It’s hot and humid in New York City. Even a walk through Central Park didn’t offer much respite. I found a few stores and public spaces I could duck into to cool off and I met a friend who writes for the TheaterMania Web site at a Starbucks, so I had a few escapes. Early in the evening, after a meal at a little Italian bistro, I walked through Times Square — now closed to vehicular traffic for several blocks, so it’s become a big pedestrian mall — where a movie shoot was being set up. But the sea of people never stops washing along Broadway. That meant the coolest part of my day on Thursday was an evening performance at the Booth Theatre.
If I were in Cincinnati this weekend (I'm in New York catching up on a few Broadway shows), I'd probably make two stops at local theaters.
(CityBeat contributing editor/theater critic Rick Pender is in New York City for a few days, checking out the latest Broadway has to offer. Below is his first report from the frontlines of the Great White Way.)
The historic Showboat Majestic is in the midst of its 88th season at Cincinnati's Public Landing (it opens The Nerd later this week), but today it's announcing the 2011 season. There are five shows, three musicals and two plays, an entertaining lineup that seems designed to please its older demographic.
The season opens with Li'l Abner (May 4-22, 2011), based on the famous comic strip by Al Capp, full of down-home nonsense and political humor. It's not much staged anymore (I've never seen it), so I'm glad to have it produced locally. Neil Simon's God's Favorite (June 1-19) is up next, a funny play inspired by the trials and tribulations of Job in the Bible.
Well, here it is, the end of July and you're probably gasping for onstage entertainment. There's not much to go around from our local theaters, although Cincinnati Shakespeare is doing its level best to keep us entertained with Blithe Spirit on its mainstage and performances in area parks of Hamlet and A Midsummer Night's Dream. I've checked them out, and they're worth the effort to see them. Check out the "Shakespeare in the Park" schedule here.
Here's one more: If you're a fan of Les Misérables, I suggest you check out the current production by Cincinnati Young People's Theatre at the Covedale Performing Arts Center. Yes, it's being done by teens, and there are nearly 100 of them storming the barricades. But these are talented kids from all over the Tristate who are passionate about theater. Many of them will end up in theater careers based on this experience, which has been happening every summer for almost three decades. It's a Cincinnati arts phenomenon that's worth checking out. The production runs through Sunday. Head here for ticket info.
It's been a long hot summer without much theater to choose from, but this weekend you have several options. I can personally recommend Cotton Patch Gospel at the Showboat Majestic, which I saw earlier this week (read my review here).
What do you know about community theater? Did you realize that these companies do this work as volunteers? That's right: They act, direct, build sets, promote and so on because they love it — not for any profit motive.
Of course, they have expenses like paying for costumes and renting halls (or maintaining a building they own), not to mention springing for the rights to produce works, so they sell tickets. They typically serve a neighborhood (that's part of what "community" means) — such as Mariemont or Wyoming or Fort Thomas.
The Cincinnati Playhouse's production of The Fantasticks is a great choice for theater this weekend, but you might have a hard time finding seats. I've had two friends tell me they tried to get in and were told that the performance they hoped for was sold out. You can try to get on a waiting list (box office number is 513-421-3888) for a show that's really worth seeing.
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.
If you're just tuning in to the Fringe, I can make no better recommendation for this weekend than to buy a six-show pass (for the price of five tickets) and go see some of the Critic's Picks that CityBeat writers have identified (head here to read through all the reviews).