ACE, the new musical by Cincinnati native Richard Oberacker, was presented at the Cincinnati Playhouse last fall with a cast including several graduates of UC's College-Conservatory of Music (CCM), where Oberacker was a drama major. (He's also a graduate of Turpin High School.) The show is about a young boy with a mother suffering from depression; Billy is visited in his dreams by a flying ace. Ace was a solid hit for the Playhouse, and now it's being presented for audiences in California at San Diego's legendary Old Globe, which has been a launching pad for several musicals that have moved on to Broadway. (Two recent productions following that path have been The Full Monty and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.) Ace is filling a slot vacated by another project, so it's not quite the same as a work in the theater's own development pipeline; nonetheless, it's a venue people look to for promising works.
I'm all for the more relaxed atmosphere that KNOW THEATRE OF CINCINNATI has created in its new venue at 1120 Jackson St. in Over-the-Rhine: Audience members are welcome (in fact, encouraged) to bring drinks and such into the theater. But I hope most apply more discretion than the person behind me during the Jan. 12 performance of Gompers (see review on page 43), apparently eating chips from a plastic bag. The crackling of the container and the crunching of the snack was distracting to people in several directions. This isn't a uniquely local phenomenon, by the way: On Jan. 5, The New York Times published a story entitled, "Noises Off: Playgoers Sip, Munch and Crunch." At the Walter Kerr Theatre, where 50 people were interviewed, only four thought food in the theater was a good idea. One person said, "I came to hear Christine Ebersole [in Grey Gardens], not a Skittles wrapper." Actress Patti LuPone asked, "Would you go to church and pull out a ham sandwich? I don't think so. Then why would you do it at the theater?" To which I can only say, "Amen." ...
Speaking of Broadway, if you need evidence of long-running shows' staying power, here's a note: Disney's THE LION KING, in its 10th year of performances, set a new box-office record at the Minskoff Theatre in late December, grossing close to $1.5 million. The touring version of the show could well establish some new records locally when it's presented at the Aronoff Center in a six-week engagement March 29-May 6. When Julie Taymor's award-winning musical (tunes by Elton John and others) ran here for two months in the spring of 2003, it was hard to get a ticket, so if you don't have one yet for the upcoming presentation you might think about getting one soon. 513-241-7469. ... In case you missed it in Ben Kaufman's media column a few weeks back, JERRY BERNS, an owner of the legendary 21 Club in New York City, died on Dec. 21 at the age of 99. He was the club's greeter for years, hosting presidents, movie stars and business executives. He had a Cincinnati theater connection: The native of New York City was an English major at UC (class of 1929; UC gave him an honorary degree in 1962) and served as The Cincinnati Enquirer's theater critic during the 1930s before returning in 1938 to work with his brother at the club. A bigger stage, I suppose.
contact rick Pender: rpender(at)citybeat.com