Friday, May 22, 2009

Summer Previews--2009

Summer is coming and there’s gonna be a lot of dancing and acting going on!

In spite of the downturn in the economy, there’s a lot of local theatre and dance that’s going to take place. Here are some of the offerings:


New Play Festival—presentations of scripts by Cleveland playwrites
Fri June 19 – ‘DROWNING THE FLAME’ by Michael Oatman. Rival Hip Hop artists struggle to win the affection of a successful Hollywood actress.
Sat June 20 –‘ BEING EARNEST’ by Deborah Magid. Bacharach meets the Beatles and Algernon takes center stage in this witty, playful modern-day musical homage to Oscar Wilde.
Sun June 21 – ‘BON VOYAGE,’ NATE by Steve Maistro. Surprising feelings emerge when a well meaning but lousy grief counselor leads a workplace session in this dark comedy.

‘Stars Of Cain Park,’ past and present stars of Cain Park perform on Tuesday, August 4, 2009 at 7pm

GroundWorks Dancetheater
Friday-Sunday, June 26-28, 2009. Alma Theater. Friday & Saturday 7pm, Sunday 2pm.

Inlet Dance Theatre
Thursday, July 30, 2009. Evans Amphitheater, 8pm. Inlet Dance Theatre returns for another summer of free community performances. Kids’ Matinee concert on Wednesday, July 29, 1-2pm.

Pointe of Departure
Friday, July 31, 2009. Evans Amphitheater, 8pm.
Karen Gabay and Raymond Rodriguez, return to Cleveland!

Verb Ballets
Friday, August 7, 2009. Evans Amphitheater, 8pm.

Dancing Wheels
Thursday, August 20, 2009. Evans Amphitheater, 8pm.

For tickets: Ticket Office, located outside east gate to Evans Amphitheater (No convenience fee); by phone: 216-371-3000 (as of June 6), $2 convenience fee per ticket. On-line @, service charge applied on every ticket.

The Blossom Festival will present ballet performances, for the first time since the 1988 season, on August 22 and 23 when The Joffrey Ballet performs four signature works. Blossom Music Center, 1145 W Steels Corners Rd., Cuyahoga Falls, OH 44223. For tickets: (330) 920-8040 or


‘CINDERELLA, ’June 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 24, 25, 26, & 27
‘GODSPELL, ’July 10, 11, 15, 16, 17, 18, 22, 23, 24 & 25
‘ME AND MY GIRL,’ August 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 15, 19, 20, 21 & 22
TICKETS: Adults: $15.00. Seniors/Students: $12.00
Venue: Parma Little Theatre (adjacent to Parma High School), 6285 W. 54th Street, Parma, OH 44129
For tickets: 216-71-5862 or

My capsule judgement of Evil Dead: The Musical at Beck Center was: “If you want to go to the theatre and have a great old time and escape from reality, see ‘EVIL DEAD THE MUSICAL.’ Great that is, if you have a strong stomach, a good sense of humor, and aren’t the up-tight type.” I wasn’t alone in my praise. The show has been extended until Sunday, July 5. Show times are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 7 p.m. Sundays. A special 11 p.m. performance will replace the 8 p.m. performance on Friday, June 19.
For tickets, call 216.521.2540 x10 or visit

59 performances of 4 plays in two spaces
June 19 - July 26

The life and times of Nat “King” Cole

A musical with book & lyrics by Phil Olson

‘MARK TWAIN, Semi-literate Lecturer, Liar & Loafer’

Starring Neil Thackaberry

Actors’ Summit – EVENINGS, 8:00 PM. Hudson Library – 7:30 PM. MATINEES: 2:00 PM at both venues

For details and information: (330) 342-0800 or visit
Blossom Grounds, W Steels Corners Rd., Cuyahoga Falls, OH

‘A FUNNY THINGS HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM,’ June 11-27. Steven Sondheim’s delightful musical.

‘THE ODD COUPLE,’ July 2-18. Neil Simon’s classic comedy.

