Mark A. Marple

Cabaret Dinner Theatre

One of the greatest learning experiences of my life was when I was producing shows at the Cabaret Dinner Theatre in North Royalton, Ohio. I had been doing theatre at Bella Casa Dinner Theatre and was cast as Bo in "Bus Stop" at Cabaret when Executive Producer and owner Tom Asad approached me to take over the reins of the theatre. He was moving to Marion, Ohio to take over the just renovated Marion Palace. I had my company Marquee Productions and changed the name to M&M Productions so that I could produce shows in the 150 seat dinner theatre in the round, take those casts to Baldwin Wallace College with a standard proscenium stage, have sets built, rehearse with new blocking and take the shows on the road to 1,500 seat theatres such as the Mansfield Renaissance, the Canton Palace, the Akron Civic Theatre, the Marion Place and the Ohio Theatre in Columbus.

My start at the Cabaret Dinner Theatre was as an actor. I played Bo in "Bus Stop" opposite Barbara Corlette, who was well known in the Cleveland area. At one performance I had a very inebriated guy sitting right near the stage (and it was a very intimate, small stage in the round) who must of not liked my character because he mumbled that I was lady whipped (although he didn't use the word lady) and poured a beer on my cowboy boot that was on a chair right in front of him. It was a true lesson on not breaking the fourth wall. On another evening my eventual bride and forever soul mate came and saw me in Bus Stop. She must have liked me in it enough to eventually marry me twenty years later.

Following that I took over as Producer and our next two shows were "Wait Until Dark" and a musical about six young people breaking into Show Business at the Improvisation in New York. "I'll Die If I Can't Live Forever" became a signature show and I ended up directing it many years later at Garvin's Laugh Inn on Connecticut Ave. in Washington, D.C. Opening night at the Cabaret Dinner Theatre I had to go on in the place of an actor who had blown his voice and I did the first week's performances. We had reviewers and I actually got good reviews despite the fact that I made up more than a few of the lyrics. Hey, they rhymed! It has great musical numbers such as "My Life's a Musical Comedy" and the haunting duet "We're Strangers Who Sleep Side By Side".

The next show was an unknown musical that was written by the team that gave us "Jesus Christ Superstar". Tom and I had seen "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" sung at the Ford Theatre in Washington D.C. as a choral arrangement, no stage or choreography or costumes, just sung. We had the rights to produce it so I hired a Theatre Professor from Baldwin Wallace college to direct it while I was working on casting and marketing for the next couple of shows. That and I was having meetings with other theatre owners throughout the state to sell touring shows.

When I finally went to a rehearsal at the college, Chris Webb and Donna Christie (two of my stars from "I'll Die If I Can't Live Forever") began pleading with me for help. I watched as the rehearsal unfolded (Joseph first appeared underneath a baby grand piano in pajamas and a teddy bear) and I wrote down a whole legal pad worth of notes and questions. After the rehearsal, I took the theatre professor to dinner and approached him about my concerns. This was a man twenty years my senior and he basically told me that he was lost and didn't have a grasp on this show or where to go with it. I thanked him for all he had tried to do and said that I would take over from there. Eleven days before opening, no costumes, no dance numbers, no real orchestra, no lighting design, no problem. I called Gena Zelazny, a brilliant choreographer, told my costume designer burlap tunics for the brothers and use hats for costume changes. We opened and the show was the biggest success I had to date selling out every performance and touring to every major theatre in Ohio. Later, I got a letter from MTI that I could no longer pay for royalties and had to close after my last paid performance as it was now going to open on Broadway (1982) and rumor was that the producers had seen my tech package (dry ice machines and flash pots) and production and modeled some of their show off of it. You know what happened from there.

The final performances of "Joseph..." for me was at the Akron Civic Theatre. Look who my Vocal Director was! Tracy and I have done several shows together including the "Tribute to the Ed Sullivan Show" at the
University Center Club. Truly my soulmate!

After Joseph opened, the next show was with WGAR and Channel 43 on air personality John Lannigan. Star Spangled Girl was a success and also starred Kathy Merk and a very talented actor that I had cast in "110 In The Shade" and in a smaller role in "Joseph..." His name is Duane Daniels and he has since gone on to stardom as an actor on stage and in film and TV. He founded the Fritz Theatre and has been a co-star on Tremors and a regular on Veronica Mars besides winning dozens of awards for stage and screen. This is his website:

Duane Daniels

John Lannigan

I had always loved the Frank Sinatra movie "Pal Joey" and was intrigued with staging that musical but found that the 1957 movie was very different from the 1940 Gene Kelly Broadway hit. Several musical numbers were added to the movie and I wanted to see that onstage so I adapted the movie back to the stage. This was one of the shows we took on tour to the Mansfield Renaissance, Marion Palace and the Canton Palace. The others were "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" (we added the Ohio Theatre to this one), "The Mind With the Dirty Man" and our first hit "I'll Die If I Can't Live Forever". After the tour we rested with " Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf", "The Sunshine Boys" and our late night productions on Fridays and Saturdays of "Lone Star" and "Sexual Perversity In Chicago".

We also cast a young singer for a production of "Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living In Paris". Her name was Sandra Kucinich and she was married at the time to Dennis Kucinich, the young mayor of Cleveland.

We also produced "Joyce Becker's Soap Opera Festival" where we had Michael Minor aka Brandon Kingsley from "All My Children" and Leslie Charleson aka
Dr. Monica Quartermaine from "General Hospital" appear at Macy's department store and the Canton Football Hall of Fame for autograph signings and then a show that night. Before he left, Michael (who was also on "Petticoat Junction" as the pilot) saw me perform Joey Evans in "Pal Joey".

Michael Minor

Leslie Charleson

After several years at the Cabaret Dinner Theatre, I was approached by John Kenley to become his assistant at Kenley Players (see tab). It was a step up into Equity Theatre and eventually led to Broadway, but I think fondly of my time at the
Cabaret Dinner Theatre.

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