Category Archives: Reviews

MEAN GIRLS Quick Review

MEAN GIRLS presented by Broadway in Cincinnati through Nov. 17. I attended the opening night performance. 

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Danielle Wade as Cady Heron, Megan Masako Haley as Gretchen Wieners, Mariah Rose Faith as Regina George, Jonalyn Saxer as Karen Smith, Mary Kate Morrissey as Janis Sarkisian, and the National Touring Company. Credit: © 2019 Joan Marcus.

Interested in a more immersive experience? You can join cast members from MEAN GIRLS in a Broadway Weekends theater camp for adults.

The stage adaption of the movie MEAN GIRLS arrived Tuesday at the Aronoff Center for a two week stay.

The vocals of the leads are strong across the board and the ladies have some great belting solos. Danielle Wade is easily likable as fish out of water Cady. The titular “Mean Girls” play off of each other well: Mariah Rose Faith as queen bee Regina, Megan Masako Haley as desperate people-pleasing Gretchen, and Jonalyn Saxer as the extremely dim-witted Karen. Mary Kate Morrissey is solid as angst-ridden artist Janis.

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Eric Huffman as Damian Hubbard and the National Touring Company. Credit: © 2019 Joan Marcus

It is CCM-alum Eric Huffman though who steals the show as Damian. Serving as co-narrator, he establishes a great rapport with the audience and his enjoyment leading the production numbers is contagious.

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Gaelen Gilliland as Mrs. George and Danielle Wade as Cady Heron. © 2019 Joan Marcus

Special shout out to Gaelen Gilliland who displays great versatility and comic timing tackling three roles: both Cady’s and Regina’s mom as well as math teacher Ms. Norbury.

The choreography is high-energy and fun to watch with clever use of set pieces and props throughout. The support of talented ensemble is instrumental in setting the scene and keeping the pacing tight.

The LED walls of the set work very well and are used to great effect. They allow the location of the scene to change instantaneously when needed. At times they even trick the eye, making the exits disappear entirely. The brief delay to address a flooring issue for the safety of the cast was handled quickly and professionally.

While the show is very enjoyable, I never connected to the characters emotionally. The consequences of Cady’s actions are few and short lived. Forgiveness from those she wronged is nearly immediately and makes the final scenes of the show seemed rushed.

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The National Touring Company. Credit: © 2019 Joan Marcus

Overall a fun, colorful, and very enjoyable production.

My rating: 4.75 out of 5.

Click here for more information on the production.


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THE CAKE Quick Review

THE CAKE presented by Human Race Theatre Company through Nov. 17. I attended the opening Sunday matinee. 

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Laurie Carter Rose as Della.

Ripped from the headlines, “Bakery owner refuses to make wedding cake for same sex couple.”

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Laurie Carter Rose as Della and Tim Lile as Tim.

That in a nut shell is the plot behind THE CAKE running at Human Race Theatre Company. While Bekah Brunstetter’s script does not take sides or bring any new arguments to the table, it does humanize the situation by making one of the brides-to-be a returning hometown girl and the daughter of a lifetime friend to the shop owner.

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Claire Kennedy as Jen and Candice Handy as Macy.

Laurie Carter Rose plays North Carolina bakery owner Della. Avoiding the pitfall of making her a caricature, Rose’s Della has a wise mind, a loving heart, and a great sense of humor. Jen, played solidly by Claire Kennedy, is the hometown girl pursuing the wedding of her dreams, which includes a cake baked by her late mother’s friend. Macy is Jen’s partner, an intelligent and opinionated writer from NYC. Actress Candice Handy gives Macy an external, semi-sweet calmness that belies, and at times fails, to contain her true thoughts. Two take make for a cute and believable couple. Rounding out the cast is Tim Lile in a fun turn as Della’s put-upon blue-collar husband Tim.

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Candice Handy as Macy and Claire Kennedy as Jen.

Director Greg Hellems brings the characters’ humanity to the forefront, allowing their beliefs to be part of who they are, but not their defining trait. The show is well-paced and emphasizes the humor which allows the audience to connect to each person as an individual.

Scenic designer Dan Gray’s excellent two-sided rotating set is dominated on one side by Della’s bakery with the opposing side split between Della and Tim’s flower-infused bedroom and Macy and Jen’s generically appointed hotel room. Jessica Pitcairn’s costume designs are spot on for each character and neither bride’s wedding gown could be any more perfect.

A charming and entertaining intermission-less production which reminds us that not all disagreements need to be settled in the court room.

My rating: 4.25 out of 5.

Click here for more information on the production.


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PROOF Quick Review

PROOF presented by The Carnegie through Nov. 17. I attended the opening night performance. 


Katie Mitchell as Catherine & Allen R. Middleton as Robert. Mikki Schaffner Photography.


