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'Caroline, or Change' heads another exciting week of live theater

Theaters, Actors, Etc.

By Rick Pender · October 24th, 2007 · Curtain Call
  Taylore Mahogany Scott stars in New Stage Collective's Caroline, Or Change.
New Stage Collective

Taylore Mahogany Scott stars in New Stage Collective's Caroline, Or Change.

Fasten your theatrical seatbelt. This week will be a wild ride with new productions all over town, many being staged for the first time in Cincinnati. At the top of my list is the 2004 musical, CAROLINE, OR CHANGE at New Stage Collective, opening Thursday (it runs through Nov. 18). Why am I juiced? The show's book and lyrics are by Tony Kushner, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his theatrical epic, Angels in America, judged by many to be the greatest script of the 1990s. Composer Jeanine Tesori, known for Violet, winner of a CEA in 1999 at Ensemble Theatre, and Thoroughly Modern Millie, has created a score that blends Rhythm & Blues, Motown, Gospel, Klezmer and traditional Jewish tunes. Caroline is a story drawn from Kushner's childhood in Louisiana. It's about Caroline Thibodeaux, a divorced, single-mother, African-American maid who works for a Jewish family in suburban Lake Charles in 1963.

The show's title has double meaning: social change in America resulting from racial unrest and the spare change generous 8-year-old Noah leaves behind in his pockets for Caroline to find when she does the laundry. New Stage's artistic director ALAN PATRICK KENNY has assembled 11 musicians to perform the show's full orchestration, conducted by CCM doctoral candidate Brian Hoffman. For the central role of Caroline, Kenny has also recruited Equity actress TAYLORE MAHOGANY SCOTT, remembered by Cincinnati theatergoers for several seasons at Cincinnati Shakespeare. (She recently organized readings of plays by August Wilson.) The 16 actors in the cast include many CEA nominees and winners and other local theater veterans: Aretta Baumgardner, Burgess Byrd, Piper Davis, Sherry McCamley, Chauntel McKenzie, Steven Milloy, Brian Richardson, Jim Stump and Frederic Tacon. It's a big crowd for New Stage's compact space (1140 Main St., Over-the-Rhine), but you can bet it will be an intriguing production. Tickets: 513-621-3700. ...

Another award-winning play on a local stage is the regional premiere of Rolin Jones' THE INTELLIGENT DESIGN OF JENNY CHOW, presented by Queen City Off-Broadway (Thursday-Nov. 3) at a new venue, the Cincinnati Deaf Club (3938 Spring Grove Ave., Northside). The script, named a "best play" of 2005-2006 by Best Plays Theatre Yearbook, is about a super-smart young woman whose agoraphobia limits her ability to hunt for her birth parents in China, so she invents a robot (named Jenny Chow) to search for them. It's an unusual story -- QCOB calls it an "irreverent techno-comedy" -- to get at some serious issues of modern identity and dislocation. This production, directed by LYLE BENJAMIN, features original music by local composer JOE GORMAN. Tickets: 513-227-0480. ...

Ready for the holidays? Let's start with Halloween, something that's become a specialty at Cincinnati Shakespeare. They're offering a scary version of Shakespeare's seldom-staged Cymbeline (see review, p. 53), but that's only the beginning. CEA winner Giles Davies is offering seven performances of his creepy, one-man version of FRANKENSTEIN. It opens with a Saturday matinee; you can even catch it on Halloween! (If you're thinking ahead to another holiday, here's a tip: CSC will bring back Every Christmas Story Ever Told at Arnold's in December.) Tickets: 513-381-2283. ...

More Halloween-related entertainment is available thanks to New Edgecliff Theatre, which presents SWEET SUSPENSE, an evening of vintage radio drama in a benefit on Saturday evening. They'll present two frightful tales from the classic radio drama series, Suspense!, in front of a live audience, with sound effects created by Foley artists Mike Martini and Jonathan Pernisek. The Columbia Performance Center (3900 Eastern Ave., Columbia-Tusculum) is the place; the evening will also include some great eats. Tickets (a reasonable $25): 888-588-0137.

Contact Rick Pender: rpender(at)citybeat.com


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