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An Interview with Michael Lanphear from Pippin

Published February 5th, 2015 by | No Comments

Our Buzz Extra writer, Alicia Hansen had the exciting opportunity to interview Michael Lanphear, the Acrobatic Coordinator of the current touring production of PIPPIN The Musical. As part of our Broadway Buzz program, Alicia 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.

Pippin, part of the KeyBank Broadway Series at PlayhouseSquare

Michael Lanphear, the Acrobatic Coordinator of the current touring production of PIPPIN The Musical, found his way to Broadway via a different route than most. As a young child, horseback riding and vaulting lead him into acrobatics and eventually the circus arts. Since honing his skills in those areas, he performed with the likes of Britney Spears and Justin Bieber before finding his way to the Great White Way. In advance of PIPPIN’s arrival in Cleveland this month as a part of the 2014-2015 KeyBank Broadway Series, Michael answers some questions about his involvement with this American musical classic and its circus-themed spin.

Tell me a bit about yourself, your path to the circus arts and your involvement in this touring production of PIPPIN?
In terms of circus arts, I started at a bit of a late age. I rode horses starting when I was young. I started competing and started vaulting, which is gymnastics on horses. Then around the age of 18, I focused more acrobatics and then eventually on circus arts. I was a performer until last year. I retired and decided to go more into coaching, but up until then, I was performing for about ten years and touring the world. I’ve done pop tours, different circus tours and a lot of cabarets in Europe. Today, I am the Acrobatic Coordinator of PIPPIN and I am the assistant to Gypsy Snider, the Acrobatic Choreographer. I maintain all of what she’s created while we’re on the road.

Would you provide a glimpse into a “day in the life” of a touring production? What happens on the first day in a new city, and then once the show is up and running?
When we first arrive in a new town, I am responsible for checking that all the apparatus are running properly, all of cues are in the computer system correctly and all the props we use circus-wise are ready for the show that night. Once the artists arrive, we have a meeting before the first show in the new location. That very first meeting is very important to getting the team used to the new space. We will try different cues and skills if necessary, then we’ll do our regular training that occurs before each show.  At that daily rehearsal, all of the principal actors, if they do anything that is acrobatic in the show, come to brush up on skills and conditioning. The acrobats also have their skills that they train every day before the show. It’s a pretty full-on day!

Once settled into a new town, we have a two-hour training on stage once a week, which is separate from the daily hour rehearsal before each show. It involves constant cleaning and constant upkeep. If someone is planning on taking a vacation and we have to change the routines a bit, that is when we practice those changes.  We only have seven acrobats. If one is out, we are very creative in creating alternate versions of the routines without affecting the quality of the show. We have lots of tricks in our bag.

Is there a specific part of the show that is is a favorite for you?
I was able to assist the Acrobatic Choreographer in the creation of the tour, so all of the acro numbers are very special to me. There is one moment in particular that is a big mix of all the circus guild skills that we have: there’s tumbling, knife juggling, two porters throwing a flyer in the air to flip and land on a platform, and more. It’s the most challenging as a coach to constantly maintain and clean because there is so much going on at stage at once. It is one of those numbers where there’s a clear story to what’s happening, but there’s so much happening that an audience member can come and watch it ten times and they would see something different every time.

All of the acrobats are ensemble members, which is something new to them. In the circus, you are usually a specialist and we do our acts on stage by ourselves, or if you’re in a duo you are with your partner, and then you’re done. You have your highlight moment, and then you come out for bows at the end. Gypsy Snider has created a show where the acrobats are completely integrated the whole time: they are singing, they are dancing, they are doing the acrobatics, they are working with the principals constantly. For me, it’s exhilarating as a coach but it’s a great challenge for every acrobat that we bring in to the show.

