Cleveland Stage Alliance Reviews and Previews

The final week for Dobama's critically acclaimed "JOHN"

posted Nov 5, 2018, 4:56 PM by kevin kelly

By: Annie Baker

Dobama Theatre
Professional Equity House Theatre

Under the Artistic Direction of Nathan Motta, Dobama Theatre is expanding its vision to end up in a self-actualization that will set it apart from other theatres in town.  The theatre is now a Professional Equity House Theatre. That in itself is a statement of power and influence all on its own. But by calling or upgrading yourself, also means you have to deliver. And deliver big. Previously, Motta directed a profound production of "The Flick" by Annie Baker. In fact, the American Playwright won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for this work. So it makes perfect sense to offer another helping of Baker's work. The current production of "John" is that offering.

One cold November night, Elias (Luke Wehner) and Jenny (Cat Shy), a young couple struggling to stay together, stop at a bed & breakfast in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. During their visit they encounter a cheerful innkeeper Mertis (Catherine Albers), her blind friend Genevieve (Dorothy Silver), and an eerie world crammed with toys, figurines and one very odd American Girl doll. This mystic puzzle of a play is full of surprises, both human and supernatural. 

This production will test you for many reasons. One is the length, as it takes a little over 3 hours to spin this tale. Audiences are not used to this amount of concentration in general, so any production of that length has to be packed to the gills with stimulation of senses, or at the very least and not less important, intellectual intensity. This production offers much to be enjoyed with incredibly detailed production values, and a cast that offers some severe acting chops.

Watching Wehner and Shy slowly unveil the arc of their story is fascinating to watch. The story itself is certainly spread out over the evening, but seeing these two, in what feels like real time, requires immense concentration, endurance, and focus. Wehner is serving up coffee shop realness with expresso character detail, and a well measured emotional performance. Shy is fantastic. She is a visual seductress of acting that entices you to spend time listening and watching her every move. She has an incredible connectivity with the audience and delivers constantly throughout the evening. Both have the ingredients for formidable careers.

Joining these two performers are two actresses that are a culmination of every theatrical ingredient that exists, refined, and brilliantly presented. Catherine Albers leads the parade as in innkeeper who seems to present a question whether there are more skeletons in her closet or her mind. Her accomplished Mertis gives us two sides of crazy for our enjoyment. One is the sweetest woman you will ever meet. Taking care of her husband (that you never meet), and taking care of her guests. She has an octave lower self that makes a visit once in a while, and the transition is enjoyably weird and indicates that the Time Warp probably happened at some party here in the past. Albers is excellent. Then at the top of the theatrical mountain offering us the greatest view an actor could hope for is Dorothy Silver as Genevieve. Her character is blind, but she is able to see into everyone's soul and enables us to laugh, question, and most importantly listen. She is a living master class. A Sensei for all that know her and study her acting choices like they are B-12 shots of life-giving intrinsic career enabling bolts of lighting. Her monologue describing her descent into insanity is a gift.

The production team was up to the challenge of creating a remarkable canvas for this story to unfold. Scenic Designer Cameron Caley Michalak serves up a fierce bed and breakfast, Dred Geib props abound in distraction and purpose, Marcus Dana lighting the space with professional flair, Jeremy Dobbins giving us clear sound, and Inda Blatch-Gieb costumes this piece to attractive detail and sensitivity. 

Will you like this production? I truly think the answer lies in an age-old question that happens in an art gallery. There is a piece hanging on a wall. A group of individuals feast their eyes on it and take in what they are seeing and feeling. When you ask them what they think of the painting, some will say "It was brilliant", some will say "it was ok", and some will say "I didn't get it". I think that is what we may have here. You alone will determine if you enjoy the experience. It is strongly directed, strongly designed, and strongly acted. So the answer will be if you found the pauses in the dialogue empty, or full? The intrigue created but never resolved, fascinating to watch or disappointing that there wasn't a brazen answer to the tension? Or was it just too long?

There were some observations. I thought the play tried too hard to create something scary by just simply staring at something. I never was scared, but I felt I should be because people were staring at an object. Also, the pauses in dialogue is an acquired taste, especially when you ask the audience to spend over three hours with the characters. From my own personal experience, I only felt cheated when the last line of the play was uttered, which resulted in a voice in my head saying. "I waited three hours for this?". Then I was ashamed of myself by thinking I suck as an artist because I didn't get it the more ethereal message that was being sent by the play.

So what a great review right? The production value is strong. There are many gifts within, and one of the greatest is Dorothy Silver. There is always magic when a living legend takes the stage. I know I feel more fulfilled having that memory to pull from for inspiration.

Cleveland Stage Alliance


7:30pm Wednesdays
7:30pm Thursdays
8pm Fridays
8pm Saturdays
2:30pm Sundays (10/21 at 7:30 instead)

**$15 Preview Performances 10/16 and 10/18 at 7:30pm**

Runtime: 2h 20m (two 10m intermissions)
Content Advisory: Adult Language, Adult Situations

$10-$29 Reserved Seating

(216) 932-3396
Order Tickets Online

Dobama Theatre
2340 Lee Road
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118

Little Women, The Musical shines at Western Reserve Playhouse

posted Oct 19, 2018, 1:27 PM by kevin kelly

Book by Allan Knee
Lyrics by Mindi Dickstein
Music by Jason Howland
Based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott

Based on Louisa May Alcott's classic 1869 semi-autobiographical novel, “Little Women” follows four sisters—the independent, aspiring writer Jo (Kaity Poschner), the romantic Meg (Kayla Lehman), the pretentious Amy (Tenley Stitzer), and the kind-hearted Beth (Abigall Lyman), all under the watchful eye of their beloved mother, Marmee (Bernadette Hisey). while their father is away serving as a Union Army chaplain during the Civil War. Intercut with the vignettes in which their lives unfold are several recreations of the melodramatic short stories Jo writes in her attic studio. Each sister follows a different path but not necessarily what is expected. This coming-of-age tale is filled with drama, romance, humor, and music.

Poschner, as Jo, does a wonderful job leading the sister pack with zest. Her acting chops are the anchor for this characterization, along with a pleasant singing voice. Lehman brings her radiant looks and voice to the role of Meg. Setting sail on the Love Boat and providing a textured performance. Stitzer as Amy does a great job and pushing every trigger in the family. Her contemptuous behavior is great and adds a well-appreciated level to the proceedings. Lyman is the vocal powerhouse here providing a deft characterization and textured vocals to her interpretation of Beth. She made me cry. That’s a good sign.

Hisey leads the adult brigade with a beautiful performance as Marmee. Armed with a beautiful voice which revels in interpretation, an acute sense of timing and environment, and her confident aura, she is a textured delight. One of my favorites memories is the performance of Shelly Palumbo as Aunt March. Now, this stuff is great. Complete command of the period, time, and a sense of comedic timing which ranks up there with the best in the area.

Jay Sigler is quite charming as Professor Bhaer. His characterization is straight on and very enjoyable. Creating a character that makes you want to root for him in the end, and makes you delighted when life finally hands him his due. Well done. Michael Knobloch serves up some romantic lead realness as Laurie, and is ridiculously charming and armed with a beautiful musical voice. Steve Schuerger brings Mr. Brooks to life with subtle acting choices and a great centered focus.

The rest of the company provide solid trimmings to the event. Walt Kaminski as Mr. Laurence, Molly Kessler, Christina Worchester, and Dorota Zarzycka as Mrs. Kirk. I have to throw out some major love the story players within the story. The actors that act out Jo’s story creations are a blast. They are as follows: Clarissa (Shipley) A sweet young women fleeing the evil villain Sir Braxton Prendergast (Schuerger). Rodrigo (Knobloch) The determined and brave hero. The Hag (Palumbo) A mysterious creature who shows Clarissa the way through the forest in return for her combs. The Troll (Kessler) A greedy monster who takes Clarissa across wild rapids in return for her necklace. The Knight (Kaminski) A tired and lonely old man who gives Clarissa his sword in return for her kindness to him. Rodrigo II (Lyman) The real hero of Jo’s operatic tragedy – Clarissa’s long-lost sister. This is so much fun and staged incredibly well.

