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Published: Tuesday, October 31, 2017 @ 6:00 AM
— From new works to classic musicals, here are a few shows to consider adding to your November agenda.
Nov. 2-19, Loft Theatre
Human Race Theatre Company presents the Midwest premiere of Brian Parks’ kooky comedy “The House,” the story of two couples fighting over a dream home’s past and future. Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m.; Sunday at 2 p.m.; and Tuesday-Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Loft Theatre, 126 N. Main St., Dayton. Tickets are $20-$40. Call (937) 228-3630 or visit humanracetheatre.org.
‘Fiddler on the Roof’
Nov. 2-19, Wright State University
Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick and Joseph Stein’s classic musical concerns a poor milkman and his family coping with change from within and outside their tiny village of Anatevka. Nov. 2, 8, 9 and 16 at 7 p.m.; Nov. 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, and 18 at 8 p.m.; and Nov. 5, 11, 12, 18 and 19 at 2 p.m. in WSU’s Creative Arts Center, 3640 Col. Glenn Hwy., Fairborn. Tickets are $20-$22. Call (937) 775-2500 or visit https://liberal-arts.wright.edu/theatre-dance-and-motion-pictures/box-office.
Nov. 2-5, Sinclair Community College
Four plays focused on sound from the horror and mystery genre include Agatha Christie’s relatively unknown “Personal Call” and Sinclair student Maxmillian Santucci’s intriguingly creepy “Frog-Eater.” “My play is set in a contemporary Midwestern ‘nowhere town’ where the residents have realized the local frog population has increased to a worrying degree,” Santucci said. Thursday at 7 p.m.; Friday at Noon and 8 p.m.; Saturday at 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 2 p.m. in Sinclair’s Black Box Theatre, Fourth Floor, Building 2, 444 W. Third St., Dayton. Tickets are $8. Call (937) 512-2808 or visit sinclair.edu/tickets.
Michael Cavanaugh: The Music of Elton John and More
Nov. 3, Schuster Center
Acclaimed pianist/vocalist Michael Cavanaugh performs the music of Grammy, Tony and Academy Award-winning tunesmith Sir Elton John and other songwriters of John’s era accompanied by Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra. Friday at 8 p.m. at the Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets, Dayton. Tickets are $29-$81. Call (937) 228-3630 or visit ticketcenterstage.com.
‘Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean’
Nov. 3-12, Dayton Playhouse
In Ed Graczyk’s 1976 play, which premiered at Players Theatre in Columbus, an all-female James Dean fan club reflects on the life of the iconic film star at a Texas five-and-dime store. Michael Boyd directs. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. at the Dayton Playhouse, 1301 E. Siebenthaler Ave., Dayton. Tickets are $16-$18. Call (937) 424-8477 or visit daytonplayhouse.com.
‘An American in Paris’
Nov. 7-12, Schuster Center
Victoria Theatre Association presents regional premiere of this Gershwin-driven, post-war musical based on the 1951Academy Award-winning film about Jerry Mulligan, an American soldier and aspiring painter, who falls in love with Lise Dassin, a beautiful ballerina. Director Christopher Wheeldon received the 2015 Tony Award for Best Choreography. His crisp, stunning, glitzy, and sophisticated routines, particularly Act Two’s gorgeous ballet, are worth the price of admission. Gene Kelly would be proud. Tuesday-Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 2 and 7:30 p.m. at the Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets, Dayton. Tickets are $25-$98. Call (937) 228-3630 or visit ticketcenterstage.com.
Nov. 10-12, University of Dayton
Danny, Sandy and the rest of the Rydell High gang are back for another round of 1950s fun and romance. Co-produced by UD’s Department of Music and the Theatre, Dance and Performance Technology Program. Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. in Boll Theatre in Kennedy Union, 300 College Park, Dayton. Tickets are $8-$12. Call (937) 229-3950 or visit udayton.edu.
