Ohio Shakespeare Festival presents:
The Merchant of VeniceNot even the Bard himself could have imagined a more evocative setting than the new Elizabethan stage at Akron's Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens. Modeled after Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London, the permanent playing area provides a natural backdrop for the Ohio Shakespeare Festival's open-air performances — and lends power and authenticity to productions like the upcoming Merchant of Venice. Featuring veteran actor Robert Hawkes in the role of Shylock (above), the show previews on August 2, opens August 3, and continues in performance through August 19. Tickets are $12 to $30 at 330-673-8761 or ohioshakespeare.com. Stan Hywet Hall is at 714 North Portage Path in Akron. — Elaine T. Cicora
As You Like It/The Famous History of the Life of King Henry VIII: Cleveland Shakespeare Festival marks its 15th season of free outdoor theater with these two classic pieces playing in repertory on Saturdays and Sundays through August 5. See cleveshakes.org for venues and schedules.
The Cradle Will Rock: Oberlin Summer Theater Festival serves up its first-ever musical with 1937's agitprop piece, The Cradle Will Rock. House critic Christine Howey calls it "thumping" and "delicious ... you won't need an instruction sheet to find parallels to the political discussions being waged today." It's free through August 4, but reservations are required at 440-775- 8169 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Legally Blonde The Musical: Despite some solid performances, Beck Center's production of this bubbly musical mostly falls flat. "Instead of being a frothy lark," advises critic Howey, "Legally Blonde seems an overly long exercise in trying to have fun." Performances continue through August 12. Tickets are $10 to $28 at 216-521-2540 or through beckcenter.org. Find them at 17801 Detroit Ave. in Lakewood.
One Night With Janis Joplin: Presented by Cleveland Play House, this regional premiere is both concert experience and reflection on the famous singer's musical roots. Performances continue through August 19 at Playhouse Square's Allen Theatre, 1407 Euclid Ave. Tickets are $35 to $65 at 216-241-6000 or clevelandplayhouse.com.
All Shook Up: Mercury Summer Stock wraps up its 2012 season with this musical comedy based on Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and built around a couple dozen of Elvis Presley's most famous songs. The show opens on Friday, August 2, and continues with nine additional performance through August 18 at Nortre Dame College, 1857 South Green Rd., in South Euclid. Tickets are $15 to $18 at 216-771-5862 or online at mercurysummerstock.com.