Monday, December 9, 2019



2019 CLEVELAND CRITICS CIRCLE THEATER AWARDS

The Cleveland Critics Circle each year honors local theaters, performances, writers, performers and technicians of plays staged by Cleveland area professional theaters during the January 1-December 31 2019 year.

Award Committee Voters: Roy Berko, Kerry Clawson, Howard Gollop, Mark Horning, Laura Kennelly and Andrea Simakis.  Participation in these awards does not preclude individual critics from preparing their own recognitions.

Those recognized for Superior Achievement are listed alphabetically, not by order of achievement.

Best Musical Production  
ONCE, Beck Center/Baldwin Wallace Music Theatre Program
Honorable Mention:
KISS OF THE SPIDERWOMAN, Blank Canvas  
MAN OF LA MANCHA, Porthouse
THE MUSIC MAN, Great Lakes Theater

Best Non-Musical Production
TWO, none-too-fragile
Honorable Mention:
AN ILIAD, Cleveland Play House
BY THE BOG OF CATS, Ensemble
HAMLET, Ohio Shakespeare Festival
INTO THE BREECHES, Cleveland Play House
STUPID FUCKING BIRD, Dobama
            
Best Actor – Musical
Fabio Polanco, MAN OF LA MANCHA, Porthouse
           Honorable Mention
Alex Syiek, THE MUSIC MAN, Great Lakes Theater
Jake Slater, ONCE, Beck Center/Baldwin Wallace Music Theatre Program
Patrick Ciamacco, THE TOXIC AVENGER, Blank Canvas
Scott Esposito, KISS OF THE SPIDERWOMAN, Blank Canvas
            
Best Actors – Non-Musical
David Peacock, TWO, none-too-fragile
Robert Hawkes, KING LEAR, Beck
           Honorable Mention
Alex Brightwell, EVERY BRILLIANT THING, Cleveland Play House
Christopher M. Bohan, GLENGARRY, GLEN ROSS, Beck Center
Kieron Cindric, HOMOS OR EVERYONE IN AMERICA, convergence-continuum

Best Actress – Musical  
Nicole Sumlin, LADY DAY AT EMERSON’S BAR & GRILL, Beck Center
            Honorable Mention
            Jillian Kates, THE MUSIC MAN, Great Lakes Theater.
            Kelsey Brown, ONCE, Beck Center/Baldwin Wallace Music Theatre 
Program
            Mary-Francis R. Miller, AIDA, Karamu

Best Actress – Non-Musical  
Tarah Flanagan, AN ILIAD, Cleveland Play House
           Honorable Mention
Amy Fritsche, THE PINELOPIAD, Ensemble
Derdriu Ring, TWO, none-too-fragile
Laura Perotta, STUPID FUCKING BIRD, Dobama
Tess Burgler, HAMLET, Ohio Shakespeare Festival

Rising Stars
            Male 
            Jake Spencer, RAGTIME, Cain Park
            Female
            Calista Zajac, NETHER, Dobama
            
Best Director – Musical
Victoria Bussert, ONCE, Beck Center/Baldwin Wallace Music Theatre
           Honorable Mention
Patrick Ciamacco, KISS OF THE SPIDERWOMAN, Blank Canvas
Terri Kent, MAN OF LA MANCHA, Porthouse
Victoria Bussert, MUSIC MAN, Great Lakes Theater

Best Director – Non-Musical
Nathan Motta, STUPID FUCKING BIRD, Dobama
           Honorable Mention
Robert Barry Fleming, NATIVE GARDENS, Cleveland Play House
Sara Brunner, JULIUS CAESAR, Great Lakes Theater
Sean Derry, TWO, none-too-fragile
Tarah Flanagan and Andrew Carlson, AN ILIAD, Cleveland Play House

Best Choreographer
Martin Céspedes, MAN OF LA MANCHA, Porthouse
Honorable Mention
           Gregory Daniels, ONCE, Beck Center/Baldwin Wallace Music Theatre Program
Imani Jackson, RAGTIME, Cain Park
Martin Cespedes, MATILDA, Beck

