Monday, June 28, 2004

Diane Papp reviews the reviewer

Hi Roy!

Let me first introduce myself. My name is Diane Papp, and I am the Costume Designer/Shop Supervisor since 1997 here at LCCC forA&H. Your old territory. I remember working with you briefly back in'83 or '84. I had an outside contract to costume the dance
ensemble back then; not affiliated with the drama dept., but remember having some wonderful conversations with you.
At any rate, your review of "Grease" will be a wonderful teaching
tool for our Theater students, who either don't OR won't do any
research on any time period of their productions. Here, it is sometimes left up to the Costumer, being myself, to inform them of the
surrounding "do's & don'ts" of the era. While some Directors are better
than others in stressing those details, time & focus to detail
often falls into the hands of the Technical Production Team. Again, I
loved your review and it only vindicates us here of what we try
to teach our students. The audience isn't as stupid as they would like
them to be!

Diane Papp
LCCC Costume Shop

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Grease (Cain Park)

‘GREASE” greaseless at Cain Park

‘GREASE,’ the stage musical, opened in 1972. It was an instant hit with a 1950s rock n' roll score and a hokey story about greaser high school kids finding friendship ("rama lama lama") and romance ("ka dingy dee ding dong!"). The show ran 3,388 performances which set a new record as Broadway's longest running show. This distinction it held until ‘A CHORUS LINE’ surpassed it in the 1980s.

The 1978 screen version became the highest-grossing musical in Hollywood history. A 1994 Broadway revival ran for 1,503 performances. A favorite with community theatres and school groups, the show remains one of the most popular musicals of all time.

Interestingly, ‘GREASE’ was the only successful theatrical project by co-creators Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey.

So, what’s all the excitement about? Picture the’s 1959...the time of poodle skirts, pony tails, white t-shirts with the sleeves rolled up and a pack of cigarettes mounted inside, d-a haircuts, slicked-back hair, souped up cars with fuzzy dice hanging from the rear view mirrors and class rings with angora wrapped around the shanks. It’s the time when schools were populated by greasers, goody-two-shoes, jocks and nerds.

Unfortunately, the Cain Park production, under the direction of Eric van Baars misses much of the era. The costumes aren’t era correct, the hairstyles aren’t era correct, and the dance moves aren’t era correct. But the major problem is that the characterizations aren’t era correct.

In order for ‘GREASE’ to be the classical musical that represents the 50s, the cast must not be playing at being greasers, nerds and goodie-two-shoes, they must be greasers, nerds and goodie-two-shoes. Don’t blame the generally talented cast for their foibles. They are clean-scrubbed suburban 2004 kids. They needed to be told about the era so they could emulate it. That’s the responsibility of the director. And, obviously, van Baars didn’t help them out by being their guide to the past.

There are some good individual presentations. Kenny Lear sings the role of Roger well. Chris Thomas gives a polished singing performance as Teen Angel. His falsetto ending to the song brought down the house. Meg Cavanaugh sings the role of Rizzo effectively, but fails to develop the hard-edge needed for the school tramp. Paul Harris, portraying Doody, is a great dancer but only a mediocre singer.

In the major roles, Keith Faris, who has a nice singing voice, appears too old for the role of Danny. His nice-guy good looks don’t translate into the smoldering sensuality needed for the role. Michelle Scully makes a pretty Sandy, but, as with the rest of the cast, misses developing a clear characterization. Alex Puette and Khalida Sims display a lack of understanding of the pivotal roles of Eugene, the nerd and Patty Miss school spirit.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: ‘GREASE’ at Cain Park is a major disappointment. Don’t go expecting the excitement of the movie, or getting a true vision of the ‘50s. Too bad. Eric van Baars had the opportunity to create a fun and flashback evening, but didn’t achieve the task. On the other hand, if you just want to scream praise for a bunch of kids who try hard, you might like the production.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

The Taming of the Shrew (Great Lakes Theatre Festival)

‘THE TAMING OF THE SHREW’ funny, but not for everyone

Great Lakes Theater Festival is in the midst of a rebirth. In fact, their new logo has the word “Shakespeare” superimposed over the word “Theater.” Historically, GLTF was GLSF. Staging their plays at Lakewood High School during summers, the group built a solid reputation. Then, there was the move to Playhouse Square, the attempt to become a big-time player with a Fall/Winter/Spring season.

