Sunday, September 28, 2014

St. Louis theatre calendar for the week of September 29, 2014

[Looking for auditions and other artistic opportunities? Check out the St. Louis Auditions site.]

For information on events beyond this week, check out the searchable database at the Regional Arts Commission's events web site.

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St. Louis Community College at Meramec presents 1959 Saint Ascension Wednesday through Sunday, October 1-5. Performances take place in the theatre on the campus at 11333 Big Bend Road. For more information, call 314-984-7500.

The Looking Glass Playhouse presents the musical The Addams Family, inspired by the cartoons of Charles Addams, Thursdays through Sundays, through October 5. Performances take place at 301 West St. Louis Street in Lebanon, Ill. For more information, visit www.lookingglassplayhouse.com.

All in the Timing
Photo: John Lamb
St. Louis Actors' Studio presents the All in the Timing, an evening of one-act comedies by David Ives, through October 5 at the Gaslight Theatre, 358 North Boyle. For more information, call 314-458-2978 or visit stlas.org.

Stages St. Louis presents the musical Always..Patsy Cline through October 12. "Jacqueline Petroccia and Zoe Vonder Haar star in the return engagement of the show critics called 'exceptional, must see entertainment.' The touching and true story of Country music legend Patsy Cline and her friendship with Texas housewife Louise Seger returns to STAGES this spring. Combining down home country humor, heartache and 27 of Patsy Cline's unforgettable hits such as 'Crazy,' 'Walkin' After Midnight,' and 'Sweet Dreams,' Always... Patsy Cline endures as a piece of genuine Americana." Performances take place at The Playhouse at Westport Plaza. For more information, visit stagesstlouis.org or call 314-821-2407. Read the 88.1 KDHX review!

The November Theatre Company presents Stephen Sondheim's musical Assassins as its inaugural production, Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m., through October 5. "A powerful Tony Award-winning musical, Assassins is an anachronistic examination of the individuals who have engaged in the darkest acts of American political discourse. Anchoring the production are ignominious figures from American history such as John Wilkes Booth, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, John Hinckley, and others. Through its thoughtful, and at times darkly humorous, exploration of these historical figures, Assassins delves into the men and women behind the act, avoiding glorification of their crimes while offering the audience more than the simplistic treatment often afforded to them by history." Performances take place at The Ivory Theatre, 7620 Michigan. For more information: www.11theater.com.

The Bissell Mansion Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre presents A Big Easy Murder through October 26. The Bissell Mansion is at 4426 Randall Place. For more information: bissellmansiontheatre.com

Bonnie and Clyde
New Line Theatre presents the St. Louis premiere of the musical Bonnie and Clyde Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 PM, October 2-25. The show is "a kind of horror Romeo and Juliet story, exploring the culture that created this infamous couple and their two-year murder spree, the moral ambiguity of Prohibition and the Great Depression, and a national cult of celebrity that turned these damaged, dangerous kids into national folk heroes, in their twisted quest for dignity in a time of national humiliation. Bloomberg News called the show, 'a pop romance about the American nightmare.' Today, in this time of economic distress in America, this story seems more relevant than ever. Not only could it happen again; it does." Performances take place at the Washington University South Campus Theatre, 6501 Clayton Road. For more information, visit the web site or call 314-534-1111.

St. Louis University Theatre presents William Inge's Bus Stop October 3-12. Performances take place in Xavier Hall, 3373 West Pine Mall. For more information, call (314) 977-2998 or visit the web site.

Photo: Peter Wochniak
Stages St. Louis presents the classic musical Fiddler on the Roof through October 5. "Winner of the Tony Award for Best Musical and one of the most touching creations in the history of Broadway, featuring such heartfelt and beloved songs as 'Sunrise, Sunset,' 'If I Were A Rich Man,' and 'Matchmaker, Matchmaker'.” Performances take place in the Robert G. Reim Theatre at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road in Kirkwood. For more information, visit stagesstlouis.org or call 314-821-2407. Read the 88.1 KDHX review!

COCA presents Kindur: The Adventurous Life Of Icelandic Sheep Saturday and Sunday, October 4 and 5. "This extraordinary multimedia show for children and families comes from one of Italy's most acclaimed theatre companies. During the performance, children may have the opportunity to go up on stage as participants and, through touch, bring a setting of glaciers, volcanoes and flower-filled meadows to life. They'll meet trolls and elves, hear the rumblings of a gigantic waterfall and run inside a blazing volcano. The performers guide children on a theatrical journey in this play that features Icelandic sheep (kindur) and a spectacular visual landscape.” COCA is at 524 Trinity in University City. For more information, call (314) 725-6555 or visit the web site.

FHHS Limelight Theatre presents Ken Ludwig's Midsummer/Jersey at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, October 2-4. "Midsummer/Jersey is the hilarious high-octane retelling of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream set on the boardwalk of a seaside town in modern-day New Jersey. The story revolves around the impending marriage of the Governor of New Jersey, the love affairs of four beach-bound high school crushes, a lively crew of fairies and the staff of the local beauty salon (run by Patti Quince and Stylist Nikki Bottom). The night takes a magical turn when Oberon and the impish Puck arrive on the scene armed with a powerful love potion and a desire for mischief making. With several weddings and the acting careers of six beauticians hanging in the balance, the lovers take to the boardwalk, backed by pop music and an iPhone-obsessed wood sprite.” Performances take place at the Francis Howell High School Auditorium, 7001 Highway 94 in St Charles, MO. Tickets are $5 each, and are available at the door before each performance.

