Sunday, January 29, 2017

Farcical Sherlock Holmes’ mystery, Baskerville, at the Cleveland Play House

Ken Ludwig is the crown king of writing modern farcical plays.  He and the Cleveland Play House seem to have a “thing” for each other.  Ludwig has had world premiere productions of his scripts A Comedy of Tenors (2015), The Games Afoot (2011) and Leading Ladies (2004) on CPH stages.

Ludwig is a play writing machine.  The author of 18 plays and 3 musicals, he has had 6 shows on Broadway.  His stage creations have been performed in more than 30 countries and have been translated into over 20 languages. 

Success came quickly to Ludwig. In 1989, his first Broadway play, Lend Me a Tenor, was bannered as “one of the two great farces by a living writer.”  It went on to win three Tony Awards.  His second play, Crazy for You, ran for over five years and won every important award for Best Musical. 

The likes of Carol Burnett, Lynn Redgrave, Frank Langella, Alec Baldwin and Anne Heche have starred in his writings.

Baskerville is based on the book, “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” the third of the crime novels written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, which featured Sherlock Holmes.  The book has been listed in the top 200 in the BBC’s “The Best Read Poll” and as the top Holmes novel by the Sherlockian scholars.

Like the book, Baskerville takes place in both London and Devonshire, England in the late 1890s.  The tale starts when Dr. James Mortimer asks Sherlock Holmes to investigate the death of his friend, Sir Charles Baskerville, who had been killed at his Devonshire estate, Baskerville Hall.  There is fear that Sir Charles’s nephew, and his sole heir, a Texan who is about to assume ownership of the estate, Sir Henry Baskerville, will meet the same fate. 

This fear is based on the “family” curse, which dates back to the English Civil War, when Hugo Baskerville supposedly sold his soul to the devil for help in abducting a woman.  Hugo was reportedly killed by a giant dog dubbed “The hound of Baskerville.”  Since that time, there have been reported howling and the evidence of giant footprints, credited to the massive creature.

Though retaining the traditional Sherlock Holmes observations of wonder, Baskerville is written as extended farce, a murderously funny adventure.  As is the usual case, much to the delight of the Conan Doyle fans, the play is filled with Holmesisms such as, “That was a curious incident,” "Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?,” “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbably, must be the truth,” and, of course, “Elementary, my dear Watson.”

To find their ingenious killer, Holmes and Watson must brave the desolate moors before the family curse dooms its newest heir. And, of course, there must be a twist at the end, so our heroes can solve yet another case!

CPH’s production, creatively directed by Brendon Fox, leaps over all the farcical barriers to create mayhem.  Sets zoom on and off stage, costumes morph from being one thing to being another, lighting and sound effects create mystery and intrigue.  The audience is taken on a silly overly dramatic journey as the intrepid investigators escape a dizzying web of clues, silly accents, disguises, and deceit as five actors portray more than 40 characters. 

The first act plodded along, with actors sometimes giving the feeling that they were not sure where the laughs were going to take place, so they paused and waited to see. In the second act, all the plugs were pulled and giggling and fun resulted.  

Though not looking like the traditional tall, thin image created by the movies and television of Sherlock Holmes, Rafael Untalan, created a believable character.  Jacob James looked like the stereotypical Doctor Watson and created a nicely textured interpretation.  The rest of the cast, Brian Owen, Evan Alexander Smith, and Nisi Sturgis were outstanding in morphing from character to character.  Though sometimes overdone accents got in the way of understanding, the intent and purpose of each character was clear.

Kudos to Candace Brown, Janel Moore, Christina Spencer, the off-stage dressers, for pulling off the numerous costume changes.  They well deserved their curtain call.

Timothy R. Mackabee’s scenic design, Lex Liang’s costumes, Peter Maradudin’s lighting, Victoria Deiorio’s original music and sound design all helped to create the right aesthetic images.

