Hello all! Let’s talk about news today.
Let’s play a rousing game of “would you rather” shall we? As in, would you rather take the upcoming Over-the-Rhine/downtown streetcar late at night when you’ve got your swerve on from your sixth OTR-brewed high-ABV craft beer, or early the next morning when you’re hungover and on the way to work? The good news: You might be able to do both. Cincinnati City Council’s transportation committee yesterday asked the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority to study whether it would be feasible to run the streetcar later than the initially proposed 10 p.m. weekday and 12 a.m. weekend cutoffs. Some businesses in OTR, as well as Mayor John Cranley, would like to see the cars run later Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights to capture the weekend bar crowd. But Cranley also suggested the cars start running at 7:30 a.m., a time many streetcar supporters say is too late to capture early-morning commuters. Other plans put forth by SORTA would start operations at 7 or even 6:30 a.m., which streetcar boosters like more. A 7:30 a.m. start time would make Cincy’s system the latest-starting of all the modern streetcar systems around the U.S., supporters of earlier times say.
• A lot happened in Cincinnati’s startup scene over the past year, including big successes by minority entrepreneur support program Mortar, lots of activity from individual grant-giving philanthropy People’s Liberty, a big expansion by startup incubator The Brandery and more. All told, a ton of things happened in Cincy's entrepreneur-centered startup economy, and you can check out a whole year-in-review piece here.
• Amid rate hikes and investigations into possible mismanagement, will Hamilton County take over operations of the Metropolitan Sewer District, which is currently run by the city of Cincinnati? Not so fast, city officials say. Mayor Cranley and members of Cincinnati City Council have warned the county that they’re not ready to hand over the reigns just yet, and while they’re open to discussions about challenges MSD is facing, they’re in no mood to cede control of the enormous operation. Last month, county commissioners sent a letter to city officials proposing a new arrangement in which the county would take over management of MSD, citing price increases for ratepayers and allegations that the sewer district is being mismanaged. But the city says those allegations are baseless. Currently, the county owns much of MSD and the city runs the sewer system, per a 1968 agreement. Much of the current strife over the MSD stems from a federal court-ordered $1 billion overhaul of the sewer system.
• It’s a rough week to be into sweets, right? First, Kroger recalled some of its brownies yesterday on the worst possible day of the year, National Brownie Day (yes that’s apparently a thing). The retailer is pulling the brownies because they might contain walnuts, even though that isn't mentioned in any allergy warning labels. And this morning, the OTR location of Holtman’s Donuts had a kitchen fire that will shutter the location for an indeterminate amount of time. This is the most upset I’ve been about baked goods since that truck ran into Servatti last year.
• Ohio lawmakers are considering a bill that would ban charter schools from using public money to advertise themselves. Democrats in the Ohio Senate are pushing the legislation because they say public schools aren't allowed to use taxpayer funds to promote themselves to parents of potential students or to take political stands on issues, but that privately run but publicly funded charter schools do so all the time. The bill wouldn't prohibit those schools from using donated money or other non-public funds to advertise.
• The Butler County GOP failed to settle on an endorsement for any of the candidates vying to replace former House Speaker John Boehner in Congress. Boehner is retiring after a two-decade run in the House, mostly due to strife within the GOP between tea party conservatives and more establishment-allied Republicans. Butler County makes up a big part of Boehner’s former 8th Congressional District, and an endorsement from the county GOP could have been a big win for a candidate looking to take the party’s nomination in the upcoming special primary election. The district, which encompasses many suburban areas north of Cincinnati, is heavily
Republican, meaning that Boehner’s successor will almost certainly be decided in the GOP primary. Who that will be, however — and whether they will be allied with the more establishment wing of the GOP or a tea party insurgent — is still very much up in the air.
• Speaking of the GOP, the fight for the party’s presidential nomination has been a non-stop circus lately, and it’s mostly thanks to one man. Yes, yes, this is another blurb about Donald Trump. The real estate mogul’s comments earlier this week suggesting the U.S. prohibit any Muslims from entering the country caused a huge outcry, drawing condemnation even from many staunch conservatives.