‘ANNIE GET YOUR GUN,’ July 23-August 9. Irving Berlin’s Annie Oakley musical.

For tickets: 330-929-4416 or 800-304-2363 or go on-line to

Sunday, May 17, 2009


‘DREAM/HOME,’ must see engaging, thought-provoking powerhouse at Dobama

Hook up the focused directing of Sonya Robbins, a compelling script by Sarah Morton, add a high quality cast, place them in Todd Krispinsky’s creative set and the result is one heck of a great evening of theatre. An evening that not only holds your attention, but makes real life and theatre one and the same!

Cleveland is in the midst of a major crisis. In the past decade the city has lost about one-third of its population. Many homes are boarded up and abandoned. The same fate is attacking many of the rim suburbs and the filthy hands of predatory lenders, aided by a weak economy, are making the march of recession/depression spread further east, south and west. Over 60,000 foreclosures have taken place. The county has an estimated 35,000 vacant homes. Beautiful and family friendly streets have given way to drug houses, sites for the stealing of aluminum siding and copper pipes for profit, and danger and fear.

A school teacher, wanting the security of home ownership and safety for her family, goes to a bank to get a loan. Even though educated, she is naïve about finance matters and is talked into a predatory ARM loan by a sleazy agent only interested in his personal financial gain. Not only does this spell disaster for her, but for many others and the community as a whole. Such is the story which unravels in Sarah Morton’s meticulously written ‘DREAM/HOME.’

Director Robbins wrings every emotion out of the script. Under her watchful eye, we meet the teacher, her daughter, a banker, the loan officer, two neighbors, a realtor, and the wife of a policeman. All are people who are either catalysts or victims of the problem.

The production is added to by a talk back following many of the stagings. The night I attended, Jim Rokakis, Cuyahoga County Treasurer, shared his observations of how the entire collapse of the housing market in the county happened and pointed fingers at who helped in the march down hill. He focused on The Plain Dealer for not alerting the community to the problem, abd the role of the Taft administration and his Attorney General in allowing and encouraging bad legislative actions. He pointed a finger at National City Bank as a major culprit in inner city green lining. He also held out hope, the hope of the success of the Land Bank, which he helped persuaded the Ohio Legislature to authorize. It will lead to the destruction of many empty and abandoned houses, leaving them as green spaces or open to new types of use, thus eliminating settings for drug houses and making neighboring homes worthless. There is hope that the Obama administration’s plan to help those who were caught in the march of greed and false dreams, might be able to see some sunlight.

Morton has pulled no stops. She engages us in a series of solo pieces, which she has woven together to give a multi-dimensional view of what happened and is still going on. Wow!

The cast, George Roth, Fabio Polanco, Alexis Floyd, Anne McEvoy, Tom White, Rodney Freeman, Kristi Little, Cathy Albers and Lisa Langford are all top notch. There is not a weak link in the acting chain. Wow!

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: ‘DREAM/HOME’ is MUST SEE production for everyone who wants to understand, to realize the horrible outcomes of financial and personal greed that has attacked our city, our county, our country and our lives. Wow!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Ohio Dance Theatre, Antaeus Dance



Imagine the nerve of a Black dancer/choreographer who, in the 1950s, at the height of segregation in this country, deciding to start a company whose purpose was to tell the story of African Americans. The person? Alvin Ailey. The results? A company that in 2009 is celebrating its 50th anniversary and is on an upward curve, while other arts organizations are withering on the vine.

The works of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre range from classical ballet, to jazz, to native American dance. Though Ailey died in 1989 at the age of 58, his hand-selected successor, Judith Jamison, took over the company and has helped it thrive.

Ask any of those who gave screaming curtain call after curtain call to the company in their recent State Theatre production, co-presented by Playhouse Square and Dance Cleveland, with sponsorship by Huntington Bank, and they’ll tell you that they had just experienced a presentation of dance wonderment!

