Idaho Shakespeare Festival makes evil fun in stylish production

sweeney It's one thing to take on a landmark piece of musical theater, such as "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street." It's another to turn it into a transformative work of art, and that's what the Idaho Shakespeare Festival achieved Saturday.

Director Victoria Bussert and a cast of 16 actor-singers brushed the cobwebs from the Stephen Sondheim-Hugh Wheeler musical as they transported the audience from aghast discomfort in the opening to a dark, blood-soaked revelry by the finale that had them cheering as the lights went down.


Sutton Foster Set for National Alliance for Musical Theatre Festival's A Circus in Winter

Foster (Anything Goes) stars in The Circus in Winter, Ben Clark and Beth Turcotte’s musical based on the novel by Cathy Day. Directed by Victoria Bussert,The Circus in Winter tells the story of legend and lore as both worlds collide under the big top.

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Plain Dealer: The bright lights of Baldwin Wallace - Editorial

Since the fall of 1995, the unsinkable and indefatigable Bussert has cranked out star players the likes of whom Mike Holmgren or Mark Shapiro would dress up in lederhosen and sing "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" to get their paws on. Bussert pushes. She drives them until they drop. She accepts nothing less than 110 percent.

They practice, they work out, they stretch their physical and emotional limits, and when they take the field -- er, the stage -- they make us cringe and cry and laugh. They are good, they are evil, they are winners and they are losers, and they always give their best.

Bussert has a slew of players in the majors -- as in, on Broadway -- and when they're asked where they learned their A-game, they can each include a mention of a small, private university in the Cleveland suburbs.

Hey, nice going, Coach.


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Plain Dealer: Victoria Bussert has molded talent, lighted the way for Broadway-bound actors

At the 2012 showcase, agents and managers snapped up every one of Bussert's 13 seniors. In short, there's a little star factory chugging away in that bucolic enclave in Northeast Ohio.

"For my money, Vicky Bussert is running the finest musical theater program in the country," said Nichols, a proud graduate of Cincinnati's CCM. "And I'll tell anybody who'll listen."

So who exactly is Victoria Bussert, and why are her kids so good?

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Cleveland Plain Dealer Reviews Lizzie Borden

Happily, there's nothing soulless about "Lizzie Borden," the fifth annual collaboration between PlayhouseSquare and the Baldwin-Wallace College Music Theatre program. This year, director Victoria Bussert and her killer team staged the rock musical about the infamous murderess from Fall River, Mass. Fabulous. My only complaint: "Lizzie Borden" only played for four performances, closing Sunday evening.

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