by Rick Pender 12.07.2012
Posted In: Theater at 10:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
naughty list

Stage Door: More Holiday Cheer

As I wrote in my column in the current issue of CityBeat, there's a lot of good holiday theater available on Cincinnati stages right now. The Playhouse's production of A Christmas Carol, now in its 22nd year, is best in class — a well-told traditional tale with some of the best professional actors in town onstage, from Bruce Cromer as Scrooge and Dale Hodges as the Ghost of Christmas past. There are a few new faces, too, playing the Cratchits. And speaking of new faces, I feel comfortable recommending New Edgecliff Theatre's one-woman show, The 12 Dates of Christmas, which is being engagingly performed by Annie Kalahurka. It's paired with David Sedaris's The Santaland Diaries, which feels a little shopworn to me, but you can catch the double-bill downtown at the Arnonff's Fifth Third Bank Theater — and maybe go for drinks at Arnold's before or after the show. If you're looking for something kind of different, try The Naughty List (review here), a holiday-themed improv show (presented in Arnold's courtyard on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings) by Know Theatre. Five quick-witted comics who constitute OTR Improv are doing routines that use audience suggestions (and occasional audience participants) for nearly two hours of entertainment. It's a different show every night. Have kids you want to take to the theater and give them a taste of what fun it can be? Two good bets are Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati for one of its musical fairytales with a moral (this year the show is a colorful, cartoonish rendition of Alice in Wonderland) and Covedale Center, where Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella is singing and dancing its way through another familiar story the kids will know. The prince is handsome, Cinderella is sweet and the nasty Stepmother is played by a guy. As far as familiar stories go, you've probably seen Frank Capra's classic holiday film It's a Wonderful Life a few times during the holidays. But I bet you haven't experienced in the unique way that Falcon Theater offers it up at Newport's Monmouth Theatre: The script frames the story as an old-time radio drama, and you get to watch behind-the-scenes as a handful of actors play all the roles and a few others create  the necessary sound effects. It opens this weekend and runs for a week. I haven't seen this year's edition, but I've enjoyed past incarnations, and I suspect this one will be entertaining as well. Happy holidays!

Making Merry, Theatrically

0 Comments · Wednesday, December 5, 2012
It’s time for mistletoe and holly, when theaters entice folks in search of holiday cheer (and occasional parodies thereof) to celebrate the season. Many theaters need December ticket revenues to present shows onstage for the rest of the year.  

More Than the Sum of the Parts

0 Comments · Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Collaboration is the byword for many arts organizations today, especially theaters where financial support is tough to obtain and ticket revenues are seldom enough to support the cost of productions. By working together, economies can be achieved and, in some cases, multiple constituencies can be activated.  
by Rick Pender 10.12.2012
Posted In: Theater at 09:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Stage Door: Too Many Options

You have no excuse for complaining that there's not enough theater in the days ahead. In fact, you'll have a hard time fitting it all in. Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati's regional premiere of Mrs. Mannerly opened a few days ago: It's a comedy about growing up in small-town Ohio under the watchful (perhaps oppressive) eye of a strict etiquette teacher. Jeffrey Hatcher's play (largely based on his own experience in 1967) features one of Cincinnati's best actresses, Dale Hodges, in the title role. And the production has been staged by Ed Stern, recently retired after 20 years as producing artistic director at the Cincinnati Playhouse. Box Office: 513-421-3555. Cincinnati Shakespeare is producing Shakespeare's romantic tragedy Romeo & Juliet, featuring a pair of actors — Sara Clark and Ian Bond — who had great chemistry in recent productions of Pride & Prejudice and Sense & Sensibility. They will bring new life a familiar work, I'm sure. The production opens Friday; bear in mind that Cincy Shakes has been selling out its productions this season, so catching this one before it catches on with the larger audience might be a good idea. Box Office: 513-381-2273 x1. For entertainment of an entirely different stripe, I suggest you check out The Beggar's Carnivale on Friday and Saturday evenings (9 p.m.) at Know Theatre. This variety show has been described as "Cirque du Soleil on a whiskey bender." It includes elements of traiditonal circus arts, gypsy folk and Rock & Roll. You'll witness a fast-paced spectacle with several acts linked by interludes in the style of silent film. There's live music, too, by their house band The Royal We and the Carnivale's personal DJ. Sounds like an evening of unusual entertainment. Box Office: 513-300-5669. For the stay-at-homes, you might sample Lost in Yonkers on WVXU's broadcast of L.A. Theatre Works, Saturday evening at 8 p.m. on FM 91.7. This great nostalgic play by Neil Simon is part of an autobiographical trilogy; the Cincinnati Playhouse is producing Brighton Beach Memoirs, another from this set, a few weeks from now. On Sunday evening at 8 p.m. WVXU will air The Moth, a collection of monologues by everyday people, sharing anecdotes of things that actually happened to them. It's the inspiration for our local company True Theatre, which opens its third season on Monday evening (7:30 p.m.) with trueLearning at Know Theatre. Finally, to keep you occupied next week, CCM Drama is offering a week of free, unticketed readings of gay-themed plays. On Monday it's Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart (1985); Tuesday and Wednesday offer Tony Kushner's 1993 award-winning Angels in America, Part 1: Millennium Approaches and Part 2: Perestroika. Thursday evening it's Stephen Karam's Sons of the Prophet (2011). All readings are at 7 p.m. in the Corbett Center's Room 4755 at the University of Cincinnati. On Friday evening, Dr. Richard Coons will moderate a conversation about "Storytellers, History Makers and Revolutionaries: The LGBT Story." A clinical psychologist, Coons is a CCM Drama grad; in 1998 and 1999 he played the central role of Prior Walter in CCM's local premiere of Kushner's Angels in America. (Also free, this event will be in Patricia Corbett Theatre on the UC campus.) 

