by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:46 AM | Permalink
If you love musicals, you should run, don’t
walk to the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music this
weekend for the short run of Singin’ in the Rain. It's a
fabulous recreation of the iconic 1952 movie that featured Gene Kelly.
It's about the transition from silent to
talking pictures in the late 1920s. Even if you’ve never seen the film,
bet you know Kelly’s iconic splash down a movie-set street, joyously
in puddles and swinging from a lamppost. That's what's onstage at
Corbett Auditorium — a whole stage full of tap dancers and a torrential
rainfall! But it's only there through Sunday afternoon; shows at CCM seldom run more than one weekend. So if you want to see this one, call for tickets right away: 513-556-4183.
There's water falling on another stage right now: The touring production of Flashdance: The Musical is at the Aronoff through Nov. 10,
and its star, Jenny Mueller as the free-spirited welder who aspires to
be a dancer concludes the first act with a memorable sequence where she
performs at a club, culminating in a backlit shower. Mueller is a fine
dancer and onstage from start to finish, but the show is full of shallow
characters and too many subplots that make for slow going. Tickets: 800-982-2787.
One more musical item: I gave the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park's production of Cabaret
a Critic's Pick, and it's definitely worth seeing. Despite the fact
that it first appeared on Broadway 50 years ago, it's still a powerful
piece of theater — about intolerance and willful ignorance. But it's
framed in a great story with a memorable score by John Kander and Fred
Ebb (who also created Chicago, Kiss of the Spider Woman and more) with a new production by Broadway veteran Marcia Milgrom Dodge. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
you're in the mood for something more serious, there are plenty of
choices that have received good reviews: Check out Cincinnati
Shakespeare's staging of Of Mice and Men or their joint project with Xavier University of The Crucible. Tickets: 513- 381-2273, x1. And I hope you have on your radar Know Theatre's staging of Bull (which runs throughout November) by Mike Bartlett, the same playwright who wrote Cock, presented last spring. It opens tonight. Tickets: 513-300-5669.Find reviews of Flashdance, Cabaret, Of Mice and Men and The Crucible at citybeat.com.
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 30, 2013
When I mention the Cincinnati Playhouse
in the Park, you likely think of the theater that sits on the hilltop
above Mount Adams...But the folks who run the
Playhouse know that new audiences must be continuously cultivated, and
for that reason, they deliver performances through a program they call
“Off the Hill,” which tours shows for young audiences to community arts
centers across the Tristate.
Playhouse production is a provocative modern musical
0 Comments · Friday, October 25, 2013
Despite the jaunty title tune, John Kander and Fred Ebb’s
1966 musical Cabaret is not a happy
tale of love or triumph.
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company is partnering with the theater
program at Xavier University to stage Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.
(Oct. 25- Nov. 3; tickets are $15-$30; 513-745-3939.) This came about
because Stephen Skiles, who heads XU’s theater program, is friends with
Brian Isaac Phillips, CSC’s artistic director. Skiles was an acting
intern at the Cincinnati Playhouse 16 years ago when Phillips was
recruited to fill out a cast.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:28 AM | Permalink
Several great choices for theatergoing this weekend. At the top of your list should be Rapture, Blister, Burn at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati. I was at the opening of Gina Gionfriddo's 2013 Pulitzer Prize runner-up on Wednesday,
and it's another fine example of the kind of excellent production we've
come to expect from ETC. Lynn Meyers has a knack for finding exactly
the right actors for her shows, and she's assembled a perfect cast for
this one, the story of a twisty relationship between three one-time
college friends. Two women, played by Jen Joplin and Corinne Mohlenhoff,
were roommates back then, and Mohlenhoff's character had a charismatic
boyfriend. She went off to a renowned academic career and Joplin's
character ended up marrying Don, played by Charlie Clark. Twenty years
later they're back in close proximity, and neither woman is feeling
fulfilled by her life. Don is a willing player in trading places, which
makes for some amusing drama. Mohlenhoff's character offers a summer
seminar in feminism, film and pornography which plays out some
interesting theorizing among the show's female characters about the
roles women play. It's a great stew of talking and experimenting, which
takes some interesting turns along the way. Definitely watchable and
entertaining. Onstage through Oct. 27. Tickets: 513-421-3555.
