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The 10 shows you can’t miss in October

Published: Sunday, October 01, 2017 @ 6:00 AM

Erica Lynn Bridge (center) and the cast of La Comedia Dinner Theatre’s production of the musical Mamma Mia!, featuring a slew of hits from 1970s pop icons ABBA. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Erica Lynn Bridge (center) and the cast of La Comedia Dinner Theatre’s production of the musical Mamma Mia!, featuring a slew of hits from 1970s pop icons ABBA. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Here are 10 can’t-miss stage shows this month.

IN THE HEIGHTS

Oct. 3-8, Schuster Center

“Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda won a 2008 Tony Award for writing the score for this diverse showcase of hip-hop and Latin rhythms centered on the universal hopes and dreams of the Washington Heights community in New York City. 

>> The story behind “In the Heights” coming to Dayton

>> When will “Hamilton” come to Dayton?

Tuesday-Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at the Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets, Dayton. Tickets are $25-$98. Call (937) 228-3630 or visit ticketcenterstage.com. 

“In the Heights,” which comes to the Schuster Center Oct. 2-8, is a collaboration between two Minneapolis theaters. SUBMITTED PHOTO BY RICH RYAN(Staff Writer)

MARJORIE PRIME

Oct. 6-22, Dayton Theatre Guild

Dayton Theatre Guild presents the local premiere of Jordan Harrison’s 2015 Pulitzer Prize-nominated drama. Set in the age of artificial intelligence, the play examines loss, memory, identity and technology as an 85-year-old widow copes with the death of her husband through the use of a computer program known as a prime.

Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 5 p.m. (with exception of Oct. 7 at 8 p.m.), and Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Dayton Theatre Guild, 430 Wayne Ave., Dayton. Call (937) 278-5993 or visit daytontheatreguild.org.

PAVLO

Oct. 17, Centerville High School

The Miami Valley Community Concert Association presents the eclectic sounds of this internationally renowned and award-winning recording artist. The Toronto native, born to Greek parents, considers his musical aesthetic to be a blend of Greek, flamenco, Latin, and Balkan influences meshed into contemporary pop.

Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Centerville High School, 500 E. Franklin St., Centerville. Tickets are $30 for adults and $5 for students (first grade through college). Call Carol Heine at (937) 938-1109 or Gwen Brubaker at (937) 297-0463 or visit mvcconcert.org.

(left to right) Tabatha Wharton, Christopher Hahn and A.J. Breslin star in Playground Theatre’s production of Stephen Belber’s dark drama Tape, a story of friends finally facing up to the truth. PHOTO BY KNACK CREATIVE(Contributing Writer)

TAPE

Oct. 19-22, Schuster Center

Millennial-driven Playground Theatre, one of the most progressive troupes in town, opens its season with Stephen Belber’s dark drama concerning motive and truth centered on old friends coming to terms with the past.

Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. inside the Mathile Theatre of the Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets, Dayton. Tickets are $15-$20. Call (937) 228-3630 or visit ticketcenterstage.com.

THE CONSUL

Oct. 20 and 22, Schuster Center

Dayton Opera presents the company premiere of Gian Carlo Menotti’s thought-provoking 1950 Pulitzer Prize-winning work concerning “the struggle for freedom against oppression and the maddening nature of unrelenting bureaucracy.” Sung in English with English surtitles.

>> The 10 arts events you will regret missing this season

Friday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets, Dayton. Tickets are $28-$94. Call (937) 228-3630 or visit ticketcenterstage.com.

MYSTIC INDIA: WORLD TOUR

Oct. 26, Schuster Center

Hooray for Bollywood! This colorful extravaganza, a special Star Attractions courtesy of the Victoria Theatre Association, features an assortment of dancers, musicians, aerialists, and acrobats in a display of authentic Indian and modern styles.

Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets, Dayton. Tickets are $25-$60. Call (937) 228-3630 or visit ticketcenterstage.com.

