Cleveland Stage Alliance – Reviews and Previews

Eric Fancher – Founder/Administrator/ Webmaster/"CSA Presents" Co-Producer


September 2015

The Musical Theater Project Presents “Perfectly Marvelous: The Songs of John Kander,” Co-Hosted by Tony Award Winner Karen Ziemba




musical theatre project

CLEVELAND, OH…. The Musical Theater Project presents “Perfectly Marvelous: The Songs of John Kander,” on Saturday, Oct. 31 (8pm) and Sunday, Nov. 1 (2pm) at the Allen Theatre at Playhouse Square.

The composer will be in attendance at this concert co-hosted by TMTP artistic director Bill Rudman and Tony Award winner Karen Ziemba. It was Kander who, with his longtime lyricist, the late Fred Ebb, wrote the scores for such trailblazing musicals as Chicago, Cabaret and Kiss of the Spider Woman. At 88 he remains a force in America’s musical theater.

TMTP’s concert includes live performances of nearly 30 songs, plus dozens of rare still images and film clips. Ziemba, who won the Tony for her performance in Contact, is a veteran of five Kander and Ebb shows and will sing and provide commentary alongside Rudman. The other featured performers are Katherine DeBoer; Derrick Cobey, a Baldwin Wallace University alum who appeared in the Broadway production of Kander and Ebb’s The Scottsboro Boys; and Matthew Wright, theater department chair at Kander’s alma mater, Oberlin College. Nancy Maier is music director.

For the past 19 years, at least one Kander & Ebb musical has lit up a Broadway marquee, and the team’s 1975 musical Chicago, revived in 1996, is still going strong—the longest-running American musical in Broadway history. The 2002 film version of that show received the Academy Award for best picture of the year, and the 1972 film of Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret won Oscars for director Bob Fosse and stars Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey.

Kander & Ebb’s songs were made famous by legendary performers including Minnelli, Barbra Streisand, Chita Rivera, Gwen Verdon, Robert Goulet and Frank Sinatra. Director Hal Prince says, “Kander & Ebb wrote Broadway—in the best sense.”

Kander has conferred with Rudman for more than a year on this initiative, which also includes a 2-CD retrospective of his work. “Welcoming John Kander to Cleveland is a treat,” says Rudman, “and having him involved in our project is a privilege.”

The Allen Theatre is located at 1407 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland.  General tickets are priced at $35-$50.  Tickets are available through the Playhouse Square Box Office at (216) 241-6000.

“Perfectly Marvelous: The Songs of John Kander” is presented as part of “The Song Is You!” concert and cabaret season produced each year by The Musical Theater Project at a variety of locations.


“The Song Is You!” receives additional support from Robert Conrad, Susan Kohn and Mike Kohn, the Cleveland Foundation, the Kulas Foundation, The George Gund Foundation, Cleveland Public Library, Cuyahoga Arts & Culture and Ohio Arts Council. Media sponsors include Cleveland.Com and WCLV 104.9 FM.


ABOUT THE MUSICAL THEATER PROJECT—A nonprofit organization founded in 2000, TMTP produces concerts, in-school residency programs, radio programming and recordings that foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of a uniquely American art form. To learn more about TMTP, call 216-529-9411 or visit

To schedule an interview with Bill Rudman, please call 216-529-9411 or e-mail

Ohio Arts Council helps fund The Musical Theater Project with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans. The Musical Theater Project also receives public support with local tax dollars from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, to preserve and enrich our region’s artistic and cultural heritage.

Director Insight – “5 Questions” – Tim Anderson – The Addams Family – Broadview Heights Spotlights

addams family                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Director Tim Anderson , responded to Cleveland Stage Alliance’s “5 Questions” from CSA resident critic Kevin Kelly.

Why did you choose to direct this show?

Last year, the Spotlights had a successful run of Happy Days: The Musical.  As part of the committee choosing this year’s season, I thought that the Spotlights’ audience would respond well to another musical based on a television show.  During my research, I fell in love with the Addams’s family and thought that it would be a fun, creative experience, so I made it known that I wanted that show if it was chosen for the season.  The challenge of presenting this iconic family that is so ingrained in American culture (try not to snap when you hear the theme song), in a modern, perhaps less-campy light appealed to me.  The Addams are not just flat, stereotypical characters.  Compare them to the Beineke’s (3 Ohioans who show up for dinner) and one can see their uniqueness and humanity even more.

