Sunday, March 12, 2023

Script and performances make THE OTHER PLACE a must-see at Dobama


Nathan Motta, the Artistic Director of Dobama says of the play which is now on that theatre’s stage, “THE OTHER PLACE took a long way to arrive on the Dobama stage.  I first read this script way back in 2010 and was immediately taken with its unique structure, suspenseful narrative and complex characters.”

The Dobama’s leadership team wanted to produce the script, but before they could get licensing rights, an Off-Broadway production starring Laurie Metcalf was announced.  Nope, the CLE theatre couldn’t do it.  

When the Big Apple show closed, they thought, “This is our chance.”  

Again, they were thwarted.  The production was transferred to Broadway.  It went on to garner a Tony nomination for Metcalf and major kudos from the critics.

The Broadway show finally closed.  

Now, was the chance for Cleveland’s off-Broadway theatre, to get the rights.  Right? Wrong!  The play was being produced regionally, but for a variety of reasons Dobama wasn’t able to program it. 

In Spring of 2019 the local theatre announced it was going to close its season with THE OTHER PLACE.  Hurrah!  Finally, it would be seen in 440/216.  Guess what?  “Casting was finalized, a creative team was finalized, marketing begun, and production designs were well underway when the world shut down due to the COVID pandemic.”  

No go, again! 

Flash forward to March 11, 2023…the curtain finally came up on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights.  

Was it worth the wait!  Yes, oh yes!

What’s it about?  “THE OTHER PLACE begins with the feeling of a suspense-filled thriller and evolves into a character drama that is surprising, thought-provoking, and moving.”  It’s a script full of “twists and turns.”

More specifically, “The play centers around Juliana Smithton - a successful neurologist whose life seems to be coming unhinged. Her husband has filed for divorce, her daughter has eloped with a much older man and her own health is in jeopardy. But in this brilliantly crafted work, nothing is as it seems. Piece by piece, a mystery unfolds as fact blurs with fiction, past collides with present, and the elusive truth about Juliana boils to the surface.”

And, so dear readers, that’s about all I can tell you about the plot as the theatre management sent this notice to the sage local reviewers: “We ask that in your reviews you do not describe vital plot points as this play is in large part a mystery with various reveals. Thank you.”

I can state that I agree the New York and west coast reviewers who called the play, “mesmerizing,” “compelling,” “puzzle-like intriguing,” and “spectacular.”

It’s not only the script that deserves hurrahs, but it is the wise direction by Nathan Motta and the emotion shattering performance by Tracee Patterson, who proves once again why she is considered to be one of the best actors on local stages.

Patterson’s scarily intense performance as Juliana, grabs the audience in her first speech and carries them through a series of captivating experiences which leaves not only the performer, but the viewer emotionally exhausted.  It, like the role of Martha in WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF and Blanche in STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE requires a superb actress to make the person real and the performance emotion-shattering.  Patterson has all the acting chops to pull it off!   She is standing “O” worthy!

Doug Sutherland also commands as Ian, Juliana’s husband.  Welcome, to the Cleveland area, newbie.  We look forward to seeing this talented performer in many upcoming local productions.

Mary Werntz and Prophet Seay are excellent in a variety of roles.

Jill Davis’s scenic design, Jeremy Paul’s projections and Angie Hayes’s sound designs, all aid in making this a well-conceived production.

Capsule judgment:  If you are a comedy and/or a musical theater junky who is reluctant to see a “serious” play, make an exception and get thee to Dobama to experience an important and well-written script, experience a well-conceived production, with an award-winning performance.  THIS IS AN ABSOLUTELY MUST-SEE PRODUCTION!

For tickets to THE OTHER PLACE, which runs through April 2, 2023, call 216.932.3396 or go to

Next up at Dobama:  WHAT WE LOOK LIKE (April 21-May 14).  The story of the Hodges...a black family that has recently moved to a suburban white neighborhood.  When the youngest is asked to draw a family picture at school, he creates an imaginary white family!

Thursday, March 09, 2023

“Aladdin” takes audience on a less than dynamic magic carpet ride

Disney, whether it’s their theme parks, cruises or Broadway-style shows, has a special approach that excites kids as well as adults.  

Disney’s “Aladdin” as it has done several times, is again attempting to take CLE on a magic carpet ride at the Connor Palace as part of the Huntington Featured Performance Series.
The musical, with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Menken, is based on the 1992 Disney film “Aladdin.”  
The stage version basically sticks to the cinema’s story line, but instead of the film’s animals, Aladdin is blessed with three buddies to help him through his exploits, and add delight through their Three Stooges-like shenanigans.  Jasmine gets three handmaidens, and Aladdin's second wish is used to free him and his friends from capture, not to stop him from drowning, as it is in the movie.

In addition, the stage version, while including five cherished songs from the Academy Award-winning soundtrack, adds some new tunes written especially for the live presentation.

The story follows the young orphaned Aladdin, who, with the help of his three amigos, does petty stealing in a marketplace in the Arabian city of Agrabah, someplace in the Middle East. 
Bad guy Jafar, (Boo!) Grand Vizier and assistant to the King, finds out there is a magic lamp which encases a Genie who can grant three wishes to its possessor.  
Getting that lamp is a great way for the scheming Jafar (Boo!) to become King.  Unfortunately, the cave can only be entered by the “chosen one.”  The chosen one?  Aladdin, of course.  (Hey, this is a fairytale.)  
Meanwhile, Princess Jasmine is in a tizzy because the law of the land says she must marry a prince.  She’s not interested, but she has a three-day window of time and every prince that she’s offered isn’t to her liking.  (We all know where this plot device is going!)
She sneaks out of the palace and goes to the bazaar. Aladdin and his friends are being chased by the royal guards after our hero stole a loaf of bread (you think the guys at Disney got a little mixed up and stole some of the plot from LES MIZ?).  
Jaz and ‘Ladin lock eyes and they are smitten.
And, so, the plot is laid for the Genie to grant Aladdin his wish to become a prince, thus being eligible to marry Jasmine.  (Of course, there are stumbles along the way, as well as lots of singing and dancing and a magic carpet ride.)  
In the end, as is the case with all good tales of this ilk, guy gets girl, villain gets his just just-punishment, and the audience goes home happy, (after stopping at the concession stand in the lobby to buy lots of Disneyesque “stuff”).
The touring company is a visual delight of Arabian night costumes, sets and music. However, the cast, who mostly are making their professional tour appearances, is either tired from a long tour, doesn’t have the needed experience, or just doesn’t have the singing and acting chops to carry the show to its potential dynamics.

