by Rick Pender 11.20.2015 10 days ago
Posted In: Theater at 10:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
stage door 11-20 - low down dirty blues @ cincinnati playhouse - felicia p. fields connects with an audience member - photo mikki schaffner .jpg

Stage Door: Non-Holiday Holiday Shows

Several of our local theaters produce shows this time of year that are a kind of antidote to the usual fare of A Christmas Carol and other happy, merry tales. Three get under way this weekend: I went to a rockin’ party earlier this week, and you can, too — if you turn up for the Cincinnati Playhouse’s production of Low Down Dirty Blues, through Dec. 20. That’s right, a whole month of good times and sad in the intimate Shelterhouse Theater, doubling as Big Mama’s after-hours Blues bar. Every year around this time the Playhouse puts on a show as an alternate holiday choice to A Christmas Carol (which gets underway next week). This year it’s a warm-hearted good time featuring three excellent singers and a couple of very accomplished Jazz musicians (especially local Jazz pianist Steve Schmidt) performing off-color tunes, full of double-entendres and scandalous joking. The first half of the two-hour performance is mostly about lusty interaction via tunes like “Rough and Ready Man,” “I Got My Mojo Workin’ ” and “You Bring Out the Boogie in Me.” After intermission the party continues briefly (including some cute audience interaction to the tune of “I’m Not That Kind of Girl” — but then the tone darkens with passionate songs of grief (“Death Letter”), mourning (“Good Morning Heartache”) and then hope (“Change is ’Gonna Come”). Felicia P. Fields, a Broadway veteran who played a major role in the original staging of The Color Purple, anchors (and I use that word quite literally) the banter and the singing, but she is ably matched by Caron “Sugaray” Rayford, a massive force of energy, perspiration and rhythm. Chic Street Man sings and plays several guitars (especially a steel number with a gorgeous ring), and his sly, sinuous presence is a perfect complement to Fields’ and Rayford’s more ebullient performances. Don’t go if you’re offended by sexual innuendo, but if you’re looking for a “low down dirty” time, call now for a ticket: 513-421-3888 One of Shakespeare’s most beloved comedies, As You Like It, is the first step of holiday happiness at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. The story of tomfoolery and romance in the Forest of Arden kicks off tonight; it’s around until Dec. 12, when it’s followed by the tenth annual staging of Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some). In case you missed it, Cincy Shakes announced this week that by mid-2017 it moves to its own spectacular new space in Washington Park, the Otto M. Budig Theatre, with nearly 100 more seats than its Race Street facility. (Read my story in this week's issue for more.) Until then, you need to line up for tickets, since many of the company’s performances sell out quickly. Tickets: 513-381-2273 Another “kind of” holiday show getting started is Know Theatre’s production of All Childish Things, opening tonight and onstage through Dec. 19. In a story set right here in Cincinnati (Norwood, in fact), it’s 2006 and two guys are still yearning for the galactic adventures promised by Star Wars when they were kids. One guy lives in his mom’s basement; the other has a girlfriend who could care less about The Force. They think their big break might be residing in a warehouse full of collectible Star Wars memorabilia. Zany shows rooted in childhood have become a holiday staple at Know Theatre, and this is right up that weird, happy alley. Tickets: 513-300-5669 And if you’re really longing to get the holidays under way, you have the perfect opportunity with a tour stop by a production of White Christmas at the Aronoff (next Tuesday through Dec. 6). It’s a stage version of the popular film; the tour features stage Cincinnati and Broadway veteran Pamela Myers in a cute, outspoken role. She performs a number titled “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy,” a perfect summary of her illustrious career. Tickets: 513-621-2787 Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.

Still Monkeying Around

The Monkees celebrate 45th anniversary with tour

0 Comments · Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Saturday's Aronoff Center show is a chance to look back and appreciate the cultural relevancy — even avant-gardism — of The Monkees in their heyday. Micky Dolenz reflects on the band's 1968 movie 'Head,' which came out after the TV series had ended and was so psychedelically surreal and narratively irreverent that it freaked out those who saw its initial theatrical release.   

Shrek the Musical (Review)

A crowd-pleasing combination of physical and highbrow humor

0 Comments · Wednesday, April 13, 2011
I went into Shrek The Musical expecting a silly cartoon. That’s exactly what it is — but it’s a really well-done silly cartoon, perfect fare for an audience full of kids and parents. This high-class touring production features an eye-popping array of colorful costumes for an army of fairytale characters, constantly changing scenery (several backdrops have moving projections of clouds and weather) and crazy choreography (including a number with tap-dancing rats).   

Legally Blonde: The Musical (Review)

Omigod, touring show entertains via stereotypes

0 Comments · Friday, May 14, 2010
A lot of people enjoy the type of humorous storytelling found in this chick-flick sitcom of a musical. Although I'm not among them, I won't deny them their preferred entertainment. The energetic cast is led by the bubbly Becky Gulsvig, playing "Omigod" Elle Woods, the sorority girl/cheerleader originated by Reese Witherspoon in the 2001 film and its 2003 sequel.  

Dance of the Living Dead

Service for the dead becomes dance for the living in Cincinnati Ballet's 'Requiem'

2 Comments · Tuesday, March 23, 2010
A bathtub, a bed, lots of heavy leather suitcases — not necessarily props you expect to see onstage for a ballet, let alone for a ballet set to the high funereal seriousness of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's 'Requiem.' But that's just some of what audiences will experience at Adam Hougland's world premiere ballet, 'Mozart's Requiem,' Friday and Saturday at the Aronoff Center.  

The 39 Steps (Review)

Touring Broadway show hits all the right notes

0 Comments · Thursday, March 4, 2010
Sometimes the best comedy comes from being dead serious. We learned from 'Monty Python' that no matter how silly those fellows were in word or action, they seldom cracked a smile. That's a fundamental reason why 'The 39 Steps' is a raucously funny evening in the theater: Four actors are deadly earnest, even when the action is frantically ridiculous. Laughter is inevitable.  

Wake-Up Call

Provocative rock musical 'Spring Awakening' beautifully explores teen sexuality, violence and suicide

0 Comments · Monday, January 11, 2010
Once every generation or so a Broadway musical turns the complacent world of happy entertainment upside down. The current generation’s trendsetter, Spring Awakening (2006 Tony winner), about adolescents dealing with coming-of-age anxieties, is onstage in a touring production Jan. 12-24 at the Aronoff Center.  

Spring Awakening (Review)

Broadway show brings poetry and emotion brought to painful life

0 Comments · Friday, January 15, 2010
Let's be forthright: Despite its seemingly upbeat title, the touring Broadway musical 'Spring Awakening' deals with dark and difficult topics: teen suicide, unplanned pregnancy, physical abuse. But the dramatic tension between pain and passion is what's awakened in this powerful show. It's a new dynamic, revealing the magnificent potential of musical theater.  

Irving Berlin's White Christmas (Review)

Touring holiday show is a Technicolor spectacular

0 Comments · Friday, November 13, 2009
If you enjoy musicals — especially movie musicals — you're in for a great time at the Aronoff Center, where Broadway Across America is presenting the first touring production of 'Irving Berlin's White Christmas.' OK, so it's early for a holiday show. It has a holiday sparkle, but the music, energy and polished performances will impress you.