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Peter Pan set to fly in Norwalk

By Debbie Leffler • Jan 25, 2018 at 12:00 PM

In Cleveland, nestled among the busy downtown buildings and streets with their buses, offices, cars and pedestrians, not too far from Cleveland State University and the Browns and Indians stadiums, on Euclid Avenue near East 15th Street, is Playhouse Square — and, in particular, Keybank State Theater.

The name of it sounds dry and business-like. But enter the doors and you are transported to a lavish, ornate world — a totally different place from what lies outside.

I hadn’t been there for quite a few years, but this past weekend I entered those doors once again to see Love Never Dies, the sequel to Phantom of the Opera.

It’s not something I’d choose to see. In fact, when my son gave us the tickets as a gift last month, I had never heard of it and joked “Is that true? Love never dies?” And the equally sarcastic reply came: “You’ve been married for more years than we have – you tell us.”

I set the gift — the printout of the tickets — aside, marking the date on the calendar.

Then, this past Saturday, the time came.

Just entering the theater building is worth your time. It’s like being in another world — wide open spaces decorated in deep, plush reds and big, wide staircases.

We got there early to try to find parking that would not cost $20. And we did — we found $5 parking, walked a few blocks, and actually got to the theater early.

We had tickets for a 1:30 p.m. show, and I was worried about what we would do for lunch, so I had packed peanut butter sandwiches – no need. There was snack food for sale in the huge lobby, including delicious pretzels. There was a bar with alcoholic drinks. The ambiance in the lobby was impressive – people dressed up for the occasion, snacking and chatting and eagerly anticipating the show.

And if the lobby was elegant, the theater itself was even more so. The seats were velvety and very comfortable. The theater is huge, with a bottom level and a balcony. According to its website, it can seat 3,200 people.

I haven’t even told you about the show itself. The plot of Love Never Dies is the least of its wonders — it’s about the phantom and the woman he loves who are reunited after 10 years, but she has married someone else. What should she do?

It was the stage effects that transfixed me. The setting is Coney Island, an old amusement park with rides and sideshows like an old-fashioned circus. The way the stage was set up made it look like Cedar Point when the darkness comes and the lights of the rides come on.

The choreography was wonderful — synchronized dancing and acrobatics. The costumes were vivid — from the odd, freaky sideshow characters, including a midget, to the main actors. And the woman the phantom loves has a son, Gustave, played by a boy with a beautiful voice. Of course, all the singing was beautiful — what else can you expect from a musical?

It made me wonder why I don’t go more often. But then again, there’s the hassle of getting to Cleveland, and the price of the tickets. Right now, I’m looking forward to another musical and it’s much closer to home.

Peter Pan will come to the Norwalk High School stage on March 15 to 18. It won’t be the Keybank State Theater in Cleveland, but  — as I know from past performances — the Ernsthausen Performing Arts Center stage in Norwalk will be equally transformed with amazing sets and effects. There will be pirates and Neverland and flying and singing and dancing and costumes and talented students playing the parts.

I can’t wait.

Debbie Leffler is a free-lance writer who lives in Norwalk. She can be reached at rleffler@neo.rr.com.

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