WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by Rick Pender 06.15.2012
Posted In: Theater at 08:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
arts lead - 9-7 - next to normal @ etc - charlie clark (dr. madden - dr. fine) and jessica hendy (diana) - photo ryan kurtz

Stage Door: 'next to normal' Is Back

If you missed my recommendations last September about seeing the Tony Award-winning musical next to normal at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, you have a reprieve. Starting today, the show is back for a two-week revival. It’s the story of a woman struggling with paranoid schizophrenia and how it affects her family; that might not sound like the stuff that musicals are made of, but it uses the power of a brilliant Rock score to deliver the impact of this story. ETC has reassembled all of the superb cast, including Jessica Hendy in the central role; the one role that needed a new performer is that of the beleaguered husband, and ETC has lined up one of our area’s best actors, Bruce Cromer. Tickets are being snapped up already, but this is the hot show to be seen at the moment. Box office: 513-421-3555 The Showboat Majestic just opened a production of the classic comedy Arsenic and Old Lace. It won’t break any new ground, but it is one of the funniest shows you’re likely to see, the tale of an off-kilter set of relatives who keep their quite normal nephew astonished and scrambling to keep them in line. His aunts take in boarders, quiet elderly men who are alone in the world, and polish them off with elderberry wine laced with arsenic; they convince their addled brother, who believes he’s Teddy Roosevelt, to bury them in the basement by telling him they’re victims of yellow fever who have been working on digging the Panama Canal. There’s lots more, but you get the picture. Box office: 513-241-6550 Another stage full of laughs is available from Cincinnati Shakespeare Company in the form of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). It’s your chance to see at least a passing mention of all the Bard’s works — although many are completely unrecognizable, thanks the three buffoonish characters who undertake the task. The second act is a wild send-up of Hamlet that involves the audience. There’s never a dull moment, and the CSC actors seem to especially relish the task of poking fun at their usual fare. Box office: 513-381-2273, x1. Summer is the season for lighter entertainment at the Commonwealth Dinner Theater, on campus at Northern Kentucky University. They’re offering Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite, a glimpse into the relationships of three couples that occupy the same suite at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. One couple is celebrating their 23rd wedding anniversary in the same room where they honeymooned; another is an oft-married Hollywood producer who’s hoping for an encounter; the third is a mother and father trying to coax their bride-to-be daughter out of the locked bathroom and downstairs to the impatient wedding guests. Box office: 859-572-5464 Each week in Stage Door, Rick Pender offers theater tips for the weekend, often with a few pieces of theater news.
 
 
by Rick Pender 06.01.2012
Posted In: Theater at 09:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Stage Door: Fringe, 'Avenue Q,' CSC, etc.

There’s more theater and performance than you can shake a stick at in Over-the-Rhine this weekend, thanks to the 2012 Cincinnati Fringe Festival. (In fact, if you stand on a corner in OTR and shake a stick, you could be mistaken for a Fringe act …) You can read about all the Fringe productions that are up and running here, but here’s half-dozen shows that CityBeat’s reviewers have recommended: Grim & Fischer: A Deathly Comedy in Full-Face Mask (this one has a limited run, closing on Saturday, and it’s had brisk box office since it opened on Wednesday); Methtacular (a one-man show about a musical theater actor who’s a gay crystal-meth addict); Sweet, Burning Yonder (an eco-sensitive comedy about the weird aftermath of Hurricane Katrina); Quake: A Closet Love Story (about a broken-up couple trapped in a closet after an earthquake); Don’t Cross the Streams (a full-fledged musical that starts with a movie about busting ghosts and spins way beyond); and Blown Up (a FringeNext production by high schoolers). Go to cincyfringe.com for more information about schedules and tickets. While it’s not part of the Fringe, Avenue Q, presented by Showbiz Players at Covington’s Carnegie Center, has the same zany vibe. It’s an X-rated musical with puppets that might visually remind you of Sesame Street — until they open their dirty mouths. The show was a surprise Tony Award winner several years back, and it promises lots of laughs for those who go. Through June 10. 859-957-1940. If you want something more traditional, try Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s production of The Merchant of Venice, one of Shakespeare’s most difficult plays. It’s officially categorized as a comedy because it has humorous and romantic elements. But the central story about a potentially fatal argument between a moneylender and a businessman is anything but amusing. CSC’s artistic director Brian Isaac Phillips takes on the role of the rapacious moneylender who has faced anti-Semitic discrimination for his entire life. Is Shylock a villain or a victim? Shakespeare gives him aspects of each, and CSC’s production does not tilt in either direction. You get to decide, and it won’t be easy. Box office: 513-381-2273, x1. Be sure to consider downtown’s newest performance venue, Speakeasy Theatre, storefront space at 815 Race Street. Their inaugural production is Paul Baerman’s The Whistler, set in 1965 in an unnamed Southern city awash in racist attitudes. The Andy Griffith Show is in its fifth season, and the guy who whistles the theme (played here by local professional actor Michael G. Bath) is living off his royalties. But life gets more complicated when he meets an African-American trumpet player (played by Tony Davis) who shares his passion for music. The Whistler will be onstage through June 10. Box office: 513-861-7469 Each week in Stage Door, Rick Pender offers theater tips for the weekend, often with a few pieces of theater news.
 
