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by Rick Pender 05.31.2013
Posted In: Arts community, COMMUNITY, Visual Art, Theater at 10:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
fringefestival-loon

Stage Door: Fringe Your Weekend

The 2013 Cincinnati Fringe is at its first weekend with almost two dozen shows available for you to attend over the weekend. Pick a few and take a chance — read the commentaries by CityBeat reviewers posted here, if you want the inside scoop on various productions.

This is the 10th annual event, and it's become a big-time part of our local theater scene. You owe it to yourself to see some of these creative, odd, amusing, thoughtful pieces. And stop by Know Theatre's Underground Bar after 10 p.m. any evening to meet performers and talk with others who are enjoying the Fringe. It's a great way to get more perspectives.

More 2013 Fringe coverage:

• May 22 cover story: “Navigating the Novelties

• April 18 Curtain Call column: “Fringe Has Sprung

Complete festival schedule 

Official Fringe Festival guide



 
 
by Rick Pender 05.24.2013
Posted In: Theater at 08:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
onstage 5-15 - measure for measure - kelly mengelkoch & brent vimtrup - photo rich sofranko

Stage Door: Near Season's End

Cincinnati Shakespeare Company finishes its run of Measure for Measure this weekend (CityBeat review here). It's a dark tale of hypocrisy and manipulation, with a few glimmers of ribald humor. Director Brian Phillips has transported the story from Renaissance-Era Vienna to the United States of the 1920s when Prohibition made everyday occurrences of fast living and bad behavior. (Can you say Boardwalk Empire?)  In 20 seasons, CSC has only staged it once before, but this is a production worth seeing because of the strong acting company — especially Brent Vimtrup, Kelly Mengelkoch and Nick Rose. Billy Chace does a nice job with the comic bits, too, even though they feel weird in this difficult story of self-righteousness and double-dealing. Tickets: 513-381-2273, x1.

For those into crooning, sentimental nostalgia, you'll find an ample supply aboard the Showboat Majestic's production of Forever Plaid. Jinx, Sparky Francis and Smudge conjure up a lot of good clean fun and close harmonies for their final concert. And I do mean final — in fact, they're kind of after the fact: Coming back from the great beyond for one last gig after a tragic bus accident on their way to a career-making gig. There's a lot of tomfoolery that makes this show amusing and entertaining. Through June 2. Tickets: 513-241-6550.

If you prefer the girls to the boys, Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati is into the extended run of The Mavelous Wonderettes: Caps and Gowns. The spunky gals — who also traffic in tunes from the ’50s and ’60s — provide two more rounds of melodies and moodiness. "Caps" is a reconstruction of their graduation night in 1958, while "Gowns" is a decade later at the wedding reception of Missy, who always has a plan, and Mr. Lee, a teacher she idolized. We get to see what life has brought to her three friends, love-'em-and-leave-'em Cindy Lou, jealous Betty Jean and vapid Suzy. ETC's casting gets an A+. Through June 1. Tickets: 513-421-3555.

For our early summer enjoyment, the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park has put together the charming and family-friendly Shipwrecked! An Entertainment: The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (As Told by Himself). I attended the opening on Thursday evening and witnessed three actors who play a host of characters, change costumes in plain view, create wildly imaginative scenery and make their own sound effects. It's a wistful story of adventure that revels in the adventure of storytelling. It's onstage through June 16. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
 
 
by Rick Pender 05.23.2013
Posted In: Theater, Visual Art, Arts community at 09:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
todo_onstage_parade@carnegie_mattsteffen

Rising Stars

LCT singles out great theater productions and performers for 2012-2013

I wrote my Curtain Call column before the League of Cincinnati Theatres held its Monday night awards gala at The Know Theatre. So I thought you might want to learn the results. I'm glad to report that the LCT voters and I agreed about the season's best shows: I thought that Know Theatre's When the Rain Stops Falling was the best theatrical production, and that CCM Musical Theatre's production of Parade at the Carnegie was the most satisfying musical — and those are the productions that LCT cited, too.

