The CD, Les Mouches, is new (or at least newly released), but it's actually a compilation of recordings from 1980, when LuPone was making a big name for herself on Broadway in her first Tony Award-winning role as Evita. For 27 consecutive Saturday nights at midnight, she did a cabaret act at Les Mouches, a dinner club on 11th Avenue that seated around 500 people (and people stacked "four-deep in the bar," she says). Everyone who was anyone in the theater world — plus politicians, celebrities, singers and more — turned out for LuPone's energetic performances. I received a copy of the recording recently and had a chance to hear LuPone talk about it in a recent phone conversation.
She did the act, she says, because she wanted people to see she was not a blonde dictator but rather a "comic, brown-eyed brunette." Each Saturday night the show was taped, and LuPone had cassettes of each of them. These provided the raw material, now cleaned up and re-mastered for the new release. It's an eclectic array of material, from "I've Got Them Feelin' Too Good Today Blues" and Cole Porter's "Love for Sale" to "Meadowlark," a song from The Baker's Wife by Stephen Schwartz (a long time before Wicked; LuPone, who played the title role, took this song and made it a signature number) and Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man." Of course, Evita's ardent theme, "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" gets a powerful rendition, too.
"I'm a Rock & Roll wannabe," LuPone says. "These performances were pure, unadulterated joy -- there was a lot of whoopee going on."
Listening to the recordings today, LuPone says she'd like to tell herself to "calm down," but she loves the energy that comes through.
LuPone, who will be 60 next year, has continued to build her stellar reputation with subsequent Broadway roles — she was Mrs. Lovett in the acclaimed revival of Sweeney Todd, and she just won another Tony as Mama Rose in the award-winning revival of Gypsy — but she still likes to take on interesting projects and other kinds of music. She performed for a week at the Aronoff Center here a few years back with her one-woman revue, Matters of the Heart (a collection of romantic Rock and theater standards), and she's also released a collection of heart-rending torch songs, The Lady with the Torch.
If you'd like to get your hands on this recording, why not stop by Below Zero on Sunday evening? You'll get to hear a great show, support a worthy cause (the suggested donation at the door is $10) and maybe go home with a recording of a legendary cabaret performance. More information: 513-421-9376.
The American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) today announced six finalists for its Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award recognizing playwrights for the best scripts that premiered professionally outside of New York City during 2010. Among the finalists is The History of Invulnerability by David Bar Katz, a script that premiered in April 2010 at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.
Saturday evening was the final night of the 2010 Cincinnati Fringe Festival. At the closing party at Know Theatre’s Underground bar, three picks were announced. Fringe organizer Eric Vosmeier made the point that it’s not really about competition but rather to give Fringe artists who eke out meager paychecks based on attendance at their respective shows a bit of publicity to use as they travel on to the their next alternative theater showcase.
Based on voting by festivalgoers, the “Audience Pick of the Fringe” went to Serenity Fisher’s Sophie’s Dream, a romantic tale using Indie Rock-styled tunes that was produced by Tangled Leaves Theatre Collective from right here in Cincinnati.
OK, I can't see any theater in Cincinnati this weekend because I'm attending the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville, 100 miles down I-71. But if I were in town, I'd have to make some tough choices.
Because of a busy travel schedule, I missed the opening of Daddy-Long-Legs at the Cincinnati Playhouse, but everyone I've talked to has enjoyed it. CityBeat reviewer Tom McElfresh described it as " a two-performer evening of grace and delicacy that’s tuneful, true to the original and altogether satisfying."
I can't say that a musical based on the Adam Sandler film The Wedding Singer
is going to be either edifying or educational for a bunch of teens. But
I can assure you that the kids from all over the region involved in
Cincinnati Young People's Theatre, which opens its production of the
show tonight, will be having a blast at the Covedale Center for the
Performing Arts. I bet their good times with this goofy show will mean
contagious entertainment for everyone who shows up to see it. Whether
they're related to the kids or not! It's onstage through Aug. 5. Box
It appears that Cincinnati Shakespeare Company has a summertime hit on its hands with its very tongue-in-cheek staging of The Hound of the Baskervilles using three of its best actors. The show opened a week ago and there is so much demand for tickets that CSC has added matinee performances through the production's three-week run. Several performances have completely sold out. It's directed by Michael Evan Haney, associate artistic director at the Cincinnati Playhouse and one of our area's best at staging witty and complicated pieces — his Cincinnati Playhouse production of Around the World in Eighty Days was a big hit several seasons back (it used four actors) and it moved on to a well-received run in New York City. While Hound retells the well known Sherlock Holmes tale, it does it with actors in multiple roles (Jeremy Dubin, who portrays Holmes, for instance, also plays all the villains) and a lot of visual humor and slapstick physicality. Through Aug. 12. Box office: 513-381-2273.
Each week in Stage Door, Rick Pender offers theater tips for the weekend, often with a few pieces of theater news.
Your best bet for theater this weekend, based on several
enthusiastic recommendations, seems to be Daniel Beaty's one-man
performance at the Cincinnati Playhouse in Through the Night. Harper Lee gave it a Critic's Pick in her CityBeat
review this week, and the League of Cincinnati Theatres panel described
Beaty as a "brilliant showman and interpreter” whose “beautifully and
powerfully acted” performance “weaved in, out and through real people —
multifaceted people.” The show was praised as “moving and full of hope —
an evening of pure joy, celebration and a mournful reminder as well.” Through the Night
“shatters the stereotypes of the ‘African American’ plight and shows
beautifully that these predicaments and life choices are ‘human’ ones." I
caught a performance this week and found Beaty's ability to shift from
character to character quite astonishing — he plays six men and boys, as
well as numerous other figures in their lives, each well defined and
believable. It's a tour de force performance in the Shelterhouse,
presented simply with some projected images and nothing more, not even
costume changes. Box office: 513-421-3888.
