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‘Titanic’ more than just spectacle

Published: Sat, May 10, 2008 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Milan Paurich

The roles are ‘perfectly cast,’ making the characters more believable.

YOUNGSTOWN — Sometimes bigger is indeed better. With a cast of 65 featured performers, a 24-piece orchestra and more set changes and glitzy period costumes than most community theaters see in an entire season, “Titanic” is as much of a blockbuster as any of the summer movies currently barnstorming area multiplexes. If there was any doubt that audiences were indeed ready to “go back to Titanic,” the capacity crowd at the Youngstown Playhouse on Friday night quickly dispelled those legitimate concerns with a thunderous — and well-deserved — standing ovation.

Maury Yeston (“Nine”) and Peter Stone’s Tony Award-winning 1997 musical has nothing to do with that same year’s “Titanic” movie (talk about your blockbusters!), so don’t go in expecting to see the story of star-crossed lovers Jack and Rose played out against a backdrop of easy-listening Celine Dion songs.

Instead, Stone’s script hearkens back to Walter Lord’s 1955 book “Night to Remember,” which recounted the true-life story of the 1912 oceanic disaster. The characters are based on real people (including Youngstown Sheet and Tube founder George D. Wick), Yeston’s gorgeous score is more operatic than pop and the “special effects” aren’t reliant on CGI trickery (the ship’s sinking is merely “suggested” by an artfully angled deck in Act Two). Got that?

Directed by John D. Holt, “Titanic” is further proof that nobody does musical theater in the Valley better than the Playhouse’s Managing Director. Never one to shy away from a challenge — in fact, he seems to thrive on continually raising the bar — Holt refuses to think “small.” Fortunately, his ambition is once again rewarded by a level of prodigious achievement that dwarfs every other local stage production I’ve seen this season.

And while Holt remains as close to an “auteur” director (i.e., someone whose taste, intelligence and stylistic stamp is evident in every show he personally supervises) as anyone this side of Hal Prince, “Titanic” — like Holt’s “Sweeney Todd,” “The Secret Garden” and “Jekyll and Hyde” before them — is very much a collaborative triumph.

Certainly Playhouse Musical Director Michael Moritz is a major contributor to the show’s brilliance. Not only does Moritz conduct Yeston’s lilting, elegaic wall-to-wall score, but he even plays a supporting role (and sings — very nicely, thank you) as the ship’s bandmaster, William Hartley. Unlike some other area community theaters where scenic and lighting design often seem like an afterthought that doesn’t require any particular skill or effort, Jim Lybarger and Ellen Licitra continue to impress with their unstinting professionalism and artistry. Licitra, in particular, deserves every award there is. Her dramatic lighting effects add mightily to the show’s seismic impact, particularly in Act Two’s “In Every Age.”

Holt’s genius can be found in the show’s details. Every role, no matter how small, is perfectly cast, making it easy to buy the “reality” of these characters’ lives. Plus, he instinctively knows that, if you’re going to do a musical, it helps if your actors can at least carry a note. While there were some minor missteps on opening night (a botched accent, an occasionally stiff line reading, a note that doesn’t soar quite as high as you’d like, intermittent miking gaffes), the audience is so — no pun intended — swept up in the music, drama and romance of the unfolding spectacle that only a stickler (or a professional reviewer like yours truly) would even notice.

Because “Titanic” is an ensemble piece in the truest sense of the word, singling out individual performances can be a bit of a challenge. The closest thing to “lead” roles are the ship’s captain, E.J. Smith (Tim McGinley, superb); owner, J. Bruce Ismay (Jack Burford, slightly overselling the character’s pigheadedness); and chief architect, Thomas Andrews (Alan McCreary, stronger in Act Two than he is at the beginning). But it’s the vignettes — character snapshots, really — that truly carry the evening.

Former “Batboy: The Musical” star Shawn Lockaton delivers another stellar turn as lovesick coal stoker Frederick Barrett. Lockaton has the lion’s share of solo numbers here, and he knocks every one of them (“The Proposal,” “Barrett’s Song,” “We’ll Meet Tomorrow”) out of the park. Bravo!

Also terrific are Brandy Johanntges and David El’Hatton as a pair of Irish immigrants who fall in love while making the perilous journey in the ship’s lowly third-class section; Brian Lee (senior steward Etches); Cyndi Weichey and Tom O’Donnell (a frisky Indiana housewife and her hardware store owner husband); Denny Villa (radioman Bride); and local theater legends Sis Soller and Joseph Scarvell (Macy’s department store magnates Isidor and Ida Strauss) whose touching duet, “Still,” brought down the house.

Breezing in at the end of Act One, the divine Stephanie Holt delivers an electric jolt of energy as nascent feminist Charlotte Cardoza, and John Cox cuts such an imposing figure as millionaire George Widener that he doesn’t have to do much of anything to have the audience eating out of his hand. Now that’s star quality — and the mark of a superb director. (Coincidentally, Cox also served as Holt’s assistant director on the project.)

Even though “Titanic” is being sold as a grand theatrical spectacle with all of the bells-and-whistles that the (simulated) sinking of an ocean liner entails, what’s most striking is the almost hushed level of intimacy that Holt and company bring to the show. It’s a chamber piece disguised as an extravaganza, and all the more satisfying because of that.


1fedup(12 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

...at least they had the good sense (and taste) not to leave a urinal onstage from beginning to end.
Do you really expect anyone to take your (clearly biased) rant seriously, "Alan"? It's so obvious that you're an Oakland-er. Maybe you were even in "The Full Monty..."??
I saw both shows and "Titanic" was definitely the superior production on every count.
The children at the Oakland still have a long way to go before they'll ever match the caliber of shows being done by the grown-ups at the Ytown Playhouse.
And speaking of "set changes," I can still remember Joke Joki changing the "set" himself during the "is it an intermission, or isn't it?" at the Oakland Christmas show last December. Making it all the more delightful was the fact that Joki glared into the audience the whole time like someone who just found out that a dog had ran off with his prized dildo. I still cherish that image: priceless!

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2fedup(12 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

Oh, yeah.
You're the one who sucks, Alan.
But then, that's what you Oakland-ites do best anyway, isn't it?
Slurp, slurp.

