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LIZZIE: The American Rock Musical Returns!

Published April 4th, 2017 by | Comments Off on LIZZIE: The American Rock Musical Returns!

Recall the famous nursery rhyme, “Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.” But did she really?

On April 28 – 30, in partnership with Baldwin Wallace University’s musical theatre program, LIZZIE, the American rock musical and crowd favorite, returns to the Cleveland stage. This year marks the 10 year anniversary of this collaboration with Baldwin Wallace, and the first time the student perform the same show twice! For one weekend only, experience the exhilarating story of Lizzie Borden and decide for yourself whether she is innocent, or if she is the axe-wielding murderer that everyone suspects her to be.

The chilling tale of Lizzie Borden:

125 years later, the mystery surrounding Lizzie Borden and whether or not she murdered her father and stepmother is still one of the most controversial cold cases in American history. Born July 19, 1860, in Fall River, Massachusetts, Lizzie Borden grew up in an unusual home. Sarah Borden, her mother, died when she was only two years old. After their mother’s death, Lizzie’s older sister, Emma, promised she would care for her. It didn’t take long however for Andrew Borden, Lizzie’s father,  to remarry a woman named Abby, whom Lizzie would come to resent. Mr. Andrew Borden a wealthy businessman was frugal with his money, to a fault, and often left his family to go without electricity or indoor plumbing.

Growing up, Lizzie struggled to live a normal life. Her father gave her a minimal allowance and the only social activities she could participate in were church-related. Eventually, she dropped out of high school and became a well-known shoplifter. Lizzie wished to be free to live an extravagant, wealthy lifestyle but never could. She came into conflict with her stepmother, in large part, due to her father choosing to treat his wife better than his children, like buying her a house. By Lizzie’s early 30s, she was even more unhappy as an unmarried woman living with her father and stepmother.

Then on August 4, 1892, tragedy struck the Borden home. Sometime between 9:00 and 9:30 a.m., Lizzie’s stepmother Abby was brutally murdered with an axe in the upstairs bedroom. Lizzie claimed to be unaware of the murder, stating she was in the kitchen downstairs. Lizzie then claimed she went outside to the barn to get some equipment for an upcoming fishing trip. During all of this, Bridget Sullivan, the family’s maid, was outside washing windows. When she finished, Bridget came back inside the house, acquainting with Mr. Borden before she went to lie down for a nap in a second upstairs bedroom. Then, around 11:00 a.m., Mr. Borden was also brutally murdered in the downstairs living room, to which Lizzie came into the house and shouted to Bridget upstairs, “Come quick! Father’s dead. Somebody came in and killed him.” When it came to the trial, even amidst some incriminating evidence, Lizzie was found to be not guilty.

It’s time for you to see the show and choose your own verdict. Get tickets to see LIZZIE here.

Broadway News: Bandstand The New American Musical

Published October 28th, 2016 by | Comments Off on Broadway News: Bandstand The New American Musical

It’s an exciting time for Broadway musicals, from hip hop to a cappella and now swing.

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Opening on Broadway in April 2017, Bandstand the New American Musical will be starring Tony Award nominee Laura Osnes and Cleveland native Corey Cott. Hailing from Chargin Falls, Cott got his first big break playing Jack Kelly in Newsies the Musical in 2012, and recently in 2015 he played the role of Gaston Lachallie in Gigi.

Set in the smoke-filled, swing-fueled night clubs of 1945, Bandstand brings the against-all-odds story of singer/songwriter Donny Novitski and his band of mismatched fellow WWII veterans to the stage.

bandstandpiano_16“When a national radio contest to find America’s next big swing band offers a chance at instant fame and Hollywood fortune, Donny must whip his wise-cracking gang of jazzers into fighting shape. Teaming up with the beautiful young war widow Julia as their singer, they struggle to confront the lingering effects and secrets of the battlefield that threaten to tear them apart. Playing for every voiceless underdog in a world that has left them behind, they risk everything in the final live broadcast to redefine the meaning of victory.

The brilliant Andy Blankenbuehler grew up loving swing music and was more than thrilled to be part of this production. When asked about the show Andy replied, ‘As a director, I’m so lucky to be involved with a show that is so rich in emotion and heart. As a choreographer, I’m over the moon to be dancing to a score that sizzles like nothing else on Broadway (Playbill.com).’ You may remember his great choreography from Hamilton and In the Heights.  

With an explosive original score and choreography inspired by the high energy swing rhythms of the era, Bandstand is a truly American story of love, loss, triumph and the everyday men and women whose personal bravery defined a nation.” (Playbill.com)

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For more information go to http://www.bandstandbroadway.com/

An Interview with Michael Lanphear from Pippin

Published February 5th, 2015 by | Comments Off on An Interview with Michael Lanphear from Pippin

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.

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