Sunday, January 15, 2017

St. Louis theatre calendar for the week of January 16, 2017

Lina Koutrakos
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Mariposa Artists presents Rick Jensen and Lina Koutrakos in their new cabaret show After All These Love Songs on Friday, January 20, at 8 p.m. "Master performance teachers, singer/songwriters and rave reviewed musical director Rick Jensen and director Lina Koutrakos kick off their teaching weekend in St. Louis with the show "After All Those Love Songs." Jensen and Koutrakos have been together - both teaching and performing - for many years and bring that ease and skill to their shared show about life before and after all the love songs, the ballads, the shows, the reviews, the traveling, the awards and the accolades. Not only is the show a reason to come out and join them but it's a great way for Rick and Lina to see the people they have grown to love over the last decade in St Louis." The performance takes place at the Kranzberg Arts Center at Grand and Olive in Grand Center. For more information: www.metrotix.com/events/detail/after-all-those-love-songs.

All My Sons
Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents Arthur Miller's drama All My Sons through January 29. "Miller's breakthrough play is a searing and deeply personal search for morality with shattering repercussions. During World War II, factory owner Joe Keller makes a questionable business decision that costs the lives of American airmen overseas. His misdeed leaves his family fractured as they grapple with the consequences of his actions." Performances take place at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information: repstl.org.

The Fox Theatre presents the musical An American in Paris January 17-29. "An American In Paris is the new Tony Award®-winning musical about an American soldier, a mysterious French girl and an indomitable European city, each yearning for a new beginning in the aftermath of war. Acclaimed director/choreographer and 2015 Tony Award® winner Christopher Wheeldon brings the magic and romance of Paris into perfect harmony with unforgettable songs from George and Ira Gershwin in the show that earned more awards than any other musical in the 2015 season!" The Fox is on North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: fabulousfox.com.

The Bissell Mansion Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre presents A Big Easy Murder through April 30. The Bissell Mansion is at 4426 Randall Place. For more information: bissellmansiontheatre.com.

Circus Harmony presents Bravura Saturdays at 2 and 7 PM and Sundays at 2 PM, January 21-29. "Bravura is a musical term whose definition also describes our youth circus performers: exceptional agility and brilliant style. Our theme this year is archetypes. Follow our King as he searches for the Trickster who stole his crown and finds out that one person can wear many hats." Performances take place at City Museum, 701 N. 15th Street. Show admission is free with museum admission. For more information: circusharmony.org.

Chuck Lavazzi and Carol Schmidt
The Cabaret Project and The Emerald Room at the Monocle present a Cabaret Open Mic Night on Wednesday, January 18, from 7 to 10 p.m. Drop by and enjoy a night of great music from St. Louis cabaret artists, backed up by the inimitable Carol Schmidt on the baby grand. The master of ceremonies is 88.1 KDHX senior performing arts critic Chuck Lavazzi. If you're planning to sing, be prepared to do one or two songs and bring music, preferably in your key. It's also recommend that you have your song memorized. The Emerald Room at The Monocle is at 4510 Manchester in The Grove. For more information, visit themonoclestl.com.

Theatre Lab presents Closer by Patrick Marber Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m., through January 22. "This play follows four lives that intertwine over the course of four and a half years. This densely-plotted, stinging look at modern love and betrayal contains twelve scenes that chronicle the love affairs, rivalries, seductions and betrayals of four characters (two men, two women,) in a spare, intense style -- sometimes coarse, sometimes obscene, but calling for real sensitivity and vulnerability in the acting. Contains very strong language and sexual references." Performances take place at the .Zack Artist Incubator, 3224 Locust in midtown. For more information: www.metrotix.com/events/detail/theatre-lab-closer.

Constellations
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents Constellations January 18 - February 5 "One relationship, limitless possibilities. When Roland and Marianne meet at a party, a multiverse of potential outcomes unfolds. Each choice they make unlocks a series of branching paths - some wonderful, some tragic. Nick Payne's genre-busting new play explores these alternate universes with wit, wonder and an overflowing sense of life." Performances take place in the studio theater at the Loretto-Hlton Center, 130 Edgar Road in Webster Groves, MO. For more information, call 314-968-4925 or visit repstl.org.

