Cleveland Stage Alliance Reviews and Previews

Near West Delivers a Strong Community Theatre Production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame

posted May 18, 2018, 4:50 AM by Eric Fancher




Near West Delivers a Strong Community Theatre Production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Community Theatre

For those of you who know the work of Near West Theatre, your hearts will be filled by this production. Once again Near West Theatre puts an amazing number of people on stage who range from newbies to seasoned community theatre veterans, and individuals that find their calling and pursue professional careers in the field. This formula to infuse the cast with members of different skill levels, stage experience, cultural backgrounds, sexualities, economic environments, and family situations, fulfills many vital mission statements that are at the heart of Near West Theatre. And the large casts that are involved, not only help ticket sales but more importantly, provide an arena for more individuals to be involved as possible. The theatre is known for full out productions that feature the company members at the heart of every production.

With any production at Near West Theatre, one of the most consistent elements of every production is the brilliance of the technical staff. The product and artistry that is delivered for each production rivals any professional theatre in the city. Each time you walk into the theatre, it is always a breathtaking experience to take in the preset of the stage and drink in the set as it looms large and kinetic over the audience. It has never failed.  So I want to take a special moment and point out those individuals that have been consistently providing this incredible visual and artistic vision. These individuals have been with the theatre for years. Technical Director and Video Designer Perren Hedderson. Set Designer Cameron Michalak. Charge Scenic Artist Jenny Hitmar Shankland. Michael Stein. Ryan Wolf Assistant Production Manager/Stage Manager. In addition to these pillars, new artists are brought in for each production to fill out the production staffs.

On with the show. Victor Hugo is considered to be among the greatest and best-known French writers. The world came to know him from two of his greatest novels, The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1831, followed by Les Miserables in 1862. Both books were turned into musicals, with Les Miserables being one of the all-time granddaddies of Broadway. But here at Near West Theatre, we find The Hunchback of Notre Dame created by the only stage collaboration from two masters of the American musical theatre, composer Alan Menken, and lyricist Stephen Schwartz. New Book provided by Peter Parnell. This brand new production is high theatre, boldly told through stunning choral music and sublime orchestral power. 

In the 15th century Paris, Notre Dame Cathedral stands in the heart of the city, a fortress of self-proclaimed righteousness and moral authority. Its citizens move through the streets together but separate soldiers, gypsies, priests, and beggars. The rich and the poor. Predatory and proud. They will do anything to survive. Quasimodo (engaging Pat Miller), the hunchbacked son of the bishop’s brother, rings the church bells and longs to live “out there.”

At the annual Feast of Fools, these worlds come together in a frenzy of drink and debauchery and elect Quasimodo the “King of Fools,” igniting a cataclysmic descent into a street war of forbidden love, betrayal and religious hypocrisy. Hateful torches are raised. The gypsy Esmeralda (brilliant Julie Penzvolto) and the fool are in a stand-off with all of Paris. There is a sanctuary for no one as true goodness and evil are exposed and the fury reaches an apocalyptic boiling point.

On the streets of Paris, the women are strong, as well in this production. Penzvolto is absolutely captivating in this production. Having been last seen in Carrie, the Musical last year, her performance as Esmeralda is to die for. Her beautiful and alluring looks are on full display and are enhanced by a deeply layered and wondrous vocal power. Her voice is transcendent in this role, as is her acting. Taking every moment and cultivating truth with perfect nuance. Kelcie Nicole Dugger is on fire as Clopin Trouillefou. Her stage presence is ominous. Her clarion voice is powerful and moving and taking names. Dugger has immersed herself into this tough exterior, this soldier quality, this force of nature that not only can knock notes out of the park but also some heads that don't agree with her. Fabulous performance. 

Miller as Quasimodo was definitely on point. His physical dexterity is incredible and makes the transformation into the creature believable. He whips around the set like one of those mountain goats on the sheer cliffs and seems to have endless energy. Through intrinsic acting choices his Quasimodo can be fully felt and allows a connection that enhances this fatal journey of love over any obstacle. Now add his athletic and powerful pure voice, and he becomes Magic Modo. He also has the ability to hold out the money notes so long, that I can run down to concessions, come  back with a fresh Diet Pepsi, and a low carb snack, and be back in my seat in plenty of time to yell "Hell Yeah!" It is a beautiful performance. John Webb as Dom Claude Frollo certainly has the vocal chops to handle the score and generates his own brand of darkness and manipulative energy. His scenes are played well, and certainly generates the lack of well being from the audience perspective, since they love when Frollo meets his maker. A solid performance. Webb dives in without fear. Robert Kowalewski as Captain Phoebus de Martin is equipped with one of the most beautiful voices around. Reminiscent of a love child from Perry Como, and Steve Lawrence, or a crooning stick of butter singing show tunes at the BOP STOP. His physicality is on point with a slicked back love seeking soldier aura. His scenes are solid and add a crucial depth to the show. Devin Pfeiffer as Jehan Frollo makes the most of his good looks, stage presence, and endearing qualities, while armed with an excellent voice.

The rest of the Company members are all focused and vocally blessed. This score is not easy and demands full vocal control and execution. The cast rises to this occasion with bells on. (See what I did there?) Really wonderful company work, with the distinct stamp of Director Bob Navis Jr all over the scenes. Staging is carefully orchestrated to highlight everyone, and everyone is required to be present at every single second of stage time. There is no other option, and everyone thrives on that challenge. One subset that works well together is the Statues and Gargoyles. Good work turned in by Angie Bendahan, Rachel Drotar, Lashavnna Hunter, Anthony "Bones" Kruse, Isabella Novosel, River Onwedinjo, Scott Pyle, and William Solarz.

There are some observations. I felt there was a lack of a Gargoyle presence in the actual set. The gothic work was fabulous, but I had wished from more Statues, and especially Gargoyles. As a result of that, I was a little confused about the Statue/Gargoyle group. They didn't seem attached to any specific Statue/Gargoyle and the costuming certainly wasn't clear. Maybe I just didn't dig the body suits. Maybe because I could never wear one. And I didn't know what the scarves meant on half of them. I am assuming Statue or Gargoyle. As far as casting, one would expect Frollo to have some age on him, and more time to have weathered many storms. Since the leads all read young, it was consistent with the other leads. Lastly, there was one company member mugging so much in every scene he was in, that it literally competed with every scene he was in. As a result, I think it affected the fact that I wasn't as moved as I wanted to be at the end because this guy was completely distracting.

Director Bob Navis Jr has produced a beautiful piece of art. So incredibly in tune with who are the outcasts in the world, and how to survive. Never shying away from the hard questions, or the hard answers we do not want to hear or see. It is all there, due to his talent. Musical Director Matthew Dolan has done a brilliant job with the orchestra. Truly celestial, as were the musicians. Choreographer Josh Landis excelled at making Topsy Turvy an event, and the best interpretation I have ever seen of that number. Costume Designer Loren "Coco" Mayer brought her artistic gothic magic to the stage. Tackling a big cast with contoured strength. Sound Designer Matt Torok provided crystal clear balance. Properties Manager Susie Underwood brought here usual professional touch. Fight Choreographer Mike Obertacz nailed the sword fight sequence, and I can't remember a better-staged fight at Near West Theatre. Except maybe on the production team. Ha. 