Why does the world need this production, or, another production of this show?

The show’s theme of “Love Will Always Triumph” resonated heavily with me the first time I read the script, and I think it’s a very timely message for our society.  That, and there’s one amazing alternate lyric about Kim Davis.  In terms of other productions, take your pick!  There are many opportunities to see The Addams Family in northeastern Ohio this year.

 Can you share some memorable moments from the rehearsal period?

The energy at the read-through rehearsal was ridiculously tangible.  Within the first five minutes, I knew this cast and show were going to be phenomenal.

In designing the show, I looked at many of the original cartoons by Charles Addams.  In many of them, the rooms had interior shutters.   I started scouring Craigslist and other sources for inexpensive shutters to no avail.  I stopped at a gas station on the way to rehearsal and in the alleyway next door were 30+ old, decrepit shutters leaning against a dumpster.  (Insert references to a sunbeam and angels voices here.)

The week before tech, one of our actors ended up in handcuffs at rehearsal.  Real handcuffs.  Real handcuffs without a key.  Luckily, the theater is located next door to a Police Station.  Who knew that there is no universal key for handcuffs!?  About an hour into his captivity, the cast member was freed thanks to the help of the Fire Department and an electrical saw.  Teachable moment:  Don’t touch props that aren’t yours!

Working with Ryan Bergeron (music director/Gomez) and Zac Hudak (choreographer) was an exhilarating experience.  It was a safe, risk-taking team that continually kept raising the quality bar.  We’ve known each other for years, but have never worked together in these capacities.  There were many “‘Does this work?’/’Why does it have to work?’/’How about this….'” discussions that allowed for free-flowing ideas and honest editing of ideas that flowed a little too free.

As you watched your opening weekend, what resonates with you from the audience?

The cast is not only ridiculously talented, but contains some of the best folks in the entire world.  I want to be in the room with them, and I hope to be again soon! There was so much growth that the final product is quite remarkable.  I actually watched the show from the light booth with Zac, and it was about the third scene that we realized we were both forgetting to breathe.  I wish EVERYONE could see this show. Happily, (and a tiny bit sadly) we sold-out all ten performances before opening night!

What do you think you and the actors have accomplished?

Magic.  And a quality show that doesn’t hide behind the “It’s just community theater” label.

Ryan Bergeron, Gomez Addams
Melanie Hauer, Morticia Addams
Courtney Hostetler, Wednesday Addams
James Newton, Pugsley Addams
Kevin Cline, Fester Addams
Peggy Newton, Grandma Addams
Daryl Kelley, Lurch
Tim Schuerger, Lucas Beineke
Pam Matthews, Alice Beineke
Keith Joritz, Mal Beineke

Adam Bowers
Delia Brennan
Tara Corkery
Lexi Frendak
Dylan Grosh-Hoy
Natalie Joritz
Maggie Majercik
Daniel Weddell
and featuring Declan Newton

September 18 – October 4
7:30pm Fridays
7:30pm Saturdays
3pm Sundays
*All Performances SOLD OUT*


$13-$14 Reserved Seating
(440) 526-4404

Order Tickets Online
Broadview Heights Spotlights
9543 Broadview Road
Broadview Heights, OH 44147

Director Insight – “5 Questions” – Alison Garrigan – Finn McCool (A Tale of Irish Mythology) – Talespinner Children’s Theatre

Alison Garrigan, Director and Artistic Director, responded to Cleveland Stage Alliance’s “5 Questions” from CSA resident critic Kevin Kelly.


Finn McCool (a Tale of Irish Mythology)

L to R: Leah P. Smith, Sean Seibert, Christopher Walker

Photo Credit: Steve Wagner

Why did you choose to direct this show?

Christopher Johnston approached me over a year ago with an idea to tell the story of Finn McCool, the Greatest of All the Irish Giants.  I had always wanted to work with Chris, and the play fell WELL within our parameters of adapting international folk and/or faerie tales (in this case, both), so I was intrigued.  As I grew up hearing tales of Finn and other Celtic heroes, I was even more excited to walk back down the path of my youth, sharing those amazing tales with a new generation of children.

Why does the world need this production, or, another production of this show?

