Sunday, July 01, 2001

Theater


Here are 10 best reasons to hit summer stages

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        Summer pretty much translates to mindless fun on regional stages, and there's nothing wrong with that.

        Here are 10 can't-go-wrong recommendations for the next eight weeks.

        Week one: Hello, Dolly!, Hot Summer Nights, University of Cincinnati, in rep July 7-Aug. 12, 556-4183; and Smoke on the Mountain, Playhouse in the Park, July 5-Aug. 5, 421-3888.

        The theatrical fireworks start right after Independence Day with the simultaneous openings of Hot Summer Nights and the Playhouse summer season. I wouldn't dream of choosing between two hot tickets, and neither should you. Make a reservation for both, while you can.

        Cincinnati gal and Broadway vet Pam Myers will be trying on the role of musical matchmaker Dolly Levi for the first time for Hot Summer Nights, and it should be a tailored fit. Word is that the box office lines at CCM have been burning up since they opened for summer business. While I don't mention the other two season entries until later, order your tickets now.

        Smoke on the Mountain set Shelterhouse box office records at the Playhouse when it played there a decade ago. Those records were broken by its holiday sequel Sanders Family Christmas: More Smoke on the Mountain. Several of that cast are together again as the show moves to the Marx Theatre for another go-round of the original, which finds the Sanders Family singing their brand of gospel, bluegrass and down-home family comedy for the local congregation — us.

        Week Two: You're Gonna Love Tomorrow, Ovation Theatre Company, Fifth Third Bank Theater, Aronoff Center, July 7-15, 241-7469. The salute to great Broadway composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim includes songs from Follies, Company, Sweeney Todd, Pacific Overtures, Anyone Can Whistle, Merrily We Roll Along, The Frogs, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and an entire medley from the long-lost Saturday Night.

        See why Mel Brooks took time in his Tony Award speech to thank Mr. Sondheim for not writing a show this season.

        Week Three: Nabucco, Cincinnati Opera, Music Hall, July 19 and 21, 241-2742 and (888) 533-7149. This is my If I Could Only See One Show summer ticket. The opera's artistic director Nicolas Muni makes world-class art with work like Jenufa and Pelleas et Melisande.

        This year he's setting his sights on Verdi's Nabucco, a tale that has all the good stuff — jealousy, madness, blind ambition, murderous plots. It will also feature the U.S. debut of baritone Lado Ataneli in the title role and the wonderful Lauren Flanigan as his wicked daughter. I'm ready to be astounded — again.

        Week Four: Avner the Eccentric, Playhouse in the Park Shelterhouse, July 19-29. Comedian and clown Avner, who's been seen on Broadway, in movies, around the world but somehow never in Cincinnati, corrects that oversight by taking the Shelterhouse stage with a mix of acrobatics, juggling, improv comedy and napkin-eating.

        Also recommended: One Flea Spare, Women's Theatre Initiative and Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival, 719 Race St., July 25-29, 381-2273. The Women's Theatre Initiative couldn't ask for a better debut than the regional premiere of Kentucky writer Naomi Wallace's spellbinding drama that traps a troubled married couple and two strangers in a house during the Plague.

        Diane Kvapil created one of last season's most haunting characterizations in a reading of the play last fall. Her performance will no doubt deepen and expand. Can't wait.

        Week Five: Once Upon a Mattress, Hot Summer Nights, University of Cincinnati, in rep July 5-Aug. 19. Patricia Linhart was on stage in the first Hot Summer Nights season, and the CCM alum and faculty member is back onstage in Mattress as over-the-top Queen Aggravain.

        The musical take on fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea” follows the adventures of Princess Winifred the Woebegone who arrives from the swamp to woo Prince Dauntless the Drab.

        Week Six: You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Hot Summer Nights, University of Cincinnati, in rep July 6-Aug. 17. The entire Peanuts gang — Snoopy, Lucy, Linus, Schroeder — is on hand to help C.B. through the ups and downs of life in a gem of a musical worthy of Charles Schulz.

        Week Seven: Julius Caesar/A Midsummer Night's Dream, Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival, Aug. 2-26, 381-2273. Check out the new intern company at Cincinnati Shakespeare. The festival enters season eight in September, which means that some of those little whippersnappers have — eeeek — turned 30!

        Artistic director Jasson Minadakis spent a good part of spring in search of a crop of young actors to sign on for CSF duty. This means that the festival joins Playhouse and ETC in having a company of interns. (Maybe some of them will decide to stick around!)

        The recruits will handle some mainstage supporting roles and, primarily, the educational tours of Shakespearean tragedy (et tu, Brute?) and romantic comedy (fairies and frail humans collide in the forest).

        Week Eight: The Wizard of Oz, La Comedia Dinner Theatre, Ohio 73, Springboro, July 11-Sept. 2, (800) 677-9505. La Comedia has been hitting more than missing lately. Trip down the Yellow Brick Road with Dorothy and Toto and you'll find all the beloved songs from the movie classic intact.

        Week Nine: Take the weekend off and make a date with Riverfest. Then mark your calendar for the fall season. The curtain goes up in a couple of days.

       Contact Jackie Demaline by phone: 768-8530; fax: 768-8330; e-mail: jdemaline@yahoo.com.
       

       



Standards on summer stages
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'Smoke' daughter spoons out the laughs
Sprawling 'Blue Jacket' an outdoor swashbuckler
Steppin' out with singer-painter Tony Bennett
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- DEMALINE: Theater
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