Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Orchestra Does "It's a Wonderful Life" and 8 More Classical Music Events to Hit This Week

Posted By on Tue, Dec 6, 2016 at 10:15 AM


Christmas concerts expand this week’s list to ten events — it’s difficult to whittle the choices down any further. Enjoy, and in the spirit of the season, overindulge!

As part of CIM’s Winter Chamber Music Festival, students in the Cleveland Institute of Music’s Intensive String Quartet Seminar will tackle all of Béla Bartók’s amazing quartets in a single concert on Wednesday, December 7 at 7:00 pm in Mixon Hall. You can hear them, in order, played by the Gemini, Jaius, Belka, Onyx, Aurelia and Callisto Quartets, and admission is free.
Then on Friday December 9, the Cavani String Quartet will join guitarist Colin Davin in a program of works by Boccherini and Vivaldi, and Franz Schubert’s famous “Death and the Maiden” Quartet in d. The concert is free, but you’ll need to serve seating passes by calling 216.795.3211.

Guest conductor Stefan Willich will lead CityMusic Cleveland in five concerts around the area beginning on Wednesday, December 7 at 7:30 pm in Christ Episcopal Church in Shaker Heights. Hornist Elizabeth Freimuth will be featured in Richard Strauss’s Horn Concerto No. 2, and the orchestra will play Viennese music by two unrelated families of Strausses. Check the concert listings for times and venues of four more performances through Sunday.

Last week, The Cleveland Orchestra gave you George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker in Playhouse Square. This week, the ensemble returns to Severance Hall to crank up more Christmas activities: two screenings of Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life on Thursday and Friday, December 8 and 9 at 7:30 pm, and ten Christmas Concerts beginning on Saturday afternoon, December 10 and running through Sunday evening, December 18 will all be led by the busy associate conductor Brett Mitchell. The Orchestra’s Youth Chorus joins in for the movies, and all the Severance Hall choruses, plus guests, will raise their voices for the holiday fare. Tickets can be ordered online.

Italian violinist Francesco D’Orazio will be featured in contemporary music by Italian composers on the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Performing Arts Series at Transformer Station on Friday, December 9 at 7:30 pm. The space is small and seating is limited. Reserve tickets online.

Lakewood-born composer David Conte has made O. Henry’s famous Christmas story, The Gift of the Magi, into an opera. Great Lakes Light Opera will present the show at East Cleveland Theater on Friday, December 9 at 7:30 pm, and Sunday, December 11 at 3:00 pm, featuring Anna White as Della, Matthew Brennan as Jim, Jennifer Woda as Maggie, Bryant Bush as Jim, and Seth Johnson, Joel Kincannon and Jonathan Stuckey as the Magi). Tickets available online.

Although you mostly hear it performed in churches at Christmas, George Frideric Handel first performed his Messiah in a Dublin theater at Eastertime. Apollo’s Fire is sticking to the more recent Christmas tradition, but promises to keep Handel’s theatrical sensibilities flowing throughout his famous oratorio. Jeannette Sorrell conducts, and soloists include Meredith Hall, soprano, Amanda Crider, mezzo-soprano, Karim Sulayman, tenor, and Jeffrey Strauss, baritone. There will be five performances, beginning on Friday, December 9 at St. Raphael’s Church in Bay Village and continuing in other venues through December 16. Tickets and venue details here.

Andrew Sords will be featured in Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto with the Contemporary Youth Orchestra at Cleveland State University’s Waetjen Auditorium on Saturday, December 10 at 7:00 pm. Conductor Liza Grossman will yield the podium to collegiate guest conductor Victoria Petrak for Fay Wang’s The Play of Toys, competition winner Wenlan Jackson will play the first movement of Jean Sibelius’s Violin Concerto, and the evening will end with Leonard Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. Tickets can be reserved online.

Though baking children in an oven isn’t everybody’s idea of a Christmas entertainment, the Suburban Symphony will gift Humperdinck’s traditional holiday opera, Hansel & Gretel, to the community on Sunday, December 18 at 3:30 pm in Beachwood High School Auditorium. Martin Kessler, conducts this semi-staged production of the complete opera, sung in English by Sandra Ross (Hansel), Marian Vogel (Gretel), Timothy Culver (The Witch), John Watson (Father) and Claire Conneley (Mother). No admission charge, but unopened, non-perishable food may be donated to the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.

