Saturday, June 27, 2015

A preview: DANCECleveland and Cain Park Co-Sponsor David Parsons Dance to Celebrate National Day of Dance

New York City based David Parsons Dance will kick off DANCECleveland’s 60th Anniversary Season with dancing for the whole family.  The summer performance, co–sponsored by DANCECleveland and Cain Park will
take place at Cain Park’s Evans Amphitheater on July 25 at 8 p.m.

Events on schedule for The National Day of Dance include picnic options,
wine tastings, free ballroom and line dance classes, and the chance to see local dance students perform before the show.

Advanced dancers over 16 years of age can participate in a free dance master class in the morning with David Parsons himself at 11 a.m. on the Evans Amphitheater stage. RSVP is required by emailing Limited space is available.

Performance tickets range from $20- $25 and are now on sale at, or call 216-371-3000. Tickets can also be purchased in person at the Cain Park Ticket Office, or by visiting Discounts for groups of five or more are also available by calling DANCECleveland at 216-991-9000. For more information on the David Parsons Dance, visit:

Abstract “The Train Play” confounds at convergence continuum

Liz Duffy Adams, whose play, “The Reckless Ruthless Brutal Charge Of It, or The Train Play” is now on stage at convergence continuum is noted for being an American abstract writer.  The word “abstract” may be the key to confronting “The Train Play.”

The play may well represent “the derailment of American dreams and apocalyptic nightmares,” as it was described by a San Francisco reviewer, or it may be, “a meditation on time, history and apocalyptic anxiety during an all-night journey to the end of the world,” as explained by another reviewer. 

Or, it might just be an attempt by the writer to convince intellectuals that she is actually saying something of great philosophical sense and purpose, when the whole effort is to try and duplicate the concept developed in television’s “Twilight Zone,” and tease the viewer into believing that what is being said is greatly profound, when, in fact it is nothing but a device to confound.  

So, what’s it all about?  We find ourselves observing a group of people entering and becoming seated on a train to some unannounced place.  The announcer abstractly and humorously, announces that we are about to go on a journey. 

We are in the company of Gabriel Angelfood, who appears to be a deranged young man who babbles incessantly about angels and other topics as he scribbles away in his notebook.

There is Leopard-Girl, a twelve-year old who goes through life reliving antics of comic book characters.  She seemingly believes that she can make herself invisible, freeze time, and look into the future.    There is a female Scientist who is running from something or escaping to something.

Paul is writing a travel book, and is also in a flight to or from.  Gaia is an older woman who is in a flight of fancy and trying to avoid the boredom in which she lives, and there are three Russian brothers who are touring the United States in search of something, who sing of their former lives.

Yes, these are lost souls who appear to be on an absurd journey, searching the cruel world, trying to “outrace their creative confusion, festering memories, delusions of grandeur, and dogged compulsions.”  They eventually confront a metaphorical apocalypse.   Sound abstract?  It is!  Sound like the work of a playwright who could have spent her time in a better pursuit?  It is!

The con-con production, under the guidance of Clyde Simon, gets what it can from the abstract script.  Wonder what would have happened if the director had overdone the acting and pushed a farcical approach.  Marcia Mandell, noted for doing ditzy women, is the comic relief of the production.  She has some wonderful over-blown moments as Gaia.  Maybe an entire cast of overblown characterizations would have at least made the play worth sitting through by infusing laughter into the goings on.

As is, Cody Zak was properly possessed as Gabriel Angelfood.  Sweating, red cheeked, mumbling to himself, he clearly displayed signs of both craziness and guilt.

Taylor Tucker, though a little to old to be playing a twelve-year old, effectively emerged herself into portraying characters from her fantasy comic book world.  

Lauren B. Smith was uptight as the Scientist.  Her sex scene with Beau Reinker (Sergei) was well done.

Tim Coles did a nice job of creating Paul, a man in conflict with himself and the world. 

The three Russians, Mikhail, Sergei and Dmitri are well played by Robert Branch, as the older and “wiser” brother, Beau Reinker as the cute, seductive, musical Sergei and Jack Matuszewski as the poet Dmitri, who has a nice make-out scene with Cody Zak (Gabriel Angelfood). 