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3Leciy28(3 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

I truly think that a "professional reiviewer-like yours truly" should not be comparing different theatres in the community sir. I am absolutely amazed that you have the audacity to when you should be supporting ALL your community theatres and directors rather than giving them ribbons like you would at a fair. And judging by the last two responses about this it shows my point! I didnt realize that we all have to be part of one or the other. And please Milan dont bull*** me or yourself in thinkin that you were not only comparing theatres but you also are comparing shows something that cannot and should not be done, espacially if your arent as you say a "stickler". And "fed up" maybe you should grow up darling...now your are just being tacky :)

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4fedup(12 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

Leciy- I'm assuming that you must be another F.O.T.O. (Friend of the Oakland).
Damn! You transgendered clowns sure love spewing venom on Vindy.com, don't you?
If I recall from reading the above review--exceptionally well-written btw--no other local c/theater(s) was/were mentioned by name. But it's pretty obvious that Alan (is that you Franny Baby???) thought the Oakland was being subliminally referenced. And why wouldn't he/she? Everyone knows that the Oakland's sets and lighting traditionally suck. (Remember the wall urinal????)
I still can't believe Leciy and Alan are still bummed that Milan gave their sub-mediocre "Monty" a mixed review. It was better than they deserved, but I guess he has to put as positive a spin as possible on his c/theater reviews or the natives will get restless. But they're all so thin-skined and defensive that even a semi-positive review is blown all out of proportion as though it was John Simon calling Liza ugly in a 1973 New York Magazine review.
When are you YSU undergrad toddlers going to grow up???
But since you're all taking your cues from Joke Joki, it's no wonder you all behave like a bunch of cranky babies who didn't get their diapers changed properly.
And since you mentioned "unprofessional," Oakland whiners, how about the behavior of the "Monty" cast/crew during last Saturday's midight show? (Throat clearing noises.)

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5Leciy28(3 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

Actually I am friends with youngstown theatre as a whole and I have friends in both theatres and support them both proudly and non objectively...I am sorry that you choose not too. Both theatres are two different styles and spectrums of theatre and should be applauded for their efforts and time well spent not compared and contrasted. Oh and I also support all gay, lesbian,straight,black, white, trangendered clowns, blue and pink polka dot people too :)

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6maradonda(7 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

Hmmm. Let me get this: according to Leciy, a reviewer is supposed to show their support of community theater by only saying nice things and patting everyone on the head(s) like an indulgent parent.
I guess that's the Oakland's problem with Milan's reviews in a nutshell. They're so accustomed to the "book report"-style "reviews" of other so-called local critics that someone who actually tells it like it is and treats them like adult professionals by pointing out the good (and occasionally bad) aspects of a particular production is somehow worthy of demonization.
I've sat on the sidelines watching this playground battle of words being waged by Bob Joki and his followers--most of them naive and hopelessly confused YSU students--for months now without responding...until now.
I saw "Titanic" last nite and it was outstanding: one of the best area productions I've seen in years. Was it perfect? No, nothing in life (or community theater) ever is, and Paurich pointed out the show's flaws in his astute review.
I also saw "The Full Monty" down at the Oakland earlier this month, and Paurich's review (which, to me, read as more "mixed" than "unfavorable"--and I think that any sentient, unbiased adult would agree with that assessment) was pretty much on the money in that case, too.
I'm happy for the Oakland that their cynical, Milan-bashing campaign helped generate buzz (and box-office), although I'm pretty sure that the lure of seeing exposed male genitalia surely added to the show's success at selling tickets, too.
Really, people. I think you all need to grow up, or at least grow a pair cojones. If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen, etc. A review is supposed to "review"--point out the good, bad, miscast, underrehearsed, whatever. A review isn't supposed to say only nice things (however untrue and patronizing) and coddle the cast/crew just because the writer is afraid to hurt someone's feelings, or be accused of a lack of civic pride for not playing the role of rah-rah cheerleader every time at bat.
Anyone who thinks otherwise is immature, unprofessional and shouldn't bother putting themselves out in public to garner praise (or criticism) for their production(s)/performance(s) in the first place.
The Youngstown Playhouse and the Oakland both have their strengths and weaknesses as theater companies, but in a contest to determine which institution has a more grown-up and professional attitude about their work, the Playhouse clearly wins hand's-down.
And go see "Titanic" everyone; it's a beautiful show.

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7Alan84(9 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago


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8Alan84(9 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

and yes i do suck.. i suck a lot.. i get what you're trying to say "slurp slurp".. are you attacking homosexuals now???? that's real cute

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9maradonda(7 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

Who the hell are you anyway, Alan? I regularly attend community theater in the Ytown area and your cryptic ID means absolutely nothing to me. If you're so proud of your hate-spewing vitriol and childish tantrum-rant postings, why not just use your full name? Why be coquettish?
And I just checked: it was you--not FedUp--who first hurled the epithet, "You suck."
Don't you and Lianna (spelling?) realize what a disservice you're doing to the reputation of the Oakland by launching another pissing contest with the Playhouse thinly veiled as the Oakland's latest round of Milan-bashing?
If I were Milan Paurich, I'd be flattered and enormously gratified that so many people read my reviews so intently and with such passion. I guess he really is the only critic whose opinion counts in the tri-country area.

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10Rbell(5 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

I just wanted to to comment just for a brief second on fedup's comment reguarding the immature undergrads of YSU. I for one was one, Grad now, and finally moving on from this area. I think a lot of the undergrads from YSU really feel as if they have been cast to the side. When Jekyll and Hyde was announced and auditions were held, there were no where near enough guys to even think of puttin on the show, there was not even a lead they could have thought of casting. the musical director who was involved at YSU came to us and asked us to come in for auditions. We filled out the cast and made the show actually able to happen. At the time the show was directed by another, not Mr Holt. We went through rehearsals not getting very much accomplished because the director decided he did not want to come to rehearsal, or was busy with something else, i dunno, he just was not there. I for one stepped up, I being Richard Bell, and we started working on some stuff at rehearsal without a director. Mr Holt then come in about 2 or 3 weeks before opening, and filled in the holes asking me to do the opening, the opening of act II and some other numbers through-out. We, YSU undergrads, and the rest of the cast really stepped up and put that show up rather quickly. Before Jekyll & Hyde the playhouse had produced nothing that brought people to the theater in such great numbers. Us "YSU undergrad toddlers" brought the house down with that show, and i feel really revitalized the Playhouse to what it is now.