Dayton Ballet’s 80th anniversary season kicks off with The Great Gatsby Oct. 26-29 at the Victoria Theatre. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO(Contributing Writer)

THE GREAT GATSBY

Oct. 26-29, Victoria Theatre

Dayton Ballet’s 80th anniversary season begins as choreographer Ron Cunningham, Artistic Director of Sacramento Ballet, illuminates F. Scott Fitzgerald’s tale of wealthy Jay Gatsby and the lovely Daisy Buchanan. This ballet premiered at Sacramento Ballet in February 2013 and will feature live music by Billy Nivock’s Blue Syncopators and blues singer Felita LaRock with narration by Human Race Resident Artist Jamie Cordes as Nick Carraway. Thursday at 7:30 p.m.,

Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Victoria Theatre, 138 N. Main St., Dayton. Tickets are $14-$72. Call (937) 228-3630 or visit ticketcenterstage.com.

BAT BOY: THE MUSICAL

Oct. 27-Nov. 3, Schuster Center

Dare to Defy Productions ushers in Halloween with the “Weekly World News” legend of Bat Boy, an irreverent account of the half-boy, half-bat who sends a fictional West Virginia town into a complete frenzy. This hilariously edgy 2001 off-Broadway pop/rock musical featuring catchy songs by Laurence O’Keefe (“Legally Blonde”) particularly includes an inspired nod to “Pygmalion.” Oct. 27 at 8 p.m., Oct. 28 at 2 and 8 p.m., and Nov. 3 at 8 p.m.

Oct. 27 at 8 p.m., Oct. 28 at 2 and 8 p.m., and Nov. 3 at 8 p.m.in the Mathile Theatre of the Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets, Dayton. Tickets are $16.50-$25. Call (937) 228-3630 or visit ticketcenterstage.com.

YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN

Oct. 27-Nov. 5, Beavercreek Community Theatre

This kooky musical comedy based on Mel Brooks’ classic 1974 film retains the spirit of the original (Irving Berlin’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz” is an Act 2 signature) while incorporating new songs by Brooks including “Please Don’t Touch Me,” “He Vas My Boyfriend” and “The Brain.” Contains adult language and situations.

Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Lofino Center, 3868 Dayton-Xenia Rd., Beavercreek. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students and seniors. Call (937) 429-4737 or visit bctheatre.org.

From left: Karie-Lee Sutherland (Tanya), Becky Barrett-Jones (Donna) and Britte Steele (Rosie) appear in La Comedia Dinner Theatre s production of Mamma Mia! through Oct. 28 in Springboro. (Contributed photo)(Contributing Writer)

MAMMA MIA!

Through Oct. 28, La Comedia Dinner Theatre

There’s still time to catch one of the most highly entertaining and exuberant shows in La Comedia history. “Mamma Mia!,” the jukebox musical built on an ABBA foundation, features a terrific Becky Barrett-Jones as hard-working hotel proprietor Donna Sheridan and knockout triple threat Erica Lynn Bridge as Donna’s daughter Sophie who longs to know the identity of her father as her wedding approaches. Barrett-Jones’ “The Winner Takes it All” and Bridge’s “The Name of the Game” are musical standouts.

From left: Karie-Lee Sutherland (Tanya), Becky Barrett-Jones (Donna) and Britte Steele (Rosie) appear in La Comedia Dinner Theatre s production of Mamma Mia! through Oct. 28 in Springboro. (Contributed photo)(Contributing Writer)

>> 5 reasons you won’t want to miss this Mamma Mia!

Evening performances (arrival time 5:30-6 p.m.) and matinees (arrival time 10:30-11 a.m.). Cost is $61-$75. Prices based on section/tiered seating. La Comedia Dinner Theatre, Rt. 73, 765 W. Central Ave., Springboro. Call (937) 746-4554 or 1-800-677-9505 or visit lacomedia.com.

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5 things Daytonians should know about tonight’s Tony Awards

Published: Sunday, June 10, 2018 @ 6:00 AM

Jack Thorne’s hit adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” a dazzling epic spectacle nominated for 10 Tony Awards including Best Play, stars (left to right) Noma Dumezweni as Hermoine Granger, Jamie Parker as Harry Potter, and Paul Thornley as Ron Weasley. Dumezweni and Parker notably won the 2017 Olivier Award, the London equivalent of the Tony, for their performances in the original run. CONTRIBUTED
Jack Thorne’s hit adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” a dazzling epic spectacle nominated for 10 Tony Awards including Best Play, stars (left to right) Noma Dumezweni as Hermoine Granger, Jamie Parker as Harry Potter, and Paul Thornley as Ron Weasley. Dumezweni and Parker notably won the 2017 Olivier Award, the London equivalent of the Tony, for their performances in the original run. CONTRIBUTED

Harry Potter, SpongeBob, Regina George, Eliza Doolittle, and Roy Cohn are among the familiar characters connected to Broadway’s outstanding 2017-2018 season, which will be saluted Sunday, June 10 as the 72nd annual Tony Awards air from New York’s Radio City Music Hall.

