Saturday, August 27, 2011

Fall dance calendar 2011

Dance, dance, dance—Fall in Cleveland

Fall is near and the Cleveland dance scene is about to bust loose! Here are some local early autumn offerings:

American Lore
September 23, 2011 8:00 p.m.
Breen Center for the Performing Arts
Tickets: 216-397-3757 or

 Based on the theme, “America is a land rich with stories, a place for rebels and pioneers,” the program includes: Billy the Kid, choreographer Ginger Thatcher premiere of a new take on this outlaw; a revival of Martha Graham's Appalachian Spring; and a revival of Terence Greene's The Gathering.

Dance Showcase
Palace Theatre
September 9, 2011 7:30 p.m.
Free: No tickets required.
The annual PHSquare celebration of dance features a selection of Northeast Ohio’s finest professional companies: The Dancing Wheels Company, Dance/Theater Collective, Inlet Dance Theatre, MorrisonDance, Ohio Dance Theatre, Shri Kalaa Mandir, Travesty Dance Group, Verb Ballets and Sara Whale.

September 16 and 17 8:00 p.m.
Ice House, 129 North Summit Street, Akron
Tickets: 216-691-3180 or
Two world premieres: a commissioned work by former company member Amy Miller and a new work by Artistic Director David Shimotakahara.
September 9
Dance Show Case (see details above)

September 16, 17 & 18
Ingenuity Festival; Detroit-Superior Bridge
For details go to:

Presented by: DANCE Cleveland, EJ Thomas Hall & University of Akron Dance Program
Saturday, October 1st 8:00 PM

EJ Thomas Hall, Akron
Known internationally for presenting works of exceptional inventiveness and physical beauty, MOMIX is a company of dancer-illusionists under the direction of Moses Pendleton. MOMIX will present the evening-length work Botanica, a spectacular piece that follows the rhythms of the seasons, the evolution of the world and the passing of a day. Fabrics, colors, costumes, projections and props create a landscape populated by the creations of Pendleton's original, whimsical, mythical imagination.

Presented by: DANCE Cleveland and PlayhouseSquare
Saturday, October 29 8:00 PM
Ohio Theatre
Tickets: or 216-241-6000
Baryshnikov protégé Aszure Barton has a distinguished reputation for producing striking choreography for stage and film. Her company will present Barton's Busk which explores aspects of what it means to perform.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Five Flights

Convergence continuum’s FIVE FLIGHTS stumbles on opening night

In its New York run, Adam Bock’s FIVE FLIGHTS was called “an intricately constructed comedy about love and grief that is incredibly funny, surprisingly touching and soaring with joyful humanity.” I wish I could say the same thing about the convergence continuum production. Unfortunately, on opening night, with some members of the cast fighting to just remember, let alone make sense of their lines, the pauses, stumbles, and oft panicked looks on their faces, took much of the very breadth out of the production.

The script which is about religion, belief, love, and loss is divided into four sections: "The Narrative", "A Vision", "The Mad Scenes", "The Conclusion . . .plus,” and " A Little Dance.”

The plot revolves around three adult siblings whose father, in an act of devotion to his recently dead, bird-loving wife, builds an aviary in his wife’s honor to house a bird which landed on him during her funeral. He perceives the feathered creature to be his wife’s reincarnation. After both the bird and the father die, a decision must be made about what to do with the now decaying edifice, which, in reality, is a metaphor for the various flight patterns each of the lives of the participants takes.

The decision is left to three siblings, two of whom we meet during the play. The deciders are sensitive Ed, who was hurt by a gay relationship gone bad; his sister Adele, who is steered into decisions by her love for Olivia, a fanatical preacher of charismatic religion who wants the site for her church; and Jane, the compulsive wife of Bobby, the never seen brother. The confusion is compounded by the entrance of Tom, a hockey player who falls in love with Ed.

Zak Hudak (Ed) and Clinton Elston (Tom) shortly after first meeting look at each other. Hudak with his huge deer-caught-in-the-headlights eyes, Elston in his macho way, move forward, try and figure out how to wrap their arms around each other, awkwardly move their bodies in formations that would create the right contact points, figure whose nose goes to the right and whose to the left, and awkwardly kiss. Then all hell breaks loose and the duo is a tangle of flying body parts. It is a classic bit of theatricality…hysterically funny yet sensual.

Besides the kissing scene, Clyde Simon’s direction gives a fun interpretation to viewing a ballet in which the characters’ eyes and heads bob in time to Tchaikovsky’s music. Unfortunately, the timing was not exactly right, so the effect was somewhat lost.

