by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 11:22 AM | Permalink
I saw Cincinnati
Opera's production of Silent Night on Thursday evening. It's the
regional premiere of a work that won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for music, and our
local opera is doing a bang-up job of presenting it. And "bang-up" is
the operative term: This opera is set during some of the darkest days of World
War I, and the opening segment of the production reproduces the violent and
deadly combat between troops from England (actually a regiment from Scotland),
France and Germany. You're not likely to see a more gripping onstage
representation of battle than what's happening at Music Hall. Before Thursday's
performance I listened to composer Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell talk
about how to "musicalize" such a scene: Their research included
studying the opening sequence of the Saving Private Ryan, the graphic,
Academy Award-winning film of the D-Day invasion during World War II. It's a
powerfully real scene, a perfect opening to the moving tale of soldiers pitted
as enemies who found common ground in one another's humanity on Christmas Eve
1914. You can get good seats for the concluding performance on Saturday evening (7:30 p.m.)
for $30-$45 by calling the Opera's box office: 513-241-2742.
high school students are the talent in onstage for Commonwealth Artists Summer
Theatre (C.A.S.T.) at Highlands High School (2400 Memorial Pkwy., Fort Thomas).
Starting tonight is a two-week run (July
11-20) of The Addams Family, a Broadway
musical based on cartoonist Charles Addams' bizarre and
beloved family of characters. The group is headed up by Fort Thomas
theater instructor Jason Burgess, who has assembled theater kids from the
Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky who are eager to develop their skills
in performance and production. Tickets: $10 (http://www.showtix4u.com) or at the door.
Tony Award-winning musical next to normal, about a
woman with bipolar disorder, gets not one but two productions by
Cincinnati-area community theaters: Sunset Players on the West Side and
Paradise Players for East Side siders. You can choose between them tonight. The
venerable Sunset Players, which presents shows at the Dunham Arts Center (in
the Dunham Recreation Complex, 4320 Guerley Rd., Price Hill), has performances
through July 26,
mostly at 8 p.m.
Tickets ($14-$16): 513-588-4988. Meanwhile,
Paradise Players, a newish group offering summer productions at McNicholas High
School's Jeanne Spurlock Theatre (6536 Beechmont Ave.), is presenting its
rendition of the show this weekend only, tonight at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at
2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $15 (http://mcnhs.seatyourself.biz).
tend to be a bit harder to come by at Northern Kentucky University for a
dinner-theater production by Commonwealth Theatre Company of Route 66.
It's about a band traveling from Chicago to the West Coast in the 1960s along
one of America's most legendary highways. Along the way, they meet a lot of
colorful characters and see a lot of America. The production features four
solid local performers: Wes Carman, Roderick Justice, Dain Alan Paige and Joshua Steele
are likely to make this a very entertaining evening. Through July 27. Dinner
and the show ($30): 859-572-5464.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:38 AM | Permalink
If you're looking for an unusual but gripping theatrical production this weekend, you should head straight to UC's College-Conservatory of Music for The Threepenny Opera. Don't think that this is some stuffy old piece from 1928, although that's when the
show with a script by Bertoldt Brecht and music by Kurt Weill was first
performed. It was radical and challenging, mocking the establishment
and paying no heed to social structures. This musical theater production, staged by CCM Opera Chair Robin Guarino, feels lethal and threatening. You'll recognize a tune or two ("Mack the Knife" is the show's familiar tune), and if you've seen Cabaret or Urinetown, you'll recognize how this piece influenced those works. Guarino's production, with a big cast and an
imaginative set (designed by Tony Award winner John Arnone), captures
the vitality and spirit of the original work. I doubt we'll see another
production of this one very soon, so here's your chance to catch a bit
of theater history — and be both entertained and provoked. Definitely worth seeing. Through March 10. Box office: 513-556-4183.