Akron native and BW Music Theatre grad, Marcus M. Martin, is delightful as the wise-cracking, ad-libbing, bedeviling Genie.  His cast-involving opening number sets what should be a perfect delightful tone for the show, and “Friend Like Me,” sung with Aladdin and the Ensemble, evoked extended cheering (there was a large BW and Akron contingent in the audience.)
Adi Roy, he of handsome face, dark hair, nice singing voice, and expressive eyes, was acceptable as Aladdin.  He lacked the special charming quality needed to make the audience fall in love with him.
His sidekicks, Babkak (delightful Jake Letts), Omar (stand-in Joshua Kenneth Allen Johnson) and Kassim (gym-toned Colt Pratts), were perfect foils.  (Side note:  Baldwin Wallace Musical Theatre grad, Steel Burkhardt, played Kassim on Broadway).  
Pretty Senzel Ahmady had the right spunk as Jasmine, one of the few Disney princesses with a backbone. Her nicely sung “These Palace Walls” gave a clear picture of her desire to be her own person.  However, there appeared to be no emotional connection, a plot necessity, between her and Adi Roy (Aladdin).  “A Whole New World,” a Tony Winner for Best Song, a duet between the two, needed more dynamics. 

Anand Nagraj was evil-light as Jafar, not engendering enough real melodramatic scary.  Just moving your eyes upward and scowling, does not evil make.  As Iago, his bumbling side-kick, Iago, Ohio bred, Aaron Choi, feigned being a duffus.  At times he delighted, other instances, he was surface playing put-upon, not being real enough to be believable.

 Cody Hernández (Razoul) is making his homecoming with this Cleveland tour stop.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: “Aladdin” is a family-friendly, escapist musical that gets an adequate production, by a cast of mostly newbies to professional theatre.
“Aladdin” will play Wednesday through Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 1:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Tickets are available now by calling at 
216-241-6000, or via the Internet at 

Thursday, March 02, 2023

Mitsuko Uchida captivates Severance audience with Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas

The final notes of “Piano Sonata No. 32” still hung in the air of the hushed Mandel Concert Hall at Severance Music Center as pianist Mitsuko Uchida held her pose and slowly raised her hands from the Steinway piano’s keys.  As she relaxed her body the packed house rose as one, yelling praise and clapping madly.  Three curtain calls later, Uchida left the stage with the audience still applauding! 
Yes, they had just witnessed a master pianist present an impressive and long-to-be-remembered concert!
One of the most revered artists of our time, Dame Mitsuko Uchida is known as a peerless interpreter of the works of Mozart, Schubert, Schumann and Beethoven.  
Musical America’s 2022 Artist of the Year, and a Carnegie Hall Perspectives artist across the 2022/3, 2023/4 and 2024/5 seasons, she has been nominated for a Grammy® Award, and won the 2022 Gramophone Piano Award.
Born in  Japan, Uchida moved to ViennaAustria, with her diplomat parents when she was 12 years old, after her father was named the Japanese ambassador to Austria.  She was enrolled at the Vienna Academy of Music and  gave her first Viennese recital at the age of 14.  

She went on to a much-acclaimed career, much of it with the world-renowned Cleveland Orchestra. 

Her 2009 recording of the Mozart piano concertos nos. 23 and 24, in which she conducted the Cleveland Orchestra as well as playing the solo part, won the Grammy Award in 2011.  

From 2002 to 2007 she was artist-in-residence for the Cleveland Orchestra.  “Her 2015 performance with the Cleveland Orchestra elicited this review from the Cleveland Plain Dealer: “Call it the mark of a master. Just when Mitsuko Uchida was starting to seem predictable, the goddess of purity, the pianist goes and exhibits another persona altogether.

Performing Mozart again with the Cleveland Orchestra Thursday, the pianist-conductor treated listeners to a heartier, more robust version of her art.”

Each of Beethoven’s Sonatas 30, 31, and 32 have been described as “a haiku, beautifully formed, not wasting a note, making a very significant point.”

“In 1820 Beethoven had started work on not only the Ninth Symphony and the Diabelli Variations, but the Missa Solemnis as well.  During this period of creative magnificence, he also produced his three final piano sonatas, each an experiment in form.”

Sonata 30 has been described as opening in a sweeping exhalation, like a speaker encountered in mid-sentence.  Sounding like an improvisation, it ends as it begins, on the wing (when has a vivace sounded so calm?), and is followed immediately by an angry, prickly, minor-key prestissimo — briefer even than its predecessor. The final movement is a kind of balm. Technically a theme with six variations, the movement opens and ends in the warmth of serenity, daring not to conclude with a bang, but with a sigh.”

It was obvious to anyone who knows Beethoven’s piano music that Sonata 30 was quite different than his earlier pieces.  Much more sounding like “modern” music, part of this change was due to the transition of the piano and piano technique.  

“In the period from about 1790 to 1860, the piano underwent tremendous changes that led to the modern structure of the instrument.  This revolution was in response to a preference by composers and pianists for a more powerful, sustained sound.  This was made possible by the ongoing Industrial Revolution, with resources such as high-quality piano wire for strings, and precision casting for the production of massive iron frames that could withstand the tremendous tension of the strings.”

“Piano technique evolved during the transition from harpsichord/clavichord to fortepiano playing, and continued through the development of the modern piano.  Changes in musical styles and audience preferences over the Classical and Romantic periods, as well as the emergence of virtuoso pianists, contributed to the evolution of the piano and the various ‘schools’ of piano playing.”

Sonata 31 was met with critical raves when it was first presented.  The reaction can best be understood by a modern program note which stated, "In none of the other 31 piano sonatas does Beethoven cover as much emotional territory: it goes from the absolute depths of despair to utter euphoria ... it is unbelievably compact given its emotional richness, and its philosophical opening idea acts as the work’s thesis statement, permeating the work, and reaching its apotheosis in its final moments.”

Mitsuko Uchida presented all that emotional richness.

The obvious favorite segment of the program was Sonata 32 which had elements that sounded like the jazzy and melodic compositions of Scott Joplin and George Gershwin.  

