Saturday, June 19, 2021

QUILTERS proves to be a pleasant way to bring back live theater to Porthouse


The weather forecast was for storms, possibly a tornado.  The actress scheduled to play the lead role wasn’t going to perform.  Cars stood at odd angels blocking spaces in the parking lot.  But, in reality, none of this mattered.  Opening night for Quilters, the first show after a year of theatrical darkness, went off like a charm. 
 
Quilters is a series of short playlets, with music.  It has a book by Molly Newman and Barbara Damashek, and music and lyrics by Damashek.
 
The stories center on the lives of American Pioneer women as originally presented in the book The Quilters: Women and Domestic Art by Patricia Cooper and Norma Bradley Allen.
 
Though it won the Fringe First Award at the Edinburgh Festival, when it opened on Broadway in 1984, it ran a meager 24 performances and 5 previews. 
 
The issue on the Great White way was that the material lends itself to an intimate production and an older audience.  That’s not what Broadway is about.  It is, however, just what Porthouse, with its small thrust stage in the Midwest setting, engenders.

The rather static mélange of skits, monologues and songs, unified by a theme rather than a sustained plot or characters, fits the pallet of the local audience.  Who are willing to fall in love with what many might call “hokey.” 

The script showcases reminders of a world of the past, straightforward comments about childbirth, honesty, school days, courtship, weddings, spinsterhood, twisters, fire, illness, death, religion, log cabins, and Midwest loyalties.  

What the Porthouse production also has is Terri Kent.  Kent, the venue’s Producing Artistic Director, stepped in at the last minute to play the central cog of the tale when Marla Berg became ill and had to drop out of the show.  With no aside meant to the very talented Berg, Kent was born to play the role of Mother/Sarah, the kind matriarch.
  
The daughters, each of whom play multiple roles, are well portrayed by Danielle Dorfman, Stella Fisher, Hannah Hensler, Israeljah Khi-Reign, Megan Polk, Alexis Wilson and Cameron Olin.  They are all students or graduates of Kent State.  Each has a strong singing voice and display well-honed acting and movement skills.

Jennifer Korecki and her orchestra set a note-perfect pace and sound for the production.  Michelle Hunt Souza’s costumes are period correct.  Cynthia Stillings’ lighting sets all the right moods and Ben Needman’s set is visually pleasing and aids in allowing the actors to create visually lovely pictures.  Parker Strong’s sound design leads to clear listening.

No credit is given to whomever made the many beautiful quilts but he/she/they deserve a well-earned solo curtain.

The production, which is heighted by the creative staging and movement, is directed and choreographed by Kent, with Rhon Thomas serving as Assistant Director.  

Capsule judgement:  Quilters, which could be dubbed Quilters 101, is not only a workshop of the role of material and sewing in the early days of this country, but a history lesson of the experiences of the women who helped settle the Midwest.  Don’t expect big chorus numbers or show stoppers, or to come out humming the score.  This is a just a pleasant slice of old-time life and makes for a nice way to spend a summer evening and the return of live theater.

Quilters runs through July 3, 2021 at Porthouse Theatre, on the grounds of Blossom Center.  For tickets go online to online to https://kentstateticketing.universitytickets.com/ or call 330-672-3884.




THE CHOIR OF MAN IS A JOYOUS WAY TO REOPEN THE THEATRES AT PLAYHOUSE SQUARE



Walking into the Mimi Ohio theatre for The Choir of Man was almost a surreal experience.  After receiving my tickets, based on the self-imposed over year-long Covid lockup, my mind was bouncing.  Do I wear a mask?  How close will others be in the auditorium? Do I greet people by shaking hands, hugging, or by keeping social distance?  

In spite of my being out of practice, all went well.  

The familiar redcoats, with smiles on their faces, welcomed theater-goers by informing that if one had their Covid vaccines, there was no requirement to wear face coverings, but could do if desired.  Seating was spread out so nobody would be directly in front of or next to anyone.  Beverages would be sold by touchless methods of payment.  

My emotional butterflies disappeared.  

The Choir of Man, which is presently reopening Play House Square, has been called, “rowdy,” raucous and resoundingly good fun,” “faultless,” “exhilarating,” “wildly entertaining,” and a “joyful romp.”   It is, as advertised, “80-minutes of unadulterated entertainment that combines high energy dance, live music and foot stomping choreography with the incredible talent of ordinary guys who perform everything from sing-along classics to classical rock.”

The cast features tap dancers, poets, instrumentalists and singers, ensuring that there is something for everyone in this uplifting presentation.  

The audience is greeted with an open curtain.  The setting is an authentic Irish bar where everyone is invited “to come ready to drink in the action!”  The performers wander onto the stage, greeting each other, yelling to the audience and passing out free beer to willing takers on long paddles to avoid contact.  

It must be assumed that in past and future non-Covid days, audience member would be invited up to the bar and given the chance to tip-a-pint with the “town folks.”

