Arts District

Friday, April 28, 2017

Playhouse Square and Baldwin Wallace University Reprise the Rock Musical 'Lizzie'

Posted By on Fri, Apr 28, 2017 at 10:54 AM

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A rock roadshow retelling of the legend of Lizzie Borden, the daughter of a prominent businessman who axed her parents to death in their home, Lizzie returns to the local stage this weekend.

The performances at Playhouse Square mark the 10-year collaboration between Playhouse Square and the Baldwin Wallace University musical theater program.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Apollo's Fire Closes Its 25th Season With Beethoven Plus Five More Classical Music Events to Hit This Week

Posted By on Wed, Apr 26, 2017 at 11:22 AM

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Cellist Jeffrey Zeigler
will play a program of contemporary music by Andy Akiho, JG Thirlwell, Randall Woolf, Philip Glass, John Zorn, and Paola Prestini at Transformer Station in Hingetown on the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Performing Arts series on Wednesday, April 26 at 7:30 pm. Tickets are available online.

Vox Luminis, a fine choir from Namur, Belgium, will return to Cleveland to sing 16th- and 17th-century British music by Tallis, Purcell, Byrd, Whyte, and Morley — including music written for the funerals of Queens Elizabeth and Mary — at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in downtown Cleveland on Wednesday, April 26 at 7:30 pm. Lionel Meunier conducts, and the performance is free.

It’s the end of the 25th season for Cleveland’s Baroque Orchestra, Apollo’s Fire, and the ensemble is moving into the 19th century for a festival of music by Beethoven and Schubert. Berlin Philharmonic first concertmaster Noah Bendix-Balgley joins Jeannette Sorrell and the ensemble for his period instrument debut in Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in four concerts from Thursday, April 27 through Sunday, April 30. Come early to hear Harvard professor Thomas Forrest Kelly talk about Beethoven’s Vienna an hour before each performance. On Saturday, April 29, you can learn Viennese salon dancing from Julie Andrijeski and hear tenor Karim Sulayman and members of the Orchestra recreate a “Schubertiade” or Viennese house concert. See our Concert Listings page for details.

Cleveland Opera Theater will stage Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro at the Masonic Auditorium Performing Arts Center on Friday, April 28 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, April 30 at 3:00 pm. Christopher Holmes stars as Figaro, Scott Skiba directs, and Domenico Boyagian conducts the COT Orchestra. Tickets available online.

For its season finale, the Cleveland Classical Guitar Society will present Sérgio & Odair Assad at Plymouth Church in Shaker Heights on Sunday, April 30 at 3:00 pm — a departure from the Society’s usual Saturday evening time slot. The brothers will play a program of Spanish and Brazilian music. Tickets available online.

The Cleveland Orchestra’s annual semi-staged opera production will be Claude Debussy’s dreamy Pelléas and Mélisande, conducted by Franz Welser-Möst, and sung in French with English supertitles. The cast features baritone Stéphane Degout, bass-baritone Hanno Müller-Brachmann, bass Peter Rose, and mezzo-soprano Nancy Maultsby in a made-for-Cleveland production designed by Yuval Sharon (who staged The Cunning Little Vixen in 2014). There are performances on Tuesday, May 2, Thursday, May 4, and Saturday, May 6 at 7:30 pm. Tickets can be ordered online from the Severance Hall box office.

For details of these and many other events, visit the ClevelandClassical.com Concert Listings page.
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Over-Torqued Songs Sully a Modernized 'Freaky Friday' at Cleveland Play House

Posted By on Wed, Apr 26, 2017 at 9:58 AM

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There’s no denying that the gimmick at the heart of this show, a musical version of the 1976 Disney movie, is a sure-fire winner. I mean, a mom and self-employed event planner named Katherine and her teenage daughter Ellie magically exchange bodies and set the stage for lots of generational laughs. (Mom has to go to high school and deal with those rotten kids! Snarky teenager has to convince a wedding magazine to do a cover story on her mom’s business!).

