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CLEVE REVIEW: School Musical ‘bare: a pop opera’ Offers Emotional Lessons at Western Reserve Playhouse

Cast members of “bare: a pop opera” at Western Reserve Playhouse

Photo Credit: Chris Douglas

WHO: Western Reserve Playhouse

WHAT: bare: a pop opera

WHEN: Now through July 28 — performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm; Sundays at 6:30pm

WHERE: Western Reserve Playhouse, 3326 Everett Road in Bath

HOW: To reserve tickets, please visit the company website at westernreserveplayhouse.org

High school is a challenging time when young people begin discovering themselves and each other. In bare: a pop opera, the students are exposed to a wide variety of hot topics, including homosexuality, self-doubt, unrequited love, and teen pregnancy.

Playgoers of all religions will relate to the kids attending this Catholic boarding school. Peter loves Jason and Jason loves him back but must mask his feelings while fending off the advances of Ivy. Meanwhile, Jason’s sister Nadia is having an identity crisis of her own. Between hallway hookups and midnight raves, the hormonal quartet and their classmates are faced with the prerequisite guilt that comes with a parochial school education.

Brian Westerley directs the show with a balanced blend of sensitivity and snark. He is aided by Dave Stebbins rhythmic musical direction and Kristy Cruz’s provocative choreography.

Westerley’s cast is convincing and confident beyond their youthful years. As the central couple, Nick Urbanic and Nick Sobotka earn the audience’s empathy while enduring a full curriculum of emotions. Laney Davis and Korinne Courtwright earn high grades as well with their honest and heartbreaking portrayals of Ivy and Nadia, respectively.

The effective and affecting ensemble includes Dominic Sonby, Daniel Hunsicker, Kayla Lehman, Khylee Kridler, Brooke Lytton, Austin Hopson, Ben Arrington, Stephanie Malfara, and David Rusnak.

Moving to the head of the class is Dayshawnda Ash, who is literally a holy terror as Sister Chantelle. Her high-spirited musical numbers are hilarious highlights of the evening.

The technical team at WRP wisely takes its cues from the title of the play. Westerley’s stark setting is literally empty, save for an ever-present cross and an occasional bed or two. Austin Hopson offers intense lighting, and Brianna Laybourn contributes the compelling sound design. Scott Zolkowski’s costumes will take you right back to freshman homeroom, completing the angst-filled flashback experience for past graduates from any era.