Have I got a show for you? Well, actually, I have a dozen that you should consider calling Cincinnati theater box offices right now so when the season is over you can smugly say, “Yeah, I caught that one — best thing all year!” I can’t tell you which one that will be, but I’ll narrow the field for you.
We’ll begin 2012 with a blast of new plays that you’re not likely to know, but you should make an effort to see. The Playhouse premieres a Cincinnati-centric script by Theresa Rebeck, a prolific playwright who grew up locally: Dead Accounts (Jan. 19-Feb. 11) revels in things Cincinnatians love — ice cream, chili and pizza, to name a few — while exploring the impact of the collapsing economy. Know Theatre’s Collapse (Feb. 4-March 3) has a whiff of such disasters, too, although the principal metaphor used by playwright Allison Moore is the collapse of an interstate highway bridge in Minneapolis in 2007. I’m also looking forward to The Whipping Man by Matthew Lopez at Ensemble Theatre (Jan. 19-Feb. 11), set just after the Civil War as slave and owner return to a ruined plantation with relationships wholly changed. ETC’s Time Stands Still (March 14-April 1), a 2010 drama and Tony nominee by Donald Margulies, is another likely hit.
I expect the hot ticket at Cincinnati Shakespeare this winter will be an adaptation of another of Jane Austen’s novels, Sense and Sensibility (Feb.
There will be lots of musicals in the months ahead. I should first point you to an astonishing lineup of works from the canon of musical theater legend Stephen Sondheim. A touring production of West Side Story (Feb. 28-March 11) will play at the Aronoff; Sondheim wrote the lyrics for the 1957 hit when he was just 26. At UC, the College-Conservatory of Music will present Into the Woods (Feb. 23-March 4). The show, Sondheim’s most frequently produced musical, is a mash-up of familiar fairytales. Aubrey Berg directs the same show that launched his tenure as CCM’s Patricia Corbett Musical Theater Chair back in 1992. Then the Playhouse presents Merrily We Roll Along (March 8-31), one of Sondheim’s few flops (in 1981). It will be brought back to life by director John Doyle, who staged Company for the Playhouse in 2007, a production that moved to Broadway and won a Tony Award.
Want more musicals? The Broadway Series brings recent hits to the Aronoff, including Billy Elliott (Jan. 18-29) and The Addams Family (March 27-April 8). Especially exciting should be the Off-Broadway hit Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (March 31-May 12). Know Theatre stages the local premiere of the Tony-nominated show that’s rooted in populist politics that sound surprisingly contemporary. Another must-see will be the Cincinnati Playhouse’s Thunder Knocking on the Door (April 26-May 20), a Blues musical about a guitar duel that premiered there a dozen years ago and comes back for the Playhouse’s final season under Ed Stern.
These recommendations are just the tip of the iceberg: I could add another dozen if space allowed. But I guarantee you won’t be disappointed by any of these. Happy theatergoing!
CONTACT RICK PENDER: firstname.lastname@example.org