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by Rick Pender 03.02.2011
Posted In: Theater at 04:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Playhouse Show Up for National Recognition

The American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) today announced six finalists for its Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award recognizing playwrights for the best scripts that premiered professionally outside of New York City during 2010. Among the finalists is The History of Invulnerability by David Bar Katz, a script that premiered in April 2010 at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.

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by Rick Pender 10.15.2010
Posted In: Theater at 12:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Stage Door: Kathy Y at ETC

During several of the years I spent at CityBeat as arts and entertainment editor, I sat just a few feet away from Kathy Y. Wilson. She was an indisputable force of nature: When she arrived in the office, the otherwise quiet room full of writers exploded with her raucous laughter, challenging dialogue and outspoken presence.

I had the singular privilege of editing her "Your Negro Tour Guide" column for quite a bit of that time, giving me a regular dose of her wit and profound insights about an aspect of American life that some readers loved and others hated. No one was take-it-or-leave-it about Kathy and what she had to say in her writing.

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by Rick Pender 05.18.2012
Posted In: Theater at 09:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
onstage 5-16 - titanic - photo provided by cincinnati music theatre

Stage Door: Last Call for 'Titanic'

If I were you, I’d to my best to catch a performance of Titanic: The Musical before it closes on Saturday at the Aronoff Center’s Jarson-Kaplan Theater. The show puts you in the midst of dozens of characters as they board the ship, overflowing with great expectations — of success, of escaping poverty, of new life in America, of achieving dreams. You get to know them, and then you see the tragedy that comes their way after the tragic collision with an iceberg in April 1912. Maury Yeston’s score is all about choral singing, and Cincinnati Music Theatre, one of our most ambitious community theaters, makes it work with an impressive physical production and great voices. Full review: here. Tickets: 513-621-2787.

I’m pleased to tell you that Cincinnati Shakespeare Company has done a fine job with its 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, directed by Jeremy Dubin does not tilt in either direction. It’s up to you to decide, and that’s how this show works best. Full review: here. Box office: 513-381-2273, x1.

Life Could Be A Dream, Roger Bean’s sequel to The Marvelous Wonderettes and a show ful of teen hits from the ’50s and ’60s, concludes its successful run at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati this weekend. This time it’s boys, and that’s most of the difference. As in the two Wonderette shows, Dream is shot through with adolescent angst, this time around a local radio station contest that could “make them famous.” Audiences seem to have loved this excuse for two dozen tunes from the era, and ETC is keeping its cast busy to the very end, adding an extra finale on Sunday evening at 6 p.m. Box office: 513-421-3555.

This is also the final weekend for you to get down with the Blues in the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park’s production of Thunder Knocking on the Door. The show, a hit for the Playhouse in 1999 has been thoroughly and creatively reimagined. The musical — with emotional tunes mostly by Keb’ Mo’ — tells the story of the power of love, music and Blues guitar players. It’s presented with panache, including technology and design that are all about 2012. Through Sunday. Full review: here. Box office: 513-421-3888.

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

by Rick Pender 08.07.2010
Posted In: Theater at 11:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Broadway Bloggin': Day 3

Before heading to South Pacific, I took a Friday morning excursion to the Brooklyn Academy of Music (better known today as BAM) and toured some of their historic facilities, including an old theater repurposed by dividing it into four small cinema spaces and a nearby building, dubbed The Harvey (for administrator Harvey Lichtenstein, who ran BAM for more than three decades), which was once a vaudeville theater.

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by Rick Pender 05.14.2009
Posted In: Theater at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Alan Patrick Kenny: He's Still Here!

If you missed seeing Alan Patrick Kenny's swan song as music director of New Stage Collective's final production, a lovely mounting of Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music (which sold out most of its performances at Know Theatre), you can hear him conducting again in a production of The Secret Garden at The Carnegie in Covington later this month. He's been brought in as a replacement music director for the show that's set to open on May 29 (running through June 14).

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by Rick Pender 07.26.2011
Posted In: Theater at 08:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Positive Sign at Know Theatre

Know Theatre of Cincinnati has called Jackson Street in Over-the-Rhine home for several years, but it's been easy to miss them, tucked away behind the Gateway Garage on a short block between Central Parkway and 12th Street. That's being remedied right now with the construction of a marquee that should be highly visible from both north and south of the theater, especially from busy Central Parkway.

