Saturday, December 20, 2014



Leap of Faith
KARAMU PERFORMING ARTS THEATRE  

Through December 28.

216-795-7077 or www.karamuhouse.org


Mark Horning


After nearly a month of Christmas themed productions it is a nice change to witness a Gospel Revival based show that brings all the excitement of a tent meeting to life.  The real miracle of this show is that everyone who sees it will feel even better about themselves when they depart.
To see a full review of this show, read Mark Horning's blog.

Andrea Simakis
No review yet.
To see a full review of this show, read Andrea Simakis' blog or visit Cleveland.com here.


Monday, December 15, 2014

THE CLEVELAND CRITICS CIRCLE AWARDS—2014


 It is the purpose of THE CLEVELAND CRITICS CIRCLE AWARDS to recognize outstanding Cleveland area productions, performers, directors and designers who contributed to the professional theater scene during the 2014 season.  For a listing of the theatres considered for “Best of” and “Superior Achievement” awards, go to: clevelandtheaterreviews.com 

Best Musical Production:  LES MISÉRABLES, Great Lakes Theater

Superior Achievement:           
BREATH AND IMAGINATION, Cleveland Play House
CARRIE THE MUSICAL, Beck Center for the Arts
IT AIN’T NOTHIN’ BUT THE BLUES, Karamu House Theater
THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA, Lakeland Civic Theatre
TITUS, Cleveland Public Theatre

Best Non-Musical Production:  THE LITTLE FOXES, Cleveland Play House

Superior Achievement:              
‘NIGHT MOTHER, Beck Center for the Arts
GIDION’S KNOT, none too fragile theatre
SPIRITS TO ENFORCE, Cleveland Public Theatre
TERMINUS, convergence-continuum
WOMAN AND SCARECROW, Mamai Theatre Company
ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST, Blank Canvas Theatre

Best Actor in a Musical:  Stephen Mitchell Brown, LES MISÉRABLES, Great Lakes Theater

Superior Achievement:           
Elijah Rock, BREATH AND IMAGINATION, Cleveland Play House
Greg Violand, MY FAIR LADY, Porthouse Theater
Kyle Jean Baptiste, LES MISÉRABLES, Great Lakes Theater

Best Actor in a Non-Musical:  Scott Plate, SEMINAR, Beck Center for the Arts

Superior Achievement:           
Andrew Cruse, KING HENRY IV, PART I, Ohio Shakespeare Festival
Andrew Narten, POSSUM DREAMS, none too fragile theatre
Greg White, ANNA CHRISTIE, Ensemble Theatre
           
Best Actress in a Musical:  Caitlin Houlahan, CARRIE THE MUSICAL, Beck Center for the Arts

Superior Achievement:               
Claire Howes Eisentrout, LES MISÉRABLES, Great Lakes Theater
Kerri Rene Fuller, LES MISÉRABLES, Great Lakes Theater
Lindsey Sandham Leonard, THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA, Lakeland Civic Theatre

Best Actress in a Non-Musical:  Derdriu Ring, STRANDED ON EARTH, Theatre Ninjas/Mamaí Theater Company

Superior Achievement:                  
Dorothy Silver, ‘NIGHT MOTHER, Beck Center for the Arts
Jen Klika, GIDION’S KNOT, none too fragile theatre
Laura Perotta, ‘NIGHT MOTHER, Beck Center for the Arts
Sally Groth, Photograph 51, Actors Summit

Best Director of a Musical:  Victoria Bussert, LES MISÉRABLES, Great Lakes Theater

Superior Achievement:            
Craig George, TITUS, Cleveland Public Theatre
Martin Friedman, THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA, Lakeland Civic Theatre

Best Director of a Non-Musical:  Laura Kepley, THE LITTLE FOXES, Cleveland Play House