The cast is dynamic and care-free.  They remind the audience that, “the more you drink, the better we sound.”  

Even without imbibing, it immediately becomes apparent that these are multi-talented young men.   Switching from instrument to instrument, and able to sing every mode of musical style, they harmonize, sing solos of joy and remorse, tell jokes, tease and taunt each other, dance and reach out emotionally and personally to audience members, with enthusiasm and gusto. 

One of the local theatre-folk described the whole thing as the musical Once without women or plot!

Kudos to creators Andrew Kay and Nic Doodson (who also directs), choreographer Freddie Hudelson and Denis Grindel, who plays the narrator and keeps the action centered and flowing.

Capsule judgment:  It isn’t Frozen, The Lion King, or Hamilton, which some local theater-goers might have preferred to re-open the theatres of Playhouse Square, but The Choir of Man is an evening of emotional song and dance, and a perfect selection to reopen Playhouse Square. The response has been so positive that the run has been extended until July 25.

For tickets, which cost between $59 and $79, go to:  https://www.playhousesquare.org/events/detail/choir-of-man-2021


 

Sunday, April 11, 2021

BROADWAY'S John Cullum DELIGHTS IN STREAMED "AN ACCIDENTAL STAR"

 


Broadway’s John Cullum delights in streamed AN ACCIDENTAL STAR

 

Roy Berko

(Cleveland Critics Circle, American Theatre Critics Association)

 

The average theatre-goer is probably unaware of the Broadway superstar, John Cullum.  In spite of his two Tony wins and numerous nominations, and 60+ years starring in such shows as CamelotOn a Clear Day You Can See ForeverUrinetown The MusicalThe Scottsboro BoysOn the Twentieth Century and 110 in the Shade, his name is seldom mentioned when “important” Great White Way stars are listed.  If anything, he is probably more noted for his role in the television show Northern Exposure.

 

My exposure, and ever-lasting admiration for the gentle man with the folksy twang, who hails from Knoxville, Tennessee, was in 1975 when I saw Shenandoah.  I was not only enthralled by the anti-war message of the musical, and its emotional score, but by Cullum’s ability to interpret a song.  His vocal range, even then wasn’t great, but his ability to sing words of meaning and tell a tale, was spell-binding.

 

Cullum’s 1960 Broadway debut was playing Sir Dinadan in Lerner and Loewe’s Camelot.  He also understudied King Arthur.  It followed his accidental casting in several plays, including roles, in which he admits, he should not have been cast.  These “accidents” took place in 1956, within six weeks of his arriving in New York.

 

This and other personal tales are the core of John Cullum:  An Accidental Star.  Stories about the golden days of the American musical and his friendships with the likes of Richard Burton, Robert Goulet, and Julie Andrews, told in his home-style manner, is interspersed with songs from shows in which he appeared.  

 

Melodies include “On A Clear Day,” “Wonder What the King Is Doing Tonight,” “There But For You Go I,” “Camelot,” and “Come Back to Me.”

 

Is Cullum’s voice as good as it was in his prime?  Of course not, he’s 91 years old, but he can still tell a great story and make the song lyrics meaningful.

 

Kudos to his accompanist, Julie McBride.

 

Capsule judgment:  John Cullum:  An Accidental Star is a wonderful opportunity to become acquainted with one of Broadway’s “unknown” stars and learn about the making of some of the important musicals.  This is a delightful 90-minutes of entertainment!

 

The show streams from April 8-22.  Once you purchase your ticket, you will receive a link that can be used any time between 8PM on April 8 and 11:59PM on April 22.

 

For information and purchasing tickets, which start at $15, go to:  https://www.vineyardtheatre.org/an-accidental-star/

 

Thursday, April 08, 2021

IN ORDINARY DAYS, CASSIDY FINDS THE PERFECT SCRIPT TO STREAM


 

IN ORDINARY DAYS, CASSIDY FINDS THE PERFECT SCRIPT TO STREAM 

Roy Berko
(Member: American Theatre Critics Association, Cleveland Critics Circle)
 
In these days of angst, many theaters have attempted to stream various types of entertainment.  The formats have been mostly musical reviews, with a few scripted musicals being attempted.  
 
Most of these pieces haven’t worked too well.  It is hard to imagine running through the woods hand-in-hand, dancing cheek-to-cheek, or making love, when there is definitely a screen divide separating the participants.
 
Adam Gwon’s ORDINARY DAYS is a song heavy, action light musical, that requires little in the way of sets or physical interactions to develop the tale.  Many of the songs are solos.  Even the duets don’t require much physical interaction.

The story concerns four young New Yorkers whose lives intersect as they search for normalcy and personal and interpersonal connections.  They are each searching for, as one of the song’s states, “The Perfect Picture.”  
In spite of some personal stress by the characters, they are neither life threatening or a reflection of major pending doom.  Which is fine as there is a longing today for ordinary days and normalcy as an escape from the ever-present angst.  