There were just a couple of observations. The turntable was a very unique addition to the set, but it did result in some close quarters during some of the scenes. There were a few pitchy moments throughout the evening. But, those moments were minimized by secure acting underneath.

Director Dawn Sniadak-Yamokoski has assembled a great cast and moves the action with great pace. The staging of the play within the play was a blast. Musical Director Dave Stebbins provided great support and sound. Jennifer Justice added some fun and energetic movement to the mix. Stage Manager Brianna Laybourn called a great show. Set Designer Todd Plone surprises the WRP crowd with a well-designed turntable. Well Done. Costumer Kelsey Tomlinson provided period perfect looks to add to this classic tale. Sound Designer Justin Herman supported with clarity. Light Designer Kevin Rutan provided a sold lighting palate for the story.

This show is a respectable creation of the musical based on a classic book. My observation of the room was one filled with enjoyment. That’s a winner.


 Cleveland Stage Alliance

"Last Weekend" October 20


8pm Fridays
8pm Saturdays
2pm Sundays (10/14 only)


(330) 620-7314
Order Tickets Online

Western Reserve Playhouse
3326 Everett Rd
Richfield, OH 44286

Cannibal, The Musical serves up a delicious meal at Blank Canvas Theatre

posted Oct 14, 2018, 1:45 PM by kevin kelly   [ updated Oct 14, 2018, 1:47 PM ]

Book, Music, and Lyrics by Trey Parker

Blank Canvas Theatre
Professional Theatre


From the co-creator of South Park and The Book of Mormon, comes the “All Singing! All Dancing! All Flesh Eating!” Trey Parkers’ Cannibal! The Musical, live on stage. This is based on the true story of the only person convicted of cannibalism in America - Alferd Packer (Yes, Alferd, not Alfred, calm down). The sole survivor of an ill-fated trip to the Colorado Territory, he tells his side of the harrowing tale to news reporter Polly Pry (Meg Martinez) as he awaits his execution. And his story goes like this: While searching for gold and love in the Colorado Territory, he and his companions lost their way and resorted to unthinkable horrors, including toe-tapping songs and a couple of showstoppers, or should I say snowstoppers. Thank you.

Sometimes you just have to let your hair down. Sometimes a theatrical piece is not going to win the Nobel prize, but sometimes it is fun to just be silly. Director Patrick Ciamacco, the brainchild behind the Laughter League, a renowned comedy sketch group, dives in head first to create a hot mess of fun. We are living in some tense times. But, if you need a break from watching the ice caps melt, get your behind to see Cannibal! The Musical at Blank Canvas Theatre NOW! Warning, this is definitely some silly stuff, but if you don’t get that from the title, then you need to experiment and sit in the splatter zone. Yes. Splatter Zone. Yes. Blood.

Every actor in this show is a firkin scream and has some kind of moment that is a beautiful hot mess. The ensemble work going on here is among the best I have seen. Everyone is completely immersed in this insane world. The characterizations are all on point, and beautifully funny.

Noah Hrbek as Alfred Packer leads this cast of crazies with confident aplomb. His voice has never sounded better, and his projected innocent quality of humanity works perfectly in this piece. As the love interest, he charms his way into your hearts, and well as ending up eating them. Stephen Berg has a fantastic time playing Shannon Bell, the Mormon Priest who tries his best to contribute spiritually to the journey, but ends up a bit “stressed out”. Berg plays his character's arc to the hilt, and provide plenty of humor as a result. Antonio DeJesus pretty much delivers a puberty driven George Noon to the proceedings. His country-fried twang is a hoot, and the way in which he handles having his privates disheveled is pure joy.  

David Turner turns in one hell of a tap number, and one of the show stoppers, by kick-ball shuffling his way into our hearts as the Optimist Isreal Swan. What a scream. Danny Simpson gives us James Humphrey, a reluctant participant. Humphrey’s character seems to be the love child of Pee Wee Herman and Linda Belcher, the result being a delightful hot mess of idiot hall of famery. Joe Kenderes brings his manly nature to Frank Miller, the butcher. He adds mightily to the journey, providing lots of delightful stress and bravado. Reporter Polly Pry is beautifully played by Meg Martinez in both person and character. She is the perfect confidant to Packer, packs a clarion voice, and surprises everyone with a penchant for horseplay. Logan Honsaker, as the leader of the bad pack Frenchy Cabazon, not only shaves the pelt off of trapped animals but also his chest, as his bad guy personae is a frickin delight. His voice and dance moves are a joyful combination of surprise entertainment. Jay Lee as the Chief is a hoot and a half. Beautiful character hilarity.

Some of these folks play multiple roles in the show. Starting us off is Venchise Phillips, she is certainly highlighted when she gets her hoofs in an uproar as Liane, the horse. Yes. This is quite the love story interest, and Phillips carries it off with great humor, and physicality. She carries Packer around like he weighs 10 pounds, so don’t piss her off. Donnell James is serving up multiple roles as well, but he peaks as Nutter, a member of the bad trapper gang. Within Mark Majercik’s multiple personalities, the Doomed Guy is brought to over the top to hilarity. Grace Mitri was a blast in every role she inhabited. Whether Noon’s Mom, Clerk, or the Judge. She was serving up massive amounts of fun.

Director Ciamacco, who also serves as the Artistic Director, brought a script that had nothing but lines and no orchestrations to life with blissful design and by creating a comedic romper room. The show moves well, and the blood effects are not overdone, but just enough to let the “splatter zone” get covered in washable blood. Musical Director Matt Dolan creatively birthed orchestrations and a band where none existed. The music greatly adds to the fun. Choreographer Zac Hudak did a tremendous job bringing the show numbers to life. The tap number will be giving me life for days. Stage Manager Tiffany Trapnell called a great show and kept this cattle call of insanity in line. Costume Designer Jill Kenderes hit all of the marks with relish. Also, Ciamacco added his skill to the production end as well by providing Special Effects (along with Hrbek and P. J. Toomey), Sound, Lighting, Projection (Hrbek), and Set Design, as well as Tech Director. I find this amazing since I can’t even rotate my wardrobe by season without assistance. Hrbek also painted the Scenic Back Drop. Again, I can’t rotate.

Soooooooooooooooo, just get the heck to the theatre and laugh. It’s like theatrical silly string, it won’t change the world, but it is a hell of a lot of fun!

Photo Credit: Andy Dudik

Cleveland Stage Alliance

Runs through October 27


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

Runtime: 1h 35m
Content Advisories: Adult Content, SPLATTER ZONE

$18 General Admission

(440) 941-0458
Order Tickets Online

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

Disney's Newsies at Near West Theatre is Headline Worthy

posted Sep 29, 2018, 3:04 PM by kevin kelly   [ updated Oct 6, 2018, 7:59 AM by Eric Fancher ]

Community Theatre

Music by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Jack Feldman
Book by Harvey Fierstein
Based on the Disney film written by Bob Tzudiker and Noni White

Set in turn-of-the-century New York City, Newsies is the rousing tale of Jack Kelly (Felix Albino), a charismatic newsboy and leader of a band of teenaged "newsies." When titans of publishing raise distribution prices at the newsboys’ expense, Jack rallies newsies from across the city to "Seize the Day" and strike for what's right! Timely and fresh, Newsies addresses age-old themes of social injustice, exploitative labor practices, and David-versus-Goliath struggles as these youth learn to harness their power against a corrupt establishment. Inspired by a true story and based on the popular Disney film, Newsies features a Tony Award-winning score by Alan Menken and Jack Feldman, and book by Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein.