Now, under the innovative direction of Producing Artistic Director Charles Fee, the company will play Summer and Fall and return to being a resident company. A company which, in the past, produced the likes of Tom Hanks. Two shows will be produced at the same time, alternating nights for a six-week run. The first set of offerings are ‘THE TAMING OF THE SHREW’ and ‘THE COMPLETE WORKS OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (ABRIDGED).’’

Another new feature of the Festival’s season is a free, nightly, outdoor event on Euclid Avenue, just outside the Ohio theatre, called “The Queen’s Arrival” that will commence a half-hour before each GLTF performance. It parallels the “Green Show” tradition that has long been a popular part of summer Shakespeare Festivals across the country. It will feature the arrival of a very special guest in a horse-drawn carriage.

When a director decides on his or her philosophy for staging a play, the person’s background comes into play. From watching Great Lakes Theater Festival’s production of ‘THE TAMING OF THE SHREW’ it can be concluded that director Drew Barr has watched a heavy dose of Saturday morning cartoons and is a lover of The Three Stooges, The Marx Brothers and slap-stick humor. His staging leaves no prat-fall, no double-take, no pie-in-the-face opportunity unused. There is enough faux hitting, tripping, and mugging to make any 6-year old roll on the floor in hysterical pleasure.

The result of Barr’s take on the Bard? Judging by the opening night audience, you’ll either love it or hate it. In the former group will be those who love to laugh, no matter whether that laughter comes at the expense of the script. In the latter group, will be the “Humph, that’s not the way Shakespeare should be done” crowd.

‘THE TAMING OF THE SHREW’ is one of Shakespeare’s most popular works. Probably the most compelling reason for the audience’s love of the script is that instead of the Bard’s usual lyrical poetry and delicate humor, ‘THE TAMING OF THE SHREW’ is filled with coarse vivid puns. Interestingly, because of the language there are experts who strongly believe that Shakespeare was not the play's sole author, or not the author at all.

Another interesting factor about the play is its almost universal dislike by women activists. Though on one level Kate, the lusty main character, has become a model for the strong-willed woman, the fact that she seemingly becomes a coy, subservient woman controlled by her husband, bodes poorly for women as independent beings.

So, what’s the play all about? In Padua, an old Italian town, lives rich Baptista and his two daughters. The younger, Bianca, is an angel. The elder, Katherine, a scourge with a hot temper and a sizzling tongue. Katherine has no suitors, while Bianca has at least two, which poses a problem for their father since he will not allow Bianca to marry unless someone takes Katherine off his hands first. That conundrum becomes the center of the play...who will tame the shrew and finally agree to kiss Kate? Does that phrase sound familiar? Of course. The play was rewritten into the well-know musical comedy “KISS ME KATE.”

GLTF’s cast is excellent. Andrew May, as Kate’s suitor Petruchio, does what May does best...grimace, mumble, futz, strut, over-act...all to the very best effect. Barr’s directing and May’s talents are a match made in heaven. Laura Perrotta’s Katherina is a fine hellion, but fades too quickly into the “nice” Kate. For some strange reason Barr has Scott Plate play the role of Lucentio, who is in love with Bianca, as a twit. He prances, flails, feigns fay. He does it well, but why? How M. A. Taylor gets through the evening without broken bones is a wonder. He is used by everyone as their punching bag. Maybe he is saved by his flack jacket which protects him from the mayhem. Wayne Turney is wonderful as Bianca’s older suitor. Derdriu Ring is fine, but has little chance to shine in the role of Bianca.

Narelle Sisson’s set design is a disaster. The multi-leveled set, featuring a slanted center platform which resembles a railroad car divided into a series of small rooms, and ladders and a platform high above the audience’s heads, is extremely distracting. The actors are constantly climbing ladders and ducking behind surfaces and being hidden from the sight of the audience. But, considering that the director has actors continually slamming doors and falling up and down stairs and tripping on platforms, the design may have been his idea.