Despite that, however, bigwigs in the Ohio Republican party say they would stand behind Trump should he win the nomination. At least one big local party name has diverged from that trend, however: Outgoing Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann, who has said that the party needs to distance itself from Trump's rhetoric. Presumably, other party leaders are still under the assumption that there is no way Trump, who has been the GOP frontrunner for months now, can actually win the nomination and that an establishment candidate like Marco Rubio will start surging in the polls any day now. Trump has been surpassed in some polls in the GOP’s first primary state, Iowa. Unfortunately for the GOP establishment, he’s been passed up by a candidate many hate just as much: Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has continually helped goad tea party Republican representatives into defiance of party leadership in the House.
• Cincinnati Parks Director Willie Carden is under fire again. This time for messing with one of a reporter's all time favorite things: public records. Carden recently changed the retention schedule, a listing of public records available in the Parks Department for public use, without state or local approval prompting questions from State Auditor Dave Yost. But strangely enough, Carden appears to be unsure of what the retention schedule even is. The Enquirer reports when they asked him something about it while covering election issues, he responded that he didn't know what it was, and that it wasn't part of his administration. An attorney for the City Hall issued a statement saying the whole thing was a misunderstanding by the department's staff, who didn't know they needed approval prior to changing the schedule. The Parks Department has been under scrutiny in the past few months for top officials' pay and campaign donations brought on by Mayor John Cranley's election push for a parks tax levy, which failed at the polls.
• Cincinnati may get a new police chief by the end of this year, and it looks like he already might be getting a raise. City Council voted in committee yesterday to increase the top salary for police and fire chiefs to $165,000 a year. Former police chief Jeffrey Blackwell was making $135,000 a year when he was fired last September. The only candidate for the position is currently interim chief Eliot Isaac, who has hired Democratic Party Chair Tim Burke to negotiate his salary. City Manager Harry Black has said he hopes to have a new chief in place by the end of this year.
• The recent mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., the 355th in the country this year, has reignited the heated debate on gun control. While many have demanded further restrictions on guns, Boone County Sheriff Michael Helmig posted a message on his Facebook page requesting that those with conceal and carry permits carry their weapons for the safety of themselves and others. He called on his fellow Kentuckians to uphold the second amendment and protect the country from foreign and domestic terrorism.
• Several Greater Cincinnati school districts have made Niche's list of top school districts. The San Francisco-based start-up that uses data to rank schools put Indian Hill Exempted Village School District as ninth on its list of the 100 best school districts in the U.S. Also making an appearance is Sycamore Community School District at no. 66, Wyoming City School District at no. 69, Mason City School District at no. 79 and Mariemont City School District at no. 93. To see the list for yourself and an explanation of their methodology, or to guess my own home school district, which is somewhere on the list, but is far from Ohio, click here.
• Cincinnati's also made a list of one of the fastest growing areas for the creative classes. The Atlantic's CityLab found Cincinnati has a 21 percent growth in the creative class from 2000 to 2014. It's nestled comfortably between Salt Lake City and Charlotte. The post also has more fun maps and facts and figures so check it out.
• The Trump-Kasich war of 2015 continues. Gov. and GOP presidential candidate John Kasich has recently taken on the strategy of attacking fellow headline-grabbing GOP candidate and real estate tycoon Donald Trump. In response, Trump has released a 15 second video on Instagram that combines a speech given by Kasich with the sound of crickets while Trump is shown speaking to a roaring crowd, leaving just one obvious question for viewers: When will these two grow up?
• Trump has again succeeded in making headlines for another extreme, ill-informed statement. Yesterday, Trump called on the nation's leaders to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S. until authorities have figured out exactly what happened in the Dec. 2, San Bernardino, Calif. shooting that left 14 dead at a social services center by two Islamic extremists. Trump's comments, unsurprisingly, have been met with criticism across the country from many including Rick Kriseman, the mayor of St. Petersburg, Fla., who tweeted Monday night that he was banning Trump from his city until "we understand the dangerous threat posed by all Trumps."
Email me at email@example.com for story tips, questions, comments or concerns.
While this time of year is the season to go out and explore various holiday happenings, sometimes it’s nice to have a quiet movie night. As a seasoned college student, some of my favorite times with friends are the nights we hole up in bed and watch a Disney film. So when I saw that the Kenton County Public Library’s main branch was hosting a free movie screening last Tuesday, I found myself venturing to Covington for the event. The screening was of the 1993 film, And the Band Played On, a docu-drama depicting the beginnings of the AIDS virus in America. The screening was held on Dec. 1, World AIDS Day, as a way to spread education and awareness of the virus.My first worry was about walking in a few minutes late, but that concern was quickly doused when I entered the large but empty room. The film had already been started and was running through the beginning credits at the front, where dozens of vacant chairs sat in rows facing the screen. As there was no one in the audience to protest, I settled down, taking up more than my fair share of seats as I cozy. After about an hour, I looked around and noticed that I was still alone, a fact I attributed to the cold and rainy weather of the day.