If you were wondering if the future of our country has the resolve and purpose to fight and change the world, then look no further than the current production of Newsies at Near West Theatre. In the words of Director Kelcie Nicole Duggar ", they are a fierce group of the most WOKE young people that inspire me beyond words". I think the audience would agree based on the roaring applause throughout the musical performance. The show itself tends to hang its hat on being a dance show, with the "Newsies" dancing so athletically that it resembles an Olympic Gymnastics tryout.  Well, this production features a group of 9 to 15-year-olds, who attack this piece of theatre like carpenter ants on a freshly cut redwood.

There are some powerful observations regarding this production, and some of them are true testaments to the mission of Near West Theatre and the growth and inspiration that empowers young people to grow and become empassioned adults.

First is the Director, Kelcie Nicole Duggar. She has put together a tremendous show, and in particular, her gift of working with the age group of 9 to 15-year-olds in the city is unparalleled. Duggar is able to connect with this group being honest, treating them with respect, and most importantly LISTENING! She has overseen a beautiful and fun production and staged engaging scene work and characterizations that are alive and complete with dead-on accents. Duggar has grown up at Near West Theatre. Starting as a shy kid, she has risen to Associate Artistic Director. Her accomplishments are a tremendous inspiration to the kids that she is directing. Incredibly relatable, and incredibly WOKE.

Secondly, the Music Director Scott Pyle. Here is another homegrown artist who has risen through the conclave of Near West Theatre. First hitting the boards as a young kid filled with energy, talent, and a smile that generated ticket sales more than a BOGO offer. He slowly developed his stage skills, and in addition, honed his skills as a musician, which has evolved enough that he is now Music Director for the 9 to 15 shows. He also has served as Music Director, and Assistant Music Director on the Young Adult, and Intergenerational shows. He is down to earth, nurturing, and his talents contribute heavily to guide and provide growth to the cast members that grace the stage.

Both Duggar and Pyle have come to full actualization of their talents, The institution, and the actors, and stage crews that work on the shows are in talented and protective hands.

Thirdly, the choreography provided by Josh Larkin. You have to remind yourself after each raucous number that brings the audience to a screaming helix of happiness, that these actors are 9 to 15. Newsies is a show known for the dance sequences and launching the career of Jeremy Jordan, Broadway Heart Throb. Well, the heartthrob in this production is the inventive, powerful, creative, fantastic, jaw-dropping moments of dance in this show. I attended this production with another Near West Theatre success story, Trinidad Snider, and she turned to me and stated what I had already concluded, that "this is the best dance I have ever seen at Near West Theatre, ever." It's true, Larkin has outdone himself. It is pure joy!

Next is the crew. The backstage heroes who prefer the shade as opposed to the light. Or the occasional actor who wants to give back by working backstage to help out the actors on stage and a point of balance in the universe. Supervised by Production Stage Manager/Assistant Production Manager Ryan Wolf. The crew led by Stage Manager Katie Landoll, Assistant Stage Manager Allan Stubbs, and a fierce crew that even included the Duggar.

Now we come to this incredible cast.

Leading the way is another Near West Theatre success story. Felix Albino as Jack Kelly. He has literally grown up at Near West Theatre. Watching him grow into such an accomplished performer has been a very proud story to watch. In fact, Albino was nominated for a Dazzle Award last year for his work on AIDA at Near West Theatre. His story no longer exists here, but now is being recognized beyond in the city. Albino give Kelly a rich and layered performance. Acted with a natural presence, that is greatly enhanced by a beautiful and powerful singing voice. He leads the show with a humble command and eschews every scene with relevance and adept acting. At the end of Act One, Albino delivers a heart-pounding reprise of "Santa Fe". His sidekick, Crutchie, is gloriously performed by Dashiell Tidrick. This kid is a scream. He flies around the stage, crutch in hand, like a water spider on spring break. His character is excellent, dances with athletic sharpness and his solo "Letter from the Bridge" is heartbreaking due to his expressive voice, and finding truth in every moment.

Then we come to Davey (Alex Schwartz) and Les (Corlyn Stauffer), the sidekicks of the year. Both of these actors are a blast, dead on, and work every moment to the utmost effectiveness. Both are charming as heck. Schwartz has a beautiful voice, that is highlighted at the beginning of "Seize the Day". I am surprised there isn't a collection plate flying around the audience. He is charming, dances his tuchas off, sings powerfully, and his character is a pure delight. Speaking of powerful, whether she knows it or not, Stauffer playing the little boy Les practically steals the show, and every scene she is in. She is a dynamo. but it is not all charm, she is smart, she can sing, she can dance, she has a great character, and she knows how to share the stage with others. I am surprised they aren't selling "Les" Bobble Heads at the concession stand. 

Balancing the strong characters that I have mentioned, you need a strong counterbalance to even the playing field. Well, luckily Alexis Nelan checks every box as Katherine Pulitzer. She carries herself with a mature presence, deft acting skills, and a strong character voice. She handles "What Happens" with professional ease and makes that quite a difficult song, seem like an effortless expression of dialogue. She also contributes strongly to the dance. Slapping on some tap shoes at the opening of Act Two, she traverses the set with the rest of the cast, like Danny Kaye on holiday. If I just showed my age, I apologize, but simply put, she is fierce!

Then we come to the office of Joseph Pulitzer (Trinity Ann Ritchie), the head of the Publishing Company. Ritchie is a scream. Her character is bold, brassy, and completely honed. She is the perfect villain and doesn't waste any moment on stage to shine, or to bully (in character) other characters around her. Excellent fun. Joining as Pulitzer's associates are Seitz (Joshua Mink), Bunsen (Carlo Polisena), Hannah (Ellie Ritterbusch), and barber Nunzio (enjoyable Willie Rose).  Mink, Polisena, Ritterbusch, are perfect as the staff. Each one of them is spot on, with accents which make the scenes all the better and are confident beyond their years. Bravo.

There are some highlighted turns. Raina Hubbard as Medda Larkin completely smokes the stage with sassiness and an Audra McDonald realness and knows how to egg on the audience. Rylie Elswick as the Newsie Race brings it to the stage with adept character and a buoyant presence. Jacob Glendenning has a great bit as Romeo which is well played. Nathaniel Brinkhoff as Wiesel is a mop-haired bully that is a blast to watch. Colin Guildoo makes for a mean-spirited Snyder and is effective in making us not like him. Win.  Abdullah Madera as Spot brings his roughhouse realness into play. Fonzie in the Bronx. And as a return engagement, Rose appears as Governor Teddy Roosevelt and makes a strong case that his mustache deserves a curtain call all on its own. Great Stuff.

This company is fearless. They are the ones who contributed to making this one, if not, the best dance show ever at Near West Theatre. A crowning achievement. Every person on stage pushed themselves to the limit. And out of the midst of choreographic heaven, several of the cast would bust out of a move in the shape and color of Agnes DeMille, and the crowd would react with stunned visual overload. 

The Production Team was on fire.

