by Rick Pender
16 days ago
Posted In: Theater
at 05:58 PM | Permalink
2016-2017 shows announced for Cincinnati Landmark venues
we’ve just passed the halfway point of the 2015-2016 theater season, the
over-achievers at Cincinnati Landmark Productions just announced plans for future
productions at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts and the Warsaw
Federal Incline Theater for 2016-2017.
Perrino, CLP’s executive artistic director, says, “With our two venues,
Cincinnati Landmark Productions has two great platforms to create exciting
theater and palpable neighborhood vitality. We set a course for success with a
summer of sellouts at the Incline in 2015, and we’re chomping at the bit to
bring these just-announced shows to life in 2016 and 2017.”
Covedale’s offerings are designed for mainstream audiences, while the Incline
offers two distinct seasons — “Summer Classics” presents shows with broad
appeal; the “District Series” produces more adult fare, both musicals and
Covedale Center’s “Marquee Series” for 2016-2017 will offer:Godspell
(Sept. 8-Oct. 2, 2016), Stephen Schwartz’s first big musical theater hit, based
on the New Testament’s Gospel of Matthew. Schwartz is the composer of Wicked.The Foreigner
(Oct. 20, Nov. 13, 2016), a comedy by Larry Shue, in which a shy, lonely guy
poses as visitor from an exotic country who doesn’t speak English.
The Night Before Christmas (Dec. 1-23, 2016) for the holiday season.
19-Feb. 12, 2017), John Patrick Shanley’s 2004 Pulitzer Prize winner about a suspicious
nun and a progressive priest.
(March 9-April 2, 2017), Ken Ludwig’s farce about a pair of Shakespearean
actors scheming for an inheritance.
My Fair Lady
(April 27-May 21, 2017), Lerner and Loewe’s classic musical about a professor of
linguistics who trains a Cockney gal to pose as an elegant noblewoman.
Incline’s “District Series” plans to produce starting next fall:
[title of show] (Sept. 29-Oct. 16, 2016), a clever musical about creating a musical to
enter in a festival.
God of Carnage
(Nov. 17-Dec. 4, 2016), Yasmina Reza’s domestic drama about a pair of parents
who come to blows arguing about a fight between their children.
The Rocky Horror Show (Feb. 16-March 5, 2017), the sci-fi parody musical from
1973 that inspired the 1975 cult film.
6-23, 2017), Peter Shaffer’s award-winning drama about a psychiatrist treating
a teenager who blinded six horses.
the pipeline for the Covedale’s current season are productions of Neil Simon’s
warm-hearted comedy Chapter Two (Jan.
21-Feb. 14) and two classic musicals, She
Loves Me (March 1-April 3) and Brigadoon
(April 28-May 22).
at the Incline for the balance of this season are the satiric musical Avenue Q (Feb. 18-March 6) and David
Mamet’s hard-as-nails real-estate drama Glengarry
Glen Ross (April 6-24). Those will be followed by the previously announced
“Summer Classics” season for 2016, featuring three likeable musicals Anything Goes (June 1-26), Baby (July 6-31) and Chicago (Aug. 10-Sept. 4). The Incline’s
summer season in 2015 completely sold out three productions — The Producers, 1776 and 9 to 5.
by Rick Pender
63 days ago
Posted In: Theater
at 11:28 AM | Permalink
A fairytale, a ghost story and lots of musicals for the holidays
December is full of shows for your holiday viewing pleasure:
Every five years or so, Ensemble Theatre rolls out a new production of its holiday rendition of Cinderella.
This one just opened on Wednesday, and while it’s the same material
that was presented in 2005 and 2010, it’s been freshened with a new set
and colorful costumes — and especially a vibrant cast with great voices
for the tunes with lyrics by David Kisor and melodies by Fitz Patton.