Theatre Nuevo presents HELL Thursdays through Sundays at 8 p.m., January 19-29. The show is "a devised piece exploring the concepts of personal and religious hells through music, movement, and text written by the performers and creative team. Influenced by a wide variety of cultures: from Christian Hell, the Mayan Xibalba, Buddhism, Islam, D ante's Inferno, to the hot and cold Hells of Naraka; Theatre Nuevo conducts a theatrical experiment to examine damnation and redemption, hand in hand." Performances take place at The Chapel, 6238 Alexander Drive in Clayton. For more information: www.theatrenuevo.com.

The Black Rep presents the drama Lines in the Dust through January 29. "When Denitra loses the charter school lottery for her daughter, she must find another way to escape from their underperforming neighborhood school. The answer seems like a risk well worth taking but may end up requiring a bigger sacrifice than she ever could have imagined. It's been exactly 60 years since Brown Versus The Board of Education. Lines In The Dust questions how far we've come and more importantly, where we go from here." Performances take place at the Edison Theatre on the Washington University campus. For more information: theblackrep.org.

Menopause the Musical
The Playhouse at Westport Plaza presents Menopause the Musical, "a celebration of women and The Change," through February 12. The Playhouse at Westport Plaza is at 635 West Port Plaza. For more information: westportstl.com.

The Lemp Mansion Comedy-Mystery Dinner Theater presents Murder at the Abbey through April 29. "Welcome to the world of Downton Abbey! A world full of aristocracy, old money but never anything as droll as murder! Congratulations! You've been invited to the dinner party held by the Earl of Grantham himself! Some would kill for the opportunity to meet the Crawley family. They'll all be there! The Earl, his beautiful wife and three daughters...not to mention all the other characters in, (and around), the Grantham house. That's right! All the family, staff and townsfolk will be there. You'll meet lots of fun characters...and you'll play as big, (or as small), of a part as you wish. Up to you. Hope nothing bad happens...but if it does...we might need you to help us figure it out? Or perhaps you're the killer?" The Lemp Mansion is at 3322 DeMenil Place. For more information: lempmansion.com.

Sarah Porter
New Line Theatre presents Sarah Porter in her new cabaret show Don't Make Me Name This on Saturday, January 21, at 8 p.m. as part of the company's Off Line at the Monocle series. "After a successful run in her one woman show, Andrew Lloyd Webber's Tell Me on a Sunday in August, Sarah Porter jumps into the cabaret world. Come join Sarah in her first solo cabaret, as she shares some of her favorite songs from many different genres. She is sure to entertain with a night of laughter and bewitching charm.The show is directed by Mike Dowdy-Windsor, with music direction by Sarah Nelson." The performance takes place at The Monocle, 4510 Manchester in the Grove. For more information: themonoclestl.com.

First Run Theatre presents the Prometheus' Dream Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM, through January 22. "In this modern retelling of the story of Frankenstein, a controversial doctor makes a discovery which could alter the way we look at mortality. With his successful test subject, Adam, Dr. Franken travels the lecture circuit, gaining riches and fame. However, the relationship between the doctor and his protégé begin to break down as Adam rediscover parts of his past and regains a sense of self. As conflict gives way to bitter animosity, both learn valuable lessons about the price and fame and glory. Due to language, recommended for mature audiences." Performances take place in the Thomas Hunter Theatre at DeSmet Jesuit High School, 233 N New Ballas Road. For more information, call (314) 352-5114 or visit www.firstruntheatre.com.

The Theatre Guild of Webster Groves presents A.R. Gurney's comedy Sylvia Fridays through Sundays through January 22. "Greg and Kate have moved to Manhattan after twenty-two years of child-raising in the suburbs. Greg's career as a financial trader is winding down, while Kate's career, as a public-school English teacher, is beginning to offer her more opportunities. Greg brings home a dog he found in the park-or who has found him-bearing only the name "Sylvia" on her name tag. A street-smart mixture of Lab and Poodle, Sylvia becomes a major “bone” contentions between the couple." The shows contains adult themes. Performances take place in the Guild theatre at Newport and Summit in Webster Groves, MO. For more information: theatreguildwg.org or call 314-962-0876.

The Kirkwood Theatre Guild presents Twisted Improv on Friday, January 20, at 8 p.m. at The Steamboat Room, 314 S. Clay in Kirkwood, MO. "Join Adam and his crew for an interactive night of fun and laughter.Beer, wine and food available from Kirkwood Station Brewery." For more information: ktg-onstage.org.

