WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 

The Music Man (Review)

Showboat production is a celebration of America

0 Comments · Saturday, September 15, 2012
My historic experience with The Music Man makes me a serious judge of whether a production of this iconic show succeeds. As a one-time mayor of River City, I pronounce this one a success.  
by Rick Pender 09.14.2012
Posted In: Theater at 08:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
onstage 9-19 - mockingbird @ cincy shakes - bruce cromer as atticus finch - photo rich sofranko

Stage Door: 'To Kill a Mockingbird' and 'Good People'

No matter what your theatrical tastes are, there's something onstage right now for you to enjoy this weekend: A classic story: If you can get a ticket (there aren't many left, I'm told, except perhaps for Saturday matinees at 2 p.m.) to To Kill a Mockingbird, you won't be disappointed. It's a wonderful theatrical retelling of Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize winning novel. It features one of Greater Cincinnati's best actors as the honorable attorney Atticus Finch. Tickets: 513-381-2273, x1. Adventure: Buckle on your swashes (and your sword) and head to the Cincinnati Playhouse for The Three Musketeers. It's a familiar tale of a young man named D'Artagnan who yearns to be a member of the King's guards. He's brash and naive, but his role models, "the three musketeers," are funny and loving and always ready for a good fight. This is one that kids can enjoy. Tickets: 513-421-3888 Contemporary drama with a dose of with: Ensemble Theatre's Good People is the story of a woman who loses her job and struggles to figure out what to do next. She has good, gossipy support from two friends — and a one-time boyfriend who's now a successful doctor. Her story is one that feels like it's about someone you know, trying to make ends meet in today's world. Tickets: 513-421-3555. An old-fashioned musical: Meredith Willson's The Music Man, a Tony Award winner, is getting a charming production on the Showboat Majestic. It's a big cast on a small stage, but it's inventively directed and choreographed by Ed Cohen, Dee Anne Bryll and Jane Green, and you'll definitely leave the theater marching in 4/4 time to "Seventy-Six Trombones" or humming one of the show's other memorable melodies. Tickets: 513-241-6550
 
 

Rounding Third (Review)

Odd couple concept pleasant and predictable

0 Comments · Wednesday, August 22, 2012
The title of Richard Dresser’s 2002 play, Rounding Third, the current production on board the Showboat Majestic, is a pretty obvious clue that this is a show about baseball.  
by Rick Pender 08.17.2012
Posted In: Theater at 11:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
onstage 8-15 - xanadu at the carnegie - photo matt steffen

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)
 
 
ac_alankenny_jf3

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.
 
 

George M! (Review)

Red, white and true blue

0 Comments · Thursday, July 19, 2012
George M. Cohan could easily have been mistaken for a whole crowd of people: The American entertainer was known as a playwright, composer, lyricist, actor, singer, dancer and producer. He is the individual who most shaped the art form of American musical comedy. In 1968, the musical George M! took Cohan’s life and made it into a show — a logical step for a man who spent most of his own career writing and performing in his own productions.  
by Rick Pender 06.29.2012
Posted In: Theater at 09:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
porgy and bess cred

Stage Door: Last Chances

'The Second City 2' and 'next to normal' conclude this weekend, among others

It’s a weekend of last chances, as several shows that have been entertaining audiences wind up their runs just before Independence Day. Let’s start with The Second City 2: Less Pride … More Pork. If you haven’t yet caught this evening of poking fun at our local foibles and sacred cows, you have only until Saturday. The cast of five from Chicago’s legendary comedy troupe has been tickling local funny bones since late April, drawing their material from bottomless well of our beliefs and behaviors. Even if you saw the show a month or two ago, you’ll be entertained by a return visit. Improv is the fuel for the evening, and every night they’re up to new tricks to entertain audiences. By the way, that includes involving a few folks in attendance, so be prepared. Box office: 513-421-3888. Sunday winds up Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati’s revival of the Tony Award-winning musical next to normal. (Review here.) The story of a woman struggling with schizophrenia and how it affects her family is even better than it was back in September. The show uses the power of a brilliant Rock score to enhance the impact of this painful story. ETC has reassembled most of its superb cast from last fall, including Jessica Hendy in the central role. Her beleaguered husband is now played by Bruce Cromer, who you might know as Ebenezer Scrooge in the Playhouse’s annual A Christmas Carol. His character’s relationship with Hendy’s makes their struggles all the more deeply felt. Box office: 513-421-3555. Last Sunday I had some good laughs at the classic comedy Arsenic and Old Lace on the Showboat Majestic. It’s an old chestnut (it was a hit in 1944), but it’s one of the funniest shows you’re likely to see, about a pair of off-kilter elderly maiden aunts who keep their rather normal nephew astonished and scrambling to keep them in line. The kind-hearted women take in boarders, quiet elderly men who are “all alone in the world,” and polish them off with elderberry wine laced with arsenic. They convince another nephew, who believes he’s Teddy Roosevelt, to bury them in the basement by telling him they’re Panama Canal works who are victims of yellow fever. A great show for the whole family. Box office: 513-241-6550. Also winding up this weekend is Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). This rambunctious show mentions of all the Bard’s works — although many are completely unrecognizable, thanks the three buffoonish guys who undertake the task. Order your tickets online where you’ll find an automatic buy-one, get-one offer. Website: www.cincyshakes.com. Cincinnati Opera is offering Porgy & Bess for the first time ever, with a performances on Saturday evening (as well as July 6 and 8). (Preview here.) Is it an opera or a musical? Judge for yourself (and read about it in my Curtain Call column in next week’s issue of CityBeat). It’s at Music Hall, with lots of seats, but as always, a limited run. This is one you shouldn’t miss. I saw it Thursday night, and the leading performers are great: Measha Brueggergosman is a conflicted Bess, Jonathan Lemalu conveys Porgy’s dignified but depressed life, Gordon Hawkins is the brutal Crown, and Steven Cole steals the show as the animated, irreverent Sporting Life. And pay attention to the chorus — it’s a wonderful ensemble. Box office: 513-241-2742. Each week in Stage Door, Rick Pender offers theater tips for the weekend, often with a few pieces of theater news.
 
