0 Comments · Wednesday, May 28, 2014
I’ve been a theater critic for almost
three decades. I’m an optimist: I routinely attend shows hoping to be
pleased or surprised. Doesn’t always happen, of course, but I keep going
back. Maybe that’s a little crazy, but I’ve kept at it for all these
years because our Cincinnati theater scene gets better and better, and I
want everyone to hear about it.
0 Comments · Wednesday, May 28, 2014
The folks behind the Cappies program that
recognizes high school theater productions and performances decided to
establish a new recognition for the 2014 awards, presented on Friday,
May 23, at the Aronoff Center.
0 Comments · Wednesday, May 14, 2014
I don’t have the bandwidth nor does CityBeat
have enough space to write often about community theaters — groups of
volunteers who produce and perform in shows, often for audiences in a
specific neighborhood — but that’s not because they don’t do a good job.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 11:24 AM | Permalink
There are several good theater choices south of the Ohio River this weekend.The theater (and dance) program at Northern Kentucky University presents a truly varied array of programming — this season has included a play by Orson Welles, the legendary musical South Pacific, Shakespeare's As You Like It and more. The academic year's final production Monty Python's Spamalot, opened last evening, and it seems to be a perfect vehicle for a lot of onstage clowning. (In case you haven't been tuned in, the show is subtitled "A musical lovingly ripped off from the motion picture Monty Python and the Holy Grail," and many of the show's most hilarious moments are reproduced wholesale onstage.) But clowning can be serious work, and if you catch NKU's production, pay attention to the choreography (the work of NKU grad Roderick Justice) which is complex, amusing and very well executed by the cast of 25. Director Ken Jones keeps things moving; the actors get into the tomfoolery from start to finish, especially Kat Moser as the diva who's the Lady of the Lake and Bradley Goren as long-suffering Patsy (he's the one who clicks the coconut shells to simulate King Arthur riding on horseback, among other amusing moments). The show is a fine entertainment, if you're a fan of the low but articulate humor of the Python troupe. Through April 27. Tickets ($8-$14): 859-572-5464.Comedy of an entirely different sort is available at another Kentucky venue, the Carnegie in Covington, where Mary Chase's 1945 Pulitzer Prize winner Harvey is available through April 27. This is a piece of gentle humor from the past, about a slightly off-kilter guy who sees a six-foot-plus rabbit — he calls it a "pooka" — named Harvey, much to the dismay of several family members who are embarrassed by his behavior. Their efforts to get him committed to a local asylum go awry to much merriment and a message about being, well, gentle and sweet. This is good, old-fashioned fun. Tickets: 859-957-1940.If you prefer a well-written contemporary drama, this weekend is your last chance to see A Delicate Ship at the Cincinnati Playhouse. Anna Ziegler's new show (this is its world premiere) is a memory play that explores an unexpected chain of events triggered by a love triangle. It's beautifully staged by Michael Evan Haney with a cast of three actors who are just right for each of their roles. I gave this one a Critic's Pick when it opened; it's as good as anything I saw recently at the much-respected Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville. Tickets ($30-$80): 513-421-3888.
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 16, 2014
You won’t find cutting-edge material
onstage at the Carnegie. The theater’s managing director Joshua Steele
has mastered two elements: He collaborates with a wide array of local
theater artists and companies, and he produces works that are, by and
large, familiar fare.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:17 AM | Permalink
The three-week run of the tour of Wicked wraps up this Sunday at the Aronoff Center. It's a faithful reproduction of the Broadway hit, with performers who can give you the experience of seeing the original, a kind of prequel to The Wizard of Oz. (Tickets, $38-$188: 513-621-2787, but each performance has a pre-show lottery; if your name is pulled, you can buy a ticket for $25). If you've already seen this one, I suggest you check out one of the great new productions on local stages.Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati has offered another powerhouse season this year, but I'll venture to say that The Mountaintop is aptly named: It's at the peak. It's an imagined story about Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on the night before he was assassinated. I'll venture to say that you've never seen him in quite this altogether human light, as portrayed — dare I say wholly embodied — by Gavin Lawrence. And then he's visited by Camae, a sassy maid who evolves into something so much more as he contemplates the meaning of his life. The always watchable Torie Wiggins takes on this role, and it might be one of her best performances yet at ETC. The Mountaintop won London's Olivier Award for Best New Play in 2011, and in my opinion, it's one of the best productions we'll see here in Cincinnati this theater season. Through April 6. (Tickets, $25-$43: 513-421-3555).I caught up with the Cincinnati Playhouse's production of Pride and Prejudice at the Playhouse earlier this week. (It opened a week ago, but I was out of town.) It's a faithful rendition of Jane Austen's beloved novel, gorgeously staged and costumed. It has a big cast, so all the characters, quirky and memorable, are present and accounted for — a few actors need to play more than one role. If you're an Austen fan, I suspect you'll like this one; if not, you might find it kind of uneven, since some characters come across as cartoons (especially Elizabeth Bennet's meddlesome, garrulous mother and the arrogant Lady Catherine de Bourgh) while others are more naturalistic. Kate Cook's Lizzie has all the right notes (she ought to, as she's played the role several times elsewhere) and Loren Dunn's Mr. Darcy, while a bit slow out of the gate, eventually captures the character's aloof charm. Director Blake Robison has done a good job with an interesting adaptation that has scenes that flow swiftly one into the next, sometimes with overlapping elements that recall past moments. Through April 5. (Tickets, $30-$80: 513-421-3888).Back in the early 1980s, the musical A … My Name is Alice had a long run at New York City's The Village Gate. Northern Kentucky University is producing its version of this collection of songs focused on the paradoxes women face — beauty, strength and heart. The show, created by an array of comedians, lyricists and composers, has 20 songs. It's being staged by Corrie Daniely, the newest faculty member in NKU's theater and dance department. Through April 30. (Tickets, $8-$14: 859-572-5464).