Alpha Players present the musical Monty Python's Spamalot through October 5 at The Florissant Civic Center Theater, Parker Rd. at Waterford Dr. in Florissant, MO. For more information: alphaplayers.org or, call 314-921-5678. Read the 88.1 KDHX review!

The Fox Theatre presents Mrs. Independent Sunday, October 5, at 3 and 7:30 p.m. "Mrs. Independent", based on a true life story, takes audiences on a riveting, yet thought-provoking journey of exploring questions like: Can a woman still love her husband if she is the primary breadwinner? Will the roles reverse with her wearing the pants while he ultimately works to honor her every demand? But, what if he is a good man that's faithful and does actually contribute to the household? Is it possible that true love, affection and Godly integrity can be restored to the marriage?" The Fox Theatre is at 517 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information visit the web site.

Photo: John Lamb
The West End Players Guild opens their 104th season with Joan Ackermann's Off the Map Thursday through Saturday at 8 PM and Sunday at 2 PM, October 2-5. “An offbeat and loving comedy, Off the Map tells the story of the Grodens, a quirky family living way, way off the map in the wilds of New Mexico. We see the story through the eyes of Bo Groden, an 11-year-old growing up amidst a collection of rich, warm characters who will both entertain and inspire you.” Performances take place at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 North Union at Enright in the Central West End. For more information, call 314-367-0025 or visit www.westendplayers.org.

St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley presents David Mamet's Oleanna through October 4. Performances take place in the Fisher Theatre on the campus at 3400 Pershall Road. For more information, call 314-644-5522.

Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents the comedy One Man, Two Guvnors through October 5. “Francis Henshall needs a job. Recently sacked from his skiffle band, he's hungry and has a bad case of fish and chips on the brain. To make ends meet, he becomes a servant to two different masters. Frazzled Francis tries his best to balance duties and keep his bosses from meeting, but what he doesn't know about them, and what they don't know about each other, quickly become uproarious and riotous cases of mistaken identities and slapstick antics in this laugh-out-loud award-winning comedy.” Performances take place on the mainstage at the Loretto-Hlton Center, 130 Edgar Road in Webster Groves, MO. For more information, call 314-968-4925 or visit repstl.org. Read the 88.1 KDHX review!

The Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University presents Diane Son's Stop Kiss Wednesdays through Sundays, Octob 1-12. "After Callie and Sara meet, their fast friendship leads to an unexpected attraction. Their first kiss provokes a violent attack that transforms their lives in a way they could never anticipate." Performances take place in the Emerson Studio Theater at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information, visit the web site or call 314-968-7128.

St. Charles Community College presents A Streetcar Named Desire Wednesday through Sunday, October 1-5. Performances take place in the Donald D. Shook Fine Arts Building on the campus at 4601 Mid Rivers Mall Drive in Cottleville, MO. For more information, call 636-922-8050 or visit the web site.

Valhalla Cemetery and Hawthorne Players present Voices Of Valhalla: A Hayride Through History October 3-11. Hayrides through Valhalla Cemetery depart every fifteen minutes beginning at 6:30 each evening as members of the Hawthorne Players portray some of the noted locals buried in Valhalla. Look for yours truly as composer and music critic Paul Tietjens. Valhalla Cemetery is located at 7600 St. Charles Rock Road. For more information, visit the Hawthorne Players web site.

The Lemp Mansion Comedy-Mystery Dinner Theater presents Zombie Love! (No Biting) through November 2. The Lemp Mansion is at 3322 DeMenil Place. For more information: lempmansion.com.

Would you like to be on the radio? KDHX, 88.1 FM needs theatre reviewers. If you're 18 years or older, knowledgeable in this area, have practical theatre experience (acting, directing, writing, technical design, etc.), have good oral and written communications skills and would like to become one of our volunteer reviewers, send an email describing your experience and interests to chuck at kdhx.org. Please include a sample review of something you've seen recently.

Friday, September 26, 2014

St. Louis classical calendar for the week of September 29, 2014

Hans Leitner
The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis presents an organ concert by Hans Leitner on Sunday, October 5, at 2:30 p.m.  "World renowned organist, composer and teacher Hans Leitner makes his St. Louis debut performing on the 7,621 pipes of the Great Cathedral Organ at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. Since the fall of 2003 he has served as organist and cathedral vicar at the Cathedral of Our Lady in Munich. At the University of Music and Performing Arts Munich he had from 2003 to 2011 held a lectureship in liturgy and church music practice. Prior to this appointment he was organist of the cathedral and Vicar to the High St. Stephan Cathedral Passau, where he also acted as an organ expert of the diocese of Passau."  The Cathedral is at 4431 Lindell in the Central West End.  For more information: cathedralconcerts.org.

McKendree College presents soprano Christine Brewer with Craig Terry and Hugh Russell on Sunday, October 5, at 3 PM.  " The superstar soprano returns to her hometown for a special recital with pianist Craig Terry of the Lyric Opera of Chicago and Canadian baritone Hugh Russell. Named “one of the top 20 sopranos of all time” by BBC Music, the Grammy Award-winning recording artist is renowned for her soaring range, boundless power and control, and vibrant personality."  The concert takes place in the Hettenhausen Center for the Arts on the college campus in Lebanon, IL.  For more information: thehett.com.