 
by Rick Pender 06.22.2012
Posted In: Theater at 09:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
next to normal

Stage Door: 'next to normal' Even Better This Year

If you can land a ticket for Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati’s revival of the Tony Award-winning musical next to normal, that’s what you should be doing this weekend. I saw it on Tuesday night, and it’s even better than it was last September. It’s the story of a woman struggling with schizophrenia and how it affects her family; that might not sound like the stuff that musicals are made of, but it uses the power of a brilliant Rock score to deliver the impact of this story. ETC has reassembled virtually all of its superb cast from last fall, including Jessica Hendy in the central role. Her beleaguered husband is now being played one of our area’s best actors, Bruce Cromer, and his relationship with Hendy makes their pain all the more deeply felt. It’s only around for one more week, so you should do your best to grab a ticket now. Box office: 513-421-3555. ETC’s revival isn’t the only thing worth seeing this weekend. You might check out the classic comedy Arsenic and Old Lace on the Showboat Majestic. It’s an old chestnut (it was a hit in 1944), but it’s one of the funniest shows you’re likely to see, the tale of an off-kilter pair of elderly maiden aunts who keep their quite normal nephew astonished and scrambling to keep them in line. The kind-hearted women take in boarders, quiet elderly men who are “all alone in the world,” and polish them off with elderberry wine laced with arsenic. They convince their addled brother, who believes he’s Teddy Roosevelt, to bury them in the basement by telling him they’re victims of yellow fever who have been digging the Panama Canal. A great show for the whole family, with lots of comic twists. Box office: 513-241-6550. You’ll also find a stage full of laughs at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, which is producing The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). You’ll witness mentions of all the Bard’s works — although many are completely unrecognizable, thanks the three buffoonish characters who undertake the task. The second act is a wild send-up of Hamlet that involves the audience. Order your tickets online, and there’s an automatic buy-one, get-one offer available. Website: www.cincyshakes.com. Don’t forget to look in out-of-the-way places for good summer theater entertainment: At Highlands High School in Fort Thomas, Ky., you’ll find the Tony Award-winning musical The Producers, the first outing by C.A.S.T. (Commonwealth Artists Summer Theatre), the brainchild of Jason Burgess, a one-time directing intern at Ensemble Theatre who’s now an award-winning teacher at Highlands. The hilarious show about putting on a musical so bad that the guys doing it can abscond with all the investments will be onstage through July 1, with performances at the high school (2400 Memorial Parkway, Fort Thomas) on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets (only $10): www.showtix4u.com (or at the door). Each week in Stage Door, Rick Pender offers theater tips for the weekend, often with a few pieces of theater news.
 
 
by Rick Pender 06.15.2012
Posted In: Theater at 08:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
arts lead - 9-7 - next to normal @ etc - charlie clark (dr. madden - dr. fine) and jessica hendy (diana) - photo ryan kurtz

