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Cleveland's top theater district nabs Lady Luck with 'Guys and Dolls' through June

Updated on May 21, 2013

Times Square at PlayhouseSquare

Scene from PlayhouseSquare's and Great Lakes  Theatre's "Guys and Dolls"
Scene from PlayhouseSquare's and Great Lakes Theatre's "Guys and Dolls" | Source

Fall in love again with Broadway classic, Cleveland summer theater scene

By Howard Gollop,
Freelance Critic


"You ain't seen nothing yet!”

So goes the showbiz battle cry of the folks behind the second largest theater district outside of New York City – Cleveland's PlayhouseSquare.

With a record season of Broadway shows, concerts, celebrity talks and comedy acts behind it, and a huge season already slated for the 2013-14 season, PlayhouseSquare, overseeing 10 stages in the heart of downtown Cleveland, refuses to let the energy hit a lull during the traditionally audience-bare months of summer.

Instead, the organization behind PlayhouseSquare has built a special summer season around a crowning-jewel engagement of the coveted Broadway hit “Book of Mormon,” a three-week stint at the district's Palace Theater starting June 18.

This includes Elton John's “Aida” May 31 to June 2; “The Lion King,” June 9 to Aug. 4; “King Solomon Lives” (A Nubian Love Story)” Aug. 10 and 11; and the cabaret hit “Spank! Fifty Shades of Parody,” Aug. 8 through 18.

On a typical weekend night – say June 8 – visitors would have a choice of the Indian music of Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy June, The Cleveland Jazz Orchestra in the show “World Beat” and Tracy Morgan in his “Excuse My French” tour, in addition to the regular theater offerings.

As for the two Equity repertory companies, the venerable Cleveland Play House (using the magnificently renovated Allen Theatre) presents the one-man play with music, “Maestro: Leonard Bernstein,” starring Hershey Felder, July 17 to Aug. 4; and the Great Lakes Theater (using the equally magnificently renovated Hanna Theatre, continues one of the most highly acclaimed versions of the legendary Broadway hit “Guys and Dolls,” continuing through June 30.

The latter offering has been deemed significant not only for its quality – a production so fresh, it easily eclipsed the last national tour of the production – but for its reflection of PlayhouseSquare's style of theater development.

In addition to being co-producers of many new Broadway production (which insures a prominate spot on the ensuing touring schedule), the powers behind PlayhouseSquare have joined forces with Great Lakes Theater, its resident classic-theater company, for an extravaganza to ring in the summer season.

“PlayhouseSquare and Great Lakes Theater have once again jointly rolled the dice on another collaboration," said Gina Vernaci, Senior Vice President of Theater Operations for PlayhouseSquare. "And we now are joyfully sharing this winning production of 'Guys and Dolls' with all of Cleveland.”

Last year, the production of “Sondheim on Sondheim,” featuring actual interview videos of the famed composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim, exceeded box-office expectations. This year, the production of “Guys and Dolls” exceeded critical expectations as well.

Directed and choreographed by Northeast Ohio native Dan Knechtges (one of many in the cast and crew with local Cleveland area ties), this vintage Broadway go-round of writer Damond Runyon's New York underworld dazzles and warms the heart at the same time.

A veteran of many ocean cruise theater productions himself, Knechtges know how to make a modest-size stage and cast bloom like the best Broadway extravaganzas around. All the while, his (as well as scenic designer Beowulf Boritt's and costume designer Jennifer Caprio's) attention to late-1940s detail makes the look of the last Broadway revival pale in comparison.

Added with a cast of Broadway pedigree as well as links to the musical theater program at the Cleveland area's Baldwin-Wallace college, the show is a must even for those who think they've seen this warhorse too many times before.

After they witness the rendition of “Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat,” featuring Wayne W. Pretlow, who takes it to unchartered gospel heights, even the most cynical theater veterans will realize they've never been in love with “Guys and Dolls” like this before.

For tickets and times to this and all PlayhouseSquare shows, link to www.playhousesquare.org.

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      John 4 years ago

      Really a top season

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