Cleveland Stage Alliance – Reviews and Previews

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


October 2015

Bat Boy: The Musical at Blank Canvas Theatre


Blank Canvas Theatre

Professional Theatre

In the hands of many directors, Bat Boy: The Musical ( Story and Book by Keythe Farley, Music by Brian Flemming and Lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe) is a fantastic campy ride of delight. Patrick Ciamacco can certainly add his name to that director list, but it would need an asterisk.  And, what would that represent? A disclaimer to make sure you bring your seatbelt to handle a brilliantly designed Bat Boy that (if you sit behind the cage) shows more ass than all the Lido Lounge dancers in one night, blood scenes that will encourage you to order your next steak well done, a dancing Pan that embodies one of the most realistic boners that would send Masters and Johnson on a three-day weekend, and procreating stuffed animals. If any of these offend you, then I would skip this production and watch Little House of the Prairie reruns. However to the twisted delight of many, DO NOT MISS this show, and especially a theatrically self-actualized Pat Miller as Bat Boy. Mr. Miller embodies campy transcendence.
Bat Boy (6)

Based on a true fake story in The Weekly World News, BAT BOY: THE MUSICAL is a musical comedy/horror show about a half boy/half bat creature who is discovered in a cave near Hope Falls, West Virginia. For lack of a better solution, the local sheriff (a Mayberryesque Will Foley) brings Bat Boy to the home of the town veterinarian, Dr. Parker (entertaining Brian Altman), where he is eventually accepted as a member of the family and taught to act like a “normal” boy by the veterinarian’s wife, Meredith (a brilliantly campy Amiee Collier), and teenage daughter, Shelley (beautiful Stephanie Harden). Bat Boy (Pat Miller) is happy with his new life, but when he naively tries to fit in with the narrow-minded people of Hope Falls, they turn on him, prodded by the machinations of Dr. Parker, who secretly despises Bat Boy. Shelley and Bat Boy, who have fallen in love, run away together from the ignorant townsfolk and have a blissful coupling in the woods, but their happiness is shattered when Meredith arrives and reveals a secret. Soon the entire town arrives and hears the shocking story of Bat Boy’s unholy origin.

Bat Boy (10)

We first meet Bat Boy as he hangs upside down in his cave, and to be honest, he is not the only one that should be swinging. Due to a new sound system, the night I was there was plagued with sound issues. I am sure that issue is being addressed more than the Republicans are Benghazi, but it was a major distraction. Also, some of the lighting was off, either called late, or actors left in the dark. Having said that, there is much to celebrate.

Bat Boy (5)

Obviously, I thought Miller was great. Complete total commitment to the role. Powerful vocal, acting and a sense of limitless and pervasive energy. Aided by a remarkable Special Effects Design by P.J. Toomey. Add in the detailed brilliance of Costume Designer, Jenniver Sparano, and the results are a blast. Collier once again shows her equity (she could easily be, and was, but not now) bravado. She is in complete campy control, armed with a clarion voice. Her comedic timing is perfect. Altman displays his comedic chops as well as the maniacal  Dr. Parker. His is so charming on stage, and watching him flip to the dark side is an enjoyable ride. He also adds his vocal prowess to the evening. Harden offers a quirky ingenue for the evening, which is aided by an attractive stage presence, and a quality voice. She also jumps in the comedic timing pool head first.

Bat Boy (2)

The rest of the cast is a hot mess of fun. Will Foley, Jacob Damsky, Colleen McCaughey and Venchise Glenn add sizable contributions to the zaniness. There were a few that I have a shout out. Kristy Cruz brought her Mark Wahlberg realness to one side of her characters, and was dead on with all of her choices. I just want to have a shot and a beer with her/him/them. Michael Crowley was fantastic in giving the Reverand Hightower some Whitney notes for days, and taking the crowd to church in raucous style. But he doesn’t stop there. As a wigged and rollered Mrs. Taylor, he is hilarious, and gives one death look take for the ages. And as far as sustaining a crazy fun performance, Stephen Berg is an X-rated scream as Pan, delivering a fully aroused Barry White moment that will certainly stay with you after the performance. If it is still with you after 4 hours, please seek medical attention. His one-eyed farmer also hits every comedic target.