As Kristin Netzband, the show’s director states, “The sense of the show is simply of how the lives of four individuals interconnect.”  

Of the staging process she states, “Rehearsing during the pandemic proved interesting. The process began virtually before going in-person with social distancing between masked actors taking place in the Cassidy Theatre lobby.  Then the staging moved to the actual set, which was on platform levels with plastic sheeting between the characters.”

Zach Palumb is dork-perfect as Warren, the cat sitting artist who paints “pithy sayings” on paper which he distributes around Manhattan.

One day, during his Big Apple wanderings, he finds a notebook.  The contents are the research notes of Deb, Rachael Armbruster, she of strong voice and good acting chops, who is a graduate student who has escaped from her hick town, but is frustrated by her studies and her lack of ability to tap into the writings of Virginia Woolf, the subject of her thesis. 

Warren and Deb originally are indifferently to each other, but when Warren takes her to the roof of his building, and they discuss their ambitions, they both realize they hoped for something more.  Warren throws the papers of his sayings over the roof’s edge. Seeing this, Deb also throws her thesis off the edge. 

The other couple is Jason (Pat Miller) and Claire (Kelley Wheelock) who have recently moved in together, but are having doubts about their relationship.

Miller’s “The Spaces Between” is nicely presented, while Wheelock’s “I’ll Be Here” is one of the show’s highlight vocals.

The two couples collide when, as Warren’s papers float downward, Jason who has decided to move on from Claire, finds one of the papers, with the statement,” Don't worry, everything will be OK." Claire also sees the shower of papers, calls Jason on his mobile.  After a revelation about a past relationship she realizes that it is okay to move on to her life with Jason.

Obviously this is not a great story line, but it is the music which carries the show.

The production’s musical director is Heidi Herczeg.  Though the music was well played, the sounds often drowned out the singing of the performers, making some of the vocals difficult to hear.

CAPSULE JUDGMENT:  Cassidy Theatre’s ORDINARY DAYS was a nicely directed and performed production of a story-light script which leant itself to being presented in a streamed format.  Kudos to director Kristin Netzband and her cast, Pat Miller, Kelley Wheelock, Rachael Armbruster and Zach Palumb.

The show streams April 9-11, 2021.  

Tickets may be purchased here:  Buy Tickets

Monday, March 29, 2021

Well-performed Call Me Elizabeth explores Elizabeth Taylor at YPH


Call Me Elizabeth, which was recently streamed by Youngstown Playhouse, is a solo performance piece about the early life of Elizabeth Taylor.  It was written by Kayla Boye and is set in May 1961.  

 

The play is inspired by Taylor’s conversations with her biographer Mac Lerner at The Beverly Hills Hotel where Taylor rediscovers her sense of self following her 1961 Academy Awards triumph and recovery from a nearly fatal battle with pneumonia. 

 

The play examines Taylor’s career, life, and loves, chronicling her survival in the face of adversity and tragedy, many marriages, child-star to Hollywood sex symbol.  It illuminates her compassion that inspired her later activism in the fight against HIV/AIDS, homophobia and mental health.  A fight probably by her close friendships with closeted and troubled actors, including Rock Hudson, Roddy McDowall, Montgomery Cliff and James Dean.

 

Kayla Boye, who stars in the Youngstown Playhouse production states, “Like so many, I have long been fascinated with Elizabeth Taylor, a pop culture icon who continues to captivate. In her youth, Taylor epitomized movie stardom, later becoming associated with her fabulous jewels, her popular perfumes, and her activism in the fight against HIV/AIDS. But what is the story behind the image? How does a star develop into a legend, and how does that legacy sustain itself? With Call Me Elizabeth, I hope to pay tribute to the life of this extraordinary woman by exploring how the strength of her character enabled her to break barriers with unshakable bravery–and with signature style.”

 

As is the case with one-performer shows, there is little action.  This means the script has to hold the intrigue and excitement to grab and hold the audience’s attention. 

 

Though the material is interesting, there is little drama, little unexpected, few “oh-ho” moments, no humor to break the conversational monotone, and an over-abundance of pauses to fill the glass and drink champagne.  

 

In spite of a well nuanced performance by Boye, who has a remarkable resemblance to Taylor, minus the violet eyes and kittenish voice, the outcome is acceptable, but unspectacular. 

 

Capsule judgment: “Call Me Elizabeth” is a solo-performance play which gives a snapshot view of the complex Elizabeth Taylor, who rose to lasting fame growing from a child actress to complex adult, to captivate the attention of fan magazines and an adoring public.  The script gets a solid on-line production at Youngstown Playhouse.

 

Unfortunately, the streamed production has concluded its run.