Don't miss out on the productions here. They are worth every penny. Bravo.

Cleveland Stage Alliance
Thru May 20

Showtimes:
7:30pm Fridays
7:30pm Saturdays
3pm Sundays 


Tickets:
$8-$10 General Admission, $25 Reserved Seating

(216) 961-6391
Order Tickets Online
Location:


Near West Theatre
6702 Detroit Ave.
ClevelandOH 44102

American Idiot at The Brecksville Theatre Rocks Its Face Off

posted May 2, 2018, 6:11 AM by Eric Fancher   [ updated May 2, 2018, 6:11 AM ]


Community Theatre

American Idiot at The Brecksville Theatre Rocks Its Face Off

Review by: Kevin Kelly


Green Day is an American punk rock band formed in 1986 by lead vocalist and guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong. Their major break was the release of the album Dookie which catapulted them to fame, and also introduced them to a more mainstream audience. Green Day's seventh album, American Idiot (2004) was a rock opera that rivaled concept albums like Tommy by The Who, and Jesus Christ Superstar by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The book was written by Armstrong and director Michael Mayer. The music was composed by Green Day and the lyrics were by Armstrong. The score included all the songs from the original American Idiot album, as well as additional Green Day songs from the album 21st Century Breakdown and "When It's Time", a song originally recorded for the musical. In 2010, American Idiot debuted on Broadway. The story and music were strong enough to be nominated for Best Musical. The power of Green Day's music was established even on the great white way.

The story, expanded from that of the concept album, centers on three disaffected young men, Johnny (compelling Tony Heffner), Will (introspective Dallas Still) and Tunny (dauntless David Ludick). Johnny and Tunny flee a stifling suburban lifestyle and parental restrictions. However, Will stays home to work out his relationship with his pregnant girlfriend, Heather (powerfully sensitive Stelliana Scacco). The former pair looks for meaning in life and try out the freedom and excitement of the city. Tunny quickly gives up on life in the city, joins the military and is shipped off to war. Johnny turns to drugs, with the help of supplier St. Jimmy (ferocious Rebecca Riffle Polito) Struggling to find himself, he tries to connect with Whatsername (sensual Kaity Poschner) and finds a part of himself that he grows to dislike, which slowly destroys the relationship. Boy meets Girl, Boy and Girl do drugs, Boy can't stop doing drugs, Drugs become more important than her, Girl leaves, Boy realizes where he went wrong, Boy goes home.

Tony Heffner as Johnny delivered on all levels. He is a vocal powerhouse. He also lost all of his boyish charm and sensitivity, and replaced it with a smoldering darkness and focused confidence. He leads this musical with gravitas. David Ludick gave Tunny a disquiet charm that was totally engaging. His voice resonated with the material in a very heartfelt way. Handling the transformation of his whole self-was delivered with a textured arc. Will, as played by Dallas Still, presented a resigned enigma that certainly reflected so many that are held back by life choices. His face and body told the story of unfulfilled legacy in a very raw honest way. His vocal quality was hauntingly sober. Going against type, a kinetic Rebecca Riffle Polito is cast as St. Jimmy. She wastes no time talking this banging rock score by the horns and wrestles the rock bull to the ground. With searing looks, she has more balls than the entire male cast put together. A full-out psychotic manipulative performance. And, she throws in some major vocal prowess. 

Stellina Scacco gives us a strong-willed Heather. Great voice, and strong acting choices that don't overplay the moments, but keep them based in reality. Whatsername, as played by Kaity Poschner, first appears framed in her own beauty, and then delivers a crystal voice that ethereally wraps us in emotion. She can also break it down and is a perfect partner to fall into the abyss with Johnny. Mary Vaccani brings some beautiful movement and immense flair as she appears within a drug-induced haze as the Extraordinary Girl.

The Mad Company of Players brings all the punk and sass to the yard. Theo - Josh Baum-Shmigel, Declan/Gerard - Lance Still, Chase - Connor Nightingale, Brian/Miguel - Luka Black, Andrew - Aidan Jarosz, and Joshua (Favorite Son) - Frederick Night. The Sisters of the Green Day Hood are Alysha - Erika Kunath, Libby - Julia Abbadini, Leslie Jacy Todorovich, and Francesca - Francesca Marino. These folks bring everything they can to the party. they fill the stage with light, and energy, and the best thing in the world is watching people who can't wait to get back on the stage again. Overall, they kill it.

There is some feedback. The most important one is the sound. Many times the mics aren't turned up enough to hear the lead singers. Solo lines are lost, and sometimes even the lead characters are left probably wondering if their mic is working. This being a rock show with the band on the stage, we already know it is going to be loud, so I don't know what the feedback level is within the theatre, but crank that vocal up! There are a couple moments where the lighting is off a bit for solos. St. Jimmy is left in the dark when she is on top of the scaffolding when she comes down the center, and Heffner was smart enough to stay in his light when he moved, and the spot didn't go with him. Also, this show is demanding, so I did notice when a few folks were not 150% throwing everything they had into the numbers, and specific movement. I don't think you can give too much of yourselves. For me, the best note from a director is "Could you bring it back a little?", as opposed to, "Are you waiting for Godot? because he's not coming. So MOVE!"

Once again Artistic Director/Director Bruce Orendorf leaves it all on the boards. He has put together a very passionate cast, and also a kick-ass band that tackles this rock score like a rugby team on spring break with an open tab. Music Director Michael Abadini assembled bandmates that know exactly how to bat out of hell this stuff out. His partners in crime are Skylar Keffer and Julian Brill on Guitar, Chris Parsons on Bass Guitar, Nate Taylor on Drums/Percussion, and Abbadini covers the keyboard. Choreographer Jen Justice is perfectly in tune with the hang banging approach to the raucous, and also has the polish to give the Extraordinary Girl ( smooth Mary Vaccani) some beautiful moves to execute, which is done with immense flair. Costume Designer Amy Lence is dead on with the looks and feels, and adds to the tumult of the story. Scenic Designer and  Scenic Artist, KC Crookston and Amanda Fawcett, Lighting Designer Mike Larochelle, Sound Designer Tobias Peltier, Video Editing, and Design team, Bruce Orendorf, Michelle Adamczyk, Julia Abbadini, and Technical Director Myles Rapkin, completely transform the theatre space into a pit of punk stress and video madness. The coordination of Video to the show elements is a fierce touch to this production. Stage Manager Alexis Mcnicol called a great show.

This is a very impressive show for a community theatre to take on, and execute. There is so much competition in our area, it is getting tougher and tougher to cast. Orendorf did a great job bringing this show to life, and you can tell the cast as bonded and is ready to give everything they have. 

With two theatres that have shared the same building for years, and then deciding to try to come together to form one cohesive artistic vision, I am sure there is bound to be friction. There always is when artistic temperments mesh. But I hope both entities know that the compromise of ideas and engaging performances will result in everyone benefiting from a unique vision and most importantly, the outreach to a diverse community. Even a blended approach will greatly enhance the opportunities for the community and the performers to grow in an ever challenging cathartic process that we all share. Be proud of what you have done here. Compromise is not a bad word. It is the best of both worlds. 


