by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:16 AM | Permalink
I can't say that a musical based on the Adam Sandler film The Wedding Singer
is going to be either edifying or educational for a bunch of teens. But
I can assure you that the kids from all over the region involved in
Cincinnati Young People's Theatre, which opens its production of the
show tonight, will be having a blast at the Covedale Center for the
Performing Arts. I bet their good times with this goofy show will mean
contagious entertainment for everyone who shows up to see it. Whether
they're related to the kids or not! It's onstage through Aug. 5. Box
It appears that Cincinnati Shakespeare Company has a summertime hit on its hands with its very tongue-in-cheek staging of
The Hound of the Baskervilles
using three of its best actors. The show opened a week ago and there is
so much demand for tickets that CSC has added matinee performances
through the production's three-week run. Several performances have
completely sold out. It's directed by Michael Evan Haney, associate
artistic director at the Cincinnati Playhouse and one of our area's best
at staging witty and complicated pieces — his Cincinnati Playhouse
production of Around the World in Eighty Days was a big hit
several seasons back (it used four actors) and it moved on to a
well-received run in New York City. While Hound retells the well known
Sherlock Holmes tale, it does it with actors in multiple roles (Jeremy
Dubin, who portrays Holmes, for instance, also plays all the villains)
and a lot of visual humor and slapstick physicality. Through Aug. 12.
Box office: 513-381-2273. Each week in Stage Door, Rick Pender offers theater tips for the weekend, often with a few pieces of theater news.
Looking back on another top-notch Cincinnati theater season
0 Comments · Wednesday, July 25, 2012
If you want to know the “best” shows in New
York City, you need only check which Broadway productions are nominated
annually for Tony Awards. In fact, the Big Apple has tons of awards to
recognize and honor theatrical work. Not so in Cincinnati.
Rake’s End transforms from motorcycle club to artsy drinkery
2 Comments · Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Jerome Jaffe is a character. With his thick New York
accent, wiry frame, perma-five o’clock shadow and penchant for
misnomers, he’s kind of a minor celebrity in his home base of Brighton
in the West End. He recently bought Rake’s End from
long-time area resident/developer Fred Lane, and is determined to
see the bar succeed.
by Jac Kern
at 09:04 AM | Permalink
Tickets are now on sale for an appearance at the Aronoff Center Nov. 3
Humorist and storytelling champion David Sedaris will return to Cincinnati for a one-night speaking engagement this fall. The best-selling author will bring his signature stories to the Aronoff Center Nov. 3; tickets are $40-$53 and can be purchased here.Sedaris is known for his oddly relatable, true-ish tales that combine comedy, embarrassment, neurosis and observational rants into a beautiful, laugh-out-loud experience. Some of his most popular writings include Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary, When You Are Engulfed in Flames and "Santaland Diaries." He is also a frequent contributor on National Public Radio's This American Life. And he has a pretty cool sister.For a perfect slice of Sedaris storytelling, go here to listen to his recent contribution to This American Life's live theater event. Sedaris last performed in Cincinnati in 2010.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:05 AM | Permalink
Some fine entertainment can be found onstage this weekend. Just opening is Cincinnati Shakespeare's production of The Hound of the Baskervilles, a clever, three-man rendition done in the style of The 39 Steps,
with actors taking on multiple roles and looking for moments of humor
and slapstick. In addition to using three fine actors from CSC's company
— Jeremy Dubin, Nick Rose and Brent Vimtrup — the show is being staged
by Michael Evan Haney, associate artistic director at the Cincinnati
Playhouse. A few years back he staged a similar version of Around the World in 80 Days
that was an entertaining delight. Haney is one of our finest local
directors, so you can expect this to be a production definitely worth
seeing. It opens tonight and runs through Aug. 12. Box office: 513-381-2273, x1.
In its final weekend onstage, Commonwealth Dinner Theatre's production of The Foreigner
continues through Sunday. It's a daffy situation comedy about a shy
Brit stuck at a fishing lodge in rural Georgia where there are a lot of
nefarious goings-on. To help him cope, his friend tells the innkeeper
that Charlie is a "foreigner" who doesn't speak English. That premise
leads to all kinds of complications and a hilariously happy ending. This
production is a laugh machine, but its star Roderick Justice is
absolutely perfect in the role, giving it a funny physicality to match
the comedic writing. Box office: 859-572-5464.
