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Stick It To The Man: A Review of the Broadway in Cincinnati’s Production of “School of Rock”

Review by Alan Jozwiak of School of Rock: Broadway in Cincinnati

Don’t just sit and take it,

Stick it to the man.

Rant and rave

and scream and shout.

Get all of your aggression out.

They try to stop you,

let ‘em know

exactly where they all can go.

And do it just as loudly as you can!

The above lyrics, taken from the song “School of Rock,” sound like a flashback from an 1980s Heavy Metal band. Instead it becomes the rallying cry of School of Rock, the latest Broadway touring show from Fifth-Third Bank Broadway in Cincinnati presented by Tri-Health.

Taking its inspiration from the 2003 film of the same name, School of Rock follows the exploits of rock guitarist Dewey (Rob Colletti), who is forced to find creative ways to make money when his substitute teacher roommate Ned (Matt Bittner) insists he come up with back rent. Dewey intercepts a call meant for Ned from Horace Green, a private prep school, who inquire whether Ned can substitute teacher at their school. Seizing on the opportunity, Dewey pretends to be Ned so that he can get the rent money. In the process, Dewey discovers the hidden musical talents of his class and decides to enter them into a rock contest called the Battle of the Bands.

With new music by Broadway veteran Andrew Lloyd Webber (Evita, Cats, and The Phantom of the Opera) and lyrics by Glenn Slater, this screen-to-stage musical adaptation is above average in its music content. There are several catchy songs, like the one quoted above, that serve to delight audiences. As a result, this show ends up being a crowd pleaser, getting audiences on their feet at the end of the show excited by the action happening on stage.

Playing the role of Dewey, Rob Colletti was uneven with his performance. At the start of the show, there was something off about his playing the part of Dewey and he didn’t hit his full stride until the second act.  It is hard to see this play without thinking about Jack Black and much to his credit, Colletti’s performance tries not to channel Jack Black to the point of mimicry.  Colletti finds his own interpretation of the part and was also able to belt out rock anthems at the same time.

As the female lead, Horace Green principal and Stevie Nicks fan Rosalie (Lexie Dorsett Sharp) provides a wonderful counterpoint for Dewey. Sharp was able to portray the voice of sober reason to Dewey’s crazy ideas and there was good chemistry between the two actors on stage. Sharp is also a fine singer. Not only can she belt out songs like “Where Did the Rock Go?,” but she also sings a solid version of Mozart’s “Queen of the Night” aria from The Magic Flute.

However, the real stars of the show are the children who are in Dewey’s class.  The cast has some talented actors/musicians and there is not enough space to discuss all of them individually. Kudos go to Katie (Theodora Silverman), who was outstanding as the School of Rock bass player. Also excellent was the keyboardist Lawrence (Theo Mitchell-Penner) and backup singer Marcy (Cloe Anne Garcia). I personally loved watching Garcia’s long hair bob and weave every which way as she was singing.  She made that role so much fun to watch. Finally, kudos have to go to the band’s manager Summer (Gabriella Uhl). Uhl hit the right note (pun intended) for her part by being the bossy know-it-all and was delightful to watch.

What was not delightful to watch on opening night was the woman who sat in the empty seats in front of me during Act II and decided to video record songs from the musical on her portable video recorder.  After being told by those around her not to record, she finally shut down her video operations after being told to stop by a floor supervisor at the Aronoff Center.

I had just taught an Intro to Theater class the day before where we went over the basics of theater etiquette. We went over the fact that video recording is against copyright rules, as well as rude to those sitting next to the person video recording.

I guess some people have no etiquette these days when they come to the theater.

So, in the words of the title song of the piece, I want to stick it to the woman sitting on the Orchestra in either seat J 209 or 210 that she ruined the glorious ending of the show by her video shenanigans and if she wants to video record something, do it outside of the theatre.

Enough said.

