Cleveland Stage Alliance Reviews and Previews

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

posted Jul 18, 2018, 12:54 PM by kevin kelly

French Creek Theatre
Professional Theatre

CSA Director Insight: Greg Violand / 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".  

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 Wedding, Carol, My 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. 

The show runs through July 29


7:30 pm Fridays
7:30 pm Saturdays
3 pm 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 18, 2018, 11:07 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!

PRESS RELEASE: Karamu Presents the Encore Production of the Wildly Successful Simply Simone

posted Jul 16, 2018, 2:03 PM by kevin kelly   [ updated Jul 18, 2018, 11:06 AM by Eric Fancher ]


Karamu House fills the summer with the sounds of Nina Simone
in a musical profiling the life and music of the American icon.

July 18 – August 5, 2018

Media Night is Friday, July 20, 2018 at 7:30 p.m.

(Cleveland, Ohio) Karamu House, the oldest multicultural performing arts center in the country, continues its mission to produce socially-relevant, professional-quality entertainment.

Karamu remounts Simply Simone: The Music of Nina Simone from July 18 through August 5, 2018. Performances of this R&B musical journey created by Robert Neblett and David Grapes, and directed by Caroline Jackson Smith will be held in the newly renovated and historic Jelliffe Theatre located at 2355 East 89th Street, Cleveland, Ohio. Tickets range from $25-$50, and can be reserved online via or by calling 216.795.7077.

Simply Simone, musically directed by Ed Ridley, Jr., features Sheffia Randall Dooley*, Mary-Francis R. Miller, CorLesia Smith, and Mariama Whyte* all appearing as the music sensation and American icon Nina Simone at various stages of her life.

Tony F. Sias, President + CEO of Karamu House notes that “it is ironic that we open the production on July 18th which happens to be the 50th anniversary of the Hough Riots, one of many events that mark the civil rights movement throughout the United States. Nina Simone was a pioneer and inspirational leader who was courageous and steadfast in her stand for freedom and justice. Few marquee performers were as willing to use music as a vehicle for social commentary and change. Just as Simone was a major advocate for civil rights, Cleveland was a major artery of the civil rights movement."

One of the true divas of the 20th century and a genuine musical powerhouse, Nina Simone defined a generation and defied classification. Based on the turbulent life and rich artistic legacy of this American musical icon, the musical score compiled by Robert Neblett and David Grapes crosses genres from gospel to blues, to Broadway to rock and roll. This soulful musical journey features over 30 definitive Nina Simone hits such as “The Look of Love,” “My Baby Just Cares for Me,” “To Be Young, Gifted, and Black” and “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.”

The public demand for an encore of our original regional premiere that opened the 102nd season in September 2017 was so strong that Karamu is bringing it to the stage again. The original production was the last play produced in the Jelliffe Theatre before the extensive renovation of the historic venue. It is very fitting that it returns for a reprisal immediately after the grand re-opening of the stage.

“ leaves feeling uplifted and entirely satisfied.” - Buffalo News
“...impressive, intense and thrilling.” - Miami Herald
“...a magical performance.” – Cleveland Jewish News
“...Whyte handles her songs well, especially a spine-tingling version of “I Put a Spell on You.” - Cleveland Scene

Born on February 21, 1933, in Tryon, North Carolina, Eunice Waymon studied classical piano at the Juilliard School in New York City. Simone taught piano and worked as an accompanist for other performers while at Juilliard, but she eventually had to leave school after she ran out of funds. Moving to Philadelphia, her career took an unexpected turn when she was rejected from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. She later claimed the school denied her admittance because she was African-American. Turning away from classical music, she started playing American standards, jazz and blues in Atlantic City clubs in the 1950s. Before long, she started singing along with her music at the behest of a bar owner. She took the stage name Nina Simone— "Nina," derived from the Spanish word for “little girl,” which came from a nickname used by her then boyfriend; while "Simone" was inspired by French actress Simone Signoret. The performer eventually won over such fans as writers Langston Hughes, Lorraine Hansberry and James Baldwin.

Her first album in 1957 scored a Top 20 hit with the track “I Loves You Porgy.” In the ‘60s, Simone expanded her repertory in exemplary fashion while becoming identified as a leading voice of the Civil Rights Movement. She later lived abroad and experienced major mental health and financial issues, though enjoying a big career resurgence in the 1980s. In her final years, reports indicated that Simone was battling breast cancer. She died at the age of 70 on April 21, 2003, at her home in Carry-le-Rouet, France. Simone has inspired an array of performers, including Aretha Franklin, Laura Nyro, Joni Mitchell, Lauryn Hill and Meshell Ndegeocello. Two documentaries on the musician's life were released in 2015: The Amazing Nina Simone, directed by Jeff L. Lieberman, as well as the Netflix original What Happened, Miss Simone?, directed by Liz Garbus, which received an Oscar nomination for best documentary. Simone was also depicted by actress Zoe Saldana in the 2016 biopic Nina.
- excerpt from A&E Biography

“There's no other purpose, so far as I am concerned, for us except to reflect the times, the situations around us, and the things we're able to say through our art, the things that millions of people can't say. I think that's the function of an artist and, of course, those of us who are lucky, is to leave a legacy so that when we're dead, we also live on.”
- Nina Simone

