Culture FIX: Feb. 21-27

With the wild revelry of Mardi Gras, Valentine’s Day and (uh, possibly) Presidents’ Day just behind us, you’d think there wouldn’t be much to look forward to this coming week. But we have highlights galore in the next seven days, especially crowd-pleasing theater productions, innovative dance programs and spectacular musical treats – nearly all of which prominently feature women. Read on:

Wednesday, Feb. 21

CCM Musical Theatre Series, “Little Women” | 8 p.m. Household Books, 2533 Gilbert Ave., Walnut Hills. 513-556-4183. DETAILS: CCM goes off-campus for this production of the Broadway musical with a book by Allan Knee and music by Jason Howland, based on the famous novel by Louisa May Alcott. For those of us who don’t have our CliffsNotes on hand, the semi-autobiographical “Little Women” is a coming-of-age story about sisters Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy March in post-Civil War Massachusetts. It’s one of the most beloved pieces in American literature, having inspired at least a half-dozen movies, several TV series, an opera, this musical and an avant-garde jazz/rock band. CCM musical theater chair Vincent DeGeorge is stage director/choreographer, and Julie Spangler, noted pianist for the Cincinnati Symphony Pops, is music director. Through Feb. 25.


Lumos Players at Lakeview United Church of Christ in Maineville

Lumos Players, “Even When the Storm Comes” | 7 p.m. Virtual. 513-683-2073. DETAILS: This Maineville-area community theater group, founded in 2015, opens its 2024 Playwrights Script Reading Series with a very serious work by Cincinnati playwright-actor Ryan Vaughan focusing on a child’s struggle with cancer and how a community deals with it. Lumos’ subsequent readings, which are followed by discussions with the playwrights, will take place the second Wednesday of each month through July. The group invites interested theater lovers to sign up to participate in the readings or just to listen to them (email lumosplayers@gmail.com).

Thursday, Feb. 22

Pones Inc., “Deaf Republic: A Visual Presentation” | 7:30 p.m. Advanced Technology Learning Center, Cincinnati State. DETAILS: Cincinnati dance company Pones presents an innovative staging of “Deaf Republic,” a 2019 collection of poems by Ilya Kaminsky, a Ukrainian-American writer who himself suffered hearing loss as a child in Odesa. The poems depict the military occupation of a fictional village, and how the villagers use deafness and sign language to defy the occupiers. Pones’ production uses spoken word, dance and “shadow interpretation,” in which sign-language interpreters are part of the stage action. Gina Kleesattel, who has used shadow interpretation in her work for many years, directs the production. Tickets are free, but reservations required. Through Feb. 24.


Scene from a production of ‘Almost, Maine’ on Cape Cod, where playwright John Cariani developed the script beginning in 2002.

Thomas More Drama Department, “Almost, Maine” | 7:30 p.m. Thomas More University, 333 Thomas More Parkway, Crestview Hills. 859-341-5800. DETAILS: Although better known for his roles as forensic scientist Julian Beck on TV’s “Law & Order” and as the Tony-nominated tailor Motel in the Broadway revival of “Fiddler on the Roof,” actor-playwright John Cariani is the author of possibly the most often-performed (certainly by high schools and colleges) American play of the past 20 years: “Almost, Maine,” a set of vignettes about “falling in and out of love” in a mythical Maine town at midwinter. The New York Post calls it a “mega-hit” that “lands somewhere between Norman Rockwell and ‘Our Town.’ Unabashedly unhip . . . the show offers a sweetness and decency that’s become rare at the theater.” Thomas More’s theater department, led by Phillip Webster, performs it through Feb. 24.

Friday, Feb. 23

Composer Julie Giroux, who also performs as a conductor and pianist

CCM Wind Symphony, “The Creation of the World” | 7:30 p.m. Corbett Theater, College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati. 513-556-4183. DETAILS: In a themed concert of music inspired by the Earth, Kevin Michael Holzman conducts a fascinating program that includes Darius Milhaud’s jazz-drenched ballet “La Création du Monde,” Olivier Messiaen’s birdsong-infused “Oiseaux Exotiques” (with pianist Trinity Le) and American composer Julie Giroux’s Symphony No. 6 (“The Blue Marble”). The Mason High School Wind Symphony appears as guest ensemble. Giroux, whose name might not be familiar to many music lovers, is a major composer of music for concert band and wind ensemble, as well as an award-winning creator of TV and film music. She’s also the first woman composer to have a work played during a presidential inauguration: Giroux’s “Integrity Fanfare and March,” the opening movement of her Symphony No. 3, was played by the U.S. Marine Band during the 2021 ceremony for the inauguration of Kamala Harris as vice-president.


De La Dance Company, “DanceCincinnati24” | 7:30 p.m., De La Dance Theater, 5141 Kennedy Ave., Kennedy Heights. 513-871-0914. DETAILS: De La Dance has cast its net wide for this multicultural festival, bringing together a diverse sampling of Cincinnati’s dance scene for an evening of classical, modern, Latin, Indian, ballroom, jazz and more. Promoting cultural exchange and fostering appreciation for dance’s global heritage are key goals in this production. Through March 2.