Time passed after the closing of the show, which was rather sad, I miss that show, Secret garden audtions came out and it was advertized as"from the people who brought you Jekyll & Hyde" Mr. Holt and Mr. Moritz. I feel i had very valid input into what made that show what it was. And i was supposed to be involved in secret garden as well. I was never mentioned. After the cast came out, the playhouse oddly enough started weeding out us "YSU undergrad toddlers" Heidi was unspokenly black balled, and never cast again, The lead of Jekyll and Hyde, Vaughn was slowly weeded out. And a whole crew of Penn natives starting moveing in I love them dont get me wrong, but almost every person who made jekyll and hyde and who made the playhouse what it is now has been weeded out without even a thanks, or anything.

So all in all i guess i feel they have a reason to whine, I did mine, but im over it, and its really time to just live and be happy. Its community theater, meant to bring people and passion together to create something fun and memerable. Sadly enough its not fun. So before you attack just understand where others are coming from. They love what they do and have great passion for it, and really just feel crapped on. I had some great times at the playhouse. But its not the playhouse anymore. A chapter closed and many more to come.

P.s. sorry if things are spelled wrong or sound wierd, writing out of emotion not technique.

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11Rbell(5 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

And Fedup seems to be very loyal to the playhouse and very active in its shows and politics. SO can i assume all the playhouse hates gays and lesbians as much as he seems to be putting on. News flash, its theater, you can not go very far without the gays.

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12poohbear(4 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

clap, clap, clap, clap, clap. Jesus.... poor Richard- did you cry all over your keyboard while writing this pointless dribble? The Playhouse is now the cause to all your woes in life? Do you really expect any semi-intelligent being to buy-in to the idea that you made the Playhouse what it is today? If you're this emotionally sick about our little community of theaters, life is about to seriously smack you around.
This stuff is amazing. Do you just sit around and wait for something to cry and moan about?

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13Dennick(160 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

Sixty five cast members, over twenty musicians, a talented design team, and who knows how many crew members gave up several months of their lives to launch this show. That deserves a certain amount of respect.

Do I think TITANIC is as good as this review says it is? Not necessarily. But that doesn't change my belief that we should be promoting our local theaters instead of ripping them apart and pitting them against each other. My biggest problems with this review have nothing to do with the show itself. Milan abuses his post by taking cheap shots at other local theaters, directors, and casts. He is encouraging rivalry. He is literally and figuratively feeding off the tendency of theater folk to be, well, dramatic. And I am certain he is giddy at the thought. Alan, I would be lying if I said I didn't understand your frustration...but I hope you know you are doing exactly what people like Milan, and Fedup, and Maradonda want you to do.

I think everyone should go see TITANIC. Sean Lockaton and Brandy Johanntges both give beautifully crafted, stand out performances. Cyndi Weichey and Tom O’Donnell provide much needed comic relief, in adorable matching period costumes, no less! Melissa Cook made every moment of her short time onstage count, with powerhouse vocals and impeccable timing...delivering the show's funniest line (Albuquerque). I would also be remiss if I didn't mention Stephanie Holt. She was absolutely stunning.

TITANIC is definitely worth the admission price. Please support local theater.

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14AccidentallyIsolde(8 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

I really feel that all this shameless side-taking is hurting theater as a whole in this valley. Its getting absurd.

Did I like The Full Monty? Yes, immensely.

Will I see Titanic? ABSOLUTELY. And I'm excited to go! I've heard great things about it, and I know I won't be disappointed.

Supporting community theater shouldn't be the artistic version of putting on your Steelers jersey and heading to a Browns bar.

(I would like to say, however that I think its the height of immaturity to make attacks based on a person's sexuality. If you wish to disagree with comments made, thats fine...and people have been real jerks about this issue on BOTH SIDES. But delving to that level is disgraceful.)

Joki, great work on the Full Monty, you heard me laughing several nights, and I always look forward to your work.

Holt, and cast--BREAK A LEG, and I'll be there next weekend!

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15Leciy28(3 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

WOW I am flattered that "fedup" not only responded but actually sent me and email stating that Full Monty blew chunks and get over it and yada yada. Again I am not nor have I ever bashed the Oakland or the Playhouse nor would I ever. I am not bashing Rob Joki or John Holt in their directing abilities. I do not believe in patting people's ego's or whatever mararonda said. I simply said and quite clearly you can not nor should not try to compare two different theatres and different shows in the community. Critique and compliment all you desire. To bash Rob Joki in the manner that you have is rude and uncalled for. To bash a show via email and not have the balls to write it on the blog shows cowardice. I have watched and been part of both the Youngstown playhouse and The Oakland and know how difficult it is to put yourself up there-be it actor designer or director-a part of yourself is up there. I compliment anyone who does that. I personally think that comparing two different theatres is not reviewing. I have nothing against any community theatre I do however have a problem with writers who clearly do.

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16BrandonSmith(7 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

Let me start by saying that yes this is the Brandon Smith who played Harold in The Full Monty at the Oakland. Just so we are all clear on identity here.

Quite frankly, I've kept my mouth closed throughout this entire ridiculous affair, but tonight I've had enough. First of all, let me say that almost every person on this board should be ashamed of themselves. Deserved or not (I haven't the pleasure of seeing Titanic yet) it is unfair to take away the wonderful feeling of a good review from a cast of amateurs and (I'm just guessing) semi-professionals. This board should not be turned into yet another debate over Milan's professionalism or lack thereof. If you have a problem with Mr. Paurich's reviews, do not use their board as your mouthpiece, instead call the Vindicator staff personally and complain to Mr. Paurich's superiors if you feel that strongly. Maybe send in a letter to the editor to be printed, or find any other number of appropriate ways to lodge a complaint with his employers. I especially encourage you to do so Alan84, as your remarks are only causing the situation to spiral further down.

