Floyd Collins is a Hot Diggity Damn Production @blankcanvastheatre

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My father used to say “There is nothing better than a great steak!” Well that is exactly what Blank Canvas Theatre is serving up on stage now, with their inventive and well cast production of Floyd Collins. Patrick Ciamacco (Artistic Director, Founder) displays his full arsenal of directorial instincts and delivers this story with array of emotional and musical depth. This musical with Book & Additional Lyrics by Tina Landau and Music and Lyrics by Adam Guettel is a master class of musical interpretation. There is probably only one song that will stay in your mind due to its musicality, but the score that is delivered is not one for the faint of heart. It demands superior concentration and professional resolve to perform the piece, which the cast accomplishes with fierce bravado. This includes an orchestra that must have razor-sharp execution which is provided by the adept Musical Direction of Matthew Dolan.

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The story of Floyd Collins is real. He was an American cave explorer, principally in a region of Central Kentucky. In the early 20th century, in an era known as the Kentucky Cave Wars. On January 30, 1925, while trying to find a new entrance to Crystal Cave (also known “Sand Cave” by the media), Collins became trapped in a narrow crawl way, 55 feet below ground. The rescue operation to save Collins became a national newspaper sensation and one of the first major news stories to be reported using the new technology of broadcast radio. The rescue attempt grew to become the third-biggest media event between the world wars. Collins died of thirst and hunger compounded by exposure through hypothermia after being isolated for 14 days, just three days before a rescue shaft reached his position. Collins’ body would be recovered two months later. Adding to the circus that was created through the news media, in 1927, Floyd Collins’ father, Lee Collins, sold the homestead and cave. The new owner placed Collins’ body in a glass-topped coffin and exhibited it in Crystal Cave for many years. Luckily, the National Park Service assisted the family to transfer him to a proper grave site. The fame he gained from his death led to him being memorialized on his tombstone as The Greatest Cave Explorer Ever Known.

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At the core of this production is obviously Floyd Collins. You need someone who can embody this character with down home charm, rustic character, and a set of pipes that can handle music that at times is so difficult, it reminds me of taking a Musical Bar Exam. Michael Snider handles this role and its complicated counterparts like a pro. His handsome features, and resonating voice, capture all the joy and pain of Collins. The role is challenging because most of the time, he is trapped in the cave, and only has the top half of his body to transmit critical emotions to the audience. A slow arc of determination, to worry, and then to the final stages of realizing the end is not exactly what he would have ever wanted. This is a skilled and beautiful performance, and without a doubt, the best performance I have ever witnessed from Snider.

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Mike Knobloch as Homer Collins, Floyd’s brother, delivers a strong performance. His characterization is excellent, as well as having a beautiful voice which is on full display. I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose your brother in a situation like this, but Knobloch makes it clear and provides intrinsic decisions that take us through that process. The beautiful Madeline Krucek, is wonderful as her voice captures every emotional nuance that is demanded from Guettel. With ever-present charm, her vulnerability is perfectly portrayed throughout her journey. At one moment, she is against the corner pillar with a spot on her, and it reminded me of old school Hollywood Glamour. Just beautiful on every level.

Aimee Collier and Rob Albrecht, as Miss Jane and Lee Collins, mother and father, bring their veteran skills to the plate with emotional power. Not employing any performance tricks, just skilled execution of how real people of faith have to navigate the process of impending loss, with subtle and vocal purity. Pat Miller as “Skeets” Miller is awesome. Taking us through a reporter who is assigned to a story that is not at the top of his list, to the transformation of becoming engaged in not only the story, but the person at the heart of it. Vocally excelling, and deft choices along the way, that help catapult this journey with a realistic pace and emotional impact. Especially with the line delivery of “Forgive me for making you a story.” Simply heartbreaking.

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The rest of the company is a finely tuned orchestra of southern charm, feisty-ness, smart, and courageous energy. John J. Polk (Ed Bishop), Jeff Glover (Bee Doyle), Daniel Bush (H. T. Carmichael), Jewell Estes (Joseph Daso), Cliff Roney (Robert Pierce), Dr. Hazlett (Brian O. Jackson), and Frederick Jordan (David L. Munnell). Special shout out to Daso for firmly establishing himself in a field of adult actors with a terrific performance. Strong vocals and some dynamic acting chops. Also, when Pierce, Jackson, and Munnell team up as the reporters in the opening song of Act II “Is That Remarkable?”, they bring down the house with tight harmonies and hilarious facial gesticulations, that would make the Andrew Sisters pissed off for taking their spotlight. On a personal note, I think it is time for a theatre to find a lead role for Pierce, so he can display all of his ferocious talent in one serving of Yasssssssssss.

