Next to Normal Rocks, and so does Cincinnati

We really hadn’t planned on attending the opening night of the 10th annual Midpoint Music Festival in downtown Cincinnati last Thursday, but we caught an opening act on the corner of 12th and Vine in Over the Rhine on our way to dinner and the theater. It’s amazing what live music on as street corner will add to the atmosphere.

This short (less than a minute) video was taken in the early hours of the festival as people were just beginning to gather after work on a Thursday evening.

I was rockin’ as I was walkin’ to dinner at the Senate where Mark and I were seated at a table beside the restaurant-wide open doors to the sidewalk and Vine St. beyond. I felt like I was in a resort area in my own hometown. Residents of the area and visitors for the evening strolled past on the sidewalk.

A woman walked by with a little white and gray shih-tzu that stopped outside captivated by the aroma wafting from the kitchen. “Two of his favorite things,” the woman said to us as we sat watching, “walks and food.”

A young man with a guitar in a black soft case slung over his back crossed the street.

When we finished dinner we walked back over past the temporary stage on the corner to the Midpoint Midway up 12th Street right beside the Art Academy that I posted about last week in The Art Academy of Cincinnati — a well-kept secret, and where I also showed you photos of the Senate Pub, and the Ensemble Theatre.

The Midpoint Music Festival ran from Thursday night through Saturday night. Eighteen stages were set up on street corners, the Fountain Square, in theaters, and in the School of Performing Arts. You can see the schedule of performing artists here. The Midpoint Midway ran in the blocks between Vine and Walnut on 12th Street right beside the Art Academy. A fleet of box trucks provided interactive exhibits, venues and lounges for patrons inside 24-ft long trailers.

But Mark and I weren’t downtown on Thursday for the music, exciting as it was. We had tickets to the Ensemble Theatre where we saw the musical Next to Normal. The Ensemble is a small, intimate theater. The stage occupies the entire width of the theatre and seats rise from the edge of the stage to the top row about three stories up. From the moment the show began until it ended I was completely captivated. The music was energetic, and the actors’ performances top-notch in a minimalistic set of the interior of a two-story home. The show dealt with the difficult topics of mental illness and death. It made me laugh and it made me cry. Wonderful show. Fabulous performances.

Here is a clip from YouTube of one of the songs from the show. (This is not the performance we saw, but I wanted you to hear one of the songs.)

The local cast who performed at the Ensemble were excellent:

Diana — Jessica Hendy (This link has thirteen photos from the show.)
Gabe — Mike Schwitter
Dan — Mark Hardy
Natalie — Mia Gentile (You can watch her sing a song not in Next to Normal here.)
Henry — Nick Clearley
Doctor Madden/Doctor Fine — Charlie Clark

The remaining Ensemble Theatre’s 26th Season — 2011 – 2012 follows:

Ghost Writer — October 12th – 30th
Snow — November 30th to December 31st
The Whipping Man — January 25th to February 12th
Time Stand Still — March 14th to April 1st
Life Could be a Dream — May 2nd to 20th

Mark and I left the theater where we were greeted on the street by Busken Bakery employees dressed in cute red dresses with large carboard box-trays of glazed donuts. They reminded me of the cigarette sellers in old-time movies. It took all my will-power to refuse the donuts they were offering for free.


See more posts about Cincinnati.

17 thoughts on “Next to Normal Rocks, and so does Cincinnati”

  1. I’m sad to say that I think you had more music, theater, and culture in one night than I’ve had in the whole last year! What a fun evening! I especially loved the two videos and the shih-tzu and lady! 🙂

    1. We’re the same. Our recent “second honeymnoon” vacation motivated me to plan more date nights for hubby and me. We’re going to Seattle’s Jazz Alley to hear a jazz instrumentalist, and returning again to see The Family Stone…of “Dance to the Music” fame. I’ll be moving in my seat for sure… 😉

  2. Enjoyed the song you videoed on the street ~ jazzy, bluesy, foot stomping music. Definitely gets you in the mood for a dinner en plein aire!

    Sounds like a lovely night all the way around. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I’m trying to highlight places in Cincinnati when I go. I travel a lot and post about my journeys. I thought it was time to give my hometown a little notice. It’s a great city.

  4. I enjoy posts like this, where I feel like I’m right there with you, visiting. Thanks for taking the pics and sharing. Thanks to Mark for being a willing subject too!



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