Broadway Veterans in Concert at The Carnegie – 2/18

On Thursday, February 18 a unique trio of Broadway performers will take the stage to perform a “romantic, cabaret-style” evening of musical theatre at The Carnegie’s famous Otto M. Budig Theatre.

The performance begins at 7:30pm and will feature Teresa De Zarn, Mark Hardy, and Jessica Hendy on stage at the same time in a truly unique and rare performance. Between the three of the veteran Broadway performers they have taken curtain calls in premeir Broadway productions such as “CATS,” “Aida,” Titanic,” “Phantom of the Opera,” “A New Brain,” “The Secret Garden” and “Les Miserables.”

“Teresa, Jessica, and I are thrilled to be coming together to sing this music we love in such a warm performance space,” said Hardy. “Though we all spent years in New York working in the theatre, we all had to move to Cincinnati to get to work together.”

The show itself will feature romantic golden age selections from composers Cole Porter and George Gershwin, and will also include songs from several productions currently on Broadway. According to production coordinators, the three performers are also going to be playing off of each other with frequent duets and trios, offering up humorous stories from their audition experiences, and share rare music from shows that never got past the developmental stage.

It’s a pleasure for me to get to work with them – as well as pianist Mark Femia – and rehearsals have been so much fun that it certainly doesn’t feel like work. “It will be an evening of diverse songs and stories with classics as well as newer material. The thing about great Broadway songs is that they never age; some of the older songs feel like the freshest.”

Broadway Veterans in Concert is a one night only performance, so be sure to get your tickets ($15 to $18) early by visiting The Carnegie Box Office (map) Tuesday through Friday from 12pm to 5pm, calling (859) 957-1940, or by ordering online.

Interior photo from The Carnegie taken by elycefeliz.


SCPA to feature young talent tomorrow at the Carnegie

The Carnegie Visual & Performing Arts Center hosts an evening to showcase budding local talent tomorrow, Thursday, January 21 at 7:30pm in the acoustically superb Otto M. Budig Theatre. The event will feature Cincinnati’s School of Creative & Performing Arts (SCPA) instrumental Jazz Combo, Meridian 8 vocal ensemble, and young composer and pianist Jonathan Carlisle. The event is the third in a series of six performances as part of the 2009-10 Carnegie in Concert series.

Meridian 8 is a vocal jazz octet featuring students in grades 9-12. Directed by SCPA music department chair Rick Hand, the ensemble features arrangements written for groups including Manhattan Transfer, and allows students opportunities to learn and practice improvisation and scat singing. The Jazz Combo is a similarly select ensemble of the school’s top instrumentalists, who cut their teeth on the masterpieces of the repertoire under director and respected local musician Erwin Stuckey.

SCPA pianist and composer Jonathan Carlisle will perform a number of original compositions. “It’s the type of music you hear in movies,” said Carlisle. “Strong melodies that you can really latch onto.” One piece Carlisle is particularly excited to perform at The Carnegie is entitled Metamorphosis. “It’s a dramatic piece about one thing evolving into another.”

Tickets to Carnegie in Concert performances are available for $18 at The Carnegie Box Office (Tuesday through Friday 12pm to 5pm), online, or by phone at (859) 957-1940. Students, holders of the Cincinnati Public Ratio Perks Card, members of the Carnegie, and members of Enjoy the Arts each receive a $3 discount.

Carnegie photo from CityBeat.


‘Spring Awakening’ Not Your Average High School Musical

Failure, young love, parental pressure, abortion, homosexuality, suicide, sex, abuse, repressed hormones, and getting kicked out of school. It’s not the description of the next hot reality show, it’s the plot line to an out of this world musical.

If overbearing divas with vibrato and too many jazz hands come to mind when you think of “musical theater,” the newest show of the Broadway Series at the Aronoff Center may cause you to reconsider your definition. Spring Awakening: A New Musical is actually a very old play and has won eight Tony Awards. Author and playwright Frank Wedekind wrote Spring Awakening in 1891, and the translated version serves as the basis for this emotion-charged musical that is more rock concert than Rogers and Hammerstein.

Spring Awakening follows the lives of teenagers in 19th Century Germany as they struggle with teenage angst and blossoming sexual desires in an intensely repressed society. Though the source material is over 100 years old, the feelings and emotions that are represented are universal and carry through to today.

Andy Mientus (Hanschen) explores his body [LEFT]. The girls sing about their repressed feelings surrounding their sexuality [RIGHT]. Photos provided.

Tony and Grammy award winner Duncan Sheik composed the music to accompany the storyline. His songs range from alterna-folk ballads to upbeat rockin’ numbers, all with lyrics that truly speak to the raw emotions experienced by the kids on stage. Instead of headset or lapel mikes, the actors whip out hand held microphones or belt the tunes from on stage. This unique choice makes for a great sound experience, since the soloists are well heard, and the group numbers blend together beautifully.