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This is a show with extremely strong direction provided by Patrick Ciamacco, along with his creative octopus theatrical arms that also provide the Lighting, Sound, Projection, Tech, and Set Design. Shout out for the actual period photographs that match on the onstage activity, which provides fascinating historical relevance. His set, which at first reminds me of Vietnam bunker realness, but quickly resolves itself into the cave representation during the first number. Matthew Dolan provides a kick ass orchestra that tackles this demanding score like Lawrence Taylor on a musical boot camp. Wonderful Stage Management by Carole Leiblinger-Hedderson, and excellent period costuming from Luke Scattergood.

My only constructive  note would be that Snider’s mic seemed too close to his mouth, causing his vocals to be a bit muffled at times. Maybe this was done to compensate for the actor being sick. But, luckily, I don’t think that needs to happen.

This is a very strong production from Blank Canvas. Get your fried chicken and your kegger, and get out and see it.

All production photos credited to Andy Dudik

Kevin Kelly

Tpography.com, ClevelandStageAlliance.com, and CoolCleveland.com.

For show information: www.blankcanvastheatre.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Theater Ninjas Time to Shine!!!!!

ninjas

A dynamic message from Theater Ninjas

 

We have some big news.

We are proud to announce the creation of the Theater Ninjas Headquarters. YES. The “Food Truck of Cleveland theater” is putting down roots in the Detroit Shoreway/Gordon Square Arts District. A storefront in the historic Courtland Building at West 54th and Detroit Avenue will become the new base of operations for Theater Ninjas, acting as a hub for rehearsals, performances, classes in movement and devised theater creation, audio and video recording, and Company administration including box office.

The new space is at 5403 Detroit Ave, next door to CityBreaks CLE, The Black Market, and Zekes Barber Shop

Having a headquarters is a complete sea change for Theater Ninjas and for the artists with whom we collaborate. We’ve spent the last ten years as nomads, basically operating the company out of a messenger bag. A home base will make creation of new work much easier, and while we will continue to seek out non-traditional venues for larger productions, we now have an central hub for our work.

So help us celebrate! We’re inaugurating the new space March 18 with an informal open house and another installment of Positive Reinforcements, a showcase of short-form performance that features new and developing material from local artists. You’ll be able to check out the new space, vote on designs for the remodel, and celebrate this huge milestone with us.

https://www.facebook.com/events/145541425965485/

Big thanks to Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization for helping to facilitate the new space, and to The George Gund Foundation.

The Wiz @NearWestTheatre

wiznwt

Near West Theatre – Community Theatre

Thru 2/19

It all started in 1974.  “The Wiz: The Super Soul Musical “Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” This is not the version of Oz that you have come to know on television. This version is a dazzling urban musical, which mobilizes a mixture of rock, gospel and soul to set audiences on a heartfelt journey of finding truth. All the while, infusing their insides with powerful life affirming messages. Providing the music is Charlie Smalls, and contributors Timothy Graphenreed, Harold Wheeler, George Faison, and the soulful Luther Vandross. Lyrics by Smalls, Vandross, and Zachary Walzer. Book by William F. Brown, based on the Novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.

What is significant about the 1975 Broadway production, is that it was an early example of Broadway’s mainstream acceptance of works with an all-black cast. Taking a mainstream story, and turning it upside down with dynamic soul/funk infusion, and showing the essence of black influence. At Near West Theatre. Kelcie Nicole Dugger once again takes the reigns as Director of the youth production, this time for The Wiz. That’s right. The cast includes 40 plus young performers from the ages of 9 to 15. The result is amazing to watch these cast members take on the material and music, and approach and celebrate it with tremendous zeal.

Near West Theatre has a tradition of mixing up their ensembles. A portion of the cast are actors that might never have been on stage before. Another cast section will have some, or occasional stage experience. The round out the cast with members that are more versed in the craft, and can offer role models for the others to emulate. It is truly a fascinating synergistic formula to watch come to fruition on stage. The combined energy from the different stage experiences ,come together to literally explode on stage. And from personal experience, the parents and family members are just as excited. The first weekend of The Wiz was completely SOLD OUT!