Best Musical Direction  
Mathew Webb, ONCE, Beck Center/Baldwin Wallace Music Theatre Program
           Honorable Mention
Ed Ridley, LADY DAY AT EMERSON’S BAR & GRILL, Beck Center
James Barry, MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET, Great Lakes Theater
Jonathan Swoboda, MAN OF LA MANCHA, Porthouse

Best Scenic Design  
Arnulfo Maldonado, TINY HOUSES, Cleveland Play House
           Honorable Mention
Jason Ardizzone-West, NATIVE GARDENS, Cleveland Play House
Jordan Janota, ONCE, Beck Center/Baldwin Wallace Music Theatre Program
Richard H. Morris, Jr., PARADISE BLUE, Karamu
            
Best Lighting Design
Rick Martin, JULIUS CAESAR, Great Lakes Theater
           Honorable Mention
Michael Boll, NATIVE GARDENS, Cleveland Play House
Cynthia Stillings, MAN OF LA MANCHA, Porthouse
Ian Hinz THE PENELOPIAD, Ensemble

Best Projection Design
Katherine Freer, PIPELINE, Cleveland Play House
           Honorable Mention
Benjamin Gantose, RASTUS AND HATTIE, Cleveland Public Theatre
T. Paul Lowry, AIDA, Karamu
T. Paul Lowry, NETHER, Dobama
Trad Burns and Jason Taylor, MATILDA, Beck Center
            
Best Costume Design
Angela Calin, INTO THE BREECHES, Cleveland Play House
            Honorable Mention
            Leah Piehl, THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, Great Lakes Theater
            Inda Blatch-Geib, AIDA, Karamu

Best Sound Design
Mathew Webb, JULIUS CAESER, Great Lakes Theater
           Honorable Mention
Patrick Ciamacco, LOBBY HERO, Blank Canvas
Richard Ingraham, STUPID FUCKING BIRD, Dobama

Best Touring Production  
THE BAND’S VISIT, Key Bank Broadway Series

Best New Play by a Local Playwright
Lisa Langford, RUSTUS AND HATTIE, Cleveland Public Theatre
            Honorable Mention
            THE HAT BOX, Eric Coble
            LIVE BODIES FOR SALE, Christopher Johnson

Best Ensemble in a Musical:  
ONCE, BW/Beck
           Honorable Mention
MAN OF LAMANCHA, Porthouse
AIDA, Karamu
THE MUSIC MAN, Great Lakes Theater

Best World Premiere in The Cleveland Area: 
RUSTUS AND HATTIE, Cleveland Public Theatre
            Honorable Mention
            LIVE BODIES FOR SALE, Playwrights Local
 MAID MARION: AN ADVENTURE WITH MUSIC, Ohio Shakespeare Festival
TINY HOUSES, Cleveland Play House

Special Mention
Co-production of THE IMPACT OF SHUFFLE ALONG by Karamu and The Musical Theater Project for placing a spotlight on the story of the first all African American written, produced and performed hit Broadway musical

None too fragile…for finding a permanent home

Baldwin Wallace Music Theatre Program for producing the national Collegiate Premiere of KINKY BOOTS

Cleveland Public Theatre’s Teatro Publico de Cleveland and Y-Haven Theater for giving a voice to minority performers and playwrights

Scott Campbell for his original music and lyrics in the world premiere of Sarah Coon's MAID MARION: AN ADVENTURE WITH MUSIC, Ohio Shakespeare Festival

Fight director Ryan Zarecki for the exceptional stage combat in HAMLET at Ohio Shakespeare Festival

Eva Rose Scholz-Carlson, for her original cello compositions and performance in AN ILLIAD, Cleveland Play House

Saturday, December 7, 2019

THE OLD MAN AND THE MOON @ DOBAMA THEATRE



Through January 5, 2019
(216) 932-3396

Roy Berko


Dobama’s “OLD MAN AND THE OLD MOON” creates a world which will enchant many and confound others.  In order to truly participate in the experience, you must combine your inner curious child and let loose of your inhibitions and expectations of the format for traditional theater.  It’s worth seeing if just to immerse yourself in experiencing what “non-traditional” theatre can be, realizing that this is not theater for everyone, especially children.


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

Kerry Clawson
No review yet.
To see a full review of this show, read Kerry Clawson's review here.



Mark Horning


With a rambling story line and bit confusing conclusion this extended version of the original production could use a bit of red penciling to trim off some of the fat. An earlier start time would also draw in more parents with children.

