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This week in theater news…

Published June 3rd, 2016 by | No Comments

Each week we’re going to keep you up-to-speed with the latest Broadway and theater news. Check back next week to see what you missed this week, and to catch a glimpse of what’s going on at Playhouse Square and beyond. Enjoy!


Hamilton-related happenings…

Hamilton’s Right Hand Ensemble
Meet the triple-threats who make up the ensemble in the Broadway show, and hear them talk about what makes Hamilton so meaningful to them. ( Read more…

Lin Manuel Miranda to lead Mary Poppins
You read that right. The man behind Alexander Hamilton is set to lead in the film Mary Poppins Returns with Emily Blunt, which has been set for a December, 2018 release date. And just when you thought you were feeling better about the release of Beauty and the Beast getting closer… ( Read more…

In the Heights to become a movie
If you haven’t heard, Lin Manuel Miranda has had his hand in just about everything happening in the theater world these days, including In the Heights. The show, with music and lyrics written by Miranda, will be turned into a movie by Harvey Wienstein. (Hollywood Reporter) Read more…

A very Broadway Carpool Karaoke…
Mark your calendar. Broadway favorites Audra McDonald, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Jane Krakowski and, of course, Lin Manuel Miranda, will hop in the car with James Corden, host of the “The Late Late Show”, in a special Carpool Karaoke. Catch the show June 6. ( Read more…

Playhouse Square happenings…

Partners Spanish Flight Night
Making a Murderer: A Conversation on Justice
Il Trovatore
Flight of the Conchords

A Phoenix Has Risen From the Ashes

Published June 2nd, 2016 by | No Comments


The phoenix. This handsome mythological bird serves as an apt metaphor for the Ohio Theatre’s George Gund Foundation Lobby. After perishing in dramatic flames, the phoenix is reborn from the ashes. The same holds true for the lobby.

Lobby Ohio Theatre at Playhouse Square

In 1964, the Ohio Theatre was badly damaged by fire. The auditorium was salvageable, but the lobby was completely destroyed. The murals, ornate ceiling, columns and decorative fireplaces you see today all were lost in the fire. During the early 1980s’ renovation of the space, funding and time would not allow both the auditorium and lobby to be fully refurbished. While the auditorium was restored, a simple, contemporary design was created for the lobby.


Exhaustive research of the original drawings by architect Thomas Lamb, photo archives and a few remnants of burned ornamental plaster detail provided a thorough understanding of the space and informed the plan for re-creating the lobby.


The re-creation of the lobby design was a collaboration between EverGreene Architectural Arts (EAA) and Westlake Reed Leskosky. Construction management and contracting services were provided by Turner Construction and The Coniglio Company, working with a variety of local companies.

Artisans at EAA hand-sculpted prototypes using authentic, Old World techniques in order to make plaster reproductions of the ornamental detail. This hand-sculpting took 8500 hours to complete. When you visit, check out the lobby display featuring the plaster-making process.

Lobby Ohio Theatre at Playhouse Square

Six other artisans spent three months hand-painting the lobby’s three 10-foot x 30-foot murals on canvas at EAA’s studio in New York. The murals are “Birth of Venus” (west), “Triumph of Bacchus” (east) and “Muses of Poems and Music” (south).


Through careful examination of historic photos, the project team discovered that identical column capitals could be found in the Allen Theatre lobby rotunda and that the grand staircase balustrade was identical to the one in the State Theatre lobby. These discoveries made it possible for the team to take molds from the Allen and State and re-create what was needed for the George Gund Foundation Lobby.

Lobby Ohio Theatre at Playhouse Square
Lobby Ohio Theatre at Playhouse Square

The original carpet design was re-created by Brintons in England.

Lobby Ohio Theatre at Playhouse Square

Great care was taken to ensure each element of the lobby was reproduced as faithfully as possible, while at the same time taking into consideration the needs and preferences of today’s audiences.

Lobby Ohio Theatre at Playhouse Square

This extensive project was made possible by a $3 million gift from The George Gund Foundation to Advancing the Legacy, The Campaign for Playhouse Square. In recognition of the foundation’s generosity, the lobby has been named the George Gund Foundation Lobby.

While the re-creation of this lobby completes the restoration of Playhouse Square’s historic theater spaces, our work is never done. As stewards of these gems, we are working always to ensure they remain as beautiful as they are now for future generations.

See the re-created lobby the next time you’re here for a show or take one of our free public tours, offered on the first Saturday of most months. The next tour is Saturday, June 4. Tours begin every 15 minutes between 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. For more information, visit

An Interview with Allison Layman

Published June 1st, 2016 by | No Comments

As part of our Broadway Buzz program, Buzz Extra writer Alicia Hansen will take you behind the scenes of each KeyBank Broadway Series show and interview a member of the show’s cast, crew or creative team.


