by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:17 AM | Permalink
Last night I was at the Cincinnati Playhouse for the opening of I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti, a charming one-woman play based on Giulia Melucci's foodie memoir from 2009. The frame of the show is that it's set in a stylish kitchen where actress Antoinette LaVecchia prepares a meal while sketching out her numerous disconnects in search of love, feeding boyfriends but finding herself starving. Four couples pay a bit more ($35 apiece beyond the ticket price) to sit at tables directly in front of her kitchen where she serves antipasti, salad and spaghetti Bolognese that she prepares as she talks about a series of amusing but unpromising relationships, convincingly painting portraits of her ill-fated choice in men. La Vecchia is so natural in the role (which she originated in 2012 and has played at several regional theaters since then) that you'll feel like you're one of her best friends. Running through Oct. 26, this Shelterhouse production gets a Critic's Pick. Tickets ($30-$75): 513-421-3888I also thoroughly enjoyed New Edgecliff Theatre's production of The Little Dog Laughed (at Hoffner Hall, 4120 Hamilton Ave., Northside). The four-actor comedy by Douglas Carter Beane is about Diane, an acerbic agent, and Mitch, the actor whose career she's advancing. He's found a boyfriend he really likes (even though boyfriend is a male prostitute with a girlfriend), but she's convinced that this news could ruin his chances … and hers. Kemper Florin is a hoot as the motor-mouthed agent, spouting all sorts of crazy theories about how things should be in monologues that directly address the audience. The entire cast does a fine job, and I gave this one a Critic's Pick. Tickets ($20-$27): 888-428-7311
Area universities have two classics to offer. At UC's College-Conservatory of Music in a brief weekend run (through Sunday) it's Shakespeare's classic tragedy, Macbeth. In an unusual twist, the production features third-year female drama student Laura McCarthy as the power-mad military man who seizes the throne of Scotland. Tickets ($27-$31): 513-556-4183 … South of the Ohio River, Northern Kentucky University presents Euripides' The Bacchae, a play first performed in 405 B.C. The tale of power, revenge, decadence and debauchery takes place in Thebes, where citizens are torn between worship of the god Dionysus and the centrality of reason and humanism. Sunday will be the conclusion of a two-week run of the production. Tickets ($14): 859-572-5464
The musical Dirty Dancing, based on a hit movie from 1987 about young love at a family resort in the Catskills, wraps up two weeks of performance at the Aronoff Center. The touring production, presented by Broadway in Cincinnati through Sunday, features some dazzling video and lots of dancing. The story is pretty predictable, but it's one that people love. "Don't put Baby in the corner."
Tickets ($39-$89): 513-621-2787
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:25 AM | Permalink
I had a glimpse of Broadway's future last
night on campus at UC. I attended Not Yet Famous, the 22nd edition of
CCM's musical theater showcase, featuring the about-to-graduate senior class.
The 19 vibrant performers presented a 45-minute program that they'll take to
New York City on April 7 to present to casting agents, producers and others.
It's how they begin to land contracts and establish relationships that will
give them solid professional careers. With accompanist Julie Spangler at the
piano, the singers worked as a large ensemble and smaller sets, but each one
had multiple chances to show off her or his strengths as a singer, dancer and
actor — they're all trained to be "triple threats" with a polished
arsenal of vocal and movement skills. They were warmly received by the Friends
of CCM, the support group that helps keep various programs at the conservatory
going; the evening was a benefit. You have a chance to see the showcase for
free if you act quickly: There will be performances on Saturday at 5 and 8 p.m.
at Patricia Corbett Theater. No charge, but you need to call CCM's box
office to reserve a seat (limit of two per order). I suspect tickets will be
snapped up, so call right away: 513-556-4183.
Wicked is in the
midst of its three-week run at the Aronoff Center. This is one of the most
popular Broadway shows of the 21st century (it's been running for a decade, as
well as spawning productions around the world plus two national tours, one of
which is in our midst). It's here through April 23, but tickets are expensive
(cheap seats are $38 and anything else is more), so you might want to try your
chances in the daily lottery for a $25 orchestra seats. Grab your valid ID and
show up in person 2.5 hours before the curtain time to enter; if your name is
chosen, you can purchase one or two tickets. Of course, if you're flush you can
guarantee seats by buying what you need at 513-621-2787.
The Playhouse just opened Pride and
Prejudice, a theatrical adaptation of Jane Austen's most popular
200-year-old novel. I won't see it until next week (busy schedule), but if
you're a fan — and it seems that everyone loves her novels of manners and
romance — you probably need to line up to see this one. Director Blake Robison calls
his production "epic," adding, "The story is a satire of the
marriage market and an exploration of true love. What could be more fun than
that?" It's onstage through April 5. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
What with St. Patrick’s Day coming on
Monday, this might be the perfect weekend to see Clifton Players’ production of
The Irish Curse (at Clifton Performance Theatre, 404 Ludlow Ave.).
Lots of folks have told me they enjoyed this tale about a group of
Irish-American men who meet weekly in a self-help group in a Catholic church
basement to discuss a sad “shortcoming” — let’s call it “small equipment,” a
curse they believe has ruined their lives. It gets its final performance on
Sunday, right before you line up for your first green beer. Tickets: 513-861-7469.
by Rick Pender
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.
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 21, 2013
From Bach and contemporary composer Missy Mazzoli
to rarely performed operas and superstar vocal and instrumental
soloists, Cincinnati's fall arts season underscores the creative shifts in musical
programming. It’s not easy to choose highlights from an abundance of
great offerings, but here’s one per month.
