Friday, August 26, 2016

SELFIES AT THE CLOWN MOTEL @ CONVERGENCE CONTINUUM



August 26 through September 17, 2016
(216) 687-0074

Bob Abelman

Evocative but empty.  This describes the abandoned pair of over-sized, fire engine red clown shoes laying in the middle of the convergence-continuum performance space, as well as the world premiere production of local playwright Christopher Johnston's “Selfies at the Clown Motel” taking place around them.   

To see a full review of this show, read Bob Abelman's CJN review here.

Roy Berko


Selfies at the Clown Motel is a difficult play to sit through.  It’s lack of focus, purpose, even with several outstanding performances, leaves little to recommend it.

To see a full review of this show, read Roy Berko's blog here.

Mark Horning

Convergence-Continuum bills itself as theater that opens into unknown territory by breaking down the fourth wall.  With its intimate seating (set in some cases inches from the action) you feel more a part of the play than a bystander.  At the end of this work you may come to realize that we are all Bozos on this bus.

To see a full review of this show, read Mark Horning's blog.

Andrea Simakis


"Selfies at the Clown Motel" is the latest in a trio of plays Johnston has written specifically for the small, proudly weird black box theater (previous works are "Spawn of the Petrosexuals" and "APORKALYPSE".)
It's also the third play of Johnston's [Clyde] Simon has directed. "He saves the weird ones for me," says Simon. "And none of them are ever simple. They're always really complicated and hard to stage.
 


To see a full review of this show, read Andrea Simakis' blog or visit Cleveland.com here.


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

KINKY BOOTS @ PLAYHOUSE SQUARE



Through August 28, 2016
(216) 241-6000

Bob Abelman

The other shoe drops as touring ‘Kinky Boots’ triumphantly returns.

To see a full review of this show, read Bob Abelman's CJN review here.

Roy Berko


KINKY BOOTS is the kind of musical that seeing it once is just not enough. (I’ve seen it three times and look forward to more!)  The music, the story line, the humor, the stage excitement makes this a very, very special theatrical experience.  This touring production of the show is as good as the last one through town and rivals the Broadway show.  This is one staging that deserves a standing ovation, not just the automatic polite Cleveland one, but a real, well-earned one.  Go! 

To see a full review of this show, read Roy Berko's blog here.

Howard Gollop

In the dog days of summer, as the theater scene starts to make way for the fall, it’s hard to imagine Playhouse Square has any kick left.   But thanks to a great touring company of “Kinky Boots,” returning to the Connor Palace this week, that kick is high and mighty — and mighty sparkly and fabulous as well.
 


Mark Horning

At the end of this return touring production of Kinky Boots the audience leapt to its feet in appreciation.  You will do the same.  Tickets may be scarce for this show in its limited run.

To see a full review of this show, read Mark Horning's blog.

David Ritchey


Kinky Boots has romped and stomped back on tour to Cleveland. Second time around may be best – or at least gives us a little time to think about this Tony-winning show.  A good script shows the audience a change in characters.

To see a full review of this show, read David's posts at Talkin' Broadway

omplete review at WestLife

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

OBJECTIVELY/REASONABLE @ PLAYWRIGHTS LOCAL



August 18 through September 4, 2016
(216) 302-8850
Or http://playwrightslocal.org/

Bob Abelman

Playwright Local’s ‘Objectively/Reasonable’ hits home hard.

To see a full review of this show, read Bob Abelman's CJN article here.

Roy Berko

It is the purpose of the Playwrights Local to produce works of North Eastern Ohio writers.  If their future efforts produce anything like this painful to watch but well conceived play, their purpose will be well confirmed.  This is a must see experience for anyone interested in the real world around them, especially if they are not part of the African American community.
 
To see a full review of this show, read Roy Berko's blog here.


Mark Horning


As in all things of our great and varied society it takes a senseless tragedy to bring attention to a much larger problem.  “Objectively/Reasonable” is the window that has opened for all to view the inequity of law enforcement activity in the less advantaged Cleveland neighborhoods.  It is a show that begs to be seen by police officers and citizens alike in order to break the silence and begin a dialog where community and safety officials unite in a common cause.  If not, we are doomed to repeat this tragedy over and over again.

To see a full review of this show, read Mark Horning's blog.

Andrea Simakis

The play grapples with the notion of how such a thing could be, as a prosecution expert claimed, "reasonable."  And why Cleveland didn't burn. The sentiments of ordinary Clevelanders echo through the 90-minutes piece, mingling with the observations of figures with more intimate knowledge of the case.

To see a full review of this show, read Andrea Simakis' blog or visit Cleveland.com here.