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by Rick Pender 03.24.2012
Posted In: Theater at 11:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)
onstage 3-9 merrily  review image - photo sandy underwood.widea

Stage Door: More Love for 'Merrily'

Ensemble Theatre, NKU and Children's Theater also have quality offerings

Last Sunday evening I gave a lecture prior to the Cincinnati Playhouse performance of Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along. I stuck around to see the show again (I attended the opening on March 8 in order to review it for CityBeat). I gave the show a Critic’s Pick, but empty seats on Sunday reminded me that a theater critic’s opinion is not necessarily the only endorsement needed for a show to sell tickets. Although this is a fine production, several reasons come to mind: The show is not well known; if people do know it, they’ve heard it was a flop when it had a brief Broadway run in 1981. John Doyle’s production shows little evidence of the latter and demonstrates amply that there’s much to be appreciated. But there’s not been much buzz around Merrily at the Playhouse, despite the work of Doyle and his excellent cast. The upshot is tickets are still available for most performances, through March 31. Doyle inventively staged Sondheim’s Company in 2006 at the Playhouse, a production that moved to Broadway and earned a Tony Award. This production uses the same approach: actors provide their own musical accompaniment. It’s a showbiz tale about chasing success at the expense of happiness. We start at the demise of a bond between three former friends who wonder what happened to the “good thing going” they once had. We trace back to their earliest, optimistic moments via great music, brilliant design and excellent performances. If you love musicals, you should see Merrily We Roll Along. I’ve talked with several people who have returned the Playhouse production. (Merrily is not likely to transfer to New York as Company did in 2006. The show was presented by Encores! at New York’s City Center in February, so theater critics have not paid attention to the Cincinnati production as they did with Company in 2006, right after Doyle staged Sweeney Todd on Broadway.) Box office: 513-421-3888

You can’t go wrong with Donald Margulies’ very much in-the-moment drama Time Stands Still at Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati. 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

Northern Kentucky University just opened a production of Timberlake Wertenbaker’s Our Country’s Good. It’s about people sent off to a penal colony in Australia in the 1780s. The governor decides to impose order on the criminals by having them put on a play. It’s not an easy undertaking — but it changes the lives of everyone involved. It’s a play about the power of the arts to humanize people and transform them into something new and better. The show’s original Broadway production in 1991 was nominated for six Tony Awards. It’s one of my favorite scripts, a fine choice for NKU’s drama program, where it’s being staged by Daryl Harris. Through April 1. Tickets: 859-572-5464

Finally, if you’d like to instill some interest in the theater in a couple of kids, take them to one of this weekend’s performances of Rapunzel! Rapunzel! A Very Hairy Fairy Tale, presented by The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati. It’s a world premiere musical created by composer Janet Vogt and writer Mark Friedman, who wrote How I Became a Pirate, a hit from last season. Performances happen at the nicely renovated Taft Theatre on Saturday and Sunday (as well as March 31). Tickets: 513-569-8080, x13.

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

by Rick Pender 04.02.2010
Posted In: Theater at 10:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Plays: Tone-Deaf, Award-Winning

Last weekend at the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville, I saw a piece about five tone-deaf sisters who nonetheless made their mark on the vaudeville circuit: Dan O'Brien's The Cherry Sisters Revisited. More than once I heard the play compared to Steven Temperley's Souvenir, the show about oddball singer Florence Foster Jenkins who aspired to an operatic recital career in the 1930s and 1940s despite a singular lack of singing skills. Ensemble Theatre produced that show for Cincinnati audiences in 2007, and actress Neva Rae Powers earned major accolades for singing wretchedly (think how hard it is for a good singer to sound awful) and won a Cincinnati Entertainment Award in the process.

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by Rick Pender 06.13.2010
Posted In: Theater at 03:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fringe Finale

Saturday evening was the final night of the 2010 Cincinnati Fringe Festival. At the closing party at Know Theatre’s Underground bar, three picks were announced. Fringe organizer Eric Vosmeier made the point that it’s not really about competition but rather to give Fringe artists who eke out meager paychecks based on attendance at their respective shows a bit of publicity to use as they travel on to the their next alternative theater showcase.

Based on voting by festivalgoers, the “Audience Pick of the Fringe” went to Serenity Fisher’s Sophie’s Dream, a romantic tale using Indie Rock-styled tunes that was produced by Tangled Leaves Theatre Collective from right here in Cincinnati.

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by Rick Pender 09.25.2009
Posted In: Theater at 03:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Stage Door: Mystery in the Park

I'm quick to admit that suspense mysteries are not my favorite form of onstage entertainment: They always feel a bit contrived to me. But I know I'm in the minority, and if anyone is going to do a good job with one of them, it's certainly the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park and its associate artistic director, Michael Evan Haney. 

The current production of Anthony Shaffer's Sleuth is fun to watch as two men find themselves on a seesaw of accusation, humiliation and vengeance. There are special effects and some surprising twists and turns that actors Munson Hicks and Michael Gabriel Goodfriend make both lively and chilling. And then there's a set by CEA Hall of Fame designer Paul Shortt — full of tricks and surprises, too.

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