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


Laura Kennelly
No review yet.
To see a full review of this show, read Laura's posts at Cool Cleveland.

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

Thursday, December 5, 2019

THE TOURING PRODUCTION OF MEAN GIRLS @ THE CONNOR PALACE THEATRE



Theough December 22, 2019
(216) 241-6000

Roy Berko

“MEAN GIRLS” is filled with music, characters and Tina Fey-satire that will appeal to audiences.”  Go, see, enjoy, but don’t expect “DEAR EVAN HANSEN” or “FAR FROM AWAY” greatness.

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

Kerry Clawson
No review yet.
To see a full review of this show, read Kerry Clawson's review here.

Mark Horning


If high school had been this much fun many of us would never have left. This high energy show dazzles with brilliant choreography, great singing numbers and superb acting. It is a moral tale of redemption and acceptance that should be required viewing by all high school age children and their parents. See if you can spot yourself among the cast.

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


Laura Kennelly

It’s not Carrie or Heathers (no one ends up dead, although someone does get hit by a bus), but it is definitely one of those “high school is hell for girls” musicals that teaches a lesson about how to treat others (which is, “as you would like to be treated,” of course).

On the good side, the large cast skillfully executes the dance routines.

One of the most striking elements in Mean Girls was not the music (routine pop, nothing special), but the video design by Finn Ross and Adam Young. Projections on the set behind the actors made the show fresh, reminding us where we were (Africa, the high school, their homes, and so on), and letting us “see” the cruel comments written over students’ pictures that cause big trouble.

Bottom Line: There are funny moments, the cast is good, but the story has, overall, been done over and over. Yes, we know growing up is hard, but get over it. (I feel like a mean girl now, but there’s something about this show that brings out the snark.)

See full review at artstillmatters.com
or read Laura's posts at Cool Cleveland.

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

Saturday, November 30, 2019

A CHRISTMAS CAROL @ GREAT LAKES THEATER


Through December 22, 2019
(216) 241-6000



Kerry Clawson
No review yet.
To see a full review of this show, read Kerry Clawson's review here.

Howard Gollop
No review yet.

Mark Horning


This long standing Cleveland Christmas tradition still sells out simply because it is so superbly done. It is the touchstone that a lot of families use to kick off the holiday celebrations. Come see it again and bring the entire family for a night of superb holiday theater.

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


Laura Kennelly
No review yet.
To see a full review of this show, read Laura's posts at Cool Cleveland.

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

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

EVERY BRILLIANT THING @ CLEVELAND PLAY HOUSE



Until December 22, 2019
(216) 241-6000

Roy Berko

“EVERY BRILLIANT THING” is a brilliant and absolutely must-see production.  Mental illness and its impact on a family, mortality and existential despondency are central themes. These are heavy subjects but, ironically, the approach is almost frolicsome and totally mesmerizing.

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

Kerry Clawson
No review yet.
To see a full review of this show, read Kerry Clawson's review here.

Mark Horning


Mental health issues seem to peak especially during the holiday season thus the timeliness of this show is apt as we are bombarded with holly jolly Christmas cheer whether we want it or not. It is a show of hope that gently reminds us of every brilliant thing that gives us reason to live.  

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


Laura Kennelly
No review yet.
To see a full review of this show, read Laura's posts at Cool Cleveland.

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

TOURING PRODUCTION OF WHITE CHRISTMAS @ PLAYHOUSE SQUARE



Through December 1, 2019
(216) 241-6000

Roy Berko
No review yet.
To see a full review of this show, read Roy Berko's blog here.

Kerry Clawson
No review yet.
To see a full review of this show, read Kerry Clawson's review here.

Howard Gollop

"White Christmas" is back with nonstop candy-colored backdrops befitting both a Cinemascope movie and a Currier and Ives Christmas card; decorated trees rolling in from the wings; tons of bubbly snow falling from the stage and auditorium; scene-stealing bits from Elyria's own Cliff Bemis; and abundant evergreen tunes by the great Irving Berlin.

Mark Horning


This show is a perfect early Christmas gift for the entire family as nothing has been spared in this lush production filled with nostalgia and great show tunes. With a short run of only four remaining performances you need to order tickers NOW! This is the ultimate feel good show of the season.

