Sunday, February 19, 2017

St. Louis theatre calendar for the week of February 20, 2017

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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.

Elephant and Piggie: We Are in a Play
COCA presents the Kennedy Center On Tour production of Elephant and Piggie: We Are in a Play Saturday and Sunday at 1 and 5 p.m., February 25 and 26. "Based on Mo Willems' beloved, award-winning, best-selling children's books, Kennedy Center on Tour presents a romp of a musical. Elephant Gerald and Piggie sing and dance their way through solutions to fundamental questions like: What do you wear to a fancy pool costume party? Should you share your ice cream? And how can two friends play with one toy? With the help of the nutty back-up singers The Squirrelles, our duo even gets the audience involved in the action. You'll be doing the 'Flippy Floppy Floory' dance all night long!" COCA is at 524 Trinity in University City. For more information: cocastl.org.

St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley presents the Sam Shepard drama Fool for Love through February 25. Performances take place in the Fisher Theatre on the campus at 3400 Pershall Road. For more information, www.stlcc.edu/fv or call 314-644-5522.

KTK Productions presents the Agatha Christie's Go Back for Murder through February 26. "Imprisoned for poisoning her husband fifteen years earlier, Caroline Crale finds herself at death's door and writes a letter expressing her undeniable innocence to her daughter Carla. Carla, aided by Justin Fogg - a former admirer of Caroline - persuades those present on the day of her father's death to return to the scene of the crime. When the witnesses reassemble, Fogg discovers the identity of the true murderer, and Carla discovers her true feelings for Fogg." Performances take place at Southampton Presbyterian Church, 4716 Macklind. For more information: kurtainkall.org or call 314-351-8984.

Graeme of Thrones
The Playhouse at Westport Plaza presents the parody Graeme of Thrones Tuesday through Sunday, February 21-26. "In this critically-acclaimed theatrical journey through the Seven Kingdoms, avid 'Thrones' fan Graeme just wants to recreate his favorite fantasy saga on stage. He does not have the same budget as the TV show, or as many cast members, or the performance skills required, but he is sure George RR Martin would approve - and that is the only thing that matters. But when news reaches him that an influential theatrical producer is in the building, Graeme decides that this could be his big break, as long as nothing goes wrong." The Playhouse at Westport Plaza is at 635 West Port Plaza. For more information: playhouseatwestport.com.

Lindenwood University presents the musical Heathers Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. February 23-25. " Written by the award-winning team of Kevin Murphy (Reefer Madness) and Laurence O'Keefe (Bat Boy, Legally Blonde), this hilarious, big-hearted, and homicidal new musical is based on the 1989 cult film, truly one of the darkest teen comedies of all time. The original screenwriter Daniel Waters called it, 'a Carson McCullers-style novel of a girl who meets the Antichrist as a teenager.'" The performance takes place at The Lindenwood Theatre at the J. Scheidegger Center for the Arts on the Lindenwood campus in St. Charles, MO. For more information, call 636-949-4433 or visit www.lindenwood.edu/center.

The Touhill Performing Arts Center presents In the Mood on Sunday, February 26, at 2 p.m. " Hop aboard the “Chattanooga Choo Choo” to “Tuxedo Junction” and get In The Mood to hear a “Moonlight Serenade” performed by a 13-piece Big Band and six singer-dancers with some hot boogie-woogie! In The Mood is a fully staged tribute to Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, The Andrews Sisters and big band greats of the '40s. Complete with period costumes and choreography, It's a celebration of America's greatest generation who listened and boogied to up-tempo big band rhythms and danced to intimate ballads." The Touhill Performing Arts Center is on the campus of the University of Missouri-St. Louis. For more information: touhill.org.

The St. Louis Family Theatre Series presents the Junie B's Essential Survival Guide to School Sunday, February 26, at 2 p.m.; Friday, March 3, at 7:30 p.m.; and Saturday, March 4, at 2 p.m. "Now that JUNIE B. JONES has been going to school for over one-and-a-half years, who better to write the book on EVERYTHING you need to know? From bus rules to band-aids, carpools to cookies, Junie B. and friends deliver the definitive word on surviving and thriving in style. With a jillion tips, tricks and trip-ups, Junie B. shares her hard-won expertise and shows us all how school is sometimes scary, sometimes super -fun, and ALWAYS something to sing about! An all-new musical adventure based on Barbara Park's popular book." 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 http://www.florissantmo.com

Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill
Max and Louie Productions presents the one-woman show Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill through March 4. "It's March 1959 and at a small Philadelphia club, jazz and blues "phenom" Billie Holiday takes the stage for one of the last shows of her life. Playwright Lanie Robertson's Musical Drama allows us a penetrating look into the life and times of Billie "Lady Day" Holiday, as we listen to the profound legacy of her artistry-the music itself." Performances take place at the Kranzberg Arts Cener, 501 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information, visit maxandlouie.com.

The Performing Arts Department at Washington University presents Shakespeare's Macbeth and Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., February 24 - March 5. " Shakespeare's bloody psychological thriller blends witchcraft, murder, madness, ghosts and an unbridled lust for power-into one boiling cauldron. Reflect on America's recently concluded Presidential election by experiencing Shakespeare at his most politically powerful. Depicting a world where “fair is foul, and foul is fair,” the playwright provides us no easy answers to the problem of evil; instead, he probes into the recesses of our subconscious drives, illuminating our essential humanity with rich poetry and unforgettable power. " The performances take place in the Edison Theatre on the Washington University campus. For more information, call 314-935-6543 or visit pad.artsci.wustl.edu.