Hedderson pulled all the technical elements together with professional aplomb. Michalak's design was restrained and focused and worked beautifully in the space. West created great lighting moments, and let the story unravel without tricks and whistles. Walker's costume design was spot on and entertaining as heck. Greatly enhancing the storyline

Director: Kelcie Nicole Duggar
Asst: Amanda Bender
Music Director: Scott Pyle
Choreographer: Josh Landis
Asst: Katie Jerome Taylor
Asst: Antonio DeJesus
Production Manager: Michael Stein
Production Stage Manager/Asst. Production Manager: Ryan Wolf
Stage Manager: Katie Landoll
Asst: Allan Stubbs
Deck Chief: Katarina Radujkovic
Technical Director/Video Designer: Perren Hedderson
Set Designer: Cameron Michalak
Charge Scenic Artist:  Jenny Hitmar Shankland
Lighting Designer: Tom West
Light Board Operator: Katie Landoll
Costume Designer: Melody Walker
Wardrobe Supervisor: Lady Jen Ryan
Sound Designer/Operator: Matthew Torok
Sound Technician: Emilee Skutt
Properties Master: Kate Atherton
Scenic Carpenters: Emily Hehnen
Child Supervisor: Michelle Bender

Musicians on Fire:
Keyboard 1/ Conductor: Scott Pyle
Trumpet: Brian Gutkoski
Reeds: Kim Taylor
Violin: Leah Frank
Bass: Jason Stebelton
Drums/Percussion: Rick Taylor

Congratulations to the cast and crew! You have created something wonderful!
I hope the next Headline is "Near West Theatre receives a record number of donations!"


Cleveland Stage Alliance

Closes this Weekend!


7:30pm Saturday
3pm Sunday

$8-$10, $25 Reserved Seating

(216) 961-6391
Order Tickets Online

Near West Theatre
6702 Detroit Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44102

Oklahoma! at Porthouse Celebrates 'Til The Cows Come Home

posted Aug 2, 2018, 10:44 AM by kevin kelly   [ updated Aug 13, 2018, 8:17 AM by Eric Fancher ]

Oklahoma! at Porthouse Celebrates 'Til The Cows Come Home

Porthouse Theatre
Professional Equity House Theatre

Music by Richard Rodgers
Lyrics and book by Oscar Hammerstein II
Original dances by Agnes de Mille
Based on the play Green Grow the Lilacs by Lynn Riggs

Review by Kevin Kelly

There is a lot of celebration going on at Porthouse!

Porthouse Theatre concludes 50th Season with an energetic production of Rodgers & Hammerstein's "Oklahoma!"
Oklahoma! is celebrating its 75th birthday.
Artistic Director Terri Kent is getting all kinds of love coming her way. She was brought down to the stage before the production started for a special presentation from the Chicago representative of Actors’ Equity. A proclamation was read in honor of the 50th anniversary of Porthouse Theatre and Kent State University. Included in the accolades, Terri Kent was recognized for being the Artistic Director for the past 18 years. For the Porthouse family, it was a beautiful celebration of accomplishment. Being an Artistic Director is not all glamour. People love you, people hate you.

Now we come to my brother's favorite musical Oklahoma! Director Terri Kent serves up a fierce hamper of talent that the audience ate up like Laurey's lemon meringue pie. Nothing is better than an American Classic, and certainly, this one took the book musical to new heights. Kent has put together a great production team, and a cast that radiates passion, energy, and pure joy.

Set in the Oklahoma territory in the early 1900s, this musical tells the story of two pairs of lovers. Curly (a fantastic Matthew Gittins) is a cowboy who has trouble admitting his feelings to Laurey (Rebecca Rand), as she does to him, because of their stubbornness. Judd (San Johnson), the hired hand at Laurey's farm, tries to come between them. Ado Annie (Samantha Russell) is torn between Will (Christopher Tuck*), a cowboy who has strong feelings for her, and Ali Hakim (Joey Fontana), a peddler who's a ladies' man and doesn't want to marry her. Their love stories intertwine with the Farmers and the Cowmen that are sharing the land that will eventually become a state.

My first reaction to this production is the incredible performance of Matthew Gittins as Curly. This is the most natural and honest interpretation I have ever seen. From the moment he arrives, his easy manner and down-homeness are supremely engaging. Thanks to his parent's gene pool, Gittins cuts a handsome figure on stage and becomes the perfect cowboy matinee idol. His voice is perfect in the belly of R&H, and he conveys all the emotions necessary by not overplaying, but just honest fine acting. The engaging Rebecca Rand as Laurey held her own with her skill set. She plays a tougher Laurey than usual. At times, I felt it was too Annie Oakley. She has a dynamic voice. But she chooses to belt the songs that usually a prettier lyric tone works better. But, having been directed to be this character, this is just another take on Laurey, making her tough as nails, instead of hard to get. She softens up in Act II, as does her lyric quality and self-actualizes into a beautiful characterization. 

Christopher Tuck* is the bomb. I remember him from other Porthouse seasons, and he is just a charming ball of fire. He has tremendous connectivity with the audience, and literally lights the stage whenever he enters a scene. His voice, vocals, and characterization of Will Parker were fiercely on point. He can also kick up his heels with the best of him. Certainly a Blue Ribbon winner at the Porthouse fair. Samatha Russell is a hot mess of delight as Ado Annie. She is probably what Miley Cyrus is singing about in Wrecking Ball, of love that is! My only point of order is that a lot of the time in Act I, the voice was turned up way too much, and became almost more annoying than Gertie. But Act II, that was pulled back and she settled into a far more vocally appealing character. Russell is also a ball of fire and worked incredibly well with Tuck. She also can dance with the best of them. Great work.

Matthew Gittins as Curly, Lenne Snively* as Aunt Eller

Can we talk about the show-stealing Ali Hakim, manically played by Joey Fontana? What a blast this guy is! Fontana crushed this role. Comedic timing and characterization for days. What an incredibly fun performance. Very well done. On the other side of life, Sam Johnson kicked some serious ass as Jud Fry. The entire time of stage, his sense of darkness prevailed. Playing someone as haunted in such an upbeat musical is tough, and Johnson played it perfectly. Very impressive work. Lenne Snively* as Aunt Eller was a blast. She brought a bright light to the proceedings. I found her very engaging, and her character work is ridiculously on point. You just can't help but love her, and her sense of caring and protection. Plus she can belt out with the best of em. Kelli-Ann Paterwic is a piercing delight with her laugh and milks it to no end, which is annoyingly delightful. Veteran Christopher Seiler* had some great moments as Andrew Carnes, milking the scenes with whatever milk is left from this cast. Mavis Jennings* adds some equity love to Ike Skidmore.

Terri Kent delivers another pace perfect hit! 18 years of them in fact. Bravo for creating such a production, and a summer theatre season, that brings so much joy and entertainment. Jennifer Korecki's orchestra lit up the air with brisk and delightful musicianship. Cynthia Stillings Lighting Design was on point. Nolan O' Dell's Set Design was eye pleasing and had a very inventive set change implemented for Jud's Cabin. John Crawford-Spinelli's Choreography was as fun as a tub of apple butter. Dances were all in line with the themes, but the real creativity came with the Dream Ballet. Nicely done unique vision.Brittney Harrell did a great job costuming this classic. Great looks without one miss. Everyone looked good and comfortable. Sound Design by Tyler Forbes was excellent.

There is nothing better than a crowd standing and clapping and singing their hearts out with the cast. Yep. That happened. Bravo!

*Member of Actors Equity Association.

Cleveland Stage Alliance
Ticket Information
and Promotional Materials

Through August 12


8pm Tuesdays
8pm Wednesdays
8pm Thursdays
8pm Fridays
8pm Saturdays
2pm Sundays

$27-$38 Reserved Seating

(330) 672-3884
Order Tickets Online

Porthouse Theatre
Blossom Music Center
1145 W Steels Corners Rd
Cuyahoga Falls, OH 44223

Vocally Powerful Spring Awakening at Near West Theatre Soars With Brutal Honesty

posted Aug 1, 2018, 12:57 PM by kevin kelly   [ updated Aug 2, 2018, 9:26 AM ]

Vocally Powerful Spring Awakening at Near West Theatre Soars With Brutal Honesty

Community Theatre

Book & Lyrics by Steven Sater
Music by Duncan Sheik
Based on the 1891 play by Frank Wedekind

Growing up is a BITCH. For teenage students in 19th century Germany, it’s a fight just to be heard, let alone get any answers! Parents and teachers alike dismiss their questions, fears, and anxieties. With only the guidance of their peers, teens Moritz (Zack Palumbo), Wendla (Sarah Farris), Melchior (Robert Kowaleski), and Ilse (Moriyah Faith Jackson) struggle to navigate religion, morality, sexuality, and coming-of-age angst with heart-wrenching and devastating results.

