CLEVELAND, Ohio - The Theatre in the Circle made a dramatic arrival on the scene earlier this year, with a nod to Cleveland's past. They presented the beloved musical "Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris" to three sold-out audiences at their University Circle home.
"We were really trying to tap into Clevelanders' love affair with that show," Managing Director Mark Corcoran told The Plain Dealer.
It was the 1968 "Jacques Brel," that helped save Playhouse Square in the 1970s. The aging, 1920s-built theaters had fallen into disrepair. Enter the Junior League of Cleveland, led by Lainie Hadden, a visionary named Ray Shepardson and "Jacques Brel."
Shepardson's production featuring the songs of the influential Belgian artist - translated into English by writer Eric Blau and composer Mort Shuman, who together scripted the narrative that ties the revue together -- played for two years and 522 performances in the crumbling State Theatre lobby.
The production that ran from 1973 to 1975 raised awareness and funds for the Playhouse Square preservation campaign. It was the hot ticket in town for nearly two years. Mark Corcoran, who founded Theatre in the Circle with his husband Bill, was among the audience who fell in love with the show. And theater in Cleveland.
Now the Corcorans are following up that historic act with another nod to Cleveland's past. Their latest production, playing this weekend at the historic Judson Manor on East 107th Street, is the swinging "The All Night Strut." The show written and directed by Clevelander Fran Charnas premiered at Pickle Bill's in the Flats in 1976. It then moved to pre-restoration Playhouse Square, following up "Jacques Brel ..."
"The piece was born and bred right here and ran on the heels of 'Jacques Brel' at pre-restoration Playhouse Square after its debut at Pickle Bill's in The Flats," says Mark Corcoran.
Like "Brel ...," the show helped bring more attention to the theater's restoration campaign.
The jazzy celebrates the music of the 1930s and '40s on a ride through the Great Depression, World War II and the post-war boom. It includes jazz, blues, bebop and American songbook standards, featuring the music of Hoagy Carmichael, Frank Loesser, Duke Ellington, Johnny Mercer, Cab Calloway and the Gershwins.
The All Night Strut
Where: Theater in the Circle, Judson Manor, 1890 East 107th St., Cleveland.
Thursday, Sept. 21, at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 22, at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Sept, 23, at 2 and 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 24, at 2 p.m.