This play helps to continue the Celtic tradition of oral story-telling, music, and dance.  It also passes on to a new generation the stories of old, while igniting imaginations and excitement in its young audiences. I think this particular show is so loaded with music and magic that it is a perfect vehicle for getting children in the audience involved in the production, letting them be a part of the story in a way that gives them a sense of ownership of what they are watching and experiencing. It tells children of the importance of telling stories–and that we are ALL story-tellers, with a wonderful story to tell.  There is a joy and mystery in this show that touches every heart and imagination that sees it, or worked on it.  In this story, too, Finn and his wife, Oona, overcome a huge bully by using their minds and creativity, rather than their fists–it provides an excellent anti-bullying message that any child (or parent) can access, hear, and understand.  I feel that everything about this show–the joy, the stories, the music, the magic, the growth of the artists, the intelligence (and the silliness, don’t forget the silliness!) make it extremely important to get out to the community.

Can you share some memorable moments from the rehearsal period?

  • I loved the joy and tenacity with which the entire cast embraced learning the dances and movement for this show, and learned the lilting Irish brogue.
  • There was one night when, for whatever reason, everyone had been having a rough time outside of the theatre before rehearsal.  We do a check-in at the beginning of rehearsal that includes everyone present, and I was so amazed and moved by the caring and unwavering support that came together to bolster every single artist in this group.  Not one person stumbled that night, because there were so many arms and hearts to catch them.  That’s the kind of group that this amazing ensemble is.
  • The first time we met John Busser’s Cucullin, we were in stitches.  He just sprang from the gate fully formed, and it was hysterical to watch him take (lumbering, blustering) flight. We all laughed so hard when we first met him that we had to stop rehearsal to catch our breath.
  • There are two very magical moments in which Cucullin has to a) turn a house completely around, and b) dig down and find a buried water source that lies under tons of rock–all in full view of the audience.  Watching the cast come up with solutions and magic to make these things happen is something that will live with me forever.  There were several different ideas that got floated around, but seeing what they came up with…well, you’ll just have to see for yourself!

As you watched your opening weekend, what resonates with you from the audience?

The joy.  Watching every child in the audience sitting on the edge of their seats, or standing so they could lean forward and be closer to the stage, hanging on every single thing being said or happening in front of them.  Hearing the glee in their voices as they helped with the songs and problems that characters in the show faced.  The smiles on the faces of the parents.  The laughter.  At the end of the opening performance, there were two little ones, not sitting together or with the same group, who jumped up in the aisle and started to imitate the step-dancing of two of the characters.  It was priceless, and moving.

What do you think you and the actors have accomplished?

Every one of the artists in this show has had to grow and stretch out of their comfort zones in some way for this production.  Whether it was learning the Irish brogue, or the dances, or the language itself…or playing parts that they never would have seen themselves playing…I think that this group of actors has created a totally believable world, and a very tight ensemble that is truly seamless.  As to what we have all accomplished as a whole, I’d say “magic.”  Working as such a tight ensemble (one that includes myself, the playwright, the movement specialist, and the designers) we have been able to create an entirely believable world that makes you want to jump in, tell your own story, and dance with the faeries.  We have created a world where anything is possible, and everyone is welcome.

John Busser, Sean Seibert, Leah Smith, Devon Turchan, Christopher Walker, and Margi Herwald Zitelli

September 19 – October 11

7pm Fridays
2pm and 7pm Saturdays
2pm Sundays

**Pay What You Can performances Sunday 9/20 and Fridays 9/25, 10/2, and 10/9**

$10-$15 General Admission
(216) 264-9680

Order Tickets Online
Reinberger Auditorium
5209 Detroit Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44102

Director Insight – “5 Questions” – Katia P. Schwarz – Death and The Maiden – Mamai Theatre Company

Director Katia Schwarz, responded to Cleveland Stage Alliance’s “5 Questions” from CSA resident critic Kevin Kelly.


Why did you choose to direct this show?

It was serendipitous that this was the play that Mamaí Theatre Company offered me to direct. It was inspired by a period in history that has always been of particular interest to me  – the Pinochet Dictatorship in Chile and its aftermath.  I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to direct such a significant and meaningful play.

Why does the world need this production, or, another production of this show?

The world needs to see this production (and many more) because it tackles themes and questions that we need to be constantly reminded of.  It reminds us of the human rights violations that go on every day around the world. It reminds us of the crimes and corruption of those with power, that too often goes unpunished.  I believe this play urges us to not simply be bystanders in our world, but to be ‘upstanders.’  It is a brilliantly written piece that keeps you engrossed and on the edge of your seat while posing so many important questions.