Kimn Krumm Sorenson’s costumes add nothing to the production. In fact, in most scenes it looks like the actors were let loose in the company’s costume storage area and told to put on anything they wanted.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: If you like farce, if you like slap-stick you’ll love GLTF’s ‘THE TAMING OF THE SHREW.’

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Reefer Madness (Beck Center)

‘REEFER MADNESS’ fails to totally light up Beck Center

From 1936 until well into the 1970s, a movie named ‘REEFER MADNESS’ was shown in health classes in many schools. Originally financed by a small church group it was intended to scare the living bejeebers out of every youth and parent who viewed it regarding the use of maijuana.

Soon after the film was shot it was purchased by the notorious exploitation film maestro Dwain Esper who took the liberty of putting in salacious insert shots and distributed it to movie houses. After a brief run, the film lay forgotten for several decades.

Enter Keith Stroup, founder of NORML (Nation Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws). In 1971, he bought a print of the movie for $297, cleaned it up and started showing it at pro-pot festivals. It was a gigantic hit. Today, the film is a cult phenomenon dwarfed only by ‘THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW.’

In April, 1999 a musical theatre version opened. Written by Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney, the co-authors of ‘LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS,’ the theatrical version fleshes out the “story’ with music and dance. The show was an instant hit in LA where it opened and moved to Broadway to rave reviews in October of 2001.

As the play opens in 1936, THE LECTURER, a severe authority figure, informs the audience of the new drug menace, "Marijuana," which threatens the American way of life! His warnings are reinforced by the placard girl who throughout the play holds up large signs that clearly state the moral of what we've just seen, eg., “destroys will power,” “incites immorality,” and “causes insanity.” From his podium, The Lecturer warns that action must be taken immediately, before “the Good Ol' U.S.A. succumbs to the Demon Weed!” We then see the “true” story of two pure youths whose lives are ruined by the drug.

Critics on both coasts loved the productions. The Beck production is more to be liked than loved. The staging though acceptable, never reaches the fevered-pitch necessary to make the material so ludicrous that it becomes hysterically funny.

Most of the cast is good, if not exceptional. On the outstanding level is Matthew Wright, who was superb in Beck’s ‘FIX’ and again proves what a super talent he is. The Lecturer is a sweat-it out, change-into-lots-of-costumes and be-many-characters part, that demands a lot. Wright pulls it off with ease and polish. Betsy Kahl, a young Renee Zellweiger look-alike, is adorable as the innocent turned innocently-evil Mary. Her rendition of “Lonely Pew” is wonderful.

Michael Hezog portrays the giggling pot-headed, zombied-out Ralph in a perfect over the-top way. Josh Armstrong displays exceptional dancing abilities and abandonment as a member of the male ensemble.

Aimee Collier’s “The Stuff” was well sung, though her characterization of the put-upon gun-moll Mae, came and went. Geeky Enji Reid tries hard as Jimmy, the good-boy gone-bad, but doesn’t have the stage savvy to pull off the role. Curtis Young makes a great Jesus, but doesn’t menace enough as Jack, the drug dealer.

Many of the spoken and sung lines are drowned out by the over-zealous band. The usually dependable musical director, Larry Goodpaster, needed to keep in mind that if the audience doesn’t hear the words, they don’t know what’s going on. This is not a rock concert, the band is playing back-up.

The highlight of the show was the creative and well-conceived choreography of Martin Cespedes. Cespedes has a way of gauging the talent level of his cast and building doable numbers for them to perform. Especially effective were “Down at the Ol’ Five and-Dime” and “The Orgy.”

CAPSULE JUDGMENT: The musical ‘REEFER MADNESS,’ which will soon be made into a movie, is getting its local debut at The Beck Center. The production is fun in parts, but doesn’t let loose enough to make it the hysterically funny romp it could be. As a teenager sitting behind me said to a friend at the end of the show, “So what’s the big deal?” That’s not the response director Scott Spence wanted.

