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Wednesday, February 26, 2014


If you would like me to visit your theatre and review your production or special event, please leave contact information in the comment section.

I appreciate all of the positive feedback so far.

Kevin Joseph Kelly

Monday, February 24, 2014


There is a very special community theatre in Avon Lake that is celebrating its 55th season. Mighty Goliath Productions, more popularly known as MGP, has produced for 55 years, infusing community, spirit, empowering young people, providing family entertainment, and contributing proceeds toward the performing arts programs of the Avon Lake City Schools. Quite an accomplishment. The current production of “Once Upon A Mattress” is dedicated to the memory of Betty S. Dingledy who, together with her husband Ed, was responsible for what is known today as MGP, when she created the 1959 Minstrel Show.

MGP has a unique approach to casting and rehearsing. The ensemble is open to everyone, regardless of experience. They look for singers/actors, but if you show up, you're in, thus eliminating a high pressure audition process that might dissuade someone from participating in the show. The lead roles are cast in a more traditional manner. Also, they only rehearse on Friday nights. But the magic is pulled together during the final week before opening night. Truly a remarkable feat. On this, MGP stands alone.

The current production of “Once Upon A Mattress” is pleasantly directed by Ian Atwood, and skillfully produced by Jessica Atwood, who concurrently produced an Atwood heir, Neil Francis. “Once Upon A Mattress” is the hysterical tweaking of the fairy tale, “The Princess and the Pea.” The kingdom is an unhappy one because Queen Aggravain has ruled that none may marry until her son, Prince Dauntless, marries a princess of royal blood. However, she has managed to sabotage every princess that comes along. When Sir Harry and Lady Larken learn that they are going to be parents, wed or not, Sir Harry goes off to the swamps and brings back an ungainly, brash Princess Winnifred, ("Fred" to her friends). The queen is horrified and immediately begins to scheme. However, Winnifred, with some help from Sir Harry, the King, and the Jester, isn't going to be quite so easy to get rid of. The original show was the break out vehicle for Carol Burnett as Winnifred.

The 21 piece orchestra, led by its director Jim Lucas, starts the evening off with delicious instrumentation flowing from a formal pit, that saturates the space with energy and anticipation. Atwood updates a more modern approach, which is reflected in the costumes (designer Joann Sarvas) and references to modern media like Facebook. The same conundrum of "first impressions" and the resistance of our kids leaving the nest are relevant in any time period.  

Kristen Jones as Queen Aggravain delightfully chews more scenery than a flood of carpenter ants. With comedic chops in tow, she dominates her family, struggles to let go, and eventually gets her comeuppance. Winnifred the Woebegone and Prince Dauntless, Brittney-Jade Colangelo and Lucas A. Scattergood, remind me of Carol Burnett and Harvey Korman. Colangelo deftly handles the prime role with chaotic charm and a set of pipes that commands attention. Scattergood plays the mama's boy well, infusing laughter everywhere in his quest for a wife. There is a great connection between these two that evokes rooting for the jocular couple. Lady Larkin and Sir Harry, Amanda Isula and Brett Hall, utilize their good looks and strong voices, to enhance their fertile love story with great chemistry and Disney moments for days. 

At one moment during the show, it clicked. Three Stooges. Three Musketeers. Minstrel, Jester, and King Sexitmus (Douglas F. Bailey II, Steve Schuerger and Jerry Popiel). Three actors who should always travel together and create havoc as a job. Their shtick is ineffable. Bailey provides gorgeous vocals, blessed with clarity and control. Schuerger utilizes his physicality to great aplomb with comedic skills. Popeil is a beautiful hot mess of vocal distress. Unable to speak as a result of a curse, he gesticulates a lot, creating a hilarious interpretation of the birds and the bees along the way. 

Matthew Cuffari as the Wizard, Aggravain's sidekick, provides deleterious delightful moments, while possessing a strong voice that gets to glimmer once but, unfortunately, not more in the script. As the Nightingale, Grace Penzualto is a flapping, operatic, feathered creation of paradise, working the cage like a pro, and providing hilarious results.

As chorographer, Jessica Atwood moves the ensemble well by providing steps for the novice, and slick moves for the hoofers, managing the large cast in good order. Nice work is done by Musical Director James Kotora. The ensemble voices provide luscious vocals. Kudos to Scenic Designer Gary Fischer for the multi-colored cracker jack bed, that holds quite a surprise.

MGP is pure community theatre at its best, standing the test of time and providing the community and the actors with boundless rewards.

Kevin Joseph Kelly


Staff and Cast:

Director: Ian Atwood
Music Director: Jim Kotora

Winnifred the Woebegone…Brittney-Jade Colangelo
Prince Dauntless…Luke Scattergood
Lady Larken…Amanda Isula
Sir Harry…Brett Hall
Minstrel…Douglas F. Bailey II
Jester…Steve Schuerger
King…Jerry Popiel
Queen…Kristen Jones
Wizard…Matthew Cuffari
Nightingale…Grace Penzvalto


February 21 - March 1
7:30pm Fridays
7:30pm Saturdays
2pm Sunday

$12-$15 General Admission

Order Tickets Online
Avon Lake High School
175 Avon Belden Road
Avon Lake, OH 44012

Sunday, February 23, 2014


Roland Hayes (June 3, 1887 – January 1, 1977) was an American lyric tenor. He is considered the first African-American male concert artist to receive wide acclaim both at home and internationally. "BREATH AND IMAGINATION" by Daniel Beaty, opened downtown at the Allen Theatre, produced by the first professional regional theatre in the country, the Cleveland Play House. It is a soaring tale of Roland Hayes and his rise from the fields of Georgia, to performing at Fisk University, Buckingham Palace, and then on to international acclaim.

Author Marva Carter summed up Hayes' life and career:
"Hayes' life of almost ninety years reveals a remarkable story of a man who went from the plantation to the palace, performing before kings and queens, with the finest international and American orchestras, in segregated communities before blacks and whites alike. He was of small stature, dignified manner, and non-violent persuasion. He chose to overcome racism by example and in doing so became a trailblazer. When he sang, art became more than polished excellence. It appealed to something universal, something beyond the emotions, and something beyond the intellect, something one could call the soul."

