Yes, I’ve slowed down my theatre-obsession in 2019, which means that yes, there are fewer reviews. I feel bad about it, honestly, but I also feel like I’m doing a better job taking care of myself. I hope the reviews that I do write are thoughtful and that they help encourage artists (and increase ticket sales.) That said, here are some highlights from my year in theatre in 2019.
- Some of my favorite shows are the smaller, more intimate off-the-radar ones like the annual Pat and Julie Show at CCM. Pat Linhart’s cabaret recital, accompanied by the incomparable Julie Spangler, is a must-see for me every year. I can’t wait till January 19th to see it again this year! UPDATE: Show has been canceled this year due to illness. I’m sad!
- I laughed out loud at Dale Hodges and Pam Myers in Ensemble Theatre’s hilarious nursing-home comedy, RIPCORD. I don’t know if there’s been a more perfectly cast show this year.
- Vincent DeGeorge had a pretty stellar year, with both the highly unusual YEAST NATION and his revolutionary take on THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW at CCM. I also had the pleasure of watching one of his students, Zack Triska, perform a one-person piece originally devised by DeGeorge when he was a student at CCM. I’m looking forward to more theatrical genius from Vince in 2020.
- Ensemble Theatre knocked it out of the park with their presentations of the contemporary blockbusters. Both THE WOLVES and FUN HOME featured terrific performances and stellar storytelling. (Sara Mackie reestablished herself as a star this year with her take on the long-suffering mother in FUN HOME.) I also adored Christine Dye’s honest performance in A DOLL’S HOUSE: PART 2. ETC is on fire lately; D. Lynn Myers knows how to pick a season, and direct and cast it properly!
- I didn’t get to the Playhouse much this season, but I was impressed with ONCE ON THIS ISLAND. The vocals were sensational, and the production used surprising special effects to tell a great story. After seeing it on Broadway the year before with an all-star cast, I was afraid I’d be underwhelmed; it was just the opposite.
- I’m looking forward to more directing work from Susan Felder, faculty in the CCM Acting program. While not my favorite show of all time, LADY WINDEMERE’S FAN showed that she can help her actors find the relevance in almost any script from any time period. I also am always interested to see what Brant Russell comes up with; his production of ASSOCIATION OF CONTROLLED DREAMERS was exciting and timely. Under the watchful eye of veteran professor Richard Hess, this program is always on the move!
- Speaking of CCM, Aubrey Berg’s last show as Department Chair was the largescale HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, which featured some impressive vocal performances. New chair Diane Lala (along with tap choreographer Katie Johanigman) showed why this program is legendary with the gigantic 42ND STREET.
- I need to get to Northern Kentucky University again this year; the timing never seems to work out for one reason or another. Wright State, too. I also am excited about all the great work that Stephen Skiles and his team continue to produce at Xavier University. We live in such an exciting city for collegiate level theatre.
- Of course, I love the Cincinnati Fringe Festival. Discovering new artists, seeing my favorites in their element (and sometimes outside of it) – its probably the highlight of the theatrical year for someone like me who loves original and new works. Jen Joplin’s performance in her original show, THE MILF ALSO RISES, stands out in my memory, as does the always incredible work of Trey Tatum and Bridget Leak, Paul Strickland, and Alexx Rouse. I love Gideon Productions shows, too, and I really enjoyed the reading of Peter Marino’s DESPERATELY SEEKING THE EXIT.
- I was blown away by Donelvan Thigpen (“Donny T”) as Prince in PURPLE REIGN in Las Vegas. What an amazing transformation.
- Finally, the personal highlight of the year has to be seeing my dear friend, DJ Plunkett, both in Las Vegas and St. Louis as “Boq” in the National Tour of WICKED. I also saw my friend Jon Hacker as “Frankie Valli” in the National Tour of JERSEY BOYS. I didn’t review these shows – I mean, it’s Wicked and Jersey Boys, we know their great – but seeing someone who I know so well do something so big…well, it’s definitely the emotional highlight of 2019. (I’ll see WICKED again in Columbus in May; Jersey Boys is there very soon.)
I’m sure I left stuff out, and I’m sorry. I hope to see you at the theatre a little more in 2020. Maybe I’ll have something of my own for you to see, too. Regardless, get out and support local artists, local productions, and local theatres and tell all your friends to do the same!
Happy New Year!