Monday, November 30, 2015

2016 Winter-Spring Cleveland Theater Calendar

Here’s a list of some of the offerings of local theatres through the spring season. 

You can track my reviews on, or contact me to get on my direct review list.  You can see a synopsis of the local reviewers’ capsule comments about the plays they see at


330-374-7568 or go to
Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 PM and Sundays @ 2 PM

JAN 21-FEB 7--SAME TIME, NEXT YEAR—Neal Simon’s romantic comedy follows Doris and George, married to others, who rendezvous once a year.

FEB 25-MAR 13—CHIAPATTI—When forlorn Dan and his dog Chiapatti cross paths with the amiable Betty and her nineteen cats, unexpected sparks fly as two people rediscover the importance of human companionship.

APR 14-MAY 1—TALLEY’S FOLLY— Set in Lebanon, Missouri in 1944, Lanford Wilson’s love story concerns the courtship of young Sally Talley and her Jewish suitor, Matt Friedman.

MAY 19-JUNE 19—TINTYPES—a tune-filled musical melting pot review of the Great American Songbook, which offers a snapshot of America from 1890-1917.  Songs include, “Meet Me in St. Louis,” “Yankee Doodle Boy,” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”


216-521-2540 or
8 p.m. evenings, 3 p.m. matinees

DEC 4-JAN 3—MARY POPPINS (The supercalifragilisticexpialidocious musical appears once again on the Mackey Main Stage.

FEB 12-FEB 28—IN THE HEIGHTS--The 2008 Tony Award-winning Best Musical about chasing dreams and finding a true home in NY’s Washington Heights transitional community.  (Mackey Main Stage)

APR 1-MAY 1--SHINING CITY—The 2006 Tony Award-winning play set in Dublin, in which a guilt-ridden man reaches out to his therapist after seeing the ghost of his recently deceased wife.  (Studio Theatre)

MAY 27-JULY 2--HEATHERS:  THE MUSICAL—A teenage misfit hustles her way into the most powerful clique in her high school, falls in love with a dangerous “bad boy,” with questionable results.  (Studio Theatre)


440-941-0458 or



216-241-6000 or go to
7:30 Wednesday-Saturday, 2:30 Saturday and Sunday

JAN 9-FEB 7—LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS—Mixing Motown, B-movies, and the American Dream, it’s a musical tale of a peculiar plant that might just bring Seymour, a floral clerk, fame and fortune and the girl of his dreams.

JAN 23-FEB 14--THE MOUNTAINTOP—April 3, 1968, The Lorraine Motel, Room 306, the night before Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot.  The portrait of the man behind the myth.

FEB 10-20—THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA—THE CWRU/CPH MFA ACTING PROGRAM’S production of Shakespeare’s comedy about what happens when two young men fall in love with the same woman. 

FEB 27-MAR 20—LUNA GALE—How do you make the right decision when there is no clear right?   A suspenseful play about parenthood, faith and love, by Pulitzer Prize finalist Rebecca Gilman.

MAR 16-26—METAMORPHOSES-- THE CWRU/CPH MFA ACTING PROGRAM’S production, adopted and inspired by Ovid’s epic poem, Mary Zimmerman reinterprets ancient myths and stories for a modern audience by using movement, song, vivid drama, and comedic storytelling.

APR 2-24—MR. WOLF—Clevelander Rajiv Joseph makes his CPH premiere with this story of a family’s desperate and determined attempt to heal each other and rebuild their world.

MAY 21-AUG 21—STEEL MAGNOLIAS—It’s the 1980s at a beauty shop in Louisiana and six Southern spitfires, who are all sass and brass, gather each week to gossip and support each other through thick and thin.


216-631-2727 or go on line to

JAN 7-23—INCENDIARIES—Explores conflicts between law enforcement and the communities they serve.

JAN 7-30—FRANKENSTEIN’S WAKE—A twisted, one woman adaptation of Mary Shelley’s masterpiece, FRANKENSTEIN, stars Holly Holsinger.

FEB 11-MAR 5—MR. BURNS—A POST-ELECTRIC PLAY—A post-apocalyptic tale of survival, passion and the enduring power of Bart Simpson.

MAR 3-19—TEATRO PUBLICO DE CLEVELAND—SPANISH LANGUAGE PRODUCTION—Teatro Publico de Cleveland presents a scripted work by a Latin American playwright.

MAR 24-26—SEXCURITY—OUT OF THE BOX SERIES—James Levin Theatre—Daniel can’t write.  He can’t keep a boyfriend.  He can’t stand the thought of moving home to help his Israeli parents with their failing business.  Yuval Boim explores sex, identity and belonging.

MAR 31-APR 2—DON QUIXOTE:  A PILGRIMAGE—OUT OF THE BOX SERIES—James Levin Theatre--A remix of Cervantes’ classic explores the story of Isabel, making a pilgrimage across modern-day Spain, who confronts a past she has been avoiding for many years.

APR 30—STATION HOPE—St. John’s Episcopal Church, 260 Church Street—A free multi-arts event that celebrates the triumphs of the Underground Railroad, Cleveland’s social justice history, and contemporary struggles for freedom and justice.

MAY 5-22—WRESTLING JERUSALEM—A man grapples with the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

MAY 26-JUNE 11—BLUE SAND DREAMING—A new work based on “The Egyptian Book of the Dead.”

convergence continuum or 216-687-0074
Thursday-Saturday @ 8

FEB 11-13, 18-20--NEOMFA PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL (see the theatre’s website for specific offerings)

MAR 25-APR 16—BOOTYCANDY by Robert O’Hara is a kaleidoscope of sketches that interconnect to portray growing up gay and African American.  O’Hara states, “Everyone is welcome, no one is safe.”

MAY 20-JUNE 11—THREE TALL WOMEN is Edward Albee’s personal exorcism which centers on a 90-year-old woman who reflects on her life with a mixture of shame, pleasure, regret and satisfaction.


216-932-3396 or
check the theatre’s blog for performance times

JAN 22-FEB 14--THE REALISTIC JONESES—Will Eno’s comedy centers on Bob and Jennifer Jones and their neighbors, John and Pony Jones.  Its about identical homes, shared last names, idyllic fantasies and imperfect realities.

MAR 4-APR 3—THE REVISIONIST—Actor Jesse Eisenberg’s tale of David, a young writer who arrives in Poland with a desire to be alone.  Staying with his seventy-five year old cousin, (portrayed by Cleveland legend Dorothy Silver) who reveals details about her postwar past that tests the idea of what it means to be family and challenges the concepts of truth and fantasy.