Overall, this is a lively production that showcases some amazing voices, and some wonderful characterizations. Dugger has done her best to bring out the best in everyone, especially those with less experience. However, this is just like Planet Fitness – “Judgement Free Zone.”©

Dorothy, the iconic role, is the heart and center of this tale. Newcomer Zeakia Jordan has a voice that is beautiful, raw, and emotionally powerful. When she takes on the classic “Home”, if your spiritual core is awakened then you must belong on The Walking Dead. For someone who does not have a lot of experience, taking on this role, and handling this music, which is not easy by any means, Jordan crushes it. What is so wonderful about this is experiencing the potential this young lady has to offer. Her star will only grow brighter as she gains experience as an actor, and her voice will continue to lift her up to the heavens.

Zoe Douglas, as Aunt Em, and then Glinda, the good witch, provides a textured and vocally powerful performance. Her characterizations are strong, and when she begins to sing, her versatile range and nuanced vocals are an incredible treat to the ears. Her voice has a deep richness which  delightfully infiltrates and colors everything she sings. It is like a layered onion at Outback, in which each part just gets better and better. When she turns on the power button, her voice is transcendent.

As the Tinman, Felix Albino turns in an excellent performance. Her characterizations are completely on point, fun, and expressive. Simply, a joy to watch. But vocally, his vocal displays were a treasure chest of yasssssssss. Slide Some Oil to Me can be an interpreted nightmare if not performed well, and Albino turns it into a fierce fun treat. Slighty hampered with choreographed pots and pans, which he and his cohorts handle well, but he strongly delivers. It is the performance of the song What Would I Do If I Could Feel. where Albino presents a performance that could live on any stage in Cleveland. The richness, texture, and emotional commitment to the song is brilliant. All of this coming from a 14 year old, who sings as if he has lived 100 years. Just beautiful.

Kayla Slater brings her sassy sultry self to the role of Addaperle, and proceeds to gloriously chew the scenery for everyone to enjoy. She brings lots of funk and soul to “He’s the Wiz”. Her character is a blast to watch, and this young lady strides across the stage with fierce confidence. She must be the love child of Patty Lupone and Luther Vandross. Just a joy! The Wiz, brought to life by Cole Tarantowski, was a blast to watch. Due to some incredible projection and lighting work, Tarantowski made the most of his face as he loomed over the redemption team to react to their wishes. Nice work as the projection shifts around and he still has fun barking at Dorothy and her crew. His rendition of If You Believe was heartfelt.

The fly team to Dorothy is a character bonanza. Connor Fields as the Scarecrow, does a terrific job finding all the qualities that made him a crowd favorite. He is moving and jiving in all the right ways, and creates a great playful presence on stage. Nate Jorgensen as the Lion, is a hoot. His lion is an entertainingly stressed lion with a thin shell. His roars hide a sweetness and kindness, that is projected with a beautiful balance. Calista Zajac is literally a theatrical cannon ball shot out on to the stage. Her Evillene is a manic fireball of fury and talent that has enough energy and stage presence to keep the Citadel in order.

Props out to the Hilarious Gatekeepers CJ Jorgensen and Connor Marrott. And a special shout out to Shadarria Robinson who helped launch Brand New Day with a severe case of fabulous vocals and dynamic stage presence. Jackson Marshall as Uncle Henry, Josh Davis as Lord High Underling, and Tyler Thompson as the Winged Monkey all make  significant contributions to this party. The Yellow Brick Road Dancers do a great job bringing road crews to life. The rest of the company is dedicated, strong, and fearless as they help bring this story to life and entertain the audience.

Kelcie Nicole Dugger does a great job handling the enormous cast, and harnessing the best out of every one of them. Musical Director John Krol is a welcome addition to the musical family as he conducts a fierce band that kicks some serious Ozness. Choreographer Josh Landis gives the piece just enough movement to highlight the company, instead of focusing on featured players, which is a refreshing change for a large cast. Stage Manager Kate Atherton called a great show. Tech Director and Asst Tech Director, Josh Padgett and Perren Hedderson, bringing the technical elements together well, especially the projections.Cameron Michalak delivers a sliding and interesting set. Adam Ditzel brings some fabulous and interesting lighting choices. April Rock does a wonderful job costuming this theatrical hoard.

Bravo to Near West Theatre for once again providing inclusion from all walks of life, from all colors of the rainbow. and from every social arena that exists.