Capsule Judgement:   “The Reckless Ruthless Brutal Charge Of It, Or The Train Play,” should appeal to con-con audiences who attend in their search for off-beat theatre.  If you are looking for a play with a message, it should be easy to use your imagination and conjure up a lesson to be learned from the abstractions and pseudo-philosophical pontifications which flow from the mouths of the actors.  

“The Reckless Ruthless Brutal Charge Of It, Or The Train Play,” runs through July  18 2015 at 8 pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at convergence-continuum’s artistic home, The Liminis, at 2438 Scranton Rd. in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood.  For information and reservations call 216-687-0074.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Opinions differ on TRIASSIC PARQ THE MUSICAL at Blank Canvas

--> As I sat shaking my head in disbelief of what I was seeing and hearing on the Blank Canvas Theatre stage, those around me were howling with uncontrollable laughter.  What I was seeing was ridiculous, unbelievable, and basically poorly performed.  I’m not sure what was making my audience-mates laugh so hard,  but I heard one of the young ladies behind me confide that she had just wet her pants and then I got sprayed by a shower of beer that came forth from her companion’s nose as he exploded in laughter.

We are all being exposed to TRIASSIC PARQ, THE MUSICAL (“a musical 65 million years in the making”), winner of the best musical at the 2010 New York Fringe Festival.  That’s TRIASSIC PARQ, not JURASSIC PARK, the 1993 movie or its 2015 sequel. 

We had been told at the start of this epic that the authors of the musical, (book and lyrics by Marshall Palet, Bryce Norbitz and Steve Wargo), even though this story, as does the movie, takes place at a theme park centering on dinosaurs, they  couldn’t use the “other name” because they would get sued. 

Believe me, from my perspective, the developers of the musical could well be sued for unusual and cruel punishment to my psyche and fractured ear drums, but, that’s just my opinion.  An opinion obviously not shared by most of the rest of the audience.  Maybe it’s a generational thing.  “They” were all in their upper-teens and twenties, not a gray head in the place.  I, on the other hand, was around when the dinosaurs roamed the earth.

The advance billing indicates that TRIASSIC PARQ follows a group of cloned dinosaurs as they unearth the very foundations of their existence.  Morality, faith, science, gender identity, and interspecies fornication are all explored, and sung about by the narrator who talks of love, loss, and resurrected reptiles.  The only thing missing from that explanation is the indication that right before our eyes two of the female dinosaurs grew penises, and there is lots of high decibel rock music blaring and simplistically rhyming lyrics sung at full volume, often off-key. (Music by Marshall Palet).

Why the blaring music had to be amplified in the tiny Blank Canvas Theatre, I’ll never know.  It overrides the singing voices, so the actors could be intoning nonsense syllables, for all the meaning that they projected.

It’s the next day, and my ears are still ringing.  My daughter, an audiologist, is ministering to more and more twenty and thirty year-olds who are basically deaf due to attending loud concerts and blasting their iPods into their fragile ear area, and going to venues like this that think more volume is better.

The show tells the story of the film JURRASIC PARK from the stand point of the dinosaurs.  As one of the authors states, "It is completely bonkers. We all know what happened to the humans in the movie, but in TRIASSIC PARQ we find out what the dinosaurs in the movie were so pissed off about."  The “what” behind the dinosaur revolt is spontaneous sex change.  The author continues, “It’s not supposed to be a parody. It's a genuine attempt to create a parallel story about science, faith and acceptance with anthropomorphized singing-and-dancing dinosaurs in a glam/punk rock setting.”

We are informed that the dinosaurs in the Parq were created all female so they wouldn’t breed, but do have a small percentage of frog DNA which means they can switch gender.  Suddenly, the Parq’s inhabitants become confused when a T. rex develops a mysterious new front appendage and a strong compulsion to mate with young velociraptor.  From here on, all hell breaks loose as dinosaur’s try to escape, are killed, and mate.  (I swear.  I couldn’t make this stuff up.)