APR 22-MAY 22—MARIE ANTOINETTE—Times have changed and Marie is no longer the darling of the French people.  How’s a queen to keep her head in the middle of a revolution?


216-321-2930 or
Friday and Saturdays @ 8, Sundays @ 2

FEB 5-28—SLOW DANCE ON THE KILLING GROUND—William Henley’s tale of a refugee from Nazi Germany, a hunted young black man, and an 18-year old dancer whose fates are played out on the killing ground of life. (Mainstage Theatre)

FEB 5-28—GOLDEN LEAF RAG TIME BLUES—A story of a young African American and an old Jewish man who are thrown together because of circumstances beyond their control.  Through music and stories they illustrate how basic needs transcend the barriers of race, religion and age.  (Playground Theatre)

MAR 17-27—CHOICES—Cynthia Dettlebach’s exploration of what happens to  a Jewish family when their firstborn son brings home a Muslim girlfriend.. (Mainstage Theatre)

MAR 31-APRIL 10—A KIND OF COURAGE—An examination of a relationship between thirty-year old Jennifer, who has a dark secret, and Ben, a thirty-seven year old college professor. (Playground Theatre)

APR 29-MAY 22—JERUSALEM— Based on Blake’s eponymous poem of the same name, Jez Butterworth puts a spotlight on Johnny “Rooster” Byron and carnival week in Pewsey, Wiltshire.  (Mainstage Theatre)

GREAT LAKES THEATER or 216-241-6000
Wednesday-Saturday @ 7:30, Saturdays @ 1:30, Sunday @ 3.

FEB 26-MAR 20–AND THEN THERE WERE NONE—When a group of ten strangers are lured, in this Agatha Christie class murder mystery, to a remote English island, mysterious machinations are set in murderous motion.

AP 8-24—LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST—Shakespeare’s labor of love and laughter centers on how the court turns topsy-turvy when the King decrees that his court be free of women so that he and his men may study without distraction.

MAY 13-29—A romantic musical about one young couple, two “feuding fathers” and an infinite love that transcends time.  The longest professional running American musical.  Songs include, “Try to Remember,” “Soon It’s Gonna Rain,” and “I Can See It.”

%Dobama  Theatre, 2340 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights or 216-393-PLAY
(Play readings at Dobama are free, but reservations are required, presentations at the Maltz Museum are fee based)

April 3--GOOD--A choral reading of a play set in Frankfurt in the early 1930s which centers on a German Literature professor who is recruited for the Nazi propaganda machine.  (Acconpanies he Maltz Museum exhibit: "Operation Finale; the Capture and Trial of Adolph Eichman")--Maltz Museum

May 1 & 3--OH GOD--A psychologist meets a new client (God) who is in dire need of counseling.  Dorothy Silver directs @ Dobama.

216-795-707)  or

FEB 5-28--DETROIT ’67—Dominique Morisseau examines two siblings and what happens to them in Detroit in the middle of the 1967 riots.

MAY 20-JUNE 19—GOD’S TROMBONES: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse—Based on the poems of James Weldon Johnson.


440-525-7134 or

FEB 5-28—INTO THE WOODS—Steven Sondheim and James Lapine’s musical retelling of several Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault fairy tales, exploring the consequences of the characters’ wishes and quests.

none-too-fragile theatre

330-671-4563 or

JAN 28-FEB 13—PURE SHOCK VALUE—A satirical comedy that updates the post-Tarantino generation of Silver Lake Slackers.

MAR (TBA)—A KID LIKE JAKE is a story of intimacy and parenthood and the fantasies that accompany both.

AP 22-MAY 7—THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE—a dark comedy about a lonely woman and her manipulative aging mother.


216-241-6000 or go to
See the website for specific dates and times

JAN 12-17—ANNIE—Connor Palace—Leapin’ Lizards, the little red head is back in this new incarnation of the iconic original.

JAN 23—JOSHUA SETH—PSYCHOLOGICAL ILLUSIONIST—Combining mind reading comedy, and some old fashioned showmanship, this is a performance of laughter and mystery.

FEB 5-7—BLUE MAN GROUP—Connor Palace—the enemy of monotony, remedy for boredom, promoter of joy and elation, it’s a comedy, theater, rock concert, and dance party all rolled into one.

FEB 9-21—IF/THEN—Connor Palace—a contemporary original musical about living in New York today, and all the possibilities of tomorrow, from the creators of NEXT TO NORMAL.  (Get the inside scoop on IF/THEN from host, Joe Garry, one-hour before selected performances. Broadway Buzz Pre-Show Talks are held in the Idea Center at Playhouse Square (1375 Euclid). Admission is free.

MAR 8-13—MAMMA MIA—Connor Palace—Based on ABBA’s greatest hits, the ultimate feel-good musical about love, laughter and friendship, returns once again.

MAR 13—POSTSECRET:  THE SHOW—Ohio Theatre—A visual, auditory and emotional journey through the beauty and complication of our deepest fears, ambitions and confessions.  Reaches beyond the confines of the stage, reminding the audiences that no matter what you may be facing, you are not alone.

MAR 23-26—IN THE MOOD--Ohio Theatre—Now in its 22 nd season, this review celebrates America’s 1940s pop music with a big band, singers and dancers.

AP 5-17—BEAUTIFUL:  THE CAROL KING MUSICAL—Connor Palace—The musical tale of Tony and Grammy Award-winning Carole King, the woman who wrote the soundtrack to a generation.  (Get the inside scoop on BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL from host, Joe Garry, one-hour before selected performances. Broadway Buzz Pre-Show Talks are held in the Idea Center at Playhouse Square (1375 Euclid). Admission is free.

MAY 3-22—MATILDA—State Theatre—A musical based on the novel by Roald Dahl that tells the story of a girl who, armed with a vivid imagination, dares to stand up and change her own destiny.  (Get the inside scoop on MATILDA from host, Joe Garry, one-hour before selected performances. Broadway Buzz Pre-Show Talks are held in the Idea Center at Playhouse Square (1375 Euclid). Admission is free.  

MAY 21-AUG 21—STEEL MAGNOLIAS—Allen Theatre—Through clouds of hairspray and the buzz of blow dryers, six southern spitfires gather each week to gossip and support each other.

