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BWW Feature: New Cleveland Professional Musical Theater and Training Program Launches

Roy Berko

(Member, Cleveland Critics Circle, American Theatre Association)

"The Cleveland Musical Theatre" and "Making It on Broadway" may not mean much to many in the local community, but soon, if Sean Patrick and Miles Sternfeld have their way, those organizations will become a regular part of the Cleveland theater agenda.

Patrick is the Managing Director and Sternfeld is the Artistic Director of "Cleveland Musical Theatre." The native Clevelanders, Patrick from North Olmsted and Sternfeld from Moreland Hills, revealed in an interview from New York, where they now live, founded the organization because, "Cleveland has an incredibly rich source of professional theater talent, many of whom go on to national careers. We want to create the highest quality musical theater in the Cleveland area by fusing Broadway talent with local talent."

The duo combined to produce "Tommy" several seasons ago as a charity fundraiser and "Aida" this past summer as a showcase for what is to come. The model is based on successful programs around the country. For example, Pittsburgh has such an endeavor. "The productions give local talent the opportunity to work with national talent and national talent to work with Cleveland talent."

In both "Aida" and "Tommy," the principals were from New York but most of the cast were locals. Some were Equity, others were young talent hoping to work toward their Equity membership.

"The financial model centers on the talent paid salaries with competitive contacts as required by Equity."

The production aspects are parallel to what John Kenley did in his early days with the Kenley Players, and Carousel Dinner Theatre did in Akron in its waning years. The major difference will be that both Kenley and Carousel "did true summer stock, about five days rehearsals, followed by the productions." Patrick and Sternfeld see CMT (Cleveland Musical Theatre) doing more fleshed out stagings, with higher production values.

The long-term plans are for three productions each summer and a year-round educational program.

The educational program, "Making It on Broadway" will find CMT working with the well-established New York organization of the same name, "which allows for training in the realities of what it means to be a modern Broadway professional."

The classes will be taught by Broadway professionals. For example, the recent intensive, which was held on the campus of Cuyahoga Community College-East, was staffed by Jamibeth Margolis, the NY casting director of "The Golden Bride," Jodie Langel who appeared on the Great White Way in "LES MISERABLES," Martin Céspedes, multi-award winning choreographer who toured in "Man of LaMancha," Natalie Weiss of Broadway's "Wicked," Bob Cline, a Broadway casting director, and Jackie Lowey, college drama professor who appeared on Broadway in "Oh, Calcutta." Master classes were taught by Natalie Weiss, who appeared in the 25 th anniversary tour of "Les Miserables" & Patina Miller, the 2013 Tony Winner for PIPPIN 2013.

Courses included: "Broadway Master class," "Acting Your Song," "Building Your Audition Book," "Acting," "Vocal Technique," "The Business of Theatre," "Audition Technique," "Dance," and "Business for Parents."

Last summer's class of 40 consisted of 16 out-of-towners and 24 locals. This fall's group of 30 had 6 from away and 24 locals. "The summer class had 5 participants who received interested from Telsey + Co., Broadway's largest casting office."

Space is still available for the January 10, 2016 Master class that will be taught by Tony Award winner and Kent State graduate, Alice Ripley.

On January 11, "Dream: The Inaugural Gala" will be held in the newly redesigned Simon and Rose Mandel Theatre at CCC-East.

The event is open to the public. The cost is $55 for the stage show, which will feature former Clevelanders who have "made it on Broadway," including Alice Ripley (Tony Award Winner for "Next To Normal"), Corey Cott ("Newsies"--Chagrin Falls), Corey Mach ("Godspell," "Hands On A Hard Body," and "Flashdance"--Strongsville), Timothy Warmen ("Spider-Man"-Willowick/Bratenahl).

Sponsor prices are: $195 for the show and a preshow reception including a meet and chat with the performers; $495-on stage seat with dinner with the guest artists with wine service; 10 person tables are $6000 which include 2 complimentary tickets for each person for the up-coming season and full page ads in the season programs.

For further information about CMT, "Making It on Broadway, "Master class with Alice Ripley," or "Dream: The Inaugural Gala" go to:

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From This Author Roy Berko