Category Archives: Cuyahoga Falls

The Sunshine Boys at Porthouse Theatre

The Sunshine Boys at Blossom's Porthouse Theatre

Last week, I posted about my first trip to Blossom Music Festival to see the Cleveland Orchestra. I don’t know what took me so long to get out to the summer concert hotspot, but Scott and I tried to make up for lost time by paying it a return visit this past weekend.

In addition to the Orchestra, Blossom is also home to the Porthouse Theatre which is located up the road from the main pavillion.  On Sunday afternoon, we took a leisurely drive to see their production of Neil Simon’s The Sunshine Boys.  

This is the 43rd season of Porthouse Theatre which started after Kent State and The Cleveland Orchestra paired up to develop Blossom Music Center as a comprehensive environment for the arts.  A summer theatre festival, they helm 3 productions on their outdoor stage each season. 

In addition to producing shows, they also support the Porthouse Theatre Academy. Part of Kent State’s School of Theater and Dance, this summer program for high school students and incoming Kent freshmen provides intensive theatre classes and performance experience. 

I’ve got to say, though, my favorite part of their education mission is their ‘Adopt a Student Artist‘ program. For $300, audience members can “adopt” one of the summer interns. I really like this because – in addition to making a financial contribution to the internship program – donors have the opportunity to be a support system for those summer interns that are far from home. 

Donors can take their adopted student artists out to lunch and get to know them throughout the season.  Right after college, I apprenticed at a theatre and can tell you a program like this would have been much appreciated by a lot of my fellow apprentices who were new to the area.

When arriving at Porthouse, brightly-colored umbrellas and trees welcomed us. In addition to the picnic tables, there are gazebos where guests can enjoy a pre-show picnic.

After learning these things about Porthouse, I was excited to visit them for their production of The Sunshine Boys. The same theatre I once apprenticed for used to produce a good deal of Neil Simon so I’ve always had a soft spot for his comedy style. However, up until last week, I hadn’t seen this particular play.

In it, a young agent tries to reunite his elderly uncle Willie Clark with the other half of the vaudeville comedy duo “Lewis and Clark.” Onstage Lewis and Clark were magic; off-stage they couldn’t stand each other and haven’t spoken in over 20 years. When a variety show comes calling, the question is whether the two cantankerous comedians can put aside their differences long enough to perform one last show.

As with other Neil Simon plays, the laughs are paired with an undertone of sentimentality and sadness. In the case of The Sunshine Boys, while you’re laughing at the classic wink-nod style of vaudeville comedy, you’re experiencing Clark’s struggles as he comes to grips with his age and fears of being forgotten.

In particular, I enjoyed how George Roth brought Clark’s infuriatingly hard-headedness to the stage. He not only hit the nail on the head with the script’s ‘bada-bings’ and character’s anger at his former comedy partner (and pretty much everyone else), but also managed to capture Clark’s quieter moments of reflection and resignation.

Marc Moritz played Al Lewis — and while there was a lag in timing once or twice between Roth’s Clark and Moritz’s Lewis, they were still fitting foils for one another. On the surface, Moritz’s Lewis was dapper and well-put-together – wearing impeccably neat suits compared to Clark’s rumpled sports coat thrown over a pair of pajamas. And Moritz was definitely on point with this fastidiousness. Moreover, he subtly sneaks in Lewis’s own struggles dealing with “retirement.” In the end, even if they can’t be friends, the two still manage an uneasy camaraderie.

After a picnic, it's time to meander down to the theatre to enjoy the show.

As with Blossom’s main pavillion, the Porthouse Theatre is an outdoor facility. When it comes to performing in outdoor spaces, there are definite challenges – you don’t have the luxury of house lights to draw the audience immediately into the action. And when there are choruses of birds chirping in the background, the actors’ focus is essential in keeping us engaged. The cast did an excellent job at this – with a bird’s well-timed chirp even lending itself to one of the jokes.  

