Sunday, July 02, 2000

Theaters open summer season

Plays offer break from blockbusters

        Summer is a short theatrical season but happily this year not short on quality. If you find yourself needing a little break from all big-screen summer blockbusters, here's a list to carry you from Fourth of July through Labor Day:

        Week one: Always ... Patsy Cline, Playhouse in the Park, July 5-16. To see Molly Andrews in Appalachian Strings last season was to be knocked out of your seat. She's back, singing Patsy Cline's greatest hits and partnered again by Adale O'Brien playing Ms. Cline's No. 1 fan. 421-3888.

        Week two: A Chorus Line, Hot Summer Nights, University of Cincinnati, in rep July 6-Aug. 20. Hot ticket alert. Broadway's singular sensation, populated by College-Conservatory of Music's hopeful stars. Who'll be chosen to be part of the anonymous chorus behind the star? 556-4183.

        Week three: Choose between a pair of strong plays centering on women: The Road to Mecca, Ovation Theatre, Aronoff Center Fifth Third Bank Theater, July 14-22, features Ellie Shepherd as an artist under fire in Athol Fugard's thoughtful examination of the artist in society. 241-7469. Woman in Mind, Miami University Summer Theatre, July 20-23, is British stage hit machine Alan Ayckbourn's intriguing exploration of the pressures of family. (513) 529-3200.

        Week four: The Flying Karamazov Brothers in L'Universe, Playhouse in the Park, July 19-30. Hot Ticket Alert. Those mad jugglers extraordinaire return to Playhouse for the first time in 10 years with a show they swear is about time, space and quantum physics. Know that quantum physics have never been such a laugh riot. 421-3888.

        Week five: Cole, Northern Kentucky University Summer Dinner Theatre, Highland Heights, July 27-Aug. 6. Was there ever such a swell-egant, elegant fellow as Mr. Porter? The composer of effusively romantic songs like “Night and Day” and “In the Still of the Night” could effervesce in rhyme with the likes of “Brush Up Your Shakespeare?” The song and dance revue features 35 Cole Porter hits. 572-5464.

        Week six: All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, Hot Summer Nights, University of Cincinnati, in rep July 7-Aug. 18. The profound in everyday life is told through storytelling and song. 556-4183.

        Week seven: Oliver!, Hot Summer Nights, University of Cincinnati, in rep July 8-Aug. 19. This is the unabashed family entry on the Hot Summer Nights schedule. Adapted from Charles Dickens, the Broadway evergreen is the other standard that comes with a full chorus of orphans, who sing a buoyant score as they pickpocket London for master thief Fagin. 556-4183.

        Week eight: Romeo and Juliet/Othello, Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival, 719 Race St., Fridays (R&J) and Saturdays (Othello) in August. Here's one lesson worth learning this summer — Shakespeare is painless. Shakespeare is involving. Shakespeare is fun. The festival takes its 2000-2001 educational shows for a test drive. See love and marriage go awry as feuding families bring tragedy on young lovers while a vicious subordinate plants poison in the jealous ear of a suspicious husband. 381-2273.

        Week nine: Little Shop of Horrors, Downtown Theatre Classics, Aronoff Center Jarson-Kaplan Theater, Aug. 25-Sept. 10. An official modern-day classic, it's about the singing, man-eating plant that ate Skid Row. Before he wrote Disney's Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, Howard Ashman sent up everything in one of the smartest, sassiest musicals around. 241-7469.

        Waiting for calls: Just ask him. Mayor Charlie Luken signed off on a solicitation letter for ArtWorks in June, inviting big bucks contributions for the group already looking toward a tidy profit from the Big Pig Gig.

        A summer work program, last year ArtWorks served 140 area teens, some at risk, some not. The numbers aren't even close to other area programs. ArtLinks, just one example, devotes itself to the city's at-risk youth and serves thousands of them in a variety of programs every year.

        What made ArtWorks the chosen? “They asked,” the mayor says.

        Too, “I'm hopeful this group can expand opportunities for young people, who need to be exposed to art at an early age, exposure they wouldn't otherwise have.”

        Mr. Luken adds that he “stands ready” to help other organizations with missions that “broaden (arts) audiences. ... I'll always be looking for ways we can heighten the impact of the arts.”

        Right after you sing a small Hallelujah Chorus, you might consider ringing up City Hall and start acquainting the mayor with some of the city's best programs.

        Mr. Luken noted that “the neatest thing I've done since becoming mayor” was a June Cincinnati Pops program where he fronted the band with a reading at Riverbend. “I'm starting to think every speech I make should be punctuated by music.”

        Busywork: Summertime, and the livin' is easy? Not for Ensemble producing artistic director D. Lynn Meyers. She's sweating out the season plotting out The Season.

        Once the mainstage and Off-Center series are announced, it isn't all lolling poolside sipping mai tais.

        Last week Ms. Meyers orchestrated the entertainment for the YWCA annual meeting that included Beth Harris in excerpts from Violet, Deb Girdler (red) queening around in Alice in Wonderland and Spring Star Pillow performing a number from Around the World in 80 Days. (Both the latter shows are ETC original musicals.)

        With Theatre of the Mind moving from the Mercantile to ETC in fall, Ms. Meyers is busily securing rights for shows including Athol Fugard's Playland, timed to the playwright's visit to University of Cincinnati in September, and West Indies Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott's Pantomime.

        Meanwhile the theater has already started a year-long series of workshops of Sword Song by David Richmond and directed by Drew Fracher. (They last collaborated on Zorro.)

        Sword Song is the true story of Jule DeMaupin, trained by her father to be the best swordsman in early 18th-century France. Since she had the misfortune to be female, she was married off to a worthless husband and earned the family income by singing opera as a woman and performing swordplay as a man. Really.

        If it all works out, the singing and swashbuckling tale will appear on the ETC stage in the near future.

        As president of the League of Cincinnati Theatres, Ms. Meyers is planning the events calendar and invites workshop suggestions for 2000-2001. Call her at 421-3555.

        Just a month from now, ETC goes into rehearsal for fall opener, Warren Leight's Glimmer, Glimmer and Shine. The Tony-winning Side Man author will be in residence at ETC for a final round of re-writes.

        The script, which started out at Williamstown (Mass.) Theatre Festival last summer, had major re-working for an April reading at the Long Wharf Theatre in Connecticut. ETC will host the official first full production.

        Free shows: YWCA's Robyn Carey Wilson is putting out a plea to performing arts companies to provide free tickets to women and children living in YWCA shelters and transitional living apartments. Contact her at 241-7090.

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



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