Unlike some years when the Tonys seem to be confined to a private bubble, spotlighting plays and musicals to the average viewer that are more appealing curiosities than must-see showcases, 2018 has the pop culture-driven potential to bring tourists to the Great White Way in droves.

>> Why two Wright State University graduates have a reason to celebrate this year’s Tony Awards

Ethan Slater, front, leads the cast of "SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical," which features songs by the likes of John Legend, Steven Tyler and Cyndi Lauper and has been nominated for 12 Tony Awards. MUST CREDIT: Joan Marcus(Joan Marcus)

The pleasantly surprising and gleefully entertaining “SpongeBob SquarePants” and Tina Fey’s hilarious adaptation of her 2004 comedy “Mean Girls” are impressively tied, leading the pack with 12 nominations including Best Musical.

Number of Tony nominations: EW grade: “An ode to self-respect and the benefits of a STEM-based education, Broadway’s Mean Girls is a lively, frequently hilarious adaptation of Tina Fey’s 2004 high school comedy. Propelled by dazzling set design and several stand-out performances, the musical — written by Fey, with music by Jeff Richmond, and directed by Casey Nicholaw () — gives fans everything they want while bringing the saga of Regina George and the Plastics into the social media age.”Read the full review here.(Entertainment Weekly)

Other major contenders include the gorgeously reconceived revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel” (11 nominations), the beautifully pensive new musical “The Band’s Visit” (11 nominations), the splendidly acted revival of “Angels in America” (11 nominations), the stunningly designed revival of “My Fair Lady” (10 nominations), and the knockout spectacle “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two” (10 nominations).

Here are five items worth noting regarding this year’s telecast, which will likely benefit ratings-wise from not competing against the NBA Finals while aiming for a younger demographic as evidenced in the selection of co-hosts and previous Tony nominees Josh Groban (“The Great Comet”) and Sara Bareilles (“Waitress”).

>> Daytonians who’ve made us proud with big Hollywood awards

“The Band’s Visit,” an intimate, reflective story about an Egyptian band mistakenly arriving in a small Israeli town, is nominated for 11 Tony Awards including Best Musical. CONTRIBUTED(Contributing Writer)

1. WRIGHT STATE REPRESENTED 

Layan Elwazani, a 2015 acting graduate of Wright State University, is a standby in the new musical “The Band’s Visit,” which is nominated for 11 Tony Awards. CONTRIBUTED(Contributing Writer)

Ohio natives and Wright State University alums Layan Elwazani of Bowling Green and Ross Feilhauer of Cincinnati are associated with two acclaimed frontrunners. Elwazani, who received her BFA in Acting in 2015, is a standby in “The Band’s Visit.” Feilhauer, who received his BFA in Lighting Design and Technology in 2003, is a member of the lighting team of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.”

Ross Feilhauer, a 2003 lighting design and technology graduate of Wright State University, is a member of the lighting team for “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two,” which is nominated for 10 Tony Awards. CONTRIBUTED(Contributing Writer)
“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two,” a knockout spectacle based on the book by J.K. Rowling, is nominated for 10 Tony Awards including Best Play. CONTRIBUTED(Contributing Writer)

2. I’M JUST WILD ABOUT ‘HARRY’

Bound to win Best Play with a possible sweep of the technical categories, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” is simply one of the most extraordinary Broadway shows I have ever seen. This marvelously magical, high-flying, roughly six-hour epic delivers superb performances reaching Shakespearean heights bolstered by non-traditional casting, remarkably cinematic stagecraft, and how-in-the-world-did-they-pull-that-off special effects. But in spite of its razzle dazzle, the production, centered on Harry’s complex relationship with his son Albus, remains a deeply engaging and moving exploration of parenting, friendship, expectations, misunderstanding, forgiveness, fear, legacy, lineage, and the importance of carving your own path. If you’re able to see it, be sure to catch both parts and, most importantly, be prepared to be blown away. It is truly a one-of-a-kind event, the hottest ticket in town since “Hamilton,” and totally worth the price of admission.

