A rarely performed 20th-century opera and a new work confront the clash of ideology and emotion
0 Comments · Wednesday, November 20, 2013
The personal is definitely political in
two operas onstage this month in both Benjamin Britten’s Owen Wingrave,
in which a young man chooses pacifism over a military career, and Fellow Travelers, based on the novel about a gay love affair during the McCarthy era.
by Rick Pender
15 days ago
Posted In: Theater
at 08:10 AM | Permalink
There's a ton of theater opening up this weekend, something for just about every taste. But if you're looking for something free, I have a special recommendation: It's 110 in the Shade at UC's College-Conservatory of Music. This is a production in the Cohen Family Studio Theater (an intimate black box venue that seats about 150). The production is in the "Musical Redux" series, bringing back a show that's not often produced. 110 dates back to 1963. It's the story of Lizzie Curry, on her way to being an "old maid," who lives with her dad and her brothers. A charming con man shows up posing as a rainmaker and promises relief to drought-stricken farmers. Is he for real? Lizzie has her doubts, but he works hard to win her over. CCM Studio productions are free, but reservations are required (513-556-4183), and performances are often filled up. This one is likely to be a lot of fun; it's this weekend only, final performance at 8 p.m. Saturday.I gave Cincinnati Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew a Critic's Pick in my CityBeat review here. It's lusty and lewd, and the battle of the sexes has never been fought in a more entertaining way. Two of the company's veteran actors, Nick Rose and Kelly Mengelkoch, play Petruchio and Katherine, and they mix it up with with and humor. Definitely an entertaining evening. Tickets: 513-381-2273.A week ago I had a chance to see one of the Cincinnati Playhouse's current touring productions (this one is aimed at kids in grades K-3), Bird Brain. It's funny fable that teaches a lesson that strange behavior isn't always foolish. More info here. This weekend it will be presented at Springfield Townships Grove Banquet Hall (Friday at 7 p.m.), The Drama Workshop at Glenmore Playhouse in Cheviot (Saturday at 2 p.m.), the Blue Ash Recreation Center (Saturday at 7 p.m.) and The Lebanon Theatre Company (Sunday at 1 and 3 p.m.). Admission is usually free (or very inexpensive). Grab a kid and go.Other productions opening this weekend: Steve Martin's very funny farce,The Underpants, kicks off a three weekend run at the Carnegie in Covington. New Edgecliff Theatre, still not in its new permanent home in Northside, is staging David Mamet's piercing drama, Race, at the Hoffner Lodge (4120 Hamilton Ave., Northside). At Falcon Theatre (636 Monmouth St., Newport) you can catch the first weekend of The Cover of Life, a drama about three young women married to brothers from the same small town who have gone off to fight in World War II. Meanwhile, in Bellevue, Ky., at St. John United Church of Christ, you can see a production of Joanna Murray-Smith's Honour by WIT-Women in Theatre. The story of three women propelled to ask the question "What is love?" when they've been struggling with tough relationships, is onstage for two weekends. Children's Theatre kicks off two weekends of public performances of Disney's Aladdin JR. at the Taft Theatre. It's a stage version of the popular animated musical feature; the production includes jugglers, acrobats and stilt walkers. And Lion King continues its month-long run at the Aronoff. (CityBeat review here.)Don't forget that Monday evening at 7:30 p.m. is another quarterly offering from the True Theatre guys at Know Theatre. The theme this time is "true beauty," with real monologues by people who talk about things they've really experienced.Something for everyone, as they say!Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 3, 2014
No costume challenge is too daunting for
two local design divas Reba Senske and Caren Brady Young.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:25 AM | Permalink
I had a glimpse of Broadway's future last
night on campus at UC. I attended Not Yet Famous, the 22nd edition of
CCM's musical theater showcase, featuring the about-to-graduate senior class.
The 19 vibrant performers presented a 45-minute program that they'll take to
New York City on April 7 to present to casting agents, producers and others.
It's how they begin to land contracts and establish relationships that will
give them solid professional careers. With accompanist Julie Spangler at the
piano, the singers worked as a large ensemble and smaller sets, but each one
had multiple chances to show off her or his strengths as a singer, dancer and
actor — they're all trained to be "triple threats" with a polished
arsenal of vocal and movement skills. They were warmly received by the Friends
of CCM, the support group that helps keep various programs at the conservatory
going; the evening was a benefit. You have a chance to see the showcase for
free if you act quickly: There will be performances on Saturday at 5 and 8 p.m.
at Patricia Corbett Theater. No charge, but you need to call CCM's box
office to reserve a seat (limit of two per order). I suspect tickets will be
snapped up, so call right away: 513-556-4183.