The film itself was an interesting depiction of how the U.S. medical and political communities first handled the virus, especially in the wake of a changing presidential administration and the changing dynamics of the gay community at the time.
“This is the third year we have screened this film,” says Gary Pilkington, Adult Program Coordinator for the Kenton County Public Library. “At previous screenings, most people enjoyed the film. They don’t usually think about AIDS very much in their day-to-day lives, so this helped to re-focus their awareness.”According to Pilkington, it’s important to host events that bring attention to health concerns in the community. “We chose to screen And the Band Played On … to help the community understand that HIV and AIDS haven’t disappeared,” he says. “Most people don’t think twice about it unless a major celebrity reveals they have it or are HIV-positive … It has reached the point where it isn’t in the public consciousness as much as it had been, yet it is still a real threat to health.”
I learned a lot about AIDS from the film, since most of my prior knowledge had been brief training on how to safely avoid contracting HIV and AIDS from the lifeguard training I received years ago. While I personally enjoyed the film, it was disappointing to see that no one else took advantage of the free screening, but perhaps with better weather and more awareness the next showing will be packed.Find this event interesting? Check out similar events at the Kenton County Public Library:
Good morning all. Hope you had a great weekend and are quickly chipping away your holiday shopping duties. I… have barely even started, unfortunately. Anyway, here’s the news today.
The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority could see a boost from a new federal transportation spending package. The five-year, $305 billion transit spending bill is expected to clear Congress and be signed by President Barack Obama as soon as this week, and it could mean up to $20 million more a year for Ohio’s transit agencies. In addition, agencies will be able to apply for access to a pot of extra money totaling up to $300 million a year specifically aimed at improving bus service. Metro hopes to compete for some of that cash as it looks to improve service over the coming years. A report released last month found that current bus service only connects riders to about 40 percent of jobs in the city.
• Tucked away in that same transit bill might be more money for rail travel as well, which could be a great thing for an effort to bring daily rail service between the Queen City and Chicago. The local chapter of transit advocacy group All Aboard Ohio has been working hard to expand that service along Amtrak’s Cardinal Line, which currently runs trains between here and the Windy City three times a week. Those trains leave Union Terminal in the middle of the night, however, and aren’t seen as a practical transit option for many in the city. The total amount in the bill set aside to revive old train routes or expand existing ones is only $20 million for the whole country; an amount experts say won’t get Cincinnati to the finish line by itself. Though All Aboard Ohio estimates expansion of the existing Cardinal Line would only cost about $2 million, our region will have to vie with some strong contenders for the a very small pot of money. Still, transit advocates say, the increased funding is a start.
• Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Seelbach will introduce legislation designed to ban so-called conversion therapy, he has announced. The Christian-based therapy seeks to “convert” LGBT people, often youth, to heterosexual preferences. Transgender teen Leelah Alcorn, who committed suicide last year after she was bullied for her status, was enrolled in the therapy after coming out to her parents. Seelbach's proposed law would fine therapists in the city administering conversion therapy $200 a day. Cincinnati would be the first city in the country to have such a law should council approve the legislation.
• Cincinnati’s chapter of the NAACP elected new leadership last week after a year of controversy and political wrangling, and incoming officials say they’re going to bring the civil rights organization back to its roots. Robert Richardson Sr., president-elect of the Cincinnati NAACP, has announced the organization representing black Cincinnatians is severing its ties with the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes, a conservative group the local chapter often allied with under former NAACP president and now-Cincinnati City Councilman Christopher Smitherman. The change in direction comes after the chapter’s last president, Smitherman ally Ishton Morton, was sued by the civil rights organization’s national office over an allegation that it incorporated as a branch of the NAACP fraudulently and was spending money allocated to the organization without authorization to do so. Richardson says that under his tenure, the Cincinnati NAACP will return its focus to core civil rights issues such as voting access.
• A short, sad note: Local AM talk radio station 1230 WDBZ The Buzz is no more. The station, which served as Cincinnati’s main talk station serving the city’s black community, has been replaced by gospel programing by parent company Radio One. The Buzz was more or less the only station in town airing a number of programs dedicated to exploring and discussing issues within the black community. Talk show host Lincoln Ware, whose show runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., will stay on the air, as will a syndicated program by Al Sharpton, but all other Buzz programming has ceased.
