Saturday, December 25, 2010
Go to the theatre--a list of winter theatre offerings
You know Cleveland…it's going to be cold and snowy in the coming months. It's a perfect time to go to live theatre and escape from all the stress. Here's a partial list of what's on the boards:
Tickets: 216-795-7000 or go to www.clevelandplayhouse.com.
BACKWARDS IN HIGH HEELS
Jan 7-30 o Bolton Theatre
A toe-tapping musical about the public and private life of Ginger Rogers.
THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL
Feb 4-27 o Drury Theatre
The tale of an elderly woman who wishes to escape from the confines of her over-bearing daughter-in-law and son. Performed by an African-American cast.
MY NAME IS ASHER LEV
Mar 4-27 o Baxter Stage
An adaptation of Chaim Potok's coming-of-age story of a Hasidic Jew who tries to balance his artistic genius with the demands of his observant family.
A STEADY RAIN
Feb 25-Mar 20
A mystery in which the audience becomes the jury.
Tickets: 216-241-6000 or going to www.playhousesquare.org.
Jan 13-30 o Hanna Theatre
A pop-music parody that tells the story of five small-town boys trying to save the world one screaming fan at a time. Produced by The Beck Center.
LAST CALL CLEVELAND
January 14, 15, 28, 29 o 14th Street Theatre
A "sketch comedy troupe with a terrible name” brings their unique mix of sketches, songs and audience interaction to PlayhouseSquare.
_January 21-23, 2011 o Palace Theatre
Andrew Lloyd Webber's longest running show in Broadway history is filled with timeless melodies, including "Memory."
JOSHUA SETH'S BEYOND BELIEF
January 27, February 3, March 3 and March 24 o Kennedy's Theatre
Mystery entertainer Joshua Seth's one man show, which combines psychology, intuition, and hypnosis. (_No children under 12.)
January 29, 2011 o Palace Theatre
A portrait of Golda Meir, Stars four-time Tony and two-time Emmy Award-nominated Tovah Feldshuh.
Feb 1-13 o Palace Theatre
The revival musical which won seven 2008 Tony Awards, features a cast of 34 and a full orchestra of 26 members. (Part of the KeyBank Broadway Series.)
Feb 3-6 (Other performances through March 13.)
_14th Street Theatre
Features a comedic ensemble performing from the actual memoirs of a wide range of celebrities in the celebrities' own words.
SHREK THE MUSICAL
March 1-13 o Palace Theatre
Based on the Oscar-winning film, the musical brings the story of everyone's favorite ogre to life. (Part of the KeyBank Broadway Series.)
March 18 - 20 o Palace Theatre
A unique dance show which features matchboxes, wooden poles, brooms, garbage cans, Zippo lighters, hubcaps-to create music.
THE COLOR PURPLE
March 25-26 o Palace Theatre
The Tony Award winning musical based on the classic Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and film about a black woman who finds her unique voice in the world.
GREAT LAKES THEATER FESTIVAL
216-241-6000 or visit www.greatlakestheater.org
THE COMPLETE WORKS OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (ABRIDGED)
March 11-27 o Hanna Theatre
Three actors, armed with an outrageous assortment of outerwear and props, cram the Bard's entire canon of plays into two hours of Elizabethan-esque.
JERRY SPRINGER: THE OPERA
FEB 18-MARCH 27
A regional premiere. See what happens when Springer's show ends up in Satan's world. (Leave the kids at home!)
330-374-7568 or go to www.actorssummit.org. Actors' Summit is now located on the 6th floor in Greystone Hall at 103 South High Street in Akron.
A comedy which looks at all humans as romantic fools.
BECKY'S NEW CAR
A farce about what happens when two lives collide!
March 17-April 3
A French bedroom farce complete with slamming doors and mistaken identities.