The set design by Christine Jones and lighting by Kevin Adams make for amazing visuals. The stage is set in a bare bones style that evokes an old German brick school, with actors rarely leaving the stage. Props on the wall and a dazzling array of lighting styles juxtapose the stark reality of the storyline with the neon emotions of the teenage mind. Some of the audience members actually sit on the stage, with cast members sitting next to them between songs… unless they’re running, jumping, rolling around on the floor, doing crazy hand motions, having sex, or flipping you off.

The majority of the cast is young – either just out of undergrad or even high school. Look out for Christy Altomare, who plays the female lead of Wendla. She is a graduate of University of Cincinnati’s CCM as of 2008, and brings a sense of innocence and a crystal clear singing voice to her role. Honestly, the entire cast is superb – their energy keeps the show flowing smoothly and they blend together as a group better than the kids on Glee. Other notable roles include Taylor Trensch as the uniquely coiffed Moritz, and Angela Reed and John Wojda who play all the adults in the show.

The adult themes within the show may not be appropriate for young children. So leave the eight year old at home, but if you’ve seen a Judd Apatow film (especially an unrated one), you’ve seen more risque material.

Spring Awakening is playing at the Aronoff Center for the Arts (map) now through Sunday, January 24. Tickets start at $20 and can be purchased online, by phone at (513) 621-2787, or in person at the Aronoff Center box office at 650 Walnut Street in downtown Cincinnati. Off-street automobile and bicycle parking is available and the Aronoff Center is well-serviced by Metro’s Government Square bus hub. To see which route is most convenient for you, and to plan your trip now, use Metro’s Trip Planner.

Arts & Entertainment News

Once Upon a Mattress a hit for the holidays

This weekend, Jersey Productions will run their final showings of Once Upon a Mattress. Tony nominated actress Pamela Myers plays the lead, Queen Aggravaine, and Kaitlin Becker perfectly plays the eccentric Princess Winnifred. Children and adults alike will love how well the young actors and actresses portraying a group of children listening to a story actually become involved in the musical numbers.

Tickets are still available for this weekend’s showings and can be purchased online, by calling (513) 621-2787, or by visiting the box office. Seeing the play will be the perfect end to a day of fun holiday activities downtown this weekend, including seeing the train display at the Cincinnati Gas and Electric Building, ice skating on Fountain Square, or bolstering the local economy by shopping in the Gateway Quarter.

The Aronoff Center for the Arts (map) is located in the heart of downtown Cincinnati’s Backstage Entertainment District. Off-street automobile and bicycle parking is available and the Aronoff Center is well-serviced by Metro’s Government Square bus hub. To see which route is most convenient for you, and to plan your trip now, use Metro’s Trip Planner.


Come get your wings at "It’s A Wonderful Life"

The holiday season brings with it a bevy of Christmas-related theater productions. From the Nutcracker to Miracle on 34th Street, we’ve seen these classics as many times as we’ve watched the Charlie Brown special on TV. They speak to us, and trigger memories of happy Christmases past.

However, if you’re looking to spice up your weekend with a new twist on an old favorite, you should definitely check out the Falcon Theater’s production of “It’s a Wonderful Life: the Live Radio Drama.” The tale of George Bailey from Bedford Falls takes on a whole new meaning when performed by 8 voice actors, 3 sound artists and 3 musicians. The talented cast of 13 people, along with director Michael Potter, transport the audience back to the 1940s and the Golden Age of Radio. The Falcon Theater is currently celebrating its 20th season, and has conducted a reprise season of all their favorite shows. “It’s a Wonderful Life” was originally performed last year, and was a shoo-in for the Falcon Christmas show.

It’s A Wonderful Life photos provided by Falcon Theater.

The actors and actresses in this show are not wearing character costumes. They stand at the microphone, scripts in hand, and weave the tale of discovering how wonderful life is using only their voice talents. It seems strange at first, but it is enthralling and interesting to watch as Nathan Ruggles switches “characters” from Old Man Potter to Uncle Billy and back again… all in the same scene! Watching the Foley sound artists (David Levy, Amber Potter, and sound apprentice Tyson Levy) make realistic sound effects using everyday objects is another treat as well.

From the moment the “On Air” light comes on until the announcer (Jim Bussy) signs off at the end of the night, radio magic is happening, and it is fantastic. If you close your eyes during the shoe, it is easy to imagine the sounds coming through the speaker of the old Atwater-Kent back at Grandma’s house.

Yes, going to see a Christmas Carol (again) this year will be fun, I’m sure. However, if you’re looking for a truly unique experience, don’t miss It’s A Wonderful Life, the Live Radio Drama. As an added bonus, UrbanCincy writer Jenny Kessler will be reprising her role as a Jingle Belle (commercial singer) – even more reason to go check it out!

“It’s a Wonderful Life: the Live Radio Broadcast” is playing the next two weekends (12/4-12/6 and 12/11-12/13) with Friday and Saturday performances at 8pm and Sunday matinees at 3pm. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students and seniors. The Falcon Theater is located at 636 Monmouth Street in Newport, KY (map). You can order tickets here or call the box office at (513) 479-6783.