What should I be doing instead of this?


Theaters, Actors, Etc.

By Rick Pender · December 6th, 2006 · Curtain Call
  (L-R) Elizabeth Stanley, Kelly Jeanne Grant, Angel Desai and Ra'l Esparza in Company on Broadway.
Paul Kolnik

(L-R) Elizabeth Stanley, Kelly Jeanne Grant, Angel Desai and Ra'l Esparza in Company on Broadway.

If you're wondering how much the Cincinnati Playhouse's production of COMPANY changed between Eden Park and the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Broadway, I'll tell you it's not a lot. The New York production had to change somewhat because the Marx Theatre is a thrust stage with most of the audience looking down at the stage, while the Barrymore is a proscenium, with many of its 1,100 seats at eye level with the stage floor. To compensate, scenic designer David Gallo added six Plexiglas cubes that the actors sit and stand atop, giving more elevation and variety to the staging. (Several reviews of the show have commented that they suggest the ice cubes in the drink that Bobby almost always has in hand.) The best improvement in the show is new handling of a song by Robert's three girlfriends, "You Could Drive a Person Crazy." As Sondheim composed it, the song is full of closely counter-pointed phrases of "Doo-doo-doo-doo." While Angel Desai, Kelly Jeanne Grant and Elizabeth Stanley sang these words in Cincinnati, they now use matching saxophones played in close synchronization.

It evoked a big response from the audience. Refinements like these, rather than wholesale changes, have taken a good production and made it even better. Info: CompanyOnBroadway.com. ...

Speaking of performances that keep getting better, CCM grad ASHLEY BROWN (who spent the last year as Belle in Beauty and the Beast on Broadway) is now getting great notices in the title role in another just-opened Broadway production, Mary Poppins. Michael Kuchwara of the Associated Press says Brown has "charm and crisp vocal power" and adds that she has "something more, too, a sense of humor, a quality that helps mitigate the character's know-it-all aura." The New York Daily News' Joe Dziemianowicz says Brown "plays Mary as stern and steely, but always has a bewitching twinkle in her eye. She sings, acts and dances gorgeously." And writing for The New York Post, Clive Barnes comments that Brown's "acidulated charm, occasional wicked smile and schoolmarm authority finally prove totally endearing." ...

As Brown is demonstrating, legendary characters can sometimes benefit by a few improvements. That's happening locally in Jersey Productions' staging of ANNIE at Covington's Carnegie Center. If I mentioned Daddy Warbucks, you'd probably think of a bald guy. But director LARRY SMIGLEWSKI and actor DAN DOCHERTY have a new spin on the character. He won't be the usual older, stodgy man as portrayed in the cartoon. Instead, I'm told, he'll be a little younger and more ruthless. Jersey's Managing Director KELLY MARTIN suggests that we "think Hugh Grant in any movie." And yes, she adds, "He'll have hair." The production opens on Dec. 15 for a weeklong run, through Dec. 23. Tickets: 859-957-1940. ...

Finding variations on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is a bankable option for playwrights, since most theaters are looking for something that will draw audiences during December. Worth noting is that a new script by former Cincinnati actress MARNI PENNING is reaching its final stages. Her new play, Carol's Christmas, gets a reading on Dec. 19 at the Wooly Mammoth Theatre in Washington, D.C. Penning, one of the co-founders of the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, says it's taken her three years to write the story of a woman going through a bad breakup. Locking herself in the house, she's visited by the ghosts of her Ex-Boyfriend Past, her Ex-Husband Present and her Partner Yet-to-Be. Penning says it has "mature themes and language, so it's not for kids," but given the award-winning actress' wicked sense of humor, I'll bet it's a good evening's entertainment. Penning has had private readings in Pittsburgh and New York in addition to one at the Los Angeles Writers' Center. She plans to market it for Christmas 2007.

contact rick Pender: rpender(at)citybeat.com


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