Touring production is certifiable, guaranteed entertainment
0 Comments · Saturday, March 8, 2014
The word I use to describe the Broadway musical hit Wicked is “juggernaut,” defined as “an
overwhelming advancing force or event.”
by Rick Pender
11 days ago
Posted In: Theater
at 08:32 AM | Permalink
There's a magnificent production of the legendary musical Les Misérables at the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music. I attended the opening performance at Patricia Corbett on Thursday
evening, and a show that I've seen umpteen times has been given new
life with fresh direction, impassioned staging and innovative design —
even if you've seen the legendary original with its turntable and
massive barricades, you'll find CCM's rendition, directed by Aubrey
Berg, an eye-opener. It's simpler and more dramatic (that's quite a
claim for a show designed to pluck your heart-strings), and it's
especially noteworthy for the leads' strong vocal performances — Jean
Valjean and Inspector Javert are double-cast, a demonstration of the
depth of talent in this nationally renowned program — as well as each
and every every performer in an ensemble of more than 40. The
16-musician orchestra, conducted energetically by Steve Goers, sounds larger whole lot more, since several players handle three to five
instruments. Berg's staging gives the show a clarity and power that
makes it feel fresh and new. It has vivid feature characters and
storytelling with momentum and emotional impact. This one is a must-see,
so it's great that the production runs longer than many at CCM, where
it's usually one-weekend and done: There are nine more performances
through Sunday, March 9,
which means that more tickets ($31-$35; $18-$24 for students) are
available. Nonetheless, they'll be snatched up quickly, so you should
call right away to get yours. 513-556-4183.
I saw Cincinnati Shakespeare's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead a week ago, and gave it a Critic's Pick in my CityBeat review here. It's a one-off from Hamlet,
which Cincy Shakes just staged, using the same cast — but Tom
Stoppard's 1966 script puts two throwaway characters in the limelight.
Just like the Prince of Denmark, his college chums are perplexed and
bedeviled by questions of existence and the meaning of life. They're
caught in the swirl of the court — the characters of Hamlet dart
in and out around them and add to their confusion — which adds to their
confusion about their own roles, the expectations they need to fulfill
and their ultimate fate. Billy Chace and Justin McCombs have a firm
grasp on their hapless characters: Their sure-handed comic portraits of
loquacious Guildenstern and bewildered Rosencrantz might remind you of
the movie comedy team of Laurel and Hardy. This classic modern work of
absurdity drawn from perhaps the greatest Elizabethan tragedy makes for a
fine evening for lovers of great drama. Tickets ($22-$31): 513-381-2273, x1.
Lloyd Webber’s classic musical Evita is at
the Aronoff Center through Sunday.
looks great with some epic scenery and excellent choreography. Josh
Young as Che
is charismatic and strong-voiced in his role as the show’s commentator.
But Caroline Bowman’s Eva Perón is shrill, and Sean MacLaughlin's Juan
Perón lacks the sinister gravitas that the role requires. So there's not
nearly enough of the complex passion and
manipulation that bonded them as a political machine. The tale of the
ambitious woman who rose to the highest levels of power in Argentina
crashed and burned at age 32 is a memorable modern tragedy, and Andrew
Lloyd Webber’s rock-opera
tunes by will stick in your head. Tickets: 513-621-2787.
by Rick Pender
18 days ago
Posted In: Theater
at 08:46 AM | Permalink
I’m not making up a story when I suggest you could be charmed by Mary Zimmerman’s Arabian Nights
at Northern Kentucky University. After all, her play is about telling
tales: Scheherazade, the latest bride of a cruel king who has a history
of marrying and executing his wives, survives by stringing him along
with stories she promises to finish the next night — for a “Thousand and
One Nights.” (Read my profile of Mary Zimmerman here.) She plies him with tales of Sinbad and Ali Baba. Audiences
at NKU will likely be strung along, too. Senior Cynthea Mercado plays
Scheherazade, whose life, she says, “is threatened with the reality of
her situation, and yet she is still able to enjoy her own tales and
sometimes get lost in them.” No need to get lost. Find your way to
Highland Heights and NKU’s Corbett Theatre for this production, through
March 2. Tickets: 859-572-5464.
