Category Archives: Reviews

GEORGE REMUS, a New Musical Quick Review

GEORGE REMUS, a New Musical presented by The Carnegie through Aug. 28. I attended the opening Sunday performance. Please note that GEORGE REMUS, a New Musical is being done in rotation with INTO THE WOODS and RENT.

TC_George Remus1The Carnegie completes its summer theatrical hat-trick with the enjoyable staging of a new musical showcasing Cincinnati’s “King of the Bootleggers.”

Mike Sherman is excellent in the titular role, bringing a great balance of arrogance and charm to the character. Eliza Levy, who stood out in the ensemble of RENT, shines as Remus’ money-loving second wife, Imogene. Kate Mock Elliott makes some fun choices in her portrayal of Mabel Walker Willebrandt, the U.S. Assistant Attorney General doggedly pursuing Remus. From top to bottom, the cast boasts solid performances and strong vocals throughout.

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Tyler J. Martin as Franklin Dodge, Eliza Levy as Imogene Remus, and Michael Sherman as George Remus. Photo by Mikki Schaffner Photography.

The music and lyrics by Janet Yates Vogt & Mark Friedman are well-suited to the show and time-period. It would have been nice to have a number or two that more strongly integrated with the script to forward the action a bit more. “There Once Was a King” is pretty, but it and its variations became a bit repetitive for me.

The script by Joe McDonough is well-done and engaging, certainly piquing my interest in the character and his history. I did find it odd that Ned Gillespie’s fate was not mentioned in the final moments and, unable to find anything about him online I can only assume the character was created for the musical. If that is the case, I’m not sure his relationship subplot is worth the time it takes away from Remus’ story. Also if what I found online is correct, the changing of the confrontation in Eden Park doesn’t well-reflect the animosity between the George and Imogene.

Overall a strong and engaging look at one of Cincinnati’s most notorious criminals.

My rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Please note that tickets for GEORGE REMUS are selling extremely well and only four performances remain.

I’d also like to say congratulations to Theatre Director Maggie Perrino and everyone involved with The Carnegie’s Summer Series for their success on what is hopefully an inaugural repertory line-up. All three productions featured excellent casting with a super talented core of performers plus show specific-additions. Further scenic designer Tyler Gabbard should be praised for the ingenious versatility of his set design across all three shows.

Click here for more information on the production.

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SUNRISE COVEN presented by Know Theatre of Cincinnati through Aug. 28. I attended the opening night performance. 

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Denisa Dal Vera as Hallie, Julie Sonia Locker as Winter Moon & Ryan-Chavez Richmond as Ethan. Photo by Dan R Winters.jpg

Know Theatre kicks off their 25th anniversary season with a surprising and entertaining play SUNRISE COVEN.

Director Holly L. Derr shows a deft hand in managing the quirky but human characters that populate this small Texas town. The set design by Andrew Hungerford works well as the action switches between the hospital and the New Age shop, and serves as a great backdrop for the projected images. Stage manager Grace Wohlschlegel (from her tower at the back of the theater) and the cast handle the choreographed set changes well keep the show moving forward. Danielle Robison’s scenic artistry and prop work really do well in defining the two play spaces and the angel statue was hilarious.

The strong cast is led by Denise Del Vera as Hallie. I enjoyed the bite and weariness that she brought to the character. She easily conveys why the residents of this small Texas town have such an admiration for her and is believable in dealing with the unexpected road she finds her life going down.

Resa Mishina is a welcome newcomer to the Know stage as Annie who can barely contain her fan-girl excitement at meeting her medical idol, Hallie. Mishina brings a fun, barely contained energy to the role, but also handles the confrontation with Hallie well. There were a couple of times when Annie talked so fast that I had trouble understanding what was being said.

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Julie Sonia Locker as Winter Moon. Photo by Dan R Winters.jpg

Julie Locker has a nice energy in the role of witchy new age shop owner Winter Moon. I would have liked to have a seen a bit more passion in the defense of her beliefs as I didn’t feel she always believed what she was selling, so to speak.

Ryan-Chavez Richmond is enjoyable as Hallie’s literal partner in crime, Ethan. While his anger issues are addressed, for the most part Ethan seems to be on a pretty even keel for the most part. It would have been nice to see him struggle to contain that anger here and there, making his actual explosion a bit more logical. I also felt that Ethan and Hallie could have had a nice little emotional moment on their final exit from the shop.  

Michael Burnham was fun as Jax and his line upon being woken-up in the hospital brought back some fond memories of my dad. I enjoyed his performance, but he was a bit too soft-spoken that even in the third row I had to strain to catch some of his lines.

