0 Comments · Wednesday, May 25, 2016
annual gala will be the evening of May 27 at the Aronoff Center. This is
a great program for high school kids involved in the arts — I thought
it was worth writing more about the program and its annual culminating
0 Comments · Wednesday, May 18, 2016
If you’re looking for uplifting plays, Samuel Beckett is not the guy you’d normally turn to. Nevertheless, the writer of Waiting for Godot had occasional lighter moments, and Happy Days was
one of them.
by Rick Pender
15 days ago
Posted In: Theater
at 02:12 PM | Permalink
There are so many good choices for theater right now you
could hardly go wrong anywhere, but there are three shows you should
The musical Violet at Ensemble Theatre
Cincinnati is the story of an angry, self-conscious young woman who
believes her life is a dead end because of a disfiguring facial scar.
She travels from North Carolina to a televangelist in Oklahoma in hopes
of a miracle, which does happen — kind of, but certainly not in the way
she imagined. This is a moving story with great music, and it’s superbly
performed, especially by Brooke Steele as the title character: Putting
together an excellent vocal performance with fully committed acting, she
delivers an aching, anxious performance that occasionally flashes with
joy. She’s surrounded by more talent, several of whom take on multiple
roles. This is the kind of show that makes you grateful that we have a
theater like ETC and a director like Lynn Meyers. (CityBeat review here.) Through May 22.
Violet is searching for beauty, while Haley, the solo character in Theresa Rebeck’s Bad Dates,
is just looking for a good evening out. But she’s having a hard time
finding the right man — not to mention the right shoes to wear. The
Cincinnati Playhouse produced this show a dozen years ago and it was a
big hit. With Vivia Font as the charming narrator, a sweet but
uninhibited girl-next-door who carries it off like she’s chatting with
girlfriends, this production is a surefire hit. (CityBeat review here.) Through June 12.
Another big search us underway at the Aronoff Center’s
Jarson-Kaplan Theater where Cincinnati Music Theatre is presenting the
musical Big Fish, based on a Tim Burton film from 2003
featuring Albert Finney, Ewan McGregor and Billy Crudup. It’s the story
of Edward Bloom (Fred Tacon, pulling off a role handled by two actors in
the movie) who loves to embroider and exaggerate the events of his
life, and Will (PJ Karpew, a powerful singer), his down-to-earth son who
loved his dad’s tall tales as a kid. But as a grownup, he’s grown both
weary and dubious of these apparent fantasies and insists on discovering
the truth. Ed’s imagined adventures are brought to amusing life onstage
in this production, and CMT’s cast, steered by community theater
veteran Skip Fenker, is busy from start to finish with countless costume
changes, dance routines and funny situations. (There’s some clever use
of video, too.) Will learns some truth he never expected, discovering
that his father was indeed a hero — even if it wasn’t in the stories he
made up. The show’s messages of love and inspiration come through loud
and clear. Through Saturday evening. Tickets: 513-621-2787.
Also worth your consideration: Opening tonight are Antony and Cleopatra (Cincinnati Shakespeare, through June 4) and Catch Me If You Can: The Musical (Showbiz Players at the Carnegie in Covington, through May 22). You still have time to see Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Swing at the Cincinnati Playhouse and the touring production of Cabaret at the Aronoff Center, presented by Broadway in Cincinnati. Both continue through next weekend. Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
by Rick Pender
36 days ago
Noble Romans, ambitious astronomers, fairy tales and one bad girl
You have more theater choices this weekend than time, I
suspect, so choose carefully depending on the kind of show you most
If it’s a classic, I suggest you check out Julius Caesar
at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. This tale of one of history’s most
memorable political assassinations is one of Shakespeare’s shorter
plays, about two hours and 15 minutes. But it’s action-packed with a lot of
intrigue, soul-searching and emotions that ebb and flow. Cincy Shakes
relies on its acting ensemble to fill these iconic roles, and they bring
them to life more vividly than I’ve seen in a long time. Josh Katawick
is especially engaging as the leader, “lean and hungry” Cassius, whose
motives are not far below his ambitious surface; Brent Vimtrup is
Brutus, caught up in the plot for reasons of principle rather than envy,
and his subtle performance of this conflicted man is compelling.
Veteran Nick Rose is the blustery soldier Marc Antony, who’s actually a
subtle manipulator of opinion. (We’ll see more of him next month when
Cincy Shakes move on to Shakespeare’s other Roman play, Antony and Cleopatra). Through May 7. Tickets: 513-381-2273.
