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An Interview with Gerald Steichen from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I

Published February 13th, 2017 by | Comments Off on An Interview with Gerald Steichen from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I

By Alicia Hansen

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 the national tour of The King and I makes its fifth stop when it lands in Cleveland, Alicia spoke with Gerald Steichen. Mr. Steichen serves as the Music Conductor of the touring production and was enthralled to share details about his involvement in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s timeless musical.









Looking at your list of conducting credits, I see an incredible offering of musicals, operettas and opera. How does having experience in so many genres influence your conducting of The King and I?

For me, the spice of life is variety. My college degrees are actually in accompanying, so my favorite thing is to actually be the person who is the heartbeat of the show, as well as be the internal drama of the show.

I think The King and I is really Rodgers and Hammerstein’s opera. It is the most classical of all their scores. For example, the songs “Something Wonderful” and “Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?” are absolutely arias. The arch of the show is really carried through the music, so shaping the show over the three hours really is like shaping an opera. Yes, the scene works is spectacular, but, dramatically, the show is really carried forward through the score. So, my experience as an opera conductor absolutely informs how I conduct the piece and what I think it needs dramatically. I think you’ll hear that in the show.

While first performed in the 1950s, The King and I is still an American musical theater classic in the 21st century. How have you seen it speak and connect to audiences of today?

It is a real classic piece and is so timely with so many moments of commentary. For example, there’s a moment where Anna asks a group of the women if they think that women are more lowly than men. When the women all agree, Anna absolutely disagrees, saying, “I think women are as absolutely as important, as intelligent and as wise as men are.” That’s been stopping the show every night.

Another example: The 1860s were a difficult time, all about colonization in the world. The French had just taken over Cambodia, the British are spreading their wings all over and the Portuguese were still very strong. With that, the King says at one point in the show, “there are times where I want to build a fence all the way around Siam and there are other days when I want to let the entire rest of the world in.” That line stops the show every night too.  So, it’s actually very timely politically.

Would you provide a glimpse into a “day in the life” of a musical director of this touring production?

It’s pretty miraculous how shows travel. When we move to a new stop, we pull into town with our 8 trucks of sets, costumes, stage managers, company managers and more. There are 80 of us who travel with the show. It’s kind of an army! Then, more than 100 local union workers help set up the show including setting up the set, rigging of the stage and installing lighting equipment.

We travel with only four musicians and pick up 13 locals musicians in every city. When we arrive, we add those 13 local musicians to our four regulars and perform one rehearsal. We send the local musicians the music weeks before so that they can learn their part, but we just have one rehearsal to put it all together. Then the night of that first rehearsal, we have our first official performance.

Another big part of my job is to make sure our understudies are ready to go on at any point. Every person on stage you see in the chorus is also understudying two roles. Most of our understudies have already been on because we have been out on tour now almost 5 months. Cleveland will only be our fifth city on our tour!

What challenges arise for you with touring, as a person, or as a part of the show?

One of the challenges of being on the road is staying on top of daily life. You don’t really have a routine. When you’re at home, you get up, you go to the gym, you go to work and so on. When you’re on the road, it’s like 1) find a gym, 2) join that gym… and silly things like paying bills, staying on top of emails or connecting with family – all of that is more onerous when you’re on the road because you just don’t have a routine. It’s hard to establish a routine when you’re on the road every two to three weeks to a completely new home and city. All of that takes a little more time. It’s fun! But it’s a little more challenging.

What makes this production of The King and I so special?

This production of The King and I is so spectacular and is so beautiful. The physical production is just stunning. The cast is just spectacular and the new orchestrations are just really beautiful. They have the spirit of the original Robert Russell Bennett arrangements, so you’re really in for a treat. Everyone who comes to the show is blown away, not only by the actors, but by the whole of the show itself.