And if the weekend isn't enough for you, call up Know Theatre and make a reservation for Monday evening's quarterly dose of
This time the theme for sincerely presented monologues is "true Grit."
It will be an evening of storytelling, tales of perseverance, endurance
and survival from everyday people. These programs are always fascinating
because they're told with heartfelt honesty. I highly recommend
attending; tickets are only $15. Box office: 513-300-5669.Each week in Stage Door, Rick Pender offers theater tips for the weekend, often with a few pieces of theater news.
by Rick Pender
The best theatrical entertainment onstage this weekend is
The Foreigner, presented by the Commonwealth Theatre Company at Northern
Kentucky University. I saw it a week ago (review here) and it's a winner — a
very funny play with a marvelously inventive performance by Roderick
Justice in the title role. He plays a painfully shy man who tries to
avoid social contact by posing as someone who doesn't speak English,
even though he's quite literate. The concept doesn't quite work out as
planned when his "cover" means that people have all kinds of revealing
conversations around him. The plot is hilarious, but it's Justice's
performance that makes it run like clockwork. It's part of a dinner
theater package — dinner at 6:30 most nights, show at 8:00 p.m. Tickets:
There's not a lot of theater right now, but if you're looking for great
onstage entertainment right now, the World Choir Games have plenty to
offer. I've been blogging about it for the past week, and you can read
more here. Events and performances through Saturday evening.
0 Comments · Wednesday, July 18, 2012
You Are My Superhero, opening
Sunday at Dayton Art Institute (DAI), is here to rescue art lovers from
the summer blahs. The difference starts at the door, where there’s $2
off for wearing a superhero costume.
by Rick Pender
On Saturday (July 14) I spent much of my day attending two excellent events. In the afternoon, I was part of a full-to-the-rafters Music Hall (every single seat was sold, meaning more than 3,400 people were in attendance!) for the final Champions Concert, featuring 11 groups that were judged to be the best in their respective categories. I had a chance to see Fairfield High's Choraliers, named the outstanding Show Choir, as well as the heartfelt Jeremy Winston Chorale, from Wilberforce, Ohio, winners of the Gospel category. (Interestingly, Jeremy Winston was once a member of The Aeolians from Oakwood University of Huntsville, Alabama, the group that won the Spirituals category.) Several children's groups, notably the Vocalista Angels from Indonesia (Children's Choirs) and Wenzhou Children Art School Boys Choir from China (Young Children's Choirs), demonstrated incredible talent and discipline with kids who are still elementary school. The Music Contemporanea category winner was Stellenberg Girls Choir from South Africa, yet another group — this one comprised of approximately 80 adolescent girls — directed by André van der Merwe. Among the several chamber group categories, I was most moved by the smallest group: Seven beautiful young women from Latvia, performing as "Latvian Voices," performed two numbers as much like chant as singing, using smooth harmonics and powerful vocal ranges as their music rose and fell, with single and multiple voices weaving in and out. Quite remarkable, and a kind of invitation to the next games — to be held in Riga, Latvia, in 2014. The Greater Harrisburg (Pennsylvania) chapter of Sweet Adelines that I had seen on Thursday was back to celebrate their championship in the first-ever competition for Barbershop singing, and best of all was another chance to witness a repeat performance by the Kearsney College Choir, a group of 65 high school boys from South Africa. Their thumping, rhythmic rendition of a Folklore number (the category they were named champions in) about King Shaka, "father of the Zulu nation," was a rousing finish to the two-and-a-half concert at Music Hall.The closing event was held at U.S. Bank Arena on Saturday evening, with approximately 11,000 people in attendance. There were lots of choirs there, sitting together and making their presence known. Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory urged them to return to their homes and "tell everyone about the great hospitality you received here." It was also announced that Interkultur, the organization behind the games, plans to establish a U.S. office here in Cincinnati. Reports indicate that the group is seriously considering staging a "Choirs of the Americas" event, likely here in Cincinnati, possibly in 2013.The program saw a hand-off of the WCG flag to the mayor of Riga, Latvia, as well as another performance by the powerful presence of the seven young women constituting Latvian Voices. The balance of the evening was an eclectic performance by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra and the May Festival Chorus, amplified by numerous WCG choirs in the seats behind them at the north end of the U.S. Bank Arena. Their ad libbed choreography made a festive evening even more so, and it was frequently shown on the large video screens in the Arena. The musical program featured Broadway star Idina Menzel and Gospel singer Marvin Winans; they combined for a rendition of "Oh, Happy Day," joined onstage by other singers from Cincinnati Opera and the leaders of WCG. As we walked out, there as an impromptu performance on the plaza between the arena and Great American Ball Park by the Gema Chandra Cendrawasih University Choir from Papua, Indonesia. The 49-member group, I learned, had an outrageous week of headaches traveling from Jakarta to Cincinnati, arriving on Saturday, too late to compete. They decided to entertain the crowd leaving the closing ceremony — hundreds of people circled them as they danced wearing grass skirts and body paint, warbling, shouting, singing and whistling through the numbers they would have performed in the Folklore category. Arrangements were made for them to sing at a Madisonville Church on Sunday, but then they needed to begin the arduous task of returning to Indonesia.There were many takeaways from the two weeks of WCG in Cincinnati, and I'll be writing about those in my CityBeat column later this week. The theme of the Games is, "Singing together brings nations together." I saw it happen right here in Cincinnati.
