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Explore Love’s Flames and Ashes in Know Theatre‘s Dragon Play

Review by Liz Eichler of Dragon Play: Know Theatre

Dragon Play runs past Valentine’s Day (through February 18), and it is perfect for young lovers, old marrieds, and everyone who has had a history of love. Love means joy, but often great sacrifices. One moment of great joy can change your life forever. How long can you live with that sacrifice before it changes you into a completely different being? Can you, and do you want to, return to the person you were before? Playwright Davis slices through muddled feelings and writes the truths down in blood. Both human and dragon characters slice through the pain and joys of love, loss and longing. The whole play will move you–to tears, or to take action with the dragons in your life.

Dragon Play is about a young boy in rural Texas who meets a wounded dragon, and falls in love. Thousands of miles north, a woman’s marriage is tested when her fire-breathing ex-lover shows up at her home. These two stories intertwine to encourage the audience to ponder the meaning and costs of “love, longing and moving on.”

Director Tamara Winters has assembled a great team to tell this story. Every member of the cast delivers a strong performance, although newcomer Kearston Hawkins-Johnson steals the show with her “sinewy and strong” Dragon Girl. Josh Reiter as the earnest Boy/Loser Boy nails every laugh. Claron Hayden (Dragon) smolders with intrigue. Torie Wiggins is a smart Woman, torn by the flutterings of her heart, married to a good Man (Paul Strickland) who doesn’t quite understand her. Although Strickland has a wonderful monologue in the middle of this non-linear show, the strength of the connection between Man and Woman is never fully convincing.

The setting (by Artistic Director Andrew J. Hungerford) evokes the barren Texas Hill Country, juxtaposed to the solid wooden cabin of the Man and Woman. The play is rich in sound (Doug Borntrager), including the beating of wings, which rumble through the seats of the black-box theatre. Noelle Johnston’s costumes make you feel like there are dragons, without hitting you over the head. The lighting (Hungerford) and poetic movement elevate this to a poetic allegory.

Both funny and moving, Dragon Play at Know Theatre Cincinnati is a modern story that explores the cost of love–sweet, tender, and fiery–it will move you to tears and laughter, all in 75 minutes.

For tickets call 513-300-KNOW or www.knowtheatre.com

March Your Family to The Carnegie Theatre for Music Man

Review by Dan Maloney of The Music Man: Carnegie Theatrer

This season’s “family friendly” offering from The Carnegie is Meredith Willson’s classic, The Music Man. A Broadway hit when it debuted in 1957, The Music Man tells the story of traveling salesmen Harold Hill, and his scheme to dupe the small-town residents of River City, Iowa into purchasing instruments and uniforms for a boy’s marching band. As part of his pitch, Hill promises to teach the kids how to play. The catch? He doesn’t actually know anything about music.

Directed by savvy theater veteran Greg Procaccino, The Carnegie’s production moves at a brisk pace and emphasizes the timeless score with musical numbers such as “Seventy-Six Trombones” and “Till There Was You.” This plays to extraordinary vocal talent of the cast, but does so somewhat at the expense of storytelling. While audience members familiar with the show won’t have any trouble following the plot, some of the details and laugh lines might move too fast for patrons coming to the production for the first time.

Dave Wilson is perfectly enjoyable as the smooth-talking Professor Harold Hill, and he deftly navigates Hill’s standards such as “Trouble” and “The Sadder but Wiser Girl.” However, his real-life wife Sarah Viola steals the show as the town’s music teacher and Hill’s romantic interest, Marian the Librarian. A classically trained opera singer, Ms. Viola has the kind of voice where angels stop and listen. Her renditions of “Goodnight, My Someone” and “My White Knight” soar.

Traditional audience favorites include the School Board Barbershop Quartet, whose melodic version of “Lida Rose” is still humming in my head, and the ever-delightful Pickalittle Ladies. Sean P. Mette as Marcellus Washburn also gives a stand-out performance, nailing both the humor and energy of the show. Moreover, on top of handling the costume design, Jim Stump covers the archetype of the befuddled Mayor Shinn, and with a droll Irish accent, Angela Alexander Nalley is charming as Marian’s frustrated mother, Mrs. Paroo.

The ensemble is at its best in the Act I finale of “The Wells Fargo Wagon.” The unbridled enthusiasm of that number is one of the reasons I enjoy participating in and attending theater, and this cast scores big with it. In addition, I was impressed with performances of the younger cast members led by Tommy Djlas (Wesley Schmidt), Winthrop (Anthony Coletta), and Zanetta Shinn (Cassidy Steele). They more than hold their own on stage with the adult professionals.

