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by Rick Pender 08.17.2012
Posted In: Theater at 11:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
onstage 8-15 - xanadu at the carnegie - photo matt steffen

Stage Door: 'Xanadu' and You

If it weren't for the Carnegie's production of Xanadu, there wouldn't much to point you for theater choices in mid-August. I'm happy to report that the judges from the League of Cincinnati Theatres and I  are in agreement that this frothy piece of roller-disco and Greek mythology is a great piece of silly entertainment. (Review here.) It's great to see the work of Alan Patrick Kenny onstage again in Cincinnati. I should mention that this show constituted his master's thesis for his graduate degree from U.C.L.A., and his advisors came to town to pass judgment on it. They apparently gave him a passing grade, completing his academic efforts and green-lighting him for his new job teaching musical theater at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point. I hope it's not too long before he gets another gig locally, but in the meantime, I bet the folks in central Wisconsin will be highly entertained. If you want to catch Xanadu, you should call for tickets now, since the positive buzz means that tickets will be getting snapped up between now and the final performance on Aug. 26. Box office: 859-957-1940.

One other show that some of you might find entertaining is Rounding Third, on board the Showboat Majestic. It's about two wildly different guys coaching a Little League team — one is a win-at-all-costs kind of guy, the other is a geek who just wants the kids to have fun. You can imagine the fireworks. The LCT judging panel recommended it, and I can say that it's got two solid actors performing it. I thought the script was a tad predictable, but it's got some good laughs, and if you love baseball (or if you played Knothole ball here in Cincinnati) you'll find a lot to identify with. Box office: 513-241-6550.



 
 
by Rick Pender 08.10.2012
Posted In: Theater at 10:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ac_alankenny_jf3

Stage Door: 'Xanadu' and 'Rounding Third'

The theater scene is still in vacation mode this weekend, so there are only a few choices. Your best sure bet is the final weekend of The Hound of the Baskervilles at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company through Sunday. [REVIEW LINK]I suspect if you're a Sherlock Holmes fan with a sense of humor, you'll love this production: It does follow the plot of Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle's ace detective's greatest adventure, but it does so in a very tongue-in-cheek and slapstick manner. It's also a romp for three actors who play all the roles, including veteran CSC actor Jeremy Dubin who is Holmes as well as all the villains (or potential villains) in the piece. It's as much fun watching the trio do quick costume changes as it is following the story of a cursed family on a remote moor in Northern England. It's been a busy box office for this production, so be sure to call in advance if you want a ticket. 513-381-2273, x1.

The Carnegie Center's production of
Xanadu doesn't open until Saturday, but the odds are good that it will be worth seeing since it's being staged by wunderkind director Alan Patrick Kenny. Read more about Kenny here. The musical is based on the cult-favorite cinematic flop from 1980, reinvented more recently as a stage production by a clever creative team. Kenny, who dazzled local audiences for three years with productions at New Stage Collective (2007-2009), returns for a brief directing stint before he moves off to Stevens Point, Wisc., where he'll be teaching theater at a University of Wisconsin campus. He's spent the past two years studying directing at UCLA — and being engaged in some creative staging and a bit of professional work, too, while on the West Coast. He's one of the most inventive and fearless directors to stage work in Cincinnati in recent years, so Xanadu at the Carnegie s a production that's probably going to draw a crowd. (It's only having eight performances, through Aug. 26. Box office: 859-957-1940.

I saw the Showboat Majestic's
Rounding Third when it opened on Wednesday evening. It's a tale of dads who coach Little League baseball from very different perspectives. I'm afraid the script is rife with cliches and stereotypes, but the actors — it's a two-man show; when they address the team, they're talking to the audience — capture the essence of their characters. Mike Sherman plays a win-at-all-costs head coach while Michael Schlotterbeck is a gentle nebbish who's trying to connect with his geeky son by offering to be an assistant coach. They're differing philosophies are the meat of the story, and they do end up learning from one another — although the story is pretty predictable from the get-go. Nevertheless, a baseball story in August might be just the thing you're looking for in some summer entertainment. 513-241-6550.