THE MUSICAL THEATER PROJECT or 216-529-9411 for tickets and information
(productions staged in review format with narration)

JAN 30 (8PM) and 31 (2 PM)—CURTAIN UP AT THE COTTON CLUB—Hanna Theatre—In the 1920s and 30s, Harlem’s Cotton Club was the citadel of the NY jazz scene.  Join Bill Rudman, Paul Ferguson, members of the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra, the Joe Hunter trio, and Evelyn Wright to learn about the history of the era and The Club.

FEB 14 (7 PM)—ANYTHING YOU CAN DO—Vosh Lakewood—It’s a Valentine’s Day cabaret which is a mash-up of musical theater songs that explain the why of the battle of the sexes.  Featuring Nancy Maier, Joe Monaghan, Kelly Monaghan and Bill Rudman.

MAR 5 (7 PM) and MAR 6 (2 PM)—Mixon Hall—Cleveland Institute of Music—BERNSTEIN ON BROADWAY—Leonard Bernstein believed that Musicals are America’s brand of opera.  The program, featuring arrangements by Cleveland composer Ty Emerson, will take a close look at Bernstein, the man behind the theatre music of WEST SIDE STORY, ON THE TOWN, WONDERFUL TOWN and CANDIDE.  Co-hosted by Bill Rudman and Nancy Maier, and featuring Benjamin Czarnota, Sheri Gross and others.

APR 30 (7 PM)—Lorain County Community College and May 1 (3 PM)—Notre Dame College—BEHIND THE MUSICAL/THE FANTASTICKS—Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt’s tiny show which is now the longest continuous running musical in American theatre.   Songs include, “Try to Remember,” “Soon It’s Gonna Rain,” and “I Can See It.”  Co-hosted by Bill Rudman and Nancy Maier, featuring Shane Patrick O’Neill, Fabio Polanco, George Roth and a vocalist TBA.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Loush Sisters return to Cleveland Public Theatre with songs, booze and double entendres

It’s that time of year when local theatre offerings center on “peace on earth” and how each of us should be kind and better (e.g., Great Lakes Theater’s A CHRISTMAS CAROL), family holiday memories (Cleveland Play House’s A CHRISTMAS STORY), and musical escapes (Beck Center’s MARY POPPINS and PlayhouseSquare’s ELF). 

Then there is Cleveland Public Theatre’s tale of booze, sexual double entendres and holiday songs, packaged in a very slight story.  Yes, the Loush Sisters are back.  This time they’re getting guffaws in THE LOUSH SISTERS LOVE DICK’NS:  GREAT EXPECTATIONS.

The CPT rules are simple:  no kids, no up-tight elders, drink lots of wine and beer before and during the show, bring a group of friends along to share in the goings on, and leave your thoughts at home of what the traditional holiday play is about (see above paragraph).

As creator, director and “co-star” of LOUSH . . . DICK’NS, Beth Wood, tells us in her program notes, that the holiday show has been around, in one form or another, since 2003.  The Loush sisters are “not politically correct, they can be [are] offensive, they might [do] have substance abuse problems, “And yes, they believe that they’re the best thing since the end of prohibition [it never stopped for these ever-tipsy broads].

Now, again referring to Wood’s comments, the duo “don’t have a mean bone in their body” [except toward their brother and sisters], they kind of lose it when their sister, Butter Rum, “disappeared at the Republican Presidential debate last summer in Cleveland.”  Operating on their mama’s long standing advice, “always put yourself first,” the duo so become victims of their own boozing and attempts to control the rest of the family, that an intervention needs to take place.

This is an intervention filled with songs and ideas stolen from other holiday plays.  There are the tales told by the Ghost of Christmas Past and Christmas Present Yet to Come [it worked for Ebenezer Scrooge, so why not for Holly and Jolly?].  And, there is the great revelation:  the awareness that they were bad-bad-bad, and lumps of coal were going to be their only presents. 

The songs?  The score has been usurped from the likes of Irving Berlin, Burl Ives, and Leroy Anderson, and from real musicals like MAME, MEET ME IN SAINT LOUIS and PETER PAN.  Included are “Seasons in the Sun,” “That’s Why My Sister is a Tramp,” [whoops, “The Lady is a Tramp"], “Here Comes Santa Claus,” “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” “We Need a Little Christmas,” “Side by Side,” “A Holly Jolly Christmas,” “Sleigh Ride,” “Eye of the Tiger,” and “What a Feeling.”

Hmm, wonder if the girls paid royalties to ASCAP for the rights to those tunes?

So, what’s the story about?  Story?  Come on now…this a pretext to tell slightly dirty jokes, give Dan Kilbane (Lolly) a chance to walk with a crutch and whine, “God bless us, every one!,” give Liz Conway (Jolly) and Beth Wood (Holly) a chance to draw attention to their abundant cleavage, let Sheffia Randall Dooley (Butter Rum) wail!, allow Jennifer Woda (Ghost of Christmas Past) a way to display her pretty singing voice, permit Caitlin Lewins to do some fun choreo, allow Edward Ridley, Jr. an opportunity to tickle the ivories, afford Brian Pedaci (Christmas Present) to wear an ugly gold lamé jacket, and give the audience a chance to scream, stomp their feet and clap in unison (and drink). 

The rest of the cast also has a chance to have some fun….Dionne D. Atchison, Rebecca Riffle-Polito, Hillary Wheelock, Teresa DeBerry and Megan Elk.

Capsule judgement: THE LOUSH SISTERS LOVE DICK’NS: GREAT EXPECTATIONS is a fun evening of escape from shopping, decorating and the pressures of life.  Sit back and let Jolly and Holly tease and taunt you and enjoy yourself as you realize that there is family “more dysfunctional than your own!”

LOUSH SISTERS LOVE DICK’NS:  GREAT EXPECTATIONS, runs through December 19, 2015 at Cleveland Public Theatre.  For tickets call 216-631-2727 or go on line to

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Production outperforms script at convergence continuum

Geoffrey Hoffman, in his directorial notes in the convergence-continuum program for BOB:  A LIFE IN FIVE ACTS, states, “Bob is an everyman . . .He is born with nothing and becomes a passionate adventurer—part myth, part reality, and completely legendary. . . For better or worse, he is the most memorable person you’ve ever met.” 