THE WOMAN HATER @ MAMAI THEATRE COMPANY



August 18 through September 4, 2016
(440) 394-6353
Or https://app.arts-people.com/index.php?ticketing=mtco

Bob Abelman

Mamaí reanimates the lost lampoon, ‘The Woman-Hater.’

To see a full review of this show, read Bob Abelman's blog here.

Mark Horning

If your taste in theater leans toward more classical and traditional works, this is a play that will delight you to no end.  Although long in execution, the quality of acting nevertheless helps carry it through somewhat. 
    
To see a full review of this show, read Mark Horning's blog.


Saturday, August 6, 2016

SANS MERCI @ none too fragile



none too fragile
August 5-August 20, 2016
330-962-5547 or www.nonetoofragile.com

Bob Abelman

none too fragile’s ‘Sans Merci’ is a hard to watch, must-see drama. 

To see a full review of this show, read Bob Abelman's CJN article here.

Roy Berko


none too fragile continues to astound with the high quality of their productions.  They tend to pick meaningful scripts and give them very proficient staging.  Sans Merci insures a roller coaster of emotion and is an absolutely must see!

To see a full review of this show, read Roy Berko's blog here.

Kerry Clawson

One of the main reasons why theater artists create is to connect with audiences emotionally. Sans Merci does so on such a visceral level, we come away from the show feeling emotionally wiped out.


To see a full review of this show, read Kerry Clawson's review here.


Friday, August 5, 2016

GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS @ BLANK CANVAS THEATRE


August 5 through 20, 2016
(440) 941-0458

Roy Berko

Glengarry Glen Ross was the first David Mamet play I ever saw.  Fortunately, it was on Broadway where each of the characters was so real that it was easy to react to each as a person, not a character in a play.  Unfortunately, this was not the case in the Blank Canvas production.  Too bad.  The script can be mesmerizing.
 
To see a full review of this show, read Roy Berko's blog here.

Mark Horning


Taking a break from the offbeat musical that is Blank Canvas’s bread and butter, this show is a dramatic summertime treat that shows what truly engaging theater can do for the imagination.  While the theater is still quite warm it is worth a light discomfort to see a truly exemplary performance.

To see a full review of this show, read Mark Horning's blog.


Thursday, August 4, 2016

MACBETH @ OHIO SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL



August 5 through 21, 2016
(330) 673-8761

Roy Berko


Macbeth gets an appealing, audience-friendly production by OSF on the magnificent grounds of Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens.  The evening was enhanced by a delightful Greenshow before the main production. 

To see a full review of this show, read Roy Berko's blog here.


Kerry Clawson

Bloodthirsty ambition, greed and treason propel Shakespeare’s murderous "Macbeth" in an eerily dramatic production at Ohio Shakespeare Festival.

To see a full review of this show, read Kerry Clawson's review here.


THE LITTLE MERMAID @ MERCURY THEATER COMPANY



August 5 through 20, 2016
(216) 771-5862

Bob Abelman

While the Mercury production’s rented eye-candy costuming, imported set pieces, and purchased pre-recorded soundtrack are impressive, they amount to an unsatisfying, disingenuous and non-indigenous entertainment.  

To see a full review of this show, read Bob Abelman's CJN article here.


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

FOOTLOOSE @ PORTHOUSE THEATRE




July 28 through August 14, 2016
(330) 929-4416 or (330) 672-3884


Roy Berko


Artistic Director Terri Kent knows her Porthouse audience, and her show selection, casting, choice of support staff and directing all lead to a very happy full-house exiting the theatre on opening night of Footloose.   And, what delights will next season bring?


To see a full review of this show, read Roy Berko's blog here.

Kerry Clawson

Almost Paradise is a duet made in heaven between Lindsay Simon and Paul Schwensen. They not only sing this iconic number so beautifully they make you swoon, they also make a great-looking couple once Ariel finally lets her walls come down.

To see a full review of this show, read Kerry Clawson's review here.

Mark Horning

This Porthouse Theatre production of “Footloose” is everything that outdoor summer theater is about.  A mixed aged cast putting together an exciting exhibition of song, dance and acting that makes for a delightful evening under the stars.

To see a full review of this show, read Mark Horning's blog.


Monday, July 18, 2016

ASSASSINS @ NEAR WEST THEATRE



July 15 through 31, 2016
(216) 961-6391
http://www.nearwesttheatre.org/pages/tickets


WORTH NOTING: 

In order to bring attention to local productions of merit at theaters that are not on the Cleveland Critics Circle’s approved list, members of the Circle who attend a community or educational theater production that is perceived as of high quality will have the option of listing that production on the CCC blogsite.  This review falls into that category.