CAPSULE JUDGMENT:   Is Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery, a great play?  No!  Is it even a very good play?  Probably not.  What it is is a play that will delight many.  Especially those who like to solve mysteries, who are enamored with farcical delights, and enjoy a cast who is having a lark playing lots of characters and changing costumes a great deal.  And, no spoiler alert here, the butler didn’t do it!

runs through February 12, 2017, at the Allen Theatre in PlayhouseSquare.  For tickets call 216-241-6000 or go to

Next up at CPH:  Laura Kepley directs Paula Vogel’s Pulitzer Prize winning How I Learned to Drive, March 4-26, 2017 @ Allen Theatre.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Review and previews: Dance Theatre of Harlem, The Cleveland Ballet, Groundworks


Founded in 1969, the Dance Theatre of Harlem, which is housed in the Harlem section of New York City, was the first black professional classical ballet company.  Since that time, as was evidenced in their recent Cleveland concerts, the organization has extended its purpose to being racially diverse and performing an eclectic repertoire that stresses empowerment through dance.

The company’s two Ohio Theatre sold-out performances were co-sponsored by Dance Cleveland and Cuyahoga Community College.

Consisting of four segments, three short, full length works and a four-segment number, the program showed the breadth of the company.  Mainly modern ballet, with the women on point, they also showed off their jazz and contemporary moves. 

CHANGE, danced by all women, was a tribute to Black, Brown and Beige females.  EQUILIBRIUM (BROTHERHOOD) highlighted the physicality, athleticism and grace with the spotlight on the exploration of “male bonding and how it brings stability to one’s life.”  SYSTEM, danced to the atonal music of John Adams, centered on migrants and the need to “hold the door open for them to continue moving, building and expanding their consciousness.”

RETURN, performed to music by James Brown, Alfred Ellis, Aretha and Carolyn Franklin, was the crowd favorite during the evening concert, often eliciting loud cheers from the audience, especially the large group of dance students from The Cleveland School for the Arts.  “Superbad,” the concluding segment, which was contemporary hip-hop and street moves, brought the program to a joyous conclusion.

Dance Cleveland’s next concert is Jessica Lang Dance on March 4, 2017 at the Ohio Theatre.  For tickets visit 216-241-6000.

CLEVELAND BALLET to present encore performance of A CELEBRATION OF DANCE & MUSIC

The “new” Cleveland Ballet, under the artistic leadership of Puerto Rico-born Gladisa Guadalupe, a former member of the Dennis Nahat-led company which left Cleveland for San Jose, California, wants “Cleveland Ballet to again join the list of jewels that make Cleveland a special place artistically.”  She, along with the ballet board’s CEO and Chair, Michael Krasnyansky, a global business developer, have high hopes for cultivating a world-class resident professional ballet company.

The company’s corps presently consists of 14 dancers, 11 females and 3 males.  They are rehearsing in a studio in Bedford Heights with the goal of presenting classical dances and also telling contemporary stories.  Proudly hanging on the studio’s wall is a banner emblazoned with the motto: “Cleveland Ballet—Respect for the past-present—vision for the future.

Sitting in on a rehearsal for their upcoming Hanna Theatre program helped solidify the idea that these young dancers have formed into a company that is filled with mutual respect and pride.  Taking constructive criticism from the multi-talented Cynthia Graham, a former member of the original Cleveland Ballet, who serves as the company’s Ballet Mistress, they were polite, interested in reaching for perfection, and willing to be a support to their fellow dancers.  No competition here, that is so prevalent in some dance groups.

Whether you missed the company’s CELEBRATION OF DANCE AND MUSIC the first time, or want to see it again, January 27th at the Hanna Theatre is your chance. 

The program will include: “Today’s Students, Tomorrow’s Artists,” “Tarantella,” “Dicitencello Vuie,” “Granada,” “The Cycle of My Love,” “Amore Perduto,” “Piano Trio in C minor Op. 1, no. 3 Finale, Prestissimo” “Octet for Strings in E-flat major,” and “Op. 20 Allegro moderato ma con fuoco.”  For tickets call 216-241-6000 or go on line to

The company will dance A MIDSUMMER NIGHTS DREAM, choreographed by Ramon Oller, at the Ohio Theatre on April 7.  The company’s annual Black and White Gala fundraising event will take place on February 25 at the Tudor Arms Hotel.  For information about the School of Cleveland Ballet which takes students 10-22 years of age or about the fundraiser call 216-320-9000 or go to

GROUNDWORKS to present 2017 Spring Dance Series

Groundworks, the inspiration of David Shimotakahara, who serves as the company’s Artistic Director, is one of the area’s premiere dance companies. 