The Blank Canvas cast works exceedingly hard.  The fact that the theatre only has three rows which wrap around the thrust stage allows for up-close and personal views of the sweat flowing off the performers.  The voices go all the way from Kate Leigh Michalski’s full blown diva power to several cast members who are constantly vocally flat.  The highpoint numbers are ‘Love Me As A Friend,’ by Michalski (T-Rex 1) and Neely Gevaart (T-Rex 2), and the rap number “Science” intoned by Eryn Reynolds.

The acting, like the singing ranges from excellent to bland.  Michael Crowley did a nice job as the narrator. 

CAPSULE JUDGMENT: As evidenced by the response of the audience present when I saw the production, it’s obvious that director, Pat Ciamacco succeeded in pulling out all the shticks to make this absurdity work.  His targeted audience of young, hip, lovers of off-beat stuff should love TRIASSIC PARQ.  The rest of us will have to try and remember what it was like to be young and naïve about what good story plots with music that backed up, rather than drowned out the singers, and singers who sang lyrics that helped move the plot along, were all about.

Blank Canvas’s  TRIASSIC PARQ runs through June 27, 2015 in its west side theatre, 1305 West 78th Street, Suite 211, Cleveland.  Get directions to the theatre on the website.  (My GPS was of little help).  Once you arrive at the site, go around the first building to find the entrance and then follow the signs to the second floor acting space.  It’s an adventurous battle. For tickets and directions go to

Blank Canvas’s next show is Thornton Wilder’s OUR TOWN, the script that many believe is the greatest of all American plays.  Ciamacco has assured me that this production will be true to the author’s intent and purpose.

“Prepare Ye”--Updated musical arrangements and script ,“All for the Best” in Cain Park’s GODSPELL

The story goes that in 1970, while attending college in Pittsburgh, John-Michael Tebelak went to church on Easter Sunday.  A theology student before he decided he wanted to be a theatrical director, he found the service to be devoid of feeling. 

Afterward, the long-haired Tebelak was stopped by a policeman and searched for drugs.  (Remember, this was the era of student protests, hippies, draft card burning, and “dangerous” peaceniks.)   Tebelak confided that this experience provided him the inspiration for GODSPELL, which he developed as a series of parables, mostly based on the “Gospel of Matthew.” He produced the show as his senior project at Carnegie Mellon University.

John Michael left school without graduating.  The show was eventually staged at the off-Broadway Cafe La Mama Theatre.  A producer saw the production and said he would finance it if it had a new score. 

Enter Stephen Schwartz, who wrote the songs in 5 weeks.  (The only tune remaining from the original production is "By My Side"). The newly conceived show opened Off-Broadway on May 17, 1971.  Tebelak was 22 years of age!  GODSPELL then moved onto Broadway where it ran for 2,124 performances.  Hundreds of professional and amateur productions of the show continue to be done, making it one of the most produced scripts.

Tebelak was a Berea product.  As related by Bill Allman, the former producing director of Berea Summer Theatre, “John-Michael cut his theatrical teeth at Berea Summer Theatre where he acted, designed scenery and directed.  In 1980 he returned to his roots when he directed a revival production of GODSPELL.” 

The show’s other connection to the area is that in August of 1971, before it became a mega-hit, GODSPELL was produced at Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival, the predecessor to Great Lakes Theatre, which, at the time was housed in Lakewood High School’s auditorium.  The show’s director was non-other than Tebelak.   

The show is not without controversy.  It has been called “blasphemous.”  Religious leaders have stated, “Surely no Christian who believes the Bible would approve of the perversion of GODSPELL.”  The Wexford Pennsylvania School Board banned a production of it after “complaints about its religious message.”

Any director of GODSPELL has a number of choices to make.  First, there is no traditional script.  There is a score and no stage directions.  It has been done as a series of segments in which comic characters are the center of attention.  It was staged as children in a Sunday school class.  It has been done as a religious sermon in a church setting.  It has been done as a dream sequence.  It has been staged as a circus.

Another issue is the tone of the piece.  Should the production center on the religious message, forsaking the humor, or take Tebelak to heart and make this a production of joy?

