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Dobama's World Premiere Musical 33 1/3, A Beautiful Story of Finding Our Own Truth

Dobama Theatre
Professional Equity House Theatre

Review by: Kevin Kelly
Published: July 1, 2019

After watching the World Premiere of 33 1/3 on Friday night, I found myself experiencing a deep connection to the story, the music, and the incredible actors that had just presented what seemed to be the story of my life. As the show evolved, I emotionally transported over and over again. Each scene reminded me of the joy and pain of the journey to find my own self in a world that didn't seem to want to see, hear, understand or help me. Jay Turvey and Paul Sportelli have put together a beautiful touching effective story. The Book, Music, and Lyrics provide realistic scenarios and creative music that offers each member of the cast to emotionally split open and expose the light and the dark. It is a beautiful evening of theatre. I really encourage you to experience this beautiful butterfly.

It's 1974 and Jules (Benjamin Richardson-Piche +) finds small-town existence stifling. He lives for listening to the latest records with his best friend Jill (Hanna Shykind +) but dreams of an exciting life in New York City. While Jules mother is in the hospital, his father (Jim Bray *) is trying his best at home to manage the weight of his wife, providing for his family, and finding connection with his only son. While trying to visit his mother in the hospital, Jules encounters Francis (Tyler Tanner +), an openly gay, Bowie-loving young man, who loves to identify as a "Candy Striper". In this connection, Jules starts to embark on a journey of self-actualization of identity, and along with it, a romantic connection. Jules has the security of his best friend Jill but also encounters Victor (Jay Lee +), an angry young man from a troubled home who tries to find relief, most noticeably on his drum set. It is this collection of magnetic characters that provide the framework for becoming woke.

This cast. This cast. This cast.

It is Bray that we first meet. He tells us the tale from the perspective of Older Jules, and then adeptly steps into the story as Jules father. Bray is a dynamic actor. From the very beginning, his confidence and easy manner bring you directly into the play before you know it. His charm is undeniable, as is his talent. He shifts between storyteller and father personae with graceful ease. His acting completely on point, and his voice is glorious in tone, and emotional clarity.

Richardson-Piche is perfect as Jules. His portrayal is a beautiful mix of vulnerability, likability, and convincing duress. His presence and effective character propel this story by allowing connective tissue to the audience. HIs voice is a beacon of rich timbre that can make you smile, provide comfort, and allow a window into the tumultuous and sensitive journey of self-discovery. A wondrous performance.

As Jill, Shykind had me at hello, but then embraced me with her powerful and textured singing. She gave the "best friend" vibe to the hilt while exposing raw emotion, and resilience at just the right moments. There were moments when she sang I was in tears. I have to be honest, I love that feeling. Her performance moved me. Personally, it was one of the more painful journeys to watch. The journey of how we duck and weave our love story to survive. She is simply fantastic.

Tanner served up Francis on a golden plate of fierceness that was a scream to watch. However, he also provided some of the most touching moments. Especially when those of us who are over the top, slow down, and connect on a very personal level. He did that with excellent precision. Knowing exactly when to unfurl the flag, when to fly at half mast, and when it wasn't time to move it at all. And each moment was matched with a solid and meaningful vocal performance that rang true the entire evening. And that bitch can run in heels. He is a tornado of truth and flamboyance.

Lee, who is also armed with a great singing voice, was great as a housebound sulk while finding many humorous moments in the darkness. Especially when family members yelled. He is key to presenting the reality of acceptance is not always an easy path. Hurt people hurt people. He deftly illuminates the physical vulnerability that fuels his unrest and anger. Lee gives his character a solemn depth, and in the end, creates a window that many do not want to look through.

Matthew Wright directs this show with tender care and a deep sense of emotional connection that permeates the production. Excellent casting choices. Wright creates a symphonic atmosphere where each character is guided passionately to create fully realized movements. Matthew Dolan leads a talented band that provides a beautiful soundtrack. His accomplished skills are on full display, along with Jesse "Shredder" Fishman on Guitar and Pat "Bang Bang" Boland on Percussion. Choreographer Holly Handman-Lopez gives us uplifting movement. The production team is on fire and provides the professional quality work that is associated with Dobama, and the individual artists themselves.