• Ohio Gov. John Kasich has been pulling in the most money of any GOP presidential primary candidate in his home state, but other candidates have more donors giving smaller amounts, according to campaign finance records. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson led Ohio in terms of number of donors with more than 2,400, followed by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. But Kasich’s campaign did take home a pretty good amount of cash, raking in more than $2 million from his donors in Ohio. He’s going to need those fat stacks, though. Kasich is still lagging behind in polls, and recent flubs, including a less-than-stellar debate appearance and an abandoned call to create a new government agency to spread Judeo-Christian values, haven’t helped his chances.
• Cincinnati-based Macy’s Department Stores are the subject of a lawsuit out of New York City alleging the store discriminates racially against shoppers there. The lawsuit says the chain takes advantage of a so-called “shopkeeper’s privilege” law which allows stores to hold suspected shoplifters and demand civil penalties without a trial. New York resident Cinthia Carolina Reyes Orelanna filed the suit, saying that in July 2014 she was detained by security employees at a store in New York City and held until she paid a $100 fine. She was then released to the NYPD. Shoplifting charges against her were eventually dismissed. Orelanna’s suit claims that more than 6,000 shoppers were detained in this way by Macy’s stores in New York between October 2012 and October 2013.
And I’m out. Later all.
FRIDAYSPORTS: REDSFEST So maybe they came in last in the NL Central last season, but they’re still our Cincinnati Reds, and while they may not win the season, they always win the traditions. Redsfest is the team’s annual winter warm-up, offering fans of all ages a chance to interact with Reds past, present and future with autograph signings, games and other activities. See appearances from the likes of Homer Bailey, Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier, Joey Votto, Marty Brennaman and more, plus play on an indoor baseball field, check out Reds-related booth displays, visit the Hall of Fame and pick up some authentic merchandise. But Redsfest isn’t just about the Reds — it helps sustain the Reds Community Fund, the philanthropic arm of the team, which improves the lives of young people through baseball. 3 p.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Saturday. $17 single-day pass; $25 two-day pass. Duke Energy Convention Center, 525 Elm St., Downtown, cincinnati.reds.mlb.com.
HOLIDAY: CINCIDEUTSCH CHRISTKINDLMARKTCincideutsch, Cincinnati’s society for German speakers, hosts its annual Bavarian-inspired Christmas market on Fountain Square. Inspired by the famous holiday markets across Germany, Christkindlmarkt features gifts made by local vendors and artisans, traditional German eats and Glühwein (aka hot spiced wine). Another good excuse to break out the dirndl. Weekends through Dec. 20. Free admission. Fountain Square, Fifth and Vine streets, Downtown, myfountainsquare.com.
ONSTAGE: AS YOU LIKE ITWho knew cross-dressing could be such fun? Apparently Shakespeare did. All the actors on the Elizabethan stage were men, so having Rosalind dress as a man while hiding in the Forest of Arden was a kind of double-down trick. While disguised, she finds the forest’s trees covered with love poems about her “real” self. What’s a girl to do? That’s what As You Like It is about. One of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies, it’s a good-natured choice for the holidays. Audience favorite Sara Clark will play Rosalind; she excels with verbal comedy, so be prepared to laugh. Through Dec. 12. $22-$39. Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, 719 Race St., Downtown, 513-381-2273, cincyshakes.com.
11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. Free admission. 20th Century Theater, 3021 Madison Road, Oakley, theoffmarket.org.
It seems slightly inaccurate to describe the past decade without the ebullient adrenaline rush of Sleater-Kinney as a hiatus. It implies that the trio’s members — guitarists/vocalists Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker and drummer Janet Weiss — have been preoccupied with the scent of long-neglected roses and gazing into heretofore unexplored navels between 2005’s The Woods and this year’s across-the-board-excellent No Cities to Love. Given the artists recent schedules, Sleater-Kinney needed a hiatus from its hiatus. Read a full feature on the band here. Sleater-Kinney plays Bogart’s Sunday. Tickets/more info: bogarts.com.
HOLIDAY: ICE RINK ON FOUNTAIN SQUARE
Fountain Square’s Ice Rink is officially open, offering daily skating and special events all the way through February. Rent a pair of skates on-site and spend the day in the heart of downtown. Open daily. $6 admission; $4 skate rental. Fifth and Vine streets, Downtown, myfountainsquare.com.