Second, Fedup, your use of "transgendered clown" shows you to be immature and lacking in intelligence--only one with a limited mind and vocabulary stoops to common gutter-trash insults in what should be an intelligent debate, if the debate should exist at all--not to mention crass and bigoted. One of the crowning achievements of the theater community as a whole is its fostering of tolerance among its participants and inclusion of those who the wider world has a tendency to reject. I can personally say as a straight male that without theater i would have probably ended up with a homophobic mindset similar to the community I was raised in, and for that lesson I will forever be grateful. So in that spirit of tolerance I ask you Sir(or Madam) to please end your hate-speech, and i will also point out that your IP address is easily discoverable, and easily permanently banned from this site. (In other words, if i were you I'd watch what i say on a public forum because you are not nearly as anonymous as you seem to think (and seem to be reveling in)

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17BrandonSmith(7 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

I think the fact that this board has so readily turned to simple name calling and not debate shows how it is the topic that has become infantile. Mr. Joki is the one with the largest perceived attack, and yet he remains calm and for the most part professional with his comments. For that I applaud him.

Also, the very perception of competition between any of the local venues (community, semi-professional, or professional) is ludicrous, completely unnecessary, and utterly damaging. Especially between the Youngstown Playhouse and The Oakland Center for the Arts. These two theaters could not be more unalike in their budget, facilities, choice of season, and the type of audience that they "normally" attract. Meaning any comparison made between the fare produced by these two parties is like comparing apples to oranges. The only thing they share is being fruit, much like the only thing these two venues share is the art of theater. Furthermore any competition for audience is rendered even more ridiculous by the fact that these two venues could easily reconcile their schedules as there are plenty of open weekends throughout the year. In fact i think it would be a remarkable idea as it would spread the Youngstown theater season out a bit more, letting the residents of this fine city attend a lovely bit of theater any weekend during said theater production season. Of course, i doubt this will happen, as this idea requires the application of logic and goodwill. Something which for some strange reason seems to be lacking in our area lately.

Finally I will make a call for the readers of this message board (who are obviously, with maybe a handful of exceptions, participants in local theater)to stop reveling in something that Youngstown seems to do so well....eating its potential alive from the inside out.

Good luck to the cast members of Titanic, I hope you give the area one hell of a show. Also know that no matter what you hear, I can tell you with an honest heart that you have the utmost support of most of the so called "friends of the Oakland", a group to which I proudly belong--including Mr. Joki who came on Friday, and who encouraged (if not pushed) the cast of The Full Monty to attend Titanic in a show of support for their fellow actors and technicians.

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18maradonda(7 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

This is the fusillade that started it all:
It's pretty amusing that all you sensitive souls were so deeply offended by any perceived aspersions against Joki and the Oaklanders, but found nothing remotely objectionable or even offensive about the above comment.
Now THIS is the sort of inflammatory bull**** that has turned the local community theater scene into a reprise of the Hatfields and the McCoys: not the reviews in this or any other paper.
And I'm still waiting for "Alan84" to "out" himself and finally acknowledge just who he is: besides an igorant, libelous buffoon (and "FOTO," natch) that is.

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19DinaDe(3 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

You are ALL PATHETIC. No one posting here gives a crap about theater. All they care about is personal ego and feeling. CONGRATS to Titanic for a decent review, get over the small negativity in it. SORRY Monty your reveiw was so caustic, get over it already.

Anyone that tries to compare Oakland and Playhouse stuff is an idiot. Oakland broke away from the playhouse to produce the stuff Playhouse would never touch. They have different spaces, different budgets, different resources, and thank got the playhouse has someone who can aim a freaking light and build a set. Enjoy each for what it is and stop your 5th grade playground fighting. GROW THE F**K UP ALREADY.

This bickering is destroying both theaters more than anything Milan's pansy ass can ever write.

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20Mgen(10 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

I saw Titanic Friday night. It wasn't a bad show at all but it also wasn't great. I was a little disappointed because I loved Sweeney Todd last year and Beauty and The Beast this year and had high hopes for Titanic. There were some major problems with the show, most specifically sight lines, and underrehearsed actors who didn't know their lines. A good deal of the staging was stagnant and everyone just stood around singing. Then during the sinking of the ship it looked like someone just said "stand over there and bump into each other." The scene changes were extremely long as well and oddly when they were over very few things had actually changed. The set did not reflect in any way the decadence of the original "ship of dreams." Everything was a dull gray color and looked like it was made of cardboard and poster paint. It looked like more like an Oakland set than a Playhouse set. Some of the costumes were nice but others were decades off. The effect of tilting the ship was a neat idea but sadly the mechanism that allowed them to do so was extremely distracting during what should have been a showstopping performance by Playhouse veterans, Sis Soller and Joe Scarvel. The show was also 2 hours and 45 minutes long and it felt long. After the show I spoke with several of the cast members and my distinct impression was that they knew the show hadn't gone as well as it could have. As an audience member I was able to forgive these things because the finer aspects of the show; the music, the voices, the acting, the lighting were all very enjoyable. I don't regret seeing it at all. But I have to admit that this review is not an accurate representation of what truly happened on the stage last weekend. It makes me wonder: If another theater had put on the same production with the same people would Mr Paurich have reviewed it differently?

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21poohbear(4 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

First, let me say that I am a theater "insider". However, you might be surprised on which one. I have watched all this stuff...ever since the blog right after Christmas. Some comments were insightful, most were meant to hurt something or somebody. It seems to me that the majority of people participating in all this have forgotten what theater did for them in the first place - causing a desire to be a part of something, to create, to breathe past the nervousness of opening night. Now it simply feels like these few are satisfied with setting up camps and firing shots at each other. Ask yourself a question - what in the world does the Oakland have to do with the Playhouse? Same question the other way. These artistic groups are distinct and unique and serve different needs for different people. Both have their own roads and missions. To attack the Playhouse for simply bettering itself from bad times is juvenile and petty. To fire back is equally stupid. I love both. I have ties to both. But this war of words over who is better artistically makes me sick. And if, as some claim, the comments are based on personal opinions as to whether Milan writes fairly is the reason for this garbage - then do something about it instead of turning it into your personal right to trash other theaters and their shows. Funny how no other theater in the region is ever mentioned. What are they doing different?