Friday, March 19, 2021

BERKO PREVIEWS: BWU PRESENTS BARS, PORTHOUSE REOPENS, DOBAMA ADOPTS LOVE AND RESPECT PROGRAM, CHRISTINE HOWEY AT MALTZ, PHSQ SET TO REOPEN


BERKO PREVIEWS:  BWU PRESENTS BARS, PORTHOUSE REOPENS, DOBAMA ADOPTS LOVE AND RESPECT PROGRAM, CHRISTINE HOWEY AT MALTZ, PHSQ SET TO REOPEN 

BWU/PHSQ presents BARS 


Baldwin Wallace Music Theatre, in partnership with Playhouse Square, is proud to announce that tickets for BARS are on sale now!
 
BARS (Beatboxing, Acting, Rapping, Singing) is a hip-hop music theatre-based improv show conceived by BWMT alum, Jay Ellis '12. BARS combines classic music theatre with contemporary skills in beatboxing and rapping. The culturally diverse and stylistically dynamic cast will pilot this interactive audience experience through the world of improvisational sketch comedy while creating scenes and songs (both lyrics and music) on the spot. Each show will present a unique combination of characters, scenes, and material using audience input. Get ready to laugh, groove, rap, and sing with the cast of BARS!
 
Experience BARS April 9 - April 11
Click here for tickets and more information.

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Porthouse Theatre plans summer program

 

Porthouse Theatre reopens for 2021 with the following productions and
performance schedule: QUILTERS, (June 17 – July 3), BKLYN, (July 8 –
July 25), and ALTAR BOYZ (July 29 – August 15).

 

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Dobama adopts Love and Respect Document

 

On March 8, 2021 the Dobama Theatre Board of Directors unanimously adopted the Love and Respect Document: a living document for anti-racism action and a culture of authentic inclusivity at Dobama Theatre.

This shift in Dobama's approach to making theatre will help create an environment of authentic inclusion. These next steps in our collective equity work will guide us as we look toward reopening for live performances sometime within the next year.

Dobama Theatre is grateful to the Board of Directors, staff, community members, partners, friends, supporters, colleagues, and collaborators that helped make this next step possible. Together we will move forward in action and accountability. We hope you’ll join us in this vital work.
It will take all of us to create a world that is equitable and safe.
It will take all of us to nurture a community of love and respect.

 

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Cleveland Critic Circle’s Christine Howey shares her journey in openly transitioning to life as a woman

On International Day of Transgender Visibility, join Phyllis Harris, executive director of LGBT Center of Greater Cleveland as she interviews Christine Howey on her journey in openly transitioning to live as a woman in her mid-forties and how her stage plays and later film, “Exact Change” has impacted the lives of trans youth and their families on their own journeys.

Wednesday, March 31, 4:00 pm--Online Program
$10 non-members; Free for Members of the Maltz Museum and Members of Program 

Register Now!

 

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PLAYWRIGHTS LOCAL LAUNCHES PL RADIO

 

Playwrights Local announces the launch of PL Radio, a new streaming media channel featuring original works by writers from Northeast Ohio. All radio plays are professionally recorded and include acting, directing, and design talent from the Cleveland area. Streaming and download are free at Amazon MusicApple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsPodBeanSpotify, and Stitcher. Find additional info at www.playwrightslocal.org.

 

PL Radio debuts with the re-release of four audio plays that were previously recorded. All titles are available for free streaming now.

Entanglement

Written by Les Hunter

Directed by Christine McBurney

Featuring John Busser and Cathleen O’Malley

 

Every Play is a Radio Play When You’re Blind

Written by Meghan Louise Wagner

Directed by Constance Thackaberry

Featuring Denise Astorino, Leonard Goff, Stuart Hoffman, Kyle Huff, Rachel Maria Inés, Diane Mull, and Laura Stitt


             Stranded

Written by Edward J. Walsh

Directed by Tim Tavcar

Featuring Agnes Herrmann

 

Flame Puppy

Written and directed by Mike Geither 

Featuring Benjamin Gregg, Beau Reinker, Amy Schwabauer, and Lauren B. Smith

 

Programming for PL Radio will continue with a new series of audio plays funded through support from the Ohio Arts Council and Cuyahoga Arts & Culture. New works by Julia Fisher, Tom Hayes, Agnes Herrmann, Gail Nyoka, and Faye Sholiton will be announced in the coming weeks. All titles in this forthcoming series will be produced in partnership with Radio on the Lake Theatre.

 

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THE CHOIR OF MAN SET TO REOPEN PHSQUARE

Playhouse Square will reopen its doors with a monthlong run of “The Choir of Man,” starting June 11 at the Mimi Ohio Theatre, 1511 Euclid Ave. in downtown Cleveland.

This is the show’s third visit to Playhouse Square, and stars a cast of singers, dancers and musicians performing a mix of Irish tunes, pop music and Broadway classics, all on a set designed like an Irish pub. The Choir of Man will be presented by the same team behind Gobsmacked and Noise Boys.

Scheduled for 35 performances through July 11, tickets range from $59 to $79. Tickets can be purchased at playhousesquare.org or by calling 216-241-6000.