To me, the level of the cast is what really sets this production apart. Jose Llana and Laura Michelle Kelly, who play the King and Anna, are so present in the roles. Every night, they are 2000% there. Every member of the cast put their whole hearts into it every night. The dancers are also out there fully every performance. You can feel all that in the company and you can feel the whole audience taking the full journey of the show with them.

The King and I runs February 7 – 26, 2017 in the Connor 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 Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

This week in theater news…

Published February 10th, 2017 by | Comments Off on This week in theater news…

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!

For when you’re missing Newsies…
Carry the banner once again, Newsies is back in town! Feb. 16, 18 and 22 you can catch the Newsies film in theaters. Click here for information and tickets.

A recipe for a happy May
Waitress fans rejoice – a show-themed pie recipe book is scheduled for release on May 23. Flavors include “The Key (Lime) to Happiness Pie,” and “The My Husband’s a Jerk Chicken Pot Pie.” Order it on pre-sale now on Amazon.

Broadway wears Prada
The famous Elton John has teamed up with playwright Paul Rudnick to write a musical adaptation of “The Devil Wears Prada.” Elton John, who’s composition resume includes The Lion King and Billy Elliott, and Rudnick will base the show off the ’03 novel by Lauren Weisburger and the ’06 movie, which starred Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway. A timeline has yet to be announced. (New York Times) Read more…

Get ready to laugh in 3…2…1…

Published February 8th, 2017 by | Comments Off on Get ready to laugh in 3…2…1…

On Sunday, February 12 the State Theatre stage will be featuring some of comedy’s best in The Center Stage Comedy Tour! Here’s a little more about the comedians in this anticipated performance.

Sommore (Lori Ann Rambough)

Sommore, tour headliner, ranks as one of the nations’ most highly-acclaimed, top comedic female entertainers. Throughout her career, her powerful combination of class and sass have captivated audiences with fierce ferocity. Coining the phrase, “Chandelier Status”, Sommore prides herself on authenticity, shining from within, and being unapologetically herself in every moment.

Arnez J (Arnez Johnson)

Arnez J has a distinctive improvisational comedic style that has made him one of the unforgettable greats. His authentic stage presence and contagious energy makes incomparable personality impressions that get crowds rolling with laughter, and Arnez J’s ability to involve physicality into his performances distinguish him entirely from the traditional comedic mold.

Tommy Davidson (Thomas Davidson)

Film, TV, and stand-up comedic star, Tommy Davidson, has established himself in all facets of the entertainment business. Most known as a member of the sketch comedy TV show, In Living Color, Davidson has opened concerts for Patti LaBelle, Starpoint and Kenny G.

John Witherspoon (John Weatherspoon)

Last but not least, Stand-up comedian, writer and actor, John Witherspoon. He has had roles in several films and TV shows over the course of his impressive career. Best known for his role in the Friday series, Witherspoon starred in movies such as Hollywood Shuffle, Amen, Boomerang and has also made appearances on NBC’s ‘The Richard Pryor Show’, ‘Last Comic Standing’, WKRP, The Wayans Bros, The Boondocks, The Five Heartbeats, Fresh Prince of Bel Air and many more!

When this much talent takes the stage, it’s only right to go out and witness it. Get tickets to the The Center Stage Comedy Tour now!

This week in theater news…

Published February 1st, 2017 by | Comments Off on This week in theater news…

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!

Beauty and the Beat
The new Beauty and the Beast trailer is making headlines, especially for the new duet by Ariana Grande and John Legend in the background. Hear the song and get ready for the movie to be released on March 17! (

Happy Groundhog Day!
It looks like Punxsutawney Phil won’t be seeing his shadow today, or something like that. Shout-out to our friends across the pond as Groundhog Day won best musical at the UK Critic’s Circle Theatre Awards. Another shout-out to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child which won three of the evening’s awards. Accio awards! ( Read more…

Hometown hero
Baldwin Wallace Director of Musical Theatre Vickie Bussert is directing Lizzie, a rock musical based on the murder trial of Lizzie Borden. It’ll play in Denmark and England, and upon returning to the US Bussert will direct the show when it’s performed by BW Musical Theater students in the Ohio Theatre April 28-30. Read more about Lizzie.