I know the Oakland people well. I also know John Holt. I can assure he is doing little more than brushing this junk off his shoulder. Robert and Brooke are very passionate about their art, as they should be. Both of these groups continually face hard times, no money, bad press, and support groups that constantly fight the wrong fight for all the wrong reasons.

For the ones who will instantly turn my words into something their now - fire away. You obviously have nothing better in life.

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22yahoo(7 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

Quite frankly I'm astonished at the nastiness of so many of these postings.
I recently moved to this area from Seattle, and being a long-time fan of community theater back on the west coast, have been checking out some of this area's theater companies (the Playhouse, Oakland and New Castle Playhouse among others). One of the biggest helps I've found in steering me in the right direction has been the excellent reviews here in the Vindicator.
I'm not sure whether many of you know this or not, but the Vindicator's pilloried theater critic is actually a darn good one. His reviews are knowledgable, smartly written and, as far as I can tell, unbiased. It's a credit to this paper that they didn't hire one of those--to quote one of the above posters--"cheerleaders" whose mission is to give you a plot synopsis, a list of the actors and a "Go see it!" tagline. That's not criticism, people; it's pandering and more than a little condescending.
I'm speaking as someone who has worked in various capacities in numerous community theater shows over the years. Nothing is more useless for actors, directors, lighting people and so on than to read a "critic" who has nothing but gushing praise, even when (especially when) you know that you really haven't done your best work.
And since it is the review of the Oakland's "The Full Monty" that seems to have riled up so many people, let me just say that I found it to be a very fair and honest review. I saw the production in question and found Paurich's comments to be entirely appropriate and not remotely "below the belt."
Also, anyone who thinks that that was a terrible review--yes, "mixed" sounds about right--clearly hasn't read a lot of unfavorable reviews before!
I had a featured role in a production of "Sound of Music" once, and a local critic lambasted the show so resoundingly it's a miracle that any of us could show our face in public again! (I think she said something like, "The production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's THE SOUND OF MUSIC that opened Friday night should put the kibbosh on audiences' long-standing love affair with the show once and for all. The Sound of Mucus is more like it!")
Yes, I did see "Titanic" over the weekend, and was thrilled by the level of ambition, and talent! on display. It was unquestionably one of the best community theater productions I've seen in quite some time. (My previous local favorite was New Castle's "Man of La Mancha" last July!)
The fact that so many people on this board would actually criticize the "Titanic" review says to me that many of you clearly have some sort of agenda (vendetta?) against Milan Paurich that has nothing to do with anything he has to say.
You should be celebrating the fact that your town has such a talented writer reviewing local theater.
Trust me: not every city is as lucky as you/we are!
Richard Bucci

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23Strutherscat(1 comment)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

Bravo Mr. Bucci! Finally someone on this site can see through all the bull****. I just returned from a three-day weekend away after seeing Titanic on Friday evening before I left. I was very impressed with the performance. It was quite ambitious. The handling and directing a crew of 65+ actors could not have been easy. My hat's off to the music director as well, who was in the play and sang as well. I remember seeing this play in NYC when it came out (I believe it was 1989) and this show certainly was respectful to that performance. Was "Titanic" perfect at the playhouse? No. There were slow set changes and microphone and some lighting problems, but I just shrugged that off as opening night 'corrections-to-be-made'. After just reading the review written in the Vindy, I thought it was insightfully written....pointing out the strong and weak points of the play. To be critical of a production is meant to assist in bettering one's performance. I think too many people take it personally which certainly highlights their insecurities.

I also saw "Monty" at the Oakland a couple of weeks ago. I also read that review. It also pointed out the strong and weak parts of that play. Persoinally, with the exception of two actors in the play, the production was very weak. The set was less than desirable. The urnial with the flowers in it at the funeral scene was almost laughable. There is no doubt that the Playhouse is more "professional" in their productions.

But my hat's off to those affiliated with both theatres. A lot of work and time go into these productions, and you should be proud of your efforts. And the guy from the Vindy is just doing his job.... offering his critique. A little constructive critism is meant to help, not hurt.

P.S. Thank you Playhouse for moving up your start time to 7:30 next season!

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24buff(11 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

“The ship sank”, could have been a more appropriate title for either the musical itself or this review, and I’m not referencing the clearly talented cast or musicians who worked very hard on Titanic. I saw the show on opening night and while I was impressed by the cast of 65 people and lighting effects, I can say that the script was lacking in emotionality and relativity to its audience. To be honest I have been more moved after reading a Time Magazine feature of the Titanic. There clearly were some great actors, singers, and musicians in the show…but on opening night there were people who dropped lines and some scene changes took forever. From where I was sitting the tops of heads and bodies were cut off because of an apparent problem with the curtain. So, you can say snide remarks about the urinal on the Oakland stage, but at least we didn’t decapitate any of our actors through the entire first act. There were people sitting in my row during the show that left during intermission and never came back to their seats. That is not a good sign.
I would also like to address the many passive-aggressive attacks on Rob Joki that Milan made in this review. Clearly the review of FM stirred up some suspicion, but this review clearly indicates the lack of integrity of the writer, where he failed to mention any of the Titanic’s shortcomings. It is also ridiculous that Milan always tells the audience the ending of the show before they get a chance to see it! As for ‘fedup’ to mention the fact that Joki was grumbling during intermission during the Christmas show, he should know his facts before commenting. I find it appalling that someone who claims to be educated would say something so disgusting about a dog stealing a dildo OR an attack on homosexuality in a comment for the public to view. People need to stop encouraging the battle of the community theatres and start acting as a community. If I were a member of the cast/crew of Titanic, I would be offended that this discussion board has not highlighted their hard work, but instead has gone back to a couple of passive-aggressive complainers talking smack about a director who is not involved with their production!
My name is Nicole Zayas and I approve this message.