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Saturday, March 06, 2021

BECK CENTER STREAMS MUST SEE CONCERT OF BROADWAY ALUMS


 
Beck Center often coordinates with Baldwin Wallace Music Theatre program to produce some of the area’s best musical theatre.  Not only does the stage often sparkle with BWU students, but thespians from all over the area are cast in some of the Beck shows.
 
Hosted by Kathleen Rooney Faubel, a BWU alum whose talent was showcased at Beck in The Little Mermaid and Evil Dead, The Musical, and her husband, Jarid Faubel, a showcase is being streamed which features performances and interviews with former BC actors and singers who have gone on to Broadway and professional touring company appearances.
 
Rory O’Malley, a St. Ignatius and Carnegie Mellon grad, who appeared on Broadway in The Book Of Mormon, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and Hamilton, opened the program with a well-interpreted “A Good Thing Going,” which is from Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along.

 
Some of the members of the cast of Beck’s Dog Fight (for my review of the original production go to https://royberkinfo.blogspot.com/2015/02/dogfight-fails-to-live-up-to-beck.html, did a medley from the show.  Included was Colton Ryan, BW grad, who not only sang in that number, but did a charming personal interview.  Ryan made his Broadway debut in Dear Evan Hanson, and went on to appear in the new Bob Dylan musical The Girl from the North Country. Other performers were Zack Adkins, Gabe Brown, Mike Cefalo, Nick Drake, Andrew Kotzen and Stephan Stubbins.

 
Keri Rene Fuller, showcased in Beck Center’s Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson and Dogfight brought her talents to Broadway in Waitress and did the latest national tour of Cats.  She sang a plaintive version of “Before It’s Over.”
 
Corey Mach, who performed in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream
Coat 
at Beck Center prior to becoming a BW student and taking his talents to Broadway, appeared on the Great White Way in Kinky BootsHands on a Hardbody and Godspell.  He toured in WickedFlashdance: The Musical and Rent.  In this program he did a delightful rendition of “You’ll Be Back” from Hamilton.

 
The Faubels not only did a walking tour of some of the Broadway theatres, but interrupted their hosting to perform an engaging rendition of “It’s De-Lovely.”
 
Rebecca Pitcher, performed at Beck in Sweeney Todd and She Loves Me, and is noted for her long run as Christine in The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway.  She also appeared in Carousel on the Great White Way and toured in The Sound of Music.  She not only sang “How Could I Ever Know” from The Secret Garden, but told the tale of how she accidentally caught on fire while performing in “Phantom.”
 
Cassie Okenka, another BW alum, performed at BC in Moby Dick the Musical before rocking her way to Broadway in School of Rock and Bonnie and Clyde.  For the reunion concert she sang, “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.”

Cincinnati Conservatory of Music alum, Max Chernin, who sang “Sailing” from A New Brain, was seen on the Beck Center boards in Aida and The History Boys.  He performed in Bright Star and Sunday in the Park with George in NYC.

The concert ended with Libby Servais, who was in Glinda in Broadway’s Wicked, also performed there in Lysistrata Jones.  She was accompanied by and sang “‘Till There Was You” from The Music Man, with her husband.

Capsule judgment:  For anyone who loves musical theatre and talented Broadway performers, Beck’s stream is a total must see!  For free tickets to this engagement, which runs March 5 to March 28, 2021, go to ShowTix4U.com.  Also consider making a contribution to keep Beck as a thank you for the show and as a boost for their viability as a performing arts center.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

VERB BALLETS BRIGHTENS THE PANDEMIC WITH A DISPLAY OF GOING SOLO

 


 

According to Artistic Director Margaret Carlson, the purpose of Cleveland’s Verb Ballet’s recent streamed Going Solo, was to allow the audience to see the entire company through a series of dance sequences, mainly dancers in solo performances.  

 

Danced with pandemic appropriate masks, the dancers performed traditional, modern and folk compositions, accompanied by recorded music.  

 

The program included Paquita, originally choreographed by Marius Petipa, and staged in the Verb program by Robert Carter.  

 

The six variations, with music by Ludwig Minkus, displayed classical movement, featuring dancers on pointe.  The performers, Elizabeth Schaeffer, Kelly Korfhage, Lieneke Matte, Julie Russel, Kate Webb and Emily Dietz, were clad in white tutus.  

 

The result was a lovely, often lively display.

 

Sometimes, Always, choreographed by associate artistic director, Richard Dickinson, was danced to music composed by Samuel Barber, who is noted with the tribute that "Probably no other American composer has ever enjoyed such early, such persistent and such long-lasting acclaim."

 

The first segment of this newly conceived dance was performed to the modern classical sounds by Sikhumbuzo Hlanhleni, Hunter Hoffman, Antonio Morillo and Benjamin Shepard.  Costumed in white, the quarter displayed strong muscular lifts, poses and spins.  

 

Part two found Morillo and Shepard displaying powerful athleticism, while featuring strong coupling.

 

Part three found the all-male quartet bringing the number to its climax.

