Sunday, March 12, 2000

Dayton company trying musicals


Workshop aims to develop projects

BY JACKIE DEMALINE
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        For Kevin Moore, it was love at first sight. He was a kid when his parents took him to see his Aunt Alberta perform in Most Happy Fella for Hamilton's Rotary Revels. It began his life-long affair with musicals. “I was enthralled,” he laughs. “I was hooked from then on.”

        Now all grown up and executive director of Dayton's Human Race Theatre Company, Mr. Moore will fulfill a longtime dream this spring with Human Race's new musical theater workshop.

        The project is designed to develop original musicals, provide an avenue for “second” production and build an audience for rarely produced musicals.

        The workshop will start with three staged concerts this spring. The first, Alan Menken's Weird Romance, is a pair of sci-fi love stories that had a brief commercial run in the early '90s. Mr. Menken is best-known as composer of Little Shop of Horrors and for his many Disney collaborations, including The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast.

        Weird Romance will be presented at 7 p.m. March 19 and 20. The format will be in the spirit of a backer's audition to simple piano accompaniment. Several performers are familiar to Cincinnati audiences, including Michelle Zimmerman (It's a Wonderful Life), Beth Roe and Scott Stoney. (Something else Mr. Moore wants to accomplish with the workshop series: finding projects for musical theater artists in the region.)

        Coming up are Six Wives, April 30 and May 1, by Cabaret author Joe Masteroff and Edward Thomas. It's about the brides of Henry VIII as told by his highness. Hereafter, a contemporary ghost story by native Daytonian Scott Keys and Robert Hartmann, is planned for June 25 and 26.

        Human Race will expand its musical presence this summer with an outdoor concert performance of Guys and Dolls with the Dayton Philharmonic.

        “One of the goals all this is leading to is 2003 and the celebration of the centenary of flight,” Mr. Moore says. “That's going to be huge in Dayton because of the Wright Brothers.”

        Human Race is commissioning a musical with Mr. Keys and Mr. Hartmann, details to be announced.

        Mr. Keyes and Mr. Hartmann are expected to be in Dayton for rehearsals of Hereafter “to develop and re-write as we go along. Hopefully we'll end with a much more finished project than we begin with.”

        As always a key is continued funding, this season provided by The Kuntz Foundation and the Frank M. Tait Foundation. Mr. Moore would love a growing audience to come back and say, “We'd love to see you produce this.” He wouldn't be adverse to artists bringing projects to be developed, either.

        Performances will be at The Loft Theater in the Metropolitan Arts Building (126 N. Main St., adjacent to the Victoria Theater) running concurrently with the theater's regional premiere of Three Days of Rain. Call Human Race at (937) 461-3823 for more information.

        LIFETIME IN THEATER: What's a nice lady like Pauline Flanagan doing in a place like Leenane? Working. “Please God and thanks be to God,” she says fervently and with a strong Irish lilt.

        Ms. Flanagan is on the Playhouse Marx Theatre stage through March 31 in Martin McDonagh's The Beauty Queen of Leenane.

        She's been a (hard) working professional actress for something like 50 years, ever since she and a friend persuaded a gentleman to place an advertisement in the stage column of Ireland's national newspaper. (Something ladies didn't do.)

        It read: “Two young ladies with exceptional amateur dramatic experience wish to join exclusive repertory theater for the summer season.” Ms. Flanagan's stage experience had started at age 3 when she played the father in Little Red Riding Hood. “I wore Wellingtons and shot the wolf.”

        Producers were duly impressed with her audition and she got that summer appointment. She's been working ever since, working so much that a hoped-for breather following Playhouse in the Park's production of Beauty Queen of Leenane is not to be.

        Frank McGuinness' Dolly West's Kitchen, which she premiered at Dublin's Abbey, nailed an engagement at London's Old Vic. Ms. Flanagan will barely have time to drop off her dirty laundry at her New Jersey home before she's making the trans-Atlantic commute to again star in the title role. There's talk of New York in the fall.

        Beauty Queen is her second visit to southwest Ohio. Back in the '50s she spent a few summers in Yellow Springs as part of the rep company of Shakespeare Under the Stars, where she shared the stage with Nancy (The Sopranos) Marchand, among others.