What challenges arise with touring?
The most challenging thing is whenever we have to arrange for a replacement, or any time we have someone leaving on vacation, or if a performer’s contract is over and we have to fill the role. This tour really does have some of the best acrobats in the world, and replacing them is a very difficult process. Everyone brings something different to the table.  For example, my two handstand performers are basically irreplaceable. They spend two to three hours a day working on their handstands! We try to hang on to our performers as long as we can.  But when we can’t, I usually run the auditions. It’s hard when you’re trying to replace the best in the world! But we have a really fantastic group on the tour, so we have been fortunate that we haven’t had to do too many replacement processes. We’ve been able to slightly adjust the show for replacements of any sort without taking away any of the essence of what the originators created.

What makes being a part of this production so exciting? Why is this PIPPIN so special?
This production is so special because it is the first time that circus arts have been really integrated into a Broadway production. Some productions -- Broadway or not -- will put some circus elements in, but it’s icing on the cake – where in this production, it’s the meat of the show, right alongside the signing and dancing – it’s all equally important.

Also, there’s a huge importance placed on the storytelling through the acrobatics. Every act has a purpose and a meaning, and there’s not any superfluous acrobatics in the show. Everything has a bit of storytelling in the show, which is really special and unique to both the circus and Broadway worlds to use acrobatics in that fashion.

Also, we have a wonderful energy in the cast. The majority of the artists all went to the National Circus School in Montreal, so they all at some point cross paths at school. They are very close friends and they work very well together. So not only skill set, we have a nice family bond -- not just amongst the acrobats, but with the dancers as well.

On a personal note, one special part of this experience for me is being a part of a union. This isn’t something that we have in the circus and it’s been a huge benefit for everyone: for the performers, as well as for me as a coach. It’s been amazing to feel completely supported by the entire Broadway community because we are part of one united group. It’s not the most exciting answer but it’s a very truthful answer!

PIPPIN comes to Cleveland February 3 – 15 at the Connor Palace at PlayhouseSquare. For more information, please visit the show’s page on the PlayhouseSquare 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 yoga teacher at Evolution Yoga, an event and marketing professional and proud Northeast Ohio arts supporter. Follow her on FacebookTwitterInstagram and Pinterest.

This week in theater news...

Published January 30th, 2015 by | No Comments

Each week we're going to keep you up-to-speed with the latest Broadway and theater news. Check back every Friday 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...

For the Record: Dear John Hughes
2015 is the 30th anniversary of the release of The Breakfast Club, so why not celebrate with a musical? For the Record: Dear John Hughes is set to release this year. With an all-star cast including Evan Rachel Wood and Rumer Willis, the show features bits from movies like Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and The Breakfast Club. ( Read more… 

Jim Parsons is God
Sort of. At least, he will be playing the role of God in the stage adaptation of The Last Testament: A Memoir by God. The script, written by the Almighty himself and transcribed by The Daily Show’s David Javerbaum, will play at Studio 54 in NYC this May. ( Read more… 

Quasimodo played by Michael Arden
Leads from the La Jolla Playhouse production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame will reprise their performances at Paper Mill Playhouse this spring. Michael Arden will play Quasimodo, and the cast also includes Patrick Page, Ciara Renee, and Andrew Samonsky. ( Read more…


Upcoming Events at Playhouse Square

Five Guys Named Moe
Flanagan's Wake
Four Bitchin' Babes: Mid-Life Vices
Last Call Cleveland
John Mellencamp 
Pilobolus - Dance Cleveland
Defending the Caveman


This week in theater news...

Published January 23rd, 2015 by | No Comments

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


Mrs. Doubtfire to become a musical
Tony and Oscar winner Alan Menken is working on a musical of Mrs. Doubtfire, the 1993 classic hit starring Robin Williams. Menken has teamed up with book writer Harvey Fierstein and lyricist David Zippel on the early stages of the musical. ( Read more...

Into the Woods leading ladies sing at Artios Awards
Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski, and Tracey Ullman surprised Into the Woods casting director Rob Marshall with a musical performance during the Artios Awards ceremony. The Artios Awards are held each year by the Casting Society of America. ( Read more...

