Scene in Cleveland: Hair

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Jessie Cope Miller (center) as Sheila with the company. Miller also served admirably as the evening’s choreographer.

This past weekend I saw Blank Canvas Theatre’s production of Hair. The score by Galt MacDermot, Gerome Ragni, and James Rando follows no conventional rules of musical theater and is all the better for it. The story is almost nonexistent and spottily told, but the last ten minutes are deeply moving and haunting. I was pleased to see two ensemble members from Cain Park’s recent production of The Frogs have more showcased roles roles here, and the cast contained many other performers who I hope again to see in future area productions. So it’s unfortunate that I walked away thinking less about them and more about the evening’s many sound-related issues. Continue reading

Scene in Cleveland: Amazons and Their Men

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Clubbed Thumb’s Amazons… women: Heidi Schreck (reclined) and Rebecca Wysocki (photo Carl Skutsch)

In 2008 Clubbed Thumb, a theater company I had worked with in the past, presented a new play by Jordan Harrison called Amazons and their Men. Although I don’t have a ton of specific memories of the production, I remember being generally impressed with the production (such that I sought out work with that company the following two summers), especially the two actresses who represented half of the cast: Rebecca Wysocki brough shades of Norma Desmond to Nazi propaganda film auteur Leni Riefenstahl and Heidi Shreck made a strong impression as Riefenstahl’s sister and most versatile screen extra. Both women would win Obies that season (though Shreck was honored for a different performance). But regardless of its acclaim, the memory of a “downtown” theater production typically lives on only in production shots and the memories of those who worked on or saw its brief run. So when a friend from the North Coast Men’s Chorus texted me a few weeks with an invite to see a production here in Cleveland I was surprised and excited to have an opportunity to revisit this play. Continue reading

Scene in Cleveland: The Frogs

showimageI honestly thought I would make it through my entire life without seeing a production Stephen Sondheim’s musical version of The Frogs. However, last week a friend of mine from NYC was in Cleveland assisting the lighting designer on a production of the rarely produced show at Cain Park (where I interned, fittingly enough, the same summer the revised Frogs debuted on Broadway). The production is quite ably performed, with an outstanding chorus and pit that present the pleasant, though not-particularly inspired, score in the best possible light. Dan Folino is consistently entertaining (and occasionally, sincerely moving) with a Mitch-Hedburg-inspired take on Dionysus, playing the God of Wine and Theater as an underachiever who is so disappointed in modern writers’ ineffective response to world affairs that he is motivated to go to Hades in the hopes that retrieving George Bernard Shaw will inspire them to do better. The direction and design elements are elegant and creative. If I HAVE to sit through a production of The Frogs, Cain Park’s offering is as good as any and better than most. But it’s hard to not spend the script’s more tedious moments imagining the cast’s and creative team’s talents applied to a worthier project. Continue reading