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
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 10:41 AM | Permalink
OK, the holidays are officially here. If you have any strength left after shopping last night and all day today, there are numerous theatrical offerings to consider.On Wednesday night, I attended the opening of a musical version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, a touring production at the Aronoff through Sunday. I suspect most everyone knows the story (which certainly resembles A Christmas Carol, with the Grinch replacing Scrooge as the meanie who's taught the meaning of Christmas). This newish musical uses some of the songs from the beloved 1966 animated version of Dr. Seuss's classic 1957 story of the green guy with a heart "two sizes too small." Audiences, in fact, are invited to sing along on "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch." What's touring is a 90-minute-rendition that's family-friendly, outfitted with wild costumes, technicolor scenery and a gaggle of special effects that include snow inside the Aronoff and festive confetti cannons for the finale. The tale is narrated by the senior citizen version of Max, the Grinch's hapless dog; Bob Lauder has a great baritone voice, a bemused mindset and a great tail that still wags. (He's complimented by and partnered with his eager younger self, played by Andreas Wyatt.) There's a whole raft of happy singing and dancing citizens of Whoville, of course, especially sweet Cindy Lou who wins over the Grinch's meager heart. Two kids alternate in this demanding role; I saw the adorable Jenna Iacono, but I'm sure Piper Birney is just as charming when she's singing "Santa for a Day" and wearing down the Grinch from his nasty ways.As the Grinch, Stefan Karl gets to mug, growl, grimace and just be a general grouch (he does some farting and belching, just to add to his inappropriateness). He's great fun to watch from his first entrance, as "ugly as a cactus," outfitted in something across between newly mown grass, tattered green feathers and seaweed, to his final scene where he's embraced by the Whos. He's so bad he's good. And his story is a fine addition to Thanksgiving weekend from Broadway in Cincinnati. Performances, including several matinees, are at the Aronoff through Sunday evening. Tickets (starting at $28): 513-621-2787Starting tonight (and for the next several weeks), you can also choose between two different productions of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. The Cincinnati Playhouse returns its beautiful retelling of Scrooge's dark night of the soul for the 23rd consecutive year. If you're a theater fan, it's a pleasure to see Bruce Cromer, one of southwest Ohio's finest actors, in the bah-humbug role. He makes Scrooge such fun, a genuine holiday treat. With all the whiz-bang spinning scenery, ghostly presences and gorgeous Victorian costumes, well, this show is a great dose of holiday sentiment and cheer. Tickets: 513-421-3888.For a different rendition of Dickens' grouch who gets his comeuppance, the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts is offering a musical version of A Christmas Carol that's new this season. (In fact, the book and lyrics are by Cincinnati Landmark's Tim Perrino with music by Jeremy Helmes; Perrino directs the show.) West Siders love the Covedale, and I suspect more than a few folks from Cincinnati's supposedly more "refined" side will make the trek to 4990 Glenway Avenue to see this one. Tickets: 513-241-6550.If you prefer some non-holiday entertainment, the Playhouse offers The Complete History of Comedy (abridged), which begins a hysterical two hours with a skit that literally presents the "birth of comedy." (CityBeat review here.) You won't stop laughing until it's over, and I can guarantee some unexpected things along the way — there is a script, but the three performers play fast and loose through the performance, including bringing a few audience members into the merriment. Tickets: 513-421-3888.And if Thanksgiving leaves you overdosed on goodness and sick of being nice, you might want to catch one of the final performances of Bull at Know Theatre. (CityBeat review here.) It's the story of three office workers competing for two jobs — and they're not nice at all. If you're seeking some vicarious nastiness, this is the show for you. Tickets: 513-300-5669.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 10:06 AM | Permalink
There's a fine community theater production of A Chorus Line
at the Aronoff Center's Jarson-Kaplan Theater. It's by Cincinnati Music
Theatre, and they've recruited a talented cast of dancers, singers and
actors to tell the stories of 16 performers competing for roles in the
chorus of a Broadway show. There are many fine performances in this show
— the characters become known, one by one as they tell their stories,
some humorous, some heartbreaking — but the show's greatest emotional
wallop comes when they are all in synch, wearing glitter and gold, hats
cocked and performing as "One." Final performance is Saturday evening. Tickets: 513-621-2787.
you prefer your theater small and intimate, you might want to head to
the tiny Clifton Performance Theater on Ludlow, just east of the
business district. Untethered Theater opens a production of Wendy
MacLeod's The House of Yes tonight for a three-week run.
It's a very dark comedy about a dysfunctional family obsessed with the
Kennedys. I haven't seen this one, but it's a solid script and the young
Untethered company has a good track record of interesting shows.
Through Dec. 7. Tickets: 513-939-0599.
If you are in the mood for something totally silly, I can recommend the Cincinnati Playhouse's presentation of The Complete History of Comedy (Abridged) that opened last evening. (It has a long run, through the holidays, closing on Dec. 29.) It's a world premiere by the same guys who created The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)
and other works — several presented at the Playhouse — comically
condensing subject matter like the Bible, great literature and American
history. These guys are the originators of this material, so it's a
special treat to see them at work. If you’ve enjoyed Shakespeare (abridged), you’ll find this right up your alley. The performers are truly adept jokesters,
physical shtick, music, improv — they can do it all. … Also, the Playhouse's excellent production of the legendary Kander & Ebb musical Cabaret winds up on Saturday
evening. (CityBeat review here.) By now, most of the subscribers have attended, so you might be
able to call at the last-minute and get a ticket. Marcia Milgrom
Dodge's production traces back to the roots of the show, adhering
closely to the stories of Berlin in the 1920s that inspired the show.
Worth seeing. Playhouse box office: 513-421-3888.
CityBeat's other reviewer, Stacy Sims, really enjoyed the production of the farce Boeing Boeing
at the Carnegie by CCM Drama. (CityBeat review here.) It's about a Casanova in Paris who's
careful juggling of three flight attendances to whom he's engaged goes
awry when Trans-Atlantic flights happen faster thanks to new aircraft.
Silly but obviously a lot of fun. Through Nov. 24. Tickets: 859-957-1940.