Cleveland Stage Alliance
Through May 13

Showtimes:

7:30pm Thursdays
7:30pm Fridays
7:30pm Saturdays
2pm Sundays


Tickets:
$15 General Admission

(440) 526-6436
Location:


The Brecksville Theatre
49 Public Square
BrecksvilleOH44141

Dogfight at Western Reserve Playhouse Manages to Make Everyone a Winner

posted Apr 21, 2018, 8:36 PM by Eric Fancher   [ updated Apr 21, 2018, 8:38 PM ]


Dogfight at Western Reserve Playhouse Manages to Make Everyone a Winner

Community Theatre

Review by: Kevin Kelly

I remember when I was in grade school gym class, they would have to split up the teams through something called "Shirts and Skins." It was horrible for two reasons, One, I always ended up being a skin, which is with my shirt off. and Two, I was always the last to be picked. I hated it. It certainly was the beginning of my first complex. Being judged by other people was not the best emotional experience to have at such a young age. I couldn't change who I was, or how I looked at the time, and up until that moment of being a fat kid without a shirt on pretending to be excited that you got picked for a team when you know something was terribly wrong because you felt like shit afterward. Well the musical Dogfight, currently enjoying a very solid production at Western Reserve Playhouse, certainly triggered some uncomfortable memories. The production does not shy away from the issues at hand, nor the surrounding atmospheric disturbance addressed which is the Vietnam War.

In 1991, Nancy Savoca directed the film "Dogfight" which was written by Bob Comfort. The movie talked about Marines who planned a "Dogfight" before they were deployed to Vietnam. The referenced fight was a cruel game where each marine would go out and try to find the ugliest girl, and bring them to a bar and then dance with them as the girls were judged as to the winner, which was not a congratulatory gesture for the unknowing women involved. The Marine who won got to win the pot of money that each contestant contributed to. This is the material that was used for this musical adaptation of the story. It enjoys the brilliant talents of musicians Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. The current Broadway darlings having just written the music for "Dear Evan Hansen" on Broadway. The book was delivered by Peter Duchan. 

The show begins in 1967, where Eddie Birdlace (Kyle Burnett), as U.S. Marine, is returning from San Francisco. During his ride, he reflects back to the memories of a waitress Rose Fenny (Kimberly Sullivan), where the show becomes a flashback of his tumultuous past. Now, we are transported to a bus full of Marines, fresh out of training and arriving in San Francisco for a night out. Birdlace and his two wingmen Boland (Maximillan Winer) and Bernstein (Zachery Palumbo), who together like to call themselves The Three Bees, are ready to initiate a dogfight that night by throwing in $50 a piece, winner take all. All the Marines are in, and off to scour the town for unsuspecting females.

Birdlace ends up in the diner, where he meets Rose, a waitress. He woos her a bit and decides she is a good contestant for the dogfight. She is naive, a virgin, and ready for a date that she rarely ever gets a chance to have. On the other hand, Boland invites Marcy (Nian Takacs), a wisecracking, fishnet loving, breast line plunging prostitute that is up for the challenge as long as she gets paid as well. Bernstein finds himself with Ruth Two Bears (Kaleigh Velette). She of Indian descent and the strength of two bears, as you will find out on the dance floor.

As the party progresses, Birdlace has a change of heart and tries to change plans, but Rose takes that as he is embarrassed by her, so after much discussion, he relents and they go in. The judged dance begins sung by the Lounge Singer (Kevin Cline), and eventually, Marcy wins, as well as her handler Boland. However, in a girls moment in the women's bathroom, Marcy shares with Rose what is really going on, which causes Rose to confront Birdlace, and returns home defeated and devastated. Now its time for last call and the Marines head out to have their way with prostitutes, but Birdlace is too wrecked about what happened and returns to Rose to apologize and start over by going to dinner.

After dinner, they take in a romantic view from the Golden Gate Bridge, and return home to experience their "first time," It is also the first time to fully appreciate that she wants to be judged by who she is, and not what people want or think she should be. The next morning, he leaves, and unfortunately, it is time to deploy.

The deployment is devastating and virtually become the last man standing event. Birdlace returns, as we find him at the beginning of the show, hurt, bitter, broken, and longing to return to the safest moment he can remember. Rose. They reconcile. And for a moment, the world is good.

Burnett gives one of his best performances to date. He is centered, fully committed, and in total control of his storyline. His voice soars when it needs to, and provides quiet sensibility. Winer would definitely be the president of the Marine fraternity. His machismo is infectious, and he knows how to play a dick when need be, and the raucous best friend when you need one. Really great character work. Palumbo is so freaking funny, and adorable. He plays the guy that everyone picks on, but everyone would kill anyone else did the same. He is a complete joy to watch! Great work. Kevin Cline is as flexible as Cirque du Soleil. He plays about 10 characters in this show and each one is dead on with comedic flair, character work, up to tattoo butch realness. His Lounge Singer needs to be booked in every whiskey joint in the area. The Bee Ensemble is great. Stevens (Daniel Hunsicker), Fector (Ben Arrignton), and  Gibbs (Brian Innenberg) provide some kick ass camaraderie, along with Ryan Dyke and Steven Schuerger.

The women bring some power of their own. Sullivan conveys a very poignant interpretation to Rose. Her voice crystal clear and handles the music with efficient ease. She also switches nicely when she has to serve up some reality to Birdlace, in a great display of showing someone's other side. Embarrassment can be lighter fluid in many of us, and she lets that ring quite clear through her performance. Nice work. It is hard to be the nice girl throughout a show, but she finds the moments to reflect the characters layers nicely. Takacs is on fire as Marcy. I am surprised there is any set left, once she is done chewing on every piece of scenery. She is fiery, funny, and blunt. Her character is great and practically steals the show. Her voice compliments her acting choices well. If they really wanted to end the war, they should air drop Marcy, and she will take care of the front line for sure. Can I just say that having a role that doesn't say a line, but brings down the house in the funniest way is a tremendous compliment to an actor. This accolade goes to Kaleigh Velette as Ruth Two Bears. The way her character handles Bernstein is a hot mess of comedic brilliance. Bravo. The girls are supported by a resilient company including Micayla Carafelli, Kayla Lehman, and Dorata Zarzycha. Diane Roberts turns in some very nice moments as Mama.

I will say that the theatre still has to work on the mic skills. This has been a consistent problem in past shows, where mics are not on early enough, or just out. After listening and experiencing the war scene, and the tremendous sound work, there has to be a solution. That war fight scene rocked.

This production is well done, interesting and provacative. Helmed by Dawn, the cast is really all in, and throw their raw talents at every piece of material. The show is guided by moments of devastating truth, and humor, which at times, will definitely make you blush. It did me. The Musical Direction is led by David Stebbins, and his band seems to have a blast churning out this exciting score. Stage Manager Whiney Miller called a great show. Technical Director Jim Gremba brought all the elements together nicely. Set design worked well under Sniadak-Yamokoski vision. Costumer Kelsey Tomlinson had a great theme throughout the show and certainly made the dance scene more interesting. Choreographer Elyse Morchel provided just the right moves to the men that worked great, without over choreographing the show. Lighting Design was on point, especially with the war scene. Great stuff. Noah Hrbek turned in a great backdrop of the Golden Gate bridge. Incredible work. 

