Category Archives: Reviews

BUDDY: The Buddy Holly Story Quick Review

BUDDY: The Buddy Holly Story presented by Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park through Feb. 16. I attended the opening night performance. 

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The Cast. Photo by Mikki Schaffner Photography.

“Your father would have loved this show.”

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Andy Christopher as Buddy Holly. Photo by Mikki Schaffner Photography.

This was one of the first things my Mom said to me following the opening night performance. My parents were slightly younger contemporaries of the bespectacled rock and roller. And I totally blame my father (or more specifically his singles record collection that I played through dozens of time as a child) and the family-watched TV show Sha Na Na (love you Pamela Myers) for my appreciation of ’50s and ’60s music.

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Ryan Jagru as Ritchie Valens.

Buddy Holly is “considered one of the most influential creative forces in early rock and roll.” Playhouse’s program features quotes from rock legends Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Elton John, Eric Clapton and Bruce Springsteen to name a few, about his impact on their music.

With its thin book, BUDDY is more tribute show than traditional jukebox musical. The story follows Holly’s struggle to have his music studio-recorded his way, to his groundbreaking performance at Harlem’s famed Apollo Theater, to his final Winter Dance Party Tour show in Clear Lake, Iowa before his tragic death at 22.

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Spiff Wiegand as Joe B. Mauldin & Andy Christopher as Buddy Holly. Photo by Mikki Schaffner Photography.

The cast consists of seven talented musicians and vocalists. Led by Andy Christopher in the title role (and serving as Music Director for the production) they rock the Marx Theatre, expertly performing more than 20 of Holly’s hits with great energy and showmanship that had the audience bobbing in their seats and clapping along.

A highly entertaining production for any Buddy Holly fan. Mom was right, Dad would have loved it.

There is a half-price special available for Tue-Fri and Sunday evening performances. Use promo code 2020fam at checkout, www.cincyplay.com/productions/buddy-the-buddy-holly-story.

My rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Click here for more information on the production.

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FORTUNE Quick Review

FORTUNE presented by Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati through Feb. 15. I attended the opening night performance. 

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Jeremy Dubin as Jeremy & Kelly Mengelkoch as Maude. Photo by Ryan Kurtz.

With Valentine’s day only a few weeks away, it’s not surprising to see a romantic comedy or two pop up on local stages. Such is the case with FORTUNE at ETC which features real life husband and wife Jeremy Dubin and Kelly Mengelkoch. As with any good rom-com, the story isn’t as much about “if” they will get together, but the journey of “how” they get together.

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Kelly Mengelkoch as Maude & Jeremy Dubin as Jeremy. Photo by Ryan Kurtz.

Under the direction of Brian Robertson, Dubin and Mengelkoch easily win over the audience as two lonely souls who can’t seem to get out of their own way to find happiness. Their chemistry together is readily apparent and very enjoyable to watch.

Brian c. Mehring’s detailed set design is divided into two play areas. Madame Rosa’s (Maude’s) aged, fortune-telling apartment beautifully appointed by Shannon Rae Lutz on stage right is opposed by a wonderful, visually deceptive promenade. Amanda McGee’s costume design nicely defines the characters and their various permutations as the story progresses.

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Jeremy Dubin as Jeremy & Kelly Mengelkoch as Maude. Photo by Ryan Kurtz.

On opening night, the first act was a little uneven as if the actors hadn’t fully found their footing. The second act built a good momentum, culminating in a satisfying conclusion. For me, there were moments when the silliness of the promenade scenes was pushed a little too hard. There was also an issue with the sound effects drowning out Madame Rosa’s first reading. These are minor complaints that I’m sure will quickly resolve themselves.

Overall a funny, enjoyable beginning to a love story, perfect for a date night.

My rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Click here for more information on the production.

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IN THE NIGHT TIME (BEFORE THE SUN RISES) Quick Review

IN THE NIGHT TIME (BEFORE THE SUN RISES) presented by Know Theatre of Cincinnati through Feb. 8. I attended the opening night performance. 

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Elizabeth Chinn Molloy as Woman & Brandon Burton as Man. Image by Dan R. Winters Photography.

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Brandon Burton as Man. Image by Dan R. Winters Photography.

For their first production of 2020, Know Theatre offers an intimate look at the trials and tribulations new parents can face with a newborn who doesn’t sleep through the night.

Brandon Burton and Elizabeth Chinn Molloy skillfully portray [Every] Man and Woman. The talented pair, under the smart and intricate direction of Brant Russell, give voice to the anxiety and fear I would expect most new, sleep-deprived parents experience.

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Elizabeth Chinn Molloy as Woman. Image by Dan R. Winters Photography.

The technical aspects of the show are well-done and work well together. Producing Artist Director Andrew Hungerford’s set design is smart and has some nice hidden elements that are exposed by his lighting design. Doug Borntrager’s sound design works very well and is integral to the story.

The non-traditional structure of the show was interesting, but for me it prevented the action from building any momentum or offering a strong over-arching story line. The numbered breaks between scenes reset the narrative a bit too much, giving it a repetitive voice. Thankfully the strong direction and acting kept me vested in the performance.

My rating: 4.25 out of 5.

Click here for more information on the production.

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JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT Quick Review

JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT presented by The Carnegie through Jan. 26. I attended the opening night performance. 

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For this season’s family friendly production, The Carnegie offers a colorful and lively production of JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT, a musical retelling of the Bible story, “The Coat of Many Colors.”

This production of the almost completely sung-through musical is strong on vocal talent across the board, led by the incomparable Tia Seay as the Narrator and Frankie Chuter in the title role. Director/choreographer Maggie Perrino keeps the energy high with tight pacing and enjoyable choreography. Great focus and supporting work by the teen ensemble and children’s choir.

A production of JOSEPH (directed by Maggie’s father) was the first musical I every worked on and the show has a special place in my heart. It was wonderful to revisit it and see a new generation experience it for the first time.

My rating: 4.25 out of 5.

Click here for more information on the production.

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THE LION KING Quick Review

THE LION KING presented by Broadway in Cincinnati through Feb. 2. I attended the opening Thursday night performance. 

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Gerald Ramsey as Mufasa. ©Disney. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Disney’s THE LION KING has been running on Broadway for over 22 years and touring since 2002. Based on the animated movie, Tony-award winning director and costume designer Julie Taymor’s imaginative and ground-breaking stage adaptation continues to enthrall audiences of all ages. Such was the case with last night’s fourth engagement at Cincinnati’s Aronoff Center.

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Spencer Plachy as Scar. Copyright Disney. Photo by Deenvan Meer.

Visually the show is stunning. The costumes, the masks, the puppetry, the sets…I think you get the idea. It is a theatrical experience like no other. The quality of the performances always impresses as these iconic roles continue to attract a cast of top notch performers.

My rating: 5 out of 5.

A note to parents: While the run time of the animated film is under 90 minutes, the stage adaption (with intermission) can come close to the three hour mark. Judge your children’s attention span accordingly.

Click here for more information on the production.

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