Rough Road Getting Smoother for Hancock

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Todd Hancock is barely out of the hospital and still physically hurting but his enthusiasm level is in peak form.

The Easy Street co-founder/actor/director had six stents placed in his heart just before Christmas. Then, on Feb. 24, doctors repaired a bulge in his carotid artery.

But he is already back in the swing of things, directing Easy Street’s March 27-30 production of “Nunsense” at Ford  Hall and preparing for the concert version of “Beauty and the Beast,” a collaboration with the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra.

“Beauty,” in fact, will mark Hancock’s return to the stage after a 15-month absence. He will play the role of Lumiere and also direct the musical, held at Powers Auditorium May 2 and 3.

While he is feeling the effects of two medical procedures, Hancock’s rehabilitation has been remarkably quick.

He says he has been lucky in one regard.

“I dodged a bullet by not having to get full-blown open heart surgery,” Hancock says. Doctors placed the stents without cutting, “but it slowed me down,” he says. “I have no energy.”

Hancock has a history of heart problems. He first had carotid surgery 10 years ago for a blockage, and it took him about a year to recover, during which time he put his theater career on hold.

Last November, Hancock started to feel weak and easily winded so he went back to his doctor, thinking his carotid problem had returned. 

It had, but it was more than that; doctors also discovered six blockages in his heart.

“I couldn’t be taken off blood thinners because of the carotid problem, so they fixed [the blockages] with stents,” Hancock says. “It was the best possible scenario, the least amount of recovery time.”

Hancock spent just two days in the hospital and began physical rehabilitation two weeks later.

“I feel beat-up but I feel good,” he says. “I was blindsided at first but it’s great to be on the other side of two major procedures. It was a humbling experience. People rallied around me. I can’t walk into Giant Eagle without someone asking how I’m doing.”

While Hancock is physically worn down, he still speaks with the same rapidity and excitement when talking about Easy Street.

His character, Lumiere, is the candlestick in “Beauty and the Beast,” a role he last played in 2007 when Easy Street  staged the Disney musical.

It will mark Hancock’s first on-stage appearance since February 2019 when he appeared in “Guys and Dolls,” another collaboration with the YSO at Powers Auditorium.

“I directed but didn’t appear in ‘Matilda’ last May, ‘South Pacific’ last November, and ‘Miracle on Easy Street’ in  December, and I won’t be in ‘Nunsense’ this month,” Hancock says. “It will end up totaling 15 months [since my last stage appearance]. Definitely the longest stretch I’ve spent on the sidelines since I started acting at Boardman High School 40 years ago.”

He expects to be fully recovered for “Beauty,” which, he points out, is far more challenging to stage than “Nunsense.” 

“ ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is a beast,” Hancock says.

It will be Easy Street’s third collaboration with the YSO, following “Guys and Dolls” and “South Pacific.”

“After having done those two shows, we’ve become a well-oiled machine,” he says.

“Guys and Dolls” and “South Pacific” were critical and box office successes, but Hancock expects “Beauty” to raise the bar because of its wide appeal and popularity.

As has become the norm, the collaboration will feature a cast of professional actors and the area’s best amateurs, including many returnees.

Broadway professionals Alan Snyder, David Toole and Elysia Jordan  – who played three of the leads in “South Pacific” – will portray Beast, Gaston and Belle, respectively.

Easy Street co-founder Maureen Collins will play Mrs. Potts, David Jendre is Cogsworth, Eric McClellan is Maurice, Colleen Chance is Wardrobe, Genevieve Quinlan is Chip, Mia Colon is Babette and Mark McConnell Jr. is LeFou.

Mahoning Valley theater and music veterans Khaled Tabbara and Katianne Timko were originally set to appear in the show, with Tabbara playing LeFou. The two, who now live in Los Angeles where they are pursuing a music career, had to back out because Tabbara – who is an Easy Street alum and former leader of the band 

The Zou – is recovering from a knee injury.

Pictured: Todd Hancock is recuperating from two major medical procedures.