Easy Street Productions Offers a Blast of Broadway
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The timing was right for Easy Street Productions to put together a musical revue.
So says Megan Cleland, the longtime choreographer for the Youngstown-based troupe that has long been known for its professional-quality musicals.
Easy Street will present “Gotta Dance!,” a parade of some of the finest moments from Broadway blockbusters, Nov. 3-5 at Powers Auditorium in Youngstown. The revue will feature numbers from “West Side Story,” “Chicago,” “42nd Street,” “Cats” and more.
It will be hosted by Easy Street co-founders Maureen Collins and Todd Hancock, with principal performers James McClellan, Colleen Chance, MaryJo Maluso, Katy Collins, Candace Campana, Robert Kozar and Brendan Boyle. The Easy Street Little Big Band, led by Don Yallech, will provide accompaniment.
Curtain times are 7:30 p.m. Nov. 3 and 4, and 2:30 p.m. Nov. 5. Tickets are $35 plus handling ($25 for seniors and military; $19 for 12 and under). Discounts are available for dance studios that purchase 10 or more tickets. Call 330 744 0264 or go to deyorpac.org.
With dozens of dancers at the ready, musical revues come naturally to Easy Street – although the troupe hasn’t put one together since 2004.
As Cleland got to work on the project, she had one goal in mind.
“My thought was, ‘How can I showcase us as a musical theater company?’ she says. “I put together an idea for a great show – one that I would want to see.”
After getting suggestions from her friends who are also dance teachers, she compiled a list of landmark musical numbers and whittled it down to 21.
“It was a ‘stars aligning’ kind of moment,” she says. “Why not showcase these kids? We had over 100 try out.”
For the upcoming show, Cleland is using 66 dancers, age 12 and up. The musical numbers were culled from many eras and represent a wide range of styles.
The dancers will get a chance to stretch their wings.
“I’m pushing them into the singing and acting aspect,” Cleland says. “You have to act it up a little bit in songs like ‘You Can’t Stop the Beat’ from ‘Hairspray.’”
The dancers will also do some singing in numbers from “All that Jazz” and “A Chorus Line,” she says.
Easy Street has trained thousands of Valley youth over the decades, and some have gone on to have careers in professional theater.
One example is Rosie Jo Neddy, who will return from New York to take part in “Gotta Dance!”
It will be the first time the 2013 Canfield High and Northwestern University graduate has appeared with Easy Street in 11 years. In a phone interview, Neddy said the opportunity means a lot to her.
“I feel so lucky to have grown up in a place with such a vibrant performing arts community,” she says. “In many ways, I feel like I grew up at Easy Street.”
Neddy credits the training she received from Collins, Hancock and Cleland, whom she describes as a friend and mentor. She is especially pleased to again work with McClellan.
“When I was growing up, he worked at Ballet Western Reserve, where I learned to dance, and also at Easy Street,” she says. “I saw him every day.”
Neddy’s return to the place where it all started is making her feel grounded.
“Powers Auditorium is one of the most beautiful auditoriums I’ve ever seen, and I got to grow up performing there,” she says. “I will again stand on the stage that made me fall in love with being on stage.”
Her main number in “Gotta Dance!” will be “Mein Herr” from “Cabaret.”
Neddy has appeared in many productions in Chicago and New York, including over 600 performances of the Off-Broadway production of “Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish,” in which she plays the role of Khave, one of Tevye’s daughters. The show is entirely in Yiddish, a language that today is spoken only in parts of New York City, Israel and Russia.
Neddy also works as a theater and dance teacher in New York.
Her stage career started when she appeared in an Easy Street production of “Annie” while in second grade.
Neddy would go on to appear in many other Easy Street shows, including “Hello, Dolly,” “The Music Man” and “The 24th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” She also appeared 14 times in “Miracle on Easy Street.”
Pictured at top: Megan Cleland, center, leads a rehearsal of “Gotta Dance!” with Easy Street troupe members.
Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.