St. Louis Cathedral Concerts presents members of the St. Louis Symphony in a program of chamber music by Vaughan Williams, Ravel, and Brahms, on Sunday, October 3, at 7 p.m.  “Cathedral Concerts continues it’s series of FREE concerts that brings the great music to you. The featured players in each concert are St. Louis Symphony members Kristin Ahlstrom, violin and Bjorn Ranheim, cello, joined by Matthew Mazzoni, piano and Scott Kennebeck, tenor.”  The performance takes place at St. Peter Catholic Church in Kirkwood.  For more information: www.cathedralconcerts.org

Markus Stenz conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, along with soloists Carolyn Sampson, soprano, and Patrick Carfizzi, bass-baritone, in Brahms's "German Requiem" and "Four Preludes and Serious Songs" (arranged by Detlev Glanert) Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m., October 4 and 5.  "With its German text and emphasis on consoling the living, Brahms’ glorious "Ein deutsches Requiem" is partnered with Glanert’s stylistic interpretation of Brahms’ songs with his overlaying piece, Four Preludes and Serious Songs.  This concert of Brahms’ choral works promises to be uplifting." The concerts take place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand in Grand Center.  For more information: stlsymphony.org.

The Tavern of Fine Arts presents Joo Kim (violin), and James Czyzewski (cello), with Vera Parkin on piano on Monday, September 29, at 6:30 p.m. The Tavern of Fine Arts is at 313 Belt in the Debaliviere Place neighborhood.  For more information: tavern-of-fine-arts.blogspot.com

The Tavern of Fine Arts presents Jay Chacon, baritone, with Jon Garrett, piano on Friday, October 3, at 8 PM.  "Jay and Jon have brought five different and unique programs to Tavern of Fine Arts over the last year. They have decided to do one last program together before Jay takes off to NYC. Bringing together a selection from each of the previous programs, it will be a night of great music, wonderful memories, and a lot of fun. German lieder and Wagner from Bach to Berg: A Dietrich Fischer Dieskau Tribute, songs from Way Off Broadway, Les Bestiaire by Poulenc from Love, Loss, and Animals, works from Jake Heggie: American Composer, traditional Hispanic songs from Música Hispánica. Also featured will be music by Timothy Jansen from his original composition OperaAntics! with Jansen at the piano." The Tavern of Fine Arts is at 313 Belt in the Debaliviere Place neighborhood.  For more information: tavern-of-fine-arts.blogspot.com

Third Baptist Church presents an organ concert by Dr. Joerg Abbing of the Hochschule für Musik Saar, Saarbrücken, Germany on Friday, October 3, at 12:30 PM as part of its free Friday Pipes series.  "Join us on Fridays at Third Baptist Church for Friday Pipes, the free organ recital series celebrating the restoration of the church's 72-rank Kilgen/Möller pipe organ. Each week a different performer will be presenting a program of classical, church, and theatre organ music in the beautiful sanctuary of Third Baptist. This season's performers come from across the USA, and even from around the world. Free parking is available in the church lots on Washington Avenue." Third Baptist Church is at 620 N Grand.  For more information: www.third-baptist.org

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Chuck's theatre choices for the weekend of September 26, 2014

As always, the choices are purely my personal opinion. Take with a grain (or a shaker) of salt.

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New This Week:

Photo: John Lamb
The West End Players Guild opens their 104th season with Joan Ackermann's Off the Map Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM, September 26-October 5. There will also be a show on Thursday, October 2, at 8 PM. “An offbeat and loving comedy, Off the Map tells the story of the Grodens, a quirky family living way, way off the map in the wilds of New Mexico. We see the story through the eyes of Bo Groden, an 11-year-old growing up amidst a collection of rich, warm characters who will both entertain and inspire you.” Performances take place at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 North Union at Enright in the Central West End. For more information, call 314-367-0025 or visit www.westendplayers.org.

My take:: OK, I'm not a disinstereted party on this one since I'm on the board of directors of West End Players Guild and I designed the sound for this show. That said, I wouldn't have voted to make this show part of the season in the first place if I didn't think it was a charming and funny memory play about an unconventional family that reminds me in some ways of the eccentric Vanderhof/Sycamore/Carmichael clan in "You Can't Take it With You." Their determination to live a recycled life off the map (and off the grid) feels, in many ways, more relevant now than it did when this play was written in 1999.

Storm Large
 The Presenters Dolan present Storm Large in Le Bonheur (Good Times) on Friday, September 27, at 8 PM as part of the Gaslight Cabaret Festival. " A killer beauty, an astonishing singer, and a funny, fleshy truth teller, Storm has many lives. 1) rock siren 2) fronts Pink Martini, a salon pop symphony that tours everywhere 3) fronts symphony orchestras all over the world 4) best selling memoirist. She does it all supremely well. We are all very lucky to have her in St. Louis for the second time. Absolutely not to be missed. " The performance takes place at BB's Jazz, Blues, and Soups downtown. For more information: gaslightcabaretfestival.com.

My take:: While I haven't seen this particular show, I did review Storm Large's last appearance at the Gaslight Cabaret Festival this past April and was mightily impressed. Back then I described her as a "hypnotic, compelling, and energetic performer," so I don't think you can go wrong with her latest show.