Cain Park’s GODSPELL, under the co-direction of Ian Wolfgang Hinz and Joanna May Hunkins, takes a literal approach.  Though there have been new and interesting musical arrangements, and the language and nonverbal gestures have been brought up to date, Tebelak’s message of elation, with preaching overtones, is present.

The staging is creative.  The choreography by Katie Nabors Strong is inventive and well executed.  The singing is exceedingly strong.  The solos well done and the choral sounds nicely blended.  There is a nice spontaneity to the spoken lines and interactions.  The humor is well timed, the dramatic scenes clearly developed. 

Jordan Cooper’s band plays well, but at times gets a little too exuberant and drowns out the singers.   It’s difficult to hear well in the open sided venue to start with, so the musical overplaying rather than underscoring often blocked out song meanings.’’

The directors have chosen to start the production with speeches by various philosophers, followed by “Tower of Babble,” thus setting a preaching tone.  Many productions simply start with “Prepare Ye.”   (My preference is for the latter approach, which gives an immediate uplifting concept.)  The director’s have chosen to included the oft omitted “[We can build a] Beautiful City,” which many consider Schwartz’s most enthralling composition. (I’m on board with that choice.)

The inclusion of a Pictionary and charades segment got the audience involved in the action.

The cast is universally strong.  Standouts are Scott Esposito, whose Judas was well developed and became the fulcrum for the production, Jade McGee who sparkles on stage, and Douglas F. Bailey II, who has a special talent for comedy. 

Warren E. Franklin III, as Jesus, displayed a strong singing voice and excellent dancing skills, but failed to develop a charismatic Jesus.  His lines were often lost due to rapid delivery.

Highlight songs were “All Good Gifts” (Ellis C. Dawson III), “Light of the World” (Bailey), “By My Side” (Treva Offutt), “Beautiful City” (Franklin), and “We Beseech Thee” (Eric Fancher).  

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT:  Cain Park’s GODSPELL is a creatively conceived and generally well performed production which will keep the audience rocking and laughing, while imparting the philosophical message of the “Book of Mathew.”  You don’t have to be a believer to be entertained by the high spirited songs and the clever staging.  “We Beseech Thee,”---go, see, enjoy---“You’ll Learn Your Lesson Well!” 

(Thanks to John Nolan, theatre buff extraordinaire and a member of the 1980 Berea Summer Theatre “GODSPELL” cast, for background material used in this review.  His contributions were also used several years ago in writing another review of “Godspell.”)

The show runs through  June 28, 2015 in the Alma Theatre in Cleveland Heights’ Cain Park.   For tickets call 216-371-3000 or go to

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC opens 2015 season at Porthouse

What do “West Side Story,” “Gypsy,” “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” “Company,” “Follies,” “Sweeney Todd” “Sunday in the Park with George,” and “Into the Woods,” all have in common?  Yes, they are shows which have music written by Steven Sondheim. 

Steven Sondheim is considered by many to be the greatest composer of the American musical theatre.  Sondheim, who has won more Tony Awards than any other composer; Sondheim who is also the winner of eight Grammy Awards and a Pulitzer Prize and has a Broadway theatre named after him.  Not bad for a man who has been accused of writing pompous shows with music that is impossible to sing.

Sondheim, who is 85 years old, became friends with James Hammerstein, the son of lyricist and playwright Oscar Hammerstein II, when the boys were ten.  Hammerstein became surrogate father and musical theater tutor for the young Sondheim, whose parents were divorced, and, as the story goes, the rest is history.

Since its original 1973 opening, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, which is now in production at Porthouse Theatre, has been a staple in the repertoire of professional, collegiate and community theatres.

With music by Sondheim and book by Hugh Wheeler, the story was inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s film “Smiles of a Summer Night.”  The title is the English translation of Mozart’s “Eine kleine Nachtmusik.”  It is not surprising, therefore, that allusions to Mozart’s “Serenade No. 13 for strings in G major” are heard throughout the score.

