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Resident Critic for www.ClevelandStageAlliance.com www.tpography.com – Kevin Kelly

TPOGraphy.com Editor: Robert Kowalewski

Month

February 2016

GODSPELL at Near West Theatre

In 2005, 13 year Near West Theatre veteran, Kelcie Nicole Dugger was in a production of Godspell at Near West Theatre. So it seemed a perfect time for Dugger to helm the current production in the glorious new building in Gordon Square Arts District, and give her spin on the classic musical.There is a bit of history with this show, because it was the first show ever produced by Near West Theatre in 1978. Two productions followed in 1987 and 1994, but what is fascinating about the production staff for this production, is that Assistant Director Anthony Williams, Assistant Musical Director Scott Pyle, and Dugger herself were all children in the 2005 production.That production enabled Dugger to personally identify what was involved in building a community, while embracing diversity.

Godspell is based on the ancient writings of Matthew, which examine the life and teachings of Jesus.The original production was brought to the world stage by John-Michael Tebelak in the early 1970’s.These inspiring stories of love, goodwill and compassion will come vividly to life through an eclectic blend of songs, ranging in style from pop to vaudeville, put forth by a passionate troupe of 9 to 15 year-olds!

This is a grand ensemble of 40 plus young people working hard on the stage and off to bring this musical to life. The role of Jesus is certainly pivotal in the show, and the casting of Felix Albino could not have been better. Albino has an immediate connection with the audience, offering a warm and gentle soul, but also adept at showing his stern warnings of veering off the path. His voice is majestic in the role, and certainly indicative of a young man finding his voice, literally, in the world of musical theatre. His rendition of ‘Beautiful City’ is perfection.

The first appearance of Judas is dramatic and cool as heck. This is accomplished by a fierce costume provided by Costume Designer Jen Ryan, and the lovely actress Jocelyn Perkins herself. Perkins presence is formidable and she has the acting chops and voice to back up her personae. Her rendition of ‘On the Willows’ is haunting and beautiful. One of the major standouts in this production is one of the youngest and tiniest in the show. Calista Zajac is absolutely amazing with her song ‘All Good Gifts’. You would never expect the voice that she creates. It reminds me of America’s Got Talent, when someone unexpectedly wows the judges, and results in a Golden Buzzer to the finals. This would be that performance.

Each song is performed with beautiful harmony and message. Corrine Howery and Christian Thomas bring joy and hope to ‘Day by Day’. Brett Nickolette and Abby Golden bring freshness and originality to ‘Learn your Lessons Well”.Morgan Williams injects grand energy and a high note for days in ‘Bless the Lord’. Zoe Hess adds her musical zest, along with Golden and Nickolette, to ‘Light of the World’. Angellise Irizarry brings as much sass as her parents would allow to ‘Turn Back, O Man’, having raucous fun with the bawdy tune. Ally Yellets adds her formidable talents to lead ‘By My Side’. Beck Saine kicks some theatre butt with his energetic rendition of ‘We Beseech Thee’, firing on all cylinders.

This is a harmonious ensemble that puts forth enough effort and zeal to inspire climate change. Dugger, with her production and technical crew, have done a wonderful job highlighting these young artists that leap and bound on this impressive stage.

Music Director – Matthew Dolan, Choreographer – Josh Landis, Set and Props Designer – Douglas Puskas, Technical Director Josh Padgett, Asst Tech Dir/Video Designer – Perren Hedderson, Stage Manager – Jeannie Clarkson, Asst Stage Manager – Eric Reising, Costume Designer Jen Ryan, Lighting Designer Rob Wachala, Sound Designer – Josh Caraballo, Scenic Artist – Jenny Hitmar Shankland

Dugger hopes “that this production inspires us to have more faith in obtaining unity amidst tremendous turmoil. If we can find a common ground, we can begin to heal”.

In my book, success is word of mouth. Alas, the last weekend of this show is Sold Out. That speaks for itself.

