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 06:00 PM | Permalink
Cincy Shakes to offer Gatsby, Birds, Godot and the Bard; NKU has hit musicals and more
Shakespeare Company today announced its 21st season, commencing in July.
The company is committed to staging works by Shakespeare, of course,
but its goal is broader: It also presents definitive works of drama and
literary classics adapted for the stage. As far as the Bard's work, the 2014-2015 season will include a holiday staging of the silly but hilarious The Comedy of
Errors. Also on tap is the powerful history play, Henry V, another step in the company's epic five-year, eight-play history cycle that began with Richard II and continues during the current season with the upcoming Henry IV. Additionally, there will be a production in April 2015 of the comic battle of the sexes, The Taming of the Shrew, a popular work that Cincy Shakes staged during its first season in 1994 (as well as in 1999, 2003 and 2009).
Aside from Shakespeare's works, the coming season will offer stage versions of two beloved American classics: a new
adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age classic The Great Gatsby and the regional
premiere of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. Daphne du Maurier's thriller, The Birds
(familiar to many as a 1963 film by Alfred Hitchcock) will show up in a
2009 adaptation by Irish playwright Conor McPherson (known for numerous
works staged locally, including St. Nicholas, The Weir, Port Authority, Shining City and The Seafarer). Next January will bring forth Samuel Beckett’s
profound comedy, Waiting for Godot featuring veteran actors Joneal Joplin and Bruce Cromer, and the season concludes in June 2015 with the Cincinnati
debut of the Tony-award winning, West-End
smash hit comedy, Richard Bean's One Man, Two Guvnors, a 2011 play based on Carlo Goldoni's 1743 comic masterpiece, The Servant
of Two Masters.
Tickets for the
2014-2015 season went on sale earlier this month, resulting in a
record-breaking first day of sales on Feb. 3. Single
tickets are now on sale. For more information, go to cincyshakes.com or call the box office at 513-381-2273, x1.
the department of theater and dance at Northern Kentucky University
also announced its productions for the 2014-2015 academic year, a mix of
classics and contemporary works. The year kicks off in late September
with the ancient Greek tragedy The Bacchae by Euripedes. The fall semester also includes the hit 2003 Tony Award-winning musical Hairspray in October-November and, in November-December, Philip Dawkins' Failure: A Love Story,
the magical story of three sisters in 1928 Chicago who live and die in a
rickety home by the Chicago River. In February, launching the
spring semester, NKU will stage the epic musical Les Misérables,
the popular masterpiece that affirms the human desire to achieve
redemption. The academic year's theater productions will conclude with
the 17th Biennial Year End Series Festival of New Plays. During April,
the "YES" festival, as it's shorthanded, will present three
world-premiere plays which have not yet been selected. Info: theatre.nku.edu or 859-572-5464.
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's existential comedy is stark raving sane
0 Comments · Sunday, February 23, 2014
Cincinnati Shakespeare has deeply enhanced the experience of both of these classic works, separated by four centuries in their creation, but sharing common philosophical ground in their exploration of the meaning of existence.
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.
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Whether or not you’re a Shakespeare aficionado, you’ve certainly heard of Hamlet,
generally considered one of his greatest plays, if not one of the
greatest works ever written for the stage.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:34 AM | Permalink
Truth to tell, midnight
has already passed and Victorian adventurer Phileas Fogg thinks he's
missed the deadline for getting "around the world in 80 days." But his
faithful servant Passepartout (played with manic energy by the always
amusing Michael G. Bath) saves the day by sorting out travel across time
zones. Your deadline has not quite passed, since Ensemble Theatre
Cincinnati's inventive staging of a musical version of Jules Verne's
classic Around the World in 80 Days continues through a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday.
(CityBeat review here.) If football and cold weather aren't your preferences, maybe you should
head to the Over-the-Rhine theater for a final volley of holiday
entertainment. Tickets: 513-421-3555.
you're thinking about theater, you should be making plans to see
Shakespeare's greatest tragedy (some say it's the greatest play ever
written), Hamlet, which opens next week at Cincinnati
Shakespeare Company. Once you've taken that one in, you'll be ready to
head back in mid-February for Tom Stoppard's other-end-of-the-telescope
version of the show (using the same actors), Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Tickets: 513-381-2273.
Happy New Year!
0 Comments · Monday, December 23, 2013
How was 2013 as a year for plays and
musicals in Cincinnati? From where I stand — or sit, since I’m most
often in a seat at one of our local theaters — it stacked up pretty
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 10:33 AM | Permalink
It's the final
weekend for most holiday shows, and there are lots of good choices. I'm
ranking today's listings according to the laugh-o-meter, starting with
the most hilarious:
No. 1: Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some).
This is the eighth year the Cincinnati Shakespeare has put this show
together, but it's fun even for if you've been before. The cast of four
talented actors who usually do Shakespeare and the Classics prove adept
at silly, in-the-moment humor. While they're poking fun at many things
local, they also manage to touch on just about every Christmas story you
can imagine, all with laugh-out-loud results. The biggest challenge is
getting a ticket, since the run (through Dec. 29) was nearly sold out when it opened last Sunday. A performance has been added on Saturday at 2 p.m., which might be your best bet to score a seat or two. Tickets: 513-381-2273, x1.
No. 2: The Complete History of Comedy (abridged), a show by the same guys who came up with The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged).
