Pinball Wizard, Acid Queen return in pioneering rock opera

Tags

, , , , , , ,

JJ Parkey as pinball wizard Tommy (center) revels in the adulation of his dancing fans while Griffin Giannone, as his 10-year-old self, racks up a score at the pinball machine in The Who’s Tommy (photo by Heather Wack)

JJ Parkey as pinball wizard Tommy (center) revels in the adulation of his dancing fans while Griffin Giannone, as his 10-year-old self, racks up a score at the pinball machine in The Who’s Tommy (photo by Heather Wack)

By Richard Ades

Check out Short North Stage’s program for The Who’s Tommy, and you’ll see that Edward Carignan is billed as both the director and the choreographer. The jobs aren’t as distinct as you might assume.

There’s dancing, of course, but even when there isn’t, the scenes move along with such speed, precision and complexity that they feel like they’ve been choreographed rather than merely directed. As often happens during Short North Stage musicals, you can’t help sitting up and thinking, “Wow!”

JJ Parkey (formerly seen in the troupe’s Cabaret and Hedwig and the Angry Inch) stars as the adult version of the English title character, who becomes oblivious to the world after witnessing a shocking event at the age of 4: His father (David Bryant Johnson) returns from World War II and finds his wife (Emily Brockway) having an affair. A struggle ensues, and the lover (Jason Carl Crase) is killed.

Over the years, the helpless Tommy endures mistreatment at the hands of his perverted Uncle Ernie (Ryan Stem) and sadistic Cousin Kevin (Josh Houghton). He also is subjected to his parents’ endless attempts to “cure” him with the help of either science or religion. Nothing can break him out of his mental prison.

Then Tommy stumbles across a pinball machine and proves to have so much innate skill at the game—possibly because his disabilities eliminate all distractions—that he becomes a minor celebrity.

Much more happens, including Tommy’s eventual rise from a minor celebrity to a major one, but the musical reaches its high point when our hero discovers his unexpected talent to the tune of the rousing Act 1 capper, Pinball Wizard. Post-intermission developments never attain this level of emotional power.

Musically speaking, however, it’s a different matter. Composer/lyricist/co-book writer Pete Townshend, with help from bandmates John Entwistle and Keith Moon, has filled the album-based musical with songs that not only advance the plot but are memorable in their own right.

At Thursday’s preview, conductor P. Tim Valentine’s backstage band sometimes overwhelmed the singers and rendered lyrics indecipherable. Hopefully, a few tweaks on the soundboard will improve that situation.

In the leading role, Parkey’s vocals are as strong as ever, though some of his Act 2 dialogue comes off as stilted. Two young brothers, Christian and Griffin Giannone, give poised performances as Tommy at ages 4 and 10, respectively.

The rest of the cast is uniformly good, but Kendra Lynn Lucas stands out for making the most of her showy role as the drug-pushing Acid Queen. Another indelible impression is made by Tommy Batchelor (a former Billy Elliot on Broadway), who emerges from the ensemble to give an amazing balletic dance solo during the Act 2 Underture.

Rob Kuhn’s scenic and lighting designs are complementary, as the set is a series of white doors and panels that goes through chameleonic changes whenever the lighting changes hues. Director Carignan’s costume designs are inventive and colorful.

First appearing as a double album in 1969 and as a stage show in 1992, The Who’s Tommy helped to found the genre of the rock musical. In 2014, its audacity and musical sophistication still inspire awe.

Short North Stage will present The Who’s Tommy through April 27 at the Garden Theater, 1187 N. High St. Show times are 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. Running time: 2 hours, 35 minutes (including intermission). Tickets are $25-$40. 614-725-4042 or shortnorthstage.org.

Stage version of Addams Family is more lovable than creepy

Tags

, , , , , ,

Stars of The Addams Family include (from left) Amanda Bruton (Grandma), Jennifer Fogarty (Wednesday), Dan Olson (Lurch), Jesse Sharp (Gomez), KeLeen Snowgren (Morticia), Shaun Rice (Uncle Fester) and Jeremy Todd Shinder (Pugsley). Note: Alternate actors play Lurch and Pugsley in the current touring production. (photo by Carol Rosegg)

Stars of The Addams Family include (from left) Amanda Bruton (Grandma), Jennifer Fogarty (Wednesday), Dan Olson (Lurch), Jesse Sharp (Gomez), KeLeen Snowgren (Morticia), Shaun Rice (Uncle Fester) and Jeremy Todd Shinder (Pugsley). Note: Alternate actors play Lurch and Pugsley in the current touring production. (photo by Carol Rosegg)

By Richard Ades

The musical comedy now unfolding at the Palace is called The Addams Family, but it bears only a superficial resemblance to its macabre source material.