This production, beautifully crafted by director May Adrales, delivers one powerful moment after another, illuminating Haye's spirit, drive and resolve. The story is set upon a stage (brilliantly designed by Rachel Hauck) adorned with classical columns, a piano, and a grandiose tree that glows with the essence of wisdom, illuminates divinity, and with its metallic puffs of leaves, provides comfort for the turbulence of a ground breaking life.

At first, we find Hayes announcing a decision to close a music school, as a result of his family being arrested for sitting in a white-only section of a shoe store, and  then being beaten while trying to defend them. Flashbacks allow us to follow Hayes' (magnificently embodied by Cleveland native Elijah Rock) journey from a young child, being reared by his mother Angel Mo' (beautifully played by Daphne Gaines), as he transcends the racist south to become a role model for young blacks everywhere. It is a fascinating story of courage and drive as he faces his father’s death at 11, moving to Chattanooga at 14, and then, at 16, experiencing self-actualization of purpose listening to Caruso for the first time. At 18, Hayes is at Fisk University, receiving the professional training that will transport him to eventual international acclaim. There are many lessons to be learned. Watching them be taught, lived and interpreted is mesmerizing.

Rock and Gaines turn in spectacular performances. They create a tremendous love story that enters your heart and continues to grow through the entire performance. Hayes, who is equipped with an instrument from above, sings with adept passion, interpreting  the storytelling and performance pieces with classical aplomb. Gaines provides her own sizzle by providing enough soul and vocal comfort food to placate the hardest of hearts. Each one delivers over and over again, but I will admit that "Over My Head" by Rock, and "Don't You Weep When I'm Gone" had me emotionally raw. 

Throughout the play, there is another actor and musician (the clever and accomplished Tom Frey), knocking it out of the park. He takes on a myriad of roles that include: Accompanist/Officer/Preacher/Pa/Mr. Calhoun/Miss Robinson/Frenchman/ King George V. Quite an undertaking, but Frey makes each character different and entertaining, whether providing levity, racism, or unsettled emotion, and his deft musicality comes across loud and clear from the keyboard.

Watching this play, I realized I was watching several love stories unfold: The love between a mother and her son, constantly reinforcing him to "Keep Your Focus.” The love between a son and his mother, so strong he takes her with him when he moves to Boston so she won't be alone. The love between an artist and his craft, an undying passion driven by the soul to embrace a melodic expression that only music can provide. 

It is a grand evening supported by great designers of Sound (James C. Swonger), Projections (Jared Mezzocchi), Costumes (Jennifer Moeller), and Lighting (Jeff Nellis), and Music enhanced by the proficient work of Arranger Mike Ruckles and Musical Director Rahn Coleman.

Embrace Playhouse Square, visit Cleveland Play House at the Allen Theatre. You will leave enlightened.

Kevin Joseph Kelly


Staff and Cast:

Director: May Adrales

Daphne Gaines: Angel Mo'
Elijah Rock: Roland Hayes
Tom Frey: The Accompanist


February 14 - March 9
7:30pm Tuesdays
8pm Wednesdays
8pm Thursdays
8pm Fridays
2:30pm and 8pm Saturdays
2:30pm Sundays

$15-$55 Reserved Seating

(216) 241-6000
Order Tickets Online
Cleveland Play House at Playhouse Square
Allen Theater Complex
1407 Euclid Avenue

Cleveland, OH 44115


Friday, February 21, 2014


                                                                                                                                                             At the height of my tennis career, if I watched a professional tennis match on TV, I immediately would want to grab my racket and head for the courts, filled with energy and inspiration. That is how I felt after watching Great Lakes Theatre’s production of “Deathtrap” written by Ira Levin and directed with robust insanity by Charles Fee. No, not to play tennis, but hit the boards and act my face off.

Great Lakes Theater is Cleveland, Ohio's professional classic theater company. Founded in 1962, Great Lakes is the second-largest regional theater in Northeast Ohio. It specializes in large-cast classic plays with a strong foundation in the works of Shakespeare and features an educational outreach program. The company performs its main stage productions in rotating repertory at its state-of-the-art new home at the Hanna Theatre, Playhouse Square, which reopened on September 20, 2008. The organization shares a resident company of artists with the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, which current Artistic Director Charles Fee engineered. Great Lakes Theater was formerly known as Great Lakes Theater Festival, which continues to be its legal name. “Festival” was dropped from the classic theater company’s business name to better reflect its September through May season, and programming format.

Written in 1978, “Deathtrap” holds the record for the longest running comedy-thriller on Broadway, and was also nominated for the Tony Award for Best Play. Cunningly clever and comically twisted, “Deathtrap” is a murder mystery masterpiece that keeps you on the edge of your seat, trying to figure out where the madness ends. When a once successful Broadway playwright struggles to overcome a dry spell that’s resulted in a string of flops and a shortage of funds, anxiety ensues. His fortunes turn when one of his students shares a brilliant new script with blockbuster potential. Resolved to resurrect his collapsing career, the covetous playwright conceives of a treacherous trap to snare the script and take credit for its creation. Murderous machinations result, springing to a surprising conclusion.

The technical and creative elements of this production deserve strong accolades. Scenic Designer Russell Metheny knocks it out of the park with his single set masterpiece. Sound and Lighting Designers, Richard B. Ingraham and Rick Martin, provide razor sharp effects to greatly enhance this journey of whodunit and what the……! Costume Designer Alex Jaeger provides terrific visions of town and country, popped collars, psychic eccentricity, and dwindling wealth.

The professional actors of this company deserved, and received, a standing ovation. The cast is a classic exhibition of great casting and actors at the top of their game. Watching Sidney Bruhl (the delightful Tom Ford) navigate through his plotting and chicanery, is like hopping on a mechanical bull and just holding on for dear life. Tracee Patterson (Cleveland’s answer to Meryl Streep), brings emotional chaos, conniving realness and misplaced loyalty to Myra Bruhl. Nick Steen enters the picture as Clifford Anderson, the student/secretary, with superhero looks and acting chops that deftly create a sense of innocence, greed, cunning, and eventually horror. Helga Ten Dorp, the neighborhood psychic, is played with comedic bliss by Lynn Allison. She inhabits Helga with a dramatic sense of “ah ha” moments, that would certainly move her to the front of the line for “the next AHS supreme”. Aled Davies adds just the right touch of classic and comedic flair to the suspicious, and opportunist attorney Porter Milgrim.