COMEDY: RANDY LIEDTKE
Randy Liedtke is a Los Angles-based comedian who hails from Oregon. He’s known for obtuse jokes that feature odd turns. “The last few days of my grandmother’s life was spent in a hospice home surrounded by her family,” he tells an audience. “It was getting late at night so we ordered a pizza and the delivery guy shows up to the home and we’re like, ‘Pizza’s here!’ ” But it was at that exact moment his grandmother passed. Liedtke swears this story is true. “How long do you have to wait to eat in that situation? I don’t want to be rude, but we all agreed we were hungry 20 minutes ago.” Thursday-Sunday. $8-$14. Go Bananas, 8410 Market Place Lane, Montgomery, gobananascomedy.com.
HOLIDAY: BRICKMASNewport on the Levee has partnered with the Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana LEGO Users Group to present BRICKmas. This holiday display is centered around one of the world’s favorite toys, but in large-scale. With more than 13 scenes built out of LEGO bricks — from a life-size Santa head to a Star Wars tribute to giant models of Music Hall, Washington Park and the Roebling Bridge — there’s a bit of everything. Through Jan. 1. $10. Newport on the Levee, 1 Levee Way, Newport, Ky., newportonthelevee.com.
ART: FIELD GUIDE AT THE CINCINNATI ART MUSEUM
Jochen Lempert, the German photographer whose first major U.S. museum show, Field Guide, is now at the Cincinnati Art Museum, combines the metaphysical with the biological so well that the effect is often magical. Or, I should say, the effect is downright scientific. He’d appreciate that latter term — he’s a trained biologist who turned to art photography in the 1990s. Yet much of his work achieves magic by making something ephemeral concrete and vice versa. This is a show to spend some time with, because the way individual images affect the viewer often depends on the size and placement of the black-and-white prints. And the impact upon our cognitive process of seeing, in close proximity to each other, close-ups of sand (“Etruscan Sand,” a 2009 photogram), “Rain” (a 2003 photograph) and “Crushed Shells” (a 2013 photogram) teaches us as much about ourselves as photography. Read more about the exhibit here. Jochen Lempert’s Field Guide is on display at the CAM until March 6. More info: cincinnatiartmuseum.org.
The cold temperature Thursday night was appropriate for the solemn gathering on the plaza outside the main entrance of U.S. Bank Arena. Since the 30th anniversary of the Dec. 3, 1979 Who concert tragedy — 11 people died in the crush trying to get inside the doors of what was then Riverfront Coliseum — Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation has been having memorial observances with lighting of lanterns outside the site on that date.
At last night’s observance, which drew a sizeable crowd, the organization unveiled the two-sided memorial marker that will now permanently be at the location. It had been a long time in the works.
Before that occurred, Andy Bowes — brother of victim Peter Bowes of Wyoming — gave a speech to the crowd that included reading a statement of support for the memorial from the Who’s longtime manager, Bill Curbishley. Here it is:
“With the laying of the marker in dedication to those that lost their lives at the Riverfront Coliseum, on this day in 1979, I would like to pay tribute from myself and the two surviving members of the Who, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend. I can fully understand how difficult it has been for the families who lost a loved one to go forward and attempt to regain their lives. That night will always stay with myself, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend. It is a scar from the past and though the wound has healed, the scar is still there to be touched on occasion and felt. The band themselves were not aware of what had happened and were playing on stage when I was informed and saw the devastation on the plaza level. Nothing will erase that memory other than their soft edges.
“It’s with this in mind that I decided not to attend today because I felt it should not be turned into a Who media day or circus. There has to be dignity to this ceremony and the unfolding of the dedication of remembrance. This is not about the Who or their music but it’s about the families involved. Many people suffered as a result of that day and I am sure that many still do. If myself and the band can be of any assistance in the healing process going forward we are there for you.
Mayor John Cranley, who promised at last year’s observance to dedicate a permanent memorial marker at this one, also gave a brief, moving address. He closed with, “Something happened a long time ago but is still with us. As your mayor, I’m proud to stand with you and say we will never forget.”
The band, itself, posted a short online comment, “Today we remember those 11 Who fans who lost their lives in the crush to enter the Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati, Ohio. May they rest in peace.”
