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Dating horrors delivered online

Rust Belt’s creation heads to web for free showing

Assorted ramblings from the world of entertainment:

l It’s been just over a year since Rust Belt Theater Company staged a show in front of a live audience.

That — like dating — sucks.

Rust Belt founder Robert Dennick Joki is bringing “Dating Sucks: The Musical,” one of its longest-running productions, online starting Friday to provide a little entertainment and hopefully raise some money for the theater.

Written by Joki with orchestrations by Josh Taylor, the revue-style musical explores the peaks and pitfalls of modern dating, with cringeworthy, real-life dating stories and original songs.

If dating sucked before 2020, trying to make a connection during a pandemic has to be worse. But while Joki frequently tinkers with and updates his original shows, the online “Dating” won’t be filled with social distancing jokes. The emphasis will be on favorites songs and stories from past productions.

“I’m sick of it (the virus),” Joki said. “I think a lot of people are.”

The cast includes Nicole Zayas, Jeremy Grimes, Lynn Sabeh, Leah Ifft, Josh Fleming, Keith Stepanic, Sarah Whitlach, Lisa Torrence, Janelle Yohman, Heather Powell, Wesley Miller, Caitlyn Murphy, Jude Mikulich, Brooke Nobbs, Danielle Kiraly, Josh Yohman and Joki.

One perk of recording the show in advance for online presentation is that actors like Mikulich and Nobbs, who now live out of state, were able to participate, Joki said.

“Dating Sucks: The Digital Musical” will be released on Rust Belt’s Facebook page by 8 p.m. Friday.

It’s free to watch, but donations can be made through a GoFundMe campaign at gofundme.com/rustbelttheater2021 or directly to the theater through Venmo (Robertjoki) or Cash App ($robertdennickjoki).

A year without live performances doesn’t mean a year without expenses for Rust Belt, and it truly fills a unique niche in the Mahoning Valley’s theater community. It provides a venue in which playwrights and composers can get new work seen, where local performers can create personal showcases and where the theater can explore subject matter and material that many other companies avoid.

It’s worthy of support.

l A northeast Ohio musical favorite could use some good vibes and positive thoughts.

Cleveland classic rock radio station WNCX-FM posted on its social media Wednesday afternoon that Michael Stanley is dealing with “serious health issues” that make him unable to do his regular 3 to 7 p.m. DJ gig on the station.

Of course Stanley is best known at the leader of the Michael Stanley Band in the ’70s and ’80s and more recently fronting Michael Stanley & the Resonators. Name a venue in northeast Ohio and particularly the Mahoning Valley, and Stanley probably has played it.

The WNCX post said, “It has been important to him to be on air up until recently, because you, his fans, mean that much to him. As of right now he is unable to continue doing that. Please keep Michael in your thoughts and prayers, and if you wish to send positive vibes out to Michael, please do so below.”

l Youngstown’s Anthony LaMarca has a Grammy Award for his work as part of the band The War on Drugs, and he’s also releases music under the name The Building.

The Building’s next album, “Indianola Pizza Dough,” is slated for release on April 23, but folks can get a preview at 8 p.m. Friday when LaMarca hosts a listening party via the Bandcamp website.

According to LaMarca, he’ll be eating pizza and talking about the songs and playing the album straight through.

The information on Bandcamp hints at a strong Mahoning Valley influence with a guest appearance by polka legend Del Sinchak and song titles like “The Ballad of Indianola Avenue.” But it also includes contributions from Dean Wareham (Luna, Galaxie 500) and Britta Phillips (the singing voice of the title character in the animated series “Jem” and Wareham partner in the duo Dean & Britta).

Links for the listening party or to preorder the album can be found at thebuilding.bandcamp.com.

Andy Gray is the editor of Ticket. Write to him at agray@tribtoday.com.

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