 
by Rick Pender 05.25.2012
Posted In: Theater at 09:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
pip_second-city-2

Stage Door: Theater Offerings For a Hot Weekend

It’s a three-day weekend that’s more about being outdoors and kicking off summer fun. That being said, if you’re looking for a theater production that will give you some laughs for your weekend, I recommend catching a performance of see The Second City 2: Less Pride – More Pork at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park on its Shelterhouse Stage. I found it a notch up from the very entertaining first iteration of the show that set box-office records for the Mount Adams theater during the 2010 holiday season. Lots of hilarious fun-poking at … us. The clever cast from Chicago’s renowned comedy/improv troupe uniquely tailors each performance to the audience that shows up. Box office: 513-421-3888. I haven’t seen the Showboat Majestic’s opening production of its 90th season (that’s right, the boat has been entertaining audiences for nine decades!), but Babes in Hollywood is another show that’s light and entertaining. It’s a revue of tunes made famous by Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney back in the 1930s and ’40s when they were happy-go-lucky adolescent stars. I did see the four-member cast do a number at last Monday’s LCT Awards event, and they have fine voices and a sense of style. I suspect this show will be popular with the grey-haired audience that frequents the Showboat, but I bet people of any age will have a good time watching. Box office: 513-241-6550. If you want something a tad more profound, try Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s production of The Merchant of Venice, one of Shakespeare’s most difficult plays. It’s officially categorized as a comedy because it has humorous and romantic elements. But the central story about a potentially fatal argument between a moneylender and a businessman is anything but amusing. CSC’s artistic director Brian Isaac Phillips takes on the role of the rapacious moneylender who has faced anti-Semitic discrimination for his entire life. Is Shylock a villain or a victim? Shakespeare gives him aspects of each, and CSC’s production does not tilt in either direction. You get to decide, and it won’t be easy. Review here. Box office: 513-381-2273, x1. There’s a new theater downtown, just a few doors north of Cincinnati Shakespeare’s venue. They’re calling themselves Speakeasy Theatre, and they’re performing in a storefront space at 815 Race Street. Their inaugural production is Paul Baerman’s The Whistler. The show, directed by Tim Waldrip, is set in 1965 in an unnamed Southern city where a lot a racist attitudes are out in the open. The Andy Griffith Show is in its fifth season, and the guy who whistles that show’s theme (played here by local professional actor Michael G. Bath) is living off the royalties of his work. But life gets more complicated when he meets an African-American trumpet player (Tony Davis is taking on the role) who shares his passion for music. The show just opened on Thursday and I haven’t seen it, but it’s always good to give a new theater a try. The Whistler will be onstage through June 10. Box office: 513-861-7469. Each week in Stage Door, Rick Pender offers theater tips for the weekend, often with a few pieces of theater news.
 
 
by Rick Pender 05.18.2012
Posted In: Theater at 09:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
onstage 5-16 - titanic - photo provided by cincinnati music theatre

Stage Door: Last Call for 'Titanic'