David Yazbek on the set of his new musical “The Band’s Visit,” at the Barrymore Theater in New York, Oct. 18, 2017. “The Band’s Visit” is unusually ambitious, its many comic moments woven like countermelodies into a story of “human beings crying from the heart in joy or pain,” as Yazbek puts it.(Vincent Tullo/The New York Times)

3. YAZBEK’S YEAR

The Tonys haven’t been kind to David Yazbek, perhaps best known for writing the catchy theme song to the PBS series “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” Previously nominated for his vibrant scores of “The Full Monty,” “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” and “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,” Yazbek is back in contention for “The Band’s Visit,” a reflective tale about an Egyptian band mistakenly arriving in a small Israeli town. Thankfully, momentum is finally on his side, setting up an overdue victory for one of Broadway’s finest and most eclectic composers.

Ethan Slater, front, leads the cast of "SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical," which features songs by the likes of John Legend, Steven Tyler and Cyndi Lauper and has been nominated for 12 Tony Awards. MUST CREDIT: Joan Marcus(Joan Marcus)

4. COMPETITIVE CATEGORIES

The races for Best Musical and Best Leading Actor in a Musical are the tightest and most suspenseful. The former is a prime battle between flashy, feel-good diversions (“SpongeBob,” “Mean Girls,” “Frozen”) and quietly character-driven, musically alluring intimacy (“The Band’s Visit”). All four are expected to tour so it’s a tough call. It’s also anyone’s guess whether or not the playfully energetic Ethan Slater (“SpongeBob”) can surpass Broadway newcomer Harry Hadden-Paton (a stellar Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady”), three-time “Monk” Emmy winner Tony Shalhoub (“The Band’s Visit”), or historic Joshua Henry (the first African-American to play Billy Bigelow in a Broadway revival of “Carousel”).

5. OVERLOOKED STANDOUTS 

The Tonys recognize great work but not everyone was remembered. A few of my overlooked favorites include: actors Austin Butler (“The Iceman Cometh”), James McArdle (“Angels in America”), Poppy Miller (“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”), Alex Newell (“Once on This Island”), Steven Pasquale (“Junk”), Alison Pill (“Three Tall Women”), Tom Sturridge (“1984”), Uma Thurman (“The Parisian Woman”), and Tony Yazbeck (“Prince of Broadway”); director Jack O’Brien (“Carousel”); Dayton Playhouse FutureFest-winning playwright Beau Willimon (“The Parisian Woman”); choreographers Camille A. Brown (“Once on This Island”) and Sergio Trujillo (“Summer: The Donna Summer Musical”); and composers Imogen Heap (“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”) and Branford Marsalis (“Children of a Lesser God”).
(Joan Marcus (2); Deen van Meer)

How to Watch 

What: 72nd annual Tony Awards

Where: New York’s Radio City Music Hall

Time: 8 p.m. tonight (June 10, 2018) on CBS

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Why two Wright State University graduates have a reason to celebrate this year’s Tony Awards

Published: Sunday, June 10, 2018 @ 6:00 AM

Tony Awards Fast Facts

Wright State University alums Layan Elwazani and Ross Fielhauer have reason to celebrate this year’s Tony Awards. After all, they’re respectively essential to “The Band’s Visit” and “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two,” among the most critically acclaimed productions of Broadway’s 2017-2018 season.

The 72nd Annual Tony Awards will be held on June 10, 2018, to recognize achievement in Broadway productions during the 2017–18 season. The ceremony will be held at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, and will be broadcast live by CBS.