Kirkwood Theatre Guild presents the comedy Wake Up, Cameron Dobbs by St. Louis playwright Steve Peirick January 20-29. "Some would say Cameron Dobbs is a loser who never gets a break. He's turning 30 and all he wants is a quiet birthday dinner with his brother, Owen, and sister-in-law, Abby. Unfortunately, they have different plans. Unknown to Cameron, Abby has decided to fix him up with her friend, Natalie, and Owen has invited their loving but neurotic mother, Helen. Cameron is not thrilled by these surprise guests, and to add to his chagrin, the dinner menu is a list of food to which he is allergic. After an unenthusiastic introduction, Natalie convinces Cameron to leave the dinner party and celebrate with her. As his family awaits his return, Cameron begins the journey toward recreating his life and embracing manhood." Performances take place in the Robert G. Reim Theatre of the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road. For more information, call 314-821-9956 or visit ktg-onstage.org.

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 Calendar.
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.

St. Louis classical calendar for the week of January 16, 2017

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The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis presents organist Dr. Horst Buchholz on Sunday, January 22, at 2:30 p.m. "Buchholz studied organ and sacred music in his native Germany at the Berlin College of Church Music and graduated with degrees and diplomas in Church Music and Music Pedagogy from the University of Arts in Berlin. His organ teachers have included Heinz Lohmann, Peter Wackwitz, and Rudolf Heinemann. Among his conducting teachers were Martin Behrmann, Uwe Gronostay, and Erich Bergel. After receiving his teaching certificate in Music Theory and Composition from the University of Arts in Berlin in 1989, Dr. Buchholz continued his post-graduate studies in the United States, where he received his Doctor of Music degree in conducting from the Indiana University School of Music." The performance takes place at the cathedral at 4431 Lindell. For more information: www.cathedralconcerts.org.

Iva Bittová
New Music Circle presents vocalist/violinist Iva Bittová and percussionist Hamid Drake, on Friday, January 20, at 8 p.m. "Vocalist/violinist Iva Bittová (Czech Republic) is internationally known for her unique music, which draws on influences from her native Moravia and her lineage in the rich traditions of Slovakia and the Roma people. Her ability to bring those influences together with such modern inspirations as Meredith Monk's wordless vocal pieces and free improvisation, creates music that feels both ancient and new, simultaneously surprising and familiar. Bittová is a storyteller who rarely uses actual language to convey the emotions of her stories. While either singing wordlessly or using an implied language of her own, she crafts intimate, engrossing narratives, ultimately creating her own truly personal style of folk music. Hamid Drake is an American jazz drummer and percussionist, living in Chicago, but spending a great deal of his time touring worldwide. Drake is widely regarded as one of the great percussionists in jazz and improvised music, with a uniquely poetic approach to drumming. The performance takes place at Joe's Café, 6014 Kingsbury. For more information: newmusiccircle.org.

The St. Louis Low Brass Collective presents Ninth Annual Low Brass Gala Concert on Tuesday, January 17, starting at 7 p.m. "Performers include faculty members from McKendree University, SIUE, SWIC, UMSL, Washington University and Webster University and The Trombones of the St. Louis Symphony" The event takes place at the Sheldon Concert Hall, 3648 Washington in Grand Center. For more information: www.stllbc.org.

Pianist Till Fellner
Photo: Gabriela Brandenstein
Andrey Boreyko conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and piano soloist Till Fellner on Friday at 10:30 a.m. and Saturday at 8 p.m., January 20 and 21 "Shostakovich's Symphony No. 15 is full of musical references from his own works, plus an unexpected quote from William Tell Overture in the opening. Just to be sure you don't miss it, this piece is paired with Rossini's unforgettable Overture. And pianist Till Fellner makes his STL Symphony debut performing Beethoven's delightful Piano Concerto No. 2, full of contrast and drama." The concert takes place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: stlsymphony.org.

The St. Louis Symphony presents PROJECT Trio in The New Adventures of Peter and the Wolf on Sunday at 3 p.m., January 22. "Through the power of music and masterful storytelling, this lively version of Prokofiev's classic Peter and the Wolf will deliver a powerful message inspiring confidence in kids of all ages." The concert takes place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: stlsymphony.org.

The Washington University Department of Music presents the Chamber Music Society of St. Louis in concert on Tuesday, January 17, at 7:30 p.m. The program includes music by Mozart, Schubert, Francaix, Haydn, and Beethoven. The performance takes place in the Goldberg Formal Lounge in the Danforth University Center on the Washington University campus. For more information, music.wustl.edu.