Overall, a quirky, smart, and fun production.

My rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Click here for more information on the production.

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James Christian Jr. as Tyrone, Kyndra Dyanne Jefferies as Rosa & Torie Wiggins as May. Photo by Kristie Rucker.

BOURBON AT THE BORDER presented by Falcon Theatre through Aug. 14. I attended the opening night performance. 

Torie Wiggins and Charlie Thompson’s performances in the second half of Act II are incredibly strong and emotionally raw. Unfortunately, the problematic script by Pearl Cleage takes an exposition-heavy, meandering route to get to this payoff. While it is understandable that events which have occurred in the past are recounted by the cast, even the current events take place “off-stage” resulting in the audience being told what happened rather than being shown.

The costume design by Tara Williams meets the demands of the script and the time-period, but the structure of the script causes several delays as the audience waits for costume changes.

The set design by Ted Weil works well for the most part although the upstage wall of the kitchen with its white cabinets and oven looks a bit too clean and modern for someone struggling financially.

The pacing could be tightened up a bit. Director Piper N. Davis has a tendency of clustering the cast together which makes the play area feel confined. There are times when the blocking becomes stagnant with actors sitting for extended periods of time. While this is an intimate show, it still needs to play beyond the front row of the audience.

Overall, a fine but flawed production.

My rating: 4.25 out of 5.

Click here for more information on the production.

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GREATER TUNA presented by Mitchell Squared Productions through July 31. I attended the opening night performance. 

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Mitchell Squared Productions was co-founded by best friends and long time acting partners Benjamin Mitchell (currently a BFA Music Theatre major at The Hartt School, University of Hartford) and Mitch Holland (a recent graduate from Webster Conservatory, Webster University with a BFA in Acting). GREATER TUNA is the group’s third production.

For me, GREATER TUNA requires a couple of elements to be truly successful. One is casting two actors who can convincingly handle the 20 characters than inhabit Tuna, Texas. Mitchell and Holland are up to that task, exhibiting strong, comic character work throughout. The other is the success of the lightning-fast costume changes. While the costumes worked well for the individual characters, some of the choices were not conducive to quick changes even with the valiant help of a backstage dresser. This caused the show to feel like individual vignettes instead of one flowing performance and many times reset the momentum with each new scene.

Director Jay Giffin makes good use of the play area and does well in establishing the relationships among the characters. Aside from the momentum issue, any further criticism is nit-picky, but hey: you invited me to come. 🙂

Sometimes with the use a Southern accents, there is a tendency to talk slowly and keep within a limited vocal range, making some of the characters monotonal. As a whole you could go bigger with most of the characters. For example, Reverend Spikes could be a bit more fire and brimstone; Bertha Bumiller could be more frazzled; and Stanley Bumiller could take a bigger victory lap.

Most of the props were pantomimed, so the choice to use several physical props was confusing. The pantomime would also work better with stronger and consistent choices as there were times I wasn’t exactly sure what was being conveyed. Stronger motivations on exits would also help.

Overall, an enjoyable visit with the crazy citizens of Tuna.

My rating: 4.25 out of 5.

Click here for more information on the production.

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THE BAND’S VISIT presented by Broadway in Cincinnati through July 24. I attended the opening night performance. 

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Janet Dacal and Sasson Gabay. Photo by Evan Zimmerman, MurphyMade.

The 2018 Tony Award Winner for Best Musical makes a one week visit to the Aronoff Center this week. This intimate story of connection has several funny and warm moments in the 90-minute intermission-less production.

The set design is clever. The use of turn tables keeps the action moving from scene to scene.

The pacing of the show is a little off. Too many pregnant pauses worked against the building of any kind of momentum.

Sound issues at the Aronoff on opening night is not anything new, and they are usually corrected quickly. Unfortunately, that was not the case this opening night. I struggled the entire show to understand what was being said due to the character’s heavy accents and the woefully under-amplified microphones. I overheard this complaint from multiple people in the exiting audience and have seen it online from people who attended opening night. I do expect this problem to be addressed for their remaining performances.

Overall, a frustrating experience.

My rating: 4.0 out of 5.

Click here for more information on the production.

RUSH JUST ANNOUNCED: Students, seniors, members of the military, teachers, and first responders with valid IDs can purchase up to two (2) tickets for all performances of The Band’s Visit running now through July 24 at 50% off current pricing. Available in-person while supplies last at the Aronoff Ticket Office only, 2 hours prior to the performance.

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