The last of Beethoven’s piano sonatas, the work was written between 1821 and 1822.  It is one of the most famous compositions of the composer's "late period" and is widely performed and recorded.

The work is in two movements, which breaks the traditional pattern of the three-movement sonata.  Each is highly contrasting.  The first movement is stormy and impassioned, “majestic” and brisk.”    “The second movement is filled with drama and transcendence ... the triumph of order over chaos, of optimism over anguish.”

Capsule judgment:  Mitsuko Uchida’s recent Severance Hall all Beethoven concert proved once again that she is one of today’s premiere classic pianist!  

Upcoming events of the Cleveland Orchestra:

Beloved conductor Herbert Blomstedt returns to Cleveland for a program of Beethoven and Mozart favorites. “What he offers, above all, is a kind of preternatural rightness: no gesture feels out of place, no gesture feels routine,” The New Yorker’s Alex Ross wrote of Blomstedt, who he also described as “the most vital conductor of Beethoven.” Beethoven’s Seventh is the composer’s greatest demonstration of the compelling power of rhythm, and it’s paired with Mozart’s “Paradis” Piano Concerto.

Legends swirl around the creation of Mozart’s Requiem, written on his deathbed and left unfinished: Who was the mysterious figure who commissioned the composer? What parts of the work were truly his own? And was Mozart composing his own funeral mass with this final artistic statement? Many of these questions were explored hauntingly (albeit suspiciously) in the movie Amadeus. We are nevertheless left with a work of overwhelming power — at once intensely dramatic and deeply personal — that touches the core of our humanity.

BERNSTEIN, complete film with Cleveland Orchestra, Brett Mitchell, conductor

Shakespeare’s plays have provided a limitless source of inspiration, and this evening pairs two particularly evocative responses to his comedy The Tempest. First Thomas Adès, in his Cleveland Orchestra conducting debut, leads the world premiere of his Tempest Symphony, based upon the music from his 2012 opera. This is followed by Jean Sibelius’s Prelude and Suite that was assembled from incidental music he wrote for a Danish production of the play. Through this pairing, Adès explores the boundless nature of creativity and vast range of ingenuity.


Thursday, February 23, 2023

Existential THE RIVER runs slowly, but is thought-provoking

In the late 1950’s through the 1980s The Theatre of the Absurd theatrical movement was the intellectual rage.  Based on the concept of Existentialism which asks, “what happens when human existence lacks meaning or purpose and communication breaks down.”  The structure of the plays often centered on the finishing point,, being the same as the starting point with the ultimate conclusion being silence.
Playwrights of the era included Samuel Becket, Eugene Ionesco and Edward Albee. Their plays have a common denominator — the "absurd", a word that Ionesco defined as " that which has not purpose, or goal, or objective."  Albert Camus describes the purpose of that era’s plays to illustrate that “the human situation as meaningless and absurd.”
Probably the most memorable works of that era were WAITING FOR GODOT and WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRIGINIA WOLF?
Though Jez Butterworth is not of that age or era, his play THE RIVER is the ilk of those times in structure and message.  It is haunting, dark, often off-putting for a lack of clear purpose, and circular in charting a curved line from beginning to end.   
There is a mystery throughout the show that we continue to think about, but, in fairness to potential theatre-goers, is not fair to reveal.
What can be revealed?  It’s an eerie tale and a borderline ghost story that also feels firmly grounded in a familiar reality.  
The setting is a small Minnesota cottage on a river.   A small wooden table and several chairs sit in the center, a fully stocked kitchen, a cooler, a library nook, and an oven complete the space.  
“The plot concerns the main character of The Man as he brings his girlfriend, The Woman, to his family’s cabin.  As the sun sets, there is much that happens in this cabin—things that will happen and have already happened, as time begins to fold into itself. This eeriness might be jarring in the early going, but impeccable acting and strong directing truly make The River feel human even in its strangest moments.”
As previous reviews say of the play, “The greatest attribute of THE RIVER is it’s a somber conjuring to the idea of memory and thoughts of the bygone past.”  
Also, “The River is one of the better plays about love. Not love as manifested in a relationship with a plot so much as just that big, unwieldy emotion of love itself--the need, the desire, the ache, the way one willingly deludes oneself into thinking you can ever fully escape your romantic past and not have it somehow taint your relationships in the present.”  
As well as, “I spent much of this play trying to figure out what was happening, but in a good way. The kind of figuring out that keeps you completely engrossed and on the edge of your seat to see what happens next.”
The Ensemble production is well conceived by director Ian Wolfgang Hintz.  The presentation, performed on a runway stage with the audience seated on both sides, which allows for an interactive intimacy as the audience members share the stage with those on the other side of the stage, thus making for a shared intimacy.
The acting is totally natural, which each performance being of a real, fleshed out person.  No acting by Dan Zalensky (The Man), Becca Moseley (The Woman), Laura Rauh (The Other Woman) and Laurel Hoffman (Another Woman), just being.  Being to the degree that the audience is sucked into the happening, the reality.  
It’s so real that one can’t avoid being involved in the decapitation of a fish…complete with the head and entrails removed as a meal is prepared. Sounds gross…it isn’t.  It is just part of the required reality.
Is this a murder mystery?  Is it an analogy of fishing? Is it a study of relationships and loneliness?  Is it a statement of the meaning or life?   Is it???.
Capsule judgment:  THE RIVER is not a play for everyone.  Go if you love theatre which is well directed and acted; but, as with most absurdist plays, it doesn’t render a solution.  It is a play that, even after you leave, doesn’t let you go.  
THE RIVER runs through March 5, 2023 at Ensemble Theatre located in the Performing Arts Center of Notre Dame College, 4545 College Road, South Euclid. For tickets call 216-321-2930 or go to