Held Over:

Photo: Peter Wochniak
Stages St. Louis presents the musical Always..Patsy Cline through October 12. "Jacqueline Petroccia and Zoe Vonder Haar star in the return engagement of the show critics called 'exceptional, must see entertainment.' The touching and true story of Country music legend Patsy Cline and her friendship with Texas housewife Louise Seger returns to STAGES this spring. Combining down home country humor, heartache and 27 of Patsy Cline's unforgettable hits such as 'Crazy,' 'Walkin' After Midnight,' and 'Sweet Dreams,' Always... Patsy Cline endures as a piece of genuine Americana." Performances take place at The Playhouse at Westport Plaza. For more information, visit stagesstlouis.org or call 314-821-2407.

My take: Call this a qualified recommendation. If you're a lover of Patsy Cline or country music in general, I think you'll have a great time at this show, which is really more of a celebrity impersonation review than a book musical per se. Jacqueline Petroccia captures Cline's voice and manner so accurately it's eerie and Zoe Vonder Haar is a hoot and a half as Louise Seger, the real-life Houston fan who became a close friends and correspondent of Cline. With over two dozen Patsy Cline hits performed to perfection by Ms. Petroccia and a six-piece band, the show is a real feast for fans. See my KDHX review for more information.

Photo: Peter Wochniak
Stages St. Louis presents the classic musical Fiddler on the Roof through October 5. "Winner of the Tony Award for Best Musical and one of the most touching creations in the history of Broadway, featuring such heartfelt and beloved songs as 'Sunrise, Sunset,' 'If I Were A Rich Man,' and 'Matchmaker, Matchmaker'.” Performances take place in the Robert G. Reim Theatre at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road in Kirkwood. For more information, visit stagesstlouis.org or call 314-821-2407.

My take: Reviews for the Stages producion of this justifiably famous hit by Bock and Harnick have been pretty generally positive. Writing for the Riverfront Times, for example, Malcom Gay calls it "a bright production, filled with sumptuous choreography and impressive musical numbers" while our reviewer at KDHX, Laura Kyro, says it's "an entertaining and satisfying production." "The show has been performed once before at Stages in 1999," writes Mark Bretz at Ladue News, "but the current presentation is as fresh and inviting as ever." Sounds like a winner, yes?

The Normal Heart
HotCity Theatre presents The Normal Heart through September 27. “Debuting in 1985, Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart was perceived as “too urgent to ignore.” The AIDS epidemic was by then full-blown and hysteria was rampant. The intensity of the play helped usher in a new gay activism that could arguably be attributed to the evolution of gay rights in the decades to follow. An acclaimed revival in 2011 and the upcoming HBO version (produced by Ryan Murphy and starring Julia Roberts) have given this (now) modern classic a place in one of the important plays of our times.” Performances take place at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information, visit www.hotcitytheatre.org or call 314-289-4063.

My take: Raves dominate the notices for this one. At Ladue News, Mark Bretz calls it "a most extraordinary production, directed brilliantly by Marty Stanberry, which grabs one by the throat at the start and throttles with shock, grief and drenched desperation at its end." Snoop's Theatre Blog says it's "a must see."

Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents the comedy One Man, Two Guvnors through October 5. “Francis Henshall needs a job. Recently sacked from his skiffle band, he's hungry and has a bad case of fish and chips on the brain. To make ends meet, he becomes a servant to two different masters. Frazzled Francis tries his best to balance duties and keep his bosses from meeting, but what he doesn't know about them, and what they don't know about each other, quickly become uproarious and riotous cases of mistaken identities and slapstick antics in this laugh-out-loud award-winning comedy.” Performances take place on the mainstage at the Loretto-Hlton Center, 130 Edgar Road in Webster Groves, MO. For more information, call 314-968-4925 or visit repstl.org.

My take: Tina Farmer's review at KDHX describes this as "is a rollicking ride filled with laughs and physical comedy that's suitable for the whole family," and other local critics have said much the same thing. I'm in the minority in that, while I often found the show very funny, I also felt that many scenes and comic bits ran on far too long and the whole cast seemed to be working far too hard for laughs. The scripted "ad libs" sometimes seemed a bit contrived as well. That said the show was a massive hit in London and on Broadway, and the night we saw it the rest of the audience did not seem to share our party's lack of enthusiasm. Note that it's relatively long for a comedy, though, clocking in at over two and one-half hours.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Symphony Preview: Old friends and new

David Robertson
It’s a mix of the first run and the familiar this weekend at Powell Hall, with music of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.

The most familiar thing on the program is Sibelius’s 1895 tone poem “The Swan of Tuonela.” A tone poem, for those of you who have never gone through a “music depreciation” class, is an orchestral work that describes and/or is inspired by something non-musical. In this case, the inspiration comes from the Finnish national epic “The Kalevala”—specifically, its description of the island of Tuonela, where the spirits dead reside. The island is surrounded by a black river, on which a lone swan floats and sings a mournful song. The music is vividly descriptive, which is why it’s a favorite of those same music depreciation classes.

Sibelius assigns the swan’s song to the English horn, a relative of the oboe with with a darker and richer sound (it’s pitched a fifth lower) that is a perfect match for the music’s imagery. Cally Banham, who holds the Solo English Horn chair with the orchestra, will be the soloist. She has done fine work with the orchestra over the last several years, so expect good things from her this weekend.