Dogfight was a great choice for this theatre, which is pushing itself to expand the offerings, and build and create different opportunities for patrons.


Cleveland Stage Alliance
Location:
Western Reserve Playhouse
3326 Everett Rd
Richfield, OH 44286

Thru April 22

Showtimes:

8pm Fridays
8pm Saturdays
2pm Sundays


Tickets:
$15-$17

(330) 620-7314
Location:


Blank Canvas Theatre
1305 West 80th Street, Suite 211
Cleveland, OH 44102

My First Time at the Beck is a Group Counseling Session You Won't Forget!

posted Apr 21, 2018, 8:36 PM by Eric Fancher   [ updated Apr 21, 2018, 8:38 PM ]


My First Time

My First Time at the Beck is a Group Counseling Session You Won't Forget!

Professional Theatre

Review by: Kevin Kelly

Do you remember your first time? Actually, there is a first time for everything, but when it comes to sex, I would prefer not to remember my first time. This question was definitely on the minds of many, and in 1998 a website was formed a decade before blogging began, that allowed people to anonymously share their own true stories about their First Times. The website became an instant phenomenon as over 40,000 stories poured in from around the globe that were silly, sweet, absurd, funny, heterosexual, homosexual, shy, sexy and everything in between. So as you can imagine a lot of these stories are quite, as my momma used to say, "something.'

 And now, these true stories and all of the unique characters in them are brought to life by four actors in this acclaimed 90-minute play from Ken Davenport, producer of Altar Boyz and creator of The Awesome 80s Prom. The four tour de force actors pictured below:

Left to Right Victoria Zajac, Miquel Osbourne, Chris Richards, and Heidi Harris     Photo Credit: Andy Dudik
When you first arrive in your seats, there is a survey to fill out. Optional of course, but it is fun to do it because it actually becomes part of the show. After the answers are taken back for "processing", the journey begins. Each actor both individually and collectively, tell the stories that have been posted on the site over the years. There are a lot of laughs, but also, a lot of uncomfortable moments when stories tap into what can go wrong, and not just from inexperience, but wrong in the worst way.

This play places high demands on the capabilities of its actors because it is a train that never stops. Once the play begins, there are no full breaks. The actors are challenged to keep the stories flowing without tapping into monotony. Switching emotional tracks, story tracks, and at times, sentences split between them word by word. It will be a personal choice whether you enjoy the stories and format, but there is no denying the talent, focus, and dexterity of these fabulous actors. I think if I were up there, at one point the rolling conversations would end up with me and I would just yell "Check, Please!" and gracefully exit, and end up face deep in a Sweet Moses mountain of coffee ice cream.


Director Scott Spence gets the pleasure of guiding these actors to play all range of emotions, as a result of the stories. An actors dream of social conductivity. And these lovely individuals kick this reality train far down the tracks.

P.S. For Antonio DeJesus fans, he will be going on this Sunday, the 22nd, so get out there and show your love!


Cleveland Stage Alliance
Thru April 29

Showtimes:

8pm Fridays
8pm Saturdays
3pm Sundays

Runtime: 80 minutes with no intermission
Content Advisories: Contains adult content

Tickets:
$10-$29 Reserved Seating

(216) 521-2540
Location:


Beck Center For The Arts
17801 Detroit Avenue
Lakewood, Ohio 44107

Side Show moves to the Big Top at Blank Canvas Theatre

posted Apr 19, 2018, 7:50 PM by Eric Fancher   [ updated Apr 22, 2018, 7:21 PM ]



Side Show moves to the Big Top at Blank Canvas Theatre
Professional Theatre

Review by: Kevin Kelly

Side Show. No, I'm not talking about the current politics. I'm referring to the current entertaining production of Side Show, The Musical, "freak" ing out at Blank Canvas Theatre. The Side Show might be on your mind as a result of American Horror Story did a storyline on it just a couple of seasons ago. Who can forget "Lobster Boy" and his sessions with the middle-class housewives. The Circus Side Show was an option to the Big Tent where the major acts performed, with such wild entertainers like the Bearded Lady, Lizard Man, and Tattooed Lady. This musical tells the story of conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton, who had a variety and burlesque career in the 1920's and 30's. Their real-life story is incredibly tragic, but this musical does represent many aspects of their lives. The original version opened on Broadway in 1997. However, the revised version of the musical opened in 2014. This revival is a bit darker and expands more on the Hilton's biographical life story. The revised version also offers new songs that are more in tune with the more developed story, while taking out previous songs that didn't seem to resonante with audiences. 

Helming this artistic journey is Patrick Ciamacco, who is the Founder and Artistic Director of Blank Canvas Theatre. He was last seen portraying Sweeney Todd in said musical as the season opener. Theatrical Season that is. I know, to look at me, I have baseball written all over me. Although, I haven't even made it to first base....I digress. He also takes on the Lighting, Sound, Set Design, and brings all the elements together as Technical Director. Accomplishing all of this with professional panache. He also directs the production with adept pace and precise staging. There's not a bad seat in the house.

The show opens as we meet the Boss (John J. Polk), who introduces us to the performers of the Side Show. What a crew it is! The 3 legged man (Andrew Keller), the Geek (Vince Matia), Fortune Teller (Day Ash), Venus de Milo (Julie C. Okuley), Dog Boy (David Lenehan), Half Man/Half Woman (Katie Jerome Taylor), Human Pin Cushion (Jacob Schafer), Lizard Man (Joe Gibson), Bearded Lady (Susan M. Wagner), Tattoo Girl (Leah Kraynak), and the vivacious Bird Girl (Meredith Aleigha Wells). The opening number is fun, and what a blast to see the characters brought to life by costumers Luke Scattergood and Jenniver Sparano.

Daisy Hilton (Becca Ciamacco) and Violet Hilton (Stephanie Harden)  Photo Credit: Andy Dudik

We next meet the Hilton Sisters, Daisy and Violet, played beautifully by Becca Ciamacco and Stephanie Harden. Each sister showing their own personalities as the 
play progresses, Daisy more cautious and outspoken, Violet more sunshine and rabbits. Enter Jake (Daryl Kelley), who also doubles as the Cannibal King in the opening, who definitely defines himself as their protector, and will be sure to warn them about any offers that might come their way. His "The Devil You Know" highlights Kelley's voice and bass masculinity. That protection and advice will be needed as two gentlemen arrive to present a new path. Buddy Foster (a charming Ian Jones), an aspiring musician, brings Terry Connor (a focused, and centered Joel Fenstermaker), a talent scout for the Orpheum Circuit, to check out the act, and propose helping the sisters build a new act, and get them on the circuit with "Very Well Connected."  Buddy teaches them a new song to get their feet wet. And then we move to a fascination flashback series, which addresses previous discussions of cutting them apart when younger. The next section reveals Harry Houdini (entertaining as hell Lenahan, sans dog face) teaching the girls to tune out distractions to find peace. He also hits a note at the end of his song that makes me want to order twelves pizzas and drown myself in root beer because I can't float a note like he can, and as my friends know, I have no head voice. Thank you. The girls do decide to come to the U.S. and perform their brand new number "Ready to Play", which is a blast to watch. After the performance, the sisters are overwhelmed by the affection from Terry and Buddy, interrupted by reporters that are not kind in their questioning, and then the sisters are left in reflection if they ever will be loved. As so many of us do, questions ourselves, and that biting question "Is this really happening." All of this, beautifully performed by Ciamacco and Harden.