This cast is a blast. I felt like I had only been in the theatre for a half an hour, because the pace is excellent. I wish I could have joined them for happy hour for act three. Get yourself out to see this show. It is a delightful whodunit which serves up an evening of artists to cherish.

Kevin Joseph Kelly

Staff and Cast:

Director: Charles Fee

Lynn Allison - Helga Ten Dorp
Aled Davies - Porter Milgrim
Tom Ford - Sidney Bruhl
Tracee Patterson - Myra Bruhl
Nick Steen - Clifford Anderson


Tickets and Press
February 21 - March 16

7:30pm Wednesdays
7:30pm Thursdays
7:30pm Fridays
1:30pm and 7:30pm Saturdays (no matinee on 2/22)
3pm Sundays

$13-$70 Reserved Seating

(216) 241-6000
Order Tickets Online
Hanna Theatre at Playhouse Square
2067 East 14th St.

Cleveland, OH 44115

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Within most thriving community theatres lies youth education and theatre programs. These programs provide an aortic energy to the arts institution by infusing energy, growth and enabling a future vision of artists. I was invited to view part of the dynamic vision that exists within the Fine Arts Association, located in Willoughby, OH, by attending the Yarnell Youth Theatre Production of “Doctor Dolittle, A New Musical,” with book, music and lyrics by Leslie Briscusse, based on the Doctor Dolittle stories by Hugh Lofting and the Twentieth Century Fox film.

The musical concerns the classic tale of a wacky but kind doctor who can talk to animals. The show takes the audience on a journey from the small English village of Puddleby-in-the-Marsh to the far corners of the world. Doctor Dolittle is wrongly accused of murder and, once pronounced innocent, continues with his search for the Great Pink Sea Snail--the oldest and wisest of the creatures on earth. He is accompanied by his closest animal friends, delightfully portrayed by a cast of charming actors. Utilizing flashbacks, we relive the trial, before we go on the great snail adventure.

Fine Arts Association Artistic Director, the dynamic James Mango, serves the production well by placing Director David Malinowski at the helm of this adventure. Malinowski has cast well and delivered an adeptly paced show. Smooth scene changes are orchestrated to keep our attention and focus. Under Malinowski’s guidance, full characterizations abound. Music Direction by David W. Coxe is delivered in fine fashion from the pit, which I loved, providing a great musical landscape for the performers to excel upon. Lisa-Marie French provided choreography  that was light and refreshing, moving the masses with whimsical madness. The set design rocked (Michael Roesch), filling the space with grandeur and also providing smoothly moving pieces that create the various playful regions. Lighting Designer Paul Gatzke added creative fuel to the fire. From all accounts, Production Stage Manager Evie Koh made the proceedings run smoothly as Dolittle’s ship before the storm.

The cast is led by a trio of musical athletes, Mario Formica (Doctor Dolittle), Bryan Patrick Daly (Matthew Mugg), and Ali Collingwood (Emma Fairfax). These folks would certainly be taken in the first round of any draft (I think they could even help the Browns). Their performances create a wave of artistry and energy that enables the rest of the cast to excel in their wake. Formica takes on the title role with supreme confidence. He splendidly delivers a captivating performance, which includes adept diction and colorful animal communication skills which are hilarious. Truly a blast. Speaking of a blast, Daly is a tornado of zest, gusto and ridiculous charm. This Irish crooner utilizes great comedic form, and has a gifted voice with timbre and a pleasant vibrato beyond his years. His antics always lighten up whatever scene he blissfully invades. Balancing the theatrical scale is the remarkable Ali Collingwood. Collingwood is spectacular. Confident, beautiful, and possessing a voice that could melt the Polar Vortex. Her deft delivery, timing and characterization are a joy to watch.  It does not surprise me that she was accepted into the Baldwin Wallace Musical Theatre Conservatory.

However, the talent doesn’t stop there. Several other performances deserve note. Stephen Sandham (Tommy Stubbins) is terrific. His clear diction, character and profound confidence win over the audience. Nora DeMilta (Polynesia) is the perfect right hand……..bird! Her physicality and character work is good, which brings the fabulous parrot to life. Owen Lister (General Bellows) is a scream. His courtroom antics liven up the place. High above the courtroom, he indeed provides a commanding presence. Ben Whitney (Albert Blossom) is a complete delight. His personality and charm inhabit the stage like a 5 hour energy drink.  As Gertie Blossom, Elizabeth Meluch adds charm, and Max Brodzinski (Straight Arrow) hits a bull’s eye with great character choices and a solid voice to boot.

The ensemble works together extremely well. Whether it is in big production numbers, scene changes, or providing courtroom participation, they are creating energy that serves the right purpose. The only thing for them to work on is not looking out into the audience, which is a novice mistake, and one easily overcome. But that is a minor detail in a wonderful production on all ends.

I am sure that the Fine Arts Association is proud of what everyone has created. They should be. The future looks bright in Willoughby.

Kevin Joseph Kelly

February 14 - March 2

7:30pm Fridays
2pm Saturdays
2pm Sunday

Fine Arts is partnering with Lake Humane Society during "Doctor Dolittle."  Bring dog and cat food and supplies to Fine Arts from Jan. 24-Mar. 2 to help care for these precious lives.  Or make an online donation of $$ here.

$10-$17 Reserved Seating
(440) 951-7500

Fine Arts Association
38660 Mentor Ave.
Willoughby OH 44094

Friday, February 14, 2014


Tonight I got to experience Air Waves (Part Three Of The Elements Cycle) at Cleveland PUBLIC theatre. Therefore, I got to experience Raymond Bobgan and his sapient vision. And what a joyous vision it is. This is my first visitation to the world of creationist theatre. Building out of nothing, a story is grown through raw energy, talent and a visceral evolution. It thrives at CPT, and Bobgan was recognized by “American Theatre Magazine,” as one of 25 theatre artists who are working to shape the next 25 years of theatre in America. Working with a number of local actors and writers, this is a collaboration and celebration of artists and artistry. 