CLEVELAND PUBLIC THEATRE
216-631-2727 or go on line to www.cptonline.org
DARWIN II: THE COMEUPPANCE OF MAN
The new Broadway musical which asks, “Cristobal has stolen the original Charles Darwin manuscripts from rare book libraries around the world. Why?”
2355 East 89th Street, Cleveland
AND HER HAIR WENT WITH HER
Jan 28-Feb 20
The story of a beauty parlor operator's interchanges with her parade of patrons.
GOD'S TROMBONES: SEVEN NEGRO SERMONS IN VERSE
March 18-April 10
James Weldon Johnson's poetic classic presented in a hand clapping, foot stomping, uplifting spiritual celebration.
Lakeland Community College
Sondheim's musical examines power and celebrity in American by exploring hundreds of years of assassinations. (For mature audiences).
FREE MAN OF COLOR
February 10-27 (presented at Notre Dame College, S. Green Road, South Euclid)
Examines the life of a man who must choose between making a life in the US or finding a new home for his people in Africa.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
JOSEPH-new, JOSEPH-joyous at Beck
When I heard that Beck Center was doing yet another production of JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT, I thought, “Why? Its been done by almost every community theatre and high school in the area. What can they do that's different?”
Well, I was wrong. The Beck production is JOSEPH-new. JOSEPH-joyous. The show features Martin Céspedes's creative choreography, glorious voices, Céspedes's dynamic choreography, artistic lighting, Céspedes's engrossing choreography, inventive music arrangements, Céspedes's imaginative choreograph, attractive and usable sets, a fun and well trained children's chorus, and terrific leads. Oh, did I mention Céspedes's ingenious choreography?
JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT was written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice in their teen years. The story line is based on the story of Joseph from the Hebrew BIBLE's Book of Genesis, It was never planned to be a full scale production. In 1968 it was presented as a 15-minute pop cantata at Colet Court School in London. It eventually was developed into a full-blown creation. The show has an infectious score, highlighted by “Joseph's Dreams,” ”Joseph's Coat,” “Jacob and Sons,” and “Go Go Go Joseph.”
It is ironic that the show has no script. There are no spoken lines, no pre-conceived concept, it's a song-after-song show which has been done by more than 20,000 schools and amateur theatre groups, making it one of the most produced shows in the musical theatre genre. Each production is unique, though there are some concepts which most shows follow. Beck's production breaks the “usual” mold.
One of Beck's keys to success is the over-the-top concept developed by director Scott Spence, Céspedes's choreography, and musical director Larry Goodpaster's creative take on the score. Songs sound fresh and different and the visual elements are exciting. Trad Burns' lighting seems choreographed as it emphasizes the music and changes colors and intensities to fit the moods. The children's chorus, instead of sitting around and doing little other than “look cute,” are completely integrated into the action.
Céspedes has incorporated mass movements which includes gymnastics, the swim, calypso, break dancing, Rondeau, the twist, the cowboy two-step and the hoedown to fit the music and create well-designed stage images.
Alison Garrigan's costumes, including the technicolor coat which explodes to allow the children's chorus to make Joseph the center of a maypole dance, are visually engrossing.
The cast is universally strong. Connor O'Brien displays a powerful voice in the role of Joseph. Though he could have been more emotionally engaging, he more than makes up for it through his singing. His “Close Every Door” was one of the show's highlights. Tricia Tanguy creates a fine Narrator persona and has a strong and melodic singing voice. O'Brien and Tanguy's “Any Dream Will Do” clearly set the tone of the production. Josh Rhett Noble is Elvis-right as The Pharaoh. His “Song of the King” delighted the audience. The chorus showcases excellent blending.
Show highlights included the fanciful, “Those Canaan Days” and 'Benjamin Calypso.”
The appreciative audience greeted the ending with strong applause and were treated to a dynamic “Mega Mix” curtain call.
CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: You may have seen JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT before, but you've never seen it in the format of the Beck's MUST SEE production. Take the whole family and enjoy!