The Sakura Cello Quintet
The Washington University Department of Music presents the Sakura Cello Quintet on Sunday, January 22, at 1 p.m. " Experience a rich and colorful sound world like no other. A unique and versatile cello quintet, hailed as "brilliant" and "superb" by Mark Swed in the Los Angeles Times, SAKURA presents an engaging and eclectic program of music spanning five centuries in dazzling arrangements, opening new vistas of beauty and expression by showcasing the great warmth and scope offered by the sound of five cellos. Repertoire includes a set of Renaissance a cappella works ranging from the vulgar to the sublime, four of Debussy's evocative piano preludes, songs by Rachmaninoff and Schubert, selections from Leonard Bernstein's enduring West Side Story, and others." The performance takes place in the E. Desmond Lee Concert Hall at the 560 Music Center, 560 Trinity in University City. For more information, music.wustl.edu.

The Washington University Department of Music presents a concert by violinist Silvian Iticovici and pianist Nina Ferrignoon Sunday, January 22, at 7 p.m. The program consists of the Sonata in G minor, "Devil's Trill Sonata" by Giuseppe Tartini; the Sonata for Violin and Piano by Philip Glass; and the Violin Sonata No. 3, Op. 108 by Johannes Brahms. The performance takes place in the E. Desmond Lee Concert Hall at the 560 Music Center, 560 Trinity in University City. For more information, music.wustl.edu.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of January 13, 2017

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:


All My Sons
Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents Arthur Miller's drama All My Sons through January 29. "Miller's breakthrough play is a searing and deeply personal search for morality with shattering repercussions. During World War II, factory owner Joe Keller makes a questionable business decision that costs the lives of American airmen overseas. His misdeed leaves his family fractured as they grapple with the consequences of his actions." Performances take place at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information: repstl.org.

My take: Given the current depraved state of our national morality and what would appear to be our appalling acceptance of war as just another product, it seems almost quaint to raise the issue of war profiteering these days—which is why it so desperately needs to be done. Miller's play, in contrast with war-mongering politicians, has a strong moral core and is getting what Bob Cohn in the Jewish LIght calls "a powerful, riveting production." 'Nuff said.


Menopause the Musical
The Playhouse at Westport Plaza presents Menopause the Musical, "a celebration of women and The Change," through February 12. The Playhouse at Westport Plaza is at 635 West Port Plaza. For more information: westportstl.com.

My take: This popular ensemble show has been around for a while now, having premiered in 2001 in Orlando, Florida, in a 76-seat theatre that once housed a perfume shop. It's last visit at the Westport Playhouse was ten years ago, and it seems to have lost none of it's comic shine. "Who will enjoy this," asks Ann Lemmons Pollack in her blog, "beyond women of what the call un age certain? People of both genders around them unless they have no sense of humor. That includes family, friends and co-workers. One of life's cruel jokes is that the menopause hits many households about the same time adolescence does. Here's something to tide us over."

Monday, January 09, 2017

Preview: Made in America, the St. Louis Symphony season resumes

[UPDATE: The Friday, January 13, concert has been cancelled because of an ice storm.  The Saturday and Sunday concerts are still scheduled to go ahead as planned.  If you have tickets for Friday, you can call the box office at 314-534-1700 to exchange them for Saturday or Sunday.]

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The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra resumes its regular concert series this weekend (Saturday and Sunday, January 14 and 15) with a preview of the repertoire for its tour of Spain, which consists of appearances in Valencia on February 8, Madrid on February 9 and 10, and Oviedo on February 11. All three works on the program were written here in the USA, although only one of them is actually the work of an American composer.

John Adams
That native-born American is John Adams, whose "The Chairman Dances, Foxtrot for Orchestra" opens the concerts. Written for but eventually dropped from his groundbreaking 1987 opera Nixon in China, this short (around 12 minutes) piece was intended to accompany a surrealistic scene in which a painting of Chairman Mao comes to life and dances with his widow during a state dinner. It has since had an independent life of its own and is probably one of the composer's most commonly heard short works, right up there with his "Short Ride in a Fast Machine" from 1986.

Up next is Erich Wolfgang Korngold's Violin Concerto in D major, op. 35, which first saw the light of day right here in Mound City back in 1947. Jascha Heifetz was the soloist, and on the podium was the French-American conductor Vladimir Golschmann. Golschmann was music director of the SLSO from 1931 to 1958 (the longest-reigning SLSO music director to date) and made a number of recordings with the orchestra.

