Five Summer Theater Performances Not to Miss

Our local theater world's version of summer blockbusters.

1. Big River

Could there be a more perfect venue than the Showboat Majestic for Big River, the musical based on Mark Twain’s greatest novel, Huckleberry Finn? With a country-fried score by Roger Miller that’s as tuneful as it is heartfelt, this show tells the story of the irrepressible Huck and his friend Jim, a runaway slave, who are striving to escape to freedom at the mouth of the Ohio River. Their adventures and shenanigans translate into a wonderfully theatrical celebration of Americana, perfect for midsummer. July 10-28. $20. 435 E. Mehring Way, Public Landing, Downtown, 513-241-6550,

2. Love/Stories (or But You Will Get Used to It)

Whether or not you know the name Itamar Moses, you might be aware of TV shows he’s had his hand in writing, from the Prohibition era drama Boardwalk Empire to the contemporary FX series Men of a Certain Age. One of Cincinnati’s freshest young up-and-coming companies, Untethered Theater, will present Moses’ Love/Stories (or But You Will Get Used to It) in July. It’s a postmodern quintet of humorous one-act pieces about broken hearts and the hope that springs eternal, as well as explorations of the challenges of playwriting. Untethered produces shows in the intimate Clifton Performance Theatre in the Gaslight District. July 12-27. $15 advance, $18 door. 404 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, 513-939-0599, 

3. The 39 Steps

Last summer, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company had a big hit on its hands with a very tongue-in-cheek production of the Sherlock Holmes mystery The Hound of the Baskervilles. (In fact, the three-man show did so well it’s receiving an encore this month, June 7-30.) In the same vein is Patrick Barlow’s hilarious adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film The 39 Steps. Four actors rocket through 150 roles in a madcap melodrama that involves espionage and murder — with a giant twist of silliness (and puns on other Hitchcock films). The show won the 2008 Tony Award for Broadway’s best play. July 19-Aug. 11. $22-$35. 719 Race St., Downtown, 513-381-2273,

4. True Crime

Most of us are suckers for true stories from other people, especially when they’re told with complete honesty. True Theatre, the brainchild of Jeff Groh and Dave Levy, presents quarterly evenings of monologues on a preconceived topic, typically featuring five everyday people who deliver accounts of personal experiences, using no notes. For the July 29 event at Know Theatre in Over-the-Rhine, the theme is True Crime, and you can be sure there will be some confessions, revelations and a lot of laughter. 7:30 p.m. $15. 1120 Jackson St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-300-5669,

5. Chicago

You will find “all that Jazz” sizzling at The Carnegie in Covington in the midst of August heat. That’s because John Kander and Fred Ebb’s award-winning musical Chicago (now Broadway’s longest-running American show) will be onstage at the Carnegie’s Otto M. Budig Theatre. Local theater veterans Ed Cohen and Dee Anne Bryll, who know a thing or two about making musicals entertaining, will stage the tale of criminal justice and celebrity journalism. The production will feature choreography by Broadway veteran and Cincinnati native David Baum. Weekends Aug. 10-25. $19-$26. 1028 Scott. Blvd., Covington, 859-957-1940,