Ciamacco should be proud. Great cast, great fun and a kick ass Set Design. Music Director Lawrence Wallace delivered a solid wall of sound. The choreography was campy and sharp as provided by Katie Zarecki. Stage Manager Brittany Gaul called a great show. Impeccable costumes by Jenniver Sparano. Lighting Design was good, but some focus could be enhanced. Animation Design by Noah Hrbek was incredibly original and funny. To my taste, could have been streamlined a bit more, as it is narrated live. But certainly a true original work that was impressive. Sound Designer Tobias Peltier and Sound Operator Bryanna Bauman have their work cut out for them. One more shout out to P.J. Toomey and Jenniver Sparano for creating this version of Bat Boy. A creative match made in heaven.

See you at the Cave!

October 16 – October 31

8pm Thursdays
8pm Fridays
8pm Saturdays (**Midnight Show** on 10/24)
7pm Sundays

$18 General Admission

440) 941-0458
Order Tickets Online

Blank Canvas Theatre
1305 West 80th Street, Suite 211
Cleveland, OH 44102

The Secret Garden – Great Lakes Theater


Great Lakes Theater
Professional Equity House Theatre

Frances Hodgson Burnett’s beloved Victorian classic, The Secret Garden, has been transformed into a beautiful and brooding musical by Pulitzer Prize-winner Marsha Norman and Lucy Simon.  The story revolves around young Mary Lennox (Giovanna A. Layne), who loses her parents to a cholera outbreak in India, which is represented through a nicely staged, creative movement by choreographer Gregory Daniels. She is sent to live with her uncle, Archibald Craven (Steven Mitchell Brown), who lives in the imposing, secluded Misselthwaite Manor. Inside the haunted house, Mary finds a reclusive, long-suffering collection of souls, and Dr. Neville Craven (Tom Ford), Archibald’s younger brother, who is not the kindest at his best. Since her aunt Lily’s (Jillian Kates) death, Mary’s uncle has pushed away his surviving loved ones, leaving his bedridden son, Colin (Warren Bodily), alone. Sickly Colin, hidden away in the depths of the manner, bears the guilt of his mother’s death, which occurred during childbirth. When Mary discovers her Aunt Lily’s hidden garden, looking lifeless, Mary is determined to revive the beauty that once was. She receives much-needed support in her plan by encountering Housekeeper Martha (Sara Masterson), and her younger brother Dickon (Colton Ryan), who helps tend to the grounds. Surrounded by spirits from the past, determined Mary begins to peel away the layers of sadness that cover the house and the garden, and as a result, create a new life in the garden, and in the hearts of her loved ones.


Director Victoria Bussert offers us a well paced, star-studded affair in this production. Bussert never lets the story flounder for a moment, and makes expeditious use of the minimal Scenic Design by Jeff Herrman. Not distracted from overdone set pieces, this piece provides characterizations to be at the heart of the story. Daniels compliments Bussert’s vision with interesting choices for movement, that entertain and enhance the story. Musical Director Joel Mercier provides stunning orchestration to match the powerful and impressive voices that inhabit the stage. The costumes are gorgeous, and no wonder, with Costume Designer Charlotte M. Yetman infused in every stitch. Lighting Designer Paul Miller provides emotional lighting that captivates each mood, while Sound Designer David Gotwald sets excellent balance and provides a coming storm bang that will ensure you are paying attention.


At the center of the story is Layne, who portrays Mary with guts, determination and creates honesty moments throughout. She is a fearless actress who traverses this material like a pro, while she stands toe to toe with the professionals around her. Layne is able to remain strong and centered throughout the show, providing insight into her characters journey. Layne also adds strong vocals to her talents as well.