Superior Achievement:           
Donald Carrier, SEMINAR, Beck Center for the Arts
Mathew Wright, SPIRITS TO ENFORCE, Cleveland Public Theatre
Pandora Robertson, WOMAN AND SCARECROW, Mamaí Theater Company
Scott Plate, ‘NIGHT MOTHER, Beck Center for the Arts
Sean Derry, POSSUM DREAMS, none too fragile theater

Best Choreographer:  Greg Daniels, CARRIE THE MUSICAL, Beck Center for the Arts

Superior Achievement:  
Mary Ann Black, OLIVER, Porthouse Theater
Martin Céspedes, THE FROGS, Cain Park
Martin Céspedes, MARY POPPINS, Beck Center for the Arts
John Crawford, MY FAIR LADY, Porthouse Theater

Best Scenic Design:  Russ Metheny, DEATHTRAP, Great Lakes Theater

Superior Achievement:
Lex Liang, THE LITTLE FOXES, Cleveland Play House
Ben Needham, A CIVIL WAR CHRISTMAS:  AN AMERICAN MUSICAL CELEBRATION Dobama Theatre
Laura Carlson Trantwoski, OCCUPANT, Cesear’s Forum

Best Costume Design:  S. Q. Campell, MY FAIR LADY, Porthouse Theater

Superior Achievement:
Jeff Nellis, BREATH AND IMAGINATION, Cleveland Play House
Lex Liang, LITTLE FOXES, Cleveland Play House
Tesia Dugan Benson, A CIVIL WAR CHRISTMAS:  AN AMERICAN MUSICAL             CELEBRATION, Dobama Theatre

Best Lighting Design:  Rick Martin, DEATHTRAP, Great Lakes Theater

Superior Achievement:           
Jeff Nellis, BREATH AND IMAGINATION, Cleveland Play House
Marcus Dana, A CIVIL WAR CHRISTMAS:  AN AMERICAN MUSICAL CELEBRATION, Dobama Theatre
Russ Borski, CARRIE THE MUSICAL, Beck Center for the Arts

Best Sound Design:  Mikhail Fiksel, HOW WE GOT ON, Cleveland Play House

Superior Achievement:
Tom Limenmeier, BELLEVILLE, Dobama Theatre
Amanda Ware, LES MISÉRABLES, Great Lakes Theater
Kevin Rutan, THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, Actors Summit

Best Musical Direction:  Joel Mercer, LES MISÉRABLES, Great Lakes Theater

Superior Achievement:
Nancy Maier, CARRIE THE MUSICAL, Beck Center For the Arts/Baldwin Wallace University Musical Theatre Program
Nathan Motta, THE FROGS, Cain Park
Larry Goodpaster, [title of show], Beck Center for the Arts

Best National Touring Production:   PORGY AND BESS, PlayhouseSquare
            
 SPECIAL RECOGNITIONS:

Actors’ Equity Association for their Project Code production of HEARTBREAK HOUSE.

The Baldwin Wallace University Musical Theatre Program for producing an outstanding number of Broadway theater cast members.

Holly Holsinger, for her body of work as a writer, director and actor.

Daryl Waters for his musical arrangements for A CIVIL WAR CHRISTMAS:  AN AMERICAN MUSICAL CELEBRATION, Dobama Theatre

Christine Howey for writing and performing in EXACT CHANGE at both Cleveland Public Theatre and none too fragile theatre.

Members of the Cleveland Critics Circle are:  Bob Abelman (Cleveland Jewish News, News-Herald, The Morning Journal), Roy Berko (CoolCleveland.com, ArtsAmerica.com, BroadwayWorld.com, royberko.info), Kerry Clawson (Akron-Beacon Journal), Howard Golub, Elyria Chronicle Telegram, Mark Horning, (Examiner.com), Christine Howey (Cleveland Scene, raveandpan.blogspot.com), David Ritchie, (West Side Leader), Andrea Simakis (The Plain Dealer), Art Thomas (West Life). 