The English horn is, amusingly, neither English nor a horn (it’s a member of the woodwind family). When I was a kid, the story (since discredited) was that the the name came from a mistranslation of the Middle French phrase, cor anglé (“angled horn,” referring to the fact that the mouthpiece is at a slight angle to the body of the instrument). Current thinking is that it actually goes back to the old German word for the instrument’s ancestor (the oboe da caccia) which was know as an “engellisches” (“angelic”) horn because of its resemblance to horns played by angels in Medieval paintings. Its sound, in any case, is unmistakable.

The first run this week is “My Father Knew Charles Ives,” composed in 2003 by John Adams, whose work is often performed by the SLSO. The title is not literally true. While the elder Adams was a musician—he taught his son to play the clarinet and the two played together in local bands—he never actually met the famously craggy composer/businessman.

He did, however, share Ives’s eclectic musical sensibility. As Paul Schiavo relates in his program notes, Adams “credits his father with introducing him to both classical and popular music without prejudicial favoring of one over the other.” He goes on to note that, according to Adams, “the two men had experiences and interests in common, and the composer imagines that they would have liked each other.”

“My Father Knew Charles Ives” is, in short, a tribute both to the elder Adams and to Ives. Laid out in three movements and running just under a half hour, the work (as described in Mr. Schiavo’s notes) seems very much like the kind of thing Ives himself might have written. The first movement, “Concord,” is a musical picture of the New Hampshire town where Adams grew up and which inspired some of Ives’s most notable music. The second, “The Lake,” “conveys the lulling movement of water and a poetic spirit in the form of a melody for oboe. From across the lake comes the sound of dance music, the indistinct bits of melody blending with the watery sonorities” (Ives does something similar in his “Three Places in New England,” especially in the “Putnam’s Camp” and “Housatonic at Stockbridge” movements).

The last section, “The Mountain,” “was inspired by boyhood memories of Mount Kearsarge, in New Hampshire, but also by more recent experiences hiking in California’s high country.” It ends with what Adams calls “a moment of sudden, unexpected astonishment” as the climber sees the view for the top.

The concerts conclude with Prokofiev's 1944 Symphony No. 5, last seen on the Powell Hall stage in November of 2010 in what I called a “highly charged” and “triumphant” performance by conductor emeritus Leonard Slatkin (his 1985 recording with the SLSO is still available on line at archivmusic.com). Composed at the artists' colony of Ivanovo east of Moscow just as the war with Germany was turning in Russia's favor, the symphony was described by Prokofiev as "a hymn to free and happy Man, to his mighty powers, his pure and noble spirit" and while there is certainly an air of triumph, especially in the majestic opening theme, it has always seemed to me that the war was never far from the composer's mind. You can hear it in (among other places) the militant percussion of the first movement and the anguished climax of the third.

The aura of triumph is also leavened by Prokofiev's characteristic irony. The composer of the Sarcasms for piano always seems to have a raised eyebrow or cynical smile behind his most demonstrative music. In the 5th symphony sarcasm takes various forms, including caustic comments from the brass and percussion and the deliberate interruption of the boisterous Allegro giocoso finale by a short, dissonant passage for string quartet and trumpet.

The essentials: David Robertson conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and oboe soloist Cally Banham in Sibelius's "Swan of Tuonela," John Adams's "My Father Knew Charles Ives," and Prokofiev's "Symphony No. 5" Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m., September 27 and 28. The Saturday concert will be broadcast on St. Louis Public Radio, 90.7 FM, HD 1, and on the station web site. The concerts take place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: stlsymphony.org.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Shiver me timbers: the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Chorus set sail with 'Pirates of the Caribbean' once again.

Who: The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Richard Kaufman
What: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Where: Powell Symphony Hall, St. Louis
When: September 19-21, 2014

If you're a fan of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, this weekend's showing of the second film in the series on the giant screen at Powell Hall with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Chorus performing the score live should be at the top of your "Things to Do" list.

But even if (like me) you can take or leave these action-and-effects-heavy blockbusters, there's still much to be said for hearing Hans Zimmer's score performed live. No matter how good the audio system is at your local multiplex, there's just nothing quite like the sound of a live orchestra and chorus. That's especially true for a "big band" score like this one, with its massive percussion battery and expanded brass and wind sections.

The low end of the orchestra, in particular, is beefed up with instruments rarely seen on the Powell Hall stage, such as the six-foot-tall contrabass saxophone and what I'm pretty sure was a contrabass trombone. They add a darker texture that's a nice match to a story in which the supernatural plays such an important part.

Indeed, Zimmer—who is very much in demand as a film composer and has many high-profile projects in his resume—has filled the score with interesting touches that add a contemporary edge to its generally post-Wagnerian harmonic vocabulary. That makes it challenging to perform in its own way, I think, so much praise is owed to the orchestra and Amy Kaiser's chorus for pulling it all off so brilliantly.

Hans Zimmer
en.wikipedia.org
Ditto conductor Richard Kaufman. Conducting forces this large in synch with a live film, as I have observed in the past, is a specialized skill, and Mr. Kaufman, the Principal Pops Conductor of the Pacific Symphony, is one of its more experienced practitioners. Gigs like this one, in fact, appear to be a central part of his career.

Yes, the movie itself is just so much visual junk food, with a story line that is mostly an excuse for elaborate (and very clever) action sequences, along with some spectacularly grotesque makeup effects for the undead crew of "The Flying Dutchman." Unless you're completely averse to this series, though, I think you'll find it all great fun. Be aware, though, that (as is often the case with these cinema blockbusters) the balance between the voice tracks on the film and the live orchestra in Powell Hall is not always ideal. It's easy to lose dialog, especially when the orchestra is playing at full volume.