Returning to the helm of the Karamu production is CAROLINE JACKSON SMITH, professor of theater and Africana studies at Oberlin College. Caroline directed the 2011 production of Ruined at Karamu. A recipient of the prestigious 1993 fellowship for early career directors from the Theater Communications Group/National Endowment for the Arts, Jackson Smith made her New York debut at the New York Public Theater in 1995, when she directed Adrienne Kennedy’s Funnyhouse of a Negro for the Signature Theater Company. A graduate of Yale University, Jackson Smith served as the executive director of the Yale Afro-American Cultural Center for eight years. Select credits in directing include The Gospel at Colonus, The Tapestry, The Resurrection of LadyLester, Darker Face of the Earth, and The Colored  Museum among many other. Also returning to lead the musical aspects for the production is ED RIDLEY, JR. whose Karamu productions include Passing Strange, Sister Act, The Wiz, Leap of Faith, It Ain’t Nothin But the Blues, The Color Purple, and Caroline or Change among many others. Other credits include: Ain’t Misbehavin, Blues in the Night, Five Guys Names Moe, Crowns, Mahalia, Cuttin’ Up, The Piano Lesson, and Love, Janis. Ed serves as music director for the Christian Fellowship Center Church and is also on the music faculty at the Eastern Campus of Cuyahoga Community College. His versatility and talent as a performer have allowed him to accompany such great artists as Aretha Franklin, Lauryn Hill, Walter Hawkins, Jon Hendricks, and Clark Terry. Co-creator ROBERT NEBLETT is a versatile theatre artist, scholar, and educator with over 20 years of professional experience. Other works for the stage include Dracula: The Case of the Silver Scream Roundabout, A Wrinkle in Time, The Thirty-Minute Lysistrata, and Alice in Wonderland. He has served as founding artistic director of (Mostly) Harmless Theatre in St. Louis, MO, and Inevitable Theatre Company in Dallas, TX, where he produced and directed the local and regional premieres of groundbreaking works such as The Laramie Project, Fuddy Meers, Four Modern Noh Plays, Jordan, and Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead. Co-creator DAVID GRAPES II is an award-winning director, actor and playwright, and is the creator/co-author (with Todd Olson) of four musical revues including My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra, Christmas My Way: A Sinatra Holiday Bash, Moon River: Johnny Mercer’s American Songbook, and I Left My Heart: A Salute to the Music of Tony Bennett. His film noir play Dracula: The Case of the Silver Scream (co-created with Robert Neblett) had its world premiere at
Tennessee Rep in 2003. During his 30-year career in the theatre, David has produced over 800 major productions that span nearly every genre of dramatic literature.

In 1915, Oberlin College graduates Russell and Rowena Jelliffe opened the Playhouse Settlement in a Cleveland area called The Roaring Third. The Jelliffes wanted to build an environment where people of different races, religions, and social and economic backgrounds could come together to seek and share common ventures through the arts, and Karamu House was established as a gathering place for racially-diverse members of the surrounding community at that time. As the community became predominantly African American, Karamu responded with programs geared to their needs and interests. Today, Karamu is evolving to be reborn as a beating heart for the entire community, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identification, or age, as it embarks on its second 100 years, retaining its historical identity as “a place of joyful gathering.” Core programs include a five-performance, socially-relevant and professional quality theatre season; arts education in drama/theatre, music and dance for all ages; and community programming, such as a lecture series, and spoken word and music performances, that invites participation and engagement, reflection, and a re-commitment to cultural values.


Karamu House’s Simply Simone: The Music of Nina Simone

Wednesday, July 18 through Sunday, August 5, 2018

Performances on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30 PM.
Performances on Sundays at 3:00 PM.
* Post-show conversations on 7/29 and 8/5

Jelliffe Theatre, 2355 East 89th Street, Cleveland, Ohio 44106

The ACTING COMPANY includes:
Sheffia Randall Dooley*
Mary-Francis R. Miller
CorLesia Smith
Mariama Whyte*
* denotes member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors in the US

The CREATIVE TEAM includes:

CREATORS Robert Neblett and David Grapes
DIRECTOR Caroline Jackson Smith
SCENIC & COSTUMES Inda Blatch Geib
LIGHTING DESIGN Colleen Albrecht
PRODUCTION ASST. Johnathon L. Jackson

Child prodigy. Jazz superstar. Civil rights activist. Political exile. Nina Simone was all of these things, and more. One of the true divas of the 20th century and a genuine musical powerhouse, she defined a generation and defied classification. Based on the turbulent life and rich artistic legacy of this American musical icon, the score crossesgenres from gospel to blues, to Broadway to rock and roll. This R&B musical journey features definitive Nina Simone hits such as “The Look of Love,” “My Baby Just Cares for Me,” “To Be Young, Gifted, and Black” and “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.”

The play runs approx. 2 hours, including one 15-minute intermission.

Simply Simone will be performed in Karamu’s newly renovated, historic Jelliffe Theatre located at 2355 East 89th Street, Cleveland, Ohio. Tickets range in price from $25 –$50. Groups of 20+ save more on single ticket prices. To order please call 216-795-7077 or visit


CSA Director Insight - Director: Jacqi Loewy (Anything Goes at Lorain Community Music Theater)

posted Jul 14, 2018, 4:33 PM by kevin kelly

Lorain Community Music Theater
Community Theatre

CSA Director Insight: Jacqi Loewy

Why did you choose, or how did you come to direct this show? I met the producers when they came to see my production of Jekyll and Hyde at French Creek. They liked my work and I knew LCMT from the great production of Into the Woods I had seen so I think it was a little bit of a mutual admiration society. The common denominators were Music Director Anthony Trifiletti and Stage Manager Julie Billinghurst and I really love working with them.

Why does the theatre scene need this production and/or another production of this show? Because we all need some good clean laughs these days! Enough said??

Can you share some memorable moments from the rehearsal period? We are a little short of men in this cast so watching the teenage girls grow into their "male" roles was great.  Our Sir Evelyn kept calling Plum Blossom Plum Bottom ... that's fun! Honestly, the cast had such great chemistry and was pretty drama-free (in the good sense) that nothing sticks out. It was all just easy and a good time.

What themes resonate with you about the show? The power of love and the zaniness of humanity.

What do you hope your production has accomplished? I know I am repeating myself, but anything that makes people laugh and hum is good for the soul.  I hope we have accomplished that.

Thank you so much Jacqi for your feedback!

Cleveland Stage Alliance

July 13 - July 22


7:30 pm Fridays
7:30 pm Saturdays
2 pm Sunday (7/22 only)

$16-$30 Reserved Seating

(440) 366-4040
Order Tickets Online

Lorain Performing Arts Center
2600 Ashland Avenue
Lorain, Ohio 44052

Dobama Presents Powerful American Premiere of Dror Keren's On The Grill

posted Jun 25, 2018, 5:41 PM by kevin kelly   [ updated Jun 25, 2018, 6:29 PM by Eric Fancher ]

On The Grill

Dobama Presents Powerful American Premiere of Dror Keren's On The Grill

Professional Equity House Theatre

by Kevin Kelly

In the playbill, Artistic Director Nathan Motta explains 'that he saw the original production of ON THE GRILL at the Cameri Theatre in Tel Aviv in 2016. After experiencing the play, he wanted our community in Cleveland to experience it as well. He found that his experiences as an American in Israel were encapsulated in the play. There were so many aspects of the show that seems so relevant to what is happening now in our country". It took three years, but the decision to produce the American Premiere, and share this story, turns out to be a brave and incredibly successful endeavor.