From the moment Kates appears as Lily, we are transformed to behold THAT voice and presence. Her vocals could calm global warming. She gives Lily a soul that we can connect with, and passion that we can feel as she connects with the lives she did not want to leave. A glorious performance. It was the first time I have heard this artist sing, and it has become one of the best moments of the year.


Stephen Mitchell Brown was spectacular as Archibald Craven. His voice is rich, deep and soulful while also being able to float up to heaven. He has a commanding, yet, very likable presence. He provided us an emotional road map to finding the arc of Archie through dynamic acting choices. Brown sets hearts on fire with his pining song “Where in the World”, and then combines with Kates to emotionally blow the roof off the theatre with the duet “How Will I Ever Know”. If you don’t believe in love after that song, then congratulations, you are a zombie.


Ford is on point portraying the unpopular and selfish Dr. Neville Craven, who torments Mary most of the play. Ford does great justice to creating a villain that we get to root against. He serves up some calculating realness, and clearly defines this character’s flaws to the delight of wanting him to fail and find his comeuppance. Ford and Brown also combine their vocal talents to make an event out of the “Lily’s Eyes”, which is one of the grand moments of the show.

Enter Mary’s fierce accomplices, the radiant and fiery Masterson and the matinee idol Ryan, as Martha and Dickon. Both harnessing a deft Yorkshire accent, these two actors excel. Masterson has incredible presence, and a fabulous voice which can captivate while telling a story in “A Fine White Horse”, or provide strength and encouragement during “Hold On” that would motivate Anthony Robbins. Ryan has charm and likability for days. He also owns a beautiful voice which captivates the audience with a playful “Winter’s on the Wing”, and fuels “Wick” with boundless energy and entertainment. Bodily is wonderful as Colin. He provides an innocence and purity that immediately establishes a connection with the audience. He does a great job at showing the emotional and physical growth of his character. And to no surprise, handles the vocals with ease and would most certainly be the MVP of the Vienna Boys Choir.

Some fine featured moments come from Laura Perrotta as Mrs. Medlock, Dougfred Miller as Ben Weatherstaff,  Cassandra Bissell as Mrs. Winthrop, and I do believe that the voice of Leah Jennings, portraying Rose Lennox,  could melt the ice caps with her breathtaking clear vocals. I just realized I am all about the weather, but I think it is because that first storm thunder knocked my patella into my stomach.

For my enjoyment, the only moment that was subdued due to the fantastic pace, was the pay off when Archie sends Neville away. I wanted that to resonate more, so we could give Neville exit applause for his “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out!” moment.

I love The Secret Garden. This production came through with flying colors. Bravo Victoria Bussert, for bringing this garden to life.

September 25 – October 31
Showtimes vary.  Click HERE for a full calendar.
$13-$70 Reserved Seating
(216) 241-5490
Order Tickets Online
Hanna Theatre
1501 Euclid Avenue, Suite 300