The play is supported by scenic design from visual artist Bill Ross. A newcomer to theater, it will be interesting to see how Mr. Ross’ stage work grows as he adjusts to a different medium. While the set does enough to establish River City, it comes off a little flat, and this lack of depth and dimensions in the playing area puts the actors at a disadvantage in their ability to tell the story.

More than anything else, however, I wanted to see more families in the audience. I don’t know if the economy is still struggling or if parents of young kids just don’t think about attending the theater as a family. But they should, and this is the perfect show for it. An unexpected pleasure of my evening was listening to the young lady behind me, no more than 5 or 6 years old, squeal with glee at Marian’s costuming. We need more of this type of joy in our community, and The Carnegie’s The Music Man delivers it.

The Music Man plays at The Carnegie through January 29th. For tickets, call the box office at 859-957-1940 Tuesday-Friday 12:00-5 PM or visit www.thecarnegie.com.

Carnegie Goes Bold and Brassy with The Music Man

Review by Doug Iden of The Music Man: Carnegie Theatre

Sarah Viola and Dave Wilson in “The Music Man”.

Covington Kentucky acted as a surrogate for River City Iowa as The Music Man triumphantly marched into The Carnegie Theater as their annual “family friendly” production. Initially vilified by New York critics as “corny”, The Music Man persevered to become one of the most beloved and most produced musicals in the US. The Carnegie version stands tall in that tradition.

Starting with the iconic opening number “Rock Island” where a group of traveling salesmen simulate riding a train, the production roars through to the rambunctious finale with the iconic song “Seventy-Six Trombones”. The show, which presents a nostalgic view at an innocent bygone era, won six Tony awards including Best Musical of 1957.

In the story, con man Harold Hill (Dave Wilson) tries to dupe the citizens of River City into buying instruments and band uniforms using his “think system”. The swindle works for a while but he must overcome the skepticism of the town librarian Marian Paroo (played by Sarah Viola). Marian discovers evidence that Hill is lying but is driven to his defense when she sees the positive impact of Hill’s charisma on the townspeople and on her shy, soft-spoken brother, Winthrop (Anthony Coletta). Eventually, the town realizes that they have been bilked but the people have been transformed so much that all is forgiven.

The show has a very large cast (36 people) all of whom populate the relatively small stage simultaneously with a singing and dancing precision which is extraordinary since half of the cast are youngsters and teenagers. Also, the cast uses the entire theater including side exits, the front of the orchestra and all of the aisles during the many production numbers including “Iowa Stubborn”, “The Wells Fargo Wagon” and “Shipoopi”. Credit for controlling all the action on stage (and off) goes to Director Greg Procaccino and Choreographer Maggie Perrino (who is also The Carnegie Artistic Director).

The composer/lyricist is Meredith Willson, a native of Mason City Iowa which is the model for the fictional River City.

The play demands a dynamic leading man as the Svengali who can lead the “Iowa Stubborn” populace. Dave Wilson is believable in the role with a good singing voice and personality. Hill’s songs include “The Sadder But Wiser Girl” and the tour-de-force “Ya Got Trouble”. Sarah Viola (the real life wife of Wilson) is stellar as Marian with a clear operatic voice singing “Good Night, My Someone”, “My White Knight” and the duet “Till There Was You” with Harold Hill. The townspeople are a group of zany, over-the-top “characters” led by the blustering Mayor Shinn (portrayed by Jim Stump who steals the show), his wife Eulalie Shinn (Torie Pate), Mrs. Paroo (Angela Nailey) and a marvelous Barbershop Quartet comprised of Mike Connelly, Paul Gilman, Zac Coleman and Michael Bell. The quartet harmonizes on songs “Sincere” and “Lida Rose” as a counterpoint to Marian’s song “Will I Ever Tell You”. The original production of Music Man resuscitated Barbershop singing which continues today. The twenty-one songs and eight piece band are directed by Steve Goers and conducted by Michael Kennedy. The music was, at times, a little loud, especially the brass,and the lyrics were hard to hear on some of the songs including “Shipoopi”. The set, designed by Bill Ross was simple but clever and the multi-various costumes represent small town Iowa at the turn of the century.

Do yourself a favor and join the exuberance of The Music Man running at The Carnegie through January 29.

