Expectations Of Christmas

Theaters, Actors, Etc.

 
Sandy Underwood


Alex Dittmer and Ann Marie Siegwarth perform in Alice in Wonderland at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park



If you're looking for an event that will put you in the holiday spirit and support a worthy cause (Tender Mercies in Over-the-Rhine), you should stop by Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati on Monday evening. They take advantage of a night off from Cinderella (see mini-review below) to present EXPECTATIONS OF CHRISTMAS, a special holiday show performed by members of the ETC "family." The script, written and compiled by D. Lynn Meyers, also features original music by David Kisor. It's a lovely smattering of facts, stories and songs of the season, including a story about Hanukkah from a Jewish girl whose birthday falls on Christmas Eve. "We promise you a heartwarming evening," Meyers says, "a good time for a good cause." Tickets ($10): 513-421-3555.

Most of the holiday shows are up and running, but there's one more for kids that's just getting underway: The Playhouse in the Park's Rosenthal Next Generation Theatre Series for children is offering ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND, adapted from Lewis Carroll's classic by Deborah Lynn Frockt. Recommended for ages 4 and up, the show begins Tuesday. (Performances are offered through Dec. 23 and again Dec. 26-30.) This one is a bargain: $5 for kids ages 4-18, and just $6 for adults.

If you're looking for an event that will put you in the holiday spirit and support a worthy cause (Tender Mercies in Over-the-Rhine), you should stop by Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati on Monday evening. They take advantage of a night off from Cinderella (see mini-review below) to present EXPECTATIONS OF CHRISTMAS, a special holiday show performed by members of the ETC "family." The script, written and compiled by D. Lynn Meyers, also features original music by David Kisor. It's a lovely smattering of facts, stories and songs of the season, including a story about Hanukkah from a Jewish girl whose birthday falls on Christmas Eve. "We promise you a heartwarming evening," Meyers says, "a good time for a good cause." Tickets ($10): 513-421-3555. ...

Most of the holiday shows are up and running, but there's one more for kids that's just getting underway: The Playhouse in the Park's Rosenthal Next Generation Theatre Series for children is offering ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND, adapted from Lewis Carroll's classic by Deborah Lynn Frockt. Recommended for ages 4 and up, the show begins Tuesday. (Performances are offered through Dec. 23 and again Dec. 26-30.) This one is a bargain: $5 for kids ages 4-18, and just $6 for adults. The production features the Playhouse's Skilken/Brown Touring Company, which tours productions to area schools throughout the year. Tickets: 513-421-3888.

MINI REVIEWS
Area residents will no doubt flock to the Aronoff Center for the rest of the month to see THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (onstage through Jan. 1). And with good reason: It's a spectacular show, the impetus back in 1988 for the extravagant special effects now routine in many Broadway and touring productions. From the stunning changeover of the musty stage in 1911 to the grandeur of the 1881 Paris Opera House to the catacombs with a gondola and a sea of candles to the chandelier that ascends during the overture and crashes to the stage for the Act 1 finale, it's easy to see why audiences love to watch. But look too at the vast array of glorious costumes and at the re-creations (even though a bit tongue in cheek) of elaborate 19th-century operas for some of this show's best moments. The touring production has a solid cast — Gary Maurer sings the Phantom with passion, Marie Danvers is sweetly naive as Christine and John Cudia is hunky Raoul — and the character roles are especially fun to watch, providing some relief from the maudlin melodrama and Andrew Lloyd Webber's repetitive melodies. I'm always amused by the new opera house owners (played here by David Cryer and D. C. Anderson) and Carlotta, the usurped diva (Kim Stengel nails this funny role). I'd prefer an orchestra with synthesized sound (there are three keyboard/synthesizer players plus 11 other musicians), but that's the reality of touring shows these days. Phantom is still running on Broadway after 17 years — and you can see why right here in Cincinnati during December. (Rick Pender) Grade: B

Local performers enliven Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati's CINDERELLA, a holiday musical based on fairytales. The show uses veteran performers (Tony nominee Pam Myers is shrieking stepmother Brunhilda; CEA winner Sherman Fracher is one of the ditzy stepsisters) and ETC interns, including Sarah Brandon as a smart, non-girly Cinderella and Adam Slemon is the introverted Prince Frederick. Their courtship is charming, not precious or sappy. Cinderella's message — that "appearances aren't everything"— is neither patronizing nor silly. With D. Lynn Meyers' swift direction, ETC offers the best show of the holiday season for young audiences. (RP) Grade: A

For decidedly adult audiences, the choice is the Know Theatre Tribe's THE EIGHT: REINDEER MONOLOGUES, a set of eight confessional speeches by Santa's reindeer, offering their own stories and views as to whether the Jolly Old Elf has been misbehaving. The sardonic news is enough to sour your eggnog and curl your tinsel. Director Alan Patrick Kenny has energized the dark script with inventive video (created by Luke Brockmeier) that satirizes reality TV shows. Watching Monologues is like downing shots: They burn and make you gasp, but there's a kind of adult satisfaction. (RP) Grade: B

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