As part of the 2015-2016 KeyBank Broadway Series at Playhouse Square, Steel Magnolias is making a stop in Cleveland.  In this interview, Allison Layman, who plays Shelby in the show, discusses her background and what it’s like playing a role in the story beloved by so many.

Tell us about yourself.

I am the only child of two professional actors and was raised in Teaneck, New Jersey. I grew up tagging along to commercial calls and seeing my parents in productions at regional theatres all over the country. I loved the smell of the buildings, playing with the wig heads and staying up late after performances to “wind down.” Being inside theatres was a normal part of life for me as a child.

Though acting is in my blood, I took a circuitous route to finding it as my path.  I majored in French Studies at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, moved to Vail, Colorado, for a year and after some time without acting in my life, decided that it was what I really wanted to explore.  I moved to New York City and studied with Bill Esper at his studio while acting in and around the city.  Then I studied at The Old Globe/USD program in San Diego where I received my MFA in acting in 2014.

My agents and the wonderful folks at Calleri Casting (James Calleri, Paul Davis and Erica Jensen), who cast this production, arranged for me to audition for Laura [Kepley, the director of Steel Magnolias], and I am honored she chose me to be a part of this production.

This story is well known to many thanks to the popular 1989 movie starring Sally Field and Julia Roberts. As an actor bringing the tale back to the stage, is there something that the stage version provides to (either you as an actor or to the audiences) that the film version did not?

I have to admit that I have never seen the 1989 movie of Steel Magnolias. I know that it is dear to the hearts of many people and I look forward to seeing it when we are finished with our run.

I can, however, speak to some of the differences without having seen the film.  The story is essentially the same, but in the film, the men in our lives appear and in the play the audience never sees the male characters.  To me, having only women tell their story is very important to the how the story is revealed.  Also, in contrast to the many locations in the movie, the play is set in one, intimate space:  Truvy’s Beauty Shop.  It is a women’s space, a place “where they can let their hair down” to reveal their truest selves.  The play invites the audience to eavesdrop on these women talking in the safest of places during important moments in their lives.

The relationships between the characters are the highlights of this piece. Can you speak to the process of the development of those relationships as you rehearsed with your fellow actresses?

Laura’s vision for Steel Magnolias has guided an incredibly talented and experienced cast to discover the surprising depth of character and relationship Robert Harlan, the playwright, forged into a very entertaining play.  Many of the relationships are initially obvious (mother/daughter; childhood friends; etc.) but Laura has led us to deeper places in the situations presented, helping us to clarify and focus our characters and the story.

The piece features an all-female cast. What is the dynamic of the group on and off the stage?

We laugh a lot.  I think it’s lovely how bits in the show reflect things we do in real life.  Harlan is expert at capturing learned feminine communication.  We recommend products to each other, articles that we’ve read and helpful things to share and borrow.  Where the characters are talking about southern recipes and radios, we tend to chat more about political articles and Cleveland grocery deals.

This group is excellent at communicating – on and off stage.  On stage, we are always listening and aware of nuances and changes in the evening’s dynamic.  Off stage, we are usually group texting or grabbing a bite to eat.

I love to watch and learn from the work of my cast mates and when hang out after shows I relish listening to their stories about working in this business.

This production runs for three months at the Allen Theatre. What are the pros and cons of such an extended run like this one?

Often regional theatre productions (which last from 3-5 weeks) close as soon as we feel we are getting into the groove.  With a contract this long, we will have the opportunity to really play with each other and live in the rhythm of doing this play in front of the audience.  It will be lovely to see how the show and how our performances evolve.  I am also looking forward to performing for the different subscription bases – Cleveland Playhouse and Playhouse Square.  The audience is an essential part of this play; we listen and respond to an audience the same way we do with another actor. I hope we all have the chance to see some of the sights in Cleveland as well.  I guess the downside is being away from friends and family as it always is when you go away.

Out of all the productions you’ve been involved in over the years, how does this production of Steel Magnolias stand apart?

For me, the great thing about every theatrical collaboration is that I have the opportunity to explore different elements of humanity.  This is my first time working on this play and I have fallen in love with these women.  Every production is an opportunity to learn, make new friends and grow as an artist and human being.  At its best, a theatrical collaboration will contribute as deeply to the audiences’ life benefit as well.

