'Shrek' caps Stage Left season




Stage Left Productions has had a monster of a season.

So says Kandace Cleland, director of the theater company.

The season began with the comic musical “Young Frankenstein” and will wrap up with “Shrek: The Musical,” which opens Friday for a three-weekend run.

The season also included several youth productions, including “The Music Man”; plus “Belles: A Play in Two Acts and 45 Phone Calls” and, most impressive, an original sequel to “Jingle My Bell,” the holiday show written by Cleland and music director Jodine Pilmer.

Stage Left’s home is Trinity Playhouse, a retrofitted 1860 church building that never lacked for charm or character.

Now it has comfort to go with it.

Early in the season, new carpeting and pew cushions — remember, it was a church — were installed, as were new stage curtains and a stage apron. The work represented an $11,000 investment, with the money coming from donors.

“We wanted to show our patrons that we’re committed to our playhouse for the long haul, and we’re committed to their total theater experience,” said Cleland. “Our regulars can’t say enough about the improved comfort as they watch the shows while seated in our hand-carved oak pews ... 1860 ambience is great, but so is having a comfy seat.”

The season opener, the Mel Brooks classic “Young Frankenstein,” was a challenge that wound up rejuvenating the theater company.

“The production nailed it in terms of acting and design, and yes, we had the most amazing revolving bookcase scene,” said Cleland. “We had great attendance, filling the house by the final weekend.”

The biggest highlight was “Jingle My Bell 2: It’s a Pretty Swell Life.” The sequel drew so well that folding chairs had to be brought in.

Cleland was worried at first that “Jingle 2” would be a letdown for theatergoers, because the original, which is staged every other year, was so popular.

“My fears of a disappointed crowd quickly subsided on our opening night when laughs rang out throughout the evening until a spontaneous standing ovation at curtain call,” said Cleland.

The season-closer, “Shrek,” will be a fitting bookend to the season.

Cleland and Pilmer are directing, with choreography by longtime Stage Lefter Christina Fonner, who is studying dance at Youngstown State University.

The gigantic cast of 30 includes Jacob Ward as Shrek, Nikki Slaven as Fiona, Spencer Crosser as Donkey, Jacob Nash as Lord Farquaad, and Sidni Worth, Tom Kibler, Logan Moff and Andrew Letscher.

Craig Snay and Cleland are the set designers.

“[Snay] is a master scenic painter, and I’m a darn good seamstress, and between the two of us, we’ve got Shrek’s swamp, Fiona’s castle and a hell of a Dragon,” said Cleland.

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