by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:39 AM | Permalink
As the 2012-2013
theater season winds down, there are still several good productions
worth seeing: You can still be entertained by the froth of The Marvelous Wonderettes: Caps and Gowns at Ensemble Theatre (which runs through June 1), intrigued by the dark comedy Measure for Measure at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company (through May 26; CityBeat review here) or titillated by the noir tale of lust and murder, Double Indemnity, at the Cincinnati Playhouse (wrapping up on Saturday; CityBeat review here).But if you're looking for other options, you'll find them. Slightly more off the beaten path is Sunset Boulevard,
the Andrew Lloyd Webber about a faded silent film star living in her
grandiose memory of her glory days rather than in the cynical present of
the 1940s. Cincinnati Music Theatre has assembled a fine production of
the show at the Aronoff Center's Jarson-Kaplan Theater, onstage through
Saturday evening. This is a big show in terms of cast, choreography,
scenery and more, but CMT, a community theater, has the personnel to
pull it off. Tickets: 513-621-2787.
Another tale of a film legend contemplating a return to the screen — but on a decidedly smaller scale — is offered in Krisit,
a new play by local playwright Y York. Veteran actress Dale Hodges
plays the title character in a show characterized by director Mark
Lutwak as a funny play about a serious subject. York and Hodges have a
history that goes back to New York City many years ago. It's onstage
(through June 2) at Clifton Performance Theatre (the space once occupied
by Sitwell's Coffee House, 404 Ludlow Ave.). Tickets: 513-861-7469. Speaking of legends, at the Aronoff tonight (Friday) you'll find Hal Holbrook in Mark Twain Tonight!
He's been presenting the humor, satirical wit and timeless observations
of one of America's most iconic literary figures for more than a
half-century. Holbrook is now 88, more than a decade older than Twain
when he passed away in 1910. But he keeps his performances fresh and
timely with constant edits and changes about politics, culture and the
world, carefully attuned to the moment. (He has more than 16 hours of
Twain material in his repertoire!) His performance is in the Procter
& Gamble Hall at the Aronoff Center. Tickets: 513-621-2787.
If you've already enjoyed the Wonderettes at ETC, you might want to attend Forever Plaid,
which just opened the 2013 summer season on board the Showboat
Majestic. It's a similar story, a quartet of singers aspiring for their
big musical break. They get it, but at a high (and highly comic) price.
Lots of great tunes from the ’50s, surrounded by nostalgic humor. It's
onstage through June 2. Tickets: 513-241-6550.
you're a regular theatergoer in Cincinnati, you might want to attend
the League of Cincinnati's awards program on Monday evening, 7 p.m. at
Know Theatre. Details here.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:52 AM | Permalink
Nothing new onstage
this week, but lots of good work continues as we head toward the summer
when theater gets scarce. Now's the time to stock up.
This is the final weekend for Cock at Know Theatre. (Some publications call it The Cockfight Play, but Cock
is Mike Bartlett's actual title for his play.) It's the story of a man
who thought he was gay but now finds himself powerfully drawn to a
woman. (CityBeat review here.) His former lover and his new passion both push him to make a
choice, and he's torn. It's a great piece of theater, fueled by strong
acting and interesting staging. Tickets: 513-300-5669. Ensemble Theatre's production of The Marvelous Wonderettes: Caps and Gowns
is off and running — and on its way to being another box-office hit for
ETC. It's the same four spunky gals who audiences loved back in 2010
(in ETC's best-selling show ever), with new tuneful glimpses into their
high school graduation in 1958 and a wedding reception in 1968. Talented
singers, individually and as a quartet, make this a fine evening's
entertainment. If you've seen it before, you know the drill — and you're
probably ready for more. Tickets: 513-421-3555
James M. Cain's novel of crime and deception, Double Indemnity, continues at the Cincinnati Playhouse. (CityBeat review here.) If you think you know this show from Billy Wilder's 1944 film (one that defined the noir
genre), you're in for a treat: While this production adopts the
elements of terse narration, tough guys and sexy dames, the playwrights
tell the story differently for the stage. And the Playhouse stages it
inventively — one might even say cinematically. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
Shakespeare's Measure for Measure
is a strange piece, a comedy with a deeply disturbing story about
hypocrisy. (CityBeat review here.) A judgmental official condemns men for their licentious
behavior, then turns around and propositions a virtuous woman pleading
to spare her brother. This troublesome tale is interspersed with comic
moments as minor characters wend their way through a time of sordid
behavior — in Cincinnati Shakespeare's production it's been moved to
Prohibition-era America. If you're a Shakespeare buff, this one is worth
seeing, since it's not often staged. (It's been 18 years since it's
been presented locally.) Tickets: 513-381-2273 x.1.
The musical Sister Act,
based on the Whoopi Goldberg film from 1992, continues at the Aronoff. (CityBeat review here.)