Wicked is in the
midst of its three-week run at the Aronoff Center. This is one of the most
popular Broadway shows of the 21st century (it's been running for a decade, as
well as spawning productions around the world plus two national tours, one of
which is in our midst). It's here through April 23, but tickets are expensive
(cheap seats are $38 and anything else is more), so you might want to try your
chances in the daily lottery for a $25 orchestra seats. Grab your valid ID and
show up in person 2.5 hours before the curtain time to enter; if your name is
chosen, you can purchase one or two tickets. Of course, if you're flush you can
guarantee seats by buying what you need at 513-621-2787.
The Playhouse just opened Pride and
Prejudice, a theatrical adaptation of Jane Austen's most popular
200-year-old novel. I won't see it until next week (busy schedule), but if
you're a fan — and it seems that everyone loves her novels of manners and
romance — you probably need to line up to see this one. Director Blake Robison calls
his production "epic," adding, "The story is a satire of the
marriage market and an exploration of true love. What could be more fun than
that?" It's onstage through April 5. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
What with St. Patrick’s Day coming on
Monday, this might be the perfect weekend to see Clifton Players’ production of
The Irish Curse (at Clifton Performance Theatre, 404 Ludlow Ave.).
Lots of folks have told me they enjoyed this tale about a group of
Irish-American men who meet weekly in a self-help group in a Catholic church
basement to discuss a sad “shortcoming” — let’s call it “small equipment,” a
curse they believe has ruined their lives. It gets its final performance on
Sunday, right before you line up for your first green beer. Tickets: 513-861-7469.
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 22, 2014
In the world of chamber music,
Beethoven’s 17 string quartets are the ultimate summit. Composed over a
span of more than two-and-a-half decades, Beethoven created masterpieces
of astonishing beauty and complexity that never fail to engage
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 10:42 AM | Permalink
The theater season
takes a bit of a pause around Thanksgiving, since many companies are readying
holiday productions. But there are plenty of choices available this weekend.
I'm not the only
one who enjoyed the laugh-fest that is The Complete History of Comedy
(abridged) at the Cincinnati Playhouse. I've heard numerous people who
saw it say they were recommending it to others. In two hours the Reduced
Shakespeare Company puts forth more humor than you can shake a stick at. (But
be careful shaking sticks. You might get a pie in the face.) No matter your
tastes in comedy — witty, loud or rude and crude — you'll find it in this
production. How about Abe Lincoln as a deadpan rapper? This could be a good
outing this weekend or a lot of fun for out-of-town guests who descend on you
next week. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
Tonight is an
opening at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, the very frothy comedy Twelfth
Night. (It's subtitle is "or What You Will," indicating that
it's a lot of foolishness, which is an apt description.) In fact, Twelfth Night
is a beautiful piece with clever situations, amusing characters, a bit of
intrigue and a lot of mistaken identities. And several of the most laughable
characters Shakespeare ever created, from the bombastic Malvolio to his
persecutor Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek, plus the best of all
Shakespeare's fools, Feste. It's a safe bet that this is a production that even
those who fear Shakespeare will truly enjoy. Tickets: 513-381-2273 x 1.
If you're more
into storefront theater, you might check out the current production by
Untethered Theater at Clifton Performance Theatre on Ludlow, just east of the
business district. It's a tiny space (only 50 seats), but that makes it all the
more interesting. The current production is Wendy Macleod's The House of
Yes, a very dark comedy about a weirdly dysfunctional family. The story
focuses happens while there's a Thanksgiving hurricane outside, so it's timely,
too. Performances Friday and Saturday (through Dec. 7). Go here
This is the last
weekend for Boeing Boeing, a crazy farce about a guy juggling
three fiancees who happen to be flight attendants. It's at the Carnegie,
featuring performers from the drama program at UC's College-Conservatory of
Music. Tickets: 859-957-1940.
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 10:19 AM | Permalink
Can you hear the clock ticking? That's not just because this weekend marks the "spring forward" to Daylight Savings Time early on Sunday. It's also because several theater productions are just about over: If you want to see them, you only have a few days left.
