by Rick Pender
13 days ago
Posted In: Theater
at 02:12 PM | Permalink
There are so many good choices for theater right now you
could hardly go wrong anywhere, but there are three shows you should
The musical Violet at Ensemble Theatre
Cincinnati is the story of an angry, self-conscious young woman who
believes her life is a dead end because of a disfiguring facial scar.
She travels from North Carolina to a televangelist in Oklahoma in hopes
of a miracle, which does happen — kind of, but certainly not in the way
she imagined. This is a moving story with great music, and it’s superbly
performed, especially by Brooke Steele as the title character: Putting
together an excellent vocal performance with fully committed acting, she
delivers an aching, anxious performance that occasionally flashes with
joy. She’s surrounded by more talent, several of whom take on multiple
roles. This is the kind of show that makes you grateful that we have a
theater like ETC and a director like Lynn Meyers. (CityBeat review here.) Through May 22.
Violet is searching for beauty, while Haley, the solo character in Theresa Rebeck’s Bad Dates,
is just looking for a good evening out. But she’s having a hard time
finding the right man — not to mention the right shoes to wear. The
Cincinnati Playhouse produced this show a dozen years ago and it was a
big hit. With Vivia Font as the charming narrator, a sweet but
uninhibited girl-next-door who carries it off like she’s chatting with
girlfriends, this production is a surefire hit. (CityBeat review here.) Through June 12.
Another big search us underway at the Aronoff Center’s
Jarson-Kaplan Theater where Cincinnati Music Theatre is presenting the
musical Big Fish, based on a Tim Burton film from 2003
featuring Albert Finney, Ewan McGregor and Billy Crudup. It’s the story
of Edward Bloom (Fred Tacon, pulling off a role handled by two actors in
the movie) who loves to embroider and exaggerate the events of his
life, and Will (PJ Karpew, a powerful singer), his down-to-earth son who
loved his dad’s tall tales as a kid. But as a grownup, he’s grown both
weary and dubious of these apparent fantasies and insists on discovering
the truth. Ed’s imagined adventures are brought to amusing life onstage
in this production, and CMT’s cast, steered by community theater
veteran Skip Fenker, is busy from start to finish with countless costume
changes, dance routines and funny situations. (There’s some clever use
of video, too.) Will learns some truth he never expected, discovering
that his father was indeed a hero — even if it wasn’t in the stories he
made up. The show’s messages of love and inspiration come through loud
and clear. Through Saturday evening. Tickets: 513-621-2787.
Also worth your consideration: Opening tonight are Antony and Cleopatra (Cincinnati Shakespeare, through June 4) and Catch Me If You Can: The Musical (Showbiz Players at the Carnegie in Covington, through May 22). You still have time to see Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Swing at the Cincinnati Playhouse and the touring production of Cabaret at the Aronoff Center, presented by Broadway in Cincinnati. Both continue through next weekend. Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 27, 2016
History suggests Satchel Paige was the
greatest pitcher of all time. But his career preceded the moment that
professional baseball’s color line was crossed.
Gunderson's 'The Revolutionists' is a show to be reckoned with
0 Comments · Friday, February 12, 2016
the Cincinnati Playhouse’s Blake Robison for his efforts this season to feature
female playwrights. (Half of the shows he chose for 2015-2016 are by women.)
