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by Rick Pender 06.01.2012
Posted In: Theater at 09:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Stage Door: Fringe, 'Avenue Q,' CSC, etc.

There’s more theater and performance than you can shake a stick at in Over-the-Rhine this weekend, thanks to the 2012 Cincinnati Fringe Festival. (In fact, if you stand on a corner in OTR and shake a stick, you could be mistaken for a Fringe act …) You can read about all the Fringe productions that are up and running here, but here’s half-dozen shows that CityBeat’s reviewers have recommended: Grim & Fischer: A Deathly Comedy in Full-Face Mask (this one has a limited run, closing on Saturday, and it’s had brisk box office since it opened on Wednesday); Methtacular (a one-man show about a musical theater actor who’s a gay crystal-meth addict); Sweet, Burning Yonder (an eco-sensitive comedy about the weird aftermath of Hurricane Katrina); Quake: A Closet Love Story (about a broken-up couple trapped in a closet after an earthquake); Don’t Cross the Streams (a full-fledged musical that starts with a movie about busting ghosts and spins way beyond); and Blown Up (a FringeNext production by high schoolers). Go to cincyfringe.com for more information about schedules and tickets.

While it’s not part of the Fringe, Avenue Q, presented by Showbiz Players at Covington’s Carnegie Center, has the same zany vibe. It’s an X-rated musical with puppets that might visually remind you of Sesame Street — until they open their dirty mouths. The show was a surprise Tony Award winner several years back, and it promises lots of laughs for those who go. Through June 10. 859-957-1940.

If you want something more traditional, try Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s production of The Merchant of Venice, one of Shakespeare’s most difficult plays. It’s officially categorized as a comedy because it has humorous and romantic elements. But the central story about a potentially fatal argument between a moneylender and a businessman is anything but amusing. CSC’s artistic director Brian Isaac Phillips takes on the role of the rapacious moneylender who has faced anti-Semitic discrimination for his entire life. Is Shylock a villain or a victim? Shakespeare gives him aspects of each, and CSC’s production does not tilt in either direction. You get to decide, and it won’t be easy. Box office: 513-381-2273, x1.

Be sure to consider downtown’s newest performance venue, Speakeasy Theatre, storefront space at 815 Race Street. Their inaugural production is Paul Baerman’s The Whistler, set in 1965 in an unnamed Southern city awash in racist attitudes. The Andy Griffith Show is in its fifth season, and the guy who whistles the theme (played here by local professional actor Michael G. Bath) is living off his royalties. But life gets more complicated when he meets an African-American trumpet player (played by Tony Davis) who shares his passion for music. The Whistler will be onstage through June 10. Box office: 513-861-7469

Each week in Stage Door, Rick Pender offers theater tips for the weekend, often with a few pieces of theater news.

 
 
by Rick Pender 12.14.2012
Posted In: Theater, Arts community at 11:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
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Stage Door: Making Merry Edition

By next weekend you'll be all crazy with gift shopping and baking cookies, so theater might not be such a high priority. So how about catching a great holiday show this weekend to put in in the holiday mood?

Starting Sunday evening you can get caught up on Christmas lore — well, at least a funny, off-kilter version of it — thanks to the jolly folks at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company who are presenting Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some)! The mash-up of Rudolph and Frosty and Santa and Ebenezer and George Bailey (and a lot more) opens on Sunday evening. Cincy Shakes used to offer this one in the courtyard at Arnold's Bar & Grill, but they had such demand for tickets that they've moved it to their mainstage, over on Race Street in Downtown Cincinnati. They seem to have been correct in anticipating that people wanted to see the show: Several days before it opened, almost all the tickets had been sold! So they've added four more performances, 2 p.m. on Dec. 22-23 and 29-30. It all wraps up on Dec. 30, so don't waste any time figuring out when you're going fit this in. And to keep up your holiday spirits, Cincy Shakes has scored a temporary liquor permit for the run of this show. Cheers! Tickets: 513-381-2273, x1.

Speaking of Cincy Shakes, you still have a few more chances to see The Importance of Being Earnest (see review here) before it vacates the premises for Every Christmas Story. Oscar Wilde's witty farce is not a holiday show, but it's a great deal of fun, guaranteed to put you in a good mood. Although I haven't seen Falcon Theater's production of It's a Wonderful Life — recreating the story of George Bailey and Bedford Falls as it might have been without him —  it's picked up some solid recognition from a panel of judges for the Acclaim Awards. The story is presented as a production of a 1940s radio play, and it's happening in Newport's intimate Monmouth Theatre. Tickets: 513-479-6783.

