WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by Jac Kern 02.01.2013
Posted In: Events, Drinking, Fun at 02:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Your Weekend To Do List: 2/1-2/3

Remember when you could buy a proper cocktail with the spare change in your pocket? OK, probably not, but you can still enjoy Prohibition-era prices at Japp’s new happy hour kicking off Friday. From 4-6 p.m. tonight (and each night thereafter), Japp’s will serve up 33-cent Plymouth gin martinis with a side of live Jazz and ‘20s-‘30s standards. Pet owners have rallied for a downtown dog park for years; now there are two! In addition to Washington Park’s AstroTurfed dog area is Fido Field on Eggleston Ave. The space is made possible my volunteers and fundraising, as it is not managed by the Cincinnati Park Board. Help contribute to the maintenance of Fido Field by enjoying a night out on the Balls Around the Block bar crawl Friday. Dog lovers and drinkers alike will hop from the Contemporary Arts Center (check-in by 6 p.m.) to bars like Igby’s, Righteous Room, Madonna’s and more, enjoying drink and food specials at various locations. Registration for the event has closed; walk-ups will be accepted until 7 p.m. at the CAC for $40. Check out the bar crawl map and learn more about Fido Field here. While there aren’t any new theater productions opening this week, there are plenty of shows to check out at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, Playhouse in the Park and Covington’s Carnegie Center. Read about them in Rick Pender’s Stage Door. Downtown’s newest bar, 601 Lounge and Nightclub, hosts a grand opening Saturday. Doors open at 9 p.m.; $10 cover includes two free drinks. Like a lot of newer downtown clubs, 601 looks to cater to the VIP/bottle service crowd, so dress to impress — or you’ll be stuck in the cold. Check out our calendar  for more events, art shows, concerts, theater productions and more happening this weekend
 
 
by Rick Pender 01.25.2013
Posted In: Theater at 09:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Stage Door: Good vs. Evil

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.
 
 

Giving the Gift of Theater

0 Comments · Tuesday, December 18, 2012
All right, you’re going to have to forgive me — I am a theater critic and a theater lover. Those terms are not mutually exclusive.  

More Than the Sum of the Parts

0 Comments · Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Collaboration is the byword for many arts organizations today, especially theaters where financial support is tough to obtain and ticket revenues are seldom enough to support the cost of productions. By working together, economies can be achieved and, in some cases, multiple constituencies can be activated.  

Under a Red Moon (Review)

Glimpse inside a serial killer's sensitive psyche in seesaw game of cat-and-mouse

0 Comments · Monday, November 5, 2012
The “Acid Bath Killer,” as British serial killer John George Haigh came to be known, is the subject of a new play, Under a Red Moon, in a world premiere production at Covington’s Carnegie Center.    
by Rick Pender 11.02.2012
Posted In: Theater at 10:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Stage Door: Non-Political Ad Edition

If you can tear yourself way from TV ads for the presidential election this weekend, you'll find plenty of good theater to distract you, starting with a production at Covington's Carnegie Center opening Friday night. It's Under a Red Moon, a world premiere co-production with Dayton’s Human Race Theatre Company. Michael Slade's taut psychological thriller just spent nearly a month onstage at the Loft Theatre in Dayton, so it's already a seasoned production. A dramatized psychological interview in the same vein as Silence of the Lambs, it’s based on the chilling true story of England’s notorious “Acid Bath Murderer” from a half-century ago. The play features Broadway actors Bradford Cover as the criminal and Dee Pelletier as the psychologist trying to get inside his head. Box office: 859-957-1940. A different set of thrills are available from Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, which is staging Shakespeare's bloody revenge tragedy, Titus Andronicus. This show requires a lot of hand-to-hand combat, blood and gore — presented by CSC with ghastly zeal. Just as creepy tales like Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween have chilled film audiences in recent years, this kind of play was all the rage in the early 1590s. (CSC director Jeremy Dubin calls it “a snuff film in blank verse.”) It's especially fun to watch veteran Nick Rose as a Roman general who gets into a grotesque battle of wills with the amoral Queen of the Goths, played by Miranda McGee. The awful things they they do to one another's families make for some delicious, hair-raising storytelling. Also onstage at Cincy Shakes is Romeo & Juliet, with the central characters played as hormonal, irrational teens. Sara Clark is especially good as Juliet. Both productions tell their tale through more contemporary visual filters — R&J's characters wear contemporary clothing and are surrounded with music of the here and now, while Titus gets a "Steampunk" treatment that  presumes that the Victorian ingenuity of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells extended its steam-driven, mechanical technology to the present. Both approaches give new vitality to the shows. (Review here.) Box office: 513-381-2273. Also worth seeing is a funny, touching tale of growing up in Depression-era Brooklyn, Neil Simon's Brighton Beach Memoirs at the Cincinnati Playhouse (513-381-3888)). (Review here.) It's the first time that the Playhouse has staged a work by Simon, one of America's most prolific playwrights of the 20th century. Box office: 513-421-3888
 
 
by Rick Pender 10.05.2012
Posted In: Theater at 11:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Stage Door: 'Through the Night,' CCM, NKU and the Carnegie