Kevin Kelly

Showtimes:
7:30pm Fridays
7:30pm Saturdays
3pm Sundays

Tickets:
$8 Kids, $10 Adults -$25 Reserved Seating/General Admission

(216) 961-6391
Order Tickets Online

Location:
Near West Theatre
6702 Detroit Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44102

 

 

 

Hot Show Alert -Theresa Kloos – Reasons To Be Unsuccessful @BopStopTMS – Thursday Feb 2

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Theresa Kloos – Reasons To Be Unsuccessful

A Cleveland native, Theresa Kloos brings her second one woman show “Reasons To Be Unsuccessful” home. In it, she hilariously takes the audience from moving to New York, not-so OK Cupid dates, to her terrible temp jobs and nanny nightmares. Her show blends stand up comedy and pop/rock music. Her rock band delivers hits from Queen, Pink Floyd, Survivor, Bobby Darin and more. Join us for a great night of music and comedy.

Theresa Kloos is an NYC based actress and comedian who hails from Cleveland, Ohio. She graduated from Baldwin Wallace University and has since worked with companies such as the Prospect Theater Company, Weston Playhouse and Shaker Bridge Theatre. In 2014, she worked with William Finn on his piece, “Romance In Hard Times” at Barrington Stage Company. She studies improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade.

“Comedian Theresa Kloos used her endearingly quirky sense of humor to bring the audience closer than we ever could have hoped for, in a night of comic show tunes, sassy pop songs, and spunky rock beats.” – Broadway World

“Kloos combines a keen self-awareness with a gentle sense of humor and a beautiful voice. But she’s an original.” – Cool Cleveland

To Purchase Tickets

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxKB_tg16BA

Death of a Salesman at French Creek Theatre

death of a salesman cover

French Creek Theatre
Professional Theatre
Thru 1/29
A man struggles to earn a living wage after decades on the job. His grown children struggle to make careers for themselves. When hard work reaps little success, their family begins to doubt each other. Intricate dysfunctional family bonds unravel, as the pressure of defined and imagined success take its toll. As relevant now as it was when it opened 68 years ago, masterful Director Fred Sternfeld, presents Arthur Miller’s Pulitzer Prize-winning treatise on the price of the American Dream.  Produced by French Creek Theatre Artistic Director Rick Fortney.
As in any Sternfeld production, the depth of each moment and each character is pertinent to telling the story. The success of the audience connecting with the piece is complete immersion within the play, and more importantly, the journey of each character arc. This particular production achieves its goal of presenting the fractured America, that unfortunately, affects many. Also, the pace in which the show is presented is brisk, but not enough to deflect or avoid the emotional impact of the importance of each interaction. French Creek should be proud of this production.
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Leading the tortured way is Greg White as Willy Loman. White embodies this emotional roller coaster with relenting truth and honesty. His descent into personal hell is heartbreaking. Watching him come in and out of reality will affect a lot of people on a personal level. So many of us will see ourselves, or our loved ones, as the prospect of “What if?”, challenges our accomplishments and failures. This all works due to the performance and characterization by White.
death anne mcevoy
What can you say about Anne Mcevoy that doesn’t include the word “excellence” in the description. As Linda Loman, Mcevoy gives her character the ultimate unconditional love and pathos. Her journey, strength, resolve, and backbone provides a fantastic cocktail of human life. Each part delivered in measured, but powerful doses. A masterful performance.
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James Rankin delivers a knock out punch of unrealized dreams and angst as Biff Loman, the tortured son. We see the struggle of what we want to do, try to do, but sometimes life doesn’t give us the tools to make it so. By not realizing our dreams, or what is projected are dreams should be, we feel disappointment in ourselves, and guilt for not being what so many want us to become. Rankin delivers on every level. Providing depth in being a friend, a brother, a son, and the eventual self-actualization of a decimated reality.
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Jeremy Jenkins as Happy Loman, the snake oil salesman son, has a terrific turn of a brother that could talk himself out of a carjacking. Jenkins provides the human alter ego of success, by cleverly disguising success with a flair of smoke and mirrors, and does so with some kick ass character work. His balance within the family is powerful in an unassuming way.
Corey Knick gives Bernard an excellent arc of boyhood charm and nerd like reflexes, as he changes into a successful story of hard work and determination. Also, providing a strong performance is Noah Budin, as Willy’s seemingly only friend, Charley. Both of these characters realize you can’t save someone, they have to save themselves. That realization is tough. But that is brought to light with incisive delivery. Stuart Hoffman as Howard Wagner, offers a performance so good, that if he said “I have people other people to meet with” one more time, I was going to punch him in the face. So obviously, strong character choices.
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Uncle Ben is given a haunting presence by Lou Will. Moving though the piece like a ghost narrator of projected fortune. Linda Goldstein-Wolf giving us “the other woman” realness in spades and stockings. Having no conscience about being the other woman is tough to watch. Lynna Metrisin as Jenny, and Chris Bizub as Stanley, blend themselves well into the tapestry of infused acting choices.  Tiffany Trapnell as Miss Forsythe adds the right amount of sexual tension that sends Happy into a tailspin, and Amanda Trompak as Letta, her amorous sidekick embellishes the night on the town hustlers of fun and free drinks.
Fred Sternfeld is a welcome addition to French Creek Theatre production values. His Block, Work and Polish process enables a cast to find their own grounded resilience, and enables the process of fitting the pieces together to provide an emotional journey. Beautiful work, excellent pace and a very satisfying result.
The show is effectively Stage Managed by Charlene Hartley. T. Paul Lowry does some wonderful work in the challenging stage space. Multi-layered set, with an awesome collaboration from the imitable Lighting Designer Mo Patterson. The set comes alive and provides accented ambiance. Stan Kozak provides haunting aesthetic sound, and Costume Designer Justin Bilewicz empowers the ensemble of talent with fabulous skin fabrics. Linda Goldstein-Wolf does double duty on the side, handling as Properties Manager.
Andy Dudik:  photography credit.
Bravo!
Kevin Kelly