Korngold's name will be familiar to classic film fans. Born in Moravia in 1897, Korngold was a child prodigy hailed as a "musical genius" by Gustav Mahler. He composed his first ballet at age 11 and his most famous opera, Die tote Stadt, at 23. In 1934 director Max Reinhardt enticed Korngold to Hollywood to write the music for his lavish film version of A Midsummer Night's Dream (well worth seeing, despite the many cuts in Shakespeare's text). He returned to Austria, but was drawn back to California in 1938 to write the score for The Adventures of Robin Hood. While he was there, Hitler's Anschluss of Austria took place, and Korngold became an émigré ("We thought of ourselves as Viennese," he would recall later. "Hitler made us Jewish.")

Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Even if you didn't know Korngold was a film composer, you could guess it by the lush romantic sound of this music. You might also recognize some of the themes since Korngold, like many other notable composers throughout history, was not shy about recycling his own musical material. In this case, he repurposed melodies from the films Juarez (1939), Anthony Adverse (1936), Another Dawn (1937), and—in the lively finale—The Prince and the Pauper (1937). It's flashy stuff and should fit nicely under the hands of soloist Gil Shaham (Mr. Robertson's brother-in-law), who did such an impressive job with it the last time he performed the concerto with Mr. Robertson and the SLSO in 2014.

Closing the concerts is the Symphony No. 9 in E minor, op. 95, (“From the New World”) by Antonín Dvořák. The Czech master wrote it during a visit to America in the early 1890s, and while he never explicitly quotes any American folk material, there's still something about this music that strongly suggests America. From the flute theme in the first movement that seems to echo "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," to the second movement Largo that has (at least for me) always evoked the majestic solitude of the plains (Dvořák said he wrote it after reading Longfellow's "Hiawatha"), to the "bluesy" flatted seventh chords of the finale, Dvořák "New World" symphony just shouts "USA"—even if it does so with a strong Czech accent.

Some critics have complained of the symphony's structural weaknesses and its episodic nature. In his book Nineteenth-Century Romanticism in Music, for example, British musicologist Rey M. Longyear disses the composer's "labored attempts" at cyclic form and dismisses it as "one of [Dvořák's] weaker works."

Dvořák with his friends and family
in New York
English composer/conductor Julius Harrison, on the other hand, had a more balanced view in an essay published posthumously in The Symphony (Penguin Books, 1967). He acknowledged that the symphony "has come in for considerable criticism as being mainly a succession of enchanting and virile tunes loosely strung together in patchwork style, presided over or helped out by a strongly rhythmic phrase bundled into each movement whenever Dvořák found himself wondering how best to proceed." But he then went on to note that "only a cynic can be deaf to the call of this warm-blooded music, so spontaneous it all sounds even in its moments of calculated joinery… The symphony was in fact a heartfelt greeting from the New World to [Dvořák's] friends parted from him by circumstances and the ocean."

I couldn't agree more. This tremendously appealing piece is one of the first classical works I ever encountered, and I've never lost my affection for it. If you've never heard it before, I'll bet it will strike you the same way.

The Essentials: David Robertson conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and violin soloist Gil Shaham on Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m., January 14 and 15. The concert takes place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: stlsymphony.org.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

St. Louis theatre calendar for the week of January 9, 2017

All My Sons
Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
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The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents Arthur Miller's drama All My Sons through January 29. "Miller's breakthrough play is a searing and deeply personal search for morality with shattering repercussions. During World War II, factory owner Joe Keller makes a questionable business decision that costs the lives of American airmen overseas. His misdeed leaves his family fractured as they grapple with the consequences of his actions." Performances take place at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information: repstl.org.

The Bissell Mansion Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre presents A Big Easy Murder through April 30. The Bissell Mansion is at 4426 Randall Place. For more information: bissellmansiontheatre.com.

The Emerald Room at the Monocle presents The Bon Bons Bourdoir: An Intimate Burlesque Cabaret on Saturday, January 14, at 10:30 p.m. "Get up close and personal with members of Lola van Ella's professional burlesque troupe The Bon-Bons during a new monthly show! An Intimate Cabaret showcases the diverse talents of these performers-ranging from sultry fan dances to playful chair acts, rowdy floor routines to stripped down singing-all set in the gorgeous, grandiose backdrop of The Emerald Room at The Monocle. While each member brings a unique style and sensibility, all of them are dedicated to sass, class, and old-fashioned showgirl charm." The performance takes place in the Emerald Room at The Monocle, 4510 Manchester in the Grove neighborhood. For more information: themonoclestl.com.