If a classic musical is to your taste, you might try Andrew Lloyd Webber’s epic musical Evita,
in a touring production at the Aronoff Center through March 2. I caught
a performance last evening, and it looks great — some epic scenery and
excellent choreography. Josh Young as Che is charismatic and
strong-voiced in his role as the show’s commentator. Unfortunately,
Caroline Bowman’s Eva Perón gets too shrill way too fast and becomes a
grasping harpy before there’s a chance to be won over by her
Machiavellian charms. As Juan Peron, Sean MacLaughlin looks young and
slimy, without the sinister gravitas that the historical figure
possessed. That doesn’t leave much opportunity to convey the complex
chemistry — passion and manipulation — that bonded them as a political
machine. But the tale of the ambitious young woman who rose to the
highest levels of power in Argentina then crashed and burned is a
memorable modern tragedy, and the show’s rock-opera tunes by Andrew
Lloyd Webber will stick in your head. Tickets: 513-621-ARTS.
Cincinnati Shakespeare is keeping the cast of its recent production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet intact with its current production of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.
This time around, it’s the story of Hamlet’s college buddies
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who move from Shakespeare’s sidelines to
Stoppard’s center stage. In this classic 1967 script, the pawns become
the central characters, while Prince Hamlet, Queen Gertrude, King
Claudius, Ophelia and others wander by. The classic tragedy is turned on
its head, and it becomes an existential tragedy for two guys who
everyone has a hard time telling apart. Through March 9. Tickets:
The Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park’s production of Amy Herzog’s Pulitzer Prize finalist script, 4000 Miles,
is onstage at the Shelterhouse Theatre. It’s about a 91-year-old
grandmother and her 21-year-old grandson bridging a giant generation gap
and finding that they actually have a lot in common. Through March 9.
It’s the final weekend for several shows that have been pleasing audiences. Nina Raine’s Tribes
at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati was originally scheduled to close last
Sunday, but to meet ticket demand for the show about coping with
deafness — and contentious families — ETC added performances through
Saturday. (CityBeat review here.) Tickets: 513-421-3555. … A block away at Know Theatre, the
off-kilter script by Steve Yockey, Pluto, winds up on
Saturday, too. It’s about dealing with tragedy and grief, told in an
inventive, sometimes even humorous, manner. Two of Cincinnati’s finest
actors — Annie Fitzpatrick and Tori Wiggins — are in this one, making it
very watchable. (CityBeat review here.) Tickets: 513-300-5669 … For the younger set, this
weekend offers the final public performance, Saturday at 2 p.m., of
Children’s Theatre’s Pinkalicious at the Taft. It’s the story of a girl who can’s stop eating pink cupcakes. Tickets: 800-745-3000.
And here’s a tip for Monday evening: Dayton native Daniel Beaty, who pleased a lot of Playhouse patrons last season with his tour-de-force one-man show, Through the Night, will be in town for a one-night performance to promote his new book, Transforming Pain to Power.
His performance (6:30 p.m. in the Marx Theatre) and the book signing
afterward in the Rosenthal Plaza) are free, but you need to make a
reservation with the Playhouse box office: 513-421-3888.
World premiere of 'King Arthur's Camelot' is the centerpiece of Cincinnati Ballet's 50th anniversary season
0 Comments · Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Honor, valor, love, betrayal — these are
the thematic elements of Cincinnati Ballet artistic director and CEO
Victoria Morgan’s full-length world premiere, King Arthur’s Camelot,
opening this weekend with five performances at the Aronoff Center.
