Musicals are not Ensemble Theatre’s bread and butter. But after 25 years, ETC has produced enough to excerpt selections for a thoroughly entertaining evening celebrating the theater’s anniversary. Big name shows — the Tony-nominated Grey Gardens and Mack and Mabel as well as the twice-presented Rock show Hedwig and the Angry Inch — are represented as well as comic gems like The Marvelous Wonderettes, Nite Club Confidential and The Great American Trailer Park Musical. Also a healthy dose of songs from David Kisor’s holiday fairytale musicals.
With five singers plus music director and pianist Scot Woolley, director D. Lynn Meyers has staged the 80-minute show without narration, just a nice range of emotion.
Some material is not from shows that are true musicals: Woolley offers a showy keyboard excerpt from 33 Variations with Dennis Parlato as Beethoven, intensely composing in his head as the pianist madly matches each new thought; that’s followed by a vocalese version of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, recalling the fractious string quartet in the play, Opus.
Deb G. Girdler, holiday villainess extraordinaire, sings “Don’t Mess with the Queen” (Alice in Wonderland) but also shows her passionate side with “Time Heals Everything” (Mack and Mabel). Nick Cearley delivers several intense numbers from Hedwig (in particular, “Wig in a Box”) then provides novelty percussion for Brooke Rucidlo’s “That Old Black Magic” (Nite Club). Sara Mackie ranges through material from the wistful “Another Winter in a Summer Town” (Grey Gardens) to the mood-swinging “Cloudburst” (Nite Club), and Parlato offers the deeply felt “I Won’t Send Roses” (Mack and Mabel).
The finale, “On My Way” (Violet), is about looking to the future, which is what ETC has been doing for a quarter-century. The encore, “Thank You and Goodnight” (The Marvelous Wonderettes), leaves audiences expressing their own thanks for seasons of onstage treats.
25 THE MUSICAL, presented by Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, continues through May 22. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.