If you’re looking to take in the great outdoors while you’re there, the grounds open 90 minutes before the show so that guests can leisurely enjoy a picnic in the gazebo or under one of the many brightly colored umbrellas. And you don’t have to worry about bringing your own food, since Porthouse offers a variety of boxed dinners to pre-order and have ready for pick up. 

Sadly, because of my inability to ever leave the house on time, Scott and I didn’t have a chance to get there early enough to enjoy a picnic; however, we did grab a quick soft pretzel during intermission and next time hope to leave early enough to make an afternoon of it.    

In addition to The Sunshine Boys, this summer’s season at Porthouse includes the sold-out Chicago as well as the classic musical comedy Hello Dolly!, which runs July 28 til August 14. Porthouse’s very own Artistic Director Terri Kent will play the famous matchmaker when she returns to the stage after a 13-year hiatus.  Tickets are available here.

Porthouse Theatre 411:

Disclosure: Scott and I were invited to see a show at Porthouse Theatre by a supporter and patron of their theatre program. We chose The Sunshine Boys because of my love for Neil Simon comedies. All opinions in this post are 100% my own.

(Sunshine Boys Photo Source)

Summers with the Cleveland Orchestra at Blossom

Blossom Music Center – a perfect way to spend a Sunday evening in summer

After Saturday’s 5K, this past weekend had another “first” for me.  Fortunately, it was a much more leisurely kind of “first” – my first visit to Blossom Music Festival.

On Sunday evening the Cleveland Orchestra had a “Meet the Musicians” night for media and bloggers followed by a concert of Bruckner’s 9th symphony.  Considering how I’ve enjoyed previous Bruckner concerts at Severance Hall, I was not going to miss an opportunity to see the concert and get a backstage look at the Cleveland Orchestra’s summer home.

When Scott and I arrived at Blossom, we skipped the tram and meandered down the path from the parking lot to the stage.  We got there early and wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to see the beautiful scenery without a huge crowd surrounding us. 

The “Meet the Musicians” panel discussion featured the Cleveland Orchestra General Manager Gary Ginstling along with Orchestra musicians Franklin Cohen (clarinet), Jung-Min Amy Lee (violin), Stephen Rose (violin), and Paul Yancich (timpani). It was a very casual conversation as each of the musicians discussed their upcoming solo concerto performances this summer, shared stories about their lives as musicians and answered a couple of our questions. 

It was a rare glimpse “behind the music” and I enjoyed seeing a group who is so on point during performances, laughing and at ease.  It reminded me a lot of the Orchestral Manouvres at the Happy Dog (which Amy Lee is also part of). We learned a little bit of everything – from personal stories to music history, insider perspectives on Cleveland’s Orchestra and even a behind-the-scenes look at a new piece being performed in September.

The Meet the Musicians panel featuring (left to right): Orchestra General Manager Gary Ginstling, Stephen Rose (violin), Jung-Min Amy Lee (violin), Franklin Cohen (clarinet), and Paul Yancich (timpani)

From Franklin Cohen, we heard about a fit of giggles at a Carnegie Hall concert he attended as a child that ended with him and his mother having to leave their front row seats. The laughter was caused by an unintentional squeak from the clarinetist that was performing the same piece Cohen will perform in August. When asked if the audience should expect any unexpected sounds from his clarinet, he laughed and promised there would be no squeaks if he can help it.

Amy Lee shared her perspective on how the Cleveland Orchestra differs from other orchestras, describing our orchestra more as a much larger chamber ensemble — an intimate feeling you don’t necessarily find with other orchestras. She added that the wonderful thing about the Orchestra is you get to create something great you can’t necessarily do on your own — one of my favorite sentiments of the evening.

Stephen Rose discussed preparing for a piece like the Bach Violin Concerto he’ll perform in August and how it’s essential to understand the ways the Cleveland Orchestra’s modern instruments and techniques effect a different sound from a piece originally written for baroque period instruments. While it may be a different sound, there’s no need to apologize for it, because each in their own right is a distinctly beautiful style.

