Category Archives: Theatre Reviews

The Cincinnati Ballet’s Cinderella

My family frequently gets me ballet tickets for my birthday, because I love it. I wanted to be a dancer, but my knees gave out in my teens and that was that. I used to cry for a few minutes at the beginning whenever I went, but I no longer do. I DO however watch their feet. A. Lot. Last night at The Cincinnati Ballet’s new production of Cinderella, I got to watch a bunch of really beautiful feet.

Victoria Morgan has been the artistic director and CEO of the ballet since 1997. She has consistently done a fantastic job, but the last few years have seen the Cincinnati Ballet rise to another level. I know PNC Bank sponsored Cinderella, but there is no doubt that our little Ballet company has had an infusion of cash. What has always been excellent choreography by Ms. Morgan, is now accompanied by lavish sets, and beautiful costumes. Last year’s Alice in Wonderland was beautiful, the reconstituted yearly Christmas treat, The Nutcracker (a Cincinnati Ballet staple for as long as I can remember) is likewise beautiful and now this new version of Cinderella. I have one word, WOW.

I love story ballets. I can’t speak to any of the recent collection ballets, because I’m really stuck on the fairy tales, and I haven’t been to any of the other ones recently. I don’t usually like it when people muck about with the story, Rogers and Hammerstein’s politicized Cinderella, I’m talking to YOU, but the little bit of mucking the Cincinnati Ballet did with this Cinderella was fine with me. They included her father, which I thought I’d hate, but didn’t, it made the absence of her mother more poignant, and the fairy godmother had help, which I also thought I’d hate, but which I ended up loving.

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The Ugly Stepsisters from The Cincinnati Ballet’s Facebook page.

 

This show was Cinderella in all her glory accompanied by breathtaking sets, I cannot tell you in words how gorgeous the ball scene was, and something I’ve never seen in a ballet before, puppetry.  The mice, a dancing broom, and Lordy, Lordy, those carriage horses! Costuming that literally made me gasp, picture the ball, filled with Degas ballerinas, and two of the best ugly stepsisters I’ve ever seen. They were played by Jake Casey and James Cunningham, and as is often the case with those ugly gals, they stole the show.

 

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Cinderella, from The Cincinnati Ballet’s Facebook page.

Janessa Touchet was our Cinderella and she was the perfect mix of delicacy and strength that characterizes Cindy. Patric Palkens was the Prince, and he was perfect. Very handsome, very powerful, both he and Janessa were technically excellent. Pairing all the talented dancers of our company with the beautiful score by Sergei Prokofiev made for a remarkable night. There were a couple of accidental bobbles as a result of fake snow and leaves on the stage, but if you weren’t looking right at the spot, you’d never have noticed. I can usually find some fault in shows, but I honestly cannot find fault with this production. The Cincinnati Ballet has elevated itself to a first rate, big city Company, and I couldn’t be more proud. Look out NYC, we really don’t need you anymore.

If you have a chance, go tonight or tomorrow. It’s a perfect choice for Valentine’s weekend.

Have a beautiful day! 😍

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NBC’s Live Performance of Peter Pan

I am a huge Peter Pan fan. About a year ago, I saw Cathy Rigby in her signature role of Peter, on her farewell tour. I loved it. It was beautiful, well-acted and clearly Rigby has turned into Peter Pan over the years. I am also a huge fan of things I can watch with my whole family on television and not be bombarded with constant sex talk, violence, and political references, so imagine my excitement when I found out that NBC was doing another live musical for the holiday season. We watched last year’s Sound of Music, and once Carrie Underwood got past her first few nervous minutes, it was pretty good. Peter turned out to be a bit of a mixed bag for me.

It followed the story very well. Mrs. Darling, played by Kelli O’Hara, was perfect. Her voice was beautiful and she was in possession of the presence that only Broadway performers have. Minnie Driver did a good job as the narrator and grown-up Wendy. I feel like I’m expected to know who Allison Williams, aka Peter is, but I have no clue. She did a good job, and from certain angles, she pulled off being a boy. Her beautiful voice was all girl, even though she seemed to be cutting off soaring high notes to keep from sounding too much like a girl. It didn’t work and next time I suggest she just go ahead and go for it. She was very good with the Pan postures, but that tunic could have been a little longer. Even though she has about zero body fat, the girl thighs and rear were visible. That’s not her fault, the costumer should have noticed.

