If you Google search “John McClellan,” you’ll find the late Democratic senator from Arkansas and the 19th-century chemist. So what is comedian, Akron native and onetime Cincinnatian John McClellan — who brought his "Punk Rock" stand-up tour to Northside's tiny music club/bar The Comet Aug. 13 — doing to distance himself from his fellow McClellans?
Ken Ludwig’s script is full of witty dialogue and funny situations that director Tim Perrino, who’s been staging Cincinnati Young People's Theater shows for 30 years, knows how to use to great effect. Music director Steve Goers leads eight musicians who sound like more playing the familiar George Gershwin score, and the sets — rotating mobile units designed by Matt Lape — make for swift scene transitions.
I am not the target demographic for Menopause the Musical, the show that’s spent 10 years “celebrating the Change.” The tour is in the midst of a three-week stop in Cincinnati, playing to largely “girlfriend” audiences at the Jarson-Kaplan Theater at the Aronoff.
Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute is a perfect point of entry for kids. There’s plenty of fantasy, a happy ending, no one dies and the music is sublime. But for director Tomer Zvulun, it’s all about the magic. Although instruments get the magic started, Mozart’s utterly delightful score and characters like the bird catcher Papageno, his mate Papagena and a host of birds and animals are the opera’s true magical forces.
If you’re a fan of the Cincinnati Fringe, you might want to check out Jessica Dickey’s The Amish Project, the first work presented by Queen City Theater (which has operated for several years as Queen City Off-Broadway) in the black-box theater at the new School for Creative and Performing Arts. Dickey’s script, first presented at the New York International Fringe in 2008, portrays people she has imagined as affected by the 2006 Nickel Mines murders of several Amish girls in a one-room schoolhouse.
There is nothing very profound about Alan Ayckbourn’s Bedroom Farce, the British writer’s 1975 play that was a Broadway hit in 1979 and nominated for a Tony Award that year. That’s what makes it a fine offering for Cincinnati Shakespeare Company (CSC), which has stepped up to provide our summer theater scene with light, frothy shows with some literary merit.
What follows is my own personal “Best of Cincinnati Theater” for the 2010-2011 season. In roughly chronological order, I’ve ranged across nine producing organizations and identified a dozen or so outstanding shows. Along the way I touch on several others worth seeing. My purpose is to offer a reminder that excellent theater can happen on every stage in town.
After years of writing about classical music and opera, I’m actually in an opera as a supernumerary, the operatic equivalent of an extra. My role: a Russian peasant peeling potatoes in the first scene of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. The audition was easy: fill out a form and be photographed next to a measuring stick.
There’s something elemental about the title song for the musical 42nd Street, currently onstage aboard the Showboat Majestic. “Hear the beat of dancing feet,” the lyric goes, “It's the song I love the melody of, Forty-Second Street.” Of course, the quintessential show about putting on a Broadway show, overcoming obstacles and finding a fresh young star is punctuated by the beat of those dancing — well, actually tapping — feet. And the rhythm is contagious.
Joana Carneiro has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. She was born in 1976, two years after her native Portugal overthrew dictatorship for democracy. Twenty-six years later she has her own orchestra, international guest engagements and, this week, she’s in the pit for Cincinnati Opera’s production of John Adams’ A Flowering Tree.
Although Cincinnati’s theater scene offers lots of fine work from September through May, the pickings are usually thin during the summer. So it’s great that Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati is offering the regional premiere of a holiday-themed musical Winter Wonderettes when the theater is typically dark. The sequel to The Marvelous Wonderettes, ETC’s 2010 box-office bonanza, opened to a full house and seems likely to be another hit.
An intense father-daughter relationship is at the heart of Verdi’s opera Rigoletto, which opens Cincinnati Opera’s summer season with performances Thursday and Saturday. Baritone Stephen Powell makes his role debut as Rigoletto, the acid-tongued jester, and soprano Sarah Coburn is his daughter Gilda.
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s current production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) is the regional premiere of a new version of the play first produced in 1987, and it’s much fresher. Instead of simply clowning around, the 2011 cast of Billy Chace, Justin McCombs and Brian Isaac Phillips truly throw themselves into the comedy, using acting skills usually reserved for more polished work.
This was perhaps the most satisfying Cincy Fringe Festival yet, offering varied and diverse shows that kept audiences coming back for more. My personal top choices in addition to 'Miss Magnolia' were 'Missing: The Fantastical and True Story of My Father's Disappearance and What I Found When I Looked for Him,' 'Headscarf and the Angry Bitch,' 'Melancholy Play,' 'Peyote Business Lunch,' 'Curriculum Vitae,' 'I Love You (We're Fucked)' and 'You Only Live Once Forever.'
Harry Nilsson once sang that "one is the loneliest number," but you actually have a goodly amount of company if you're a 2011 Cincinnati Fringe Festival performer. Close to one-third of the acts included in the eighth annual Fringe, commencing this week, are solo performers. Here are some highlights.