Everything is ready for the Israeli Independence Day party at the home of Rochale (Juliette Regnier*) and her husband Zvika (David Vegh*). The lawn has seen better days and so has the family. Their grown son Mordi (Andrew Gombas*) is home from Berlin for the holiday and he’s brought an unexpected guest, his girlfriend Johanna (Emily Viancourt+). Grandmother Gizela (Dorothy Silver) is frail and attended to by her newly hired Sri Lankan caretaker Raja (Arif Silverman*). As neighbors come to visit, such as Tirtza (Rocky Encalada+), whose son Gilad (Nicholas Chokan+) is on deployment, neighbor Avinoam (Michael Regnier), and an old flame Alona (Olivia Scicolone+), news broadcasts on the television keep everyone on edge. As smoke from the barbecue circles in the air, fighter jets circle in the sky. And as food is passed, drinks poured, and the good old songs were sung, conflicts are reignited that cannot be ignored.  

The arc of this play is sublime. It starts out like any other grill out. This one just like us, celebrating Independence Day. Issues that are slowly introduced into the story of these characters are not far removed from the high stakes that permeate our country at this time. Within in the first moments of the play, we are introduced to the words "immigrant" and "border". I know for myself, those words were triggers. The story continues as it slowly brings you in the conversation as an observer, but emotionally you are triggered by the issues they address about war, and division, and how the self-sacrifice of those who join the fight, affect everyone without much choice.

Everyone is this cast kicks ass.

Gombas turns in a remarkable performance. His arc is heartbreaking to watch on so many levels, and he delivers on every emotion. Entering the party, he is able to slowly unveil his damaged soul and physical well-being. We watch as different triggers begin to tear away his smile. Whether it be overhead jets, distance bombs, family tension or regrets, or prescribed equalizers, Gombas reacts viscerally and emotionally connects with all of us. This enables the audience to feel like they are moving closer to the stage as a quiet observer, and closer to an emotional electrical tower of damaged humanity. I am such a huge fan of this and all your work.

As the parents of Mordi, Vegh and Juliette Regnier are perfect. Together they traverse the grill out like season veterans of entertaining. We find in both of them the strength that lies within many couples who face reality with unrelenting positivity, and the will to live. That is how societies sustain their relevance. They do it with subtle strength. Vegh is the father we might all want. I personally could see some bowling in the future, along with a shot and a beer. He created a father that is so down to earth, able to believe without generous helpings of loud justification. And most of all, the devout love of family. Those qualities are honed and become so important to some incredible moments in the play. Ms. Regnier is a force to be both enjoyed and reckoned with. What a powerful pitch-perfect performance. She is the protector of intention and family. She creates a neighbor and mother you want to visit by ensuring a welcome and safe place. In one of the strongest moments of the play, she delivers a speech that is an anthem of a father's love, which literally shifts the energy of the evening to demand that you are emotionally alert. Oh my, it is powerful and truthful. My tear ducts also became alert. I wished my father was alive so I could hug him. We children do have problems, and sometimes we forget our parents are affected just as much as we are. Sometimes they just have to wait, until someone brings us into focus. Ms. Regnier, you are magic.

As the story unfolds, we have two love interests that bring their own superior touch to their roles. Viancourt, as the beautiful German girlfriend, is strongly effective throughout. The play requires a quieter presence, but, not an unimportant one. She is associated with a country of damaged repute, she is the new girlfriend coming to meet the family for the first time, she ends up meeting the ex, and she ends up patiently holding fast by her boyfriends' side without fear, in a less than normal situation. This is done with a polished performance. Quiet strength and resolve are beautiful characteristics, and in this case, strongly executed. Scicolone comes into the scene with an outgoing air. She handles the new of meeting the new girlfriend with relished restraint and does a fantastic job of maneuvering among some conflicting emotions. I really enjoyed how she managed to find that line of reacting to a family that once was, still connected, but also riding that awkward ex-thing. Her face was a creative palate of very good character intention. Both ladies held their cards close to their hearts while eyeing the pot in the middle of the table, or should I say, backyard.

Michael Regnier offered much to the evening's pace and enjoyment. He is the neighbor that is essential to every occasion. Adding mirth when necessary, and also, asking the questions that either lead a conversation or cause others to move on quickly. His gift to the evening was the connection to those around him with his adept character choices that seemed to show he exists in real life, not just an armchair character for mechanical artistic reasons. Encalada and Chokan give this play an aching reality, heartwarming reunion, and a conclusion that seems it will never have a defined ending. Encalada gives us a worried and scared mother having to deal with one of the worst realities of war. Having your son or daughter choose to defend your country is a noble act, but to be a mother or father watch your child leave to an uncertain fate is unbearable for some. She gives Tirtza a groundedness that is so effective. We can feel how awaiting word on a loved one becomes a parallel universe that your conscious body and mind are forced to live in. She nails it. Chokan is charming as hell as he enters the fray. Emotions run high, and for some wonderful moments, what surrounds or fly over the gathering is lost in happiness. His interactions with everyone is a delight, whether it being over loved by mama, making other people feel better, or reconnecting with old friends. He also can deliver reality with a professional precision. Allowing us to see the character and the important realities that are at stake. Great stuff.

Silver gives Gizela the honor and pride she deserves by surviving. From the Holocaust to Israel. Her monologues that open and close the show, are gentle stories and thoughts that open up the envelope of this play, and then gently close the envelope at the end. Done with such care. Her interactions with the family are centering, and through adept acting choices, have the power to bring the heat down to at least a simmer. She situation allows us to recognize families taking care of their elderly parents. Silver is divine. Silverman gives Raja a charm and wit that helps keep things lighter. His devotion to Gizela is palatable, and when he puts down his foot about what is good or not to keep her healthy, we see the undercarriage of his protective. will. He is fun, caring, and also, he gets a chance to remind everyone that skin tone doesn't dictate "approximately" where you live. When you think of it, some people care more about what valley their wine comes from, then what country an individual comes from.

There are so many themes that permeate this piece. I can tell you that the trigger words "border", "immigrant", and the discussion of military conflicts, are still with me. What we saw, what we felt, and what we were left with, are the result of two mega influences. Playwright Keren has written and delivered an emotional punch to our realities. A geographical olive branch to our own pain. Letting us know that we are not alone. While we bring to the surface these painful realities through theatre, those words can inspire change and empowerment. Thank you for sharing this story. It's a damn good play.