The Thrill of the Familiar

0 Comments · Wednesday, October 10, 2012
More often than not, I try to introduce CityBeat readers to new plays and writers. We see quite a few such shows locally thanks to Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati (ETC), the Cincinnati Playhouse and Know Theatre. In fact, looking at American Theatre’s list of 2012-2013’s “Top 10” most-produced plays, six have already been presented locally.  
by Rick Pender 09.19.2012
Posted In: Theater at 10:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
on her pillow_paul wilson

Fringe Reprised

Know Theatre offering two solid pieces from 2012 Fringe Fest

Does this late September weather make you wish you could turn back the clock? Know Theatre is ready to take you back to June and the 2012 Cincinnati Fringe Festival with a brief reprise of several shows and artists who pleased audiences three months ago. Today through Saturday you can stop by the theater on Jackson Street in Over-the-Rhine for performances by Honour Pillow (her Audience "Pick of the Fringe" show On Her Pillow (review here) will be presented tonight and Friday evening) or Dewey Chaffee and Douglas McGeoch (whose Screw You Revue (review here) was the Producers' Pick of the Fringe in June and will be presented on Friday and Saturday). There will also be performances by two favorite Fringe solo performers on Thursday and Saturday — Kevin Thornton and Tommy Nugent. For the schedule and tickets, click here.
by Mike Breen 09.17.2012

Daily MPMFer: F.Stokes, Culture Queer and More

Cincy's 11th annual MidPoint Music Festival starts in just 10 days

MPMF news and musings: Wanna be a volunteer for this year's MidPoint Music Festival? The great local volunteerism org Give Back Cincinnati is handling this year's vital MPMF helpers. Click here for details and perks. And now, with the countdown down to just 10 days, here are our daily MidPoint Music Festival 2012 picks …BIG SHOTF.Stokes (New York City, NY)Hip HopWith a poetic/spoken word approach to his smart lyrics and a musical approach informed by his eclectic tastes (he draws influence from everyone from Patti Smith and Johnny Cash to Miles Davis and Kanye West), F.Stokes is far from your stereotypical Rap artist. Though modern and relevant, Stokes’ unique approach is a throwback to the Native Tongues movement in Hip Hop during the late ’80s/early ’90s, in that he seems to be forging a creative path by following his own eclectic muses and not by following the blueprint for whatever it is that makes a Hip Hop song a hit nowadays. His lyrics can be raw and real, but he never indulges in the stereotypical Rap crutches (glorifying bling, guns, etc.). Like Kanye West minus the ego and with less epic ambition, F.Stokes creates his own alternative universe for Hip Hop, one that praises creativity and innovation over all else. Stokes’ new EP, Love, Always, was recorded in various spots across Europe, where music fans have embraced his originality and soulful style. You'll Dig It If You Dig: Kanye at his most artistic, Blackalicious, The Pharcyde. (Mike Breen) F.Stokes performs at the Blue Wisp Jazz Club on Friday, Sept. 28, at 12:15 a.m. Here's a clip for Stokes' tribute to small towns, "My Simple." SLEEPER PICKAmi Saraiya and the Outcome (Chicago, IL)Indie PopClassically trained and wonderfully quirked, Ami Saraiya reprises her 2009 solo debut, Archeologist, with Soundproof Box, her first album offering equal billing to her backing band, the Outcome. Pinning down Saraiya’s sound is like describing Jackson Pollack’s work to an infant, but if you can conceptualize Zooey Deschenel fronting the Squirrel Nut Zippers as the carnival soundtrack to a Kate Bush PowerPoint presentation, you’d be in the weirdly appropriate ballpark.Dig: A cabaret gypsy Jazz Pop revue in tribute to Edith Piaf featuring Regina Spektor on stage and Ani Di Franco in the orchestra pit. (Brian Baker)Ami and Co. perform Friday, Sept. 28, at the "Biore Strip"/Know Theatre's second stage starting at 10 p.m. Here's the group's video for the track, "I'm Pregnant." LOCAL LOCK PICKCulture Queer (Cincinnati, OH)Indie PopKnown for their quirky, eccentric, electronics-infused and endlessly catchy take on Indie Pop and engaging live shows that incorporate various video art backdrops (three of the members work in film), quartet Culture Queer has released some of the best albums of the past decade or so of Cincy music. This October, the band returns with Nightmare Band, a rich, kaleidoscopic stunner-of-an-album that’ll be backed by a national promo push that should do wonders for exposing one of Cincy’s best kept musical secrets to the rest of the universe. Dig: The Rentals, Devo, Eels, Fruit Pop with all the flavors of the rainbow. (MB)Culture Queer performs Friday, Sept. 28, at the Cincinnati Club at 8:15 p.m. Here's a fresh new video from the band's upcoming album, the title track "Nightmare Band." The album hits the streets (cyber and otherwise) on Oct. 16 with a release party around the same time (stay tuned). Click here for full MPMF details via the official MidPoint site.

