Well, we did it again. We blinked, and another month disappeared. It probably went by so fast because of all the engaging events keeping us busy in the dark days of winter. February promises to welcome us with more of the same – an entertaining bounty. Here are a few suggestions for where to start.
Oscar-nominated short documentaries
First show Friday, Jan. 31, 7 p.m. | 719 Race St., Cincinnati, OH 45202
We all know there’s a lot more going on in the world of cinema than the dozen or so awards we see on the Academy Awards ceremony. In fact, some of the most interesting and challenging work is done in categories like short documentaries. Cincinnati World Cinema wants you to be able to see some of this work for yourself, so they’re once again screening all six of this year’s finalists, including “St. Louis Superman,” about Bruce Franks, a rapper turned activist turned state representative. Alternating offerings of programs A and B are scheduled so that you can easily see both sets. There are four showings of each through Feb. 8; check the website for details.
cincyworldcinema.org or 859-957-3456 (FILM)
Classic Oscar winners: ‘Ordinary People’/‘Life is Beautiful’
Friday, Jan. 31, 7 p.m./9:45 p.m. | Esquire Theatre, 320 Ludlow Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45220
The Esquire’s survey of great Oscar-winning films this week turns to some modern classics. First is “Ordinary People,” Robert Redford’s 1980 directorial debut that took home four statues, including as Best Picture and Best Director. Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore, Judd Hirsch and Timothy Hutton star in an intimate portrait of a family’s implosion after the death of the oldest son. Additional screenings Sunday and Tuesday.
In 1997, Roberto Benigni wrote, directed and starred in “Life is Beautiful,” a comic tragedy about a man who uses humor to keep his son alive during the Holocaust. Benigni won a Best Actor Oscar, and the film also won Best Foreign Film and Best Score. Additional screenings Saturday.
esquiretheatre.com or 513-281-8750
Saturday, Feb. 1, 10 p.m. | Esquire Theatre, 320 Ludlow Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45220
My mother, of hallowed memory, was an English teacher usually respected by colleagues and feared by students. (Sometimes it was the other way around, and that was fine with her.) On the test she gave closest to Groundhog Day each year, there was always an extra credit opportunity: Spell Punxsutawney, the hamlet northeast of Pittsburgh where the groundhog Phil is alleged to forecast the severity of the rest of winter. In 1993, Bill Murray played a weatherman stuck in Punxsutawney on Groundhog Day duty. Really stuck. Time loop stuck … until he can get the day right and win Andie MacDowell’s heart. Is it an Oscar winner? No, but it’s still laugh-out-loud funny after 27 years. Second screening at 5 p.m. Sunday.
esquiretheatre.com or 513-281-8750
Whiskey tasting and lecture
Monday, Feb. 3, 6:30 p.m. | Mercantile Library, 414 Walnut St., Cincinnati, OH 45202
Victoria Eady Butler talks about Tennessee whiskey and the debt the industry owes her great-great grandfather, Nathan “Nearest” Green. “Uncle Nearest,” as he was known was the first African American master distiller and, as the story goes, mentor and teacher to a young, would-be distiller named Jack Daniel. Green perfected what is known as the Lincoln County Process. (Don’t know what that is? Well, I guess you’ll have to go and find out.) Cincinnati’s favorite mixologist, Molly Wellmann, will be on hand, too, with samples of Tennessee whiskey, including (appropriately) the award-winning Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey.
mercantilelibrary.com or 513-621-0717
Signs & Songs: Robin Lacey & DeZydeco
Friday, Jan. 31, 7 p.m. | American Sign Museum | 1330 Monmouth Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45225
The Sign Museum gets the bontemps rolling with a pre-Mardi Gras (it’s just over three weeks away, you know) serving of the inimitable Cajun musical gumbo from Robin Lacey & DeZydeco – a well-seasoned mix of blues, country rock and, of course, zydeco. Ticketholders may tour the museum starting at 6 p.m.
americansignmuseum.org or 513-541-6366
CCJO: ‘On the Same Wavelength’
Sunday, Feb. 2, 2 p.m. | First Unitarian Church, 536 Linton Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45219
No, we don’t mean a “What’s the frequency, Kenneth” kind of wavelength. We’re talking about the unspoken communication that two great musicians share when they’ve played together for 20 years. In this case, it’s Phil DeGreg and Joe Lukasik, clarinetist for the Buffalo Ridge Jazz Band. The duo offers an afternoon of favorites, as part of the Cincinnati Contemporary Jazz Orchestra‘s “Live at First Series,” from the Great American Songbook to choro, the “New Orleans jazz of Brazil.”