LCT employed social media to identify audience favorites: Untethered Theatre's Red Light Winter won as the favored play, NKU's production of the musical Legally Blonde got the nod. I'm sure these were both fine productions, and it's nice to see Untethered, a new company, receive this recognition. But it's also apparent that some theaters lobbied supporters to vote for their productions, which is part of this game. So take such results with a grain of salt. Nevertheless, recognition is recognition, and that's what the awards are ultimately about — bringing good theater to the attention of the theater-going public.

There were some nice touches to LCT's program this year, including an "audience service award" that singled out people who serve audience members — box office managers and bartenders, for instance. Sue Bolger, who runs the ticket operation at NKU was named the winner, but all of these folks make going to the theater a pleasure — Brenda Berger at the Carnegie, Cal Harris at Cincy Shakes, Barb Marino with New Edgecliff and John Simpson, who runs the bar at the Playhouse.

LCT annually recognizes outstanding theater educators: This year's honorees, Mike Sherman from Colerain High School and Chad Weddle from Anderson High School, both gave grateful speeches thanking parents and hard-working kids for making it possible. These guys (and everyone who puts together high school productions) are heroes in my book: They instill a love of theater in kids, some of whom go on to careers, but many more who just come to love theater and enjoy a lifetime of happy audience membership.

Speaking of heroes, Cincinnati Playhouse Associate Artistic Director Michael Evan Haney received a standing ovation from the crowd of 200 or so when he was presented with the Rick Steiner Award for Excellence. Haney is marking his 40th year in professional theater, having spent more than 20 years staging shows for the Playhouse (including 20+ iterations of A Christmas Carol, a show he first appeared in as Bob Cratchit), as well as work at other local theaters including Ensemble Theatre and Cincinnati Shakespeare.

Four Rising Stars were also named, performers under age 25 who are on the front end of promising careers. Ellie Jamison (CCM Drama), Drew Blakeman (NKU), Jon Kovach (Miami) and Sydney Kuhlman (an Ohio Northern grad who has been a stage management intern at the Playhouse) each received a $1,000 check to get them started.

The full list of LCT winners (as well as other nominees), can be found at leagueofcincytheatres.info.

 
 
by Rick Pender 05.17.2013
Posted In: Theater at 08:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
dale hodges in krisit - photo jim springfield

Stage Door: Choices, Choices

As the 2012-2013 theater season winds down, there are still several good productions worth seeing: You can still be entertained by the froth of The Marvelous Wonderettes: Caps and Gowns at Ensemble Theatre (which runs through June 1), intrigued by the dark comedy Measure for Measure at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company (through May 26; CityBeat review here) or titillated by the noir tale of lust and murder, Double Indemnity, at the Cincinnati Playhouse (wrapping up on Saturday; CityBeat review here).

But if you're looking for other options, you'll find them. Slightly more off the beaten path is Sunset Boulevard, the Andrew Lloyd Webber about a faded silent film star living in her grandiose memory of her glory days rather than in the cynical present of the 1940s. Cincinnati Music Theatre has assembled a fine production of the show at the Aronoff Center's Jarson-Kaplan Theater, onstage through Saturday evening. This is a big show in terms of cast, choreography, scenery and more, but CMT, a community theater, has the personnel to pull it off. Tickets: 513-621-2787.

Another tale of a film legend contemplating a return to the screen — but on a decidedly smaller scale — is offered in Krisit, a new play by local playwright Y York. Veteran actress Dale Hodges plays the title character in a show characterized by director Mark Lutwak as a funny play about a serious subject. York and Hodges have a history that goes back to New York City many years ago. It's onstage (through June 2) at Clifton Performance Theatre (the space once occupied by Sitwell's Coffee House, 404 Ludlow Ave.). Tickets: 513-861-7469.

