incinnati’s theaters get down to business in September, launching their seasons with shows carefully chosen for audience appeal. They start with appealing shows to encourage you to buy a subscription and come back for more. That’s a great idea, but it’s also a commitment to several nights at one specific theater. Of course, you can subscribe for fewer shows or buy “flex passes,” discounted tickets that can be used one at a time or all at once. These are good options, but if you seriously love a particular kind of theater, another way to go is to assemble your own subscription — focused on what you like.
Here are three categories designed to satisfy different tastes: theatergoers who love musicals, those who yearn for the classics and anyone with a taste for new plays. Since this is CityBeat’s fall preview, these are shows you can catch before the holidays. Most theaters start selling single tickets in September, so you can order yours early. Or wait and read CityBeat reviews as theaters put productions onstage. But a word of warning: A hot ticket or a short run can mean tickets will be scarce, so it’s a smart to plan ahead. Here are some good bets.
Singin’ on the stage
This fall’s big musical attraction will be the Cincinnati Playhouse’s mainstage production of Kander and Ebb’s 1967 Tony Award winner, Cabaret (Oct. 19-Nov. 16). Our city’s renowned regional theater only occasionally stages musicals, but it always does them justice. The tale of singer Sally Bowles at the sordid Kit Kat Klub in 1931 Berlin (as the Nazis rose to power in Germany) was a Broadway hit in 1966, winning eight Tonys. (A 1972 film featuring Liza Minnelli won eight Oscars.) The show’s memorable score includes the title song and a great opener, “Willkommen,” featuring the club’s creepy emcee.
Other choices for those with a yen for musicals include a round-up of Johnny Cash tunes, Ring of Fire (Sept. 5-29), at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts, and two recent Broadway shows with tours stopping at the Aronoff Center: Ghost The Musical (Sept. 24-Oct. 6), based on the romantic 1990 movie that featured Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore, and Flashdance The Musical (Oct. 29-Nov. 10), a spirited 1983 film about a young woman who splits her life between welding and exotic dancing.
If you’re willing to look beyond professional theaters, you’ll find more good choices.
Local universities often excel with musicals. You can catch the tuneful Rodgers and Hammerstein classic South Pacific (Oct. 24-Nov. 3) at Northern Kentucky University. The dance show inspired by a popular movie, Singin’ in the Rain (Oct. 31-Nov. 3), will be onstage at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory Music.
Two more to note: The always ambitious (and generally successful) community company Cincinnati Music Theatre is staging the all-time great show about dancers, A Chorus Line (Nov. 8-16), at the Aronoff’s Jarson-Kaplan Theater. And if you’re really in for a hoot, check out Carrie: The Musical (Sept. 20-29), based on the Stephen King thriller, produced by another community theater that knows its way around musicals, Showbiz Players, at The Carnegie in Covington.
Oldies but goodies
If you prefer familiar stories brought to life onstage, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist (Sept. 6-29) is this fall’s go-to choice. Our city’s excellent classical theater excels with Elizabethan plays, of course, but its company of actors is equally at home with works from other periods, and this heart-rending tale of an orphan in Victorian London should be one for the whole family to enjoy.
Cincy Shakes will offer an American classic later in the fall, an adaptation of John Steinbeck’s Nobel Prize-winning 1937 novel, Of Mice and Men (Oct. 18-Nov 10).
New Edgecliff Theatre, now performing at the Aronoff Center’s Fifth Third Bank Theater, is staging William Inge’s 1955 Tony Award winning drama, Bus Stop (Sept. 18-28). And if you’re into Halloween shivers, you’ll want to stop by the Covedale Center for Dracula (Oct. 17-Nov. 10).
University programs can be counted on for an array of tried and true plays. CCM produces Arthur Miller’s witch-trial chronicle, The Crucible (Oct. 3-6), which you can compare to another version at Xavier University (Oct. 25-Nov. 3), a collaboration with Cincy Shakes that’s set to feature several professional actors.
CCM’s drama students will have fun at The Carnegie with Marc Camoletti’s 1962 farce, Boeing, Boeing (Nov. 8-24), and NKU will offer Shakespeare’s frothy As You Like It (Nov. 21-Dec. 8).
If it’s fresh, new plays you yearn for, your best bets are just a block apart from one another in Over-the-Rhine. Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati’s stock-in-trade is premieres, and it has two dandy ones lined up. First up is Jon Robin Baitz’s domestic drama, Other Desert Cities (Sept. 4-22), a story about family secrets and generational conflict. It was a Broadway hit in 2012, nominated for a Tony. On the heels of that one, ETC will stage Gina Gionfriddo’s Rapture, Blister, Burn (Oct. 9-27), the story of two women who yearn for one another’s lives; it was a Pulitzer Prize finalist earlier this year.
A block east of ETC, Know Theatre also busies itself with in-the-moment works, sometimes with an edge. Audiences were caught up in the sexual politics of Mike Bartlett’s Cock earlier this year, and Know has scheduled his companion work, Bull (Nov. 1-30), a piece about vicious office politics between co-workers, for the first show of its 2013-2014 season.
Cincinnati Playhouse has some new plays, too, opening the season with Fly (Sept. 7-Oct. 5) by Trey Ellis and Ricardo Khan, an imaginative portrait of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, African-American pilots from World War II, using video projections and tap dancing. The Shelterhouse season opens a few weeks later with the world premiere of Martin Zimmerman’s Seven Spots on the Sun (Sept. 28-Oct. 27), about revenge and redemption in a Latin American village.
Whichever flavor you like, you’re in for some great theater this fall. ©