LCT Continuing “Stage Insights”

This season, LCT continues its program "Stage Insights". In place of our usual reviewing process, Stage Insights provides more in-depth, personal reviews from a select number of our contributors dedicated to each of the theatres they are reviewing. In addition, they will be providing exciting Sneak Peaks of upcoming productions. Look for our Sneak Peaks on the front page of our website and our weekly reviews on the Review Page.

How Can I Kill You? Let Me Count the Ways—A Sneak Peek of Broadway in Cincinnati’s “Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder”

Sneak Peek by Alan Jozwiak of “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”: Broadway Series at Aronoff Center

National Touring Company. (L-R) Dani Marcus as Miss Barley, Kevin Massey as Monty Navarro and John Rapson as Asquith D’Ysquith, Jr. in a scene from “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder"

National Touring Company. (L-R) Dani Marcus as Miss Barley, Kevin Massey as Monty Navarro and John Rapson as Asquith D’Ysquith, Jr. in a scene from “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder”

Killing off eight relatives who are in line for your inheritance might sound like the subject of a particular graphic episode of Dateline.  Instead, this scenario is the basis of the latest comedic Broadway musical coming next to the Aronoff Center for the Arts as part of the Fifth Third Bank Broadway in Cincinnati 16/17 Season presented by TriHealth — A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder.

The musical was created by two graduates of the NYU’s Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program, Robert L. Freedman (book and lyrics) and Steven Lutvak (music and lyrics).

When it made its appearance on Broadway, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder went onto win four Tony Awards, including the 2014 Tony Award for Best Musical, as well as the 2014 Best Musical prizes from the Drama League, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle.

Gentleman’s Guide tells the story of a penniless young man named Monty Navarro, who discovers that he is the ninth in line to become the Earl of Highhurst. Since the aristocratic family, the D’Ysquiths, disinherited his deceased mother and treated her terribly, Monty decides to get even by killing off each of his relatives in line for the title, one by one, in outrageously amusing ways.  In order to reach his goal, this underdog antihero also ends up courting two women at the same time.

This seemingly serious plot is played for camp within the musical.  Care was taken with Monty’s characters, as creator Robert Freedman explains about Monty: “He’s an underdog.  Not only did he grow up poor, but he was denied the kind of life that he should have been born into and should’ve had.  I think there’s a bit of fantasy or wish fulfillment, in seeing him be able to get revenge on the people who made it impossible for him to advance in the world.”

Another way the production pokes fun of the seriousness of the situation is by having one actor play all the D’Ysquiths. “If you have a talented actor getting killed over and over again,” says the Broadway director Darko Tresnjak, “then each murder is a reward, because he’s going to come back as another delightful characterization.” Apart from the campy fun that one actor brings, the lone actor can also explore more fully the range of the D’Yquiths’ arrogance.  This makes the audience secretly cheer when each of them gets his or her comeuppance.

A final interesting element to the musical is the staging and music. There’s a toy stage inside a larger proscenium, which constantly opens to reveal new two-dimensional settings for the murders (a parish church, a frozen lake, a garden, etc.).  This staging is somewhat reminiscent of another throwback musical of recent years, The Drowsy Chaperone.  Drawing on Gilbert and Sullivan and the English music hall tradition, composer Lutvak sums up the musical by saying “what we are, in a way, is a very low comedy in a very fancy box.  There’s all that faux classical music and it’s all very proper. . .but, in reality, it’s a low comedy; it’s a Bert Lahr, laugh-your-ass-off comedy.”

So there you have it—a throwback musical comedy that takes its inspiration from several classical sources to create a delightful Tony Award-winning musical experience.  You only have one week to catch this wonderful musical.  It runs from January 3-8, 2017 at the Aronoff Center for the Arts.  Tickets for this show can be purchased from the Aronoff Center Box Office downtown at 650 Walnut Street, online at CincinnatiArts.org or by phone at 513.621.ARTS.

NKU’s “Millie” Promises to be Thoroughly Entertaining

Check out Spenser Smith’s Sneak Peek of Thoroughly Modern Millie at NKU playing now through December 11th. Tickets available at https://artscience.NKU.edu/departments/theatre/season/mainstage3.html.

 

Covedale Stirs the Holiday Spirit with “The Nights Before Christmas”

Check out Allyson West’s Sneak Peek of “The Nights Before Christmas”, playing at Covedale Theatre through December 23rd. Tickets available at http://www.cincinnatilandmarkproductions.com/ccpa/Default.aspx

 

Know Theatre Heads into Winter with “Darkest Night”

Check out this Sneak Peek of Know Theatre‘s Darkest Night at the Gnarly Stump filmed by our contributor, Allyson West. Darkest Night is playing now through December 17th and tickets can be obtained at www.knowtheatre.com.

NKU’s Freshmen Make Hay with “Animal Farm”

Check out Spenser Smith’s video Sneak Peek of Animal Farm, NKU‘s annual Freshman production. Performances are Friday and Saturday 8 PM and Sunday 3 PM this weekend only (November 18-20th) at NKU‘s Stauss Theatre. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for students and may only be obtained by calling the box office (859-572-5464, open Friday afternoon) or at the door (be aware Saturday evening may be sold out).

Head to Your Phone Now for Tickets to Falcon’s “Dial M For Murder”

Sneak Peek by Laurel Hume of Dial M For Murder: Falcon Theatre

Falcon Theatre’s new production – the British murder mystery Dial M for Murder – is probably best known to most of us as the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock movie.