Leveling Up, the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park's show about video gamers,
is as contemporary as can be. One of its characters is recruited by the
NSA to fly drones into war zones — activity that totally blurs the
boundary between the real world and cyberspace, not to mention the moral boundaries between killing video villains and actual living people. (Review here.) The show is also about taking charge of your life in a world of maturity and responsibility, rather than retreating into simulated space. Deborah Zoe Laufer's script uses four characters,
all twentysomethings, who will seem like people you know — their
language, their actions, their concerns are the stuff of contemporary
life. Box office: 513-421-3888.
If you want something that's quite intentionally removed from everyday life, you need to check out the wry and ironic musical theater piece at UC's College-Conservatory of Music, Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's The Threepenny Opera. (Review here.) It's an allegory and critique of corrupt capitalism, told with dark humor in a production by CCM Opera chair Robin Guarino (who has staged productions at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City). She knows how to present the stark humor and cynical attitudes in Brecht's script, and the talented CCM musical theater performers (accompanied by a small onstage orchestra dominated by woodwinds and brass) provide great renderings of Weill's score. This is a rarely produced work, definitely worth seeing. Box office: 513-556-4183.
Perhaps you prefer your cynicism in an 18th century mode: That's what you'll get with Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's production of Dangerous Liaisons, a story of the idle rich who entertain themselves by seducing and manipulating their naive colleagues — or their innocent offspring. (Review here.) It's not a pretty story, in that the central characters are scheming and out for their own entertainment and pleasure, often for revenge. But if you like nasty behavior, this production has it in spades. Two of CSC's best veterans, Corinne Mohlenhoff and Giles Davies, play the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont, a pair of arch schemers who relish making a mess of others' lives. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but it's a literate, cleverly plotted piece of theater. Box office: 513-381-2273 x.1. The previous three shows finish their runs this weekend. When the Rain Stops Falling at Know Theatre has one more week (it closes on March 16), but you should order your tickets now: I expect the final performances will be hard to get into on short notice. (Review here.) This is one of the best shows that Know has staged in several seasons, a fine, complex script performed by a talented cast of nine, directed by Cincy Shakes Brian Isaac Phillips. (Four of the cast members are CSC regulars.) They play four generations
of two families, strangely and fatefully intertwined. The story weaves
back and forth between 1959 and 2039; at first it seems to be
disjointed, then things suddenly beging to fall into place. By the time it's over — with several shocking moments along the way — you'll see how it all fits together. If you haven't seen this one yet, this is the ticket you need to get. Box office: 513-300-5669.
by Steven Rosen
at 10:52 AM | Permalink
After previewing for CityBeat the recent American Voices XIV: Celebrating John Cage at 100 concert at UC’s College-Conservatory of Music, I attended the crowded event to see the group I had featured, Percussion Group Cincinnati, perform Cage’s Music for Three while the CCM Philharmonia played Cage’s Ranga. It was as charming and strange, as enigmatically mysterious, as one expects of Cage.But what was completely unexpected — and absolutely, breathtakingly, thrilling — was the performance before that, CCM student Kris Rucinski’s mastery of the four movements of Lou Harrison’s Piano Concerto. Harrison, who died in 2003, had written the concerto in the 1980s for Keith Jarrett. The online Arts Journal has called this sweeping, complex and majestic half-hour piece “as formidable as any ever composed by an American.” And with good reason — its fiery passages erupt and tumble like lava; its quieter and more reflective moments are transcendent.It would seem a piece for a mature virtuoso, yet Rucinski showed stunning, sustained accomplishment, at peak fast-paced moments striking and pounding the keys, hand over hand, like Cecil Taylor. At others, he was as confidently elegant as any seasoned classical soloist.Pursuing a Master’s in Piano Performance, Rucinski already has several videos on You Tube. He’s a phenomenal talent, someone I suspect could some day become of CCM’s many most illustrious students. Maybe very soon.
With Kurt Weill Foundation grant and blessing, CCM builds festival celebrating innovative composer
0 Comments · Tuesday, November 13, 2012
The 2012-2013 season has no special
significance for Kurt Weill, the German-American composer of “September
Song,” “Speak Low” and “Mack the Knife.” But it’s a landmark year for
the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music (CCM).