The company will present “An Exploration in Connectivity, Changeability and Transition,” on March 17 and 18 at 7:30 in the Breen Center for Performing Arts on the campus of St. Ignatius High School in Ohio City and on March 31 and April 1 at 7:30 at EJ Thomas Hall on the campus of Akron University.

The program will consist of a world premiere works by Shimotakahara and Gina Gibney, as well as “Romora” by award-winning choreographer Eric Handman.

Ticket information can be found at by calling 216-751-0088.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

THE NIGHT ALIVE, a downer which confounds @ Dobama

Conor McPherson, author of THE NIGHT ALIVE, now on stage at Dobama Theatre, is considered one of the important new breed of playwrights who delve into the lives of people.  In this case, Irish people, usually Irish men.  He has an eye for loneliness and despair.  His plays often are “meditations on regret, guilt and confusion.”  

Often in McPherson’s writing, and THE NIGHT ALIVE is no exception, he writes in a form of “self-conscious realism, which, weirdly, reveals few truths, universal or particular.”

As the lights come up, Tommy (Joel Hammer), who lives in a large unkempt room in his Uncle’s house, stumbles into his living space with Aimee (Anjanette Hall), a woman who is beaten and bloody.  She tells a tale of having been attacked by a man who was giving her a ride.  As the real story unravels we find that she has been beaten by her boyfriend, Ken (Val Ozlenko), and makes a living as a prostitute.

Tommy, a middle-aged man, separated from his wife and children, is wandering through life without a purpose.  He comes up with crackpot schemes, ekes out a living doing odd jobs, such as disposing debris from others’ property, but is incapable of cleaning up his own life. 

Tommy’s only friend is Doc (David Peacock), who keeps getting into trouble due to his limited abilities.  Like Tommy, Doc is desperate for a purpose in life and a place in the world.

Maurice (Robert Hawkes), the owner of the house, has been in deep depression since his wife died.  He covers up his psychotic swings with alcohol.

Tommy, unrealistically, fantasizes a relationship with Aimee that will give meaning to his life.  In reality, it brings him false hopes, betrayal, an attempted theft, a beating, and being involved in a murder.

The Dobama production, under the direction of Leighann Delorenzo is well performed.  The cast is universally excellent.  Joel Hammer, as is his custom, well-textures his performance as Tommy as a complex, confounded, frustrated man, with little meaning and purpose in his life.

Anjanette Hall develops a clear characterization of Aimee who uses her body as a tool to get through her desperate existence.   

Robert Hawkes gives no doubt of Maurice’s depressive state and Val Kolenko is properly brutish as the psychotic Kenneth, Aimee’s abusive boyfriend.

In his Cleveland debut, David Peacock, who has a long history of world-wide theatrical training and experience, shows strong acting abilities and comic timing skill in an astounding performance as Doc.   Bravo!

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT:   THE NIGHT ALIVE, which is about the lives of a few lost souls, gets a strong staging.  Unfortunately, the play is about people who don’t engender a reason to be cared about. 

THE NIGHT ALIVE runs through February 12, 2017 at Dobama Theatre.  Call 216-932-3396 or for tickets.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

THE PHANTOM TOLL BOTH not all it could be at Ensemble

Much like Lewis Carroll’s ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND and L. Frank Baum’s THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF OZ, Norton Juster’s THE PHANTOM TOLL BOOTH is a fantasy adventure.  All three are perceived as tales for children, but, in reality, though they are intended to teach youngsters, the messages are often so complex that they go over the heads of their intended audience.

All three have been reformatted as plays.  A version of THE PHANTOM TOOL BOOTH is now on stage at Ensemble Theatre.

Juster’s tale centers on Milo, a young boy who is both bored and creative.  He “receives” a magic toy toll booth one day, which sets his imagination off.  He conjures up a story of driving his toy car into the Kingdom of Wisdom, which is experiencing troubled times.  The problems center on exiling the princesses Rhyme and Reason from the Castle in the Air due to a conflict between believers in math being the most important communication tool and those who believe that words are most relevant. 

Milo, along with his sidekicks Tock, his faithful dog, and Humbug, a maker of improbable tales, traverse the dangers to bring Rhyme and Reason back to the Kingdom of Wisdom and restore order to the land.

In the process, of course, Milo applies all that he has learned in school, realizes the value of knowing about language and numbers, the importance of reasoning to reasonable conclusions, and to love life and not be bored.

