Sunday, January 19, 2003

The Arts

Arts first in line to meet challenge of turning city's vision into reality


The big news of the week is "The Center City Strategy: Setting Priorities," the report unveiled by consultant John Alschuler of the New York economic development firm Hamilton, Rabinovitz and Alschuler. Its vision: A regional center ... sustained by a diverse mix of housing, culture and entertainment.

He told interested parties that "an institutional public/private partnership must translate vision into product," and what appeared on his presentation's big screen were Cleveland's Playhouse Square, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, and the 42nd Street redevelopment at New York's Times Square.

All investments in arts and entertainment! Yes! Finally!

He challenged Cincinnati to make the "Center City" - with Fountain Square at the heart of a nine-block area - competitive.

What's in that nine-block area? The Aronoff Center, the new Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, Fourth Street's Gallery Row, Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival, the Blue Wisp.

Nothing could be clearer: Arts and entertainment have an enormous role to play in re-imagining our city.

Mr. Alschuler envisions models like San Francisco's Union Square and Pioneer Square in Seattle. These areas are alive with great retail, cafes - and diverse arts and entertainment choices.

By diverse I mean a range of options that embrace alternative work as readily as a Broadway tour, and at a range of ticket prices.

Diverse arts and entertainment choices for the people living in the upscale housing the report recommends for The Banks. Diverse arts and entertainment choices for the black middle class that needs to come back downtown.

Diverse arts and entertainment choices for members of the creative class (a wide definition ranging from young workers to educated empty nesters) who crave new experiences and are likely to opt for urban life.

Mr. Alschuler adds that without fixing Over-the-Rhine, efforts for the Center City will be a waste. His ground zero is Washington Park - adjacent to Music Hall and steps away from Ensemble Theatre and the planned home for Art Academy of Cincinnati.

He urges market-rate housing for Over-the-Rhine. It's a perfect time for City Council to consider what many smart cities are doing - creating a live/work ordinance for artists, invariably the fearless urban pioneers who help stabilize neighborhoods.

It's also time for activists, urban and cultural, to start brainstorming about exactly how the $2.2 million in arts funding can be used in concert with the report.

Of course the top priority is safety. But once that is conquered, just imagine:

A pedestrian Center City with people living downtown, with stores worth browsing through. The stores stay open for everybody who's enjoying downtown nightlife. Restaurants stay open after the show, concert or exhibit.

Who wouldn't want to live here?

Do not underestimate the value of arts and entertainment in making this Cincinnati a reality, and in the not-distant future if we are willing to make the investment.

Do not underestimate the value of young artists and fresh ideas to help write the signature of a unique downtown. To help draw a smart young work force here - and keep them here.

Cincinnati Business Committee is a large investor in both this strategic report and in an arts study that will follow on its heels at the end of the month.

Together they promise an intriguing blueprint for the future.

Debunking urban myth: If you've heard the fast-spreading rumor that The Lion King is sold out, "Not true!" yells Broadway in Cincinnati rep Nancy Parrott. There are many, many good seats available for weeknights, she says, and scattered singles on weekends.

You will be paying a price, however. About 70 percent of the remaining 9,500 tickets (or so) are tres pricey "VIP" seats. (VIP for Very Impressive Procrastinator?)

Real procrastinators might consider waiting till day of show. Disney holds back four prime seats at every performance for actor requests. Unclaimed tickets are released two hours prior to curtain.

Otherwise you can the box office at 241-7469 now.

Another option: Cincinnati Arts Association has bought out The Lion King's March 21 opening night to benefit its education program.

Tickets are $300 for orchestra seating, pre- and post-performance parties, valet parking and a souvenir program; $200 for less-fabulous seats in orchestra or loge and the pre-performance reception; and $100 for "quality seats" and the post-performance reception.

For information and reservations call 977-4112.

Victoria season: Les Miz, Mamma Mia! and Fosse are on the Broadway touring line-up in Dayton in 2003-04 at the Victoria Theatre and the Schuster Center. Here's the season (at the Victoria Theatre, unless noted):

Sept. 23-Oct. 5, 2003 - Les Miserables, (Schuster Center)

Oct. 7-19 - Fame: The Musical

Nov. 4-16 - Defending the Caveman

Jan. 20-Feb. 1, 2004 - Mamma Mia! (Schuster Center)

Feb. 17-29, 2004 - Fosse

March 16-28, 2004 - The Sound of Music

May 4-16, 2004 - The Odd Couple (produced by Human Race Theatre Company)

The Victoria and Human Race will collaborate on a three-show season in the Loft Theatre (adjacent to the Victoria) in 2003-04:

Oct. 23-Nov. 9 - The Spitfire Grill, a new musical based on the 1996 film

Feb. 19-March 7, 2004 - Of Mice and Men

Third production, title and dates TBA. Subscriptions for both series are available. Call Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or (888) 228-3630 or visit online at

Ovation triumph: It's not quite Valentine's Day, but love is in the air for Ovation Theatre. It's producing the musical Triumph of Love at the Aronoff's Fifth Third Theater opening Friday and continuing through Feb. 1.

Adapted from Marivaux (heavily inspired by Shakespeare), it's all disguises, ruses and seductions as a princess dressed as a gentleman, falls in love with a prince. She, of course, becomes an unwilling object of affection herself.

Dennis Murphy directs a cast including Shannon Kramer, Joe Stollenwerk and Brian Benz. Michelle Becker, who has been living and working in Berlin, makes her Cincinnati debut. Wilkommen.

Mr. Murphy is charmed by the theme of giddy first love. The characters, he says, "are surprised at how it makes them feel. It transforms them."

For reservations and information call the box office at 241-7469.

Thursday is a pay what you can performance. Join me for Dinner-and-a-Show on Jan. 31 and be part of a group discount. For more information call 768-8530 or e-mail me.

Scholarship auditions: Calling all college freshman, sophomore and junior theater/performing arts majors. ACT of Greater Cincinnati will hold its annual scholarship auditions 1:30-5 p.m. Saturday at Northern Kentucky University Fine Arts Center, Room 220.

This year ACT (Association of Community Theatres) will award four scholarships. (One of last year's winners is CCM's remember-her-name Betsy Wolfe, who knocked us dead in Boys from Syracuse in November.)

To schedule an audition time contact Dee Anne Bryll at (513) 321-0764 or e-mail

Pam Myers' big day: Pam Myers, fresh from Broadway's Into the Woods, will be busy on Feb. 9.

She'll start the day at 3:30 p.m. performing a Broadway sampler to benefit the Jewish Community Center at Cincinnati Country Day School (6905 Given Road, Indian Hill). Tickets $10-$25, call 761-7500, Ext. 239 for reservations..

The star of Playhouse's Gypsy and Sweeney Todd will also find time to preview her first CD for The Cincinnati Enquirer's Footlights Cabaret and show-tune sing-along.

Joining her in the lineup at Plush (upstairs at Carol's on Main) will be Katie Laur, Scot Woolley, David Kisor, Deb Girdler, students from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and Northern Kentucky University, Spring Starr Pillow and more.

For cabaret reservations and information call Ensemble Theatre at 421-3555. Tickets $25. Specify the 5:45 p.m. or 8:15 p.m. performance.

Act now: Lebanon Theatre Company invites anyone with an interest in community theater to "act up" with them at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Shoe Factory Antique Mall.

If you live in the northern suburbs and have been thinking about becoming involved with community theater, it's a good time to come and make new friends. ACT-Cincinnati Orchid winners will be honored as part of the festivities.

The annual meeting is free but reservations must be made by Wednesday. Contact Lebanon Theatre Company at (513) 494-1932.


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