New CLO musical comedy lots of fun for cast, audience

| Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, 9:03 a.m.

When folks enter The CLO Cabaret, they are walking into a television studio, about to become the audience for a hit show.

“Judge Jackie Justice — A New Musical Comedy,” is making its world debut at the Cabaret and is the brainchild of Civic Light Opera executive producer Van Kaplan, who directs this tongue-in-cheek courtroom comedy love story. The creative team of Michael Kooman and Christopher Dimond gives the two-hour show some catchy songs and lines.

One of the amazing things is that the cast of five portrays 12 characters. The only performer in a one-character role is Kara Mikula, who does a wonderful job as the fiery-tongued tell-it-as-she-sees-it judge. Her antics are great and she is a vocal powerhouse.

Before the show opened for its world premiere, Mikula said she was having “so much fun” with the production. She described her character as a “tough cookie,” burned by love in the past, whose rulings reflect that experience.

She does a nice job integrating her story into what's going on in the courtroom with her cases.

Although the judge's heart has been hardened when it comes to romance, there are moments when there is a glimmer of what it was like the one time she was in love.

Although the show takes place in a courtroom, each case deals with young love — and the crazy things people are willing to do because of that special someone. Even though it takes her until the end of the show to realize it, the judge has her own romantic storyline.

“The show is also a love story between Jackie and the bailiff, Henry,” Mikula said.

Henry is played to by Jason Coll, who quickly becomes an audience favorite. His relaxed stage presence gives credibility to his character's dilemma — he's been in love with the judge for years but she has no idea.

“If You Only Knew” and “Henry's Confession” tell his heart-on-his-sleeve story. As the bailiff, Coll is responsible for making sure the “studio” audience knows what they are supposed to do and when — namely singing along with the theme song, “Judge Jackie Justice.” He serves as photographer when folks are invited onstage before taping begins to have their picture taken with the judge.

Coll, too, plays multiple characters.

“We have a cast of five who play the judge, Henry, Shane, Woman 1 and Man 1. They play all the other characters,” Mikula said. “They walk out one door as one character and back in another door as another character. Each character has a different costume and persona. It's a lot of fun.”

Those characters are brilliantly portrayed by Maggie Carr as Woman 1, Connor McCanlus as Man 1 and Jonathan Visser as Shane, the studio exec and other roles. Carr and McCanlus are the defendants and plaintiffs for cases that involve zombies, spaceships, furries and characters from a Renaissance Festival. They speak Pittsburgh-ese, do some rapping, and offer up some red-necked accents to create the different roles — and make one case funnier than the next.

Because it's a new musical, the songs aren't familiar to theater-goers but they are great and give the background for each case. Tunessuch as “Ain't No Drill,” “Like Your Mother Does,” “Poob!” and “My Daddy Hate Me; Mean Mean Daddy! (Baby)” are fun and sure to generate laughs.

The courtroom looks real, complete with the elevated judge's bench, the bailiff's table, and the podiums for the defendant and plaintiff. Unlike a courtroom — even those on television — members of this studio audience are randomly chosen to take part in the show.

The small cast of “Judge Jackie Justice” delivers big laughs. If the audience reaction is any indication, the show is on the road to becoming a hit. After all, when a show's leading man uses pizza to win his love's heart, it can't be anything but a success.

Carol Waterloo Frazier is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1916, or

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