The soap-opera story is set in 1900 Sweden.  It examines the tangled web of relationships of Desirée Armfeldt, a famous but fading actress, her wise-beyond her year’s precocious daughter whose paternity has been kept a secret, her opinionated advice-giving mother, her former lover, Fredrik Egerman, and her present lover, Count Carol-Magnus Malcom. 

As the tale unravels, we meet Egerman’s “new” wife, the very young and virginal Anne, and Henrik, his frustrated and overly dramatic son, who is in love with his step-mother. Into the mix, is thrown the Count’s wife, Charlotte, and Petra, Henrik’s lover and Anne’s maid.

Take the entire group, put them together for a weekend in the country, and the stage is set for infinite possibilities, illicit liaisons, open warfare, and endless, but obvious surprises.

The format of the show, as is often the case with Sondheim’s creations, is  unusual.  Instead of an overture, The Quintet enters singing fragments of “Remember,” “Soon,” “ and “The Glamorous Life,” leading into the “Night Waltz.”  The five singers morph into a Greek chorus, which musically comments on the machinations, as the play unfolds. 

As is also the case with Sondheim, the music is intricate.  “Complex meters, pitch changes, polyphony, and high notes for both males and females” abound.  “The  score contains patter songs, contrapuntal duets and trios, a quartet, and even a dramatic double quintet.”  The musical accompaniment consists only of piano, violins, viola and cello, which makes for a lush sound.

The original Broadway production opened in 1973 and ran for over 600 performances, winning the Tony and New York Drama Critics’ Circle awards for Best Musical.  Hermione Gingold’s caustic performance as Madame Armfeldt and Glynis Johns’ interpretation of “Send In the Clowns” were two the production’s high notes. 

Interestingly, it was Johns being a “non-singer” that led Sondheim to write the song in short phrases, with no long musical holds.  As he said, “by ending lines with consonants that made for a short cut-off, the phrases could be acted, rather than sung.”  This structural format makes the composition unique in the annals of well-known Broadway hit songs.

The Porthouse production, as directed and choreographed by Sean T. Morrissey, is slowly paced, and lacks some of the potential humor.  The production would have been helped if the over-stylization present in the Quintet and the servants was duplicated by all of the leading cast.  These aren’t real people, they are exaggerated characterizations. 

Lenne Snively as Madame Armfeldt has the right tone, as does charming Julian Kazenas as the over-wrought Henrik Egerman.  Jim Weaver, as the count, gives hints of the needed melodramatic tone, as does Amy Fritsche as his put-upon wife.  Adorable Talia Cosentino is correctly wise beyond her years as Fredrika.

Musical conductor Jonathan Swoboda has his musicians underscoring the singers, thus allowing for ease in hearing the clever Sondheim lyrics of “The Glamorous Life,” “Remember,” “You Must Meet My Wife,” “In Praise of Women,” ‘A Weekend in the Country,” and “It Would Have Been Wonderful.”  Shamara Costas’ rendition of “The Miller’s Son,” was delightful.   The individual voices and choral blends were consistently excellent.

The musical highlight was Terri Kent’s rendition of the show’s memorable, “Send in the Clowns.”  Acting the words with musical intonations, Kent was able, in contrast to the many pop versions of the composition, to tell the story of the song by singing/saying meanings, not just words.

CAPSULE JUDGMENT:  A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC is a melodramatic story, with memorable music, that gets a nice production.  It would have been aided by stressing the story’s soap-opera aspects to garner the humor built into the script, thus sending in the clowns.  As is, as represented by the opening night assemblage, audiences will enjoy this evening of musical theatre on the Blossom grounds.

“Little Night Music” runs until June 27, 2015 at Porthouse Theatre For tickets call 330-672-3884 or go online to

NEXT UP AT PORTHOUSE:  VIOLET from July 9-25 and HAIRSPRAY from July 30-August 16.  Curtain times are 8 PM Tuesdays through Saturdays and 2 PM Sundays. The picnic grounds at Blossom open 90 minutes prior to curtain time.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Chris Howey reveals all in the funny, often sad, always compelling EXACT CHANGE

In her book, “Dress Codes: of three girlhoods—my mother’s, my father’s and mine,” Noelle Howey writes, “I have a dad who is a woman much like me, but with better legs.  And when he was still male, I had a dad possibly like yours: sullen, sporadically hostile, frequently vacant.  I had a dad who became a woman in order to be nice.”  Noelle goes on to say, “I have a family that survived a life in the closet . . . a traditional family . . . that would probably be the right wing’s worst nightmare.”