And Paul Yancich talked about how growing up with a brother who also plays the timpani (and now is the Atlanta Symphony’s timpanist) led to the commissioning of Dynasty: Double Concerto for Timpani, the piece they will both be playing on September 10th. I personally have a soft spot for the Orchestra’s percussion section, having played the drums growing up. And what I’m most looking forward to with this concert is that the piece is not two competing, clashing timpani sounds (which one might think would happen with the instrument) but a melody of two timpanis complementing and dependent on one another.  

In addition to meeting the musicians, I also got to meet new bloggers and writers, which is always one of my favorite things to do. I was happy to sit and chat with Lincoln in Cleveland (read his two posts on the evening here and here) and Timothy Robson who writes for Cleveland Classical and blogs at Virtual Farm Boy.  Tim shared possibly the most amazing ‘roadtrip to see a concert’ story I’ve ever heard when he told us about taking a trip to Milan to see Lady Gaga.

After the “Meet and Greet,” we took our seats for John Adam’s Violin Concerto. The Cleveland Orchestra invited guest violinist Leila Josefowicz to perform the solo with them. Written in 1993, it’s a contemporary piece filled with wildly melodic sections. Having once noted that “a concerto without a strong melodic statement is hard to imagine,” Adams definitely proves that statement right with the Violin Concerto. 

Leila Josefowicz meets with the group during the Intermission - her reserved demeanor was in sharp contrast to her fittingly hyper performance of John Adam's Violin Concerto

Each of the three movements had its own challenging, distinct sound. quarter note = 78 was a discomforting, eerie piece that often put me on the edge of my seat. I really enjoyed its interesting contrast to the serene setting of Blossom’s rolling gardens. Chaconne (“Body through which the dream flows”) struck me with a sadness that permeated the movement. During this movement in particular, Josefowicz’s solos really stood out as she was captivating with a performance that was fluid, dynamic and really illustrated the sorrowfulness of it. It was perfectly fitting for the subtitle of the movement as Adams’ dream did indeed flow through Josefowicz. I thought the final movement Toccare was again aptly named if it’s based off of the Italian verb to touch – it was an almost frenzied piece that lifted me up after the first two movements.

Throughout the concerto, the very skilled Josefowicz flowed with the music. If it was a frantic section of music, her entire body weaved and moved with her violin and you could see that she embraced it with her entire body as just another part of her. It was an incredible performance and I imagine it was the type that would lead to complete exhaustion afterwards. However, when the group briefly met with her during the intermission, she was cordial, friendly and didn’t seem the bit tired for what she just went through. The athleticism of musicians always amazes me. 

After intermission, it was time for Bruckner. The Cleveland Orchestra seems to have a love affair with Anton Bruckner, the Romantic composer that wasn’t really a Romantic. And that’s fine by me. I love the onslaught of sound that I’ve heard in previous symphonies composed by him. There’s a dense, aching emotion to it that I personally enjoy. There’s also something to his personality as a composer — indecisive (noted by the many revisions he would make) and humble to a fault — that I’ve always found appealing.

While I know there are definite non-fans of Bruckner for the same reasons I like him, I’m glad the Orchestra tends to play a number of his symphonies. In fact, after Sunday’s concert, the Cleveland Orchestra traveled to the Lincoln Center to present Bruckner: (R)EVOLUTION with performances of Nos. 5, 7, 8 and 9.

Last weekend’s performance was of Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Bruckner’s last symphony and incomplete with only 3 movements. While he began working on the fourth movement, it was never completed with Bruckner working on sketches for the intended finale up until the day of his death.  This was my first time hearing the 9th and it has quickly become my favorite.  Aware that his own death was approaching, the piece reflects a lot of this fear and brooding.  However, in the last moments of the movement, the calmness presents a resolution at the inevitable outcome and really is his “Farewell to Life” as he once described it. 