The magnificent Shen Yun returns!

Published January 31st, 2017 by | Comments Off on The magnificent Shen Yun returns!

Let Shen Yun take you on a magical journey February 4-5 at the State Theatre.

Click here for tickets

 “5,000 years of Chinese music and dance in one night.”-The New York Times

Shen Yun shared the beautiful world of China’s divine civilization. Classic Chinese dance, ethnic and folk dances, authentic costumes, and breathtaking backdrops will do the storytelling, all accompanies by an enchanting orchestral sound. It’s a stunning experience that will leave you amazed and inspired. This show captures the spirit of a culture long lost. The show moves quickly through regions, dynasties and legends. Ethnic and folk dances fill the stage with color and energy. Tremendous athleticism, thunderous battle drums, and masterful vocalists are all set to animated backdrops that transport you to another world.

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Its grand production astonishes global audiences with nearly 100 artists, 400 handmade costumes, and a live orchestra with Western and Chinese instruments. There are also stage props that help strengthen a dancer’s ability to convey intricate emotions. When used to maximum effect, they add to the dances an extra lively spark, forming stunning images of beauty and splendor onstage.

In recent years, Shen Yun dances have featured a range of unexpected props, each telling a story. Fluttering fans bloom like the petals of a delicate flower. Umbrellas twirl in refreshing drizzle. An embroidery hoop seamlessly accents a lady’s feminine grace. A well-bound book marks the learned scholar. A solitary Daoist journeys with a magical whisk. A long silk ribbon, dyed in rainbow hues, returns to the heavens as a fairy’s companion.While the young general Han Xin sports a Chinese sword known as baojian, Mulan’s warriors face enemies armed with shields and broadswords called dao. Archers train with drawn bows, and nothing radiates power like a formation of Tang dynasty men pounding their battle drums. The props, bright costumes and story-telling dances, paired with beautiful music are just a few of the elements that make this a must see show.

Find out why artists and theatergoers around the world are calling Shen Yun “breathtaking,”“mesmerizing,” “a miracle,” and “inspiring.” Allow yourself to be taken away to distant lands and ancient legends. Don’t miss Shen Yun and discover how you,too, can be inspired!

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Shen Yun has become a highly anticipated show and many have become loyal fans. Are you one of those loyal fans?

Click here to test your show knowledge with some Shen Yun trivia.





Let’s Party like Gatsby and do the Charleston!

Published January 27th, 2017 by | Comments Off on Let’s Party like Gatsby and do the Charleston!

The 26th Annual Jump Back Ball is less than a month away and this year’s theme is Roaring back to the ’20s!

What is Jump Back Ball, you ask? It’s Cleveland’s hottest party, hosted by Partners, the official young professionals group of Playhouse Square. On February 25, 2017, Take a trip to the era when young people began to paint the town, listen to jazz music and dance The Charleston. Guests will enjoy never-ending cocktails, decadent food, live music, dancing and more.

To help you get prepared for the event, we wanted to share some tips to help you master The Charleston and get ready to dance the night away.

You know what they say, a little party never killed nobody! So dust off your dancing shows and get tickets for The 26th Annual Jump Back Ball!


An Interview with Eleasha Gamble from Into The Woods

Published January 20th, 2017 by | Comments Off on An Interview with Eleasha Gamble from Into The Woods

By Alicia Hansen

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 the national tour of Into The Woods makes its stop in Cleveland, Alicia spoke with Eleasha Gamble, a cast member who plays the Baker’s Wife in the production, about her involvement in the Sondheim classic.


Tell us about yourself.

I was a born and raised in Washington, D.C.  After completing high school and college, I began my professional theatrical career in the D.C. area.  After about a decade there, I have been in the New York City area for about five years. In New York, I started doing more regional theater work, as well auditioned for productions in the city. I spent time on The Lion King tour. I actually started my time on that tour in Cleveland, so it is nice to be back in Cleveland again!

