Thursday, January 09, 2020

“THE ILLUSIONISTS” BRINGS MAGIC TO PHSQ





Sword swallowing, escape from a vat of sand while being handcuffed, inserting a needle through the tongue, the shell game of trying to figure out which cup contains a hidden pea, card tricks, changing water to wine, putting a sword through a trunk while a woman contortionist is inside and remains uncut, and mind reading, are just some of the illusions, tricks or magic that are presented by the performers who make up the cast of “THE ILLUSIONSTS, LIVE FROM BROADWAY,” now appearing on-stage at the Connor Palace.

The production which features a rotating cast of magicians who present on stage illusions, escapology and comedy magic using not only their own assistants, but “volunteers” from the audience, is aimed to please audiences of all ages. 

The show premiered at the Sydney (Australia) Opera House on January 12, 2012 and has gone on to appear in such places as Kuwait, Mexico, China, England, Dubai, much of Europe and on Broadway.   The troupe is now on a nation-wide tour, with a 5-day stop in CLE.

The international cast includes Valentin Azema (The Elusive), Dizzy (The Trickster), Jonathan Goodwin (The Daredevil), Stuart MacLeod (The Delusionist), Florian Sainvet (The Manipulator), Sos & Victoria (The Transformationalists), and Steve Valentine (The Showman).  Each has a magic specialty.

One of the highlights of the opening night performance took place when two pre-arranged for volunteers were brought on stage.  At the conclusion of a delightful give-and-take between the master-of-ceremonies and the young ladies, one dropped to her knee, removed a small black box from her pocket, and, to shrieks of delight and affirmation from the audience, asked her companion to marry her.  Of course, the answer was, “yes”

The engaged duo were not the only audience participants.  By various means and schemes, audience members played the foils in many of the activities.

The stage actions were enhanced by the presence of camera close-ups projected onto a large on-stage screen, ensuring that card tricks and slight-of-hand activities were easy for everyone in the audience to see.

Capsule judgment:  Though many aspects of the show were very entertaining, the over-all effect was under-whelming.  It seemed in many segments, that the cast has done these same tricks over and over, and were on automatic pilot.   

‘THE ILLUSIONISTS LIVE FROM BROADWAY” appears at the Connor Palace from January 7-11.  For tickets call 216-241-6000 or go to www.playhousesquare.org

Monday, January 06, 2020

Musical Theater Project presents “MAKE SOMEONE HAPPY: THE SONGS OF COMDEN & GREEN”




Betty Comden (Basya Cohen) and Adolph Green were noted as one of the luminaire lyricist and script-writing teams of mid-20th century Broadway and Hollywood.  

The duo, who were a creative partnership but not a romantic couple, met while they were studying drama at NYU.  They formed a troupe called “The Revuers,” which consisted of Betty, Adolph and Judy Holliday and played at venues in Greenwich Village.  Green’s good friend, Leonard Bernstein, often played the piano for the group.

The acts success earned them a movie offer, but their roles in the Hollywood flick were so small they barely were noticed.  They quickly returned to New York.

Their first Broadway composing effort teamed them with Bernstein for ‘ON THE TOWN,” a critical and financial success.  Unfortunately, their next two stage attempts were flops. 

Discouraged, they left NY for Hollywood, this time to be lyricists, not performers.  They found much success at MGM, which was noted for producing many memorable films during the era of the Golden Age of the Movie Musical.  Included were Comden and Green’s  "SINGIN' IN THE RAIN,” “GOOD NEWS,” and “THE BAND WAGON.” 

Flush with success, they returned to Broadway where they found Great White Way praise with “TWO ON THE AISLE,” “WONDERFUL TOWN,” “PETER PAN,” ‘ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY,” and “BELLS ARE RINGING.”  The latter show united them with Judy Holliday. 

Their song creations included such classics as “The Party’s Over,” “It’s Love,” “Lucky to be Me,” “Make Someone Happy” “Never Never Land,” and one of the top hits of all time, “New York New York.”   

Often referred to as Broadway’s “merry pranksters,” Betty and Adolph continually wrote about the witticism of life, of childhood, and how to escape from reality. 

The Musical Theater Project will pay tribute to the duo in “MAKE SOMEONE HAPPY:  THE SONGS OF COMDEN & GREEN.”  The multi-media production will be hosted by Bill Rudman and Nancy Maier and feature Eric Fancher, Sheri Gross and Sara Masterson.

Spotlight on Eric Fancher:  


Eric Fancher is well known to many CLE theatre-goers for his over 100 local theatre productions.

Originally from Detroit, the handsome and talented 31-year-old, who is noted for his well-trained singing voice and compelling stage presence, moved to this area in 1991.  

The product of an “artsy” theatrical family, his father, a minister, was a collegiate theatre major and his mother is a music teacher.

How did he become involved in theatre?  In a recent interview, Fancher revealed that in high school he was interested in a girl who was interested in theater.  How to better win over the damsel then to try out for plays!  Though the romance never developed, the theater connection did.

His favorite role:  Harold Hill in “THE MUSIC MAN.” It was a role he played in a concert version of the classic at Cain Park under the direction of Joanna May Cullinan.  It was Cullin, who is the Marketing Director at TMTP, who made the arrangements for Fancher to try out for roles at TMP.  And, as the old saying goes, “The rest is history.”

Besides performing, Eric is the founder of The Cleveland Stage Alliance (http://www.clevelandstagealliance.com), which is a “website developed to expose local theatre to those who don’t know what’s going on theatrically in the area.  It promotes any and all locally produced theatre.”  As Fancher stated.  “There is more theatre in CLE than most people know about.  

For MAKE SOMEONE HAPPY, he will be singing 17 songs including “New York, New York,” “Once in a Life Time,” “Make Someone Happy,” “I Just Can’t Wait,” and Captain Hook’s Waltz” from “PETER PAN”. 

What is the rehearsal process like for a TMTP concert?    “There are one or two solo rehearsals with music director, a run through with cast and a tech rehearsal.”  Yes, all that wonder is created in 4 rehearsals.

What does Fancher like about Comden and Green songs?  “They are lyricists who are clever, funny, often beautiful, and each show has a different feel to it.”

Upcoming local gig for the talented singer/actor is TMTP’s “THE IMPACT OF CAMELOT,” to be staged in late May.  


You can see Eric and his co-performers in MAKE SOMEONE HAPPY:  THE SONGS OF COMDEN & GREEN at the First Baptist Church, January 24 @ 7 PM:  General admission: $38, TMTP Members: $33, tickets: 1-800-838-3006 or www.MusicalTheaterProject.org or Hanna Theatre, January 26 @ 3 PM:  General admission: $35-$55, TMTP Members: $30-$50, tickets:  216-241-6000 www.PlayhouseSquare.org