Category Archives: Reviews

VIOLET Quick Review

VIOLET presented by NKU School of the Arts through Oct. 2. I attended the closing Wednesday night performance. 

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Let’s cut to the chase: NKU School of the Arts is currently presenting an impressive production of VIOLET.

Vocally the show is excellent with powerful solos from Jeremiah Savon Jackson (Flick), Yolee Louis (Almeta), Chloe Hedrick (Music Hall Singer), and Chloe Esmeier (the Violet understudy in the title role for this performance). The harmonies were beautiful.

I also enjoyed the excellent character work by Hailey Watson (Young Vi), Rachel Gardner (Old Lady), Sylas Craven (Preacher), and Tre Taylor (Virgil).

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Hailey Watson as Young Vi & Trey Finkenstead as Father.

Both Chris Monell (Monty) and Trey Finkenstead (Father) created solid, believable characters and handled their songs very well.

The orchestra, under the leadership of Scot Buzza, sounded great and were hot miked. Thankfully, so were the actors so I could hear well when there were one or two vocalists. In the group numbers, there were times when the combination caused the lyrics to get muddy.

Director Jamey Strawn keeps the action clear and easy to follow as the story takes us to various locations and back and forth in time. The set design worked well and set changes were made with efficiency and never drew my focus.

Overall, an impressive, smartly presented, not often produced musical that my guest and I thoroughly enjoyed.

My rating: 4.75 out of 5.

Click here for more information on the production.

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it’s not a trip, it’s a journey Quick Review

it’s not a trip, it’s a journey presented by Know Theatre of Cincinnati through Oct. 9. I attended the opening Saturday night performance. 

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Angelique Archer as Frankie, A.J. Baldwin as Rain, Ariel Mary Ann as Willie, & Jasimine Bouldin as June. Photo by Dan. R. Winters.

Director Daryl Harris smartly leads a quartet of charismatic young women on this tale of a life-changing journey to the Grand Canyon.

I enjoyed the short pre-show that introduces the four characters via a signature song and dance, choreographed by Kim Popa. Make sure you are in your seats before show time.

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A.J. Baldwin as Rain & Jasimine Bouldin as June. Photo by Dan. R. Winters.

I found Jasimine Bouldin’s performance as June to be completely engaging. The actress’ expressive face and emotional beats well defined her character. AJ Baldwin is strong as the emotionally troubled Rain and her relationships with the other characters are nicely established. As Frankie, Angelique Archer brings the attitude and is believable as the cracks in her armor begin to show. Ariel Mary Ann has several nice moments as Willie. I would encourage you to tie your blocking to your lines as a few times you seemed to plant your body before speaking. And always remember to breathe.

The projections work well in establishing location and the overall progress of their trip.

The structure of the show is almost a series of vignettes as the action switches between the car and their various stops along the way. This does result in a start and stop quality that affects the energy and pacing between scenes, particularly when the four chair “car” is struck and reset. Perhaps if the chairs were on a truck it would help with the flow.

Overall, a fun, sassy and emotionally-fulfilling road trip.

My rating: 4.25 out of 5.

Click here for more information on the production.

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THE HALF-LIFE OF MARIE CURIE Quick Review

THE HALF-LIFE OF MARIE CURIE presented by Falcon Theatre through Oct. 8. I attended the opening night performance. 

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Tracy Schoster as Heartha Ayrton & Tara Williams as Marie Curie.

Falcon Theatre kicks off their season with a work by the prolific and oft-produced playwright Lauren Gunderson. This two-person show features Tara Williams as the titular character and Tracy Schoster as fellow scientist and friend, Heartha Ayrton.

The two have an easy chemistry and their personal years-long friendship serves their onstage relationship well as Heartha rushes to her friend’s side during one of the darkest times in Curie’s life. With Ayrton having the stronger personality, I did feel there were times, particularly in their first scene together, where she was talking “at” instead of “to” her friend. I’m all about the snark, but the tone could have been lightened here and there.

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Tara Williams as Marie Curie.

There were times when the blocking became a bit stagnant with extended periods of sitting, especially in the first scene that was confined to a small play space.

Of the Gunderson plays I have seen, this script lacks the depth I am used to finding in her other works. Perhaps it is because this is a commissioned work and was not created as organically. With only two characters, aside from a well-acted disagreement halfway through the performance, there is little conflict between the two, resulting in grievances aired against those not present.