An engaging new play, Lauren Gunderson’s Silent Sky,
is onstage at Know Theatre, the story of Henrietta Leavitt, a woman of
science from a century ago when women were not expected to have
meaningful insights. But drawn to the mysteries of astronomy, she
tirelessly made advances despite many barriers. Maggie Lou Rader plays
the feisty woman, and her moral support from two older women, played by
Annie Fitzpatrick and Regina Pugh, has elements of humor. This is a
well-acted, well-staged play (direction by Know’s Tamara Winters), worth
seeing. I gave it a Critic’s Pick with my CityBeat review. Through May 14. Tickets: 513-300-5669.
The 2014 movie of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods
featured Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt, James Corden and
Johnny Depp. A production currently onstage at Northern Kentucky
University doesn’t have that kind of star power, but the student cast
does an admirable job with a show that places extraordinary vocal
demands on singers. Director Jamey Strawn hit upon an imaginative
framing device for the legendary fairy tale mash-up, setting it in a
library where a young boy (played with a mischievously expressive
demeanor by Charlie Klesa, a sixth-grader at Mercy Montessori), hides
away for an overnight adventure of reading and fantasizing. As giants
threaten the kingdom, books tumble from the library’s two-story-tall
shelves. Into the Woods requires a big cast, and more than 20 NKU
student actors plus a stylized wooden cow are clearly committed to
giving their all to this production. Opening night on Thursday was an
enthusiastic full house. Through May 1. Tickets: 859-572-5464.
Neil LaBute’s plays traffic in complex, often ironic,
manipulative situations, frequently brutal stories of abusive, selfish
behavior. The Shape of Things, presented by New
Edgecliff Theatre at Hoffner Lodge in Northside, is that kind of story —
about Evelyn, an ambitious young woman who makes an art project of
Adam, another student who thinks their relationship is a love affair.
Rebecca Whatley and Matthew Krieg handle these complicated roles
believably, but you’ll walk away wondering about their motives — she’s
cold, he’s clueless. It’s a compelling, disturbing story that makes for
an evening of edgy, psychological theater. Another Critic’s Pick with my
CityBeat review. Through April 30. Tickets here.There’s a touring production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast
onstage at the Aronoff Center through Sunday. It’s an entertaining,
visually captivating production. There’s nothing new about it, to be
sure, but the young cast carries off the sprightly songs and
choreography with lots of energy. I wish there was a little more heart
and a little less clowning, especially by Sam Hartley as the Beast,
who’s meant to be a tragic hero. The chemistry between him and Brooke
Quintana as Belle is in the script, but it only shows up intermittently
onstage. Nevertheless, Wednesday night’s full house with lots of kids
dressed for the evening clearly had a good time watching the story
unfold. Through Sunday. Tickets: 513-621-2787.
Quick Notes: True Theater is back for another quarterly
evening of storytelling on Monday evening at 7:30 p.m. Know Theatre.
This time the theme is True Gay, so it will be enlightening to
hear the personal reminiscences that get shared. … At UC’s
College-Conservatory of Music this weekend, the drama program presents a
staged reading of Grace Gardner’s new script, Very Dumb Kids,
tonight 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. It’s the beginning of a new
play commissioning initiative that will foster new works. … This is the
final weekend for David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross at the Incline Theater in East Price Hill and for Jason Robert Brown’s musical, The Last Five Years, at The Carnegie in Covington.
Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 20, 2016
As part of the ongoing celebration of the Weston Art Gallery’s 20th anniversary, the gallery is offering Present Tense Imperfect,
a performance series of spoken word, music and film held in the Aronoff
Center’s Fifth Third Bank Theater.
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 20, 2016
The story of Belle, a smart young woman,
and her romance with a Beast (a handsome prince under a spell) is a
“tale as old as time,” but its tour stop in Cincinnati is short — only
Tuesday • Aronoff Center for the Arts
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 6, 2016
Ian Anderson has come up with a new, potentially clever way to showcase his old material. The show is called Jethro Tull
and it celebrates the old band’s namesake — an 18th-century English
agriculturalist who invented the horse-drawn seed drill.
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 6, 2016
Ian Anderson, the craggy-voiced singer and virtuosic flutist who led Jethro Tull, has come up with a new, potentially clever way to showcase his old material.
0 Comments · Tuesday, March 1, 2016
Low expectations and high results — that’s the story of Newsies,
about a ragged band of New York newsboys in 1899 who fought back
against publishing titans and won.
0 Comments · Wednesday, February 24, 2016
China was once known as “The Middle
Kingdom” and “The Land of the Divine,” said to be inhabited by heroes,
sages, dragons, phoenixes and immortals.