Tag Archives: cast

‘Superstar’ cast announced, volunteers sought

JCS publicity imageA record number of children, teens and adults – 118 of them,  including 68 newcomers! – turned out this month to audition for Near West Theatre’s fall 2014 production of Jesus Christ Superstar. Director Bob Navis Jr. broke the casting news to all of them by e-mail on Friday, Sept. 12. A postal letter was also mailed the previous day. Principal roles will be assigned after further callback auditions are held between now and the start of community-building activities and rehearsals on Sept. 21. The entire ensemble is listed below.

Picking an intergenerational cast of 58 people is a delight, but also bittersweet when 60 more hopeful people have to be told no. “We’re grateful to the actors of all ages who brought such energy and vulnerability to the auditions,” Navis said. “Several went out of their way to tell us the audition itself was a great experience, and we’re always delighted to hear that. Even a single night of auditions should be a way of carrying out our mission. The turnout was one more sign of vitality as we look ahead to the future in our new theater.”

“Thank you, NWT, for affecting change in me in just one night,” wrote one adult who auditioned. “I haven’t felt this ‘OK-to-be-all-me’ in a really long time. Even if tonight’s audition is as far as my JCS journey goes, it was just like Bob Navis said he hoped it would be for us all: a special, stand-alone experience.”

“Well, I didn’t chicken out last night,” wrote another. “I went to a very different audition where, for two-and-a-half hours, I had no idea what was going to be thrown at me next. At one point, Kelcie Dugger, the assistant director, said to me, ‘That was so great! I forgot your voice could do that!’ That meant the world to this middle-aged ‘teen’ who is still trying to bust out of his shell.”

Navis is particularly pleased with the balance of ages, genders and neighborhoods that were represented at auditions for the rock opera, to be staged at West Side UCC this November and December. The Superstar cast members, diverse in racial identity, range in age from 7 to 57. Just under two-thirds of them live in the City of Cleveland; the rest are from surrounding communities, mostly inner-ring suburbs. There are 16 girls and 12 boys, ages 17 and under; and 15 men and 15 women, ages 18 and over.

Now Near West has backstage and front-of-house Superstar roles to fill. Click here to learn more and volunteer. Also, tickets are now on sale for performances, Nov. 21—Dec. 7, at 216-961-6391 (weekdays, 11 to 4) or online anytime, here. — Hans Holznagel


Near West Theatre’s community theater production of


Lyrics by Tim Rice       Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber

Cast: Felix Albino, Edie Barcelona, Angie Bendahan, Raymond Boyd, Jeffrey E. Braun, Sara Danielle Chapman, Bridget Chebo, Kevin Conroy, Carlos Cruz, Sharron DeCosta, Lauren Dockery, Cole Emerine, Angela Galarza, Venchise Glenn, Lindsay Hajostek, Chris Holovacs, Hannah Horton, Hillary Horton, Corinne Howery, Sophie Hull, Angellise Irizarry, Rachel Johanek, Louis Johnson II, Kevin Joseph Kelly, Meg Kilbane, Bryen Kilbane, Sabrina Kim, Alice King, Jason Knauer, Mike Knobloch, Jonas Kukelhan, Christine Larson, Elliot Lockshine, Shannon McPeek-Korth, Amaya Moore, George Morgan, Finn O’Malia, Dante Palmer, Jocelyn Perkins, Aaron Phillips, Jesse Phillips, Mary Prucha, Eric Ritter, Daniel Ross, Lillian Ross, Nathan Rutz, Jennifer Ryan, Brandon Schumacker, Tonya Smith, Darius Stubbs, Cole Tarantowski, Ava Trevino, Nora van Lier, Kyanie Vazquez, Colin Wheeler, Connie Wynn, Lawrence Young, Bob Zombar.


Near West Theatre is grateful for ongoing operating support from the Ohio Arts CouncilCuyahoga Arts and Culture, and Greater Cleveland Community Shares, and for special support from Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northeastern Ohio for equipment used by young people in technical workshops and other backstage experiences.


Actor Chris Byrom on NWT

Chris Byrom of Cleveland is shy and hadn’t been on stage since high school, but Near West Theatre’s group-oriented audition process and rehearsals made him feel at home.  He’s in the cast of Ragtime, closing this weekend with three performances, May 18 and 19 at 7:30 and May 20 at 3 p.m. Get tickets and info here, or call 216-961-6391 between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. (weekdays only). “Giving yourself permission to be yourself — just letting yourself go in front of a lot of people and then having the people respond in a positive way: I’m glad that happened, because I’m quite shy,” Chris says in the video interview below. “It was just a big welcome for me. … I feel more open and more confident in myself.” 

Diverse cast and crew of ‘Ragtime’

The cast of Ragtime during a May 2012 dress rehearsal. Photo by Terry Schordock.

The cast of Ragtime during a May 2012 dress rehearsal. Photo by Terry Schordock.

As Ragtime’s final weekend approaches, here’s a word about the variety of people on stage and backstage. Part of Near West Theatre’s mission is to be a crossroads of diversity for actors and crew members of varied ages, races, neighborhoods, economic backgrounds, sexual orientations, acting experience and other differences. Each production is designed and directed by professionals and is supported by paid musicians and stage management, but otherwise is turned over to an entirely volunteer cast and crew for the run of the show. Here are a few statistics on Ragtime’s cast and the people who work behind the scenes moving set pieces, handling props, running lights and doing many other tasks:

  • Total:  59

    The cast surrounds Andrew Pollis (as Harry Houdini) in the opening number.

    The cast surrounds Andrew Pollis (as Harry Houdini) in the opening number. Photo by Terry Schordock.

  • Cast members:  43
  • Crew members:  16
  • Teens:  19 (nine in cast, 10 in crew)
  • Oldest actor:  age 77
  • Youngest:  ages 6, 9 & 13
  • Persons of color:  22
  • Cleveland residents:  33
From Cleveland’s three Near West Side ZIP codes:  27
  • Other communities represented:  Cleveland Heights (6), Parma (5), Lakewood (2), Parma Heights (2), Richfield (2), Rocky River (2); and 1 each from Akron, Avon Lake, Berea, Euclid, Independence, Kent (KSU) and Olmsted Township.

And that’s not counting the dozens who volunteer “front of house”:  at the concession stand, gift shop and ticket table, and as house managers, greeters, and bakers of cookies and brownies. Want to help in that way now or for a future show?  Click here for information, then contact Carole Hedderson at chedderson@nearwesttheatre.org.

Tickets are still available online for the 7:30 p.m. performances of Ragtime on Friday, May 18, and Saturday, May 19, and for the 3 p.m performance Sunday, May 20. Or call our advance sales ticket line (weekdays only) between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.:  216-961-6391.

Director Bob Navis Jr. (back center) prepares the Ragtime cast for a May 2012 dress rehearsal. Photo by Terry Schordock.

Director Bob Navis Jr. (back center) prepares the Ragtime cast and crew for a May 2012 dress rehearsal. Photo by Terry Schordock.