Can you share some memorable moments from the rehearsal period?

Some of the most memorable moments came in our initial table work as the actors and I discussed the historical context of the play.  We were repeatedly moved by the long-lasting impact of the dictatorship on a country. We have all been so invested in telling this story and it has been an incredible journey as we have worked together to do justice to this powerful play.  We had a wonderful, collaborative process with much generosity of spirit by all, and in spite of the difficult subject matter, we also shared a lot of laughs.

As you watched your opening weekend, what resonates with you from the audience?

Honestly, what has resonated most for me is how truly mesmerized the audiences seem to have been, how they have rushed back to their seats after intermission to see more, and how you could not hear a pin drop in the theatre.

What do you think you and the actors have accomplished?

I am proud of the work we have done together because I am hearing so many people talk about how they have been moved by the play. They have been asking the questions that the playwright hoped audiences would consider, and they are thinking about the state of our world today.  If this is how audiences are leaving, then I think we have done something right.

Derdriu Ring as Paulina
Jeffrey Grover as Gerardo
Terence Cranendonk as Roberto

September 17 – October 4
7:30pm Thursdays
7:30pm Fridays
7:30pm Saturdays
2:30pm Sundays

(216) 382-5146
Order Tickets Online

Kennedy’s Cabaret at Playhouse Square
1501 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44115

Director Insight – “5 Questions – Dr. Martin Friedman – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? – Lakeland Civic Theatre

virginia woolf

Dr. Martin Friedman, Director and Artisitic Director, responded to Cleveland Stage Alliance’s “5 Questions” from CSA resident critic Kevin Kelly

Why did you choose to direct this show?

So, I chose to direct this play for a couple of reasons. The first is the theatre that I work in. We are a young theatre that is not only the only professional theatre in Lake County but also a part of a college. Consequently, I am charged with providing the classics, mixed in with theatre that would not normally be done in these parts. I am a lucky fellow; I have been given carte blanche with choosing the great plays of both world drama and the American theatre. Of course, that is also a curse. A curse because not all of the “great” plays are great for everyone.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee is certainly considered one of the top ten American plays ever written. And while probably not one of the so-called big three “American Masters” (Eugene O’Neill, Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams), Albee and Albee’s play does reside firmly in the pantheon of great plays of world drama.

I have done many of the great plays of World and American drama and I felt it was time to do an Edward Albee play and Virginia Woolf was the chosen one. Still, to be completely honest, as I have delved into it and worked on it now for six months, I don’t think it deserves to be in the aforementioned pantheon.

Finally, I did this play because I really wanted to work with Greg Violand. I have done two musical theatre productions (She Loves Me and A Little Night Music) with Greg over the years and had a great time with him. His talent is undeniable. Still, we wanted to work together on something substantial and this was the play that I offered him.

Why does the world need this production, or, another production of this show?

While Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? has been done twice on Broadway in the last fifteen years, it hasn’t been done in Cleveland in at least ten years; and certainly not with a professional cast. Another reason I wanted to produce and direct this play is that as I have gotten older and my work has matured, I have found that my outlook on things has also matured and ripened. I have found that I don’t need as much stuff on stage and that I can make the classics even more visually and emotionally exciting with less.

Can you share some memorable moments from the rehearsal period?

In regard to memorable moments; I truly find the entire process memorable. I am one of those fellows who is very “Pollyanna-ish”. As soon as a play is over I have a hole in my theatrical life that I find that I can’t refill until the next gig is over. I enjoyed talking about the play with not only Molly McGinnis and Greg but also with Katie Nabors  and Dan Simpson. Everyone in this cast were good eggs. They loved to talk and kibbitz and talk endlessly about their characters. What could be better.

As you watched your opening weekend, what resonates with you from the audience?

In regard to the opening weekend…. I had no idea whether my concept would work or not. I also had no idea as to whether anyone would even show up. Indeed, the audiences have been sparse and it’s too easy to blame the good weather or football. I wonder whether the topic is a downer. While these folks, George and Martha are very articulate, they are articulate in battling each other and that doesn’t always make for a wonderful evening of fun and fluff. While often funny, this is, at times, grim stuff. And while I do believe, in the end, George and Martha do love each other; it takes a while for them to get there.