Showtimes:

7:30pm Fridays
7:30pm Saturdays
3pm Sundays

Tickets:
$10-$18 Reserved Seating
(440) 949-5200
Order Tickets Online

Location:
French Creek Nature & Arts Center
4530 Colorado Ave.
Sheffield Village, OH 44054

 

Cleveland Stage Alliance Newsletter 1/17/2017

The most current newsletter, from the website giving you all the theatre information you need. Plan seeing a show, auditioning for a show, or checking out important theatrical programs and presentations in the city. Founder Eric Fancher lays it all out, with links directly to the events to purchase tickets. “Click and Pick” your favorite show!

http://us3.campaign-archive1.com/?u=cdc7687be63af120acf929f32&id=9226abd43e

KJK

Blank Canvas Theatre: Season Announcement

Last evening, Founder/Artistic Director Patrick Ciamacco threw a party in his theatre to announce the new 2017 season. Not only did he announce his new season, but he also took that opportunity to thank everyone that was involved in the theatre for the last 5 years of its existence. It was truly a special and heartfelt event.

His season is jammed full of classics, musicals, camp, and a Factory Series that highlights local playwrights getting their script produced for the first time on stage. Also, throw two Laughter League comedy sketch shows to round out the very pregnant season. One that is sure to deliver professional theatre realness. (See what I did there?)

Check out the Blank Canvas Theatre website: http://www.blankcanvastheatre.com/

His live announcement can be seen on the following link:

BILLY ELLIOT – THE MUSICAL at Beck Center for the Arts

It seems a bit odd to write a review a week after you see a show. But, it is interesting when you think about what stuck with you and resonates. Last weekend, I attended the opening night of BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL at Beck. I had never seen the musical before, but I did remember the 2000 movie. I was also thinner then, but I digress. The film is set in north-eastern England during the 1984 -85 coal miners’ strike. The movie invaded the film festivals and garnered much warranted attention and critical success. Then in 2005, a musical version was created,which debuted on Broadway in 2008 with Book and Lyrics by Lee Hall and Music by Sir Elton John. The Musical garnered ten Tony Awards and ten Drama Desk Awards including, in each case, Best Musical.

To explain a bit more of the story of BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL, it portrays an important time in the life of 11-year-old Billy Elliot (Seth Judice), a coal miner’s son in Northern England. His life is forever changed one day when he stumbles upon a ballet class during his weekly boxing lesson. Before long, he finds himself in dance, demonstrating the kind of raw talent seldom seen by the class’ exacting instructor, Mrs. Wilkinson (a fierce Katherine DeBoer*). With a tart tongue and a never-ending stream of cigarettes in her hand, Mrs. Wilkinson’s zest for teaching is revived when she sees Billy’s potential. However, his family finds the whole idea repugnant. The result is a powerful story of acceptance, tolerance, and love.