Over 100 years later, young people still fight for reliable mentors to hear and support them, and without that guidance, teens, young adults, and even children can enter dark worlds of depression, sexual recklessness and assault, and suicide. Spring Awakening highlights the agelessness of this experience. Near West Theatre's decision to bring this musical to life was a brave and bold step in using its platform to heighten awareness. This show does come with a disclaimer regarding the issues addressed. As a result, this would not be marketed as family-friendly, but in reality, you would consider this family reality. This show is direct and incredibly thought-provoking. 

This particular story finds us in Germany, 1891, a world where the grown-ups hold all the cards. The beautiful young Wendla explores the mysteries of her body and wonders aloud where babies come from... until Mama tells her to shut it and put on a proper dress. Elsewhere, the brilliant and fearless young Melchior interrupts a mind-numbing Latin drill to defend his buddy, Moritz – a boy so traumatized by puberty that he can't concentrate on anything... not that the Headmaster (Mike Obertacz) cares. He strikes them both and tells them to turn in their lesson. One afternoon, in a private place in the woods, Melchior and Wendla meet by accident and soon find within themselves a desire, unlike anything they've ever felt. As they fumble their way into one another's arms, Moritz flounders to find his truth and soon fails out of school. When even his one adult friend, Melchior's mother (Amanda Bender), ignores his plea for help, he is left so distraught that he can't hear the promise of life offered by his outcast friend, Ilse. Due to devastating events, Melchior is expelled. Wendla learns the truth about intimacy. And soon, decisions are made that bring this tale to a crashing end. However, we are left with a message that through the pain, there is the undeniable need to not forget but to move forward.

The Near West Theatre Production, under the direction of Kelcie Nicole Dugger, is powerful, visually stunning, and without a doubt, one of the best summer Teen/Young Adult musicals produced here in a very long time. Dugger has done a tremendous job of casting this show. The subject matter probably caused a lot of angst for some people, but they should know the show is staged without sensationalism and is professionally focused and executed. Dugger's overall vision of the show is strongly on point and visceral.

As Wendla, Farris shares an incredibly powerful performance.  Ferris is radiant on stage, and her beauty is matched by her vocal delivery. Beautifully balanced presentation of innocence, and the inner drive of finding the truth. She exudes confidence, and her character arc is well developed and executed. Kowalewski as Melchoir just crushes this role. A fearless performance with incredible vocal work in which each song becomes an occasion. Definitive character work is on full display and executed with a professional polish. Powerful stuff. Every moment fully complete. Both Farris and Kowalewski are perfect in propelling this story. 

Zack Palumbo is a revelation. As Moritz, he embodies his character in deeply tortured realness. That friend we all know who is struggling and we can't seem to put our finger on it. Palumbo brings his bolt of kinetic theatre energy that electrifies every scene he inhabits with brilliant resonance. His powerful voice conveys the music with immense connectivity and emotion. You will remember this performance and performer. Jackson has the difficult task of giving Ilse a journey that is not a pretty one to watch. From the moment we see her, something is wrong. She weaves in and out of scenes, underlying a dark resonance that pierces the story. This is effective because she conveys the damage to this girl with sensitive acting and brutal truth. Her voice aches from pain, and a struggle for recovery of self-worth. Tough character because Ilse never gets a break emotionally. Jackson is devastatingly on point.

There are some fierce dynamic girls surrounding Wendla, multi-talented Zoe Douglas as Martha (her solo and monologue work was spectacular), Kater Brierley as Thea, and Paola Ayala as Anna. They lead the core of women who sing the anthems of awakening with great focus and believability. Their presence is never wasted and due to the depth of their character work, are achingly alive. Antonio DeJesus and Matthew Brightbill, as Hanschen and Ernst, bring incredibly integrity to their roles. Playing sensitive men who have to love secretly, and stay true to their feelings. Both gentlemen bring pure, well-acted honesty to the roles, without ever caving into overplaying the intimate scenes for shock value. Proving that gay love scenes can be beautiful and meaningful without taking off your shirt. Bravo!

There was some great solo work accomplished. Peter Bradley belted his face off as Georg during "Touch Me". Dripping with bombastic energy, this guy killed it. Nick Glavan also had a chance to vocally angst himself to the rafters as well. Great character work from each of them.

There are two Adults in the show, simply listed as Adult Woman, and Adult Man. Each one plays multiple characters in the show. Amanda Bender takes on the female roles of Frau Bergman (Wendla's Mother), Fraulein Knuppeldick, Fraulein Grossebustenhalter, Frau Gabor (Melchior's Mother), and Frau Bessell (Martha's Mother. Michael Obertacz inhabits Herr Sonnenstich, Headmaster Knochenbruch, Her Neumann (Ilse's Father), Herr Rilow (Hanschen's Father), Herr Stiefel (Moritz's Father), Father Kaulbach, Doctor Von Brausepulver, Herr Gabor (Melchior's Father) and Schmidt. Both actors are versatile and creative in giving each character a definitive physical and vocal identity. Bender is killing me as Fraulein Knuppeldick, as she speaks her lines as if she just swallowed an entire box of Cracker Jacks and their still in her throat. Obertacz gives a defining moment as a grieving father. Both actors should be commended for stepping into their roles during tech week. Truly a remarkable feat. Bravo. The company of actors that fills out this fierce cast is excellent. In true, Near West Theatre tradition, every face is intimately connected to the scene work, and deliver solid vocal power.

There were some observations. Sometimes, the convention of having the entire ensemble enter during songs longed for more private moments. However, that is one of the missions of including larger casts in the show. Although at points I just wanted to focus on the specific character exchange, to their credit, the ensemble is tight and focused. There was one moment where I felt it might have been a lighting cue, but when Moritz has his epiphany with mortality, closing to a blackout earlier would have been preferred. It kind of left Moritz with nowhere to go at scene end. There were some moments where the blocking between lead characters seemed a little bit back and forth to center, as noted in one Melchior and Wendla scene. But that is a small quibble.

The Production Team has delivered strongly. Music Director Scott Pyle beautifully guides the voices, and the band to a most effective sound and quality. Josh Landis gives us great interpretive choreography that certainly addresses the angst and sexuality, but doesn't cross the line to hysterics. And the dance and movement involved with the bungee cords were incredibly creative and effective, and simply interesting as heck to watch. Production Stage Manager Ryan Wolf called a great show. Technical Director Perren Hedderson did an excellent job of pulling the elements together and building an effective set. Set Designer Cameron Michalak once again brings his professional artistry to the foreground, and in this case, a playground of sorts. Scenic Artist Jenny Hitmar Shankland continues to produce brilliant artistry in her painting. Costume Designer Lady Jen Ryan got all the stitching right, as her costumes helped transport the story with precision and inspired period work. Lighting Designer Adam Ditzel brought his tremendous skills to the table, creating an amazing array of atmospheric art that greatly enhanced deep and sensitive moments in the show.  Sound Designer Josh Caraballo's Sound Design and the balance was on point.

Also, there is a table from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention located downstairs. Thank you to Near West Theatre for allowing public access to information for your patrons, cast, and production staff. 

This is not easy to watch. This will be tough for some because the show holds many triggers.
But, we need to hear this story to even begin to heal it.