It's an evening of silly fluff, but the touring production, onstage
through Sunday, is polished and entertaining. The plot is implausible,
but it's a framework for some great singing and an eye-popping series of
set pieces. Tickets: 800-982-2787.
If you prefer a musical with a little more grit, head to Dayton where the Human Race Theatre Company is presenting next to normal
at the Victoria Theater. This Rock musical about a paranoid
schizophrenic mom and the damage her affliction imposes on her family is
a powerful show, one that Cincinnati's Ensemble Theatre gave a well
received production in 2011 that was revived a year ago. The show was an
unusual winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for drama. It's onstage in
Dayton through May 19. Tickets: 937-228-9360.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:50 AM | Permalink
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.
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
Posted In: Theater
at 08:06 AM | Permalink
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
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.
0 Comments · Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Here are the ingredients: a couple of
Broadway and off-Broadway hits, three world premieres, a lavish Jane
Austen show, a classic musical by Kander and Ebb, an innovative drama
with tap dancing and video, plus holiday festivities...
A dream of a comedy at Cincy Shakes
0 Comments · Monday, March 25, 2013
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s staging of A Midsummer Night’s Dream
is a hilarious frolic through one of Shakespeare’s most beloved
creations. A quirky, energetic reimagining, this production features all
the familiar faces.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 07:47 AM | Permalink
My schedule hasn't afforded me the time to see the production of Don't Cross the Streams: The Cease and Desist Musical, a show that began its life in the Cincinnati Fringe Festival back in June. (It also was a festival highlight at the IndyFringe in Indianapolis in August.) But the very tongue-in-cheek piece inspired by the film Ghostbusters (but not allowed to say that) has now been expanded into a full-fledged
musical that's onstage at Newport's Monmouth Theatre, presented by
Falcon Theatre and Hugo West Theatricals. The League of Cincinnati
Theatres has termed the show a "recommended production," so it's evident
that their judging panel enjoyed it. One panelist called
it "a lively, enthusiastic spoof," and another said that the show is
"an evening of theater that doesn't take itself too seriously. The show just had a two-weekend run, so it's final performance is Saturday at 8 p.m. Tickets: 513-479-6783.
Ensemble Theatre's production of Black Pearl Sings! features one of the finest performances by a local actor that I've seen this season. Torie
Wiggins plays a woman in the 1930s who translates her memory of songs
from her African ancestors into a ticket out of prison and to some
notoriety in New York City. Wiggins nuanced performance is complemented by veteran Annie Fitzpatrick as the folk music researcher who sees Pearl as her own ticket to success. Their tentative relationship becomes a delicately balanced friendship, while both explore issues of racism, sexism and getting ahead. Definitely worth seeing. Through March 31. Box office: 513-421-3555. Lizan Mitchell is at the other end of the career spectrum from Wiggins, but she too plays Carrie Watts, a sprightly, elderly African-Amerian woman whose powerful sense of home takes her on an impromptu journey back to her roots in A Trip to Bountiful at the Cincinnati Playhouse.
It's laced with sadness, since what she remembers no longer exists, but
her memories and her joyful take on life make it all worthwhile, not
only for her but for others in her life, including her browbeaten son and his selfish wife as well as a sweet young woman who is Carrie's companion on a long bus ride. Through April 7. Box office: 513-421-3888.
This weekend Cincinnati Shakespeare is opening a production of the much-loved Shakespearean romantic comedy, A Midsummer Night's Dream. It's been transported to 1940s America and set in a Jazz-inspired
magical forest, with original musica composed by resident sound
designer Doug Borntrager; there's also original choreography by Brittany
Kugler. The production is staged by Jeremy Dubin, and features veteran
actor Nick Rose in the role of Nick Bottom the Weaver, the guy who makes
an ass of himself — literally. It's a tangled, funny story that all
works out perfectly in the end. A great show to kick off springtime. Through April 21. Box office: 513-381-2273 x1.
Catacoustic Consort, concert:nova and Cincinnati Shakespeare Company collaborate on a Bard-inspired performance
0 Comments · Tuesday, March 12, 2013
William Shakespeare’s drama and poetry
resonate far beyond the theater. Music plays a vital role in his plays
and his works continue to inspire compositions in all genres of music,
from song to symphony to sampling.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 10:19 AM | Permalink
Can you hear the clock ticking? That's not just because this weekend marks the "spring forward" to Daylight Savings Time early on Sunday. It's also because several theater productions are just about over: If you want to see them, you only have a few days left.
Leveling Up, the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park's show about video gamers,
is as contemporary as can be. One of its characters is recruited by the
NSA to fly drones into war zones — activity that totally blurs the
boundary between the real world and cyberspace, not to mention the moral boundaries between killing video villains and actual living people. (Review here.) The show is also about taking charge of your life in a world of maturity and responsibility, rather than retreating into simulated space. Deborah Zoe Laufer's script uses four characters,
all twentysomethings, who will seem like people you know — their
language, their actions, their concerns are the stuff of contemporary
life. Box office: 513-421-3888.
