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).
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 10:42 AM | Permalink
The theater season
takes a bit of a pause around Thanksgiving, since many companies are readying
holiday productions. But there are plenty of choices available this weekend.
I'm not the only
one who enjoyed the laugh-fest that is The Complete History of Comedy
(abridged) at the Cincinnati Playhouse. I've heard numerous people who
saw it say they were recommending it to others. In two hours the Reduced
Shakespeare Company puts forth more humor than you can shake a stick at. (But
be careful shaking sticks. You might get a pie in the face.) No matter your
tastes in comedy — witty, loud or rude and crude — you'll find it in this
production. How about Abe Lincoln as a deadpan rapper? This could be a good
outing this weekend or a lot of fun for out-of-town guests who descend on you
next week. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
Tonight is an
opening at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, the very frothy comedy Twelfth
Night. (It's subtitle is "or What You Will," indicating that
it's a lot of foolishness, which is an apt description.) In fact, Twelfth Night
is a beautiful piece with clever situations, amusing characters, a bit of
intrigue and a lot of mistaken identities. And several of the most laughable
characters Shakespeare ever created, from the bombastic Malvolio to his
persecutor Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek, plus the best of all
Shakespeare's fools, Feste. It's a safe bet that this is a production that even
those who fear Shakespeare will truly enjoy. Tickets: 513-381-2273 x 1.
If you're more
into storefront theater, you might check out the current production by
Untethered Theater at Clifton Performance Theatre on Ludlow, just east of the
business district. It's a tiny space (only 50 seats), but that makes it all the
more interesting. The current production is Wendy Macleod's The House of
Yes, a very dark comedy about a weirdly dysfunctional family. The story
focuses happens while there's a Thanksgiving hurricane outside, so it's timely,
too. Performances Friday and Saturday (through Dec. 7). Go here
This is the last
weekend for Boeing Boeing, a crazy farce about a guy juggling
three fiancees who happen to be flight attendants. It's at the Carnegie,
featuring performers from the drama program at UC's College-Conservatory of
Music. Tickets: 859-957-1940.
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.
Collaboration between Cincy Shakes and Xavier is a powerful production of a timeless story
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 30, 2013
It was a perfect storm when Cincinnati Shakespeare
Company and Xavier University decided to collaborate on Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:19 AM | Permalink
The Cincinnati Playhouse's production of Cabaret is a
must-see for anyone who is a fan of musicals. (CityBeat review here.) Kander and Ebb's Tony
Award winner from the late '60s has been brought to the main stage with
inventive verve by veteran Broadway choreographer and director Marsha
Milgrom Dodge. Sure, it's set in 1929 Berlin, populated by amoral
entertainers and Nazis rising to power. But its scrutiny of prejudice
and bigotry in the context of jaunty, thoughtless entertainment is a
fascinating way to bring attention to topics that are timeless. Dodge
has assembled a cast of triple-threats (who can sing, act and dance),
given them choreography rooted in the 1920s, costumed them in period
clothing (and some clever get-ups for the cabaret routines) and set them
spinning on a stage arrayed with Expressionist imagery. It's a winning
combination. Cabaret just opened on Thursday evening; you have until Nov. 16
to catch it, but it's likely to be a hot ticket, so this is a good
weekend to head to Mount Adams. The other choice at the Playhouse, Seven Spots on the Sun,
is in its final weekend on the Shelterhouse stage. It's a powerful
drama set in a Latin American nation, torn asunder by civil war. Serious
theatergoers have been giving this one a thumbs-up. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
Shakespeare hasn't gotten around to any Shakespeare plays yet this
season, but no one's complaining. Last weekend they opened a moving
production of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, featuring
top-notch performances by Jeremy Dubin and Jim Hopkins as a pair of
Depression Era migrant works who have to stay one step ahead of trouble
because man-child Lennie (Hopkins) doesn't know his own strength and has
emotions that are seldom reined in. Great acting, worth seeing. (CityBeat review here.) Through
Nov. 10. Tickets: 513-381-2273, x1.
Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati finishes its run of Gina Gionfriddo's Rapture, Blister, Burn this
weekend, hot from Broadway in its regional premiere. (CityBeat review here.) A story about
modern women and what satisfies — and dissatisfies — them. Three
generations end up debating choices made: It's both entertaining and
thought-provoking, a showcase of excellent local actors. Through Sunday. Tickets: 513-421-3555.
As Halloween draws closer, you might want to check out a show or two inspired by the "season." Dracula at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts (tickets: 513-241-6550) tells the familiar tale of the legendary vampire. (CityBeat review here.) Slasher at Falcon Theatre (Monmouth Theatre in Newport; tickets 513-479-6783)
is a tongue-in-cheek piece that originated a few years back at the
Humana Festival in Louisvile. It's about people making a horror flick
and how it affects their lives. Lots of humor, but some thoughtful
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:34 AM | Permalink
My best recommendation for this weekend is Ensemble Theatre's staging of Gina Gionfriddo's Rapture, Blister, Burn.