As you enter the space, tables have been set up with questions on them. You get to read several statements that are proposed to answer and provoke thought. In front of me was “I crave more…….” Myriad responses, some highlighted with colored dots of agreement. My answer was…… Justice. “Hosts” join the audience at their tables, providing insight and discussion about how the evening is going to move. At my table were hosts Darius Stubbs and Caitlin Lewins, who are both excellent throughout the evening and quite the tag team. This particular adventure begins with George (Adam Seeholzer), Jeannette (Cassie Neumann), and Kim (Faye Hargate). Hargate’s character leads a city-wide initiative to buy the air over people’s houses. Each character is beautifully created. The first song, “De Bo Gah,” written by Bobgan, is a Buddhist delight. Helen (Molly Andrews-Hinders), Tina (Dionne Atchison) and Therese (Carly Garinger) knock it out of the temple. These actresses also excel through the evening’s proceedings.

We then move to a new space with a simple arrangement of chairs, and are soon listening to four women with significant messages, and also magnificent voices.  Created by Molly Andrews-Hinders, this scene provokes us to listen and relish in the compromise. Speaking of the music, it’s excellent. The harmonies are clear and hauntingly effective. In moments, we are on an airplane watching Jonathan (an engaging Jeremy Lewis) facing final thoughts and decisions. The cast creates some kick ass motion sickness in interpreting a landing which is not what most of us would hope for. The interlude “Air Pool” is powerful, and reminds me what might happen if Ghandi and Cirque Du Soleil would have collaborated. It is visually exciting and inventive.

Physically, we move again, and what awaits us is Daryl and the Queen. Both are played with ferocious intensity and comedic brilliance by Chris Seibert. Not to give anything away, but this came out of nowhere, and I am still processing what happened to me. Siebert’s performance is so strong that if the next hurricane isn’t named after her, I’m gonna be pissed. Moving along, we meet Hargate again, who Carol Burnetts her way to a self meditation session that had me renewing my Xanax prescription when I got home.
The subway provides a backdrop for some continued courageous work by Caitlin Lewins playing the mom, Cassie Neumann (Jeannette), and Nate Miller (Rumpelstiltskin). They do so much during this show but their work here, addressing a simple yet complex medical issue that  affects  so many of us, is heartbreaking. Newmann’s Jeannette is engaging in every aspect, and leaves each scene throughout the night with incredible truth. Now it’s game time, but a game that makes emotions and truths, the weapon. Renee Schilling and Lauren Joy Fraley as Contestant #1 and #2 respectively, kill this scene. Their deft choices and extreme focus are mesmerizing.

Act II brings the question, “What if you could ask someone from the future what to watch out for? And if you could go back, what would you change?” My answer was to end the virus at the beginning.
We now are following the journey of George (played with endearing and emotional depth by Seehozler) as he battles his loss.  Watching someone split themselves open in order to reconnect is a struggle that many of us experience. And he nails it. Before we say goodbye, we meet Ford and Edison (Schilling and Fraley, respectively). This scene is a scream. I just want them to know that I want to apply for the driver on their tour bus. They are a Broadway play waiting to happen. After the laughs, we are met with the end resolve. George and Jeannette finally come to terms, of sorts. The evening left me with one burning statement: “It’s all one breath. It’s what we do with it.” Every scene asks the same question. What do we do with our breath, with our air that we are so lucky to have? How do we treat the air, this gift of life? So many questions wrestle in my brain. There are so many reasons why I was so happy to see this play.

To everyone in this production, congratulations.  All of these actors contribute so much in every scene. Ali Garrigan costumes the show with flair, and Benjamin Gantose’s lighting design engulfs the show with dramatic effect.  Thank you, Mr. Bobgan, for bringing this fresh approach to theatre and guiding it to life. You take all the actors and playwrights with you, and the best part is that the audience gets to ride along.

Kevin Joseph Kelly

Staff and Cast:

Director: Raymond Bobgan

Featuring Molly Andrews-Hinders, Dionne Atchison, Melissa Crum, Lauren Fraley, Carly Garinger, Faye Hargate, Caitlin Lewins, Jeremy Lewis, Nate Miller, Cassie Neumann, Renee Schilling, Adam Seeholzer, Chris Seibert, Darius Stubbs, and 
Dylan Winter-Dwyer

January 30-February 15
7:30pm Thursdays (Monday and Thursday performances $12)
7:30pm Fridays (FREE BEER FRIDAY after the show)
7:30pm Saturdays
7:30pm Mondays (Monday and Thursday performances $12)

$12-$28 General Admission
(216) 631-2727 extension 501

Cleveland Public Theatre
Gordon Square Theatre
6415 Detroit Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44102

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


77 years ago, Nobel Prize winning author John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” was published. Telling the story of George Milton and Lennie Small, two migrant ranch workers, who move from place to place in search of work during the Great Depression in California. It is based on Steinbeck’s own experiences in the 1920’s. its title comes from a Robert Burns poem, “To A Mouse,” which contains this ominous line: “The best laid schemes of mice and men / often go awry.”The 1937 Broadway stage production of “Of Mice and Men,” was written by Steinbeck himself. The book, in fact, was written by Steinbeck as a kind of hybrid between a novel and a play, with the story divided into three acts consisting of two chapters each, and was intended to work both as a literary and theatrical text.

Director Michael Dempsey does a beautiful job of presenting this valued piece of American theatre. This production is cast well, and includes some musical underscoring which is reminiscent of Masterpiece Theatre in the presentation. I thought it was used with great effect. This was greatly enhanced by the work of the terrific sound designer Stan Kozak. The authentic set results from expert design and craftsmanship from set designer Cameron Caley-Michalak. He has a great sense of how to utilize space and make the most out of budgetary constraints. The results add a tremendous atmosphere. Accented by the lighting design work of Scott Sutton, it is a perfect setting.  Costume Designer Luke Scattergood adds another creative dimension with adroit choices. Dempsey pulls all of these elements together for a fine night of storytelling.