The Cincinnati Playhouse is presenting the show's world premiere, and
it's a wide-ranging evening of every kind of humor imaginable by three
very adept performers. They can impersonate people and characters, they
can do improv, they can satirize the classics — and they can keep
everyone in the audience paying attention lest they get a pie in the
face. Seriously. Our should I say "humorously"? It's an evening of fun,
through Dec. 29. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
No. 3: The 12 Dates of Christmas
is the story of a gal who struggles through a year of awful dating
after she loses her fiancé when she sees him making out with another
woman on national TV during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Lots of
losers, lovers and louts — and a few nice guys who aren't quite right.
It's a one-woman show with a good heart and a great performance by Annie
Kalahurka. New Edgecliff Theatre is presenting the production at Know
Theatre. Tickets: 513-621-2787.
No. 4: A Klingon Christmas Carol.
This one isn't really laugh-out-loud, but it's a lot of fun to see
actors telling the familiar story of Scrooge and his ghosts through the
filter of Star Trek's fierce warrior race, the Klingons. SQuja'
(he's the central character) isn't a miser, he's a coward — which is
sinful for these tough guys. Find out how he gets retuned. It's a good
bet for Trekkies; others venture in at your own risk. Tickets for this
one ($20) can be obtained at the door, in the lobby of the Art Academy
of Cincinnati (1212 Jackson St., Over-the-Rhine).
Lots of more traditional fare elsewhere, of course, including Christmas Carols at the Playhouse and Covedale, as well as the family-oriented Around the World in 80 Days at Ensemble Theatre.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 11:37 AM | Permalink
the 13th, but if you're in the mood for holiday shows, this is your
lucky weekend. Just about every theater in town has something onstage aimed at getting you into the Christmas spirit, making you laugh,
diverting you from the stress of being cheerful or just poking fun at
the ways of the world (at least the world of commercialism we see in
America today).Perhaps you've already done your annual brush-up on Dickens' A Christmas Carol
at the Playhouse (another fine production, now in its 23rd season with
Bruce Cromer back as Scrooge and a new interpretation of Bob Cratchit,
featuring the very angular Ryan Wesley Gilreath, who seems to be all
arms and legs and stringy hair — very Dickensian) or the musical version
being presented by Covedale Center. With the story of Scrooge's dark
night of the soul fresh in mind, perhaps you're ready for A Klingon Christmas Carol,
presented by Hugo West Theatricals at the Art Academy of Cincinnati
(1212 Jackson St., Over-the-Rhine). This is a newish theater group that
knows its way around satirical work (their Don't Cross the Streams, a goofy derivative of Ghostbusters,
was a popular piece in the 2012 Fringe festival), they are giving this
unusual piece its local premiere. (It's been staged in Chicago and
Minneapolis.) It's actually a rather faithful retelling of the story
with SQuja' (Donald Volpenheim), a cowardly, money-grubbing member of
Star Trek's warrior race, taking the place of Scrooge. It's presented by
a deadpan Vulcan narrator (Lauren Carr) who positions the work as the
"original" of the tale. Klingons don't celebrate Christmas, but they are
bound by traditions, the greatest of them being the "Feast of the Long
Night." The 70-minute piece closely matches with Scrooge's story, but
it's all through a Klingon filter — lots of angry outbursts and hearty
laughter, grunting, growling, drinking and chest-thumping by characters
with wrinkled foreheads, bushy eyebrows and fierce demeanors. Eileen
Earnest handles timHom (a Muppet-like equivalent for Tiny Tim), son of
Quachit (David Dreith), whose training as a warrior is being neglected
because of greedy SQuja'. If you've never yearned for a visit to Qo'noS,
the Klingon homeworld, you might find this production a bit
impenetrable since it's performed in the guttural Klingon language, but
there are projected subtitles that add humor to the action. This won't
be a show for everyone, but if you're a Star Trek fan, you'll have a good time. Tickets ($20 at the door or here).
Elsewhere in OTR, there's no need for subtitles for New Edgecliff Theatre's The 12 Dates of Christmas,
presented this year at Know Theatre (1120 Jackson St.). It's a remount
of NET's 2012 holiday, again featuring Annie Kalahurka as Mary, a New
York actress whose chipper view of the holidays is trashed when she sees
her fiancé kissing another woman on national TV at the Macy's
Thanksgiving Day Parade. The one-woman show recounts her trajectory
through a year of dating a dozen men, a few with potential, others with
"what were you thinking?" qualities. Kalahurka does it all, from her
central character, her oppressive matchmaking aunt, her nervously
worried mother and a parade of bad choices marked by ornaments she hangs
on a tree — an old friend, a doctor, a bartender, guys met at weddings,
a musician and more. Along the way, she's in a production of Macbeth and A Christmas Carol (she
plays Christmas Past) adding more humor with references to theater and
such. This is a contemporary show with language to match (so it's not
for the kids), but Kalahurka is a charming performer who makes this one
totally worth seeing. Tickets: 513-621-2787.
On Sunday evening, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company kicks off two weeks of Every Christmas Carol Ever Told (and then some) for the eighth consecutive year. As the title implies, it's a mash-up of everything from A Christmas Carol to the Grinch, with stops for Charlie Brown, It's a Wonderful Life, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph, the Nutcracker
and more. It's been a great evening of adult entertainment in past
incarnations: This year returns last year's cast intact — Miranda McGee,
Sara Clark, Justin McComb and Billy Chace. They're individually funny,
and together they can be downright hilarious. Even if you've seen this
one before, it's worth a return trip. Tickets: 513-381-2273, x1.
For those who want to take the kids to a show, you can't go wrong with Around the World in 80 Days at Ensemble Theatre through Jan. 4 (513-421-3555) or the Children's Theatre of Cincinnati's production of The Day Before Christmas with performances today and Saturday at the Taft Theatre (800-745-3000).