Ninth Annual Cincy Fringe Sets Records

Freaky fixture in local arts scene brings creativity, community

2 Comments · Monday, June 11, 2012
The most successful Cincinnati Fringe Festival since the annual event’s launch in 2004 wrapped up on June 9, boasting a nearly 9 percent increase in overall attendance compared to 2011, from 7,177 to 7,728. More than 230 artists performed, and the number of sold-out performances, 24, set a new record.  

Face It

Cincinnati Fringe Festival is ready to roll for its ninth year of adventurous theater

1 Comment · Wednesday, May 23, 2012
The four images on the cover of the 2012 Cincinnati Fringe Festival program (included in CityBeat’s May 16 issue) featured various people smushing their faces against a window. Cross-eyed, surprised, disgruntled, quizzical, amused — it’s a diverse set of reactions, all appropriate responses to shows that Know Theatre will present May 29-June 9.  
by Rick Pender 05.11.2012
Posted In: Theater at 09:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
Les Miserables

Stage Door: Musicals Rule the Weekend

I was at the Tuesday night opening of a one-week run of the tour of the 25th anniversary production of Les Misérables. You might be saying, “I’ve seen that before — more than once.” But this is a new version — no more turntable or pirouetting barricades. Now we have some startling video that let’s you see the rebellious students marching in the streets of Paris and Jean Valjean carrying Marius through the sewers. The tour has great voices in all the roles; the volume was amped up beyond my hearing threshold, but it’s a powerful show — after all these years. Through Sunday at the Aronoff Center. Tickets: 800-982-2787. Here’s a tip if you want something that’s new(ish): The Light in the Piazza was a Tony Award winner in 2005, and it’s being staged by one of the most reliable community theaters in the Cincinnati area, Footlighters Inc., at its Stained Glass Theatre in Newport. It’s a romantic love story set in Italy in 1953, told with sophisticated music, sometimes operatic performances. In June 2006, just before it closed, it was broadcast on the PBS Live from Lincoln Center series, drawing more than two million viewers. That many can’t make it to Newport (it runs through May 19), but if you’re interested, Footlighters is offering a “buy one, get one” deal for its 2 p.m. matinee this Sunday, May 13. Tickets: 859-652-3849. If you resonate with the Blues, I recommend that you head to the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park for Keith Glover’s Thunder Knocking on the Door. It’s a revival of sorts from 1999 — but thoroughly and creatively reimagined for the Eden Park’s last mainstage production of Ed Stern’s final season leading the Tony Award-winning theater. The musical — with emotional tunes mostly by Keb’ Mo’ — tells the story of the power of love, music and Blues guitar players. It’s presented with panache, including technology and design that are all about 2012. Through May 20. Box office: 513-421-3888. The Doo-Wop silliness of The Marvelous Wonderettes, a hit from 2010 at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, is brought to life again with Life Could Be A Dream, Roger Bean’s sequel to the story of some bubbly girls who bond around teen hits from the ’50s and ’60s. This time it’s boys, and that’s most of the difference. As in the two Wonderette shows, Dream is shot through with adolescent angst, this time around a local radio station contest that could “make them famous.” It’s an excuse for two dozen tunes from the era, a familiar formula. But ETC’s talented cast makes it a lot of fun. (Through May 20.) Box office: 513-421-3555. This weekend is your final chance to see Know Theatre’s production of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. (Final performance is Saturday.) It’s a youthful mix of political commentary, driving Rock, history, humor and sober observations about America’s seventh president — played as a Rock hero. I gave it a Critic’s Pick. Call the box office to see if there are any cancellations: 513-300-5669. Each week in Stage Door, Rick Pender offers theater tips for the weekend, often with a few pieces of theater news.