New Plays: Tone-Deaf, Award-Winning

Last weekend at the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville, I saw a piece about five tone-deaf sisters who nonetheless made their mark on the vaudeville circuit: Dan O'Brien's The Cherry Sisters Revisited. More than once I heard the play compared to Steven Temperley's Souvenir, the show about oddball singer Florence Foster Jenkins who aspired to an operatic recital career in the 1930s and 1940s despite a singular lack of singing skills. Ensemble Theatre produced that show for Cincinnati audiences in 2007, and actress Neva Rae Powers earned major accolades for singing wretchedly (think how hard it is for a good singer to sound awful) and won a Cincinnati Entertainment Award in the process.


Powers has continued to play the role in several subsequent mountings of the ETC production, including one in California and another in Vienna, Austria. Most recently director Michael Evan Haney (who's day job is at the Cincinnati Playhouse) teamed with Powers again for yet another production of Souvenir, this one at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. It's still a great show: It won four Kevin Kline Awards (the St. Louis equivalent of the CEAs) for outstanding production of a play, outstanding director, outstanding ensemble and outstanding actress.

Says Haney, "I love it when Cincinnati theater transfers to other cities and is recognized as the best! It shows the quality of theater we have at our fingertips in this city."

Haney is hard at work right now readying another Playhouse world premiere, David Bar Katz's The History of Invulnerability, which has previews in the Shelterhouse Theatre this weekend and opens on April 8. You can hear me interview Bar Katz on WVXU's Around Cincinnati (91.7 FM) this Sunday evening (April 4) at 7 p.m. Listen online here.

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