Then we come to Director Leighann Delorenzo. This production guided by her hand and vision, that includes collaboration with the technical artists, the producing elements, the numerous translations to make the words work in English, and finally, the transference to the actors. And with that process and collaboration produces a stunning result. The pace is perfect. The characters developed to be alive and relatable. With your direction, you have proved that American audiences will be able to understand, be triggered by, and find compassion and passion in this work. BRAVO!

Scenic Designer Laura Carlson Tarantowski showed up again with her professional touch. Lighting Designer Marcus Dana served up great looks, and car lights that actually looked like the car turned around. Sound Designer Jeremy Dobbins did an exemplary job. The overhead jets and distant bombings were far too real. Costume Designer Inda Blatch-Geib brought her A game, and the looks were all on point. Technical Director Kirsten Nicole brought all the elements together with professionalism. Stage Manager Jenna A Fink called a great show. 

Cleveland Stage Alliance

*Member of Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
+Equity Membership Candidate
Ticket Information
and Promotional Materials

Through July 8


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

Run time: 90m (no intermission)
Content Advisory: Adult Themes, Adult Language

$29-$32 Reserved Seating

(216) 932-3396
Order Tickets Online

Dobama Theatre
2340 Lee Road
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118

50 Shades of Porthouse Theatre Presents a Fantabulous Production of Anything Goes

posted Jun 20, 2018, 9:01 PM by kevin kelly   [ updated Jun 22, 2018, 5:06 AM by Eric Fancher ]

Anything Goes

50 Shades of Porthouse Theatre Presents a Fantabulous Production of Anything Goes

Professional Equity House Theatre

Review by: Kevin Kelly

First off, let me explain that title. I was being a little cheeky. Porthouse Theatre is now celebrating its 50th season! What an incredible journey and accomplishment. You can read all about it in the program because I'm not going to let you not see this show. If you love the classic fun-loving American musical that you can take your grandparents, family, and every person that deserves a fun evening of joy, this production is it!

All I can tell you is that this production is so much fun, the singing is beautiful and hot, the dancing is some of the best I have ever seen at Porthouse, and it just explodes with entertainment. Director/Producing Artistic Director Terri J. Kent*^ just threw one of the best theatrical parties I have been to in a long time. By the end of this production, I went home and threw away by Prozac, and starting tap dancing on my porch.

Anything Goes is set aboard the ocean liner S. S. American, where nightclub singer/evangelist Reno Sweeney (magical Sandra Emerick*) is en route from New York to England. Her pal Billy Crocker (charming Matthew Gittins) has stowed away to be near his love, Hope Harcourt (radiant Liz Woodard), but the problem is Hope is engaged to the wealthy Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (hilarious Eric van Baars*). Joining this love triangle on board the luxury liner are Public Enemy #13, Moonface Martin ( terrific Christopher Seiler*) and his sidekick-in-crime Erma (sassy Kelli-Ann Paterwic). With the help of some elaborate disguises, tap-dancing sailors and good old-fashioned blackmail, Reno and Martin join forces to help Billy in his quest to win Hope’s heart. Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter, Original book by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse, Revised by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, New book by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman,

It is very possible I might run out of compliments for this production. I loved everything. If the ship had a steam engine it would be the imitable Emerick. Her broad talents are on full display. Her character work, her voice, her dance, her comedic timing, her scene chewing, was outstanding, and so much fun to watch. Her wardrobe was beautiful, as she turned out to be "the lady in red", with incredible design work by Costume Designer Sarah Russell. Her battling cohort van Baars, was cracking me up the whole time. His comedic prowess is a master class of funny. So enjoyable to watch, and his voice is great as well. When Emerick and van Baars go after each other in the song "Gypsy in Me", Porthouse turns into the Roman Colosseum, as we watch two titanic comedic Gladiators go after each other like there is one chicken leg on the floor, and they both haven't eaten in a month. MASTERFULL! Woodward as Hope was just perfect. She is radiant on stage, her voice is like a stick of butter melting over your heart. That's probably not healthy, but you get the idea. Adept acting, and holds her own in the chaos surrounding her. As her suitor, Gittins bring his Stark Sands quality to Billy. Handsome, debonair, and a velvet voice to boot. He handles the duties of being one of the main characters in this show with professional finesse. There is a nice connection between Gittins and the appealing Woodard.

Jess Tanner* is a hoot as Evangeline Harcourt. (As I was typing Evangeline, "Ms. Vangee" went through my head). What a delight aristocratically fussing about the stage, with the cutest dog in the world, and not getting upstaged. Great stuff and schtick. Rohn Thomas* was cracking me up as Elisha Whitney, delivering a wonderful character actor tour de force. And the crazy couple of Moonface and Erma played to the hilt by Seiler and Paterwic. Here is a couple that could take that show on the road. Seiler is so much fun as a conniving gangster and can crank out of tune as well with just the right entertaining craziness. Paterwic, is a scream. She reminded me of a young Bernadette Peters. Her stage presence is fantabulous, as is her character. She comes across as an audience pleaser and a triple threat of joy.

The rest of the cast is so full of life and energy that I find it hard to believe their performance wouldn't transport you to a better place. One highlight is the Angels, Purity, Chasity, Charity, Cheeky, and Virtue, Felicity Jemo, Abby Morris, Katelyn Cassidy, Luna Cho, and Falyn Mapel. Talk about fierce. When they line up, it looked like they would take on the course of America Ninja Warriors. Which comes to the whole dancing company. Just incredible dancing and execution. I didn't see one moment where anyone was out of step, or character, or breath. I mean, I got winded walking up the ramp to buy an ice cream bar. 

Terri Kent you have outdone yourself. What a wonderful show to kick off the 50th season. So much love and energy filled the theatre and that is a direct compliment to you for inspiring that energy under your vision. And how gracious and educational to bring on Tekla Gaughan as Assistant Director. MaryAnn Black*, your work in this show is a prime example of you taking it to another level. Under your guidance, these kids knocked in out the theatre and landed it in Blossom. I haven't seen dancing like that anywhere in a long time. Your tap numbers were incredible, and then when the score skipped to a jazz feel, the choreography blended in and out seamlessly. Your staging and choreography was magic. AS WERE YOUR DANCERS! Musical Director Jennifer Koreck brought it. The cast sounded wonderful, and the band kicked some major nautical butt. THAT TRUMPET PLAYER! #davebanksisatrumpetstud. Lighting Design totally on point. Special shout out to the spot operators who were great. Costume Designer Sarah Russell killed it. Loved all the looks. You created a sparkling era perfect costume parade. And the lifesaver on the doggie, thank you. Scenic Designer Rob Wolin+ brought a wonderful, easy to work set to the proceedings. Aided the pace of the show well, and showed off the good when need be. Technical Director Steve Pauna brought all the elements together nicely. Sound Designer Tyler Forbes did a pitch-perfect job. Stage Manager Kelly Cosgrove* called a great show.