Speaking of legends, at the Aronoff tonight (Friday) you'll find Hal Holbrook in Mark Twain Tonight! He's been presenting the humor, satirical wit and timeless observations of one of America's most iconic literary figures for more than a half-century. Holbrook is now 88, more than a decade older than Twain when he passed away in 1910. But he keeps his performances fresh and timely with constant edits and changes about politics, culture and the world, carefully attuned to the moment. (He has more than 16 hours of Twain material in his repertoire!) His performance is in the Procter & Gamble Hall at the Aronoff Center. Tickets: 513-621-2787.

If you've already enjoyed the Wonderettes at ETC, you might want to attend Forever Plaid, which just opened the 2013 summer season on board the Showboat Majestic. It's a similar story, a quartet of singers aspiring for their big musical break. They get it, but at a high (and highly comic) price. Lots of great tunes from the ’50s, surrounded by nostalgic humor. It's onstage through June 2. Tickets: 513-241-6550.

Finally, if you're a regular theatergoer in Cincinnati, you might want to attend the League of Cincinnati's awards program on Monday evening, 7 p.m. at Know Theatre. Details here.
 
 
by Rick Pender 05.10.2013
Posted In: Theater at 08:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cock photo- deogracias lerma

Stage Door: Stock Up

Nothing new onstage this week, but lots of good work continues as we head toward the summer when theater gets scarce. Now's the time to stock up.

This is the final weekend for Cock at Know Theatre. (Some publications call it The Cockfight Play, but Cock is Mike Bartlett's actual title for his play.) It's the story of a man who thought he was gay but now finds himself powerfully drawn to a woman. (CityBeat review here.) His former lover and his new passion both push him to make a choice, and he's torn. It's a great piece of theater, fueled by strong acting and interesting staging. Tickets: 513-300-5669.

Ensemble Theatre's production of The Marvelous Wonderettes: Caps and Gowns is off and running — and on its way to being another box-office hit for ETC. It's the same four spunky gals who audiences loved back in 2010 (in ETC's best-selling show ever), with new tuneful glimpses into their high school graduation in 1958 and a wedding reception in 1968. Talented singers, individually and as a quartet, make this a fine evening's entertainment. If you've seen it before, you know the drill — and you're probably ready for more. Tickets: 513-421-3555

James M. Cain's novel of crime and deception, Double Indemnity, continues at the Cincinnati Playhouse. (CityBeat review here.) If you think you know this show from Billy Wilder's 1944 film (one that defined the noir genre), you're in for a treat: While this production adopts the elements of terse narration, tough guys and sexy dames, the playwrights tell the story differently for the stage. And the Playhouse stages it inventively — one might even say cinematically. Tickets: 513-421-3888.

Shakespeare's Measure for Measure is a strange piece, a comedy with a deeply disturbing story about hypocrisy. (CityBeat review here.) A judgmental official condemns men for their licentious behavior, then turns around and propositions a virtuous woman pleading to spare her brother. This troublesome tale is interspersed with comic moments as minor characters wend their way through a time of sordid behavior — in Cincinnati Shakespeare's production it's been moved to Prohibition-era America. If you're a Shakespeare buff, this one is worth seeing, since it's not often staged. (It's been 18 years since it's been presented locally.) Tickets: 513-381-2273 x.1.

The musical Sister Act, based on the Whoopi Goldberg film from 1992, continues at the Aronoff. (CityBeat review here.) It's an evening of silly fluff, but the touring production, onstage through Sunday, is polished and entertaining. The plot is implausible, but it's a framework for some great singing and an eye-popping series of set pieces. Tickets: 800-982-2787. 

If you prefer a musical with a little more grit, head to Dayton where the Human Race Theatre Company is presenting next to normal at the Victoria Theater. This Rock musical about a paranoid schizophrenic mom and the damage her affliction imposes on her family is a powerful show, one that Cincinnati's Ensemble Theatre gave a well received production in 2011 that was revived a year ago. The show was an unusual winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for drama. It's onstage in Dayton through May 19. Tickets: 937-228-9360.
 
 
by Rick Pender 05.03.2013
Posted In: Theater at 08:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
measure for measure copy 2

Stage Door: Shake It Up

Cincinnati Shakespeare Company opens its production of the infrequently staged Measure for Measure tonight. Director Brian Isaac Phillips says, “We have discovered a lot of satire and wit as we explore the biting social criticism in this play. The behavior of these characters … is like a dark comic mirror, held up to nature. Shakespeare has written a play that begs us to examine modern day decadence and hypocrisy.” Phillips has set the production in the corrupt and hypocritical Prohibition Era, to "give modern audiences a context for the actions and the characters' deeply held opinions." It's onstage through May 26. Tickets: 513-381-2273 x.1.