For additional information about the CLEVELAND CRITICS CIRCLE, including reviewing summaries, links to members’ full reviews, and details about the CCC Speaker’s Bureau, go to:  clevelandtheaterreviews.com

For individual critic year-end awards and "best of" articles, go to:

Bob Abelman:  www.clevelandjewishnews.com


Sunday, December 7, 2014

HIGH FIDELITY, A MUSICAL @ Blank Canvas


December 5-20, 2014
440-941-0458 or www.blankcanvastheatre.com


Roy Berko

“High Fidelity, a musical,” now on stage at Blank Canvas, is fun.  It’s filled with delightful ridiculousness, is well-staged and performed, and is definitely LOUD.  If you are in the mood for a night of off- beat “cool,” and “different” and want to avoid Santa Claus, reindeer, an umbrella carrying flying nanny, and “bah-humbug,” this should be your holiday theatre treat.  

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

Christine Howey

Patrick Ciamacco is nicely acidic as the music snob Berry, the Jack White role in the film, and as always his direction is brisk and effective.

To see a full review of this show, read Christine Howey's blog Rave and Pan

Saturday, December 6, 2014

A CIVIL WAR CHRISTMAS: AN AMERICAN MUSICAL CELEBRATION @ Dobama

December 5-January 4, 2015  
216-932-3396 or dobama.org

Bob Abelman

While most local theaters are offering garish visions of sugar plums, stories about resurrection or overtly sentimental reenactments of festive holiday gatherings, leave it to Dobama Theatre to buck tradition and tell a poignant and ecumenical tale about suffering and loss.

To see a full review of this show, read Bob Abelman's CJN article here or go to:  http://www.clevelandjewishnews.com/features/article_f62c9a32-7fcd-11e4-8d29-775bcf0a8737.html

Roy Berko


Audiences looking for an alternative to the usual escapist holiday treats have an opportunity to attend “A Civil War Christmas:  An American Musical Celebration, ” and broaden their knowledge of a series of historical and fictional events, which should challenge their thinking, while helping place some of the current legal and ethical issues in a broad perspective.  The production is stronger than the content, but it is a show well worth seeing.

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

Mark Horning

In short, the entire cast and crew brings these historic as well as lesser known participants in America’s past to life as real breathing human beings.  With an exceptional set, lighting, sound and costuming along with superb music by the group of actor/musicians combined with the exceptional singing made the three hour evening (with fifteen minute intermission) fly by.  The story is gripping in its concept and grand in its scope.  In the end you will truly understand more of what it was like to live through this horrible period of history in what is again the United States of America.  This promises to be a sell-out.

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

Christine Howey
The accomplished playwright Paula Vogel has thrown the tragedy of the Civil War onto her word loom and concocted a touching, sometimes humorous, and always affecting theatrical quilt of many tones.

To see a full review of this show, read Christine Howey's review at  Cleveland Scene

Andrea Simakis

Dobama's "Civil War Christmas" is a technical marvel, a gorgeous looking, finely tuned show where entrances and exits are choreographed with balletic precision. . . So it's a pity that such impressive infrastructure supports a mostly dull and overly earnest enterprise.

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

Mary Poppins @ Beck Center for the Arts

December 5, 2014-January 4, 2015
216-521-2540 or http://www.beckcenter.org

Bob Abelman

There’s only a spoonful of spectacle in Beck Center’s ‘Mary Poppins,’ but it's practically perfect in other ways.

To see a full review of this show, read Bob Abelman's CJN article here or go to:  

Roy Berko

“Mary Poppins, based on the stories of P. L. Travers and the Walt Disney Film, is generally delightful, though not as charismatic as required for the attention of young children.  It will delight most theatre-goers as Mary Poppins flylessly cavorts into their hearts and feeds them “A Spoon Full of Sugar.” 
 
To see a full review of this show, read Roy Berko's blog here.