What do you think you and the actors have accomplished?

In thinking what I accomplished, I suspect it was that I had a bit of different take on this play. As I mentioned earlier, I changed the set around a bit. Gone are walls, books, chairs, and any semblance of a house or home. Instead what we have are platforms in which the characters roam around, trying to figure out how to touch each other, or rather how to crash into each other.

I also believe that I have taken a positive approach to this couple. I believe that what you are seeing this particular evening is something that George and Martha have done many many many nights over the years; arguing and fighting and trying to desperately come up with a solution. An understanding. And tonight is the night that this happens. They come to an acceptance of the situation and of each other.

September 18 – October 4


7:30pm Fridays

7:30pm Saturdays

2pm Sundays


$7-$15 General Admission



Lakeland Community College

7700 Clocktower Drive, Kirtland, OH 44094

Cleveland Stage Alliance presents: FROM CLEVELAND WITH LOVE: THE SONGS OF 007

csa james bond


Contact: Eric Fancher, CSA Founder


September 23, 2015



CLEVELAND, OH…Cleveland Stage Alliance (CSA) presents “From Cleveland With Love: The Songs of 007,” at Vosh Lakewood on Sunday, November 8, 2015 at 7 PM and at the Bop Stop, now part of the Cleveland Music Settlement, on Wednesday, November 11, 2015 at 8 PM.

The songs of the James Bond franchise have often become as celebrated in popular culture as the films themselves.  Ranging from Paul McCartney’s rock anthem “Live and Let Die” to Carly Simon’s understated “Nobody Does It Better” and Shirley Bassey’s iconic “Goldfinger” to Adele’s Academy Award winning “Skyfall.” Some of Northeast Ohio’s top talent comes together for two nights to perform new and familiar arrangements of the classic tunes accompanied by a live band. The concerts occur the same week as the highly anticipated release of the newest James Bond film, Spectre.

“From Cleveland With Love: The Songs of 007” is the third offering in CSA’s new concert series that celebrates various beloved aspects of pop culture in a festive evening of song.  Following the current trend set in New York by such popular series’ as “Broadway Sings,” “54 Sings” and others, “CSA Presents…” will utilize a rotating cast of local talent to perform material outside of the musical theater canon, with a theatrical flair!

The concert is produced by CSA founder Eric Thomas Fancher and local actor/director Joanna May Hunkins, and music directed by Lawrence Wallace. Fancher has appeared onstage at Ensemble Theatre, Lakeland Civic Theatre, Blank Canvas Theatre and most recently at Cain Park. Hunkins is the associate director of The Musical Theater Project and just directed the critically acclaimed production of Godspell at Cain Park.  Wallace has music directed at Near West Theatre, Blank Canvas Theatre and True North Cultural Arts.

Singers appearing in “From Cleveland With Love: The Songs of 007” include Amiee Collier (Next to Normal at Lakeland Civic Theatre), Kelcie Nicole Dugger (Children of Eden at Near West Theatre), Neely Gevaart (A Carol For Cleveland at Cleveland Playhouse), Natalie Green (Beauty and the Beast at Beck Center), Darryl Lewis (Caroline Or Change at Karamu Theatre), Colleen Longshaw (Hairspray at Porthouse Theatre), Sara Masterson (The Secret Garden at Great Lakes Theatre), Kate Leigh Michalski (Twelfth Night at Ensemble Theatre), Jessica Cope Miller (I Love You Because at Playhouse Square), Pat Miller (Bat Boy at Blank Canvas Theatre), Nicole Sumlin (Civil War Christmas at Dobama Theatre), Malik Victorian (Smokey Joe’s Café at Cain Park), Jonathan Walker White (Big Fish at True North Cultural Arts) and Matthew Wright (There is a Happiness that Morning Is at Cleveland Public Theatre).  Fancher and Hunkins will also perform and co-host the evenings.

