by Mike Breen
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.
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Here are three categories designed to
satisfy different tastes: theatergoers who love musicals, those who
yearn for the classics and anyone with a taste for new plays. Since this
is CityBeat’s fall preview, these are shows you can catch before
0 Comments · Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Pilobolus Dance Theatre has never been a
typical dance company. From its origins at Dartmouth College in 1971,
its nonconformity and evolution are in its DNA and have enabled the
company to flourish where it will — much like the sun-loving fungus
after which it’s named.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:39 AM | Permalink
As the 2012-2013
theater season winds down, there are still several good productions
worth seeing: You can still be entertained by the froth of The Marvelous Wonderettes: Caps and Gowns at Ensemble Theatre (which runs through June 1), intrigued by the dark comedy Measure for Measure at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company (through May 26; CityBeat review here) or titillated by the noir tale of lust and murder, Double Indemnity, at the Cincinnati Playhouse (wrapping up on Saturday; CityBeat review here).But if you're looking for other options, you'll find them. Slightly more off the beaten path is Sunset Boulevard,
the Andrew Lloyd Webber about a faded silent film star living in her
grandiose memory of her glory days rather than in the cynical present of
the 1940s. Cincinnati Music Theatre has assembled a fine production of
the show at the Aronoff Center's Jarson-Kaplan Theater, onstage through
Saturday evening. This is a big show in terms of cast, choreography,
scenery and more, but CMT, a community theater, has the personnel to
pull it off. Tickets: 513-621-2787.
Another tale of a film legend contemplating a return to the screen — but on a decidedly smaller scale — is offered in Krisit,
a new play by local playwright Y York. Veteran actress Dale Hodges
plays the title character in a show characterized by director Mark
Lutwak as a funny play about a serious subject. York and Hodges have a
history that goes back to New York City many years ago. It's onstage
(through June 2) at Clifton Performance Theatre (the space once occupied
by Sitwell's Coffee House, 404 Ludlow Ave.). Tickets: 513-861-7469. Speaking of legends, at the Aronoff tonight (Friday) you'll find Hal Holbrook in Mark Twain Tonight!
He's been presenting the humor, satirical wit and timeless observations
of one of America's most iconic literary figures for more than a
half-century. Holbrook is now 88, more than a decade older than Twain
when he passed away in 1910. But he keeps his performances fresh and
timely with constant edits and changes about politics, culture and the
world, carefully attuned to the moment. (He has more than 16 hours of
Twain material in his repertoire!) His performance is in the Procter
& Gamble Hall at the Aronoff Center. Tickets: 513-621-2787.
If you've already enjoyed the Wonderettes at ETC, you might want to attend Forever Plaid,
which just opened the 2013 summer season on board the Showboat
Majestic. It's a similar story, a quartet of singers aspiring for their
big musical break. They get it, but at a high (and highly comic) price.
Lots of great tunes from the ’50s, surrounded by nostalgic humor. It's
onstage through June 2. Tickets: 513-241-6550.
you're a regular theatergoer in Cincinnati, you might want to attend
the League of Cincinnati's awards program on Monday evening, 7 p.m. at
Know Theatre. Details here.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:52 AM | Permalink
Nothing new onstage
this week, but lots of good work continues as we head toward the summer
when theater gets scarce. Now's the time to stock up.
This is the final weekend for Cock at Know Theatre. (Some publications call it The Cockfight Play, but Cock
is Mike Bartlett's actual title for his play.) It's the story of a man
who thought he was gay but now finds himself powerfully drawn to a
woman. (CityBeat review here.) His former lover and his new passion both push him to make a
choice, and he's torn. It's a great piece of theater, fueled by strong
acting and interesting staging. Tickets: 513-300-5669. Ensemble Theatre's production of The Marvelous Wonderettes: Caps and Gowns
is off and running — and on its way to being another box-office hit for
ETC. It's the same four spunky gals who audiences loved back in 2010
(in ETC's best-selling show ever), with new tuneful glimpses into their
high school graduation in 1958 and a wedding reception in 1968. Talented
singers, individually and as a quartet, make this a fine evening's
entertainment. If you've seen it before, you know the drill — and you're
probably ready for more. Tickets: 513-421-3555
James M. Cain's novel of crime and deception, Double Indemnity, continues at the Cincinnati Playhouse. (CityBeat review here.) If you think you know this show from Billy Wilder's 1944 film (one that defined the noir
genre), you're in for a treat: While this production adopts the
elements of terse narration, tough guys and sexy dames, the playwrights
tell the story differently for the stage. And the Playhouse stages it
inventively — one might even say cinematically. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
Shakespeare's Measure for Measure
is a strange piece, a comedy with a deeply disturbing story about
hypocrisy. (CityBeat review here.) A judgmental official condemns men for their licentious
behavior, then turns around and propositions a virtuous woman pleading
to spare her brother. This troublesome tale is interspersed with comic
moments as minor characters wend their way through a time of sordid
behavior — in Cincinnati Shakespeare's production it's been moved to
Prohibition-era America. If you're a Shakespeare buff, this one is worth
seeing, since it's not often staged. (It's been 18 years since it's
been presented locally.) Tickets: 513-381-2273 x.1.