The marketing for this production teases that this show is a “witty and wildly theatrical re-invention” of Into The Woods. What about it attracted you to audition for it?

In general, I love this show and have done previous productions of it. My very first time was in college playing the Witch. I then played the Witch again a few years later at Signature Theater in Arlington, Virginia. But I have always wanted to play the Baker’s Wife, so when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped at the chance to audition, especially after finding out more about Fiasco Theater and their concept for the show.

I was really intrigued with their idea for a more actor driven show. With Fiasco, it is very much about treating these characters as actual people. They have real wants and needs, and you see that in the acting. The audience may have seen this piece before with a bunch of bells and whistles, but with all of that, it can be easy to lose track of the heart of actual story. In our production, you get more involved because you do not see distractions. It is really a bare bones look at the show. It forces the audience to use their imagination and makes them more inclined to really go on the journey with us.

The production features a more minimalistic approach to the sets and costuming. Can you speak to how that influences your role as a performer?

The whole idea is that this show is taking place in this attic of memories. So what you find in an attic? You would maybe find an old piano, a chaise lounge and all these other little pieces that are then used to influence this story. That minimalistic approach is the world that we are given. It is all about just believing that they are real. The characters’ needs and wants are that intense and you just go on that ride with them. For example, even though Rapunzel’s hair is a knitted piece of yarn, that is the hair that the Baker’s Wife needs to complete her task.

You play the role of the Baker’s Wife. What do you love about playing this character? What about it is challenging??

She is such a fun character to play. She is such a complex character but so real. Her journey is a real journey. Here is this woman who wants a child and she discovers herself during that journey: how strong she is, how much she loves her husband, how complex life is, how decisions and choices get presented to you and sometimes you do not know how you are going to respond when you are faced with some life or death situations. It has been fantastic to go on that trip with her and to navigate the ups and downs of life. I love playing her, just like I love playing the Witch. They are both strong female characters, which as an actress, you do not always get. They are also full characters, so it is just so nice to dig into the roots of who she is.

What is difficult is that the show is so actor driven. It is exhausting! It takes a lot out of us. Our directors were really big about making sure we all knew this production is about the concept of cost. This show has to cost us – us the actors. We never leave the stage. When we are sitting back behind the action, we’re either moving set pieces or doing something to support someone else. There is constant activity. By the end of the show, it does cost us – we are all worn out, just as much as our characters would be at that point.

Into The Woods is full of incredible moments. Are there favorites you have as an actor?

Since we do not leave the stage, this show affords us the opportunity to sit and to watch each other perform. One of the great moments for me is when Philippe who plays Jack sings Giants in the Sky. It is staged and directed so that we all freeze and watch him do the number. He is so good at it. It is a lovely moment that we all get to react to his beautiful storytelling.

Because there is no orchestra, we all play various instruments throughout the show, so it is fun to support our fellow cast mates as they do their songs. I also love when we do No One is Alone. Here we are – all together, playing this song about no one being alone because we are all here with you. They are great moments when we as a company connect with each other on stage.

What makes this production of Into The Woods so special in your experience?

It truly is a company of actors. It is such a small group, and having done this show before, I know how many people can be in it! In this one, you have a lot of people play multiple roles, which is not usual in a typical production. Being on stage together the entire time brings us together even more. With all the things happening in the world today, it is making us realize just how important this story is right now. To have the opportunity to take it across the country is making us realize how privileged and grateful we are to be sharing this with audiences now.


Into The Woods runs January 10 – 29, 2017 in the Connor 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 Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.


Let it Be true! The sound of the Beatles comes to Cleveland.

Published January 17th, 2017 by | Comments Off on Let it Be true! The sound of the Beatles comes to Cleveland.

