First staged in 1999, Thunder is the Mt. Adams theater’s best selling musical during producing artistic director Ed Stern’s tenure. It’s the final mainstage production of his 20th and final season. The show tells a mythical
tale of dueling Blues guitarists; it’s stuffed with emotionally
conceived songs by renowned singer and composer Keb’ Mo’ working with
Before Jesus Christ Superstar and The Phantom of the Opera,
Andrew Lloyd Webber composed together a brief “pop cantata” based on
the biblical story of Joseph and his “coat of many colors.” It was a
piece to be sung by children and subsequently
recorded as a concept album.
Webber later expanded Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, molding it into a bouncy, bubbly show stuffed with musical parodies.
I became CityBeat’s arts and
entertainment editor in 1998, following a few years of being a
contributing writer, covering the local theater scene. In 1999 I wrote
my first big cover story — it was about Keith Glover and his Blues
musical, Thunder Knocking on the Door.
Not many musicals begin
with the cast flipping the bird at the audience, but then not many
musicals are like Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, the brash show
that spins a tale of America’s seventh president to in-your-face
Indie Rock tunes.
John Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Grapes of Wrath,
is a grim recounting of a Depression-era family of Oklahoma
sharecroppers driven from home by ecological and economic disasters. In
the late 1980s theater artist Frank Galati adapted it into a powerful
stage production, one you can see throughout April at Cincinnati
Shakespeare Company. It’s a downer of a story, but definitely worth
When you base a musical on legendary cartoons, you better
be sure that the original material is referenced and that it delivers the same
level of humor. That means more in the way of faithfulness than originality,
but who cares when it’s The Addams Family?
The touring production of the recent Broadway show, currently onstage at the
Aronoff Center, delivers on humor, entertainment and a faithful recreation of
the oddball characters who revel in the dark side of life.
I read Kim Rosenstock’s Tigers Be Still before I saw the production currently onstage at
the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. I confess that I found it amusing
but not hilarious, perhaps even a tad predictable.
I didn’t anticipate that with solid direction by Rob
Ruggiero and spot-on casting, Rosenstock’s script manages to be charming, funny, optimistic and
perhaps even heart-warming.
A photojournalist’s image is framed and captured, a
moment of high emotion frozen by the camera lens, a distillation of a
larger, often tragic event. Today those events, all too often, are
scenes of physical and emotional devastation in war-torn nations. In
Donald Margulies’ 2009 play, Time Stands Still,
we learn that shooting those images generates addictive adrenaline even
as it hardens the soul.
a swanky 1976 cocktail party, we witness the last gasp of two former
friends. Composer Franklin Shepard, at the pinnacle of success in the
entertainment world, is miserable. Author Mary Flynn is outspoken,
loud and drunk. They argue about their old pal Charley Kringas, whose
name can’t even be mentioned without ire.
In Irish playwright Conor McPherson's St. Nicholas, Michael Shooner plays a thoroughly nasty theater critic; a writer without much to say but who enjoys lording his influence over
actors and theaters. Most critics actually love the theater, but not this guy — it’s largely an experience for him to bully people and
freeload food and drink on opening nights. He enjoys preying on those who fear
him. So perhaps it’s only natural that he ends up in the employ
of a coven of vampires.
One of the songs in Into the Woods
warns, “Careful the things you say. Children will listen.” In the case
of the current production of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s a
blender full of fairytales, some familiar and some not, the “children” —
that is, CCM’s performers in training — clearly listened well as Aubrey
Berg directed them in a remarkably mature and thoroughly entertaining
The popularity of Jane Austen continues unabated. A sparkling adaptation of Pride & Prejudice
was an audience favorite a year ago for Cincinnati Shakespeare, and
another Jon Jory adaptation of the 19th-century author’s stylish novels
of romance and domestic intrigue, Sense & Sensibility, is likely to repeat that box-office bonanza.
Speaking in Tongues is a fascinating piece of theater. But it takes work to watch, follow
and absorb. Casual theatergoers might be put off,
but those who like challenging drama and multi-layered acting will leave the
theater with their gears still spinning.