>> ‘School of Rock,’ ‘Book of Mormon’ among the Broadway shows coming soon to Dayton

LAYAN ELWAZANI AND ‘THE BAND’S VISIT’

Layan Elwazani, a 2015 acting graduate of Wright State University, is a standby in the new musical “The Band’s Visit,” which is nominated for 11 Tony Awards. CONTRIBUTED(Contributing Writer)

When she arrives at the Barrymore Theatre a half-hour before curtain, Elwazani, 24, has to be ready to cover multiple roles in “The Band’s Visit” but the pressure doesn’t bother her. She enthusiastically embraces her responsibility as a standby, meaning she doesn’t perform unless one of the principal performers is out. She joined the show in March and officially made her Broadway debut in April.

“Preparation is key,” said Elwazani, who received her BFA in Acting in 2015 having appeared in such shows as “The Magic Fire” and “All in The Timing.” “I am one of two women who standby. I cover three of the four female roles. From a creative and artistic standpoint, out of eight shows a week, I usually spend one show watching it from inside the theater, another peeking at it backstage from the wings, and the other six I go over material in my dressing room for my characters from blocking to music to lines. Even when I’m a principal character in a show, I still have to have discipline within myself that I’m reviewing my lines and blocking. I work with such incredibly focused and driven individuals on stage, which makes it very easy to feel prepared because I feel taken care of.”

>> Daytonians who’ve made us proud at the big Hollywood award shows

Stylistically and musically, “The Band’s Visit” is the polar opposite of many shows vying for attention on the Great White Way. It’s a quiet, thought-provoking tale of connection within a cultural melting pot many traditional theatergoers are unaccustomed to. Even so, its bold uniqueness is a strong selling point, and Elwazani, a Palestinian-American who grew up in Bowling Green, feels likewise.

“The Band’s Visit,” an intimate, reflective story about an Egyptian band mistakenly arriving in a small Israeli town, is nominated for 11 Tony Awards including Best Musical. CONTRIBUTED(Contributing Writer)

“Within the juxtaposition of cultures, the clashing of belief systems and morals, the Israelis open up their homes to an Egyptian band and it really resonates with audiences,” she said. “We have a group of people which are seen as The Other who enter this world in which anything bad could happen at any moment. However, the show highlights the fact that the things that are different about us are not as important as the things that are the same about us.

“We all have hardships and we all suffer loss no matter what language we speak. The human experience is really illuminated in this show. And this show is so beautifully simple. Not every theatrical experience has to be crafted. Our director, David Cromer, has allowed the actors to truly live and breathe in the moment without having to do too much. It’s so exciting that this beautiful piece of art is such a standout even in the height of all the exciting mania surrounding the Tonys.”

Elwazani acknowledges “The Band’s Visit” has been a great learning experience, but gives credit to WSU for reminding her to continue training.

“Wright State offers a wonderful foundation for all artists and the faculty really students to continue their education after college,” she said. “After you’ve graduated and moved to New York you’re not done learning. It’s frightening sometimes to show up to auditions with people who have master’s degrees or have studied at Stella Adler or studied Sanford Meisner for years. Wright State helped me understand the lessons they were teaching me in the moment were very valuable and it was on me to continue learning, growing and enriching myself.”

>> Famous Wright State University alumni

ROSS FIELHAUER AND ‘HARRY POTTER’

Ross Feilhauer, a 2003 lighting design and technology graduate of Wright State University, is a member of the lighting team for “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two,” which is nominated for 10 Tony Awards. CONTRIBUTED(Contributing Writer)

Growing up in Cincinnati, Ross Fielhauer always loved theater, specifically design. He saw “The Phantom of the Opera” in fourth grade and knew he wanted to be a part of what made a production shine from behind the scenes. He took many art classes and ultimately relished taking technical theatre classes at the School for the Creative and Performing Arts. He received his BFA in Lighting Design and Technology in 2003 having worked on such shows as “Parade,” memorably scenic designed by Don David, and “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”

“Going to college for theater simply solidified if I wanted to make a career in theater,” said Fielhauer, 37. “I still lean on those art skills I learned all those years ago. One of the best parts about the WSU theatre program is that you start designing shows right away as a freshman. You hit the ground running. From dance concerts to black box shows to assistant design on the main stage. The major lesson I learned in college was the importance of time management, a major requirement in theatre. College helped me prepare for the real world. I had great professors. Tim Judge, retired WSU master carpenter and production manager, was an amazing influence. He really made getting my college degree worth it. I owe a great debt to him for all he taught me.”