Jump in your Yellow Submarine and come to the State Theatre on Wednesday, February 22 at 8 p.m. to witness the international sensation Let It Be. This show is jam-packed with over forty of The Beatles’ greatest hits. Click here to buy your tickets now!

Relive The Beatles’ meteoric rise from their humble beginnings in Liverpool’s Cavern Club, through the heights of Beatlemania, to their later studio masterpieces, with live performances of early tracks including Twist and Shout, She Loves You and Drive My Car, as well as global mega-hits Yesterday, Hey Jude, Come Together and, of course, Let It Be. Travel back to the magical sixties when all you needed was love, and a little help from your friends!

Not only will audiences experience an abbreviated version of the critically acclaimed show in the first half, but in the second half this brand new production will take audiences to the concert the iconic group would have given had they reformed on October 9, 1980, John Lennon’s 40th birthday.

You’ll hear Beatles’ classic hits such as Hard Day’s Night, Twist and Shout, Hey Jude and I Wanna Hold Your Hand as well as songs not covered in the original show, including Got to Get you Into My Life and Lady Madonna. The cast will also perform individual works from John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr including My Sweet Lord, Live and Let Die, Imagine and many more.

Imagine a night that never happened, but which feels so surreal! Don’t miss this show!

How Much Do You Know About the Beatles?

Are you feeling brave? Try these Beatles Trivia questions and see how you measure up. There is an easy, medium and hard quiz.

Part 1 (Easy)

Part 2 (Medium)

Part 3 (Hard)

This week in theater news…

Published January 13th, 2017 by | Comments Off on This week in theater news…

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!

The stars of the show…
Past Tony Awards host and winner Neil Patrick Harris joined 2016 Tony host James Corden in a talent-packed Broadway song riff off. James Corden is no stranger to riff offs, having competed against stars like Anna Kendrick and Shawn Mendes. See the dueling duo in the video above.

Anastasia has a cast…
And we’re proud it includes a Northeast Ohioan! Congrats to Zach Adkins, previous actor at Ashtabula Fine Arts, who will join the cast as it begins previews on March 23. Break a leg! ( Read more…

Sara Bareilles working on her to do list…
And that list includes finishing a record by the end of the year. Not a small feat. In other Sara Bareilles news, when asked about playing the lead role of Jenna in Waitress, she said, “Never say never… Of course it’s a dream of mine, but right now I’ve got a record label that is on my ass… so my number one priority right now is to work on my next record.” We’ll keep dreaming, Sara, and until then are looking forward to launch the national tour of Waitress this year! ( Read more…

Flanagan’s Wake is back… Can you dig it?

Published January 11th, 2017 by | Comments Off on Flanagan’s Wake is back… Can you dig it?

It’s time to be transported to Graplin, County Sligo, Ireland where you, as an audience member, can participate with the villagers in the telling of tales, singing of songs, and mourn the passing of one of their own: Flanagan. Don’t miss Flanagan’s Wake the hilarious interactive Irish wake January 6 – April 29 in Kennedy’s Theatre.


“Flanagan’s Wake” has been making people in Chicago laugh since 1994. It is the one of the longest running shows in Chicago theater history. Making its debut in Cleveland in 1996 in Kennedy’s Down Under, the local U.S. customs agent and “schanachie” John Regan brought it to town under his group, the “Irish Rodeo Clowns.” On August 30th, 2003, former Mayor of Cleveland, Jane Campbell, awarded the “Irish Rodeo Clowns” with a proclamation on the groups’ 500th performance of “Flanagan’s Wake.”

What makes the show such a unique experience is the format of the show: interactive improv theater. The show depends on the wit of its audience. From time to time, the cast will request a suggestion from the audience that can take the show in one direction or another. The cast improvises the show based upon the audience “recollections” of the mythical Flanagan. The extended family at “Flanagan’s Wake” incorporates everyone in attendance that chooses to become involved, but in a way that makes you feel like you’re a vital part of the show.

Experience a night full of laughs and get tickets now for Flanagan’s Wake!

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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.