Cleveland, Ohio 44115

White Rabbit Red Rabbit – cleveland PUBLIC theatre

white rabbit red rabbit

Cleveland Public Theatre
Professional Theatre
“It began with a nightmare ……….years ago that I killed myself on stage in front of an audience that included my parents,” said Playwright Nassim Soleimanpour, who grew up in Shiraz and now lives in Tehran.
Soleimanpour was not allowed to leave Iran.  To get a passport, you need to serve two years in the military. He was a conscientious objector, so travel was not going to happen. Censorship was deafening. So after having his nightmare, he developed a play that could carry his thoughts, expressions, humor, and storytelling. It resulted in White Rabbit Red Rabbit. An incredibly unique theatre experience that was brought to CPT by  Executive Artistic Director Raymond Bobgan. And what a find it is. Bravo.
On the night I attended, the actor for that evening was Councilman Joe Cimperman. You see, one of the interesting things about this play is that a different actor performs each showing. This convention is further enhanced with the actor not having the script until he or she opens an envelope on stage – in front of the audience. All we see on stage is a ladder, a table with two glasses of water, and the stand where the envelope holding the script lives. So ALL of us begin this journey together. The audience and the actor have no idea what is about to happen, and the result is a glorious evening of what the sam hill is going on, and tingling realism.
The actor reveal is delightful as well. After Bobgan greets us and fires the crowd up to vote for Issue 8, which we all need to do, a red curtain opens to reveal the actor.
We are then taken on a journey, where we can hear the playwright as if he were there. The theatre actually keeps a seat available for “him”.  At the beginning, it is quite funny, and the interactive situations that ensue are fascinating. But after a while, the play delves into darker territory. We move inside the playwright’s mind as he handles the inevitable rougher times in life, especially when you think of being repressed artistically and physically. Through sharing a family story that might seem cute to some degree, engineers itself into a powerful message of thought and candor. I can’t really give more details, because the play needs to be silent in print and only live on stage and in our minds when we leave.
But we do learn that when the play was able to travel without him, it was a taste of freedom. And the fact that Soleimanpour provides his email address to hear from all who see the play, must have been, and be, an incredible comfort to know your words are touching lives, and inhabiting theatres around the world.
It is a fascinating night. So you need to check out the following performers and pick a day when you can experience a very, unique evening. (Because you never know who will show up in the audience. Beware of pre-printed material being passed out. It is not part of the show.)
Friday, October 16th: RA Washington
Saturday, October 17th: Bill Rudman
Sunday, October 18th: Dana Hart*
Monday, October 19th: Derdriu Ring*
Wednesday, October 21st: Mike Polk
Thursday, October 22nd: Margaret Ford-Taylor
Friday, October 23rd: Dr. Michael Mauldin*
Saturday, October 24th: David Hansen
Sunday, October 25th: Anne McEvoy
October 8 – October 25
7pm Mondays
7pm Wednesdays
7pm Thursdays
7pm Fridays
7pm Saturdays
7pm Sundays

$20-25; repeat performances just $10

(216) 631-2727 extension 501
Order Tickets Online

Cleveland Public Theatre (Parish Hall)
6415 Detroit Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44102

Nunsense at The Fine Arts Association

Fine Arts Association
Community Theatre
Under the direction of Sandy Kosovich Peck, this production of Nunsense is quite fun. This show has been done so many times, that I think it is a daunting task to restage it and keep the production fresh and funny. This particular production seems to stay true to the original intent of the show and keeps it traditional and honest. The result is a lot of giggles.
What is this nun-filled evening about?  Five nuns from The Little Sisters of Hoboken stage a variety show fundraiser to raise money to bury the rest of the sisterhood who were accidentally poisoned by Sister Julia, Child of God’s vichyssoise. That’s right, you are at a fundraiser, and the nuns take you on a glorious ride of ridiculousness.
The nuns have a fine time warming up the audience with some quirky fun. They provide some instructions on how to greet the Reverend Mother when she comes in, and that is a clever way to start the interaction with the crowd to loosen up the audience. The Mount St. Helen Band, led by “Father” Kyle Lorek, produces the right kind of balance and blend to kick off the evening. The nuns start the show off with a bang, engaging us in tight harmonies and delightful execution of “Nunsense is Habit-Forming.” Yes, it is that kind of show.
Anna L. Davis as Sister Mary Regina, Mother Superior is in fine form and she tries to wrangle the sisters and keep them in line. My favorite moment is when she discovers a bottle of “Rush” and after a couple of sniffs, proceeds to fall apart hilariously into a pile of giggles, and her physicality would be her on the first string of a roller derby team.  Ingrid Balstad has a blast as Sister Mary Hubert, Mistress of Novices. And she take it to church for the 11 o’clock number “Holier than Thou”. Maria Lister Lyons brings the right edge to Sister Robert Anne, and is a delight the entire evening. Act II started off a little disheveled, it was preview night, but Lyons brought the thunder on her number “I Just Want to be a Star”, and got the pace back up to muster. Sister Mary Leo, portrayed with charming naivete by Christian Borkey, created entertaining moments during her solo turns.  But I have to admit, my favorite was Sister Mary Amnesia. Evie Koh killed this role. Her operatic range made “So You Want to be a Nun” a vocal comedic event. Koh has impeccable timing and charm, and basically, owned the audience.
There are times where the harmonies need to be tightened a bit.  Act II did seem to take a bit of time before the pace reconnected, but that probably has already been taken care of, and should be in fine form by now. A word of caution to the band members who face the audience, not to look depressed or disconnected.
I thought the puppet rocked, so kudos for getting ahold of her. And if you don’t know what I am talking about, that is ok, you need to see the show to find out.
Sandy Kosovich Peck directs a fun evening with lots of silliness to spar. The band was tight under the musical direction of Kyle Lorek. I was delighted with the choreography of the show, provided by Rick Bocchieri. The production staff was solid. Dave Peck produced the required elements with flash and color. Nice stained glass work. Technical Director Michael Roesch brought everything together nicely.  Good Lighting Design by Paul Gatzke. Sound Design was excellent by Tom Linsenmeier. Costumes were right on target under Hannah Sandham. And the show was Stage Managed in fine form by Korbin James Lashley. Rounding out the band were Erika Nalow on Saxophone, Jacob Kaminski on Bass, and Justice Bixel on Percussion.
This was fun.  Thanks for making me giggle.
October 9 – October 25