ChamberFest Cleveland’s winter edition will feature pianist Roman Rabinovich in fifteen of Haydn’s 45 sonatas over three programs. The series begins at the Music Settlement on Sunday, December 11at 3:30 pm, and continues with two concerts next week. Check the details on our concert listings page and reserve tickets online.

For details of these and many other events, visit the ClevelandClassical.com Concert Listings page.
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A Search for a Secret Society Gets Tangled in "The Knife Is Money, The Fork Is Love"

Posted By on Tue, Dec 6, 2016 at 9:58 AM

“An idealist is one who, on noticing that roses smell better than cabbage, concludes that it will also make a better soup.” H.L Mencken, the journalist and satirist, wrote that a long time ago. As is true for many of Mencken’s trenchant quotes, it applies today. In particular, it helps explain why The Knife Is Money, The Fork Is Love, now at convergence-continuum, is more attractive in contemplation rather than in actuality. In other words, it ain’t soup yet.

Local playwright Jonathan Wilhelm is a man possessing a fecund and prolific mind, and he unloads many interesting ideas and promising digressions in the course of this often-stimulating play. Trouble is, Wilhelm seems so interested in every new thought that flutters by that the play eventually tangles itself in knots, leaving the story in the dust.

The play is set in the 1930s and central to the plot is a real pulp magazine, “Black Mask,” which was founded by Mencken and the drama critic George Jean Nathan. It’s where Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon was serialized, and it’s the magazine that sets young Tobias off on a search for a secret society, in an attempt to discover the identity of his father.

Right from the start, new ideas are brought in as the actors comment and question what they’re doing. This meta approach is at first interesting, but it gradually begins to wear thin and then becomes rather irritating, since it interrupts the flow of the story. And that story has some compelling elements, including references to the hobo codes that those American vagabonds, many uprooted from their lives by the Depression, would use to communicate with each other. Indeed, the stage is ringed with some of these symbols.

Tobias’s search for members of the secret society, and a code that can help him understand who he is, takes plenty of side roads, and some of those are populated by characters we wish we could get to know better. Rob Branch plays three different roles, including hobo Shoefly Joe, who tosses Tobias from the boxcar where they had been riding, and Leander, a mysterious fellow with connections to the people Tobias is seeking. However, Branch’s crisp characterizations fly by a bit too quickly.

The same is true for Amy Bistok Bunce who plays both a schoolteacher Miss Everson and Theodora, a rural lass who wants to hook up with Tobias. Along the way there are repeated references to the “antediluvian nitpickers” who are causing so many problems. David Thonnings gives Tobias an appropriately confused and fuzzy mien, and Lucy Bredeson-Smith is arresting as Tobias’s mother Maggie and as the Snake Lady (don’t ask).

However, at the risk of being considered an antediluvian nitpicker, it seems that this script needs a strong shake or two, to see what loose parts might fall out and could be eliminated, and which promising but thin areas could be enhanced. Director Geoffrey Hoffman does wonders with this overly-abundant material, adding some nice staging touches (the run that Thonnings makes to catch up with the boxcar, while nothing is moving, is inspired).

Clearly, playwright Wilhelm is interested in tinkering with the conventional theatrical format, bringing a new perspective to how the audience and the performers relate to each other. And that’s fine, as long as we don’t get thrown out of the play’s boxcar and land in a field somewhere, dazed and confused.

In an ideal world, a play could contain as many elements as the playwright could envision, and we could all keep pace. But that’s not how it goes in real life. By focusing more on the story, (as all good noir mysteries do), and downplaying the meta aspects, this play cold be less of an enigma for the audience and live up to its wonderful title.

The Knife Is Money, The Fork Is Love
Through December 17, produced by convergence-continuum at The Liminis, 2438 Scranton Road, 216-687-0074.
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"Sister Act" at Karamu House Lacks Glitz and Sass

Posted By on Tue, Dec 6, 2016 at 9:50 AM

  • Karamu House

George S. Kaufman once said, “If you get the audience in the first two or three minutes, you have them for the whole of the first act.” And if he was right, that’s where this generally strong production of the musical Sister Act goes wrong.