Ensemble Theatre's fractured musical retelling of Alice in Wonderland (see review here) offers a colorful, visual feast as well as a take on the story that has a few lessons for kids, but plenty of entertainment for everyone. (Tickets: 513-421-3555) And the most traditional of all the holiday shows, A Christmas Carol at the Cincinnati Playhouse, continues to be a great outing for families. We had out of town guests last weekend who came to Cincinnati to see it, and they loved every minute of it. If you haven't seen it, this is one you'll remember — and probably want to add as a must-see every holiday season. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
 

 
 
by Rick Pender 07.07.2011
Posted In: Theater at 12:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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'Winter Wonderettes' Wins LCT Award

In my CityBeat column this week I shared the news that the Acclaim Awards are gone and that the League of Cincinnati Theatres (LCT) have stepped up to create a new awards program. The first two recognitions of the season have been awarded to Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati’s (ETC) Christmas-in-July celebration, Roger Bean’s Winter Wonderettes. This musical sequel to ETC’s biggest-ever box-office hit, The Marvelous Wonderettes, has earned these awards for its acting ensemble and specialized design.

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by Rick Pender 10.19.2012
Posted In: Theater at 09:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
onstage - blue man group - balls - photo paul kolnik

Stage Door: Blue Man Group

My first and foremost recommendation for the weekend is  Blue Man Group. (Review here.)  It's a performance experience unlike much of anything else you've probably ever experienced in a theater — raucous music, zany humor, eye-popping technology and infectiously fun engagement with the audience. Amazingly, it's done without spoken words — the guys mime (well, kind of, it's actually more like they're mute in the style of Harpo Marx, with a lot of staring and double-takes), although they're backed up by awesome video that does offer some instruction (and laughs) for the literate. As I've said before, it's hard to describe but easy to enjoy. This is Blue Man Group's first time in Cincinnati, presented by Broadway Across America; the Aronoff Center might never be the same. (Through Oct. 28) Box office: 800-982-2787.

Last night I enjoyed opening night for the thoroughly authentic and charming production of Neil Simon's
Brighton Beach Memoirs at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. It's the story of a Jewish family in Brooklyn in the 1930s, but thanks to Simon's witty, heartfelt recollections of his own youth, it has a feeling of universality. The narrator is Eugene Morris Jerome (who's a stand-in for Simon himself), and actor Ryan DeLuca conveys the joys and pangs of adolescence and puberty with feeling and hilarity. He frequently addresses the audience about his interactions with his grouchy parents and his woebegon aunt, his worldly brother, his pampered cousins — he's documenting them for something he'll write when he's older, a novel or perhaps a play! And that play is the one onstage at the Playhouse, the first Neil Simon script ever presented there in more than 50 seasons. (Through Nov. 10.) Box office: 513-421-3888.

Continuing productions of the comedy
Mrs. Mannerly at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati (513-421-3555) and Shakespeare's romantic tragedy Romeo & Juliet at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company (513-381-2273, x1) have been positively reviewed and appreciated by audiences. This weekend also marks the opening of Cincy Shakes' staging of Shakespeare's bloody history of the Roman emperor Titus Andronicus, staged with tongue in cheek (and in a pie) for the Halloween season. It happens on the nights when the R&J cast takes a breather.

You might also consider two special events: New Edgecliff Theatre's annual one-night fundraiser,
Sweet Suspense Theatre, a presentation in the style of a radio play, happens on Saturday evening. This year the production, a new adaptation of Oscar Wilde's story of The Canterville Ghost, is being presented at the Cincinnati Art Museum — and includes an extended intermission with lots of goodies from local bakeries and restaurants. (Tickets: 888-588-0177). You might also want to check in with the Playhouse about ticket availability for Post Secret on Monday evening; the one-night presentation of  a piece based on an anonymous "true confessions" website is rumored to be sold out, but there might be a waiting list if you call the box office. (513-421-3888)



 
 
by Rick Pender 03.16.2012
Posted In: Theater at 10:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
onstage 3-21 - time stands still - jen johansen as sarah goodwin - photo ryan kurtz.widea

Stage Door: ETC, Playhouse, Mariemont Players

Fewer productions onstage this week, but still some great choices. On Wednesday evening I attended the premiere of Donald Margulies’ very much in-the-moment drama Time Stands Still at Ensemble Theater. It’s the story of two journalists who have been addicted to the adrenalin rush of covering wars. He’s now running away and hiding in film reviews (there’s a touch of post-traumatic stress, it seems, because he’s watching classic horror films all the time), and she’s recovering from injuries that resulted from a roadside bomb blast in Iraq. What’s next for them? Well, that’s what the play is about — a return for more or settling for a calmer, safer life, represented by a happy if unlikely couple who visit them, the photographer’s editor and mentor and his naïve young girlfriend. Four intriguing character studies add up to an evening of thoughtful drama. I gave it a Critic’s Pick; here’s a link to my review. Through April 1. Tickets: 513-421-3555