This is an ultra-natural piece of writing with several generations of
women arguing and contesting over the ways women should behave. (CityBeat review here.) It's
focused on two women, once friends, one married to the other's ex
college boyfriend. It's years later and neither woman is very happy with
her present life. How that plays out will keep you engaged from start
to finish. Some exceptional acting, with strong direction by D. Lynn
Meyers. Tickets: 513-421-3555.
The Playhouse's world premiere of Martín Zimmerman's Seven Spots on the Sun
is a powerful drama that engages all your senses as well as your
imagination. The products of a devastating civil war in Central America
are played out in painfully personal ways. Potent script, strong
performances make this a show worth seeing. (CityBeat review here.) This weekend at the
Playhouse also offers a series of previews (hence, more affordable
tickets) of Kander and Ebb's Cabaret, a show that's been
around for a long time — but still has a saucy kick that makes it feel
very in the moment. Playhouse box office: 513-421-3888.
Need to starting getting into a Halloween state of mind? Covedale Center opened a production of Dracula on Thursday (it's onstage through Nov. 10) for you to sink your teeth into. Or vice versa. Tickets: 513-241-6550.
Cincinnati Shakespeare kicks off its production of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men
this evening. It's a tale of friendship in the midst of the Great
Depression, two men who are migrant workers, often staying one step
beyond serious trouble caused by oafish Lennie. Cincy Shakes' regular
Jim Hopkins plays the simple-minded giant who's protected by the
pragmatic George, brought to life by veteran Jeremy Dubin. It's a
thoughtful, sad story. Opens Friday evening, continues through Nov. 10. Tickets: 513-381-2273, x1.
of Cincinnati Shakespeare, the company is involved in bringing National
Theatre Live broadcasts from London to Cincinnati. If these screenings
generate any profits, Cincy Shakes will get some financial benefit. So
assemble a group and head to Springdale 18's Cinema de Luxe on Sunday evening at 7 p.m. You'll see a powerful performance of Othello
featuring Adrian Lester (an Olivier Award winner) as the title
character and Rory Kinnear (featured in a couple of recent James Bond
films) as the manipulative Iago. Here's a link to buy tickets, $19 in general, $15 for seniors and students.
a kid to see a show and you're likely to create a lifetime theater
lover. That's what happened to me when my grandfather took me to see the
musical Brigadoon. So you can give this theory a try this weekend as
the Children's Theatre of Cincinnati opens its 89th mainstage season
with Annie JR. at the Taft Theatre. It's a shortened
version of the Broadway hit about a spunky orphan who charms everyone
(and which happens to be back on Broadway this fall in a full-length
production). Public performances today, tomorrow and Sunday. Tickets: 800-745-3000.
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 11:32 AM | Permalink
Perhaps this weekend
you want to take a last-chance trip down Memory Lane. You have that
option as the Showboat Majestic is wrapping up its production of Showboat Follies,
the final show that Cincinnati Landmark Productions will stage on the
historic vessel. It's a revue of songs and skits that should be fun if
not profound, but if you go (final performance is Sunday),
you'll be able to tell you foriends that you were among the last to
visit this nostalgic Cincinnati venue. (Unless the City of Cincinnati
finds another operator — which they've been seeking with no success.)
This weekend also offers the final performances of Oliver Twist at
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. It's a tale of crime and child abuse
from the Victorian era, and not terribly chipper — think A Christmas Carol
without any holiday spirits. But as always with Cincy Shakes, there's
some fine acting — and they've added some musical elements that keep
things interest, too. Through Sunday. Tickets: 513-381-2273, x1.
The most engaging theater onstage right now (and sticking around until Oct. 4) is Fly
at the Cincinnati Playhouse. It's a creative portrait of four aspiring
African Americans striving to be Tuskegee Airmen during World War II.
The challenges they faced — prejudice, rigorous training and
life-threatening aerial combat — not only made them pioneers who
addressed civil rights issues decades before the rest of America, it
made them heroes, too. Making this production all the more interesting
is a modern tap dancer who "underscores" many of the scenes with
movement and rhythm. I suspect you've never seen anything quite like
this. Tickets: 513-241-3888.
If you're a movie fan I suspect you've seen Carrie (based on Stephen King's novel about a bullied girl who unleashed her telekinetic powers) and Ghost
(about a guy who's murdered but comes back with the help of a crazy
psychic to save the lover he's lost). They've both been turned into
unmemorable musicals that are onstage locally for you to see. I've seen
them both, and I'm sorry to say that — despite some fine voices (in Carrie at the Carnegie, presented by Showbiz Players) and a lot of video and special effects (a touring production of Ghost at the Aronoff Center) — I believe you might be better off to pull out your DVD of either film to watch.
haven't seen it, but I'm intrigued by Northern Kentucky University's
production of Moby Dick Rehearsed. Herman Melville's great American
novel is brought to life onstage when a company of Shakespearean actors
stop rehearsing King Lear and consider a new play drawn from the tale of
the Great White Whale. Theater elements become aspects of the Pequod as the crew is lashed along in Captain Ahab's obsessive hunt for the beast that took his leg. Through Oct. 6. Tickets: 859-572-5464.