In closing, School of Rock is a show that should please its audiences. It is a feel-good musicals that leaves you humming the songs after the show is over. It runs February 21 to March 4 at the Aronoff Center for the Arts.  Tickets can be purchased by calling the Aronoff Center Box Office at (513) 621-2787 or by going to their website

CCM’s “Jesus Christ, Superstar” Shows Off Superstar Cast

Review by Laurel Humes of Jesus Christ Superstar: CCM Musical Theatre

From stunning dramatic images to outright comedy, the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music has staged a terrific production of Jesus Christ Superstar.

In many ways, it may be more difficult to revive a 47-year-old show than produce something new. The rock opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber (music) and Tim Rice (lyrics) has been on Broadway four times since 1971, had many tours and a movie, and countless college productions.

But in the hands of director/choreographer Diane Lala and her fine cast, Jesus Christ Superstar is fresh and frequently thrilling.

The story is loosely based on Bible accounts of the last week of Jesus’ life, starting with the triumphant entry into Jerusalem and ending with the crucifixion. The story is told through the eyes of Judas, who betrayed Jesus.

But don’t expect a Bible lesson. The fast-paced show, which is all sung with no dialogue, only has time to pause briefly on each event. And be ready for a mix of contemporary and biblical costumes, props and expressions – including cell phones!

Another note: I assume due to an abundance of talent, the roles of Jesus, Judas and Mary Magdalene are double cast. Opening night, Stavros Koumbaros played Jesus, Alex Stone was Judas, and Ciara Alyse Harris was Mary.

Harris has a gorgeous voice, and her portrayal of the woman who wants only to care for Jesus is convincing. Mary has the well-known solo, “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” but Harris especially shines on “Everything’s Alright.”

Stone brings much insight into Judas, who Superstar depicts with sympathy. Stone shows us Judas’ almost immediate regret for taking money to betray Jesus. He does a fine rock-star job fronting the show’s signature song, “Superstar.” The heartbreaking image, though, is his plea: “God, why did you choose me for your crimes?” Then he hangs himself, in a striking realistic scene.

Koumbaros’ Jesus evolves as events turn grim. The cracks in his sunny demeanor start to show in a compelling scene when the entire ensemble, dressed in rags as lepers, cripples and beggars, surround Jesus, pleading to be healed. “Don’t crowd me,” Jesus shouts, followed by “Heal yourselves!”

Pontius Pilate, played by the talented Phillip Johnson-Richardson, presides over Jesus’ trial. Pilate tries hard to give Jesus – and himself – an out, even sending him up the ladder to King Herod.

This is when we get some comic relief, in the hilarious, cabaret-style “King Herod’s Song,” performed by sequin-costumed Derek Kastner and back-up singers. Prove that you’re the Son of God, Herod demands of Jesus, “Walk across my swimming pool.”

It is a star turn for Kastner, who wows the audience with his singing and tap dancing. Beyond that glittery surface, though, the skillful Kastner also shows us Herod’s underlying evil.

Jesus’ fate is predetermined, of course, as he tells Pilate: “Everything is fixed and you can’t change it.”

There is the horrifying lashing, which leaves almost too-authentic bloody stripes on Jesus’ back. There is the stunning crucifixion scene, at first realistic, then backed by a cross of bright lights – befitting a Superstar.

The only resurrection in Jesus Christ Superstar is the curtain call, which is a bit jarring. But this is the story through Judas’ eyes, and he was gone before the final miracle.

If there are still tickets – opening night was sold out – the show runs through March 4, with matinees on weekends. For ticket information, call 513-556-4183.

Take Your Musicians to Broadway in Cincinnati’s “School of Rock, the Musical”

Review by Liz Eichler of School of Rock: Broadway in Cincinnati

Rob Colletti and company in
“School of Rock”

The audience was alive with young people on the opening of School of Rock, the Musical. Many of them told me they were musicians, ready to be inspired. You can be inspired through March 4 at Cincinnati’s Aronoff Center, as School of Rock, written by Julian Fellowes, Glen Slater, and Andrew Lloyd Webber, lifts you out of this dreary winter.

