Sunday, August 3, 2003

The Arts


'Fishman' dream role for actress

Jackie Demaline

E. Faye Butler's next big gig will be opening in the 25th anniversary revival of Ain't Misbehavin' at Paper Mill Playhouse opening late this month. She wouldn't mind if the show travels from the New Jersey 'burbs of New York to Broadway.

But before that, Butler will reprise the role of Nehi in The Gospel According to Fishman, in a concert reading that will be the opening event for New Voice Theater at 8 p.m. Aug. 11 in the Aronoff's Jarson-Kaplan Theater.

The show, commissioned by Clear Channel's theatrical division and written by University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music grads Richard Oberacker and Michael Lazar, is still in play for a possible Broadway run, according to Oberacker.

Fishman is a young Jewish songwriter who loves gospel music. Nehi is a gospel singer in the early 1960s, trying to crossover from the church circuit to mainstream success. They're both caught up in the civil rights movement.

Butler has been with Fishman since the first reading two years ago to a successful run in the Washington, D.C. area last year. Both Butler and Ta'rea Campbell were nominated for D.C.'s Helen Hayes Award for their roles and will headline the New Voice performance.

Butler grew up with gospel - so much so that Mahalia Jackson is her godmother. (Butler's mother was the gospel great's longtime personal assistant.) "I knew this story in my heart, it's been told to me again and again."

Butler laughs that if she had her druthers about how she'll see Broadway, it will be with Fishman because "it lends itself exactly to what I like to do - good acting work with music attached." The role, she says, "is a dream come true."

The performance benefits New Voice and Cincinnati Black Theatre Company. Tickets $40. Box office: 241-7469.

Fringe Festival

Cincinnati native Kristen Folzenlogen will have a presence at the New York International Fringe Festival later this month.

The McAuley High grad (and Cincinnati Ballet Nutcracker and Cincinnati Young People's Theatre veteran) is choreographer of Poseidon! An Upside-Down Musical. The Chicago hit by Hell in a Handbag Productions tries its luck in New York Aug. 20-23 at Our Lady of Pompeii Church (25 Carmine St.).

Folzenlogen has been living in Chicago for five years after traveling the world aboard Royal Caribbean International cruise ships. (She works in the production end of the entertainment industry now, for Concentrix, which creates the majority of Royal Caribbean shows.)

The Poseidon! gig was "a friend of a friend of a friend situation." Folzenlogen particularly enjoyed creating the synchronized swimming/400-meter freestyle back-up to "I'm a Very Skinny Lady in the Water" and a "Marilyn Monroe/Material Girl vamp" called "Just Panties" (inspired, of course, by Stella Stevens' unforgettable line, "Just panties? What else do I need?").

For information on Poseidon! and the Fringe Festival visit www.FringeNYC.org.

Summer gig

The spirit of "hey, kids, let's put on a show" is alive and well in Cincinnati's northern suburbs.

[IMAGE] Aaron Morris , Julie Wacksman and Katye Wilfong star in Merrily We Roll Along.
| ZOOM |
New Stage Collective took shape over winter break when a couple of Sycamore High School grads sat down at a local Starbucks. In no time, they'd gotten commitments from other theater majors attending a variety of colleges to come home to Cincinnati in summer to do theater together.

Alan Patrick Kenny (2000) is artistic director and a senior at New York University studying musical theater and voice performance.

Joshua Steele (2001), the new company's finance manager, is a voice performance major at Ohio State. He promises New Stage Collective isn't just a summer romance. Once he completes his degree program at OSU, he's planning to enroll in the arts administration program at University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music, which will allow him to oversee New Stage business year-round.

Catch their act in Stephen Sondheim's musical consideration of friendship and loss, Merrily We Roll Along, which plays at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Sycamore Junior High School Auditorium. The company includes students from Wright State, Ithaca, Georgia Tech, Baldwin-Wallace College and Boston University, along with high school students and community members.

They'll wrap their summer season with The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown, on Aug. 27-28 at the Wyoming Fine Arts Center.

For ticket information and directions, visit www.nsc.no-ip.org.

See her in the trailer

For Cincinnati Shakespeare fans who just can't wait until September to see company founder Marni Penning acting again, she reports she's in the theatrical trailer for Mona Lisa Smile, the much-anticipated Julia Roberts holiday release.

Go to www.apple.com/trailers/sony_pictures/mona_lisa_smile and spot her behind Maggie Gyllenhaal (key words "peasant couple plowing...") and at the end walking up over Julia Stiles' shoulder as she's holding a sunflower painting.

Penning opens as Kate in Taming of the Shrew at Cincinnati Shakespeare on Sept. 18. Box office, 381-2273.

'Illuzzio' closes

For those who recall that Nicholas Korn, artistic director of the defunct Stage First, tried for a run of his original musical Illuzzio in Chicago, opening in mid-July, the show quietly closed a couple of weeks after its opening.

E-mail jdemaline@enquirer.com.




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