In the company’s sixth Cleveland appearance, the program included ‘REVELATIONS,’ considered by many to be the best-known and most often seen modern dance piece. The program also included excerpts from ‘BLUES SUITE,’ one of Ailey’s earliest works. Also showcased in the fourteen selection program, were a powerful rendition of ‘STREAMS,’ the engrossing ‘MARY LOU’S MASS,’ the beautifully performed, ‘HIDDEN RITES,’ the finely honed ‘NIGHT CREATURE,’ and the sensual ‘PHRASES.’

The curtain call, the stirring ‘ROCKS THE SOLE,’ was a perfect ending to an outstanding evening dance which, on opening night of the three performance stand, was thoroughly enjoyed by the near sold-out audience.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: It is going to be interesting to see what happens as the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre confronts the future with the retirement of Jamison and a new, yet unannounced leader. Let’s hope that whoever is selected has the insight and creativity of the two preceding bright lights of dance.

OHIO DANCE THEATRE presents multi-leveled program

Denise Gula, the founder and artistic director of the Oberlin based Ohio Dance Theatre, is both a choreographer and a theatre person. As such, much of her dance repertoire has a dramatic, story-telling base.

In the company’s recent residency at Cleveland Public Theatre, as part of ‘DANCEWORKS 09, they presented a three-segment program. The opening piece, ‘WHEN I FALL,’ featured the talents of Janet Strukley and Brain Murphy in a well danced, dramatic piece which found the dancers in perfect harmony with the oft-changing musical sounds of Nat King Cole, James Edward Davis and Young and Heyman.

‘SPENDTHRIFT,’ which explored the beauty and power of the ocean’s water as it blows, creates foam, and swirls at the base of the shoreline, found five female dancers using their arms and bodies to move through space. A strong solo by Juliana Freude was a highlight of the classic piece which was set to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

The highlight of the program was ‘SILENT WITNESS,’ a tribute to women who are the victims of abuse. The number was inspired by an exhibit presented by Genesis House, which Gula witnessed. She states, “I found myself stunned and moved by the starkness and simplicity of the images. I wanted to make a ballet that would honor these women and help bring awareness to this disturbing social issue.”

In the main, Gula succeeds. There was live dancing by a solo performer, while simultaneously a video showed her falling in love, and the unfolding tumult and brutal relationship which had strong visual and emotional overtones. The music, the illusions of woman, man, children in conflict, and the pain was clearly depicted in the dance and movements of Janet Strukley and Kyle Primous.

Unfortunately, the piece become overly long and redundant by the addition of a music video which was seemingly tacked onto the ending. The dance, sans music video, ended on high emotion. No more was needed. The video, which introduced new people and another media, was overkill and weakened the overall effect.

The lack of a curtain call was a creative touch as it left the audience fidgeting uncomfortably in the strong emotions of the piece, encouraged to exit at their own pace, with the images lingering in their minds.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Ohio Dance Theatre’s DANCEWORKS O9’ performance was well received. Gula’s ability to combine dance and theatre, gives the company a hands-up over other groups who often fail in telling stories which require more than dance proficiency.


‘MOLT,’ Antaeus Dance’s offering at the recent Cleveland Public Theatre’s ‘DANCEWORKS 09, failed to ignite the audience. This selection, which was overly long, was often repetitious. How many ways and times can dancers arrange and rearranged a pile of straw? Yes, the company proposes to have “a sense of connecting to earth,” but what about this piece, beyond the straw, was earth connecting?

Choreographer Joan Meggitt states in the program that, “The group [those not dancing] acts as a mirror to the soloist’s interior life, with the soloist reflecting upon what the group, in turn, reflects back to her.” Oh, if only that were true. That may have been her intent, but it wasn’t what was visually presented.