For this effort, the cross-generational jokes have been updated to the 21st century by book writer Bridget Carpenter. In addition, they’ve hired Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey to, respectively, do the music and lyrics. Seems like a no-brainer, since these guys put together the stunning musical Next to Normal You even have renowned scenic designer Beowulf Boritt creating a wonderfully flexible yet simple set, utilizing continually morphing columns that roll about in various configurations against a suburban landscape.

So, how can you miss? Well, let’s put it this way: IT WOULD BE EXHAUSTING TO READ THIS REVIEW IF EVERY SENTENCE WAS SCREAMING AT YOU AT THE TOP OF IT’S LUNGS AND NEVER GIVING YOU A CHANCE TO BREATHE!

Similarly, it is tiring to watch a musical that attempts to turn every song into an anthem. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with Broadway anthems, those show-stopping numbers (think “I Am What I Am” or “Lullaby of Broadway”) that people leave the theater talking about. Wow, they say, that was powerful!

The trick is, that power is generated because the anthems are high points in a show, not the entire musical fabric. But in this production, virtually every song is composed and sung like an anthem, at full volume and with maximum emotional investment. This is all in the service of a plot that, while clever, depends on a rather flimsy one-joke premise.

As a result, the potentially tender, lightly amusing and affecting fantasy is crushed under the brutal treads of the Kitt/Yorkey pop-rock sonic muggings and music director Andrew Graham’s unrelenting intensity. In a different context, a couple of the song-anthems would be quite satisfying, since the premise-setting “Just One Day” and the secret-revealing “Busted” are quite entertaining. But in this production, they’re just another blast in the face.

In addition to the over-torqued songs, Yorkey is given to writing lyrics that are jammed with information—no “moon-June” simplicity for him. This worked brilliantly in the aforementioned Next to Normal, since it dealt with serious mental illness issues. Lots to delve into there. But in this show, his wordy delectation of the not-so-deep, storybook central theme quickly becomes overkill. In “No More Fear,” Katherine in the body of Ellie laments her past parental decisions in excruciating detail: “How long have I kept an even keel?/How hard have I worked to keep our life so calm and neat?/How do I clean up this mess I made?” Maybe Yorkey could clean up this situation by not trying so hard.

Happily, there are some survivors. When the actors are not screaming their lungs hoarse in songs that require much less vocal commitment, they do a nice job under the direction of Christopher Ashley. As Katherine, Heidi Blickenstaff channels the insolent postures and snotty attitudes of her daughter with precision, and she’s quite amusing. In the less showy role of Ellie, Emma Hunton spends most of her time bringing adult good sense and reasonable behavior to her daughter’s sloppily clad body. And they are well supported by David Jennings as Katherine’s fiancé Mike, Chris Ramirez as Ellie’s high school dream-hunk Adam, and Jake Heston Miller as Katherine’s young son Fletcher.

But as effective as some of the dialog scenes are, musicals rise and fall on the music. And in this production, the music attacks the audience like a Marine drill sergeant, intent on taking no prisoners. As clever as it is, the songs in this Freaky Friday could lead to Migraine Monday.

Freaky Friday kicks off this year’s New Ground Festival at the Cleveland Play House. The Festival also includes a world premiere play by local playwright Eric Coble, These Mortal Hosts, May 11-20; The Nolan Williams Project, a new musical concert presentation, May 20; and The Chinese Lady, a reading of a new play by Lloyd Suh, May 20.

Freaky Friday
Through May 20 at the Cleveland Play House, Playhouse Square, 1407 Euclid Avenue, 216-241-6000, clevelandplayhouse.com
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Dark Religious Comedy Aplenty in 'Hand to God' at Dobama Theatre

Posted By on Wed, Apr 26, 2017 at 9:47 AM

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The definition of a passion play is a dramatic performance representing the Passion of Jesus Christ, involving his suffering and death. It is a staple of many celebrations of Lent in several Christian denominations.

The thing is, that word “passion” can take you in more than one direction. And in this play by Robert Askins, there is plenty of passion set in a church building, but most of it is of the four-letter-word, violent and sexually-drenched variety.