Vosh Lakewood is located at 1414 Riverside Drive in Lakewood.  General admission is $20. Tickets for Sunday, November 8th are available through the Vosh Lakewood website at

The Bop Stop is located at 2920 Detroit Ave on the near west side of Cleveland and is owned and operated by the Cleveland Music Settlement.  General admission is $15. All bar proceeds go toward music scholarships. Tickets for Wednesday, November 11th are available through the Bop Stop website at

ABOUT CLEVELAND STAGE ALLIANCE – Founded in 2013, The Cleveland Stage Alliance is an organization dedicated to providing theatergoers with up-to-date information regarding any and all locally produced theatre in the Northeast Ohio region.  It also provides reviews and audition information.  For more information, please visit

To schedule an interview with Eric Thomas Fancher or Joanna May Hunkins, please call 440-241-8904 or e-mail

Director Insight – “5 Questions” – Celeste Cosentino – Death of a Salesman – Ensemble Theatre

Celeste Cosentino, Director of Death of a Salesman and Artistic Director of Ensemble Theatre, responds to Cleveland Stage Alliance’s “5 Questions” from CSA resident critic Kevin Kelly.


Why did you choose to direct this show?

I have always been a Miller fan, and this being his centennial (he would have been 100 this year:)) it seemed a fitting tribute.  My mother and I were always fans of his “A View from the Bridge”, but Death of A Salesman was the piece he won the Pulitzer for and is considered one of the greatest American plays of the twentieth century for a reason:)

 DOS 2

Why does the world need this production, or, another production of this show?

I think this show is VERY timely.  It speaks to the illusion of the American Dream.  We all strive for greatness and not all of us are able to get there.  With the marginalization of the middle class and the sacrifice of people for profit in the name of “progress” I think it speaks very strongly to modern society and how we define ourselves and our successes.  It also speaks to the “death of the salesman” and what happens when a person is no longer essential and when one’s lively hood is eliminated.  Willy lives in a lot of his memories in this play, because that was a time when he felt he WAS these things he dreams about…


Can you share some memorable moments from the rehearsal period?

There was a lot of crying at the first rehearsal…. and watching the technical side of the show come to life (the lights and the set) was like watching a master painter creating a magnificent canvas.  Ron and Ian and Stephen and Steven did SUCH a fantastic job with the tech side of things on this show.  The actors are also amazing so it makes for a memorable show all around.


As you watched your opening weekend, what resonates with you from the audience?

The laughing and then the silence.  It seems that with this particular audience you can travel along Willy’s emotional journey by listening to the audience. They are silent and focused in the more dramatic parts and laughing during the more lighthearted parts of the show (no it’s not all depressing…:)).  It is a bit of an emotional roller coaster (as I think all great plays are), and it is wonderful to hear the audience react to those  highs and lows.

 DOS 5

What do you think you and the actors have accomplished?

We have created such a wonderful little family of misfits toys:)  I know that is the wrong show, but we are such a friendly and supporting group with this show.  This show is ALL about the LOVE within this family and how it plays out for each of it’s members.  I think that the brothers (the actors Keith and Jonathon) have created such a real life brotherhood…. Greg and Mary Alice sit on the bed before each show and talk with one another.  There is a real ensemble feeling with this show (even with all the ancillary roles) and a real sense of family.  There is a gambit of human emotion in this piece and they have performed this emotionally charged piece with such finesse.  I told them to never stop digging and to never stop pushing.  This is not necessarily a piece you can get totally comfortable in.