Theatre Lab presents Closer by Patrick Marber Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m., January 12-22. "This play follows four lives that intertwine over the course of four and a half years. This densely-plotted, stinging look at modern love and betrayal contains twelve scenes that chronicle the love affairs, rivalries, seductions and betrayals of four characters (two men, two women,) in a spare, intense style -- sometimes coarse, sometimes obscene, but calling for real sensitivity and vulnerability in the acting. Contains very strong language and sexual references." Performances take place at the .Zack Artist Incubator, 3224 Locust in midtown. For more information: www.metrotix.com/events/detail/theatre-lab-closer.

KTK Productions and Take Two Productions present Faith, Hope, and Charity, a cabaret to benefit Southampton Church Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., January 13-15. The show features "uplifting selections from Broadway and beyond by favorite KTK Productions_and Take Two Productions performers." Performances take place at Southampton Presbyterian Church, 4716 Macklind. For more information: kurtainkall.org or call 314-351-8984.

Java Jived
The Emerald Room at the Monocle presents Java Jived on Friday, January 13, at 7:30 p.m. "Java Jived specializes in a cappella arrangements of jazz and pop classics from the 20's to the 80's. Known for its fine blend and intonation, this high-energy ensemble performs polished stylistic renditions of challenging repertoire by the best contemporary arrangers, including Deke Sharon, Kirby Shaw, Teena Chin, and Gene Puerling, who is well known for his arrangements for The Manhattan Transfer. " The performance takes place in the Emerald Room at The Monocle, 4510 Manchester in the Grove neighborhood. For more information: themonoclestl.com.

The Black Rep presents the drama Lines in the Dust January 11-29. "When Denitra loses the charter school lottery for her daughter, she must find another way to escape from their underperforming neighborhood school. The answer seems like a risk well worth taking but may end up requiring a bigger sacrifice than she ever could have imagined. It's been exactly 60 years since Brown Versus The Board of Education. Lines In The Dust questions how far we've come and more importantly, where we go from here." Performances take place at the Edison Theatre on the Washington University campus. For more information: theblackrep.org.

Menopause the Musical
The Playhouse at Westport Plaza presents Menopause the Musical, "a celebration of women and The Change," through February 12. The Playhouse at Westport Plaza is at 635 West Port Plaza. For more information: westportstl.com.

The Lemp Mansion Comedy-Mystery Dinner Theater presents Murder at the Abbey January 13 through April 29. "Welcome to the world of Downton Abbey! A world full of aristocracy, old money but never anything as droll as murder! Congratulations! You've been invited to the dinner party held by the Earl of Grantham himself! Some would kill for the opportunity to meet the Crawley family. They'll all be there! The Earl, his beautiful wife and three daughters...not to mention all the other characters in, (and around), the Grantham house. That's right! All the family, staff and townsfolk will be there. You'll meet lots of fun characters...and you'll play as big, (or as small), of a part as you wish. Up to you. Hope nothing bad happens...but if it does...we might need you to help us figure it out? Or perhaps you're the killer?" The Lemp Mansion is at 3322 DeMenil Place. For more information: lempmansion.com.

Gary Cox
The Emerald Room at the Monocle and The Presenters Dolan present singer Gary Cox in My Father's World on Thursday, January 12, at 8 p.m. "Gary Cox returns to the St. Louis stage with his new cabaret, the comic and compassionate My Father's World. The show is a loving tribute that explores the not always easy, but always affirming, bond between father and son. The show is a funny, affectionate and moving blend of traditional songs, Broadway standards - and folk gospel!" The performance takes place in the Emerald Room at The Monocle, 4510 Manchester in the Grove neighborhood. For more information: themonoclestl.com.

The Emerald Room at the Monocle presents Nasty Women: A Comedy Show on Saturday, January 14, at 8 p.m. "The Monocle is proud to present a delightful blend of sketch, improv, and stand-up, all written and performed by comical ladies. These fierce feminists are taking over the Emerald Room stage for a night of bitchin' jokes and ridiculous sketches! Featuring Poor Monsters, Casual Pussy Improv, We Are Jenny Lewis, Libbie Higgins, and more!." The performance takes place in the Emerald Room at The Monocle, 4510 Manchester in the Grove neighborhood. For more information: themonoclestl.com.

