A Review by: Emily Grabowski, Mercyhurst College

Steven Opsanic, the executive director at the theatre, and his crew put on an impressive production the second a guest walks into the building. Each one is greeted at the front door/box office where they purchase their ticket. There is also a guestbook sitting at the counter and guests are encouraged to sign and leave their e-mail address to be informed of upcoming shows and events.

Two attendants were standing at the doors into the theatre and take your ticket, and if needed, will assist you to your seat. The theatre is staffed by volunteers so just being there shows a love for the atmosphere and a love for live performances.

The show was scheduled to begin at 8:00pm and did so right on time. The show began with a slideshow of pictures of Johnny Cash throughout life, while playing one of his songs. The screen was then lifted and the performance took place on the small stage. The play opens with Johnny Cash, portrayed as an older man, playing some of his hits and reminiscing on the memories attached to each song.

After a 15-minute intermission, the second act was set up as if Johnny Cash were performing live at the Grand Ole Opry. A radio clip from a Nashville radio station introducing Cash live from the Grand Ole Opry was played prior to Shannon Solo (who played Johnny Cash) came out on stage, which was a nice touch, adding a little piece of history. The show concluded with a few duet performances by Solo and Kristen Schrum, or Miss June Carter-Cash.

I was skeptical going into the show, thinking it was going to be a portrayal of his life. I came out pleasantly surprised. Solo played all of the songs on his acoustic guitar, giving it a much more authentic feel. Audience participation was encouraged by asking the members of the audience how they were doing or getting them to clap along to the rhythm of a song.

Executive Director of Theatre 145, Steven Opsanic, is also the producer/creator of “The Man in Black,” along with Shannon Solo, a local singing celebrity, and Kristen Schrum, a young lady with a very impressive voice.

After the show, I had the privilege to sit down with Opsanic and ask him about the show. The idea for the show came around last August, and was going to open in the fall, but the closing of the Roadhouse Theatre put the production on pause. Everyone involved in the production thinks it was a great show to open the theatre with, because each show performed is different. With every rehearsal and every show, the show evolves a little more. Originally, there was not going to be a June Carter-Cash. One of the songs performed in the show, “Long Black Veil,” was added Friday night before the showing on Saturday. There is also talk of adding a few more songs for the next shows, and possibly more June Carter-Cash involvement in the show.

Opsanic and Solo wanted to do something different with this show. “We wanted the emphasis to be on Johnny Cash himself, so we didn’t add a lot of flare,” Opsanic said. The production used very little props, mainly just a chair in the first act and a microphone and guitar throughout. The background is a very simple, black background with some stars on either side. Opsanic was pleased with the results. “I really think we achieved the look we were going for. We did what we wanted to do.” Lighting also played a key factor in the show, accenting the music and adding some flare without a lot of excess.

Opsanic is working on another show for the theatre called “2050s: Yesterday, Today.” The show will be set in the 1950s in a concert-like setup. The focus of the show is to show where and how today’s music started, and where modern artists get some of their influences. Some of the performers that will be featured are Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, and maybe even Patsy Cline. Johnny Cash might make an appearance as well.

Theatre 145 is also open to outside promoters. Anyone looking for a place to put on a play, small concert, or even a seminar can look into the theatre. The building is co-owned by the Roadhouse Theatre and the Great Lakes Film Association.

“The Man in Black” is running Thursday April 10th, Friday April 11th, Saturday April 12th, Thursday April 17th, Friday April 18th, and will close on Saturday April 19th. The final performance will include a closing night party. Shows begin at 8:00pm .

Theatre 145 is located at 145 West 11th Street in downtown Erie . For more information, call (814) 879 0733 or (814) 873 5069, or visit their website at www.thetheatre145.com.