The highlight of the show is the kids—their energy, the dancing, and of course the musicianship.  These preteens slay it on drums, bass, keyboard, guitar and vocals.  In case you missed the movie by Mike White, the basis of the play, it is the story of Dewey the overgrown rock musician who has been sponging off a buddy, but now the rent is way past due.  Dewey intercepts one of his roomie’s long-term substitute teaching requests and finds himself in front of a room of talented, but classical musicians. Playing to his strength, he forms a band with them, introducing them to the word of rock—performance, management, and style. The students find their voice and confidence, despite complications from principal (powerful and funny Lexie Dorsett Sharp) and parents. The musical focuses more on the kids than the rent, and it is a winning strategy.

The opening is fast—right into a rock concert, where energetic Dewey (Rob Colletti) upstages the lead vocalist in his band, getting him kicked out, taking refuge in his bed, delivering an all too subdues “When I Climb to the Top of Mount Rock.”  All comes alive when he finally meets the kids and their energy electrifies the stage. Highlights include “You’re in the Band,” “If Only You Would Listen,” and “Stick it to the Man.” Of course all the kids are great, but a special shout out to Theo Mitchell-Penner (Lawrence on Keyboard), Tommy Ragen (Zach on Guitar), Gilberto Moretti-Hamilton (Freddy on Drums), Ava Briglia (Summer the Manager), Theodora Silverman (Katie on Bass), Olivia Bucknor (Shonelle) and especially Chloe Anne Garcia (Marcy Back-up Singers). The set and costume are great. Opening night lights and sound were still working out some kinks.

Bring your young musicians to School of Rock, the Musical, and be inspired by this and all the shows  of the Broadway in Cincinnati series. Tickets are available at or by calling 513-621-ARTS.

The Kids Rock in “School of Rock” at the Aronoff Center

Review by Spenser Smith of School of Rock at Broadway Across America

Rob Colletti and Company in “School of Rock”

School of Rock, the musical, is the stage adaptation of the 2003 film by the same name wherein Jack Black’s Dewey Finn finds himself kicked out of a band, desperately needing money. A substitute teaching position (mistakenly) comes along and his unorthodox “teaching” methods push boundaries at an otherwise uptight private school. The audience at last night’s opening at the Aronoff Center seemed to really enjoy this show that is perfect for the whole family.

Rob Colletti plays the down-on-his-luck Dewey Finn with contagious enthusiasm. He is instantly likable, although detested by some, yet we never forget his heart of gold. Last night the energy did seem very low, to the extent that I asked if the understudy was on and not yet comfortable in the role. That was not the case, but midway through the first act he had settled in. Don’t get me wrong here, his performance is hysterical, he was just getting warmed up. CCM grad Lexie Dorsett Sharp plays hard-nosed Rosalie, the principle of fictitious Horace Green School. She’s against Dewey’s unconventional teaching methods, until he asks her out for a drink to hopefully get to know her a little better. When her favorite Stevie Nicks song starts playing on the jukebox, she lets her hair down and sings an anthem I can’t quite remember. In this moment, they find common ground and begin to have legitimate feelings for one another? It all happened so suddenly and the “moment” that solidifies this plot line in the staging seemed very forced and unnatural. The chemistry between the two also seemed lacking, but they’re playing a moment that still strikes me as unbelievable.

Although those two are billed as the “leads” so far as theatrical credits are concerned, the real stars of the show are the KIDS. They ROCK! Literally. They all play their instruments live on stage and those moments are highlights of the show. Not only do they play, each has their own obstacle to overcome. Despite the hilarity of Julian Fellowes’ book the kids have several truly touching moments. I heard several comments in the lobby about the positive messages portrayed and I will champion any story that reminds us that our uniqueness is a strength.

Multiple reviews have heralded Andrew Lloyd Weber’s return to the “rock musical” and rock it does. Other than the hummable “You’re in the Band” and it’s reprise, which I also heard in the line for the men’s restroom at intermission, the majority of the music is just loud. It’s of serious concern since I heard many patrons complaining about not being able to understand any of Glenn Slater’s lyrics. I’m sure sound mixing is an ongoing issue for a show of this nature, but we have to be able to hear what the actors are saying.