The musical Sister Act,
based on the Whoopi Goldberg film from 1992, continues at the Aronoff. (CityBeat review here.)
It's an evening of silly fluff, but the touring production, onstage
through Sunday, is polished and entertaining. The plot is implausible,
but it's a framework for some great singing and an eye-popping series of
set pieces. Tickets: 800-982-2787.
If you prefer a musical with a little more grit, head to Dayton where the Human Race Theatre Company is presenting next to normal
at the Victoria Theater. This Rock musical about a paranoid
schizophrenic mom and the damage her affliction imposes on her family is
a powerful show, one that Cincinnati's Ensemble Theatre gave a well
received production in 2011 that was revived a year ago. The show was an
unusual winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for drama. It's onstage in
Dayton through May 19. Tickets: 937-228-9360.
Talent of touring cast provides a night of fun
0 Comments · Friday, May 3, 2013
is full of stereotypes and predictable humor, but its all done with
energy and polish, which makes it worth seeing.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:50 AM | Permalink
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company opens its
production of the infrequently staged Measure for Measure tonight. Director Brian Isaac Phillips says, “We have discovered a lot of
satire and wit as we explore the biting social criticism in
this play. The behavior of these characters … is like a dark comic
mirror, held up to nature. Shakespeare has written a play that begs us
to examine modern day decadence and hypocrisy.” Phillips has set the
production in the corrupt and hypocritical Prohibition Era, to "give
modern audiences a context for the
actions and the characters' deeply held opinions." It's onstage through
May 26. Tickets: 513-381-2273 x.1. The Marvelous Wonderettes
are back at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati with another sequel to the 2010
show that set box-office records. This time the theme is "Caps and
Gowns" — which means graduation (in 1958) and a wedding (in 1968). The
quartet of girl singers are lively and sometimes harmonious, although
each one has her quirks and pet peeves. The spread of a decade allows a
range through two distinct periods of Rock & Roll, one innocent, the
other a bit more knowing. ETC has reunited three of the four actresses
who've played these parts before, and the fourth slot – filled by Leslie
Goddard — is a petite stick of dynamite in cats' eye glasses. The show
opened on Wednesday, and it will surely be a hot ticket again — ETC has
already extended it by two weeks beyond its original closing date.
I went to see Sister Act,
based on the Whoopi Goldberg film from 1992 about nuns and disco, with
low expectations. I was pleasantly surprised: This is a solid production
of a very silly show, with some genuine talent in the leading roles,
and plenty of energy in the ensemble. The music (by composer Alan
Menken, who also wrote Little Shop of Horrors, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Newsies
and many more) is entertaining, the production looks great — lots of
glitter and sequins — and some moments of touching emotion (cliched, but
moving nonetheless). Don't expect anything profound and you'll have a
good time. It's onstage at the Aronoff Center. Tickets: 800-982-2782.
