I was out of town when MUSICAL OF MUSICALS: THE MUSICAL opened at the Cincinnati Playhouse last month; I finally saw it Dec. 8. (Tom McElfresh gave it an A in his CityBeat review.) There's been a significant cast change recently in this demanding show that cleverly re-tells the simple melodrama of the young woman who can't pay the rent, her evil landlord and her valiant hero in the style of various musical theater composers: The role of the ing´nue is now played by understudy MARGARET-ELLEN JEFFREYS, a member of the Playhouse's intern company. She's doing a great job of capturing the many musical styles, especially her funny take on Evita. In fact, if there hadn't been a note in the program, I would have assumed her to be a seasoned professional who's done this show before. She's holds her own with Joanne Bogart, the show's other female performer -- who is also its co-creator.
I don't normally suggest watching TV, but you really might want to tune to a PBS station on Wednesday at 9 p.m. for the series P.O.V. , presenting WRESTLING WITH ANGELS, a profile of playwright TONY KUSHNER by Oscar-winning director Frieda Lee Mock. Kushner wrote Caroline, or Change (recently offered by New Stage Collective) in addition to the Pulitzer Prize-winning Angels in America. Kushner is one of America's most respected contemporary playwrights, but he's also a fierce moral critic, an element often embedded in his scripts. …
Jersey Productions is back at the Otto M. Budig Theatre at Covington's Carnegie Center (1028 Scott Blvd.) with its final 2007 production, JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT, opening Friday (through Dec. 23). The 1968 work by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice is a tuneful but simplistic retelling of the story of Joseph, played by DAN DOCHERTY, and his envious brothers from the Old Testament book of Genesis. RICHARD AMELIUS, who played the Emcee in Jersey's 2006 staging of Cabaret, is making his directing debut with Jersey; it's the seventh time he's been worked on a production of Joseph. This should be a family-friendly outing with music and a story that kids will enjoy. Tickets: 859-957-1940. …
I was disappointed with Know Theatre's holiday show (see my review below), but I must commend the theater for its generosity: Following each performance, actors are collection donations for CARACOLE HOUSE, which offers affordable housing for adults with HIV/AIDS. It's a great cause.
CHRISTMAS.TO.COME is Know Theatre's version 2.0 of a contemporary retelling of A Christmas Carol. Last year's first stab, Christmas Yet To Come, was an amusing entertainment with a lot of contemporary references -- Scrooge's nephew was gay, for instance, and Christmas Present was a drag queen -- and some energetic dancing by Exhale Dance Tribe. This year's rendition drags in everything but the kitchen sink and ends up with a very mixed Christmas bag. The basic story remains, although Scrooge now deals with racial issues (African-American actors Derek Snow and Todd Patterson play him as an arrogant adult and his younger self), but we have so many extraneous themes, busy videos and overlong musical numbers that the two-hour performance feels much longer. There's an odd ballet of homeless people to "Reach Out and Touch Somebody's Hand" and too many supposedly humorous interjections featuring Vandit Bhatt as a "doctor" lecturing about guilt, love and so on in an exaggerated Indian accent. There's also lame humor from two grumpy old puppet geezers, modeled on Statler and Waldorf from The Muppet Show. Some of the music is pleasant: Molly Binder and Anthony Darnell offer a listenable duet of Ben Taylor's "Nothing I Can Do," and Anne Marie Carroll sings well as young Scrooge's love interest. But most of this show is disappointing, pretentious claptrap. Grade: C-
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