Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati

Theaters, Actors, Etc.

 
Matt Borgerding


ETC's D. Lynn Meyers at the CEAs in August. For the first time, the 2005 awards were presented in a ceremony dedicated exclusively to theater.



The 2005 CINCINNATI ENTERTAINMENT AWARDS on Aug. 26 offered firm evidence of Cincinnati's strong theater scene. In the ninth year of the CEAs, CityBeat separated the theatrical and musical celebration to create two events with more categories for recognition and more time for varied performances. ENSEMBLE THEATRE OF CINCINNATI (ETC) saw each of its 2004-2005 shows earn at least one nomination, for a total of 19, more than any other theater in town. (That included six of 12 nominations in the expanded CEA technical theater categories.) ETC's March 2005 production of I Am My Own Wife was recognized as Best Premiere, and Todd Almond (a past CEA winner for Hedwig and the Angry Inch) was honored for his multi-role work in the one-man show. CINCINNATI SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL (CSF) flexed its acting muscles with a powerful May 2005 production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, which earned CEAs for cast members AMY WARNER and CORINNE MOHLENHOFF and the ensemble, in addition to being named the season's outstanding theatrical production. BRUCE CROMER was another member of the Virginia Woolf ensemble, turning in a searing performance as George; at the end of the year, he took on another legendary role — that of Scrooge in the Cincinnati Playhouse's A Christmas Carol. Cromer played Bob Cratchit under Joneal Joplin's Scrooge for eight previous seasons. The CEAs also highlighted Chicago, CINCINNATI MUSIC THEATRE's outstanding community theater production, which earned awards for several cast members — and provided the CEA audience at CCM's Corbett Auditorium with two sparkling song-and-dance numbers.

Summer-time saw increased theater offerings, beginning with the second annual CINCINNATI FRINGE FESTIVAL in June — 130 performances on five stages, over a 12-day period.

The 2005 CINCINNATI ENTERTAINMENT AWARDS on Aug. 26 offered firm evidence of Cincinnati's strong theater scene. In the ninth year of the CEAs, CityBeat separated the theatrical and musical celebration to create two events with more categories for recognition and more time for varied performances. ENSEMBLE THEATRE OF CINCINNATI (ETC) saw each of its 2004-2005 shows earn at least one nomination, for a total of 19, more than any other theater in town. (That included six of 12 nominations in the expanded CEA technical theater categories.) ETC's March 2005 production of I Am My Own Wife was recognized as Best Premiere, and Todd Almond (a past CEA winner for Hedwig and the Angry Inch) was honored for his multi-role work in the one-man show. CINCINNATI SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL (CSF) flexed its acting muscles with a powerful May 2005 production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, which earned CEAs for cast members AMY WARNER and CORINNE MOHLENHOFF and the ensemble, in addition to being named the season's outstanding theatrical production. BRUCE CROMER was another member of the Virginia Woolf ensemble, turning in a searing performance as George; at the end of the year, he took on another legendary role — that of Scrooge in the Cincinnati Playhouse's A Christmas Carol. Cromer played Bob Cratchit under Joneal Joplin's Scrooge for eight previous seasons. The CEAs also highlighted Chicago, CINCINNATI MUSIC THEATRE's outstanding community theater production, which earned awards for several cast members — and provided the CEA audience at CCM's Corbett Auditorium with two sparkling song-and-dance numbers. ...

Summer-time saw increased theater offerings, beginning with the second annual CINCINNATI FRINGE FESTIVAL in June — 130 performances on five stages, over a 12-day period. Outstanding Fringe works included A/The Postmodern Love Story by Blue Forms Theatre Group from Columbus and the musical revue Don't Look Down, created by 2005 CCM grad Adam Wagner, both of which earned CEA nominations in a new category, "alternative productions." (Don't Look Down was the winner.) Another "alternative" nominee was from the KNOW THEATRE TRIBE, which finds creative locations for shows beyond its home base at Gabriel's Corner in Over-the-Rhine: Know produced Conor McPherson's 70-minute monologue, The Good Thief, at Mount Adams Bar & Grill, featuring former CSF regular Nick Rose. Also identifying a new performance venue was NEW STAGE COLLECTIVE, which offered summer productions at the below-street-level black box theater at the new CAC — a well-acted absurdist piece, Kimberly Akimbo, and a technologically sophisticated staging of Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George, a 1984 Pulitzer Prize winner never before staged in Cincinnati. ...

Productions that surprised me during 2005 included Know Theatre's Streamers by David Rabe, a Vietnam-era play about racial tensions between soldiers waiting to be shipped out (the claustrophobic basement performance space at Gabriel's Corner made it work); ETC's Bowling Alone, a "dramedy" about a disintegrating family (made believable by actress Sherman Fracher as the alcoholic mother and a strong supporting cast); CSF's Titus Andronicus, a seldom-staged play by Shakespeare that's the Elizabethan equivalent of a slasher film (CSF played it for thrills and made it work); and Know Theatre's tick, tick ... Boom!, a small-cast musical by Rent's Jonathan Larson (the show connected with young audiences for an extended run in November). ...

Based on noteworthy work during 2005, I'd recommend keeping an eye on MOLLY BINDER, who's kept audiences laughing at New Edgecliff Theatre (Lives of the Saints) and Know Theatre (playing Ben Affleck in Matt & Ben); HAYLEY CLARK, a member of CSF's Young Company, who played a breathless Emily in Our Town, the horrifyingly abused Lavinia in Titus Andronicus and a disdainful French maid in Private Lives; and SARAH BRANDON, who held her own with veteran professionals playing the title role in ETC's holiday musical Cinderella. ...

The year seemed to pick up the pace of grads from UC's COLLEGE-CONSERVATORY OF MUSIC landing roles in Broadway shows: On three trips to New York City during 2005, I saw 10 shows — seven featured CCM grads in significant roles. (To name four: AARON LAZAR has stepped into the young male lead in The Light in the Piazza, winner of the 2005 Tony for Best Musical; SARA GETTELFINGER is a standout in a featured role in the new hit, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels; ASHLEY BROWN, a 2004 grad, took over the role of Belle in the long-running Beauty and the Beast; and June grad BEN MAGNUSON is in the remarkable revival of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd as half of a pair of cello-playing lovers.) And there's more on the way, based on CCM's much praised fall 2005 musical Crazy for You with JOE MEDEIROS and SAVANNAH M. WISE, who already have Broadway credits (Medeiros was in Big; Wise was a young Cosette in Les Misérables). ...

I found the CINCINNATI PLAYHOUSE's early 2005 to be disappointing: The audience-pleasing Bad Dates didn't make it for me, and the Mickey Kaplan New Play Prize winner, John Yearley's Leap, stumbled with a muddy plot about getting lost on 9/11. Only the intimate musical about divorce, The Last Five Years, really showed what the Playhouse can do. But Producing Artistic Director Ed Stern pulled out the stops for his fall season with two divergent musical works (Sondheim's A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Randal Myler's Love, Janis) — with more to come after the first of the year.

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