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.
On Saturday (July 14) I spent much of my day attending two excellent events. In the afternoon, I was part of a full-to-the-rafters Music Hall (every single seat was sold, meaning more than 3,400 people were in attendance!) for the final Champions Concert, featuring 11 groups that were judged to be the best in their respective categories. I had a chance to see Fairfield High's Choraliers, named the outstanding Show Choir, as well as the heartfelt Jeremy Winston Chorale, from Wilberforce, Ohio, winners of the Gospel category. (Interestingly, Jeremy Winston was once a member of The Aeolians from Oakwood University of Huntsville, Alabama, the group that won the Spirituals category.) Several children's groups, notably the Vocalista Angels from Indonesia (Children's Choirs) and Wenzhou Children Art School Boys Choir from China (Young Children's Choirs), demonstrated incredible talent and discipline with kids who are still elementary school. The Music Contemporanea category winner was Stellenberg Girls Choir from South Africa, yet another group — this one comprised of approximately 80 adolescent girls — directed by André van der Merwe.Among the several chamber group categories, I was most moved by the smallest group: Seven beautiful young women from Latvia, performing as "Latvian Voices," performed two numbers as much like chant as singing, using smooth harmonics and powerful vocal ranges as their music rose and fell, with single and multiple voices weaving in and out. Quite remarkable, and a kind of invitation to the next games — to be held in Riga, Latvia, in 2014.
On Friday evening, I hiked down to U.S. Bank Arena for
the World Choir Games awards ceremony. It was bustling at The Banks,
since the Reds are back in town and playing the Cardinals. It was fun to
see the WCG participants, many dressed in colorful team T-shirts,
mingling with the crowds around Great American Ball Park in their Reds
gear. Lots of folks from other nations had a chance to peer into the
stadium and see American fans revving up.
But there was no lack of revving — or revelry — inside the arena for the program. This was not a musical event, but a ceremony in which choirs in eight categories were recognized for their performances and champions crowned. For 20 minutes before the event began, there was a ton of merriment going on as teams did the "wave" around the arena and cheered whenever their own choir showed up on the big video monitors.
Lots of awards are handed out at WCG, some simply for participating. Choirs can choose to compete in an open category, in which they are evaluated but not competing for medals (although they are ranked and can receive gold, silver or brionze "diplomas") or in the head-to-head competitions. By scoring within certain point ranges, singing groups are awarded bronze, silver or gold medals. The ultimate designation, "Champion," is bestowed on the choir that scores the highest point total among the gold medalists in each category. Other medalists send forward their director and one singer to receive the medal and a certificate. When the champions are named, the entire choir races jubilantly to the stage, hugging, screaming and celebrating. Once assembled there and the medal bestowed, the choir's national flag is raised and its national anthem sung, often with tear-streamed faces on the video screens.
Champions were named eight categories. Three were from the United States, including in two largely American categories included in the games for the first time, Barbershop and Show Choirs. Gospel was also broken out from Music of Religions. The most wildly celebrated champion was surely the Choraliers, from Fairfield, Ohio, just north of Cincinnati, which was named the champion Show Choir (amid choirs from other nations and several from universities). Also from Ohio, the Jeremy Winston Choir from Wilberforce University was named the champion Gospel group. The other American champion was a barbershop chorus from Pennsylvania, the Greater Harrisburg Chapter of Sweet Adelines.
The remaining five champions were: Female Chamber Choir: Latvian Voices from Riga, Latvia (where the 2014 World Choir Games will be held); Male Chamber Choir: Newman Sound (Canada); Music of Religions: Stellenberg Girls Choir (South Africa); and Young Children's Choir's: Wenzhou Children Art School Boys Choir (China). The latter category's winners of gold medals were all youth choirs from China, where it's clear such ensembles are prized and emphasized.
More champions are being announced on Saturday morning, and a selection of champions will perform in a concert at Music Hall on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. That concert, as well as the Closing Ceremony at U.S. Bank Arena on Saturday at 7 p.m., are both sold out.