Taking a cue from the outrageous puppets in Avenue Q, this dark comedy centers on a Sunday school classroom of a church in a small Texas town. This is where recently widowed Margery is trying to teach her charges Jason, Jessica and Timothy about the Lord, using puppets as a vehicle to reach them. Jason is her son, and it turns out she reaches him all too well, since timid Jason has apparently bonded with his puppet Tyrone in a dangerous way.

Indeed, it seems balls-to-the-wall Tyrone has taken over Jason’s fragile personality and is using him to lambaste everyone in sight, including Pastor Greg. As Tyrone says in his opening speech, speaking from a puppet stage in the classroom: “The same motherfucker who invented the group kill and team virtue—that ballsy piece of pig shit—topped all his previous work and invented the devil.”

And Tyrone is here to make sure the devil gets his due. As performed by Luke Wehner, Jason/Tyrone is a fascinating and at times abhorrent creation, giving voice to the unspeakable thoughts Jason has swirling around in his head—as most of us do, of course. Tyrone is all id and, since he's not actually President of the United States, he's hilarious.

Meanwhile, Timothy (Austin Gonser) is a walking adolescent hard-on with maximum sexual potency and very little focus, Jessica (Molly Israel) is trying to deal with Jason’s infatuation and Margery begins to let down her pretense of civility and starts to respond to Timothy’s insistent entreaties. During all this, Pastor Greg (David Burgher) is trying to make time with Margery.

In other words, it’s a pretty conventional church setting with all the hypocrisy, concealed emotions and screwed-up family relationships fully revealed. And that is what Askins is about, as he thrusts Tyrone into this supposedly calm and rational world.

Sure-handed director Matthew Wright keeps the pacing tight, even when the script tends to get bogged down in a bit too much repetition. And the ensemble performances are quite adept. But it is Wehner’s star turn as the man with the devil stuck on the end of his arm that steals the show and is worth the price of admission.

Hand to God
Through May 21 at Dobama Theatre, 2340 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights, 216-932-3396, dobama.org
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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Documentary About Cleveland Youth Advocacy and Arts Organization Premieres Tomorrow

Posted By on Tue, Apr 25, 2017 at 9:32 AM

AMANDA KING
  • Amanda King
The studios of Shooting Without Bullets are tucked away in a low-profile, multi-use building on the city’s near east side. Scattered about are photography equipment, lights and gels for photo shoots, loose sheets of paper, snacks in various stages of being eaten and artworks in various stages of completion.

The whiteboard is marked up with Instagram handles and logistical information. There’s a palpable potential energy in it all.

Less than a year since being founded by 28-year-old law student and artist Amanda King, Shooting Without Bullets has developed a dedicated core of teens telling their stories through art. At 6 p.m. tomorrow at Cleveland Institute of Art’s Peter B. Lewis Theater, their stories will be showcased in Under Exposed, a documentary film.

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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Gathering Place Benefit to Take Place Tonight at Gray's Armory

Posted By on Sat, Apr 22, 2017 at 9:22 AM

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A non-profit, community-based cancer support center that focuses on "the social, emotional, physical and spiritual needs of individuals with cancer and their family and friends," the Gathering Place hosts the second annual GatherPalooza fundraiser at Grays Armory today from 6:30 to 11 p.m.

The event will feature a Battle of the Bands between local acts Witness Protection, the Retractors, Faith and Whiskey, and 80-HD, rock bands that include Cleveland area professionals in health care, law and insurance.

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Friday, April 21, 2017

Playwrights Local to Premiere New 'Play with Music' About Poet Wallace Stevens

Posted By on Fri, Apr 21, 2017 at 10:22 AM

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Next month, Playwrights Local, the arts group responsible for organizing the Annual Cleveland Playwrights Festival, will premiere Things As They Are, a new “play-with-music” about the life and work of American poet Wallace Stevens.

David Todd, Artistic Director of Playwrights Local, wrote the play. The production will use selections from Stevens’ poetry and prose, aiming to explore the mystical persona that surrounds the titular artist.

A multi-media theater piece, the play uses “dramatic scenes, original compositions, poems, dance/movement, commedia dell’arte, and projections.”

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