 
 
by Rick Pender 08.03.2012
Posted In: Theater at 09:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
to do - hound of baskervilles @ cincy shakes - magnifying glass (l-r, brent vimtrup, jeremy dubin & nick rose) - photo jeanna vella

Stage Door: Cincy Shakes to the Rescue

Light entertainment is what most of us are looking for onstage during August, and Cincinnati Shakespeare Company has just the answer: The Hound of the Baskervilles. The amusing script takes Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's class Sherlock Holmes tale and turns it into a silly romp around the moor. CSC's cast of three veteran performers — Nick Rose, Jeremy Dubin and Brent Vimtrup — have just the right attitude to keep it amusing from start to finish without becoming tiresome. That's also due to the work of director Michael Evan Haney. He's the longtime associate artistic director at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, and he's done fine work on other stages locally, but this is his debut with Cincy Shakes. It's a fine partnership, building on his experience with a similar show — a funny romp through Around the World in 80 Days that entertained Playhouse/Shelterhouse audiences several years back and then moved on to New York City where it had a successful run at the Irish Repertory Theatre. Hound is like drinking fine English tea from a dribble cup. Review here. Tickets: 513-381-2273, x1.

While other theaters are largely dormant, the folks at Cincy Shakes are very busy in August. In addition to the aforementioned production at their Race Street theater, they also launch their Shakespeare in the Park series this weekend with a performance of
The Tempest at Seasongood Pavilion in Eden Park. It gets its first outing on Saturday evening at 7 p.m. Go to cincyshakes.com for more dates and locations. These are free performances, so they're definitely worth checking out.

And in case you need a reminder that we have a great theater scene locally, here's a tidbit. The Phoenix Theatre in Indianapolis just announced its 2012-2013 season; this is a fine theater company, rather like Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati in its presentation of new works. But they're touting their September production of
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson as the "Midwest Premiere," and they've given a similar designation to their January-February staging of next to normal. Um, I'm sorry to burst their bubble, but those shows have already been onstage here in Cincinnati (and I believe we're in the Midwest). Both were produced last season. In fact, ETC offered next to normal last September (not long after the Tony and Pulitzer prize winner closed in New York) and  already presented a sold-out revival in June. Know Theatre gave us the hard-rockin' version of our seventh president in a heavily sold run last spring. So the Indy theater's claims are more than a bit overblown. But we'll let them believe their own hype, and aren't we smug that we didn't have to leave town to see those shows. That being said, the Phoenix is offering Seminar, a snarky drama by Cincinnati native Theresa Rebeck (her play Dead Accounts had its world premiere at the Cincinnati Playhouse back in January) this fall (Oct. 25-Nov. 25) and Nicky Silver's dark comedy The Lyons next spring (Feb. 28-March 31). Both could be worth the drive. www.phoenixtheatre.org.

 
 
by Rick Pender 07.27.2012
Posted In: Theater at 09:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
todo_onstage_weddingsinger_hollyyurchison

Stage Door: 'Wedding Singer' and 'Hound of the Baskervilles'

I can't say that a musical based on the Adam Sandler film The Wedding Singer is going to be either edifying or educational for a bunch of teens. But I can assure you that the kids from all over the region involved in Cincinnati Young People's Theatre, which opens its production of the show tonight, will be having a blast at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts. I bet their good times with this goofy show will mean contagious entertainment for everyone who shows up to see it. Whether they're related to the kids or not! It's onstage through Aug. 5. Box office: 513-241-6550.

It appears that Cincinnati Shakespeare Company has a summertime hit on its hands with its very tongue-in-cheek staging of
The Hound of the Baskervilles using three of its best actors. The show opened a week ago and there is so much demand for tickets that CSC has added matinee performances through the production's three-week run. Several performances have completely sold out. It's directed by Michael Evan Haney, associate artistic director at the Cincinnati Playhouse and one of our area's best at staging witty and complicated pieces — his Cincinnati Playhouse production of Around the World in Eighty Days was a big hit several seasons back (it used four actors) and it moved on to a well-received run in New York City. While Hound retells the well known Sherlock Holmes tale, it does it with actors in multiple roles (Jeremy Dubin, who portrays Holmes, for instance, also plays all the villains) and a lot of visual humor and slapstick physicality. Through Aug. 12. Box office: 513-381-2273. 