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


Laura Kennelly
No review yet.
To see a full review of this show, read Laura's posts at Cool Cleveland.

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

Sunday, November 24, 2019

LIVE BODIES FOR SALE @ PLAYWRIGHTS LOCAL



Through December 15, 2019
(216) 302-8850
Or http://playwrightslocal.org/

Roy Berko

“LIVE BODIES FOR SALE” is a powerful and compelling exposition that grabs and holds attention, not only because of the stories told, but also because of the well-conceived performances.  This is an absolutely must-see experience which shows the power of theater to teach and persuade.

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

Mark Horning

You will not enjoy Live Bodies For Sale but this is a show that should be seen by parents and teens alike. Sometimes theater should be less about entertainment and stronger on teaching vastly needed life lessons. This is one of those shows. Have the courage to see this with your son and daughter. 

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

Andrea Simakis

In writing “Live Bodies for Sale,” playwright Christopher Johnston pulled out his reporter’s notebook and interviewed survivors of the inhumane crime of human trafficking. He didn’t speak to women in far-flung countries but to those right here in Cleveland.  Their stories, told in a series of arresting monologues peppered throughout the loosely structured work, are the reason to make the trek to Waterloo Arts District to see the world-premiere Playwrights Local production.
To see a full review of this show, read Andrea Simakis' blog or visit Cleveland.com here.

THE LOUSCH SISTERS LOVE DICK'NS @ CLEVELAND PUBLIC THEATRE



Through December 21, 2019
(216) 631-2727


Mark Horning


If you are in need of a silly irreverent look at the dark force of the holidays, this show (fortified with a goodly amount of hooch) should fill the bill. Most of the CPT regulars will get the joke while newcomers may shy away.

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


Thursday, November 7, 2019

TOURING PRODUCTION OF THE BANDS VISIT @ PLAYHOUSE SQUARE



Through November 24, 2019
(216) 241-6000

Roy Berko

“The Band’s Visit” is a slice of life, character-centered show, woven together with spoken and sung words and music, that is filled with caring humanism.  

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

Kerry Clawson

The elegantly written and performed work stays true to a comment original filmmaker Eran Kolirin made about the movie as it was being adapted for the stage: What if there were an orchestra for all the little things in life? In a story with simple conversations, where not much happens, the music treats every moment as important.
That makes the quote both at the beginning and end of the show quite the understatement: “Once, not long ago, a group of musicians came to Israel from Egypt. You probably didn’t hear about it. It wasn’t very important.”
To see a full review of this show, read Kerry Clawson's review here.

Howard Gollop

Considering "The Band's Visit" is basically about a relatively irrelevant burg in Israel, of all places, where nothing ever happens, one may wonder if it could possibly be the kind of Broadway musical that won a Tony Award for best musical in 2018. Yes it is.

Through interwoven vignettes of deceptive insignificance, the cast compels the audience to savor the complexities and simplicities of human life. What the Broadway incarnation of "The Band's Visit" may lack the original film's cinematic verisimilitude, it more than compensates with a richly hued soul-revealling score. David Yazbek's songs evoke longing, waiting (actually the name of a song), epic romance and intimate small-town life.

Mark Horning


Every so often a show comes along bringing its own special magic to the stage. This is such a show. Lasting only 100 minutes with no intermission it is probably the best theater time you can experience. Bring someone you love to share in the magic.

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

Laura Kennelly

BOTTOM LINE: Tonic for the mind and soul. Watching it is like watching a tale from the Thousand and One Nights come to life. Moonlight, romance, music, and longing combine to weave a subtle musical magic in only 90 minutes.

To see a full review of this show see or read Laura's posts at Cool Cleveland.

Andrea Simakis


‘The Band’s Visit’ at Playhouse Square is a joyous musical celebration of life’s big questions at the scale of the human heart.

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

Monday, October 28, 2019

RASHEEDA SPEAKING @ KARAMU THEATER



Through November 24, 2019
(216) 795-7070


Mark Horning


If you have ever had the nagging feeling that someone is after your job, you are probably right and this play proves it in a masterful manner. It is theatrical dynamite in an easy to understand small package. Workers of the World Unite...and see this play.

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