First Run Theatre presents the Prometheus' Dream Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM, January 13-22. "In this modern retelling of the story of Frankenstein, a controversial doctor makes a discovery which could alter the way we look at mortality. With his successful test subject, Adam, Dr. Franken travels the lecture circuit, gaining riches and fame. However, the relationship between the doctor and his protégé begin to break down as Adam rediscover parts of his past and regains a sense of self. As conflict gives way to bitter animosity, both learn valuable lessons about the price and fame and glory. Due to language, recommended for mature audiences." Performances take place in the Thomas Hunter Theatre at DeSmet Jesuit High School, 233 N New Ballas Road. For more information, call (314) 352-5114 or visit www.firstruntheatre.com.

The St. Louis Family Theatre Series presents the Skippyjon Jones Snow What Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m., January 13-15. "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the bravest Chihuahua of them all? Skippyjon Jones the Siamese cat who thinks he's a Mexican Chihuahua of course! While his sisters listen to Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Skippy heads off for the REAL adventure awaiting him in his closet. There, as his alter ego Skippito Friskito, and with the help of his friends the Seven Chimichangos, Skippyjon must rescue the beautiful princess Nieve Qué (Snow What), battle the evil dragon and defeat the Bruja. A brand new musical based on the book by Judy Schachner, Skippyjon Jones Snow What is a twist on the classic fairytale Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." Performances take place at the Florissant Civic Center Theatre at Parker and Waterford in Florissant, MO. For more information, call 314-921-5678 or visit www.florissantmo.com.

The Theatre Guild of Webster Groves presents A.R. Gurney's comedy Sylvia Fridays through Sundays, January 13-22. "Greg and Kate have moved to Manhattan after twenty-two years of child-raising in the suburbs. Greg's career as a financial trader is winding down, while Kate's career, as a public-school English teacher, is beginning to offer her more opportunities. Greg brings home a dog he found in the park-or who has found him-bearing only the name "Sylvia" on her name tag. A street-smart mixture of Lab and Poodle, Sylvia becomes a major “bone” contentions between the couple." The shows contains adult themes. Performances take place in the Guild theatre at Newport and Summit in Webster Groves, MO. For more information: theatreguildwg.org or call 314-962-0876.

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 Calendar.
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, January 06, 2017

St. Louis classical calendar for the week of January 9, 2017

Gil Shaham
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David Robertson conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and violin soloist Gil Shaham on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m., January 13-15. "Gil Shaham performs Korngold's Violin Concerto. First premiered by the STL Symphony in 1947, the work by the cinematic composer will astound with its lush melodies and technical pyrotechnics. The concert comes to a stunning conclusion with Dvorák's beloved "New World" symphony, an audience favorite for its musical depiction of the American spirit." The concert takes place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: stlsymphony.org.

The World Chess Hall of Fame presents a program of the music of Dvorák on Thursday, January 12, at 7 pm. "Dvorák is the best known Czech composer of the Romantic era. Beloved for his use of Bohemian folk elements, his music is deeply beautiful and sparkling with vitality. Featuring members of the St. Louis Symphony, this program explores Dvo_ák's chamber music for strings; including his famous Quintet No. 2 for two violins, viola, cello and double bass." Performers are Jessica Cheng, violin; Angie Smart, violin; Kathleen Mattis, viola; Melissa Brooks, cello; Sarah Hogan Kaiser, bass. The performance takes place at the World Chess Hall of Fame, 4652 Maryland Avenue. For more information: worldchesshof.org or call (314) 367-9243.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Review: "Disney in Concert: Tale as Old as Time" is powerful entertainment for all ages

Conductor Aram Demirjian
Photo: David Bickley
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For some time now, the last weekend in December has been the time for the St. Louis Symphony to present a family-friendly concert--often with a cinematic theme--designed to pull in big audiences and contribute to the economic bottom line.

This year was no exception with Disney in Concert: Tale as Old as Time. A production of Symphony Pops Music, the concert package provides clips from animated Disney films, both classic and contemporary, accompanied by live music played by the SLSO and orchestrated by a regular army of arrangers. Also included are a scripted narrative and a quartet of singers to deliver that narrative along with a cornucopia of songs from the movies.

The result, as the Thursday night (December 29) concert clearly demonstrated, was an entertainment powerhouse, in which the lively and precise performance by the SLSO musicians under the baton of guest conductor Aram Demirjian (Associate Conductor of the Kansas City Symphony) was more than matched by the theatrically on-target work of the singers. I often found myself more drawn to their smart and well-choreographed stage show than to the film clips which, after all, were already familiar to many of us in the audience.

