Each year, it’s harder to select five must-see shows for our September issue. Should I go for sass (Broadway in Cincinnati’s “Mean Girls”) or class (CincyShakes’ “Titus Andronicus”)? Or maybe the totally unpredictable (“The Kaplan New Works Series” by Cincy Ballet). What a delicious dilemma. Here’s what I chose.
Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati – ‘Fun Home’
Sometimes the unlikeliest sources endow us with the most remarkable theater. “Fun Home” is based on Alison Bechdel’s brilliant graphic memoir that chronicled her coming of age, coming out and, only after the death of her father, learning he was a closeted homosexual. Widely regarded as one of Broadway’s most original recent musicals, it won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
Sept. 4-28 (preview performances, Aug. 31 and Sept. 3), Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, Over-the-Rhine; ensemblecincinnati.org
Broadway in Cincinnati – ‘Come From Away’
Remember what I said about unlikely sources? This is one of those stories that seem too good to be true. Except it really happened. After the 9/11 attacks, U.S. airspace was shut down. Thousands of flights were grounded, including 38 planes that were diverted to Gander, Newfoundland. More than 6,700 passengers were stranded there for five days but, in the words of the town’s mayor, those passengers evolved from strangers to friends to family. Who would have thought it was fodder for a musical? But when it came time to hand out Tonys, “Come From Away” walked away with the Best Musical trophy.
Sept. 17–29, Procter & Gamble Hall, Aronoff Center, downtown; cincinnati.broadway.com
Playhouse in the Park – ‘The Lifespan of a Fact’
The plot of this acclaimed 2018 play sounds hopelessly nerdy. A famed author submits a story for publication, but pieces of his work and research are questioned by a young fact checker. In the middle is an editor who is trying to mediate but also protect the publication’s integrity. This isn’t really about fake news. Rather, it is a thoughtful and often humorous play about the always present balance pitting facts against “creative license.”
Oct. 24-Nov. 16 (previews Oct. 19-23), Marx Theatre, Playhouse in the Park, Eden Park; cincyplay.com
Cincinnati Ballet – ‘The Wizard of Oz’
If you follow Cincinnati Ballet, you are sure to recall the company’s memorable 2015 production of “ALICE (in wonderland).” Choreographer Septime Webre’s ballet was bright and brash and endlessly inventive as it retold a tale most have known since childhood. It was as if we were seeing the story unfold for the first time. Now Webre, artistic director of the Hong Kong Ballet, brings his particular magic to another familiar story – “The Wizard of Oz.” If the videos of Hong Kong’s production are to be believed, this will be one of the season’s great treats.
Oct. 25-Nov. 3, Procter & Gamble Hall, Aronoff Center, downtown; cballet.org
Know Theatre – ‘Puffs’
The plot of Matt Cox’s play may sound familiar. Three friends head off to a wondrous and slightly mysterious school where they will study all things magical. They are not the three you are probably thinking of, though a notable boy wizard and his two pals are also studying at the school. Reports from earlier productions suggest this is a witty and sometimes touching paean for the rest of us. You know – those of us who will never be Harry. The play is, according to the off-Broadway production’s website, “for anyone who has never been destined to save the world.”
Nov. 22-Dec. 12, Know Theatre, Over-the-Rhine; knowtheatre.com
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company – “August: Osage County”
Sept. 6–28 – Long and deadly serious, Tracy Letts’ script revolves around what is surely the most dysfunctional extended family you’ve ever seen on the stage. The verbal cruelty is shocking and horrifying and fascinating and . . . well, it makes for great theater. cincyshakes.com
Northern Kentucky University – “The African Company Presents Richard III”
Sept. 26-Oct. 6 – Carlyle Brown’s script recounts a controversial production of Shakespeare’s “Richard III” as staged by the first black theater company in the U.S. in 1822. nku.edu/theater
Falcon Theatre, Newport
The area’s pluckiest small theater – located in a renovated storefront – celebrates its 30th anniversary this season. Its seasons are built around proven scripts, things like “Marjorie Prime” and “Silent Sky,” but always make room for unusual ones like “The Agitators,” which explores the friendship of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass. This season opens Sept. 27 with “The 39 Steps,” which plays through Oct. 12. falcontheatre.net