College theater has good choices for you at both UC's College-Conservatory of Music and Northern Kentucky University. Each is presenting a classic, although from very different eras. NKU continues its run of You Can't Take It With You (through Sunday), a classic comedy by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart that won a Pulitzer Prize back in 1937. It's about a wacky family that marches to the beat of several different drummers and how their "normal" daughter and her boyfriend (the product of truly straitlaced parents) try to figure out how to make a relationship work in the midst of a lot of craziness. At CCM there's another form of craziness in Michael Burnham's staging of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, a tale of mistaken lovers and magical transformations. In both cases, there's a happy ending and most of the right people end up with suitable partners. Both shows are sure to offer offer a lot of laughs, as well as plenty of opportunities for young actors to take on entertaining roles. Either show should make for a fun outing that doesn't require much serious thought. CCM Box Office: 513-556-4183; NKU Box Office: 859-572-5464.
Finally, on Sunday night at 7:30 p.m. you have a very
special opportunity to see a brand-new musical as a work-in-progress at
the Carnegie Center in Covington. It's a one-night-only presentation of The Sandman, a creepy musical created by Cincinnati native and Cirque du Soleil
maestro Richard Oberacker and his creative partner Robert Taylor. Using
a wildly imaginative story by E.T.A. Hoffmann (the guy who wrote the
wildly imaginative story of battling mice and toys coming to life that
became The Nutcracker), Oberacker and Taylor have crafted a show
that's getting a workshop locally with some serious star power. Narrated
by Van Ackerman (who turned in a great performance as the Man in the
Chair in CMT's recent production of The Drowsy Chaperone), the
performance will feature Tony nominee (and early CCM grad) Pamela Myers,
always watchable Bruce Cromer (fresh off his powerful turn as Atticus
Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird at Cincy Shakes), Charlie Clark
and Sara Mackie. While it's a "reading," it will have sound effects and
some slide projections to set the eerie scene. You can call 859-957-1940 for tickets, or order them online at www.thecarnegie.com. General admission is $25 (theater professionals and students can get in for $15). Sounds like a don't miss event.
Work a little harder and see something unexpected. That's my theme for this weekend. Theater shouldn't always make you laugh or even smile. Sometimes a playwright sets out to make you uncomfortable or to portray characters who are thoroughly unlikeable. Harold Pinter (pictured) did that a generation ago, and Adam Rapp does it today. Pinter's Ashes to Ashes gets a quick production on Saturday and Sunday evenings at Hebrew Union College.
The 2009 Cincy Fringe Festival heads into its second week with high expectations.
"I've heard from a number of patrons that this is the strongest field of shows they've ever seen in at the Fringe, and we agree," Managing Director Eric Vosmeier reports. "Our attendance numbers are up, though it's difficult to say how much just yet."
I was at the Tuesday night opening of a one-week run of the tour of the 25th anniversary production of Les Misérables. You might be saying, “I’ve seen that before — more than once.” But this is a new version — no more turntable or pirouetting barricades. Now we have some startling video that let’s you see the rebellious students marching in the streets of Paris and Jean Valjean carrying Marius through the sewers. The tour has great voices in all the roles; the volume was amped up beyond my hearing threshold, but it’s a powerful show — after all these years. Through Sunday at the Aronoff Center. Tickets: 800-982-2787.
Here’s a tip if you want something that’s new(ish): The Light in the Piazza was a Tony Award winner in 2005, and it’s being staged by one of the most reliable community theaters in the Cincinnati area, Footlighters Inc., at its Stained Glass Theatre in Newport. It’s a romantic love story set in Italy in 1953, told with sophisticated music, sometimes operatic performances. In June 2006, just before it closed, it was broadcast on the PBS Live from Lincoln Center series, drawing more than two million viewers. That many can’t make it to Newport (it runs through May 19), but if you’re interested, Footlighters is offering a “buy one, get one” deal for its 2 p.m. matinee this Sunday, May 13. Tickets: 859-652-3849.
If you resonate with the Blues, I recommend that you head to the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park for Keith Glover’s Thunder Knocking on the Door. It’s a revival of sorts from 1999 — but thoroughly and creatively reimagined for the Eden Park’s last mainstage production of Ed Stern’s final season leading the Tony Award-winning theater. The musical — with emotional tunes mostly by Keb’ Mo’ — tells the story of the power of love, music and Blues guitar players. It’s presented with panache, including technology and design that are all about 2012. Through May 20. Box office: 513-421-3888.
The Doo-Wop silliness of The Marvelous Wonderettes, a hit from 2010 at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, is brought to life again with Life Could Be A Dream, Roger Bean’s sequel to the story of some bubbly girls who bond around teen hits from the ’50s and ’60s. This time it’s boys, and that’s most of the difference. As in the two Wonderette shows, Dream is shot through with adolescent angst, this time around a local radio station contest that could “make them famous.” It’s an excuse for two dozen tunes from the era, a familiar formula. But ETC’s talented cast makes it a lot of fun. (Through May 20.) Box office: 513-421-3555.
This weekend is your final chance to see Know Theatre’s production of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. (Final performance is Saturday.) It’s a youthful mix of political commentary, driving Rock, history, humor and sober observations about America’s seventh president — played as a Rock hero. I gave it a Critic’s Pick. Call the box office to see if there are any cancellations: 513-300-5669.
Each week in Stage Door, Rick Pender offers theater tips for the weekend, often with a few pieces of theater news.