There are some fantastic performances surrounding the world of Billy Elliot. Katherine DeBoer as Mrs. Wilkinson, is certainly at the forefront of a talented company of actors. The moment she walks on stage, stands with that cigarette hanging out of her mouth, without saying a word, she communicates everything you need to know about this shot and a beer gal. DeBoer’s accent is impeccable and her comedic chops are in fine tuned order, as she gets laughs from precise delivery. But, the other side is the strength she shows in her defense of Billy. Providing a characterization in which you believe this woman could kick the ass of every coal miner in town.

A welcome addition to the Cleveland scene is the arrival of Allen O’Reilly*. What a  pleasure to watch a well crafted portrayal of Billy’s father. The arc of the connection that he has with his son is a powerful journey, and resonates with anyone who has not been accepted by family and/or friends. In the creative hands of O’Reilly, his transformation into a loving parent who moves past his own inherent prejudice is masterfully delivered.

The last time I saw Riley Ewing, he was running around the stage in his underwear humping a pink pig pinata in the Beck production Heathers, the Musical. He was hilarious. So in some ways, I was not expecting the exceptional darker and tormented side of Ewing as Billy’s’ brother Tony. An accomplished actor can make you laugh, and when required, create a hard shell of raw emotion buried deep within  years of disappointment and personal pain, as required from this story. Ewing captures and executes a brilliant depiction. So much so, when the time comes that love wins, he adds a critical layer to Billy’s victory of self accomplishment.

Hester Lewellen is fantastic as Billy’s Grandma. She is a master of comedy, and delivers a touching and funny dose of Grandma stills live at home antics. Bob Goddard gives us some Mickey Goldmill realness, with an english twist as Billy’s boxing coach George. Jade McGee as Debbie, creates a young lady who is definitely in touch with her feelings, and definitely would like to touch Billy. Funny bits. I have to say one of my personal favorites is Mr. Braithwaite, played with embellished veracity by Robert Pierce. Starting off as a rehearsal pianist, the audience has no idea what is about to happen. Once the accompanist shackles are lifted, Pierce turns in a dance performance during “Born to Boogie” that is a combination of an exploding gay car bomb, and Bob Fosse on top of a ballet bar. And the best part is that Pierce is a fierce dancer. Bravo and HILARIOUS.

Brittni Shambaugh Addison provides heartbreaking vocals and a beautiful presence as Billy’s Dead Mum. Creating a bond that is crucial to the story. Michael Hinton brings his ballet chops into play and halves a beautiful and powerful pas de deux as Older Billy. His line and fluid movement is captivating during the number. Marcus Martin as Big Davey lends his dynamic stage presence to help lead the miners in a rousing voice. Amiee Collier not only portrays the Clipboard Woman, she IS the Clipboard Woman.

Now we move to the two youngest principle performers in the show. My hat is off to Maurice Kimball IV, who plays Michael. In the story, Michael is Billy’s friend who is gay, and has a crush on Billy. As an actor, Kimball is fearless. Playing a gay character is challenging for anyone, but as a younger actor, probably represents a family decision as well. With that said, Kimball dances and sings his face off. He does a great job entertaining us, and executes a very nuanced performance during an emotional scene that involves revealing his true feelings towards Billy.

At the center of this musical firestorm is Seth Judice as Billy. This is not a role for the faint of heart, nor a person who doesn’t have the physicality to handle the challenges that the role demands. When you think of Broadway, there were 4 Matilda’s that handled that title role, and 3 Billy Elliots were on hand for the Great White Way. At Beck, there is one to handle the entire run. So it is obvious that Superman is not the only one made of steel. In the midst of the incredibly strong character actors around him, it is a challenge to find the level that is needed to match his surrounding actors, however, Judice holds his own. For myself, I found myself getting emotional in Act II quite a bit. If Judice didn’t do his job, I would not have had tears streaming down my face.He did do his job. His dancing was athletic, courageous, and fearless. The moment where Billy first executes a sweeping display of ballet which ends in a classic ballet pose in front of Mrs. Wilkinson, takes your breathe away. And if I ever did an aerial the way this kid can, I think I would literally bring the house down.

Major shout out to the Ballet Corps: Katie Arendt, Kaia Atzberger, Edie Barcelona, Anna Clawson, Aubrey Kocis, Keira Leland, Carolina Manfredi, Olivia Martinez, and Alessandra Rovito. Beautiful work.

