Stage notes: Akron, Cleveland shows to go on sale

By Kerry Clawson
Beacon Journal staff writer

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The 2013-14 Broadway in Akron series at E.J. Thomas hall will open in October with the rockin Million Dollar Quartet. (Paul Natkin)

Friday is a big day for theater ticket sales in both Akron and Cleveland.

The University of Akron’s E.J. Thomas Hall, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, will start ticket sales at 11 a.m. Friday for its 2013-2014 season. That includes the Akron premiere of the national tour of Million Dollar Quartet, numerous specials, Stage Door performances, the Forum Series and the new Contemporaries series of young, edgy trendsetters in music.

Million Dollar Quartet will play Oct. 22-23 and tickets go on sale Friday by calling 330-972-7570 or 800-745-3000. See and select media to download a full season brochure. Other Broadway in Akron shows and specials have staggered openings for ticket sales, including Sept. 13 for Cirque Dreams Holidaze; Sept. 20 for Hello, Dolly! starring Sally Struthers; Sept. 27 for Bring It On: The Musical; Oct. 4 for RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles; Oct. 11 for Memphis; Oct. 18 for Blue Man Group and Oct. 25 for Mamma Mia!

E.J. Thomas Hall will celebrate its 40th anniversary Nov. 1 with a special concert at 8 p.m. featuring homegrown piano man Michael Cavanaugh and the Akron Symphony. Previous plans to book Idina Menzel or Kristin Chenoweth for the event fell through.

Cavanaugh, a Middleburg Heights native, rose to national stardom playing the music of Billy Joel in the Broadway hit Movin’ Out. In Akron, he’ll highlight pop songs of the last four decades, including Joel, Elton John, Simon & Garfunkel, the Beatles, Chicago, Neil Diamond, the Monkees, James Taylor and more. The concert will end with a 40th anniversary celebration for the entire audience, including a DJ/VJ dance party.

Dan Dahl, executive director of E.J. Thomas Hall, said the new Contemporaries series is an expansion of the Zip Tix program, which offers 100 to 200 free tickets to UA students for numerous performances. The musical headliners for the series are all young artists under 30, all classically trained and all are breaking boundaries between different genres of music.

“We’re really looking to reach the young student crowd,” Dahl said. “You catch ’em when they’re young, you keep ’em for life.”

The Contemporaries performers “have all reinterpreted their art field. They are all making their start and they’re changing up classical art forms.”

The cutting-edge billing includes Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser of 2CELLOS Nov. 3, who became YouTube sensations in 2011 with their unusual cello version of Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal. They’ve toured with Elton John and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and will perform at EJ UpClose, which offers orchestra seating only with the hall ceiling brought down and enhanced by club-style lighting.

Next will be organ prodigy Cameron Carpenter, who will perform Nov. 13 at the Akron Civic Theatre. Carpenter, known to smash stereotypes about organists and organ music, is also a darling of independent film and the fashion world.

Performing Nov. 16 for EJ UpClose will be 24-year-old avant-pop classical violinist Amadeus Leopold, born Han-Bin in Korea. Dahl saw the Juilliard grad, known for his bold fashion statements, perform at Joe’s Pub in New York.

“He’s already getting big and I anticipate he’s going to be huge in a crazy way,” Dahl said of the young star.

The Contemporaries series will include the play Photograph 51 at Actors’ Summit downtown Jan. 16 to Feb. 2, which explores anti-Semitism and women’s equality in the true story of biologist Rosalind Franklin, who discovered the double helix structure of DNA.

The series will cap off Jan. 23 at the EJ Stage Door with Jon Batiste & the Stay Human Band. Batiste, a Juilliard-trained musician from New Orleans, is a pianist and harmonaboardist known for breaking down barriers between performer and audience. Call 330-972-7570 for more information on all shows.

At PlayhouseSquare

In Cleveland, Friday is also huge with the seventh annual “Season on Sale” event at PlayhouseSquare, which includes single-ticket purchases for more than 80 performances in Broadway, dance, concerts, comedy and family shows.

Gina Vernaci, senior vice president of theater operations, says on Friday, phones will be ringing off the hook and lines will fill the PlayhouseSquare lobby.

“It’s our season opening so it’s a fun day,” she said. “It’s back-to-school time at PlayhouseSquare.”

Ticket sales begin at 11 a.m. Friday. Call 216-241-6000, see or go to the box office at 1519 Euclid Ave., Cleveland.

Chief among them will be Matthew Bourne’s vampire-esque Sleeping Beauty, Tony Award winner Once and the new stage version of Flashdance. Vernaci said she has been working to get choreographer Bourne and his dance company New Adventures to come to Cleveland since she saw his adaptation of Edward Scissorhands in London. Many American audiences know Bourne’s work best as co-director and choreographer of Mary Poppins.

“This is the work that 30-something hipsters go see,” Vernaci said of Sleeping Beauty, which is touring only seven U.S. cities. “It’s sold out for nine weeks” in London.

On Friday, PlayhouseSquare will also celebrate with its 14th annual District Block Party & Tour from 5 to 9 p.m., including live entertainment, a walking tour of the neighborhood, food and cornhole. Cost is $25. Call 216-241-6000. That evening, the 11th annual Dance Showcase at PlayhouseSquare opens at 7 p.m. at the Palace Theatre. Dance tickets are free: See for more information.

In other news, Vernaci reported that PlayhouseSquare season ticket sales reached a record 27,219 last season, beating the previous high of 23,931 in 2002/2003.

Tuesday Musical book

Tuesday Musical Association’s Rave Reviews: The History of Akron’s Tuesday Musical is available for ordering at the University of Akron Press website, The hardcover edition, which costs $29.95, is scheduled for publication Oct. 4. Other retail websites list conflicting dates for the book’s release.

The book, to be released at the tail end of the volunteer organization’s 125th anniversary celebration year, is illustrated with photographs, newspaper stories, memorabilia and biographies.

Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or

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