Playhouse Square is known for its firsts, including kicking off national tours. In October, it will launch the national tour of Hello, Dolly!, starring Broadway legend Betty Buckley in the title role.

Buckley said in a release that she wept with happiness when she saw Bette Midler starring in the Tony Award-winning revival on Broadway and can’t wait to open the joyful production’s tour Oct. 2, at Cleveland’s Connor Palace. She joins a long list of luminaries who have starred as matchmaker Dolly Levi, including Carol Channing, Pearl Bailey, Phyllis Diller, Betty Grable, Martha Raye, Ginger Rogers, Ethel Merman, Mary Martin, Donna Murphy and Bernadette Peters.

Hello, Dolly! is the first of seven shows to be announced for the 2018-2019 KeyBank Broadway Series at Playhouse Square. The remaining six will be announced at a launch party Feb. 27, which is sold out but will be streamed live online at

Buckley, whose career includes TV, film, stage and concert work around the globe, won a 1983 Tony for her performance as Grizabella the Glamour Cat, singing Memory in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats. She made her Broadway debut in the musical 1776.

I’m a child of the ’70s who enjoyed watching her as Abby Bradford in the TV series Eight is Enough. Buckley also played sympathetic teacher Miss Collins in the 1976 movie Carrie and went on to star as Margaret White in the 1988 Broadway musical Carrie.

For Hello, Dolly!, the entire creative team will reprise their roles for the national tour, including director Jerry Zaks, choreographer Warren Carlyle, scenic and costume designer Santo Loquasto, lighting designer Natasha Katz and sound designer Scott Lehrer. Producer Scott Rudin and the team will be working in Cleveland to launch the tour.

Season tickets to Playhouse Square’s 2018-19 season will go on sale at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Packages for all seven shows start at $150. For more information, see

Let down your ‘Hair’

Theatergoers can kick back and enjoy the wild party that is Hair at Beck Center for the Arts, a collaboration with Baldwin Wallace University’s Music Theatre program.

Led by director Victoria Bussert, 30 vocally gifted students bring an extremely high level of youthful energy and spirit of rebellion to this 1967 rock musical, which follows the Tribe — a group of young adults who are part of the 1960s hippie counterculture protesting the Vietnam War.

Leading the way is Jacob Slater as wild man Berger, who is all spastic energy and sets the tone for the high-energy show, whose staging is focused around a large, round wooden platform at center stage. Chandler Smith also does a good job portraying how torn his Claude is (he’s been drafted and can’t bring himself to burn his draft card).

The show’s singing is top-notch, also led by Sam Columbus as Woof, Warren Franklin as Hud, Olivia Kaufmann as Sheila, Veronica Otim as Dionne, Chandler Smith as Claude, Courtney Hausman as Crissy and MacKenzie Wright as Jeanie. Otim opens Hair with the iconic tune Aquarius and though her singing is powerful, it is difficult to discern her lyrics in her solos throughout the show.

I’ve never been a personal fan of this work, created by Gerome Ragni and James Rado. There is no linear story and every performance I’ve seen ends up feeling more like a concert as one solo after another unfolds.

At Beck Center, video art by media artist Kasumi forms an ever-changing backdrop. The musical is clearly set in the 1960s, but the multimedia works to tie the story into today’s volatile politics, featuring blinking GIF images of President Donald Trump’s snarling face and orangefied hair as cast members hold protest signs including “Build kindness, not walls” and “F*** Trump.”

The result is a bit of a mishmash, but we understand the intent. The show is for mature audiences due to its strong language, sexual situations and depictions of drug use. An extended song sequence, where Claude and his friends are tripping on drugs, is both crazy and entertaining.

The show continues through Feb. 25. For tickets, call 216-521-2540 or see

Seasons unveiled

Several Akron theaters are hosting season announcement parties in the next several weekends, starting with Weathervane Playhouse’s Valentine’s Cabaret and 2018-2019 season announcement Friday at the theater. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m., followed by a cabaret with 17 vocalists, a mix of theater favorites and newcomers, at 7:30 p.m.

Next, the slate of shows for the 2018-2019 season will be revealed. The cabaret is free, with seating limited to 240. Reservations are not required. Drink specials will be offered for $5, and subscriptions will be sold at special rates. Call 330-836-2626 for more information.

Ohio Shakespeare Festival promises a sword fight or two along with some singing and scene readings at its season announcement event at 7 p.m. Feb. 24 at Greystone Hall, 103 S. High St., Akron. Six 2018-2019 plays will be unveiled — two outdoor Shakespeare productions at Stan Hywet and four mainstage performances at Greystone Hall, including a new Family Theatre production. Two bonus productions also will be announced.

Light snacks and a cash bar will be provided. Season subscribers, donors and volunteers may attend for free, with $5 tickets available to all. See for reservations.

Finally, on March 3, Rubber City Theatre will make its 2018-19 season announcement at 4 p.m. at the new black box theater at 2207 Romig Road, Akron. The event will include refreshments, discounted subscriptions and a drawing for a free season membership.

Those who can’t attend in person can watch the announcement live on Facebook. A code will be offered online for discounted membership, good only March 3. For information, see, or call 234-252-0272.

Arts writer Kerry Clawson can be reached at 330-996-3527 or Follow her at @KerryClawsonABJ or