Godspell (Porthouse Theatre-KSU)

'GODSPELL' is "All for the Best" at Porthouse

‘GODSPELL’ is one of the biggest musical theatrical successes of all-time. Based on the “Gospel According to St. Matthew,” the musical tells the story of the last seven days of Christ's life. The parables have been contemporized, and Christ's followers are free spirits who sing the likes of "Day By Day", "All Good Gifts", and "Turn Back, O Man."

The show is perceived to be the creative child of Broadway super-author and composer Stephen Schwartz, the conceiver of such hits as ‘PIPPIN’ and ‘WICKED.’ ‘Taint so. Schwartz was a late-comer to the project.

The story goes that in 1970, while attending college in Pittsburgh, John-Michael Tebelak went to church on Easter Sunday. A theology student before he decided he wanted to be a theatrical director, he found the service to be devoid of feeling. Afterward the long-haired Tebelak was stopped by a policeman and searched for drugs. Tebelak confided that this experience provided him the inspiration for ‘GODSPELL.’ He produced the show as his senior project at Carnegie Mellon University.

The original score consisted of a song written by a cast member and old Episcopal Hymns, played by a rock band. To this point, Schwartz had nothing to do with the project.

John Michael left school without graduating. The show was eventually staged at the off-Broadway Cafe La Mama Theatre. A producer saw the production and said he would finance it if it had a new score. Enter Stephen Schwartz, who wrote all the songs in 5 weeks. (The only tune to remain from the original production is "By My Side"). The newly conceived show opened Off-Broadway on May 17, 1971. Tebelak was 22 years of age! ‘GODSPELL’ moved onto Broadway where it ran for 2,124 performances. Hundreds of professional and amateur productions of the show continue to be done.

Besides the Schwartz connection to the project, another fact that is generally overlooked is Tebelak’s Cleveland connection. He is a Berea product. As related by Bill Allman, the former producing director of Berea Summer Theatre, “John-Michael cut his theatrical teeth at BST where he acted, designed scenery and directed. In 1980 he returned to his roots when he directed a revival production of ‘GODSPELL’.”

The show’s other connection to the area is that in August of 1971, before it became a mega-hit, ‘GODSPELL’ was produced at Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival, the predecessor to Great Lakes Theatre Festival, which, at the time was housed in Lakewood High School’s auditorium. The show’s director was non-other than Tebelak, himself.

The show is not without controversy. It has been called blasphemous. Religious leaders have stated, “Surely no Christian who believes the Bible would approve of the perversion of ‘GODSPELL’.” The Wexford, Pennsylvania School Board banned a production of it after “complaints about its religious message.”

Any director of ‘GODSPELL’ has a number of choices to make. Should the production center on the religious message, forsaking the humor or take Tebelak to heart and make this a production of joy with the philosophy of Christ being carried though warmth and humor? Terri Kent, the Porthouse Theatre’s director, decided to go with the latter interpretation. It was a wise choice!

Given a great deal of leeway with a script that doesn’t prescribe visual or staging images, Kent left behind the show’s traditional notion of Jesus dressed in a Superman t-shirt and his followers clothed as clowns. She updated the language and nonverbal gestures, incorporating rap and contemporary musical sounds.

All in all this is a good production. It builds to an emotional conclusion without adding more preachiness than the script already has. It conveys the message to “be careful not to make a show of your religion before man.” It also invokes thought as to why some followers of Christ preach hatred against others instead of following the dictum, “Ye shall love thy neighbor as thyself.”

The cast is strong. Especially effective were Ryan Bergeron whose “All Good Gifts” was emotionally involving; Sandra Emerick whose big voice and seductive looks were well used in the delightful, “Turn Back, O Man;” and Andrew Crus whose “We Beseech Thee” was highlighted by some clever choreography and a let-loose attitude. W. James Koeth did a fine job of making Jesus a real character rather than a caricature. Coleen Longshaw built “Day by Day” to an emotional peak.

Though often delightful, Matt Lillo, as he has done in other productions, failed to pull back when necessary and sometimes upstaged other performers. Cute Emily Pote was often difficult to understand. Joshua Gordon failed to ignite the character of John the Baptist.