That dialog is not, on the other hand, Great Art. So if you know the story you should be fine.

As is always the case with the symphony's movie events, popcorn and other snacks are available, as well as the usual drinks (including a special blue concoction created for the event, the "Dead Man's Chest"), and you can bring everything in to the hall with you. So when you go, try to be neat and police your area when you leave.

Next on the regular season calendar: David Robertson conducts the orchestra and oboe soloist Cally Banham in Sibelius's "Swan of Tuonela," along with John Adams's "My Father Knew Charles Ives," and Prokofiev's "Symphony No. 5." Performances are Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m., September 27 and 28. As usual, the Saturday concert will be simulcast on St. Louis Public Radio KWMU at 90.7 FM and HD 1. For ticket information: stlsymphony.org.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

St. Louis theatre calendar for the week of September 22, 2014

[Looking for auditions and other artistic opportunities? Check out the St. Louis Auditions site.]

For information on events beyond this week, check out the searchable database at the Regional Arts Commission's events web site.

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The Looking Glass Playhouse presents the musical The Addams Family, inspired by the cartoons of Charles Addams, Thursdays through Sundays, September 25-October 5. Performances take place at 301 West St. Louis Street in Lebanon, Ill. For more information, visit www.lookingglassplayhouse.com.

St. Louis Actors' Studio presents the All in the Timing, an evening of one-act comedies by David Ives, through October 5 at the Gaslight Theatre, 358 North Boyle. For more information, call 314-458-2978 or visit stlas.org.

Photo: Peter Wochniak
Stages St. Louis presents the musical Always..Patsy Cline through October 12. "Jacqueline Petroccia and Zoe Vonder Haar star in the return engagement of the show critics called 'exceptional, must see entertainment.' The touching and true story of Country music legend Patsy Cline and her friendship with Texas housewife Louise Seger returns to STAGES this spring. Combining down home country humor, heartache and 27 of Patsy Cline's unforgettable hits such as 'Crazy,' 'Walkin' After Midnight,' and 'Sweet Dreams,' Always... Patsy Cline endures as a piece of genuine Americana." Performances take place at The Playhouse at Westport Plaza. For more information, visit stagesstlouis.org or call 314-821-2407. Read the 88.1 KDHX review!

Alfresco Productions presents the comedy Arsenic and Old Lace Friday through Sunday, September 26-28. Performances take place at the Alfresco Art Center, 2401 Delmar in Granite City, IL. For more information: (618) 560-1947 or www.alfrescoproductions.org

The November Theatre Company presents Stephen Sondheim's musical Assassins as its inaugural production, Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m., September 26-October 5. "A powerful Tony Award-winning musical, Assassins is an anachronistic examination of the individuals who have engaged in the darkest acts of American political discourse. Anchoring the production are ignominious figures from American history such as John Wilkes Booth, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, John Hinckley, and others. Through its thoughtful, and at times darkly humorous, exploration of these historical figures, Assassins delves into the men and women behind the act, avoiding glorification of their crimes while offering the audience more than the simplistic treatment often afforded to them by history." Performances take place at The Ivory Theatre, 7620 Michigan. For more information: www.11theater.com.

The Bissell Mansion Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre presents A Big Easy Murder through October 26. The Bissell Mansion is at 4426 Randall Place. For more information: bissellmansiontheatre.com

Photo: Peter Wochniak
Stages St. Louis presents the classic musical Fiddler on the Roof through October 5. "Winner of the Tony Award for Best Musical and one of the most touching creations in the history of Broadway, featuring such heartfelt and beloved songs as 'Sunrise, Sunset,' 'If I Were A Rich Man,' and 'Matchmaker, Matchmaker'.” Performances take place in the Robert G. Reim Theatre at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road in Kirkwood. For more information, visit stagesstlouis.org or call 314-821-2407. Read the 88.1 KDHX review!

Clinton County Showcase presents the drama The Miracle Worker through September 27. "Immortalized onstage and screen by Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke, this classic tells the story of Annie Sullivan and her student, blind and mute Helen Keller. The Miracle Worker dramatizes the volatile relationship between the lonely teacher and her charge. Trapped in a secret, silent world, unable to communicate, Helen is violent, spoiled, almost sub-human and treated by her family as such. Only Annie realizes that there is a mind and spirit waiting to be rescued from the dark, tortured silence. With scenes of intense physical and emotional dynamism, Annie's success with Helen finally comes with the utterance of a single, glorious word: “water”." Performances take place at the Avon Theater, 525 North 2nd Street Breese IL. For more information, visit ccshowcase.com.

Alpha Players present the musical Monty Python's Spamalot September 26-October 5 at The Florissant Civic Center Theater, Parker Rd. at Waterford Dr. in Florissant, MO. For more information: alphaplayers.org or, call 314-921-5678.

