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What to See on Northern Kentucky & Cincinnati Stages in October

October on local stages looks irresistible. Start with Pulp, featuring lots of Cincy Shakes vets in a noir comedy that’s part of a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere (these are both very good things) at Know Theatre.

Then it’s over to Cincinnati Shakespeare for a must-see Giles Davies in the title role of The Elephant Man, a modern classic (based on a true story) about the emotional journey of a profoundly deformed man in the Victorian era.

Then on to College-Conservatory of Music, where musical theatre will do what they do best in that singular sensation A Chorus Line at University of Cincinnati. Expect tickets to be gone in a blink. Opening on the same night: Middletown by CCM Drama, a rare chance to see a Will Eno play. (If you loved The Realistic Joneses at Clifton Players last season, you’ll want to see it. And if you didn’t see Joneses, you should still see it.)

Just take up residence at CCM – the month begins with a world premiere cabaret that looks at the work of legendary Broadway team Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt (The Fantasticks, I Do!, I Do!, Celebration…) devised and directed by CCM musical theater chief Aubrey Berg (It’s free!).

And – if you don’t know the 20th century’s great African-American playwright August Wilson, October offers a rare local opportunity to see two entries in his decade-by-decade examination of America with Jitney at Playhouse in the Park and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom at Northern Kentucky University.

This month’s stage picks, as always in chronological order:

They Were You: The Songs of Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, Oct. 5-9. Cohen Family Studio Theatre, College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati. 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. FREE, but tickets must be reserved in advance, call 513-556-4183. Tickets will be available at 12 p.m. Monday, Oct. 3. Limit two tickets per order.

World premiere of a musical revue showcasing the songs of Broadway collaborators Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt and the first comprehensive cabaret of Jones and Schmidt’s legendary work.

Devised and directed by CCM musical theater chief Aubrey Berg with arrangements by so-talented Stephen Goers and choreography by CCM alum Katie Johannigman.

Pulp, Oct. 7-29. Know Theatre, 1120 Jackson St., Over-the-Rhine. 8 p.m. Thursday- Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets $25. 513-300-5669 and knowtheatre.com.

In 1930s Los Angeles, a noted literary agent has been gruesomely murdered. The four suspects are his remaining clients, all writers for different pulp magazines. Washed-up PI Frank Ellery Frank dives into the mystery and suddenly life begins to imitate bad fiction. Lots of Cincy Shakes vets are in the cast, which includes Maggie Lou Rader, Justin McCombs, Darnell Pierre Benjamin (fresh from Ensemble’s Georgia McBride), Dylan Shelton and Paul Riopelle.

The Elephant Man, Oct. 14-Nov. 5. Cincinnati Shakespeare, 719 Race St. Downtown Cincinnati. 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. Additional matinee 2 p.m. Nov. 5. Tickets $22-$42 depending on dates and times. Previews $25. Student rush $14 student rush one hour before performance, if available.  ON STAGE SEATING: The Elephant Man has a limited number of seats available on stage. Check the website for details (you’ll be asked to wear a costume piece!)

Giles Davies returns to Cincinnati Shakespeare to play John Merrick. That’s really all you need to know, but here are some details. The hugely awarded play is based on the true story of Merrick, whose profound physical deformities horrified Victorian London. A chance encounter with a compassionate physician changes his life, introducing him to a different world, more beautiful and more cruel.


Jitney/Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom: A rare chance to see overlapping productions from August Wilson’s monumental, decade-by-decade exploration of the 20th century African-American experience at Playhouse in the Park (Jitney) and Northern Kentucky University (Ma Rainey).

Jitney, Oct. 15-Nov. 12, Playhouse in the Park, Playhouse in the Park, Marx Theatre, Eden Park. 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday. Tickets $35-$75 and subject to change. 513-421-3888 and www.cincyplay.com.

Jitney follows a group of men who operate an unlicensed car service in Pittsburgh’s Hill District during the 1970s. As they hustle to survive, they’re forced to confront the potential destruction of their community when the city threatens to close their station and board up the block in the name of urban renewal.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Oct. 25-30. Stauss Studio Theatre, Fine Arts Center, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights. 8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets $14, senior citizens $11, students $8. 859-572-5464 and [email protected].

Chicago, 1927. Inspired by the real-life Blues legend and infused with her music, Ma Rainey, Mother of the Blues, fights her record producers for control of her music. Hardened by years of ill-treatment and bad deals, she’s determined that ‘Black Bottom’, the song that bears her name, will be recorded her way. But the band’s swaggering young trumpet player plans to catapult the band into the jazz age. The play is a struggle for self-determination against overwhelming odds.

A Chorus Line, Oct. 20-30. Patricia Corbett Theater, College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati. 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets $35. 513-556-4183 and here.

The one, the only. 17 dancers vie to make the final cut for what could be Broadway’s latest smash hit, they endure an unusual audition that demands they open their souls and tell their stories.  And sing and dance about what they do for love.

Middletown, Oct. 20-22. Cohen Family Studio Theater, College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati. 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday. FREE, reservations open the Monday week of show, call the CCM box office at 513-556-4183 beginning at 12 p.m. Limit two tickets per order.

Will Eno’s deeply moving and funny, new-ish (debuted in 2010) play exploring the universe of a small American town. As a friendship develops between longtime resident John Dodge and new arrival Mary Swanson, the lives of the inhabitants of Middletown intersect in strange and poignant ways in a journey that takes them from the local library to outer space and points between.

Also playing on Northern Kentucky stages:

The Grapes of Wrath, through Oct. 9. Northern Kentucky University, Corbett Theatre. 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets $14, senior citizens $11, students $8. 859-572-5464 and here

Frank Galati’s brilliant, deeply emotional, vividly theatrical stage adaptation of John Steinbeck’s novel about endurance, sacrifice, and family follows the Joad family on their flight from the dust bowl of Oklahoma to the promised land of California, confronting almost unendurable suffering long the way. Dreams are shattered but the play is an unforgettable affirmation of the indomitability of the human spirit.

See RCN's preview story here and its review here.

Toxic Avenger: The Musical, through Oct. 8. Falcon Theatre, 636 Monmouth St., Newport. 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. Tickets $20, students $15. 513-479-6783 and here.

Based on Lloyd Kaufman's cult film, Melvin Ferd, the Third, wants to clean up Tromaville, the most polluted town in New Jersey (just off Exit 13B on the Turnpike). Foiled by the mayor's bullies, Melvin is dumped into a vat of radioactive toxic waste, only to re-emerge as The Toxic Avenger, New Jersey's first superhero, a seven-foot mutant freak with superhuman strength and a heart as big as Newark. He's out to save New Jersey, end global warming, and woo the town’s blind librarian in town.

The Faculty Lounge, Oct. 7-15. Village Players of Fort Thomas, 8 N. Ft Thomas Ave., Fort Thomas. 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets $20. 859-392-0500 or www.villageplayers.biz

Ft. Thomas playwright Teri Foltz’s play about life in an American high school faculty lounge, where teachers get honest. The play is a comedy -- until it’s not.

Written by Jackie Demaline, RCN Arts