by Rick Pender
On Friday evening, I hiked down to U.S. Bank Arena for
the World Choir Games awards ceremony. It was bustling at The Banks,
since the Reds are back in town and playing the Cardinals. It was fun to
see the WCG participants, many dressed in colorful team T-shirts,
mingling with the crowds around Great American Ball Park in their Reds
gear. Lots of folks from other nations had a chance to peer into the
stadium and see American fans revving up.
But there was no lack of revving — or revelry — inside the arena for
the program. This was not a musical event, but a ceremony in which
choirs in eight categories were recognized for their performances and
champions crowned. For 20 minutes before the event began, there was a
ton of merriment going on as teams did the "wave" around the arena and
cheered whenever their own choir showed up on the big video monitors.
Lots of awards are handed out at WCG, some simply for participating.
Choirs can choose to compete in an open category, in which they are
evaluated but not competing for medals (although they are ranked and can
receive gold, silver or brionze "diplomas") or in the head-to-head
competitions. By scoring within certain point ranges, singing groups are
awarded bronze, silver or gold medals. The ultimate designation,
"Champion," is bestowed on the choir that scores the highest point total
among the gold medalists in each category. Other medalists send forward
their director and one singer to receive the medal and a certificate.
When the champions are named, the entire choir races jubilantly to the
stage, hugging, screaming and celebrating. Once assembled there and the
medal bestowed, the choir's national flag is raised and its national
anthem sung, often with tear-streamed faces on the video screens.
Champions were named eight categories. Three were from the United
States, including in two largely American categories included in the
games for the first time, Barbershop and Show Choirs. Gospel was also
broken out from Music of Religions. The most wildly celebrated champion
was surely the Choraliers, from Fairfield, Ohio, just north of
Cincinnati, which was named the champion Show Choir (amid choirs from
other nations and several from universities). Also from Ohio, the Jeremy
Winston Choir from Wilberforce University was named the champion Gospel
group. The other American champion was a barbershop chorus from
Pennsylvania, the Greater Harrisburg Chapter of Sweet Adelines.
The remaining five champions were: Female Chamber Choir: Latvian
Voices from Riga, Latvia (where the 2014 World Choir Games will be
held); Male Chamber Choir: Newman Sound (Canada); Music of Religions:
Stellenberg Girls Choir (South Africa); and Young Children's Choir's:
Wenzhou Children Art School Boys Choir (China). The latter category's
winners of gold medals were all youth choirs from China, where it's
clear such ensembles are prized and emphasized.