Simon, who relishes titillation, inserts a nude locker room and shower scene. Though it may appeal to some of the con con audience, the nudity adds little to the development of the play, itself.

Hudak gives a nice textured performance as the conflicted Ed. A master at facial comedy, he creates a humorous, often pathetic yet appealing characterization. Elston, as Ed’s want-to-be lover, is convincing, and has both the physicality and the macho hockey player mannerisms needed for the role. They play well off each other well.

Elaine Flagler is overly strident as Jane. She screams most of her lines in a hysterical high pitched whine. The usual competent Laura Hammer (Olivia), stumbles through her lines. It’s hard to tell whether the blank spaces in dialogue are caused by her forgetfulness or she is getting the wrong cues. Jaclyn Cifranic (Adele) has some nice moments, but never seems comfortable in the role. Robert Branch, as Andre, Tom’s hockey playing buddy, has some funny moments, but has an off-putting accent.

Capsule Judgement: Based on the opening night performance, it’s pretty hard to judge con con’s FIVE FLIGHTS. After the cast learns their lines, the delightful and meaningful script might take flight. As of now, it, like the aviary in which it takes places, is in need of some repair.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Show Boat

SHOWBOAT, the first musical play, sails courtesy of Mercury Summerstock

Pierre-Jacques Brault, Artistic Director of Mercury Summerstock, is not known for thinking small. He confronts projects that other theatre producers wouldn’t even think of undertaking. No matter that he is working on a shoestring budget, is using a tiny stage, and his company consists of one professional actor and a small group of dedicated performers. Brault “just keeps rolling along,” ignoring the odds.

SHOWBOAT is a musical with music by Jerome Kern and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. It was based on Edna Ferber’s novel of the same name.

SHOWBOAT is one of the most important musicals ever written. It was responsible for the transition of the American musical theatre from simple minded operettas, follies, musical revues and shows that featured vaudeville acts. It was not, as OKLAHOMA would be some years later, a true, well-integrated musical in which all the elements—story, songs and dancing—blended together in a way that one was totally dependent on the other, but it laid down the path to be followed. It ushered in a new genre for the theatre, the musical play.

The plot chronicles the lives of those living and working on the Cotton Blossom, a Mississippi River show boat, from 1880 to 1927. Like so many of the Hammerstein stories to follow, the show's dominant theme is social justice. In this case, racial prejudice. And it ushered in another Hammerstein theme, that of tragic and enduring love. (Think CAROUSEL.)

Kern’s libretto is exceptional, especially considering the era from which it comes. Classic songs include Make Believe, Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man of Mine, Life Upon the Wicked Stage, You Are Love, Why Do I Love You? and After the Ball.

The Mercury cast, especially the African American performers and chorus, are outstanding. Brain Keith Johnson’s version and reprises of Old Man River brought extended cheers. Kelvette Beacham (Queenie) was a total delight presenting Queenie’s Bally-Hoo and Mis’ry’s Comin’ Aroun’.

Brian Marshall has the handsome looks needed for Gaylord Ravenal the river gambler who wins the heart of Magnolia, the daughter of the riverboat’s owners. He used his excellent singing voice well, but for some reason kept switching accents (e.g., Southern, Irish, general American) and started out playing the role as a caricature and then switched to realism.

Jennifer Myor (Magnolia) has a lovely voice and nice stage presence. Maria Thomas Lister, as the mixed race Julie, sang her role well, but never got below the surface in developing a characterization.

Hester Lewellen was a fine, stiff-backed Parthy, Magnolia’s mother. Mark Seven feigned facial and line stereotypes as Captain Andy. Kaitlyn Dessoffy made for a lovely Kim, Magnolia’s daughter. She has a nice stage presence and fine vocal abilities.

Ryan Neal’s musical direction brought a good sound from his limited sized orchestra, but needed to inspire volume control when underscoring speaking scenes.

Brault’s staging was impressive, especially considering that the show is usually done with numerous massive sets, a huge cast, lots of period costumes and a full orchestra.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: SHOWBOAT is a big, important script that is seldom performed because of the cost and staging necessities. It gets a very acceptable production at Mercury. It’s worth going just to hear Brain Keith Johnson curl your toenails as he sings Old Man River.

Review of the Reviewer's Reviews: Joanne Adelman

Wow!! As a proud grandmother of Dani (as well as my other six grandchildren), I just want to thank you for those incredible words you wrote about her. I've always read your columns, but after reading this one, I promise I will no longer skip straight to the capsule judgements any more!!

Thank you so much!!