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

 
 
by Rick Pender 07.20.2012
Posted In: Theater at 09:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
to do - hound of baskervilles @ cincy shakes - magnifying glass (l-r, brent vimtrup, jeremy dubin & nick rose) - photo jeanna vella

Stage Door: CSC's 'Hound of the Baskervilles'

Some fine entertainment can be found onstage this weekend. Just opening is Cincinnati Shakespeare's production of The Hound of the Baskervilles, a clever, three-man rendition done in the style of The 39 Steps, with actors taking on multiple roles and looking for moments of humor and slapstick. In addition to using three fine actors from CSC's company — Jeremy Dubin, Nick Rose and Brent Vimtrup — the show is being staged by Michael Evan Haney, associate artistic director at the Cincinnati Playhouse. A few years back he staged a similar version of Around the World in 80 Days that was an entertaining delight. Haney is one of our finest local directors, so you can expect this to be a production definitely worth seeing. It opens tonight and runs through Aug. 12. Box office: 513-381-2273, x1.

In its final weekend onstage, Commonwealth Dinner Theatre's production of The Foreigner continues through Sunday. It's a daffy situation comedy about a shy Brit stuck at a fishing lodge in rural Georgia where there are a lot of nefarious goings-on. To help him cope, his friend tells the innkeeper that Charlie is a "foreigner" who doesn't speak English. That premise leads to all kinds of complications and a hilariously happy ending. This production is a laugh machine, but its star Roderick Justice is absolutely perfect in the role, giving it a funny physicality to match the comedic writing. Box office: 859-572-5464.

And if the weekend isn't enough for you, call up Know Theatre and make a reservation for Monday evening's quarterly dose of
True Theatre. This time the theme for sincerely presented monologues is "true Grit." It will be an evening of storytelling, tales of perseverance, endurance and survival from everyday people. These programs are always fascinating because they're told with heartfelt honesty. I highly recommend attending; tickets are only $15. Box office: 513-300-5669.

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

 
 
by Rick Pender 07.13.2012
Posted In: World Choir Games, Theater at 08:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
to do_onstage the foreigner_photo mikki schaffner

Stage Door: 'The Foreigner' + World Choir Games

The best theatrical entertainment onstage this weekend is The Foreigner, presented by the Commonwealth Theatre Company at Northern Kentucky University. I saw it a week ago (review here) and it's a winner — a very funny play with a marvelously inventive performance by Roderick Justice in the title role. He plays a painfully shy man who tries to avoid social contact by posing as someone who doesn't speak English, even though he's quite literate. The concept doesn't quite work out as planned when his "cover" means that people have all kinds of revealing conversations around him. The plot is hilarious, but it's Justice's performance that makes it run like clockwork. It's part of a dinner theater package — dinner at 6:30 most nights, show at 8:00 p.m. Tickets: 859-572-5464.

There's not a lot of theater right now, but if you're looking for great onstage entertainment right now, the World Choir Games have plenty to offer. I've been blogging about it for the past week, and you can read more here. Events and performances through Saturday evening.
www.2012worldchoirgames.com.

 
 
by Rick Pender 06.29.2012
Posted In: Theater at 09:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
porgy and bess cred

Stage Door: Last Chances

'The Second City 2' and 'next to normal' conclude this weekend, among others

It’s a weekend of last chances, as several shows that have been entertaining audiences wind up their runs just before Independence Day. Let’s start with The Second City 2: Less Pride … More Pork. If you haven’t yet caught this evening of poking fun at our local foibles and sacred cows, you have only until Saturday. The cast of five from Chicago’s legendary comedy troupe has been tickling local funny bones since late April, drawing their material from bottomless well of our beliefs and behaviors. Even if you saw the show a month or two ago, you’ll be entertained by a return visit. Improv is the fuel for the evening, and every night they’re up to new tricks to entertain audiences. By the way, that includes involving a few folks in attendance, so be prepared. Box office: 513-421-3888.

Sunday winds up Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati’s revival of the Tony Award-winning musical next to normal. (Review here.) The story of a woman struggling with schizophrenia and how it affects her family is even better than it was back in September. The show uses the power of a brilliant Rock score to enhance the impact of this painful story. ETC has reassembled most of its superb cast from last fall, including Jessica Hendy in the central role. Her beleaguered husband is now played by Bruce Cromer, who you might know as Ebenezer Scrooge in the Playhouse’s annual A Christmas Carol. His character’s relationship with Hendy’s makes their struggles all the more deeply felt. Box office: 513-421-3555.