I had so much fun, that if I wasn't short on cash, my entire body would have been covered in those blinky things.

Go take your family out to see this show, and tell me how you like it.

Cleveland Stage Alliance

*Members of Actors Equity Association.
^Member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, a national theatrical labor union.
+represented by United Scenic Artist Local of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.
Ticket Information
and Promotional Materials

Thru June 30


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

Memphis is Serving Up Hot Talent at Cain Park

posted Jun 20, 2018, 6:56 PM by kevin kelly   [ updated Jun 22, 2018, 4:53 AM by Eric Fancher ]

Memphis is Serving Up Hot Talent at Cain Park

Professional Equity House Theatre

Review by: Kevin Kelly

Currently on stage at Cain Park, is the rock-soul infused production of Memphis. A musical by David Bryan (music and lyrics) and Joe DiPietro (lyrics and book). It is loosely based on Memphis disc jockey Dewey Phillips, one of the first white DJs to play black music in the 1950s, and has the distinct notoriety to be the first DJ to play Elvis on the air. This production is led by vivacious Director/Theatre Artistic Director Joanna May Cullinan, who certainly knows how to put together a fabulous cast. The cast list is filled with a lot of *'s and ^'s, and Christopher Richards* is listed as the Fight Choreographer, which will sell tickets on its own.

Memphis is set in the places where rock and roll was born in the 1950s: the seedy nightclubs, radio stations and recording studios of the musically-rich Tennessee city. It tells the fictional story of DJ Huey Calhoun (Douglas F. Bailey II*), a good ole' local boy with a passion for R&B music and Felicia Farrell (Nicole Sumlin*), an up-and-coming black singer that he meets one fateful night on Beale Street. Despite the objections of their loved ones (Huey's close-minded Mama (Cynthia O'Connell^) and Felicia's cautious club-owning brother Delray (riveting Anthony Savage-Williams^), they embark on a dangerous affair. As their careers rise, the relationship is challenged by personal ambition and the pressures of an outside world unable to accept their love.

So let me tell you. In the role of Felicia, Sumlin seems to be experiencing a self-actualization of life, love and the pursuit of equality. I have never heard her sing like this before. It is so powerful, I couldn't find my socks after the show. It is like she found the soul of the music, the soul of the book, and as it still is, the soul of being a black woman in America that deserves to be heard. All three converge into one of the most amazing presentations I have seen in a long time. Each time she enters the stage, her presence fills the theatre. She is a giving actress and perfectly shares the stage and emotional journey with those around her. The voice! Strong, honest, musical, and empowering. I don't know if you can tell, but I really liked it. Bravo.

Starting and riding this wave until the very end is Bailey, as Huey Calhoun. He crafts a very unique character that is quite deceptive. On the outside, still living with mama, he seems kind of like a country bumpkin. But as the story unravels, Bailey slowly shows the strength underneath his veneer in a beautifully crafted character. The bonus to his down-home charm is that he has a big city voice, and uses it to whip up the crowd with his clarion vocals and spectacular range, both emotionally and literally. He is well balanced with Sumlin. Fire and Ice moving together in a love story that melds together in truth.

One fabulous surprise is the performance of Williams as the protective older brother Delray. What a terrific character. He struts into the scene like Frank Sinatra coming on stage, turning to the audience, and saying "Oh, by the way. I own Las Vegas". His vocals were hot, and the relationship he establishes with Sumlin is tight and very believable. Great work. O'Connell is really solid as Mama. A great source of some comedic overbearing, and also, a surprise where she knocks Mama Rose off the stage and presents her own version of life. Good Stuff. Richards is just the right kind of a pain in the ass. He needs a nightly Senokot martini and the world will be fine. But he ages well on stage and delivers the goods at just the right time to stir up the story. Solid work.

The rest of the cast is fierce and certainly sends some rock and roll fervor into the crowd. They are all in and attack all of their dance numbers and vocals with unbridled energy. Here is the cast serving us LLLLLIIIIIFFFFFEEEEE!

Elijah Dawson^
Michael Swain-Smith^
Anna Barrett^
Isaiah Blue^
Kyle Burnett^
Phillip Michael Carroll*
Mario Clopton-Zymler
DeLee Cooper^
Frank Ivancic^
Imani Jackson
Johnathon Jackson
Ian H. Lawrence^
Kate Leigh Michalski^
Dennis Runkle
CorLesia Smith^
William Tipton^
Brooke Turner^
David Turner
Montria Walker^
Darian Wilson^

There are some considerations. One is the speech pattern of Calhoun. There were moments that were dangerously close to a Forest Gump feel. I was praying that there wasn't a character called Jenny in the cast. Also, in places, the dancing was not as sharp as it should have been. People looked unsure at times. Just remember your face can get you through anything. The final end of the show seems very hard to time with the final guitar strums with the cast. It seemed a bit awkward.

Director Cullinan has put together a great show. The cast is on point, and so is the pace. She has definitely found the spirit of the show and based on the heads bopping along, and the silence when shit gets real, she nailed it. Music Director Jordan Cooper assembled a kick-ass band, and deftly assimulated the cast into vocal readiness. Choreographer Leilani Barrett provided era correct movement enhanced the proceedings. Costume Designer Tesia Dugan Benson was on her A-game once again. The outfits were gorgeous, hilarious (Calhoun), and the dresses on Sumlin would sell out on QVC in an hour. WHEW! Set/Projection Designer T. Paul Lowry knocked it out of the "park", (see what I did there). Great use of location, and film to enhance the evening storytelling. Lighting Designer Carlton Guc did a great job of knowing when and where to hit the subtle moments, and when to let it loose on the highlights. Great atmosphere work. Stage Manager extraordinaire Tom Humes* called a great show.

Check out the show! Sumlin alone takes you to church and back again.