Your best bet for theater this weekend, based on several enthusiastic recommendations, seems to be Daniel Beaty's one-man performance at the Cincinnati Playhouse in Through the Night. Harper Lee gave it a Critic's Pick in her CityBeat review this week, and the League of Cincinnati Theatres panel described Beaty as a "brilliant showman and interpreter” whose “beautifully and powerfully acted” performance “weaved in, out and through real people — multifaceted people.” The show was praised as “moving and full of hope — an evening of pure joy, celebration and a mournful reminder as well.” Through the Night “shatters the stereotypes of the ‘African American’ plight and shows beautifully that these predicaments and life choices are ‘human’ ones." I caught a performance this week and found Beaty's ability to shift from character to character quite astonishing — he plays six men and boys, as well as numerous other figures in their lives, each well defined and believable. It's a tour de force performance in the Shelterhouse, presented simply with some projected images and nothing more, not even costume changes. Box office: 513-421-3888. College theater has good choices for you at both UC's College-Conservatory of Music and Northern Kentucky University. Each is presenting a classic, although from very different eras. NKU continues its run of You Can't Take It With You (through Sunday), a classic comedy by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart that won a Pulitzer Prize back in 1937. It's about a wacky family that marches to the beat of several different drummers and how their "normal" daughter and her boyfriend (the product of truly straitlaced parents) try to figure out how to make a relationship work in the midst of a lot of craziness. At CCM there's another form of craziness in Michael Burnham's staging of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, a tale of mistaken lovers and magical transformations. In both cases, there's a happy ending and most of the right people end up with suitable partners. Both shows are sure to offer offer a lot of laughs, as well as plenty of opportunities for young actors to take on entertaining roles. Either show should make for a fun outing that doesn't require much serious thought. CCM Box Office: 513-556-4183; NKU Box Office: 859-572-5464. Finally, on Sunday night at 7:30 p.m. you have a very special opportunity to see a brand-new musical as a work-in-progress at the Carnegie Center in Covington. It's a one-night-only presentation of The Sandman, a creepy musical created by Cincinnati native and Cirque du Soleil maestro Richard Oberacker and his creative partner Robert Taylor. Using a wildly imaginative story by E.T.A. Hoffmann (the guy who wrote the wildly imaginative story of battling mice and toys coming to life that became The Nutcracker), Oberacker and Taylor have crafted a show that's getting a workshop locally with some serious star power. Narrated by Van Ackerman (who turned in a great performance as the Man in the Chair in CMT's recent production of The Drowsy Chaperone), the performance will feature Tony nominee (and early CCM grad) Pamela Myers, always watchable Bruce Cromer (fresh off his powerful turn as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird at Cincy Shakes), Charlie Clark and Sara Mackie. While it's a "reading," it will have sound effects and some slide projections to set the eerie scene. You can call 859-957-1940 for tickets, or order them online at www.thecarnegie.com. General admission is $25 (theater professionals and students can get in for $15). Sounds like a don't miss event.
 
 
by Rick Pender 09.05.2012
Posted In: Theater at 09:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Outstanding Cast Assembled for Oct. 7 Workshop at Carnegie

Star-studded cast to perform darkly comic musical one-night only

There's a new piece of musical theater in the oven, and you'll be able to get a peak and a listen on Sunday, Oct. 7 at 7:30 p.m., when it has a one-night-only public performance at Covington's Carnegie Center. The evening will feature several local theater veterans including two with national reputations, so it's a very promising event. The Sandman is a new musical by Richard Oberacker and his writing partner Robert Taylor. They teamed to create Ace (which premiered at the Cincinnati Playhouse back in 2006), and Oberacker was the creative force behind Don't Make Me Pull This Show Over, a hit at the Cincinnati Fringe in 2008 and returned for a full production at Ensemble Theatre the following season.The Sandman is strange and darkly comic musical, drawn from a nightmarish fantasy by E.T.A. Hoffman, the author of the story of The Nutcracker and the personal inspiration for the opera The Tales of Hoffman. Oberacker, whose day job is as a music director with Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas, will spend a week here to workshop the show about a month from now, and he will play piano for the performance on that Sunday evening. A star-studded cast has been recruited, topped by Broadway veteran, Tony nominee and nationally respected musical performer Pamela Myers. She'll play Frau Kaeseschweiss, an unusual nanny recruited to serve as a nanny the children of the Strauss family. Charlie Clark and Sara Mackie (both Cincinnati veteran theater professionals and familiar to ETC and Carnegie theater audiences) will play the parents, with Clark as an ingenious German clockmaker who sets in motion a series of bizarre and unnatural events when he meets the strange Dr. Copelius, played by Bruce Cromer. (Cromer is spending this month at Cincinnati Shakespeare as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird). The devilish deal between them to save the Strauss's daughter's life takes a strange and chaotic turn and sinister forces at play are revealed — forces from which only the children may be able to save their parents. Another piece of good news: Busy local director Ed Cohen will be involved in staging the piece, which will utilize a number of projected illustrations to evoke the mood and setting.Oberacker is excited by the quality of the cast assembled for the performance, especially with Myers' involvement. (Like him, both are Cincinnati natives and grads of UC's College-Conservatory of Music. She was the first musical theater grad in 1969; although he was a musical prodigy, conducting shows for community theaters while still in high school, he excelled in CCM's drama program, graduating in 1993.) In a recent email, he told me that Myers is playing "a titanic role that narrates the whole show" and added that it's "huge to have Pam in a role tailor made for her." The Carnegie's website has the performance listed but no further information. If you want to be there, I suggest you call the box office and make your interest known: 859-957-1940.
 
