WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by Rick Pender 09.20.2013
Posted In: Theater at 08:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Stage Door: Choices, Choices

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 09.13.2013
Posted In: Theater at 09:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
stage door 9-13 - fly @ playhouse - photo sandy underwood

Stage Door: Back in Business

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 Heritage Month.
 
 
by Rick Pender 08.30.2013
Posted In: Theater at 08:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Stage Door: The King Is Back

If 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. But 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.) Documenting 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.
 
 

Cincinnati King

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.  
by Rick Pender 05.24.2013
Posted In: Theater at 08:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
onstage 5-15 - measure for measure - kelly mengelkoch & brent vimtrup - photo rich sofranko

Stage Door: Near Season's End

Cincinnati Shakespeare Company finishes its run of Measure for Measure this weekend (CityBeat review here). It's a dark tale of hypocrisy and manipulation, with a few glimmers of ribald humor. Director Brian Phillips has transported the story from Renaissance-Era Vienna to the United States of the 1920s when Prohibition made everyday occurrences of fast living and bad behavior. (Can you say Boardwalk Empire?)  In 20 seasons, CSC has only staged it once before, but this is a production worth seeing because of the strong acting company — especially Brent Vimtrup, Kelly Mengelkoch and Nick Rose. Billy Chace does a nice job with the comic bits, too, even though they feel weird in this difficult story of self-righteousness and double-dealing. Tickets: 513-381-2273, x1.For those into crooning, sentimental nostalgia, you'll find an ample supply aboard the Showboat Majestic's production of Forever Plaid. Jinx, Sparky Francis and Smudge conjure up a lot of good clean fun and close harmonies for their final concert. And I do mean final — in fact, they're kind of after the fact: Coming back from the great beyond for one last gig after a tragic bus accident on their way to a career-making gig. There's a lot of tomfoolery that makes this show amusing and entertaining. Through June 2. Tickets: 513-241-6550. If you prefer the girls to the boys, Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati is into the extended run of The Mavelous Wonderettes: Caps and Gowns. The spunky gals — who also traffic in tunes from the ’50s and ’60s — provide two more rounds of melodies and moodiness. "Caps" is a reconstruction of their graduation night in 1958, while "Gowns" is a decade later at the wedding reception of Missy, who always has a plan, and Mr. Lee, a teacher she idolized. We get to see what life has brought to her three friends, love-'em-and-leave-'em Cindy Lou, jealous Betty Jean and vapid Suzy. ETC's casting gets an A+. Through June 1. Tickets: 513-421-3555. For our early summer enjoyment, the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park has put together the charming and family-friendly Shipwrecked! An Entertainment: The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (As Told by Himself). I attended the opening on Thursday evening and witnessed three actors who play a host of characters, change costumes in plain view, create wildly imaginative scenery and make their own sound effects. It's a wistful story of adventure that revels in the adventure of storytelling. It's onstage through June 16. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
 
 

Double Indemnity (Review)

Cincinnati Playhouse production is playful, thrilling

0 Comments · Friday, May 3, 2013
Tough guys. Dames. Desperation. Shadows. Cynical narration. Sexual motivation. The Cincinnati Playhouse’s production of Double Indemnity has all the requisite elements of film noir.   
by Rick Pender 05.03.2013
Posted In: Theater at 08:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Stage Door: Shake It Up

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. Tickets: 513-421-3555. 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 04.26.2013
Posted In: Theater at 08:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Stage Door: Weekend Choices

You still have several weeks to see Cock (aka "The Cockfight Play" for journalism wimps) at Know Theatre. (It's onstage through May 11.) It's an oh-so-contemporary piece of theater about a gay man — or rather a man — who thought himself to be gay until he breaks up with his boyfriend and takes up with a woman. (CityBeat review here.) The play involves the tense dance of indecision he becomes part of as his lovers fight over him. It's about 90-minutes of fiercely acted theatrics, staged in a setting that looks like the arena where cockfighting happens. Definitely for mature audiences who appreciate shows that don't pull punches. Tickets: 513-3

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by Rick Pender 04.05.2013
Posted In: Theater at 08:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
onstage 4-3 - midsummer @ cincy shakes - maggie lou rader & justin mccomb - photo rich sofranko

Stage Door: Tickets Available for 'War Horse'

I'm off to the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville this weekend, where I'll be checking out plays that could well be on their way to theaters across America in future seasons. For those of you staying here in Greater Cincinnati, there's lots of good stuff to get out and see onstage:War Horse completes its Cincinnati stop on Sunday. I heard a rumor that it's not selling well, which strikes me as mystifying. It's one of the best pieces of theater I've seen on tour in ages. (Review here.) Of course, it's not a musical (which is what people who go to the Broadway Series at the Aronoff have come to expect) and it was made into a moderately successful movie by Steven Spielberg. But the stage production is a miraculous piece of theater artistry, especially the onstage creation of living breathing horses, life-sized puppets that are manipulated (by three performers) that you'll be convinced you're watching the real thing. The silver lining to poor attendance, I suppose, is that tickets are readily available. You should get yours right away for the chance to see this Tony Award-winning production: Final performance is on Sunday. Box office: 800-987-2787 Last evening I made time to see Cincinnati Shakespeare's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. It's going to be around for several more weeks, and it's definitely an entertaining — and unusual — rendition of the tale of mixed-up lovers. (Review here.) Director Jeremy Dubin has transported it from the mythical Athens that Shakespeare envisioned and landed it in a swampy Southeastern U.S. in the 1940s, complete with a few guys with drawls in uniform and a clown in a loud plaid sports coat. The latter is CSC Nick Rose, and watching him overact as Nick Bottom, the weaver who imagines himself to be a brilliant performer, is hilarious. MND's mix of magic and humor is always fun, even if it doesn't make much sense, especially in this setting.  Box office: 513-381-2273, x1. Also worth checking out is the Cincinnati Playhouse's entertaining production of The Book Club Play. It's good in the same way as a well-done TV sitcom: Familiar characters pushed to comic extremes, funny situations that you can identify with, story twists that surprise and amuse. (Review here.) Because book clubs are a big deal these days, lots of people are flocking to see this show (it's been extended to May 5), so you should call now to get your tickets. I can assure you that you'll leave the theater with a smile on your face. Box office: 513-421-3888. Smiles cannot be predicted with the staging of Jason Robert Brown's very serious musical, Parade, at the Carnegie. But a piece of great drama and fine music is certainly in store if you head to Covington for this one, staged by Ed Cohen and Dee Ann Bryll. It's actually a studio production from UC's College-Conservatory of Music, featuring some outstanding talent from one of America's best training programs for Broadway talent. The story of a falsely accused factor manager, railroaded into a murder conviction mainly because of anti-Semitic attitudes, is heart-rending. But it makes for powerful theater. It opens tonight and runs through April 21. Box office: 859-957-1940.
 
 

The Trip to Bountiful (Review)

Playhouse debut is a deeply heartfelt story about home

0 Comments · Monday, March 18, 2013
Playwright Horton Foote, who died in 2009 at the age of 92, is making a long overdue debut at the Cincinnati Playhouse with The Trip to Bountiful.  

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