Incidentally, something that seems to have gone overlooked at the time it occurred here but has continuing resonance and pertinence today can be discovered in a YouTube clip of Pearl Jam playing at U.S. Bank Arena on Oct. 1, 2014.
During that band’s 2000 appearance at a Danish festival, nine fans in the mosh pit died from suffocation. At U.S. Bank Arena, Eddie Veder reminded the crowd about the tragedy outside the arena in 1979 and how the Who “have to go on living with that event that happened 35 years ago. That became something we had to learn about, and they reached out to us when we really needed it.”
Pear Jam then played “The Real Me,” the last song the Who performed in Cincinnati at the December 3, 1979 show. Here’s the clip:
For more background on this new memorial, read my Big Picture column in this week's issue.
December is full of shows for your holiday viewing pleasure:
Every five years or so, Ensemble Theatre rolls out a new production of its holiday rendition of Cinderella. This one just opened on Wednesday, and while it’s the same material that was presented in 2005 and 2010, it’s been freshened with a new set and colorful costumes — and especially a vibrant cast with great voices for the tunes with lyrics by David Kisor and melodies by Fitz Patton. Brooke Steele is picture-perfect as the golly-gee title character who prefers reading to going to a ball. But Kate Wilford as “Gwendolyn the Well Wisher” (“I give good advice and then wish you well,” she tells everyone with a sweep of her hand to musical accompaniment) encourages her to go so she can meet Prince Frederick (Warren Bryson), who happens to be another bookworm. They’re a lovely couple who overcome the modest barriers thrown their way (she loses a pink sneaker that helps him locate her later), but the show’s real energy comes from Sara Mackie and Torie Wiggins as Cinderella’s crass stepsisters. They’re loudmouthed losers, spewing malapropisms and ridiculous self-aggrandizement (Wiggins’ Clarissa bellows competitively, “My patheticism outshines all others”) — constantly mugging and fawning and arguing. Deb G. Girdler as their manipulative mother Brunhilda is also great fun to watch as she tries to control events to her own advantage. As is always the case with ETC’s holiday musicals with scripts by local playwright Joe McDonough, there’s a timely moral: “The essence of true beauty lies … beyond what’s seen by normal eyes.” Oh, Cinderella and Frederick wear glasses — but they see love pretty clearly. Through Jan. 3. Tickets: 513-421-3555
I’ve been attending A Christmas Carol at the Cincinnati Playhouse for 25 years, as long as they have produced it. The script — Howard Dallin excellent adaptation of Dickens’ classic story — is top-notch and doesn’t need to be tinkered, but with actors coming and going, it’s always fun to see how things shake out from one year to the next. Greg Procaccino is the only actor to be in the show every year, playing Marley’s regretful ghost and slimy junk buyer Old Joe; the always-watchable Bruce Cromer holds the longevity record playing Scrooge (11 years, after 8 as Bob Cratchit). Kathleen Wise brings a light, bemused touch to Christmas Past in her first year; returning performers include Ryan Gilreath as nervous, angular Cratchit and Kelly Mengelkoch as the patient, loving Mrs. Cratchit, as well as Douglas Rees as the ebullient Fezziwig and Annie Fitzpatrick as his playful wife. There’s a new Tiny Tim for 2015, Henry Charles Weghorst, the tiniest ever, I believe (he needs two pillows to sit at the dining table), and truly adorable. This Playhouse production continues to be a joy to watch, a glorious, glittering set and costumes that deliver you to the mid-19th century. Pay attention to the David Smith’s sound design and recorded music, which set the emotional tone for virtually every scene. A Christmas Carol is a welcome Cincinnati holiday tradition. Through Dec. 30. Tickets 513-421-3888
Cincinnati Landmark Productions is offering shows at both of its venues this month; neither is holiday per se, although the musical Rent (at the Warsaw Federal Incline Theatre in Price Hill through Dec. 20) begins and ends with Christmas, celebrating a year of the “seasons of love” experienced by a clutch of impoverished young artists in New York’s East Village. This is a high-quality production, a great choice for fans of contemporary Rock music. Rent is almost 20 years old, but it has stood the test of time, especially as performed by the Incline’s committed, diverse cast of excellent, energetic singers. Tyler Kuhlman as the depressed guitarist Roger has the looks and the vocal chops for the role, and Lisa Glover is a fine match as Mimi, the sexy club dancer and drug addict who makes a lot of bad choices. Kelcey Steele provides the necessary connective tissue as videographer Mark, and RJ Caldwell ably portrays Tom Collins, an anarchist professor and street activist with AIDS. But the production’s most