0 Comments · Thursday, May 30, 2013
This inventive show at the Art Academy is produced by North American New Opera
Workshop of Cincinnati, comprised of current or past CCM Opera students.
CCM shines with historical tale of corruption, greed
0 Comments · Friday, March 1, 2013
CCM production is an engaging if sordid recreation of the creators’
intentions, a bravura performance that serves as a reminder of how
theater can provide sharp social commentary. Bravo to Guarino and her
student cast for this memorable production.
Special John Cage Centennial concert features past collaborators
1 Comment · Wednesday, November 28, 2012
John Cage fearlessly explored how any sound
could make for beautiful “music.” This included silence — Cage’s most
famous composition, “4.33,” connotes the duration of minutes and seconds
during which an orchestra or musician makes no sounds.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Arts community
at 12:25 PM | Permalink
Mia Gentile's voiceover demo gets love from company, Huffpo
If you grew up in the Midwest you’ve probably heard the
catchy jingle for “Stanley Steemer, the Carpet Cleaner.” But I bet
you’ve never heard it sung operatically, or with some bebop or thrash.
Now you can do that — all in one three-minute video featuring University
of Cincinnati musical theater grad Mia Gentile, a 2011 grad of the
College-Conservatory of Music. Local audiences know her for several
amusing turns in incarnations of The Marvelous Wonderettes at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati and the sold-out (and revived) production of next to normal, but trust me, this girl is bound for glory.
People who’ve never heard of her or the carpet cleaning company are tuning in now by the thousands, thanks to a YouTube video,
cleverly titled “The Stanley Steemer Variations (by Mia).” Gentile
generated with local musician and producer Roger Klug. Julie Spangler, a
professional pianist and musical theater instructor at CCM, introduced
Klug and Gentile, who wanted to produce a voiceover demo of the various
musical styles she could reproduce (which appears to be limitless). Klug
convinced her to translate her vocal performances into a video, which
they shot in one day over the summer. “It was a total collaboration,”
Klug tells me. “We talked about what each character would look like, she
did the makeup and hair, I shot and edited the thing. We completely did
it for no other reason than ‘just for the fun of it.’” It was shot at
the local studio Mental Giant with Klug using a Sony Handycam.
Well, that it was — it’s apparent from watching. But
everyone is getting in on the fun, and the video has taken off virally
on YouTube. When Klug contacted me on Monday morning, it had had 40,000
hits in just a few days. By midnight the piece had exploded, exceeding
100,000 hits. He and Gentile have created a blog site to support it: http://miavideo.wordpress.com.
Even better, the Stanley Steemer people have picked it up,
hyping it on their Facebook page, which has led to a suspicion that the
whole thing is a clever marketing ploy. “Another faction thinks Stanley
Steemer owes us a big check,” Klug jokes, “which I'm inclined to agree
with!” It’s spread to an international audience now, dare I say “picking
up steam” with a mention and a link in the U.K. edition of The Huffington Post. Before this winds up, Gentile will need her own 1-800 number!
by Rick Pender
The weekends around Thanksgiving tend to offer fewer theater opportunities than most since lots of companies are readying holiday productions that open near the end of the month. (In fact, from Nov. 28 to 30, eight shows will open!) But that doesn't mean you should look elsewhere for entertainment.First and foremost is Street Scene at UC's College-Conservatory of Music, the kick-off of a year-long celebration of works by Kurt Weill. It's a dramatic American opera in two acts, a story set in a mid-century Manhattan neighborhood. It's a massive undertaking involving hundreds of students from several CCM departments; Steven Goldstein is directing, and the performances will be musically conducted by Mark Gibson. The opera is based on Elmer Rice's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama; it's sometimes compared to Porgy & Bess, presenting a wide range of multi-ethnic characters and two intertwined love stories. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets ($17-$30): 513-556-4183.A feisty young theater company, Untethered Theatre, is producing a dark comedy, John Patrick Shanley's Savage in Limbo in a storefront theater on Ludlow Avenue, Clifton Performance Theater. The performers are young and the characters they portray are young adults who haven't yet taken hold of life. The venue is intimate, recreating a bar where the characters gather, and the audience sits amidst the action. Tickets ($15): 513-938-0599. If you show up at 7:55 p.m. you might get lucky and score a rush seat for $5.Two community theaters are wrapping up productions of classics that ought to be worth seeing: Cincinnati Music Theatre is presenting Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's Tony Award-winning musical from 1970, Company, at the Aronoff Center's Jarson-Kaplan Theatre. Tickets: ($20-$22): 513-621-2787 … And Footlighters' is finishing up a run of Thornton Wilder's 1938 Pulitzer Prize winning play, Our Town, at the Stained Glass Theatre in Newport. Tickets ($20): 859-652-3849.Finally, if you want an evening of great music with a bit of true life biography, check out Hank Williams: Lost Highway, at the Cincinnati Playhouse. This one runs through the holidays, but tickets will be hard to come by in December, so this would be a perfect weekend to take in a performance of two dozen songs by the guy who blended the Blues with "Hillbilly" tunes and more or less created Country Western music in the early 1950s. You'll know lots of the tunes. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
With Kurt Weill Foundation grant and blessing, CCM builds festival celebrating innovative composer
0 Comments · Tuesday, November 13, 2012
The 2012-2013 season has no special
significance for Kurt Weill, the German-American composer of “September
Song,” “Speak Low” and “Mack the Knife.” But it’s a landmark year for
the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music (CCM).