If you want something that's quite intentionally removed from everyday life, you need to check out the wry and ironic musical theater piece at UC's College-Conservatory of Music, Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's The Threepenny Opera. (Review here.) It's an allegory and critique of corrupt capitalism, told with dark humor in a production by CCM Opera chair Robin Guarino (who has staged productions at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City). She knows how to present the stark humor and cynical attitudes in Brecht's script, and the talented CCM musical theater performers (accompanied by a small onstage orchestra dominated by woodwinds and brass) provide great renderings of Weill's score. This is a rarely produced work, definitely worth seeing. Box office: 513-556-4183.
Perhaps you prefer your cynicism in an 18th century mode: That's what you'll get with Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's production of Dangerous Liaisons, a story of the idle rich who entertain themselves by seducing and manipulating their naive colleagues — or their innocent offspring. (Review here.) It's not a pretty story, in that the central characters are scheming and out for their own entertainment and pleasure, often for revenge. But if you like nasty behavior, this production has it in spades. Two of CSC's best veterans, Corinne Mohlenhoff and Giles Davies, play the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont, a pair of arch schemers who relish making a mess of others' lives. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but it's a literate, cleverly plotted piece of theater. Box office: 513-381-2273 x.1. The previous three shows finish their runs this weekend. When the Rain Stops Falling at Know Theatre has one more week (it closes on March 16), but you should order your tickets now: I expect the final performances will be hard to get into on short notice. (Review here.) This is one of the best shows that Know has staged in several seasons, a fine, complex script performed by a talented cast of nine, directed by Cincy Shakes Brian Isaac Phillips. (Four of the cast members are CSC regulars.) They play four generations
of two families, strangely and fatefully intertwined. The story weaves
back and forth between 1959 and 2039; at first it seems to be
disjointed, then things suddenly beging to fall into place. By the time it's over — with several shocking moments along the way — you'll see how it all fits together. If you haven't seen this one yet, this is the ticket you need to get. Box office: 513-300-5669.
by Rick Pender
at 09:18 AM | Permalink
It might be hard to imagine that a show like Legally Blonde: The Musical
could stir up controversy, which it did last fall at Loveland High
School. But that's not stopping other theaters from putting it onstage,
including Northern Kentucky University, which opened a campus production
on Thursday (and continues through March 3). It's the familiar story of
Elle Woods, spurned by her fiancé, off to Harvard Law School in pursuit
of him, only to discover that she's got the smarts to be more than just
a girlfriend. Not profound, but certainly entertaining. Tickets: 859-572-5464
On Wednesday evening, I attended the first performance of Slow Descent from Heaven,
a world premiere play by local writer Catie O'Keefe. Presented by New
Edgecliff Theatre (O'Keefe is their playwright-in-residence), it's an
ambitious work, presented in a converted classroom at the Clifton
Cultural Arts Center (3711 Clifton Ave.) in a production directed by Ed
Cohen. The central character, Molly (Elizabeth A. Harris), is a NASA
scientist whose story is bookended by space shuttle disasters in 1986
and 2003. She's an angry, tense character, and her involvement with men
has affected her career and her attitude. The story has a reverse
chronology, so we peel backward in time to learn more about why she's
the way she is. I'm glad to have seen this, but I think the script needs
more work in delving into Molly's psyche. Right now, her angst is all
on the surface, and her interface with the two men in her life (plus the
funny mother of one of them) is too predictable. Nevertheless, it's
great to see a group like NET encouraging the development of new work.
Another group producing new work is Thompson House Newport
(the venue formerly known as Southgate House). They are staging a new
Rock musical, Variables, the comic story of five friends
out for a night on the town. Their evening takes a serious turn when
it's interrupted by disturbing news. It's the work of composer Jered S.
Ryan and lyricist Mark D. Motz. Performances are on Feb. 23, 28 and
March 2. I haven't seen it, so I can't offer an assessment, but it's
another example of our fertile local theater scene. Tickets: www.thompsonhousenewport.com
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's production of Dangerous Liaisons (review here) is a listless interpretation of a show that should
be deliciously (dare I say "dangerously") nasty. There are some fine
actors onstage — notably Giles Davies and Corinne Mohlenhoff, both
longtime favorites at CSC — and moments when the chemistry works, but
not enough of them. Tickets: 513-381-2273, x1.
Several Cincy Shakes actors are doing a fine job on another stage, in Know Theatre's production of When the Rain Stops Falling, a compelling story of multiple, intersecting generations of two families. (review here) It's a fascinating piece of writing by Andrew Bovell, and
a taut, engaging 100-minute production, staged by CSC's Brian Phillips.
If you're looking for the one show to see this weekend, this is the one
I'd point you to. Tickets: 513-300-5669