There is much to celebrate about this production, led by the performances of Brian McNally as“George” and Nate Sayatovich as “Lenny”. They consume these roles. The chemistry between these two is tangible and captivating. McNally is excellent. His manner of speech, movement, inflection, and emotions are dead on. McNally’s performance is based in refreshing truth. Equally as powerful is Sayatovich. Lennie is a demanding role, that requires an actor to not make a mockery out of someone less fortunate, but create a human that we can relate to and root for. Sayatovich engulfs his role, providing a child-like presence, while inexplicably riding the surface of his determinable reckless strength. It is a deft, realistic presentation.

The supportive cast is great. Bob Kenderes gives Candy beautiful simplicity and honor as a man who is coming to the end of his journey, but dreams on. Crooks, played by Greg White, gives a searing performance that addresses the racial tensions of the day, and the loneliness that segregation causes to a human soul. Eric Perusek creates a callous, jealous, jerk out of Curly. I know I enjoyed when the tables were turned on him. Andrew Knode excelled at bringing depth and compassion to Slim. His silent support of George toward the end is very moving. Greg Mandryk’s Carlson looks like he just stepped out of a John Houston film. His mustached personae is great. David Arrendondo and Herb Hadders as Boss and Whit, round out the cast nicely.

As the lone female in the cast, Kelly Marie Tomko, brings a restless sweetness as Curley’s Wife. An unnamed character, it is her job to bring a danger to the proceedings, and eventually to Lennie. Tomko holds her own against this cast. Her beautiful looks are delicately balanced with a dangerous desire for attention. She handles the crisis with Lennie with noble strength and focus.

One last note. The ending. Mr. Dempsey, that rocked!

Artistic Director/Founder Rick Fortney has every reason to be proud.
Get out to TrueNorth Cultural Arts and continue to build on our community theatres!

February 7 - February 23

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

$10-$18 Reserved Seating
(440) 949-5200

TrueNorth Cultural Arts
French Creek Nature & Arts Center
4530 Colorado Ave.
Sheffield Village, OH 44054

Kevin Joseph Kelly

Sunday, February 9, 2014


Cassidy Theatre in Parma Heights, OH, is celebrating its 40th anniversary. THAT is a tremendous achievement. I think this community theatre is a gift to the Cleveland area and has produced some notable artists that have come up through its ranks, and even made it to Broadway and National Tours. Can I get a Corey Mach up in here! Currently President/Artistic Director Bob Stoesser and Vice-President Georgia Muttilo are at the helm, keeping the doors of this community theatre factory open in a competitive market and succeeding. And so, the classic “Guys and Dolls” kicks off the 40th season in high spirits.

Based on “The Idyll of Sarah Brown” and characters by Damon Runyon, this oddball romantic comedy, considered by many to be the perfect musical, introduces us to a cast of vivid characters, including Sarah Brown, the upright but uptight "mission doll," Sky Masterson, the slick, high-rolling gambler, Adelaide, the chronically ill nightclub performer and Nathan Detroit, her devoted fiancĂ©, desperate as always to find a spot for his infamous floating crap game.

Thankfully, the production is directed and choreographed by Kristen Netzband. She has assembled a fine group of colorful actors. Her vision is right on with adept casting and Hot Box numbers that tantalize the audiences with legs for days, and crisp moves that evoke the era and bawdy humor. Netzband infuses a solid pace and never lets us lose focus. It reminds me of the heydays of Greenbriar Theatre and that is a very good thing.

Providing the soundtrack is Heidi Herczeg, who assembles a fine band, equipped with a solid horn section to alight the score in a brass blaze.

Set designer Kenneth Slaughter ( congrats papa-to-be!) does excellent nesting work by creating a colorful, dynamic set that really creates a period mood and energy. It is one of the best recent sets that I have seen at Cassidy.

Major kudos to costumer Sarah Claire, who knocked it out of the park by providing great period costumes, and sent the Hot Box numbers to another level by wrapping them in whimsical perfection.

Headlining the romantic leads are Trey Gilpin (Sky)  and Kate Michalski (Sarah)  Gilpin takes on Masterson with an intelligent edge, not overplaying the bravado, but utilizing an underplayed strength to thwart his opposition. Kindness kills just as effectively. "My Time of Day" was my personal favorite.

Kate Michalski brings a sweetness, sublimely mixed with resolve to her Sarah Brown. Her bright soprano voice is beautiful. Michalski conveys empathetic realness. "If I Were A Bell" is a challenge for any actress to ride the line of tipsyness and deliver honest humor. Her take on this favorite is one of the best I have ever seen, with great choices within the song, and throughout the show. Her "Dulce De Leche" tango was an audience favorite.

Nathan Detroit is one half of the dynamic duo that ignites for some of the show's most funniest and most enjoyable moments and musical numbers. The actor portraying Nathan needs bravado, musicality, and a strong comedic sense. Luckily, Steve Brown has them all is spades. Brown inhabits his character with deft timing, an engaging personality, and a voice that harmonizes and holds its own. Brown's Detroit is a blast to watch, playing every moment at full tilt.

Complimenting Brown on every front,  is Kim Eskut as Miss Adelaide. Her Adelaide is a long engaged, neurotic hot mess, which is a beautiful thing. Eskut chews the scenery and puts her newly remodeled chassis to good use, dancing, prancing and bringing nasal realness to her mission to get hitched. Eskut delivers a strong comedic performance. She's a hoofer, too, which just adds to the insane party.

Within the Salvation Army, Patrick Carroll's Arvide is a pleasant presence and delivers a heartfelt rendition of "More I Cannot Wish You”. Bernadette Hisey represents authority well as General Matilda B. Cartwright, adding her strong vocals to the fold. Lt. Brannigan is delightfully played by Jason Uzl, when he isn't literally firing up his trumpet in the band.