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25maradonda(7 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

Nicole- Did you even read Mr. Paurich's review of "Titanic" before bashing him? Apparently not, since you seem to have glossed over the many criticisms Paurich made of the show. Like most of the hate-bloggers on here, you seem to have your own personal agenda that has nothing to do with what's in (or isn't) in the theater reviews published in the Vindicator.
I find it amusing that Mr. Paurich's criticisms of "The Full Monty" automatically make him guilty of "favoring" Playhouse productions over ones at the Oakland. Did you ever stop to think that maybe not everybody--at least anyone who's not personally involved with the day-to-day activities at the Oakland--thought "Monty" was, in the words of one of those insipid "cheerleaders" Mr. Bucci referred to in an earlier post, "flawless"? Get over yourselves. It was, by and large, a sloppily directed, generally miscast production with typically abysmal Oakland sets and lighting.
In his (sigh, here we go again) "mixed," not unfavorable review of "Monty," Mr. Paurich pointed out what he thought were the flaws in the production--pretty significant ones, true, but all perfectly valid--as well as many positive aspects of the show. While he may have liked "Titanic" more, he also pinpointed what he considered to be the show's weak points. (Reread the review again if you somehow managed to miss them before furiously typing your call-to-arms.)
And let me remind everyone who's acting so outraged about Fedup's (admittedly) nasty invectives, Alan84 set the scurrilous tone here with his/her "YOU SUCK, MILAN; YOU SUCK! YOU CLOSET CASE DOUCHEBAG!" remarks. Since Mr. Paurich is too much of a gentleman to respond to such clearly addled hatespeak, I don't see anything wrong with a few brave souls--myself included--coming to his defense.
Thank You--David Teplitzky

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26boyinakage(20 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

Why can't some people seem to attend a show, form an unbiased opinion and keep things professional?

Name-calling? Very professional. Gay, Lesbian...Transgender anything...(transgender is not a verb and therefore cannot have a past tense) who cares?

I intend to see TITANIC this weekend...why? Because it's supporting local theater. I did theater at TNT before I did theater at The Playhouse or the Oakland. I don't have a favorite. If The Playhouse put on THE FULL MONTY or The Oakland put on TITANIC...the reviews would have been terrible for either. The Playhouse has a huge facility that is nice for larger shows and casts...that's pretty much a no-brainer.

Can't people just be adults? Never...just never.

As for this discussion about MONTY, isn't the original review here about TITANIC (a completely different show entirely)?

Drop it. MONTY is over, TITANIC sank and I'm sure the musical is going to very good indeed.

My name is Kage Coven- transgender clown.

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27boyinakage(20 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

Oh, wait!

MONTY can't be properly laid to rest because this is a review by Mr. Paurich which is just "oozing" and "gushing" with jabs at The Oakland and its cast.

Bravo! Another job poorly done, sir. Don't spend your entire paycheck on a course is good reviewing skills now!

Kage Jonas Coven

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28maradonda(7 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

Hey Kage- I'm not sure whether you're aware of this or not, but Paurich received an award from the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists as "Best Critic in Ohio" for his Vindy reviews.
Just saying....

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29yahoo(7 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

That is indeed true, Mardonda: Mr. Paurich has been introduced as such when he reviews films on a few of the local television stations.
As for Ms. Coven's accusation of the Vindicator review of "The Full Monty" "'oozing' and 'gushing' with jabs at the Oakland and its cast," we apparently read two entirely different reviews. As stated in my earlier post, Mr. Paurich's "TFM" review seemed quite fair and accurate. It seems to me that anyone looking to take offense at that review--or any review that they happen to disagree with--is simply unfamiliar with the entire concept of "criticism."
Let the man continue to do his job, people. Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks that Mr. Paurich is a top-notch reviewer if an organization like the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists singled him out as the best critic in the state!
I look forward to continuing to read Mr. Paurich's pithy and informed reviews in the Vindicator--whether it's of a production at the Youngstown Playhouse, the Oakland, the New Castle Playhouse or anywhere else in the tri-state area. Whether you agree or disagree with his critiques, no would dare argue that they're not exceptionally literate, well-written and clearly informed with a true knowledge of theater. I'm a life-long theater buff (and veteran community theater actor/director myself in my home state of Washington), and even I've learned things just by reading Mr. Paurich's reviews.
If you're reading this, Mr. P.: please keep up the good, solid work. Some of us really do appreciate the thoughtfulness and skill you bring to what must be an exceedingly tough job. And remember: you can't please all of the people all of the time!
R. Bucci

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30Mgen(10 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

If YACTA has taught us anything, it's that people don't always get awards for being good at something.

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31Mgen(10 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

I was just reading the old message board from the Full Monty review and I think it is amusing that someone called this situation months before it happened. Someone posted a comment that said Milan would praise Titanic to the gills whether it was great or not. And he did. I for one am thrilled that I got to see Titanic opening night because now I know without a shadow of a doubt that Milan Paurich does not always tell the truth in his reviews. The show was decent and had some talented people but as I said before it had some major problems. To say that the audience was at any point "thunderous" or that any cast member "brought down the house" is beyond exaggeration. I was there. No one brought down anything. It was an evening of golf claps.

I get the idea from reading this message board that people who have received good reviews from Mr. Paurich (or who have kids who have received them) are terrified of the thought that their precious little clips of newspaper may be based more on politics than actual performances.

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32yahoo(7 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

