Sunday, March 18, 2001

'Senior Showcase' gives CCM stars chance to shine

        University of Cincinnati senior musical theater and drama students are heading to New York next month to strut their stuff for agents and casting directors.

        You can check out the College-Conservatory of Music Class of 2001 — and tomorrow's stars — in the free Senior Showcase,March 29-31 in CCM's Studio Theater.

        Musical theater students will preview the original song-and-dance presentation Taking the Wheel at 8:30 p.m. March 29-30 and 6:30 p.m. March 31. Drama students will perform a collection of scenes at 6:30 p.m. March 30 and 8:30 p.m. March 31. Both programs are about an hour long.

        Tickets are free but extremely limited. Call the CCM box office at (513) 556-4183 for reservations beginning March 26.

        On March 28, the musical theater students will perform Taking the Wheel at 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. in the annual Not Famous Yet Showcase to benefit Friends of CCM. A New York deli buffet will be served between performances.

        Tickets are $50. Proceeds benefit Friends of CCM and provides financial assistance for scholarships and career development opportunities. 556-3142.

        Picking "Wallpaper': IF Theatre Collective continues its interesting ways with an intriguing double-header opening Thursday and continuing through March 31 at the University YMCA (270 Calhoun St., Corryville).

        Actress Lisa Penning and artistic director Benjamin Mosse have adapted Charlotte Perkins Gilman's shivery short story Yellow Wallpaper into a monologue for Ms. Penning.

        “It's one of the most exciting experiences I've ever had,” says Ms. Penning, a Cincinnati Shakespeare alum. As both scribe and solo artist “I can bring in ideas about the whole show. That's a luxury.”

        After an intermission, John Patrick Shanley's Humana winner, Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, a dramatic pas de deux that's part Apache dance, will be performed by Jessica Morgan and Matthew Pyle.

        Ms. Morgan has a background in Pilates; Mr. Pyle has expertise in stage combat (wonderfully illustrated by the dazzling fencing match he choreographed for Stage First's Hamlet this winter). Their physical prowess could translate into a humdinger of a show. 961-7434.

        True anarchy: Here's a knockout cast — Giles Davies, Jeremy Dubin and Brian Isaac Phillips from Cincinnati Shakespeare, Sherman Fracher, Michael Blankenship, Randy Lee Bailey and Adam McLean, all under the direction of Drew Fracher.

        The occasion is a one-time only reading of Dario Fo's wildly and wickedly funny Accidental Death of an Anarchist at 7 p.m. Monday. It's part of the Theatre of the Mind series at Ensemble Theatre (1127 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine). Tickets $5. Box office: 241-3555.

        Two grande dames: Now the truth can be told. Booking Pam Myers into back-to-back performances of Hello, Dolly! and Gypsy took weeks of back-and-forth negotiations between University of Cincinnati's Hot Summer Nights and Playhouse in the Park.

        The problem? The Hot Summer Nights schedule runs until mid-August, two weeks after Ms. Myers was due to begin Gypsy rehearsals in St. Louis.

        The final solution has Dolly performances front-loaded in the season and finishing a week early. Ms. Myers will spend one week commuting back and forth.

        “That cross-over week is going to be tough,” she muses over toast with diet margarine.

        Cincinnati's favorite musical leading lady is getting ready for a grueling stage workout — one that will last for almost six months. “I'm eating Lean Cuisines,” she laughs, “but I'm eating two of them.”

        Ms. Myers diplomatically won't state a preference for either legendary stage dame.

        She says she'd love to have lunch with either of them and notes that food figures into both shows. She'd have Chinese with egg roll-mad Mama Rose and recalls that matchmaker Dolly Levi was known to make dent in a chicken during a night out at Harmonia Gardens.

        Taking on the two roles “looks like climbing Mount Everest at the moment.” Ms. Myers says it like she's ready for the climb.

        "Lady Day': Local director Luther Gibson first saw Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill in its off-Broadway run in 1986. The drama with music about an alcohol-ravaged Billie Holiday in a low-end gig months before her death “hung in my mind."

        For the last couple of years, Mr. Gibson found himself thinking about doing a musical “but I've always thought that big musicals are where choreographers had all the fun.” Again he thought about drama-driven Lady Day, where, between numbers, Lady Day reminisces about her drama-and-heartbreak packed life.

        Last season, rights were unavailable, but this year he finally had the go-ahead. Lady Day will play Thursday through next Sunday at Arts Consortium (1515 Linn St., West End), presented in association with Amethyst Ensemble.

        Jinnerva Shelery plays the title role and sings Holiday hits like “God Bless the Child.” Musical director is Albert Wilkerson.

        Tickets are $12.50 in advance and $15 day of performance. Fund-raiser “Friends of Billie” seats “on stage” are $40. Box office: 381-0645.

        War stories: FireBird Theatre in Mason has just celebrated its first anniversary as a community theater.

        “Community” is a word the theater takes seriously — members have volunteered for Mason's Easter Egg Hunt, run games in the Halloween Festival and built an outdoor dance floor for the city's Sunshine Concert series.

        With Mason building a new town hall, FireBird is working to raise money for a veterans' memorial.

        FireBird will present Neil Simon's boot camp comedy Biloxi Blues March 22-31 at the Western Row Golf Course Club House (7392 Mason-Montgomery Road). Be sure to check out the program for the show. All advertisers have donated their space for the stories of veterans and their families.

        Saturday's performance is a fund-raiser that will feature a color guard, pre- and post-show appetizers and a cash bar for $25. 336-0372.

        Statewide effort: Almost 1,800 theater students and teachers will converge on Indian Hill High School Friday through Sunday for the annual Ohio Thespian Conference. The attendance makes it one of the top five in the country.

        One of the conference's big events is the opening night All-Ohio production of Little Mary Sunshine directed by retired teacher and man-about-Cincinnati stages Jhon Marshall. The show will feature 41 students (cast and crew) from 19 schools from throughout Ohio including Anderson, LaSalle and Mother of Mercy.

        How does a director rehearse a show with students from all across the state? He takes a lot of trips to Columbus, starting with auditions in December.

        “There were rehearsals over the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend in January that started Friday night and lasted until late Monday afternoon.

        “We taught the music and blocked and staged the show while the kids worked with the technical director building rudimentary set pieces and priming them with paint.

        “The second rehearsal was over Presidents' Day weekend; we polished while the crew finished the set. Both weekends the students were housed by local families.”

        The company came to Cincinnati last weekend. The set was trucked in that Saturday and was stored at Indian Hill after two long days of rehearsals.

        Thursday, the kids come together again and will see the costumes for the first time. They'll rehearse all day Friday and perform at 5:30 and 9 p.m.

        “I think I've enjoyed the experience as much as they have,” Mr. Marshall says.

        In between Little Mary Sunshine rehearsals, Mr. Marshall has started rehearsing for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum with Showboat Majestic. Forum opens the Showboat season April 18.

        Contact Jackie Demaline at 768-8530; fax: 768-8330; e-mail keyword: Demaline


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