As was the case with The Magical Music of Disney (the last Symphony Pops production I saw at Powell back in 2012), the featured singers were all experienced and engaging musical theatre professionals who were always completely in the moment and in character.

Whitney Claire Kaufman, who has appeared as the guest soloist in previous SLSO holiday concerts, once again demonstrated an impressive combination of vocal power and theatrical conviction in songs like "When Will My Life Being" (Tangled) and "Reflection" (Mulan). Lisa Livesay was also a sparkling presence in Randy Newman's "Almost There" (The Frog Prince), among others. She and Ms. Kaufman did an excellent job sharing the various princess roles throughout the evening.

L-R: Aaron Phillips, Lisa Livesay, Andrew Johnson
Whitney Claire Kaufman
Andrew Johnson and Aaron Phillips displayed great versatility as well in a wide variety of male roles, from dashing princes to evil magicians. Mr. Johnson's "Under the Sea" (The Little Mermaid) was lively fun and his "Friends on the Other Side" (The Frog Prince) deliciously evil. He was also a powerful presence in the "The Circle of Life" (The Lion King), an unlisted but obviously scheduled encore that brought the audience to its feet for the second standing ovation of the evening--the first having been generated by the rousing medley of tunes from Frozen that finished the official program.

Mr. Phillips had some of the best character songs, including the lyrically flashy "Friend Like Me" (Aladdin) and "Be Our Guest" (Beauty and the Beast). He did some of the best character voices, which is what you might expect from an actor with so many animation and voiceover credits.

All too often the phrase "family entertainment" equates to "suitable only for preschoolers." Not so with Disney in Concert: Tale as Old as Time. This was a program that entertained all three generations in our party but, judging from the response, the rest of the standing room only crowd as well. The opening "Disney Memories Overture" was especially moving for me, with its musical and visual clips from classics like Snow White and Seven Dwarfs, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, and Fantasia. For a few moments, I was once again that enraptured child who made his long-suffering Italian uncle sit through three successive showings of Lady and the Tramp.

Now there's some movie magic for you.

The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra is taking a much-deserved break right now, but the regular season returns the weekend of January 13 when David Robertson conducts Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 ("From the New World") and the Korngold Violin Concerto with Gil Shaham as the soloist.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

St. Louis theatre calendar for the week of January 2, 2017

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The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents Arthur Miller's drama All My Sons January 4-29. "Miller's breakthrough play is a searing and deeply personal search for morality with shattering repercussions. During World War II, factory owner Joe Keller makes a questionable business decision that costs the lives of American airmen overseas. His misdeed leaves his family fractured as they grapple with the consequences of his actions." Performances take place at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information: repstl.org.

The Bissell Mansion Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre presents A Big Easy Murder January 6 - April 30. The Bissell Mansion is at 4426 Randall Place. For more information: bissellmansiontheatre.com.

The Lemp Mansion Comedy-Mystery Dinner Theater presents A Dickens of a Killng through January 7. The Lemp Mansion is at 3322 DeMenil Place. For more information: lempmansion.com.

The Bissell Mansion Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre presents It's a Wonderful Death through January 5. The Bissell Mansion is at 4426 Randall Place. For more information: bissellmansiontheatre.com.

Menopause the Musical
The Playhouse at Westport Plaza presents Menopause the Musical, "a celebration of women and The Change," January 6 - February 12. The Playhouse at Westport Plaza is at 635 West Port Plaza. For more information: westportstl.com.

The Emerald Room at the Monocle presents Reggi and Shaw's Evening of Improvised Theatre on Thursday, January 5 at 8 p.m. "Local actors Cooper Shaw and Ed Reggi are delighted to bring their comedic talents to The Grove. These Thursday evening performances will include Shaw's PINKY SWEAR and Reggi's THE MARTY. PINKY SWEAR is a Long Form Improv Duo based in St. Louis, MO, featuring Shannon Geier and Cooper Shaw. Through character and relationship-based moment-to-moment explorations, inspired by a suggestion from the audience, Geier and Shaw bring stories to life with heart and soul. THE MARTY is a two-person improvised play inspired by suggestions from the audience." The performance takes place in the Emerald Room at The Monocle, 4510 Manchester in the Grove neighborhood. For more information: themonoclestl.com.

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 Calendar.
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.