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Cincy Stage Pulse: Jackie Demaline Previews March's Theatre Offerings

For everyone who braved the polar vortex in February -- oh, wait, it's just an express now -- there's been some 'wow!' theater, with the terrific Pluto at Know Theatre with Annie Fitzpatrick also terrific and Tribes at Ensemble, a thought-provoking and expertly directed by Michael Haney (of course) leading the list.
 
With arctic blasts hanging on, come in from the cold in March for what looks like another strong month.
 
Here are week-by-week recommendations.  The month's two big musicals -- Les Miz at CCM and Broadway in Cincinnati's tour of Wicked -- are VERY close to sold-out.  If you're planning on seeing either/both, get tix now.
 
Two shows opening at the end of March will be highlighted in April -- the world premiere of A Delicate Ship at Playhouse, directed by Michael Haney and Cincinnati Shakespeare continues the History Cycle with Henry IV
 
See you at the theatre!
 
WEEK ONELes Miserables, (Tickets are only available for March 4 & 5 performances. Don't wait!) Patricia Corbett Theater, College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati, 513-556-4183, www.ccm.uc.edu.
 
Hear the (CCM) people sing in the world’s longest-running musical, finally making its CCM debut – and count on CCM musical theater to sing a “Les Miz” that will lift you out of your seat.
 
A true musical phenom, Victor Hugo’s brutal tale of cruelty and injustice follows Jean Valjean who has broken parole after 19 years of hard labor for stealing a loaf of bread for a starving child. His quest for salvation takes him across decades, always hounded by police inspector Javert. 
 
Seniors Julian Decker and Blaine Krauss alternate as Jean Valjean, seniors Noah Ricketts and Collin Kessler alternate as Javert and all four have been stand-outs for four years. The Class of 2014 is the best in years -- can’t wait to see what comes next for them.

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CCM seniors Blaine Krauss as Jean Valjean and Kimber Sprawl as Fantine

Also looking good -- I Left My Heart: A Salute to the Music of Tony Bennettthrough March 23, Covedale Center for the Performing Arts, 4990 Glenway Ave., 513-241-6550 and www.cincinnatilandmarkproductions.com
 
The Covedale will deliver 40 standards all recorded by Bennett, with the talented trio of Tom Highley, Deondra Means and Brian Wylie, who’ll do right by those velvet-voiced favorites including "Because Of You," "Stranger In Paradise," "Top Hat, White Tie And Tails," "The Best Is Yet To Come," "On Green Dolphin Street," "When Will The Bells Ring For Me," "Cold, Cold Heart," "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams," "I Wanna Be Around," "The Good Life," "Rags To Riches," and, natch, "I Left My Heart In San Francisco."

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Tom Highley, Deondra Kamau Means, Brian Wylie and music director Mark Magistrelli

Take a chance on The Irish Curse through March 15 at Clifton Players, Clifton Performance Theatre, 404 Ludlow Ave., Clifton. 513-861-7469 and www.cliftonperformancetheatre.com.
 
The Irish Curse was a hit at the 2005 New York Fringe Festival, getting big laughs out of small penises. Size matters to a self-help group of Irish-American men who meet every Wednesday night in a Catholic church basement. There is much whining about their “shortcoming” until a blue collar guy joins the group and challenges and raises questions of identity, masculinity, sex, relationships, and social status.
 
WEEK TWOWicked, March 5-23, Broadway in Cincinnati, Aronoff Center, 650 Walnut St., Downtown. 1-800-294-1816, 513-721-3344 and www.broadwayacrossamerica.com
 
As long as there are little girls, there will be Wicked. The “Untold Story of the Witches of Oz” continues to be Broadway’s biggest box office hit and returns again to Cincinnati. 
 
Long before Dorothy and Toto landed in Munchkinland, two girls meet in the land of Oz. Elphaba is born with emerald green skin - is smart, fiery and misunderstood. Glinda is beautiful, ambitious and very, very popular. How these two grow to become the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good makes for "the most complete -- and completely satisfying -- new musical in a long time" (USA Today). Cheer to “Defying Gravity” and shed tears to “For Good.”
 
WEEK THREEPride and Prejudice, March 8-April 5, Playhouse in the Park, Marx Theatre, Eden Park. 513-421-3888 and www.cincyplay.com.
 
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Are you smiling with affection? Do your fingers itch to open your well-worn copy of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”? 
 
The captivating romance brings shiny bright and outspoken Elizabeth Bennet (one of five barely dowered daughters) and rich but frosty Mr. Darcy center stage. But what helps make the domestic comedy of manners a classic is the supporting cast – grasping mama, horrid relatives, a dangerous adventurer as a potentially ruinous romantic interest…everyone brilliantly drawn. 
 
The newly adapted script won high praise when it debuted at Milwaukee Rep in 2009.
 
WEEK FOURMountaintop, March 19-April 6, Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, 1127 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-421-3555, www.ensemblecincinnati.org.
 
A re-imagining of the night before Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination. On April 3, 1968, the civil rights leader cools down in Room 306 in the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, after delivering his legendary 'I've Been to the Mountaintop' speech to a massive church congregation. Then room-service is delivered by a mysterious young maid. Terrific Torie Wiggins and Gavin Lawrence star. Lawrence starred in Ensemble hit “Thurgood” a few season back. 
 
“It’s a fantasy based on fiction,” says Ensemble producing artistic director Lynn Meyers, “and Ilove that.” She promises that King’s now-famous hotel room will be recreated “down to the pea green carpet.” Several talk-backs are scheduled and one will be Skyped from the real Room 306.
 
Meyers also likes that the play brings King’s iconic speech and “brings it back to the forefront of our minds.”
 
NYC reviews were mixed but some critics loved it:
 
Newsday: "The prospect of a Broadway play about Martin Luther King threatens to be as earnest as an after-school special or as nobly stone-faced as the new MLK monument in Washington. So it's a relief, not to mention a thrill, to report that Katori Hall's "The Mountaintop" crackles with theatricality and a humanity more moving than sainthood."
 
Hollywood Reporter: While it begins as a deceptively simple fictionalized account of Martin Luther King Jr.’s final night on Earth, Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop literally explodes into metaphysical magic realism, ruminating on race and politics, life and death in ways that connect King’s legacy to every person in the audience.
 
Alert: Strong language and adult themes, may not be suitable for all audiences.