If I were you, I’d to my best to catch a performance of Titanic: The Musical before it closes on Saturday at the Aronoff Center’s Jarson-Kaplan Theater. The show puts you in the midst of dozens of characters as they board the ship, overflowing with great expectations — of success, of escaping poverty, of new life in America, of achieving dreams. You get to know them, and then you see the tragedy that comes their way after the tragic collision with an iceberg in April 1912. Maury Yeston’s score is all about choral singing, and Cincinnati Music Theatre, one of our most ambitious community theaters, makes it work with an impressive physical production and great voices. Full review: here. Tickets: 513-621-2787. I’m pleased to tell you that Cincinnati Shakespeare Company has done a fine job with its production of The Merchant of Venice, one of Shakespeare’s most difficult plays. It’s officially categorized as a comedy because it has humorous and romantic elements. But the central story about a potentially fatal argument between a moneylender and a businessman is anything but amusing. CSC’s artistic director Brian Isaac Phillips takes on the role of the rapacious moneylender who has faced anti-Semitic discrimination for his entire life. Is Shylock a villain or a victim? Shakespeare gives him aspects of each, and CSC’s production, directed by Jeremy Dubin does not tilt in either direction. It’s up to you to decide, and that’s how this show works best. Full review: here. Box office: 513-381-2273, x1. Life Could Be A Dream, Roger Bean’s sequel to The Marvelous Wonderettes and a show ful of teen hits from the ’50s and ’60s, concludes its successful run at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati this weekend. 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.” Audiences seem to have loved this excuse for two dozen tunes from the era, and ETC is keeping its cast busy to the very end, adding an extra finale on Sunday evening at 6 p.m. Box office: 513-421-3555. This is also the final weekend for you to get down with the Blues in the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park’s production of Thunder Knocking on the Door. The show, a hit for the Playhouse in 1999 has been thoroughly and creatively reimagined. 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 Sunday. Full review: here. Box office: 513-421-3888. Each week in Stage Door, Rick Pender offers theater tips for the weekend, often with a few pieces of theater news.
 
 

The Merchant of Venice (Review)

Comedy, tragedy staged in complex Shakespearean production

0 Comments · Monday, May 14, 2012
 Let’s give props to Cincinnati Shakespeare Company for bringing to the stage The Merchant of Venice, one of Shakespeare’s most difficult plays. It’s officially categorized as a comedy, and it contains humorous and romantic elements, including a subplot about contesting for the hand of a wealthy heiress. But the central story of a more dire contest between a moneylender and a businessman is anything but amusing.   
by Rick Pender 04.13.2012
Posted In: Theater at 09:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
onstage 4-11 bloody bloody andrew jackson @ know theatre - kellen york as aj - photo deogracias lerma

Stage Door: Shatner, CSC and 'Bloody Bloody'

I’m not a big fan of playwright Neil LaBute, whose characters tend to be misogynistic, shallow and selfish. That’s the case with reasons to be pretty at New Edgecliff Theatre, which I saw last night. It’s in the same vein as other LaBute scripts, with a semi-sensitive guy who gets lost in being a man, pulls back slightly, but pays the price for his own thoughtless behavior and his collaboration with a caricatured, boorish friend. NET’s production benefits from some decent acting, and on opening night the audience was caught up in watching guys say nasty things and women act out and suffer. This show (full of coarse language and reprehensible behavior) appeals to the worst in human nature. The modest effort to pull it out at the end wasn’t enough for me. Box office: 888-588-0137. Know Theatre’s production of the recent off-Broadway and Broadway Rock musical hit, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is a youthful mix of political commentary, driving Rock performances, history, humor and sober observations on the will of the people — just what we’ve come expect from Know Theatre. Not many musicals begin with the cast flipping the bird at the audience, but then not many musicals are like this one, spinning a tale of America’s seventh president to in-your-face Indie Rock tunes. (The “orchestra” for the production is the local band The Dukes Are Dead.) Kellen York, playing the title role is note even a remotely good singer, but he looks and acts the part, strutting around the stage as an “agent of change.” He’s surrounded by a cast of strong musical theater performers, and their work plus a sassy political satire makes this show a Critic’s Pick. This is Bloody Bloody’s first professional regional production, and it will surely be the big hit of Know’s season. (Through May 12.) Box office: 513-300-5669. Shatner’s World: We Just Live In It is a one-man tour by the actor who’s played an iconic starship captain on Star Trek and a sleazy attorney on television on Boston Legal. He’s been a character from start to finish, and this act has earned positive reviews in New York City and in cities where he’s making stops. He’s at the Aronoff on Friday night (one night only). Beam me up. Tickets: 513-621-2787. Pump Boys & Dinettes at the Covington’s Carnegie Center is something like an off-Broadway classic (it had a brief Broadway run) from the early 1980s. Set in a filling station that’s also a diner, it’s a framework for downhome Country tunes and cornpone humor. It opens a three-weekend run on April 13; I haven’t seen it yet, but the cast and an online video tell me it will be a lot of fun. Box office: 859-957-1940. Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s production of The Grapes of Wrath (running through April 29) is a powerful theatrical interpretation of John Steinbeck’s grim tale about a Depression-era family of Oklahoma sharecroppers driven to homelessness by ecological and economic disasters. It’s a portrait of the desperate life wrought by the Depression in the 1930s and a powerful reminder that life hasn’t improved for many Americans 80 years later. CSC’s production is made all the more relevant by folksy musical interludes performed live by some of the actors. A downer of a story, but definitely worth seeing. Box office: 513-381-2273, x1. It’s the final weekend for Kim Rosenstock’s new play Tigers Be Still at the Cincinnati Playhouse, a show about people dealing with depression in a way that’s charming, funny, optimistic and even heart-warming. It’s about a young woman with a recently earned degree in art therapy; she’s been down in the dumps about finding work, but not as much as her mom who’s gained weight and her sister who’s been dumped by her fiancé. There’s lots more to keep you laughing and paying attention. Through Sunday. Box office: 513-421-3888. Each week in Stage Door, Rick Pender offers theater tips for the weekend, often with a few pieces of theater news.
 