Children’s theatre is hard to stage.  Though they often have great imaginations, youngsters also have short attention spans and a strong need for exciting stimuli.  Holding attention has become even more difficult in this age of electronics as very young people are visually stimulated with I-pads, computers, fantastic movies and vivid television.

Ensemble’s THE PHANTOM TOOL BOOTH, an adaptation by Susan Nanus, under the direction of Brittni Shambaugh Addison, puts out full efforts, but fails to command attention.  It lacks the necessary joyous spontaneity needed to make the fantasy aspects spark to life.

Part of the problem is the general aura of the staging.  Though creative in many ways, there is a lack of physical slapstick, fun and frenzy.  The whole thing is just too serious.

The cast (Natalie Grace Sipula, Davion T. Brown, Andrew Keller, August Scarpelli, Evan Thompson, Kayla Davis, Derek Green, Samantha Cocco, Rose Scalish and Rebecca Moseley) is quite competent, but, they, like the stage action, generally just don’t let loose.  There appears to be a lack of understanding of the playfulness needed.  This is not HAMLET, it is MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL, not DEATH OF A SALESMAN, but THE BOOK OF MORMON.

To the surprise of many, acting in a children’s play and getting it right is often more difficult than playing a great dramatic role.

Instead of acting, the rest of the cast needed to take the lead of Evan Thompson, who created in each of his characterization’s zany presence that elicited giggles and wonder.  He has a natural ability to grow characters into bigger than life beings.  This is hard to do.  It’s often beyond the abilities of most actors.  It takes the talent of a Danny Kaye, Carol Burnett, Tim Conway, or Lucille Ball to pull this off well.  His multi-faceted Dodecahedron was a feat of comic timing, and visual presence, as was his Spelling Bee.

As one little tyke, at intermission, asked her father the night I saw the show, “Why was the boy a girl?,” in referring to Milo.  The father couldn’t answer the question, and neither can I.

The visual image would have been enhanced by the use of the book’s original Jules Feiffer cartoons being projected onto the back walls.  

A talkback with children in the audience being brought onto stage and sitting with the members of the cast, and an educator leading them in a discussion of the relevance of learning and other morals of the play would also have added to the experience.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT:  Ensemble Theatre should be commended for bringing live children’s theater to an audience.  There are far too few opportunities for youngsters to be exposed to the theatrical arts.  Though not a totally effective production, there is enough positive about THE PHANTOM TOLL BOOTH to encourage parents to bring their children and, hopefully, then discuss the implications of the script with them.

THE PHANTOM TOLL BOOTH, which runs 85 minutes with a ten-minute intermission, runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays @ 7 pm and Saturdays @ 3 pm and Sundays @ 2 pm through January 22, 2017 at Ensemble Theatre, housed in the former Coventry School, 2843 Washington Blvd, Cleveland Heights.  For tickets call 216-321-2930 or go online to

Ensemble’s next staged production is August Wilson’s RADIO GOLF!, the final installment in the writer’s ten-play Pittsburgh cycle.

To see the views of other Cleveland area theatre reviewers go to:

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Amy Schwabauer wretches her soul in THIS IS NOT ABOUT MY DEAD DOG @ Playwrights Local

A present trend in entertainment is story telling before an audience.  “The Moth:  True Stories Told Live,” is one of Public Radio’s highest rated offerings.   The publicity for the show states, “The Moth is deeply rooted in the desire [of humans] to connect with each other through shared experiences in stories.”  According to its blog site, though there are many opportunities nation-wide to experience first-hand “The Moth” readings, none are being staged in the Cleveland area.

Don’t let that deter you from having a story-telling experience.  Playwrights Local is presenting a world premiere of THIS IS NOT ABOUT MY DEAD DOG, Cleveland playwright and actor Amy Schwabauer’s one-woman confession, as she knows it, or what she wants us to know about it.

Schwabauer, a Cleveland State University 2011 graduate, studied sketch comedy writing at The Second City Theater in Chicago.  The improv and sketch training is obvious in both the script and the well-acted presentation of the piece which was originally workshopped in Playwright Local’s 2016 Play Lab.  The show is directed by Dale Heinen, director-in-residence at Playwrights Local, who is a director/dramaturge focusing on new works.