More champions are being announced on Saturday morning, and a
selection of champions will perform in a concert at Music Hall on
Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. That concert, as well as the Closing
Ceremony at U.S. Bank Arena on Saturday at 7 p.m., are both sold out.
by Rick Pender
I spent 12 hours on Thursday absorbing events and
performances of the 2012 World Choir Games. My "day pass" gave me way
too much to write up in detail, but here are some highlights and random
Show Choirs: I spent several morning hours at the Aronoff Center (which
was "sold-out" — no empty seats, before 10 a.m.!) watching groups
perform in the manner popularized by the TV series
followed the familiar model completely — glittering costumes, athletic
dance numbers, lots of fist-pumping and high energy. They were fun to
watch, but the international filter provided by groups from the Bahamas
and Venezuela provided a whole new filter. The 26 members of the Bahama
National Youth Choir dispensed with flashy costumes — young men and
women wore khaki pants and skirts, topped with navy blue blazers and
white shirts. But, boy, could they dance: From "It Don't Mean a Thing if
it Ain't Got That Swing" to Michael Jackson's "Beat It." And when they
finished (to a standing ovation), the next group, Orfeón Universitario
Rafael Montaño from Puerto Ordaz, Venezuela, dazzled us with a
salsa-inspired Spanish-language set with costume changes for every
number — at one point including a dozen women with palm trees atop their
heads! About half the numbers utilized wonderful soloists, mature women
with incredible voices backed up by the choir in tributes to pop
singers from the world of Hispanic music. The group's performance was a
riot of color, dancing and joyous outbursts of energy.
Barbershop: This is a first-time category for WCG, a popular choir form
in North America that's not practiced much elsewhere. But based on the
big crowd for the competition at Music Hall, I'd say that singers of the
world might be adopting this happy form of choral performance that
involves close harmony, typically by groups that are all male or female.
I smiled at a group of 32 from Minnesota, the North Star Boys Choir,
and enjoyed the "mature" group of women, the Cincinnati Sound Chorus,
who clearly enjoyed their set, opening with "As long as I'm singing my
song." Three more choruses in colorful costumes — A Cappella Showcase
(from Canada), Greater Harrisburg Sweet Adelines Chorus (from
Pennsylvania) and Bay Area Showcase Chorus (from California) were all
Friendship Concert: Departing from Music Hall late in the afternoon, I
encountered a big crowd in Washington Park surrounding the bandstand.
Patiently waiting for the moment to begin was a chorus of kids from
Goteborg School in South Africa. The surrounding crowd was dotted with
other performers, young African-American girls in maroon choir robes and
pale girls from Russia in floaty pastel chiffon dresses with flowers in
their hair, looking like escapees from a fantasy bridal party. I was
tempted to pass by until the South African choir started to sing: They
were elementary aged children who sang with lusty enthusiasm, and I
couldn't tear myself away from listening to their rhythmic songs and
high spirits. The crowd responded accordingly.
After dinner at Bakersfield on Vine Street, I went on to the day's real
highlight, the Cultural Showcase at the Aronoff — another completely
full house at the P&G Hall starting at 7:30 p.m. The Venezuelans I'd
seen earlier in show choir mode were back doing a program of somewhat
less flashy folk music numbers. There was still plenty of energy and
costumes, as well as more work from the outstanding soloists. The next
group was 65 boys from Kearsney College, a high school in Botha's Hill,
South Africa. Half their program was sung in blue-and-white choir robes
with a brilliant yellow icon of Africa on the front; this was a
powerfully emotional set, full of the rhythms and zest that I've come to
expect from South African ensembles. The second portion of their
program focused on Zulu folklore and one of its heroes, King Shaka. For
this portion the boys dressed in black shirts and pants with cardinal
red belts and knee-high rubber boots, like those worn by miners. This
set of music was non-stop athleticism, dancing, acrobatics and lusty
singing. The audience responded warmly to this off-the-hook segment, and
conductor Bernard Krüger told the audience that he loves Americans
because they really know how to cheer. The final set of performers were
from Istanbul, Turkey, the Bogaziçi Jazz Choir. This was a different
kind of folk music from a country about which I don't know much, but
watching their earnest, sometimes serious sometimes humorous delivery, I
feel that I understand their character more fully. They concluded with
several songs in English that warmed the audience even more — earning
two standing ovations.
My final observation on the evening: It was so satisfying to be in an
audience that truly loved what they were witnessing and expressed their
joy at the performances with honest reactions. These were some of the
most genuine standing ovations I've ever witnessed. I was proud to be in
this crowd, and I have to believe that it was a truly memorable
experience for the performers.
A final observation: Every choir I've heard from South Africa has deeply
moved me. Knowing that nation's history of apartheid and seeing choirs
of mixed races reveling in music gave me hope that music can indeed heal
the world. That's a great lesson to learn from the World Choir Games.