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Award Winners

0 Comments · Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Cincinnati no longer has a theater awards program resembling the Tonys (nominees for the year’s best Broadway productions will be out soon), but that won’t stop me from naming my choices for the best shows so far.    
by Rick Pender 03.24.2012
Posted In: Theater at 11:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
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Stage Door: More Love for 'Merrily'

Ensemble Theatre, NKU and Children's Theater also have quality offerings

Last Sunday evening I gave a lecture prior to the Cincinnati Playhouse performance of Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along. I stuck around to see the show again (I attended the opening on March 8 in order to review it for CityBeat). I gave the show a Critic’s Pick, but empty seats on Sunday reminded me that a theater critic’s opinion is not necessarily the only endorsement needed for a show to sell tickets. Although this is a fine production, several reasons come to mind: The show is not well known; if people do know it, they’ve heard it was a flop when it had a brief Broadway run in 1981. John Doyle’s production shows little evidence of the latter and demonstrates amply that there’s much to be appreciated. But there’s not been much buzz around Merrily at the Playhouse, despite the work of Doyle and his excellent cast. The upshot is tickets are still available for most performances, through March 31. Doyle inventively staged Sondheim’s Company in 2006 at the Playhouse, a production that moved to Broadway and earned a Tony Award. This production uses the same approach: actors provide their own musical accompaniment. It’s a showbiz tale about chasing success at the expense of happiness. We start at the demise of a bond between three former friends who wonder what happened to the “good thing going” they once had. We trace back to their earliest, optimistic moments via great music, brilliant design and excellent performances. If you love musicals, you should see Merrily We Roll Along. I’ve talked with several people who have returned the Playhouse production. (Merrily is not likely to transfer to New York as Company did in 2006. The show was presented by Encores! at New York’s City Center in February, so theater critics have not paid attention to the Cincinnati production as they did with Company in 2006, right after Doyle staged Sweeney Todd on Broadway.) Box office: 513-421-3888 You can’t go wrong with Donald Margulies’ very much in-the-moment drama Time Stands Still at Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati. It’s the story of two journalists who have been addicted to the adrenalin rush of covering wars. He’s now running away and hiding in film reviews (there’s a touch of post-traumatic stress, it seems, because he’s watching classic horror films all the time), and she’s recovering from injuries that resulted from a roadside bomb blast in Iraq. What’s next for them? Well, that’s what the play is about — a return for more or settling for a calmer, safer life, represented by a happy if unlikely couple who visit them, the photographer’s editor and mentor and his naïve young girlfriend. Four intriguing character studies add up to an evening of thoughtful drama. I gave it a Critic’s Pick; here’s a link to my review. Through April 1. Tickets: 513-421-3555 Northern Kentucky University just opened a production of Timberlake Wertenbaker’s Our Country’s Good. It’s about people sent off to a penal colony in Australia in the 1780s. The governor decides to impose order on the criminals by having them put on a play. It’s not an easy undertaking — but it changes the lives of everyone involved. It’s a play about the power of the arts to humanize people and transform them into something new and better. The show’s original Broadway production in 1991 was nominated for six Tony Awards. It’s one of my favorite scripts, a fine choice for NKU’s drama program, where it’s being staged by Daryl Harris. Through April 1. Tickets: 859-572-5464 Finally, if you’d like to instill some interest in the theater in a couple of kids, take them to one of this weekend’s performances of Rapunzel! Rapunzel! A Very Hairy Fairy Tale, presented by The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati. It’s a world premiere musical created by composer Janet Vogt and writer Mark Friedman, who wrote How I Became a Pirate, a hit from last season. Performances happen at the nicely renovated Taft Theatre on Saturday and Sunday (as well as March 31). Tickets: 513-569-8080, x13.Each week in Stage Door, Rick Pender offers theater tips for the weekend, often with a few pieces of theater news.
 
 

On the Theatrical Horizon

0 Comments · Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Most CityBeat readers want to read about things to do right here and right now, so I don’t allocate many words to theater season announcements that show up this time of year. Keep your eye on citybeat.com, especially the arts blog, for up-to-the-minute information and recommendations.  
by Rick Pender 02.17.2012
Posted In: Theater at 11:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
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Stage Door: Transmigration and Several Critic's Picks

