by Rick Pender
4 days ago
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.
by Rick Pender
89 days ago
Posted In: Theater
at 08:52 AM | Permalink
Earlier this week I took my mom to see Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical at the Cincinnati Playhouse (CityBeat review here). It was just as good the second time around. Mom, who loved Clooney as a performer in her heyday, had this to say: "It was like seeing her perform live!" I agree: Susan Haefner offers a wonderful interpretation of a Cincinnati icon; and it's great fun to watch Michael Marotta (the only other actor onstage) play her psychiatrist and a dozen or so other characters from Rosie's life. It's a great story of a woman who overcame some daunting demons and made a second career when she had been largely forgotten. Through Jan. 4. Tickets ($30-$85): 513-421-3888.Even though everyone's Christmas decorations have been up for a while, the holiday season doesn't really begin for me until the Cincinnati Playhouse opens its production of A Christmas Carol. Well, there's no more waiting for that one: For the 24th consecutive year, the Mt. Adams theater kicks things off tonight with a glittering production of Charles Dickens' story of the re-education of Ebenezer Scrooge by several ghosts and the loving family of Bob Cratchit. This show is worth seeing simply for Bruce Cromer's winning performance in the pivotal role, but there's so much more — it's a scenically beautiful production, and the ensemble totally enters into the spirit of the season and brings the audience right along, too. Through Dec. 28. Tickets ($30-$85): 513-421-3888.Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors is not exactly a holiday show, but it's a lot of fun (CityBeat review here), what with two sets of twins intersecting without realizing the confusion they're causing. Of course, it all sorts out eventually with a happy ending and multiple weddings. Set in a carnival town and costumed as if it were America in the 1930s, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's production induces laughter from start to finish. It would be a happy weekend outing for anyone, young or old. Through Dec. 13. Tickets ($22-$36): 513-381-2273.Know Theatre's production of The Bureau of Missing Persons is an evocative and entertaining piece of alternative theater (CityBeat review here). The story of a woman's quest from her New York City apartment to a cave in Moscow in search of someone missing is described in the show's publicity as "a poignant tale of loss and redemption — part mystery, part love story." It's also the directorial debut for Tamara Winters, who recently became Know's associate artistic director. There's a preview tonight and the official opening is Saturday evening; it will be onstage through Dec. 20. Tickets ($20 in advance; $10 at the door 10 minutes prior to curtain, if available … cash only): 513-300-5669.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 01:10 PM | Permalink
If you'd like to go to the theater every evening for the
next four days, there are plenty of options for you to consider as the
2014-2015 season is getting underway on stages all over town. Here are
some good choices to consider:
Hands on a Hardbody opened on Wednesday at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, and CityBeat reviewer Stacy Sims called it "effervescent" and "offbeat" in her review,
giving it a Critic's Pick. I was there, too, and couldn't agree more
about the infectious, heartfelt joy coming from the big cast of 15. The
show is based on a true story (the subject of a 1997 documentary) about
people in a downtrodden Texas town who enter a contest to win a Nissan
pickup truck by outlasting others who vow to keep one hand on the
vehicle. The cherry-red truck is as much a character as any of the
contestants, the physical embodiment of their hopes and dreams — which
take the form of songs by Trey Anastasio (of Phish) and Amanda Green.
The script by Pulitzer Prize winner Doug Wright treats these diverse,
down-on-their-luck folks with dignity, and the performers (who often
perform with the truck as their dance partner) bring every one of them
to life in vivid ways. This one is a must-see, a great way to kick-off
ETC's theater season. Through Sept. 21. Tickets ($28-$44): 513-421-3555
The Great Gatsby kicks off Cincinnati
Shakespeare Company's season tonight. You didn't know Shakespeare wrote
it? Well, he didn't. This theater company focuses on the Bard, to be
sure, but it frequently branches out to present stage versions of other
classics, in this case an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925
classic about a mysterious nouveau-riche millionaire who's obsessed with
a one-time debutante. Set in the Jazz Age and inspired by lavish
parties the high-flying Fitzgerald attended on the prosperous North
Shore of Long Island, Gatsby is a story about the ups and downs
of the American Dream. Simon Levy's script is the only one authorized by
Fitzgerald's estate, and Cincy Shakes is presenting its regional
premiere. (And here's a tip: on opening nights at 6 p.m., the theater
offers ticket holders a complimentary catered meal, beer and wine.)
Through Oct. 4. Tickets ($22-$36): 513-381-2273
Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club
opens next Thursday at the Cincinnati Playhouse, but previews begin for
the season opener this Saturday (through Wednesday). Tickets for these
performances are discounted, and you'll be seeing a show that's pretty
much ready to go. Jeffrey Hatcher's script should be lots of fun for
fans of the Victorian sleuth. He's taken the character created by Sir
Arthur Conan Doyle and dropped him into a tale conceived by another
inventive writer, Robert Louis Stevenson, for a mash-up that will keep
even Baker Street regulars guessing. Tickets: 513-421-3888
Serials! at Know Theatre, which has
presented episodes of six Fringe-like shows at two-week intervals all
summer long, culminates on Monday evening at 8 p.m. with finales of each
tale. Who will win the ultimate fist fight with the Devil in Flesh Descending? How long can Luke really stay in his bedroom during The Funeral? Will we ever find out what's really happening in Mars vs. The Atom?
