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.
1 Comment · Saturday, December 1, 2012
Jersey Boys was a hit at the Aronoff in 2008, and Broadway Series subscribers have been asking for a return visit since then, with good reason.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:42 AM | Permalink
So Thanksgiving was early this year, and that means that not only
retailers but all of our local theaters have fired their starting guns
earlier than usual with family-friendly holiday shows. That began with
Ensemble Theatre's opening of Alice in Wonderland on Nov. 28, and
Cinderella at the Covedale, A Christmas Carol at the Playhouse and New Edgecliff's Santaland Diaries (newly paired with The 12 Dates of Christmas) using a new venue, the Aronoff's Fifth Third Bank Theater.
But before you start wearing your Christmas sweaters and holiday socks, I
have a few non-seasonal but highly entertaining productions you should
Let's start with Cincinnati Shakespeare's staging of
The Importance of Being Earnest.
This is a classic comedy from 1895 by Oscar Wilde, but don't think
there's anything old and musty about it. The production of this witty,
romantic tale of harmless manipulation bubbles with laughter and
sprightly performances. I gave it a Critic's Pick here and I suspect
it will be another sold-out run for Cincy Shakes, which has assembled a
gangbuster season. You should note that it's only onstage through Dec.
16, so if you want to see it, don't wait too long. (As of the 16th it
will be supplanted by Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some), Cincy Shakes' holiday offering.) Box office: 513-381-2273 x.1.
And if smiles without holiday trimming are something you seek, I highly recommend the touring production of
This is the true story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Pop stars
from the 1960s, and the show is stuffed full of their memorable,
tuneful hits. The four leading actors faithfully recreate the
group's close harmonies and Valli's soaring falsetto tenor — he's one of
the great Pop vocalists of all time, and Nick Cosgrove nails the role.
Although the history of these four singers has its ups and downs, the
story is told with a sense of wry humor (and numerous F-bombs) that
keeps things light and entertaining. Audiences have been clamoring for
Broadway in Cincinnati to bring this show back since it appeared at the
Aronoff back in 2008, and tickets are selling fast. Box office:
Hank Williams: Lost Highway at the
Playhouse's Shelterhouse stage. (Review here.) It's another genuine
reincarnation of a singer who made an indelible mark on the world of Pop
music. Box office: 513-421-3888.
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.
Now say "Blue Man" — Ready Go!
1 Comment · Friday, October 19, 2012
Drawing comparisons is a futile way to describe Blue Man Group.
It’s a unique form of entertainment that
includes music, electronica, childish gross-outs and silliness that owes a lot to the
physicality Three Stooges and the silent slapstick of Harpo Marx.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 11:39 AM | Permalink
Broadway Across America to produce Trey Parker and Matt Stone musical
The Mormons are coming! The Mormons are coming! No, not the one running for president (although he's showing up pretty often). It's the award-winning irreverent musical The Book of Mormon, which Broadway Across America announced this morning will be part of its 2013-2014 season at the Aronoff Center. The winner of nine Tony Awards (including the best musical of 2011) is a satirical look at two naive and idealistic Mormon missionaries who are sent to a remote Ugandan location where a nasty warlord is oppressing the villagers. Their clueless devotion, good-hearted but misguided — with a lot of very off-color humor — has made The Book of Mormon an unusual hit.It will come as no surprise to CityBeat readers that the guys behind this are Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of animated South Park, another outrageously irreverent look at contemporary life. Also involved was composer Robert Lopez, whose Avenue Q was another Broadway hit, this one featuring Sesame Street-styled puppets in very adult situations.The Book of Mormon has been a big Broadway hit. It will be interesting to see how it plays at the Aronoff Center for audiences that tend to be very mainstream, if not downright conservative in what they'll line up to see. I'm eager to see this one! Broadway Across America has not announced specific dates for the engagement yet.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:06 AM | Permalink
If I were you, I’d to my best to catch a performance of Titanic:
The Musical before it closes on Saturday at the Aronoff
Center’s Jarson-Kaplan Theater. The show puts you in the midst of
dozens of characters as they board the ship, overflowing with great
expectations — of success, of escaping poverty, of new life in
America, of achieving dreams. You get to know them, and then you see
the tragedy that comes their way after the tragic collision with an
iceberg in April 1912. Maury Yeston’s score is all about choral
singing, and Cincinnati Music Theatre, one of our most ambitious
community theaters, makes it work with an impressive physical
production and great voices. Full review: here. Tickets: 513-621-2787.
I’m pleased to tell you that Cincinnati Shakespeare Company has
done a fine job with its 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, directed by Jeremy
Dubin does not tilt in either direction. It’s up to you to decide,
and that’s how this show works best. Full review: here. Box office: 513-381-2273, x1.
Life Could Be A Dream, Roger Bean’s sequel to The
Marvelous Wonderettes and a show ful of teen hits from the ’50s and
’60s, concludes its successful run at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati
this weekend. This time it’s boys, and that’s most of the
difference. As in the two Wonderette shows, Dream is
shot through with adolescent angst, this time around a local radio
station contest that could “make them famous.” Audiences seem to
have loved this excuse for two dozen tunes from the era, and ETC is
keeping its cast busy to the very end, adding an extra finale on
Sunday evening at 6 p.m. Box office: 513-421-3555.
This is also the final weekend for you to get down with the Blues
in the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park’s production of Thunder
Knocking on the Door. The show, a hit for the
Playhouse in 1999 has been thoroughly and creatively reimagined. The
musical — with emotional tunes mostly by Keb’ Mo’ — tells the
story of the power of love, music and Blues guitar players. It’s
presented with panache, including technology and design that are all
about 2012. Through Sunday. Full review: here. Box office: 513-421-3888.
Each week in Stage Door, Rick Pender offers theater tips for the weekend,
often with a few pieces of theater news.