 

Dances For Isadora (Five Evocations of Isadora Duncan) is choreographer José Limón’s tribute to the brilliant, but tragic Duncan, considered to be the mother of modern dance.  She encouraged a free form to the art form, incorporating skipping, running, jumping, leaping and tossing.  

 

The five segments were:  Primavera (performed by Lieneke Matte), Maenad (danced by the captivating Emani Drake), Niobe (executed by Emily Dietz), La Patrie (featuring the stunning Noe Iwamatsu) and Scarf Dance (spotlighting Kate Webb).  

 

Le Corsaire, the men’s variation from the Grand Pas de Deux, was a very brief interlude, proficiently danced by international cultural exchange artist, Sikhumbuzo Hlahleni.

 

The early 1700’s, Jota, a sample of Aragonese folklore dance, was performed with joie-de-vivre by the company’s male dancers.  It was followed by Ukrainian Dance, set to a medley of traditional music and featured the entire company in a joyous conclusion.

 

Capsule judgment:  Verb Ballet, in contrast to many local theatrical and dance companies, had continued, as evidenced by Going Solo, to hone its skills during the pandemic.  They, and audiences, should look to a time, hopefully, in the near future, to be performing before live audiences.  

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

ROY BERKO--HERE AND THERE IN CLEVELAND ENTERTAINMENT: BECK, VERB BALLETS, DOBAMA THEATRE, BLANK CANVAS, INTERPLAY AND MORE…



BECK BROADWAY ALUMS IN CONCERT

Beck Center has a sterling reputation of cultivating talented performers who go on to success in hit Broadway shows and associated tours.  Some of the theatre’s alums will perform in a virtual engagement which runs March 5 to March 28, 2021, as part of Beck Center for the Arts’ 87th Professional Theater Season.

Performers include Kathleen Rooney Faubel, Rory O'Malley, Max Chernin,  
Colton Ryan, Cassie Okenka, Rebecca Pitcher, Corey, Keri Rene' Fuller and Libby Servais.
 
For information visit beckcenter.org.  
Reservations are required. For complimentary tickets (contributions are encouraged) go to https://www.beckcenter.org/shows/bbalums and click on “purchase tickets.”
 
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VERB BALLET PERFORMS ON-LINE
 
Verb Ballets, Going Solo performance premiering on Friday, February 26, 2021 at 7:00pm ET. An encore recording of the performance will be available for 48 hours after the premiere.
 
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DOBAMA PRODUCES SHORT FILMS
 
Over the course of the season Dobama Theatre will release professionally produced short films featuring memorable monologues from Dobama productions and notable contemporary playwrights. These videos are initially exclusively available to 20/21 Members free of charge during the first weeks of each short film’s debut. Films are then released for general viewing with a Pay-What-You-Can donation. Featuring some of your favorite Cleveland actors. 



ON THE GRILL (starring Dorothy Silver)
GOODNIGHT, TYLER (starring Lisa Louise Langford)
GROUNDED (by George Brant, performed by Anjanette Hal)
THE LAND OF OZ (based on the book by L. Frank Baum book and lyrics
     by George Grant, music by Nathan Motta, performed by Calista Zajac)
SIGNIFICANT OTHER (PERFOMRED BY DAN HENDROCK)
 
https://www.dobama.org/soliloquy
 
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BLANK CANVAS TO PERFORM LIVE!
 
Blank Canvas Theatre presents MAKE THEM HEAR YOU:  A Celebration of Black Artistry in Musical Theatre--A LIVE Multimedia, Drive-in Theatre Experience
 
 TWO NIGHTS ONLY!, FEBRUARY 26 & 27, Friday & Saturday at 8pm
Rated: PG-13
Run time: 60 mins (no intermission)

The safety of both our audience and actors has been and will always be our number one priority, so we invite you to join us for a no-contact, socially responsible, multimedia performance in the 78th Street Studios parking lot.

Our show will include Blank Canvas actors singing some of the most influential music created by or performed by Black artists. This drive-in show will feature a full live band, some of your favorite BCT performers, and the lighting and projection design that you have come to love. As well as our friends at NINJA CITY selling food and drinks!  What better way to celebrate and honor Black History Month? Our last two shows sold out fast. So, get your tickets, drive in, experience something new, and help support LIVE theatre!    
 
$40 per vehicle*
Advance sale only, so get your tickets NOW!
 
All parking is first-come, first-served.
Parking lot opens at 7:15 for the 8pm show.
 
To purchase tickets for this show CLICK HERE
 
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FRENCH CREEK THEATRE PRESENTS 2021 OUTDOOR SEASON

(patrons will be required to wear masks and encouraged to social distance)

“Ordinary Days” music by Adam Gown
June 4th, 5th, & 6th @ Lakeview Park – FREE show

Ordinary Days tells the story of four young New Yorkers whose lives intersect as they search for fulfillment, happiness, love, and cabs. 