If Hoffman’s words were totally true, writer Peter Sinn Nachtrieb would have accomplished his goal.  As is, much of BOB:  A LIFE IN FIVE ACTS reminds of the Peanuts cartoon’s Charlie Brown, who is cute, but fails to learn that Lucy is always going to move the football and Charlie is going to wind up falling on his back with his errant attempts to kick the sphere.   He’ll never learn and never gain respect.

Bob is born in a bathroom of a White Castle restaurant by a mother who obviously has no use for him in her life.  She leaves him in the stall.  Bob is “adopted” by a restaurant employee, who goes on the run to avoid having to give up the child.  Bob leads  life as a precocious child who dreams of being a great man with a statue with a plaque paying tribute to him. 

He eventually morphs into the caretaker of a rest stop along the highway, an animal trainer, a winner of a large sum of money and gambling casino which he converts into a palatial home, and . . . his adventures go on and on for five overly written acts, with him never successfully kicking the football.

The opaque ending doesn’t help matters.  What message does Nachtrieb want us to gain from our time together?  As is, the play is a mash-up of many ideas, in search of a clear message.  Some place along the line Bob asks, “If I hadn’t been born would it have made any difference?”  Sounds like Arthur Miller asking, “is this the best way to live?” or Edward Albee’s existentialistic plea, “What is the purpose of life?”  Unfortunately Nachtrieb isn’t a writer with the abilities of either Miller or Albee.

This is not to say the theatrical experience is bad.  Hoffman and his gallant cast overcome lots of the writing problems by nicely packaging the play with absurdity.  The opening birth scene leads the audience to believe that this is going to be a “hoot” of a production.  The dances of luck, love, hope and other matters are appropriately ridiculous.  The characterizations are generally nicely exaggerated, leading to a farcical feel that often delights.  But the message never develops.

It’s almost worth seeing the production to revel in Eric Sever’s, “Jeeves the Butler” performance or to see the usually serious and focused Robert Hawkes in drag.  Nicole McLaughlin-Lublin and Katie Nabors are on target as they bounce in and out of various characters, and Doug Kusak is fine as the putty-faced Charlie Brown, oops, Bob.

Capsule Judgement:  BOB:  A PLAY IN FIVE ACTS, gets a con-con production, under the creative interpretation of director Geoffrey Hoffman, and the acting skills of the cast, that well exceeds the script’s development, purpose, and excessive length.

BOB:  A LIFE IN FIVE ACTS runs through December 19, 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 or go to

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

KRIS KRINGLE THE MUSICAL in world premiere at Olmsted Falls Performing Arts

It’s that time of year when local theatres fill their stages with holiday cheer.  Yes, it’s the season of A CHRISTMAS CAROL, A CHRISTMAS STORY, A CHRISTMAS STORY: THE MUSICAL, WHITE CHRISTMAS, and ELF THE MUSICAL. 

If Maria Ciampi and Tim Janis have their way, after a Broadway run, there should be a new musical holiday treat available for production: KRIS KRINGLE THE MUSICAL, which will get its world premiere at the Olmsted Falls Performing Arts Center.  The staging will run from December 4 through the 13th.  

The story tells the untold tale of Kris Kringle, a jobless toy maker.  It reveals what happens when an evil toy company CEO crosses paths with a jobless toy maker whose family name carries a curse with the power to destroy Christmas.

It is based on Maria Ciampi’s screenplay and book, KRIS KRINGLE.

Marie Ciampi, the author of the book, is a legal author, law school professor and legal practitioner.  It is not surprising, therefore, that KRIS KRINGLE involves an ancient contract, and one of the world’s most famous lawyers, Daniel Webster.  Ironically, Ciampi was born on Christmas Day.

The music for the production is by Tim Janis, who has two #1 Billboard charting CD’s and has worked with top artists in the music and entertainment business, including Billy Joel, Paul McCartney, and Ray Charles.

Janis, in a recent interview, shared that, although he has written and performed classical and pop compositions, his “first love is writing musicals.”  His RUTH, based on the biblical book of the same name, played for two years at the Sight and Sound Theatre in Strasburg, Pennsylvania.  His musical movie, THE BUTTON GIRL, starring Dick Van Dyke, will aired this December on PBS.

His writing process?  He “reads the story, gets a vision in his mind, and then starts to write.”  Sometimes it’s the lyrics which come first, sometimes it’s the music.

How close is KRIS KRINGLE to being finished?  “It’s really never done until it opens.  There is always tweaking.”  He indicated that as of two weeks before opening, “the bulk is there.”  “I’ll be available for alterations as the rehearsals proceed.” 

Janis will not be in Cleveland for rehearsals.  He’ll be in his recording studio, ready to make any changes needed.  The director and musical director will interface with the actors, and make suggestions of what, if anything, needs to be altered in the music or the words.

Janis, whose philosophy is, “Music can be more than entertainment,” has developed the Music with a Mission project, with the purpose of “encouraging an understanding and cognizance between different people and cultures.”  He brought Sinkithemba, the all-female HIV-positive South African choir to the U.S to raise awareness about the AIDS epidemic in that country, performed a series of concerts in China to bridge communication between the two countries, and is leading the Music In Our Schools volunteer program, which has had more than 30,000 children participating.  He also has worked with the Cleveland Clinic in their music therapy program.

KRIS KRINGLE will be directed by Pierre Brault, the co-founder and Artistic Director of Mercury Theatre Company, housed at Notre Dame College in South Euclid,  and Resident Director of Virginia Musical Theatre in Virginia Beach, VA.  Charles Eversole, the Artistic Director of Cleveland’s The Singing Angels, is the musical director. 

Equity cast members include Mack Shirilla, Amy Fritsche, Michael Mauldin, Maryann Nagel, Kristin Netzband and Greg Violand.

Interested in seeing KRIS KRINGLE in its local “before going to Broadway” showing?  Tickets can be purchased through the Olmsted Performing Arts Center by calling 440-235-6722.  To see the schedule of performances go to

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Existential AGES OF THE MOON at Ensemble

Sam Shepard, the author of AGES OF THE MOON, now on stage at Ensemble Theatre, is noted for writing plays that are frank and often absurd.  His language choice is gritty, the setting is the American west, and his characters usually self-destruct.  He sometimes includes in his stage directions the requirement that part of the set is to be demolished, much like the lives of the people about whom he writes.  The actions of the actors carry out these destructions.  AGES OF THE MOON is no exception.

