0 Comments · Wednesday, December 16, 2015
The holiday song has it that this is “the most wonderful time of the year.” That’s certainly true if you love holiday-themed theater. Some of what’s available in Cincinnati is family-friendly, while some of it takes some liberties with the holidays.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 10:12 AM | Permalink
Ho-Ho-Ho, try a holiday show!
Most of the theater onstage right now is holiday-themed —
or at least family-friendly. If you want to take kids to see something,
your best bet is Cinderella at Ensemble Theatre
Cincinnati, a contemporary take on the familiar fairytale — the heroine
is a bookworm who prefers to sneakers to glass slippers. There’s lots of
humor, especially from the loudmouthed and crass stepsisters in this
telling, plus some fine musical moments. This show will be around until
Jan. 3. Tickets: 513-421-3555 … Another good choice for kids is A Charlie Brown Christmas,
presented at the Taft Theatre by Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati. You
know the story, I’m sure (this year is the 50th anniversary of the TV
special) but it’s a good bet that Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati is
putting a version onstage that will let kids have a good time.
Performances are at 2 and 5 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday.
Tickets: 800-745-3000 … Want to start a family tradition? There’s no
better choice than Cincinnati Playhouse’s glittering, well-acted
production of A Christmas Carol. It’s fast-moving and
often funny (Bruce Cromer gives Ebenezer the full range of emotion, from
crabby “Bah, humbug” to a joyous “Merry Christmas.”) It’s onstage
through Dec. 30. Tickets: 513-421-3888 … The Covedale Center’s
production of Mary Poppins isn’t their best work (it feels
a tad long for youngsters), but it has great tunes and some memorable
special effects — Mary flies and Bert walks up and down the sides of the
proscenium — that audiences will enjoy. Through Dec. 27. Tickets:
The Rock musical Rent, onstage at the
Incline Theatre in Price Hill doesn’t exactly qualify as holiday or
family entertainment, although its story does start and finish at
Christmas (with “525,600 Minutes” in between). But this is an
energetically acted and sung production for mature audiences. Through
Dec. 20. Tickets: 513-241-6550 … If you can’t quite wait for The Force Awakens to open, you can get a small dose of Star Wars energy from All Childish Things
at Know Theatre. It’s a comedy about some slackers trying to steal
collectibles from a warehouse — they don’t succeed, but they learn a
lesson about heroism that’s akin to the movie. Through Dec. 19. Tickets:
513-300-5669 … This weekend is your final opportunity to see As You Like It
at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. It’s a delightful production of one
of Shakespeare’s best comedies, but it’s wrapping up on Saturday. (Next
week CSC opens Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some) on Wednesday.) Tickets: 513-381-2273 …The most entertaining non-holiday show this season has to be Low Down Dirty Blues on
the Playhouse’s Shelterhouse stage. It’s pretty much what the title
says: Three singers getting a little raunchy and having a lot of fun
with some tunes about being up and down. Great performances and a really
good time for grown-ups. Through Dec. 20. Tickets: 513-421-3888
Finally, if you a performance that’s simply feel-good, I
heartily recommend going to Ensemble Theatre on Monday evening at 7 p.m.
for their one-night-only annual presentation of Expectations of Christmas.
It’s a round-up of holiday traditions, origins, music, facts and
back-stories — presented by performers who frequent ETC’s stage.
Admission is just $10 and all the proceeds go to Tender Mercies (an
Over-the-Rhine agency right around the corner from ETC that provides
permanent and transitional housing for the homeless with histories of
chronic mental illness). Tickets: 513-421-3555 … or walk in on Monday
and you’ll likely get in.
Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 11:14 AM | Permalink
Don't despair that the Christmas holiday is behind you. Several theaters
are still staging enough cheer to keep you going for another week or so. Here's
what continues this weekend:
At the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park you'll find the traditional
Christmas favorite A Christmas Carol as well as The
Complete History of Comedy (abridged) onstage through Sunday. It feels
a bit odd to be watching Scrooge and the ghosts after Christmas Day, but the
Playhouse's rendition is such a lovely show and Bruce Cromer's portrait of the
old miser is so entertaining that you'll be charmed, I'm sure. And the Reduced
Shakespeare guys doing the "comedy" piece know how to evoke laughter
from the making of jokes in ways you haven't imagined. They're the guys who
originated this amusing formula with The Complete Works of William
Shakespeare (abridged), and they're making it work with this world premiere
production. It's a nice bit of entertainment for a weekend between the
holidays. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
Holiday themed laughs are being served up at Cincinnati Shakespeare
Company through Sunday, too, with their eighth annual presentation of Every
Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some). No Shakespeare in evidence
(although they're performing on the gussied-up set that was built for the
previous production, Twelfth Night) but four of CSC's best comic talents
are mashing up every imaginable tale you might think of that has a holiday
connection — Charlie Brown, Charles Dickens, Rudolph, the Nutcracker, It's a
Wonderful Life and many more. They'll have you laughing from start to
finish, especially if you make a stop by the bar in the lobby beforehand. Not
for the kids, but a lot of fun for anyone with an adolescent sense of humor.
Tickets: 513-381-2273 x 1.