“A Year With Frog & Toad”
July 30th, 31st, & August 1st @ Miller Nature Preserve-Ticketed Event

Waking from hibernation in the Spring, Frog and Toad plant gardens, swim, rake leaves, go sledding and learn life lessons along the way.

“The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) [Revised]”
August 20th, 21st, & 22nd @ Carlisle Reservation – Ticketed Event

Featured are all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays, meant to be performed in 97 minutes, by three actors. Fast paced, witty, and physical, it’s full of laughter for Shakespeare lovers and haters alike.

“Nightfall with Edgar Allan Poe”
September 17th, 18th, & 19th @ Vermilion River Reservation Bacon Woods Amphitheatre


Edgar Allan Poe stands alone in the flickering darkness of his mind, trying desperately to convince himself-and us- that he’s not mad. Enter the world of Poe and Check your heartbeat at the door.
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BORDERLIGHT INTERNATIONAL THEATRE + FRINGE FESTIVAL
 
The BorderLight International Theatre + Fringe Festival announces a call for performing artists, street and circus performers, multimedia creators and more for the 2021 event, which will feature a fully outdoor program with virtual options, in downtown Cleveland on July 22 through 24, 2021. 
 
The "fringe" is the open submission part of the festival—application is free, deadline is March 5. As one of 100s of fringe festivals worldwide, the BorderLight Festival Fringe serves as a platform for independent artists and companies to showcase their work and engage new audiences as part of a vibrant festival environment. The festival is a paid opportunity; BorderLight provides venue and operations support, and artists are compensated through a box office split, with 70% of box office proceeds going back to artists.  
 
The festival seeks performances that are suitable for outdoor and open-air venues, as well as street theatre, buskers, and virtual productions from a wide variety of genres. These include (but are not limited to): Theatre, Physical Theatre, Dance Theatre, Circus, Cabaret, Children’s Theatre, Solo Performance, Performance Art, Puppetry, Immersive Experiences, Musicals, Multimedia work, Spoken Word, Roaming Performance, Stand Up Comedy, Streamed or live-streamed digital ­­work, Audio Plays, Site-Specific performances, and more! 
Application deadline is March 5. 
 
Learn more and apply at: borderlightcle.org/fringe-apply-2021 
 
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OHIO SHAKES FESTIVAL’S LADY MOLLY:  THE MURDER AT MATHIS CAFE

LADY MOLLY: THE MURDER AT MATHIS CAFE by Julia Fisher
Adapted from the 1910 story by Baroness Emma Orczy
Live on Facebook tomorrow, February 20, 7pm EST 
A man poisoned by hot chocolate. An unidentified woman in a large hat. A judgmental rich aunt. Two gossiping servants. A stunning foreign woman with a not-so-secret grudge. All ingredients for a mystery that only Lady Molly and Mary Granard can solve.

Click here for the Ohio Shakes Facebook Page

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INTERPLAY THEATER AND MALTZ MUSEUM PRESENTS IN SCRIPT CLUB

In Script Club, we examine three plays that touch on the themes of the Maltz Museum exhibition THE NOTORIOUS RBG. Participants will need advance copies of each script, to prepare for group (Zoom) discussion on the first Thursday of March-May. Sessions, moderated by Faye Sholiton, will begin at 1:00 p.m., running approximately 75 minutes. For Maltz Museum members, there is no charge. For non-members, registration is $5.00 per session.

THURSDAY, MARCH 4 1:00 p.m.: PHOTOGRAPH 51, by Anna Ziegler
Most people credit Watson and Crick for discovering the double helix in 1953. But it was British chemist Rosalind Franklin who years earlier illuminated their path.. Award-winning playwright Anna Ziegler pulls back the curtain to repair a long-ignored injustice. Scripts available on Amazon.com

THURSDAY, APRIL 1 1:00 p.m.:  THE GREEN BOOK, by Calvin Alexander Ramsey
Ramsey's thoughtful and thoroughly engaging play takes us to a troubled Jefferson City, MO, 1953, where the blows of race hatred meet the power of basic human decency. Scripts will be available through the Museum.

THURSDAY, MAY 6 1:00 p.m.: GLORIA – A LIFE, by Emily Mann
Gloria Steinem's life has been an open book for more than five decades. It began with her magazine feature as an undercover Playboy Bunny, ran through her advocacy in Ms. Magazine and continues with her ongoing activism in the women's movement. Scripts available on Amazon.com

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Monday, February 15, 2021

BWU and Beck Center streams 5 X 15, five musicals of fifteen minutes each with mixed results


BWU and Beck Center streams 5 X 15, five musicals of fifteen minutes each with mixed results

Last November Baldwin Wallace University’s nationally ranked musical theater program produced SPRING AWAKENING on-line.   My capsule judgement of that production read: “Victoria Bussert and her BWU crew and cast avoided, as one of the songs from “SPRING AWAKENING states, being ‘Totally Fucked’ and took on the Covid-19 challenge, developing a thought-provoking production which turned out to be the first collegiate pandemic production of the script and further recognition of the college’s program.  Bravo!”