Last Sunday I had some good laughs at the classic comedy Arsenic and Old Lace on the Showboat Majestic. It’s an old chestnut (it was a hit in 1944), but it’s one of the funniest shows you’re likely to see, about a pair of off-kilter elderly maiden aunts who keep their rather normal nephew astonished and scrambling to keep them in line. The kind-hearted women take in boarders, quiet elderly men who are “all alone in the world,” and polish them off with elderberry wine laced with arsenic. They convince another nephew, who believes he’s Teddy Roosevelt, to bury them in the basement by telling him they’re Panama Canal works who are victims of yellow fever. A great show for the whole family. Box office: 513-241-6550.

Also winding up this weekend is Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). This rambunctious show mentions of all the Bard’s works — although many are completely unrecognizable, thanks the three buffoonish guys who undertake the task. Order your tickets online where you’ll find an automatic buy-one, get-one offer. Website: www.cincyshakes.com.

Cincinnati Opera is offering Porgy & Bess for the first time ever, with a performances on Saturday evening (as well as July 6 and 8). (Preview here.) Is it an opera or a musical? Judge for yourself (and read about it in my Curtain Call column in next week’s issue of CityBeat). It’s at Music Hall, with lots of seats, but as always, a limited run. This is one you shouldn’t miss. I saw it Thursday night, and the leading performers are great: Measha Brueggergosman is a conflicted Bess, Jonathan Lemalu conveys Porgy’s dignified but depressed life, Gordon Hawkins is the brutal Crown, and Steven Cole steals the show as the animated, irreverent Sporting Life. And pay attention to the chorus — it’s a wonderful ensemble. Box office: 513-241-2742.

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

 
 
by Rick Pender 06.26.2012
Posted In: Theater at 09:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
rent - footlighters inc. - photo provided

Community Theater Award Winners

Nineteen all-volunteer community theaters honored

Last weekend a dozen Cincinnati-area community theaters competed in the annual Regional OCTA Fest, each presenting 30-minute excerpts of shows that had been produced sometime during the 2011-2012 season. Performances were presented on Thursday, Friday and Saturday; the final day was capped by the annual Orchid Awards recognition program on Saturday evening, where more than 60 productions received awards.

The excerpt competition, with performances evaluated by three adjudicators from elsewhere in Ohio, results in three productions being selected to go to the statewide event on Labor Day weekend. Selected this year were Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, presented by the Drama Workshop; the musical Avenue Q, presented by Showbiz Players; and the musical Rent, presented by Footlighters, Inc. An alternate is selected, too, in the event that some complication prevents one of the chosen productions from traveling to the state competition. The 2012 alternate is An Inspector Calls, presented by The Village Players.

Nineteen Cincinnati community theaters — all-volunteer groups that produce shows throughout the region — were honored with Orchid Awards at Saturday’s banquet, with recognition for individuals as well as elements of productions. Footlighters, which presents its shows at the Stained Glass Theater in Newport, had the show with the most awards: Rent picked up 26, including one for “overall performance quality.” Coming in second with 20 awards was Greater Hamilton Community Theater’s production of the musical Little Women. Footlighters, always a strong contender, also took third place (16 awards) with a production of the musical The Light in the Piazza. Rounding out the top 10 award-winning productions were Cole (15 awards; Mariemont Players); The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (13, Greater Hamilton Community Theater); Titanic (12, Cincinnati Music Theatre); Over the River and Through the Woods (12, Mariemont Players); Same Time Next Year (12, Mariemont Players); Becky’s New Car (12, Middletown Lyric Theatre); and The Crucible (12, The Drama Workshop).

A final note: Mariemont Players, which produces six shows annually (most groups present three or four, at most) had the strongest overall showing, picking up a total of 68 Orchid recognitions.