Saturday, Feb. 24

Guest artist Siri Imani with RDT dancers

Revolution Dance Theatre, “Blackout” | 8 p.m. Jarson-Kaplan Theater, Aronoff Center, 650 Walnut St., downtown. 513-621-2787. DETAILS: Noted singer-songwriter-poet-cultural curator Siri Imani joins Revolution Dance Theatre and director David Choate in a production that combines hip hop, ballet, spoken word and other art forms to celebrate Black culture. Choate promises an “immersive experience that pushes the boundaries of artistic expression.” The performance promises a dynamic blend of choreography, music and spoken word that reflects the power, resilience and creativity of Black artists. A professional African-American ballet company, RDT is ensemble-in-residence at the Aronoff Center.


Cincinnati Early Music Festival, “Tapestry Concert” | 3 p.m. Church of the Redeemer, 2994 Erie Ave., Hyde Park. DETAILS: The festival, which opened early this month and runs through March 26, has several concerts this weekend. This “Tapestry Concert” gives you a chance to sample the work of a variety of area musicians who specialize in performing early music. The line-up of vocalists and instrumentalists, who will perform sets of their own choosing, includes Howard Le (classical guitar), Elena Kraineva (viola d’amore), Michael Unger (harpsichord), William Willits (lute), Jackie Stevens (voice), JiMin Kim (harpsichord), The Walnut Hills High School Chamber Choir, The Noyse Merchants (hurdy-gurdy and wind instruments) and Joseph Brantley (harpsichord). Free to the public; no tickets needed.

Sunday, Feb. 25

Heri et Hodie principals Jackie Stevens, Krista Cornish Scott and Lauren McAllister

Cincinnati Early Music Festival, “Women Singing the Sacred” | 3 p.m., St. Martin of Tours Church, 3720 Saint Martins Place, Cheviot. DETAILS: Continuing the Early Music Festival on a busy musical Sunday: Heri et Hodie (Yesterday and Today), the noted women’s vocal group specializing in music very old and very new, presents a program of ancient and contemporary sacred works featuring women composers. The group, which started up three years ago, already has commissioned and premiered four new works by women. Free, no tickets required, but donations accepted at the door.


CCM Faculty Artist Series, pianist Polina Bespalko | 2 p.m. Werner Recital Hall, College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati. 513-556-4183. DETAILS: You read about her in a fascinating piece by David Lyman in Movers & Makers last September. Now’s your chance to hear pianist Polina Bespalko – faculty member at both Xavier University and CCM, and director of Xavier’s venerable Music Series – in a recital of music she talked to Lyman about (“It will symbolize my journey”). Bespalko’s teacher, the late, renowned Russian pianist Nikolai Petrov, called her simply an “amazing virtuoso.” Her CCM appearance follows her faculty recital Feb. 16 at Xavier’s Bellarmine Chapel. Admission is free.


Greater Cincinnati Guitar Society, guitarist Bokyung Byun | 4 p.m. Wyoming Fine Arts Center, 322 Wyoming Ave., Wyoming. DETAILS: Soundboard magazine raved about guitarist Bokyung Byun, “Here is a simple fact: with artistry such as Ms. Byun’s, the state-of-the-art of guitar performance has reached a new level.” Recipient of a 2023 Avery Fisher Career Grant, she took the grand prizes at Guitar Foundation of America International Concert Artist Competition and the Montreal International Classical Guitar Competition, and was the first woman to win the JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition. Renowned conductor Falletta herself cited Byun’s “gorgeous tone, immaculate technique, and sophisticated musicianship.” Tickets are free for Guitar Society members, $25 for non-members.

Monday, Feb. 26

Alia Shawkat and Cynthia Erivo in “Drift”

Woodward Cinema, “Drift” | 7:30 p.m., Woodward Theater, 1404 Main St., Over-the-Rhine. 513-345-7981. DETAILS: Premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last year, this acclaimed drama directed by Anthony Chen follows young, penniless Liberian refugee Jacqueline (Cynthia Erivo), trying to make her way on a Greek island, where she becomes friends with an American tour guide Callie (Alia Shawkat). Critics particularly cited the powerful performance by Erivo, who will star as Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West) in the coming film version of the musical “Wicked.”

Tuesday, Feb. 27

Music Live@Lunch, Faux Frenchmen | 12:10 p.m. Christ Church Cathedral, 318 E. 4th St., downtown. 513-621-1817. DETAILS: Cincinnati’s splendid “gypsy jazz” quartet – guitarists Brian Lovely and George Cunningham, bassist Don Aren and violinist Paul Patterson – continue to delight area audiences with their “Hot Club” sound. Here’s a chance to bring your lunch and hear them for free. Coming up, the Faux boys also are scheduled to do a March 14 concert at the American Sign Museum and a March 22 gig at coffee house/jazz lounge Caffè Vivace.


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