 
by Rick Pender 04.06.2012
at 09:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Stage Door: Several Quality Weekend Offerings

Last night I attended Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s production of The Grapes of Wrath, which opened a week ago and runs through April 29. It’s a powerful theatrical interpretation of John Steinbeck’s grim recounting of a Depression-era family of Oklahoma sharecroppers driven from home by ecological and economic disasters. They make an arduous trek to California in vain hope of employment and a better life. The show calls for an ensemble cast, and CSC uses more than 20 actors to pull it off convincingly. The first act revolves around the Joads’ agonizing trip in a dilapidated truck; the second act portrays the dismal conditions of unemployment and mistreatment once they arrive. It’s a sad reflection of life in the 1930s, as well as a powerful reminder that life has not improved for many Americans some 80 years later. The production is made all the more relevant by folksy musical interludes performed live by some of the actors. A downer of a story, but definitely worth seeing. Here's a link to my review. Box office: 513-381-2273, x1. Know Theatre’s production of the recent off-Broadway and Broadway Rock musical hit, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, opened last Saturday. I haven’t seen it yet, but the production has a positive buzz. (It’s onstage through May 12.) Box office: 513-300-5669. Thanks to spot-on casting of the four actors who bring Kim Rosenstock’s new play Tigers Be Still to life at the Cincinnati Playhouse, the show about people dealing with depression is charming, funny, optimistic and even heart-warming. It’s about a young woman with a recently earned degree in art therapy; she’s been down in the dumps about finding work, but not as much as her mom who’s gained weight and her sister who’s been dumped by her fiancé. She’s starting a new job thanks to her mom’s long-ago boyfriend, now a middle school principal. He has issues of his own — from a slacker son to anxiety about a tiger that’s escaped from the local zoo. Sound zany? Well, it is — as well as entertaining. The League of Cincinnati Theatres singled out this production’s sound design by Vincent Olivieri for an award. One panelist wrote, “On a very small stage, scenes took place in a school gym, drugstore, office, closet, outdoors and in the living spaces of two houses. Except for the main set, capturing the essence of these scenes was limited to a couple of props and pieces of furniture — and the sound!” Through April 15. Box office: 513-421-3888. There’s nothing profound about The Addams Family, onstage at the Aronoff Center in downtown Cincinnati through a Sunday matinee. The touring musical is derived from a 1960s TV series (and subsequent movies), based on on droll, mordant cartoons by Charles Addams, originally in The New Yorker. The show is a faithful reproduction of a pop culture icon; in fact, it begins with the sprightly theme from the TV show, complete with finger-snaps. It has a silly story about willful love and romance, but the entertainment comes from seeing the familiar characters come to life. The new musical numbers are largely clever, and the cast — which includes 1999 CCM grad Sara Gettelfinger as Morticia — is top-notch. Here's a link to my recent review. Tickets: 800-982-2787.Each week in Stage Door, Rick Pender offers theater tips for the weekend, often with a few pieces of theater news.
 