Greg White as Willy

Mary Alice Beck as Linda

Keith E. Stevens* as Biff

Johnathon L. Jackson as Hap

Photo credit: Celeste Cosentino

September 18 – October 11

8pm Fridays
8pm Saturdays
2pm Sundays

$12-$24 Reserved Seating
Order Tickets Online

Ensemble Theatre
2843 Washington Blvd

Cleveland, OH 44118

The Snow Queen (Cleveland Premiere) – Near West Theatre

Near West Theatre
Community Theatre
Here we are. The first Children’s musical production in the new home of Near West Theatre. To inaugurate the first full season in the impressive 7.3 million dollar theatre,  they have chosen The Snow QueenYes, it is true that the mega-hit movie Frozen is based on this story, that was originally a Danish fairy tale written by Hans Christian Andersen, published December 1844. But, you literally need to “let it go”, because this musical is a rock adaptation entitled “The Snow Queen: A New Musical”. It was produced by San Jose Repertory Theatre in December 2013, with music by Haddon Kime, book by Rick Lombardo and Kirsten Brandt, and lyrics by Kime, Brandt, and Lombardo. This adaptation received positive reviews at the 2014 New York Musical Theatre Festival.
This production is beautifully directed by Kelcie Nicole Dugger. She, along with her production team, have created an edgy, risky, and thrilling production. The cast ranges in age from 9 to 15, however, many members of the cast transcend their age with ferocious performances.
snow queen and kai
The story follows two young teens Gerda (Morgan Williams) and Kai (Cole Tarantowski). Kai gets pulled to a darker side by the Snow Queen (Ally Yellets). Even though she is warned not to leave by her Grandmother (Kyanie Vasquez) , Gerda embarks on a raucous journey to save Kai from the Snow Queen (Ally Yellets). Along the way, Gerda meets many incredible characters who either help or hinder her objective to save Kai.
breathe trio
Reindeer (Felix Albino), Gerda (Morgan Williams),                                                                           and Woman of the North (Jocelyn Perkins)
Williams (Gerda) leads this cast with a full arsenal of musical strength. Her acting and singing are tremendous.  She has professional concentration as she navigates through this story of love and friendship. Delivering emotional responses and lyrical gifts along the way. Truly a breakout performance for this young lady. Taking on his first lead role, Tarantowski (Kai) moves full steam ahead in this challenging piece. He is delightfully youthful in his initial scenes, and deftly handles transitioning to a darker personality, slowly allowing himself to lose his grip on own moral structure. His vocals convey a   honest interpretation of every moment. Great job. Yellets powers her way through this musical with an operatic quality, and does an excellent job of enhancing the haunting melodies of the Snow Queen with alluring tonality. She handles the rhythmically difficult song “Balance” like a pro. Bravo.
kai death
Peppering the journey are an array of wonderful characters that spice up the story. There are plenty of opportunities for these characters to be featured, and the following actors rose to the occasion.  Nate Jorgensen tore the house down as The Troll. His wild abandonment was contagious and very fun to watch. Jim Carey would have been proud. Rachel Johanek created a freaky conniving Garden Witch. She had a full scene in which her character was spot on in developing what first seems like a friend, and then turns a bit creepy with her desire to trick Gerda. Elliot Lockshine helped close out Act I with a bang as The Old Crow. His accent and physicality were a delight, and his comedic timing is to be commended. Corrine Howery is a scream as A Princess. She certainly knows how to throw a fabulous dance party. Her comedic chops are huge, and her stage presence ups up captivating the audience. Abby Golden blows up on stage as a rocker chick who resembles Pink, and a punk rock band. She excitingly switches personalities on a dime, creating a hot mess of fun and craziness as The Robber Girl. Felix Albino creates one of the most beautiful and honest moments in the show with his ballad “Aurora”. His unique voice glides through the song of inspiration and direction effortlessly, delivering a beautiful result. Jocelyn Perkins delivers a power punch to the production as Woman of the North. Her vocals and inspired acting drive the song “Breathe” into the 11 o’clock number we all live for.
snow queen
The fun, or good work, doesn’t stop there. Vasquez serves up a wonderful and protective Grandmother. A feisty and festive presence. Natalie Surdy provides The Rose with a delicate and beautiful texture, and has some vocal punch as well. Spencer Skok handles The River well, providing a nice scene. Cole Emerine, Nadia Evans, and Sophie Hull create a delightful scene of talkative flowers that unknowingly provide the backdrop for Gerda to find her way. Zoe Hess as Lady Crow goes one on one with The Old Crow with hilarious results. CJ Jorgensen provides some bumbling comic relief as A Prince. Angellise Irizarry provides some intense moments as Robber Girl’s Mother. You do not want to mess with her. Special shout out to Kylie Colvin and Hannah Horton for making their Pigeon scene a show stopper. Their timing is impeccable, and they deliver a comedic knock-out punch.
The rest of the cast is fierce, firing on all engines. Edie Barcelona, Raya Ervin, Robin Ervin, Micah Evans, Louis Johnson II, Bryen Kilbane, Nora Loughridge van Lier, Sophia O’Leary, Finn O’Malia, Lillian Ross, Angel Savacool, and Spencer Skok. They round out the company as Storytellers, Snowflake Soldiers, The Robber Gang, Birds, and Castle Workers.
Director Kelcie Nicole Dugger has outdone herself. As the first children’s production in the new theatre, she has set a beautiful bar, and greatly enhanced the product of Near West Theatre. Dugger, also co-created the choreography with Sara Danielle Chapman, that provided fluid movement to the story.  JT Buck leads a fabulous band, and did a stellar job of teaching this intense musical to the young kids. Bravo on finding that connection and empowering them to display their talents. Joining Buck is Rachel Woods on Keyboard 2,  a Buddy Rich like Patrick Altmire on Drums, and Ryan McDermott on Guitar. T. Paul Lowry handles the Production Manager skills with aplomp.  Josh Padgett creates his usual top notch theatrical magic as Technical Director. Perren Hedderson assists on the tech side well, and creates some vivid and interesting video additions. Scenic and Property Designs were created by the brilliant Laura Carlson Tarantowski. She is arguably one of the best designers in the region. Costume Designer Jen Ryan provided very interesting costumes, topped off by her Snow Queen creation. Rob Wachala left no fog machine or intelligent lighting unturned, as he created a fabulous mystical world. Sound Designer Joshua Caraballo created a solid design, with sound effects and many mics that seemlessly assist in understanding and enhancing the story.  Props Master Jessica Rosenlieb was right on target. Stage Manager Kate Atherton kept things right on track. Scene changes were flawless. Assistant Production Manager Ryan Wolf called a great show.
This is a beautiful start to a new season. Support the kids.