Monday, February 20, 2023

Totally delightful SENSE AND SENSIBILITY is farce-perfect at GLT


Kate Hamill has written the play version of Jane Austen’s 1811 novel, SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, with a keen ear to the language and attitudes of the day, but with an addition of humor, not present in the original Austen work.
As was true of Austen and her co-writer of the Regency time-period writers, they developed their publications to reflect the lack of independence for women.  The major theme was that the financial future of women was solely dependent on the economic status of their fathers or husbands. They could own no property and the class system, purely based on economics, put each woman in their slot.  No money, no respect!
The playful new adaptation of Jane Austen’s beloved novel follows the fortunes (and misfortunes) of the Dashwood sisters after their father’s sudden death leaves them financially destitute and socially vulnerable. 
Set in gossipy late 18th-century England, SENSE AND SENSIBILITY examines reactions, both reasonable and ridiculous, to societal pressures. An unfair situation where reputation is everything, yet each woman was unable to control her narrative.
Hamill’s play premiered off-Broadway in 2014.  It was met with critical praise, with such comments including “an unconditional delight,” “invigorating” and, “perhaps the greatest stage adaptation of this novel in history.”
Does the GLT’s reach the levels of the off-Broadway production?  Absolutely!  It is one of the best productions that theatre has staged! 
The purpose of the overture to a musical is to set the expectations and mood of the audience for what is to come.  In the case of the farcical SENSE AND SENSIBILTY, Courtney O’Neill’s whimsical set serves the same purpose.
The cartoonish drawings that cover the white walls scream “fun” and fun is exactly what the creative combined directing of Sara Bruner and Jacklyn Miller garners.  
Paul James Prendergast’s music and Mieka van der Ploeg’s costumes add to the purposeful whimsiness.
Farce is one of the hardest forms of theatre to stage.  Most times directors don’t know how to develop the ideas and not play funny just to play funny.  The actors tend to “ham” it up, overdoing, not fulfilling the purpose of sticking to the author’s intent and purpose.  Instead, they play for laughs, losing the play’s theme.  
That is not the case with Bruner and Mille’s direction. (Hurray!)  And, this a cast who knows exactly how to play farce… realistic yet exaggerated, not losing the play’s purpose by being outrageously funny, for the sake of getting laughs. (Bravo!)
The cast of eight, play 17 roles. This is accomplished by having all but two cast members play multiple parts, along with some very clever costuming and voice and accent changes.
Maggie Kettering develops an Elinor Dashwood, the eldest of the sisters, as an intelligent, sensible, practical, kind and reserved and self-contained young lady.  In contrast, Angela Utrera creates a Marianne who embraces spontaneity, and romantic idealism.  She is the emotional sister while Elinor is the logical one. 
They each nail the persona of the woman who Auston created!
The rest of the cast:  Joe Wegner, Hanako Walrath, Vima Silva, Nick Steen, Laura Welsh Berg, and M.A. Taylor are excellent in each of their roles.  They work as a well-oiled machine to create a cohesive production.
Capsule judgment:  SENSE AND SENSIBILTY is a delight!  The well-directed cast, supported by the purposeful technical aspects of the production, not only makes this a wonderful theatrical purpose, but creates a staging that has to rank with the best shows Great Lakes Theatre has created.  This is one show that actually deserves the curtain call that the show is nightly getting.

SENSE AND SENSIBILTY runs at the Hanna Theatre until March 5, 2023.  Tickets can be obtained by For tickets call (216) 241-6000

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Performances, singing and dancing eclipse script and score in BW/Beck’s GHOST the musical

There is an adage in the theatre world that “one should not come out of a musical whistling sets and costumes.”  In other words, the important aspects of a musical are the book (story) and the lyrics and music, not the production aspects.  


In spite of these sage words, after seeing GHOST, The Musical on Broadway, though I was under-whelmed by the shallow book and the lack of memorable music, my review of the show waxed eloquently about the production qualities, especially the effects which resulted from the electronic projections, which allowed for actors to run through walls and appear to be suspended in space.


Though not as visually spectacular as the New York production, the sleek BW/Beck set by Jordan Janota and lighting design by Russ Borski do much to support the superlative BW cast.  But before we get into the performances and staging…

GHOST is a musical, based on the hit 1990 film of the same name, with book and lyrics by Bruce Joel Rubin and music and lyrics by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard. The stage version opened in Manchester, England in March of 2011, ran on the West End and was transferred to Broadway in 2012, where it ran a brief 136 performances. 

The musical starts when New York banker, Sam Wheat, and his long-time girlfriend, sculptor, Molly Jensen, move into a loft apartment in Brooklyn, aided by Sam’s co-worker Carl Brunner.  

Sam and Molly are in love. Sam, however, shies away from articulating the “L” word.  In what is an important plot development foreshadowing, he assures Molly that he doesn't say it in so many words because he prefers to, “say it through his actions.” 

At work, Sam notices some discrepancies with several bank accounts.  He shares his discoveries with Carl.  (Shout out:  Major plot clue).

After a night out, as they return to their apartment, Sam and Molly are confronted by an armed man who tries to steal Sam's wallet. Sam fights back instead of surrendering.  They struggle for the holdup man’s gun. It goes off.  Sam is fatally shot.  (Another plot advancer.)

We quickly find out that Sam is caught in the netherworld (Eww!) and the hold-up was orchestrated by Carl. He needs to warn Molly that she is in danger. He turns to Oda Mae, a fake clairvoyant, to help him. (The writer needed to both get some humor into the plot and incorporate in an off-beat character.)

Molly gets a visit from Oda Mae, but Molly is hesitant to believe what she is being told, until Oda Mae starts parroting things that only Sam would know. (Including that he had trouble saying “I love you, “which I told you about a couple of paragraphs ago.) Thus, we have all the elements of exposition to allow the audience to be taken on a fantasy journey where love conquers all. 


The BW/Beck production, under the directing of Victoria Bussert, is creatively staged.  Lauren Tidmore’s choreography has the perfect amount of pizzaz, and Matthew Webb’s seven-piece orchestra hits all the right notes.  


The cast is outstanding.  Bussert, in choosing the students to be in her Musical Theatre program, usually has a couple of “stud” guys who are not only visual gym-toned eye-candy, but can sing, act and dance.  Mark Doyle (Sam) and Mike Bindeman (Carl) are in BWs ready for Broadway pipe-line.  


Doyle, who has been seen locally in MAMMA MIA!, THE LIGHTNING THIEF, THE SOUND OF MUSIC, CHRISTMAS CAROL and SPRING AWAKENING, is a graduating senior.  He has a strong voice, good acting chops and a nice stage presence.  He, and adorable and talented Jessi Kirtley (Molly) play-off each other well.  Their duets, “Here Right Now” and “Three Little Words,” are show highlights.