Roy Berko


Near West Theatre’s Assassins is an impressive production.  The cast shows maturity well beyond their years and well develops  the concept, “Everybody’s got the right to be happy,” even if the person is delusional.  Congrats to Bob Navis, Jr., the cast and crew for weaving a fine evening of theatre.  This is a production well worth seeing!

To see a full review of this show, read Roy Berko's blog here.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN @ MAMAI THEATRE COMPANY



July 14 through 31, 2016
(440) 394-6353
Or https://app.arts-people.com/index.php?ticketing=mtco

Bob Abelman

Mamaí’s delightful ‘Lady Windermere's Fan’ offers girls gone Wilde 

To see a full review of this show, read Bob Abelman's CJN article here.


Saturday, July 9, 2016

FINIAN'S RAINBOW @ MERCURY THEATER COMPANY



July 8 through 23, 2016
(216) 771-5862

Bob Abelman

Mercury Theater finds gold at the end of ‘Finian’s Rainbow.’

To see a full review of this show, read Bob Abelman's CJN article here.



Thursday, July 7, 2016

BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL @ THE BECK CENTER



July 8 through August 14, 2016
(216) 521-2540

Bob Abelman

Beck’s ‘Billy Elliot’ lands the grand jeté but falls short of expectations. 

To see a full review of this show, read Bob Abelman's CJN article here.

Roy Berko

 As evidenced by the many bursts of applause following dance numbers and vocal solos, in spite of some questionable conceptual and execution aspects, audiences should appreciate the production.  Praise to Martin Céspedes for his choreographic concepts.

To see a full review of this show, read Roy Berko's blog here.

Howard Gollup

One, of course, is the young man in the title role — Seth Judice, a singing, dancing pre-teen powerhouse who grasps his character in dialogue, song and dance.
The other is Martin Cespedes, a frequent choreographer at Beck Center and other local professional stages. Known for his ability to squeeze every bit of Broadway pizzazz out of any show and its cast, he has ascended ably into the majestic realm of interpretive ballet.


Mark Horning

At times brilliant, at times not so, the show fortunately balances out slightly more on the plus than minus.  Some of the technical problems are solvable while those disconnects with the audience may take some additional work to overcome.

To see a full review of this show, read Mark Horning's blog.

Art Thomas

The choreography and direction of this production have some intriguing departures from the touring production in Cleveland  a few years ago. The dynamic cast fill the Beck Center Stage with the emotional power of miners on strike and a child dancer who overcomes odds to feed his passion. The loud production also pulls off intimate moments thanks to the skilled leads.  

Click here to read the complete review at WestLife

RING OF FIRE @ PORTHOUSE THEATRE



July 7 through 23, 2016
(330) 929-4416 or (330) 672-3884


Bob Abelman

Porthouse’s ‘Ring of Fire’ is greater than the sum of its parts.

To see a full review of this show, read Bob Abelman's blog here.

Roy Berko

If you like jukebox musicals that concentrate on a series of songs, rather than developing a clear story line, are a Johnny Cash fan, want to see and hear a wonderful cast sing and play musical instruments at a high level of proficiency, and want to be in a theatre set within the lovely grounds of Blossom Center, Ring of Fire should be on your must see list!  
 
To see a full review of this show, read Roy Berko's blog here.

Kerry Clawson

In 'Ring of Fire,' five top-notch musicians invoke the spirit of brooding, rebellious country music legend Johnny Cash in broad strokes, using 30 of the tunes he sang as the medium.
.
To see a full review of this show, read Kerry Clawson's review here.


Mark Horning


A picnic dinner on a grassy knoll followed by a great collection of Johnny Cash standards well performed through a great sound system makes for a wonderful evening of entertainment at Porthouse Theatre.  Fans as well as casual listeners of “The Man In Black” will all love this performance.  

To see a full review of this show, read Mark Horning's blog.


HARBOR @ CONVERGENCE-CONTINUUM


July 8 through 30, 2016
(216) 687-0074


Roy Berko


Billed as an “uproarious and moving comedy,” though the cast tries hard, this play basically misses out on both concepts.  It’s not all the director’s fault.  The script doesn’t hold up its part of the bargain, either.  Too bad…the concept is very thought provoking.

To see a full review of this show, read Roy Berko's blog here.



Wednesday, June 15, 2016

PHANTOM OF THE OPERA @ PLAYHOUSE SQUARE


June 15 through July 10. 2016
(216) 241-6000

Bob Abelman

In 1992, they said that the Tony Award-winning “The Phantom of the Opera” could not be financially and theatrically successful outside of New York City and London’s West End. 