In fact, most of my issues with the show had nothing to do with the actors, rather, little details like the tunic length and some of the casting drove me to distraction. So let’s address the casting. Smee is supposed to be an old guy. He was not, but he was my favorite. Christian Borle was one of the highlights for me. He was funny, and played the part of Smee very well, he was just about twenty-five years too young. Christopher Walken. What to say about Christopher Walken. At first, I thought he was looking down and slightly to his left with a glassy eyed stare to make Hook appear disconnected and scary. As the show went on however, I realized that he was looking at a teleprompter, because he never stopped doing it. Ok, he stopped once in a while, but overall, he never stopped doing it. It was really in the wrong place. The whole time. He’s having trouble with voice strength. It happens, and again, wrong age. He was a bit to old for the part of Hook, ten years ago he would have been perfect. Hook is a full grown adult, but he’s not a grandpa, that should be Smee. See where I’m going here? Casting people, have you READ Peter Pan? Seen the movie? Seen the Broadway show? I really think they did CW a disservice. In their quest for a big name, they made the wrong choice.

The Lost Boys. This casting criticism gets an entire paragraph of it’s own, and it goes back to, “Hey casting people, have you ANY familiarity with Peter Pan?” The Lost Boys are supposed to be boys. Little boys, saaaay ten and under. These guys were the Lost Men. I have not seen more hugely muscular calves, leg hair, ropey, muscled arms, and five o’clock shadow in one place maybe ever. They were huge. When they were singing about getting a mother, my daughter said, “Mother, they have wives.” It took two pirates to kidnap each Lost Boy. Did I say they were huge? The only appropriately aged and sized “Lost Boys” were John and Michael Darling. I’m completely serious here. It was just really bad casting. Really bad.

All of this being said, I enjoyed a nice night of entertainment with my family. We had snacks together, laughed in a good way at the pirates. Pirates are always my favorite and if dancing pirates are wrong, I don’t wanna be right. The scene with Peter and Wendy in the boat reminded me of The Little Mermaid, go on and kiss theee girl, but I liked it. It was really pretty. The little miniature, fog laced London reminded me of the Peter Pan ride at Disney World, which worked for me, and the Lost Boys hide out was every little kid’s dream fantasy fort. The sets were beautiful, most of the costuming was good, and it was enjoyable overall.

Suggestions to NBC for next year. Mainly, three words. New. Casting. Director. For a tv event like this, you don’t need to drag in people everybody knows, or are supposed to know to get an audience. You need to hire Broadway caliber actors to populate a Broadway caliber show. And for pete’s sake, read the original material before you make even those choices. There are a lot of people out here in America who are familiar with what these stories are supposed to be, and we WILL notice when you get it wrong, and it WILL color our perception of what you are trying to do.

My other suggestion is to make another one. PLEASE. We are starving for stuff like this out here. We get enough exposure to inappropriate sex, graphic violence and cruelty on the news. It’s not entertainment. This actually WAS entertainment and we want more of it.

Have a great day everybody and be kind. 🙂

Dee Snider’s Rock & Roll Christmas Tale Makes Me Wanna ROCK

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When rockers reach a certain age, one of the following things usually happens. They either dreamed of burning out, but they fade away; they try to continue performing the way they always have before, blissfully unaware that they look like the Crypt Keeper, and have mostly lost their voices, strutting about like roosters, making final millions off their glory days; they appear to have made deals with the devil, continue to perform as they always have, looking and sounding BETTER than in their glory days, when in reality, they should be melting in a corner somewhere from all the toxic substances they and their friends imbibed, making mere mortals yearn for a hot gray streak and some tight pants; OR, they reinvent themselves. Who would have thought that Hot Legs, Maggie May singing Rod Stewart would have decided at some point to put on a tux, or a velvety smoking jacket and turn that bluesy voice to the standards? And succeed? What’s that you say? Nobody? I agree, but honestly, his voice lends itself to those sexy old songs, so when you think about it, it’s not much of a stretch. You want to know who IS a surprise? Everybody’s old Twisted friend Dee Snider, HE has blown me away. Mr. We’re Not Gonna Take it, has wiped off the makeup, lost the belly shirts, brushed his hair and written a Christmas musical, and it ROCKS!