Bindeman, another BW graduating senior, also showcases strong singing chops and is properly snarky as the manipulating Carl.  Versatile Danny BÓ fascinates as Subway Ghost.  


Colleen Longshaw, who has trod the stage at every local professional theatre, and been seen in national tours and on Broadway, steals the show as the outrageous Oda Mae Brown.  


Capsule judgment:  GHOST THE MUSICAL has a weak book and non-memorable music, but it is worth seeing to appreciate its wonderful singing, dynamic dancing, fine acting and creative staging!   Go! See! Enjoy!

GHOST, which has a runtime of 2 hours 15 minutes runs through FEBRUARY 26, 2023.  For tickets go to

Monday, February 06, 2023



Well prepared and seasoned STEW is a must see at Dobama

Roy Berko
(Member: Cleveland Critics Circle, American Theatre Critics Association

According to Nathan Motto, Dobama’s Artistic Director, the recipe for a great play are well-developed characters, circumstances that incite reaction, environments are ripe for action/reaction, strong dialogue and balanced elements.
Motto believes that STEW, a 2021 Pulitzer Prize Finalist, which is now on stage at Dobama, Cleveland’s off-Broadway theatre, is a “fantastic play that has all the fixings for a great feast.”  He explains his reasoning: “As we act as a fly on the wall, we get to know these women [the five members of the African American Tucker family] who tease, prod, instruct and question each other, we experience their family dynamics and watch as closely guarded secrets are brought to light.”
What’s it all about? “The Tucker women are up early to prepare an important meal, or at least that’s what Mama says. As the day wears on, tensions simmer inside and around Mama’s kitchen.”  Tensions which include teen pregnancy, potential abortion, marriage infidelity, divorce, random gunfire, spats over recipes, family traditions and are summarized by Mama’s mantra, “Shit. Damn! Fuck.”
Motto is not alone in his positive beliefs about the play.  Reviewers from other productions of this script have commented, “A powerful play about a family with all its foibles and love.” “If it was a tv show you would want season 2 to get picked up pronto!." “Is an excellent script that shares the pure truth of how each individual's life struggle can affect the family structure.” 
What is the meaning of title?  “This play is indeed a stew, the actors & plotlines mimicking the layering that the family matriarch sees as essential to her delicious culinary creation. The metaphors for motherhood, daughterhood, family and love are meaningful. Each woman contributes a different taste or element to the familial stew and each brings it to a boil at some point."
The Dobama production, 90 minutes with no intermission, is compelling.  The staging is guided by creative director/composer Nina Domingue, a Black woman, cultural memory worker and intimacy advocate, who banners herself as a griot (“a West African historian, storyteller, praise singer, poet, and/or musician.”)
The cast, headed by Christina Johnson (Mama), who is holding on to life by a thread, is spot on in their character development as the matriarch whose family teeters on the edge of destruction.  How do you guide a group of head-strong females who seem to act on pure emotion, and no logic?  “Whenever Mama takes a brief moment away from her cooking and does not personally tend to the pot, the stew gets burnt or ruined in some way, much to her frequent upset. And then she has to turn around and start another batch.”  
Nicole Sumlin (Lillian, the oldest daughter), who appears at the opening of the play to be living a functional life, unravels as she shares that her marriage is over and she did not come to Mamma’s, with her two children to visit, but to return to in order to survive.  Hers is well-nuanced performance.
Adrionna Powell (Nelly, Lillian’s sister) presents a conflicted teenager who wants to be independent, treated as an adult, but who is now pregnant and facing life with the consequences of deciding whether to abort the child, or be a teen mother.  Powell nicely develops the character.
Logan Door Williams (Lil’ Mamma, Lillian’s tween daughter), the youngest of the Tucker females, finds herself caught in the midst of on-going family angst.  This youngster nicely develops her role.
Laura Carlson-Tarantowski’s realistic and functional kitchen set design enhances the production.  Megan Culley’s well-presented sound effects, is one of the play’s developmental fulcrums.
CAPSULE JUDGEMENT:  A must see production that lives and breathes with an undeniable passion and earnestness.  The ending of the play is both shocking and unexpected.  Don’t be surprised if the effect lingers in your mind as the full Impact hits!   
STEW runs through February 19 at Dobama, 2340 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights.  For tickets go to https:

Next up at Dobama:  THE OTHER PLACE, March 10-April 2.  Juliana is fifty-two years old and a brilliant drug-company scientist. She is giving a speech to a neurological convention. As she speaks we cut away to scenes with her doctor, phone calls from her estranged daughter, and arguments with her husband who may or may not be divorcing her. Through it all she constantly refers to "the other place", a cottage on Cape Cod that the family once owned, and a place where Juliana feels she may reunite with her missing daughter and find some peace of mind.

Friday, February 03, 2023

HADESTOWN impressively directed, conceived and performed, but may confound some


When HADESTOWN, opened on Broadway on April 17, 2019, it was met with critical acclaim.  Reviews contained such terms as “inventive,” “gorgeous, “hypnotic,” “high energy,” “utterly fabulous” and “immersive.”  The critics went gaga over the quality of the singing, the scenery, the special effects, the choreography and the fine acting.  

The Big Apple production had 14 Tony nominations, winning eight of them including Best Musical and Best Original Score.  

Does the touring show, which is now on stage at the Conner Palace as part of the Key Bank Broadway series, gender similar high praise?  Absolutely yes!  

Should anything stop you from getting tickets?  

Before telling Siri to dial the box office at Playhouse Square or call your neighbor to talk them out of their subscription tickets, you might consider the words of the lovely lady sitting next to me on opening night, who asked at intermission, “What is this about?”  Or, the woman on the other side who said, “I loved what I saw and heard, but, since this supposedly is one of the contemporary messaged musical dramas, “Why am I not aware of the moral or the theme(s)?”

HADESTOWN is a folk opera (all songs and no dialogue) which is a twist of a classic Greek myth composed of two intertwining love stories — that of young dreamers Orpheus and Eurydice, and that of King Hades and his wife Persephone.  It takes the audience on an epic journey to the underworld and back. In the process it “pits nature against industry, faith against doubt, and love against fear.”  


It exposes Hadestown, an industry-based world of mindless labor, filled with absence and doubt, the dynamics of power and the never-ending tasks, and how those elements shape and control a person. 


The haunting classic folk music and poetic lyrics pit nature against industry, faith against doubt, and love against death.