*Member Actors' Equity Association
^Equity Membership Candidate

Cleveland Stage Alliance
Ticket Information
and Promotional Materials

Thru July 1

7 pm Thursdays
7 pm Fridays
7 pm Saturdays
2 pm Sundays

$30-$32 Reserved Seating

(216) 371-3000

Alma Theatre at Cain Park
14591 Superior Road
Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118

Fine Arts Association presents a vocally rich production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame

posted Jun 18, 2018, 5:49 PM by kevin kelly   [ updated Jun 22, 2018, 5:07 AM by Eric Fancher ]

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Fine Arts Association Presents a Vocally Rich Production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Community Theatre

Review by: Kevin Kelly

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is quite a challenging piece of theatre to produced. I was thrilled to see that the Fine Arts Association was tackling this musical, which within itself is a message of the strength of the theatre currently under the Artistic Direction of David Malinowski. Sort of like, yeah, ring that bell loud Quasi, we're here, stronger than ever.

The musical is inspired from the 1831 Victor Hugo novel. In 1996 Disney brought the story to the screen in a musical. That musical had music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, and an adapted book by James Lapine. The stage musical version opened in 1999, in Berlin, Germany, and became one of Berlin's longest-running musicals. The musical had its successful US premiere at La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego from October 28 through December 14, 2014. The production soon moved to the Papermill Playhouse from March 4 through April 5, 2015. But it never did make it to Broadway. It wouldn't surprise me if down the line another version would be created. Maybe one with a happier ending. I mean, it's only a matter of time until Disney buys up every theatre in Time Square. 

The story follows Quasimodo (Ryan Peterson), a deformed man taken in by Arch Deacon Dom Claude Frollo (David Malinowski) as an infant, due to both of his parents, younger brother Jehan Frollo (Austin Stois) and Florika (Sarah Gordon), have died from illness. Due to his haggard appearance, Quasimodo was forced to remain inside the Notre Dame cathedral for his entire life. However, one night Gypsy King Clopin Trouillefou (Kyle Lorek) throws a festival. On a secret mission, Frollo and his new Captain of the Cathedral Guard Phoebus De Martin (JJ Luster) show up, as well as Quasimodo, who finds solace with the gypsy outcasts. When a girl named Esmeralda (Haley Gagnon) dances, hearts ignite and set a course for destruction. She becomes the target of Frollo's lust and genocidal mission to eliminate all Romani Gypsy people in France, the love interest of De Martin, and the love interest of Quasimodo. 

Awaiting the opening of the show, the preset on stage is breathtaking. The stain glass windows are a beautiful touch. The Opening company vocals are stunning. The transition of the choir into their stalls was well staged, and quite a surprise, and beautifully lit. This sets the stage for some fierce vocal performances.

Peterson as Quasimodo does a wonderful job. He has brought such an underlying tenderness to the role. His velvet powerful voice is able to highlight the strength and weakness of his character. Whether it is yearning to be out there free, or laying bare his torment, that even though disfigured, it doesn't change his human needs are emotions. You care about this character so much, that even when he fights back to a very bitter end, you feel that somehow he has won in the long run. Malinowski as Frollo brings a stoic and harsh clarity to his role. There is no smile here to emulate any true compassion, just lust. He creates a dark character that embodies spiritual ideology, but slowly reveals the darkness of his own tortured soul. Vocally making bass notes seem like threats to your soul. Beautiful work. Luster is terrific. His stage and character presence is solid and commanding. And his voice is a truly magical legit baritone tenor vocal party. I really liked the performance, executed with confidence and vulnerability as well. And he has a head voice, so does Peterson, which everyone knows I don't have. But I digress.

And the focus of their characters love and affection is Esmerelda, beautifully played by Gagnon. This is a beautifully thought-out performance. From her entrance, she radiates her natural beauty and sensual presence. Though simplistic clear choices she earns the stage attention she is getting with a very honest interpretation of her role. Then she sings, and it is captivating. She then enables us to see her fiery side without any gaff in intention. It is pure and confident. Her acting chops allow her to make intrinsic choices that guide her through love, hurt, pain, sacrifice, and humanity. Simply a big fucking BRAVO! Lorek as the Gypsy King is another standout. He has immense stage presence and energy. It is such a natural gift. He is a triple threat of pure entertainment.

All of the supporting roles are executed well. Energetic Austin Stois as Jehan Frollo. Sarah Gordon as Florika, Thomas F. Majercik Sr. as Father Dupin, and really putting his head to use as St. Aphrodisius. Corbyn Bentley as Frederic Charlus, Bradley Allen as King Louis XL, Angela Savochka as the Official, and the fantabulous (This woman was delivering FACE and ENERGY everytime she hit the stage!) Emily Stack as Madame. Add in the company congregation of Sammie Jo Adkins, Molly Lorek, Amanda Ostroske, Vanessa Pintabona, and Michelle Sohm. Also add in the incredible vocal wall of sound from the on-stage choir of Betty Anderson, Susan Becker, James Berner, Jonathan Gordon, Carol Hollaman, Patrick Lanstrum, Alice Nelson, Karin Ostroske, Nathan Park, Gabrielle Perusek, Jim Ray, Michael Richmond, Colleen Royer, and Mery Tomsick.

The Production Team for this production:
Lisa-Marie French - Director and Choreographer
David A. Thomas - Music Director
Greg Pribulsky - Scenic Designer
Michael Roesch - Technical Director
Bradley Allen - Lighting Designer
Tom Linsenmeier - Sound Designer
Susan Pestello - Costume Designer
Jillian Negin - Production Stage Manager
Extraordinary Sound Board Operator - Jenna Rickard

French has put together a wonderful cast and really proficient lead characters. The pace of the show was good, as was the staging of the show. This is a big monster to put up on its feet. And the choreography matched the abilities of the cast well. On the whole, the audience will enjoy, as I did. But I do have some considerations that I feel would have taken this production levels higher. The biggest one is that the stakes of the show are not high enough, especially in the group scenes. People don't seem to know what to do if they aren't given something specific to do. When Esmeralda was on fire, stage right was dead. I wanted to scream "She's on Fire!" to get a reaction. These are also the quietest gypsies I have seen. It should feel like and sound like a toga party every time they are having fun on stage or pissed off.  Overall, so many faces were not connecting with the scene work. Personally, I didn't care for the slow-motion fights, because it exposed everything that didnt work, and slowed the pace of the show. Everyone in any group scene needs to be personally invested. I thought the sign language was a nice touch, not overdone, but so subtle. It was very touching. The gargoyles were on point. Loved the interaction.