MaryAnn Black, who for some reason was given no bio space in the program, created some very clever and well executed choreography. Highlight numbers included “O, Bless the Lord, My Soul,” “All for the Best,” and “We Beseech Thee.”

Brian Laakso’s musical direction was excellent, playing backup rather than drowning out the singers. Steve Pauna’s constantly moving scaffold set worked well though it may have been overused at times.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: It’s been done time and again, but with a good production ‘GODSPELL’ can still be a fine theatrical experience, even if you aren’t into the religious message. Terri Kent has crafted a well-conceived and audience-involving production.

(Thanks to John Nolan, theatre buff extraordinare and a member of the 1980 BST “GODSPELL” cast for background material used in this review.)

The Diary of Anne Frank: The Opera (Cleveland Opera)

‘THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK: THE OPERA’--music fails to move audience

The number of Holocaust survivors is dwindling daily. A small group of zealots, including the father of a famous Hollywood film maker and actor, are denying that the Holocaust even took place in spite of extensive documentation.

There are those who feel it is the obligation of the rational among us to make sure that the lessons of the murder of millions of innocents, including one-and-a-half million children, not be diminished or denied. Therefore, it is appropriate that since the famed Holocaust victim, Anne Frank, would have been 75 years of age on June 12, 2004 that a tribute in her honor and to the honor of all those who senselessly perished with her in the hands of the Nazis, be staged.

With this mission in mind, in his last official act as the General Director of Cleveland Opera, David Bamberger staged an evening entitled, ‘WE REMEMBER! A CELEBRATION OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT.’

The evening’s opening segment, “Come to Me in Dreams” was a one-act opera which combined Bamberger’s scenario and the songs of Lori Laitman. The songs were based on a series of Holocaust writings, such the emotionally moving children’s collection, “I Never Saw Another Butterfly.”

“Come to Me in Dreams” showcases a concentration camp survivor who recalls his lost wife and child while telling his story to his surviving child. Each character is represented not only by an actor, but by a musical instrument. This creative device would have been effective if there had been more differentiation between the musical tone and emotion of the instruments. As is, there was a lack of contrast between the “happy” times and the “sad” times. The music lacked texture, didn’t pull at the heart strings. This, not withstanding, the voices of the cast members were excellent.

The overall effect was less than could have been expected. The piece was met with polite applause.

The second act was the Ohio premiere of the Encompass New Opera Theatre’s production of “Diary of Anne Frank” by Grigori Frid. The script puts the well-known story of Anne and her diary, which was first printed in 1947, into a musical venue.

The production brings nothing new to the story. In fact, it does not totally build the same emotional levels as the diary itself, or the play version or the film rendition.

Part of the problem may have been the familiarization with the material. Part may have been that the solo performance eliminated the verbal interactions that helped flesh out the frustration and fears. Part may have been the overly long nature of the piece which started to get tedious near the end. The major problem, however, from my perspective was the music. The contemporary sound just doesn’t sit well in the ear. After a while there was almost a discordant tone, much like fingernails scratching on the blackboard.

Dunja Perchstein as the solo participant, was generally effective as Anne. Often, especially near the end of the piece, her voice was difficult to hear. Fortunately, due to the visual bulletin boards above the stage, the words were available to read. She also failed to emotionally dredge heartfelt feeling from the audience.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Cleveland Opera should be commended for staging an evening of music intended to keep the horror of the Holocaust present in the minds and hearts of the audience. No matter the artistic effectiveness of the evening, the overall message was clear.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Bodies of Work (Anateus Dance)

Anateus Dance, Beth Salemi shines, but....

Last spring, when reviewing Antaeus Dance Company, I commented, in regard to Joan Meggitt’s choreography that, ‘A shortened piece would have made the evening much more satisfying.” Unfortunately, I must again repeat those sentiments regarding both “The Wanting Seed” and “The Usual Suspects,” which were presented recently as part of the company’s ‘BODIES OF WORK.’