The happiness continues for some time, with celebration and dancing numbers that are on point. And then, after watching the evolving relationship with the sisters and Terry and Buddy, Kelley gets to show his true emotions to Violet in a lovely richly layered number "You Should Be Loved." How many of us had someone close to us try to open our eyes to jerks, but we can't see it. And sometimes, that person just is really in love with you. A vivid moment of truth. After some twists and turns, the sisters devise a plan to cash in on their celebrity, and the publicity of an upcoming wedding of Violet and Buddy, who keeps one secret from the press neatly hung in his closet.

The show ends with the power ballad "I Will Never Leave You." Throughout the show, Ciamacco and Harden certainly handle the music well, but in a move that I love, save the fierce vein in the neck belting for the final song. SO effective. They are charming, sweet, funny, and entertaining, and in the end, they open a musical vein that is splendid to absorb.

Fenstermaker creates a defined and masculine persona that works perfectly. Jones is charming as hell. Both have great voices, and Jones owns that high belt. Kelley delivers a brooding effective message. And Polk is a dick as The Boss. And that is a good thing.

This is an entertaining and solid production. Patrick Ciamacco has done us proud. The set design is carnival realness. Ciamacco's Lighting and Sound designs were really great. The Music Director Anthony Trifiletti, a welcome addition, leads an impressive band and certainly guided the vocals in fabulous order. Stage Manager Joy DeMarco called a great show. Costume Designers Jenniver Sparano and Luke Scattergood designed the Hilton Sisters to sublime beauty, and the rest of the ensemble was on point.  They must have had a blast conjuring up the looks for the ensemble. Fun and great work. Excellent Scenic Backdrop work from Noah Hrbek. 

Cleveland Stage Alliance
Thru April 28

Showtimes:

8pm Thursdays
8pm Fridays
8pm Saturdays
7pm Sundays


Tickets:
$18 General Admission

(440) 941-0458
Order Tickets Online
Location:


Blank Canvas Theatre
1305 West 80th Street, Suite 211
Cleveland, OH 44102

A Chorus Line at Cassidy Theatre is an entertaining and surprising treat.

posted Apr 12, 2018, 9:27 PM by Eric Fancher   [ updated Apr 12, 2018, 9:27 PM ]

A Chorus Line at Cassidy is an Entertaining and Surprising Treat

Cassidy Theatre
Community Theatre

Review by: Kevin Kelly

I love dancing. For me, there is nothing better than watching fully committed dancers busting out dynamic choreography. So imagine my excitement as I attended A Chorus Line at Cassidy Theatre. Whenever a community theatre produces the show, there is a bit of trepidation as to whether a volunteer theatre can round up the talent it takes to put on a formidable production, due to the intense dancing requirements of the show. It takes a special production team to lure in and assemble the right cast, and luckily for Cassidy Theatre, the team of Director/Choreographer Kristin Netzband and Musical Director Mike Caraffi is the winning ticket. They are currently the Queen of Hearts of Cassidy Theatre. With their guidance, this show is infused with positive and kinetic energy that leads to an entertaining outing. The show is paced well, the dances are kick ass. The choreography honors both the original choreography, and also provides amended moves in line with the original intent and style of the piece. The band is hot, and the trumpets rip into the score, just as ferociously as I do when I get ahold of a Señor Rico's Rice Pudding from Aldi's on the weekend.

A Chorus Line was developed by listening to taped interviews of dancers that were not looking for the solo spotlight, but were looking to be a part of the light as an ensemble member, making a living wage, and doing what they loved. Each person shared their personal journey, and using that information, the workshops began, and the show slowly started to take shape. This storytelling was augmented by the immense musical talents of Marvin Hamlisch, while Edward Kleban provided the lyrics, and James Kirkwood Jr. and Nicholas Dante added the book. The work paid off. The 1976 Tony Award for Best Musical, Book, Score, Director, and the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Hello: Awards: Looks: Fabulous.

The show opens with the ensemble number "I Hope I Get It," a raucous and demanding dance audition, where only the strong survive, or pass the "type" casting requirements. Blending in is the key. Kind of like auditioning for The Borg. Assimilate, don't stimulate, attention. We meet the demanding director Zach (a dynamic and formidable Rick McGuigan) and get the chance to see each dancer lay it all out on the line. A shout out immediately to #44 (Michael McHargh as Richie) who comes out like Willy Loman and says "Attention will be paid!" After the initial dance, Zach starts to ask each dancer to tell their own personal story.

First up is Mike (a dynamic and charming David Turner), who tells his story of being the youngest of 12, and realizing that in a bout of sibling rivalry, he can dance just as well as his sister, and dives into a musical explanation in "I Can Do That!' Turner is confident, fun, and solid, and shines. As the stories continue, we can see that Shiela (a sassy and fit Kim Eskut) isn't taking the line of questioning too well. When pressed, she shares her favorite place she experiences growing up, and that was "At The Ballet." With a rich voice, she begins the tale and is joined by two others, Bebe (a beautiful Lindsay Wilkins) and Maggie (a vocal powerhouse Megan Polk). A beautiful number staged well. You will not forget Polk's voice.

Next up is the funny hot mess of a couple Kristine and Al (erratically charismatic Kristina Zielinski, and supportive butch sidekick Anthony Salantino). Their rendition of "Sing" is a scream. I will never hear Three Blind Mice the same. Listening to Mark (funny Cory Zukoski) describe his first experience with a wet dream was a hoot. He had the audience in the palm of his hands. (Wiped off, of course.) The others begin to sing "Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love," sharing their childhood stories as Connie (delightful and spunky Shannon McPeek) talks about being the shortest, Diana (classy Susan DiNino) takes the focus and describes how she didn't connect with her teacher, which leads to the song "Nothing" which DiNino delivers with straightforward panache. This Diana being less spunky, and more rooted in righteous indignation. The song is beautiful. Company members discuss some mommy issues with "Mother" as Don (man's man Joe Kenderes) and Judy (the hysterical Christine Bomberger) share their stories. Greg (beautifully affected Brad Kohl) shares his acceptance of being a future friend of Dorothy. Great monologue and some of the best work I have seen from Kohl. Then we break into "Gimme the Ball" as McHargh takes us to dancing church with some much charm and appeal, you'll be screaming like a 3 pointer. As well as sharing his dream to be a kindergarten teacher, Val (versatile dynamic hoofer Sarah Menser) makes an occasion of "Dance: Ten; Look: Three." She nails the song about getting a little help from Mother Nip/Tuck, along with Mother Nature. Excellent number. 