The dancers, though they tried, were not always in sync. They needed much more work, and a honing of their skills by a purposeful choreographer.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Joan Meggitt and the Antaeus Dance Company disappointed in their ‘DANCEWORKS ‘09’ presentation. Abstract descriptions and the lack of a clear mission do no a good dance program make!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Dee Hoty

Dee Hoty, local celeb makes it BIG and pays back

What does Lakewood, Ohio, ‘MAMA MIA,’ Tony Award nominations, The Great Lakes Theatre Festival, Richard Oberlin, B. Neil Davis, Higbees, Clinique and the Cleveland Play House’s Annual Gala all have in common? The answer? Dee Hoty.

Dee Hoty, a native of Lakewood, who graduated from the local high school in 1970, is a major Broadway star. In a recent telephone interview, Hoty credited then Lakewood drama director B. Neil Davis and choral director Ulah Gilmore with infecting her with the theatre bug. She also shared that being the youngest child in her family inspired her to be an out-going, get attention type of kid. Her local roots are still present as her mother lives in Rocky River. Her dad, who is deceased, will be remembered for operating J.D. Hoty’s, a well known steak house on West 6th and Superior.

Hoty attended and graduated from Otterbein College in 1974. Shortly afterwards, she was hired by Great Lakes Theatre Festival, which at that time was housed at Lakewood High School, to appear in ‘MEASURE FOR MEASURE.’ She was seen there by Richard Oberlin of the Cleveland Play House and was retained as an acting apprentice.

How did she get to be a star? In her spare time from GLTF Dee sold Clinique products at Higbee’s Department Store, She asked for a transfer to the Big Apple, was trained at Lord and Taylor, bounced back and forth between Cleveland and New York in an attempt to get her Actors’ Equity card, and within two years she got her big break. First, a part in ‘BARNUM starring Stacey Keach,’ next ‘FORBIDDEN BROADWAY,’ then ‘PERSONALS,’ and she was on her way.

Dee went on to star in ‘MAMA MIA,’ both in NY and on tour. She was nominated for a Tony for her starring roles in ‘FOOTLOOSE,’ ‘THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE GOES PUBLIC,’ and ‘THE WILL ROGERS FOLLIES.’ Other Broadway shows included ‘CITY OF ANGELS,’ ‘ME AND MY GIRL,’ ‘BIG RIVER,’ ‘THE FIVE O’CLOCK GIRL,’ and ‘SHAKESPEARE’S CABARET.’ She recently toured with Tommy Tune in ‘DOCTOR DOOLITTLE,’ which had a Cleveland run.

She has also been seen in film and television productions including, ‘AS THE WORLD TURNS,’ ‘GUIDING LIGHT,’ ‘ST. ELSEWHERE,’ ‘RYAN’S HOPE,’ ‘CRIMINAL INTENT,’ and ‘SPENSER: FOR HIRE.’

What advice does she have for the star-struck? “Go to college!” “Find out what you really want!” “You need to be grounded in more than just acting.” (This grounding is why she recommends college rather than the conservatory route.)

What’s in the future? She is in rehearsal for a production of ‘42nd STREET’ in St. Louis and, “there’s something in the works, but I’m not allowed to talk about it, yet.”

Hoty will be the featured entertainer at the Cleveland Play House’s annual benefit on June 6, performing in a one-woman entitled, ‘DE-LIGHTFUL, DE-LOVELY, DEE HOTY!’ Why the return to the area? “It’s my way of paying back CPH for the boost the organization gave me in the past.” For details about the benefit call 216-795-7000, extension 226.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Evil Dead The Musical

‘EVIL DEAD THE MUSICAL’ is a bloody hoot at Beck

To really appreciate ‘EVIL DEAD THE MUSICAL,’ now in production at Beck Center, you should probably be perverse, have a warped sense of humor, enjoy getting squirted with blood and are willing to see body parts being separated from the human body. Yep, that’s what ‘EVIL DEAD’ is all about.

Plot? Oh, come on. Hummable music? Be serious. This is about gore! Oh, did I mention, this is one perverse musical? And, did I also state, “It is a hoot!”

‘EVIL DEAD’ is the kind of production, which is a cult builder. In fact, in its short run here, there are people who already have come back to see every performance. There have been, it is rumored, a couple of guys who drove down from Toronto, where the show just closed, to continue their viewing pleasure.