After lighting shows on Royal Caribbean cruise ships post-graduation, Fielhauer moved to Las Vegas in 2005, where he spent seven years working on such shows as “Blue Man Group” and “Disney’s Lion King.” In 2012, he moved to New York where he worked on “Aladdin,” “Beautiful,” “Jersey Boys,” “Hamilton,” and Cirque du Soleil’s “Paramour” among many others.

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The fact that “Paramour” performed at the Lyric Theatre proved providential for him when it was announced last year that the Broadway transfer of London hit “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” would be housed there after its renovation, which reduced the number of seats from 1,900 to 1,500 in order to bring more intimacy to the spectacle’s eye-catching extravagance. Even the walls of the Lyric are an instrumental part of the show’s astounding storytelling, accented by dazzling special effects and a particularly jaw-dropping finale to Part One that is unforgettably creepy and mesmerizing.

“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two,” a knockout spectacle based on the book by J.K. Rowling, is nominated for 10 Tony Awards including Best Play. CONTRIBUTED(Contributing Writer)

“When the theatre house electricians like you and know you are a smart hard worker it can pay off down the road,” he said. “Broadway is a small world. And we all help each other. You just have to prove your worth first. When I heard ‘Potter’ was moving into the Lyric, I knew there was going to be a lot of work to be done. They were going to go big. I was very fortunate to be asked to work on it from the start. They completely redesigned the inside of the theater, which is gorgeous and a must-see in person.

“We started prepping all the lighting equipment in October and started loading in the show in November. It has been a long but great year. I’m part of a 10-person lighting team. My main responsibility is to assist the head pyrotechnic technician with preset before the show. There is a lot of prep work for every show. Also simply maintaining the rig is a beast. During the show I primarily run one of the six follow spots. I am also the backup moving light technician for the show which involves being on the stage working alongside the cast and crew during the show. It’s really exciting to be on stage during this show.”

A huge “Harry Potter” fan, Fielhauer remains thrilled about the show’s reception. He admits the show is one of the most technically challenging, biggest, and most complicated he’s ever worked on, but is very proud of this moment in his career. “There’s nothing better than to hear a reaction from a massive crowd night after night and knowing you were a part of it,” he said.

“Walking to the subway from the theatre every night after the show and overhearing audience members reminiscing about scenes they loved always makes me crack a smile. I truly love entertaining people. They don’t know me or what I do. I never needed that limelight. I’m just extremely grateful to be a part of it all hidden away in the shadows doing my best to give them a good evening. There is so much going on backstage in every scene to pull off the magic. And you will not hear the details from me. We are all sworn to secrecy. #keep the secrets. No spoilers. Come see it!”

How to watch

What: “The 72nd Annual Tony Awards,” hosted by Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban

When: 8 p.m. Sunday, June 10

Network: CBS

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See the story of how Carole King rose to stardom in Dayton this week

Published: Monday, May 21, 2018 @ 6:00 AM

9 shows at the Schuster Center

After interviewing Carole King for days, playwright Douglas McGrath was faced with a tough decision. Which parts of the legendary singer/songwriter’s personal journey should be included in a musical about her life?

You’ll see the results when the Tony and Grammy award-winning Broadway hit “Beautiful — The Carole King Musical” makes its Dayton premiere at the Benjamin & Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center May 22-27. The show’s songs include “I Feel The Earth Move,” “One Fine Day,”“You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman,” “You’ve Got A Friend,” “Up on the Roof” and “Take Good Care of My Baby.”

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Singer/songwriter Carole King’s early life is captured in the musical, “Beautiful.” CONTRIBUTED(Staff Writer)

McGrath believes for a Broadway show to succeed, the audience has to care about and connect with the people in it — whether it’s the King in “The King and I” or Alexander Hamilton in “Hamilton.” In this case, McGrath decided to focus on a period in King’s life that began in 1959, just before Brooklyn native Carol Klein composed her first hit song. She is 17, pregnant and newly married to 20-year-old lyricist Gerry Goffin.

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The decade that follows includes her early songwriting years, the break-up of her marriage and the 1971 release of “Tapestry,” one of the best-selling albums of all time. “Tapestry” not only represented Carole King’s artistic peak as a performer and writer but also sums up everything that had gone on in her life up to that point, McGrath notes. “All of those things inform these songs. Because ‘Tapestry’ was such a triumph, it supports the play’s message of victory over heartbreak.”