The gamblers were a bunch of delightful loaded dice. Leading the pack is Lou Petrucci, knocking Nicely-Nicely Johnson out of the casino. With a powerful presence, exquisite timing, and a voice that would make a cop siren jealous, he nails it. Petrucci brings the house down with "Sit Down, You're Rocking The Boat,”Nicely-Nicely done. Bravo!

A great surprise is Gavin Gangi as Benny Southstreet, creating a lovable devilish sidekick to the madness. With street charm for days, he deftly adds mayhem to the proceedings and kicks off the show well, when he helps nail the duet anthem "Guys and Dolls.” He's a gangsta you'd invite to dinner, but hide the real silver.

Jeremy Jenkins's Harry the Horse is so real, you think he just time travelled from the era, with great character choices and a face that
eliot Ness would love to hate. Jordan Fleming's split personality fits him well, as he covers the Master of Ceremonies, and then slips into a great Big Jule. Donning a firey red hat, he makes it work as someone whose gun makes up for inches. Whether you look down or up at a gun, it’s still a gun.

The rest of the ensemble works their magic. There is such great chemistry in this cast and I felt like I was watching a party as a special guest, and they were just showing off. It certainly seemed like a drama free cast kicking up one hell of a good time!

Congratulations Cassidy Theatre! 40 years is a tremendous achievement!
Go see this show and support this theatre. And, in fact, get out there and support all community theatres.

February 7 - February 23

8pm Fridays
8pm Saturdays
3pm Sundays

$15-$20 Reserved Seating
(440) 842-4600

Cassidy Theatre
6200 Pearl Road
Parma Heights, OH 44130

Friday, February 7, 2014


Cinderella went to the ball and it had a happy ending. Carrie White went to the ball and the result, was a hot mess. In 1976, the film “Carrie” exploded into movie houses telling the tale of a young teenager, with a unique gift, who is trying to find herself in high school. We all know how cruel kids can be, especially if you are plain and don't fit in. Add in a hyper religious mother with assiduous control over any decision that would allow her to mature and gain independence, and the results are not kind to anyone. Currently at Beck Center for the Arts, the stage production of CARRIE, THE MUSICAL is heating up the boards, or what is left of them.

This production is directed by Victoria Bussert. That alone takes me to a place of high anticipation and excitement. It reminds me of being at a racetrack, feeling the intensity in the air, watching the horses come into the starting gates, feeling the athletic energy rip through the atmosphere, then hearing the bell, and all hell breaks loose. When the lights go down, I hear that bell. I know that my anticipation will be met with musical athletes that have professionally trained through academia at the Baldwin Wallace University Conservatory, which is one of the strongest musical theatre programs in the country, led by Bussert herself. This production is a nostalgic gift of epic proportions. Paced with energy and deft scene changes that never let you fade away.

From the very first number, the athletic nature of the dance is dictated beautifully by choreographer Gregory Daniels. Watching the ensemble explode onto the stage, reminded me of a Crossfit WOD that was designed to create a musical Seal Team. It was hot, pulsating, and with flair for days.

Nancy Maier provides great musical direction and a glorious orchestra to tell the tale of Sween.... I mean Carrie.

Carrie White appears, sublimely played by Caitlin Houlahan. Her charming unassuming presence made you want to protect her. Watching her journey was enthralling, creating a character wrapped in shyness and fear, then slowly evolving and discovering her inner power, powers, and confidence that grew with every encounter. She morphed slowly and surely as she dealt with her body changing, her mother’s religious fanaticism, the pain of high school identity, and, finally, the ultimate embarrassment and deception. Houlahan’s beautiful clear voice was the perfect vehicle for the story. Carrie’s transformation at the end of Act One is a moment that will stay with me for some time.

Katherine DeBoer brings her accomplished chops to the role of Margaret White, with commanding vocals which effortlessly range between loving passages and demented religious fervor. DeBoer's Margaret is a thesis presentation of histrionics and misplaced compassion. Besides the cruelty of the high school kids, I always felt uneasy every time she appeared. And that is a very good thing. Her descent into hell is riveting. DeBoer’s "And Eve Was Weak" gave me chills.

Sara Masterson is a beautiful revelation as Sue Snell, the at first snarky, but then, compunctious friend of Carrie. It is such an honest performance of showing someone truly changing heart, and compassionate enough to take socially unpopular steps for redemption. She is the storyteller of this tale, with asides that literally guide us to the catastrophic prom night. She also guides us with a voice that impressively holds emotion in perfect control. Masterson is an actress that inhabits her character and draws you in close as she tells her own story.

Coltan Ryan as Tommy Ross kicks some ass. Watching a character that is the all American kid can make for an uneventful presentation, but not in this case. He is a perfect complement to Masterson, and provides depth that enhances his story line. But the moment that Ryan breaks the mold is the stunning and elegant “Dreamer in Disguise.” When this song comes out of a poem he is forced to read in front of the class, you can't hear a sound in the theatre. That's because the audience is transfixed and doesn't dare make a sound to interrupt the emotion and quality of what is happening. Later on, after accepting Sue's proposal to take Carrie to the prom, you truly get the feeling that Tommy Ross wants Carrie to have the night of her life. That is a mission well-acted.

Inhabiting Chris Hargensen, the adversarial nemesis of Carrie, Genna-Paige Kanago is a bitch on wheels. I can't tell you the number of times I just wanted to spray her with water bottle to make her stop. And that means an excellent creation of someone we love to hate. With a body that would stop Fleet Week in its tracks, Kanago struts, insults, gyrates, and Lupones it out of the park. Chris doesn’t have much of a character arc--she is a one note bitchmobile--but Kanago infuses her character with a never ending glee of self-absorption.

Sam Wolf as Billy Nolan is appropriately in the throes of hormones, gym workouts and conquering Mount Hargensen. He has a commanding presence on the stage, and easily draws your attention with sinewy energy. You can almost feel the Rocky theme play when he enters, but then his SAT score cuts the music off. Edgy looks and strong vocals make Wolf a blast to watch.

