So the weather finally seems to be turning to springtime and that seems to make people think of having a good time with a musical. There's quite an array of choices this weekend, from the just-opening community theater production of The Drowsy Chaperone (by Cincinnati Music Theatre at the Aronoff's Jarson-Kaplan Theatre) and the Showboat Majestic's Nunsensations (presented at the Covedale Center because the Ohio River is being nasty) to the ’60s tunefest Beehive (Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park), a show that Baby Boomers are sure to love — and sing along with.
Work a little harder and see something unexpected. That's my theme for this weekend. Theater shouldn't always make you laugh or even smile. Sometimes a playwright sets out to make you uncomfortable or to portray characters who are thoroughly unlikeable. Harold Pinter (pictured) did that a generation ago, and Adam Rapp does it today. Pinter's Ashes to Ashes gets a quick production on Saturday and Sunday evenings at Hebrew Union College.
You have the chance this weekend to see two of Cincinnati's best professional actors onstage — but you'll have to work at it a bit, since it's at an out-of-the-way location (and a bit pricey). The show is Harold Pinter's Ashes to Ashes, a one-act play that portrays an emotional conversation between Devlin and Rebecca, a couple in their 40s, in an indeterminate present. He interrogates her about her recollections of an abusive ex-lover, looking for a single, simple truth. She recalls not only the violence she has experienced, but also the wider violence of the world, becoming one with all victims of atrocities.
The Showboat Majestic's opening comedy musical, Nunsensations – The Nunsense Las Vegas Revue, might be over the top, but it won't be under water. That's because Cincinnati Landmark Productions will move Showboat's season opener — running May 4-22 — to dry land, staging it at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts on Cincinnati's West Side.
If you need a reminder of what a classic play can achieve, you should stop by UC's College-Conservatory of Music this weekend to see the drama program's production of Thornton Wilder's Our Town. Faculty member Diane Kvapil has directed a sturdy version of the show that leans a little more than I like in the direction of humor, but nevertheless shows off why the show won the 1938 Pulitzer Prize for drama and remains a staple of theater companies more than 60 years later.
If circuses haven't been the same for you since realizing that animals don't actually like trainers who crack the whip, go to Cirque du Soleil. CityBeat staffers were among the folks who attended last night's sneak preview of their new show, OVO, at Coney Island. It was amazing: technically impeccable, delightfully entertaining and 100 percent cruelty free!
OVO runs through May 15, and there's a Mother's Day
discount promotion going on now. Click here for details.
Don’t go looking for Boris Karloff or any kind of campy make-up if you decide to see the National Theatre of London’s production of Frankenstein on Tuesday or Wednesday evening at The Carnegie in Covington. This version, provided via HD digital transmission, is much more faithful to Mary Godwin’s creepy and profound Gothic novel written in the summer of 1816. When it was finally published two years later (by which time she had married poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and become Mary Shelley), few people believed it could have been written by a young woman not yet 20 years old.
If you're a fan of musicals, you should be happy this weekend, whether your preferences are big or small. Let's start with big, or perhaps I should say BIG! The tour of Shrek The Musical at the Aronoff delighted me a lot more than I had expected. It looks great — colorful costumes, dazzling sets — and it has a cast of people who can really sing and dance. The show has a lot of humor that everyone, including kids, can enjoy, and moments when the real musical theater geeks will recognize gently satirical pokes at other hit shows.
There are several interesting things happening onstage this weekend, many with very short runs. Miami University has opened a two-weekend run of The Wiz (a funky musical adaptation of The Wizard of Oz) and Showbiz Players begins its run of Altar Boyz (an amusing musical about a boy band that was a big hit for the Playhouse a few seasons back). On Saturday, for one day only (two performances), you can see a one-man touring production of The Screwtape Letters based on a novel by C. S. Lewis (author of The Chronicles of Narnia). It's at the Aronoff's big hall at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.
It's a good weekend for local theater, with two confirmed choices and a fascinating new production with a lot of potential. Both shows that opened a week ago — End Days at Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati and Gee's Bend at Cincinnati Playhouse — have been recommended by the Acclaims judging panel that considered them, and both have received nominations for performers and other aspects.