Director Ben Raanan appreciates that.

“We are approaching the play with the knowledge that the audience has seen the movie. There is the nostalgia factor,” Raanan said.

For example, the movie, but not the play, opens with a passionate embrace.

“It was important for me to keep that,” Raanan said. “The audience can say ‘I know what this is going to be.’ If you liked the movie, you’ll hear your favorite, iconic lines.”

In Dial M for Murder, tennis pro Tony Wendice has a seemingly foolproof plan for the murder of his wealthy wife, Margot. He wants her money, but there is also a revenge motive: she’s had an affair with American Max Halliday.

The murder plan is, of course, not foolproof. Scotland Yard gets involved, in the character of Inspector Hubbard.

There are a lot of twists and turns in the plot-heavy mystery.

“The fun of the show is that the audience is in on everything, but still has to wonder if he is going to get away with it,” Raanan said.

Dial M for Murder is by English playwright Frederick Knott, who also wrote the equally popular Wait Until Dark.

The play opened in London in June 1952 and on Broadway later the same year. The movie, with screenplay by Knott, was released in May 1954, just three months after the Broadway production closed.

So, 64 years later, does the show still have appeal?

“The approach to the late-‘40s text for a modern audience is keeping it active,” Raanan believes, explaining that three-page monologues were acceptable to audiences accustomed to listening to radio dramas. “That’s when theater was more auditory. Now we need to energize the stories.”

The production, set in its original 1950s era, also will be energized by the intimate space of Falcon’s stage and by stylish costumes that reflect the period and class of the characters. Annie Grove plays Margot, Phineas Clark is her husband and Carter Bratton her lover. Derek Snow appears as Inspector Hubbard and Mike Hall as Lesgate.

Raanan’s full-time job is Director of Education and Outreach for Ensemble Theatre. His work takes him into schools with no theater program, and his specialty is working with students with disabilities such as autism and cerebral palsy. Raanan uses the Hunter Heartbeat Method to teach social skills and communication through Shakespeare.

Raanan has directed eight full productions since arriving in Cincinnati in 2013 for a yearlong directing internship at Ensemble. Most of the shows were Ensemble’s apprentice company year-end productions. But last December, he directed Mockingbird as part of Falcon’s Fourth Wall Production series. The play is told from the point of view of an 11-year-old autistic girl.

Ted Weil, artistic director of Falcon Theatre, approached Raanan about directing Dial M for Muder.

“I have spent the past four years directing serious drama with socially conscious issues – that is my area,” Raanan said. “But it is fun to direct something meant to be a fun, escape evening at the theatre.”

Dial M for Murder opens Nov. 4, then runs weekends through Nov. 19 at Falcon Theatre, 636 Monmouth St., Newport. Tickets are available at 513-479-6783 or at http://falcontheater.net.

Romance is Never Out of Fashion in Carnegie’s “Love, Loss, and What I Wore”

Sneak Peek by Doug Iden of Love, Loss, and What I Wore: Carnegie Theatre

carnegieloveloss

Need some fashion tips?  Is that black dress properly accessorized?  Does that red hat remind you of some momentous event?  To get some witty and possibly bittersweet answers, see Love, Loss and What I Wore opening at The Carnegie theater on November 5 and running through November 20.

Adapted from an Ilene Beckerman novel by the sister team of Nora and Delia Ephron, the play tells the story of many different women who reminisce about their lives through the mirror of the clothes they wore. Nora Ephron is best known for writing the screenplays for romantic comedies including When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle and continues that legacy with this play.

Five actresses including Marypat Carletti, Mel Hatch, Nabachwa Ssensalo, Tess Talbot and Sarach Zaffiro use voice inflections, postures and costumes to portray 28 different women of all ages and stations in life.  This creates real challenges for the actors and director Abby Rowold so the audience can differentiate between the characters. One highlight is the scene called “I hate my purse”.

Marypat Carletti, the only actress who plays a single character named Gingy, stated that the themes of the monologue include strength of your convictions, courage and overcoming adversity.   For example, one of the characters overcomes breast cancer and then works to help other women conquer their illnesses.  She thought that the play was witty, small, intimate and touching and hopes that everyone will leave the theater laughing.

Marypat felt that women could easily relate to stories of their everyday lives but there is a universality that should appeal to everyone.  The stories relate to the human condition and not just to women.  This is only the second non-musical which Marypat has done and the only play with an all-female cast which she has found very enjoyable.  She would also like to thank Artistic Director Maggie Perrino, Abby and her castmates for this opportunity.

Originally staged as a benefit reading, the show quickly evolved into a very popular off-Broadway production with monthly rotating casts including Rosie O’Donnell, Kristin Chenoweth, Tyne Daly and Rita Wilson among others.  It is now one of the most popular plays among amateur and professional theaters.  However, the show playing at The Carnegie will be fully staged and not just a reading.

So, put on the pumps and walk over to The Carnegie Theater and enjoy their latest production Love, Loss and What I Wore, playing November 5th-20th.  See the website, www.thecarnegie.com, for ticket information.

NKU Celebrates the “Mother of the Blues” in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

Check out Spenser Smith’s Sneak Peek interview with Brittany Hayes, starring in NKU‘s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, playing at the NKU Strauss Theatre from October 25th through 30th. Tickets available on the NKU box office website, https://artscience.NKU.edu/departments/theatre/boxoffice.html.