Despite some technical glitches, the opening night performance was full of excitement and fun. There were certainly aspects of the show on which I would improve, but in this day and age sometimes one just needs a good laugh. The cast is sure to serve up plenty of those for the rest of their Cincinnati audiences, and beyond.

School of Rock continues at the Aronoff Center through March 4.

For tickets, visit the box office located at 650 Walnut Street , call 513-621-2787 [ARTS] or you can order online at

We Need More “Angels in America”

Review by Spenser Smith of Angels in America: NKU Theatre

Angels in America, the Tony and Pulitzer Prize winning play by Tony Kushner, first premiered 25 years ago, yet the current production on stage at NKU reminds us how much of our journey remains.

The story of the play exists during the height of the AIDS epidemic. Prior (Jacob Miller) has just found his first lesion and his partner Louis (Matthew Nassida) is in denial from the start. Louis meets Joe Pitt (Sam Johnson) during one of his many breakdowns in the bathroom at work. Joe is a Salt Lake City Mormon living with his pill-popping wife Harper (Grace Wesson) and they have some demons of their own. Joe is offered the opportunity to work in Washington by big-time attorney Roy Cohn (Alex Slade). Roy is in the middle of a little financial mishap and might need Joe on his side. Prior eventually winds up in the hospital, against his will, but finds comfort in Belize (Isaiah Reaves) who brings along a soothing (and smelly) cream to help heal his wounds.

I am loathe to give away any more of the story, as I believe the beauty comes with experiencing all the trials and tribulations in real time. It’s a shame this story had to have been written from true events but the students on stage in this production should be most proud. It is clear how much time was spent on each individual character and their relationship to others. It’s so rare to see a production that has such a laser-focus on the text. The words are so important. Our words are so important. Congratulations to Michael Hatton and his incredible cast on a story well told.

The technical elements were equally top notch. Set (Ron Shaw) and sound (Terry Powell) elements complimented one another beautifully. The non-specific scenic elements and musical underscoring lent themselves to the idea of universality. Love and loss can be experienced by anyone, anywhere and somehow we are all connected. The ideas behind the choices were wonderful, albeit some scene changes seemed very labored on opening night. Lighting Designer Larry Csernik blends all the different universes and relationships together with beautiful colors and effects.

If this production is not yet on your list of “things to see” in the next ten days, you should call the NKU Box Office at 859-572-5464 and reserve your tickets now.

*On opening night, the roles of Rabbi Chemelwitz/Henry/Hannah Pitt/Ethel Rosenberg were played by NKU professor Corrie Danieley. At all future performances those roles will be played by Ella Rivera,” as stated in the program.

Angels in America continues at the Corbett Theatre on the campus of Northern Kentucky University through February 24.

For tickets, call 859-572-5464 or visit

Bursts of Narrative: A Review of CCM Acting’s “Love and Information”

Review by Alan Jozwiak of Love and Information: CCM Acting

Channel surf your way through your cable options and you will hear bursts of narrative, chunks of stories that sometimes reach a conclusion, but most likely end up:





CCM Acting’s latest main stage production, Love and Information, by Caryl Churchill, takes these bursts of narrative and turns it into a fascinating caravan of theatrical wonder.

Divided into seven sections containing up to ten plays a piece, Churchill’s scope ranges widely:

We get to see teenage girls arguing over who knows more about their teen heartthrob,

time-traveling jazzercisers,

a man who ponders over the reality of irrational numbers,

a woman who uses her dream of blackberries, butterflies, and ballet to justify having an affair with her coworker,

. . .and so much more.

Director Brant Russell curates these plays through careful pacing.

He wisely provides time in between each play for the audience to absorb and comprehend what has happened in one play before going onto the next one.

He also has the names of each play in surtitles, as well as the section number as the piece progresses from one section to another.

This pacing allows the audience to digest and see patterns amongst the plays.

The seven set of plays called “Depression” would have been hard to see as one unit if it was not for the fact that they are labeled as such as they appear within each section.