The show’s opening (no overture to establish a mind-set for your viewing) is the song of “Road to Hell,” which, as all good expositions do, introduces the characters and setting.  “Any Way the Wind Blows” sets the mood and the images, followed by “Come Home With Me,” which foreshadows the conflicts which will follow.  


And, so, we are off on an epic adventure, which exposes the contemporary issues of climate, “Trump’s” wall, collective bargaining, class politics and social critique.  


As a social commentator said of the work, "It is a musical both about how art can save us and how, especially in an apocalyptic world, hope might be the only thing we have left."


In the pattern of the newish trend of musical dramas, whose era started around 2000 with RENT and has featured such powerful audience engulfing shows as NEXT TO NORMAL, SPRING AWAKENING, THE BAND’S VISIT, CAROLINE OR CHANGE, TITLE OF SHOW, DEAR EVAN HANSEN, FUN HOME, and HAMILTON, HADESTOWN is serious in tone, but more abstract than those of a similar classification.  It isn’t crystal clear on its purpose, though it follows the pattern of substance over pizzaz, a serious story over fantasy or entertainment.  It just takes more mental digging to expose the concept of a “song can change your fate.” 


The touring production is about as well-directed, conceived and performed as anything you will see.  


The cast all have strong singing voices and well-developed acting chops.  Nathan Lee Graham compels as Hermes.   He controls the stage whenever he appears, whether speaking, singing, moving, or just standing, he is the center of the action.  


Hannah Whitley (Eurydice) and Chibueze Ihuoma (Orpheus) are wonderful as the young lovers.  Brit West (Persephone) and Matthew Patrick Quinn (King Hades) spare and spark with effectiveness.


The funky orchestra, which features the uninhibited Emily Fredrickson (trombone/glockenspiel) is a fine addition to the goings on.

Local theatre-goers may find themselves aware that there is a home-grown on stage.  CLE native and Baldwin Wallace University grad Nyla Watson plays one of story's three Fates who reveal the main characters' thoughts to the audience.  Watson has previously toured with WAITRESS, WICKED and THE COLOR PURPLE. However, this is her first time performing with a national tour in Cleveland.

Victoria Bussert, head of BW’s Music Theatre program says of Nyla, “she is one of the most passionate, determined students I’ve ever had at BW.  She has always made it a point to check in on the current students as well as connect with alumni around the country when she does national tours.”

Capsule judgment:  Anais Mitchell’s music, lyric and book are impressive, if not always clear as to purpose.  You will not walk out of the theatre whistling or humming any of the songs.  It is doubtful that you will remember any of the lyrics.  What you will remember are the outstanding performances and the innovative directing of Rachel Chavkin and choreography of David Neumann.  This is a must see for theater-goers who appreciate the craft of theater!

HADESTOWN runs through February 19 at the Connor Palace.  For tickets: or call 216-241-6000.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

The farcical ghostly BEETLEJUICE, THE MUSICAL, that will delight many and confound others, is on stage at Connor Palace


As the run of the awe- inspiring HAMILTON draws to a close at the Playhouse Square’s State Theatre, BEETLEJUICE, the cult-followed farcical ghostly show appears next door at the Connor Palace.  

The opening is ironic since the curtain-up Cleveland production of the Eddie Perfect (music and lyrics)/Scott Brown and Anthony King (book) parallels the final curtain falling on the show’s Broadway run.  

Yes, BEETLEJUICE, THE MUSICAL, which opened on the Great White Way on April 25, 2019 and closed, due to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 10, 2020, and reopened on April 8, 2022 permanently closed its Broadway presence on January 8, 2023.

The long-run surprised many.  Though the 1988 movie version was a huge hit, the Broadway musical’s reviews were mediocre.  Comments included, “This show so overstuffs itself with gags, one-liners and visual diversions that you shut down from sensory overload,” as well as BEETTLEJUICE, THE MUSICAL, was crafted from a group of creative minds who clearly love the source material, though not all of it works,” and, “the blithe, dizzily antic spirit of the movie was suffocating under the weight of sophomoric, phallic gags.”  

It is thought that the praise for Alexander Michael Brightman, who is best known for his work as Dewey Finn in the musical adaptation of SCHOOL OF ROCK musical  which earned him Tony Awards nomination for Best Actor, and again as the title character in BEETTLEJUICE, THE MUSICAL, as well as the success of the movie, was responsible for the long run.

What about locally?   The show, which is part of the KeyBank Broadway Series, is already a success, as there is very limited ticket availability for the entire run.  
Advanced publicity states, “The best option for many patrons looking to purchase may be to get individual scattered single seats around the theater instead of trying to find a group or pair together. “  

What’s all the hullabaloo about? 
The play opens with a group of people in a graveyard mourning the passing of Emily Deetz. Emily's daughter, Lydia, reflects on the death of her mother and her own inability to be noticed by her father, Charles.  

A millennia-old demon named Beetlejuice appears and mocks the idea of living life to the fullest, as it will all be worthless once death comes. 

Beetlejuice then addresses the audience directly, explaining that, as a demon, he is invisible to all beings unless he gets a living person to say his name three times. He reveals that he has a plan to accomplish his recognition.

Beetlejuice then introduces Adam and Barbara Maitland. They are a “normal” married couple who desperately want to start a family.  As the Maitlands reason to themselves why they are not ready for a child, they fall to their deaths from electric shocks received from a series of power chords randomly draped around the house.  (Remember this is a farce…no reality required.) 

When the Maitlands awaken and realize that they are dead, Beetlejuice reveals himself and offers to help them adjust to the Afterlife by intoning the song, “The ‘Whole Being Dead’ Thing, Pt. 2." (Yes, there are also parts 1 and 3.)  

He reveals to the Maitlands that a new family, the Deetzes, have bought their house and that in order to remain living there, they will have to scare the newbies away.  

Thus, we enter that into a tale of non-realistic incidents in which ghosts, the living, and the ridiculousness blend together in a tale that will delight many and turn others off.

Justin Collette, who is a master of improv, and has had a successful career of playing exaggerated parts on Broadway, such as Dewey, the lead in SCHOOL OF ROCK, takes on the Beetlejuice role.  Young Isabella Esler, a recent high school graduate, shines in her professional debut as Lydia.   Will Burton and Britney Coleman well-develop Adam and Lydia Maitland as they, and the rest of the cast, do due-diligence in serving as foils for Beetlejuice’s antics.