Fans of Charles Addams’s New Yorker cartoons or the 1960s TV series will recognize the basic characters. They look much as they did on TV and in subsequent movies, except that daughter Wednesday (Jennifer Fogarty) has grown into a romance-minded young woman. Book authors Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice (Jersey Boys) have even retained touches of the old Addams quirkiness, such as the family’s fondness for torture devices and graveyards.

Beneath these surface aberrations, though, these stage Addamses are surprisingly normal.

The thin plot hinges on Wednesday’s plan to introduce Ohio-bred boyfriend Lucas Beineke (Bryan Welnicki) to the family by inviting him and his parents (Mark Poppleton and Blair Anderson) to dinner. Confiding in her father, Gomez (Jesse Sharp), Wednesday reveals that she and Lucas have already agreed to marry, but she asks Gomez not to tell her mother, Morticia (KeLeen Snowgren). Her fear is that Morticia will try to sabotage the relationship if she learns of the engagement before she’s gotten to know the Beinekes.

Gomez protests that he’s never lied to his wife, but he reluctantly agrees to keep the secret from Morticia until that night’s dinner party. And on that brief bit of deception rests the entire storyline.

Musicals probably have been built on slimmer ideas, though I can’t think of any offhand. But the oddest thing about The Addams Family is how conventional the characters are beneath their gothic exteriors.

Gomez is like any devoted husband and father who’s trying to keep peace in the household. Wednesday is like any embarrassed teenager who thinks her family is weird (except that her family really is weird). Her brother, Pugsley (Connor Barth), may be tortured by his big sister literally rather than figuratively, but he loves her just the same.

Perhaps the most Addams-like of the characters are the herb-gathering Grandma (Amanda Bruton) and grunting butler, Lurch (Ryan Jacob Wood). The least Addams-like is Uncle Fester (Shaun Rice), who has metamorphosed from an anti-social, blunderbuss-brandishing curmudgeon into a romantic who enlists the souls of his dead ancestors in the cause of promoting Wednesday and Lucas’s love.

The result of all the changes made to the original characters—and of the subsequent changes made in response to the show’s mixed success on Broadway in 2010-11—is a warmhearted, rather conventional musical that’s designed to appeal to everyone but hardcore Addams fans.

Its pluses include Andrew Lippa’s songs, which are sometimes pretty (Wednesday and Pugsley’s Pulled) and sometimes catchy (the hummable Full Disclosure). The six-piece band is synthesizer-dominated and sounds it, but the players’ voices range from serviceable to great. Fogarty (Wednesday) and Anderson (Alice) are especially strong.

Working under Jerry Zaks’s direction, the cast is as funny as the material allows it to be. Jonathan Ritter’s choreography is especially enjoyable when it includes both living and non-living participants, as it does in Act 2’s Tango de Amor. The set and costumes (designed by original directors Julian Crouch and Phelim McDermott, with later set tweaks by James Kronzer) are appropriately gothic.

Amid all the singing and dancing, The Addams Family seeks to purvey the message that you have to be true to yourself. Considering the liberties it takes with its creepy characters, some might see that as a bit ironic.

Broadway in Columbus and CAPA will present The Addams Family through April 13 at the Palace Theatre, 34 W. Broad St. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday. Running time: 2 hours, 25 minutes (including intermission). Tickets are $28-$78. 614-469-0939, 1-800-745-3000 or ticketmaster.com.

Homage to silent performer is a bit too talkative

Tags

, , , , ,

Sarah Ware as Bip in Ohio State University Department of Theatre’s production of There Is No Silence (photo by Matt Hazard)

Sarah Ware as Bip in Ohio State University Department of Theatre’s production of There Is No Silence (photo by Matt Hazard)

By Richard Ades

The title There Is No Silence is surprisingly accurate. Even though Ohio State’s original work is inspired by the life of renowned mime artist Marcel Marceau (1923-2007), there’s a whole lot of talking going on.

The show is only minutes old when we’re introduced to Trixie (Jane Elliott), a mime-in-training who can’t seem to keep her mouth shut. At times, she asks for suggestions from the viewers—for example, what should be on the other end of the invisible rope she’s about to pull. (“Me!” an enthusiastic little girl called from the audience on opening night.)

Trixie, who later reappears as a revised character named Marbles, is a lively and personable presence, but she’s too verbose to be an effective mime. It’s not clear why she’s given such a prominent role in an homage to the French master of silence.

However, the show’s main problem is its lack of focus, which is likely due to the number of hands involved in its creation. Conceived and directed by former Marceau student Jeanine Thompson, it also was “devised” by the MFA Acting Cohort and written by Jennifer Schlueter and Max D. Glenn. Add the technological input of the Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design, and it’s easy to understand why the production goes off in so many directions.

One minute it comes across as a classroom lecture, dutifully ticking off the now-obscure performers who inspired Marceau. At other times, it allows performers to expound at length about their own connections to the artist or his craft.

At still other times, the show delves into Marceau’s challenging relationships with his daughter, Aurelia (Camille Bullock), and collaborator/wife, Anne Sicco (Melonie Mazibuko). In fact, a fierce argument between Cousteau and Sicco ends Act 1—an odd choice, since viewers don’t know enough about the wife to care about the fight’s outcome.

Much more enlightening is an Act 2 historical section that details Marceau’s anti-Nazi activities during World War II. But the show is the most engrossing when its performers honor Marceau’s craft by showing off their own silent grace.

The most graceful of all is Sarah Ware, who captures the essence of Marceau’s stage alter ego, Bip. Another wordless (but musically accompanied) highlight is a dance performed by Aaron Michael Lopez, one of four men who take turns playing Marceau. (The others are Sifiso Mazibuko, Brent Ries and Patrick Wiabel.)

The ACCAD-aided sections, such as one in which the electronically produced outlines of Marceau and a live performer move in perfect unison, are technologically impressive. But our appreciation of Marceau is bolstered more by the segments that honor the mime in the most appropriate way: by showing just how expressive the silent human body can be.

Ohio State Theatre will present There Is No Silence through April 13 in the Thurber Theatre, Drake Performance Center, 1849 Cannon Drive. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes (including intermission). Tickets are $20; $18 for faculty, staff, alumni association members and senior citizens; $15 for students and children. 614-292-2295 or theatre.osu.edu.

Anderson lets his eccentricities get the better of him

Tags

, , , , , ,

M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes, left) and Zero (Tony Revolori) in The Grand Budapest Hotel (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes, left) and Zero (Tony Revolori) in The Grand Budapest Hotel (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

By Richard Ades

Some of my favorite filmmakers of all time are among the most distinctive filmmakers of all time.

Japan’s Yasujiro Ozu, with his camera calmly observing life from a stationary vantage point. Spain’s Luis Bunuel, with his surreal and wryly satirical take on society. France’s Eric Rohmer, with his chatty discussions of romance and philosophy.

I’m not quite ready to add Wes Anderson to my list of favorites, even though his style is as distinctive as anyone’s.

He can be charming, as he was in 2012’s Moonrise Kingdom. The flick had its share of Anderson’s usual eccentricities, but they didn’t overwhelm the central tale of two underage lovebirds who run away together.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for The Grand Budapest Hotel.

It starts out with an engaging setting, an Eastern European hotel that was once a fashionable haven for the well-to-do. It also features two engaging characters: M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), its refined and demanding concierge, and Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), the lobby boy who becomes his friend and disciple.

When an aging patron leaves the hotel and subsequently dies in 1932, Gustave is simultaneously named the heir to her most prized possession and a suspect in her murder. It seems likely that greedy family members are the real culprits, but Gustave is imprisoned before he can prove his innocence. Unless Zero and his girlfriend, Agatha (Saoirse Ronan), can come to the rescue, the truth may never be uncovered.

It’s a potentially engrossing tale, but it’s constantly upstaged by director/screenwriter Anderson’s playful shenanigans.

Start with the fact that the film is a story within a story within a story and that it all takes place in a fanciful and made-up place and era. Add frequent incongruities, such as coatless characters comfortably walking around in a wintry landscape, or dialogue that ricochets between stilted politeness and earthy cussing. Throw in landscapes that look like paintings and action scenes that were filmed with deliberately unconvincing miniatures.

It all adds up to a concoction much like the airy pastries that frequently turn up on characters’ plates: pretty and delectable, but not very filling. There are so many distractions that it’s impossible to take the characters or their travails the least bit seriously.

Anderson’s imaginative visuals and all-star cast—including F. Murray Abraham, Tilda Swinton, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray and host of others—do make the flick fun to watch. But it would have been so much more rewarding if Anderson had forced his signature style to serve the plot rather than overwhelming it.

The Grand Budapest Hotel opens Friday (March 21) at the Lennox 24, next Thursday (March 27) at the Drexel Theatre and March 28 at the Gateway Film Center.

Rating: 3½ stars (out of 5)

How do you spell ‘comedy’? C-R-I-N-G-E

Tags

, , , , , , ,

Guy (Jason Bateman) plays mind games with a young competitor in Bad Words (photo by Sam Urdank/Focus Features)

Guy (Jason Bateman) plays mind games with a young competitor in Bad Words (photo by Sam Urdank/Focus Features)

By Richard Ades

Back when I was arts editor for Columbus’s now-defunct The Other Paper, one of our ace critics turned in a review of a horror flick with a grisly scene: The heroes dispatched an attacker by sticking his head in a microwave oven and holding it there until it exploded.

Puzzled, I asked the critic how the filmmakers got around the fact that microwaves don’t work when the door is open. They didn’t care about such technicalities, he replied gleefully. “They just wanted to make someone’s head explode!”

It seems like an odd comparison, but a couple of scenes from Bad Words reminded me of that incident. Smart but antisocial 40-year-old Guy Trilby (Jason Bateman) has wormed his way into an adolescent spelling bee, and he proceeds to launch underhanded and exceedingly nasty psychological attacks on two of his competitors in an attempt to undermine their confidence.

Like the microwave offensive, the attacks make no logical sense. First, Guy’s spelling skills are so advanced that the kids pose no real threat to him, so why bother? And second, if his dirty tricks were exposed (and there’s no reason to think they wouldn’t be in the real world), he would be ejected from the competition faster than you can say “antidisestablishmentarianism.”

So why did the filmmakers include the attacks in their sordid comedy? Because, to paraphrase that wise critic, they just wanted to see Guy act mean to two defenseless kids.

Another comparison between the microwave scene and the spelling-bee attacks: You have to have a sadistic streak in order to enjoy them.

Well, maybe that’s too harsh. A cross between 2003’s Bad Santa and the stage musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Bad Words seeks the kind of laughs that grow out of shockingly inappropriate and irresponsible behavior. Now, I’m as susceptible to this kind of comedy as anyone—I loved Bad Santa, for example—but Bad Words inspires more cringes than guffaws.

A key weakness is that scriptwriter Andrew Dodge and first-time director Bateman don’t sufficiently explain Guy’s motivation for crashing a contest that’s meant for kids. We surmise that it has something to do with his own failure as a bee competitor when he was an eighth-grader, and possibly with the recent death of his mother. But when we learn his real reason for entering the contest, it’s hard not to think, “That’s it?” His ultimate goal doesn’t begin to explain his actions.

Another weakness is that, despite its hard-edged sense of humor, the film eventually gets stuck in a sappily predictable rut. As soon as a lonely 10-year-old spelling whiz named Chaitanya Chopra enters the scene and tries his best to befriend the eccentric adult, we know it’s only a matter of time before Guy’s icy heart begins to melt.

If Bad Words remains marginally palatable, it’s due solely to the strength of its able cast. Besides the understated Bateman, the players include Kathryn Hahn as the reporter who sometimes shares Guy’s bed, Allison Janney as an angry bee official and Philip Baker Hall (known to Seinfeld fans as no-nonsense library detective Mr. Bookman) as the bee’s founder. But no one contributes more to the film than young Rohan Chand, who is consistently adorable as the indomitable Chaitanya.

Without Chaitanya’s lovable presence, Bad Words would be simply an exercise in misanthropic excess.

Bad Words opens Friday (March 21) at the Lennox 24.

Rating: 2½ stars (out of 5)

Live, from Columbus! It’s the Beatles!

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

Andy Ankrom takes the helm in Yellow Submarine, one of 33 Beatles tunes featured in Bigger Than Jesus (photo by Will Shively)

Andy Ankrom takes the helm in Yellow Submarine, one of 33 Beatles tunes featured in Bigger Than Jesus (photo by Will Shively)

By Richard Ades

Even if you’ve always idolized the Beatles, chances are you’ll learn something new from Bigger Than Jesus. Shadowbox Live’s “live rockumentary” intersperses songs from the Fab Four’s incredible canon with tidbits of information about the group.

For instance, did you know that in 1964 the Liverpudlian quartet refused to play the Gator Bowl until the Florida facility set aside its segregated ways? Or that Blackbird (whose title was mod slang for “black girl”) was a response to the civil rights movement?

And did you know that Eric Clapton had an uncredited guitar solo in While My Guitar Gently Weeps?

Well, maybe you knew that, but you won’t mind if the show’s narrators occasionally tell you stuff you’ve already heard. You’ll be too busy enjoying the music that makes up the bulk of its running time. Performed in roughly chronological order, the songs are some of the band’s biggest and best hits.

Given John, Paul, George and Ringo’s well-known expertise as musicians and recording innovators, a Beatles retrospective is a dangerous undertaking. Viewers won’t be satisfied unless the song renditions approximate the fun and excitement of the originals. For the vast majority of the show, Shadowbox succeeds.

After a few early numbers that are merely pleasant, things begin to heat up with Kevin Sweeney’s electrifying delivery of Help! JT Walker III then slows things down with the first of several numbers to benefit from his golden touch, the gorgeous Norwegian Wood.

Afterward, director Stev Guyer explains the John Lennon quote that gave the show its name. According to documentary footage projected on the room’s video screen, Lennon’s sardonic comment that the Beatles would surpass Jesus in popularity led to a boycott in at least one Southern city. The KKK also jumped on the anti-Beatles bandwagon, we learn.

Guyer begins the evening by jokingly apologizing to viewers whose favorite songs were inevitably left out. There were simply too many great ones to choose from, he says.

Indeed, it’s not hard to think of classics that didn’t make the cut: Yesterday, for one. Or She Loves You, the joyous anthem that helped to define the mopheads during their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

But there are so many other gems that are included. Some of the most memorable (and their featured vocalists): Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Leah Haviland), Magical Mystery Tour (Amy Lay and Walker), Penny Lane (Will Macke), Helter Skelter (Stephanie Shull), While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Jeff Simpson) and She Came in Through the Bathroom Window (Sweeney).

Many numbers are marked by fine harmonizing on the part of backup singers. In others, the Matthew Hahn-led band plays a leading role, as when surreal instrumental crescendos interrupt in A Day in the Life.

The psychedelic and colorful costumes (designed by Linda Mullin, Nick Wilson and Lyn Helenberger) help to recapture an era and a band that were increasingly influenced by mind-altering drugs. Katy Psenicka’s choreography is another important element of the proceedings. It’s especially enjoyable when the vocalists themselves bust a few moves, as they do in When I’m Sixty-Four (sung by Tom Cardinal, Haviland and Macke).

If you’re old enough to remember the Beatles, Bigger Than Jesus is nostalgic fun. If you’re not, it’s one hell of a history lesson.

Bigger Than Jesus: A Live Rockumentary About the Band That Changed the World continues through Aug. 7 at Shadowbox Live, 503 S. Front St. Show times are 7:30 p.m. select Wednesdays and Thursdays, 2 and 7 p.m. select Sundays. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes (including intermission). Tickets are $25, $20 for students and seniors. 614-416-7625 or shadowboxlive.org.

Stranded seafarer lives to tell his tale

Tags

, , , , , , ,

Lisa Thoma, Robert Behrens and Joe Dallacqua (clockwise from top) perform in CATCO’s production of Shipwrecked! An Entertainment – The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (as Told by Himself) (photo by Dave Alkire)

Lisa Thoma, Robert Behrens and Joe Dallacqua (clockwise from top) perform in CATCO’s production of Shipwrecked! An Entertainment – The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (as Told by Himself) (photo by Dave Alkire)

By Richard Ades

Louis de Rougemont had quite an adventure, and he desperately wants to tell us about it. With a combination of narration, acting, shadow figures and sound effects, the 19th century Londoner explains how he left home as a youth and went to sea, only to be shipwrecked and stranded for years on a desert island.

A giant octopus, a rare black pearl and a tribe of Australian Aborigines also figure in his tale, which unfolds in Donald Margulies’s Shipwrecked! An Entertainment—The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (as Told by Himself).

When I first saw the play in a 2010 Whistling in the Dark production, I thought it was a bit long-winded, but I enjoyed the way it captured the spirit of its real-life adventurer’s times. Because it was presented in a theater that was designed to be environmentally friendly, the production took a low-tech approach that added to the period feel. The live piano accompaniment was particularly effective.

CATCO’s current production, directed by Mark Seamon, is less low-tech and, thus, seems less authentic. Moreover, Seamon and company punctuate the story with goofy sound effects (a slide whistle and the like) that probably are designed to tickle younger viewers. Well, maybe they do, but they detract from the show’s credibility. De Rougemont clearly wants us to amaze us, not amuse us.

Beyond those quibbles, the show has much to recommend it. Shakespearean actor/director Robert Behrens makes a rare stage appearance as the title adventurer, and he gives an entertaining performance. Enthusiastic supporting actors Lisa Thoma and Joe Dallacqua play all the characters de Rougemont comes into contact with, especially a friendly Aborigine woman (Thoma) and an even friendlier dog (Dallacqua).

Even before the action starts, Michael S. Brewer’s handsome set is sure to elicit a few “oohs” and “aahs.” The broad-beamed stage floor is a good stand-in for the ship deck on which the young de Rougemont begins his adventures.

Yes, the play still seems a bit long-winded (I’ve heard of other productions that wrapped things up in less than 90 minutes, though I can’t imagine how). But the tale it tells is a fascinating one, made even more so by the fact that we’re not entirely sure we should believe it.

CATCO will present Shipwrecked! An Entertainment—The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (as Told by Himself) through Feb. 23 in Studio Two, Riffe Center, 77 S. High St. Show times are 11 a.m. Wednesday, 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes. Tickets are $11.50 for Wednesday matinees, $45 on Fridays and Saturdays, $41 for other shows. Discount student tickets ($15) are offered two hours before show time. 614-469-0939 or catco.org.

Annual theater celebration features awards, speeches, songs

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

Matt Clemens (seen sharing a scene with Laura Griffith) received a Theatre Roundtable award for his leading role in Short North Stage's production of Sunday in the Park With George (photo by Megan Leigh)

Matt Clemens (seen sharing a scene with Laura Griffith) received a Theatre Roundtable award for his leading role in Short North Stage’s production of Sunday in the Park With George (photo by Megan Leigh)

By Richard Ades

It’s all over but the Facebook posts.

The Central Ohio Theatre Roundtable held its annual awards night Sunday at the Jewish Community Center. As in the past, the fast-paced show punctuated its presentations and speeches with songs from some of the past year’s musical productions.

The treats included Matt Clemens’s emotional rendition of Finishing the Hat from Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park With George. The number provided proof that Clemens richly deserved the award the Roundtable gave him for his leading role in the Short North Stage production.

One of the night’s most heartwarming moments came when the Central Ohio Theatre Critics Circle—representing local print, on-air and online critics—presented a citation to Short North Stage for that same production. When troupe co-founders Rich Gore and Peter Yockel came onstage to accept the award, Yockel found himself getting a little choked up. That prompted Gore to observe that he hadn’t seen his partner tear up like that since their recent wedding day.

In a conversation prior to the show, the two recalled that they were just one of many same-sex couples who’d headed to New York and queued up to get hitched in a civil ceremony on Halloween. But they stood out from the crowd, they noted, being one of the few pairs who hadn’t turned up in Halloween costumes.

Two troupes received the Roundtable’s Harold Awards for, essentially, persevering: Columbus Children’s Theatre for turning 50 and Shadowbox Live for turning 25 (as measured from the appearance of Stev Guyer and company’s earliest “rock operas”). Accepting his Harold, Guyer explained why he and his cohorts had stuck it out in a profession that kept them working longer-than-average hours for lower-than-average pay.

“It’s a calling,” he said. “It’s what you do.”

Guyer also praised Columbus theatergoers who were willing to take a chance on unknown productions—such as most of those presented by Shadowbox.

For a list of other Theatre Roundtable nominees and winners, visit www.theatre-roundtable.org/trnominations/. For a list of the Central Ohio Theatre Critics Circle’s 20th annual round of citations, which were presented at Sunday’s event, see below:

▪ To CATCO and the Columbus Museum of Art, for educating Central Ohio about the power of art and the creative challenges of artists by jointly scheduling CATCO’s area premiere of Red, John Logan’s 2010 Tony winner for best play about Rothko at a pivotal point in his career, and “Mark Rothko: The Decisive Decade,” the museum’s first major exhibit of works by the abstract master.

▪ To Short North Stage, for raising the standard in locally produced musicals with an ambitious 2013 season that culminated in the long-awaited Central Ohio premiere of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Sunday in the Park With George, a challenging 1985 Pulitzer Prize winner that was brought to vivid life by blending local talents with such New York experts as sound designer Leon Rothenberg, a 2013 Tony Award winner, and director Sarna Lapine, niece of James Lapine.

▪ A Roy Bowen Lifetime Achievement Award to William Goldsmith for nurturing the talents and imaginations of tens of thousands of children and for writing and directing many popular stage adaptations of classic tales as youth theater director at Players Theatre Columbus in the 1970s and ’80s and, for 25 years since 1989, as artistic director of Columbus Children’s Theatre, a troupe that celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013.

‘Gravity’ named best of 2013 by Columbus critics

Tags

, , , , ,

 

Sandra Bullock in Gravity, which Columbus critics named the year's best film (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Sandra Bullock in Gravity, which Columbus critics named the year’s best film (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity has been named Best Film in the Central Ohio Film Critics Association’s 12th annual awards, which recognize excellence in the film industry for 2013. The film also claimed two other awards. Cuarón was honored as Best Director, and Director of Photography Emmanuel Lubezki won for Best Cinematography.

Columbus-area critics recognized these screen performers: Best Actor Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave); Best Actress and Breakthrough Film Artist Adèle Exarchopolous [Blue Is the Warmest Color (La vie d’Adèle)]; Best Supporting Actor James Franco (Spring Breakers); Best Supporting Actress Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle); and Actor of the Year Matthew McConaughey for his exemplary body of work in Dallas Buyers Club, Mud and The Wolf of Wall Street.

Other winners include: American Hustle for Best Ensemble; The Wolf of Wall Street‘s Terence Winter for Best Adapted Screenplay; Her’s Spike Jonze for Best Original Screenplay and Arcade Fire for Best Score; Best Documentary The Act of Killing; Best Foreign Language Film and Best Animated Film The Wind Rises (Kaze tachinu); and Short Term 12 as Best Overlooked Film.

Repeat COFCA winners include: Jennifer Lawrence (2012 Best Actress for Silver Linings Playbook); Matthrew McConaughey (2012 Actor of the Year for Bernie, Killer Joe, Magic Mike and The Paperboy); James Franco (2010 Best Actor for 127 Hours); and Emmanuel Lubezki (2011 Best Cinematography for The Tree of Life).

Founded in 2002, the Central Ohio Film Critics Association is composed of film critics based in Columbus, Ohio, and the surrounding areas. Its membership consists of 20 print, radio, television and Internet critics. COFCA’s official website at http://www.cofca.org/contains links to member reviews and past award winners.

Winners were announced at a private party on Thursday, Jan. 2.

Complete list of awards:

Best Film
1. Gravity
2. Her
3. American Hustle
4. Frances Ha
5. The Wolf of Wall Street
6. 12 Years a Slave
7. Inside Llewyn Davis
8. Before Midnight
9. Upstream Color
10. Nebraska

Best Director
-Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
-Runner-up: Spike Jonze, Her

Best Actor
-Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
-Runner-up: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

Best Actress
-Adèle Exarchopolous, Blue Is the Warmest Color (La vie d’Adèle)
-Runner-up: Brie Larson, Short Term 12

Best Supporting Actor
-James Franco, Spring Breakers
-Runner-up: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

Best Supporting Actress
-Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
-Runner-up: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave

Best Ensemble
-American Hustle
-Runner-up: The Wolf of Wall Street

Actor of the Year (for an exemplary body of work)
-Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club, Mud and The Wolf of Wall Street
-Runner-up: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Breakthrough Film Artist
-Adèle Exarchopolous, Blue Is the Warmest Color (La vie d’Adèle) (for acting)
-Runner-up: Brie Larson, Don Jon, Short Term 12 and The Spectacular Now (for acting)

Best Cinematography
-Emmanuel Lubezki, Gravity
-Runner-up: Hoyte Van Hoytema, Her

Best Adapted Screenplay
-Terence Winter, The Wolf of Wall Street
-Runner-up: John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave

Best Original Screenplay
-Spike Jonze, Her
-Runner-up: Destin Daniel Cretton, Short Term 12

Best Score
-Arcade Fire, Her
-Runner-up: Steven Price, Gravity

Best Documentary
-The Act of Killing
-Runner-up: Stories We Tell

Best Foreign Language Film
-The Wind Rises (Kaze tachinu)
-Runner-up: Blue Is the Warmest Color (La vie d’Adèle)

Best Animated Film
-The Wind Rises (Kaze tachinu)
-Runner-up: Frozen

Best Overlooked Film
-Short Term 12
-Runner-up: Mud

COFCA offers its congratulations to the winners.

Previous Best Film winners:

2002: Punch-Drunk Love
2003: Lost in Translation
2004: Million Dollar Baby
2005: A History of Violence
2006: Children of Men
2007: No Country for Old Men
2008: WALL•E
2009: Up in the Air
2010: Inception
2011: Drive
2012: Moonrise Kingdom

For more information about the Central Ohio Film Critics Association, please visit http://www.cofca.org/or e-mail info@cofca.org.

A look back at ’2013: The Musical’

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

Japheal Bondurant as competitor William Barfee in CATCO's production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Red Generation Photography)

Japheal Bondurant as competitor William Barfee in CATCO’s production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Red Generation Photography)

By Richard Ades

2013 may be remembered as The Year of the Musical in Central Ohio. Or, more likely, as The First Year of the Musical.

In the more than two decades I’ve been reviewing local theater, musicals have always represented a small percentage of the shows I saw each year. But that’s likely to change.

A prime reason is that CATCO dropped its long aversion to the genre when Steven Anderson took over as producing director in 2010. Another reason is the ascendance of Short North Stage, a 2-year-old troupe that specializes in Sondheim’s art form.

Add to that the musicals staged by Otterbein University Theatre and the growing number staged by Shadowbox Live, including its recent collaborations with Opera Columbus. Then figure in the musicals bravely tackled by troupes that normally stick to standard fare.

The end result is a year that was teeming with musicals. And not just musicals: great musicals.

There were so many worthwhile musicals, in fact, that I’ve been forced to abandon the format I always followed at The Other Paper, which divided the nominees into categories such as Best Drama or Best Comedy. Limiting myself to one Best Musical would have forced me to ignore many of the year’s best shows. Instead, I’ve settled for naming the year’s Top 10 shows.

A couple of caveats: First, no one has time to see everything, so I’m sure I missed some award-worthy gems. And second, this is a subjective list based not only on what was done well but on what I found particularly interesting and memorable.

With that said, congratulations to the winners, and thanks to everyone who made this an exceptional year for theater in Central Ohio.

Top 10 Shows of 2013:

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, CATCO. Though the Top 10 list is mostly arranged haphazardly, this was my favorite show of the year. Director Steven Anderson found both the heart and the laughs in this familiar musical, with help from a consistently wonderful cast led by Japheal Bondurant, Elisabeth Zimmerman and Ralph E. Scott.

Sunday in the Park With George, Short North Stage. The Garden Theater-based troupe sometimes imports its directors from New York, and it paid off handsomely here. Sarna Lapine (niece of James Lapine, who wrote the book and directed the Broadway premiere) gave us a Sondheim revival that was both pitch-perfect and picture-perfect. As a bonus, sound designer Leon Rothenberg found a way to tame the theater’s echo-y acoustics, which bodes well for future productions.

Passing Strange, Short North Stage. Green Day fans undoubtedly enjoyed the punk-rock anger of American Idiot, which came through town in March. But those of a thoughtful bent were more likely to enjoy this satirical take on youthful angst, which was beautifully realized by director Mark Clayton Southers and his committed cast.

Duck Variations, A Portable Theatre. The best news was that the fledgling troupe is the new home of Geoffrey Nelson, former artistic director of CATCO. The second-best news was that its premiere show paired Nelson with fellow CATCO alum Jonathan Putnam. These two sly and seasoned pros made the David Mamet comedy one of the year’s funniest shows.

Assassins, Red Herring Productions. Michael Herring’s solo springtime performance of Krapp’s Last Tape launched the rebirth of his long-dormant troupe. But nothing could have prepared us for Red Herring’s next show, a polished production of Sondheim’s most controversial musical. John Dranschak directed an A-list cast led by Ian Short and Nick Lingnofski.

Mercy Killers, On the Verge Productions. 2013’s crop of touring musicals supplied a fair amount of flashy entertainment, but none of them were as impressive or thought-provoking as this one-man touring show. Writer/actor Michael Milligan told a tragic tale that movingly dramatized the shortcomings of the U.S. health-care system.

The Whipping Man, Gallery Players/New Players Theater. If you thought there was no way to come up with a new take on the Civil War, this show proved you wrong. Matthew Lopez’s postwar drama reunited two former slaves with the wounded son of their Jewish master. The fascinating, if imperfect, tale was exquisitely directed by Tim Browning.

The Air Loom, MadLab. Local actor Jim Azelvandre has tried his hand at writing in the past, but this surreal tale is his best work to date. Azelvandre also supplied the canny direction, which ensured that the ingenious storyline and eccentric characters remained entertaining throughout.

Henry IV, Part One, New Players Theater. Besides staging The Taming of the Shrew on its outdoor stage, New Players was brave enough to tackle one of Shakespeare’s seldom-seen historical dramas. Bard-literate director Robert Behrens made 15th-century Britain come to life with the help of a lively cast led by David Tull as the hard-partying Prince Hal and John Tener as the irrepressible Falstaff.

Burlesque Behind the Curtain, Shadowbox Live. Shadowbox’s production of Spamalot was a blast, too, but Behind the Curtain deserves credit for improving on last year’s Burlesque de Voyage. Writer Jimmy Mak, director Stev Guyer and the talented players created a show that was sometimes very sexy and other times very, very funny.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 48 other followers