Presented in 20+ sketches, Schwabauer, takes us on a journey through her “so-called” life, much of which took place in Cleveland Heights.  It is performed on a platform, with the audience curving around it.  On the stage are a series of props which the actress/playwright uses to help tell her stories.  Included are a desk, chair, two hassocks, a doll and dollhouse, and a rag rug.  The back wall of the theatre is adorned with three headboards.

The intermissionless staging finds a drunk Amy, wine bottle in hand, looking into the water of the lagoon situated in front of the Cleveland Museum of Art, observing the goldfish (carp) and wondering what the fish do when the water freezes in winter.  As we learn later, the carp descend deep into the water, below the three-foot ice crest, and go into a state of dormancy, saving themselves from being frozen.

Through other interjections we are exposed to what happens to a whale who gets separated from its pod, tries to find a new group, but whose voice and language is not recognized by whales in other pods, so the isolate must remain alone.  In addition, we learn how human reactions to full moons, the traditions of the Catholic church regarding sex, having a “fake boyfriend,” and the carp tale, all have to do with this Amy.

The “morals” are interspersed, sometimes in chronological order, sometimes randomly in “real” stories which include:  Amy’s belief when she was growing up that she was a boy without a penis, her exposure to alcohol at her brother’s house party when she was 6, her love for her dog “Scout,” her status as the family’s bonus baby, a trip to DC to visit her sister where she realized she was invisible, the tale of the “Larchmere” tree, her grandfather’s suicide in the family garage, why she cut off her hair, the trials of being in junior high, life in Catholic school, a tale of Rum drinking in the bathroom with a boy, her first fling at making out, the tribulations of “required” virginity, the problems with Tampons, a sonnet she wrote to Brad, the search for a boyfriend, why college is the worst idea in the world, how to be shy at a party, why her attempts to stalk a man named Tyler lead to her being designated as a “make out whore,” why she is not good at sex, and how an intervention by the Cleveland Heights police helped her become aware of who she really is.

Sounds like a lot.  It is.  The script could be cut by at least ten minutes, the number of drunk scenes compressed, the death of Scout told only once, a lot of the vomiting sequences eliminated and some bright light among the darkness being interjected.  Only so much self-pity works.  After a while the whole thing becomes an endless loop of drunk “mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa,” and loses some of its impact.

Capsule judgment:  The largely mid-twenties female sold-out audience responded well to the tales of self-loathing.  Some even shed tears at the end.  The stories obviously hit a chord with them.  Some adjustments in the script could expand the appeal to a wider audience and provide a better theatrical experience.

Playwrights Local, a development and production center, is dedicated to fostering diverse talents and presenting locally written theatrical works.  “It strives to increase the impact of original theater on the community and to raise the profile of area playwrights both within Greater Cleveland and beyond.”

The group has quickly made its mark on area theatre.  In 2016 the organization was recognized by Broadway World in its “BWW-Cle Theater Tributes” for three citations:  OBJECTIVELY/REASONABLE (COMMUNITY RESPONSE TO THE SHOOTING OF TAMIR RICE) was chosen as one of the areas outstanding non-musical productions, Ashley Aquilla, was recognized as having given one of the outstanding performances by a female in a non-musical, and the organization was singled out for “creating a venue for local playwrights to develop their works.”  A recognition was also accorded the organization by the Cleveland Critics Circle in their 2016 awards.  

(Side note:  if you missed OBJECTIVELY/REASONABLE, it will be revived from February 17-March 11, 2017 at Playwright Local’s home theatre, Creative Space at Waterloo Arts.)

Playwrights Local 4181, which is located at 397 East 156th Street, has a parking lot adjacent to the building.  For information and ticket orders go to:

Friday, January 13, 2017

Innovative INTO THE WOODS examines “happily ever after” at Connor Palace

Contemporary musical theater and jazz, are two major contributions to the arts of the world that have come from the United States.  Originally filled with escapist reviews and song and dance shows, with no story or purpose other than to entertain, the American musical has evolved into a format to tell tales of importance (HAMILTON), highlight sociological and societal changes (HAIR) and make pleas for understanding (RENT).

Probably no composer/lyricist understands the affect that musical theatre can have more than Stephen Sondheim who has examined such themes as revenge (SWEENEY TODD) and actions on the course of history (ASSASSINS and PACIFIC OVERTURES).   Sondheim doesn’t write escapist works.  Even his hilarious A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM showcased the role of slavery and deception.