People fight to sit in stage right seats A 9 & 10 so they can get full streams of blood squirted on their “EVIL DEAD’ t-shirts (which are available for sale in the lobby). And those who don’t get enough of the red stuff, roll on the sopping wet red covered floor after the performance to make sure that they are properly blood soaked!

Created by the Canadian team of George Reinblatt, Christopher Bond, Frank Cipolla and Melissa Morris, each of whom must be walking a psychologically ill tightrope, the show had a weird path to success. After a workshop in Toronto in 2004, an off-Broadway production ran over a year. Then the show reopened in Toronto on May 1, 2007 and kept getting extended and extended. Now there are productions all over the globe.

If you are still reading this review…here’s what the whole thing is about.
Several college students spend the weekend in an abandoned cabin in the woods, accidentally unleashing an evil terror. Characters and demons sing and dance to such ditties as “Blew the Bitch Away,” “Bit Part Demon,” “What The ??? Was That?,” “All the Men in My Life Keep Getting Killed by Canadarian Demons.” If you are saying, “You are making up those titles.” Come on, could I make up such sickness?

The Beck production, under the warped direction of Scott Spence, is fun. The creative choreography by Martin Céspedes increases the hysteria. Add Don McBide’s funky set, Larry Goopaster’s over the top music, and Jenniver Sparano’s perverted costumes, and you have the full warped package.

The very talented Dan Folino plays Ash, the handsome “hero” who tries to insure us in his song, “I’m Not a Killer,” that he is a good guy. Yeah, sure! Folino is also responsible for the perverse special effects (along with P. J. Toomey). Yep, the severed hand, the squirting blood, the singing moose that gets shot, the female breast that gets severed, the head that somehow “accidentally” no longer is connected to a body. I could go on, but all this has to be seen to be realized.

The rest of the cast waivers from good to okay, but the quality of the acting and singing matters little, it’s the overall effect that is important. And the Beck production is long on effect.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: If you want to go to the theatre and have a great old time and escape from reality, see ‘EVIL DEAD THE MUSICAL.” Great that is, if you have a strong stomach, a good sense of humor, and aren’t the up-tight type. Oh, you might want to buy a white t-shirt in the lobby before you go in so you can have a “bloody good” souvenir. And, don’t wear good clothes as they might get very red!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Heaven's My Destination

Thought-proving ‘HEAVEN’S MY DESTINATION at CPH, but…

At the start of intermission of ‘HEAVEN’S MY DESTINATION,’ which is getting its world premiere at the Cleveland Play House, the woman sitting next to me leaned over to her companion and loudly whispered, “This is pretty weird, huh?” I think she was echoing the thoughts of many in the audience, especially those who disappeared before the second act.

‘HEAVEN’S MY DESTINATION’ was Thornton Wilder’s first novel set in America. It introduces the audience to George Marvin Brush. Brush, a traveling textbook salesman, is a fervent religious convert who, like his hero Ghandi, wants the world to be a better place and the people in it to lead better lives. “Better” in this case means no smoking, no drinking, everyone being nice to each other and living lives of financial abstinence. Much like Don Quixote, he travels around spreading his version of what it takes to “live the impossible dream.” Of course, he is misunderstood, ostracized, beaten up, ignored, laughed at, arrested, and shunned.

What is not clear in Lee Blessings adaptation of the novel is whether the material is meant to be taken seriously or as a tongue in cheek concept.

Wilder, who spent much of his childhood in Hong Kong and Shanghai was a strict Congregationalist who was brought up on the classics and attended such colleges as Oberlin and Yale. His brother was a New Testament scholar.

The Pulitzer Prize winning author of such plays as ‘OUR TOWN,’ ‘THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH,’ and ‘THE MATCHMAKER,’ he wrote with Asian precision. His preciseness is what makes this play confusing. In Wilders other works, his intentions are clear. We know when to laugh, when to be overcome with nostalgia or emotion. Not so with ‘HEAVEN’S MY DESTINATION.’