Produced by Cleveland Play House, Steel Magnolias runs May 21-August 21, 2016 in the Allen Palace at Playhouse Square. For more information, please visit the show’s page on the Playhouse Square website

Alicia Hansen is the writer behind Poise in Parma, a healthy balance blog for Clevelanders. A graduate of Baldwin-Wallace College’s theatre program, Alicia is a local yoga teacher, event professional, marketer and proud Northeast Ohio arts supporter. Follow her on FacebookTwitterInstagram and Pinterest.

This week in theater news…

Published May 27th, 2016 by | No Comments

Each week we’re going to keep you up-to-speed with the latest Broadway and theater news. Check back next week to see what you missed this week, and to catch a glimpse of what’s going on at Playhouse Square and beyond. Enjoy!

Theater happenings…

Hakuna Matata
Some days it seems like the whole world is talking about James Corden, host of The Late Late Show, and we totally see why he’s so loved. He produced another crosswalk musical – this time was The Lion King. Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne co-star in the show, which takes place in the middle of a busy LA street. Trust us, you have to see it to believe it. (Entertainment Weekly) Read more…

Leona Lewis takes the stage in Cats
There’s a new cat in town! Leona Lewis has been tapped to play the role of Grizabella in the Broadway revival of Cats. This means she will also be playing the role which takes on the show’s hit, “Memory.” See her when the show opens August 2. ( Read more…

Some big names at the Tonys
A list of presenters for the 2016 Tony Awards has been announced, and it includes some big names like Cate Blanchett, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Martin, Carole King and more. Plus, with a host like James Corden, the star-studded show is sure to be entertaining. ( Read more…

Playhouse Square happenings…

Bill Maher
Sweet Summer at the Square

This week in theater news…

Published April 30th, 2016 by | No Comments

Each week we’re going to keep you up-to-speed with the latest Broadway and theater news. Check back next week to see what you missed this week, and to catch a glimpse of what’s going on at Playhouse Square and beyond. Enjoy!


Theater happenings…

Happy birthday, Rent
Ahh, remember your good old teenage days? Those days are over for Rent, which celebrated its 20th anniversary. See how the original cast reflected on the show. ( Read more…

Derek Hough joins Hairspray Live!
Just months after Julianne Hough starred in Grease Live, her brother, Derek Hough, has been tapped for Hairspray Live! The show announced it will be performed in front of a live audience when it airs on NBC this December. (USA Today) Read more…

Stevie Nicks surprises audiences…
… at a School of Rock performance. The Fleetwood Mac singer joined the cast of the show to perform “Rhiannon.” Don’t miss the video here.

Playhouse Square happenings…

International Children’s Theater Festival

This week in theater news…

Published April 22nd, 2016 by | No Comments

Each week we’re going to keep you up-to-speed with the latest Broadway and theater news. Check back next week to see what you missed this week, and to catch a glimpse of what’s going on at Playhouse Square and beyond. Enjoy!

Theater happenings…

The start to a Rotten weekend…
This weekend we’re kicking things off by wishing a Happy Broadway Birthday to Something Rotten, which opened exactly one year ago today. Tomorrow, celebrations around the world will take place in honor Mr. William Shakespeare’s death, which was exactly 400 years ago tomorrow. Coincidence? Maybe. Excitement that Something Rotten will visit CLE exactly one year from this Monday? Absolutely.

Broadway casts react to Prince’s death
Even Broadway stars are feeling the loss of Prince. Since his passing, stars from Broadway’s Hamilton and The Color Purple have performed tributes post-show for the music legend. (Rolling Stone) See videos…

Betsy Wolfe set to play Elsa
Broadway alum Betsy Wolfe has been named the ice queen in Broadway’s adaptation of Frozen. You may have seen Wolfe play in previous shows like 110 in the Shade, Everyday Rapture, and Bullets over Broadway. ( Read more…

Playhouse Square happenings…

David Frazier – Celebrating Our Rascal
Partners Dine Around – Willoughby
Sebastian Maniscalco
The Theory of Relativity
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons
Cleveland Jazz Orchestra – Caliente!
Boney James

This week in theater news…

Published April 17th, 2016 by | No Comments

Each week we’re going to keep you up-to-speed with the latest Broadway and theater news. Check back next week to see what you missed this week, and to catch a glimpse of what’s going on at Playhouse Square and beyond. Enjoy!

Theater happenings…


Anastasia comes to Broadway
Here’s something to get excited about. Oscar-nominated animated film Anastasia is set to hit the stage on Broadway for the 2016-17 season. It is expected that the show will incorporate both songs from the film, and new songs. ( Read more…

Saying farewell to the maggots…
Broadway’s Matilda has set an official closing date on January 1, 2017. Since opening on Broadway April 11, 2013, the production will have played 1,555 performances. All the more reason to see the touring production in CLE May 3-22. ( Read more…

Nicole Kidman returns to Broadway
Photograph 51, which opened at the West End last year, will play at the Great White Way – and Kidman is set to reprise her headliner role. ( Read more…

Playhouse Square happenings…

Fair on the Square
Theresa Caputo Live
Recess on 25th
Kiss Me Kate
Flanagan’s Wake
Michael Feldman’s Whad’ya Know?