Kate Mock Elliott as Clair & Katie Mitchell as Catherine. Mikki Schaffner Photography.

Director Torie Wiggins deftly leads her small but strong cast through this enjoyable production. The relationships between the four characters are honest and well-defined. The cast: Katie Mitchell as Catherine, Kate Mock Elliott as Catherine’s older sister Clair, Allen R. Middleton as their father Robert and Jared Earland as Robert’s former student Hal are definitely up to the demands of David Auburn’s engaging script.

Designer Doug Stock’s set depicting the rear of the family home is visually impressive and completely believable from the audience. I did feel that an additional element to sit on or lean against could have given the director more options in the blocking. The solid, supporting work of the production team creates a near-perfect environment for this story to be told.


Jared Earland as Hal & Katie Mitchell as Catherine. Mikki Schaffner Photography.

My rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Click here for more information on the production.

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THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW presented by UC College-Conservatory of Music through Nov. 10. I attended the Saturday matinee performance. 

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Mikayla Renfrow as Janet, Ethan Zeph as Frank ‘N’ Furter & Jake Waford as Brad. Photo by Mark Lyons.

Director & choreographer Vincent DeGeorge breathes new life into the cult-classic musical, THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW.

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Sofie Flores as Magenta. Photo by Mark Lyons.

The show is uniquely staged on a play area that is reminiscent of a runway, with the audience seated along the length on opposing sides. Except for the movie theater marquee hanging over one end of the play area, the set is comprised of smartly designed rolling pieces, courtesy of scenic designer Joshua E. Gallagher.

The iconic characters receive updated looks thanks to Costume Designer Maddie Kevelson and Wig & Make-Up Designer Kelly Yurko. The ensemble (Phantoms) are dressed in all black and presented as genderqueer. The named characters have more modernized looks, but are still easily identifiable.

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Delaney Guyer as Columbia & Joseph (Hank) Von Kolnitz as Eddie. Photo by Mark Lyons.

The cast is very strong across the board in their performances and vocals. Ethan Zeph impresses with his command of the stage as Frank ‘N’ Furter. Music director Stephen Goers rocks out the score, doing double duty as keyboardist and conductor of the other five instrumentalists.

Overall a very enjoyable update to a show crossing into its fifties. Sadly this already extended run has pretty much SOLD OUT. Never hurts to contact the box office though.

My rating: 4.75 out of 5.

Click here for more information on the production.

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THE WIZARD OF OZ presented the Cincinnati Ballet runs through Nov. 3. I attended the Halloween evening performance. 

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Melissa Gelfin as Dorothy and the Munchkins.

In her curtain speech, Artistic Director Victoria Morgan described this production of THE WIZARD OF OZ as ballet meets Broadway. While the production values are easily equal to current touring Broadway productions, the dance artistry if always forefront in this wonderfully entertaining production for all ages.

The main characters are enchanting to watch as they perform choreographer Septime Webre’s amazing work: Melissa Gelfin as Dorothy, Sirui Liu as Aunt Em/Glinda, Maizyalet Velazquez as Miss Gulch/Wicked Witch of the West, Cervilio Miguel Amador as Hunk/Scarecrow, Taylor Carrasco as Hickory/Tin Man, Michael Mengden as Zeke/Lion and Luca De-Poli as Professor Marvel/Wizard of Oz. They are supported by an incredibly strong ensemble who make the bigger numbers a joy to watch. Toto is brought to amusing and scene-stealing (in a good way) life by puppeteer Sterling Manka.

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Cervilio Miguel Amador as the Scarecrow and the Yellow Brick Roadies.

Visually the show is stunning; from the limited pallet at the beginning of the show to the explosion of color when Dorothy opens the door to catch her first glimpse of the Land of Oz. The looks of the leading characters, while not traditional, are stunningly unique and readily identifiable. Liz Vandal’s imaginative costume designs make every scene memorable: the children’s grasshoppers in Munchkinland, the Yellow Brick Roadies, the citizens of the Emerald city, and the Winkies guard are just a few highlights.

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Taylor Carrasco as Tin Man, Cervilio Miguel Amador as Scarecrow, Sterling Manka as “Toto,” Melissa Gelfin as Dorothy & Michael Mengden as Lion in the Emerald City.

There is a great balance to the various elements of the show. The visual special effects, the flying of the multiple characters, the children’s ensemble, and even the humor are perfectly integrated into the production. None of these elements feel over-used or out of place.

Everything good thing you have heard about this production is true. As my guests remarked, this could easily have a return engagement in a couple of years and be just as successful.

Thank you for an unforgettable experience.

P.S. Where can I get a Toto puppet for Christmas? Asking for a friend… 

My rating: 5 out of 5.

Click here for more information on the production.

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