The Marvelous Wonderettes are back at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati with another sequel to the 2010 show that set box-office records. This time the theme is "Caps and Gowns" — which means graduation (in 1958) and a wedding (in 1968). The quartet of girl singers are lively and sometimes harmonious, although each one has her quirks and pet peeves. The spread of a decade allows a range through two distinct periods of Rock & Roll, one innocent, the other a bit more knowing. ETC has reunited three of the four actresses who've played these parts before, and the fourth slot – filled by Leslie Goddard — is a petite stick of dynamite in cats' eye glasses. The show opened on Wednesday, and it will surely be a hot ticket again — ETC has already extended it by two weeks beyond its original closing date. Tickets: 513-421-3555.

I went to see Sister Act, based on the Whoopi Goldberg film from 1992 about nuns and disco, with low expectations. I was pleasantly surprised: This is a solid production of a very silly show, with some genuine talent in the leading roles, and plenty of energy in the ensemble. The music (by composer Alan Menken, who also wrote Little Shop of Horrors, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Newsies and many more) is entertaining, the production looks great — lots of glitter and sequins — and some moments of touching emotion (cliched, but moving nonetheless). Don't expect anything profound and you'll have a good time. It's onstage at the Aronoff Center. Tickets: 800-982-2782.

If you're in a darker mood, check out Double Indemnity at the Cincinnati Playhouse. It's a stage version of a noir classic, a pair of lovers plot to murder her husband and score a big insurance take (boyfriend is an insurance salesman). But things don't quite work out as planned. Very stylish imagery and actors who get the hard-boiled tough-guy style of story-telling from the 1940s. Paul Shortt's cleverly designed set moves the action quickly from scene to scene using two turntables, so it's almost like a movie with "wipes" from once setting to the next. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
 
 
by Rick Pender 05.02.2013
Posted In: Theater at 10:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
photo joan marcus

Well, Bless My Soul: 'Sister Act' is Fun!

You probably remember Whoopi Goldberg's popular film Sister Act from 1992, an unlikely story about an aspiring singer who witnesses a murder and needs to be hidden until the trial — in a convent. Of course, the contrast between Goldberg and the staid nuns, especially the Mother Superior (played by Maggie Smith). It became a musical in 2009 in London, in 2011 on Broadway and now a touring production. Sister Act: The Musical opened Tuesday at the Aronoff Center.

Of course, Goldberg isn't in it, 20 years later. But she is the producer, and her attitude prevails. Her statement about the show pretty well sums it up: "Sister Act is not rocket science — it's hell-bent on being fun and silly, with a little heart thrown in." That's pretty much what I expected.

What surprised me was the talent of the touring cast, performers who are fully committed to deliver an evening of entertainment. Ta'rea Campbell has star power in the Delores/Sister Mary Clarence role, and she's surely a better singer than Whoopi Goldberg ever was. She conveys the shift from attitude to gratidude with sincerity. Hollis Resnik, a veteran musical theater performer from Chicago, captures the starchy disdain needed for the Mother Superior.

The entire ensemble is solid, especially Lael Van Keuren as the innocent postulant who breaks out of her shell, Florrie Bagel as an enthusiastic, starstruck nun and Diane J. Findlay as an elderly nun who finds her mojo. E. Clayton Cornelious is the socially inept cop looking out for Delores, in part because he had a crush on her in high school; he has dreams of being a smooth operator ("I Could Be That Guy," which features some astonishing costume changes as he fantasizes). And there are cartoonish villains: Delores's violent one-time boyfriend Curtis played by Kingsley Leggs. His three thugs, played hilariously by Ernie Pruneda, Charles Barksdale and Jason Simon bring the house down when they explain how they can have their way with the ladies, even if they're nuns ("Lady in the Long Black Dress").