The story, which works hard at getting the audience to laugh at jokes and schticks that serve basically as escape devices doesn’t carry a message, but does induce laughs and many groans of delight.

The score includes such unmemorable songs as “The Fright of Their Lives,” “No Reason,” “Say My Name,” “Barbara 2.0” and “Ready, Set, Not Yet.”  (None of which were being hummed on the way out of the theatre.)

Will you “like” the show?  Depends on your affinity for farce and ability to set aside the lack of any real message.
CAPSULE JUDGMENT:  If you are a MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL, ADAMS FAMILY, and THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW fan, you, like the duo of guys sitting near me, who were dressed in costumes which paralleled Beetlejuice’s stripped outfit, sang along with the songs, and found the exaggeration and slapstick hysterical, will become “Bettlejuicers.”  If NEXT TO NORMAL, RENT, WEST SIDE STORY and SPRING AWAKENING are your thing, you’ll probably find the whole thing trite and ridiculous.

BETTLEJUICE THE MUSICAL, THE MUSICAL, THE MUSICAL runs through January 29, 2023 at the Conner Palace.  Remaining tickets for the run can be purchased here.  

Next up:  HADESTOWN (January 31-February 19, 2023).  Winner of eight 2019 Tony Awards®, including Best Musical, HADESTOWN is a hopeful theatrical experience that grabs you and never lets go.”


Friday, December 09, 2022


Some musicals change the very nature of the genre. "Oklahoma" gave birth to the book musical in which story, dance and lyrics blended together perfectly. "Chorus Line" brought the concept of the dance-centered musical. "Hair" encouraged societal topics and mores to be probed. "Rent" introduced the stage to 21st century ideas and issues. Then, along came "Hamilton" which opened the door to singing, rap and movement blending into fine-tuned story telling.

"Hamilton" was inspired by the 2004 biography, "Alexander Hamilton" by historian Ron Chernow. It has book, music and lyrics by Lin Manuel Miranda, who perfectly honed each element to clearly represent our Revolutionary fathers. 
How did this "exhilarating," and "sublime" musical come to be? The story goes that while on vacation from performing in his hit Broadway show "In the Heights," Lin-Manuel Miranda read a copy of the biography, "Alexander Hamilton" by Ron Chernow. 

Miranda perceived the story as a musical and started to write what was then entitled "The Hamilton Mixtape." 

An Obama White House invitation led to him performing what would later be the show's opening song. 

"Hamilton" is not the first musical based on founding of this country history or its political figures. 

"1776," like "Hamilton" is set in Revolutionary times, specifically, showcasing the Continental Congress during the summer of 1776, and reveals the founding fathers' lively debates. 

"Benjamin Franklin in Paris" gives an account of Franklin arriving in Paris in an attempt to raise money for the colonial revolution against England. 

From a stylistic standpoint, "Hamilton" gives us something new. It's a contemporary rap musical which tells the story in a series of scenes in which the movements are choreographed to not only develop visual ideas, but to help create characterizations, seamlessly tell the tale, and give clear insight into each of the characters who sing them. 

The casting includes a racial mixture of actors as the Founding Fathers and other historical figures, paying no attention to their real gender, race, or age.

Even the conclusion is different. Most modern-day musicals end with a splashy showstopper that brings the audience to its feet for a resounding curtain call. Not "Hamilton." A low-key composition closes the show, emotionally wrapping up the story of a man and his quest. 

The story tells the tale of Alexander Hamilton, who was born out of wedlock in the West Indies. He comes to the American colonies at age 19 and seeks out revolutionary patriot, Aaron Burr, who advises the young and enthusiastic youth to "talk less; smile more." This is advice Hamilton did not take, and helps set the stage for a life-long set of philosophical battles between the men, and eventually contributes to Hamilton's death.

The people of Hamilton's life, the Marquis de Lafayette, the Schuyler sisters, George Washington, Charles Lee, James Madison, and John Jay, flow by in song, rap, movement, and spoken words. 

The tale of the Revolutionary War, the birth of the nation, Hamilton's developing the country's financial system, the death of his son in a duel, and his own demise in a shootout with Aaron Burr, all transpire in compelling fashion, under the adept direction of Thomas Kail and precision choreography and movement by Andy Blankenbuehler.  

During the present touring production of "Hamilton," there were several huge shoutouts during the production. Upon the entrance of Marquis de Lafayette and again when Thomas Jefferson made his first entrance the applause and shouts rang out. Why? 

Warren Egypt Franklin, who played both roles, is a Clevelander who is also a graduate of Baldwin Wallace's esteemed Musical Theatre program. 

Victoria Bussert, Chair of the BW program states, "He graduated in May 2018 and landed "Hamilton" one month later. He actually did "What'd I Miss" for his senior showcase number!!!" (Side note: I was in NY with the BW students for that showcase and we were immediately made aware of the agents and casting director's interest in Warren Egypt, including the casting director of "Hamilton."). Besides "Hamilton," he is appearing on tv's "Grown-ish."

On media night the role or King George was delightfully played by Neil Haskell, but starting December 19, and for the rest of the run, Clevelander, Rory O'Malley, a St. Ignatius grad, who was nominated for a Tony Award for his portrayal of Elder McKinley in Broadway's "The Book of Mormon," will be playing the role.

The cast of "Hamilton" is superb. The quality of the singing, acting and dancing is universally amazing. Don't wait for a local theater to do the show as no one has the talent to reach the high level of performance quality to do the show justice.

Those who want to see the show, but are cash strapped, should be aware that there will be a 40-seat lottery for each performance. To participate in a drawing prospective ticket-buyers must download the official "Hamilton" app on their IOS or Android device. Winners will be notified between 1 and 4 a.m. of the opportunity to purchase up to two tickets for a performance between December 6 and 12. ( Lotteries for subsequent weeks will operate on the same schedule, opening every Friday and closing Thursday. A person must be 18 or older to enter. Regular tickets are priced at $35 to152 at

Capsule judgment: The question asked to many who see "Hamilton" is whether it is worth the investment of time and money? This reviewer's answer, "Absolutely!" I've seen it four times and this staging was as compelling as the first!

'Hamilton" runs through January 15, 2023 at the Key Bank State Theatre.