Covedale‘s Doubt Full of Tension and Conflict

Review by Doug Iden of Doubt: Covedale Theatre

Should the rock-ribbed convictions of one person, based upon unsubstantiated evidence, be allowed to besmirch the reputation of another? Can one individual act as investigator, prosecutor, jury, judge and executioner while accusing someone else of a heinous crime? What are the insidious ramifications of malicious gossip? What role did the Catholic Church play in sexual predation in the 1960’s? These, and other powerful themes, are addressed in the one-act drama Doubt which opened last night at the Covedale Theater. It’s one of those plays that you think a lot about afterwards.

In the play, Sister Aloysius Beauvier, principle of a Catholic elementary school, suspects and later accuses Father Brendan Flynn of plying a young student with wine and then seducing him. The tension is exacerbated since the boy is the only black student in the school which accelerates the titanic struggle between the two strong-willed personalities.

Winner of the Tony award for drama and later adapted as a successful movie, John Patrick Shanley’s dialogue crackles with tension and observations about societal and personal norms. Shanley, who specializes in Irish plays, uses an unusual structure by allowing Father Flynn to present his case to his congregation (the audience) through a series of sermons about intolerance and the evils of gossip rather than through dialogue or soliloquies. He defends himself rigorously through contentious confrontations with the intransigent Sister Aloysius but presents his case to us from the pulpit.

Another theme addressed is the style of teaching used in parochial schools of the day. Sister Aloysius is a harsh disciplinarian who believes in strict rules and regulations. Violations should be addressed quickly and severally. However, Father Flynn and Sister James, a young, possibly naïve teacher, both believe in a nurturing style and opening up the curriculum to allow exploration of the world beyond the hidebound religious teachings.

The centerpiece of the drama is Sister Aloysius portrayed by Martha Slater as the implacable purveyor of justice (in her own mind). She is the catalyst by forcing Father Flynn to divulge the reason for an unusual one-on-one meeting with the student which is the genesis of her convictions. Slater portrays Sister Aloysius as a religious zealot rooting out the perceived evil. Stater’s presentation is pinch-faced, abrupt, righteous, confrontational and very believable. Slater’s enunciation is impeccable as she hurls indignant verbal fireballs at the maligned priest with machine-gun fire rapidity (thanks to the brilliant dialogue by Shanley). There is no doubt that she believes overwhelmingly in the priest’s guilt but is he really guilty?

Rory Sheridan, as Father Flynn, starts with an equanimous nature, is caught flat-footed by the nun’s accusations but then fires back with ferocity. He aggressively disputes the implications through direction confrontations and indirect sermons to the audience. However, his steely resolve crumbles somewhat when the nun tells him that she had inquired about his previous posting which he left under a suspicious cloud. Both Slater and Sheridan are excellent in their respective roles.

There are two other characters playing pivotal roles in the drama including, Maggie Lou Rader as the young teaching nun Sister James, and the small but crucial role of Mrs. Muller, the mother of the potentially abused boy, played by Joy Rolland-Oba. Rader’s character is torn between the vicious attacks by Sister Aloysius and Sister James’ belief in the priest. She is horrified by the potential violations but acts as both a pacifier and, ironically, as the confessor for both the priest and the nun. Slater portrays the whipsaw emotions well as Sister James vacillates between the views of the combatants. Mrs. Muller has been called into a parent meeting with the nun who is trying to develop a definitive case against the priest. Rolland-Oba is, initially, perplexed but increasingly becomes incensed at the thought that her child (a lonely, frightened boy who has been abused by his father) is guilty of an indiscretion. The real victim in the play is the boy.

Kudos to Director Lindsey Augusta Mercer who moves the play along well despite the heavy themes and rollercoaster emotions. The set design (by Brett Bowling) is sparse, in keeping with the tone of the play, with only three set pieces which function as the stained glass exterior of the church and also, when swiveled, the pulpit, a garden and the nun’s office where most of the fireworks take place.

So, have no doubts about this show (we’ll have nun of that) and see Doubt at the Covedale Theater continuing through February 12.

Covedale Theatre Embraces Uncertainty with Doubt

Review by Jack Crumley of Doubt, A Parable: Covedale Center for the Performing Arts

Now that the holidays are over, the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts is shifting gears to start the second half of its “Marquee Season.” Doubt, A Parable runs for the next month, and audiences will find a show with a minimal set and cast, but a plethora of thought and subtext.