Doc Severinsen’s 90th Birthday Bash
Nov. 17-18, Schuster Center
Heeeeeeere’s Doc! The longtime band leader for Johnny Carson celebrates his 90th birthday with Dayton Philharmonic. Selections cover jazz, pop and big band standards. Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets, Dayton. Tickets are $29-$79. Call (937) 228-3630 or visit ticketcenterstage.com.
‘Tuesdays with Morrie’
Nov. 17-26, Young at Heart Players
Patrick Hayes and Jamie McQuinn star in Young at Heart Players’ production of this humorous and sentimental tale by Jeffrey Hatcher and Mitch Albom based on Albom’s bestseller. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. at the Dayton Playhouse, 1301 E. Siebenthaler Ave., Dayton. Tickets are $12-$15. Call (937) 654-0400 for reservations or purchase at the door (cash or checks only).
Nov. 17-Dec. 3, Dayton Theatre Guild
Published: Monday, May 21, 2018 @ 6:00 AM
— After interviewing Carole King for days, playwright Douglas McGrath was faced with a tough decision. Which parts of the legendary singer/songwriter’s personal journey should be included in a musical about her life?
You’ll see the results when the Tony and Grammy award-winning Broadway hit “Beautiful — The Carole King Musical” makes its Dayton premiere at the Benjamin & Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center May 22-27. The show’s songs include “I Feel The Earth Move,” “One Fine Day,”“You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman,” “You’ve Got A Friend,” “Up on the Roof” and “Take Good Care of My Baby.”
McGrath believes for a Broadway show to succeed, the audience has to care about and connect with the people in it — whether it’s the King in “The King and I” or Alexander Hamilton in “Hamilton.” In this case, McGrath decided to focus on a period in King’s life that began in 1959, just before Brooklyn native Carol Klein composed her first hit song. She is 17, pregnant and newly married to 20-year-old lyricist Gerry Goffin.
The decade that follows includes her early songwriting years, the break-up of her marriage and the 1971 release of “Tapestry,” one of the best-selling albums of all time. “Tapestry” not only represented Carole King’s artistic peak as a performer and writer but also sums up everything that had gone on in her life up to that point, McGrath notes. “All of those things inform these songs. Because ‘Tapestry’ was such a triumph, it supports the play’s message of victory over heartbreak.”
The playwright didn’t know a lot about the famous singer before becoming involved with the Broadway show. “She is a keep-to-herself kind of person and my standard joke is that — like most people — I thought she was born, learned to walk and then recorded ‘Tapestry!’ ” he says. “What I didn’t realize was that 12 years before ‘Tapestry’ came out she was writing hit songs for all of the big groups in the ’50s and ’60s —Aretha Franklin, The Drifters, the Shirrells, the Beatles, the Monkees.”
Crafting a show
The other main characters in “Beautiful” are another married songwriting couple — Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.
“We were lucky in this case because ‘Beautiful’ is about four real people,” says McGrath, who interviewed all four songwriters at length. “All four were intelligent, inspiring, interesting and flawed people — meaning they are human, not perfect — which helps an audience relate and connect.”
McGrath was obviously impressed with King when he interviewed her. “You don’t necessarily think of rock musicians as intellectual, but Carole is really brainy and could speak articulately about everything,” he says. “She skipped two grades in school and was in college by age 16. She has a perfect memory and never struggled for specific dates or names. Later, when I interviewed Gerry, her ex-husband, he confirmed everything she had told me.”
McGrath says his hours with King weren’t always easy for her. “Her life has been filled with joy as well as heartbreak and I don’t think she had talked about some of it for a long, long time,” he says. “A lot of Kleenex kept coming out of her purse. Gerry was her first love.”
Whenever he worked on the script, McGrath played their music in the background. “It helped me see the connections between events in their lives and the music itself, what they created, ” he explains. “You could hear something in their lyrics and stories that would make sense with certain parts of their lives. I wanted the songs to feel connected to their lives.”
That goal was apparently achieved. King walked out halfway through the first read-through she attended. It turned out, says McGrath, it wasn’t that she didn’t like it. She did. It was simply too painful.
Since that time, King has returned to see the entire show. Sarah Bockel, who will portray the famous singer in Dayton, remembers a night in Boston when the cast was asked to gather on stage after the performance for an important announcement.