At the Playhouse you'll find Martín Zimmerman's much more serious Seven Spots on the Sun,
a story set in a Latin American nation torn asunder by civil war. (CityBeat review here.) We
see the drama played out between several characters whose lives are
tragically intertwined and who struggle to understand how to continue in
light of past decisions and tragedies. It's a powerful story that
offers small glimmers of hope, not to mention some magical turns that
lead you to speculate about fate and hope. Zimmerman is a playwright
whose name will become increasingly familiar in the future; the
Playhouse is offer his script in its world premiere. Onstage through Oct. 27. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
you're looking for a different kind of theater experience, check out
New Edgecliff Theatre's annual fundraiser, "Sweet Suspense," back for
its sixth year with a one-time performance on Sunday evening. Playwright Catie O'Keefe has adapted Mary Shelley's classic monster tale of Frankenstein
into a radio adaptation, complete with creepy sound effects. Since NET
is homeless this season, the event is happening at Know Theatre at 7:30 p.m.
The "sweet" part of the evening is a dessert buffet at intermission
with treats from many local bakeries, including Holtman's Donuts, the
hot new sweet shop on Vine Street in OTR. Tickets are $35 (hey, it's a
fundraiser) for adults, $20 for kids 13 and under. Seating is limited,
so ordering tickets in advance is advised: 513-399-6638.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 11:12 AM | Permalink
You have two good choices at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park this
weekend. Last evening I attended the opening of Martín Zimmerman's Seven Spots on the Sun (it's onstage through Oct. 27).
It's a thoughtful and gripping drama about the fallout of civil war in
an unnamed Latin American country. Warring factions draw lines and
commit atrocities that make for inconsolable lives afterward, even when
something magical seems to offer a chance for healing. It's a
challenging story that will remind audiences that wars create more
strife than they solve. Well-acted and swiftly staged (it's 90 minutes
long, no intermission, on the Playhouse's Shelterhouse Stage), this is a
world premiere by a playwright who's name will surely become familiar
to audiences in the future. Meanwhile, this weekend offers the final
performances of Fly on the Playhouse's mainstage. It's the
story of valiant African Americans who we know today as the Tuskegee
Airmen, men who overcame prejudice and doubt to be heroes during World
War II. It's inventively staged using video and tap dancing. Definitely
worth seeing; final performance is Saturday evening. (Tickets: 513-421-3888)
Arthur Miller's classic play The Crucible
is being staged this weekend by CCM Drama at the University of
Cincinnati. You probably know the story set in Salem, Mass., in 1692
when hysteria grips a town and leads to accusations of witchcraft. CCM
Drama is a program to be reckoned with, turning out admirable
professional actors. (In fact, Diana Maria Riva, a 1995 grad, is being
honored today as an outstanding alum — she's done a ton of work on film
and TV, including a role on the current FX series The Bridge and past work on The West Wing and NYPD Blue.)
Miller's play, winner of the 1953 Tony Award, was created at a time of
great turmoil and confusion in American history, and it's become a
central work in the canon of American drama. For a taste of what this
production will offer, check out this haunting, twitchy trailer,
produced by the show's actors and Tim Neumann and Dan Marque, both
students in CCM's e-media program. The final performance is Sunday at 2 p.m. (Tickets: 513-556-4183)
theaters typically offer fine choices at affordable prices. This
weekend I'll point you to Cole Porter's classic 1934 musical Anything Goes, staged by Footlighters at its own Stained Glass Theatre in Newport through Oct. 12. (Tickets: 859-652-3849.) Another good choice will surely be Ken Jones' Darkside, a drama
about astronauts trapped in space, that's being presented by Village
Players of Ft. Thomas. Jones, now the head of Northern Kentucky
University's theater program, wrote this script in graduate school, and
this is reportedly the 140th time it's been staged. Performances through
Saturday evening. (Tickets: 859-392-0500)
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:54 AM | Permalink
Lots of choices to fulfill your appetite for good theater this weekend. Best bet is to catch one of the final performances of Other Desert Cities at Ensemble Theatre (Sunday at 2 p.m.
is your last chance), the story of parents and children who just can't
get along. (CityBeat review here.) Heavy doses of guilt, sarcasm and politics fuel a lot of
family angst, and some unexpected twists and turns keep things
interesting as a daughter who's a writer blames her parents for her
activist brother's suicide — in a very public way. The show features a
solid cast of local favorites. It's definitely worth seeing if you can
get a ticket. 513-421-3555.
A wholly different kind of show is Fly
at the Cincinnati Playhouse, an imaginative recreation of the lives of
four men recruited among hundreds of African Americans during World War
II to fulfill piloting roles in bombing missions over Europe. (CityBeat review here.) The
Tuskegee Airmen were the leading edge of the Civil Rights movement, men
who had to overcome prejudice to prove their worth. The production is
made visually and sonically engaging with videos that recreate flight
and a soulful tap dancer who brings emotion — joy, sorrow, grief and
anger — to various scenes. It's a very imaginative show. Through Oct. 5. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
On Wednesday evening, I caught the opening night of New Edgecliff Theatre's staging of William Inge's 1955 comedy-drama, Bus Stop.