0 Comments · Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Annie Baker’s Circle Mirror Transformation
is a deceptively simple play — on the surface, it’s a comedy about five
people enrolled in a community center class about learning how to act.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:33 AM | Permalink
I attended the opening of Ring of Fire: The Johnny Cash Musical at the Cincinnati Playhouse last evening. The show offers some sense of the great Country music singer's life, but it's not detailed in the way Rosemary Clooney was portrayed in the Playhouse's recent production. Instead, it's Cash's music that's front and center, performed by a half-dozen veteran musicians and four singer/actors, two men and two women, all of whom convey the sincerity and strength that were his calling card. Jason Edwards and Derek Keeling have voices reminiscent of the"Man in Black," the former in maturity and the latter as brash young man. Trenna Barnes and Allison Briner round out the quartet, sometimes conjuring the persona of June Carter, Cash's talented wife. Both are great singers, but Barnes is especially powerful and entertaining as a young spitfire in numbers like "Cry, Cry, Cry." The show features more than 30 numbers, some familiar, several sung amusingly by the musicians, and all engaging. Especially fun is "I've Been Everywhere," the second act opener that has all 10 performers singing, playing guitars and accelerating through a list of cities where Cash toured. Read more about the show in my interview (CityBeat interview here) with Edwards, who is also the show's director. Box office: 513-421-3888.Speaking of the Playhouse, I should also mention that this weekend kicks off performances of Theory of Mind, the story of a teenager on the autism spectrum. It's about his first date with a young woman unsure of her own reasons for romance. Ken LaZebnik's play, created for young people who are 11 or older, premiered at the Playhouse in 2009 and was successful with kids and adults. This weekend it will show up at Prospect House in Price Hill on Friday at 7 p.m., at the Hyde Park Health Center on Saturday at 2 p.m. and at the Dunham Recreation Center in Price Hill on Saturday at 7 p.m. Some performances are free. For more details and a schedule of locations and dates (through Feb. 22), go to www.cincyplay.com.You shouldn't miss Waiting for Godot at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company (through Feb. 7). The production features excellent acting by Bruce Cromer (if you've seen A Christmas Carol at the Playhouse, you know him as Ebenezer Scrooge) and Cincy Shakes stalwart Nick Rose. Playing a pair of sad-sack hobos waiting for someone who never shows up, they capture the desperation of human existence in Samuel Beckett's masterpiece of theater of the absurd. I gave the show a Critic's Pick. (CityBeat review here.) Tickets: 513-381-2273. Two other productions kick off this weekend — the very funny Greater Tuna at the Covedale Center, through Feb. 15 (513-241-6550) in which two actors play many of the people in the "third smallest town in Texas," and the very serious Handmaid's Tale at Know Theatre, through Feb. 21 (513-300-5669). The latter, a one-woman adaptation of Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel, features Cincy Shakes regular Corinne Mohlenhoff. I interviewed playwright Joe Stollenwerk in my Curtain Call (review here) column in CityBeat. At Clifton Performance Theatre on Ludlow Avenue Friday through Sunday only, you'll find a free show about coping with mental illness, She's Crazy, Mental Health and Other Myths features two local actresses, Sherry McCamley and Cathy Springfield, who developed this cabaret show that uses original songs and personal stories to reduce the stigma of mental health. Space is limited, so you are urged to call for reservations: 513-861-7469.Not for this weekend, but coming soon, you can get some bargains on tickets at Ensemble Theatre (where The Other Place opens next Wednesday). If you've never purchased tickets to ETC, you can score two $10 tickets during the first two weeks of each of its next three productions. A few restrictions apply, but it's a perfect opportunity to check out this excellent theater company if you've not been there. ETC is quick to point out that it's located in the Over-the-Rhine, where there are restaurants and events galore and easy parking in nearby garages. Box office: 513-421-3555.Rick Pender's STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 7, 2015
Did you resolve to see more theater in
2015? If so, where to start?
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 11:00 AM | Permalink
Sought. Ensemble Theatre
Cincinnati hosts its third annual Meals for Monologues on Monday
and Tuesday between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. at 1127 Vine St. in Over-the-Rhine.
It's an open casting call to Equity and non-union actors for theater, film, TV
and/or commercial projects cast by the theater's artistic director D. Lynn
Meyers. Interested performers should bring two non-perishable food (pasta,
canned goods, etc.) or toiletry items (soap, toothpaste) to the theater — to be
donated to the Freestore/Foodbank as well as a current headshot and résumé and
a short prepared monologue, song or two monologues. (No accompanist, so songs
need to be performed a capellla.) Time slots are five minutes maximum
and are available by appointment only. The deadline was last Friday, but a
quick email to Ben Raanan (email@example.com) will let
you know if any slots are still available. Meyers is a member of the Casting
Society of America, and she has tons of projects and connections beyond shows
at ETC; she recently did a lot of casting during two locally shot films, Carol
and Miles Ahead.
Fundraiser for New Edgecliff. The classic holiday story, Miracle on 34th Street
— yes, the one with Kris Kringle and Natalie Wood as a child actor — will be
brought to life as a radio production on Sunday evening at the Northside Tavern
(4163 Hamilton Ave.) as an old-time radio drama. Produced by New Edgecliff
Theatre with sound effects by WMKV's Mike Martini, it's a benefit to the
theater group. Admission is $35, and it includes a dessert buffet at
intermission provided by Cincinnati State's Midwest Culinary Institute.
Tickets: 888-428-7311 (or at the door).