Stage Door: 'next to normal' Is Back

If you missed my recommendations last September about seeing the Tony Award-winning musical next to normal at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, you have a reprieve. Starting today, the show is back for a two-week revival. It’s the story of a woman struggling with paranoid schizophrenia and how it affects her family; that might not sound like the stuff that musicals are made of, but it uses the power of a brilliant Rock score to deliver the impact of this story. ETC has reassembled all of the superb cast, including Jessica Hendy in the central role; the one role that needed a new performer is that of the beleaguered husband, and ETC has lined up one of our area’s best actors, Bruce Cromer. Tickets are being snapped up already, but this is the hot show to be seen at the moment. Box office: 513-421-3555 The Showboat Majestic just opened a production of the classic comedy Arsenic and Old Lace. It won’t break any new ground, but it is one of the funniest shows you’re likely to see, the tale of an off-kilter set of relatives who keep their quite normal nephew astonished and scrambling to keep them in line. His aunts take in boarders, quiet elderly men who are alone in the world, and polish them off with elderberry wine laced with arsenic; they convince their addled brother, who believes he’s Teddy Roosevelt, to bury them in the basement by telling him they’re victims of yellow fever who have been working on digging the Panama Canal. There’s lots more, but you get the picture. Box office: 513-241-6550 Another stage full of laughs is available from Cincinnati Shakespeare Company in the form of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). It’s your chance to see at least a passing mention of all the Bard’s works — although many are completely unrecognizable, thanks the three buffoonish characters who undertake the task. The second act is a wild send-up of Hamlet that involves the audience. There’s never a dull moment, and the CSC actors seem to especially relish the task of poking fun at their usual fare. Box office: 513-381-2273, x1. Summer is the season for lighter entertainment at the Commonwealth Dinner Theater, on campus at Northern Kentucky University. They’re offering Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite, a glimpse into the relationships of three couples that occupy the same suite at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. One couple is celebrating their 23rd wedding anniversary in the same room where they honeymooned; another is an oft-married Hollywood producer who’s hoping for an encounter; the third is a mother and father trying to coax their bride-to-be daughter out of the locked bathroom and downstairs to the impatient wedding guests. Box office: 859-572-5464 Each week in Stage Door, Rick Pender offers theater tips for the weekend, often with a few pieces of theater news.
 
 
by Rick Pender 05.25.2012
Posted In: Theater at 09:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
pip_second-city-2

Stage Door: Theater Offerings For a Hot Weekend

It’s a three-day weekend that’s more about being outdoors and kicking off summer fun. That being said, if you’re looking for a theater production that will give you some laughs for your weekend, I recommend catching a performance of see The Second City 2: Less Pride – More Pork at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park on its Shelterhouse Stage. I found it a notch up from the very entertaining first iteration of the show that set box-office records for the Mount Adams theater during the 2010 holiday season. Lots of hilarious fun-poking at … us. The clever cast from Chicago’s renowned comedy/improv troupe uniquely tailors each performance to the audience that shows up. Box office: 513-421-3888. I haven’t seen the Showboat Majestic’s opening production of its 90th season (that’s right, the boat has been entertaining audiences for nine decades!), but Babes in Hollywood is another show that’s light and entertaining. It’s a revue of tunes made famous by Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney back in the 1930s and ’40s when they were happy-go-lucky adolescent stars. I did see the four-member cast do a number at last Monday’s LCT Awards event, and they have fine voices and a sense of style. I suspect this show will be popular with the grey-haired audience that frequents the Showboat, but I bet people of any age will have a good time watching. Box office: 513-241-6550. If you want something a tad more profound, try Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s production of The Merchant of Venice, one of Shakespeare’s most difficult plays. It’s officially categorized as a comedy because it has humorous and romantic elements. But the central story about a potentially fatal argument between a moneylender and a businessman is anything but amusing. CSC’s artistic director Brian Isaac Phillips takes on the role of the rapacious moneylender who has faced anti-Semitic discrimination for his entire life. Is Shylock a villain or a victim? Shakespeare gives him aspects of each, and CSC’s production does not tilt in either direction. You get to decide, and it won’t be easy. Review here. Box office: 513-381-2273, x1. There’s a new theater downtown, just a few doors north of Cincinnati Shakespeare’s venue. They’re calling themselves Speakeasy Theatre, and they’re performing in a storefront space at 815 Race Street. Their inaugural production is Paul Baerman’s The Whistler. The show, directed by Tim Waldrip, is set in 1965 in an unnamed Southern city where a lot a racist attitudes are out in the open. The Andy Griffith Show is in its fifth season, and the guy who whistles that show’s theme (played here by local professional actor Michael G. Bath) is living off the royalties of his work. But life gets more complicated when he meets an African-American trumpet player (Tony Davis is taking on the role) who shares his passion for music. The show just opened on Thursday and I haven’t seen it, but it’s always good to give a new theater a try. The Whistler will be onstage through June 10. Box office: 513-861-7469. Each week in Stage Door, Rick Pender offers theater tips for the weekend, often with a few pieces of theater news.
 
 

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