Written by John Patrick Shanley, Doubt hit Broadway in 2005 and won both the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play. It has since been adapted into an Oscar-nominated film starring Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman. That pedigree is important to know because this is not the kind of show you can simply relax and enjoy. It’s a lean, 90 minute, one act play that involves the audience. Not in a “cast members dancing in the aisles” way, but in a “what would you do” way.

Doubt tells the story of the principal at St Nicholas Church School, Sister Aloysius Beauvier, trying to work with young Sister James to get to the bottom of her concerns about the relationship that Father Flynn has with one of the children. Martha Slater has the challenging role of Sister Aloysius, the strict disciplinarian who takes her job exceedingly seriously. Slater juggles spitfire dialogue with a tempered sense of decorum, often in the same scene. Rory Sheridan plays Father Flynn, the popular priest trying to make the church and school more open and friendly. His character, too, goes through a sometimes intense range of clashing emotions, and the scene where he’s first confronted is particularly well played by Sheridan. Maggie Lou Rader plays Sister James, a sincere, budding nun who loves her work, and the character the audience is most likely to identify with. She’s initially very hesitant to get involved, and when she realizes the magnitude of the (potential, alleged) issue, she begins losing sleep. You can hear her pain in nearly every line because she is now riddled with doubt. Also, even though her part is brief, Joy Rolland-Oba’s character of Mrs Muller plays a crucial role in the plot, and she has a lot to convey in her short time on stage. As the mother of the boy in question, who also happens to be the only black student at this Catholic school in the 1960s, she simultaneously plays a mama bear defending her cub and a pragmatic woman just trying to keep her family on the right path for a little while longer.

That’s the entirety of the physical cast, but the main character really is doubt itself. And while it can’t be seen, this production makes sure it can be felt by the audience more and more as the play goes on. Director Lindsey Augusta Mercer brings this up in her program notes, referencing a statement from the playwright that says “doubt requires more courage than conviction… because conviction is a resting place and doubt is infinite.” Mercer’s goal is to get the audience to not only feel the apprehension, the confusion, the fear, the uncertainty, the DOUBT that builds in this show, but also to then act on those feelings afterward by questioning their own beliefs and talking with others.

On the surface, producing Doubt at the Covedale is a somewhat unconventional choice in a season that started with Godspell and ends with My Fair Lady. The venue tends to run more traditional, mainstream productions. A tense, pensive play about child abuse in the Catholic church being produced in a theatre on Cincinnati’s west side could be seen as a tough sell. But after having sat in the audience, felt their reactions, and spoken with people afterward, producing Doubt at the Covedale is a choice that doesn’t feel inappropriate at all. The audience was able to relate to the minutiae of work and life at a parochial school, and though they were quiet when the show began, there was a much more palpable silence by the climax.

Overall, the minimal set works well. Small pieces for Sister Aloysius’ office, the church pulpit, and a statue in the garden take up stage right, center stage, and stage left, respectively. On the back of all of them is an outside portion of the church, and the set pieces are rotated by the cast as needed. One minor issue with the blocking: Sister Aloysius’ desk is positioned rather close to the wall of her office, and every time a character crossed through that narrow space, they had to slow down and slightly turn to step through it. No real office would leave such a small area to walk through. It was a trivial, but consistent, distraction.

The only other concern on opening night was the sound. There are a handful of cues in the show (a gust of wind, birds squawking) that come off more like harsh noises. Also, there were problems with Sister Aloysius’ microphone. It didn’t always pick up her words early on, then it started to occasionally rub the fabric of her habit, and during an intensely emotional moment at the end, it dropped out altogether. It was a disappointing way for an otherwise good show to finish, though Slater’s performance left the audience with no doubt about what her character is feeling.

Doubt, A Parable runs at the Covedale Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday through February 12. Tickets are available by calling 513-241-6550 or going to the Covedale website, www.cincinnatilandmarkproductions.com/ccpa

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder KILLS at the Aronoff Center

Review by Spenser Smith of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder: Cincinnati Broadway Series

After winning the 2014 Tony Award for Best Musical, Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder sets out on tour to tell the uproarious story of Monty Navarro, a distant heir to a family fortune who sets out to jump the line of succession, by any means necessary. All the while, he’s got to juggle his mistress (she’s after more than just love), his fiancée (she’s his cousin but who’s keeping track?), and the constant threat of landing behind bars! Of course, it will all be worth it if he can slay his way to his inheritance…and be done in time for tea.