Thomas delivers strong musicianship. (I do like fuller sustained scene change music). But the score was handled well with adept musicians and keen conducting. Pribulsky knocked it out of the park with his design, major props to you sir. The stained glass was giving me life. Technical Director Roesch did remarkable work bring the design to life. Allen brought some deft lighting choices and design to the lighting. The Sound Design was very good, everyone was crystal clear, and the bell effects were on point. Pestello did an amazing job of costuming the cast. Beautiful period work. Production Stage Manager Negin called a great show. The Sound Operator Rickard was phenomenal.

Random notes in my notebook:

The Company Sopranos need to run for Congress.
I will get a major chill if I ever hear the phrase "Yes, you do." again.
The choir reminds us that religion is always watching.
No matter how damaged we look, we still have something to give.

The musical is a darker, more gothic adaptation of the film. But it is well worth the trip to see it. Although, the young ones won't like the outcome, so don't bring kids expecting the Disney happy version. But, there is wonderful work going on here.  Best wishes for the rest of the run.

Cleveland Stage Alliance
Ticket Information
and Promotional Materials

June 8 - June 24


7:30 pm Fridays
7:30 pm Saturdays
2 pm Sundays (Sign-interpreted performance 6/24)

$15-$25 Reserved Seating

(440) 951-7500

Fine Arts Association
38660 Mentor Ave.
Willoughby OH 44094

Blank Canvas Theatre's Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Offers Up a Foot-Long of Rocking Entertainment

posted Jun 18, 2018, 12:34 PM by kevin kelly   [ updated Jun 22, 2018, 5:07 AM by Eric Fancher ]

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Blank Canvas Theatre's Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Offers Up a Foot-Long of Rocking Entertainment

Professional Theatre

Review by: Kevin Kelly

We need to talk about Devon.

No, this is not the follow-up film to 2011's film We need to talk about Kevin. We need to talk about the incredible performance of Devon Turchin, who is now inhabiting the title character in Hedwig and the Angry Inch at Blank Canvas Theatre.

I have known Devon since he was a wee little fellow, who was accomplished on stage even as a youngster, But over the last few years, i have seen him grow and mature in performances in SHOWBOAT, where his legit tenor voice asscended to new heights, HAIR, where his british swag and transencdent voice powerfully infiltrated the hearts of the audience, and then the MC in Caberet where he blew the fucking roof off of Blank Canvas Theatre with a fully actualized sassy and haunting character that led to one of his greatest performances ever. And now we come to the musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch

This musical is not for an actor who is faint at heart. It is literally a concert version of Hedwig's life story, which was conceived by Jonathan Cameron Mitchell (who was the original Hedwig and wrote the Book) and Stephen Trask (Music and Lyrics). The tale of how a self-described “slip of a girlyboy” from communist East Berlin, Hanschel, becomes the “internationally ignored song stylist” known as Hedwig, and the angry inch refers to a botched sex change operation. Hedwig directly tells the audience of her past tribulations and heartbreak in the form of an extended monologue paired with rock songs. With a little help from her band and her backup singer Yitzhak, Hedwig examines her quest for her other half, for love, and ultimately for her identity. This production is hilarious, harrowing, and essentially uplifting for anyone who’s ever felt different.

Turchin completely kills this performance. An amazing bouquet of confidence, swag, musicality, introspection, and shredding vocals. Not to be missed, and definitely worth showing up and being put on the waiting list. Claire Twigg as the butch sidekick Yitzhak, handles her duties as well. Clear vocals, enough deadpan sass to insult of a sailor, and beautifully fit into the piece. 

The band is to die for, or at the very least, be hired for your next rock wedding.
Noah Hrbek (Jacek /Guitar)
Richard Kline (Schlatko /Drums)
Zach Palumbo (Jaime /Bass)
Bradley Wyner (Skszp /Keyboard)

Under the musical leadership of Wyner, this band tears up this score like a hoard of hyenas at a pulled pork festival. Wow.

And to the transcendent Director Alison Garrigan. This woman is a Cleveland Icon, and she proves every measure of her notoriety with this show. Beautifully staged and directed. AND she did the costume design which was pure sexually blended bliss. I want to put her in my pouch as my favorite Joey, and bounce all over the fucking theatre.

Founder and Artistic Director Patrick Ciamacco has provided a fabulously produced show. His technical crew totally on point. Crisp Stage Management by Whitney Miller. Visual Masterpiece of Lighting Designer Jeff Lockshine. Projection Design on point from Ciamacco. The creative Animation and Drawings were produced by Noah Hrbek, proving once again he has one of the most creative sets of hands in Cleveland, just ask, oh, nevermind. Ciamacco Sound Design was perfect, with on-point operation helmed by Anthony Newman. All of the technical aspects overseen by Ciamacco. Continued Excellence.

There is one weekend left, CALL ASAP TO GET TICKETS!!!!!

Check out their waiting list policy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Cleveland Stage Alliance.
Ticket Information
and Promotional Materials

Through June 23


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

$18 General Admission

(440) 941-0458
Order Tickets Online

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

An Impassioned Call for Empowerment, Beck Center's Bent Delves Deeply Into Awareness

posted Jun 8, 2018, 9:33 PM by kevin kelly   [ updated Jun 11, 2018, 5:49 AM by Eric Fancher ]


An Impassioned Call for Empowerment, Beck Center's Bent Delves Deeply Into Awareness

Professional Theatre

I’d like to buy a cake.
I’d like to get married.
I’d like to go out tonight to a dance club.
I’d like to hold hands with the person I love.
I’d like to go to church without shame.
I’d like to serve my country.
I’d like to keep my job.
I’d like to not be put to death because of who I am.
I’d like to vote.
I’d like not to be bullied.

These seem like reasonable requests. They are, but if you are queer, kiss this shit goodbye. At least, for now. We have a lot of work to do.
It is very clear to any reasonable human being that our current administration came into power by tapping into the racism, hatred, and prejudice that exists in this country. One thing it has done is WOKE the people up to realize you can never sit in silence, you need to voice your opinion and VOTE. #wokevote

Martin Sherman decided to WOKE some people up in 1979 with his play Bent. The Pink Triangle features prominently, as the play revolves around the persecution of gays in Nazi Germany and the horror of the concentration camps. It takes place during and after the Night of the Long Knives, in which Hitler came to power by eliminating any political or social leader on his way to obtaining supreme power. Under Hitler's leadership and racially motivated ideology, the Nazi regime was responsible for the genocide of at least 5.5 million Jews and millions of other victims whom he and his followers deemed socially undesirable. LGBT individuals were among the millions. In taking one slice of gay humanity and tracing the path of his character Max, we are left with an incredibly dark tale and a lesson in inhumanity.

