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My take: Steve Ross is still, in the words of the New York Times, "the Crown Prince of New York cabaret". In the words of me "the very personification of savoir faire: a graceful, elegant, and charming performer in the mold of Noel Coward." Steve Ross has a long and happy relationship with St. Louis, going back to the early days of the Grandel Cabaret Series. He was one of the first performers to be featured by Jim Dolan's Presenters Dolan organization when it got off the ground several years ago, and he even made a special trip to Mound City in February of 2010 to participate in a tribute cabaret for the late Chris Jackson (the only time, to date, that I have shared a stage with him). It's only appropriate, then, that he should be part of Jim Dolan's Gaslight Cabaret Festival.
|Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.|
My take: The Rep's track record with Shakespeare has been uneven over the years, but judging from Tina Farmer's review for us at KDHX, they have come up a winner this time. Director Paul Mason Barnes "admirably succeeds in creating a well-paced production that brings out both the comedy and commentary on the human condition that are inherent in this play. It is very clear that both the director and actors understand the words and intent of the script, something which is sadly lacking in many productions of Shakespeare." Chris Gibson at broadwayworld.com concurs. "If I were asked to provide the perfect introduction to the work of playwright William Shakespeare," he writes, "I would advise that person to check out The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis' current production of A Midsummer Night's Dream."
St. Louis Shakespeare presents Much Ado About Nothing through October 25. "As one pair of (reluctant) lovers engages in a merry war of wits, another becomes innocent victims of a villainous plot to destroy their happiness. But thanks to the dogged persistence of a truly remarkable keeper of the peace, love prevails at last in one of Shakespeare's most popular romantic comedies." Performances take at the Forissant Civic Center Theatre at Parker and Waterford in Florissant, MO. For more information, call 314-361-5664 or visit stlshakespeare.org.
My take: The Rep is not the only outfit serving up Shakespeare this weekend. St. Louis Shakespeare has been doing all the Bard all the time for decades and appear to have a hit this time around, according to our critic Tina Farmer at KDHX. "St. Louis Shakespeare warms up fall," she writes, "with a breezy, optimistic interpretation of one of Shakespeare's most popular romantic comedies. Set in Italy at the end of World War II, this version is bubbly and cheerful, filled with a hopeful tone and vibrant personality. The play overflows with sharp observations and broad humor, and the company meets the upbeat, eternally romantic tone in an enjoyable production that's constantly in motion, but never hurried." The Egan Theater at the Florissant Civic Center is a good performance space as well, if you don't mind the drive up north. It comfortably seats around 600 with good sound and sight lines.
Family Musical Theater presents the musical The Rocky Horror Show through October 25 at the Ivory Theatre, 7622 Michigan. For more information, visit familymusical.org or call 314-571-9579.
My take: Get ready for Halloween with this now venerable R-rated send-up of cheesy horror movies. Great art is ain't, but it is great fun if done well, and judging from Bob Wilcox's review for us at KDHX the folks at Family Musical Theater have, in fact, done it well. "Director Alison Driscoll and her cast hit the right style notes for this parody of horror movies and popular music," he writes. And while a show like this is rather pushing the envelope for a company that normally does more G-rated material, it's nevertheless true, as Bob points out, that "someone who first saw 'Rocky Horror' on stage or screen 30 years ago could well be joined by a grandchild at this production for a pleasant family outing." Nostalgia ain't what it used to be. The Ivory is a cool space as well and rather under-utilized.
|Photo: John Lamb|
My take: There's nothing profound about Christie's classic whodunnit, and the plot twist, while clever when first used in the novel on which the play is based, has become something of a cliche by now. I speak from experience; I've done the show. Still, reviews for this production have been uniformly good. At the Post-Dispatch, Judy Newmark praises the "chic set" and "vivid performances." On the Stage Door blog, Steve Allen lauds director Gary Bell's "eye for detail and heightened suspense." Mark Bretz at Ladue News calls it "a nifty whodunit designed to entertain." Well, you get the idea. It's a ripping yarn and it runs through the weekend.
Upstream Theater presents Sophocles' Antigone through October 26. "This ancient drama deals with the tragedy that ensues when society's demand for the rule of law conflicts with an individual's moral imperative-a conflict that recent events in our city have given unforeseen and unwanted resonance." Performances take place at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information, including show times: upstreamtheater.org.
My take: This new adaptation of the Sophocles classic by David Slavitt is getting its world premiere at Upstream, and notices have generally been very good. "Meticulously directed by artistic director Philip Boehm and featuring superb performances by a stellar cast," writes Mark Bretz at Ladue News, "Upstream’s presentation shows the timelessness and enduring perceptive power of Sophocles’ observations of human foibles." At broadwayworld, Chris Gibson calls Slavitt's adaptation "the most intriguing and accessible version I've ever seen. With the inclusion of a dash of humor to the proceedings he's also managed to enhance the dramatic depth of the tale. Upstream Theater's current production is masterful and powerful in equal measure, providing a memorable experience that demands to be seen."
|Photo: Jill Ritter Lindberg|
My take: Frank Wildhorn, the composer of Bonnie and Clyde, is nothing if not eclectic when it comes to his choice of material. His shows include The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Civil War, and Wonderland: Alice's New Musical Adventure. Even if this were not a much-praised production, it would be worth seeing for Wildhorn's contribution alone. But, has it happens, the show has gotten plenty of good reviews locally. Writing for broadwayworld.com, Chris Gibson calls it "brilliant." "You'll be blown away by how engaging the story and characters are," he says, "and you'll be humming the score as you walk out the doors because it's just so incredibly and infectiously catchy." The St. Louis Theatre Snob concurs: "Under Jeffrey Richard Carter's musical direction, the New Line Band is tight, handling Wildhorn's score of depression-era blues, folk, gospel and rockabilly superbly...Seeing this production makes it hard to understand why it didn't last longer in NYC." Over at the RFT, Malcom Gay says it "should be on anyone's Most Wanted list." So maybe it should be on yours as well.
|Photo: John Lamb|
New Jewish Theater presents The Diary of Anne Frank through November 2. "The iconic story of Anne Frank who hid with her family and four others in the annex of her father's factory. In this gripping and transcendently powerful new adaptation of the original story based on Anne's diary, we see Anne as a living, lyrical, intensely gifted young girl who confronts her rapidly changing life and the increasing horror of the time with astonishing honesty, wit and determination.This young girl's remarkable diary has become a testament to the human spirit and illuminates Anne's unwavering belief in justice and love. This moving, true story is essential viewing for every generation - a new adaptation for a new generation." Performances take place in the Marvin and Harlene Wool Studio Theater at the Jewish Community Center, 2 Millstone Campus Drive in Creve Coeur. For more information: www.newjewishtheatre.org or call 314-442-3283.
My take: I should note at the outset that this is a new adaptation of Anne Frank's diaries by Wendy Kesselman based on the older dramatization by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett that most of us have seen in the past. "The current production by The New Jewish Theatre is simply heart wrenching in its exquisite and engaging execution," writes Chris Gibson at broadwayworld.com. "A wonderful cast and sensitive direction allow this true and tragic tale to blossom fully." Other reviews have been equally effusive. At the Jewish Light, for example, Bob Cohn calls it "heart-stopping." 'Nuff said.