Kevin Massey plays Monty, who narrates his story throughout. Once he realizes there are only seven people between him and a family fortune, he will stop at nothing on his climb to the top. His charm and wit are infectious and his voice angelic… and we’re talking about a murderer here. The eight family members who meet their untimely demise are played hysterically by John Rapson. Those quick changes as he transitions from one character to the next are wicked fast and like the scene changes throughout, are seamless. Engaged love interest Sibella Hallward (Kristen Beth Williams) and cousin Phoebe (Kristen Hahn) have the pleasure of singing the evening’s most memorable songs and wearing the best of Linda Cho’s gorgeous Tony Award winning costumes. Other notable performances include Mary VanArsdel as the cheeky Miss Shingle and Kristen Mengelkoch (twin sister of Cincinnati favorite Kelly Mengelkoch) who steals the better half of Act 2 with her snarky Lady Eugenia.

Smart and efficient direction by Darko Tresnjak make the almost 90-minute first half go by in a flash. The same can be said of the scenic design by Alexander Dodge. The actors are on, in and around the stage within the stage. The simple design aided in the many different settings and smoothed transitions to perfection. Although I’m afraid the music isn’t very hummable, it was refreshing to hear a rousing score full of classical singing in this age of pop-heavy musicals.

Gentleman’s Guide continues at the Aronoff Center through January 8.

For tickets, visit the box office located at 650 Walnut Street , call 513-621-2787 [ARTS] or you can order online at cincinnatiarts.org.

Broadway Series Gives a “Guilty Pleasure” to Audiences of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder

Review by Alan Jozwiak of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder: Broadway in Cincinnati

They are the sorts of things you know you should not enjoy, but do so anyway—such as a high calorie chocolate confection, a cigarette, or that big fat greasy hamburger. The same can hold true as well for musicals, as witnessed by Broadway in Cincinnati’s Presentation of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder.

A Gentleman’s Guide tells the story of Monty Navarro (Kevin Massey), who learns upon the death of his mother that he is ninth in line to be Earl of Highhurst. With plenty of pluck and ambition, Monty sets out to claim his inheritance by killing off each and every member of the D’Ysquith (pronounced die-squith) line so as to become Earl. Along the way, he also woos two women at the same time.

Now this scenario sounds like a recipe for disaster, but in the skillful hands of the musical’s creators, they create a guilty pleasure of a musical where we as the audience actually root for Monty as he works to attain his title. We also laugh at the ways at which the petty and arrogant members of the D’Ysquith family (all played wonderfully by John Rapson) meet their untimely ends.

Created by Robert L. Freedman (book and lyrics) and Steven Lutvak (music and lyrics), A Gentleman’s Guide went onto earn four Tony Awards, including the 2014 Tony Award for Best Musical.

The touring production of this musical has a strong cast with plenty of singing power. A standout was the Kevin Massey, who played the lead Monty Navarro. Massey was able to mix equal parts ambition, guile, and charm into the role of Monty Navarro. A murderous precursor to J. Pierrepont Finch from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Massey is wonderful in such songs as “I’ve Decided to Marry You.” In this number, Massey has to both sing and engage in slapstick antics trying to keep the two women he is wooing, Sibella (Kristen Beth Williams) and Phoebe (Kristen Hahn), from discovering that each is in an adjoining room.

The actresses playing Sibella and Phoebe also do a wonderful job at the end of Act II in the song “That Horrible Woman,” where each tries to convince authorities that the other is responsible for a murder of a D’Ysquith family member. Beautifully sung by Kristen Beth Williams and Kristen Hahn, this number highlights the differences between each woman, as well as what attracts them to Monty.

Stealing the show was John Rapson, who played all the D’Ysquith family members. Having one actor playing multiple roles could be problematic, but Rapson pulls it off beautifully by being, at turns, eccentric (the Reverend Lord Ezekial D’Ysquith), self-absorbed (Lady Hyacinth D’Ysquith), or arrogant (Asquith D’Ysquith, Jr.). Willing to play both male and female roles, Rapson creates distinct characters for each of the D’Ysquiths and makes their foibles laughable.

The final star of the show is the set, which is really a jewel box stage with its own proscenium and the ability to move its stage floor forward towards to the audience when interior scenes occur. Different parts of the stage can also open up for actors to pop out and address the audience. The proscenium was done up in a late 19th century grandeur, making it all the more fun when an actor unexpectantly uses the set in interesting ways.

In short, this was a beautiful production that did not have any false notes. It is an example of some of the best of what is going the current Broadway musicals, as well as what fine touring shows can offer Cincinnati audiences.