Mark Horning

While this may have been an off night for the show, the lack of heat in the theater, lackluster (cold) performances from most of the cast (although the large dance numbers did well but could be better if speeded up) and the general “walk through” atmosphere of the production left me disappointed.  Disney is an explosion of sight, color and sound.  This show lacked all of those.

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

Friday, December 5, 2014

AMERICAN FALLS @ Cleveland Public Theatre

December 4-20, 2014
216-631-2727 or go to www.cptonline.org


Roy Berko
 
“American Falls” is not an easy sit.  If takes concentration.  As Raymond Bobgan, the director, states in his program notes, “This journey requires curiosity, attention and a yearning for something wonderful to happen.”  Each will take his/her own journey in this complex piece.
 
To see a full review of this show, read Roy Berko's blog here.

Mark Horning
If you are looking for a reality check from the seasonal overdose of gumdrops and candy canes, this show will firmly sock you in the gizzard and give you a swift kick in the you know where.  It is nothing out of the ordinary of small town life (or for that matter big city life) but is gritty and real with a tidy ending that will have you debating with yourself for days. 
To see a full review of this show, read Mark Horning's blog.

Christine Howey  

On the plus side, playwright Johnson and director Raymond Bobgan craft two really extraordinary characters, embodied in a couple riveting performances. 

To see a full review of this show, read Christine Howey's blog Rave and Pan

Andrea Simakis
 

Miki Johnson's debut play "American Falls" is like electro-schock therapy it clears your brain of anything that has come before it.

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

Monday, December 1, 2014

"Irving Berlin's WHITE CHRISTMAS" @ State Theatre/PhSq

December 2-14, 2014
216-241-6000 or www.playhousesquare.org

Bob Abelman

Warm and fuzzy feelings? Check. Dopey ear-to-ear grin? Check. Intellect intact and untouched? Check.

To see a full review of this show, read Bob Abelman's article here:  http://www.news-herald.com/article/20141203/NEWS/141209793


Roy Berko


“Irving Berlin’s White Christmas" is theatrical fluff that makes for a nice marzipan treat for the holidays.  Don’t go expecting a great American musical.  It’s intended to entertain, not teach a lesson or give advice on how to solve the world’s problems.  If  you ”Let Yourself Go,” the show should add to your “Happy Holiday.”
To see a full review of this show, read Roy Berko's blog here.

Kerry Clawson


The stage musical "Irving Berlin's White Christmas" is an idyllic slice of Americana, a snapshot of all that was innocent and beautiful in 1954 Hollywood.

Costumes by Carrie Robbins are gorgeous, the singing is top-notch and the dancing is spectacular, especially the extended tap number "I Love a Piano," featuring the full chorus and partnering by the exuberant Kaitlyn Davidson as Judy and Jeremy Benton as Phil.


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


Howard Gollop

... Nonstop candy-colored backdrops, decorated trees rolling in from the wings, tons of bubbly snow falling from the stage and auditorium and abundant evergreen tunes by the great Irving Berlin ...

Yes, there’re lots of reasons to hum but unfortunately there’re a few reasons to cry “Humbug,” too.

Adapted for the live stage nearly a decade ago (with a few plot tweaks), “White Christmas” makes the common mistake of presuming Hollywood screenplays invariably hold enough dramatic weight to resonate in a theater.


Mark Horning

Grand and elaborate sets, an extremely talented cast who excel in acting, dancing and singing, wonderful songs played by an exceptional orchestra makes this a total Broadway experience.  While not Shakespeare, it is a wonderful holiday diversion.  With its short run you would be best to get your tickets right now.
To see a full review of this show, read Mark Horning's blog.

Christine Howey

The promotional image for this musical version of that film, now at PlayhouseSquare, is a snow globe, and that is actually a very accurate representation of the show itself. It’s gorgeous to look at (and the songs are enjoyable to listen to), but the emotions that the film generates are absent, sealed under the glossy surface of a show that has plenty of eye candy but not enough heart.