Joanne Adelman

Saturday, August 13, 2011


big, THE MUSICAL a good experience for the starry eyed at FPAC

As could be expected, the curtain call for big, THE MUSICAL, at the Fairmount Performing Arts Conservatory, was met by a standing ovation. Why not? The opening night audience was filled with parents, grandparents and friends of the youthful cast. A cast who is devoting their summer to perfecting their performance skills in possible hopes of becoming the next great theatrical star.

Was it “better than Broadway” as some of the attendees gushed? Of course, not. These are pre-tweens, tweens and teens with limited experience and untapped talent. Was there a future star on stage? Possibly. Professionals have to start somewhere, and places like Fred Sternfeld’s FPAC gives them the opportunity to get training from experienced actors, directors, musical directors and choreographers.

Do some of these kids shine and display that they are above the rest? Yes. Dani Apple, a past PFACer is a case in point. I first saw a very young Dani on stage at Kalliope Music Theatre in Cleveland Heights. It was obvious she had “it,” whatever that means. She has lots of local credits, did a spot in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, and she just finished another season at Stage Door Manor, one of the best national summer theatre programs. She so impressed that she was extensively written about in Theater Geek: The Real Life Drama of a Summer at Stagedoor Manor, a novel about the camp. Stage Door has produced the likes of Natalie Portman, Zach Braff, John Cryer and Lea Michell. Is Dani the next to get her name up on the footlights? Who knows.

As the former Artistic Director of Berkshire Center for the Arts and Theater International (Leysin, Switzerland), I’ve watched former campers go on to great things. Cheryl Arutt, a Berkshire find, was dubbed "queen of the After School Specials,” did hundreds of commercials, numerous television shows, and went on to win the Youth in Film Award for her performance in the film Bobby and Sarah.

I’ve also seen others decide that the Great White Way is not for them. My son, a very talented performer, who started in theatre at age 4, and was cast and cast again, decided that he’d rather be a psychologist. How does he use his theatrical talents? He sings the national anthem at the Indians’ games and does musical gigs.

I saw Crissy Wilzak in a high school production of MY FAIR LADY. She was a rose in a field of weeds. Working with her for two years and then watching her go off to Kent State for further training, it was no surprise to follow her career that included being in the original casts of CHORUS LINE, 1940’s RADIO HOUR and SEESAW, as well as television’s MORK AND MINDY.

Rex Nockingust tried out for a production of CAROUSEL I was directing. After hearing half a song and ten lines of dialogue, I sent all the other competitors for Enoch Snow, Jr. home…I had witnessed a potential superstar. He went on to play numerous parts locally and nationally, including the coveted off-Broadway role of Matt in THE FANTASTICKS.

Yes, there are those special people who, with good training and a lot of luck, reach their star goals. Was there anyone in FPAC’s big, THE MUSICAL who might reach the pinnacle? Maybe. Recent high school grad, Sean Grandillo, has, to my eyes and ears, probably the best shot. Not to say there was no one else on stage who wasn’t very good (okay grandmas and dads of others in the cast, put down the poison pens), but Sean seems to be the whole package…acting, singing, dancing, stage presence, and the immeasurable “it” factor. This is surprising as he only “found” theatre last year.

How far will Sean go? Well, he’s on the right track, having picked a solid college musical theatre program for this fall, has his presence on a YouTube site, and has the FPAC experience. Next steps…more training, tryouts, getting an agent, and stumbling on the one person who can open the doors for his future. And, believe it or not, the latter is probably the most important. For Crissy Wilzak it was going on a student trip to NY while a student at Lorain County Community College, sitting in the front row of HAIR, meeting a cast member, getting introduced to a Broadway director, and eventually getting a chance to be in his off-Broadway production of CHORUS LINE. The rest, so they say, is history.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: big, THE MUSICAL, is a pleasant summer musical experience, well fitting the educational purpose of the FPCA. It’s a nice way to see local talent in its budding stage, support their efforts, and for you, at the end of the show, to give the cast and crew the thrill of an ovation and encourage their dreams--realistic or not.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Fall theatre calendar 2011

Go to the theatre--a list of Fall theatre offerings

In less than a month, the local Fall theatre season opens, and it’s filled with lots of changes. Cleveland Play House has dropped “The” from its name and is moving to the refurbished Allen Theatre on Playhousesquare. The Great Lakes Theatre Festival is now Great Lakes Theatre. Ensemble has found a permanent home in the former Coventry school in Cleveland Heights.