Go see it. 
Discuss it.
Keep your eyes open to those around you.
Keep your ears open to those around you. 
Some bruises can be seen, some can’t.
Some voices can be heard, some can't. 
Be the voice that saves lives. 
Be the voice that can help uncover what is hidden. 
Be the voice that becomes a lighthouse for those in pain.

Image may contain: table, night and indoor
Photo Credit: Mark Horning
Ticket Information
and Promotional Materials

Through August 12

7:30 pm Thursdays
7:30 pm Fridays
7:30 pm Saturdays
3 pm Sundays (No Performance 7/29)

Content Advisories: MATURE CONTENT, including abortion, suicide, bullying, and language. Non-graphic depictions of sex, abuse, and death.

$8-$20 Reserved Seating

(216) 961-6391

Near West Theatre
6702 Detroit Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44102

Final Weekend of bare: A Pop Opera at Western Reserve

posted Jul 27, 2018, 12:46 PM by kevin kelly   [ updated Aug 2, 2018, 6:19 AM by Eric Fancher ]

Final Weekend of bare: A Pop Opera at Western Reserve

Community Theatre

Review by Kevin Kelly

A pulsating, electric contemporary rock musical, bare follows a group of students at a Catholic boarding school as they grapple with issues of sexuality, identity, and the future. Peter (Nick Sobotka) and Jason (Nicholas Urbanic) have fallen in love with each other, but Jason — a popular athlete — fears losing his status if he is discovered to be gay. Unpopular Nadia, Jason’s sister (Korinne Courtwright), is contemptuous of Ivy (Laney Davis), a beautiful girl with a questionable reputation. As the group attempts to put up a production of Romeo and Juliet, tensions flare, self-doubt simmers, and God’s path seems more difficult to find than ever. bare rings with the sounds of youthful repression and revolt. With a unique sung-through pop score, heart-pounding lyrics, and a cast of bright young characters, bare is a provocative, fresh, and utterly honest look at the dangers of baring your soul, and the consequences of continuing to hide.

This is a strong relevant story to tell, especially in the environment we live in. It was a strong choice for Western Reserve Playhouse, and one that reflects a theatre that is working to expand its base, and present material that falls out of the mainstream, but is critical to address. Directing this project is Brian Westerley, who did a wonderful job of casting for this auspicious tale. Everyone seems perfectly fit into the story line, which heightens the credibility of the show. 

Urbanic gives Jason the appropriate mixture of a conflicted personae. Jock strutting when he can, but always letting a layer of vulnerability exist, which fuels a tortured soul of compliance. Sobotka crushes the role of Peter, by giving a full emotional throttle performance. Every emotion played on the sleeve, and powerful and soulful vocals embellish the story. His journey is heartbreaking for all of us that just want to love against all odds. Davis is giving off Rita Heyworth vibes, and does a beautiful job of a strong and sexual being, who is conflicted by coming to grips with the clues that eventually are gut wrenching. Her voice assuages her pain nicely.  Courtwright kicks ass and takes no names at Nadia. She is the complete bomb in this show. A fireball of intention, focus, comedic flair, and a voice that commands attention. Complete standout. Speaking of standouts, Dayshawnda Ash gives some Sister Act realness to Sr. Chantelle. Or, as I told her "Go Chantelle it on the Mountain!" She was well worth the comedic moments, and going to church vocals. Stephanie Malfara gave us a riveting and powerful solo as Claire. Truly a beautiful moment of cathartic splendor. David Rusnak turned in a sold performance at the Priest. Adding the essential element of religious doctrine, and doing it with brutal honesty and vocal strength.

Dominic Sonby gives Matt great character. He really carves out a rounded performance, that is definitely a highlight. His scenes are very focused, and interesting. Daniel Hunsicker as Lucas handles the drug dealing capabilities well. Not over doing the bad ass personae, and keeping it real. He also handles the drug rap song like a champ. The rest of the cast is strongly on point. Kayla Lehman, Khylee Kridler, Olivya De Luca, Brooke Lytton, Austin "I got laid" Hopson, and Ben Arrington. I list these names, not as a group listing of the cast, but truly because each one of them adds to the story. Each one creating a solid character interpretation of how they are in this complicated emotional story. Many shows are a success based on the company of actors as a whole. So their work is greatly acknowledged.

Director Westerley brought together a great cast and production. Music Direction by Dave Stebbins is listed, however, the sound track was used for the show. But the vocals were dead on, so bravo to Stebbins for teaching the music initially. Stage Manager Jeff Bixby called a great show. Chorographer Kristy Kruz did an outstanding job. Every number was spot on and entertaining with very creative movement. Set Design by Westerley worked great. Simple but very effective. Scott Zolkowski did a great job with costuming. Light Designer Austin Hopson was on point. Sound Design by Brianna Laybourn had its troubles. This is one area that the theatre as a whole needs to focus in and work on a resolution. Balance problems, mic problems, are getting in the way of storytelling. Once addressed, every musical will excel to another level without that distraction.

Try to catch the final weekend. These actors are working hard.

Cleveland Stage Alliance
Ticket Information
and Promotional Materials

Final Weekend
8pm Fridays
8pm Saturdays


(330) 620-7314

Western Reserve Playhouse
3326 Everett Rd
Richfield, OH 44286

The Ladies of Karamu's Simply Simone are Simply Spectacular

posted Jul 22, 2018, 2:08 PM by kevin kelly   [ updated Jul 23, 2018, 9:19 AM by Eric Fancher ]

The Ladies of Karamu's Simply Simone are Simply Spectacular

Community Theatre

Review by: Kevin Kelly

Eunice Kathleen Waymon (21 February 1933 – 21 April 2003), better known by her stage name Nina Simone, was an American singer-songwriter, pianist, arranger, and civil rights activist widely associated with jazz music. Simone aspired to become a classical pianist while working in a broad range of styles including classical, jazz, blues, soul, folk, rhythm and blues, gospel, and pop. One of the true divas of the 20th century and a genuine musical powerhouse, she defined a generation and defied classification. 

Simply Simone The Music of Nina Simone is constructed as a presentation of Nina Simone's life. Created by David Grapes and Robert Neblett, with Music arrangements by Vince Di Mura. Her path is narrated by 4 performers who describe the facts of her life, descriptions of her environment, affairs of her heart, and share the celebration of her music. The 4 performers who transcendently tell this story and breathe fresh life and interpretation into the music are Mariama Whyte*, Sheffia Randall Dooley*, CorLesia Smith, and Mary-Francis R. Miller. Based on the success of the initial run of the show, Karamu decided to bring it back to join in celebrating the Grand Reopening of the Jelliffe Theatre.

I had heard of Nina Simone but didn't really know anything about her life. My first introduction to her was a Netflix documentary What Happened, Miss Simone?. An incredible look at the artist, where you find that she was as vulnerable as she was dynamic. So I was thrilled to see that I was going to get a chance to hear the music live, and performed by artists that would wrap their souls around the music, and indeed they did.

As the show opens, I am taken by the soulful harmonies coming forth from these fierce women of color. Each performer representing a separate time and character in Nina's life. Together, blending and gathering energy like a spiritual hurricane over the ocean. Hurricane season has come early, and these ladies are delivering some major Nina realness.

My first wow moment comes from the song "To Be Young, Gifted, and Black." Just incredibly performed. The power of telling someone to take ownership of your gifts, your color, and your youth, and move forward with purpose. You also can't ignore the audience interacting with the songs, and their lyrics. Constant feedback, and emotional bursts reacting to the lyrics that become triggers for joy, pain, faith, and hope. There are many powerful moments created by this quartet of soulful love and professional execution.