Jodi Dominick nails Miss Gardner. Being Carrie’s adult support system within the school, Dominick shows the athletic authoritarian side of Gardner, and then slowly displays the layers of compassion. Watching her glide in and out of Carrie’s life provides us a chance to root for the underdog, as maybe we ourselves have helped someone less fortunate. Dominick also possesses a clarion voiced instrument, "Unsuspecting Hearts" is ample evidence of a beautiful voice that never misses a day of work.

Highlighting some of the searing ensemble, all of whom represented a collage of musical brilliance, includes Ian Gregory Hill as Mr. Stephens, John Kramer who can definitely cut a rug with the best of them, and my personal favorite bitchy sidekick, Norma, played with relishable delight by Adrian Grace Bumpas. It does not surprise me that Bumpas is the understudy to the role of Chris. There is a lot of talent in that young lady.

Scenic Design worked really well by wrapping the stage with the final exit structure, and with Russ Borski's deft lighting, enabling scenes to be played in multiple areas with clarity of place and time. Also, the laser starlit night was mesmerizing.

Costume Designer Aimee Kluiber worked the era correctly and helped transform Carrie into a prom night hit.

Sound Designer Richard B. Ingraham has his work cut out for him. Some preview night misfires that will surely be worked out, but great quality being able to hear and understand the music and voices. It doesn't always happen that way.

The collaboration between Baldwin Wallace Music Theatre Program and the Beck Center has another winner. Like “Spring Awakening” and “Next to Normal,” Carrie is sure to please. Luckily for the audience, the stage version does not include the hand coming out of the grave at the end like the movie, because when that happened, Maria Callas would have been proud of the high pitched note that came out of my mouth.


Kevin Joseph Kelly

February 7 - March 9
8pm Fridays
8pm Saturdays
3pm Sundays

$13-$32 Reserved Seating
(216) 521-2540

Beck Center for the Arts
17801 Detroit Avenue
Lakewood, Ohio 44107

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


As I wait for the beginning of KNOCK ME A KISS, the first impact is the set, masterfully designed by Ron Newell. The wood construction tells a story already of success and an efficacious air. Taking place in the 20's, we await the beginning of the play, successfully absorbed into the atmosphere. It is a good feeling, especially at a matinee. Within the set, we are about to experience an African-American prospective of a political, social, sexual and historical time, beautifully crafted by playwright Charles Smith.  Mr. Smith is familiar to the house of Ensemble, having previously created the plays Free Man of Color and The Gospel According to James. Mr. Smith take us to Harlem in the kinetic era that surrounds 1928, addressing the Du Bois family and the circle of colorful characters that gesticulate for attention.

The story encompasses the vivacious journey of Yolande Du Bois  (Emily Terry), as she navigates being nurtured by a socially demanding father, W.E.B. Du Bois (Edward Swan), and a histrionic splintered mother Nina Du Bois (Pamela Morton). Yolande has a true test when it comes to the gentlemen callers in her life. Jimmy Luncford (Kyle Carthens) who has a talent for music and curling your toes, and Countee Cullen (Dyrell Barnett),  a preppy version of  Harlem Town and Country. Yolanda is aided and abetted by a fabulous confidant Lenora (Tonya Broach). The result is an abacus of emotion, intention, deceit, class, discovery and self empowerment.

Playing Yolande, Emily Terry brings a brilliant and beautiful performance as the main artery of this play. I left feeling like I just been on a long cross country motorcycle ride, clutching a side car that allowed me to watch every emotional element of the journey. Terry's was a tour de force of being at the center of a judging hurricane, but without an eye to rest.  She presents a woman of virtue. She deftly handled scenes of sexual intent, discontent, and a self-actualization process that demands we pay attention as she figures out the expedition and exploration of family, love and decision making. We all take chances. And there is always a consequence.

Jimmy Luncford, a player played by Kyle Carthens, reminds me of Kanye West, before he made it big, and before he took awards away from people. Kyle defines Jimmy with a cool refined buoyant flair, accented by intensity, that was dead on. He is wary of the high strutting W.E.B., but as any artist of the day, maybe being a musician is a scary occupation for a father. We follow him, starting from a place of posing flash and style, to a dramatic quest for love, and eventually settling in success, but romantic resolve. His journey is executed with accomplished talent.

Matching that talent is Dyrell Barnett, infusing Countee Cullen with enough layers that Outback could serve him as a blooming onion. Filled with style and grace, we immediately are impressed by his impeccable taste and refined educated air. Although listening to W.E.B. instruct him on how to find a wife, tends to make you believe he doesn't get out much in the beginning. His character faces many secrets. Some hinted, some self-confessed, and some that are based in survival. Deftly played.

For a moment, I thought Billie Holiday was on stage when I see Tonya Broach as Lenora. But then this fireball of comedic sass and tell-it-like-it-is bravado takes over and makes it her own. Broach embodies her character with a human heart, but a generator of advice and gossip that could be a half time show at the Super Bowl. Skillfully played, Broach supplies the jam, and some comedic antics that are a scream.. But also enables her character to pull back and provide prospective. All of us need a Lenora is our lives, even if at the end, you can't really blame her for what happens, because it is all based in truth.

Mother Du Bois is a complicated mess of sorts. Struggling from an overbearing husband, who calls her "wife", as if that was her only identity, but then uses him as a weapon of guilt against her own daughter. Coping with a loss that has strings attached that are suffocating. Trying to connect with a daughter that does not accept things just to survive. But even medicated with headache powder, her heart is still the center of her being and shines through at beautiful moments during the performance. Pamela Morton handles this character assignment like a pro. Through her tortured, almost Stepford movements, we come to learn so much about her pain, and her love. At the end, Morton delivers a powerful piece of poetic prose.

As W.E.B. Du Bois enters, Edward Swan cuts a fine figure. There would be no doubt that he would appear as "the most interesting man in the world" commercials. His character is the Debbie Downer of the party here.  I mean, who uses math to find a mate. Completely engulfed in "what looks best" and "what is best for the movement of people of color", he is the one who holds the playbook. It seems as if it were the old electronic football game, he would be in the center and all the other players would vibrate around him. Although Swan has a great presence, his delivery of character is not as strong as the others. It doesn't seem that the actor and the character have meshed together as one, and settled into a confident space. But he has enough gusto to make his character push the others to play the game correctly, or be able to do the end around without being flagged by the referee.