“The Wanting Seed” is billed as a “deeply spiritual piece that examines individual sacrifice and how it affects all of us.” In spite of a creative interpretation of the Arvo Part’s music the performance outlasted its effect.

“The Usual Suspects,” is a piece inspired by silent films of the 1920s and 30s. Meggitt uses Mozart’s classical music as the basis for a contemporary piece which she claims contains “inherent physicality and humor”. After making her point in the first scene, Meggitt keeps adding more and more, with less and less effect.

In both of Meggitt’s choreographed pieces the individual dancers were excellent, especially Beth Salemi. However, the corps segments displayed some unmirrored segments, when the dancers’ timing was not parallel.

The highlight of the evening was “Bounder,” choreographed and danced by Beth Salemi. Wearing a modified hoop skirt, which she used expertly, Salemi displayed both a sense of humor and dancing skill. This was an audience pleasing and clever creation.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Joan Meggitt is a talented choreographer who might consider reexamining her philosophy and ask whether after accomplishing her message she needs to restate and restate the idea.

Steel Magnolias (Beck Center)

'STEEL MAGNOLIAS' doesn't hit all the right notes at Beck

There are few plays which allow the audience to laugh through their tears. STEEL MAGNOLIAS, Robert Harling’s well-crafted script, is one of the few, and, possibly the best.

The story, set in Chicapenn Parish, Louisiana examines the lives of six women. They are unique females whose social and emotional lives center around the local beauty shop where “anyone who’s anybody gets their hair done.” The women share gossip, laughter, tears and friendship, while buoying each other through pain and sorrow, while celebrating the wonders of life.

Truvy, a woman with big blond poofed hair, owns the beauty shop, once a car port attached to her house. Annelle is her new employee, a born-again Christian with a secret. Clairee is the wife of the former mayor and the wealthiest woman in town. M’Lynn is a social worker and mother of Shelby, whose life and death is the centerpin of the play. Ouiser is a pseudo-miserable woman who is all bark and little bite.

The play is chock full of delightful lines: “We went skinny dipping and did things that frightened the fish.” “I should have known my son had problems when his imaginary playmate wouldn’t play with him.” “The sanctuary looks like it was hosed down with Pepto Bismol.” On and on they go, and most pleasantly, they aren’t just one liners...they fit into the script and carry meaning and help develop both the characters and plot.

Beck Center’s production, unfortunately, doesn’t live up to the script. Sara May’s directing is usually right on target. In this production, however, she seems to have slowed the whole production down. Characters were not consistently developed and the line between comedy and pathos was often blurred. Dialect Coach Chuck Richie needed to hone the actresses’ Louisiana rhythm, cadence and articulation.

The cast is generally talented, but fails to jell. Maybe, as the show runs, the blending will take place. Melinda Hughes, as the diabetes-inflicted Shelby, comes the closest to a true-Louisiana sound. A tone which is absolutely necessary to illustrate that these are Southern women, born and bred. Hughes also sets up the pathos by being both vulnerable and appealing. Rhoda Rosen as Ouiser has some wonderful moments. Bernice Bolek as Clairee also displays some grasp of her role’s motivations. Julie Ketterer as M’Lynn, needed more resolve, Amy Pawlukiewicz as Annelle needed more character depth and Maria Corell as Truvy who is the pivotal character of the script, needed to let lose and develop a broader characterization.

Casey Jones’ sound design, especially the musical interludes between scenes, helped develop the correct mood for each scene.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Beck’s ‘STEEL MAGNOLIAS’ is an acceptable, if not totally fulfilling production.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Point of Departure --6/1/2004

POINTE OF DEPARTURE makes a positive point!

The Cleveland area has many fine dance companies such as Groundworks and Verb. What is missing, since the departure of Cleveland/San Jose Ballet is a fine ballet company. But, some might respond, there are the Ohio Ballet and Ohio Dance Theatre. Unfortunately, Ohio Ballet has proven to be inconsistent and there does not appear to be much hope that in the near future there will be much change in that status. Ohio Dance Theatre, Denise Gula’s Oberlin based group, does a nice job for a small company with limited resources, but, it doesn’t produce world class productions.