 

The Grapes of Wrath (Review)

Onstage version of Steinbeck's classic reminds that life hasn't improved for many since Depression

0 Comments · Friday, April 6, 2012
John Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Grapes of Wrath, is a grim recounting of a Depression-era family of Oklahoma sharecroppers driven from home by ecological and economic disasters. In the late 1980s theater artist Frank Galati adapted it into a powerful stage production, one you can see throughout April at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. It’s a downer of a story, but definitely worth seeing.   

Sense & Sensibility (Review)

Reason and romance are the foundation of Cincy Shakes production

0 Comments · Monday, February 20, 2012
The popularity of Jane Austen continues unabated. A sparkling adaptation of Pride & Prejudice was an audience favorite a year ago for Cincinnati Shakespeare, and another Jon Jory adaptation of the 19th-century author’s stylish novels of romance and domestic intrigue, Sense & Sensibility, is likely to repeat that box-office bonanza.  
by Rick Pender 03.09.2012
Posted In: Theater at 11:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
onstage 3-9 - merrily we roll along - cast at cincinnti playhouse - photo sandy underwood

Stage Door: Sondheim, Afghan Women's Writing and More

Last night I attended the opening of the Cincinnati Playhouse production of Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along. It’s been directed by John Doyle, who inventively staged Sondheim’s Company in 2006, a production that moved to Broadway and earned a Tony Award. He uses the same approach this time — actors who provide their own musical accompaniment — and the results are top-notch because he’s assembled a strong, talented cast. This show has long been viewed as one of Sondheim’s few failures, but you wouldn’t know that from this staging: It’s a showbiz tale of success that has not led to happiness. We start at the end, with three former friends at one another’s throats, and then trace back to their earliest moments together. With great music, a stylized set piled with pages of music (the central character is a composer) and some intriguing decisions by Doyle about elevating a realistic tale to something more deeply emotional, this version of Merrily is a great choice for anyone who loves musicals. Through March 31. Box office: 513-421-3888 A completely different choice is the Afghan Women’s Writing Project at Know Theatre, this weekend only. Playwrights Elizabeth Martin and Lauren Hynek took material written by women in Afghanistan who risk their lives to write their stories and turn them into material for the stage. Several outstanding local actresses — including CEA Hall of Famer Dale Hodges and frequent CEA award winner Annie Fitzpatrick — are among the interpreters. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m. If you go on Friday, plan to stick around for a post-show discussion. Tickets ($18): 513-300-5669 If you like heart-warming, schmaltzy tales, you should find your way to Newport’s Monmouth Theatre where Falcon Theatre is presenting Visiting Mr. Green. It’s the story of a young man “sentenced” to regular visits with an elderly gentleman he nearly ran over. Beneath the surface of their disparate worlds they discover some surprising common ground. What makes this rather predictable story come to life is the acting: Joshua Steele and Mike Moskowitz, who happen to be grandfather and grandson, portray their characters with believability. This is the second of two weekends, Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets: 513-479-6783 A year ago Cincinnati Shakespeare had a big hit with Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. They’ve done it again with another adaptation, Sense & Sensibility. This time it’s two sisters, one rational and one emotional, wonderfully portrayed by Kelly Mengelkoch (as the reserved, reasonable Elinor) and Sara Clark (as willful, romantic Marianne). They’re surrounded by droll supporting characters in a story of romance and domestic intrigue. I gave the production a Critic’s Pick. It’s onstage until March 18, but many performances have sold out. Tickets: 513-381-2273 Speaking of Cincinnati Shakespeare, the company recently announced its 2012-2013 season, which will feature some memorable characters — Sherlock Holmes, Atticus Finch (in To Kill a Mockingbird), Romeo & Juliet, Lady Bracknell (in Oscar Wilde’s hilarious The Importance of Being Earnest), Richard II and Nick Bottom (Midsummer Night Dream’s aspiring actor who makes an ass of himself). You can read about the entire season in my blog post from last Sunday.Each week in Stage Door, Rick Pender theater tips for the weekend, often with a few pieces of theater news.
 
 

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