If you want a nice outing for the kids, I recommend Ensemble Theatre
Cincinnati's holiday show, Around the World in 80 Days. Jules
Verne's adventure classic about a hectic circumnavigation of the globe in 1899
has been musicalized and condensed in a way that children will enjoy it — but
there's enough humor and talent onstage to keep adults entertained, too. ETC'S
production actually runs through the weekend after New Year's Day, but if the
kids are restless and you want to entertain them with live theater, this is a
great choice. Tickets: 513-421-3555.
0 Comments · Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Just a few more shopping days before
Christmas. Theater is a great idea for last-minute gifts. Start a
tradition that’s easy to repeat year after year. A trip to see a show is
a wonderful gift, especially for kids. My earliest memory of
theatergoing is my grandfather taking me to see the musical Brigadoon. I still remember it.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 10:41 AM | Permalink
OK, the holidays are officially here. If you have any strength left after shopping last night and all day today, there are numerous theatrical offerings to consider.On Wednesday night, I attended the opening of a musical version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, a touring production at the Aronoff through Sunday. I suspect most everyone knows the story (which certainly resembles A Christmas Carol, with the Grinch replacing Scrooge as the meanie who's taught the meaning of Christmas). This newish musical uses some of the songs from the beloved 1966 animated version of Dr. Seuss's classic 1957 story of the green guy with a heart "two sizes too small." Audiences, in fact, are invited to sing along on "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch." What's touring is a 90-minute-rendition that's family-friendly, outfitted with wild costumes, technicolor scenery and a gaggle of special effects that include snow inside the Aronoff and festive confetti cannons for the finale. The tale is narrated by the senior citizen version of Max, the Grinch's hapless dog; Bob Lauder has a great baritone voice, a bemused mindset and a great tail that still wags. (He's complimented by and partnered with his eager younger self, played by Andreas Wyatt.) There's a whole raft of happy singing and dancing citizens of Whoville, of course, especially sweet Cindy Lou who wins over the Grinch's meager heart. Two kids alternate in this demanding role; I saw the adorable Jenna Iacono, but I'm sure Piper Birney is just as charming when she's singing "Santa for a Day" and wearing down the Grinch from his nasty ways.As the Grinch, Stefan Karl gets to mug, growl, grimace and just be a general grouch (he does some farting and belching, just to add to his inappropriateness). He's great fun to watch from his first entrance, as "ugly as a cactus," outfitted in something across between newly mown grass, tattered green feathers and seaweed, to his final scene where he's embraced by the Whos. He's so bad he's good. And his story is a fine addition to Thanksgiving weekend from Broadway in Cincinnati. Performances, including several matinees, are at the Aronoff through Sunday evening. Tickets (starting at $28): 513-621-2787Starting tonight (and for the next several weeks), you can also choose between two different productions of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. The Cincinnati Playhouse returns its beautiful retelling of Scrooge's dark night of the soul for the 23rd consecutive year. If you're a theater fan, it's a pleasure to see Bruce Cromer, one of southwest Ohio's finest actors, in the bah-humbug role. He makes Scrooge such fun, a genuine holiday treat. With all the whiz-bang spinning scenery, ghostly presences and gorgeous Victorian costumes, well, this show is a great dose of holiday sentiment and cheer. Tickets: 513-421-3888.For a different rendition of Dickens' grouch who gets his comeuppance, the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts is offering a musical version of A Christmas Carol that's new this season. (In fact, the book and lyrics are by Cincinnati Landmark's Tim Perrino with music by Jeremy Helmes; Perrino directs the show.) West Siders love the Covedale, and I suspect more than a few folks from Cincinnati's supposedly more "refined" side will make the trek to 4990 Glenway Avenue to see this one. Tickets: 513-241-6550.If you prefer some non-holiday entertainment, the Playhouse offers The Complete History of Comedy (abridged), which begins a hysterical two hours with a skit that literally presents the "birth of comedy." (CityBeat review here.) You won't stop laughing until it's over, and I can guarantee some unexpected things along the way — there is a script, but the three performers play fast and loose through the performance, including bringing a few audience members into the merriment. Tickets: 513-421-3888.And if Thanksgiving leaves you overdosed on goodness and sick of being nice, you might want to catch one of the final performances of Bull at Know Theatre. (CityBeat review here.) It's the story of three office workers competing for two jobs — and they're not nice at all. If you're seeking some vicarious nastiness, this is the show for you. Tickets: 513-300-5669.
0 Comments · Wednesday, December 5, 2012
It’s time for mistletoe and holly, when
theaters entice folks in search of holiday cheer (and occasional
parodies thereof) to celebrate the season. Many theaters need December
ticket revenues to present shows onstage for the rest of the year.
Holiday theater for the nice and naughty
0 Comments · Tuesday, November 20, 2012
How does that upbeat holiday tune go? “It’s the most
wonderful time of the year”? If you’re a theater fan and a devotee of
holiday cheer, that’s the song you’re humming.
0 Comments · Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Not many theaters have been led by an artistic director for more than a decade. The Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park has had Ed Stern as its producing artistic director for nearly two. He’ll end his run in June 2012, completing his 20th season. Stern recently announced the shows for his final season at the Tony Award-winning regional theater.
0 Comments · Monday, December 6, 2010
I annually face the holidays with mixed
emotions. I love the holiday season, but I also know that it means I'll be in overdrive, attending numerous theatrical holiday productions. But there are excellent options again this holiday season, starting with Cincinnati Playhouse's 'A Christmas Carol' and ETC's 'Cinderella.'