Fortunately for the area, each summer former CSJB wunderkinds Karen Gabay and Raymond Rodriguez return to the area to give a limited number of performances by their Point of Departure company. This year the local season is limited to three outings, the just completed two performances at the Cleveland Play House and an August 5 night at Cain Park’s outdoor theatre.

As it again proved in its Play House programs, it’s really a shame the company can’t be in residence here all year long. The program was excellent!

Pointe of Departure has four things going for it. First and foremost, is the wonderfully creative choreography and fine-tuned directing of Karen Gabay. Second is the dancing of Rodriguez. Third is the dancing of Gabay. And fourth is the female corps de ballet.

Gabay’s choreography, much like the person, is full of energy, a sense of delight and an eye on precision. Her dancers are almost always in sync. The movements fit the musical tones and textures. Her story ideas are clear. Her dancers tend to know what to do and how to achieve the end result.

Though Rodriguez is getting a little long-in-the-tooth by dancer’s criteria, and his once razor thin body has thickened up a bit, he hasn’t lost a bit of his talent. He out-danced every male on the stage in the recent performances, some of whom were half his age. His secret is not only his dancing, but his attitude and understanding that emotions must be felt, not acted. It is a lesson that someone like Maximo Califano could well learn. Califano is tall, dark and handsome. He danced the lead in several numbers. He seems to have good dancing instincts, but his execution is sloppy, he feigns feelings, and lacks body control. His leaps often end with him off-balance. His hands flop around never completing a movement with finality. His eyes never show intensity or glee, as is fitting certain segments of dance. He feigns feelings rather than feeling them.

Gabay still moves like a feather and shows total glee in being before an audience.

The female corps are all fine. It’s hard to pick out one to highlight as they all performed well. Special nods go to Christine Schwaner for her performance in “Abrazo” and “A Vision in White,” and Catharine Grow in “Blues.”

On the other hand, the males are inconsistent. Jekyns Pelaez does an excellent job in his leaps, but is inconsistent in his timing. Demetrius King is a strong dancer and conveys the correct attitudes, but is also inconsistent in his dance interpretations. Ramon Moreno dances well in “Trabada,” he failed to convey to appropriate sensuality need.

“Gare Du Midi” centers on riders waiting for a train in a station. Leonard Bernstein’s music, “Divertimento for Orchestra” contains a melange of musical sounds including the waltz, samba, turkey trot, blues and march. The choreography perfectly matched the musical sounds. Highlight segments included “Sphinxes,” “Mazurka,” and “Turkey Trot.”

“Pas de Deux from Swan Lake, Act II featured Alexsandra Meijer as Odette, the Swan Queen and Maximo Califano as the Prince. Meijer dances well, but she failed to compel the audience to watch her. Much of the problem centered on her stoic attitude which lacked the necessary vulnerability and enchantment of the character.

“2-2 Tango” was again Gabay at her choreographic best. She took the audience through ten different emotional levels, all based on tango music. Highlight segments included “Sentado” which again proved that as dancers and partners Gabay and Rodriguez still have it! Their “Mordida” was another highlight segment. Gabay, along with Patricia Perez and Christine Schwaner performed excellent toe-work in “Cordia.”

The delightful jazz induced “The Other Side of the Road” completed the evening. Again Rodriguez sparkled. Every segment of the Gabay choreographed piece was unique and well executed.

The final curtain was greeted by a deserved standing ovation by the near capacity audience. Interestingly, there were no sets, the music was recorded and the costumes minimal but fine. As Pointe of Departure proved, it doesn’t take gimmicks to produce wonderful dance.

It would be wonderful if Pointe Of Departure could become a year long community fixture. With the right benefactor or series of benefactors that could become a reality.

Some person or persons or group needs to step forward and fund this fledgling organization. No one better deserves this support than Karen Gabay and Raymond Rodriguez. If you have a check to write, big or small, or a suggestion of who might be angel to give the area its ballet company, contact Point of Departure at 216-881-0353 or write Gabrod, Inc. at P.O. Box 719, Lakewood, OH 44107 or go on-line to www.pointeofdeparture,com.