The Play House production, under the adept directing of Michael Bloom, is well staged, the acting fine, and the production qualities creative. What’s missing is the message and that’s not Bloom or the cast’s fault. The script is never clear on what Wilder/Blessing was/is trying to say. Is Heaven each person’s destination? Is it impossible to lead the “good” life? Are those who preach goodness bound to be outcasts? Can idealism be converted into realism? These suggestions just touch on the possibilities.

Michael Halling, who starred on Broadway in ‘A TALE OF TWO CITIES,’ ‘IN MY LIFE,’ and ‘THE PAJAMA GAME is believable and gives a textured performance as George Brush. Besides having a depth of acting skills, he has a beautiful singing voice which he uses well tointerpret Josh Schmidt’s musical compositions.

The rest of cast, John Woodson, Diane Dorsey, Christian Kohn, Katie Barrett, Justin Tatum, Kailey Bell and Coutney Anne Nelson are all excellent in multi-roles.

Russell Parkman has created an impressive set, but it is not always clear to what the large pile of antiques which are mounted on a movable turntable, is exposing us. As with the script, it is interesting, but not always clear in purpose.
CAPSULE JUDGMENT: ‘HEAVEN’S MY DESTINATION’ receives a well honed production at CPH. In fact, the production outshines the script.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin


‘AN EVENING WITH PATTI LUPONE AND MANDY PATINKIN,’ is a dream concert for those in the “theatre”-know. It is a match up of two of Broadway’s superstars. Put the dynamic duo on the stage with a piano and a bass, add some ghost lights, allow them to probe the Broadway song book, and the result is a wonderful evening of entertainment.

Mandy Patinkin is an American actor of stage and screen and a tenor vocalist. He is noted for his ability to stylize songs by reverting to falsetto and rephrasing the original scoring of a song. Though well known for his roles in television’s ‘CHICAGO HOPE’ and ‘CRIMINAL MINDS,’ and the films ‘YENTEL’ and ‘RAGTIME,’ he is renowned for his musical stage performances. His initial success came when he played Che in ‘EVITA’ in 1979. It was here that he and LuPone, who played the title role, made professional contact. Patinkin went on to win that year's Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. He returned to Broadway in 1984 to star in ‘SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE,’ which saw him earn another Tony Award nomination. He also appeared in ‘THE SECRET GARDEN,‘ ‘FALSETTOS,’ ’THE WILD PARTY,’ and ‘SAVAGES.’ He sings in Yiddish, often in concert, and on his album, ‘MAMALOSHEN.’

Patti LuPone swept the 2008 theatre awards winning the Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for Best Actress for her performance as Mama Rose in ‘GYPSY.’ Other smash appearances include ‘ SWEENEY TODD,’ ‘CAN-CAN,’’ ‘CANDIDE,’ ‘NOISES OFF,’ ‘PAL JOEY,’ ‘ANYTHING GOES,’ ‘OLIVER!,’ ‘THE ROBBER BRIDEGROOM,’ and ‘LES MISÉRABLES.’ In 1995, she appeared on the Great White Way in a one-woman show, ‘PATTI LUPONE ON BROADWAY.’

With that history, the major problem in putting together their evening, was the selection of songs. Though the program was varied, many of the songs were not from the shows in which they appeared. These included segments from ‘SOUTH PACIFIC,’ ‘MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG, and ‘CAROUSEL.’ Though entertaining, the program wasn’t what many of those who came to see and hear the duo yearned for. The response to LaPone’s “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” (‘EVITA’) and “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” (‘GYPSY’), in which the audience erupted in applause during the first several notes of each, illustrated the desire. Unfortunately, Patinkin didn’t feature any of the songs from his major shows.

This is not to say the evening was disappointing, it wasn’t. However, I left a little empty for not hearing more of the musical theatre history of the duo.