Dee Snider’s Rock & Roll Christmas Tale is previewing in Chicago. I had reason to be up there for a few days with the family, and we wanted to see some theatre. We are BIG fans of musicals, and the Million Dollar Quartet was playing, I kind of wanted to see it, but my husband had other ideas. He had been looking at what was playing and he told me he wanted to go see the Christmas Tale. Now I experienced my teen years during the 80’s, so I am no stranger, and you might say, I’m a pretty big fan of hair bands and heavy metal, but I will admit I had a moment of trepidation. I thought about it though, and remembered that I regularly drag the Mr. to the ballet, and we are going to see Cinderella in January, so I said ok. He excitedly got online and in about four minutes had purchased tickets for our family, which includes an eighteen year-old daughter and a thirteen year-old son.

I’m not gonna lie. I spent the afternoon certain we had just blown our money, but I was SOOOOO wrong. We got to the theatre, and were greeted with classic Christmas music, a set that looked like a backstage area, with a cozy, Christmas-y living room set up, complete with tree, in the corner. We were given little red or green flash lights when we entered, which my husband and I immediately recognized as a substitute for that rock concert staple, the lighter. Suddenly, Dee Snider’s voice boomed out of nowhere (kind of like the rock god that he is) telling us that we paid to see a ROCK & ROLL Christmas show, not some boring old stuffy show, and what the heck was with the boring, slow music, which then changed to some more appropriate rock Christmas music. Mr. Snider came out on stage in rock and roll leather (toned down a little, but right about where it should’ve been), took his seat in the leather chair in the cozy corner, and began his role as narrator.

The description I’m going to give you here is going to be frustratingly limited. If I tell too much, it will ruin the COMPLETELY unexpected surprise at the end. The gist of the story is as follows. We have a frustrated heavy metal band trying to make it. They started out ten or fifteen years too late, and have been trying to get their hair band to a level of success seemingly impossible for such a group today. They try everything they can think of, including some pretty shady dealings with a certain unsavory character, who apparently bestows good health, attractive gray streaks, and good skin to rockers who should be dead, but they continue to struggle. The lead singer, D.D., played by Adam Michaels, is one of the prettiest men since Bret Michaels in his heyday. He does a fantastic job in his pink spandex and beautifully applied make up. My daughter was speechless, because she’d never seen a pretty man before, and my thirteen year old son was speechless with horror because he’d never seen a pretty man before. The rest of the band (except the drummer, who was a very funny bright spot) physically remind me of rockers from the 80’s, but I’ll let you decide who you think they look like, because that’s half the fun.

I really can’t say more than that about the actual plot, because it would be shameful of me to ruin the ending for you. What I WILL tell you, is that Dee Snider’s Rock & Roll Christmas Tale, is one of the best times I’ve ever had at the theatre. It was funny, it had a great message, there were some good-natured jabs at some other older rockers, and some current pop culture references that my kids got. There were old Twisted Sister songs, Christmas songs, and a few new ones, written just for the show. I will also tell you, that at the very end, when everybody including Dee comes out on stage together to rock the audience out of the theatre, the happy vibes are palpable. You know how you always hear about how performers feed off the energy of the audience? Well, Mr. Snider was so joyous, and excited, and seriously, just plain happy, that the happy vibes came off of him in almost visible waves, and everyone in that fairly small theatre could feel them. His face lit up like a little kid, and we all felt so energized and great and happy when we left, that I’m having a hard time putting the degree to which we felt wonderful into words. We saw the show two nights ago, and as we drove back to Cincinnati from Chicago today, my family was talking about how we all still felt so great because of it.
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Since the show is previewing in Chicago, getting it’s sea legs as it were, I’m not sure if it will end up in New York, but I really hope it does. The world needs more of this kind of entertainment. There was nothing negative, nothing nasty or mean; it proves that any kind of topic can be tackled without nudity, cursing, hateful actions, or fear. It really is a great show for the whole family. If Dee Snider sees this (and chances are he might, because I’m going to email him a link to it) hear me loud and clear; if the show goes to Broadway, don’t let them ruin it, and WRITE MORE PLAYS, MUSICALS, ETC. You’ve got a great thing going here. Use that giant brain that you obviously have to spread more of the kind of happiness you have created with this show. The world needs more joy. Good job sir. We like you, and we like your show. Merry Christmas 🙂

The show is playing through December at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place in Chicago, Illinois. Go see it.