If you haven't yet seen Know Theatre's production of When the Rain Stops Falling, that's another one you should have in your sights. Andrew Bovell's dense, imaginative script is a compelling story of multiple, intersecting generations of two families. (Review here.) The taut, engaging 100-minute production,
staged by Cincinnati Shakespeare's Brian Phillips, features several of that company's best actors, as well as several other local standouts. One of the best productions from Know Theatre in several seasons. It's onstage through March 16. Tickets: 513-300-5669.I haven't seen it (alas, my schedule just doesn't have room for everything), but Legally Blonde: The Musical at NKU has received props from the League of Cincinnati Theatres as an entertaining production. It's the story of Elle Woods, spurned by her fiancé, off to Harvard Law School in pursuit of him, only to discover that she's got the smarts to be more than just a girlfriend. Not profound, but surefire entertainment. Through Sunday. Tickets: 859-572-5464
This is the second and final weekend for Catie O'Keefe's world premiere, Slow Descent from Heaven, presented by New Edgecliff Theatre. (O'Keefe is NET's playwright-in-residence). It's being performed in a converted classroom at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center, directed by Ed Cohen. The central character, Molly (Elizabeth A. Harris), is a NASA scientist whose story is bookended by space shuttle disasters in 1986 and 2003. An angry, tense character, her involvement with men has affected her career and her attitude.
The story has a reverse chronology, so we peal backwards in time to
learn more about why she's the way she is. This is a good chance to see an original script by a local writer. Tickets: 513-399-6638.
0 Comments · Wednesday, February 20, 2013
SUNDAY FEB. 17: Today marks the 50th birthday of
basketball star and cultural icon, His Airness, Michael Jordan. As one
of the most exciting and dominant athletes ever, Jordan won titles at
the collegiate and pro levels, was an All Star like 29 times and notably
saved the human race from alien criminals in Space Jam.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:35 AM | Permalink
You'll have to pick and choose this weekend because
there's so much theater onstage. In addition to our professional
theaters, it's worth checking out production at universities: Tonight
through Sunday, CCM's esteemed musical theater program is offering the
cult favorite Chess, with music by ABBA's Björn Ulvaeus
and Benny Andersson. The story is set in Bangkok and Budapest during a
mid-1970s world chess championship — and it's driven by gamesmanship
between nations, between lovers and, of course, between chess players. I
saw the opening on Thursday, and it's a BIG show with a gigantic cast.
Several leading roles are double cast (with more juniors than seniors,
in fact, which bodes well for CCM productions for this season and next).
In particular, Matthew Paul Hill, playing the Russian grand master
Anatoly, lifted the roof of Corbett Auditorium with his powerful
baritone voice singing the stirring "Anthem," the Act 1 finale. Tickets
($30) Box office: 513-556-4183. At Northern Kentucky University you'll a production of Royal Gambit
by German playwright Hermann Gressieker (translated into English in the
late 1950s). The subject is King Henry VIII and his six wives, and this
looks to be a beautifully costumed show, featuring senior Seth Wallen
in the leading role. Tickets ($14). Box office: 859-572-5464.
Neil Simon's funny and endearing Brighton Beach Memoirs is
onstage at the Cincinnati Playhouse. I gave it a Critic's Pick (review here),
and I'm sure audiences will love this sweet portrait of growing up in
Brooklyn in the 1930s, where a loving but fractious family copes with
hard times. It's told from the perspective of Eugene, a precocious
adolescent (he's really Simon as a 15-year-old), who takes notes on his
family's behavior. Well acted and beautifully staged. Box office: 513-421-3888l.
My schedule hasn't permitted me to see several shows that are getting
good notices, including recognition from the folks evaluating
productions for the League of Cincinnati Theatres. I'm catching up this
evening with Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, which is offering two shows
Romeo & Juliet is its mainstage show, and
Sara Clark is getting high marks for her portrait of romantic but
tragic young love. Brian Phillips' staging picked up an LCT nod, and the
show received an overall recommendation from LCT. On the evenings when R&J
is not onstage, there's another Shakespeare work for thrill seekers,
specially selected and staged for the Halloween season: the bloody, gory
tale of revenge, Titus Andronicus. Veteran actor Nick
Rose plays a crazed Roman general, and just about everyone I've heard
from says his performance is memorable. (It earned him an LCT
nomination, too.) Box office: 513-381-2273.
This weekend is the final one for
Mrs. Mannerly at Ensemble Theatre. When Harper Lee reviewed this one for CityBeat (review here),
she gave it a Critic's Pick, and I agree wholeheartedly. (LCT named it a
recommended production, too.) CEA Hall of Fame actress Dale Hodges is
great fun to watch as a strict etiquette teacher in 1967, and Raymond
McAnally plays all the other characters — a bunch of kids who are
learning how to behave in a "mannerly" way. It's funny from start to
finish, but there's a heart-warming message within the story. Definitely
worth seeing. Box office: 513-421-3555.