Brooke Steele is picture-perfect as the golly-gee title character who
prefers reading to going to a ball. But Kate Wilford as “Gwendolyn the
Well Wisher” (“I give good advice and then wish you well,” she tells
everyone with a sweep of her hand to musical accompaniment) encourages
her to go so she can meet Prince Frederick (Warren Bryson), who happens
to be another bookworm. They’re a lovely couple who overcome the modest
barriers thrown their way (she loses a pink sneaker that helps him
locate her later), but the show’s real energy comes from Sara Mackie and
Torie Wiggins as Cinderella’s crass stepsisters. They’re loudmouthed
losers, spewing malapropisms and ridiculous self-aggrandizement
(Wiggins’ Clarissa bellows competitively, “My patheticism outshines all
others”) — constantly mugging and fawning and arguing. Deb G. Girdler as
their manipulative mother Brunhilda is also great fun to watch as she
tries to control events to her own advantage. As is always the case with
ETC’s holiday musicals with scripts by local playwright Joe McDonough,
there’s a timely moral: “The essence of true beauty lies … beyond what’s
seen by normal eyes.” Oh, Cinderella and Frederick wear glasses — but
they see love pretty clearly. Through Jan. 3. Tickets: 513-421-3555
I’ve been attending A Christmas Carol at
the Cincinnati Playhouse for 25 years, as long as they have produced
it. The script — Howard Dallin excellent adaptation of Dickens’ classic
story — is top-notch and doesn’t need to be tinkered, but with actors
coming and going, it’s always fun to see how things shake out from one
year to the next. Greg Procaccino is the only actor to be in the show
every year, playing Marley’s regretful ghost and slimy junk buyer Old
Joe; the always-watchable Bruce Cromer holds the longevity record
playing Scrooge (11 years, after 8 as Bob Cratchit). Kathleen Wise
brings a light, bemused touch to Christmas Past in her first year;
returning performers include Ryan Gilreath as nervous, angular Cratchit
and Kelly Mengelkoch as the patient, loving Mrs. Cratchit, as well as
Douglas Rees as the ebullient Fezziwig and Annie Fitzpatrick as his
playful wife. There’s a new Tiny Tim for 2015, Henry Charles Weghorst,
the tiniest ever, I believe (he needs two pillows to sit at the dining
table), and truly adorable. This Playhouse production continues to be a
joy to watch, a glorious, glittering set and costumes that deliver you
to the mid-19th century. Pay attention to the David Smith’s sound design
and recorded music, which set the emotional tone for virtually every
scene. A Christmas Carol is a welcome Cincinnati holiday tradition. Through Dec. 30. Tickets 513-421-3888
Cincinnati Landmark Productions is offering shows at both
of its venues this month; neither is holiday per se, although the
musical Rent (at the Warsaw Federal Incline Theatre in
Price Hill through Dec. 20) begins and ends with Christmas, celebrating a
year of the “seasons of love” experienced by a clutch of impoverished
young artists in New York’s East Village. This is a high-quality
production, a great choice for fans of contemporary Rock music. Rent
is almost 20 years old, but it has stood the test of time, especially
as performed by the Incline’s committed, diverse cast of excellent,
energetic singers. Tyler Kuhlman as the depressed guitarist Roger has
the looks and the vocal chops for the role, and Lisa Glover is a fine
match as Mimi, the sexy club dancer and drug addict who makes a lot of
bad choices. Kelcey Steele provides the necessary connective tissue as
videographer Mark, and RJ Caldwell ably portrays Tom Collins, an
anarchist professor and street activist with AIDS. But the production’s
most memorable performances come from Aiden Sims as Maureen, the brassy
performance artist, and especially charismatic Christopher Carter as the
transgender drag queen Angel: His high-flying rendition of “Today 4 U”
is a show-stopper. The ensemble shines when presenting of Rent’s
iconic numbers, particularly “La Vie Bohème and “Seasons of Love.” This
production is a bold choice for the new venue, seeking audiences in
search of more ambitious, adult fare — there were empty seats on opening
night. Rent offers strong evidence that the Incline is up to the
challenge. I give this one a Critic’s Pick. … I was part of a very full
house for Mary Poppins last Sunday (at the Covedale
Center for the Performing Arts, also finished on Dec. 20); this
production is clearly intended as holiday fare for families. I wish it
were a bit more joyous. Mary (Alyssa Hostetler, who’s a fine singer) is a
rather starchy character who’s not very loveable. The uptight Banks
family she convinces to reconnect and have fun has an initially
irritable dad (Dave Wilson, another excellent voice) and a mom who’s a
budding feminist (Sarah Viola, who sings very well, too) — these aren’t
characters that children can instantly love. Even the two Banks kids
(Lili Shires and Peter Godsey, who work hard at being coy) are kind of
obnoxious. The production felt long, with numerous labored scene
changes. On the other hand, the audience had a great time — the songs
(familiar from the 1964 movie) are beloved, and everyone seems to know
them. That’s fun. Tickets: 513-241-6550
The touring production of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas
wraps up its engagement on Sunday. It’s a fine cast of singers and
dancers, a production full of familiar tunes that’s worth seeing if you
have the scratch for seats at the Aronoff Center. Tickets: 513-621-2787
If you prefer something not holiday-oriented, Xavier University’s theater program is staging Kenneth Lonergan’s This Is Our Youth.