From the prejudicial, slantedl tone of your nasty comments about Mr. Paurich, Mgen, I deduce that you must be one of the Youngstown State drama students in thrall to the Oakland referred to in an earlier post.
Seriously. Do you really think that "The Full Monty" deserved such unequivocal praise?
I saw the show and Mr. Paurich's criticisms were right on target. It was merely okay; nothing remarkable in the annals of this, or any other local theater community.
Also, the Playhouse's production of "Titanic" was vastly better than you seem to be giving it credit for. Did you happen to go in with an "agenda" because of your "affiliation"/loyalty to another area theater company?
The Oakland boosters all seem to think that "Titanic" was deeply riddled with flaws that Mr. Paurich was somehow "blind" to. And yet they wholeheartedly agree that "Monty" was some sort of "flawless" production, and that Mr. Paurich refused to acknowledge its greatness because of some imagnary "bias."
Poppcycock! He simply gave the stronger review to the superior production. And until you begin winning awards for anything, Mgen (I'd nominate you for "Best Sour Grapes"), I'd suggest you quit dumping on Mr. Paurich's "Best Critic in Ohio" award.
I've been a real gentleman while posting my messages on this board. I can't help it: I'm from the Old, pre-blogging School of decdency and integrity. But I'm seriously beginning to lose my patience with the ceaseless monotony of all of the "Milan-haters," and their tireless insistence that Mr. Paurich's "Full Monty" review was somehow tainted instead of the accurate critique of a deeply flawled production it was. Your convenient (and persistent) misreading of his reviews points up some very insidious (not-so-hidden) agenda that I find both deeply offensive--as a fan of both community theater in general and of Mr. Paurich's terrific reviews--and anathema to the continued health and well-being of the area's community theater scene. If you actually took the time to READ his "Titanic" review you'll see that Mr. Paurich did indeed point out what he thought were flaws/problems in the performance he saw. He did not give it a "rubber stamp" as you would like to suggest and ignore the weaknesses. On the same hand, he was generous in his praise of the things that he did like about "The Full Monty" (somewhat "overly generous" in my estimation, but so be it).
I've been around theater folk my entire life as an actor/director/fan, but I've rarely seen such consistently boorish, juvenile and flat-out obnoxious behavior from theater people as I have since being introduced to these Vindy.com's blogs! Many of you should be ashamed of yourselves.

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33maradonda(7 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

For the record--and out of idle curiosity--I did a little homework on this website and uncovered some potentially damaging evidence re: Mr. Paurich's obvious Playhouse bias.
Of the five reviews he wrote of Oakland productions in the 2007-8 season, four were what Variety would deem "favorable" ("Runner Stumbles," "Santaland Diaries," "Colored Museum," "Dog Sees God"); only one ("Monty") would have earned their "mixed" or "inconclusive" classification.
Of the four reviews Paurich did of Playhouse shows, two were "favorable" ("Titanic" and "Enchanted April") and the other two were "mixed" ("Beauty and the Beast" and "A Few Good Men").
Plus, in Paurich's top-10-in-community theater piece that ran in December, the Oakland was mentioned for excellence numerous times (as was the Playhouse and NCP). Paurich also did a most excellent interview with Oakland regular Christopher Fidram in January as a kind of "preview" piece for the Oakland's production of "In the Moonlight Eddie."
Methinks this latest faux "controversy" is officially over.

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34Mgen(10 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

I've never attended YSU and I was not a cast member of The Full Monty or Titanic. I did see both shows. I have good friends in both shows. I liked both shows. However, it is my opinion that while both shows were at about the same level at their opening, Milan chose to lift one up and shoot one down. That is my opinion. I am sorry if that bothers you so much.

If I was going to give one an award for Best Musical or whatever I would probably choose Titanic. It is a much more difficult show. It is also a much more boring show and they had a very rough opening night but it is still a harder show. More people, bigger set, period costumes, the list goes on. When it comes to skill level, Titanic wins hand down. But I had a much, much, much, much, much better time at Full Monty.

Yahoo, the same deductions you make about others can be said about you and your loyalty to Titanic. There are plenty of people on this board, as I am sure there were in the audience from what I observed, who didn't care for Titanic. You can't dismiss everyone who has a negative opinion saying they are all YSU students. Using your own logic, I deduce that since you are fiercely defending the show you must either be in Titanic, or have a friend or family member in Titanic.

If you actually read these message boards you will notice that the people who turn it into a Playhouse/Oakland thing are fedup, maradonda, helenj and yahoo. Robert Joki didn't say anything negative about the Playhouse. Brandon Smith didn't say anything about it either. Kage Coven didn't. Neither did Nicole Zayas. Are these the YSU students you are talking about? Richard Bell wrote about the Playhouse but I think that was more about a bad experience than random Playhouse bashing. Personally, I would have the same opinion of Titanic and this review if it were at The New Castle Playhouse or TNT or Salem or Lisbon or The Victorian Players or yes even the Oakland. It just wasn't that good.

I don't think this has anything to do with The Oakland vs the Playhouse. I would sooner call it The People vs Milan Paurich.

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35poohbear(4 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

With full disclosure being needed here, I must add the following info:

A Playhouse season ticket holder, who attended opening night and sat near row AA, stated that the group of "kids" who supposedly came to "support" their fellow actors and techies did little more than text, take pictures, talk on their phones and to each other all night. Mostly, they seemed to relish in talking down the show...as it was being performed. The season member had to ask them to shut up. This sounds like the performance of the night, not Titanic. This entourage, under the guise of community theater support and friendship- sat back in their high chairs all big and mighty and decided Friday night would be their night to make a statement.

If even part of this is true, then every single one of these idiots and their remarks under this blog have shown their true colors. Say one thing, practice another. Talk about two-faced, immature children. Total disrespect and a slap at a group that has done nothing to you.

Are you so insecure and petty that the idea of the playhouse (or any other theater) having some success is this threatening to you? Plus, after the show, I'm sure you played all nice and kissy-kissy with the playhouse people. What a crock. You should all be ashamed. Not that you will, but you should.

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36helenj(11 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

Whoa Whoa Whoa there, Mgen.

Explain to me exactly where I made any kind of Oakland/Playhouse comparison or argument. Feel free to quote me, because you won't find a single comment posted by myself that makes any reference to the Playhouse/Oakland rivalry. My previous posts merely stated my opinion on the production of "Monty" that I attended and that everyone should stop crying so much when they receive criticism from a theater critic. The only Playhouse reference I made was to point out that Milan's reviews of Playhouse shows contain criticism as well.

Second, I saw "Titanic" this weekend and was thoroughly impressed. I can see how there may have been some technical snafus on opening night. But they weren't there at the performance I saw on Sunday. The show moved seemlessly. Joe and Sis were absolutely touching. The large ensemble numbers were some of the best sounding I have ever heard in local theater. 65 people certainly can create a powerful sound. I think I was hoping for a little more carnage in the second act, but that's just me. On the whole, the show was wildly ambitious and well delivered. I agree with Rob, Brandy and Shawn really stood out to me. Some of the dialogue was a bit stilted, but after reading the program I saw that many were appearing in their first show or had very little stage experience. This was a heck of a show with which to get their feet wet. (Pun intentional. Sometimes I'm just so clever I have to pinch myself.)

