by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 11:32 AM | Permalink
Perhaps this weekend
you want to take a last-chance trip down Memory Lane. You have that
option as the Showboat Majestic is wrapping up its production of Showboat Follies,
the final show that Cincinnati Landmark Productions will stage on the
historic vessel. It's a revue of songs and skits that should be fun if
not profound, but if you go (final performance is Sunday),
you'll be able to tell you foriends that you were among the last to
visit this nostalgic Cincinnati venue. (Unless the City of Cincinnati
finds another operator — which they've been seeking with no success.)
This weekend also offers the final performances of Oliver Twist at
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. It's a tale of crime and child abuse
from the Victorian era, and not terribly chipper — think A Christmas Carol
without any holiday spirits. But as always with Cincy Shakes, there's
some fine acting — and they've added some musical elements that keep
things interest, too. Through Sunday. Tickets: 513-381-2273, x1.
The most engaging theater onstage right now (and sticking around until Oct. 4) is Fly
at the Cincinnati Playhouse. It's a creative portrait of four aspiring
African Americans striving to be Tuskegee Airmen during World War II.
The challenges they faced — prejudice, rigorous training and
life-threatening aerial combat — not only made them pioneers who
addressed civil rights issues decades before the rest of America, it
made them heroes, too. Making this production all the more interesting
is a modern tap dancer who "underscores" many of the scenes with
movement and rhythm. I suspect you've never seen anything quite like
this. Tickets: 513-241-3888.
If you're a movie fan I suspect you've seen Carrie (based on Stephen King's novel about a bullied girl who unleashed her telekinetic powers) and Ghost
(about a guy who's murdered but comes back with the help of a crazy
psychic to save the lover he's lost). They've both been turned into
unmemorable musicals that are onstage locally for you to see. I've seen
them both, and I'm sorry to say that — despite some fine voices (in Carrie at the Carnegie, presented by Showbiz Players) and a lot of video and special effects (a touring production of Ghost at the Aronoff Center) — I believe you might be better off to pull out your DVD of either film to watch.
haven't seen it, but I'm intrigued by Northern Kentucky University's
production of Moby Dick Rehearsed. Herman Melville's great American
novel is brought to life onstage when a company of Shakespearean actors
stop rehearsing King Lear and consider a new play drawn from the tale of
the Great White Whale. Theater elements become aspects of the Pequod as the crew is lashed along in Captain Ahab's obsessive hunt for the beast that took his leg. Through Oct. 6. Tickets: 859-572-5464.
1 Comment · Monday, September 23, 2013
It takes a brave theater company to stage Carrie: The Musical. Since 1988 when it
lasted for just five nights on Broadway and lost its $8 million investment,
it’s been ridiculed nearly as much as its beleaguered central character.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:35 AM | Permalink
Two more days of the
2013 Cincy Fringe remain. In its 10th year, this year's festival has
provided consistently high-quality offerings. If you're serious about
the full range of theater, you owe it to yourself to catch a couple of
them. I can't go into everything here, but you can check out my column
from the current issue of CityBeat here or go straight to CityBeat's hub for web coverage where you can read coverage of all the shows, thanks to our dedicated corps of reviewers.One further recommendation: Make your way to Know Theatre after 10 p.m. on Saturday
to mix and mingle with the lively crowd and be among the first to learn
which shows have earned "Pick of the Fringe" honors. There's no charge
for admission; buy a drink or two and tip the bartenders generously.
This is a volunteer-driven event, so you might also say thanks to anyone
wearing a volunteer T-shirt.
as the Fringe sails off into the sunset, there's still plenty of
theater onstage locally. For instance, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company
opens its revival of its hit from last summer, The Hound of the Baskervilles.
(Find CityBeat's review of last summer's CSC production here.) A three-man cast plays all the characters in a very funny take on the
classic Sherlock Holmes tale. The actors, a trio of Cincy Shakes' best
(Jeremy Dubin, Nicholas Rose and Brent Vimtrup), have been staged by the
always inventive Michael Evan Haney, the Cincinnati Playhouse's
associate artistic director and perhaps our finest local stage director,
who manages to squeeze every possible ounce of entertainment from this
hilarious script. The show had a sold-out run last July, and you can
expect a similar response this month; the run continues through June 30. Tickets: 513-381-2273, x1.