Bradley Cooper moves to London
Well, actually, Elephant Man, starring Bradley Cooper, moves to London. It is officially set to play limited engagement. The show is currently running through February 21 at the Booth Theater in NYC. ( Read more...

Upcoming events at PlayhouseSquare

Flanagan’s Wake
Five Guys Named Moe – Cleveland Play House
Last Call Cleveland
Joshua Seth’s Beyond Belief Tour

JBB Style Watch 2015

Published January 21st, 2015 by | No Comments

Jump Back Ball is just a month away. It doesn’t even feel like we stepped out of that DeLorean at the Jump Back Ball Kickoff party back in the fall.


Maybe we didn’t…


So, if you’re coming to Cleveland’s hottest party of the year, you might consider adding some flare to your wears by giving a nod to this year's theme. Save yourself the scramble of finding a Back to the Future-inspired outfit with these go-to outfit ideas:


Marty McFly


Even if you’re not Michael J. Fox, you can still pull off an easily recognizable Marty McFly. All it takes is a red vest, and a lot of jeans- acid wash, light wash, just jeans. Don’t forget some great kicks while you’re at it.




If you’re looking to keep it classy while still playing the part, spring for a look alike of Lorraine’s prom dress. Look for a pink dress with vintage accessories to get the total outfit.




Do you want a quicker approach? Doc has a quick and easy outfit. Find a hazmat suit, a wild white wig, some yellow cleaning gloves and a pair of goofy glasses and nobody will even have to guess.




Or maybe you want to tone it down with a movie-inspired piece. Big hair, sneakers, floral and other prints are the way to go.


Style your dress or tux with a hot pair of sneakers, like these red Converse.

 jovani dress

Go for a modern twist on the floral print with a floral ballgown, like this one by Jovani.


Plaid tuxedos are a great option, too. Go for a visit to Men's Wearhouse to start shopping.


This year, Nike will release the Marty McFly “Air MAG” with power laces, nearly identical to those worn by Marty McFly in Back to the Future 2. Back in 2011, a version of the shoes were released without the self-tying mechanism, but it has been confirmed the real deal will hit shelves sometime this year. You might want to start budgeting now, though, as one pair without the self-lacing feature was sold at auction for $37,500.


Another Back to the Future 2 piece is Marty McFly’s hat. Just think – you can match it with any color.


Can’t afford a real DeLorean? That’s alright. You can wear one with this dress.  Throw on some heels and you’re black tie ready.

For more ideas, visit our Pinterest page and get ready for the party! What will you be wearing?

Don't have tickets? General admission is SOLD OUT; however sponsorship opportunities are still available. Learn more.


This week in theater news...

Published January 16th, 2015 by | No Comments

Each week, we’re going to keep you up-to-speed with the latest Broadway news and stories. Check back every Friday to see what you missed this week and to catch a glimpse of what’s going on at PlayhouseSquare this weekend. Enjoy!


Idina Menzel will sing National Anthem at The Super Bowl
Just a couple of weeks until the Super Bowl, football fans. Who better to sing the National Anthem than Broadway's own Idina Menzel? She will join a long list of Broadway stars like Harry Connick Jr. and Kathy Lee Gifford chosen to sing in the past. ( Read more...

Chris Noth takes the lead in Doctor Faustus
If you've seen The Good Wife, Law & Order, or Sex and the City, you've seen Chris Noth. Now he makes his way to Broadway starring in Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus. ( Read more...

Birdman Takes Nine Oscar Nominations
The 87th Academy Award nominations have been announced, and Broadway's Birdman, as well as The Grand Budapest Hotel, have been given 9 nominations each. The Oscars show will air on February 22. Tune in to see the winners! ( Read more...

Upcoming events at PlayhouseSquare

Flanagan's Wake
Partners Dine Around - Little Italy
IABD Emerging Artist Youth Showcase
Five Guys Named Moe - Cleveland Play House
IABD Members Company Showcase
Last Call Cleveland
Joshua Seth's Beyond Belief Tour
IABD Founders Showcase

Theater news for the week...