Saturday, December 18, 2010
THE NEW CENTURY at Dobama, funny, but…
The question asked by Paul Rudnick's play, THE NEW CENTURY, probably is, “Where is the new century heading?” And, even though it was written by Rudnick, the creative and 'in” author of such gems as I HATE HAMLET, JEFFREY, and THE MOST FABULOUS STORY EVER TOLD, the script and the Dobama production don't seem to garner an answer.
Rudnick, who is openly gay, loads the script with one-liners which shoot out of the characters as if they were using verbal machine guns. The fun is generally there, at least through the first three monologues and, then, a trite last act, tries to give us some obtuse message.
This is not a politically correct play and the illusions and visual images will not be of interest to those of the political right persuasion or the uptight. Such topics as sexual bondage, multi-nationalism, transgenderism, lesbian marriage, scatology, Nellie queens, terrorism, AIDS, bad aesthetic taste, Chinese Siamese twins, and last, but not least, full frontal male nudity, are presented.
The monologues include a diatribe by Jean Kauffman, as the well meaning Jewish Helene Nadler from Massapequa, Long Island, who states that “we are each special.” Especially special, and the source of her being 'the most loving mother of all time,” are her three children. One is a co-habiting lesbian, another is transgendered, and the third is gay. The role was played by the irrepressible Linda Lavin in the New York production. Kauffman is good, though she plays the role more as a caricature than a character, thus losing some of the needed reality. Even so, she is amusing.
We next meet Mr. Charles (Greg Violand), currently of Palm Beach. He was living in New York,, but was “run out of town by those younger gays who thought he was too flamboyant, and a fey relic of the old gay culture.” So, now he is the star of “Too Gay,” a public access television program which airs in the early, early morning to a very limited audience. His “boy toy” is named Shane (Steven West) who “lives to dance” and prances around in short shorts, skin tight shirts and, in one scene, nothing at all. Well, that's not totally true. He does have a bouquet of roses which cover his private parts. But, temptation finally wins and the audience is exposed to all of Shane. Mr. Charles's goal in life is to eradicate bad taste, though he, himself, is a visual image of garish styles and colors. He attempts to influence the new born baby of Joann Milderry (Caitlin Lewins) to be gay and stylish.
Violand, who is one of my favorite local actors, seems uncomfortable with the total flamboyance of the role. It is a part which needs the late Paul Lynde at his limp-wristed best. Violand gets laughs, but misses some because he is trying too hard to be what he is not.
The third monologue is entitled “Crafty.” As the title indicates, the segment centers on Barbara Ellen Diggs (Molly McGinnis), a crafts person from Decatur, Illinois who shows off her wares as she tells the story of her son, a gay man who died of AIDS. Her wares include a crocheted tuxedo cover for her toaster , knit toilet paper covers, and sock puppets to cheer up kids in the hospital (she hangs them on their IV stands). Much credit for this segment's success must go to Nick Meloro, the properties designer, who must have searched every junk shop in the area to find all the doodads needed.
McGinnis is wonderful in the role. Her description of the AIDS quilt is a beautiful tribute to those who have been lost to the disease's epidemic.
The final segment, “The New Century,” is a contrived device to get all of the characters together for a play's dénouement. They all appear in the maternity ward of a NY hospital, for no apparent reason, other than to give Rudnick a device to bring his tale to a close. It doesn't work. The whole segment is forced and actually sucks the joy out of the first three acts.
After reading rave reviews of the New York production, it appears that the Dobama staging, under the direction of Scott Plate, though it is fine in parts, simply isn't up to Big Apple presentation. Kauffman and Violand try too hard, Steven West, though he has the physical assets, doesn't appear to have the acting chops to carry the complex role of Shane. Caitlin Lewins is fine in a brief role. Only Molly McGinnis is totally character correct.
CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: THE NEW CENTURY gets an acceptable, if not triumphant production at Dobama. There are many laughs, but Rudnick's message, if there is one, does not come through.