Highlights included “Another Hundred People” (‘COMPANY’), “Everybody Says Don’t” (‘ANYONE CAN WHISTLE’), “April in Fairbanks” (‘NEW FACES OF 1956’), “The God-Why-Don’t You-Love-Me Blues” (‘FOLLIES’), and “You’re Just in Love” (‘CALL ME MADAM’).

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: ‘AN EVENING WITH PATTI LUPONE AND MANDY PATINKIN’ will be of great joy to anyone who loves musical theatre. That’s not to say others will not like the offerings, but there is a special place in the hearts and minds of “theatre-people” for this near queen and king of musicals.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Verb Ballet 5/09

VERB makes quick recovery….they are back on top of their game!

Last April my headline for Verb Ballet’s dance concert read, “‘VERB good, but needs to step up their game.” I went on to say that “I consider Verb Ballets to be one of the best dance companies in the area. I have watched in pleasant joy as the company matured. Unfortunately, in the last year, I’ve seen what I consider a stagnation setting in. They haven’t upped their game.”

Little did I know that Dr. Margaret Carlson, the company’s Chief Executive Officer and the Board were looking for a solution to situation which one Board member called, “stopping the careening train by pulling the emergency cord.” In contrast to such organizations as the Ohio Ballet and Cleveland Ballet, which went belly up because of poor management, this group was on top of the issue and took swift action. From the looks of the company’s recent showing at Fusion Fest, they identified the problem and provided a solution. They replaced the artistic director, have gone out to find new male corps members, and changed the course of the company. Congrats to all who brought about this transition.

Their Fusion Fest program consisted of two acts. The first, a mélange of short pieces, included ‘VESPERS,’ a company staple, which examines the passion and the spirituality of women with faith. The piece, as choreographed by Ulysses Dove, has been restaged by Dawn Carter. It is one of the offerings that I panned last year for lacking discipline. The precision of this year’s version attests to the change of attitude and the improved focus of the company. The crisp and swift movements as six female dancers moved between two sets of chairs, sitting on, moving under, jumping astride and flowing around the seating devices, was intense and impressive.

‘ONE,’ as choreographed by one of the company’s newest additions, Michael Medcalf, the former artistic director of Cleveland Contemporary Dance Theatre, was outstanding. Medcalf and Brian Murphy, one of the area’s top male dancers, displayed strong muscularity in developing a contemporary ballet vision, to Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings.” The dancers flowed as they moved together and apart to create beautiful stage pictures.

‘THE NATURE OF THINGS: BROWNIAN MOVEMENT,’ was also choreographed by Medcalf to music by J. Swinscoe and J. Ellis. Starting slow, the dancing evolved into a joyous free dance echoing the musical sound. The costumes, women in softly flowing white and aqua material, and the men, bare-chested in white leotards, helped create appealing visual allusions, which were highlighted by Trad Burns’ lighting. The choreography clearly reflected botanist Robert Brown’s theory of the random movement of tiny particles mingling in a multitude of ways. The dancers’ facial expressions displayed a joy of freedom of movement and positive attitude.

The evening’s highlight was an original piece conceived by Dianne McIntyre. ‘IN THE GROOVE AND OVER THE TOP,’ is a conversation of music and dance. It combines the fine jazz offerings of a trio consisting of piano, bass and drums (Drene Ivy, Glenn Holmes and Robert Hubbard, Jr.), with vocal offerings (Mariama Whyte) and dancers (Michael Medcalf, Erin Conway Lewis, Catherine Meredith Lambert, Antwon Duncan, and Telly Fowler) to create what appeared to be an improvisational blending of sound and movement. In reality, the improvisation was finely developed and rehearsed. The results were involving and sensational. The number consisted of a series of different blendings. First just jazz music, then music and full company dance, then singing and dancing, then drum and dance, piano and dance, vocal scatting and dance, music alone, then a capella dance, and finally the blending of all elements. Wow!

Capsule judgement: Verb Ballet is back to its former level of excellence in a big way! Congrats to Margaret Carlson and the company’s visionary board who made changes when changes were needed!