Published January 9th, 2015 by | No Comments

Each week, we’re going to keep you up-to-speed with the latest Broadway news and stories. Check back every Friday to see what you missed this week and to catch a glimpse of what’s going on at PlayhouseSquare this weekend. Enjoy!

Pippin goes behind the scenes!
In just a few weeks, Pippin will make a stop in CLE. Before it arrives, get a glimpse of life behind the curtain and hear the touring cast and creative team share their stories! ( See the video here.

Be the next big hit
Calling all mini-rockers: Broadway's School of Rock is searching for the most talented musicians to join the kid band live on stage. Learn about the casting information and more. ( Read more...

Jennifer Hudson to play Celie in The Color Purple Revival on Broadway
The Color Purple revival on Broadway, produced by Oprah Winfrey and Scott Sanders, has announced its lead: Jennifer Hudson. The book, by Marsha Norman, features lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allie Willis, and Stephen Bray, with music by Russell and Willis. ( Read more...

Tony Award Winner steps into Tuck Everlasting Broadway musical
Beth Leavel is set to step into Ma Tuck's role in the Broadway musical of Tuck Everlasting during its Atlanta World Premier. The show officially opens February 4, and is directed and choreographed by award-winning Book of Mormon director/choreographer. ( Read more...

Upcoming events at PlayhouseSquare

Havana Hop: Sensory-Friendly Performance
Havana Hop


Inspiring Acts of Kindness at PlayhouseSquare

Published December 22nd, 2014 by | No Comments

It's the season of giving and it seems that no matter what you are celebrating, there is always a time to celebrate the gifts of giving and kindness. As we are nearing the end of a great year and beginning to reflect on all that it was, we wanted to share a story that seemed to reflect the spirit of the giving season.

Story courtesy of PlayhouseSquare cast member Jim Kraizel; written by cast member Kelsey Tomlinson.

It was Sunday afternoon, the last day Motown the Musical was in town, that Jim Kraizel found himself outside the State Theatre. Jim is one of our Group Services Account Executives, and he was greeting motor coaches that regularly shuttle groups to the theater.

The show was about to start, and one last motor coach pulled up and began to unload. A night at the theater is often a dressy affair, so imagine Jim’s surprise when amidst all these elegantly-clad theater-goers, a much more casually-dressed couple stepped off the bus.

As it turns out, this motor coach arrived so close to curtain because it had been lost! Circling around Tremont, it caught the attention of a couple taking an afternoon walk. They graciously hopped on board and took it upon themselves to direct the motor coach to PlayhouseSquare, allowing all those people to make it to the show on time.

That’s an inspiring performance in and of itself, but there’s more to it! That couple taking a walk in Tremont was none other than Amo & Margy Judd. Not only are they season ticket holders, but Margy is a member of the PlayhouseSquare Board of Trustees. They were thrilled that the motor coach was headed to PlayhouseSquare, and wanted to ensure that everyone aboard had the best possible time in Cleveland.

Thank you, Margy and Amo Judd, for being excellent ambassadors for PlayhouseSquare and Cleveland. Your random act of kindness saved the day!

If you receive or witness an inspiring act of kindness within our theaters, be sure to post it on our Facebook page or tweet us at @PlayhouseSquare using the hashtag #InspiringPerformance.

A Holiday Gift Guide for Everyone!

Published December 20th, 2014 by | No Comments

Uh oh, guys. We are rolling in on the most busy shopping time of the year—there’s less than a week to go until Christmas! Are you still scrambling about trying to find that perfect gift for your special someone? Does that special someone love Cleveland? And are you tired of long lines and agonizing crowds at the mall? If you answered yes to any of those questions, this gift list is for you. Check out the best gifts Cleveland has to offer.