Max (Geoff Knox*), a promiscuous gay man in 1930s Berlin, is at odds with his wealthy family because of his homosexuality. One evening, much to the resentment of his boyfriend Rudy (Antonio DeJesus), he brings home a handsome man named Wolf (Nate Homolka), which he comically remembers after his fling pops in the living room to say “Good Morning”. (Yes, there is humor in this tale. There has to be, or you would be set up with a Vodka IV at intermission for Act Two. After Act Two though, you might want to bring in a flask). Unfortunately, it is the night that Hitler orders the assassination of the upper echelon to consolidate his power. SS men break into Max and Rudy's apartment and kill Wolf, and the two have to flee Berlin, and do so, with the assistance of a club owner, and drag performer Greta (Brian Altman).

Max's uncle Freddie (David Burgher), who is also gay, but lives a more discreet life with rent boys to satisfy his desires, has organized new papers for Max to flee to France where homosexuality is legal, but Max refuses to leave his naïve boyfriend behind. As a result, Max and Rudy are found and arrested by the Gestapo and put on a train headed for the Dachau concentration camp.

On the train, Max refuses to recognize Rudy. So, for self-preservation, and in a brutal request for survival, he is forced to beat Rudy to death. Max lies to the guards, telling them that he is a Jew rather than a homosexual because he believes his chances for survival in the camp will be better if he is not assigned the pink triangle.
In the camp, Max makes friends with Horst (Andrew Gorell*). Horst takes a liking to Max, and they end up together on rock detail. As they talk and painfully maneuver through the punishing routine, an incredible love story comes to fruition. They fall in love and become lovers through their imagination and through their words. Both of them are put to extreme measures, and their outcome will stay with you for a long time. In the end, it is facing life with bravery and purpose, no matter what the cost.

This play is led and owned by the two leads actors. Knox is a brilliant actor. We watch him navigate a life that is decadent, and slowly watch as layers are ripped off his personae to reveal the truth, however, ugly that may be, but also, reveal the truth of humanity that exists within us if we can allow ourselves to be hurt enough to feel it. When he eventually reveals what the guards made him do to prove he was straight, I felt stunned and helpless at that moment. Gorell is off the fucking chain masterful. To watch him come into this play, and slowly develop a moral and loving center amidst the horror of what is going on is outstanding. Such simplistic acting choices that ring so loud it feels like an emotional bass speaker is hitting your soul. Both of these gentlemen are magic together. And when they “make love”, it is one of the purest celebratory and heartbreaking moments that make you want to go out and hug everyone you love for a month or never let them go. It is with these two individuals and a couple of rock piles, that life within this play is defined with visceral clarity. I want to wear them both as clip-on earrings and go out and fight for the lives of all who are tramped on, by constructively pushing back against all who exist by igniting and feeding off fear.

Brian Altman as Greta, serves up some major attitude and fabulous scene work, as he helps Max and Rudy escape. Very strong and focused scene work. And who doesn’t want to sing a song on a flowered swing. David Burgher is dead on with Uncle Freddy. Perfectly playing the closeted, omg I’m in public, but I still have to cruise, helpful relative, that is actually risking his life to help. Burgher also shows up later as the Captain at the end of the play, and I assure you, he is a total dick, or I should say, his character. Antonio DeJesus as Rudy carries with him the innocence of life should be like under a normal world. Never really getting how you can trust no one. His character’s naivety is nicely portrayed. When Rudy dies, we care, and that is a mission accomplished. Homolka gives Wolf, the one-nighter, an entertaining sexual bravado that fits nicely into character. He also transforms into an ice-cold Officer as well. I would be happy to punch that character. Luke Ehlert is the perfect Guard to set down rules for the stone yard. I felt like any moment he could belt out “Tomorrow belongs to me”, and then shoot someone. Cold hearted delivery on point. 

There are some observations. The panels did come across a bit clumsy in the set changes, at least, the sound of them switching positions took you out of the moment a bit. Rudy’s delivery in the first scene tended to be too fast to understand and trailed off at the end of sentences. Fade away jumpers are fun, but we have to hear them. For some reason, the emotional punch of the evening didn’t really kick in until the two lead characters were engaging with each other, with the exception of Altman’s Greta scene. The stakes could have been on a higher burner during Act One. However, the culmination of the journey speaks for itself.

Director Matthew Wright has assembled a beautiful cast for this show. The power of the piece and the incredibly important message that emanates from the production is clear and distinct. The stone scene is masterful storytelling, shaped beautifully. His Director’s Note is well worth reading. I am sure after reading it, you will realize how personal a story is being presented, and a signal to be WOKE. Stage Manager Hayley Baran called a great show. Aaron Benson created an interesting set, with panels that took on multiple locations through projections. Also, the panels were mobile enough to help discern locations as well. As Technical Director, he brought all the elements together nicely. Costume Designer Tesia Benson was fiercely on point. Lighting Designer Benjamin Gantose kept the atmosphere emotionally cloudy and let the projections work nicely within his design. Sound Designer Angie Hayes was certainly on point. Steve Shack was impressive with his projections, aiding the storyline, and creating a train effect that was chilling.

This show is important. If you haven’t seen Bent before, it is just as important today, as it was in 1979. In 2009 - Bent was presented in Amarillo TX by AVENUE 10, causing the theatre to be targeted by an anti-homosexual Christian group resulting in the theatre being shut down and forced to find another venue for the show. 1934 is still relevant. 2009 is still relevant. How many stories exist that we haven’t heard. It takes balls to Direct this show and aims for human consciousness to become aware that this persecution is still happening. We must pay attention.

Director Matthew Wright has raised the flag, not at half mast, but all the fucking way up the pole.

See the show. See the truth. See the message. See the change that you can empower.

We're here, We're Queer, Get used to it!

Cleveland Stage Alliance

*Actor appears courtesy of the Actor’s Equity Association (AEA)
Ticket Information
and Promotional Materials

Through July 1

8pm Fridays
8pm Saturdays
3pm Sundays

$12-$31 Reserved Seating

(216) 521-2540

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

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