 
by Rick Pender 08.17.2012
Posted In: Theater at 11:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Stage Door: 'Xanadu' and You

If it weren't for the Carnegie's production of Xanadu, there wouldn't much to point you for theater choices in mid-August. I'm happy to report that the judges from the League of Cincinnati Theatres and I  are in agreement that this frothy piece of roller-disco and Greek mythology is a great piece of silly entertainment. (Review here.) It's great to see the work of Alan Patrick Kenny onstage again in Cincinnati. I should mention that this show constituted his master's thesis for his graduate degree from U.C.L.A., and his advisors came to town to pass judgment on it. They apparently gave him a passing grade, completing his academic efforts and green-lighting him for his new job teaching musical theater at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point. I hope it's not too long before he gets another gig locally, but in the meantime, I bet the folks in central Wisconsin will be highly entertained. If you want to catch Xanadu, you should call for tickets now, since the positive buzz means that tickets will be getting snapped up between now and the final performance on Aug. 26. Box office: 859-957-1940. One other show that some of you might find entertaining is Rounding Third, on board the Showboat Majestic. It's about two wildly different guys coaching a Little League team — one is a win-at-all-costs kind of guy, the other is a geek who just wants the kids to have fun. You can imagine the fireworks. The LCT judging panel recommended it, and I can say that it's got two solid actors performing it. I thought the script was a tad predictable, but it's got some good laughs, and if you love baseball (or if you played Knothole ball here in Cincinnati) you'll find a lot to identify with. Box office: 513-241-6550.
 
 
by Rick Pender 08.10.2012
Posted In: Theater at 10:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Stage Door: 'Xanadu' and 'Rounding Third'

The theater scene is still in vacation mode this weekend, so there are only a few choices. Your best sure bet is the final weekend of The Hound of the Baskervilles at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company through Sunday. [REVIEW LINK]I suspect if you're a Sherlock Holmes fan with a sense of humor, you'll love this production: It does follow the plot of Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle's ace detective's greatest adventure, but it does so in a very tongue-in-cheek and slapstick manner. It's also a romp for three actors who play all the roles, including veteran CSC actor Jeremy Dubin who is Holmes as well as all the villains (or potential villains) in the piece. It's as much fun watching the trio do quick costume changes as it is following the story of a cursed family on a remote moor in Northern England. It's been a busy box office for this production, so be sure to call in advance if you want a ticket. 513-381-2273, x1. The Carnegie Center's production of Xanadu doesn't open until Saturday, but the odds are good that it will be worth seeing since it's being staged by wunderkind director Alan Patrick Kenny. Read more about Kenny here. The musical is based on the cult-favorite cinematic flop from 1980, reinvented more recently as a stage production by a clever creative team. Kenny, who dazzled local audiences for three years with productions at New Stage Collective (2007-2009), returns for a brief directing stint before he moves off to Stevens Point, Wisc., where he'll be teaching theater at a University of Wisconsin campus. He's spent the past two years studying directing at UCLA — and being engaged in some creative staging and a bit of professional work, too, while on the West Coast. He's one of the most inventive and fearless directors to stage work in Cincinnati in recent years, so Xanadu at the Carnegie s a production that's probably going to draw a crowd. (It's only having eight performances, through Aug. 26. Box office: 859-957-1940. I saw the Showboat Majestic's Rounding Third when it opened on Wednesday evening. It's a tale of dads who coach Little League baseball from very different perspectives. I'm afraid the script is rife with cliches and stereotypes, but the actors — it's a two-man show; when they address the team, they're talking to the audience — capture the essence of their characters. Mike Sherman plays a win-at-all-costs head coach while Michael Schlotterbeck is a gentle nebbish who's trying to connect with his geeky son by offering to be an assistant coach. They're differing philosophies are the meat of the story, and they do end up learning from one another — although the story is pretty predictable from the get-go. Nevertheless, a baseball story in August might be just the thing you're looking for in some summer entertainment. 513-241-6550.
 
 

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