 Shepard, who received the 1979 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his BURIED CHILD, is a “guys writer.”  His characters are like himself and his father, who he called “a dedicated alcoholic.”  In 2009 Shepard was charged with speeding and drunk driving in Normal, Illinois.  He pleaded guilty to both charges and was sentenced to 24-months probation and 100 hours of community service.  This raw escape from life is reflected in many of his characters who don’t seem to understand consequences that come from their self-destructive actions.

The one hour-and-fifteen minute AGES OF THE MOON is set in a wooded area, far from a city.  On stage is a cabin with a front porch and nearby is a rowboat.  It’s August, 2007.  

Byron listens as his pal, Ames, laments about how he destroyed his marriage by cheating on his wife.  The duo slugs down bourbon, argue, feel sorry for themselves, and reminisce. Ames declares that since his wife found a note from a woman who he had a “meaningless” affair with, he has been “banished…exiled.  Never to return no more.”   He called Byron, supposedly Ames’ best friend, for solace.  A friend he hasn’t seen for years.  A friend who doesn’t seem to have much more of a rudder on his life than Ames.

They talk about love, women, sex and their past.  They verbally and physically attacked each other and wait.  Wait, much like Samuel Beckett’s characters in WAITING FOR GODOT for the unknown.  Byron and Ames are waiting for an unusual eclipse, but, for what purpose?  What difference will it make in their lives?

As the play proceeds, we see changes…changes in the men, changes in the lighting that, like the men, fade into nothingness.   And, as existentialist writers often ask, the audience is led to ask, “What is the meaning of existence?”

Ensemble’s production, under the direction of Stephen-Vasse-Hansell, is well paced and effectively acted.  Both Allan Byrne, as the depressed Ames, and Allen Branstein, as the equally brain-frozen Bryon, create characters that are caught in life’s trap of frustration.  Neither seems to have a purpose in being.  They exist, but why?  For what purpose? 

The pair successfully draws us into their world which is about to experience an eclipse, something that is destined to happen without much purpose, no matter what, like the pattern of these men’s lives. 

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: AGES OF THE MOON is a typical Sam Shepard play.  The characters are well-etched, hard to love or even like, and leave us with a lesson of abject frustration as to why some people lead lives of little meaning or purpose.  It’s a script for those who like raw, well performed theater.

AGES OF THE MOON runs Thursdays through Sundays through  December 6, 2015 at Ensemble Theatre, housed in the former  Coventry School, 2843 Washington Blvd, Cleveland Heights.  For tickets call 216-321-2930 or go online to

To see the views of other Cleveland area theatre reviewers go to:

Friday, November 13, 2015

“So You Think You Can Dance” concert in PHSquare includes 2015 winner Gaby Dia

“So You Think You Can Dance” is a 13-time Primetime Emmy Award television dance competition show which has just completed its twelfth season.  Each year, after the winner has been named the top ten contestants go on an extensive national tour.  The tour lands in Cleveland on November 24th.

The show will include the season’s most popular routines as well as original pieces created specifically for the tour, and will reflect this season’s new format where dancers were divided into two groups of ten dancers each, Team Stage and Team Street.  Stage included those trained in such styles as ballet, modern, tap, contemporary, Broadway, jazz, disco, swing, ballroom and Bollywood.  Street dancers were those proficient in such formats as hip-hop, breaking, krump, stepping and waacking.

Avid viewers will be excited to know that the Stage dancers, Edson Juarz, Jim Nowakowski, Hailee Payne, Derek Piquette, and the competition’s winner, Gaby Diaz are scheduled to be here, as well as Street dancers Megz Alfonso, Neptune Eskridge, Virgil Gadson, JJ Rabone, and Jaja Vankova (the runner-up).  Also along will be  Moises Parra, Marissa Milele, Yorelit Apolinario and Aleia Meyer. 

A recent interview with Gaby Diaz revealed that she grew up in Miami, Florida, attended college for a semester but dropped out because she wanted to concentrate on dance.  Her training was at the Roxy Theatre Group in west Miami-Dade county working with Jillian Togas-Leyva.  She is trained mainly in tap, but has had experience in classical ballet and modern dance as well as some commercial hip-hop. 

A long time fan of the show, Gaby was formerly rejected for inclusion, but came back to try again.  Obviously, with positive effect. 

She thinks that in spite of the fact that tappers have been in the final four for the last three years, it is an under-rated dance form.  She indicated that many students start in tap, but due to its difficulty, they drop their training.  Tappers, she noted, tend to stick together and respect past history, especially the styles of the 30s, but that the form, much like other dance formats, is evolving.

Her personal favorite routines of the season were her hip-hop number, where she got to show her street skills, her contemporary presentation, and her tap duet. The latter was her big moment as it was her only chance to show that she was the only one of this year’s contestants who could perform proficiently in that style. 

The dancers were challenged weekly to perform a variety of styles, working with award winning choreographers.  “We needed to often work outside our styles which necessitated asking questions and not being afraid of the choreographers.”

How long do the contestants get to learn new routines?  According to Gaby, “its 
about 2 ½ hours the first day, a night to sleep on it, and then five hours the next day.  Hallway rehearsals are used by partners to practice beyond the studio time.”  Sleep?  “Sleep wasn’t that important…getting the routines down was.”

Gaby’s prizes for winning included participation in Jennifer Lopez’s Las Vegas show and $250,000.  She isn’t sure what she will be doing in the Lopez show yet.  “That will be taken care of after the tour concludes.”  As for the prize money, she indicated that she “is too young to make decisions about dealing with the money,” so she has hired a financial advisor.

Her future?  The 19-year old hopes to still be dancing or doing something related to dance in Los Angeles, where she plans to move after her Vegas gig.

Her advice to those who watch the show and dream of being Gaby Diaz?
“Don’t dream of being Gaby, show who you are, audition, it changed my life. You don’t want to wonder what would have happened if you didn’t audition.”

Want to see Gaby and the rest of the Season 12 top ten?  They will appear at the State Theatre, PlayhouseSquare Center, on November 24, 2015.  Tickets, which range from $10 to $75, with VIP tickets from $150-$750, can be obtained by calling 216-241-6000 or going on line to

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Kent State’s Musical Theatre program joins Musical Theater Project for ZORBA!

“I believe in grabbing at life.”  “Every minute is a new minute.”  Thus states Zorba, the lead character in ZORBA!, a musical that “captures of the spirit of Greece and celebrates a people who embrace love, life and death with equal passion.”