Another moment of WOW comes from Whyte, when she turns to the audience, points, and sings "I Put a Spell on You," You could feel the goosebumps and the entire theatre become spellbound, literally. I am telling you, she killed that song, and turned it into an occasion of Hell Yes, and Yass. The quality of the vocals, and interpreted acting choices should be served piping hot for days. It is the first time I have seen her perform, but I know I haven't seen skill like that in a long time.

Dooley brings her sultry voice to the occasion, and her smile that should be registered as a national treasure. Her innate communication with the material and the audience is on full blast. Her songs strike celebration and joy, but then, she can turn introspective such as "Alone Again Naturally." Dynamic performer. She embodies immense charm and knows exactly when to tap directly into the dynamic moments.

Smith is a fireball. Her striking appearance and joyful energy are hard not to notice. Her voice is crisp and soulful and radiates confidence and showwomenship.
Her rendition of "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" showed her incredible versatility. Simply a joy to watch. Also, she can certainly rock a silver dress for sure.

The beautiful addition to the return engagement of this production is Miller. She is divine. Her voice has a quality of velvet soul. She captures the innocence of Nina, and adeptly processes a young woman who is harboring an immense talent. Her simplistic approach to the music and phrasing is a beautiful occasion.

These ladies are so worth the trip to learn and listen to the brilliance of Nina Simone. Each beautiful performer is equipped with all the artistic weapons to creatively perform each of the songs weaving in all the emotional requirements that are necessary to tell the entire story of each song.

The ladies are spectacular.

I do have constructive feedback on the production side. I found occasionally that there were sound issues. Not enough to ruin anything, however. mics were not always turned on when singers started to sing. Also, there needs to be a sound check because, at times when the ladies are belting or taking us all to church, the sound becomes muffled. So, is the problem in the mixing, or the mic placement? I don't know, but it needs to be addressed. Also, the spotlight work needs to be tightened up. Watching spots find the singers, or turning up the lights late on a solo, or watching a spot turned on too early and then watch it travel across the stage to hit the target, is not acceptable. I wish there had been another way to create location references, besides the spinning columns on the sides. Having the actors moving these time and again, seemed to mix a bit with the flow. Also, the lighting could have been more creative to create more dramatic area work and variance.

This being said, the evening is a complete win because of the performances of these ladies of soul.

And speaking of WIN, the band led by Ed Ridley, Jr is on FIRE! Brilliant musicianship coming from his direction and feel. His cohorts are equally impressive with Elijah Gilmore on Percussion, Bradford L. McGhee on Guitar, and Kevin Byous on Bass. They are also a part of Nina Simone. Serving up a soundtrack that brings the house to tears that range from emotional to having to start a GoFundMe page to replace the roof that was blown off during the performance. Bravo.

Caroline Jackson Smith has cast well and put on quite an amazing evening of celebration. The pace is tight and is only broken because the audience won't stop applauding, and that is the sing of some good work. Scenic and Costume Design by the creative Inda Blatch-Geib. Costumes were on point, and added to the personality of the piece. Choreographer Treva Offutt gave us some free-form movement that wasn't over done, and stayed in a natural vein. Stage Manager Xavier P. Kahn. Lighting Designer Colleen Albrecht. Sound Design Cyrus Taylor. Technical Director Prophet D. Seay brought the technical elements together nicely.

Congratulations on the new and improved theatre. Best wishes as Phase 2 continues.

Please take a trip to see this show. You will be so happy you did.

*denotes member of Actors Equity Association
Ticket Information
and Promotional Materials

Through August 5th


7:30pm Wednesday
7:30pm Thursdays
7:30pm Fridays
7:30pm Saturdays
3pm Sundays

Runtime: 2h 0m


(216) 795-7070

Karamu House
2355 East 89th Street
Cleveland, OH 44106

CSA Director Insight - Greg Violand and Maryann Nagel (Oliver! at French Creek Theatre)

posted Jul 18, 2018, 12:54 PM by kevin kelly   [ updated Jul 23, 2018, 9:37 AM by Eric Fancher ]

Professional Theatre

CSA Director Insight:
Greg Violand and Maryann Nagel

Why did you choose, or how did you come to direct this show?
I was asked to direct One Flew Over The Cukoo's Nest last Fall, but when we discovered Beck Center was doing it a the same time I told Rick we should not compete with them. He agreed and then offered me Oliver along with Maryann as Co-directors. With our schedules, this worked out fine.

Why does the theatre scene need this production and/or another production of this show?
I do not think NEED is the right word here but I do think that Oliver is not done that frequently around town so...why not?  It is a great family show, uses lots of kids and adults and offers some wonderful characters for local actors to play.

Can you share some memorable moments from the rehearsal period?
I think all things considered we did very well getting this large show on its feet.  I say considering only because we lost not one but 2 musical directors. One a week before rehearsal started and the second a week after they began!  Thank God we were able to find Lisa Van Scyoc. AND we also lost our Nancy 2 weeks in and were lucky enough to have a replacement within 2 hrs!  We actually did our first complete run through BEFORE Tech weekend! So we were able to do 4 full run-throughs before we opened.

What themes resonate with you about the show?
Hope, Faith, and Resilience

What do you hope your production has accomplished?
I think this production allowed a few people the opportunity to play and create characters they wouldn't necessarily get to do normally. It was fun for them (I think).  The parents of the kids had the hardest part and their patience and help were terrific.  One of our actors stated that to them the best part was that with Maryann and Me directing it was like a Master Class in Acting as well since we have both been teaching a lot in recent years.  We did and always do try to pass on not only our "decades" of professional acting experience but our understanding of what it takes to be "professional" and be able to pass that on.  My personal insight. "community theater actors tend to overact, indicate, gesture and move too much because they feel they need to TAKE their performance to the audience. A professional understands his/her job is to BRING the audience to them."  LESS IS MORE!!!

Thank you Greg and Maryann for the feedback!

Greg Violand Co-Director, previously directed The Miracle On 34th St.,   The Secret Garden and The Odd Couple here at French Creek. He is a well-known professional actor in Northeast Ohio having performed for the last 30 years in numerous productions with the Cleveland Play House, Great Lakes Theatre, Cleveland Opera, Beck Center, DOBAMA, Ensemble Theatre, Cain Park, Porthouse Theatre to name a few. He can be heard on the NY Studio Cast Album of Kris Kringle as Santa Claus available on Amazon. Recent film credits:  Jenny’s WeddingCarolMy Blind Brother, and Batman v Superman- Dawn of Justice.  He has two films premiering in 2018, The Assassin’s Code and The Toybox. He is a proud member of Actors Equity and SAG-AFTRA and received his MFA from Kent State University.  He is also currently an Adjunct Professor of Acting and Theater at Lakeland CC. 

Ticket Information
and Promotional Materials

Running through July 29


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

$10-$18 Reserved Seating

(440) 949-5200
Order Tickets Online

French Creek Nature & Arts Center

4530 Colorado Ave.

Sheffield Village, OH 44054

PRESS RELEASE: Cleveland Play House Single Tickets On Sale for 2018 - 2019

posted Jul 16, 2018, 2:12 PM by kevin kelly   [ updated Jul 23, 2018, 9:28 AM by Eric Fancher ]

Cleveland Play House Single Tickets on Sale for 2018 -  2019 Season

Cleveland Play House (CPH) single tickets for the 2018-2019 season will go on sale to the public beginning July 30. Additionally, family favorite A Christmas Story will be offered on July 25 for a “Christmas in July" special at 50 percent off all tickets (Promo Code JULY). The entire season of spectacular shows will be available for purchase on July 30, and on that date only be offered at a 25 percent discounted rate, using promo code “ON SALE.”

