Friday, January 25, 2002

Jill Hayman

Rocky River High grade to appear in 'BEAUTY AND THE BEAST'

When Disney’s 'BEAUTY AND THE BEAST' makes its joyous return to Playhouse Square’s Allen Theatre in early February, Rocky River High School alum Jill Hayman will be returning home for the first time in many years. In a recent interview with the 1975 RRHS grad she revealed that she is looking forward to returning to a city which, when she was growing up, had the reputation of being “the mistake on the lake.” She said, “People come home as adults and often everything seems small and shabbier. Coming home to Cleveland, however, gives me pride and a feeling of being awestruck by what Cleveland has done with itself in the last 25 years.” It’s great to see a marvelous town which is full of pride.” She went on to say, in spite of her now being a landed immigrant in Canada, she still cheers for the Indians, and is “proud to be a Clevelander.”

Jill’s Cleveland theatre connections run deep. She appeared at Huntington Theatre, playing the lead in 'FINIAN’S RAINBOW,' Greenbrier (now Cassidy Theatre) in 'GUYS AND DOLLS,' Carousel Dinner Theatre, Kenley Players and was even a regular on the long-running Sunday morning 'GENE CARROLL’S AMATEUR HOUR.'

Right out of high school she worked at Halle’s Department Store selling panty hose and three nights a week she served as singer-guitarist at Don’s Lighthouse. This was followed by two seasons at the Cleveland Play House.

She moved on to New York. In her first tryout she was offered a role in a production at the Great Lakes Theatre Festival, so back to Cleveland she came.

She fondly remembers Bill Allman, the Managing Director of Berea Summer Theatre, who she feels did so much for helping her theatrical career.

Her connection with BEAUTY AND THE BEAST started in 1995. She was cast in the touring production and performed for four and-a-half months. She has been on the present tour for about five months.

How will you find Jill on stage? Generally you look for the Egg timer. She sometimes plays the Wardrobe. On February 14 she will meet and greet her family and friends while playing the major role of Mr. Potts.

As Jill said with a giggle in her voice, “I haven’t always been the Egg Timer. At one point I portrayed the Sugar Bowl.” This enactment led to one of her most embarrassing moments on stage. She recounted, “I was making my entrance during the song ‘Be My Guest.’ The costume weighed 30-pounds. I was on top of a 20-foot staircase, started coming down, turned my ankle and fell to the stage. I hit the floor, my wig and hat came off, I landed in the middle of the dancers, continued to sing while lying on the floor, was hoisted up by another cast member and finished the number.” The next edition of the Disney newspaper contained a story about the mishap with the headline, “Sugar Bowl Not Broken.”

Jill’s future? She will continue with the BEAUTY AND THE BEAST tour until August. She then plans to go back to one of her passions...traveling. She will do her solo act on cruise ships. She has travelled most of her adult life and the thought of getting paid while she gets the opportunity to perform is, as she puts it, “a good thing.” Until then she will continue with her one-week stops as the show wends its way across the USA. As she indicated, “It’s a nice way to go. Disney takes very good care of us.”

She encourages all her Cleveland friends to see this production, even if they’ve seen past editions. She proudly says, “they have done some restaging and I’m impressed with the changes.”

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, the classic love story of Belle, a young woman in a small mythical town, and the Beast, who really is a prince trapped, by a spell, in the ugly body.

Monday, January 14, 2002

Over the River and Through the Woods (Actors' Summit)

Audience pleasing 'OVER THE RIVER' at Actors' Summit

Every once in a while a strange phenomena happens on a stage. A play is selected which is not a great script and the production values miss the mark. In spite of this, the final result is very positive and results in an audience pleasing production. That is the case with 'OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH THE WOODS' at Actors’ Summit.

The story centers on Nick Cristano, a third-generation Italian American who finds himself emotionally trapped in New Jersey with his two sets of grandparents who feel abandoned when their children move to Florida and their granddaughter moves to San Diego. The elder’s last grasp on familia is to smother Nick with love and food. The problems start when Nick is offered a promotion which entails moving to Seattle and leaving his grandparents behind.

The script has some wonderful lines that set the theme and tone of the happenings: “I need to make my life something of my own doing.” “How much do you owe those who have done so much for you?” “You can’t keep the people around you forever.”

Director Neil Thackaberry has assembled a group of Cleveland area pros to portray the grandparents. These are people who are comfortable with the stage. Unfortunately, because of their Anglo physical appearance, it’s hard to accept the duet as the Italians they are supposed to be portraying. Accents, both Italian and New Jersey, also come and go.

Glen Colerider as Frank, one of the grandfathers is properly stolid. Jean Colerider is warm and meaningful as Frank’s wife. Lenne Snively is wonderful as the other grandmother. Robert Snook, in spite of some line problems, is effective as the near-death grandfather. His speech near the end when he emotionally lets go of Nick is nothing short of superb. Peter Voinovich, as Nick, never seems comfortable with his role. Though one would like to pinch his chunky cheeks for being such a good grandson, he acts rather than reacts facial expressions and line interpretations, thus losing some of the character’s impact.

The production is blessed with a wonderful Robert Stegmiller two level set. It is period perfect in every detail, down to the table top doilies. Before the opening curtain you know who lives there, what the family is like (the large dining room table dominates the space), and the loving qualities that surround the inhabitants.

Joe DiPietro’s play is very funny, and the writer knows no restraint when it comes to sentimentality. He weaves in every tear-jerking device every conceived...old age, hidden illness, death, abandonment, immigrant displacement, family disintegration, loneliness, and emotional manipulation. Its ending is a three-hanky affair. The results? The audience is charmed.

Capsule judgement: All in all, in spite of a flawed script and performance issues, audiences will laugh, cry and love 'OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH THE WOODS' at Actors’ Summit. Go, see, and mange emotionally and literally with the familia.