To see a full review of this show, read Christine Howey's blog Rave and Pan

Andrea Simakis

The oddly chemistry-free production is as comfortably bland and forgettable as the socks your Aunt Clara sends you every year at Christmas. 

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

Art Thomas

An old-fashioned musical in every aspect, "White Christmas" is an ultimate feel-good experience with a show-stopping and completely gratuitous "I Love a Piano" as the second act opener. 

Click here to read the complete review at WestLife

"A Christmas Story" @ Cleveland Play House/Allen Theatre

November 28-Decemer 21, 2014
216-241-6000 or www.clevelandplayhouse.com



Roy Berko
 

This year’s “THE CHRISTMAS STORY,” now a seemingly permanent installment as CPH’s holiday show, was a step above some of the recent stagings of the epic.  Many of the opening night audience seemed to be long time devotees, as many of the laugh lines were preceded by pre-giggles and oral  forecasting of the now famous lines.  It was almost like a midnight viewing of “The Rocky Horror Show.” Yes, a good time was had by all.  No “bah Humbug” here!

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

Mark Horning

For fans of the movie, this production is probably the best stage adaptation in years due to the exceptional chemistry of the cast.  If you have not seen it the last couple of years, there are some nice surprises waiting for you.  Share this with the family for Christmas. 

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

Sunday, November 30, 2014

HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES @ Actors' Summit

November 26-December 21, 2014
330-374-7568 or go to www.actorssummit.org


Bob Abelman


Director Neil Thackaberry finds all the laughs loitering in the script, of which there are many, and his talented troupe – Stuart Hoffman (as Holmes and others), Frank Jackman (as Watson) and Jim Fippin (as Sir Henry Baskerville and others) – deliver them with comedic conviction.  But “Hound” is silly and unsatisfying.

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

Roy Berko


You have to go to Actors’ Summit to see “The Hounds of the Baskervilles” in the right state of mind.  Understand that this is not a “real” Sherlock Holmes mystery tale.  Be prepared to laugh, accept the outlandish, and groan at the ridiculousness.

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

Mark Horning

With gas prices hitting an all time low, a trip to Akron to see this show is a real bargain.  If you are looking for an absolutely silly program that is loaded with laughs, make the trip.  There are only two performances left so hurry.

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


Kerry Clawson

Three actors are working on overdrive at Actors’ Summit as they portray 14 characters in "Hound of the Baskervilles," a spoof of the Arthur Conan Doyle novel adapted by British authors Steven Canny and John Nicholson.

For audience members who are not well versed in Doyle’s original 1902 Sherlock Holmes story, the first act is bound to be confusing. ... While the play as a whole doesn't reach full-blown slapstick treatment, it does amuse.

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

Saturday, November 22, 2014

TERMINUS @ covergence-continuum

The Liminis, 2438 Scranton Road, Cleveland
November 21-December 20, 2014
216-687-0074 or convergence-continuum.org

Bob Abelman

Contemporary Irish playwright Mark O’Rowe wrote “Terminus” in his spare time.  And it shows.

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

Roy Berko


Though compelling, “Terminus” is definitely not a play for everyone.  The language is rough, the vivid descriptions often unnerving, and the closeness of the actors to the audience can be off-putting.  On the other hand, the performances, the experience of listening to the impressive poetic writing, and the opportunity to experience intense emotional involvement, may stir the right audience to attend.

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

Christine Howey

Even with occasional wrinkles, O'Rowe's wordplay and intersecting monologues rivet the attention in a way few other plays ever attempt to do.

To see a full review of this show, read Christine Howey's review at  Cleveland Scene

Art Thomas

"Terminus" is a challenging play to watch and NOT for those who want a "mindless night of entertaining theater." It is a glimpse into the minds of three hard core Dubliners where violence, psychotic behavior, and dealings with multiple demons is the subject matter. The extended monologues link the stories but the poetry rich writing was not captured by two of the three cast on opening night. 

To see a full review of this show read Art Thomas' review at Westlifenews.com  here