While many of Cincinnati’s theaters have announced their 2011-2012 seasons, a few more are putting the finishing touches on what they’ll stage for the coming year. Today I can share with you exciting news from The Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center as well as an always popular series at UC’s College-Conservatory of Music (CCM).
Let’s start with the Carnegie, now in its third season of producing shows. The Covington, Ky., facility, once a library, experienced a 50-percent increase in ticket sales in 2010-2011, and the new four-show lineup has a lot to recommend, including a Pulitzer-nominated play getting its regional premiere and a Broadway star with local roots. The season also represents collaborations with three performing arts institutions.
The Carnegie season will open with PIPPIN (Aug. 19-Sept. 3), a 1972 musical by Stephen Schwartz, the composer and lyricist of Wicked and Godspell. The sexy fairytale of self-discovery will co-presented with Northern Kentucky University’s Commonwealth Theatre Company, directed by Ken Jones with musical direction by Jamey Strawn and choreography by Jane Green and Jay Goodlet. Performers will be drawn from the musical theater programs at NKU, CCM and Wright State.
Veteran director Ed Cohen will stage Sarah Ruhl’s IN THE NEXT ROOM, OR THE VIBRATOR PLAY (Nov. 4-20). The show was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for drama. Using talent from CCM’s drama program, Cohen is directing a show described this way by a Washington, D.C., theater: “At the dawn of the electrical age, a new medical device is developed to pacify ‘hysterical’ women, but it produces a shockingly different result. … [it’s] a richly textured comedy about marriage, motherhood and the charged energy between our bodies.” Other plays by Ruhl presented locally include The Clean House (Cincinnati Playhouse), Eurydice (Know Theatre), Dead Man’s Cell Phone and Melancholy Play (Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati).
The Carnegie will team with the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra (CCO) for a concert staging of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s THE KING AND I (Jan. 20-29, 2012). The iconic role of the King will be played by Ron Bohmer, a graduate of the School for Creative and Performing Arts, who has handled leading roles in numerous Broadway productions, including The Phantom of the Opera, Sunset Boulevard and The Scarlet Pimpernel. Playing opposite him as Anna will be another Broadway veteran, Teresa De Zarn, now an instructor at NKU; she’s performed in New York productions of Cats, The Secret Garden and Phantom. The production will be staged by Joe Deer from Wright State University; the CCO’s musical director Mischa Santora will conduct.
The final production on the Carnegie’s theater schedule will be the Country-flavored PUMP BOYS AND DINETTES (April 13-29, 2012), a 1982 show that The New York Times called “as refreshing as an ice cold beer after a bowl of five-alarm chili.” It’s a joyous party with filling-station guys and the sassy diner waitresses. Jared Doren will direct, with choreography by Patti James and music direction by Steve Goers.
It’s always great to learn what the musical theater program at UC’s College-Conservatory of Music has planned for the Cohen Family Studio Theater, and I just picked up the inside scoop from department head Aubrey Berg. These shows are not blockbusters (CCM’s 2011-2012 mainstage musicals will be Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma in November and Sondheim’s Into the Woods in late February) but rather theater pieces that round out students’ educations with varied experiences. Here’s what Berg has planned:
MAKE ME A SONG (October 2011). Composer and lyricist William Finn’s musical Falsettos received 1992 Tony Awards for best music and lyrics and for best book, and A New Brain (1998) and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (2005), have also been award winners, too. Berg staged Finn’s collection of moving remembrances of friends and family, Elegies: A Song Cycle at CCM in 2005. This time it’s revue of Finn’s songs from multiple shows. It premiered at Hartford’s Theaterworks in 2006 and landed off-Broadway in November-December 2007.
TITLE WITHHELD (February 2012). It's the regional collegiate premiere of the musical that won eight Tony Awards in 2007. The title can't be publicized yet, but here's a hint: In 2008 CCM's drama program produced the controversial 1891 play by Frank Wedekind about teenagers beginning to explore their sexuality. The same story with an Alt-Rock score became a big Broadway hit, and CityBeat wrote a cover story about the show when it made a tour stop in Cincinnati.
HIT THE DECK (May 2012). CCM “Musicals Redux” series presents shows from the past that have been ignored for many years. Vincent Youmans’ Hit the Deck (1927) and ran for about a year on Broadway, but hasn’t had many productions since. (It was twice made into movies, in 1930 and 1955 using more or less the same story and Youmans’ jaunty music — tunes like “Hallelujah,” “Harbor of My Heart,” “Join the Navy” and “What’s a Kiss Among Friends?”
CCM’s Studio Theater shows are presented free of charge, but they do require advance reservations (made by calling the CCM box office week of the show). They often fill up quickly.