It’s a three-character play from the 1990s (set in the early 1980s)
about young people struggling with the transition to adulthood. Guest
director Ed Stern, the Playhouse’s retired artistic director, told me it
was a great opportunity to work with actors who are exactly the right
age to play these roles. Read more from Stern in my recent Curtain Call
column. Performances are this weekend only, including a Sunday
matinee. Xavier Box Office: 513-745-3939
Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
by Rick Pender
at 09:05 PM | Permalink
Cincinnati Landmark Productions also has big plans in store for the coming season
I don’t pay much attention to Groundhog Day for signs of spring, and Reds Opening Day is way too late to celebrate the promise of warmer weather. My key indicator for when spring is just around the corner is when Cincinnati-area theaters start announcing their upcoming seasons. (In fact, Cincinnati Landmark Productions was the first out of the gate a few weeks back; more about that in a moment.) But this evening’s big news is rundown of shows to be presented on the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park’s two stages, the Robert S. Marx Theater and the Shelterhouse.
As Blake Robison enters his fourth season as the Playhouse’s artistic director, he says he does not approach a season in a thematic way. “Our priorities continue to be new works, culturally diverse works and family-friendly works.” He’s include several of each in the Playhouse’s 2015-2016 season, the Tony Award-winning regional theater’s 56th.
In particular, Robison has slated two world-premiere comedies, Native Gardens, a hilarious tale of clashing neighbors by Karen Zacarías, whose Book Club Play was a big hit for the Mount Adams theater two seasons ago, and The Revolutionists, an irreverent, girl-powered fantasia set during the French Revolution and written by one of America’s best emerging playwrights, Lauren Gunderson. (Know Theatre staged Toil and Trouble in 2013, and her 2014 script I and You won the American Theatre Critics Association’s 2014 Steinberg Prize.) In fact, girl-power has clearly arrived at the Playhouse: Half of the season’s productions are works by women.
In the family-friendly category, Robison has selected two shows based on classic novels: the musical version of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden and a stage adaptation of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, the 1960 Pulitzer Prize winning novel that’s been much in the news recently with the announcement that a prior version of the story will be published later this year. The creators of the memorable show Fly — about the legendary Tuskegee Airmen — will return with Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Swing, their new Jazz-infused drama focused on African-American sports legend. Robison will also stage a captivating drama, Mad River Rising, set on an Ohio farm at the time of the horrendous floods of 1936.
Here’s a chronological rundown of what’s in store, with dates a few more details.
THE SECRET GARDEN, with book and lyrics by Marsha Norman and music by Lucy Simon. The show features Norman’s Tony Award-winning script, adapted from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic novel. It’s the story of Mary Lennox, orphaned at age 10, and sent from India to live with her aloof uncle in his foreboding English manor. There she discovers the locked-away secrets of an abandoned garden. It’s going to be staged by Marcia Millgrom Dodge, a Tony Award winner who staged Cabaret for the Playhouse in 2013. Robison says that this is the kind of musically complex show that is “what the Playhouse does.” Sept. 5-Oct. 3, 2015 on the Robert S. Marx Mainstage.
SEX WITH STRANGERS by Laura Eason. Playwright Eason has been one of the writers behind Netflix’s engaging series, House of Cards, staring Kevin Spacey. Robison tells me he’s wanted to stage this provocative, sexy and funny show since its 2011 debut at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre because of its “intergenerational appeal,” but he had to wait until it had its Broadway debut last year. Associate Artist KJ Sanchez will stage this show that explores what happens when private lives become public domain as a famous blogger finds himself snowbound with a talented but unknown novelist. They’re attracted to each other, but envious, too. Sept. 26-Oct. 25, 2015 in the Thompson Shelterhouse.