The playwright didn’t know a lot about the famous singer before becoming involved with the Broadway show. “She is a keep-to-herself kind of person and my standard joke is that — like most people — I thought she was born, learned to walk and then recorded ‘Tapestry!’ ” he says. “What I didn’t realize was that 12 years before ‘Tapestry’ came out she was writing hit songs for all of the big groups in the ’50s and ’60s —Aretha Franklin, The Drifters, the Shirrells, the Beatles, the Monkees.”

Douglas McGrath, who wrote the script for “Beautiful,” is pictured with Carole King. CONTRIBUTED(Staff Writer)

Crafting a show

The other main characters in “Beautiful” are another married songwriting couple — Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.

“We were lucky in this case because ‘Beautiful’ is about four real people,” says McGrath, who interviewed all four songwriters at length. “All four were intelligent, inspiring, interesting and flawed people — meaning they are human, not perfect — which helps an audience relate and connect.”

McGrath was obviously impressed with King when he interviewed her. “You don’t necessarily think of rock musicians as intellectual, but Carole is really brainy and could speak articulately about everything,” he says. “She skipped two grades in school and was in college by age 16. She has a perfect memory and never struggled for specific dates or names. Later, when I interviewed Gerry, her ex-husband, he confirmed everything she had told me.”

McGrath says his hours with King weren’t always easy for her. “Her life has been filled with joy as well as heartbreak and I don’t think she had talked about some of it for a long, long time,” he says. “A lot of Kleenex kept coming out of her purse. Gerry was her first love.”

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Douglas McGrath, who wrote the script for “Beautiful” spent days interviewing Carole King about her life. CONTRIBUTED(Staff Writer)

Whenever he worked on the script, McGrath played their music in the background. “It helped me see the connections between events in their lives and the music itself, what they created, ” he explains. “You could hear something in their lyrics and stories that would make sense with certain parts of their lives. I wanted the songs to feel connected to their lives.”

That goal was apparently achieved. King walked out halfway through the first read-through she attended. It turned out, says McGrath, it wasn’t that she didn’t like it. She did. It was simply too painful.

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“Beautiful” tells the true story of Carole King s remarkable rise to stardom as part of a hit songwriting team with her husband Gerry Goffin. CONTRIBUTED(Staff Writer)

Becoming Carole

Since that time, King has returned to see the entire show. Sarah Bockel, who will portray the famous singer in Dayton, remembers a night in Boston when the cast was asked to gather on stage after the performance for an important announcement.

“We thought we were getting fired!” recalls the Chicago native who worked as an understudy for the leading role before playing it. “Then, Carole King walked out! We didn’t know she was there, it would have made us too nervous. She was extremely gracious and kind, gave us her blessing. Everyone was crying and clapping because she’s not only changed our lives but has changed millions of other people’s lives. We all got to take a selfie with her.”

Sarah Bockel will portray Carole King in the Broadway musical, “Beautiful.” CONTRIBUTED(Staff Writer)

Bockel says there’s a lot she loves about this part and this show. “I love singing the music every night, and love the other 22 people in the show,” she begins. “I love the fact that theater allows people to communicate a message to a group of strangers sitting in the dark who are bought together because they want to be told a story. I love telling stories. I like communicating with people, making them feel joy, sad. I love being a different person and I love the work you have to do within yourself to produce genuine emotion in yourself so that others can feel something cathartic. I love that it’s never the same and you’re always learning.”

Bockel believes audiences relate to “Beautiful” because they have a major connection to the music and to memories attached to it. “Her music is so personal and so applicable to everyone’s lives,” she believes. “For example, what does it mean to be a natural woman? It can mean something different to everyone but the idea is really simple.”

“Beautiful” features the life story and music of Carole King. CONTRIBUTED(Staff Writer)

The take-away

McGrath hopes Carole King fans who come to the show will be surprised to discover new things about the singer’s life. He’s also hoping those fans bring their kids and grand-kids.

