After a long hot summer (well, it's still feeling like a long hot summer), we have a full array of shows onstage in Cincinnati for you to choose among. I've seen two of them so far: Good People at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati and The Three Musketeers at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.
ETC's production of Pulitzer Prize winner David Lindsay-Abaire's 2011 piece (this is the regional premiere of Good People, which was nominated for a Tony a year ago) about a woman who falls off the bottom of the employment ladder has enough humor to be entertaining (especially with Annie Fitzpatrick in the central role of Margie and Kate Wilford and Deb Girdler as her gossipy friends and bingo-night comrades) and enough contemporary relevance to be thought-provoking. ETC's D. Lynn Meyers is at her best staging naturalistic shows with social meaning, and that's exactly what this one offers. It has a great cast and flexible, attractive scenic design by the ever-creative Brian c. Mehring. I gave it a Critic's Pick. Through Sept. 23. Review here. Box office: 513-421-3555.
I wanted to love The Three Musketeers at the Playhouse (through Sept. 29), but its balance of humor and heart is out of whack to my tastes. There's lots of adventure, hilarity and laughter — especially some no-holds-barred swordplay — but the show tries to hard to entertain that it misses out on the true emotion that should lie beneath. I suspect many people will love this thrill-a-minute tale of political intrigue and valor, loyalty and royalty in 17th-century France, and perhaps it will evolve to deeper feelings as it runs. I love new Artistic Director Blake Robison's desire to put appealing, family-friendly work onstage, and he's using this production to show what he means. I hope his approach gets a tad more texture and depth as his tenure continues. Review here. Box office: 513-421-3888.
I haven't yet seen To Kill a Mockingbird at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, and their publicity says it's already sold out its first-two weekends. So you might want to put that one on your calendar for sometime before it wraps up (Sept. 30). In the meantime, you might want to head to Washington Park on Sunday evening at 7 p.m. for a special free presentation of CSC's touring production of The Tempest. It's a perfect piece for outdoor performance, set on an island with a sorcerer and his lovely daughter and some shipwrecked nobles who are responsible for his exile. Audience participation will be a key component of this event, with the audience asked to create large-scale effects by blowing bubbles, making waves with silk and generating sound effects. Sounds like great fun. Music (by The Young Heirlooms) begins at 6 p.m. This is a good one to bring kids to see.
Also off and running this weekend is Cincinnati Landmark's production of Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. It's a classic drama of sexual tension and family strife, a bit heavier fare than is usually found at the Covedale Center. It's a sign of the company's ambition to be a full-fledged theater offering a wide range of material. (Through Sept. 30.) Box office: 513-241-6550.
OK, it's the last day of August and the last true weekend
of summer. That typically means there's almost no theater, since most of
the stages in town are readying their season openers. But you do have a
At the Clifton Performance Theatre you can see the last few performances of Nothing, a production brought back from this year's Cincinnati Fringe Festival. It's a one-man show about bullying and autism, told with lots of illustrative video. It was a popular item during the Fringe in June, so it's certainly worth checking out. Tickets: 513-861-7469.
Another Fringe-like option this weekend is a mash-up of OTR Improv and True Theatre, happening at Know Theater, which is kind of like the crazy uncle of these two groups that make the Over-the-Rhine venue their home. On Saturday evening at 8 p.m., they'll present another installment of The Chronicle, a long-form improvisation based on the real-life stories of special guests. Dave Levy and Jeff Groh, the guys who make True Theatre go, are the starting point for the evening's fun and games. They'll tell stories, and then the improv folks will turn them into something more. You can get tickets (for $5) at the door — located at 1127 Jackson Street in OTR.
The Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park opens its new season (with a new artistic director) next Thursday with The Three Musketeers. But here's a tip: You can see previews starting Saturday, and tickets are more affordable than during the actual run of the show. You might know the story of D'Artagnan and his three swashbuckling buddies, Athos, Porthos and Aramis — but I bet you've never seen such a rollicking, have-a-great-time production as this one. I just finished reading the very conversational and funny script, and I suspect that audiences will love this show, especially if it's pulled off with visual panache. It's our first chance to see a work directed by Blake Robison, the new guy in charge. He says this is the kind of work he wants to bring to the stage regularly. Be among the first to see what he's up to. Box office: 513-421-3555.
Other theaters opening shows next week include Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati on Wednesday (Good People is about unemployed folks dealing with the "new normal") and Cincinnati Shakespeare Company starts its production of To Kill a Mockingbird on Friday. Both productions have fine casts: Annie Fitzpatrick is playing the hard-pressed central character in Good People; Bruce Cromer is the virtuous attorney Atticus Finch in Mockingbird. Both are among our most watchable actors.
My Curtain Call column in CityBeat this week offers more about these shows and others that are opening this month.
Artistic Director Jim Stump tells me that they've been notifying the
actors and designers who had been recruited for a staging of Eric
Talk Radio that the production, scheduled to open on
Sept. 27, is not going to happen. He wrote to me in an email, "This is
due to a number of factors, not the least of which was the suddenness of
our losing the Columbia with little warning. This meant we spent a
significant portion of the time we would normally dedicate to the first
production to the search for a new venue. In the end, we didn't feel we
could present a production of the quality our audiences would expect."
NET is still seeking a permanent solution to its venue needs, but Stump says the company will present The Santaland Diaries and The 12 Dates of Christmas at the Aronoff's Fifth Third Bank Theater in December.
Most of the theaters in town are gathering their strength
for the fall season, so there's not much to recommend this weekend —
unless you haven't made it to the Carnegie in Covington yet to see the
delightfully silly production of Xanadu. (Review here.) The recipe for
this delicious concoction is a really lame movie from 1980, some clever
new writing by playwright Douglas Carter Bean, really inventive
direction by Alan Patrick Kenny (the guy who staged Jerry Springer: The Musical
a few summers back) and a cast who can sing (Pop tunes from the ’80s),
dance (to a disco beat, no less), act (like Greek muses, well, kind of)
and do it all on roller skates! This weekend is your final chance to see
After Xanadu closes on Sunday, our local theaters will pretty much be dark for a week or so. Then right after Labor Day, you'll have tons of choices. Look for my Curtain Call column in the upcoming issue of CityBeat for a glimpse of what's in store for September.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.