“We thought we were getting fired!” recalls the Chicago native who worked as an understudy for the leading role before playing it. “Then, Carole King walked out! We didn’t know she was there, it would have made us too nervous. She was extremely gracious and kind, gave us her blessing. Everyone was crying and clapping because she’s not only changed our lives but has changed millions of other people’s lives. We all got to take a selfie with her.”
Bockel says there’s a lot she loves about this part and this show. “I love singing the music every night, and love the other 22 people in the show,” she begins. “I love the fact that theater allows people to communicate a message to a group of strangers sitting in the dark who are bought together because they want to be told a story. I love telling stories. I like communicating with people, making them feel joy, sad. I love being a different person and I love the work you have to do within yourself to produce genuine emotion in yourself so that others can feel something cathartic. I love that it’s never the same and you’re always learning.”
Bockel believes audiences relate to “Beautiful” because they have a major connection to the music and to memories attached to it. “Her music is so personal and so applicable to everyone’s lives,” she believes. “For example, what does it mean to be a natural woman? It can mean something different to everyone but the idea is really simple.”
McGrath hopes Carole King fans who come to the show will be surprised to discover new things about the singer’s life. He’s also hoping those fans bring their kids and grand-kids.
“Her story is very inspiring for young people,” he says. “It’s about a girl who — at 16 — broke into a business where there were no females. And when her marriage came apart and she thought everything was lost, there were even better things ahead. It’s a great message for those who have experienced losses — a first heartbreak or a job that doesn’t work out. You think you’re the only one who has had your heart broken and that’s not the case. It’s great to see someone who’s had difficult things happen and fully recovers without becoming bitter.”
WANT TO GO?
What: “Beautiful-The Carole King Musical”
When: May 22-27. Performances are at 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; at 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Schuster Center, 1 W. Second St., Dayton
Tickets: $26 and up plus service fees. Get tickets online at TicketCenterStage.com, at the Box Office, or by phone at (937) 228-3630 or (888) 228-3630.
NOTE: Saturday matinee performances of Broadway Series presentations are sign interpreted. Audio description is available by request.
BACKGROUND ON BROADWAY At 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday, you can learn about the development, history, and artistry of the show. This free event is held in the Schuster Center’s fourth-floor lobby. You must have a ticket to that day’s performance.
Published: Wednesday, May 16, 2018 @ 6:00 AM
— Sierra Leone will be in the spotlight today.
The Dayton writer and one of the leaders of a Dayton urban poetry movement is a 2018 Ohio Governor’s Award recipient in the category of Community Development and Participation.
The award is presented by the Ohio Arts Council and Ohio Citizens for the Arts Foundation. Sierra’s award, in Community Development and Participation, is for, according to the Ohio Arts Council website, an “Individual or organization that works to create or strengthen interactive arts participation among diverse community members while increasing public awareness about the role of the arts in community life.”
That is certainly a fitting description of Sierra, who is the president and artistic director of Oral Funk Poetry (OFP) Productions, co-founded with her husband Robert Owens Sr.
“I felt euphoric,” Sierra said, when I asked her to describe her reaction to learning that she’d won the award. “I don’t make art for validation, and yet this particular validation felt powerful, to know that our state recognizes and values the work I’ve created with Robert.”
For more than a decade, OFP has produced “The Signature: A Poetic Medley Show,” a bi-monthly show that presents urban poetry, music, dance and more, drawing from local, regional and international talent. The show is housed at The Loft Theatre and is co-presented by The Human Race Theatre Company. In addition, the show expanded to include a poetry competition, The Last Poet Standing.
“The urban art we’ve produced is a unique form, celebrating all art forms with poetry as the moral fabric,” Sierra says. “Spoken word poetry is not usually in the forefront of the arts, so for this to be honored by the state is meaningful to us.”
Sierra also works with organizations and schools through the company’s educational arm, particularly focusing on girls’ empowerment work. She writes and performs her own poetry as well.