7:30pm Fridays
7:30pm Saturdays
2pm Sundays

$23-$25 Reserved Seating

(440) 951-7500
Order Tickets Online
Fine Arts Association
38660 Mentor Ave.
Willoughby OH 44094

White Rabbit Red Rabbit by Nassim Soleimanpour at Cleveland Public Theatre – Press Release


Cleveland Public Theatre 2015-2016 season opens with


By Nassim Soleimanpour


Cleveland, OH – Cleveland Public Theatre’s Executive Artistic Director Raymond Bobgan announces the launch CPT’s 2015-2016 season, featuring the regional premiere of White Rabbit Red Rabbit by Nassim Soleimanpour, produced in association with Aurora Nova Productions.

When playwright Nassim Soleimanpour was barred from leaving his native Iran due to his status as a conscientious objector* to military service, he transformed his isolation into a theatrical work that could cross boundaries freely—with no director, no set and a different actor performing each night—to explore themes of authority, obedience and social conditioning. White Rabbit Red Rabbit bridges a connection between playwright, actor and audience in a uniquely “live” theatrical experiment that is laced with humor, intimate revelation and a “menagerie of allegorical animals” (BBC News) that give the play its title.

CPT’s production will feature 16 Cleveland notables—each of whom will be handed the script in an envelope just moments before walking onstage, receiving no prior information about the production except to bring a water bottle and prepare an impersonation of an ostrich. CPT will provide a light reception and post-show discussion following each performance.

White Rabbit Red Rabbit has been called “stunning…thought-provoking and morally unsettling” (FringeReview) and “an absurdist adventure which sits on the boundary of comedy and drama” (The Guardian). The play has been translated into 15 different languages and performed over 200 times across the world since it premiered in 2011.


White Rabbit Red Rabbit has no director and features a different actor each night, as indicated in full cast list below. Stage Manager is Mandalyn Stevens. Additional production support provided by CPT staff. (list subject to change)

Jeremy Paul (Thursday, October 8) – Artistic Director, Theater Ninjas

Hon. Joe Cimperman (Friday, October 9) – Ward 3 Councilman, City of Cleveland

Darius Stubbs (Saturday, October 10) – Actor/Poet/Teaching Artist (Y-Haven Theatre Project)

Lilly Corona (Sunday, October 11) – Radio Announcer; Teatro Publico de Cleveland ensemble member

James Levin (Monday, October 12) – Founder, Cleveland Public Theatre; Community Activist & Festival Director

Stephanie Morrison Hrbek (Wednesday, October 14) – Executive Director, Near West Theatre

Peter Lawson Jones* (Thursday, October 15) – Actor; former Cuyahoga County Commissioner

RA Washington (Friday, October 16) – Owner/Founder, Guide to Kulchur; Writer & Musician