Just like the movie, it’s about Deloris Van Cartier (nee Delores Carter) who is a disco singing star n the environs of Philadelphia in the 1970s. But when she witnesses the nasty hoodlum Curtis (an imposing A. Harris Brown) murder a guy in his gang, she goes underground in a convent thanks to the kindly help from a detective named “Sweaty” Eddie (because he, you know, sweats a lot).

The first act feels a lot longer than it should because, during those first minutes when Deloris and her two backup singers are delivering “Take Me to Heaven” and “Fabulous, Baby!” there is a serious shortfall of glitz and sass. As written by Alan Mencken (music) and Glen Slater (lyrics), along with the book by Cheri Steinkellner and Bill Steinkellner, this is the set-up for the whole show. We need to see Deloris killing in the club before she sees Curtis kill someone else for real.

But the bland, non-club-style lighting and the rather tepid performances early on don’t serve to establish Deloris as a musical force of nature. This sucks most of the helium out of the lighter-than-air balloon that this show should be. Indeed, things really don’t start elevating until almost the end of the first act, when the stage comes alive with “Raise Your Voice.” At that moment, when the new “nun” Deloris instructs the clueless choir sisters as to the basics of singing and performing, the fun really begins.

Even so the show, as seen at a preview performance, demonstrated some strong performances that can overcome the slow beginning. As Deloris, Colleen Longshaw has all the vocal power and stage presence she needs to make this take off. Teresa DeBerry stands out as a no-nonsense Mother Superior, and the show resonates well when she’s on stage especially in the more energized second act when she sings the witty “I Haven’t Got a Prayer.”

Some other members of the convent and the gang make help Sister swing, including infectiously grinning Dayshawnda Ash as Sister Mary Patrick and Christina Johnson as sharp-tongued Sister Mary Lazarus. Katelyn Cornelius creates an interesting character as wimpy Sister Mary Robert, but she had a bit of a hard time finding the right notes in her solo “The Life I Never Led.” The same is true with Matt F. Gillespie and his solo that morphs into a production number, “I Could Be That Guy.” And three of Curtis’s gang members—Richard Moses as TJ, Nate Summers as Joey and Gideon Patrick-Lorete as Pablo—have a blast with “Lady in the Long Black Dress.”

Director Sheffia Randall Dooley handles the traffic well in this complex production with a large cast. Once the performers settle in and keep the pacing tight, a lot of the jokes will land with more snap. And if the start of the show finds a way to get a charge of adrenaline it will be, well, a godsend.

Sister Act
Through December 30 at Karamu House, 2355 East 89th Street, 216-795-7070.
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Gruesome Horror Flick 'The Eyes of My Mother' Resorts to Shock Tactics

Posted By on Tue, Dec 6, 2016 at 8:35 AM

The violence comes fast and furious in The Eyes of My Mother, a new horror flick from first-time writer-director Nicolas Pesce.

Beautifully shot in black and white, the movie, which opens on Friday at the Capitol Theatre, has an art house feel to it despite its grotesque subject matter.

But while visually stunning, it ultimately indulges too much in shock tactics and delivers a dissatisfying conclusion that doesn't resolve just what the movie means.

Continue reading »

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Ohio Lawmakers May Allow Pet Stores to Sell Puppies from Puppy Mills

Posted By on Tue, Dec 6, 2016 at 7:33 AM

In Holmes County
  • In Holmes County
Ohio House legislators are debating this morning a bill that would regulate pet stores around the state. Namely, the bill would prohibit municipalities from enacting bans on certain puppy-breeding sources, like the infamous puppy mills of north-central Ohio.

Currently, some cities in Ohio prohibit stores like Petland from selling puppies that have been purchased from fringe dealers — mass producers of dogs, mostly clumped together in Holmes and Ashland counties. This is a long-standing and highly controversial problem in Ohio. If Senate Bill 331 were to pass, the state's well documented support for independent and questionable dog breeders would trump local municipalities' "home rule" freedom to say no to that type of business.