“I come from a large family,” Sierra says, “And I started thinking about this when I learned of the award. I wondered, ‘what are the roots of my passion for connecting arts, artists and community?’ And I think it has to do with growing up in a large family, and from my grandmother who emphasized that life is better together, in community. In community, we can be more creative, more impactful, reach more people in diverse audiences.”
Indeed, The Signature shows are, Sierra says, in some ways like artistic church to the attendees. “It’s a higher minded experience, and provides in many ways a sense of healing to the community.”
At the same time, Sierra says that “the arts are constantly morphing and changing, and so we need to, too, at OFP.” Looking ahead to the next ten years, Sierra says the production company will continue to produce some “The Signature” shows, but also aims to develop other experiences and productions. Sierra, who started as spoken word poet, plans to also continue to grow as a poet in writing, and to focus on consulting with area schools and organizations and to serve as the lead educational consultant for her husband Robert’s education business.
Published: Friday, May 11, 2018 @ 11:55 AM
— Looking for an artistic way to spend Mother’s Day? A stroll through the galleries of the Dayton Art Institute will surround you with maternal love.
Jerry Smith, chief curator for the Dayton Art Institute, recently highlighted art works on display with mothers at the heart of them.
“Say what you will about artists, but most of them had mothers so they like depicting mothers,” said Smith. “It’s an important story of life and of being. It’s a story we can relate to.”
Here are 7 art works featuring mothers on display at the DAI:
This new painting was recently put on display in the DAI rotunda. Smith calls this painting of mother and child “remarkably tender and beautiful.”
“By placing a mother and child within a niche setting, the artist suggests the seriousness of a religious painting, recalling European images of the Christian Madonna and Child,” according to Dayton Art Institute research.
The French artist uses abstraction to tell the classical story of The Madonna and Christ Child said Smith, who described the painting as “a tender moment with a human story being told.”
A sense of color creates the halos around their heads and “an almost big singular brush stroke,” creates their limbs in an embrace.
This is “a beautiful modernist design that is tender,” said Smith. The style is “not necessarily the way people think of religious paintings which makes it both challenging and rewarding.”
This sculpture made of plaster in 1957 is a simplified form of mother and child that suggests it was influenced by modernist art movements according to DAI research.
Smith describes the child as flexing and pushing into a mother who is “so solid and firm” with her embrace. The mother’s expression is filled with “such tenderness in her face as she looks at her baby.”
A watchful eye and the protective hand of a mother reach out to steady her child as they are caught in a crush on a busy Dayton street.
This painting, which captures a scene at Rike’s Department Store, is “a terrific slice of life,” said Smith.
Painted in 1933, the scene captures a congested doorway at the downtown store as shoppers enter and exit. Though the artist painted a sturdy little girl in a pink dress and hat, Smith also describes her as “dainty and fabulous.”
A runaway slave, holding her sleeping child in her arms, describes how she escaped to three prominent abolitionists.
The mother’s “truly life and death story,” is recounted to John Greenleaf Whittier, a poet, Brooklyn clergyman Henry Ward Beecher, brother to Harriet Beecher Stowe, and William Lloyd Garrison, the editor of the Boston abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator.
This intimate portrait of a mother with her child was painted in 1787 as societal attitudes towards children shifted to viewing childhood as a special phase of human existence that placed them at the center of the family’s existence according to Dayton Art Institute research.
“I see caring and nurturing and a woman very comfortable in her role as the mother of Henry Ainslie,” said Smith.
The image of the Virgin Mary with her son, the Christ Child, is the most common in all of Christian art, according to the DAI. In this painting Mary and a chubby Christ Child are captured in an intimate moment full of feeling.
“Paintings such as this one emphasized the warmth and tenderness between the Virgin Mary and her son,” said Smith.
Children may be depicted in different styles within each of the art works but “the caring and warmth of the mothers is consistent,” said Smith.
WANT TO GO?
Where: The Dayton Art Institute, 456 Belmonte Park North, Dayton
When: The Dayton Art Institute is open Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. and Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Extended hours on Thursday until 8:00 p.m. Closed Monday and Tuesday
Admission: The Dayton Art Institute asks all visitors to pay a suggested admission fee. Anyone unable to contribute the suggested admission will be welcomed to the museum’s permanent collection galleries free of charge.