Best Cleveland gifts for…

“Oh dear me, I’ve experienced too much delicious food,” said no one ever. Whether your loved one is a cuisine connoisseur or can simply appreciate a quality meal, these holiday opportunities will make the perfect gift:

Purchase a $100 Cibréo gift card, and receive a free $20 Cibréo gift card. Your loved one can experience some fine Italian food the next time they’re downtown, and you get a small gift for yourself! The gift card is redeemable at any of the Driftwood Restaurant Group locations, which includes Washington Place Bistro & Inn and Welshfield Inn.
> Purchase here!

“Reds, whites, and small bites.” If that doesn’t sound like an ideal evening, you’ve been doing evenings wrong. Get a $50 gift card from Bin 216 for your loved one, and you’ll receive a free $10 card. This gift card is also redeemable at 87 West in Crocker Park and Rothschild Farms.
> Purchase here!

BinPhoto by Bin 216

Bavarian pretzels, sauerkraut, live music and beer. You could literally hand your loved one an Oktoberfest for Christmas. Get on over to Hofbräuhaus Cleveland today, and you will receive a free $10 rewards card for every $50 you get in gift cards. Don’t forget your Lederhosen! Prost!
> Learn more!

The King has returned, downtown got a new record-setting chandelier (thank you GE!), and for a minute there The Browns had the best record they’ve held in decades. It’s an exciting time to be in Cleveland, so what better gift than something with a little CLE pride?

Chocolate. Rich, divine, melt-in-your-mouth, and fabulous. Even Scrooge can’t deny that chocolate is the perfect way to make someone’s holiday bright. Malley’s Chocolates is definitely the way to go, but they’ve put something extra special in the mix this year: the Greetings from Cleveland Box. Featuring a picture of the Terminal Tower lit green and pink (for Malley’s 80th anniversary!), this box is truly yummy and highlights a Cleveland landmark!
> Order one now!

malleyPhoto by Malley's Chocolates

Rock your way to the top by getting your loved one a Hard Rock Cafe pin, featuring PlayhouseSquare. What better way to show some Cleveland pride than by gifting someone with a Cleveland-exclusive pin? Plus, 15% of the proceeds support PlayhouseSquare! Come down and get yourself some dinner, and pick up one of these bad boys today!
> Hard Rock information

Virtually everything you love about Cleveland is represented on a shirt, sock, or poster at the Cleveland Clothing Company. From baby onesies to CLE-themed ugly Christmas sweaters (and PlayhouseSquare shirts too!), you can please everyone on your list from 1 to 92. NYC ain’t got nothin’ on us. Go CLE!
> Shop online now!

clecoPhoto by Cleveland Globetrotter

Here’s something neat! We didn’t want to steal from another fabulously-made holiday catalog, so we’re just going to give you a link to this list. Created by Cool Cleveland, this features gifts for every age and interest. And the best part? It’s a Shop Local list—everything on the list is from a NEO entrepreneur!
> Check it out!

You remember A Christmas Story, right? A young boy’s quest for a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle? Did you know that movie was filmed right here in Cleveland? Give your loved one the opportunity to tour the house! Or better yet, pick from a variety of sizes and present them with the iconic leg lamp. Who doesn’t love fishnets in the window?
> Learn more!

xmasstoryPhoto by A Christmas Story House and Museum

We’d be remiss if we didn’t include the largest performing arts center outside of New York on our holiday giving guide. After all, if you’re reading our blog you must like us at least a little! ; )

If you’re looking for the perfect stocking stuffer this holiday season, we recommend this little chandelier air freshener. We know it’s your secret way of telling them their car stinks, but your loved one will only see the nod to our city’s great GE Chandelier.
> Buy it now!

Have you checked out our PlayhouseSquare online gift shop lately? We have some really cool stuff on there! There’s show merchandise, PlayhouseSquare items, and Dazzle the District shirts—everything you need to adequately dress or impress that special someone.
Shop now!