0 Comments · Tuesday, March 18, 2014
I love going to the movies, but I leave writing about them to others, especially my CityBeat
colleague tt stern-enzi, who routinely offers a perspective worth
reading. Nevertheless, I’m going to local cineplexes more often for
digital transmissions of theater from around the world.
Bennett revue falls flat
0 Comments · Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Cincinnati Landmark Productions’ I Left My Heart, A Salute to the Music of Tony Bennett
at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts presents a musical
tribute to Bennett, with more than 30 songs made famous by or famously
sung by the legendary crooner.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:24 AM | Permalink
Can you imagine Les Misérables
without a turntable or the immense barricades lumbering down from the wings?
Aubrey Berg, head of the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music’s renowned musical theater program, has dramatically
re-imagined the legendary show for a run at UC, using a largely bare stage
backed by a wall of ladders, staircases, shelves and recessed
ledges. Berg's simplified physical production earned my Critic's Pick with
its sharper focus on characters, action and music. Les Mis has a remarkable
cast of 40 or so with soaring vocal talent for solo numbers and breathtaking
choral power when they combine forces in iconic numbers such as “Do You Hear
the People Sing?” and “One Day More.” It's a spectacular production, onstage
through Sunday. Tickets: 513-556-4183.
Wicked just opened
a three-week run at the Aronoff (it's the third time the show has been here,
and it's set box office records every time). Tickets can be expensive (the
cheap seats start at $38 and go up quickly from there), so keep in mind there's
lottery for a limited number of $25 orchestra seats for each performance. You
need to show up in person 2.5 hours before the curtain time (with a valid photo
ID) to submit your name; if it's pulled you can purchase one or two tickets.
It's worth a shot. Otherwise, you can purchase tickets by calling 513-621-2787.
If you're a Tony Bennett fan, you might
consider heading to the West Side for I Left My Heart at the
Covedale Center, a salute to the legendary crooner. You'll get to hear 40
standards that he's known for — "Because of You," "I Wanna Be
Around," "The Good Life" and, of course, "I Left My Heart
in San Francisco." Tom Highley, Deondra Kamau Means and Brian Wylie will
be singing, with Mark Magistrelli at the piano. Through March 23. Tickets:
Here's an item worth considering for Monday evening: The Educational
Theatre Association, a national organization for high school kids involved in
theater, is headquartered here in Cincinnati. (They're the folks behind the
National Thespian Society.) They're partnering with the School for Creative and
Performing Arts on Monday at 7 p.m. for Making Magic, Defying Gravity.
Presented at SCPA's Corbett Theatre (108 Central Parkway in Over-the-Rhine),
the evening offers a program of music and conversation featuring members of the
touring cast of Wicked (as noted above) and performances by high
school students from the area. You'll hear from Jason Daunter, Wicked's
production stage manager, and Matt Conover, VP with Walt Disney Parks and
Resorts. They'll talk about how their high school dreams led to careers in the
theater. Tickets are $10 in advance; 15 at the door (going on sale at
5:45 p.m.). Proceeds from this event will benefit the Friends of SCPA
Scholarship Fund and the Educational Theatre Association's Scholarship Fund,
both of which will help develop talent for the future of the theater.
0 Comments · Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Blake Robison wants the Cincinnati
Playhouse in the Park to be at the forefront of Cincinnati’s cultural
conversation. “It’s our responsibility to bring the best theatrical
material, both old and new, to our community," he says.