These questions and more will be answered on Monday. Even if you've
missed a few episodes, don't worry: Each 15-minute performance begins
with a brief recap of the story so far. Zany and fun for anyone who's
enjoyed the annual Cincinnati Fringe Festival. Tickets ($15): 513-300-5669
Finally, a tip for an eye-opening theater experience next weekend: On Sunday, Sept. 14, the Cincinnati area's first-ever South Asian Theater Festival happens
in an all-day event at the Anderson Theater (7850 Five Mile Rd.). Five
plays are scheduled to be presented, as well as panel discussions, seven
hours of programming in all. The day begins at 12:30 p.m. and is set to
conclude around 8 p.m. A limited number of tickets remain ($19-$29): SATFCincy.org
by Jac Kern
Posted In: Events
at 11:38 AM | Permalink
The Cincinnati Rollergirls close their season with the third annual Crosstown Knockdown
Saturday. The double-header opens with a mixed game featuring CRG’s Black Sheep
team and the Battering Rams, Cincy’s men’s team. During the main event, CRG’s
Violent Lambs face-off with the Black-n-Bluegrass Rollergirls’ Blackouts. CRG’s
home rink is at the Cincinnati Gardens; with the arena for sale, it might be
the crew’s last game there. Gates open at 5 p.m. and the first bout begins at 6
p.m. The game is also Fan Appreciation Night — the first 500 fans through the
door will receive CGR cowbells and the girls will be handing out gifts to fans
throughout the games. Tailgating is encouraged, parking is free and dollar
beers are available from 5-6 p.m. Tickets are $12 at the door.
Enjoy a taste of the Middle
East this weekend with St. James’ Mediterranean
Food Fest. Guests can binge on traditional fare including hummus and
falafel, stuffed cabbage and grape leaves, varieties of kebabs, gyros, baklava
and more. There will also be live entertainment and plenty of traditional
carnival fare for the kids. The fest runs daily Friday through Sunday. Go here for
directions and more info.
returns to Ault Park for another summer day of classic cars displayed in one of
Cincinnati’s most beautiful parks. More than 200 collector rides will be
showcased, with a spotlight on Mustangs and microcars and the 100th anniversary
of Maserati. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 day-of. The show runs from 10
a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.
Here’s a twist on the
typical summer yard sale: Cincinnati
Playhouse in the Park
opens its scenery shop to the public for a big sale Saturday morning.
Furniture, glassware, china, costumes, and other items seen onstage in popular
Playhouse productions will all be priced to sell from 8 a.m.-noon. Bring cash
or a check; all proceeds benefit the not-for-profit Playhouse.
The MidPoint Indie Summer Series continues Friday with a great lineup
of local acts. The Mason School of Rock opens the night at 7 p.m., followed by
Honey & Houston, The Tigerlilies and Wussy at 10 p.m. Advance tickets to
MidPoint Music Festival ($69 all music access and $179 VIP) will be on sale at
Fountain Square. Check out the full Indie Summer Series schedule here.Second Sunday on Main kicks off this weekend, bringing more than 80 local
vendors, food trucks, street performers, live music and specials at Main Street
business to the street, between 13th and Liberty streets. This “Main Street
runs noon- 5 p.m., featuring music by The Hot Magnolias, a celebrity chef demo,
a dog parade and contest, a clothing swap and community yard sale, entertainment
at the Rock Paper Scissors performance tent and much more.
For more art openings, parties, festivals and other
stuff to do this weekend, check out our To Do picks,
full calendar and Rick
for weekend theater offerings.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:02 AM | Permalink
You really can't go wrong with a show at the Cincinnati Playhouse this weekend. I gave both productions Critic's Picks. The North Pool, on the Shelterhouse stage through June 1,
is a taut dialogue between a suspicious high school vice principal and a
wary student of Middle Eastern descent. (CityBeat review here.) It takes a while (the show is
about 90 minutes, played in real time) to decide who's the good guy and
who's the bad guy, and you'll be turned around several times in the
process. Excellent acting and a fine script by Ohio native (and Miami
University grad) Rajiv Joseph makes this an excellent theatrical
experience. On the Playhouse's Marx Stage, it's the final weekend for
another kind of cat-and-mouse game. Venus in Fur is all
about sexual tension, between an imperious playwright/director and the
woman who's auditioning for a role in a play he's adapted from an erotic
novel. (CityBeat review here.) David Ives' witty and allusive script (it's literary and
mythical in some most amusing ways) is being produced at theaters from
coast-to-coast, but I can't imagine there's a finer production than this
one anywhere. Tickets: ($30-$75) 513-421-3888.
At Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, you still have two weeks to catch a rare production of The Two Noble Kinsmen.
The play is rarely staged (perhaps with good reason: it's not one of
Shakespeare's best), but Cincy Shakes' rendition is noteworthy because
it's the final work to complete their endeavor of staging all 38 of the
Bard's works. (More on that feat here; CityBeat review of The Two Noble Kinsmen here.) It's a feat accomplished by just a handful of theaters
worldwide, and it's your chance to check this one off your bucket list.
Through May 25. Tickets ($22-$35): 513-381-2273.
Falcon theater, which produces shows in the tiny Monmouth Theater in Newport, Ky., opens Bat Boy the Musical
tonight. It's a show that was lifted from the headlines of the Weekly
World News (yes, found in the finest grocery store check-out lines)
about a strange creature found in a cave in West Virginia. Of course
it's crazy, but the show is actually a really entertaining piece about
acceptance and community. Three weekends, through May 31. Tickets ($17-$20): 513-479-6783
If you missed The Irish Curse
presented by Clifton Players at the tiny Clifton Performance Theatre on
Ludlow Avenue back in February and March, they've brought it back for a
couple of weekends, this being the second of two. It's an amusing adult
comedy about a bunch of guys fretting over the size of their
"equipment." Tickets can be ordered online (brownpapertickets.com) or purchased at the door (but be aware: it's a small venue that quickly sells out).