by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:44 AM | Permalink
A special treat onstage at the Aronoff Center's Fifth Third Bank Theater through a Sunday 2 p.m. matinee: Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, featuring Torie Wiggins giving voice to people making pronouncements about race, justice and violence in America. The script by Anna Deavere Smith, drawn verbatim from numerous interviews, was created in the mid-1990s in the following the Los Angeles riots after the Rodney King verdict more than two decades ago. But it feels incredibly timely in light of recent tragic events in Ferguson, Mo., New York City and elsewhere — leading to questions about whether America has made any progress since then. Wiggins brings to life dozens of people — black, white, Hispanic and Asian — offering a myriad of opinions about events and outcomes. "No Justice/No Peace," words heard recently, echo through this script, punctuated with videos and quick audio introductions as Wiggins flips from role to role. It's an impressive performance and a reminder how theater can be more than entertainment — Twilight is a provocative presentation about American culture. Staged by Cincinnati Shakespeare's artistic director Brian Isaac Phillips. Tickets: 513-621-2787.A second one-woman show worth seeing is The Year of Magical Thinking, an effective, bare-bones production at the College Hill Town Hall (1805 Larch Ave., Cincinnati 45205) by the Cincy One Act Festival. It's based on Joan Didion's painful confrontation with grief following her husband's unexpected death and their daughter's serious and ultimately mortal illness. Cate White performs as Didion, the narrator of this deeply personal story; Lyle Benjamin is the director. The show is being presented on Fridays and Saturdays through Feb. 28 (no performances on Feb. 20-21). Tickets: 888-428-7311.It's a great month for women onstage month on local stages, what with Corinne Mohlenhoff in another solo show The Handmaid's Tale at Know Theatre (CityBeat review here; box office: 513-300-5669), which also happens to be directed by Brian Phillips; and Regina Pugh as a beleaguered scientist whose world is coming unraveled in The Other Place at Ensemble Theatre (CityBeat review here; box office: 513-421-3555).Rick Pender's STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:36 AM | Permalink
Things are off to a good start for 2015: The touring production of Cinderella at the Aronoff is a very entertaining retooling of music by Rodgers and Hammerstein into a more contemporary version of the classic fairy tale. It's the same story, but the attitudes are of the 21st century, with a "power to the people" thread running through it and Cinderella conveying a populist message, convincing her prince that democracy is the way to go. The music is charming and there's some magical things done with quick changes in and out of ball gowns that will keep audiences guessing as to how it's done. I gave this one a Critic's Pick with my CityBeat review. Tickets: 513-621-2787.Another classic musical is onstage at Covington's Carnegie: West Side Story. The show requires a lot of dancing and strong orchestral support, and this production offers both.The leads have excellent voices, although I felt (CityBeat review here) they were a tad too operatic for "kids" affected by gang warfare. Nevertheless, this show has some of the finest music ever written for the stage — the score is by Leonard Bernstein and the lyrics by Stephen Sondheim — so it's definitely worth seeing. Tickets: 859-957-1940.Cincinnati Shakespeare Company opens its production of one of the 20th century's great stage works, Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot this weekend. I haven't seen it yet, but with a cast feature stage veteran Bruce Cromer and longtime Cincy Shakes actor Nick Rose, it's sure to be watchable. Here's a fun fact: Cromer has played Scrooge in A Christmas Carol at the Cincinnati Playhouse for eight years; this year Rose understudied the role and actually had to cover several performances when Cromer was out of commission with a twisted ankle. I expect their onstage chemistry to fuel a production that audiences will enjoy. 513-381-2273.CCM voice professor Pat Linhart presents her annual faculty recital on Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. It's a free event at Patricia Corbett Theater on the UC Campus. Every year Linhart assembles a program of zany humor and heartfelt singing, accompanied by the inestimable Julie Spangler. There are always a few surprises, and this year should be no exception. The theme is "It's My Party" celebrating Pat's 65th birthday, and I'm envisioning party hats and noisemakers for everyone in the audience.
Rick Pender's STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 7, 2015
Think you know the story of Cinderella — wicked stepfamily, pumpkin coach, charming prince, glass slipper, happy ending?