No joke (well, maybe): This show will change your life
0 Comments · Thursday, January 9, 2014
Have faith. That’s the hilarious lesson of The Book of Mormon, crusading for
laughter in its current missionary effort, er, touring stop, Cincinnati’s
by Rick Pender
102 days ago
Posted In: Theater
at 10:41 AM | Permalink
OK, the holidays are officially here. If you have any strength left after shopping last night and all day today, there are numerous theatrical offerings to consider.On Wednesday night, I attended the opening of a musical version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, a touring production at the Aronoff through Sunday. I suspect most everyone knows the story (which certainly resembles A Christmas Carol, with the Grinch replacing Scrooge as the meanie who's taught the meaning of Christmas). This newish musical uses some of the songs from the beloved 1966 animated version of Dr. Seuss's classic 1957 story of the green guy with a heart "two sizes too small." Audiences, in fact, are invited to sing along on "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch." What's touring is a 90-minute-rendition that's family-friendly, outfitted with wild costumes, technicolor scenery and a gaggle of special effects that include snow inside the Aronoff and festive confetti cannons for the finale. The tale is narrated by the senior citizen version of Max, the Grinch's hapless dog; Bob Lauder has a great baritone voice, a bemused mindset and a great tail that still wags. (He's complimented by and partnered with his eager younger self, played by Andreas Wyatt.) There's a whole raft of happy singing and dancing citizens of Whoville, of course, especially sweet Cindy Lou who wins over the Grinch's meager heart. Two kids alternate in this demanding role; I saw the adorable Jenna Iacono, but I'm sure Piper Birney is just as charming when she's singing "Santa for a Day" and wearing down the Grinch from his nasty ways.As the Grinch, Stefan Karl gets to mug, growl, grimace and just be a general grouch (he does some farting and belching, just to add to his inappropriateness). He's great fun to watch from his first entrance, as "ugly as a cactus," outfitted in something across between newly mown grass, tattered green feathers and seaweed, to his final scene where he's embraced by the Whos. He's so bad he's good. And his story is a fine addition to Thanksgiving weekend from Broadway in Cincinnati. Performances, including several matinees, are at the Aronoff through Sunday evening. Tickets (starting at $28): 513-621-2787Starting tonight (and for the next several weeks), you can also choose between two different productions of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. The Cincinnati Playhouse returns its beautiful retelling of Scrooge's dark night of the soul for the 23rd consecutive year. If you're a theater fan, it's a pleasure to see Bruce Cromer, one of southwest Ohio's finest actors, in the bah-humbug role. He makes Scrooge such fun, a genuine holiday treat. With all the whiz-bang spinning scenery, ghostly presences and gorgeous Victorian costumes, well, this show is a great dose of holiday sentiment and cheer. Tickets: 513-421-3888.For a different rendition of Dickens' grouch who gets his comeuppance, the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts is offering a musical version of A Christmas Carol that's new this season. (In fact, the book and lyrics are by Cincinnati Landmark's Tim Perrino with music by Jeremy Helmes; Perrino directs the show.) West Siders love the Covedale, and I suspect more than a few folks from Cincinnati's supposedly more "refined" side will make the trek to 4990 Glenway Avenue to see this one. Tickets: 513-241-6550.If you prefer some non-holiday entertainment, the Playhouse offers The Complete History of Comedy (abridged), which begins a hysterical two hours with a skit that literally presents the "birth of comedy." (CityBeat review here.) You won't stop laughing until it's over, and I can guarantee some unexpected things along the way — there is a script, but the three performers play fast and loose through the performance, including bringing a few audience members into the merriment. Tickets: 513-421-3888.And if Thanksgiving leaves you overdosed on goodness and sick of being nice, you might want to catch one of the final performances of Bull at Know Theatre. (CityBeat review here.) It's the story of three office workers competing for two jobs — and they're not nice at all. If you're seeking some vicarious nastiness, this is the show for you. Tickets: 513-300-5669.