Another option: Duck Hunter Shoots Angel, at Falcon Theater in Newport. It's a funny script by Mitch Albom (the author of Tuesdays with Morrie and The Five People You Meet In Heaven) about two bumbling Alabama duck
hunters who think they’ve shot an angel. The story lands in a New York tabloid and explodes from there. Through June 15. Tickets: 513-479-6783.
For something more serious, I suggest Showbiz Players production of Spring Awakening
at the Carnegie in Covington, the winner of eight Tony Awards
(including best musical). It's a tale of teen angst and emerging
sexuality, a powerful piece with a driving Rock score. Onstage through June 8. Tickets: 859-957-1940.
And there's still time to catch Shipwrecked! on the Playhouse's Shelterhouse stage (through June 16).
It's a fantastic and family-friendly tale about adventure and
storytelling, told imaginatively using three actors and a lot of clever
sound effects and adaptation of everyday things to create exotic
settings and dangerous moments, rescued by heroism or happenstance. (CityBeat review here.) A
good show for the whole family. Tickets: 513-421-3888
Finally, a reminder: The Tony Awards, recognizing Broadway's best shows, will be be broadcast on Sunday evening on CBS, starting at 8 p.m., hosted by Neil Patrick Harris.
Carnegie, CCM co-production marches to a beat of injustice
0 Comments · Monday, April 15, 2013
The powerful true story of a terrible miscarriage of justice
in 1913 Atlanta is the subject of the musical Parade.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:06 AM | Permalink
I'm off to the Humana
Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville this
weekend, where I'll be checking out plays that could well be on their
way to theaters across America in future seasons. For those of you
staying here in Greater Cincinnati, there's lots of good stuff to get
out and see onstage:War Horse
completes its Cincinnati stop on Sunday. I heard a rumor that it's not
selling well, which strikes me as mystifying. It's one of the best
pieces of theater I've seen on tour in ages. (Review here.) Of course, it's not a
musical (which is what people who go to the Broadway Series at the
Aronoff have come to expect) and it was made into a moderately
successful movie by Steven Spielberg. But the stage production is a
miraculous piece of theater artistry, especially the onstage creation of
living breathing horses, life-sized puppets that are manipulated (by
three performers) that you'll be convinced you're watching the real
thing. The silver lining to poor attendance, I suppose, is that tickets
are readily available. You should get yours right away for the chance to
see this Tony Award-winning production: Final performance is on Sunday.
Box office: 800-987-2787
Last evening I made time to see Cincinnati Shakespeare's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
It's going to be around for several more weeks, and it's definitely an
entertaining — and unusual — rendition of the tale of mixed-up lovers. (Review here.) Director Jeremy Dubin has transported it from the mythical Athens that
Shakespeare envisioned and landed it in a swampy Southeastern U.S. in
the 1940s, complete with a few guys with drawls in uniform and a clown
in a loud plaid sports coat. The latter is CSC Nick Rose, and watching
him overact as Nick Bottom, the weaver who imagines himself to be a
brilliant performer, is hilarious. MND's mix of magic and humor is
always fun, even if it doesn't make much sense, especially in this
setting. Box office: 513-381-2273, x1.
Also worth checking out is the Cincinnati Playhouse's entertaining production of The Book Club Play.
It's good in the same way as a well-done TV sitcom: Familiar characters
pushed to comic extremes, funny situations that you can identify with,
story twists that surprise and amuse. (Review here.) Because book clubs are a big deal
these days, lots of people are flocking to see this show (it's been
extended to May 5), so you should call now to get your tickets. I can
assure you that you'll leave the theater with a smile on your face. Box
cannot be predicted with the staging of Jason Robert Brown's very
serious musical, Parade, at the Carnegie. But a piece of great drama and
fine music is certainly in store if you head to Covington for this one,
staged by Ed Cohen and Dee Ann Bryll. It's actually a studio production
from UC's College-Conservatory of Music, featuring some outstanding
talent from one of America's best training programs for Broadway talent.