A production this large and cumbersome would not draw audiences and earn a profit on tour if it skimped on its expensive production values and it could not earn a profit if it did not skimp on its expensive production values.

Wrong.

To see a full review of this show, read Bob Abelman's CJN article here.

Roy Berko

Phantom of the Opera newbies will undoubtedly be wowed by the reconfigured production.  Those who have seen the Broadway, or one of the early touring company editions, may be less impressed. 

To see a full review of this show, read Roy Berko's blog here.

Mark Horning

This is the ONE…the bucket list…the “we have been waiting years to take the kids to see”…the I cannot believe it is finally back here in Cleveland…absolutely must see at all costs performance that you and your family will talk about for years and years.  It is beyond theater…it is a total experience unlike anything you have ever witnessed (unless of course you already saw it in London, Toronto, Cleveland or New York City).  Some tickets still exist, but you will need to hurry.

To see a full review of this show, read Mark Horning's blog.


SISTER ACT @ PORTHOUSE THEATRE


June 16 through July 2, 2016
(330) 929-4416 or (330) 672-3884


Bob Abelman

Porthouse performs minor miracle with "Sister Act." 

To see a full review of this show, read Bob Abelman's CJN article here.

Roy Berko


Sister Act is a perfect slice of summer entertainment placed in a lovely get-away setting!  Director Eric van Baars has put together a smooth running production which gets all the necessary laughs, develops the story line as well as one can with something as fluffy as he has been given, and paces the show so that it moves smoothly along.  See it!

To see a full review of this show, read Roy Berko's blog here.


Thursday, June 9, 2016

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST @ MERCURY THEATRE COMPANY



June 10 through 25, 2016
(216) 771-5862
Or http://mercurytheatrecompany.org/

Bob Abelman

Mercury’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is entertaining but not engaging.

To see a full review of this show, read Bob Abelman's CJN article here.


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

TOP GIRLS @ MAMAI THEATRE COMPANY



June 2 through 19, 2016
or (216) 382-5146​

Bob Abelman

Feminism is a dish served hot in Mamaí’s ‘Top Girls.’

To see a full review of this show, read Bob Abelman's CJN article here.

Mark Horning

While the basic themes of feminist sacrifice and suffering are made clear (even today women struggle to break barriers), the convoluted story line makes it hard to comprehend exactly what the ultimate point of the production really is.  While expertly acted one leaves the room in a state of confusion that even a study of the various synopsis does not clarify.  See this work for the acting not the story. 

To see a full review of this show, read Mark Horning's blog.


Sunday, June 5, 2016

LINES IN THE DUST @ Cleveland Public Theatre



June 2-18, 2016
216-631-2727 or go to www.cptonline.org

Bob Abelman

Cleveland Public Theatre carves out a powerful ‘Line in the Dust.’ 

To see a full review of this show, read Bob Abelman's CJN article here.

Mark Horning

Every so often, theater does what it was intended to do…enlighten and entertain.  This show could be the spark that ignites an educational revolution in our country and even the world.  See this show, then ask yourself what is broken in our educational system and what you can do about it.

To see a full review of this show, read Mark Horning's blog.

Roy Berko


If you only see one play this year, it should be Lines in the Dust.  Because of its well-crafted writing that clearly develops Nikkole Salter’s fervent thoughts and feelings about Apartheid Schools and the people who make them happen, the play is often excruciating to watch.  The truth is painful!  The frustration of a problem with no seeming solution, and the possibility of a country operating on a Nationalistic philosophy, become truly scary!   As said, if you only see one play this year, it should be Lines in the Dust.

To see a full review of this show, read Roy Berko's blog here.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

TO THE ORCHARD @ PLAYWRIGHTS LOCAL 4181

Through June 12, 2016
(216) 302-8850
Or http://playwrightslocal.org/

Bob Abelman

Engaging ‘To the Orchard’ pits tradition against desire in its world-premiere production.

To see a full review of this show, read Bob Abelman's CJN article here.

Roy Berko

Playwrights Local 4181 should be lauded for filling a void in the Cleveland theatre world.  Their goal of producing locally written and developed scripts is admirable.  Their initial production, To the Orchard, was a valiant try.  Though the final outcome left much to be desired, every new undertaking has to have a place from which to grow.  The organization has laid its foundation and it should be encouraged to showcase what hopefully will be a successful and fruitful future.

To see a full review of this show, read Roy Berko's blog here.


THE TOXIC AVENGERS @ Alma Theatre, Cain Park



June 2-26, 2016
216-371-3000 or www.cainpark.com

Bob Abelman

“The Toxic Avenger” -- the  love-child of “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Rocky Horror Picture Show” --  goes from intoxicating to punch-drunk. 