The Adult Ensemble fills out the production nicely with some taking over some roles as well. Brittni Shambaugh (Dead Mum), Amiee Collier (Clipboard Woman), DeLee Cooper (Lesley), Danny DiMarino, Dylan Freeman, Greg Good, Michael Hinton (Older Billy), Devon Jordan, Robert Pierce (Mr. Braithwaite), Zachery M. Pytel ( Mr. Wilkinson), Zac Roetter, Will Sanborn, Gabi Shook, Carleigh Spence, and Joe Virgo.

Understudies: for Billy – Maurice Kimball IV, for Michael – Caleb Kocis, for Debbie: Anna Clawson

Artistic Director/Director Scott Spence, Musical Director Larry Goodpaster, and Choreographer Martin Cespedes** once again complete the Beck Center artistic triumphant. Spence brings together a great cast, and a vibrant ensemble. Goodpaster provides music and orchestra that sounds beautiful and balanced. Cespedes did a great job of matching choreography to the abilities of the cast and making it look great. The Ballet corps and Billy were fiercely on point. (See what I did there?)

Production Staff: Stage Manager Diana D’Alessandro called a great show. Assistant Stage Managers: Hayley Baran, Jenna Fink, Andrew Gluvna. Technical Director: Aaron Benson, Lighting Designer: Benjamin Gantose, Costume Design: Aimee Kluber, Sound Designer: Carlton Guc, Flying Effects: ZFX, Inc.

Overall, this is a darker show that the audience might expect. Act I starts slow, but that is scripted films that are shown to set the time and place. I think audiences might be surprised that this isn’t a brightly lit extravaganza, but a tale set more in reality. Not everyone is perfect, not everyone is straight, and not every decision is easy. Act II delivers the emotional moments for me. I wasn’t blown away by this production, but I left with tremendous respect for the endeavor.

One last thought. During “Express Yourself”, a singing and dancing duet involving Kimball and Judice, I couldn’t help thinking about how powerful the message is in the song. It is a song about finding the strength inside to love yourself enough to be who you are, and also, a song about compassion that people who are different can get along. We can express ourselves, be different, but find a common ground. During our trying time in our country and world, what a more powerful way to communicate that message then through two 12 years olds, singing and dancing and telling the world to get over yourselves.

*Actor appears courtesy of the Actors’ Equity Association (AEA), + denotes Equity Membership Candidate, **Member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers.

 

July 8 – August 14


Showtimes:

8pm Fridays
8pm Saturdays
3pm Sundays
Tickets:
$12-$31 Reserved Seating

(216) 521-2540

Order Tickets Online

Location:
Beck Center For The Arts
17801 Detroit Avenue
Lakewood, Ohio 44107

 

 

 

 

Heathers – The Musical at Beck Center for the Arts

heathers the musical

Thru July 2

Isn’t it fun to go to high school and not fit in? Isn’t it fun to get bullied by the jocks? Isn’t it just wonderful to get to sit alone at the cafeteria table, or only be able to join the table filled with the nerds? Do you ever fantasize about being one of the cool kids in school?
These questions encourage students to take different paths to handle this pressure. Some survive, some adapt, some take serious steps to vent, and some don’t quite make it. This all was addressed in the film Heathers, a 1988 American cult black comedy film written by Daniel Waters and directed by Michael Lehmann. Then, as all of life should be at some point, this dark tale was adapted into Heathers: The Musical, a rock musical with music, lyrics, and a book by Lawrence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy.

This is the darkly delicious story of Veronica Sawyer (Madeline Krucek), a teenage misfit who hustles her way into the most powerful clique at Westerberg High: the Heathers. (Kayla Heichel, Amy Kohmescher, and Tia Karaplis) Just as she gets comfortable atop the high school food chain, and betrays one of her best friends Martha “Dumptruck” (Molly Millsaps), Veronica falls in love with the dangerously sexy new kid J.D. (Shane Lonergan). Before she gets kicked out of the clique she worked so hard to infiltrate, Veronica decides to bite the bullet and kiss up to the Heathers…but J.D. has another plan.