At Clifton Performance Theatre, Clifton Players are staging
A Bright New Boise,
which also picked up an LCT recommendation. I haven't seen it, but the
show won an Obie Award (that's for outstanding off-Broadway plays) in
2011, and it has a strong cast. This is a newish venue that's
specializing in "storefront theater." Should be worth supporting.
Tickets ($20): 513-861-7469.
by Mike Breen
There is a staggering amount of high-quality live music events tonight in Greater Cincinnati, especially for a Wednesday. Here are a few of the best.• Though Jazz is the music saxophonist Jeff Coffin is most
closely identified, his experience and passion extends well beyond the
genre. Coffin’s and his Mu’tet make dynamic, progressive sounds, most recently heard on the studio effort, Into the Air,
which draws from mainly from modern and vintage Jazz. But Coffin first
came to many music fans’ attention when he joined Bela Fleck’s
Flecktones in 1997, a fittingly adventurous gig for the diverse
musician/composer. Coffin left the Flecktones after he was invited to
join the Dave Matthews Band full time, replacing late founding member
LeRoi Moore in 2009.
As if he wasn’t busy enough, Coffin — who has also shared
stage/studio time with everyone from McCoy Tyner and Branford Marsalis
to Willie Nelson and Widespread Panic — is equally acclaimed as an
educator and clinician, working with students of all ages around the
world. “The spirit and breath of the music is what I take away from the
listening and playing,” he says of his influences, which, collectively
he dubs “Spirit Music.” Coffin and his Mu’tet come to Northern
Kentucky University tonight to share their musical wisdom and spirit.
After an afternoon lecture and clinic for NKU music students, Coffin and
Mu’tet perform an 8 p.m. concert at the school’s Fine Arts Center’s
Greaves Concert Hall. Admission is $10 ($5 for students with ID). Visit
nkuconnections.nku.edu for more info. • Nick Zammuto may have broken up his acclaimed experimental sound-collage project The Books, but he's not given up music. Tonight, his new band, appropriately named Zammuto, performs at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine. The show is free and features a warm-up set from Lymbyc Systym. Click here to read about Zammuto and here for more on Lymbyc Systym.• Innovative guitarist Bill Frisell is in town to perform with his 858 Quartet at The Emery Theatre. The concert is related to the current, ongoing FotoFocus events around town. Click here for more details. • Popular rockers Band of Horses, whose upcoming tour with Willie Nelson was sadly cancelled recently, play at Bogart's in Corryville tonight. Click here for a preview.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 11:21 AM | Permalink
Your best bet for theater this weekend, based on several
enthusiastic recommendations, seems to be Daniel Beaty's one-man
performance at the Cincinnati Playhouse in Through the Night. Harper Lee gave it a Critic's Pick in her CityBeat
review this week, and the League of Cincinnati Theatres panel described
Beaty as a "brilliant showman and interpreter” whose “beautifully and
powerfully acted” performance “weaved in, out and through real people —
multifaceted people.” The show was praised as “moving and full of hope —
an evening of pure joy, celebration and a mournful reminder as well.” Through the Night
“shatters the stereotypes of the ‘African American’ plight and shows
beautifully that these predicaments and life choices are ‘human’ ones." I
caught a performance this week and found Beaty's ability to shift from
character to character quite astonishing — he plays six men and boys, as
well as numerous other figures in their lives, each well defined and
believable. It's a tour de force performance in the Shelterhouse,
presented simply with some projected images and nothing more, not even
costume changes. Box office: 513-421-3888.
College theater has good choices for you at both UC's
College-Conservatory of Music and Northern Kentucky University. Each is
presenting a classic, although from very different eras. NKU continues
its run of
You Can't Take It With You (through Sunday), a
classic comedy by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart that won a Pulitzer
Prize back in 1937. It's about a wacky family that marches to the beat
of several different drummers and how their "normal" daughter and her
boyfriend (the product of truly straitlaced parents) try to figure out
how to make a relationship work in the midst of a lot of craziness. At
CCM there's another form of craziness in Michael Burnham's staging of
Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, a tale of
mistaken lovers and magical transformations. In both cases, there's a
happy ending and most of the right people end up with suitable partners.
Both shows are sure to offer offer a lot of laughs, as well as plenty
of opportunities for young actors to take on entertaining roles. Either
show should make for a fun outing that doesn't require much serious
thought. CCM Box Office: 513-556-4183; NKU Box Office: 859-572-5464.