As members retire to another room to learn a new dance combination, Cassie (an elegant, exquisite Annie Unk), is left on stage to battle it out with her ex-lover Zach. He doesn't want her to be in the chorus, because she has been featured in the past, but it seems like some burned bridges are at the heart of the interaction. At one point, she takes charge of the moment, and expresses her deep feelings about dance, and what it means to her being in the incredible and defining show number "The Music and The Mirror." Unk is amazing. She handles the dance like an elegant bobsled traversing the most glacial of luge tracks with poetic flair and grace. Her extension divine and a back bend that would take the entire Cleveland Clinic to help me recover if I would ever attempt it. It is a dynamic impressive presentation. Which buys her character a little bit more time to prove herself.

As she retires to learn the new combo, Paul (likable, reflective Justin Williams) comes to stage front to finally answer the question of his story, having been reluctant to tell it before. He describes his unconventional story of how he became aware of his sexuality, and how he found the means to express it. This is a powerful story for many LGBT to hear and is one of the most poignant in the show. It is apparent that Williams is in total control of his monologue, and in his arc of presentation. But the actual emotional impact of the story is affected early on by the repetition of "sentence of dialogue - pause for reflection." Whether this is an acting or directorial choice. it slows the story and pace down too much.. And because you lose the emotional wham at the end, it also affects the impact of the circumstances when Paul can't go on.  However, when the delivery is connected, it really is excellent.

After the combo is learned and dancers rejoin, they resume the audition process, and it becomes quite clear that Zach and Cassie are having issues.  For purists, it might be odd to have a younger actress take on the Cassie role because with an older actress it is not just having the conflict of having a hurt ex, but probably more about aging out to younger girls. But in what I feel is a brilliant move of casting the younger Unk, for me, it seems the dialogue between Zach and Cassie take on a different meaning, especially in the #metoo movement of empowering women not to take any shit from powerful men anymore. The spewing from Zach's mouth takes on a whole other context, and it becomes quite uncomfortable. The fact that I would have loved to punch Zach in the face, is a good indication of how the scene played out. 

We come to the final question. What would you do when you can no longer dance? In a powerful reply, DiDino leads the cast in "What I Did For Love," which I have sung many times with my face in a fishbowl of long island ice teas regretting each passing birthday as I watch my body turn into playdough. But I digress. It is a wonderful anthem, sung with passion and content. The final dancers are picked, and the show concludes with the barnburner "One." This is the granddaddy and grandmommy of all 11 O'Clock numbers. Top hat in tow, bodies glittering in gold, the show ends in a glorious celebration.

There are some points of order. The sound design in the theatre is not the best. That isn't a slam but probably results from budgetary restraints. With the band behind the curtains, I wanted to hear a bit more in the house. However, the band sounded great but is muddied a bit. Since the actors didn't have mics, whenever someone turned to the side, their volume was lost. And if you weren't directly in front one of the hanging stage mics, you didn't get picked up well. There was also a little bit of leg slapping during some dialogue exchanges, which happens when people don't know what to do with their hands. 

The show is really fabulous. So many actors turning in great work. The audience soaking up all the showbiz they can. Stage Manager Jim Carrick on point. Irene Molnar costumed the cast with appropriate flair. Technical and Sound Director certainly worked his ass off to bring the elements together. Sharon Joyce was on top of the prop game. Lighting Designer Joe Plovack set the right mood with stark realism. Shout Out to the Operators: Sound - Lou "Can you hear me now?" Petrucci; Light - Joellen "Can you see me now?" Woodring; Spots: Jen "Can you see me now?" Sindyla and Gail "Please Stay in your Light!" Fischer.

Congrats to Cassidy Theatre as well. Major Kudos to President Bob Stoesser and Vice President Georgia Muttillo for keeping this incredibly important theatre alive for the community. It ain't easy, and it is important to support them at every turn.

Cleveland Stage Alliance
Ticket Information
and Promotional Materials

April 6 - April 22

Showtimes:

8pm Fridays
8pm Saturdays
3pm Sundays


Tickets:
$15-$20 Reserved Seating

(440) 842 - 4600
Order Tickets Online

Location:
Cassidy Theatre
6200 Pearl Road
Parma Heights, OH 44130



Location:


Cassidy Theatre
6200 Pearl Road
Parma Heights, OH 44130

CVLT Serves Up a Fine Visit to The Country House

posted Mar 30, 2018, 5:08 AM by Eric Fancher   [ updated Apr 12, 2018, 9:14 PM ]


The Country House

CVLT Serves Up a Fine Visit to The Country House

Community Theatre

Review by: Kevin Kelly

Dysfunctional families make the world go round. Or, at the very least, provide fodder for numerous coffeeshop discussions, therapy sessions, and material for the arts. I am sure that almost every family can contribute at least one scene to a play while running in rep with the trips to the local bar and CVS for a refill. So it is no surprise that Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Donald Margulies was inspired to step into the dysfunctional family and write "The Country House." As the play opens, we find ourselves gathered in the summer home of Anna Patterson (Margo Parker), soon after the death of her daughter, Kathy, who was a movie star and quite beautiful. Joining the house is Susie Keegan (Kaytie Leonard), who is the daughter of Kathy and her husband, Walter Keegan (Kevin Jones). Walter arrives with his own form of therapy in the form of his new girlfriend Nell McNally (Kerry Scanlon). Enter Anna's hot mess son Elliott (Roland Moore), who has a secret past love interest to unveil. Added to the dynamics is a little sex candy in the form of TV star Michael Astor (Sean McCormick). Astor is walking Viagra. and not sold over the counter.

This is a smartly written piece with a lot of inside theater zingers, especially in Act I. The cast handles the material very well. Act I is definitely the lighter act. The show is led by an impressive Parker. She takes the reins of the monarch firmly and delivers a strong performance, displaying a good range of comedic prowess,  and also has the skills to ignite a fiery ending. Roland Moore. He delivers moments of one-liners like it's his job, and certainly inhabits the hot mess elements of his character. Moore can also tap into real pain very truthfully.  McCormick walks into the scene perfectly personifying a matinee idol. Not overdoing any schmaltz, but unveiling a very human "star." He allows his character to let go of the showbiz allure, and find a connection with family, even if for one "oops" moment. Leonard is perfectly precocious and delivers her truth bullets with deadpan disgust, or serves up delicious bullets of pain. Her Susie embodies a young lady that has been forced to grow up too fast. Jones gives Walter a great human presence and allows for the younger girlfriend scenario not to reflect like a man trying to stay young, but someone who truly is happy without being creepy. Of course, who wouldn't be happy with Scanlon as his girlfriend? She gives Nell a stable resonance, a Chorus Line body, and a down to earth tone to make it all work, as opposed to coming across as a gold digger. Also, Kerry's sparring with Moore is engaging to watch.