The story of a falsely accused factor manager, railroaded into a murder
conviction mainly because of anti-Semitic attitudes, is heart-rending.
But it makes for powerful theater. It opens tonight and runs through
April 21. Box office: 859-957-1940.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 10:50 AM | Permalink
No new shows opened this week. But
several will close this weekend, so it's your last chance to see them. At the
top of that list I would put Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's production of Richard
II (Review here). If you're a
completist, this is a rare chance to catch a show that's produced very
infrequently. (CSC's staging is its first in 19 seasons, leaving it just one
shy of producing all 38 of Shakespeare's surviving plays.) But an even more
important reason is that actor Brent Vimtrup offers a breathtaking portrait of
a weak king (he ruled in the 14th century) who questioned his own ability to
reign, decided to hand over his throne and then agonized over relinquishing his
"God-given" right. Vimtrup makes Richard real and human in some
unexpected ways; it's a performance that's definitely worth seeing. It doesn't
hurt that the script is entirely in verse — CSC's actors know how to revel in
this language, so the words are wondrous things to hear. But you last chances
are this weekend; the final performance is Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets: 513-381-2273, x1.
A British king of a different sort is onstage at the Carnegie in Covington,
where the musical
is on view in a concert staging (Review here). The mythical King Arthur — he of chivalry and
knighthood and the Round Table — is the subject, as well as his beautiful Queen
Guinevere and his valiant retainer Sir Lancelot. Like Richard, Arthur has some
shortcomings — hey, we're all human, right? — but his problems are more about
being too idealistic and trusting. The truth about Camelot is that the story is
kind of choppy and the characters rather one-dimensional, but Lerner and
Loewe's music is beautiful, especially in this production, where some great
voices are accompanied by an ensemble of musicians from the Cincinnati Chamber
Orchestra, conducted by the CCO's Mischa Santora. The show is minimally staged
and costumed, but its maximally sung. This one wraps up with a 3 p.m. matinee
on Sunday. Tickets: 859-957-1940.
Two other productions that are definitely worth seeing: The Cincinnati
Playhouse in the Park's world premiere of
Feb. 17, 513-421-3888) (Review here), a spooky
sequel to Arthur Miller's The Crucible, and Ensemble Theatre
Cincinnati's regional premiere of the recent Off-Broadway hit Freud's
Last Sesson (through Feb. 16, 513-421-3555)
(Review here). The latter is an imagined
conversation between Sigmund Freud and C. S. Lewis about some big issues of
life and death, faith and belief. It's a very thought-provoking script,
performed at ETC by two fine actors, Bruce Cromer and Barry Mulholland. This
one was scheduled to close on Feb. 10, but demand for tickets led to an
extension. Take advantage of it!
0 Comments · Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Yes, it’s May again, and time to get
ready for Mother’s Day! I have some advice: Do not buy your mom a
present! It’s just one more thing that, when she eventually moves, you
will have to carefully wrap in layers of bubble wrap, put in a box,
attach the lid on with miles of tape and carry out to the truck.
In need of some subtlety to balance its goofy excess
1 Comment · Wednesday, September 9, 2009
No swindle here: a professional cast, a polished design, an 11-player orchestra, a hot show just a few seasons removed from Broadway, a reasonable ticket price, all in comfortably posh surroundings at Covington's Carnegie Center. For a musical about con artists, 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels' is surprisingly on the level.
Carnegie gets the formula right for Superstar
1 Comment · Wednesday, December 17, 2008
The Carnegie in Covington has spent several years in search of the best way to present musicals on the small, tight stage in its renovated Otto M. Budig Theatre. With this month’s minimally staged but aggressively choreographed production of Jesus Christ Superstar the formula now seems evident: Put the energy into the performance, keep the production simple and let the passion do the dazzling.
0 Comments · Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Joshua Steele looks younger than he is, but that hasn’t slowed him down a bit. While he was still an undergraduate studying vocal performance at Ohio State, the Sycamore High grad co founded New Stage Collective, now one of the city’s coolest young theater companies.