by Rick Pender
116 days ago
Posted In: Theater
at 10:06 AM | Permalink
There's a fine community theater production of A Chorus Line
at the Aronoff Center's Jarson-Kaplan Theater. It's by Cincinnati Music
Theatre, and they've recruited a talented cast of dancers, singers and
actors to tell the stories of 16 performers competing for roles in the
chorus of a Broadway show. There are many fine performances in this show
— the characters become known, one by one as they tell their stories,
some humorous, some heartbreaking — but the show's greatest emotional
wallop comes when they are all in synch, wearing glitter and gold, hats
cocked and performing as "One." Final performance is Saturday evening. Tickets: 513-621-2787.
you prefer your theater small and intimate, you might want to head to
the tiny Clifton Performance Theater on Ludlow, just east of the
business district. Untethered Theater opens a production of Wendy
MacLeod's The House of Yes tonight for a three-week run.
It's a very dark comedy about a dysfunctional family obsessed with the
Kennedys. I haven't seen this one, but it's a solid script and the young
Untethered company has a good track record of interesting shows.
Through Dec. 7. Tickets: 513-939-0599.
If you are in the mood for something totally silly, I can recommend the Cincinnati Playhouse's presentation of The Complete History of Comedy (Abridged) that opened last evening. (It has a long run, through the holidays, closing on Dec. 29.) It's a world premiere by the same guys who created The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)
and other works — several presented at the Playhouse — comically
condensing subject matter like the Bible, great literature and American
history. These guys are the originators of this material, so it's a
special treat to see them at work. If you’ve enjoyed Shakespeare (abridged), you’ll find this right up your alley. The performers are truly adept jokesters,
physical shtick, music, improv — they can do it all. … Also, the Playhouse's excellent production of the legendary Kander & Ebb musical Cabaret winds up on Saturday
evening. (CityBeat review here.) By now, most of the subscribers have attended, so you might be
able to call at the last-minute and get a ticket. Marcia Milgrom
Dodge's production traces back to the roots of the show, adhering
closely to the stories of Berlin in the 1920s that inspired the show.
Worth seeing. Playhouse box office: 513-421-3888.
CityBeat's other reviewer, Stacy Sims, really enjoyed the production of the farce Boeing Boeing
at the Carnegie by CCM Drama. (CityBeat review here.) It's about a Casanova in Paris who's
careful juggling of three flight attendances to whom he's engaged goes
awry when Trans-Atlantic flights happen faster thanks to new aircraft.
Silly but obviously a lot of fun. Through Nov. 24. Tickets: 859-957-1940.
by Mike Breen
117 days ago
Buoyant Electro Pop group Stepdad pulls into MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine tonight. The free show kicks off around 10 p.m. with locals Halvsies.
Stepdad was formed in Chicago in 2009 by frontman Mark “Ultramark” Tafel and his roommate, Ryan McCarthy. The duo — which has grown Stepdad into a five-piece band over time — soon relocated to Grand Rapids, Mich., and self-released its debut recording, the Ordinaire EP, online. The EP drew wider attention to Stepdad, which signed to Michigan indie label Quite Scientific and re-released the EP in 2011.
After completing its debut album, Wildlife Pop, with a little help from Kickstarter, the band signed with Black Bell Records, the relatively new imprint founded by Passion Pit’s Ayad Al Adhamy and distributed by Warner Brothers Records. Wildlife Pop, released last summer, is an incredibly endearing listen, layering vintage-sounding synth bleeps and squiggles with broader, lush Electro atmospherics and a rhythmic base that is muscular and dance floor ready. At the core is Ultramark’s steady stream of exuberant melodies, which adds greatly to Stepdad’s jubilant sound (though, spoiler alert, the lyrics can be much deeper and darker than the upbeat vibe suggest). Wildlife Pop falls somewhere between the M83’s shadowy, cerebral Electronic explorations and Capital Cities’ (see below) warm and cheerily infectious Dance Pop.
Here is the music video for Wildlife Pop single, “Will I Ever Dance Again”:
• Virtuoso Blues/Rock/Roots guitarist, songwriter and singer Sonny Landreth returns to Cincinnati tonight for an 8 p.m. show at Oakley’s 20th Century Theater. Rootsy local rockers Monkeytonk open.