Kevin Kelly – CoolCleveland.com – ClevelandStageAlliance.com

 

 

 

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Theatre Review: ‘Pure Shock Value’ @nonetoofragile by Kevin Kelly – CoolCleveland.com

THEATER REVIEW: ‘Pure Shock Value’ @NoneTooFragile by Kevin Kelly

Pure Shock Value

Thru  Sat 2/13

This is a bad-ass production at a bad-ass theatre! None Too Fragile theatre in Akron has established themselves as a no- bullshit, unpretentious, ball-busting company not afraid to go into the deep end of the pool. This current production is a perfect example of letting go of the roller coaster handle bars and throw your hands up in the air because you just don’t care.

Obviously, author Matt Pelfrey is, or knows someone who is, pissed off at the  film festival circuit. This diatribe railing against everything pretentious about the honored cult hip few, and the system where crap sells if you can make it smell different is on full tilt in the back room of Pub Bricco.

NTF co-founder/artistic director Sean Derry directs this piece with wild abandon and ferocious tenacity. He doesn’t let his actors miss one moment of pure adrenaline and focus. It’s all accomplished with deft staging. He has produced one awesome trainwreck of absolute joy.

The four actors who inhabit this world are fabulous and at the top of their game. The calmest, if there is a calm in this crazy show, is Brian Kenneth Armour as Ethan. With beautifully understated humor and timing, he gives a down-to-earth quality to Ethan, but allows himself to make us believe that what he plans on doing sometimes is OK. You find yourself laughing at things you shouldn’t. A lot of that is the solid acting taking place with this talented man.

Robert Branch as Julian Quintana resembles Weekend at Bernie’s on crack. His physicality must be incredibly challenging to execute and he does it brilliantly. With indecipherable syllables, Branch makes the most of his vulnerable position and executes great comedic timing. His final declaration of truth almost sends the audience into doing the wave throughout the theater, screaming “Hell Yeah”.

Obviously Sophia Vergara has a sister, who is a sexy hot bitch named Gabby. Alanna Romansky (co-founder/artistic director), brings Gabby some fierce internal fire. She chews more scenery with her accent than a college town of carpenter ants on spring break at the white party. With her sexy curves, comedic chops, and having more balls than all the men in the audience, she is fierce.

But the pinnacle of this production is Benjamin Gregorio as Tex. Picture Matthew McConaughey doing an 8-ball and then giving the performance of his life. It’s a nonstop full-speed neck-brace performance in which he stays within the lines of the road, and takes everyone along with him for a scary wild ride. This is his debut at None Too Fragile, and there is nothing remotely fragile about this actor’s intrinsic acting choices. He has to be exhausted after this and so is the audience, because Gregorio makes us pay attention and emotionally takes us on a ride with him, whether you want to or not. Brilliant Work!

This is not a show you take your mother to on Mother’s Day, which is why you need to get to this theater, take a shot of Jameson with the crowd, and get ready to rock and roll. I can assure you, you will never guess what is going to happen next. It is rough and vulgar, but oh so sweet.

For ticket and show information go to nonetoofragile.com.

east cleveland theater presents bruce norris’s clybourne park

http://coolcleveland.com/blog/2016/02/east-cleveland-theater-presents-bruce-norriss-clybourne-park/

oberlin college presents leo tolstoys family happens

http://coolcleveland.com/blog/2016/02/oberlin-college-presents-leo-tolstoys-family-happens/

weathervane playhouse presents nicky silvers the lyons

http://coolcleveland.com/blog/2016/02/weathervane-playhouse-presents-nicky-silvers-the-lyons/

lakeland civic theatre presents stephen sondheims into the woods

http://coolcleveland.com/blog/2016/02/lakeland-civic-theatre-presents-stephen-sondheims-into-the-woods/

ensemble theatre presents charles smiths golden leaf ragtime blue

http://coolcleveland.com/blog/2016/02/ensemble-theatre-presents-charles-smiths-golden-leaf-ragtime-blue/

PROOF AT CLAGUE PLAYHOUSE

http://coolcleveland.com/blog/2016/02/clague-playhouse-presents-david-auburns-proof-in-stunning-style/

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