Russell also provides strong direction to his actors, a cast which numbers twenty-eight, meaning that all the actors get to shine as they present a multifaceted view of the world.

I had seen this show done with a much smaller cast and the larger cast helps flesh out the scope of the world.

Also helpful is the set.

Scenic Designer Matthew D. Hamel created an antiseptic, but powerful set which is divided into four boxes separated by neon lighting that flashes on and off between sections.

Added to this playing area are three areas in front of these sections for a more intimate experience.

Actors come on and off during the blackouts between plays as minimal set pieces are added or taken off stage.

Perhaps my only quibble with the production came with the excessive use of wigs and facial hair.

In order to create the illusion the audience was seeing literally dozens of actors, Hair and Makeup Designer Rin Schwob created different looks for each actor in each play.

I felt a bit distracted by this move, since part of me started playing the guessing game as to which actor was under what wig and/or beard.

Since the actors were not listed in the individual pieces, here is a list of some of the outstanding pieces within the show, in order of appearance.







Wedding Video







Sign Language

Chinese Poetry



Kudos to all the actors who appeared in these pieces.

This play is not for everyone.  The audience needs stamina because the play runs one hour and 40 minutes without an intermission, which can be overwhelming.

I began feeling narrative fatigue after an hour of continuous narrative.

My brain can handle just so much dramatic channel surfing without wanting to tuning out.

But for the adventurous theatre goer braced with this knowledge, this play is one that will delight, wonder, and amaze.

Love and Information runs February 7-11, 2018 in the Patricia Corbett Theatre.

For more information concerning CCM Acting, visit their website:



TMI ;) Too Much Information? — Not at the CCM Production

As I walked into the Patricia Corbett Theatre(PCT) at CCM for preview night of Love and Information I thought I screwed up their electronics system.

There’s a reason you have to turn off your cellphone when you board an airplane.  It interferes with the communications system for the pilots to the control tower and other airplanes. It even happens sometimes when you’re at church – you’ll hear a “beep-beep-beep” or some static-like noise issuing from the speakers because of an electronic signal that’s picked up by a wireless microphone from your text message.

As I entered PCT, this exact “noise” occurred as I walked past their sound control and I was checking my Facebook. I sat down embarrassed that I may have messed up their sound system. I turned my phone off.

It wasn’t my fault. I can honestly say that!

Sound designer Edward Mineishi cleverly worked some magic into a “soundtrack” underscore for the show! This preshow “noise” caught many off guard. But we realized, once the production began, that it was a dizzying premise to get us in the mind-frame of what was to come. It was unnerving to say the least and I thought to myself midway through the show, “I’m so sick of the noise of technology.”

That’s it for spoilers. Because too much information is what is wrong with society right now. And, director Brant Russell has made this production a perfect statement for TMI.

Love and Information is a collection of 57 short, episodic vignettes in which playwright Caryl Churchill uses a series of interaction between mostly unnamed characters to explore knowledge, meaning and how we make sense of information in our lives. While this there isn’t one specific story it’s telling, the script does have several narratives that add up to something larger that reveals how we live and what it means to be human in our society right now.

Most of these scenes are dialogues between two characters, with the exception of a series of one-line scenes titled “Depression,” characters are not repeated from one scene to the next, meaning that the 28 actors are responsible for playing multiple roles.

And, that is the fun!

The presentation of fifty-seven episodes, some very funny and some very poignant, played out through 28 actors and many, many costume, hair and wig changes, is the most fascinating aspect of this production. I can’t begin to imagine what was going through director Brant Russel’s head as he was trying to make sense of all of this. And it does make sense, trust me! Once I got comfortable with the fact that there was no linear storyline, I settled in for a rollicking evening of watching some very, very talented actors and craftspeople at work. As a reviewer you try not to have “favorites.” But there are some of these students that I’ve watched grow through the years (senior Rupert Spraul, fresh off the boards from an amazing performance as Hamlet) and they and their performances in this production showcases their rich gallery of talent.  Each actor made each character come alive in unison to tell a story of the people and events on stage. (Remember they changed 57 scenes!) You’ll see the familiar CCM faces in tour-de-force performances that make you appreciate and love them even more.