Finally, on Sunday night at 7:30 p.m. you have a very
special opportunity to see a brand-new musical as a work-in-progress at
the Carnegie Center in Covington. It's a one-night-only presentation of The Sandman, a creepy musical created by Cincinnati native and Cirque du Soleil
maestro Richard Oberacker and his creative partner Robert Taylor. Using
a wildly imaginative story by E.T.A. Hoffmann (the guy who wrote the
wildly imaginative story of battling mice and toys coming to life that
became The Nutcracker), Oberacker and Taylor have crafted a show
that's getting a workshop locally with some serious star power. Narrated
by Van Ackerman (who turned in a great performance as the Man in the
Chair in CMT's recent production of The Drowsy Chaperone), the
performance will feature Tony nominee (and early CCM grad) Pamela Myers,
always watchable Bruce Cromer (fresh off his powerful turn as Atticus
Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird at Cincy Shakes), Charlie Clark
and Sara Mackie. While it's a "reading," it will have sound effects and
some slide projections to set the eerie scene. You can call 859-957-1940 for tickets, or order them online at www.thecarnegie.com. General admission is $25 (theater professionals and students can get in for $15). Sounds like a don't miss event.
by Kevin Osborne
More than 17 months after the election occurred, officials finally are ready to count some disputed ballots in a race for a judicial seat on the Hamilton County Juvenile Court. A federal appeals court Monday upheld an earlier ruling that 286 provisional ballots should be tallied in the 2010 race between Democrat Tracie Hunter and Republican John Williams. Hunter seemingly lost by just 23 votes out of nearly 230,000 ballots cast by county voters, but 286 ballots weren't counted because they were cast by people who showed up to vote at the correct polling place but were misdirected by poll workers and voted at the wrong precinct table.Hamilton County commissioners met with state lawmakers Monday to discuss their legislative priorities for this year. They include trying to restore some of the cuts to Ohio's local government fund and reauthorizing a countywide 911 user fee, which is set to expire soon.Monthly customers at the large Central Parking System lot along Cincinnati's riverfront are angry about a provision involving Reds games. Parkers must be out of the garage by 5 p.m. on game days or their key cards won't work, subjecting them to an additional event fee. A county official said monthly customers can get 24-hour access cards, but those cost $25 more than the regular $100 fee. (Just call it death by a thousand cuts.)Northern Kentucky University will make what it calls an "historic" announcement today regarding the schools presidential search. Various reports indicate NKU's trustees have selected Cleveland State University Provost Geoffrey Mearns for the job. Current president Jim Votruba announced last month that he would retire at the end of this school year.Cincinnati officials have selected an empty industrial site in Over-the-Rhine as the location for a streetcar maintenance facility. The property is located on Henry Street, between Elm and Race streets. Based on an independent appraisal, City Hall has offered to buy the site for $1.4 million but the owner is seeking an unspecified higher price, according to The Enquirer.In news elsewhere, the U.S. Justice Department is under fire for remaining quiet about problems in the testing of forensic evidence at the FBI's crime laboratory. Officials have known for years that flawed forensic work might have led to the convictions of potentially innocent people nationwide, but prosecutors failed to notify defendants or their attorneys even in many cases they knew were troubled, The Washington Post reported.President Obama is being accused of ignoring a 2008 campaign pledge to impose a “windfall profits tax” on oil companies. As a candidate, Obama said he would tax large oil company profits that would flow back to families in $1,000 rebate checks, but hasn't mentioned the idea since taking office. An Obama aide told Politico the White House decided that it had a better chance at persuading Congress to repeal tax subsidies than enact the tax on oil and gas company profits.Groundbreaking on homes fell unexpectedly in March, but permits for future construction rose to their highest level in nearly four years, Commerce Department data showed today. March's decline in housing starts was the biggest percentage drop since April of last year, although most of the fall was in the volatile multi-unit category, which declined 16.9 percent. Starts for single-family homes dropped 0.2 percent.Australia has announced that its troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan nearly a year ahead of a previously scheduled 2014 withdrawal date. Julia Gillard, the Australian prime minster, said today that most of 1,550 remaining Australian troops in the nation were expected to return home by the end of 2013. The timetable means the largest force provided by any nation outside of the NATO alliance would leave Afghanistan a year ahead of the proposed December 2014 withdrawal date for all international forces. The United States currently has 90,000 troops stationed there.A right-wing extremist who killed 77 people in a gun and bomb rampage in Norway last year has called his attack "spectacular,” claiming he would do it again if he could. As his trial continued for a second day, Anders Behring Breivik, 33, called himself a commander in an anti-Communist, anti-Islamic militant resistance movement called the Knights Templar.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 11:27 AM | Permalink
Ensemble Theatre, NKU and Children's Theater also have quality offerings
Last Sunday evening I
gave a lecture prior to the Cincinnati Playhouse performance of
Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along. I stuck
around to see the show again (I attended the opening on March 8 in
order to review it for CityBeat). I gave the show a Critic’s Pick, but empty seats on
Sunday reminded me that a theater critic’s opinion is not
necessarily the only endorsement needed for a show to sell tickets.