Meg Parish does a great job with costumes, especially with Lenora. The lighting bothered me a little bit with the scenes that are upstage. Having actors go out of the light is not the best, but certainly not a deal breaker. but otherwise, Micheal Beyer creates a period ambiance

One of the lasting things that cross my mind about this play, is that you can never go back. That is a tough message to hear, and to reconcile. Director Caroline Jackson Smith has provided an evening of theatre that lets us weigh that message. And that is a beautiful thing to have a part of the play resonate inside you.

Ensemble Theatre is a gem. Artistic Director, Celeste Cosentino,  should be very proud.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Theatre Blog - The Light in the Piazza at Lakeland Civic Theatre

I must say that I am a bit emotionally transformed and artistically empowered after watching the performance of The Light in the Piazza at Lakeland Civic Theatre last night. This show is not an easy venture into the theatrical landscape. With the Book by Craig Lucas and the classical operatic Music and Lyrics by Adam Guettel, challenges abound in producing this simple, yet complicated story. A story of a mother and daughter visiting Italy for the summer, encountering love among the classics of yesterday, and each fighting their own predisposition to succeed and resolve. Enter a young Italian man. His purity of heart pushes two families to address the age old adage "I am just doing what's best for my child". That seems like a worthy cause, but not always executed smoothly. However, executed with powerful grace and beauty under the direction of  Dr. Martin Friedman and the sublime Musical Direction of Jordan Cooper.

As I sit waiting for this event to unfold, I am taken in by the set and lighting ( masterfully interpreted by Trad A. Burns). Hanging muslin and iconic architecture accenting the stage that brings to life the drawings and works of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. As Director Dr. Friedman states "sometimes you have to go back, to move forward". All of it is bathed in a wash of light reminiscent of Italian Lemon Ice. Setting the appropriate mood.

At first we meet, Margaret and Clara Johnson, coming into the Piazza with racing expectations of what they will uncover. You could never expect to know the secret at this point, and it is Margaret's job to keep it that way and protect her beautiful childlike daughter. Providing the loving barrier of the mother, masterfully played, is Sandra Emerick. She is the storyteller of sorts, having the ability to share asides with the audience that are both funny and at times, emotionally heartbreaking. Her prodigious voice excels throughout this production. I found myself attached to her emotional journey throughout the show. Being at the center of a vortex of love, but struggling with what reality can be. She has been in Florence before. She knows. But it is her relentless love for her child that reverberates in our hearts. 

When I listen to Clara, portrayed with resplendent honesty by Lindsey Sandham Leonard, it reminds me of "Touched by an Angel", when the angel reveals herself, she starts to glow. Her beauty and perfected characterization of Clara is delightful. Her complete immersion allows us to believe in unabashed honest love. At the same time, she reminds us that innocence can also reveal truths that are not covered up with years of learned manipulation. Her journey of probity becomes a lesson in strength and survival.

Several years ago, I attended The Wild Party at BW, and heard a young woman, Ciara Renee, sing. At that time, I said that I have never heard someone sing live like that in my life. It was stunning. I have to say that I experienced that moment again listening to Shane Patrick O'Neill inhabiting the world of Fabrizio Naccarelli. When he sings, Il Mondo Era Vuoto, everything is left on the boards. A magnificent celebration of voice, character and dialect. Never losing his Italian accent for a moment of acting or singing. Through his character we get to see lucid emotions of love and honesty for Clara. We follow his struggle with both families, trying to follow his unfeigned adoration for his love.

The Naccarelli family is a fluster buck of raw Italian emotion. Giuseppe Naccarelli (Eric Fancher) is a Goodfellas wanna be. Cavorting around the stage led my his crotch and his desire to find a mirror at all time. He adds some spice to the  family dynamics. Married to this bastion of bravado, is Franca (Neely Gevaart), who embodies her character with a tough exterior, but also lets us see her vulnerability. When she sings The Joy You Feel, she does just that.  She makes you feel. Her triumphant voice forces you to emotionally connect to the stuggle of what love is and how the path is not wine and roses. Raising these sons are Signor (Rob Albrecht) and Signora (Liz Huff) Naccarelli.  Albrecht gives a charismatic interpretation of the head of household if you will. Exploring family dynamics and critical decision making when love dictates what really is best. His duet with Emerick, Let's Walk, is arresting and compelling, even if he is a bit of a donnaiolo. And then there's Maude, oops, I mean Mama. That is only funny if you are as old as me. Liz Huff brings her operatic chops to the matron of the italian wedding soup party. She really comes to life in the Octet. Huff gets her own chance to aside as she enjoyably explains the proceedings within the walls of chaos. 

Rounding out the story is Roy Johnson (Michael Rogan), who is the golf obsessed husband of Margaret. Rogan delivers a textured portrayal. Enjoyable to watch, but also connecting the dots for us through simple conversation. Showing a side that we wish included more love, but recognizing a fierce loyalty to protect. Even willing to leave a golf game. To some, that is real love. Brian Mueller as the Priest serves us just right, and has a beautiful voice to boot. Antoinette Kula, not Kila, as the Tour Guide, has the distinct pleasure of being on stage in that character for less than 30 seconds, but getting a laugh. 

Elisha Mueller, Erin McManus, Jacki Komos, Anna White, Venessa Pintabona, Stephanie Harden, Johanna Regan round out the ensemble. All equipped with powerful voices to match the soaring score. Also, if you are a man, your odds of getting lucky in the Piazza are good. Men seems to be out in the field working a lot.

Stephanie Fisher did a beautiful job with the Costumes, and thanks to Eric Simna, it was a night of clear beautiful spoken word and melodic tones.

One last shout out to Jordan Cooper and the orchestra. Exquisitely done.

You should see this. Not the average musical. But every artist involved is pushed. 


January 31 - February 16
7:30pm Fridays
7:30pm Saturdays
2pm Sundays

$7-$15 General Admission
(440) 525-7134

Lakeland Civic Theatre
7700 Clocktower Drive
Kirtland, Ohio 44094