Andrew Bovell’s Speaking in Tongues is a complicated noir-ish tale of marital deceit and cryptic crime that unfolds more clearly because of its accomplished four-actor cast, including local professionals Bruce Cromer (who’s played roles as varied as Ebenezer Scrooge for the Playhouse to King Lear for Cincinnati Shakespeare) and Amy Warner (a regular at Ensemble Theatre and Cincinnati Shakespeare). The show is a fascinating piece of theater that takes work to watch, follow and absorb. I suppose that some casual theatergoers will be put off by it, but if you like challenging drama and multi-layered acting, you’ll leave the theater with your gears spinning. I gave Speaking in Tongues a Critic’s Pick in this week's "Curtain Call" column. Onstage through March 4. Box office: 513-421-3888.If you’re a fan of the Cincinnati Fringe, you should check out the Transmigration Festival at CCM on the University of Cincinnati campus. I was there last evening and saw three of the six performances, especially enjoying Booth, an interactive piece by nine actors based on John Wilkes Booth’s final days. I also was entertained by The Eddie Shanahan Show, closely inspired by Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, but with some very modern twists. Attendees choose between six brief productions (30 minutes or less) that are completely created, promoted, enacted and staged by drama students. It’s a February boost of creativity, staged throughout the CCM facility, Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30, as well as a 2:30 matinee on Saturday. Admission is free, but you need to call the CCM box office to reserve your ticket: 513-556-4183.Another university option can be found at NKU. It’s Aaron Sorkin’s The Farnsworth Invention, telling the story of Phil Farnsworth who invented television but spent much of his life in legal wrangles with David Sarnoff, RCA executive and the first “media mogul.” Sorkin's credits — from The West Wing to The Social Network — are a guarantee of a heady, exciting tale based on real events. Tickets ($14 is the maximum price): 859-572-5464. Know Theater’s “comedy of anxiety” by Allison Moore, Collapse, opens with the collapse of a highway bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. But it’s about all kinds of things falling down — the economy, relationships. This is the kind of edgy script Know Theatre is known for, funny but meaningful. I gave the production a Critic’s Pick because it combines heart and humor. Collapse is presented with comic finesse and fine acting, especially by local professional actress Annie Fitzpatrick. Know’s best work of the season. Through March 3. Tickets: 513-300-5669. This weekend is your last chance to see the regional premiere of Matthew Lopez’s The Whipping Man at Ensemble Theatre (through Saturday evening). The historical play, set in Richmond, Va., in April 1865, just days after the end of the Civil War, is a gripping drama that’s beautifully staged and convincingly acted. I gave it a Critic’s Pick. The production has been extended a week because of demand for tickets; you won’t be contending with subscribers this weekend, so if you haven’t seen it yet — call for a ticket: 513-421-3555.Each week in Stage Door, Rick Pender offers theater tips for the weekend, often with a few pieces of theater news.
 
 

Get Some Direction

0 Comments · Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Actors often say the most invigorating part of any production is rehearsing, in “the room” where a director imposes a vision and steers performers and designers toward the final product. For this reason, you should pay heed to who’s directing shows you choose to see.  

The Gift of Theater

0 Comments · Tuesday, December 21, 2010
With just a few days left for Christmas shopping, I'm making a few theater-related suggestions: a Broadway snowglobe, new musical theater recordings, 'Sondheim: The Birthday Concert' on DVD and gift certificates to our wonderful local theater companies.   

Cincinnati Theater? Big News? You Bet!

0 Comments · Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Over the past week, there's been a lot of theater news to report. The 14th and final Cincinnati Entertainment Awards for Theater were held Aug. 29, where it was confirmed that the CEAs would join forces with the Acclaim Awards for the upcoming theater season. Earlier in the week, Ed Stern announced his departure from Playhouse in the Park following the 2011-12 season.  

Getting Out the Vote for the CEAs

0 Comments · Tuesday, August 3, 2010
It's too late to vote early, but not too late to vote for the 2010 Cincinnati Entertainment Awards. If you haven't done so yet, go to citybeat.com to pick your favorite stage performances from the past season. What's at stake? Well, no big prizes, but theaters and actors thrive on awareness and recognition, and that's what the CEAs offer. This year, with four new categories for community theater actors and productions and another four for university performers and shows at educational institutions, there are 27 categories of nominees.  

Sixth Annual Cincy Fringe Festival Takes Flight

Provides everyone with a shot of experimental adrenaline

0 Comments · Wednesday, May 20, 2009
The Cincy Fringe Festival soon kicks off its sixth annual celebration of offbeat theater and other art forms. Not every city has a Fringe Festival, and occasionally people ask why we have one. The quick response is similar to the one sometimes offered as to why a city needs an alternative newsweekly like CityBeat: A conservative, buttoned-down place needs events and media that shake things up, that give us a new perspective on things.  

Award Winners

0 Comments · Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Earlier in April the 2009 Pulitzer Prizes were announced, including recognition "for a distinguished play by an American author, preferably original in its source and dealing with American life." This year's winner is Lynn Nottage's 'Ruined' — her 2007 play 'Intimate Apparel' had its local premiere at Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati last season.  

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