Thursday, December 08, 2022

Dobama produces THE LAND OF OZ, the world premiere of locally written Oz tale

Since 1959, Dobama Theatre has been dedicated to premiering important new plays by established and emerging playwrights in professional productions of the highest quality.  THE LAND OF OZ, is a good selection for them to undertake. 

Dobama’s multi-talented Artistic Director, Nathan Motta, has incorporated his training as a music composer, with his directing experience, to aid George Brant to undertake the development of THE LAND OF OZ, a musical intended to expose local audiences to yet another view of the L. Frank Baum’s world of enchantment.  In this case, the plot is based on the second book in the “Oz” series, THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ.

As is the case with all of Baum’s books, its themes are both timeless and relevant to the modern world. 

Motto’s score for THE LAND OF OZ features songs in a variety of American popular music styles.

Brandt, who is a member of the Dramatists Guild, has had his works produced internationally and nationally.  Local stagings have been presented at the Cleveland Play House and Dobama.

The story of THE LAND OF OZ centers around a young orphan boy named Tip who is the ward of an evil witch. When he escapes, with the help of a magical new friend, Tip sets out on an adventure to the Emerald City.  Along the way he encounters the Scarecrow, Tin Man, a woogle bug and a rebel army on their way to take over Oz! (No, there is no Dorothy, Toto, Aunt Em, or even the Wizard.)

The tale examines friendship, loneliness, good overcoming evil, discovering where one comes from and why they are where they are, and the wonder of finding help in a path to the future (whether one is on the yellow brick road, or not).

Dobama should be praised for undertaking the development of a new theatre piece.  Such a task is daunting.  Creating a musical is an awesome job. Not only does the writer have to select a source for the plot (a former play—think PYGMALION as it morphs into MY FAIR LADY), a film (THE LION KING as it is transformed into LION KING, THE MUSICAL), comic strips such as LITTLE ABNER and SUPERMAN being reinvented as musicals, or a writer or writers creating new stories, such as developing DEAR EVEN HANSEN or A CHORUS LINE. 

The score has to be composed to develop the right mood, fit into the story and develop the characters.   This is harder than it appears.  The wrong music can curse a show.  Several of the American musical theatre’s major hits were almost doomed by their opening songs.  

FIDDLER ON THE ROOF found audiences walking out during its out-of-town tryouts.  When Jerome Robbins replaced the original director/choreographer, he sat through the performances, called the writing team together and asked, “What’s the show about?”  After comments such as, “Life in Europe in the early 20th century,” and “A milkman and his daughters,” someone suggested, the traditions of the people that allow them to exist and endure.  

Robbins is purported to have said, “Then someone write a song to start the show that tells the audience what the show is about and gets the audience ready for that message.” Get rid of the present opening, “The Village Our Grandparents Grew Up In.” That theme won’t get and hold the attention. Thus, the song “Tradition” was written and the script and music were reformatted to fit that theme. 

The opening number of FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, originally the pretty, but bland, “Love Is In the Air,” became the frothy, delightful, somewhat sexy, “Comedy Tonight.”  Audiences knew they were going to see a funny show, were given the direction to enjoy themselves, and they did!

If not for the change, FIDDLER would never have been the first Broadway musical to run over 3000 performances and you wouldn’t even had heard of FORUM.

The first act to THE LAND OF OZ drags--lots of audience wiggling and lack of attention.  Maybe the writing team should ask, “What’s this musical about?” and write an opening song that teases us into the tale and sets the emotional mood.

In a traditional musical, the central character, early in the show usually sings an “I want” song in which they tell the audience what they need.   That wish is keystone to develop the plot. Think, “Maybe” in ANNIE—she wants parents or “I Hope I Get It” from CHORUS LINE—each dancer wants a job in the chorus.  

Tip, does have such a song, but is it strong enough to let the audience know that this is going to be the theme of the show? 

Sitting in a dark theatre can be tiresome.  Usually about twenty minutes into each of the acts, in a two-act show, there is a “noisy number,” a show stopper, which wakes up the show and the audience.  What are the noisy numbers in THE LAND OF OZ?  I’m not sure.  Maybe that is why the first act seemed to drag on and on.

The analysis could go on and on, but….  

It is through the production team going through the writing and staging process---write, critique rewrite, read, critique, rewrite, stage, critique, restage, perform before a non-biased audience, gage their interest, perform again, and keep assessing and making appropriate changes.

The same can be said for the staging of any show.

The Dobama production features Jordyn Freetage (TIP), Lana Sugarman (GLINDA/ JELLIA/ LIEUTENANT), Trinidad Snider (MOMBI), Eric Fancher (JACK), Fabio Polanco (SCARECROW), Jason Eno (TIN MAN), Neely Gevaart (JINJUR), Dar’Jon Bentley (LION/ GUARDIAN), Trey Gilpin (WOGGLE BUG), Tim Keo (WINKIE/ DOOR/ THRONE).

They all should be proud of their efforts.  Each night the show should get better as the performers acknowledge new insights into their characters.  With the help of an attentive director and self-awareness on the  part of the actors, they will grow as characters.

The creative team for the production includes Music Direction by Matthew Dolan, Choreography by Gregory Daniels, Scenic and Projection Design by T. Paul Lowry, Lighting Design by David Stoughton, Sound Design by Richard Ingraham, Costume Design by Tesia Benson, Props Design by Vanessa Cook, Puppet Design by Mike Horner, and Technical Direction by Marcus Dana. The band will consist of Rachel Woods (Keyboard), Justin Hart (Drums), Jesse Fishman (Guitar), Tim Keo (Bass), R.J. Rovito (Reed). 

Developing a new musical is hard work.  It is not for the sensitive, the egotistical, those who can’t admit that the show wasn’t perfect with the first effort, the second effort, or even the tenth redo.

Capsule judgment:  Dobama’s THE LAND OF OZ should be seen as a work in progress.  It is quite good, for a new piece.  It will be a better experience for the audience after it is put through more tests.

The show which runs December 2- 31, 2022, runs time of two hours, including one 15-minute intermission.  For tickets: or call 216-932-3396.

Want to know more about how musicals are developed and staged?  Read the delightful and eccentric Mark Steun’s BROADWAY BABIES SAY GOODNIGHT:  MUSICALS THEN AND NOW.