As a follow-up to its PERFECTLY MARVELOUS:  THE SONGS OF JOHN KANDER, the Musical Theater Project will be present an in-concert version of Kander’s ZORBA!, in coordination with Kent State University’s Musical Theatre program.

An adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis’ novel “Zorba The Greek” and the 1964 movie based on the book, the musical is set in Crete in 1924.   It centers on Zorba, a Greek who has a life-embracing philosophy, which he intends to share with Nikos, an uptight young student.  Nikos has inherited an abandoned mine in Crete which he wants to reopen.  A friendship develops between the very opposite men, and romantic relationships develop between the duo, a French woman and a local widow. 

The show, which premiered on Broadway in 1968, was nominated for Best Musical.  It has music by Kander, lyrics by his longtime writing partner Fred Ebb, and book by Joseph Stein. 

An interview with Terri Kent, Head of the Musical Theatre Program at KSU and Producing Artistic Director of Porthouse Theatre, who will direct the concert, revealed that she and Bill Rudman, the Artistic Director of MTP, have developed a partnership to produce shows for TMTP using Kent State students.  Last year, they staged BABES IN ARMS.

In order to prepare for working with ZORBA!, which will focus on the text and music rather than the traditional staging, Kent probed into Greek culture, traditions and dancing.   Fortunately, she had a built-in resource in Effie Tsengas, the KSU College of the Art’s Communication and Marketing Director, who is Greek and is involved as both a Greek folk dancer and instructor at several Greek churches.  Kent also watched the movie, which starred Anthony Quinn. 

Kent indicated that since this isn’t a traditional production, the four dance numbers written into the show, which move the story along, will have to be creatively dealt with. 

The director is aware that when the show originally opened, reviewers commented that the “material was too dark,” and the “book was too heavy” for a Broadway musical.  She states, “Yes it is dark, but it is also a celebration.  The tone is set by the exquisite music.” 

Kent explains, “ZORBA! is hopeful.  It is about finding the joy in life.”   As philosophized by the lead character, “you can live life as if you are going to die tomorrow or you can live like you are going to live forever.  The latter makes you free.” “Zorba accepts things that are unacceptable . . . he takes ownership for what he does.  He is honest.  He is likeable.”   “Many people can’t live life being a Zorba, but it sure offers a lot to be admired.”

She also indicated, “When the musical opened in 1968 there had been few musical dramas.  Since then the likes of SWEENEY TODD [and other Sondheim musicals] have changed the musical theatre landscape.” 

The show is being developed on the Kent campus where tryouts were held earlier this fall.  Jennifer Korecki, an Assistant Professor of Musical Theatre, is preparing the music with the cast.  Nancy Maier, MTP’s musical director, will come in close to the production dates and the duo will polish the musical aspects of the performances.

The cast will include 17 people playing 53 roles, standing behind podiums with microphones.   KSU faculty member Fabio Polanco will portray Zorba and Jess Tanner, an MFA graduate student, will portray Hortense.

ZORBA! In-Concert Musical, will be presented Saturday, December 5 at 2 PM in the E. Turner Stump Theatre on the campus of Kent State University (tickets—General admission $18, Seniors/TMTP members $14):  330-672-2787 or and Wednesday, December 9 at 7:30 PM in the Mackey Main Stage Beck Center for the Arts (tickets—General admission $26, Seniors/TMTP members $21, Children 12 and under $10):  216-245-8687 or online at 

There will be post-show discussions with the performers, director Terri Kent and Bill Rudman.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

There’s a Cleveland atmosphere to Broadway theatre 2015

Last season over twenty performers with Cleveland area connections played on Broadway.  So far this season, the trend continues.  Chris McCarrell is in LES MISÉRABLES, Cassie Okenka will be in SCHOOL OF ROCK, Steel Burkhart appears in ALADDIN, Jill Paice stars in AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, Kyle Post kicks up his heels in KINKY BOOTS and Alex Wyse has a major role in SPRING AWAKENING.

I’ve reviewed many of those shows in previous trips to New York.  Here are my latest “quickie” comments about recent shows I’ve seen on Broadway.  To read the entire review of any show go to

SPRING AWAKENING—a brilliant, compelling, creative revival on Broadway which features Beachwood’s Alex Wyse

In its original Broadway production, SPRING AWAKENING was a smash hit.  In its re-imagined production, the marriage of spoken/sung sounds and American Sign Language adds to the overall captivating effect of a story of oppression and misunderstanding, not only of youth, but of the deaf world.  The production should be a clear candidate for a Tony Best Musical Revival!

SPRING AWAKENING is in a limited run through January 24, 2016 @ THE BROOKS ATKINSON THEATRE, 256 West 47th Street, New York

DAMES AT SEA—a happy flashback to the musicals of the 30s

DAMES AT SEA is a slight musical that delights.  The dancing is dynamic, the stage explodes with enthusiasm, the orchestra produces toe-tapping sounds. It’s an escapist type of production, though not a great Broadway musical, which will allow the audience to leave the theatre humming the music and adding a little dance gait to their exit out of the theatre.

DAMES AT SEA is in an open-run at the intimate 597-seat Helen Hayes Theatre, 240 West 44 th Street.

FOOL FOR LOVE a Manhattan Theatre Club gift to students and audiences

The Manhattan Theatre Club’s FOOL FOR LOVE is a powerful play that is well directed and performed.  It delves into the psychological weaknesses of people who find themselves unable or unwilling to move forward in a healthy way.  It is a good lesson for how not to live ones life for the numerous students who will see the production as part of the MTC mission.  As a side pay-off, anyone who can attend when the teens are in attendance will gain respect for the MTC program and the youth who are fortunate to be involved.  

FOOL FOR LOVE is being staged by the Manhattan Theatre Club in the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 West 47th Street, New York.  Its run has been extended through December 13, 2015

FOOL FOR LOVE is a Manhattan Theatre Club gift to students and audiences

Most Broadway theatre is based on the for-profit model.  Find or write a script, get backers to fund the show, hire a director and the necessary production staff, cast the show, rehearse, publicize the forthcoming production, sell tickets, place the show on a stage, and hopefully sell more tickets so that the funders make a profit.  It is a business model.

According to recent research on Broadway shows from 1994 to 2014,  “21 percent of musical shows recoup their costs, while 79 percent do not.”  Statistics on comedies and dramas are not as easy to find.