It's about a collection of lost souls who end up trapped in a Kansas
diner during an overnight snowstorm. They're largely caricatures, but
Inge was a master of naturalistic dialogue, and in the hands of some
fine local performers directed by Jared Doren the show takes on a
pleasant, believable life. Some good things happen, some sad stories are
told, and some lessons learned. At the Aronoff Center's Fifth Third
Bank Theater, through Sept. 28. Tickets: 513-621-2787.
And for something completely different, you might want to check out a production by community theater group Showbiz Players of Carrie: The Musical,
Stephen King’s creepy novel about a bullied adolescent girl who
unleashes telekinetic vengeance on her persecutors. The show originated
on Broadway in 1988 and was long considered one of the worst ever, but
it was reborn in 2012, and became a hit. Decide for yourself by seeing
it at the Carnegie in Covington. Through Sept. 29. Tickets: 859-957-1940.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:19 AM | Permalink
Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati is typically the first professional theater
in town to start the season, and that's the case for 2013 with Other Desert Cities that opened a week ago. You can read my review;
I really appreciated the powerhouse cast performing the show. That led
me to give Jon Robin Baitz's provocative family drama about strife
between generations a "Critic's Pick." (It's onstage through Sept. 22.) A tip option for seats is an added 7 p.m. performance on that final Sunday. If you enjoy ETC's productions of fresh new plays, you owe a debt of gratitude to its founding supporters. Longtime friends
Ruth Sawyer and Murph Mahler got the ball rolling back in 1987 and
faithfully guided the company for two decades, sustaining the company
financially, artistically and spiritually. Mahler passed away in 2009
and Sawyer earlier this year, so ETC is commemorating their dedication
with a special free event this Sunday evening at 7 p.m. The program will offer songs and stories performed by some of ETC's best artists. Seating is limited, so you need to RSVP: 513-421-3555.I attended the opening of the Cincinnati Playhouse's 2013-2014 season last evening. Fly
is a heart-grabbing piece of history, the story of four Tuskegee
Airmen, some of those bold African Americans who overcame prejudice in
the 1940s by joining the Army Air Corps and serving America valiantly
during World War II. The show is imaginatively presented, using a modern
tap dancer to punctuate the storytelling. There's plenty of excitement,
conveyed with video and sound — but mostly with some excellent acting.
The full-house audience, which included four veterans of the training
program, responded warmly. Through Oct. 5. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
Cincinnati Shakespeare's Oliver Twist is a stage adaptation of Charles Dickens' dark 1838
novel about crime and child abuse in Victorian London (CityBeat review here). It's a grim
drama, definitely not the chipper rendition you might recall if you've
seen the musical Oliver! Cincy Shakes' acting company rises to
the task, but I suspect you'll leave the theater glad you weren't a
child — or an adult — in that era. Through Sept. 29. 513-381-2273.
A few years back a play was commissioned about Cincinnati as A City of Immigrants.
It's a fine piece of theater about the place we call home and how it's
rooted in people who came here from elsewhere. It gets presented
periodically, including tonight (Friday) at 6 p.m. at the Freedom Center, 30 East Freedom Way on the Banks. (Doors open at 5:30.)
There's no charge for admission; it's definitely worth seeing. The
event is to mark the kickoff of the local celebration of Hispanic
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:45 AM | Permalink
you're a theater fan looking for something to do this weekend, you've
probably realized that the Labor Day holiday is not overflowing with
options. In fact, many theater companies are gathering their strength as
they prepare for shows that open next week.
there is one good choice available: a show about the King. No, it's not
an Elvis piece. It's about Cincinnati's own King Records, the recording
label that made history here in the 1940s and 1950s, launching the
careers of many early pop stars, including James Brown. Syd Nathan, a
Cincinnati native, launched his independent label in 1943, and for two
decades he and his employees did it all in house — recording, mastering,
printing, pressing and shipping the music that King produced. (Nathan
was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.)
this revolutionary enterprise — which employed blacks and whites in one
of our city's first integrated businesses — is CINCINNATI KING, a
kind of documentary theater piece based on interviews with people who
remember the business and the music. KJ Sanchez, one of the Cincinnati
Playhouse's artistic associates, has pulled this material together for a
90-minute reading that's offered one time, on Saturday evening at 7:30 p.m. (Read more in Harper Lee's feature story in this week's issue of CityBeat here.)
No charge for admission, but seating is limited in the Playhouse's Shelterhouse Theater, so reservations are required: 513-421-3888. It's sure to be a full house, so call in advance.
New play chronicles the life and legacy of Syd Nathan and King Records
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Earlier this year, dozens of volunteers
roamed Cincinnati, haunting record stores, clubs and coffee shops. The
group was seeking stories about King Records, the legendary record label
that made its home here in the Queen City.