        This is her second Beauty Queen. She first had a go at the role of a deliciously malevolent old harridan at Playmakers, a regional theater in New Jersey. “I wanted another shot at it,” she says. “You never feel you ever get where you want to go on a play. Your reach should be beyond your grasp, or what is heaven for?”

        Box office at 421-3888.

        EVENING WITH MR. DAVIES: He's performed it in Hong Kong, Belgium, Malaysia and around the United States. Now the Tristate will get a look at Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival company member Giles Davies' solo An Evening with Charles Dickens.

        Mr. Davies, widely hailed earlier this season as one of the two chaps Waiting for Godot, will perform “The Uncommercial Traveller,” which details Dickens satiric observations as he tours America in the mid-1800s, and “The Death of Nancy” from Oliver Twist. (An episode so fraught with intense emotion Dickens has been said to have died from performing the piece.)

        Performances are scheduled at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 11 p.m. March 24 and 25 and 7 p.m. March 26. Tickets $10 adults, $7 students and seniors. Call 381-2273 for reservations and information.

        Next up for Mr. Davies is the title role in the Bard's Coriolanus, opening May 25.

        COOPERATIVE EFFORT: Here's a definition of cooperation. Know Theatre Tribe opens a two-weekend run of Jay's Shorts on Thursday. The Jay is Kalagayan, artistic director of the Gabriel's Corner-based Tribe, the Shorts are his collection of one-acts.

        The short (10 minutes and less) Shorts “will give us a chance to work with new directors and also give would-be actors with no experience an opportunity” to get on stage ever so briefly.

        Among the directors are Christine DeFrancesco, Charles Fields, Daniel Aldridge, Benjamin Mosse and Mr. Kalagayan.

        Mr. Mosse is artistic director of the new If Theatre Collaborative, which has set performances of No Exit on April 6-8 in the ballroom of the University of Cincinnati branch of the YMCA (270 Calhoun St.).

        Starring are Jay Apking, Brian Anderson and Jeanne Menke, all of The Janus Project, with College-Conservatory of Music drama student Maria Kelly. Call 871-1429 for Shorts reservations and information. Call 221-4723 for No Exit reservations and information.

        MORE ON SEARCH: As the Cincinnati Arts Association and Aronoff Center look ahead in a search for new leadership and new opportunities, board member Phillip Long echoes many of his colleagues who've been offering their thoughts these last few weeks.

        “We need someone to do more programming and make higher use of the remarkable Aronoff Center,” says Mr. Long. “I'm sure there are worthy candidates out there.”

        FINE ARTS FUND EVENTS: There's a big week of children's events coming up for Fine Arts Fund beneficiary Cincinnati Symphony.

        Lollipop Family Concerts are scheduled for Saturday and March 25. John Morris Russell will lead the orchestra and the audience as they relive musical moments from animated classics of the small screen in “Symphonic 'Toons.”

        Concerts are at 10:30 a.m. but get to Music Hall early for Meet-a-Musician. Families can ask questions and see musicians demonstrate their instruments. Tickets $4.50 children, $9 grown-ups.

        Next Sunday at 4 p.m. the Cincinnati Youth Symphony Orchestra will perform at 4 p.m. in Corbett Auditorium at College-Conservatory of Music. Orchestra members J. Michael Priester of Wyoming High School and Noah Ehrenpreis of Walnut Hills High School are soloists.

        As of March 8, the Fund has reached $3,424,447. That's 38.5% of this year's $8,886,458 goal. The fund drive ends April 27.

        The fund primarily supports Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati Ballet, Cincinnati Opera, Cincinnati Symphony, Contemporary Arts Center, May Festival, Playhouse in the Park and Taft Museum of Art.

        Last year about $600,000 was divided among nine midsized associate members and dozens of small arts organizations. Anyone interested in contributing to the fund can call 871-2787 for more information.

        Jackie Demaline is The Enquirer's theater critic and roving arts reporter. Write her at Cincinnati Enquirer, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati OH 45202; fax, (513) 768-8330.

       



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