Yes, Broadway theatre is a for-profit business!  Well, almost all of it.

For the Manhattan Theatre Club, profit is not the issue.  MTC’s mission is “to produce a season of innovative work with a series of productions as broad and diverse as New York itself, to encourage significant work by creating an environment in which writers and theatre artists are supported by the finest professionals producing theatre today, to nurture new talent in playwriting, musical composition, directing, acting and design, and to reach out to audiences with innovative programs in education and maintain a commitment to cultivating the next generation of theatre professionals.”  Strong emphasis is placed on an intensive Development Program and an Education Program.

On the day I saw Sam Shepard’s FOOL FOR LOVE, the theatre was populated almost exclusively by students.  Conversations with some of the teens and the organization’s Director of Education indicated that the play had been read as part of class assignments and then discussed.   As became obvious during the show, and in the after-production question-and-answer session with the actors, these kids were not only well-mannered and attentive, but well-versed.   Their questions were probing and on target.

Sam Shepard’s FOOL FOR LOVE opened at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco in February of 1983.  It starred Ed Harris and Kathy Baker and was a finalist for the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.  It opened off-Broadway in May of 1983 with the Magic Theatre cast, and then moved onto Broadway for an extended run.

The present Broadway production opened at the Williamstown Theater Festival in July, 2014 and transferred to The Samuel J. Friedman Theater in October of this year.

The play focuses on May and Eddie who have known each other since high school.  Their connection is toxic and often volatile.  May seemingly has found some sort of peace in a small Mojave Desert town, but Eddie shows up and invades her room in a run down motel, seemingly interested in reigniting their relationship. 

Eddie wants May to come with him to a trailer on a farm.  May refuses because she has gone through the destructive cycle before.  She has also started to develop a friendship with Martin, a shy local man. 

Who are these people?  Part of the answer is supplied by “The Old Man,” a ghost figure, who reveals that he led a double life and May and Eddie are half-siblings, with a common father and different mothers.   The Old Man was not only a philanderer, but an alcoholic.  Eddie appears to be a duplicate, drinking and secretly seeing a woman who May refers to as “The Countess.” 

In a series of rapid occurrences, the Countess shows up and torches Eddie’s car, Martin appears for his date with May, The Old Man becomes delusional, Eddie runs out followed by May.  Will they go together?  What’s to become of them? 

Shepard has written “fool” characters who appear to be doomed, together or apart.  It’s hard to feel any compassion for May or Eddie as they are caught in a maze, and can’t or won’t find their way out.   And, as is his habit, Shepard has created an “iconic father character—that disconnected, alcoholic father who can’t communicate.”

The MTC production is well directed by Daniel Aukin.  The show is nicely paced, holds the audience’s attention, has both the dramatic and comic elements stressed, and develops Shepard’s intent and purpose.

Nina Arianda, 2012 Tony Award winner for VENUS IN FUR, is fierce as May.  How she doesn’t have a body of welts and bruises is surprising.  This is not only a physical role, it’s emotionally exhausting.   Arianda doesn’t portray May, she is May!  Bravo!

Sam Rockwell, best known for his many screen credits, is properly maniac as the obsessed Eddie.  He intensely creates a man who works totally on emotion, with little logic being exercised.  The physical chemistry between Rockwell and Arianda is electric.

Gordon Joseph Weiss sits on a chair, slightly off the motel room set, and observes.  When The Old Man finally speaks, he compels attention with his drunken, mumbling cadence.  When he rises and displays his wrath, he continues to command attention. 

As Martin, Tom Pelphrey enters into the fray like a deer in the headlights. He shows complete confusion as he is manipulated by both May and Eddie.  He may be the only character who has any hope of getting out of the situation without being psychologically destroyed.

Capsule judgment:  The Manhattan Theatre Club’s FOOL FOR LOVE is a powerful play that is well directed and performed.  It delves into the psychological weaknesses of people who find themselves unable or unwilling to move forward in a healthy way.  It is a good lesson for how not to live ones life for the numerous students who will see the production as part of the MTC mission.  As a side pay-off, anyone who can attend when the teens are in attendance will gain respect for the MTC program and the youth who are fortunate to be involved. 

FOOL FOR LOVE is being staged by the Manhattan Theatre Club in the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 West 47th Street, New York.  Its run has been extended through December 13, 2015.

Monday, November 09, 2015

DAMES AT SEA—a happy flashback to the musicals of the 30s

The musicals of the 1930s were tap-dancing, bright-lights, happy music, and slight plot-driven spectaculars.  Watching DAMES AT SEA is a flashback to that era.  But, to the surprise of many, the script is not as old as might be perceived.  DAMES AT SEA, with book and lyrics by George Haimsohn and Robin Miller, and music by Jim Wise, actually opened off-off-Broadway in 1966, and moved to Off-Broadway in 1968.  Though billed as a revival, it is now in its on-Broadway premiere. 

Another aspect of the present staging that might surprise is that there are no long lines of scantily dressed chorus girls or a tuxedoed kick line of studly young men.  There are only seven performers in the production.

Director and choreographer, Randy Skinner, a three-time Tony winner, has formed the septet into a joyful assemblage that sings, dances, and entertains for two-hours in a format of songs and dances hooked together by a hokey farcical slight story-line.

The musical, which is supposedly based on the “Gold Diggers” movies, starred Bernadette Peters in its original incarnation.  Others who appeared in the role were Bonnie Franklin and Pia Zadora.  A movie version, starring Ann-Margret, Anne Meara, Ann Miller and Dick Shawn was made in 1971.

The story-line centers on Ruby, fresh off the bus from Utah.  She wanders into a Broadway theatre where the rehearsal of a show is in progress.  She, of course, has a pair of tap shoes, and, since one of the show’s dancers has just quit, she displays her dancing skills and is hired. 

Add Mona Kent, the show’s temperamental diva, Joan, a chorus girl turned bosom-buddy, Dick, a sailor and aspiring song writer, who found Ruby’s lost suitcase and turns up at the theatre accompanied by his friend Lucky, add a wrecking ball that is about to knock down the theatre, a hysterical producer, the Captain of a ship who is Mona’s former lover, and you have all the elements needed to “put on a musical.”  At least a musical entitled DAMES AT SEA.

The score is catchy, full of toe-tapping rhythms, and includes “It’s You,” “Broadway Baby,” “That Mister Man of Mine,” “Good Times are Here to Stay,” and “Let’s Have a Simple Wedding.”