There are a few observations. At times, the staging seems a bit frenetic moving about from chair to chair during conversations, and not letting them settle. The blouse that Parker wheres in act two blends into the chair fabric a bit too much for my eye. I thought the rain sound could have been a bit clearer in the house, but of course, I am no longer a spring chicken.

As part of Chagrin Valley Little Theatre's 88th season, The Country House is a good production, that seems to be inhabited by non CLVT regulars, and is a wonderful indication of reputation and expanding the wonderful experiences that CVLT audiences can provide. The set is great, with really good detail, especially the pictures on the wall. In the moments of upstaged dialogue, I thought the active listening was terrific. Moments of the trend of having the back to the audience, only work, if the cast is tuned in and focused, which it was in this case. Luckily, this convention was not overdone. 

Westerly delivers a solid show. Edmond Wolff provided the Set, Sound and Lighting Design with an effective measure. Stage Manager Jeanie Gaither called a great show. Shelley Nixon's costumes were on point.

Also, congrats to the theatre on letting the F-bomb fly. It wasn't taken in vain or punched, like "oh, look what I'm saying", and fit into how these characters would talk.

The audience had a good time. I love laughter.

CSA
Cleveland Stage Alliance
Ticket Information
and Promotional Materials

Thru April 8

Showtimes:

8pm Fridays
8pm Saturdays
2pm Sundays (no show 4/1)


Tickets:
$14-$18

(440) 247-8955
Order Tickets Online
Location:


Chagrin Valley Little Theatre
40 River Street
Chagrin Falls, OH 44022

Steel Magnolias Is In Full Bloom At Workshop Players

posted Mar 21, 2018, 6:41 PM by Eric Fancher   [ updated Mar 21, 2018, 6:52 PM ]


Steel Magnolias


Steel Magnolias Is In Full Bloom At Workshop Players

Community Theatre

Review by: Kevin Kelly

Steel Magnolia. Noun. (plural steel magnolias) (chiefly Southern US). A woman who exemplifies both traditional femininities as well as an uncommon fortitude.

In 1987, in a part of processing loss himself, playwright Robert Harling wrote the comedy-drama Steel Magnolias. The play was inspired by the loss of his sister. In 10 days, he created a play which showed how tragic events can be assuaged by laughter and true friendships. As all of us know, in times of tragedy, sometimes well-timed humor can break the wall of despair with a much-needed laugh. Using real-life names in some cases, in fact, M'Lynn and Drum are actually his parents' name. The play unfolds beautifully with six incredible women telling the story.

The action is set Truvy's (Kathryn Dean-Dielman) popular beauty salon in Chinquapin, Louisiana. As the play opens, Trudy is being helped by a new resident named Annelle (Samantha Fisher), who has a secret herself. In comes the bride to be Shelby (Alicia Fogel), who needs fixing up for her wedding day. Soon they are joined by an eccentric millionaire Miss Clairee (Bernadette Hisey), and Shelby's mother M'Lynn (Melissa Hubbard). Last to arrive is Ouiser (Mary Manos Mitchem), a female hurricane of inappropriate sentiment. She probably needs a publicist to remind her "you might not want to say that". What happens within the beauty shop is a 3-year journey that explores their relationships as they engage in much joy and laughter and ultimately immense loss.

I really enjoyed this production Director Judy MacKeigan did a great job casting and keeping the pace brisk. The players performed in the round, and MacKeigan staged movement with deft visibility. What I love about this ensemble is that they create such a unique charm, so you are transported to small-town realness and a charming essence.

Dean-Dielman is a blast, just as you want her to be. Sassy and firing one-liners like it's her job. Fisher is perfect. Such a strong sense of timing and pure character quality. Fogal brings a youthful quality to Shelby. She creates a strong confident woman, whose strength can handle adversity without succumbing to it. Mitchem stomps around the set like a grumpy southern power ranger, to great delight. very fun character. Hisey is a seasoned pro. She is delightful and confident and her acting chops were on full display. I have a standard about Steel Magnolias, for me, the play swims or sinks based on the delivery of M'Lynns last monologue. "I can report" that Hubbard crushes that speech with wicked honesty and truth. Now there are times when it did seem that there were momentary pauses,  but those moments were recovered quickly by picking up efficiently and staying in character. I want to complement the cast for never breaking the fourth. Beautiful job,

Stage Manager Julie Marchand called a great show. Dave MacKeigan took on triple duty with the design of lighting, sound, and set. Great execution. Designed enabling fluid movement. Only lighting point I have is the solo spot in the lights out scene. I didn't get that. With sound. I would've liked the gunshots and barking to be a bit louder. Overall, great job.

This is a terrific production, in which the location of the theatre itself enhances the experience.
Very welcoming staff.

Luckily I don't have to "walk on my lips" to tell you, that this production is a winner.

CSA
Cleveland Stage Alliance
Ticket Information
and Promotional Materials

Thru March 25

Showtimes:
7:30pm Fridays
7:30pm Saturdays
3pm Sundays 


Tickets:
$15 General Admission

(440) 988-5613
Location:


Workshop Players
44820 Middle Ridge Road
Amherst, OH 44001

Silent Sky Gets a Beautiful, Touching, and Amusing Production at Clague Playhouse

posted Mar 16, 2018, 6:18 AM by Eric Fancher   [ updated Mar 16, 2018, 6:20 AM ]



Silent Sky Gets a Beautiful, Touching, and Amusing Production at Clague Playhouse

Community Theatre

Review By: Kevin Kelly

What do you know about Henrietta Leavitt? And GO!

Not many people will be able to answer that question or even know of this woman. But it turns out, she is incredibly important. And with Steven Hawking's death, which obviously was unexpected, here we have a chance to meet another pioneer of understanding the sky, and what beautiful mathematical qualities can be used to uncover the secrets of our Silent Sky. Yes, I did. I just used the title of the play for dramatic effect. Thank you.

SILENT SKY presents the real-life story of Henrietta Leavitt (a stunning Brittany Gaul) and the women working behind the scenes at the dawn of modern astronomy. Henrietta leaves her family in Wisconsin to join a group of women “computers” at the Harvard Observatory in the early 1900s, where she is not even allowed to touch a telescope or express an original idea. Balancing her dedication to science with family obligations and the possibility of love, she makes a breakthrough discovery that enables astronomers to calculate the distance between Earth and remote galaxies and stars. A celestial romance and true story of discovery.

This production is marvelous under the Direction of Curt Arnold. He has such a great grasp and sense of the period. He also elicited the help of Costume Designer Jenniver Sparano, who built the entire show, save one costume. The dresses are exquisite. As is Arnold's direction and staging.

Tackling the role of Henrietta Leavitt, Gaul is an incredible delight. Her poise on stage, her diction, and her character focus are sublime. She anchors this play and does a beautiful job of taking everyone along with her, not only in creating the reality of her characters discoveries but her acting choices blissfully permeate the stage. You care so much about Henrietta, because you are affected so much by Gaul's performance.

Before leaving to pursue her life dream, Henrietta has a sister, Margaret Leavitt, beautifully played by Jill Kenderes. Of course, every free-thinking family member usually has a sibling that tries to keep you grounded, but in the end, always supports you. Kenderes fills the emotional support system with acting finesse.