I’ve been talking with lots of people about the Cincinnati Playhouse production of Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along. It’s been directed by John Doyle, who inventively staged Sondheim’s Company in 2006, a production that moved to Broadway and earned a Tony Award. He uses the same approach this time: actors who provide their own musical accompaniment. I liked the results he got from his strong, talented cast. But I will say that this production evokes strong reactions: Some people love it, some are mystified and some hate the nontraditional approach. No one has said it’s not skillfully done, so I can safely tell you that you ought to go and see for yourself. Merrily has long been viewed as one of Sondheim’s few failures (its original run in 1981 lasted for only 16 performances on Broadway), but you wouldn’t know that from this staging: It’s a showbiz tale of chasing success that has not resulted in happiness. We start at the end of a friendship, with three people at one another’s throats, and then trace back to their earliest, optimistic moments together. With great music, a stylized set piled with pages of music (the central character is a Broadway composer) and some intriguing decisions by Doyle about elevating a realistic tale to something more deeply emotional, this version of Merrily is a fascinating production that musical theater lovers ought to see. In addition to my Critic’s Pick, this production has garnered five awards from the League of Cincinnati Theatres for Outstanding Ensemble, for performer Becky Ann Baker, for Scott Pask’s imaginative scenic design, Matt Castle’s music direction and Mary-Mitchell Campbell’s orchestrations. Can’t quite figure why director John Doyle wasn’t cited, since he’s the mastermind behind all this, but you can judge that one for yourself. Through March 31. Box office: 513-421-3888.

I don’t get to see too much community theater, but there are several companies that consistently present work worth watching: Mariemont Players is one of them. Through March 25 the company is presenting Cole, a musical tribute to the life of songwriter Cole Porter, from his days as a student at Yale, life in Paris then Manhattan then Hollywood. I haven’t seen it, but I suspect that it will be entertaining. At the Walton Creek Theater (4101 Walton Creek Road, just east of Mariemont). Tickets: 513-684-1236.

Each week in Stage Door, Rick Pender offers theater tips for the weekend, often with a few pieces of theater news.

 
 
by Rick Pender 06.05.2009
Posted In: Theater, Dance at 10:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Stage Door: Fringe. Fringe. Fringe!

I have three words for you regarding theater-going this weekend: Fringe. Fringe. Fringe.

If you haven't dropped in yet for this stimulating festival of push-the-envelope performances, you're missing out on the greatest dose of annual creativity that we get here in Cincinnati. And a lot of your friends have already caught on: Fringe Producer Eric Vosmeier tells me that as of Thursday they've hit their ticket goal for the entire festival ... and there are still two more days to go!

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by Rick Pender 03.09.2012
Posted In: Theater at 11:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
onstage 3-9 - merrily we roll along - cast at cincinnti playhouse - photo sandy underwood

Stage Door: Sondheim, Afghan Women's Writing and More

Last night I attended the opening of the Cincinnati Playhouse production of Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along. It’s been directed by John Doyle, who inventively staged Sondheim’s Company in 2006, a production that moved to Broadway and earned a Tony Award. He uses the same approach this time — actors who provide their own musical accompaniment — and the results are top-notch because he’s assembled a strong, talented cast. This show has long been viewed as one of Sondheim’s few failures, but you wouldn’t know that from this staging: It’s a showbiz tale of success that has not led to happiness. We start at the end, with three former friends at one another’s throats, and then trace back to their earliest moments together. With great music, a stylized set piled with pages of music (the central character is a composer) and some intriguing decisions by Doyle about elevating a realistic tale to something more deeply emotional, this version of Merrily is a great choice for anyone who loves musicals. Through March 31. Box office: 513-421-3888

A completely different choice is the Afghan Women’s Writing Project at Know Theatre, this weekend only. Playwrights Elizabeth Martin and Lauren Hynek took material written by women in Afghanistan who risk their lives to write their stories and turn them into material for the stage. Several outstanding local actresses — including CEA Hall of Famer Dale Hodges and frequent CEA award winner Annie Fitzpatrick — are among the interpreters. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m. If you go on Friday, plan to stick around for a post-show discussion. Tickets ($18): 513-300-5669

If you like heart-warming, schmaltzy tales, you should find your way to Newport’s Monmouth Theatre where Falcon Theatre is presenting Visiting Mr. Green. It’s the story of a young man “sentenced” to regular visits with an elderly gentleman he nearly ran over. Beneath the surface of their disparate worlds they discover some surprising common ground. What makes this rather predictable story come to life is the acting: Joshua Steele and Mike Moskowitz, who happen to be grandfather and grandson, portray their characters with believability. This is the second of two weekends, Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets: 513-479-6783