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:51 AM | Permalink
If you're looking for good theater this weekend you have two great choices at downtown Cincinnati's Aronoff Center. It's your pick: Recent Broadway hit Once, in a touring production, or a past award-winner, Young Frankenstein, staged by one of Cincinnati's best community theaters.
The musical Once began life as an Academy Award-winning film in 2007; the song "Falling Slowly" won an Oscar. The film became an off-Broadway production as a musical in 2011 then a Broadway contender in 2012, where it won eight Tony Awards, including best musical. Since 2013 it's been a hit in London (the film is about musicians in Dublin, and the stage adaptation is set in an Irish pub) and on a national tour in the U.S. a year ago that's been much praised. It's that tour presently onstage at the Aronoff Center's big hall. It's a very contemporary love story that succeeds in part because it's unpredictable: Boy Meets Girl (yeah, that's a cliché) but despite their chemistry and potential for romance, it doesn't turn out as you might expect. Along the way, a great cast of actor/musicians play instruments onstage and sing their hearts out as the story unfolds. And it's fun: Arrive early enough and you can queue up to go onstage and order a pint from the bar there and mingle with some of the cast. If there's such a thing as a casual musical for contemporary music lovers, this is it. Through Nov. 23. Tickets ($33-$80): 513-621-2787.Don't think that you'll see something less than professional if you choose to head to the Aronoff's Jarson-Kaplan Theater to see Young Frankenstein, presented by Cincinnati Music Theatre through Sunday. This company of local theater junkies knows how to make big musicals work, and this jokey show by Mel Brooks (based on his equally jokey classic comedy from 1974) is a great vehicle for a talented cast and crew. There are great sets (designed by Rick Kramer) and visual effects (by Jeff Surber), and the talented performers milk every laugh line to the nth degree. Charlie Harper is lots of fun as the latter-day scientist Frankenstein, Alison Evans is his fetching lab assistant Inga and Kate Mock Elliott has great moments as his twitchy fiancee Elizabeth. Chuck Ingram's portrait of the Monster is spot on, and his delivery of the show's big number, "Puttin' on the Ritz," will stick that tune in your head for days in ways that Irving Berlin never imagined. Tickets ($20-$24): 513-621-2787.Broadway star Faith Prince is making a local appearance at Memorial Hall for an 8 p.m. concert tonight. It's part of a series of "Libations & Lite Bites," this one titled "Broadway & Bordeaux." The evening begins at 6:30 with hors d'oeuvres from local restaurants, wine and cocktails and concludes with dessert and more. Tickets ($47-$57): cincinnatimemorialhall.com.If you've got Broadway on the brain and you're on Cincinnati's West Side, you should definitely check out the Covedale Center's production of Stephen Sondheim's fairytale musical Into the Woods, finishing up its run on Sunday. It's an entertaining classic (in December it will be on movie screens everywhere in a new film version featuring Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp), and the Covedale has a great cast to put it across. Tickets ($21-$24): 513-241-6550.You still have a chance to catch one of our great local actresses, Dale Hodges, in Driving Miss Daisy at Covington's Carnegie through Sunday. She's playing haughty, elderly Daisy Wertham, unwillingly partnered with Hoke, an African-American chauffeur (Reggie Williams) hired by her solicitous son Boolie (Randy Lee Bailey). It's a solid ensemble and a very entertaining production. Tickets ($18-$25): 859-957-1940.And if you're looking for something that's brand new and edgy, check out All New People by contemporary writer Zach Braff. It's onstage at Clifton Performance Theatre, staged by Untethered Theatre through Nov. 30. It starts with a suicide attempt on Charlie's birthday and spirals from there. I'm going to see it this weekend. Maybe I'll see you there. Tickets ($20): 513-939-0599.Rick Pender's STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:13 AM | Permalink
There are quite a few good options for theatergoing this weekend. First and foremost, I'd point to The North Pool at the Cincinnati Playhouse. It's a newish script from Rajiv Joseph (his play Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
was a runner up for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize), and it's a very timely
piece, set in 2007 in a large public high school. Just two characters: a
slightly disgruntled, tightly wound vice principal and a student of
Middle Eastern descent who's been called in on the eve of spring break
for a "conversation." What starts out as awkward but mildly amusing
takes numerous twists and turns (the show is about 85 minutes long) and
will keep you guessing as more and more is revealed. The teacher says
people are like onions: You can keep peeling, but you never quite get
down to the essence. You will arrive at a surprising — and moving —
conclusion, likely not what you'll be suspecting. That's the kind of
writing and performance to be found in this production. Through June 1. Tickets ($30-$75; $25 for teens and students, with the proviso that the show has strong language and mature themes): 513-421-3888.