I liked the majority of the music. The book itself was a little weak. Not a lot of character development. But I liked Milan's way of seeing it as a series of snapshots. (Btw, the lighting during 'In Every Age' was eerie and emotionally powerful. It was truly the "choke up" moment of the show).

Overall, "Titanic" was easily the best musical I've seen in the area this year. Just on the grand scope of the production alone. This show is truly a "spectacle". For the record, I've seen 11 musicals at 6 different theaters this season. So I think my opinion is pretty objective. But objectivity is something that seems to be lacking on this board.

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37helenj(11 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

Oh, and I heard that over 1,000 people attended "Titanic" opening weekend alone. The house I was in was the biggest I've seen since "Grease" last year. Kudos to the Playhouse. And the standing ovation the show received was neither obligatory or filled with "golf claps". The audience was on their feet before the curtain was even lifted for company bows.

And I understand that the Playhouse will be producing "Glengarry Glen Ross" this summer. Talk about a show that no one has the courage to touch. I can't wait to see it. Just looking at who is in the cast from the poster in the lobby, that show should be out of this world.

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38lucy(135 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

After having recently read two of Milan's reviews of local productions as well as the accompanying comment threads, I have to question the intent of this Titanic review.

Pick-a-team-mentality aside, there are a few thinly veiled shots at the Oakland in this review. For example, the unnecessary use of quotation marks around the word "small" is questionable. Then there is this line, "Unlike some other area community theaters where scenic and lighting design often seem like an afterthought that doesn’t require any particular skill or effort" and a few others that refer to "community theater" (an overly simplistic label, in my opinion). These lines are not relevant to a discussion of the production quality of Titanic, and they should have been cut from the final draft (in the interest of appearing unbiased). It's clear that Milan is too good a writer to have left these lines in WITHOUT intent.

Even if the reader loved Titanic and hated Monty, there is no denying the journalistic payback in this review. One doesn't have to be a friend of the Oakland to see it. It's there.

Milan begins his reviews (at least these last two) by spending too much time reviewing the script of each show instead of reviewing the local productions. In the case of Monty, Milan leads with complaints about the show's length (a script, not production issue), and the tone of the review from its beginning was negative. We see the opposite happen in this review of Titanic. Milan likes the script, and the tone of the review is positive from the outset. As a result, both reviews seem unbalanced.

So without name-calling or making accusations about who is in whose group (silly, silly, silly), there is bias in this review, which further contributes to the comment board drama that began with Monty and continues here. This doesn't serve either theater, or their hardworking people, at all.

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39Mgen(10 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

Sorry Helenj, my mistake. I didn't mean to include you in that group. I did go back and review and I was thinking of someone else. My sincere apologies. I am pretty excited about "Glengarry Glen Ross" myself. What a cast!

Poohbear, or should I call you Mr Pooh? With full disclosure being needed here, I must add the following info: I saw Titanic with my mother. And she doesn't text. We sat in row CC and I didn't see any of what you described so I think you made it up. But since you brought it up, I did receive a few random text messages during the show FROM TITANIC CAST MEMBERS asking me what I thought of the production. I didn't check them until intermission though because that would be rude.

If what you are saying is true, then those "kids" certainly owe you an apology. After all it is a proven fact that text messaging during a performance can cause your actors to be under-rehearsed, your audience to fall asleep, and your set to be made of cardboard.

And Lucy, I couldn't agree with you more. Anyone who is able to put egos aside and all of the "which show is better?" crap and just read the reviews can see that they are unbalanced. Your comment gives me hope.

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40JohnHolt(1 comment)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

Morning everybody! And TGIF. I feel like I just walked into a Perry Mason episode (google if you need reference).

When I was much younger, I used to save up my money so I could buy the 33 album that I had wanted. (33's were the big thing in the 70's before cassettes and CD's) Anyway - I'd take it home, peel off the plastic cover, throw it on my turntable and listen to it for hours. Since headphones were not the thing, not only did I play it for hours, I'd play it loud. Drove my parents nuts. While I couldn't get enough of it, my folks got so sick at hearing the same songs over and over again. They pleaded with me, attempted to make deals and establish listening periods, threatened to take my music away, etc... Did it work? Nope. But I sure understand how they felt.

All this blogging stuff is very interesting and insightful in a lot of ways. Will it really accomplish anything, other than continue to foster a divide between so-called rival camps? Nope. While I'm sure there are other things, Rob Joki and I have at least one important thing in common - All we want to do is good theatre and foster pure artistic expression. If Rob is like me, he would prefer not to get involved with these blogs. But they become like black holes. We get sucked in whether we like it or not. And it's usually caused by those who speak "for us" or "on behalf" of us. Then all of a sudden, our mission becomes cloudy because a few feel the need to protect their turf. It starts with someone voicing disagreement with a review, then blows up into finger pointing and tactical bombing of rival theatres. Aren't you tired of this same ol, same ol?

I love all the user names. I have been accused of being one or many of them. Sorry, I'm not. I don't know who Alan is (other than McCreary in my cast), and I doubt it's him. Helen could be a guy or girl...no idea. Yahoo...I don't recognize your name, so no clue there. Pooh Bear? Beats me. I know Winnie, though. Fed Up...don't know. I don't have the time or energy to expend on this stuff. I should be setting up the lobby for tonight's show, but the black hole got me.

Robert - Hang in there and stay the course. Those of you believing you are helping him or me by diving into this stuff, you're not. The weather is getting nice. Go outside and play.

TITANIC is sold-out tonight. We have some seats remaining for Saturday and Sunday. Come see it. Later...

john holt

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41boyinakage(20 comments)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

Just my two cents:

To all of the cast and crew of TITANIC- Thank you for a very good production on Saturday night and an awesome after party! I wish I could come every night! Truly well done! Can't wait to see what the next season has in store!

Kage Jonas Coven

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42WilliamWofter(1 comment)posted 8 years, 1 month ago

Well said John, all of this is pretty ridiculous.. but on a better note, I can't wait until this weekend!

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