Sondheim is a master at telling tales with a spotlight on consequences.  INTO THE WOODS, a version of which is now on stage as part of the Key Bank Broadway series, which on the surface is a mash-up of fairy tales, has a strong warning of “be careful of what you wish for” and that one’s communication can affect others.

Awareness that the light-hearted entertainment in the first act, where we are introduced to Jack, of Beanstalk fame, Little Red Riding Hood (and the wolf), Cinderella (and her Prince Charming), and Rapunzel (she of long blond hair and her own Prince), all of whom get their wishes granted, can quickly do a flip-flop and roll out to have dire consequences.  At its core, INTO THE WOODS is about reality and the curse of wish fulfillment.

Reality is keyed by the song “No One Is Alone,” whose melodic theme runs throughout the score.  The words to the song remind us that we are intertwined with those around us and our actions affect them, and their actions affect us.  We are inextricably interconnected.  Once an action has taken place, blaming is irrelevant.  In the play, for example, Jack’s stealing the hen that lays golden eggs and the golden harp, and the presence of the giant, and later his wife, can’t be wiped out by an “I’m sorry.”  His actions have consequences as do the actions of the characters in the fairy tales.

Sondheim indicates that “We cannot act in isolation, nor should we want to for we can accomplish individually only a fraction of the things we can accomplish communally. Appreciate what you have, realize what you want, accept what you can't have, but discover what you are capable of.  It is only when we start accepting each other's faults and acknowledging each other's strengths, then we can join together to combat the giants that face us all.”

Viewers who go to see INTO THE WOODS thinking it is an escapist show will be surprised that it contains “anxiety, rage, anticipation, suspicion, denial and dread.”

This is not a show for children, unless time is going to be spent talking about implications of false “happily ever after endings.”

Though the first act ends with everyone’s wishes having come true, in Act II, all the sweet marzipan falls to pieces.  The giant’s wife goes on a killing spree, the princes cheat, the Baker and his wife blame and bicker, each character questions their original wishes and what they had to “sell” to get the desires to come true and eventually realize that in reality, few, if any, live happily ever after.

The show’s score, typical of Sondheim, is complex and compelling.  Songs, such as “Agony” and “It Takes Two,” are delightful.  “I Guess This is Goodbye” is emotion-provoking.   The powerful “Children Will Listen,” is one of the greatest musical theatre songs every written.  (Side note:  One needs little more to understand the power of the lyrics to that song than knowing that Sondheim’s mother wrote him a letter stating her only regret in life was giving birth to him.)

The Fiasco Theatre production is a creative, innovative, oft compelling version of INTO THE WOODS.  Those who have seen other productions or the movie version, will be surprised by actors playing musical instruments, the lack of lush orchestrations, a set consisting of ropes, crystal chandeliers, and piano sounding boards, and pure focus on the characters and their messages.

This is an inspired, artistic, resourceful production with a superlative cast.  Special spotlights must be shined on the beautiful Vanessa Reseland (the Witch), whose renditions of “Witches Lament” and “Last Midnight” were compelling.  Phillipe Arroyo was charming as the wide-eyed Jack and created a special moment with his rendition of “Giants in the Sky.”

Darick Pead displayed a wonderful flair for comic delight as Milky White and Rapunzel’s Prince.  “Agony,” a duet by Pead and Anthony Chatmon II (Cinderella’s Prince) was a production humor highlight.  Laurie Veldheer (Cinderella) enchanted with “On the Steps of the Palace.”

Derek McLane’s scenic design, Christopher Akerlind’s lighting, and Darron L West and Charles Coes’ sound design, all enhanced the production.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT:  The Fiasco Theater staging of INTO THE WOODS, part of the Key Bank Broadway series, is not a flashy production filled with special effects.  It is a visionary piece of directing excellence by Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld, who looked beyond the surface and came up with a concept which gave new life to an oft-produced play.  Will everyone like it?  No.  Those who live for escape, want conflict-free stories, who are tired of seeing yet another production of this script, and those who don’t appreciate Sondheim’s musical genius, may well be turned off.  The rest of us will revel in a magical evening of theatrical creativity.

Tickets for INTO THE WOODS, which runs through January 29, 2017, at the Connor Palace, can be ordered by calling 216-241-6000 or by going to