To see a full review of this show, read Bob Abelman's blog here.

Roy Berko


Under Nathan Motta’s creative direction, and a cast of talented and uninhibited performers, THE TOXIC AVENGER is a total hoot!  If you are in the mood for an evening of extended farce and ridiculousness, this is a must see. 

To see a full review of this show, read Roy Berko's blog here.


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

HEATHERS THE MUSICAL@ Beck Center for the Arts


May 27-July 2, 2106
216-521-2540 or http://www.beckcenter.org

Bob Abelman

With its brilliant, regional premiere production of “Heathers: The Musical,” the Studio Theater in the rear of the Beck Center for the Arts has most assuredly established itself as the go-to performance space for dark, delightfully deranged musicals.  Audiences should forever expect irony, an adrenaline rush and a splash zone when entering the intimate performance space.  And be thoroughly entertained by the time they leave.  

To see a full review of this show, read Bob Abelman's CJN article here.

Roy Berko


Heathers the musical continues the Beck trend of staging dynamic, small, cult appealing shows (e.g., Evil Dead, Reefer Madness, and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) in its Studio Theatre.  With dynamic choreography, a well-played rock-infused-with-ballads score, and enough blood, gore and simulated sex to grab and hold an audience, Heathers should be awarded with a sold out run! 


To see a full review of this show, read Roy Berko's blog here.

Mark Horning


For those who love a little titillation in their theater excursions, The Beck Center’s “Heathers: The Musical” nicely balances the sex, mayhem and murder with comedy and sprightly musical numbers for a surprisingly enjoyable evening.

To see a full review of this show, read Mark Horning's blog.

Art Thomas

The Beck Center continues to reflect the current trends in musical theater with this production of "Heathers". Outrageous is a word that comes to mind to describe the obsessions of teenagers that can drive them to murder. This critic chuckled often enough to feel guilty at this brash show. Director, choreographer and designer have brought their "A" game to the production.

Click here to read the complete review at WestLife

Monday, May 23, 2016

WILD PARTY @ Blank Canvas



May 20-June 4, 2016
440-941-0458 or www.blankcanvastheatre.com

Bob Abelman

Voices soar but staging stalls in Blank Canvas’ "The Wild Party"

To see a full review of this show, read Bob Abelman's CJN article here.

Roy Berko


If watching decadence is your thing, you’ll probably be turned on by THE WILD PARTY.  If you prefer being in the presence of characters who have redeeming values so you can feel empathy, this is not going to be your show.  The cast, though some give surface level performances, generally display good singing voices and put out full effort.

To see a full review of this show, read Roy Berko's blog here.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

STEEL MAGNOLIAS @ CLEVELAND PLAY HOUSE



May 21 through August 21, 2016
216-241-6000

Bob Abelman

Southern comfort comedy ‘Steel Magnolias’ historic and hysterical

To see a full review of this show, read Bob Abelman's CJN article here.

Roy Berko

There was some complaining when it was announced that one of the offerings of the Key Bank Broadway series was going to be a local staging of a script that has been done by many community theatres. After seeing the CPH/PHSq production there should be little upset.  Steel Magnolias is a must see production that tells a life story with comedy and pathos!  Bravo!
 
To see a full review of this show, read Roy Berko's blog here.

Mark Horning
As satisfying as a Southern home cook meal this sharply written gem of a play with its rapier wit has been pared down to the basic emotions of joy, love, friendship, fear and anguish as performed by a wonderful cast of relatable characters.  Bring the family for a dose of Southern fried humor.
To see a full review of this show, read Mark Horning's blog.

Howard Gollup

Unfortunately it’s not apparent that anything new has been stamped into this “Steel Magnolias.” It’s just a stamped-out production of a serviceable “dramady.”
It’s still a passable evening of theater, and it’s mounted befittingly for a Playhouse Square production (with nice sets by Vicki Smith).
But how fun or funny it winds up being for any individual depends ultimately on how easily he or she can afford a ticket in the first place.
 

Kerry Clawson

We find ourselves laughing through the tears as we spend a couple of hours with six southern spitfires in the beloved comedy-drama "Steel Magnolias" at Cleveland Play House.
This warm, poignant all-female play, directed by Cleveland Play House’s Laura Kepley, is a first-time co-production between CPH and Playhouse Square. CPH’s joint production with Playhouse Square, which is in an extended run into August, is beautifully directed and performed.

To see a full review of this show, read Kerry Clawson's review here.

Andrea Simakis

Southern charm, delivered by women on stage and off. 

To see a full review of this show, read Andrea Simakis' blog or visit Cleveland.com here.