Unfortunately, this musical is a season option, meaning that it is only going to be in town for one week, from January 3-8, 2017. This is a must-see for anyone who loves musicals or wants to have a good time at the theatre.

For more information on tickets, you can visit the Aronoff Center Box Office downtown at 650 Walnut Street, go online at CincinnatiArts.org, or buy through the phone at 513.621.ARTS.

Broadway in Cincinnati’s Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder is an Heir-Raising Experience

Review by Sheldon Polonsky of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder: Broadway in Cincinnati

Kristen Beth Williams, Kevin Massey,and Kristen Hahn in “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, now playing at the Aronoff Center as part of the Broadway in Cincinnati series, opens with a warning to the audience delivered by a Sweeney Todd-esque chorus: “So if you’re smart, before we start, you’d best depart…For God’s sake go!” Luckily, none of the packed house at the Aronoff heeded the warning, and instead enjoyed a side-splitting romp of a show that won Tony Awards in 2014 for best musical, book and director. My warning to you is the opposite: get your tickets now and don’t miss out on the fun.

A Gentleman’s Guide centers around Monty Navarro (Kevin Massey), a mild mannered Londoner who, on the eve of his mother’s death, discovers that he is ninth in line to inherit the earldom of Highhurst from the rich and powerful D’Ysquith family, who heartlessly disinherited his mother after she eloped with a Castilian musician and left her and her son to live in abject poverty. Of course he sets out to do, as his mistress says later, “what any of us would do”: bump them off one by one to move up in line. He does so using blithely ingenious methods, with the talented John Rapson portraying each of the doomed heirs broadly and uproariously, featuring the addled Reverend Lord Ezekial D’Ysquith, effeminate Henry D’Ysguith, and the desperately philanthropic matron Lady Hyacinth D’Ysquith, among others. To give any details of their deaths would be a crime, but trust that they are all depicted in eye-popping and rollicking fashion. All the while, Monty must juggle his romantic relationship with his beautiful mistress, Sibella (Kristen Beth Williams) and his earnestly attractive cousin, Phoebe D’Ysquith (Kristen Hahn). It is called A Gentleman’s Guide to LOVE &Murder, after all.

The great charm of watching A Gentleman’s Guide is its awareness of its own theatricality and its debt to a long heritage of musical theatre. Steven Lutvak, who wrote the music and lyrics, and Robert L. Freedman, who wrote the book and lyrics, pay deliberate homage to, among others, Gilbert and Sullivan, Lerner and Lowe, Me and My Girl, and the aforementioned Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd (with the added benefit that unlike Sondheim, the uninitiated can actually discern most of the clever lyrics on the first go-around). Most of the action takes place on a stage within the stage, which seems like it could be limiting but actually appears quite expansive thanks to vibrant and technically impressive projections behind it. The show never takes itself too seriously and rarely lags in energy or pacing.

Sometimes when a show sparkles with a witty plot and production values, the contributions of the cast are left behind, but this should not be the case here. Rapson, who rightfully gets top billing as all the D’Ysquith heirs, is indefatigable and commanding. Also, if they gave a Tony award to backstage wardrobe assistants, his would surely have won for his seamlessly rapid changes. Massey’s portrayal of Monty is ingratiating and captivating, and easily overcomes any moral squeamishness in the audience to root for the amiable serial killer. Finally, both Williams and Hahn both shine as Monty’s love interests and we can understand his difficulty in choosing between them. The entire cast, including the chorus, have impeccable stage presence and vocals.

If I have any reservations about the play, it would be that the second half lets the “heir” out of the balloon a bit compared to the first. With such a clever premise, and most of Rapson’s D’Ysquiths dispatched, the writers seem to struggle with how to wrap it up, and some of the numbers after the intermission seem to be more filler than anything else (although a few, like “Why Are All the D’Ysquiths Dying” and “I’ve Decided to Marry You” still stand on their own merits.) The surprise twist at the end is not quite surprising or inventive enough to deliver the payoff that I would like. Still, by the time the second half rolls around, you are invested enough in Monty’s story, and that of his paramours, that the let-down hardly dampens your overall enthusiasm.

A Gentleman’s Guide rightly got the acclaim it did on Broadway and will prove to be a winning night of theatre for even your most finnicky family member. It only runs through January 8th, so I would get your tickets soon by calling the box office at 513-621-2787 or online at http://www.cincinnatiarts.org/events/detail/gentlemans-guide. Otherwise, like the D’Ysquiths, they will soon be “heir today, gone tomorrow”.

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