memorable performances come from Aiden Sims as Maureen, the brassy performance artist, and especially charismatic Christopher Carter as the transgender drag queen Angel: His high-flying rendition of “Today 4 U” is a show-stopper. The ensemble shines when presenting of Rent’s iconic numbers, particularly “La Vie Bohème and “Seasons of Love.” This production is a bold choice for the new venue, seeking audiences in search of more ambitious, adult fare — there were empty seats on opening night. Rent offers strong evidence that the Incline is up to the challenge. I give this one a Critic’s Pick. … I was part of a very full house for Mary Poppins last Sunday (at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts, also finished on Dec. 20); this production is clearly intended as holiday fare for families. I wish it were a bit more joyous. Mary (Alyssa Hostetler, who’s a fine singer) is a rather starchy character who’s not very loveable. The uptight Banks family she convinces to reconnect and have fun has an initially irritable dad (Dave Wilson, another excellent voice) and a mom who’s a budding feminist (Sarah Viola, who sings very well, too) — these aren’t characters that children can instantly love. Even the two Banks kids (Lili Shires and Peter Godsey, who work hard at being coy) are kind of obnoxious. The production felt long, with numerous labored scene changes. On the other hand, the audience had a great time — the songs (familiar from the 1964 movie) are beloved, and everyone seems to know them. That’s fun. Tickets: 513-241-6550
The touring production of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas wraps up its engagement on Sunday. It’s a fine cast of singers and dancers, a production full of familiar tunes that’s worth seeing if you have the scratch for seats at the Aronoff Center. Tickets: 513-621-2787
If you prefer something not holiday-oriented, Xavier University’s theater program is staging Kenneth Lonergan’s This Is Our Youth. It’s a three-character play from the 1990s (set in the early 1980s) about young people struggling with the transition to adulthood. Guest director Ed Stern, the Playhouse’s retired artistic director, told me it was a great opportunity to work with actors who are exactly the right age to play these roles. Read more from Stern in my recent Curtain Call column. Performances are this weekend only, including a Sunday matinee. Xavier Box Office: 513-745-3939
Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
There looks to be another very artful Cincinnati-related movie, besides Carol, that is on important Best Films of 2015 lists, wins critics awards and even figures in Oscar nominations.
And it wouldn’t be Don Cheadle’s Miles Ahead, which like Carol was predominately filmed in Cincinnati but set in New York. Sony Classics isn’t planning to release that Miles Davis biopic, which Cheadle directed and stars in, until April.
Rather, this is a film that is set in Cincinnati but wasn’t shot here because it’s an animated feature for adults that uses stop-motion puppets.
It’s called Anomalisa and was written and co-directed by the always-adventurous Charlie Kaufman, who wrote Being John Malkovich and Adaptation and also wrote and directed Synecdoche, New York. (The co-director is Duke Johnson.) Anomalisa started life as a 2005 play called Hope Leaves the Theater.
I have not seen it, but going by online and print stories from those who have, it is the tale of a depressed, married motivational speaker who, on a trip to Cincinnati that features a one-night hotel stay, believes he has found his ideal mate. But there may be complications.
David Thewlis voices the lead character; Jennifer Jason Leigh is the woman he is attracted to. All other characters are voiced by Tom Noonan and have the same faces. That latter fact is important because it could be interpreted as a characteristic of a delusion called Fregoli Syndrome. In fact, the hotel in the film is named Fregoli.
Independently financed, partly through Kickstarter, Anomalisa has won raves since premiering at Telluride and Venice film festivals in September. Britain’s Sight & Sound, one of the world’s most important film journals, has just ranked it the 11th best new film of 2015 — Carol ranked second. And both it and Carol are Best Feature nominees for the Independent Spirit Awards.
It has been acquired by Paramount Pictures and is getting a limited release at the end of this month, after playing at film festivals, to qualify for Academy Awards. A huge poster board for its (still-undetermined) Cincinnati opening is already up at Esquire Theatre.
If all this sounds too good to be true, there is a catch. Advance reports and early reviews don’t make it appear that Anomalisa’s depiction of Cincinnati is an especially complimentary one. In fact, the city just might have been chosen intentionally as an appropriate place for someone like the film’s principal character, Michael Stone, to have an emotional crisis.