MAD RIVER RISING by Dana Yeaton. The playwright is an acquaintance of Robison’s, and this 1998 work debuted in Vermont when Robison worked at a theater there. An 85-year-old man escapes from a nursing home and hides out in his family’s barn. As a boy, he saw his family’s home wash away and now “progress” is threatening to destroy the farm again. The story slips back and forth between past and present, and the production, which Robison will stage features music by a singer/songwriter also from Vermont. Robison calls the drama “poetic, poignant and utterly captivating.” Oct. 17-Nov. 14, 2015 on the Robert S. Marx Mainstage.
LOW DOWN DIRTY BLUES by Randal Myler and Dan Wheetman. For the holiday season on the Thompson Shelterhouse stage, the Playhouse will present a revue with musicians gathered for an after-hours jam session where they swap stories and play nearly two dozen tunes they love by Muddy Waters, Ma Rainey, Sophie Tucker, Howlin’ Wolf, Pearl Bailey and more. Myler was the creative force behind the Playhouse’s popular production of Love, Janis (about Janis Joplin) in 2005 as well as Hank Williams: Lost Highway in 2012, and he’ll be in town to stage this one, too. Nov. 7-Dec. 20, 2015.
For the 25th consecutive season, the Playhouse will present A CHRISTMAS CAROL Nov. 25-Dec. 30, 2015 on the Robert S. Marx Mainstage. I’ve seen it for most all of those years, and I never grow tired of Howard Dallin’s excellent adaptation. It uses 29 actors, many of them local professionals, and features veteran Bruce Cromer as the miserly Scrooge (it’s his 11th year in the role). Michael Evan Haney, who has staged the production every year since 1992 will return, too. The show, by the way is not part of any subscription package, but subscribers are eligible for discounts and early buying opportunities.
NATIVE GARDENS by Karen Zacarías. 2016 kicks off with a world premiere by the playwright whose Book Club Play charmed Playhouse audiences in 2013. Her new script is about how friendly neighbors become feuding enemies when their gardens and fences don’t quite align. One couple is Hispanic while the other is Anglo, and their disagreements escalate into an all-out war of taste, class, privilege and entitlement with hilarious results. Robison will stage this one, as he did her previous Playhouse show. Jan. 23-Feb. 21, 2016 on the Roberts S. Marx Mainstage.
THE REVOLUTIONISTS by Lauren Gunderson. As noted, Gunderson is a rising star in the theater world — and Robison has scheduled her new script to overlap for a few weeks with Zacarías’s show, resulting in simultaneous world premieres by women playwrights. In Gunderson’s new script, at the height of the French Revolution, four historic characters — playwright Olympe De Gouges, assassin Charlotte Corday, activist Angelle Ogé and former queen Marie Antoinette — conspire to escape the extremist forces swirling around them. Eleanor Holdridge from Catholic University in Washington, D.C., who has been working closely with Gunderson to develop the script, will stage this fantasy about how we change the world. Feb. 6-March 6, 2016, in the Thompson Shelterhouse. The Revolutionists
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee (adapted by Christopher Sergel). Set in Depression-era Alabama, it’s about precocious tomboy Scout and her brother Jem during a life-changing summer when their father, Atticus, a small-town lawyer, defends a black man accused of a crime he didn’t commit. The Playhouse was one of the first theaters to stage Sergel’s adaptation in 1993; it’s a slightly different version (with more roles and a different narrator) than the one, also by Sergel, presented by Cincinnati Shakespeare Company in 2012. The Playhouse’s newest artistic associate, Eric Ting, is slated to direct this one. March 5-April 3, 2016, on the Robert S. Marx Mainstage.
MOTHERS AND SONS by Terrence McNally. Another artistic associate, Timothy Douglas, will stage this show, which was a 2014 Tony nominee the year’s best play on Broadway. McNally, who has written more than 30 plays and musicals (including the Tony Award-winning Love! Valour! Compassion!) has created a drama about change, reconciliation and what it means to be a family. A gay couple have a happy life with their 6-year-old child until the mother of a former lover makes a surprise visit to their Manhattan home, two decades years after her son’s untimely death. No play by McNally has been presented at the Playhouse since 1990, so this exploration of the complexities of life that gay men face is a welcome addition to the Playhouse’s repertoire. March 19-April 17, 2016, in the Thompson Shelterhouse.