“Her story is very inspiring for young people,” he says. “It’s about a girl who — at 16 — broke into a business where there were no females. And when her marriage came apart and she thought everything was lost, there were even better things ahead. It’s a great message for those who have experienced losses — a first heartbreak or a job that doesn’t work out. You think you’re the only one who has had your heart broken and that’s not the case. It’s great to see someone who’s had difficult things happen and fully recovers without becoming bitter.”

WANT TO GO?

What: “Beautiful-The Carole King Musical”

When: May 22-27. Performances are at 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; at 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Schuster Center, 1 W. Second St., Dayton

Tickets: $26 and up plus service fees. Get tickets online at TicketCenterStage.com, at the Box Office, or by phone at (937) 228-3630 or (888) 228-3630.

NOTE: Saturday matinee performances of Broadway Series presentations are sign interpreted. Audio description is available by request.

BACKGROUND ON BROADWAY At 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday, you can learn about the development, history, and artistry of the show. This free event is held in the Schuster Center’s fourth-floor lobby. You must have a ticket to that day’s performance.

“Beautiful” comes to the Schuster. CONTRIBUTED(Staff Writer)

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Mastermind behind Dayton urban poetry showcase to be honored today 

Published: Wednesday, May 16, 2018 @ 6:00 AM

Lucy
Lucy "Sierra Leone" Owens, a recipient of a 2018 Governor's Award for the Arts. CONTRIBUTED(HANDOUT)

Sierra Leone will be in the spotlight today.

The Dayton writer and one of the leaders of a Dayton urban poetry movement is a 2018 Ohio Governor’s Award recipient in the category of Community Development and Participation.

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The award is presented by the Ohio Arts Council and Ohio Citizens for the Arts Foundation. Sierra’s award, in Community Development and Participation, is for, according to the Ohio Arts Council website, an “Individual or organization that works to create or strengthen interactive arts participation among diverse community members while increasing public awareness about the role of the arts in community life.”

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That is certainly a fitting description of Sierra, who is the president and artistic director of Oral Funk Poetry (OFP) Productions, co-founded with her husband Robert Owens Sr.

“I felt euphoric,” Sierra said, when I asked her to describe her reaction to learning that she’d won the award. “I don’t make art for validation, and yet this particular validation felt powerful, to know that our state recognizes and values the work I’ve created with Robert.”

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For more than a decade, OFP has produced “The Signature: A Poetic Medley Show,” a bi-monthly show that presents urban poetry, music, dance and more, drawing from local, regional and international talent. The show is housed at The Loft Theatre and is co-presented by The Human Race Theatre Company. In addition, the show expanded to include a poetry competition, The Last Poet Standing.

“The urban art we’ve produced is a unique form, celebrating all art forms with poetry as the moral fabric,” Sierra says. “Spoken word poetry is not usually in the forefront of the arts, so for this to be honored by the state is meaningful to us.”

Sierra also works with organizations and schools through the company’s educational arm, particularly focusing on girls’ empowerment work. She writes and performs her own poetry as well.

Artist, educator and activist Sierra Leone.(Contributed photo)

“I come from a large family,” Sierra says, “And I started thinking about this when I learned of the award. I wondered, ‘what are the roots of my passion for connecting arts, artists and community?’ And I think it has to do with growing up in a large family, and from my grandmother who emphasized that life is better together, in community. In community, we can be more creative, more impactful, reach more people in diverse audiences.”

Indeed, The Signature shows are, Sierra says, in some ways like artistic church to the attendees. “It’s a higher minded experience, and provides in many ways a sense of healing to the community.”

At the same time, Sierra says that “the arts are constantly morphing and changing, and so we need to, too, at OFP.” Looking ahead to the next ten years, Sierra says the production company will continue to produce some “The Signature” shows, but also aims to develop other experiences and productions. Sierra, who started as spoken word poet, plans to also continue to grow as a poet in writing, and to focus on consulting with area schools and organizations and to serve as the lead educational consultant for her husband Robert’s education business.

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Oral Funk Poetry and The Human Race Theatre will celebrate the 10 season of the The Signature: A Poetic Medley Show with "What's Your Razzle Dazzle." Pictured: Dayton poet Lucy "Sierra Leone" Owens, Oral Funk's founder.(Submitted)
“Robert has been in my corner 100%, all along,” she says. “I’ve learned that no one creates goodness alone.”

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