For lighter entertainment, I recommend Size Matters
at Ensemble Theatre. It's a premiere by actor Raymond McAnally, who
performs the one-man show. He's a big guy in the theater, literally: 300 pounds. plus. He's used his weight to his advantage to find acting gigs,
but he tends to be typecast — fat slobs, geeks and so on. Not great for
self-esteem, but hey, it's work. However, it can wear on one's
confidence, and when he sees his young nephew going down a similar path,
well, it's food for thought. There's nothing terribly profound about
this script, but McAnally is a very adept performer — he takes on the
roles of his father, his nephew, even his wife, with the assistance of
projections and sound effects. McAnally says that this is 95 percent
material drawn from real life, and it has the ring of truth. It's not
likely that this show will be produced elsewhere unless McAnally does it
himself, so here's a chance to see a one-of-a-kind performance that
will keep you laughing and make you like a guy you might have otherwise
dismissed. Through May 25. Tickets ($39-$43; half-price and $15 student rush tickets starts two hours prior to show time if seating is available): 513-421-3555.
Cincinnati Music Theater opens its production of the classic musical Peter Pan at the Jarson-Kaplan Theater tonight (it runs through May 17).
This top-notch community theater typically does a commendable job with
big musicals, and this family-friendly piece is likely to be a big
attraction, what with flying and local actor Joshua Steele in the title
role. Tickets ($20-$24): 513-621-2782.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:17 AM | Permalink
If you follow music coverage in CityBeat (hey, isn't that really why you pick up the paper?), you're certainly aware of Green Day's 2004 recording American Idiot.
But since you're reading my weekend theater previews, you must be
interested in other kinds of performance, so here's a tip: For two nights
only, Green Day's American Idiot, a stage version of the powerful Punk score, will be onstage at the Aronoff. That's right — Friday and Saturday
only, just three performances, much shorter that Broadway in
Cincinnati's two-week presentation of touring Broadway musicals. I can
vouch for this one, since I saw it a year ago during a similar tour stop
in Dayton. It's the story of three disaffected guys who take different downward
spirals when confronted with the numbing boredom of everyday life —
"alien nation" — as they sing in the opening number. The recording was
conceived as a "Punk Rock Opera" and turned into a Tony Award-nominated
Broadway show in 2010, with a lot of involvement by Green Day's lead
singer Billie Joe Armstrong (who actually appeared onstage in New York
at various performances; that's not happening here in Cincinnati).
There's a day-of-performance lottery for a limited number of $25
tickets; you need to show up two-and-a-half hours before the performance
you're hoping to see (8 p.m. Friday, and 5 and 8 p.m. on Saturday)
with a valid photo ID. Complete an entry form and wait 30 minutes to
find out if you're a winner. If you prefer to just go ahead and buy your
seats ($38-$91), you can call the Aronoff box office: 513-621-2787.
In the classic musical Gypsy,
Rose has very concrete ideas regarding how to turn her daughters into
stars (long before Green Day was punking out, to be sure): Back in the
1920s and ’30s she pushed her kids onto vaudeville stages whether they
liked it or not. Things never went quite as she imagined, which was
really a desire for her own fame and stardom. It's one of the great
musicals, and the role of Rose has been compared to King Lear. That
might be a bit of a stretch, but she's a tragic character who's
fascinating to watch. There's a ton of great music, composed by Jule
Styne with lyrics by a very young Stephen Sondheim and lots of humor
along the way, especially the hilarious number by three strippers, "You
Gotta Get a Gimmick." Cincinnati Landmark opened its production Thursday
night, and it will be onstage at the Covedale Center for the Performing
Arts through May 4. Tickets ($21-$24): 513-241-6550.
Mary Chase's comedy Harvey
won the 1945 Pulitzer Prize and had a four-year Broadway run (1,800
performances). The story of Elwood P. Dowd and his invisible friend, a 6-foot tall rabbit named Harvey, is perhaps best known for the 1950
movie featuring Jimmy Stewart in an Oscar-nominated performance. That's
all well and good, but it's a show that audiences love to see live and
in-person, and you can do just that at Covington's Carnegie for the next
three weekends (tonight through April 27).