 

BWU, now in coordination with Beck Center for the Arts, a partnership that has existed for ten years, is streaming the world premieres of five fifteen-minute brand-new musicals, in a program entitled 5 X 15

 

The program is part of the National Alliance for Musical Theatre’s challenge “to celebrate the power of musical theatre and encourage continued creation of new music theatre pieces during the pandemic.” 

 

The five shows presented by BWU/Beck were all winners of the NAMT challenge.

 

The program opened with Monster on the Lawn in which we find Ricky, a six-year-old, playing on his front lawn.  When an incoming hurricane threatens to separate Ricky from his family and his home, he seeks comfort in the presence of a strange and seemingly-quiet monster. Obed De La Cruz wrote book, Latino-centric music, and lyrics.  

 

Mateus Cardoso was charming as the youngster.  He has a youthful presence, expressive eyes and a fine singing voice.

 

It was directed by Jon Martinez, the artistic director of Firebrand Theatre.

 

The second playlet was Holo.  Set in 2189, in a holograph museum, the curator (Bryanna Cuthill) and holographic Kyle (Mackenzie Meyh) have entered into a unique relationship which recounts the pandemic year 2020 and the happenings when the museum directors decide to close down the exhibit, thus erasing Kyle’s existence.

 

Both Meyh and Cuthill display strong pop music voices and were believable in their fantasy roles. 

 

The book, music, and lyrics are by Nico Juber, with BW grad and Broadway leading lady Ciara Renée (FROZEN, BIG FISH, PIPPIN) directing.

 

WHITE MAN’S BURDEN, also billed as “AN INFORMERCIAL:  A COON’S LIFE,” takes place in the world of sideshow “freaks” who have been killed because of the color of their skin.  Led by an emcee, the cast relates the tales that laid the foundation for the civil rights and Black Lives Matter movements. 

 

The cast, Dar’jon Bentley (James Byrd Jr.), Jack Hale (Andrew Goodman), Binden Harvey (James Chaney), Godia Hayes (Mikey Mike), Makay Johnson (Yusseff Hawkins), Will Lamb (Michael Schwerner), Zach Mackiewicz (Player), Charles Mayhew Miller (Emmett Till) and JT Snow (Player) create strong visual pictures.

 

Eric Jones wrote the book and lyrics with music by Joshua Davis.  Nathan Henry directs, with musical linguist, Edward Ridley, Jr., serving as musical director.

 

According to Dale Sampson, the writer and co-lyrists of RODEO CLOWNS, during these unusual times, he wanted to conceive a place the audience would be excited to return to every day.  The hope, of course, is that Rodeo Clowns could be a fun escape.

 

I wish his goal had been reached.  As is, in spite of a valiant effort by the cast (Nick Cortazzo--Butch, Danny Bó--Dill, Lee Price--Travis), the script and production make for a long fifteen-minutes.  The script and presentation well illustrate the theatrical concept, “Farce is hard to write and even harder to perform.”

 

Sara Brunner directs.

 

The highlight of the evening was the closing selection, PERPETUAL SUNSHINE & THE GHOST GIRLS, with music by Lynne Shankel, words by Sara Cooper, direction by Victoria Bussert and musical direction by Matthew Webb.

 

In the program notes Lynne Shankel writes: “Sara and I had this idea percolating for a while: a musical about the women who worked at United States Radium Corporation in the 1920’s. They worked with radium paint and were slowly being poisoned by it. When the company realized it was in fact the radium that was making them sick, they covered up their findings.” She goes on to say, “The central theme of the piece is that death is not noble. Workers shouldn’t have to put their bodies at risk for the economy. This piece will eventually be an 80-90-minute one act musical.”

 

The segment which was presented consisted mainly of one very well-written and performed song, “Tick, Tick, Lick,” which is a perfect opening for setting the story line.

 

Cast members included:  Katelyn Baughman, Piper Bruce, Colette Caspari, Audrey Hare, Autumn Key, Jessi Kirtley, Alexa Lopez, Eden Mau, Claire Marie Miller, Andie Peterson, Lauren Senden and Bella Serano.  

 

Based on what they have written so far, the longer version may well work as a musical drama, if the duo of writers can solve how to expand on the concept and use some of the newer staging electronics, such as presented in MEAN GIRLS and DEAR EVAN HANSEN.

 

CAPSULE JUDGMENT:  It is always a challenge to perform works in progress.   It is more problematic when they are musicals.  That difficulty is expanded when the staging is restricted by the electronic medium.  The BW/Beck evening of one-act musicals proved to be both a pleasurable and frustrating evening.  It will be interesting to see if any of these efforts grow beyond their present form.

 

The limited virtual engagement runs from February 12 to February 28, 2021. Ticket purchase provides 48-hour access. For more information visit beckcenter.org.  For tickets, priced at $20 for one viewer, and $30 for two or more viewers go to: https://www.showtix4u.com/event-details/44593