Noelle is writing about her father, Richard Howey, historically a leading actor in the Cleveland area noted for his starring roles as a bearded, balding, macho male in many Dobama Theatre shows. 

Howey is known today to many Clevelanders as Christine Howey,  one of the area’s leading theatre critics. 

“Exact Change,” is a one-woman play about Chris’s transition, and is now being staged at The Helen, in the Cleveland Play House complex in PlayhouseSquare.

Christine reflects on her motivation for bringing her story to the stage, and its importance in 2015:  “For people to understand and feel positively towards [transgender people], they first have to see  us…For many years I wanted to live my life - my new life – and not call attention to it.  But the continuing assaults on transgender people have bolstered my resolve to be a part of the solution.  If telling my story, warts and all, is what is required, then it is a small price to pay.”

The effect of the story may have somewhat softened by the recent announcement of Olympic superstar, Bruce Jenner’s, “coming out.” But, in contrast to Jenner’s dependence of media sensationalism, Howey’s story is told with the use of her brilliant poetry.  Personal complete with the voices of his demons [“The Enforcer”], his mother, wife, daughter, and various people who were and are part of “his,” then “her” life. 

Richard, early in life, became aware of his internal message, “IWTBAG” (I Want To Be A Girl.)   Through such poems as, “1957 Puberty,” “The Pickle Coke,” “Sick Day,” “Beowulf and Dinah at Breakfast,” ”Dolly,” “The Family Way,” “The Crowded Chair,” “”Potholder,” “Mom’s Pro and Con List,” “Outing 1999),” “And One More Thing,” “Major Pelvic Event,” “They Didn’t Notice Me,” and “Coming Out Party,” we are taken on the journey from frustrated male to full functioning female.

We see the character from outward appearance to inner thoughts, from actions to perceptions.  Sometimes Richard and Christine are in the open, center stage.  At other times one or the other is behind or peeking through three sets of venetian blinds, which act as both the characters’ shields and openings into the world.

Electronic visuals aid, personal pictures, titles of the poems, help us on the journey.  Part of the story is backed up by music intended to intensify the spoken words.  At times, the music, especially that which contains sung words, is distracting.  This is one of few production hitches in the staging.

The production in the Helen is not the first presentation of the script.  It has gone through a number of productions and recreations.  The tale of 22 years of transformation was first a series of poems, then took on a play format entitled, “Like a Doberman on a Quarter Pounder,” the title of a poem in the original conception. 

The play  premiered in early 2013 at Cleveland Public Theatre in the “Big Box New Work Development Series.”   A year and many revisions later, it appeared in CPT’s main stage season as “Exact Change.”  It was subsequently performed in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and at none too fragile theatre in Akron.  The production has been accepted into the 2015 New York International Fringe Festival for several late August performances.

During the process of development, the focused direction and advice of Scott Plate has been evident.  From a series of poems scattered on a card table at Baldwin Wallace University, the ideas have been arranged and rearranged. Chris and Scott have sparred over the format, the staging, and the special effects.  The end result shows all the work, which included a major change being made the day before the latest staging opened.  Yes, in their march toward perfection, theatre scripts are an evolving art.

The journey of the production has been helped by local producers, including Raymond Bobgan (Cleveland Public Theatre), Gina Vernaci (PlayhouseSquare) and Sean Derry (none too fragile).

This is a real tale that clearly explains the concept of a boy born in the wrong body and the real tale of how he morphed into the “she” “he” had to become.