The Hettenhausen Center for the Arts presents Neil Berg's 101 Years of Broadway on Thursday, September 25, at 7:30 PM. “A musical revue of celebrated hits, featuring a dazzling cast of five Broadway stars, accompanied by an all-star New York band. Broadway composer and producer Neil Berg guides the audience through the evening, contributing fascinating anecdotes about the shows and songs themselves.” The Hettenhausen Center for the Arts is at 701 College Rd., at Alton St. on the McKendree University campus in Lebanon, IL. For more information: www.thehett.com

The Normal Heart
HotCity Theatre presents The Normal Heart through September 27. “Debuting in 1985, Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart was perceived as “too urgent to ignore.” The AIDS epidemic was by then full-blown and hysteria was rampant. The intensity of the play helped usher in a new gay activism that could arguably be attributed to the evolution of gay rights in the decades to follow. An acclaimed revival in 2011 and the upcoming HBO version (produced by Ryan Murphy and starring Julia Roberts) have given this (now) modern classic a place in one of the important plays of our times.” Performances take place at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information, visit www.hotcitytheatre.org or call 314-289-4063.

Photo: John Lamb
The West End Players Guild opens their 104th season with Joan Ackermann's Off the Map Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM, September 26-October 5. There will also be a show on Thursday, October 2, at 8 PM. “An offbeat and loving comedy, Off the Map tells the story of the Grodens, a quirky family living way, way off the map in the wilds of New Mexico. We see the story through the eyes of Bo Groden, an 11-year-old growing up amidst a collection of rich, warm characters who will both entertain and inspire you.” Performances take place at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 North Union at Enright in the Central West End. For more information, call 314-367-0025 or visit www.westendplayers.org.

St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley presents David Mamet's Oleanna September 26-October 4. Performances take place in the Fisher Theatre on the campus at 3400 Pershall Road. For more information, call 314-644-5522.

Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents the comedy One Man, Two Guvnors through October 5. “Francis Henshall needs a job. Recently sacked from his skiffle band, he's hungry and has a bad case of fish and chips on the brain. To make ends meet, he becomes a servant to two different masters. Frazzled Francis tries his best to balance duties and keep his bosses from meeting, but what he doesn't know about them, and what they don't know about each other, quickly become uproarious and riotous cases of mistaken identities and slapstick antics in this laugh-out-loud award-winning comedy.” Performances take place on the mainstage at the Loretto-Hlton Center, 130 Edgar Road in Webster Groves, MO. For more information, call 314-968-4925 or visit repstl.org. Read the 88.1 KDHX review!

Storm Large
The Presenters Dolan present Storm Large in Le Bonheur (Good Times) on Saturday, September 27, at 8 PM as part of the Gaslight Cabaret Festival. " A killer beauty, an astonishing singer, and a funny, fleshy truth teller, Storm has many lives. 1) rock siren 2) fronts Pink Martini, a salon pop symphony that tours everywhere 3) fronts symphony orchestras all over the world 4) best selling memoirist. She does it all supremely well. We are all very lucky to have her in St. Louis for the second time. Absolutely not to be missed. " The performance takes place at BB's Jazz, Blues, and Soups downtown. For more information: gaslightcabaretfestival.com.

Edison Theatre Ovations! presents Unvelied, written and performed by Rohina Malik, Saturday, September 27, at 8 PM. "Racism. Hate crimes. Love. Islam. Culture. Language. Life. Five Muslim women in a post-9/11 America serve tea and uncover what lies beneath the veil in this compelling one-woman show. Written and performed by Rohina Malik, Unveiled challenges audiences to rethink any preconceived notions they may have had about Muslims. Rohina Malik is a Chicago-based playwright, actress and solo performance artist. She is also a resident playwright at Chicago Dramatists and artistic associate at the 16th Street Theater. " Performances take place in the Edison Theatre on the Washington University campus. For more information, call (314) 935-6543, e-mail edison at The West End Players Guildwustl.edu or visit edison.wustl.edu.

The Lemp Mansion Comedy-Mystery Dinner Theater presents Zombie Love! (No Biting) through November 2. The Lemp Mansion is at 3322 DeMenil Place. For more information: lempmansion.com.

Would you like to be on the radio? KDHX, 88.1 FM needs theatre reviewers. If you're 18 years or older, knowledgeable in this area, have practical theatre experience (acting, directing, writing, technical design, etc.), have good oral and written communications skills and would like to become one of our volunteer reviewers, send an email describing your experience and interests to chuck at kdhx.org. Please include a sample review of something you've seen recently.

Friday, September 19, 2014

St. Louis classical calendar for the week of September 22, 2014

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The Artist Presentation Society presents violinist Qian Yin and pianist Po-Chuan Chiang on Sunday, September 28, at 3:00 p.m. in a program of music by Handel, Chausson, Bartok, and Franck. The performance takes at the Ethical Society of St. Louis, 9001 Clayton Road. For more information: www.apsmusic.org.

Alice Conway
Eliot Unitarian Chapel presents a Friends of Music concert on Sunday, September 28, at 3 PM. 'Alice Conway, mezzo-soprano and Nancy Mayo, piano, performing "Frauen Liebe und Leben" by Robert Schumann; and two Italian arias: "Di tanti palpiti" from Gioachino Rossini's "Tancredi"; and "All'afflitto è dolce il pianto" from Gaetano Donizetti's "Robert Devereux". James Nacy and Daniel Henderson, cellos, performing Jean Barriere, "Sonata no. 10 in G major for Two Cellos"; David Popper, "Suite for Two Cellos," Op. 16; and Paul Tortelier, "Siamois".' Eliot Unitarian Chapel is at 100 South Argonne in Kirkwood. For more information: fomcstl.org

The Kranzberg Arts Center presents The Matthew Munses Quartet on Monday, September 22, at 7:30 p.m. "Drawing upon a breadth of musical styles, the Matthew Muneses Quintet seeks to express the collective voice of its members. Presenting primarily original music, this group is dedicated to reaching new audiences through its eclectic blend of jazz, rock, classical and multi-cultural folkloric musics." The Kranzberg Center is at the corner of Grand and Olive in Grand Center. For more information: www.matthewmunesesmusic.com.