Anton Bruckner

“Anton Bruckner arrives in Heaven”. Bruckner is greeted by (from left to right): Liszt, Wagner, Schubert, Schumann, Weber, Mozart, Beethoven, Gluck, Haydn, Handel, Bach. (Silhouette drawing by Otto Böhler)

This summer at Blossom is filled with a very diverse program – including BeethovenMendelssohn, Broadway Classics, The Joffrey Ballet‘s return and events like this weekend’s showing of Pirates of the Caribbean with underscoring performed by the Orchestra.  And don’t forget to check out the solo concertos the musicians from the Meet and Greet will be performing this season:

If you’re looking to escape for a full hours to enjoy an evening of music in the open air, a full calendar and tickets can be found here.

Cleveland Orchestra 411:

Disclosures: All photos were taken by me except for the public domain silhouette. Additionally, a guest and I were invited to the Cleveland Orchestra Meet and Greet and concert to learn more about Blossom’s summer season. As always, the opinions in this post are 100% my own.

Clue Into Cleveland: Weekends Edition

My parents discussing model trains with a volunteer at the Western Reserve Model Railroad Museum - one of our stops during their whirlwind weekend visit.

When it comes to the weekend, I typically don’t need an excuse to go out and explore. Honestly, I’d say my biggest problem is forcing myself to stay home and do things around the house that need to get done (like this weekend’s project: clean the garden).

Because of this, when I have friends or family in town, I go into Clue-Into-Cleveland overdrive – trying to hunt down places and events in Cleveland that align with each person’s interests.  Suffice it to say, when my parents told me they were coming into town this past weekend, we packed their short visit full of Cleveland fun.

With another weekend kicking off tomorrow, I figured I’d share our adventure in case you were in need of some more ideas.  Fortunately, with the exception of a couple items on the list, a lot of these places are things you can visit anytime of year.

And while we’re on the subject … Where do you like to go on the weekend? I’m always looking for new places to try out so leave a comment at the end of the post with your suggestions! I enjoy mini-roadtrips so even if it’s not in Cleveland-proper, shoot me a line with your recommendation.

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The Ohio Pinball Show

Scott, my parents and I started the weekend off by driving out to Cuyahoga Falls on Saturday morning for the 7th annual Ohio Pinball Show. Growing up, my parents had a jukebox and Chicago Cubs pinball machine that I would spend hours playing on.  Along the line, I inherited my parents’ love for the lights and noise of the machines.

We shareed this mutual love with Scott at the show, which offered all-day free play on over 100 machines. For a few hours, Scott and I hopped from a few of the more antique machines to our personal favorites – Dr. Who, Twilight Zone and Last Action Hero. Meanwhile, my parents talked to the vendors and found the jukebox manual they had been searching a long time for. We even happened upon the Die Hard arcade game and played a few levels.  Definitely a winning start.

Saturday's special at Great Lakes Brewery was a corned beef sandwich with cabbage and a fried egg. Paired with a stout, their chips, and beer-cheese sauce, this was a perfect lunch.

Great Lakes Brewing Company and Ohio City

Playing that much pinball made us hungry, so we took my parents over to Ohio City. After showing them West Side Market and a few of the neighborhood’s sights, we decided on Great Lakes Brewing Company for lunch. Since watching Robert Stack in the Untouchables as a child, my mom’s had a fascination with Eliot Ness. And recently she’s been reading up on his days in Cleveland. Even though they’re only rumored to have come from his gun, the bullet holes at the Brewery were on my mom’s list of something to see.

We not just got to see that, but we enjoyed GLBC’s sandwich of the day – delicious corned beef with fried egg, as well as their mac and cheese. My mom who doesn’t really like beer discovered she loved their Porter, and after sampling a bottle of beer named after my mom’s favorite Prohibition agent, my dad was drinking Eliot Ness the rest of the weekend.

My dad quickly brought himself up to speed on the rules of roller derby by reading the Burning River Roller Girls' program.

 

Burning River Roller Girls

Saturday was capped off with the specific reason my parents chose this weekend to visit Cleveland: Burning River Roller Girls. After talking up roller derby for the last year, my parents were determined to see a match. For Saturday’s doubleheader, we sat right behind the players’ benches. This was the first time we’ve sat on that side of the arena and so close to the action. It gave my parents a really great perspective of what was happening on the track and we were able to watch the coaches and players in between jams calling line ups and plays.

