Best bets in Cincinnati for theater and dance
Broadway in Cincinnati
No surprise here. “Hamilton,” Lin Manuel Miranda’s edgy, hip-hop-infused bio-musical of one of our Founding Fathers, was as immense a hit during its first visit to Cincinnati as it had been on Broadway. How popular was it? During its three-week run at the Aronoff Center, there were 62,808 tickets available. Just NINE went unsold. When I saw the show for the first time, I was convinced that there was no way it could possibly live up to the hype that preceded it. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Not only is it a grade-A entertainment, but it is also a profound political statement on American history – even the history that is unfolding around us. Take the hint. Buy your tickets now.
Sept. 6-Oct. 2, Aronoff Center, downtown; www.cincinnatiarts.org
Kaplan New Works Series
For most people who have a hunger for intriguing ballet, Cincinnati Ballet’s New Works Series is a treat. It’s a chance to see choreography that purposefully charges off into new creative directions with a devil-may-care attitude that is, as often as not, wonderfully invigorating. This year, the two-week series promises revelations on a new level. This is our first chance to get a hint of the company new artistic director Jodie Gates hopes to build here. Mind you, she will have been running the company for only six weeks before the opening night. She has several new dancers in the company. And though none of the choreography in these programs is hers, her many decades of involvement in ballet at the highest levels is sure to give us a sneak peek of what she values most on the stage.
Sept. 8-18, Jarson-Kaplan Theater, Aronoff Center, downtown;
Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati
Some theaters exist solely to entertain us. And sometimes, that’s precisely the emotional boost we need. Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati isn’t averse to lighthearted shows. But more often, you’re likely to find the ETC stage playing host to an intellectually challenging exploration of society’s frailties. Sometimes, those shows are devastatingly frank. Other times, they tear at our hearts. Sometimes, as with Lynn Nottage’s “Sweat,” they are both. The show won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for drama as it explored the once-thriving city of Reading, Pa., and its descent to become the poorest city in America. The loss of well-paid industrial jobs that created a solid middle class is only part of the story that has become all too familiar in the U.S. in the past half-century. Nottage is brilliant in the way she takes those headlines and turns them into personal stories that touch all of our lives.
Sept. 17–Oct. 9, Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, Over-the-Rhine; www.ensemblecincinnati.org
Playhouse in the Park
All over town
This is a Playhouse season unlike any other in its 60-plus years of presenting professional theater. It’s not that the productions are so radically different from any other season’s. Rather, it’s that the first half of the season won’t take place at the Playhouse’s hilltop location in Eden Park. That’s because, at the end of last season, the Playhouse razed its longtime mainstage, the Marx Theatre. Rising out of that rubble is a new mainstage, Moe and Jack’s Place – the Rouse Theatre. But since that new theater won’t be ready to house a show until March, the Playhouse is taking its first three productions on the road. Some folks consider it chancy; I think of it as a grand adventure and an opportunity for people in our area to experience a Playhouse show without traveling far from home.
Sept. 25-Oct.23, “Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express,” Jarson Kaplan Theater, Aronoff Center, downtown
Oct. 15-Nov. 6, “Frida . . . A Self-Portrait,” The Carnegie, Covington
Nov. 12-Dec. 4, “The Lion,” Warsaw Federal Incline Theater, Price Hill
Know Theatre of Cincinnati
“Unusual” barely scratches the surface as a word to describe Justin Huertas’ 2015 musical. The Know’s tag line of “Comic book lore and an indie rock score collide in a fateful night of adventure, music and love” – that’s a lot better. But it doesn’t let you know that the leading character is a guy with ultra-scaly skin – the Lizard Boy – and possibly some superpowers. And that there’s a Siren, too, and that the story takes place in a town that is still haunted by a dragon attack 20 years earlier. There is love, too – of course – and a nightlong quest that gives the show the hallmarks of a delicious comic book fantasy.
Nov. 18-Dec. 11, Know Theatre, Over-the-Rhine; www.knowtheatre.com