Pops: Gershwin Spectacular
Friday, Jan. 31, 8 p.m. | 1241 Elm St., Cincinnati, OH 45202
I know what you’re thinking: Didn’t the CSO just play “Rhapsody in Blue” … and with Gershwin himself at the piano? What is John Morris Russell thinking? Well, yes, they did. You may not know, though, that, at the “Rhapsody” premiere, extended stretches of the piece were not actually written; Gershwin improvised on the spot and gave Paul Whiteman a nod when it was time for the band to play. The score soon became codified, and that’s what the CSO performed, but JMR and the Pops will recapture that seat-of-the-pants feeling of the premiere with the help of the remarkable pianist Marcus Roberts, a jazz virtuoso who happens to be classically trained, too. He’s the perfect bridge for Gershwin’s spirit and legacy. (Roberts, for the record, is also blind, but you won’t notice when he starts to play.) The program is rounded out by the “Cuban Overture” (an underrated piece by my reckoning), “An American in Paris,” and “Porgy and Bess” tunes. Program repeats 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
cincinnatisymphony.org or 513-381-3300
CCM: ‘The Long Goodbye’
Friday, Jan. 31, 7:30 p.m. | Corbett Auditorium, 290 CCM Blvd., Cincinnati, OH 45221
To get the obvious joke out of the way, an 85-minute symphony is, indeed, a long goodbye. But Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 has a lot to bid farewell to: his own life, the world he knew and even Western music as it had existed for more than 200 years. Mark Gibson leads CCM’s Philharmonia Orchestra in this pillar of Western civilization. As a bonus, the program also includes Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 26, “Les Adieux” (The Farewell), to which Mahler refers in his symphony. If you haven’t ever heard this piece, why not try it?
ccm.uc.edu or 513-556-6638
Opens Saturday, Feb. 1 | Playhouse in the Park, 962 Mount Adams Circle, Cincinnati, OH 45202
This world-premiere show by Universes promises to challenge, move and entertain you through its fusion of theatre, poetry, dance, jazz, hip-hop and down-home blues. Universes is an award-winning, multicultural performance ensemble based in New York. Runs at the Rosenthal Shelterhouse Theatre through March 8.
cincyplay.com or 513-421-3888
‘From Rituals to Runways’
Opens Tuesday, Feb. 4 | Behringer-Crawford Museum, 1600 Montague Road, Covington, KY 41011
The Behringer-Crawford Museum opens 2020 with a beadazzling exhibition that celebrates the art of beads, whether made of gems, glass, stone or wood, and the roles they have played in society – from prayer and devotion to art, fashion and décor. The exhibition includes four outfits designed by Bob Mackie for Cher in the 1960s and ’70s. Concurrent educational events include many workshops. Runs through May 10.
bcmuseum.org or 859-491-4003
Opens Saturday, Feb. 1 | Fitton Center, 101 S. Monument Ave., Hamilton, OH 45011
North of Cincinnati on the banks of the Great Miami, the Fitton Center opens a new show of large-scale abstract and narrative works that invite viewers to walk through shifting spaces. Solo artists Dustin London and Kim Rice, and a three-person show by Kathryn Jill Johnson, Robert Patrick and Hamilton’s own Billy Simms are included. Runs through March 27.
Saturday’s opening reception (5:30 p.m.) will be followed by a 7:30 p.m. performance of the Butler Philharmonic. The program features a world premiere by Paul John Stanbery, the orchestra’s music director emeritus, in collaboration with Simms.
fittoncenter.org or 513-863-8873
Opens Friday, Jan. 31 | Art Beyond Boundaries, 1410 Main St., Cincinnati, OH 45202
The latest exhibition at Art Beyond Boundaries – the centerpiece of the arts program for the Center for Independent Living Options in Mount Auburn – celebrates the gallery’s 13 years in Over-the-Rhine of promoting awareness and understanding of artists with disabilities. Opening reception starts at 6 p.m. Friday. Runs through March 13.
artbeyondboundaries.com or 513-421-8726
Last chance: ‘The Levee’
Through Sunday, Feb. 2 | Cincinnati Art Museum, 953 Eden Park Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45202
Indian photographer Sohrab Hura was fascinated by the American South when he traveled there in 2016. The exhibition “The Levee” is a collection of black and white images from that journey.
To send the show off in style, the first Art After Dark event of 2020 (5-9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 31) gives a tip of the hat to Hura’s show with a monochromatic theme. Guests are encouraged to dress in black and white. There’ll be the usual activities, too: cocktails, food (Camp Washington Chili), music and docent-led tours of “The Levee.”
cincinnatiartmuseum.org or 513-721-2787 (ARTS)