And let’s NOT forget the behind-the-scenes folks.  I marveled at the mustaches, beards, necklaces, and wigs, wigs, wigs.  As we’re pulled from one set of lives to another, in mere minutes, it’s amazing to witness the swift and nimble changes that create new characters.  It’s like flipping TV channels and seeing new characters on new shows within minutes. Astonishing work!

The set design, by student Matthew D. Hammel, seems ripped straight from an Apple commercial with a little bit of George Lucas’s THX-1138 thrown in for good measure. It syncs perfectly with the soundtrack.

While it’s a 90-minute run time, there is a bit of a slowdown midway. It’s a chance to catch your breath and get comfortable in your seat again, before you’re whisked away to another moment.  It’s about moments. It’s about love. It’s about information and how much we rely on that information and in some cases it affects how we love, who love, and love ourselves.

For more information (no pun intended) visit the CCM Facebook page ( or the box office website at, or call 513-556-4183 or online through the CCM e-Box Office at

You’ll love it!

Incline’s “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress” Fashions a Great Ensemble

Review by Laurel Humes of Five Women: Incline Theatre

Five Women Wearing the Same Dress. You guessed it – they are bridesmaids.

The purple and pink dresses are truly awful in Warsaw Federal Incline Theatre’s production; what fun costume designer Caren Brady must have had creating them. The year is 1993, which somewhat excuses the puffed sleeves and floppy hats. The real purpose of the dresses is to provide a running joke throughout the play.

When we catch up with the bridesmaids, the wedding is over and the reception is underway at the home of the bride’s wealthy parents. The entire play is set in the bride’s younger sister’s bedroom, where the women come and go to take breaks from the festivities.


The sister, Meredith (played by Audrey MacNeil), who has lived in her older sister’s perfect shadow her entire life. Just graduated from college, she is at loose ends about what to do next. Her current talents seem to be senseless rebellion and complaining.

Trisha (Talia Noelle Zoll), a sophisticated, sardonic woman who tells the others she looked out at the congregation during the wedding and “thought I’d slept with half the men.”

Georgeanne (Erin Carr), unhappily married and still (incredibly) sexually involved with the cad who got her pregnant years ago.

Frances (Brianna Bernard), who pronounces her values at every opportunity: “I am a Christian, I do not drink.” Until the company she is keeping chips away at her stance.

Mindy (Merritt Beischel), aloof and sarcastically witty. She is a lesbian, but her partner is boycotting the wedding over not being invited to the rehearsal dinner.

The first and second acts of Five Women Wearing the Same Dress are like two different plays. In Act 1, the characters are shallow and self-absorbed, the dialogue all gossip about men and sex. I felt some anger at playwright Alan Ball for creating these caricatures of women, despite the funny lines.

But don’t leave this wedding reception too soon. Act 2 is the payoff.

That’s when the play delves deeper into these women’s pasts and personalities. We get more details of the traumas some have experienced, which leads to a greater understanding of their current behavior.

The themes in Act 2 are more serious – childhood sex abuse, fear of close relationships, society’s demand that women be beautiful. There is still humor: Beischel’s character Mindy does a funny Miss America take-off.

The only man in the show appears late in the second act. He is Tripp, played by Matt Krieg. He and Zoll’s Trisha have a long, well-acted scene that evolves from flirtation to the possibility of a one-night stand to the potential for a real relationship.

Tripp is in the play to remind us that not all men are like the ones who have damaged the women characters we’ve come to know.

There is fine acting by everyone in the Five Women cast, most of whom are making their debut at Incline Theater. The actresses skillfully show us their evolution during the play, the hurt and tears behind the masks of coping they’ve been forced to wear.

Five Women Wearing the Same Dress continues through Feb. 11 at Warsaw Federal Incline Theater, 801 Matson Place, in the Incline District of East Price Hill. For tickets, call 513-241-6550 or go to