I spent 12 hours on Thursday absorbing events and
performances of the 2012 World Choir Games. My "day pass" gave me way
too much to write up in detail, but here are some highlights and random
Show Choirs: I spent several morning hours at the Aronoff Center (which was "sold-out" — no empty seats, before 10 a.m.!) watching groups perform in the manner popularized by the TV series Glee. Some followed the familiar model completely — glittering costumes, athletic dance numbers, lots of fist-pumping and high energy. They were fun to watch, but the international filter provided by groups from the Bahamas and Venezuela provided a whole new filter. The 26 members of the Bahama National Youth Choir dispensed with flashy costumes — young men and women wore khaki pants and skirts, topped with navy blue blazers and white shirts. But, boy, could they dance: From "It Don't Mean a Thing if it Ain't Got That Swing" to Michael Jackson's "Beat It." And when they finished (to a standing ovation), the next group, Orfeón Universitario Rafael Montaño from Puerto Ordaz, Venezuela, dazzled us with a salsa-inspired Spanish-language set with costume changes for every number — at one point including a dozen women with palm trees atop their heads! About half the numbers utilized wonderful soloists, mature women with incredible voices backed up by the choir in tributes to pop singers from the world of Hispanic music. The group's performance was a riot of color, dancing and joyous outbursts of energy.
Barbershop: This is a first-time category for WCG, a popular choir form in North America that's not practiced much elsewhere. But based on the big crowd for the competition at Music Hall, I'd say that singers of the world might be adopting this happy form of choral performance that involves close harmony, typically by groups that are all male or female. I smiled at a group of 32 from Minnesota, the North Star Boys Choir, and enjoyed the "mature" group of women, the Cincinnati Sound Chorus, who clearly enjoyed their set, opening with "As long as I'm singing my song." Three more choruses in colorful costumes — A Cappella Showcase (from Canada), Greater Harrisburg Sweet Adelines Chorus (from Pennsylvania) and Bay Area Showcase Chorus (from California) were all dazzlingly entertaining.
Friendship Concert: Departing from Music Hall late in the afternoon, I encountered a big crowd in Washington Park surrounding the bandstand. Patiently waiting for the moment to begin was a chorus of kids from Goteborg School in South Africa. The surrounding crowd was dotted with other performers, young African-American girls in maroon choir robes and pale girls from Russia in floaty pastel chiffon dresses with flowers in their hair, looking like escapees from a fantasy bridal party. I was tempted to pass by until the South African choir started to sing: They were elementary aged children who sang with lusty enthusiasm, and I couldn't tear myself away from listening to their rhythmic songs and high spirits. The crowd responded accordingly.
After dinner at Bakersfield on Vine Street, I went on to the day's real highlight, the Cultural Showcase at the Aronoff — another completely full house at the P&G Hall starting at 7:30 p.m. The Venezuelans I'd seen earlier in show choir mode were back doing a program of somewhat less flashy folk music numbers. There was still plenty of energy and costumes, as well as more work from the outstanding soloists. The next group was 65 boys from Kearsney College, a high school in Botha's Hill, South Africa. Half their program was sung in blue-and-white choir robes with a brilliant yellow icon of Africa on the front; this was a powerfully emotional set, full of the rhythms and zest that I've come to expect from South African ensembles. The second portion of their program focused on Zulu folklore and one of its heroes, King Shaka. For this portion the boys dressed in black shirts and pants with cardinal red belts and knee-high rubber boots, like those worn by miners. This set of music was non-stop athleticism, dancing, acrobatics and lusty singing. The audience responded warmly to this off-the-hook segment, and conductor Bernard Krüger told the audience that he loves Americans because they really know how to cheer. The final set of performers were from Istanbul, Turkey, the Bogaziçi Jazz Choir. This was a different kind of folk music from a country about which I don't know much, but watching their earnest, sometimes serious sometimes humorous delivery, I feel that I understand their character more fully. They concluded with several songs in English that warmed the audience even more — earning two standing ovations.
My final observation on the evening: It was so satisfying to be in an audience that truly loved what they were witnessing and expressed their joy at the performances with honest reactions. These were some of the most genuine standing ovations I've ever witnessed. I was proud to be in this crowd, and I have to believe that it was a truly memorable experience for the performers.
A final observation: Every choir I've heard from South Africa has deeply moved me. Knowing that nation's history of apartheid and seeing choirs of mixed races reveling in music gave me hope that music can indeed heal the world. That's a great lesson to learn from the World Choir Games.