Chris Richards – Theatre Hot Flash

Cleveland, OH, September 18, 2015 –Cleveland’s Kevin Spacey, CHRIS RICHARDS , will star in Playhouse on Park’s fall production of TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE as Mitch Albom. TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE will be directed by Sasha Brätt and run September 30 through October 18, 2015. Tickets are currently on sale.
Chris Richards is a New York/Cleveland actor who has worked extensively in theater, film, and television. OffBroadway/NYC credits include: The Pearl ( The Philanderer , The Misanthrope 2011, Lucille Lortel Award Nomination Best Revival), The Mint ( I Am A Camera , Meeting Molnar ), Project Shaw ( The League of Youth world premiere), and The Gallery Players (Richard II in Richard II ). Regional: 8 at Cleveland Play
House (2015 Regional Tony Award Winner), Great Lakes Theater (three seasons), DOBAMA Theater ( Gutenberg! The Musical! , Sons of The Prophet ), The Festival Stage of WinstonSalem ( The Last Night ofBallyhoo ), The Barn Theater, Lakeland Civic (Biff in Death of a Salesman ), The Beck Center, Ohio, Shakespeare Festival, and Porthouse. Film/TV: Bachelorette (with Kirsten Dunst), “Madam Secretary”
(CBS), “The Knick” (Cinemax), “Orange is the New Black” (Netflix).

chris richards
For his work in Sons of the Prophet at DOBAMA in 2013, the Cleveland Critics Circle awarded Mr. Richards Best Actor in a NonMusical Superior Achievement. Plain Dealer theatre critic Andrea Simakis wrote of his performance, “Richards is superb…he really should be famous already,” while Bob Abelman of The NewsHerald
stated it was a “brilliant depiction” in his review. Cleveland Stage Alliance resident critic called Richards’ acting, “a truly remarkable piece of work, a focused presentation of character that is rarely seen, and the handling of the physical and
emotional journey of his charcter was breathtaking….Chris Richards make[s] being an actor real.”
An equally acclaimed comic actor, said of his OffBroadway
debut: “Richards…deserves special mention. His physical comedy shines.” For his work in Gutenberg! The Musical! at Dobama, critic
Keith A. Joseph stated in Cleveland SCENE magazine that, “Richards…is akin to a youthful one man band.” As half of the cast of Gutenberg! The Musical!, he displayed comic genius and verbal dexterity and brought to mind a dozen stars, from Jerry Lewis to Tom Hanks.
The actor recently moved back to his Cleveland where he is thrilled to pursue the next chapter of his acting career, after a successful five years in New York City. While in New York, Richards earned both his AEA and SAG memberships, signed with NYC representation (which he still maintains even though he is a Cleveland based
actor now), and studied improv at Upright Citizens Brigade. Local Cleveland audiences
can see him this season as Alan/David Zuckerman in Exquisite Potential with Interplay Jewish Theater (November 2015) and John Jones in the regional premiere of The Realistic Joneses with DOBAMA Theater (January/February 2016).
Playhouse on Park is managed under the direction of Playhouse Theatre Group, Inc. Playhouse on Park opened its doors in the fall of 2009 and presented a full season of plays, musicals, comedy nights, improv, children’s shows and dance. 201516
marks their seventh season of professional, affordable entertainment
and educational programming in the greater Hartford area. More information about the theater is available
online at

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