 
 
by Rick Pender 06.22.2012
Posted In: Theater at 09:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
next to normal

Stage Door: 'next to normal' Even Better This Year

If you can land a ticket for Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati’s revival of the Tony Award-winning musical next to normal, that’s what you should be doing this weekend. I saw it on Tuesday night, and it’s even better than it was last September. It’s the story of a woman struggling with schizophrenia and how it affects her family; that might not sound like the stuff that musicals are made of, but it uses the power of a brilliant Rock score to deliver the impact of this story. ETC has reassembled virtually all of its superb cast from last fall, including Jessica Hendy in the central role. Her beleaguered husband is now being played one of our area’s best actors, Bruce Cromer, and his relationship with Hendy makes their pain all the more deeply felt. It’s only around for one more week, so you should do your best to grab a ticket now. Box office: 513-421-3555.

ETC’s revival isn’t the only thing worth seeing this weekend. You might check out the classic comedy Arsenic and Old Lace on the Showboat Majestic. It’s an old chestnut (it was a hit in 1944), but it’s one of the funniest shows you’re likely to see, the tale of an off-kilter pair of elderly maiden aunts who keep their quite normal nephew astonished and scrambling to keep them in line. The kind-hearted women take in boarders, quiet elderly men who are “all alone in the world,” and polish them off with elderberry wine laced with arsenic. They convince their addled brother, who believes he’s Teddy Roosevelt, to bury them in the basement by telling him they’re victims of yellow fever who have been digging the Panama Canal. A great show for the whole family, with lots of comic twists. Box office: 513-241-6550.

You’ll also find a stage full of laughs at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, which is producing The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). You’ll witness mentions of all the Bard’s works — although many are completely unrecognizable, thanks the three buffoonish characters who undertake the task. The second act is a wild send-up of Hamlet that involves the audience. Order your tickets online, and there’s an automatic buy-one, get-one offer available. Website: www.cincyshakes.com.

Don’t forget to look in out-of-the-way places for good summer theater entertainment: At Highlands High School in Fort Thomas, Ky., you’ll find the Tony Award-winning musical The Producers, the first outing by C.A.S.T. (Commonwealth Artists Summer Theatre), the brainchild of Jason Burgess, a one-time directing intern at Ensemble Theatre who’s now an award-winning teacher at Highlands. The hilarious show about putting on a musical so bad that the guys doing it can abscond with all the investments will be onstage through July 1, with performances at the high school (2400 Memorial Parkway, Fort Thomas) on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets (only $10): www.showtix4u.com (or at the door).

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

 
 
by Rick Pender 06.18.2012
Posted In: Theater at 09:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
covedale center

Another Cincinnati Landmark?

Operator of Showboat Majestic and Covedale Center to open new facility in East Price Hill

Cincinnati Landmark Productions (CLP), operator of the Showboat Majestic and owner and operator of the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts, is looking to expand its entertainment empire with a new facility in East Price Hill, not far from the Primivista Restaurant. At a meeting today with the East Price Hill Improvement Association, representatives from CLP will present a proposal to build a new performing arts center in the Incline District.

The plan is for a theater with approximately 250 seats that will be programmed throughout the year. CLP estimates 112 evenings of performances, including theatrical productions, a summer season, concerts, comedy events and cabarets.
CLP recently marked the tenth anniversary of the Covedale Center, a onetime movie theater that the group acquired and renovated. The West Side fixture has seen stead growth in attendance over the decade since opening in 2002. In its first year, there were 804 subscribers; 3,600 are anticipated for the coming season. Season attendance in 2002-2003 was 13, 990; for 2011-2012 it grew to 35,300.

Representatives from CLP have already met with developers and leaders of the East Price Hill Development Association for exploratory purposes. CLP’s executive artistic director Tim Perrino says that both his organization and the developers view the partnership as a win-win. The vacant parcel on Matson Place has nearby parking and dining — as well as the spectacular view that’s familiar to generations of diners at Primavista.

“The people we’ve talked to,” Perrino explains, “see the true value an arts center can bring to a neighborhood. The arts create neighborhood vibrancy, more pedestrians, good news stories, visitors from outside the neighborhood, more bar and restaurant patrons and improved neighborhood perception.

The project is still a concept without a budget or plans, but it’s an exciting prospect coming from an organization that clearly knows how to connect with audiences.

 
 

 

 

 
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