Here are some of the fall offerings:

Allen Theatre (Mainstage), Playhouse Square. For tickets and information, 216-795-7000
•GALILEO (September 16-October 9) CPH moves downtown into their new theatre space with a modern dress version of Bertolt Brecht’s dramatic and humorous play about the great inventor Galileo Galilei.
•daddy long legs (October 16-November 9) A charming musical about a beautiful student whose life is changed overnight when her college tuition is paid by an anonymous patron.
•THE GAME’S AFOOT (OR HOLMES FOR THE HOLIDAYS) (November 25-December 18) (World premiere) Ken Ludwig’s mystery comedy whodunit about what happens when an actor, who is portraying Sherlock Holmes, invites his fellow cast members to his home for a Christmas Eve celebration and one of them is killed!

Tickets and information: 216-241-6000 or
•MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET (October 11-23) A musical based on the famed recording session that brought together rock ‘n’ roll icons Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins for the first and only time. Musical numbers include: “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Fever,” “That’s All Right,” “Sixteen Tons,” and “Great Balls of Fire.” PlayhouseSquare will launch the show’s national tour with promotional and educational cooperation from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.
•LA CAGE AUX FOLLES (November 8-20) Winner of three 2010 Tony Awards including the award for Best Musical Revival, this a tuneful and touching tale of one family's struggle to stay together... stay fabulous... and above all else, stay true to themselves! Think “I Am What I Am” and you have the emotional center of the show.

6415 Detroit Avenue, Cleveland. For more information or tickets, call 216-631-2727 or visit
 (October 6 – October 23)
 The production features staged reading of new scripts by local writers and work that is under consideration for future production. Audience members can give feedback
•Monster Play
 (October 13 - October 29) Co-produced with Theatre Ninjas
, this original and unnatural co-production celebrates the nightmare creatures that haunt our dreams and stare out from our mirrors. "It will thrill you. It may shock you. It might even horrify you.
 (November 3 – November 12) Nina Domingue’s poignant autobiographical solo show chronicles her perilous and humorous journey towards motherhood, from the death of her biological mother to Hurricane Katrina.
•Conni’s Avant-Garde Restaurant: Feast of Miracles
 (December 1–December 18)
This unique theatrical culinary event mixes the ingredients of fine food, wine and ensemble theatre together in a musical performance that includes cabaret, improv comedy and a five course meal.

2340 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights, for tickets: 216-932-6838 or
•GRIZZLY MAMA (September 9-October 2) (World premiere) A divorced suburban mom reimagines herself as a righteous liberal avenger following the death of her activist mother and moves the family next door to a certain Alaskan presidential candidate.
•TIGERS BE STILL (October 21-November 13) (Regional premiere) A quirky dark comedy about a young woman who expects the perfect career and life to fall in place immediately upon earning her master’s degree in art therapy. No such luck!
•THE SEAFARER (December 2-December 18) (Regional premiere) A tale of the sea, Ireland and redemption which takes place in the home of two aging bachelor brothers on Christmas Eve during a liquor-soaked game of poker.

27801 Detroit Avenue, Lakewood, for tickets: or 216-521-2540 X10
•THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES (September 16-October 16) 1958 and then 1968—four girls with hopes and dreams learn about their lives over a span of 10 years.
•RACE (October 21-November 20) David Mamet’s new play centering on three attorneys, two black and on white, who must defend a wealthy executive charged with raping a black woman.
•joseph and the amazing Technicolor dreamcoat (December 2-31) It’s back by popular demand. Martin Céspedes’s fun choreography lives again!

Coventry School, 2843 Washington Blvd, Cleveland Heights For tickets: 216-321-2930 or
•WAITING FOR LEFTY (October 7-October 30) Clifford Odett’s award winning depression era play is a series of interconnected scenes depicting workers for a fictional taxi company. The climax is a defiant call for the union to strike.

Hanna Theatre—Playhousesquare For tickets and information: 216-241-6000 or
•CABARET (September 23-October 29) Take your seat at the Kit Kat Club, a decadent cabaret in pre-war Berlin, where a young American writer, falls in love with the club’s headlining performer. With a bevy of great songs, this Tony Award-winning tale is about love, war and the struggle to survive in tumultuous times. Directed by Victoria Bussert.
•THE TAMING OF THE SHREW (September 30-October 29) William Shakespeare
’s clash of wits and wills centers on fortune-hunting Petruchio who drags quick-tempered Kate to the altar to become the wife she never imagined she’d be. Can love tame a shrewish heart and surprise an unbridled bachelor?
•A CHRISTMAS CAROL (Ohio Theatre) (December 2 – 23) Humbug! Charles Dickens’ tale of one man’s ultimate redemption.