Hartmann & Liv Cummins, music by Rob Hartmann, and original concept and additional Lyrics by Scott Keys, Vanishing Point, a musical fantasy, brings these three women together as they solve the mystery of their disappearances from their own lives.
The deck that was beautifully crafted by Scenic Designers Ryan Haase and Alexander Fox provides a platform for some powerhouse musical numbers. The entire theater space is avant garde and an eclectic collection of period furniture from the 1920s and 1930s, representing the era in which these women lived. The set itself is also comprised of wooden pallets stacked and erected on their side in order to have mirrors mounted upstage. Books with pages folded into symmetrical designs are strategically placed around the perimeter of the decking platform.
Ines Nassara takes on the role of Amelia Earhart, who from the first note is blessed with a rich voice, sparkling eyes, and a dazzling smile. Nassara brings a level of determination, adventure, and later obsession as Amelia fights to accomplish her aviation goals. It is know that Earhart was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. However, along with her being a record breaker, an author, and active in several socio-political organizations, there was a price that came with all the fame. The song “Lady Lindy” depicts how she was promoted on the coat tails of aviator Charles Lindbergh.
A cross between Christina Aguilera (Burlesque) and country singer Wynonna Judd, Nina Kauffman is alluring as evangelical Aimee Semple McPherson. From non-believer to spectacle preacher, she founded the Foursquare Church and pioneered the use of modern media, especially radio, to draw on the growing appeal of popular entertainment in North America. She was the second woman to be granted a broadcast license. Her song, “The Heat” tells of how she came to receive the Lord into her life and her purpose.
Zoe Kanter brings out the mysterious side of Agatha Christie, who is well-known for the 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections she wrote under her own name. Additionally, she also wrote the world’s longest running play (over 25,000 performances). Kanter is quite elegant in this role and yet demonstrates the agony and pressures writers often experience at some point in their career. Her song, “The Plot,” a very robust number, that is delivered with precision is full of wonderful rhymes and rhythmic qualities. Kanter is a class act.
Together, Nassara, Kanter, and Kauffman are a cornucopia of talent as demonstrated in the opening number, “Adventure, Spectacle, Mystery” and a real fun number in Act II is “Afternoon Tea.” These gals use the audience space, breaking the forth wall, making captivating and flirty eye contact with audience members. Two other memorable numbers, “All Mothers Do” and “Mysterious Affair,” were both painful and powerful, seeing tears well in their eyes.
Even more amazing is how these women move seamlessly from their central character into other pertinent roles like each other’s mothers, husbands, friends, and reporters. Roles included Agatha’s husband, Aimee’s mother, and Amelia’s radio engineer.
They each rose to the occasion while wearing the same period costumes throughout the show. Nassara dons a beige chiffon blouse with frayed ruffles along with black wide-leg trousers. Kanter’s 1930s style dress is also chiffon and beautiful aborigine color. Kauffman is costumed in a pearl beige lace dress with a fringe hem and a black chiffon jacket with velvet appliques. The women also fashion fancied patterned hosiery and Mary-Jane like heels.
Vanishing Point, A New Musical, is a larger-than-life production that is truly entertaining. It showcases the defeats and triumphs of the female spirit and evokes wanting to know more about each of them. Amelia, Agatha, and Aimee all held their own while under the scrutiny of the public eye. They were probably loved, hated, and unfortunately mistreated. To this day, their disappearances remain an adventure, a spectacle, and indeed a mystery.
Running Time: Two hour and 20 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.
Vanishing Point plays through October 19, 2014 at Stillpointe Theatre Initiative at Church and Company – 3647 Falls Road, in Baltimore, MD. For tickets, purchase them online.
Wonderful review Danielle! Sounds like an amazing production. One that I would love to bring my daughter to!