Though the original production had only 2 pianos and percussion, the present staging goes big time with a full orchestra of keyboard, woodwinds, brass and percussion.

The cast is talented, knows how to showcase farce, and are dancing machines.

Adorable Eloise Kropp lights the stage as Ruby.  The triple threat performer sings, dances and acts with playful “aw-shucks”ease.  Her renditions of “Sailor of My Dreams” and “Raining in my Heart” are endearing.

Mara Davi is a master at farcical quips and double-take looks.  Her Joan delights. 

Lesli Margherita is diva-delicious as the self-impressed Mona.   She sets the mood for the show with her “Wall Street.” 

Cary Tedder, in the manner of Donald O’Connor and Gene Kelley, is the All-American handsome leading man who is a master dancer and displays the right charmer qualities as Dick. 

Danny Gardner is spot on as Lucky both Joan and Dick’s second banana.

John Bolton as both Hennesey, the over-wrought producer and The Captain, is farce right.

Capsule judgment:  DAMES AT SEA is a slight musical that delights.  The dancing is dynamic, the stage explodes with enthusiasm, the orchestra produces toe-tapping sounds. It’s an escapist type of production, though not a great Broadway musical, which will allow the audience to leave the theatre humming the music and adding a little dance gait to their exit out of the theatre.

DAMES AT SEA is in an open-run at the intimate 597-seat Helen Hayes Theatre, 240 West 44 th Street.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

SPRING AWAKENING—a brilliant, compelling, creative revival on Broadway

The late eighteen-hundreds were dark years in Europe.  The times were noted for oppression, strong church controls, guilt, and sexual repression. 

Since the arts represent the era from which they come, Frank Wedekind’s SPRING AWAKENING is a mirror to reflect those dark times. 

Started in late 1890, and completed early 1891, the script did not get staged until 1906 due to German censorship regulations.   Subtitled A CHILDREN’S TRAGEDY, the play exposed the attitudes of the time by delving into homosexuality, rape, child abuse, suicide, abortion and erotic fantasies through vivid dramatization.  German productions of the play were protested, shut down, and banned.

The script was made into a silent film in 1929. 

On December 10, 2006, after a series of concerts, workshops and an off-Broadway production, the musical opened on Broadway. Containing alternative rock music infused with folk sounds composed by Duncan Sheik and with a book and lyrics by Steven Sater, the show, which starred  Jonathan Groff, Lea Michele and Skylar Astin, won 8 Tony Awards and 4 Drama Desk Awards.  The cast album received a Grammy Award.

The revival, a compelling re-imagining of the play, is directed by Michael Arden and choreographed by Spence Liff, and was originally produced by Deaf West Theatre.

Founded in 1991, Deaf West Theatre, located in North Hollywood, was the first professional resident sign-language theatre in the western part of the US.  Intended to serve the over one-million deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals in the LA area, it produces adaptations of classic, contemporary and original works.  The shows are presented in a marriage of American Sign Language with simultaneous English translation.  A speaking actor speaks and signs ASL, a deaf performer signs ASL and a speaking actor, usually standing behind the performer, provides their “voice.”

SPRING AWAKENING takes place in 1891and concerns a group of German teens who are becoming sexually aware and are fighting for independence from their parents and the repressive rules of their elders, including their teachers and the clergy.

The story centers on Wendla, Melchoir, and Moritz.  Wendla craves to learn more about herself.  She asks her mother to explain where babies come from, but her mother, as do the other mothers, fails to give the needed information.  In an era before sex education in the schools, the teens are left with little factual reproductive information.

Wendla and Melchoir fall in love and have an affair.

Moritz Stiefel, whose father insists on more learning than the boy can intellectually comprehend, gets in trouble at school, is defended by Melchoir, the smartest and most popular boy, who sees the weakness of the educational system and wants to change things.   He also explains to Moritz, in a written document, the physical aspects of the human anatomy and the sexual act.

Several of the girls report physical and sexual abuse on the part of their parents, while some boys act out acts of masturbation and reveal lively fantasies about sexual intimacy.

The repression, the secrecy, and the hypocrisy become apparent when, after being expelled, Moritz ends his life.  Wendla becomes pregnant and is taken to a fake abortion doctor with tragic results.  Melchoir is jailed for pandering obscenity.

The story is strong.  The story-advancing music includes such modern classics as “The Bitch of Living,” ”The Dark I Know Well,” “Don’t Do Sadness,” “Left Behind,” “Those You’ve Known,” and “The Song of Purple Summer.”

The mostly young cast is compelling in their portrayals.  Austin P. McKenzie, who is making his Broadway and theatrical debut, creates a Melchior who is sensitive, aware and determined.  He puts on the character and wears him with consistency and fine texturing.  His vocally led “Totally Fucked” was a show-stopping explosion of dance and song.

Daniel N. Durant, also making his Broadway debut, operating under the motto, “Striving to build bridges and spread the message that Deaf can!,” skillfully portrays Moritz, a young man overwhelmed by pressures from his father and the false expectations of his teachers.  His suicide scene is emotionally devastating.

Another Great White Way newcomer, Sandra Mae Frank, clearly establishes Wendla as a young lady intent on learning about the ways of life, but frustrated by her mother and teachers, who discourage curiosity and realistic learning.  Her “voice” is supplied by Katie Boeck. Their “Mama Who Bore Me” was beautifully conceived. 

Other strong performances are given by 2005 Beachwood High School grad, Alex Wyse as Georg and Andy Mientus (Hanschen) who recently appeared in LES MISÉRABLES and had a major role in TV’s “Smash.”  Camryn Manheim was at her nasty best as a vindictive teacher.  (At the performance I saw, Marlee Matlin did not perform.)

Dane Laffrey’s scenic and costume designs, Ben Stanton’s lighting design, Gareth Owen’s sound design and Lucy Mackinnon’s projections, all added to the overall effect.

Capsule judgment:  In its original Broadway production SPRING AWAKENING was a smash hit.  In its re-imagined production, the marriage of spoken/sung sounds and American Sign Language added to the overall captivating effect of a story of oppression and misunderstanding, not only of youth, but of the deaf world.  The production should be a clear candidate for a Tony Best Musical Revival!

SPRING AWAKENING is in a limited run through January 24, 2016 @ THE BROOKS ATKINSON THEATRE, 256 West 47th Street, New York