Production Design T. Paul Lowry provides an animated background that provides a vibrant accent and also designed to help the timeline of events. Lighting Designer Marcus Dana Lighting Design is deftly on point and enhances the production. Costume Designer Tesia Dugan Benson brings the era to fabulous reality with some shirts and pants that I think I actually wore. Sound Designer Jeremy Dobbins provides clear and balanced sound. Stage Manager Andi Radujkovic led a dynamic and athletic crew. Assistants Jenna Fink and Sarah Gielink were excellent.

This is a wonderful evening of theatre. The music and the story will move you. The actors will connect with you. You will connect with you.

Truth is the most powerful performance enhancement drug. And that is quite evident in the production.

Broadview Heights Spotlights Presents a Vocally Powerful Production of The Who's Tommy

Broadview Heights Spotlights
Community Theatre

Review by: Kevin Kelly
Published: June 26, 2019

The classic concept album comes alive on stage at Broadview Heights Spotlights Theatre! The imitable showcase is highlighted by the powerful teen voices that permeate the theatre. Boasting one of the strongest vocal and theatrical development programs in North East Ohio, Ryan Bergeron and Tim Anderson have created a perfect environment for empowerment. Through adept directing and vocal coaching, Anderson and Bergeron are perfect examples of inspiration and instilling hard work.

The musical Tommy tells a harrowing, yet uplifting story. After witnessing the accidental murder of his mother's lover by his father, Tommy is traumatized into catatonia and, as the boy grows, he suffers abuse at the hands of his sadistic relatives and neighbors. As an adolescent, he's discovered to have an uncanny knack for playing pinball and, when his mother finally breaks through his catatonia, he becomes an international pinball superstar. Based on the iconic 1969 rock concept album, The Who's Tommy is an exhilarating story of hope, healing and the human spirit. The story of the pinball-playing, deaf, dumb and blind boy who triumphs over his adversities has inspired, amazed and puzzled audiences for more than 40 years.

This five-time Tony Award-winning musical is a high-energy, one-of-a-kind theatrical event that is having its premiere production in the theatres new, 3200-square foot performance space!

The cast is a virtual whos who of local talent that has honed their skills at Broadview Heights for years. Most of them are ready to invade colleges, but what a joy to see them melt the audiences faces off with fierce vocals.

As Tommy, Dylan Grosh-Hoy is a commanding presence. One of the most talented young men in NE Ohio, Grosh-Hoy is lasered focused on every moment of the story. Supreme confidence, and infectious charm. Adding to his theatrical quiver is a fantastic voice that is both expressive and captivating. Mrs. Waker is adeptly played by Delia Brennan is a beautifully nuanced performance. Saving her belt for the provocative moments, but enhancing the storytelling with controlled precision. Beautifully sung. James Newton serves up some hot pipes at Captain Walker. His Walker is a stoic presence with concealed vulnerability but backed up by a strong and engaging vocal performance. Cousin Kevin comes alive with all the nastiness one would hope for in Nick Bender's performance. Strong vocals and a smart ass demeanor propel the characterization. Cole Tarantowski is a hot mess as Uncle Ernie. Providing a live version of Bernie, from Weekend at Bernie's, Tarantowski has a blast being a disheveled drunk inappropriate disaster. As the Acid Queen Gypsy, Zoe Douglas rips off the ceiling on the new theatre and turns it into a planetarium. Her vocals and controlled sexuality are on full display as she crushes her song with glorious infused chaos. Sally Simpson is brought into fine focus by Molly Molina. Once again, adding vocal power.

The ensemble of Abbey Brinkhoff, Clorise Busch, Nicholas DeAngelis, Kassie Schill, Josh Goodman, Lydia Greer, Mckenna Hassel, Olivia Krafcik, Celie Ostroski, Luke Underation, and Alexa Warmuth provide an engaging background to the story. This is not an easy show to stage. There are lots of orchestrated moments that are filled with action only. However, the ensemble is focused and determined in every moment to tell the story.

Providing the choreography is Maggie Majercik, who works with an ensemble of all levels, and makes them work together in seemless fluid movement. Charlie Jones provides striking and unsettling looks to engage the story. Costumer Charlie Jones is on point creating the costume parade of this wild adventure.

Broadview Heights Spotlights is ready for their closeup. The new theatre space has just opened, and to the delight of many, there are still so many good things on the horizon to continue to improve the theatrical experience the new theatre will provide. Tommy is just the beginning.

So get out to see the show and support this growing and unique theatre. And make sure you drink the lemonade at intermission because something is in the water out there that makes you dazzle when you sing.

The Secret Garden at Fine Arts Association is Landscaped With Beautiful Vocals

Fine Arts Association
Community Theatre

Review by: Kevin Kelly
Published: June 13, 2019

Living in a lonely manor house on the Yorkshire moors in 1906, Archibald Craven (Ron Davis) yearns for his beautiful, late wife Lily (Lindsey Leonard). He blames his crippled son,Colin (Jackson Hodkey), for his wife’s death. Although he loves Colin, he cannot cope with seeing him, and has left Colin isolated and in the care of his doctor uncle Neville (Kyle Lorek). Their quiet routine is turned upside down when young Mary Lennox (Molly Kessler), a rich, spoiled child, is sent to live with them following the death of her parents from cholera in India. Mary is the late Lily’s niece, and has no relatives closer than Archie, whom she has never met. While living at the manor house, looked after by her maid Martha (Emily Stack), Mary discovers a secret walled garden hidden in the grounds and with the help of local child of nature Dickon (Stephen Sandham), releases the magic and adventures locked inside, changing all of their their lives forever.

As Mary, Kessler drives through the story with confidence, and quite a bit of required sass. She handles this major role with solid vocal chops that really come to life in Act Two. Davis is fantastic as Archibald Craven. He handles the dynamic score with beautiful tone and fabulous control. Emotionally charged performance. Countering is Lorek as Dr. Neville Craven. He cuts a fine figure as the villain, and delivers just the right amount of soullessness to allow us to root even more for Mary. His voice is electric as his operatic overtones cover his accomplished range and deliver the goods. The key to an excellent Lily, is to have someone who has a clarion soprano voice that has incredible control to highlight the emotionally piercing moments of the score. Leonard knocks it out of the garden and the ballroom. From the first notes sung in the show, she is spell binding. Her voice is a gift, and her presence is radiant. Stack as Martha is a hoot. Boundless energy, and serving character realness to the upmost degree. Her song "Hold On", is one of the highlights of the show. Sandham as Dickon, is a pleasant cacophony of charm and vocal entertainment. His Dickon is a pleasant soul, who wholesome presence becomes a beacon of hope and support to young Mary. You find yourself cheering him on, knowing he is on our side. His silky effortless voice is another gift to the production. Hodkey crushes the role of Colin Craven. This is one of the strongest performances in this role I have seen in a long time. Tremendous control of character and a heartbreaking voice. When he finds the strength he has needed, i felt like the world raised up as well. In the garden, Greg Gnau is an excellent Ben Weatherstaff. So damn likeable, and creates a charming presence. There are many Dreamers in the production who act like a greek chorus. I have to say the Jonathan Merechant and Carmen-Mariah Rey, as Fakir and Ayah, provided some quality character work, and looked fierce in their costumes.

Director Sandy Kosovich Peck has vocally cast a winning ensemble and the results are a pleasure. She keeps the action moving well, and handles the myriad of Dreamers well. Music Director Edward Leonard provides a solid wall of emotional sound for the story. Choreographer Jill Tschetter provides appropriate movement that enhances the story. Technical and Set Designer Michael Roesch does an outstanding and efficient job providing the landscape. Lighting Designer Bradley Allan provides all the right atmosphere. Sound Designer Tom Linsenmeier is spot on in delivering clear dialogue and lyrics to the audience. Costume Designer Colleen Bloom deserves a massive round of applause for her creative representation.

There are a few observations. Sometimes the Dreamers get a little off when executing their circle movements. Lily's Eyes was vocally dynamic, however, having each actor having to travel upstage in between lyrics seemed unnecessary. The biggest missed moment was at the end where Archibald tells Neville to basically hit the road. The scene is a most enjoyable diss as you usually watch Neville self destruct over being sent away. However, the scene was played straight, so Neville actually sounded thankful, instead of audience being able to ask "Do you need a ride to your car?"

The show is a vocal bouquet. Audiences will find the story and performance charming. This is a great family show, and kids will certainly be rooting for Mary, and Colin. It is the kind of story that we all need right now. So grab the kids and get out to the show!