Bill Rudman (Saturday, October 17) – Actor; Founder, The Musical Theatre Project

Dana Hart* (Sunday, October 18) – Actor/Director

Derdriu Ring* (Monday, October 19) – Actor; Co-founder & Artistic Associate, Mamai Theatre Company

Mike Polk, Jr. (Wednesday, October 21) – Standup Comedian; TV Personality

Margaret Ford-Taylor (Thursday, October 22) – Playwright/Director/Actress; former Executive Director, Karamu House

Dr. Michael Mauldin* (Friday, October 23) – Actor/Director; Associate Professor and Founding Chair, Department of Theatre and Dance, Cleveland State University

David Hansen (Saturday, October 24) – Actor/Playwright/Director

Anne McEvoy (Sunday, October 25) – Actor/Playwright

*Actor appears courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers.

NOTE: The following message is included at the request of Aurora Nova Productions

URGENT – All media and press agents: This play is NOT overtly political, and should not be portrayed as such. It operates on a deeper, metaphoric level, and very expressly avoids overt political comment.  We therefore ask the press to be judicious in their reportage.


The Cleveland Public Theatre is located at 6415 Detroit Ave., Cleveland OH 44102 in the heart of the Gordon Square Arts District neighborhood.

White Rabbit Red Rabbit runs Thursday, October 8 through Sunday, October 25. Performances are Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday @ 7:00pm at Cleveland Public Theatre’s Parish Hall venue, on the east end of CPT’s campus. All performances will be followed by a light reception and post-show discussion.

Tickets are $20 – $25; repeat performances are just $10. Student and Seniors receive $3 off tickets on the weekends.

Tickets are available for purchase at or by phone at (216) 631-2727 ext 501. Group discounts are available for 10+. Call to inquire.

**Due to the intimate nature of the performance, there is NO LATE SEATING.**

For more information on Cleveland Public Theatre’s 2015-2016 season or to schedule an interview, please contact Cathleen O’Malley, Director of Audience Engagement and Media Relations at or 216-631-2727 x212 or

Director Insight – “5 Questions” – Ron Newell – The Ghost Train – Clague Playhouse

the ghost train

Clague Playhouse
Community Theatre

Director Ron Newell responded to Cleveland Stage Alliance’s “5 Questions” from CSA resident critic Kevin Kelly.

The TPOG Five:

Why did you choose to direct this show?

It’s all about story and the challenge of fitting an old fashion proscenium play onto our small thrust stage.

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

It doesn’t except for the fact that the lead character is a sound cue.

Can you share some memorable moments from the rehearsal period?

Shared moments…let me say this about that…11 actors on a postage stamp…suicidal to begin with had to use the Chinese fire drill method…All stage right x left and all stage left x right-those stage center pray and trust the director
What started as chaos turned out to be a Martha graham/Balanchine moment. Thanks to the actors.

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

After 4 weeks to six weeks rehearsal you think you know all there is to know about the play-enter the audience-the final step in the process-what resonates is their response to your work.  Good or bad deal with it.

What do you think you and the actors have accomplished?

Accomplish what we started out to do. Entertain.

Show Description:
A group of passengers are left stranded at a New England train station in this 1925 classic thriller. Forced to spend the night in the dingy waiting area, the travelers soon learn of the station’s eerie past and the phantom train that appears to haunt the tracks at the same time each night. Tempers flare and tension mounts as the commuters try to come to grips with the impending doom settling in around them.

ELSIE – Katie Atkinson
MISS BOURNE – Jean Cummins
SAUL – Mike Kunikis
RICHARD – Mark Mayo
JACKSON – Regis McGann
JULIA – Kate Miller
TEDDIE – Alex Nalbach
STERLING – Dennis Runkle
PEGGY – Alli St.John
PRICE – Lou Will
CHARLES – Brandon Wurgess

September 18 – October 11
8pm Thursdays
8pm Fridays
8pm Saturdays
2pm Sundays

$10-$16 Reserved Seating
(440) 331-0403

Clague Playhouse
1371 Clague Road

Westlake, Ohio 44145

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