After cutting his teeth in the ’70s playing with Zydeco/Cajun/Roots accordionist Clifton Chenier, Landreth (who grew up in Louisiana) launched his solo career in the ’80s, building his reputation as a masterful player and innovative slide guitarist. Landreth’s unique technique involves playing chords behind the slide leads, which he taps, slaps and picks with his right hand. Since the mid-’90s, Landreth has released a dozen albums that have been stylistic adventurous, a testament to his impressive versatility. The guitarist’s playing shows that Blues, Jazz, Rock, Cajun and many other types of music have greatly informed his boundless approach to writing and performing. (Landreth is also a popular session musician, having recorded with artists like Jimmy Buffett, Mark Knopfler, John Hiatt and numerous others.)
Last year, Landreth released another wildly diverse album, Elemental Journey, his first all-instrumental effort which features guests like fellow guitar wizards Joe Satriani and Eric Johnson, as well as additives like symphonic strings and steel drums.
Here is a live clip of Landreth performing at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival in 2010:
• Over at Covington’s Madison Theater tonight, bring your dancing shoes because Fitz and the Tantrums and Capital Cities are going to have the venue jumping with their ear-grabbing/dance-inducing sounds. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. and the event is open to all ages. Tickets are $25 at the door. L.A.’s Electro Dance rockers Beat Club open.
L.A. band Fitz and the Tantrums’ propulsive, modern update of vintage Soul/R&B caught the music world’s attention in 2010 with the release of their debut LP, Pickin’ Up the Pieces, both a critical and commercial success thanks in part to the powerful single, “MoneyGrabber,” a song that was perfectly timed to the national outrage over big banks and other mischievous financial institutions that led to the Occupy Wall Street movement. The Tantrums’ second album (and major-label debut), More Than Just a Dream, was released by Elektra Records this past May. Here’s a clip for that album’s “Out of My League”:
Electro Pop duo Capital Cities garnered a lot of mainstream attention this year with its debut album, In a Tidal Wave of Mystery, released in June through Capitol Records. The album features the insistently catchy and winsome singles “Kangaroo Court” and “Safe and Warm,” both from the twosome’s self-titled 2011 EP debut. Like MGMT’s “Kids” or Walk the Moon’s “Anna Sun,” songs that were originally issued on earlier, pre-fame recordings but were released to widespread success on their respective major label debuts, “Safe and Sound” was released originally in 2011 and, two years later, continues to earn Capital Cities more fans. The duo’s super-catchy Synth Pop is hard to resist and the more people are exposed to Capital Cities, the bigger they seem to get.
• R&B singer Jaheim was already wowing audiences at a young age, winning the infamous talent show at the Apollo Theater three times when he was just 15. It was the start of a long, fruitful career that kicked off in earnest when the singer was in his early 20s and was signed to the Warner Brothers-distributed label Divine Mill. Since his debut album in 2001, Jaheim has been a regular visitor to the upper airspace of the R&B charts. His new album, Appreciation Day, was released earlier this year and earned praise for being one of the best displays of Jaheim’s seamless blending of the classic seductive R&B artists like Teddy Pendergrass and Luther Vandross popularized with today’s Neo Soul and Hip Hop-informed approach. Here’s the album’s single “Age Ain’t a Factor”:
Jaheim brings his “Appreciation Tour” with singer Chrisette Michele to downtown’s Aronoff Center tonight, in the venue's Procter & Gamble Hall. Showtime is 7:30 p.m.
Click here for more live music options in Greater Cincinnati tonight.
Musical based on film has more flash than heart
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Producers of musical theater are always on the prowl
for material that already has some emotional traction and romantic
tales that were films when today’s audiences were young and in love are
ripe for conversion into theatrical works. It’s possible to do this with
some success, but I’m afraid that the folks who’ve translated the film
into Ghost: The Musical didn’t have enough faith in the story.