Although this is a fine production, several reasons come to mind: The
show is not well known; if people do know it, they’ve heard it was a
flop when it had a brief Broadway run in 1981. John Doyle’s
production shows little evidence of the latter and demonstrates amply
that there’s much to be appreciated. But there’s not been much
buzz around Merrily at the Playhouse, despite the work of
Doyle and his excellent cast. The upshot is tickets are still
available for most performances, through March 31. Doyle inventively
staged Sondheim’s Company in 2006 at the Playhouse, a
production that moved to Broadway and earned a Tony Award. This
production uses the same approach: actors provide their own musical
accompaniment. It’s a showbiz tale about chasing success at the
expense of happiness. We start at the demise of a bond between three
former friends who wonder what happened to the “good thing going”
they once had. We trace back to their earliest, optimistic moments
via great music, brilliant design and excellent performances. If you
love musicals, you should see Merrily We Roll Along. I’ve
talked with several people who have returned the Playhouse
production. (Merrily is not likely to transfer to New York as
Company did in 2006. The show was presented by Encores! at New
York’s City Center in February, so theater critics have not paid
attention to the Cincinnati production as they did with Company
in 2006, right after Doyle staged Sweeney Todd on Broadway.)
Box office: 513-421-3888
You can’t go wrong
with Donald Margulies’ very much in-the-moment drama Time
Stands Still at Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati. It’s the
story of two journalists who have been addicted to the adrenalin rush
of covering wars. He’s now running away and hiding in film reviews
(there’s a touch of post-traumatic stress, it seems, because he’s
watching classic horror films all the time), and she’s recovering
from injuries that resulted from a roadside bomb blast in Iraq.
What’s next for them? Well, that’s what the play is about — a
return for more or settling for a calmer, safer life, represented by
a happy if unlikely couple who visit them, the photographer’s
editor and mentor and his naïve young girlfriend. Four intriguing
character studies add up to an evening of thoughtful drama. I gave it
a Critic’s Pick; here’s a link to my review. Through April 1. Tickets: 513-421-3555
University just opened a production of Timberlake Wertenbaker’s Our
Country’s Good. It’s about people sent off to a penal
colony in Australia in the 1780s. The governor decides to impose
order on the criminals by having them put on a play. It’s not an
easy undertaking — but it changes the lives of everyone involved.
It’s a play about the power of the arts to humanize people and
transform them into something new and better. The show’s original
Broadway production in 1991 was nominated for six Tony Awards. It’s
one of my favorite scripts, a fine choice for NKU’s drama program,
where it’s being staged by Daryl Harris. Through April 1. Tickets:
Finally, if you’d
like to instill some interest in the theater in a couple of kids,
take them to one of this weekend’s performances of Rapunzel!
Rapunzel! A Very Hairy Fairy Tale, presented by The
Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati. It’s a world premiere musical
created by composer Janet Vogt and writer Mark Friedman, who wrote
How I Became a Pirate, a hit from last season. Performances
happen at the nicely renovated Taft Theatre on Saturday and Sunday
(as well as March 31). Tickets: 513-569-8080, x13.Each week in Stage
Door, Rick Pender offers theater tips for the weekend, often with a few pieces
of theater news.
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 17, 2011
While you might think of a play or a musical as entertainment — which it is — there’s another dimension worth considering. They are also works of literature, words written on a page meant to be spoken or perhaps sung. The success or failure of a performed work often hinges on the quality of the words in a play’s script or a musical’s book.
Irving Berlin tunes make up an all-American revue at NKU
0 Comments · Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Opening on the Northern Kentucky University campus a few days after America’s 233rd birthday, I Love a Piano is a reminder of things good, right and foursquare. Irving Berlin wrote tuneful, good-hearted and, well, all-American music.