SATCHEL PAIGE AND THE KANSAS CITY SWING by Trey Ellis and Ricardo Khan. This new play focuses on the 1947 Negro Leagues when pitcher Satchel Paige was the king of baseball, despite his advancing age. But Jackie Robinson’s meteoric rise to fame overshadowed Paige who found himself hemmed in by many barriers. Ellis and Khan’s story of the Tuskegee Airmen, Fly!, used a tap dancer as part of the storytelling, and this one will use a Jazz musician who interacts with the characters in a similar vein. April 23-May 21, 2016, on the Robert S. Marx Mainstage.
BAD DATES by Theresa Rebeck. In 2005 and 2006 this play by Cincinnati born-and-bred playwright Rebeck was a big hit locally and nationally; the comedy was, in fact, one of the most produced plays in America for two years. A middle-aged woman and single mom who manages a restaurant and loves shoes, decides to start dating again. She talks and we listen while she gets ready for one dreadful date after another. Then a turn of events makes life all the more interesting. Originally presented on the Marx stage, this revival will happen in the Thompson Shelterhouse; Michael Haney, who staged it a decade ago, will return to make Cincinnatians laugh again. April 30-June 12, 2016.
For subscription information: 513-421-3888 or http://www.cincyplay.com.
Cincinnati Landmark Productions has a lot to offer, too
Cincinnati Landmark Productions is growing, complementing its productions at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts with a new venue, the Warsaw Federal Incline Theater. A month or so ago artistic director Tim Perrino laid out more than a dozen productions that will be happening during 2015-2016.
“We’ve created distinct seasons of exciting show titles that our audiences will absolutely love,” he said at the time. “The Covedale season will represent the legacy of our company, while the Incline will be an expansion of our programming. Together, they deepen the impact of Cincinnati Landmark Productions in the communities we call home.” Audiences have flocked to the Covedale (4990 Glenway Avenue) in recent years, leading to an expansion of runs from three to four weeks as annual attendance grew from less than 14,000 in 2003 to more than 37,000 in 2014. Perrino hopes for similar success at the Incline Theater (801 Matson Place, East Price Hill).
This summer the Incline will offer three “summer classics” — somewhat in the vein of shows that Cincinnati Landmark once presented on the Showboat Majestic. They are Mel Brooks’ hilarious showbiz spoof, The Producers (June 3-21); 1776 (July 8-26), the story of America’s patriotic heritage by Sherman Edwards and Peter Stone; and Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 (August 12-30), the story of women in an office who take administration into their own hands.
The Covedale will offer a “Marquee Series,” a half-dozen productions between September and May. On the schedule are classically entertaining musicals and comedies — A Chorus Line (Sept. 3-27), the story of a dance audition process for a Broadway show; Fox on the Fairway, a comedy by Ken Ludwig (author of Lend Me a Tenor); Mary Poppins (Nov. 27-Dec. 20), a perfect storybook musical for the holidays; Neil Simon’s Chapter Two (Jan. 21-Feb. 14, 2016), a laugh-infused tale about getting back into the dating game; She Loves Me (March 10-April 3, 2016), from the creators of Fiddler on the Roof, a Tony Award Winner from 1964 about two shop clerks who don’t see eye to eye but unwittingly become romantic pen pals; and Brigadoon (April 28-May 22, 2016) by Lerner and Loewe (the guys who created My Fair Lady), the story of a town in Scotland that that vanishes only to reappear once every 100 years.
While those shows are happening on Glenway Avenue, the energetic folks at Cincinnati Landmark have mapped out a more mature set of shows for the Incline Theater, starting with William Mastrisimone’s Extremities (Sept. 30-Oct. 18), about a woman who turns the tables on a would-be rapist with complicated results. Subsequent productions will be Jonathan Larson’s groundbreaking, Tony Award-winning musical Rent (Dec. 2-20) about impoverished artists trying to survive in New York City; Avenue Q (Feb. 17-March 6, 2016), the hilarious musical featuring puppets that’s about a neighborhood quite a few blocks from Sesame Street — it deals with adult issues, but it’s funny and heartwarming; and another searing drama, David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross (April 6-24, 2016), about the lives of four desperate real estate agents in Chicago who are willing to do anything to win.
Seasons like these are big undertakings for this ambitious theatrical organization. With a new 220-seat Incline adding to the 385-seat Covedale, we can expect a lot of Cincinnatians will be heading west for these enhanced theater choices.
For subscription information: 513-241-6550 or http://cincinnatilandmarkproductions.com.