A year ago Cincinnati Shakespeare had a big hit with Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. They’ve done it again with another adaptation, Sense & Sensibility. This time it’s two sisters, one rational and one emotional, wonderfully portrayed by Kelly Mengelkoch (as the reserved, reasonable Elinor) and Sara Clark (as willful, romantic Marianne). They’re surrounded by droll supporting characters in a story of romance and domestic intrigue. I gave the production a Critic’s Pick. It’s onstage until March 18, but many performances have sold out. Tickets: 513-381-2273

Speaking of Cincinnati Shakespeare, the company recently announced its 2012-2013 season, which will feature some memorable characters — Sherlock Holmes, Atticus Finch (in To Kill a Mockingbird), Romeo & Juliet, Lady Bracknell (in Oscar Wilde’s hilarious The Importance of Being Earnest), Richard II and Nick Bottom (Midsummer Night Dream’s aspiring actor who makes an ass of himself). You can read about the entire season in my blog post from last Sunday.

Each week in Stage Door, Rick Pender theater tips for the weekend, often with a few pieces of theater news.

 
 
by Rick Pender 10.20.2010
Posted In: Television, Theater at 09:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 

Broadway "In Performance" at the White House

Tune to PBS this evening for A Broadway Celebration: In Performance at the White House (9 p.m. on WCET locally) , featuring some of the biggest stars from the New York stage. Nathan Lane emcees the quickly paced hour, Idina Menzel — recently in Cincinnati with the Pops — sings "Defying Gravity" from Wicked and "What I Did for Love" (with composer Marvin Hamlisch as her accompanist), and veteran Elaine Stritch belts out two numbers from Stephen Sondheim's Follies, "Broadway Baby" and "I'm Still Here" (the latter earns the event's only standing ovation).

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by Rick Pender 12.18.2009
Posted In: Theater at 03:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Stage Door: Sideways Stories a Hot Ticket

Audience response can be a good indicator of which holiday shows are hitting the mark. While I found the humor in Know Theatre's Sideways Stories from Wayside School to be a tad forced (you can read my full review here), the theater’s box office phone (513-300-5669) has been ringing steadily, so they've added a performance this weekend on Saturday at 3 p.m., and also on Dec. 27, the final day end of the run.

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by Rick Pender 05.25.2012
Posted In: Theater at 09:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Stage Door: Theater Offerings For a Hot Weekend

It’s a three-day weekend that’s more about being outdoors and kicking off summer fun. That being said, if you’re looking for a theater production that will give you some laughs for your weekend, I recommend catching a performance of see The Second City 2: Less Pride – More Pork at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park on its Shelterhouse Stage. I found it a notch up from the very entertaining first iteration of the show that set box-office records for the Mount Adams theater during the 2010 holiday season. Lots of hilarious fun-poking at … us. The clever cast from Chicago’s renowned comedy/improv troupe uniquely tailors each performance to the audience that shows up. Box office: 513-421-3888.

I haven’t seen the Showboat Majestic’s opening production of its 90th season (that’s right, the boat has been entertaining audiences for nine decades!), but Babes in Hollywood is another show that’s light and entertaining. It’s a revue of tunes made famous by Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney back in the 1930s and ’40s when they were happy-go-lucky adolescent stars. I did see the four-member cast do a number at last Monday’s LCT Awards event, and they have fine voices and a sense of style. I suspect this show will be popular with the grey-haired audience that frequents the Showboat, but I bet people of any age will have a good time watching. Box office: 513-241-6550.

If you want something a tad more profound, try Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s production of The Merchant of Venice, one of Shakespeare’s most difficult plays. It’s officially categorized as a comedy because it has humorous and romantic elements. But the central story about a potentially fatal argument between a moneylender and a businessman is anything but amusing. CSC’s artistic director Brian Isaac Phillips takes on the role of the rapacious moneylender who has faced anti-Semitic discrimination for his entire life. Is Shylock a villain or a victim? Shakespeare gives him aspects of each, and CSC’s production does not tilt in either direction. You get to decide, and it won’t be easy. Review here. Box office: 513-381-2273, x1.

There’s a new theater downtown, just a few doors north of Cincinnati Shakespeare’s venue. They’re calling themselves Speakeasy Theatre, and they’re performing in a storefront space at 815 Race Street. Their inaugural production is Paul Baerman’s The Whistler. The show, directed by Tim Waldrip, is set in 1965 in an unnamed Southern city where a lot a racist attitudes are out in the open. The Andy Griffith Show is in its fifth season, and the guy who whistles that show’s theme (played here by local professional actor Michael G. Bath) is living off the royalties of his work. But life gets more complicated when he meets an African-American trumpet player (Tony Davis is taking on the role) who shares his passion for music. The show just opened on Thursday and I haven’t seen it, but it’s always good to give a new theater a try. The Whistler will be onstage through June 10. Box office: 513-861-7469.

Each week in Stage Door, Rick Pender offers theater tips for the weekend, often with a few pieces of theater news.

 
 

 

 

 
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