Of course, Sister Act is full of stereotypes and predictable humor, but its all done with energy and polish, which makes it worth seeing. Production values are excellent, from a lot of quick costume changes (you can't imagine how many acres of glittering material went into this show) to a psychedelic Philadelphia cathedral interior that gets wilder and brighter as the story builds, culminating in a performance for the Pope.

There's nothing profound about Sister Act, which is part of the fun.

 
 
by Rick Pender 04.28.2013
Posted In: Theater at 10:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
lynn meyers

ETC Shares News About Four Shows for Next Season

Two additional shows will round out 2013-14 season

Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati today announced four of its six shows for the 2013-2014 season, which opens on Sept. 4. Producing Artistic Director D. Lynn Meyers says, "We are planning a truly original, fresh and exhilarating season of dynamic regional premieres, and I am absolutely thrilled to showcase some of the hottest titles and newest voices this coming year." 

I'll add my vote of confidence: Meyers' play selection has been unerring for several seasons: Even if the titles aren't immediately familiar, ETC's productions have been engaging and among the best work onstage locally. It's a bit of annual amusement for ETC subscribers that Meyers takes longer than most to pull together what she will present — but that's because she's bargaining, wheedling and pleading with agents, rights organizations and sometimes playwrights themselves right up until the last minute to land very recently produced works. In fact, for the coming season, rather than wait until everything is in place, Meyers has is announcing four shows for the company's 28th season, with slots still open for productions in February and May 2014.

Here's what we know, for now:

Other Desert Cities by Jon Robin Baitz (Sept. 4-22, 2013). The searing comedy by the creator of TV's hit drama Brothers & Sisters, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and The New York Times called it "the best new play on Broadway" a year ago. When a once-promising novelist returns home to Palm Springs to visit her parents, conflict ensues when she reveals she's been writing a juicy, tell-all memoir focusing on the tragic death of her antiwar-activist brother. 

Rapture, Blister, Burn by Gina Gionfriddo (Oct. 9-27, 2013). It's another Pulitzer Prize finalist, this one is by a writer whose credits include Law & Order and the recent Netflix series starting Kevin Spacey, House of Cards. It's a social comedy about a rising young academic who's not at all certain that she's leading the life she wants. An evening with a friend who's a stay-at-home mom leads to an interesting game of musical chairs.

Around the World in 80 Days by Joseph McDonough and David Kisor (Dec. 4, 2013-Jan. 4, 2014). ETC will revive one of the first of its holiday shows created back in 1999. Based on Jules Verne's classic novel, it's the story of a crazed circumnavigation of the globe in 1899 by the brilliant Englishman Phileas Fogg, who wages a fortune that he can do it in record time. Bandits, buffalo and winter storms are just a few of the obstacles he must overcome, but the story promises great fun for families.

The Mountaintop by Katori Hall (March 19-April 6, 2014). This show won London's Olivier Award for the season's best new play, and its Broadway production featured Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and a feisty young hotel maid. The civil rights leader is cooling down in a lonely Memphis hotel room after delivering one of his greatest speeches. The next day, tragedy would strike. It's a powerful piece of theater by a rising young playwright, according to all who have seen it.