It's directed by Buz Davis, who produced shows at the Carnegie when it
was a dilapidated wreck back in the ’80s and ’90s. Now he's returning to
stage Harvey in the beautifully renovated Otto M. Budig Theatre.
(Tickets ($17-$24): 859-957-1940.) Davis has assembled a strong cast for this family-friendly comedy, you
can catch a few of them in this charming promotional video:Still onstage are several recommended productions: The Mountaintop at Ensemble Theatre (final extended performance is Saturday evening; 513-421-3555); A Delicate Ship at the Cincinnati Playhouse (through April 20; 513-421-3888; CityBeat review here); and The Twentieth-Century Way at Know Theatre (through May 3; CityBeat review here.) And if Monday comes and you want still more: Check out True Theatre's next installment — True Dating (7:30 p.m.
at Know Theatre). This round of monologues of real experiences will
feature stories of dating that led to true love, and some that went off
the tracks along the way. Tickets ($15): 513-300-5669.
Touring production is certifiable, guaranteed entertainment
0 Comments · Saturday, March 8, 2014
The word I use to describe the Broadway musical hit Wicked is “juggernaut,” defined as “an
overwhelming advancing force or event.”
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:32 AM | Permalink
There's a magnificent production of the legendary musical Les Misérables at the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music. I attended the opening performance at Patricia Corbett on Thursday
evening, and a show that I've seen umpteen times has been given new
life with fresh direction, impassioned staging and innovative design —
even if you've seen the legendary original with its turntable and
massive barricades, you'll find CCM's rendition, directed by Aubrey
Berg, an eye-opener. It's simpler and more dramatic (that's quite a
claim for a show designed to pluck your heart-strings), and it's
especially noteworthy for the leads' strong vocal performances — Jean
Valjean and Inspector Javert are double-cast, a demonstration of the
depth of talent in this nationally renowned program — as well as each
and every every performer in an ensemble of more than 40. The
16-musician orchestra, conducted energetically by Steve Goers, sounds larger whole lot more, since several players handle three to five
instruments. Berg's staging gives the show a clarity and power that
makes it feel fresh and new. It has vivid feature characters and
storytelling with momentum and emotional impact. This one is a must-see,
so it's great that the production runs longer than many at CCM, where
it's usually one-weekend and done: There are nine more performances
through Sunday, March 9,
which means that more tickets ($31-$35; $18-$24 for students) are
available. Nonetheless, they'll be snatched up quickly, so you should
call right away to get yours. 513-556-4183.
I saw Cincinnati Shakespeare's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead a week ago, and gave it a Critic's Pick in my CityBeat review here. It's a one-off from Hamlet,
which Cincy Shakes just staged, using the same cast — but Tom
Stoppard's 1966 script puts two throwaway characters in the limelight.
Just like the Prince of Denmark, his college chums are perplexed and
bedeviled by questions of existence and the meaning of life. They're
caught in the swirl of the court — the characters of Hamlet dart
in and out around them and add to their confusion — which adds to their
confusion about their own roles, the expectations they need to fulfill
and their ultimate fate. Billy Chace and Justin McCombs have a firm
grasp on their hapless characters: Their sure-handed comic portraits of
loquacious Guildenstern and bewildered Rosencrantz might remind you of
the movie comedy team of Laurel and Hardy. This classic modern work of
absurdity drawn from perhaps the greatest Elizabethan tragedy makes for a
fine evening for lovers of great drama. Tickets ($22-$31): 513-381-2273, x1.
Lloyd Webber’s classic musical Evita is at
the Aronoff Center through Sunday.
looks great with some epic scenery and excellent choreography. Josh
Young as Che
is charismatic and strong-voiced in his role as the show’s commentator.