A couple of choices did impact my ability to be pulled into the story. While I’m not expecting expensive and elaborate time-period appropriate costumes, Ayrton’s styling and costume seem to be decades outside of the time frame of the play. I also question the decision to forego the use of accents. In this day of representation, it seems ill-advised to eliminate an integral part of each character’s identity, in a way “Americanizing” their story.

Overall, an interesting, solidly performed, but at times flawed, look at two turn-of-the-century scientific pioneers.

My rating: 4.25 out of 5.

Click here for more information on the production.

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SWEAT Quick Review

SWEAT presented by Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati through Oct. 9. I attended the opening night performance. 

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Burgess C. Byrd as Cynthia, Mierka “Mookie” Girten as Tracey, Ollie Corchado as Oscar, and Allen R. Middleton as Stan. Photo by Ryan Kurtz.

It is not very often I leave a theatre as energized as I did last night’s opening at ETC. SWEAT is simply damn good theatre.

The foundation is the excellent, Pulitzer prize-winning script by Lynn Nottage (Intimate Apparel and Fabulation, or the Re-Education of Undine), giving face and voice to the blue-collar workers impacted by America’s economic decline.

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Burgess C. Byrd as Cynthia and Mierka “Mookie” Girten as Tracey. Photo by Ryan Kurtz

The characters are believable, easily relatable, and played brilliantly by the near-perfect ensemble. While the dialogue is very conversational, the performances and pacing easily draw you into the story. Director Darnell Pierre Benjamin takes full advantage of his cast and set, expertly using both to bring this story to the stage.

The set is amazing and so realistic looking that you believe you in a bar, allowing the audience to effortlessly be transported into the story. Excellent work by Brian c. Mehring (set and lighting designer), Shannon Rae Lutz (properties curator/design assistant), and Rae Kuhn (scenic charge/production assistant). The costumes by Jerrilyn Lanier Duckworth are well-suited to the characters and the time period.

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Charlie Cromer as Jason, Allen R. Middleton as Stan, and Jay Wade as Chris. Photo by Ryan Kurtz

I do want to circle back around and again praise the cast as a whole (Burgess C. Byrd as Cynthia, Ollie Corchado as Oscar, Charlie Cromer as Jason, Denise Dal Vera as Jessie, Mierka Girten as Tracey, Allen R. Middleton as Stan, “ranney” as Brucie, Derek Snow as Evan & Jay Wade as Chris). There are so many little moments by and between the characters that make SWEAT such a rich experience.

Overall, ETC’s production of SWEAT needs to be seen and will easily stand as one of the best productions of the 2022-2023 season.

My rating: 5.0 out of 5.

Click here for more information on the production.

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HAMILTON Quick Review

HAMILTON presented by Broadway in Cincinnati through Oct. 2. I attended the opening Wednesday performance. 

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Angelica National Tour Company. Photo by Joan Marcus.

In case you somehow haven’t heard, HAMILTON makes its sophomore stop in Cincinnati for four weeks at the Aronoff Center.

For those who have not seen it yet, HAMILTON is a juggernaut of a show from the opening note to its final gasp. For the performance I attended, several roles shifted to stand-bys and swings, which is always exciting to experience.

This was my second time seeing it on stage and I enjoyed having the opportunity to focus a bit more on the big picture; seeing how all the elements (set, lights, costumes, blocking and choreography) compliment each other so well. Even the precise use of the turntable is incredibly intricate and adds so much visually to the production.

Edred Utomi is very enjoyable in the title role, bringing a great energy to the youthful man we meet in act I and a grounded yet somewhat world-weary older version in act II. There were times I struggled hearing his lighter singing voice. Also strong was Neptune in the role of George Washington. Zoe Jensen is wonderful in her portrayal of Eliza Hamilton. Her vocals in “Burn” and the “Finale” were strong and emotionally moving. Yana Peffault impresses with her smoky, sultry vocals as Maria Reynolds. A special shout-out to the incredibly hard working and talented members of the ensemble that serve as the foundation of this show.

Overall, the production is stunning: in content, in talent and in presentation. The staging and choreography breaks convention and is engrossing for the same reason. Truly a unique show.

My rating: 4.75 out of 5.

Click here for more information on the production.

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