Suggested general admission to The Dayton Art Institute’s permanent collection: Adults: $8; seniors (60+), active military and groups: $5; college students (18+ with ID): free; youth & children (17 and under): free and members are also free.
Published: Saturday, April 21, 2018 @ 9:53 AM
— The music of the night returns with a stunning makeover as the national tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s global megahit “The Phantom of the Opera” continues through Sunday, April 22 courtesy of the Victoria Theatre Association’s Premier Health Broadway Series.
Produced by legendary British powerhouse Cameron Mackintosh and based on the novel by Gaston Leroux, “Phantom” tells a romantic, mysterious and compelling account of the titular musician who takes young soprano Christine Daae under his wing in late 19th century Paris. Meanwhile, Christine is wooed by the dashing Raoul, infuriating the Phantom and fueling his vengeful takeover of the Paris Opera House.
Here are five reasons why you should see this thrilling spectacle on its final weekend.
1. EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN
Director Laurence Connor brings character-driven finesse and breezy fluidity to this reconceived production. He dials back the cinematic opulence of the original helmed by Harold Prince (which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary on Broadway) while adding new touches. In particular, “Prima Donna,” an ode to diva Carlotta (excellently conceited Trista Moldovan), is treated as a beautiful transition, guiding the audience directly into the operatic sequence “Poor Fool, He Makes Me Laugh.”
Connor also moves the vibrant “Masquerade” inside the Opera House, another effective departure from the original, and alters the Phantom’s suspenseful final seconds to magical degrees. “The original production was brilliant, but this production is truly spectacular,” said Eva Tavares, who portrays the haunted Christine. “I also feel ours is a grittier production. We want to make our characterizations as real as possible.”
2. A POWERFUL LOOK AT EMPATHY
Despite the Phantom’s treachery and defiance in his obsessive pursuit of Christine, it is imperative to feel some sense of connection to his struggle nonetheless.
“I find the show to be based in a real place of empathy,” Tavares said. “It’s about loving someone and caring for someone even when they don’t love or care for themselves. Even when the people around Christine tell her the Phantom is vicious, she knows the real person inside. He was a tortured individual who was dealt a hard hand at a young age. Christine’s unabashed and unfiltered empathy really speaks to people. She displays a kindness we all need in our lives.”
3. A BEAUTIFULLY COMPLEX CHRISTINE
As Tavares navigates her role with lovely elegance, she provides a beautifully complex journey from giddy chorus girl (her star-is-born excitement throughout the gorgeous “Think of Me” is an early highpoint) to mature woman.
There is also a very telling moment in Act 1 when Christine grows suicidal, another savvy directorial choice from Connor.
The soaring ballad “All I Ask of You” literally becomes Raoul’s plea to bring Christine off the ledge.
4. APPEALING NON-TRADITIONAL CASTING
Standing 6-foot-7, Quentin Oliver Lee, an African-American, firmly leads the production in the vocally demanding titular role. His refreshing and imposing presence certainly gives the material a great deal of renewed subtext.
“Diversity in casting shouldn’t be an issue,” said Tavares, who is 5-foot-1. “The people who are right for a role should be cast. Quentin is an amazing actor who brings a lot to the role. We have a great dynamic as friends. I’m so glad and so grateful to be part of a company that sees the value in diversity in casting.”
5. VISUAL SPLENDOR
Even though this tour overall strays from the original’s iconic nature, you’ll still be dazzled by Maria Bjornson’s fabulous costumes, Scott Brown’s scenic design, Scott Ambler’s terrific choreography (notice the Paso Doble intensity within “The Point of No Return”), Nina Dunn’s video/projection design, and one grand chandelier that is a character all its own.
WANT TO GO?
What: “The Phantom of the Opera”
Where: Schuster Center, Second and Main streets, Dayton
When: Through April 22; 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday
Tickets/more info: Call Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or visit ticketcenterstage.com