But Caroline Bowman’s Eva Perón is shrill, and Sean MacLaughlin's Juan
Perón lacks the sinister gravitas that the role requires. So there's not
nearly enough of the complex passion and
manipulation that bonded them as a political machine. The tale of the
ambitious woman who rose to the highest levels of power in Argentina
crashed and burned at age 32 is a memorable modern tragedy, and Andrew
Lloyd Webber’s rock-opera
tunes by will stick in your head. Tickets: 513-621-2787.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:46 AM | Permalink
I’m not making up a story when I suggest you could be charmed by Mary Zimmerman’s Arabian Nights
at Northern Kentucky University. After all, her play is about telling
tales: Scheherazade, the latest bride of a cruel king who has a history
of marrying and executing his wives, survives by stringing him along
with stories she promises to finish the next night — for a “Thousand and
One Nights.” (Read my profile of Mary Zimmerman here.) She plies him with tales of Sinbad and Ali Baba. Audiences
at NKU will likely be strung along, too. Senior Cynthea Mercado plays
Scheherazade, whose life, she says, “is threatened with the reality of
her situation, and yet she is still able to enjoy her own tales and
sometimes get lost in them.” No need to get lost. Find your way to
Highland Heights and NKU’s Corbett Theatre for this production, through
March 2. Tickets: 859-572-5464.
If a classic musical is to your taste, you might try Andrew Lloyd Webber’s epic musical Evita,
in a touring production at the Aronoff Center through March 2. I caught
a performance last evening, and it looks great — some epic scenery and
excellent choreography. Josh Young as Che is charismatic and
strong-voiced in his role as the show’s commentator. Unfortunately,
Caroline Bowman’s Eva Perón gets too shrill way too fast and becomes a
grasping harpy before there’s a chance to be won over by her
Machiavellian charms. As Juan Peron, Sean MacLaughlin looks young and
slimy, without the sinister gravitas that the historical figure
possessed. That doesn’t leave much opportunity to convey the complex
chemistry — passion and manipulation — that bonded them as a political
machine. But the tale of the ambitious young woman who rose to the
highest levels of power in Argentina then crashed and burned is a
memorable modern tragedy, and the show’s rock-opera tunes by Andrew
Lloyd Webber will stick in your head. Tickets: 513-621-ARTS.
Cincinnati Shakespeare is keeping the cast of its recent production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet intact with its current production of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.
This time around, it’s the story of Hamlet’s college buddies
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who move from Shakespeare’s sidelines to
Stoppard’s center stage. In this classic 1967 script, the pawns become
the central characters, while Prince Hamlet, Queen Gertrude, King
Claudius, Ophelia and others wander by. The classic tragedy is turned on
its head, and it becomes an existential tragedy for two guys who
everyone has a hard time telling apart. Through March 9. Tickets:
The Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park’s production of Amy Herzog’s Pulitzer Prize finalist script, 4000 Miles,
is onstage at the Shelterhouse Theatre. It’s about a 91-year-old
grandmother and her 21-year-old grandson bridging a giant generation gap
and finding that they actually have a lot in common. Through March 9.
It’s the final weekend for several shows that have been pleasing audiences. Nina Raine’s Tribes
at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati was originally scheduled to close last
Sunday, but to meet ticket demand for the show about coping with
deafness — and contentious families — ETC added performances through
Saturday. (CityBeat review here.) Tickets: 513-421-3555. … A block away at Know Theatre, the
off-kilter script by Steve Yockey, Pluto, winds up on
Saturday, too. It’s about dealing with tragedy and grief, told in an
inventive, sometimes even humorous, manner. Two of Cincinnati’s finest
actors — Annie Fitzpatrick and Tori Wiggins — are in this one, making it
very watchable. (CityBeat review here.) Tickets: 513-300-5669 … For the younger set, this
weekend offers the final public performance, Saturday at 2 p.m., of
Children’s Theatre’s Pinkalicious at the Taft. It’s the story of a girl who can’s stop eating pink cupcakes. Tickets: 800-745-3000.
And here’s a tip for Monday evening: Dayton native Daniel Beaty, who pleased a lot of Playhouse patrons last season with his tour-de-force one-man show, Through the Night, will be in town for a one-night performance to promote his new book, Transforming Pain to Power.
His performance (6:30 p.m. in the Marx Theatre) and the book signing
afterward in the Rosenthal Plaza) are free, but you need to make a
reservation with the Playhouse box office: 513-421-3888.
No joke (well, maybe): This show will change your life
0 Comments · Thursday, January 9, 2014
Have faith. That’s the hilarious lesson of The Book of Mormon, crusading for
laughter in its current missionary effort, er, touring stop, Cincinnati’s