The 2018-2019 Season Subscription Series begins in September with the launch of the U.S. National Tour of London’s long-running hit The Woman in Black (Sept. 15 to Oct. 7), a mystery thriller based on the novel by Susan Hill.  The 2017 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Sweat (Oct. 13 to Nov. 4) will then heat up the Outcalt Theatre with a story of the working class struggling to make ends meet in the Rust Belt.  An Iliad (Jan. 12 to Feb. 10) hits the stage in January, featuring two women in a modern, visceral telling of the ancient Greek story of war and vengeance. Next up is the return of CPH favorite Ken Ludwig and his rollicking new comedy, Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood (Feb. 2 to 24). The 2017 Roe Green Award-winner Tiny Houses (March 23 to April 14), a comedy about what happens when the world shrinks, has its world premiere in the spring.  The Subscriber Season comes to a hilarious and poignant conclusion with a look over the fence — the neighbor’s fence — in Native Gardens (April 27 to May 19). From Cleveland favorites to new voices, every show features strong, determined characters staring down the obstacles for the greater good.

In addition to the six-play Subscription Series, CPH announced two special attractions: the family holiday favorite A Christmas Story from Nov. 23 to Dec. 23 and The Wolves in spring 2019, a full immersion into the world of teenage girls, which will be featured in the 2019 New Ground Theatre Festival.  The new CWRU/CPH MFA class of 2020 will offer two productions in the Helen Theatre, with Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull (Oct. 10 to 20) and Noël Coward’s Hay Fever (Feb. 27 to March 9). Tickets to these productions will be included in the on sale date for purchase. Tickets for the CWRU/CPH MFA productions cost $15 each or two for $25.

“This season will inspire and invigorate our loyal patron base and introduce new audiences to what CPH does best — tell stories that matter in productions that are imaginative, thrilling, and entertaining,” said CPH Artistic Director Laura Kepley.

Subscriptions to the 2018-19 Season at Cleveland Play House are on sale currently. Subscribers save up to 25 percent off individual ticket prices and receive many great benefits throughout the season. Full and flexible season packages begin at just $262. To purchase subscriptions or to receive more information, call 216-400-7096 or visit


September 15 – October 7
Adapted by Stephen Mallatratt
Directed by Robin Herford
Allen Theatre

Halloween comes early this year with a bone-chilling ghost story that will shake you to your core. Arthur Kipps never believed in the supernatural until he came face to face with evil. Tonight—desperate to exorcise his demons—he will tell his haunting tale…no matter the consequences. For over 28 years, The Woman in Black has thrilled audiences on London’s West End. Now, CPH launches the North American tour of this spine-tingling production.

October 13 – Noevmber 4
By Lynn Nottage
Directed by Laura Kepley
Outcalt Theatre

The American Dream has its back up against the wall in this Pulitzer Prize-winning drama. In Reading, PA, there’s talk of union lock-outs, massive lay-offs, and jobs going overseas. As rumors quickly become reality, a group of life-long friends gather at their local bar to joke and blow off steam while struggling to stand together as everything else falls apart. Inspired by true stories, Sweat is a compelling portrait of pride and survival in the Rust Belt.

January 12 – February 10
By Lisa Peterson & Denis O’Hare
Based on Homer’s The Iliad, translated by Robert Fagles
Directed by Tarah Flanagan and Andrew Carlson
Outcalt Theatre

One actor. One musician. The Trojan War. With vivid storytelling and live cello, two women transform a bare stage into a raging battlefield where gods, heroes, and empires clash in a quest for vengeance and glory. This searing adaptation of Homer’s timeless epic catapults an ancient tale of fate and fury into the present day.

February 2 – February 24
By Ken Ludwig
Directed by Adam Immerwahr
Allen Theatre

Cleveland favorite Ken Ludwig (Baskerville, A Comedy of Tenors) is back with a rollicking new take on a beloved legend. A greedy prince has taken control of England, and it is up to dashing outlaw Robin Hood to save the day. Join up and take aim with Robin and his band of Merry Men—and women!— as they champion the underdog and fight for justice. Laughs, romance, and plenty of arrows fly in this all-out comic adventure.

March 23 – April 14
Directed by Laura Kepley
Outcalt Theatre

Tiny homes are all the rage! Cath is ready for a big change. She quits her lucrative, fast paced job in finance and moves across the country with her boyfriend to build a 200-square-foot tiny house. Turns out that choosing a simpler life can get very complicated. Filled with lovable, idiosyncratic characters each on a quest to find a place to call home, Tiny Houses is a surprising world premiere comedy about what happens when the world shrinks.

April 27 – May 19
By Karen Zacarías
Directed by Robert Barry Fleming
Allen Theatre

They say good fences make good neighbors, but that’s the not the case with the Del Valles and the Butleys. What starts out as a squabble over a backyard property line hilariously erupts into a full-blown border dispute. Native Gardens comically unearths deeply-rooted assumptions, plants the seeds for understanding, and blossoms into colorful, thought-provoking entertainment.

November 23 - December 23
By Philip Grecian
Directed by John McCluggage
Based on the motion picture written by Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown and Bob Clark
Allen Theatre

He’s back! One boy. One holiday wish. And a world that seems to be conspiring to make certain it doesn’t come true. The record-breaking show returns to the CPH stage in all its pink-bunny-suit, glowing-leg-lamp, triple-dog-daring glory. The perfect holiday treat for the entire family.

Spring 2019
By Sarah DeLappe
Directed by Sarah Elizabeth Wansley
Presented as part of the 2019 New Ground Theatre Festival
Helen Theatre

Game on! The Wolves are undefeated, and they plan to stay that way. Fiercely competitive and enormously talented, these nine high schoolers gather each Saturday to battle it out at their indoor soccer league and leave it all—body and soul—on the field. But, when the world outside the game starts to creep onto their turf, will the pack be able to stick together? A ferociously funny and achingly honest portrait of the warriors that are teenage girls.


October 10 – October 20
Written by Anton Chekhov
Translated by Paul Schmidt
Directed by Sarah Elizabeth Wansley
Helen Theatre

It’s The Seagull as you have never seen it before as Anton Chekhov’s masterpiece gets a fresh, contemporary take in this youthful and energetic production. Each on their own quest for artistic and romantic fulfillment, guests at a country estate find themselves entangled in romantic triangles, leading to resentment, jealousy, and misplaced affection along with love, music and laughter through tears.

February 27 – March 9
Written by Noel Coward
Directed by Jerrold Scott
Helen Theatre

A true British comedy of wit from “The Master” Noël Coward, Hay Fever enters the eccentric minds of a retired actress, her novelist husband and their family. A weekend retreat is anything but relaxing when unsuspecting family and their guests are enlisted as pawns in their outrageous theatrical games. Mismatched romantic pairings and explosive familial rivalries bring out the worst in this dysfunctional team of players.


All CPH performances for the 2018-2019 Season are in the Allen or Outcalt Theatres at Playhouse Square, Cleveland. Shows preview at 7:30 p.m. the first Saturday, 6:30 p.m. the first Sunday, 7 p.m. the first Tuesday and 7:30 p.m. the first Wednesday and Thursday, with 2:30 p.m. matinees most Saturdays and Sundays. They open at 7:30 p.m. the first Friday and close on a Sunday. There is one Thursday matinee performance at 1:30 p.m. for each production.

Prices for single tickets begin at $25 with special discounts available:

$15 rush tickets for currently enrolled students under age 25 with valid student ID, and Young Professional discounts available with YP-CPH Membership. Groups of 10+ save up to 50% off single ticket prices; call 216-400-7027.

Subscriptions are on sale now. Subscribers save up to 25% off individual ticket prices and receive many great benefits throughout the season. Full and flexible season packages begin at just $262. To purchase subscriptions or to receive more information, call 216-400-7096 or visit

Press Release attached!

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