Although there’s no derby this weekend — the BRRG have a second match this month on April 30th when the Steamers take on the Rolling PinUps and the Hellbombers take on the Hardknockers.

At the Western Reserve Model Railroad Museum in Mentor, you can not only watch but also play with a couple aspects of their platform. The pictured button allows you to operate the pushcar.

Western Reserve Model Railroad Museum

After seeing a mention on Positively Cleveland’s blog about the Western Reserve Model Railroad Museum, we knew this was a can’t-miss stop for my parents’ weekend tour. Collectors of the American Flyer gauge trains, my parents are always interested in anything to do with model trains (and with Scott’s and my burgeoning HO platform we’re right there with them).

The Western Reserve Model Railroad Museum is based out in Mentor – perfect for a leisurely Sunday drive. Its 19,000 square foot facility houses 26 different gauges of trains on tracks that are constantly growing and changing. So even if you’ve been before, go back because you’re apt to see something different.

One of my favorite things about the Western Reserve Model Railroad Museum were the humorous touches, including this show down between a little green man and the military.

Regardless of whether you collect model trains or have children who enjoy toy trains, I highly recommend visiting the Western Reserve Model Railroad Museum. Building and maintaining these platform layouts is an art that the volunteers at Western Reserve Model Railroad Museum have worked hard to develop. Additionally, they know how to have fun with the platforms – with a number of non-realistic elements thrown in for good measure (my favorite was the little green men invading the military airport).

However, as we learned when we were there on Sunday, the Museum is suffering the same problem a lot of other non-profits are – due to government cuts, a number of grants have been withdrawn. Between this and the museum’s policy to offer free admission, they’re in the unfortunate position where they need donations to stay open.  They are running a single-donation and annual pledge campaign right now — so if you are able to support them, check out their website to donate: www.wrmrrm.org.

A favorite weekend (and weekday) haunt of mine: Gordon Square's Capitol Theatre.

The Capitol Theatre

By this point in the weekend, we were ready to take a break from being on our feet so often so we headed over to one of my favorite movie theaters: the Capitol Theatre in the Gordon Square Arts District. This wasn’t just on our list because their Midnight Cult Classics and Sunday Classics & Brunch series make it an awesome weekend haunt, but also because they were showing Kill The Irishman, the film about real-life Cleveland mobster Danny Greene.

This movie has gotten a lot of accolades and they’re all well-deserved because the cast did a bang-up job in their portrayals (lame puns strike again). As usual, Walken, D’Onofrio and Val Kilmer were fun to watch. And Ray Stevenson – who I loved in HBO’s Rome and can’t wait to see as Volstagg in Thor – managed to make Greene both sympathetic and menacing. Even though it was filmed in Detroit and not Cleveland, all four of us loved the movie and enjoyed the news clips of Cleveland in the 70s.

The new addition to my Happy Dog playbook: Pineapple-Ginger-Currant Chutney with Bacon, Gouda and Bok Choy.

Happy Dog

This brings us to our last stop on my parents’ trip — the one place my mom always asks to visit when she’s in Cleveland: Happy Dog.  Hot dogs are high on her list of favorite foods and Happy Dog has the dish down to an art form.  So much so that my parents and I ordered 2 hot dogs each.  I even got my mom to try the Blueberry Ale they have in bottles there and my dad stuck with his newfound love – GLBC’s Eliot Ness.

While I love brie with garlicky escarole and marcella grape jelly/chile sauce on my dog, I experimented during this last visit and paired their pineapple-ginger-currant chutney with bacon, bok choy and gouda. I might mix up the cheese next time, but the chutney and bacon combo was like a hawaiian pizza on a hot dog — but even better! I’m glad to have added a new combo to my Happy Dog playbook.  

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Hands down, this past weekend was one of my favorite visits with my parents. And I can credit that in part to our shared love for exploring Cleveland. Although I’m sad they’ve headed home to Virginia, I’m glad the experience reminded me how #HappyinCLE I am to live here. 

I hope you find your weekend – and weekday – experiences equally enjoyable!