We say that this next item “always gets applause,” and it really does! It’s not everyday someone gets to pick from over 1200 of the best concerts, family shows, Broadway musicals, and more! The PlayhouseSquare gift card is the chance for your loved one to make the memories that will last a lifetime.
> Order one now!

Baby, it’s cold outside, so be safe out there no matter how much shopping you have left to do. Happy holidays!

Theater news for the week...

Published December 19th, 2014 by | No Comments

Each week, we’re going to keep you up-to-speed with the latest Broadway news and stories. Check back every Friday to see what you missed this week and to catch a glimpse of what’s going on at PlayhouseSquare this weekend. Enjoy!


Promo video opens for Glee final season
Hey Gleeks, everyone's preparing for the final season of Glee to open this January, and a new promo video has launched. With a quick glimpse into the show, see the excitement - and a fast clip of Lea Michelle singing, "Let It Go." ( Read more...

2016 Cabaret national tour
Emma Stone made quite the buzz with her role as Sally Bowles in Cabaret, and now the show is making waves with the announcement of a national tour in January, 2016. The tour plans to hit 20 cities across the US, and casting and official show dates will be revealed soon. ( Read more...

Broadway dates set for School of Rock-The Musical
Andrew Lloyd Webber has worked hard on his stage adaptation of School of Rock, and with the direction of Les Miserables' Laurence Connor, will begin previewing the Broadway show in November, 2016. Casting is set to begin in January, and the official opening date is in December, 2016. ( Read more...

We say goodbye to The Colbert Report with his best Broadway interviews
Last night we said goodbye to Stephen Colbert's late night talk show, The Colbert Report. During his show, Colbert interviewed many from the world of Broadway. Check out a few of his interviews with popular Broadway stars. ( Read more...

Upcoming events at PlayhouseSquare

A Christmas Carol 
A Christmas Story
The Santaland Diaries

Happy Holidays in the CLE

Published December 17th, 2014 by | No Comments


Whether you live near or far, there’s no hiding it: CLE is full of pride. And with great reason! What better time to come be a part of all the excitement than the holidays? The city and its suburbs are full of cheer, and you could be a part of it! Here are a few things to get you started planning your visit Downtown.

Start by hitching a ride on Lolly the Trolley every Saturday in December for the Downtown in December tours. In the tour you’ll see Cleveland highlights new and old like The 9, Horseshoe Casino, Convention Center, and – of course – PlayhouseSquare. Did we mention the tour is free with a smile?

jameskazanPhoto by James Kazan

Swing by the holiday displays all around the city. The Horseshoe Casino has recreated the old-fashioned holiday scene, Holidays at the Higbee, transforming the window displays into a winter wonderland. There’s always a sight to be seen at The Arcade and Tower City, which are garnished in garlands and décor. You can finish up right here at PlayhouseSquare to see Cleveland’s holiday tree and winter displays. While you’re here, visit the Allen Theatre to see the Festival of Trees as it lights up the lobby.


After getting your fill of decorations, grab dinner or a cocktail in CLE. Make dinner reservations for your group at Cibreo or Cowell and Hubbard, or stop by Bin 216 or Parnell’s Irish Pub for a drink. The new Hofbrauhaus Cleveland is open right by PlayhouseSquare, and if you’re looking for a lively atmosphere and hearty German dishes, this is the place to go. Not to mention – they host the Christmas Christkindlmarkt, featuring traditional German foods and gifts, open this Thursday through Sunday.

1556473_498485606924110_1226152010_oPhoto from Cibreo

Then hop over to see a show at PlayhouseSquare. This week marks the end of classic Christmas comedies A Christmas Story and The Santaland Diaries, and there is still time to catch A Christmas Carol. For the season’s music lovers, Mannheim Steamroller is sure to bring a spectacular holiday show this Friday! Tickets sell out quick, so don’t miss your chance.

Feeling adventurous? Check out these suburban holiday hits:

Interior Evening BannerPhoto from Cleveland Botanical Gardens

Last minute holiday shopping at:

What's on your holiday to do list?


About Us

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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