Opera Theatre of St. Louis, in collaboration with a coalition of area arts and community organizations, presents #WithNormandy: A Concert for Peace and Unity, a free ninety-minute program focusing on spirituals and American songs, on Sunday, September 28, at 4:30 p.m. “A powerhouse collection of singers who believe that the performing arts can play an important role in cultivating an environment of hope and support for the young people in north St. Louis County, including jazz artists, blues musicians, choirs, cabaret singers, and classically trained musicians.” Performers include opera singers Denyce Graves and Christine Brewer; nationally acclaimed St. Louis performers Derrell Acon, The Gene Dobbs Bradford Blues Experience, Julia Bullock, Duane Foster, Erika Johnson, and Jermaine Smith; as well as The Normandy High School Choir, the Cote Brilliante Presbyterian Men’s Choir, and the Shalom Church. The concert takes place at Normandy High School’s Viking Hall 6701 St Charles Rock Rd. For more information: experienceopera.org/withnormandy.

St. Louis Cathedral Concerts presents members of the St. Louis Symphony in a program of chamber music by Vaughan Williams, Ravel, and Brahms, on Friday, September 26, at 7:30 p.m and again on Sunday, September 28, at 7 p.m. “Cathedral Concerts continues it's series of FREE concerts that brings the great music to you. The featured players in each concert are St. Louis Symphony members Kristin Ahlstrom, violin and Bjorn Ranheim, cello, joined by Matthew Mazzoni, piano and Scott Kennebeck, tenor.” The performance takes place at St. Anselm Catholic Church in Creve Coeur on Friday and at St. Margaret of Scotland Catholic Church in the Shaw Neighborhood of the City of St. Louis on Sunday. For more information: www.cathedralconcerts.org

Douglas Neidt
The St. Louis Guitar Society's Great Artist Guitar Series presents Douglas Niedt on Saturday, September 27, at 8 p.m. "A St. Louis favorite son, Douglas gained instant fame at age seventeen upon winning the Chet Atkins International Guitar Competition among 300 applicants. He has studied at the Segovia Master Classes, the Juilliard School and with Christopher Parkening, Narcisco Yepes & Jorge Morel. Recognized for his excellence in teaching, he is head of the guitar program at the Conservatory of Music and Dance, University of Missouri at Kansas City. His programming includes music of Latin America, as well as American popular composers such as Duke Ellington, Richard Rodgers, and Dave Brubeck." The performance takes at the Ethical Society of St. Louis, 9001 Clayton Road. For more information: ethicalstl.org.

David Robertson conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and oboe soloist Cally Banham in Sibelius's "Swan of Tuonela," John Adams's "My Father Knew Charles Ives," and Prokofiev's "Symphony No. 5" Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m., September 27 and 28. "The STL Symphony is known for its outstanding performance of Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony garnering a Grammy® Award for their recording of the popular work in 1985. Prokofiev's work dazzles with brilliant percussion and majestic woodwinds while one of John Adams' pieces is brought to life with the orchestra performing the autobiographical and vibrant piece, My Father Knew Charles Ives." The concerts take place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: stlsymphony.org.

The Tavern of Fine Arts presents cellists James Nacy and Daniel Henderson on Friday, September 26, at 8 p.m. "Cellists James Nacy and Daniel Henderson perform a program of duos by cellists who were composers. Or . . . is that composers who were cellists? In any case, they are playing music of Barriere, Boccherini, Offenbach, Popper, Klengel and Tortelier." The Tavern of Fine Arts is at 313 Belt in the Debaliviere Place neighborhood. For more information: tavern-of-fine-arts.blogspot.com.

The Tavern of Fine Arts presents pianist Jon Garrett on Saturday, September 28, at 8 p.m. The Tavern of Fine Arts is at 313 Belt in the Debaliviere Place neighborhood. For more information: tavern-of-fine-arts.blogspot.com.

Third Baptist Church presents an organ concert by Scott Montgomery, Director of Music Ministries at Holy Cross Church, Champaign, Illinois on Friday, September 26, at 12:30 PM as part of its free Friday Pipes series. "Join us on Fridays at Third Baptist Church for Friday Pipes, the free organ recital series celebrating the restoration of the church's 72-rank Kilgen/Möller pipe organ. Each week a different performer will be presenting a program of classical, church, and theatre organ music in the beautiful sanctuary of Third Baptist. This season's performers come from across the USA, and even from around the world. Free parking is available in the church lots on Washington Avenue." Third Baptist Church is at 620 N Grand. For more information: www.third-baptist.org

Winter Opera presents its Winter Fall Opera Gala on Friday, September 26, at 6:30 p.m. "Winter Opera's top artists will be there to perform while you enjoy an amazing dinner at Dominic's Trattoria in Clayton. Help us celebrate the opening of our Eighth Season in style! Cocktails start at 6:30 p.m. The ticket prices includes a four-course dinner, wine and entertainment." The event takes place at Dominic's Trattoria, 200 South Brentwood in Clayton. For more information: www.winteroperastl.org