The concern is that regulations and inspections for "qualified breeders" and "high-volume breeders" have been watered down time and time again in state committees and under the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Local cities — and animal protection advocates — have vocally opposed the coziness with which the state and its many breeders operate.

Grove City, for example, prohibits Petland from working with puppy mills. SB 331, vigorously supported by Petland's Ohio-based corporate leadership, would allow them access to that market — where dogs come cheap.

(As a quick aside: SB 331 is the bill that legislators say could be used to carry an unrelated rider through the Statehouse, one that would put the kibosh on Cleveland residents' minimum wage ballot initiative in May.)

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Monday, December 5, 2016

Maui Sands in Sandusky Will Get the 'Hotel Impossible' Treatment on the Travel Channel

Posted By on Mon, Dec 5, 2016 at 2:25 PM

  • Courtesy TripAdvisor.com
Whether you've stayed there or are just tangentially aware of its existence thanks to trips to Cedar Point, you might care that the Maui Sands hotel and indoor waterpark will be featured on the Travel Channel's "Hotel Impossible." The show, much like Bar Rescue, dives into a business with the hopes of making it better in all sorts of ways.

Current Maui Sands owners Patel and Kirit Parmar have been renovating the hotel since buying it back in 2011. The pair say despite the improvements, the hotel is still in dire need of help (and some of these TripAdvisor.com reviews give us an idea where that help is needed), which is why they applied to be part of the one-hour program.

"We have not been doing the marketing we should have. This will give us the marketing we need,” Parmar told the Sandusky Register.

An official air date hasn't been set, but expect to see a promo for their episode soon.
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New Management at Moncho’s Ushers in Change at Beloved Colombian Eatery

Posted By on Mon, Dec 5, 2016 at 2:25 PM

If you’ve dined lately at the Brooklyn Centre based eatery Moncho’s, adored for its warm hospitality and satisfying Colombian food, you likely noticed some pretty significant changes. For starters, owners Isabel Montoya and her father Moncho no longer are onsite to greet you. And second, the menu is now filled with a slew of new Mexican dishes.

Two months ago, Montoya and her family made the difficult decision to pull back from running the business for personal matters. They decided to bring in new management to run the restaurant on a day-to-day basis. They went with the owners of the Lakewood-based Mexican restaurant El Torito as they already had a working relationship with as the owners of that building.

“They are people we know and trust,” Montoya explains.

When I spoke to Montoya, she said that all decisions about menu changes would need to go through her and her family. Too much was on the line to let things change too drastically.

“We worked so hard for it and we think it has been successful, but I literally do not have the time to manage it right now,” she notes. “It’s still very much ours, and we’re in constant communication. Everything needs to be approved.”

But she admitted that the El Torito folks have some pretty strong ideas about which way they want to see the menu go – and it isn’t always in line with the old Moncho’s way.

“We have to kind of reel them back in because it’s mostly Colombian customers,” she adds.

When I spoke with Hortencia Figueroa, the new operator of Moncho’s, she too stressed that only slight modifications would be made.

“It’s being kept as Moncho’s – the name, the food, but we have introduced a few more Mexican items to the menu,” she admits. “We kept a lot of the old items that were popular, but we introduced a lot of other items too.”

To outside observers, it appears that more than a few changes have been made. Looking at Moncho’s new menu, which was recently posted to its Facebook page, diners will see a menu that looks to be nearly identical to that of El Torito. Appetizers like the warm chicharron with guacamole and green sauce, breaded and fried chorizo fireballs, and breaded and fried calamari all are straight off the El Torito menu. Tucked among pages of Mexican items like tacos, fajitas, quesadillas, enchiladas and even chimichangas are only a few remaining Moncho’s dishes like Bandeja Paisa, Cubano sandwiches and tostones.

Also new is lunch service and delivery, says Figueroa.

Ultimately, it’s up to diners to decide if they welcome the changes to Moncho’s or not. But you can be sure that Isabel Montoya and her family will be watching very closely.

“We very much love Moncho’s,” she says.
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