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Playhouse show was the cat’s meow

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Forgive Bernie Appugliese if he is grinning like the Cheshire Cat this week.

The executive director of the Youngstown Playhouse has reason to smile, because the theater’s run of “Cats” was a box office champ. It sold more tickets than any show at the Playhouse in at least a decade, and probably a lot longer.

The landmark musical concluded a two-week, seven-performance run Sunday that sold 2,470 tickets (that’s not counting complimentary tickets) and grossed $26,940.

“Cats” was the season opener and was directed by David Jendre, who has a penchant for the spectacular.

Last year, a Jendre-directed production of “A Chorus Line” sold 1,860 tickets and grossed $19,909.

It was No. 2 in recent memory, behind “Cats.”

Other top-selling shows in the past few years, in order, were “Chicago,” “The Wiz,” “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Legally Blonde.”

The Playhouse’s production of “Cats” was stunning for any number of reasons.

The cast was uniformly high in quality, and each actor understood not only his own character, but each of those around him or her.

The young group also demonstrated delightfully cat-like agility and movement.

Then there was the voice of Brandy Johanntges, who as Grizabella, the faded glamour cat, poured out sadness and triumph.

What was on stage actually resembled a professional troupe more than a community theater.

Perhaps most impressive was the execution of the choreography. “Cats” is basically nonstop action, and one could not spot a flaw.

Of course, the beautiful costumes and the magical set didn’t hurt either.

It’s no wonder the public responded.


Crown Theater Productions, which is based at Columbiana’s Main Street Theater, is dedicating the month of October to people with special needs. The theater company has put together a series of shows that will highlight their struggle – and also their talents.

Sponsored by the Columbiana Community Foundation, the series will begin with a production of “The Miracle Worker” Oct. 2-4 and 9-11. “The Miracle Worker” is based on the true story of Annie Sullivan and her student, blind and mute Helen Keller.

On Oct. 24 and 25 (2 p.m. both days), Crown will present “Disney’s The Little Mermaid” with a cast of special-needs people, afflicted with autism, down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other ailments.

Debbie Salmen, executive director of the theater, said it will be a memorable night for the cast.

“Crown wants this day to be a day for them to remember,” she said. “We will have a limo sitting outside the front of the theater, a red carpet, red ropes, formal wear, stars with their names and hand prints, cameras with bright lights taking their pictures.”

A dessert reception will follow each performance at which the cast will sit at autograph tables.

Crown will wrap up the month with “Me & Myself,” which chronicles one local entertainer’s battle with Tourette syndrome, on Oct. 30 and 31.

The theater is at 5 N. Main St., Columbiana. Go to