Capsule judgement:  Those of us who have followed the development of the staged tale from Richard to Christine, from idea to the compelling piece of theater, have been privileged to watch the piece evolve through the diligence of Chris Howey and Scott Plate.   You now can see the results of many, many hours of extremely hard work, toil that resulted in a compelling, funny, emotionally charged experience that is a must see experience.  Do yourself and Chris a favor by attending one of the remaining performances.  (Since The Helen is a small space, get tickets early as the show should sell out.)

For tickets to “Exact Change,” which runs June 11 through 13, 2015  and June 25-27, with performances at 8 on Thursday and Fridays and 5 and 8:30 on Saturday, go to or call 16-241-6000. 

[Personal reveal:  Chris is a friend.  I acted with Richard at Dobama. I serve with Chris as a member of the Cleveland Critics Circle.  She has aided me in my role as counselor and life coach to better understand and help my gender conflicted clients.  Thanks to Chris for her bravery in making her life’s path public as a source of information and entertainment.]

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Honky Tonk, Nashville, and pop music invades Actors’ Summit

ALWAYS…PATSY CLINE, now on stage at Actors’ Summit, is a well formed musical review in which a Patsy Cline-imitator wails away Cline’s signature songs, including “Walkin’ After Midnight,” “I Fall to Pieces,” “She’s Got You,” “Anytime,” “Stupid Cupid,” “Lovesick Blues, “Faded Love,” and “Crazy.” The songs are interspersed with comments by a Cline fan and Cline, “herself.”

Born Virginia Patterson Hensley in 1932, she became the signature voice of the Nashville sound, a subgenre of American country music, which was noted for substituting the honky tonk previous style of country music which used fiddles and a nasal sound by the lead vocals, with strings, background music, and crooning lead vocalists. 

Cline’s success, more than anything else, was probably brought about by her appearance in 1957 on the “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts,” radio show. 

Cline proved to be one of the few country stars of her day who could make the crossover to pop music.

Cline’s sound was distinctive.  She had a rich tone, unusual phrasing, a hitch in her voice that is the key to any singer duplicating her sound, as well as an ability to pronounce words in a way that often made single syllable words into three or four parts. 

She died in a plane crash at age 30.  Ten years after her death, she became the first female solo artist inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.  Her induction plaque read, “Her heritage of timeless recordings is testimony to her artistic capacity.” And even today, she is recognized as one of the greatest women in country music and rock and roll.

The script and song order for ALWAYS…PATSY CLINE was created by Ted Swindley.

The Actor’s Summit production, under the direction of MaryJo Alexander, is very entertaining.

The two-person show features Jennifer Browning as Cline and Chanda K. Porter as Louise, an avid Cline fan.  The duo is backed up by a wonderful group of musical artists consisting of JT Buck, Musical Director and pianist, Patrick Altmire as percussionist and drummer, Brian Del Bianco on bass, and a set of guitarists who alternate nights.

Porter steals the show as the dynamic, funny, “in your face” Louise.  She has a wonderful sense of comic timing, is totally uninhibited on stage, connects well with the audience, and has a great singing voice.  She is a delight to watch.

Jennifer Browning a has a VERY strong singing voice and has mastered the “Cline” sound and pronunciation.   She fails, however to display the “dynamic” presence for which Cline was noted.  She acts Cline, rather than being Cline. Thus, she becomes a caricature of the great singer rather than Cline.

The bandstand stage design works well.

Capsule judgement: ALWAYS PATSY CLINE makes for a pleasant evening of songs, humor and musical delight.  If you appreciate country music or are an avid fan of Patsy Cline, you will have a wonderful time.

For tickets to ALWAYS…PATSY CLINE, which runs through June 21, 2015, call 330-374-7568 or go to

Actor’s Summit’s 2015-2016 season includes:  QUILTERS, (Oct. 8-Nov. 1), GUYS ON ICE (Nov. 25-Dec. 22), SAME TIME, NEXT YEAR (Jan. 21-Feb. 7), CHIAPATTI (Feb. 25-Mar. 13), TALLY’S FOLLY (April 14-May 1), TINTYPES (May 19-June 19).

Roy Berko's commentaries and reviews appear on,, with selected reviews posted on and  To subscribe to his blog go to and follow the directions in the right hand column: