Monday Matinee 12.09.13

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Kaela O’Connor and Jeremy Braley in “White Christmas”
Photo Credit: Terry Cloyd

The snow and bad weather couldn’t keep me away from seeing “White Christmas” at the Greater Hamilton Civic Theater yesterday. I had been looking forward to this show the minute I heard that Kevin Brunck (Manager of Entertainment at Kings Island) was directing it.  I’ve seen two previous versions of the show and have always been disappointed by the lack of ability to take the classic film that I love so much and put it on the stage successfully.  But now I can say that I’m satisfied that it can be done.  Brunck took an interesting cast – long time community theater performers Ben Schneider and Maria Balfour – and paired them up with two of his best professional performers to lead this show.  Jeremy Braley (“American Country,” “British Invasion,” “Rock and Roll Never Forgets,” “Hot Blooded” at Kings Island) and Kaela O’Connor (“British Invasion,” “Rock and Roll Never Forgets,” and most recently UC-CCM’s “Carrie”) took this production to a whole different level.  Balfour was magnificent during my favorite song, “Love, You Didn’t Right By Me,” showing that she can belt with the best of them.  Schneider gave a solid and touching performance.

Photo Credit: Terry Cloyd
Kaela O’Connor steals the show in “White Christmas”
Photo Credit: Terry Cloyd

I especially enjoyed “Count Your Blessings.”  Braley showed his dancing and singing chops during “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing” and I had forgotten about the big tap number, “I Love a Piano” that begins Act Two.  He was fantastic, but I think its safe to say that Ms. O’Connor stole the show during the extended tap sequence.  I also enjoyed Angie Neal as Martha Watson and thought that Henry Cepluch as General Waverly brought a warmth to that character.  Armond Bloch as Ezekiel was entertaining and McLean Strickland had a couple of comedically golden moments as Mike the Stage manager.

The dancing over all was outstanding and I always enjoy seeing talented dancers like Kayla Rice perform.  The live orchestra, conducted by Benjamin Price, was an ambitious choice and it paid off in spades.  Price is fun to watch and I appreciated that he showed restraint during times when the focus was on the stage.  Needless to say, if you didn’t see this show, you missed a good one.  Next up for this community theater is “On Golden Pond.”

Also last week, I was fortunate to see the League of Cincinnati Theater 4-Star rated, “Around the World in 80 Days” at the Ensemble Theater.  This family-friendly show was fun, with some great comic moments from the always entertaining Michael Bath.  The cast was solid and I am glad I had the opportunity to attend opening night.  It runs through January 4th and the LCT recommends you check it out!

Last week, “Striking 12” opened at the Falcon Theater.  I’m seeing it this Friday night!  And don’t forget about “A Christmas Carol” both at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts and the Playhouse in the Park. I talked about them both last week.  Keeping with the Dicken’s theme,  the bizarre and unique “A Klingon Christmas Carol” opens this week.  From what I understand, this re-telling of the classic holiday story will be performed in the language of Klingon with English “super tittles.” It’s being staged at the Art Academy of Cincinnati.

Other holiday shows opening this week include just down the street from the Klingons in the KNOW Theatre (but produced by New Edgecliff Theater), the one-woman show, “The 12 Dates of Christmas.”  Annie Kalahurka reprises her LCT nominated role and the show runs through December 21st.  I’m seeing “Nuncrackers” on Thursday night at the Fitton Center for the Arts, produced by Mad Anthony Theatre Company.  This show promises audience participation, parody songs, and a good dose of “Nunsense-style” humor and if its as good as the last show I saw in this space (“Light Sensitive”), then I’m sold.  It only runs this weekend so be sure to check back on Friday for my thoughts.  Also only running this weekend is the Cincinnati Black Theatre Company’s “Black Nativity.”

Finally, one of my favorite holiday shows, “Every Christmas Story Ever Told” will open on Sunday, December 15th at the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company.  I have my opening night ticket.  When I saw it a couple of years ago, it was being performed at Arnold’s Bar and Grill.  Now, KNOW Theatre’s improv company has taken over Arnold’s with “The Naughty List”) so I can’t wait to catch this hilarious and touching Christmas show and see it staged in the traditional theater space.

There are so many great holiday shows happening you have no excuse not to get out and catch one (or all!) of them.  What are you going to do to support local theatre this week?  One thing you could do is share this blog with your theater loving friends and family.  Help me get the word out about great local theater by LIKING us on FaceBook, FOLLOWING the blog on WordPress and Twitter, and SHARING it on Pinterest and other social media sites. Thanks for your help!

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