Subscriptions are already on sale for ETC's season. More information is available by calling 513-421-3555. Single tickets will go on sale to the general public on August 5, 2013.
 
 
by Rick Pender 04.26.2013
Posted In: Theater at 08:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ac_onstage_cock_photo_deograciaslerma

Stage Door: Weekend Choices

You still have several weeks to see Cock (aka "The Cockfight Play" for journalism wimps) at Know Theatre. (It's onstage through May 11.) It's an oh-so-contemporary piece of theater about a gay man — or rather a man — who thought himself to be gay until he breaks up with his boyfriend and takes up with a woman. (CityBeat review here.) The play involves the tense dance of indecision he becomes part of as his lovers fight over him. It's about 90-minutes of fiercely acted theatrics, staged in a setting that looks like the arena where cockfighting happens. Definitely for mature audiences who appreciate shows that don't pull punches. Tickets: 513-3

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by Rick Pender 04.19.2013
Posted In: Theater at 10:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cock photo- deogracias lerma

Stage Door: Bounty of Choices

There's a bounty of theater choices to keep you entertained this weekend, with productions on venues all over town — including on several university campuses. Here are a few you might want to check out.

New Edgecliff Theatre, which has presented shows at the Columbia Performance Center on Cincinnati's East Side for quite a few years, has been itinerant this year while they seek a new home. They're completing their fifteenth season with a production of David Auburn's Proof at the Aronoff Center's Fifth Third Bank Theater, which looks like it's where they'll land for their next season. (I'll be writing more about NET in my next CityBeat "Curtain Call" column on April 24.) I attended the show's opening on Wednesday, and it's a solid production of a very engaging play, the winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize. Greg Procaccino, NET's former artistic director, has returned to stage a simple but effective production that features Rebecca Whatley as Catherine, the anxious, self-doubting young woman who has been a caregiver for years for her father, a renowned math professor whose mental instability has been a factor and a threat in his daughter's life. The show has several gripping twists and turns, as well as a satisfying resolution. Through April 27. Tickets: 513-621-2787.

Last week I was at the opening of Cock, a regional premiere and Know Theatre's second production of the season. (CityBeat review here.) It's the story of a man falling out of a gay relationship and into one with a woman; he's torn by indecision and doubt about which way to go. The show is staged (by director Brian Robertson) like a cockfight, with the characters "pecking" at one another emotionally. It's also presented in an unusual setting, bertween two rows of bleachers (like a cockfight arena), so you're close to the action and able to see how others are responding. It's a fight to the finish, and you can never be certain of the outcome. Strong acting and a very contemporary, well-written script by British playwright Mike Bartlett. Through May May 11. Tickets: 513-300-5669.

This is the final weekend at the Carnegie in Covington for the hard-hitting musical Parade by composer and lyricist Jason Robert Brown and playwright Alfred Uhry. (CityBeat review here.) It's based on the true story of Leo Frank, unjustly accused of murdering a young teenaged girl working in the factory he managed in Atlanta in 1913. A Jew from New York, Frank was the target of profound anti-Semitism and never had a realistic chance to defend himself, although his wife tried mightily to expose the prejudice. It's a powerful production, featuring a cast of musical theater talent from UC's College-Conservatory of Music, directed by Dee Anne Bryll and Ed Cohen. The show is not easy to watch, but it's deeply moving. Through Sunday. Tickets: 859-957-1940.

Every two years since 1981, Northern Kentucky University has presented the Year End Series Festival — shortened to the "YES," ten days of presentations of three world premieres. This year's shows are a murder-mystery farce, Heart Attack with a Knife by Oded Gross; David L. Williams Spake, a drama set in Siberia; and a comic fable about fame and friendship, Furbelow by J. Stephen Brantley. YES is a gargantuan undertaking, and it represents how NKU prepares its drama students for careers in the theater. Shows are presented in rotating repertory, so you should check the Web site for specific performance dates. Tickets: 859-572-5464.

At other area universities this weekend: At the Cohen Family Studio Theater at UC's College-Conservatory of Music, you can see a production of Emily Mann's Execution of Justice (UC's College-Conservatory of Music, through Sunday, 513-556-4183), a new docu-drama about the trial of Dan White for the murder of Harvey Milk, San Francisco's first openly gay Supervisor and Mayor George Moscone. It's staged by retiring UC drama professor Michael Burnham. And for musical theater fans, you can see Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's popular fairytale musical Into the Woods at Miami University (through April 27, 513-529-3200).
 
 

 

 

 
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