Here's a factoid for April 19, 2001: "After decades of fans wondering if Broadway musicals were dead ... The Producers arrived on Broadway and proved that musical comedy can still (a) be a huge hit and (b) achieve artistic and critical success." I've been perusing JOE STOLLENWERK's new book, TODAY IN HISTORY: MUSICALS (Emmis Books, $14.95). It's a daily dose of stage and screen trivia for lovers of everything from The Sound of Music to Bring in Da Noise/Bring in Da Funk. Stollenwerk, an actor, singer, director, writer and longtime fan of musical theater, has been the artistic director of OVATION THEATRE COMPANY for its eight seasons. He'll be out promoting his book in May and June. Adding to his busy schedule, he's staging Ovation's upcoming production of Lillian Hellman's classic drama, The Little Foxes (presented at the Aronoff Center's "black box," the Fifth Third Bank Theater, April 28-May 6). Info: 513-621-2787.
As previously noted in this column, Stollenwerk is stepping aside as Ovation's artistic director. ALANA GHENT, an assistant professor of drama at Thomas More College in Crestview Hills, Ky., is taking over.
Here's a factoid for April 19, 2001: "After decades of fans wondering if Broadway musicals were dead ... The Producers arrived on Broadway and proved that musical comedy can still (a) be a huge hit and (b) achieve artistic and critical success." I've been perusing JOE STOLLENWERK's new book, TODAY IN HISTORY: MUSICALS (Emmis Books, $14.95).
As previously noted in this column, Stollenwerk is stepping aside as Ovation's artistic director. ALANA GHENT, an assistant professor of drama at Thomas More College in Crestview Hills, Ky., is taking over. She appeared in Ovation's 2005 production of The Water Children. The actress, director and fight choreographer earned her M.F.A. in theater and directing from the University of Mississippi; she was staging shows at an early age: "It was Snow White at my birthday party," she laughs. "The guests were treated to cake and performance. Naturally, I played Snow White." Stollenwerk observes that Ovation has increased its annual budget from $50,000 to $95,000 while retiring an accumulated debt; he plans to remain closely involved. While the group hasn't nailed down the rights for all its 2006-2007 shows, it's seriously considering Paul Rudnick's Valhalla, William Gibson's The Miracle Worker, Jeffrey Hatcher's adaptation of Mitch Alborn's best-selling memoir, Tuesdays with Morrie, and Tom Stoppard's short comic play from 1962, The Real Inspector Hound. Shows will be staged at the Aronoff Center, some in the Fifth Third Bank Theater and perhaps one in the larger Jarson-Kaplan. ...
A year ago student director MATTHEW NEAL got some people in Dayton riled up with his Wright State University production of Doug Wright's Quills (about the Marquis de Sade -- including some frontal nudity). The production became a cause célèbre when the university tried to shut it down. The show went on and sparked a lot of worthwhile conversation. Neal is back this spring, again testing the acceptance of adult material: This time it's Patrick Marber's CLOSER presented by the Union Activities Board Friday-Saturday at 8 p.m. This play, about unfaithful relationships and lying, was turned into a powerful and disturbing 2004 film with Natalie Portman, Julia Roberts, Jude Law and Clive Owen. Tickets (free, but reservations are available as seating is limited): 513-227-7240
Queen City Off-Broadway has shown increasing audacity with its productions at the Cincinnati Artists Warehouse (4011 Hamilton Ave., Northside), but staging Theresa Rebeck and Alexandra Gersten-Vassilaros' OMNIUM GATHERUM is by far the most challenging they've undertaken. The 2003 Humana Festival hit is a complex reaction to Sept. 11, an allegory in the form of a dinner party with a startling cross-section of attitudes, from conservative to liberal, from spiritual to crass, from pragmatic to idealistic -- hosted by a Martha Stewart clone named Suzy (Constance Brenneman) who never lets a tense moment go by without a banal remark. She invites a terrorist (Jeff Shelby) as a special dinner guest; when things get out of hand, she observes, "OK, that was not as much fun as I thought it would be." It's comedy with a profound socio-political undercurrent. QCOB's low-budget production is inventively staged with a solid cast; I wish the acoustics were better, but if you like provocative theater, you should catch this one, running through Sunday. (And don't miss local singer Tracy Walker playing a woman who can't sing -- warbling "The Greatest Love." A great bit.) (Rick Pender) Grade: B