Quite frankly, Heathers is Heaven. There is sooooooooooooo much delicious debauchery in this show, and fabulous performances to enhance the abundant chicanery. Let’s start with the set designed by Trad A Burns (no period after the A). It reminds me of the result of a love-making session between a Tetris game and a pastel joystick, and at the right moment, it all blew up on stage. All against a palette of high school lockers which remind many of us of the worst days of high school. Mine for sure. Although I was saved because I was a math tutor for the football team, so some big dudes had my back. Sound Designer Carlton Guc does an impressive Sound Design to enhance the audience’s enjoyment of hearing everything beautifully balanced.

The show opens with the kick ass song “Beautiful”, where we get to meet all of these hormonal students. The energy is kinetic and riveting fun. Madeline Krucek as Veronica Sawyer self-actualizes right in front of your face, and when she riffs at the end, i want to throw popcorn all over the theatre and scream “OH HELL YES”. Krucek does a terrific job of portraying the angst of want, and the pain of redemption, all while displaying a voice that is like a vocal all-you-can-eat buffet. And she holds her own quite well against the “Heathers”. And speaking of the Heathers, here they are: Kayla Heichel as Heather Chandler, Amy Kohmescher as Heather McNamara, and Tia Karaplis as Heather Duke. This fierce trio is our answer to national security. Let these bitches defend our borders, and the country will be chanting U! S! A! in no time. Each lady is a weapon of mass entertainment. Beautiful of face, voice and acting chops. Heichel is the head of this group with a commanding presence and talent to match. Kohmescher is also a dynamic presence, along with a face that reminds me of the golden days of Hollywood glamour. Karaplis is a complete bitch, and I couldn’t be happier. She is the last character to turn it around, and throws more shade and attitude than Season 8 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. She kills it.

One of the great surprises of the night is the performance of Molly Millsaps as Martha “Dumptruck” Dunnstock. Millsaps does a great job giving this belittled character an arc where we can relate. When she sings “Kindergarten Boyfriend”, she slays it, and provides a real sense of pain and loss, within this comedic tornado. And she just does a great job being the odd truck out. Speaking of surprises, can we talk about Riley Ewing and Jonathan Walker White, as Ram Sweeney and Kurt Kelly, respectively. OMFG. When these two sing, or I should say perform/slay/kill “Blue”, it is a comedic paradise. It’s as if, John Belushi and Chris Farley, came back as high schoolers and terrorized everyone in sight, to our delight. Ewing and White are hilarious and provide one of the rowdiest and funniest numbers in the show. Truly epic.

Circling around these characters in a calculating way is JD, played with brooding genius by Shane Lonergan. Armed with a dark richness to his character, and a voice that gradually becomes more and more powerful and moving as the show goes on. Great outsider looks, and a sexy dangerous joie de vivre, he perfectly captures the dark side. The duet “Seventeen” between Lonergan and Krucek is absolutely beautiful. But before then, Lonergan cracks us up with “Freeze Your Brain”. Great stuff.

Now it is time for the war horses to shine. Amiee Collier is a scream as Ms. Fleming and Veronica’s Mom. Leading the song “Shine a Light”, her clarion voice does its usual brilliant agenda of entertainment. Paul Floriano brings some fun flair to a trio of roles that perfectly fit into the show. Each one providing fun accoutrements. Matthew Wright also provides a trio of roles which add sass and masculinity, but he rips the roof off of the studio leading the song “Dead Gay Son”. A masterful showman at work.

The rest of the cast is all on point. Zach Landes, Greg Good, Joe Virgo, DeLee Cooper, Kacey Faix, Gabi Shook, and swinging Brianna O’Boyle, bring some major Heather realness to the table.

Artistic Director/Director Scott Spence, Musical Director Larry Goodpaster, and Choreographer Martin Cespedes are once again joined at the hip and provide a solid framework of guidance and support for the cast. Technical Director Aaron Benson professionally pulls all the elements together. Trad A Burns provides great lighting and certainly helps nail the Heathers entrance which if on a float, would win at any Pride event. Aimee Kluiber costumes the festivities with perfect pitch.

This regional premiere is a knock out and sold out. To the lucky that get to see it, that will come as no surprise.

Actor’s Equity Association: Matthew Wright, Paul Floriano, Zach Landes

Member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers: Martin Cespedes

 

Showtimes:
8pm Fridays
8pm Saturdays
7pm Sundays
Tickets:
$10-$29 Reserved Seating(216) 521-2540
Order Tickets Online
Location:
Beck Center For The Arts
17801 Detroit Avenue
Lakewood, Ohio 44107