The Cincinnati Playhouse's production of Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney
Musical seems to be a big hit. The show, onstage in the Shelterhouse, opened
on Nov. 20, and on its first night artistic director Blake Robison announced
that sales were brisk enough to make it possible to extend the production a
week beyond its intended closing date (Dec. 28) to Jan. 4. Demand for tickets
has continued, so the Playhouse has extended the show another week, now closing
on Jan. 11. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
If you've read Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel The Handmaid's Tale,
you know it's a creepy vision of the not-too-distant future in which the United
States has become a theocracy called the Republic of Gilead. An oppressive
regime forces women to bear children for population growth, but Offred resists
the demands made of her. Cincinnati Shakespeare gave Joe Stollenwerk's
adaptation of the show a workshop in 2009 and a short-run production in 2011
featuring veteran Cincy Shakes actress Corinne Mohlenhoff as Offred. Next month
Know Theatre fills in a TBA slot in its season with the show's first
full-fledged production (Jan. 23-Feb. 21). Cincy Shakes' Brian Phillips will
stage the one-woman piece with Mohlenhoff. They are married, so this is an
unusual opportunity for them to work together on a new work rather than the
classics that Cincy Shakes usually stages. Tickets ($20) are now available: 513-300-5669.CityBeat's Rick Pender posts theater notices on
CALL BOARD every Monday morning.
Playhouse serves up a tasty show about boyfriends and cooking
0 Comments · Friday, October 3, 2014
The show’s gimmick is that it’s set in a working kitchen where LaVecchia
prepares an aromatic three-course Italian meal while animatedly
describing her romantic adventures, starting at age 16 and continuing
into her 40s.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 10:09 AM | Permalink
Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of
the Suicide Club opened last night at the Cincinnati
Playhouse in the Park. It's a new adventure for the Victorian sleuth. How can
that be, you might ask, if you're a Sherlock fan — this isn't a familiar title.
That's because playwright Jeffrey Hatcher picked up Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's
memorable detective, a master of deductive observation, and plugged him into a
tale of mystery and intrigue conceived by Robert Louis Stevenson back in 1878.
No spoilers here, but I will tell you that the plot of this show requires
closely following a complex tale of both personal and political intrigue.
Hatcher has set the story in 1914, on the brink of the first World War, and the
state of international relations in Europe is woven into the tale. But there's
nothing dry about this story, and Steven Hauck's performance as Sherlock is
very satisfying: He brings a quirky physicality as well as a sharp wit to the
character that makes him very engaging. Fans of Sherlock will not be disappointed
by this show. Through Oct. 4. Tickets ($30-$85): 513-421-3888.
I attended the opening of The Great Gatsby at
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company last week. In my review, I said, "the production gets the story and the era
right," and I added that CSC's Justin McCombs "perfectly
embodies" Nick Carraway, the honest narrator of this Jazz Age tale of
nouveau riche Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan, the one-time debutante who
obsesses him. There's lots to like about this production, which captures the
essence of lavish parties and the fast life of the Roaring Twenties. Cincy
Shakes is committed to bringing classic literary works to the stage, and this
production is a good example of how they get it done. Simon Levy's script hews
close to F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1924 novel, and the company's actors bring life
to the characters. Through Oct. 4. Tickets ($22-$36): 513-381-2273.
Everyone I've talked to about Hands on a Hardbody
at Ensemble Theatre has been enthusiastic about the show that brings to life a contest to win a
Nissan pickup truck by keeping one hand on it the longest. It's a true story
(it was a 1997 documentary) and these feel like real people, down on their luck
but dreaming what a difference that winning could make. The music is by Trey
Anastasio (of Phish) and Amanda Green, and the script was written by Pulitzer
Prize winner Doug Wright. ETC has staged memorable productions of his play I
Am My Own Wife and his musical, Grey Gardens. But the real
attraction is an excellent cast who make you believe in these people,
struggling to stay away and outlast one another under the brutal sun beating
down on the Texas parking lot of a Nissan dealership. It's a fine entertainment.
Through Sept. 21. Tickets ($28-$44): 513-421-3555.
Just opened at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts
is a production of Tennessee Williams's great American play, A Streetcar
Named Desire. It's about a woman who's down on her luck but unwilling
to admit it. When genteel Blanche DuBois moves with her pragmatic sister and
her brutal, blue-collar husband, Stanley Kowalski, is a rude awakening that
goes downhill fast. Through Oct. 5. Tickets ($-$): 513-241-6550.
If you've become a fan of shows in the intimate Clifton
Performance Theatre, you might want to check out The Riverside, a
play written and directed by local theater artist Kevin Crowley. It's a story
set in a Cincinnati bar in 1989 as locals follow the saga of Pete Rose's demise
in baseball, the fall of the Berlin Wall and Tiananmen Square. But the bar
itself is changing, too, impacting the lives of the family that owns it as well
as its patrons.Through Sept. 27. Tickets ($25): https://cpt.tixato.com/buy/.
Theater season starts now
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Shows that open seasons for local theater
companies carry added freight: They tell theatergoers, “This is what to
expect from us.”