For the past few decades Southern Ohio has been serving up a veritable feast of plays and musicals -- from diverse regional theatre productions to national touring companies of Broadway shows -- and the current theatre season is no exception.
The national tour of The King & I played at the Aronoff Center for the Arts in Cincinnati a few weeks ago, and ticketholders were cheering when Faith Prince took over the role of Mrs. Anna for an ailing Hayley Mills, who was felled by the flu. The King was followed by Tap Dogs, a.k.a. "those six hunky guys from the Land Down Under," which ran through Mar. 15. Next up at the Aronoff is Rent, which opens Mar. 24 for a two-week run and is expected to be another box office sensation.
Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, which kicked off its current season back in September with an especially well-received Sweeney Todd (staged by Playhouse artistic director Edward Stern and featuring Broadway Company alum Pamela Myers as Mrs. Lovett), is about to mount Jon Marans' popular play about a troubled young pianist and the elderly Viennese professor who eases his pain, Old Wicked Songs. The drama, to be directed by Martin Platt, opens Mar. 17.
Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival, which has been temporarily housed in a black box at the Aronoff Center, has at last found a permanent home in a former repertory cinema house. Next up: Much Ado About Nothing, April 2.
The Ensemble Theatre, known for its adventurous fare (Caryl Churchill's all-female play, The Skriker, was a hit last fall with a standout performance by Dale Hodges), will stage Steve Tesich's On the Open Road, which opens Mar. 29. The play, reminiscent of Waiting for Godot, was performed at the New York Shakespeare Festival in 1993 starring an up-and-comer named Anthony LaPaglia. Also at Ensemble will be Jim McClure's "Wild West adaptation" of O'Keefe's Wild Oats, which opens Mar. 25. In nearby Dayton, the Human Race Theatre Company is winning raves for its eclectic fare. Next up at that company, in the Loft Theatre, is Anne Meara's Off-Broadway hit, After-Play, opening April 20.
Plus, from Mar. 17-29, the national tour of State Fair, starring John Davidson, is on the boards at the Victoria Theatre.
Finally, in that city to the north (of Cincinnati and Dayton, that is), Columbus, the Contemporary American Theatre Company -- known for its solid productions of both new and classic American plays -- is mounting Michael Weller's Moonchildren (through Mar. 21), Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes (April 18-May 2), and Richard Dresser's Below the Belt (May 20-June 13).
-- By Rebecca Paller