If you're in a darker mood, check out Double Indemnity at the Cincinnati Playhouse. It's a stage version of a noir
classic, a pair of lovers plot to murder her husband and score a big
insurance take (boyfriend is an insurance salesman). But things don't
quite work out as planned. Very stylish imagery and actors who get the
hard-boiled tough-guy style of story-telling from the 1940s. Paul
Shortt's cleverly designed set moves the action quickly from scene to
scene using two turntables, so it's almost like a movie with "wipes"
from once setting to the next. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:11 AM | Permalink
The clash of good and evil seems to be on the mind of most of our local theaters this week as numerous openings bring plenty of offerings for you to choose from.Abigail/1702 at the Cincinnati Playhouse is a kind of sequel to Arthur Miller's The Crucible. This new play by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (it's actually a world premiere) takes the character of Abigail Williams, the villainous and spiteful catalyst for the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, and moves her 10 years beyond. She's living in Boston, an outcast caring for people afflicted with the "pox" — and haunted by her past. She knows her actions in Salem were evil, perhaps inspired by the Devil himself. How she copes with the current events of her life is very much dictated by her actions from the past. This is a fascinating variation on a familiar character, told with an air of supernatural events and eerie sights and sounds. Box office: 513-421-3888.Freud's Last Session at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati puts a debate about the existence of God front and center, with the distance between good and evil or right and wrong as the battleground. Psychoanalyst and atheist Sigmund Freud is dying of oral cancer; he invites to his London flat a young academic and newly converted Christian, C. S. Lewis (who later wrote the Christian allegory The Chronicles of Narnia). On the September day in 1939 when England declares war on Germany — perhaps another clash of good and evil — they meet for a conversation. The play is almost all talking and very little action, but the clash of ideas is enough to keep you on the edge of your seat. That's made especially true by two fine actors: Bruce Cromer (the Playhouse's longstanding Ebenezer Scrooge and Cincinnati Shakespeare's recent Atticus Finch) as the earnest Lewis, and Barry Mulholland (a local newcomer, but a veteran actor) as the skeptical Freud. This one will make you think. Box office: 513-421-3555.Camelot at Covington's Carnegie Center offers a distilled version of the Broadway hit from 1960. It's presented as a concert, singers backed up by members of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, led by its maestro Mischa Santora. The story of King Arthur's court, a place of goodness and justice brought down by an illicit love affair, is another glimpse of the good and evil affect history — even if it's mythic history. Former NKU professor Mark Hardy is back in town to play Arthur. Through Feb. 3. Box office: 859-957-1940.The evils of racial injustice are at the heart and soul of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Memphis, which has a touring production at the Aronoff through Feb. 3. Set in the 1950s, it's about a white radio DJ who digs black music long before it became mainstream. His love of the music leads him to a romance with a talented singer, and that causes complications in a town where black and white don't mingle without serious repercussions. Of course, it's a musical, so this doesn't dig too deeply into the issues, but it's definitely a reminder of a time and place that feels very foreign to us today — even if some attitudes persist. Ultimately, it's about the power of music to bridge difficult boundaries, and that's a good message. Box: 800-987-2787.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:30 AM | Permalink
Mormons, dancers, dictators, the Grinch and more
Cincinnati will see the regional premiere of The Book of Mormon a year from now. The winner of nine Tony Awards will be the highlight of Broadway in Cincinnati's 2013-2014 season at downtown's Aronoff Center for the Arts. It's set for a three-week run, Jan. 7-26, 2014. A show described as "the funniest musical of all time" that was created by the guys behind the satirical South Park TV series has enough raucous, off-color humor to melt away any winter chill that settles in following the holidays. It's about two naive and optimistic Mormon missionaries who tryto persuade residents of Uganda to follow their faith — but threatened by a maniacal warlord, the locals are more concerned with war, famine, poverty and AIDS than religion. The satire is laid on thick, and it's the kind of show that's bound to offend some people. Nevertheless, it's been a gigantic Broadway hit since it opened in March 2011; the tour that comes our way began back in August, so Cincinnati is an early stop.The season will have a number of familiar titles, including another three-week run for the Broadway hit Wicked (March 5-23, 2014). The Wizard of Oz musical has been running on Broadway for a decade. There will also be two Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals, a new production of his 1978 musical Evita (Feb. 18-March 2, 2014), based on the show's successful 2012 Broadway revival; as well as another chance to see Lloyd Webber's phenomenal hit, The Phantom of the Opera (April 30-May, 11, 2014).Proving that old movies never die — they just come back as musicals — two other productions booked for the season are the love story Ghost(Sept. 24-Oct. 6, 2013), based on the 1990 movie with Demi Moore, Patrick Swayze and Whoopi Goldberg; and the romantic dramaFlashdance (Oct. 29-Nov. 10), based on the 1983 film about a young woman welder who aspires to be a dancer. And if you're yearning for another story you've heard before — with more music than you mightremember — we'll also have a brief run of a holiday show, Dr. Seuss'How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical (try singing that!) surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday (Nov. 27-Dec. 1).Subscriptions go on sale today (Jan. 20) online, and starting Monday (Jan. 21) you can order at the Aronoff Center Box Office (650 Walnut Street, Downtown Cincinnati), online or by calling 800-294-1817. Subscriptions for six shows range between $179 and $611.