Here’s how Rodrigo Perez’ review on Indie Wire began:
“With apologies in advance to the people of Cincinnati, in the worldview of Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson's Anomalisa, or at least to the misfortune of its characters, the Queen City represents a soul-crushing dullness and boredom that could drive any man mad. For customer service guru and author Michael Stone (brilliantly voiced by David Thewlis as a classic Kaufman-esque misanthrope), already fundamentally unhappy and in the midst of a huge existential crisis, Cincy is a grueling hell on Earth of fatuous people and irritating small talk.
“In all fairness, it could be any faceless and anonymous city — part of Kaufman’s aim is to examine and send-up the mundanity of the business trip and that odd experience of feeling like an alien exploring the world of this not-quite-real, single-serving fantasy existence where people wait on you hand and foot.”
Whatever its take on Cincinnati, the work that went into making Anomalisa is impressive. According to the Crafting Anomalisa short, it involved the creation of 1,261 faces and 1,000 costumes and required 118,089 frames of film to reach its final 90-minute running time.
Good morning, Cincinnati! Here are your morning headlines.
• Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters yesterday released video footage of the June 19 Madisonville shooting of Cincinnati Police Officer Sonny Kim. The video from Officer Tom Sandmann's dash cam shows suspect Trepierre Hummons charging off screen while Officer Kim is seen lying on the ground with Hummons' mother kneeling beside him in an attempt to aid him. Hummons was fatally shot by Officer Sandmann, which is not seen in the video, but the video appears to support the notion that Sandmann acted according to police procedure as Hummons apparently had already shot Officer Kim. Deters praised Officer Sandmann's response for stopping what he believed was an attempt at mass murder by Hummons and said Sandmann won't face charges. The case never went before a grand jury because Deters said he found Officer Sandmann's reaction justified.
Deters released two versions of the dash cam footage yesterday: one 50 minutes uncensored and one shorter pixelated version which blurs out Officer Kim lying on the ground, which was played at the press conference. Deters has waited more than five months after the shooting to release the video because of the ongoing investigation into the incident, which is now closed. The case has sparked some attention for when the appropriate time is to release footage of officer involved shootings after the body camera footage of former University of Cincinnati Police Officer Ray Tensing was released just two weeks after he fatally shot unarmed motorist Samuel Dubose on July 19.
• One of Cincinnati's bridges could be in line for a federally funded multi-million dollar makeover. The Brent Spence Bridge project could possibly get hundreds of millions of dollars from a five-year $281-million transportation bill. The bridge is one of the many connecting Ohio to Kentucky and is a priority of the business community to fix as it is a constant source of congestion and is functionally obsolete, but remains a necessary daily route for transporting many goods. The feds will not foot the bill for the entire cost of the project, which is at an estimated $2.6 billion, and the Greater Cincinnati area will have to match the funds, which might mean charging tolls.
• The Cincinnati chapter of the NAACP has elected Robert Richardson, Jr. as its new president. The chapter, faced with legal troubles, hasn't functioned in a year. Richardson will be the first leader since 2012. The race to become the newest leader of the historic organization that represents minorities wasn't hard for Richardson, as his name was the only one on the ballot. According to the Enquirer, he's hoping his team will restore focus on civil rights issues facing the city.
• It's finally winter, my least favorite season. If you planning on surviving the next few months like me by curling up with an alcoholic beverage to pass the miserable days of snow and ice, there's good news. Local brewery MadTree announced that it's at capacity and looking for a new facility. Its co-founder Kenny McNutt says he's eyeing the old RockTenn Co. paper mill in Oakley as the next potential brewing spot. McNutt apparently underestimated Cincinnati's diehard love of beer and says the company has grown a lot faster than anticipated. The company hasn't said what will happen to its original home on Kennedy Avenue, and there's no timeline yet for when they are planning to relocate.
• But if drinking in locally run businesses is not your style, well, Starbucks has also applied for permits to serve beer, wine and liquor at its new location in the recently opened Liberty Center. The giant coffee chain is trying out an evening concept and would actually include local brews, too. Starbucks has applied for liquor permits in other Ohio cities like Dayton, Columbus, Cleveland and Toledo.
• By now, you've probably heard of the horrific mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, which happened yesterday morning around 11 a.m. Police have identified two suspects, Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, who reportedly walked into a social services center and killed 14 and wounded 17 during an office holiday party. Farook reportedly worked at the center. The couple was killed several hours later after a shootout with local police.