This week in theatre news…

Published April 10th, 2016 by | No Comments

Each week we’re going to keep you up-to-speed with the latest Broadway and theater news. Check back next week to see what you missed this week, and to catch a glimpse of what’s going on at Playhouse Square and beyond. Enjoy!

Theater happenings…

Fantasia Barrino and Jennifer Hudson sing on Idol
American Idol alums Jennifer Hudson and Fantasia Barrino joined forces to sing “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “Remember the Music” on the show’s series finale. You can catch Fantasia in CLE this June when she performs with Anthony Hamilton. ( Read more 

Wait for it…
Hamilton stars Chris Jackson and Anthony Ramos sang the National Anthem to kick off the Mets/Phillies game. You’ll want to hear this. ( Listen here

Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?
The Spongebob Musical has announced its full cast. Ethan Slatter is set to lead, with Lilli Cooper playing Sandy Cheeks, Danny Skinner as Patrick Star, and Carlos Lopez as Mr. Krabs. Don’t miss the full cast announcement. ( Read more…

Playhouse Square happenings…

Flanagan’s Wake
Tyler Perry’s Madea on the Run



This week in theatre news…

Published April 1st, 2016 by | No Comments

Each week we’re going to keep you up-to-speed with the latest Broadway and theater news. Check back next week to see what you missed this week, and to catch a glimpse of what’s going on at Playhouse Square and beyond. Enjoy!

Theater happenings…

New Fun Home animations by Alison Bechdel
This week the news broke that Alison Bechdel, writer and illustrator of the book that inspired Broadway’s Fun Home, has illustrated new animations which are included in a commercial for the show. You can see the Tony-winning show when it visits CLE this October.

Cleveland grad joins cast of Hamilton
St. Ignatius High School alum Rory O’Malley ‘99 will be the next to hop on the cast list of Broadway hit, Hamilton. O’Malley will be playing the role of King George III, a role currently played by Jonathan Groff. (Cleveland Scene) Read more…

Hairspray open casting call
Dreaming of seeing your name in lights? NBC is in the midst of a search for the role of Tracy in their upcoming live broadcast of Hairspray. Open auditions will begin April 24 in New York City. ( Read more…

Alfie Boe returns to Broadway
Alfie Boe has joined the cast of Broadway’s Finding Neverland, playing the role of J.M. Barrie, a role most recently held by Glee star Matthew Morrison. Boe most recently made a name for himself in Les Miserables starring as Jean Valjean. (Theater Mania) Read more…

Playhouse Square happenings…

Happy Birthday to both the Allen and Hanna Theatres! We celebrated this week by reminiscing with a blast from the past. See photos:

Beautiful: A Carole King Musical
Giada Valenti
Sesame Street Live: Let’s Dance

Disney Musicals in Schools

Published April 1st, 2016 by | No Comments

This year, we received a grant from Disney to introduce musical theater programs in Cuyahoga County grade schools where these programs previously didn’t exist. After an application process, four schools – Campus International School, Paul L. Dunbar Elementary, Marion-Sterling and Oxford Elementary School – were chosen for the 17-week theater residency program, culminating in a 30-minute Disney KIDS Musical performance.

After months of practice, the schools came together to each perform one number from their respective shows at a Student Share Celebration on March 7 in the Ohio Theatre, a show hosted by News Net 5’s Leon Bibb and Playhouse Square Executive Producer Gina Vernaci. Family, friends and community members were invited to attend the event, where more than 290 students stepped foot onstage to perform.


The impact of Disney Musicals in Schools is seen far beyond the applause. The students who participated developed a stronger sense of self-confidence with a moment in the spotlight, practiced working as a team, and strengthened speaking and reading skills as they learned musical theater techniques. Plus, all four schools saw increased attendance, as school attendance was a requirement for participating in after-school rehearsals. Take it from Adrian, a student performing in Campus International School’s production of Aladdin, KIDS.

With the first year of the Disney Musicals in Schools program behind us, we’re looking forward to the next to begin. Public schools in Cuyahoga and Lorain Counties with a student poverty level of 50% or higher may apply for the 2016-17 Disney Musicals in Schools Program now through April 8, 2016:

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A not-for-profit performing arts center that presents and produces a wide variety of performing arts, advances arts education and creates a destination that is a superior location for entertainment business and residential living, thereby strengthening the economic vitality of the region.


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