Then we have the co-workers. Pam Matthews as Annie Cannon, and Molly Clay as Williamina Fleming.  I can tell you, that when the play was over, I really wanted to go out with these ladies and throw some lawn darts and do a few shots. They are delightful in the play. Matthews gives Annie a personality that reminds me of someone who has their shoelaces tied WAY too tight. She portrays the authority figure well and does a great job of slowly allowing the caring nature of her character slowly come to the surface. Eventually becoming a suffragette, when she comes out in her grey pantsuit, trust me. that outfit must have been involved in the legislation process. This is one of the best performances from Matthews that I have seen. And where the hell has Molly Clay been. So incredibly natural on stage, and exudes characterization so well, I wanted to adopt a Scottish accent and join her at the log throwing festival. Beautiful work on display. Crafting a nurturing woman who is not afraid to stand for what is right.

Then we have the alpha male of the group, or quite simply, the nice guy in the office that tries to be tough but has a heart full of love. Cue Les Miz. Andrew Keller is awesome in this role. He plays this down to earth, kind of bumbly social guy, to perfection. Watching him deal with the fiesty office women, is a hoot. He also offers up a character design to effortlessly reveal his quirky love march. Another smash performance.

The Cast of Silent Sky

This is a really great show. As Director Arnold likes to call it, a jewel box play. I can agree with that. And certainly, a jewel box filled with shiny sparkling emeralds, and one beautiful diamond. Just like the diamonds in the sky, that Henrietta unlocked their secrets, and Gaul brought to life along with her castmates.

The fierce production team at Clague Playhouse, one of the best in the biz, were all on point. Production Manager Lance Switzer, Stage Manager Tyson Douglas Rand called a great show, Set Designer extraordinaire Ron Newell once again transforms the theatre into the art itself, Lighting Designer Switzer provided wonderful effects, Sound Designer Charles Hargrave providing crystal clear environment, Costume Designer Jenniver Sparano outdid herself again. Choreography from Caitlin Reilly was sweet. 

Bravo!

Join the audience and find your own discovery in storytelling at its best.

CSA
Cleveland Stage Alliance

Ticket Information
and Promotional Materials

Thru March 31

Showtimes:
8pm Thursdays
8pm Fridays
8pm Saturdays
2pm Sundays


Tickets:
$10-$16 Reserved Seating

(440) 331-0403
Location:


Clague Playhouse
1371 Clague Road
Westlake, Ohio 44145

Death of a Salesman at Brecksville Features a Tour-de-force Performance That Rewards the Audience

posted Mar 16, 2018, 6:08 AM by Eric Fancher   [ updated Mar 16, 2018, 9:13 AM by kevin kelly ]


Death of a Salesman at Brecksville Features a Tour-de-force Performance That Rewards the Audience

Community Theatre

Review By: Kevin Kelly

The Brecksville Theater is among a group of theaters looking to enhance and expand their engagement with their local communities. As a result, their current season incorporates diverse choices to help target a younger demographic, appeal to classic American theater fans, and push the envelope to encourage a broader community participation. At the helm that change for the 2017 – 2018 season is Artistic Director Bruce Orndof and his board.

The current offering is the American classic Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, a 1949 play won the Pulitzer Prize for drama and the Tony Award for Best Play. Directed by Frank J Lucas, this is a searing tale of one man's attempt to hold on to success, handle the slide to professional failure, deal with family dynamics and secrets, and eventually devastation. The play addresses loss of identity and to accept change within himself and society. The last 24 hours of Willie's life is presented in a montage of memories, dreams, confrontations, and arguments.

Steve Brown and Priscilla Kaczuk
At first sight, the set is an impressive visual. Designed by Orendof and beautifully lit by Lighting Designer Tobias Peltier. It transports you to another place and demands attention, and all of this is enhanced with the classical music selections playing throughout the theater.

Steve Brown is a tour de force in the role of Willy Loman. I've been a fan of Brown's work for some time but seeing him interpret this role was incredible. His performance is spellbinding and anchors the play in exquisite reality. The role is incredibly difficult cultivating the emotional journey and infusing the character with a fractured soul. Brown wears this character as a second skin. Simply, as powerful as it should be.

Priscilla Kaczuk brings a beautiful construct to Linda, Willie's wife. Her character brings a humble version of a Barbara Stanwick realness. She crafts and navigates a supportive nature, protective nature, along with the moments where her strength emanates in devastating truth. Her active listening is perfection and plays an integral part in her scenes. Michael Knobloch is at best, delivering a strong performance, especially during the tense scenes. I don't think he is costumed the right way to accentuate the athletic nature of Biff, which is referenced quite a bit in the play, but he fights against that and develops a well-developed personification. The fireworks are impressive. If Joe Pesci was taller and a womanizer with no morals, i think he would look like Kyle Adam. Adam progressively grew in character as the play developed resulted in a polished presentation of a complex pleaser. Nick North presents a kind Charlie, who tries to help Willy. Touching moments. Wesley Ross does a nice job of developing and delivering Bernard, Charlie son. Uncle Ben is played to perfection by one of the classiest Cleveland actors, David Hundertmark. He exudes success as Uncle Ben, and delivers his scenes with polish. The rest of the cast is solid as well. Jennifer Mavrides causes inappropriate trouble as The Woman, and does a nice job of being dissed. Don Lloyd is appropriately unfeeling and corporate as Howard, Willie's boss. Lucas Hamlescher does not waster stage time as the waiter Stanley, and I would not be surprised to see him as Biff one day. The following ladies had a blast playing femme fatales. Mikhayla Wilkins as Miss Forsythe, and Lexi Avary, Miss Forsythe's tag team accomplice, Letta. Kathy Pekarcik, as Charlie's secretary, didn't waste a moment on stage.
The Cast of Death of a Salesman

Director Lucas has done a great job with this classic. The pacing was on point, as well as a strong sense of space using the multiple locations on a small stage. He certainly orchestrated the conflict seems extremely well. The stage is on fire during those confrontations. Costume Designer Maggie Brown did a good job. Sound designer Hazen Tobar was on point. No distractions. Stage manager Mandalyn Stevens called a great show.

My biggest complaint about the experience on opening night was that someone was taking pictures of the show during Act II. Three things happened. One, the camera constantly beeped, especially during the dramatic moments of silence. Two, you could hear the shutter each picture taken. And finally, and most unbelievable, at least three times I saw a flash. I am sure that the shutterbug meant no harm, however, there it is.

Bravo to The Brecksville Theater. Keep expanding the boundaries of artistic offerings for your community. Art is education. Art enables us to understand what we are not familiar with. Art makes us better human beings.

If you're reading this, catch the performances on stage. Especially if you're a fan of Steve Brown, and the other wonderful performers on stage.


CSA
Cleveland Stage Alliance
Ticket Information
and Promotional Materials

Thru March 18

Showtimes:

7:30pm Thursdays
7:30pm Fridays
7:30pm Saturdays
2pm Sundays


Tickets:
$15 General Admission

(440) 526-6436
Location:


The Brecksville Theatre
49 Public Square
BrecksvilleOH44141

1-10 of 15