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.

Webster University's Conservatory of Theatre Arts presents The Philadelphia Story Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., through February 26. "Socialite Tracy Lord is preparing for her second marriage at the estate of her family. The Philadelphia Lords have all gathered for the celebration. So has Tracy's ex-husband C.K. Dexter Haven and an attractive reporter named Mike Connor. This makes the weekend a little more complicated. These American nobles handle all with a lot of wit in this classic 1930s comedy. There's nothing like a high-society wedding for some high-caliber entertainment." Performances take place in the Emerson Studio Theatre at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information, www.webster.edu/conservatory/season or call 314-968-7128.

To Kill a Mockingbird
Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents Christopher Sergel's stage adaptation of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird through March 5. "Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is a beloved tale that still resonates today. Scout Finch is growing up in Depression-era Alabama, where poverty and prejudice dominate daily life. With the guidance of her wise father, Atticus, the rebellious Scout discovers her own path, learning the power of empathy and the struggle for justice." Performances take place at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information: repstl.org.

Clayton Community Theatre presents Arthur Miller's drama A View from the Bridge Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., February 23 - March 5. " Arthur Miller's gut-wrenching 1956 domestic tragedy tells about a family of Italian-Americans living in Red Hook, New York, who welcome illegal immigrant relatives into their home in the 1950s, a cruel era for immigrants. The exceptional quality of this play has long been established; it has never had more currency than now. We are thrilled to have Joe Hanrahan, one of the area's most established theatre artists, to direct our production." Performances take place at the Washington University South Campus Theatre. For more information, call 314-721-9228 or visit placeseveryone.org.

St. Louis Actors' Studio presents Neil Labute's The Way We Get By through February 26. "Meet Beth and Doug, two people who have no problems getting dates with their partners of choice. After a drunken party and a hot night, they wake up to a blurry morning where the rules of attraction, sex, and society are waiting for them before their first cup of coffee. It's very awkward-and it also leads the pair to ponder how much they really know about each other, and how much they really care about what other people think." Performances take place at the Gaslight Theatre, 358 North Boyle For more information, call 314-458-2978 or visit stlas.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 February 20, 2017

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis presents the Webster University Choir and University of Missouri - St. Louis Choir on Friday, February 24 at 8 p.m. The performance takes place at the cathedral at 4431 Lindell. For more information: www.cathedralconcerts.org.

The Chamber Music Society of St. Louis presents The Sonata Program on Monday and Tuesday, February 20 and 21 at 7:30 p.m. "The Chamber Music Society St. Louis bring a lovely collection of sonatas for harp, violin, piano and cello, by Rosetti, Bach and Beethoven." The concerts take place in the Sheldon Ballroom at 3648 Washington. For more information: chambermusicstl.org.

Sir Andrew Davis
Photo: Dario Acosta Photography
The St. Louis Children's Choirs present a Family and Friends Concert on Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m., February 25 and 26. "Experience the joy of young voices united in song! This concert will feature multi-cultural selections in a variety of styles, traditions and languages and is part of the American Arts Experience-St. Louis. With performances by the Children's Choir 1A, Chorale 2A/2UC, Choristers, and Chamber Singers.' The performances take place at the 560 Music Center, 560 Trinity in University City. For more information: slccsing.org.

Sir Andrew Davis conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and St. Louis Symphony Chorus, along with bass soloist John Relyea on Friday and Saturday, February 24 and 25, at 8 p.m. The program includes Walton's Belshazzar's Feast along with Elgar's Falstaff and the overture to Nicolai's Merry Wives of Windsor. More information: stlsymphony.org.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of February 17, 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:


The Ice Fishing Play
Photo: John Lamb
The West End Players Guild continues their 106th season with The Ice Fishing Play Thursday through Saturday at 8 PM and Sunday at 2 PM, February 16-19. Described as "Joel and Ethan Coen meet Samuel Beckett," The Ice Fishing Play is written by story teller and NPR radio broadcaster Kevin Kling, dubbed the "Minnesota Story Laureate." 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: In the interest of full disclosure, I must point out that I'm on both the board and the play reading committee at West End. That said, critics have had good things to say about this production, so you don't need to just take my word for it that it's worth your time. At Stage Door STL, Steve Allen writes that "a funny script with a universal theme running through it makes for an enigmatic and moving play. A solid cast doesn’t hurt either." Mark Bretz at Ladue News agrees. "Aficionados of Coen Brothers films," he writes, "will recognize character types that populate The Ice Fishing Play, minus the violence but not the charm. It’ll make you think and touch your heart just as much. You betcha."


To Kill a Mockingbird
Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents Christopher Sergel's stage adaptation of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird through March 5. "Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is a beloved tale that still resonates today. Scout Finch is growing up in Depression-era Alabama, where poverty and prejudice dominate daily life. With the guidance of her wise father, Atticus, the rebellious Scout discovers her own path, learning the power of empathy and the struggle for justice." Performances take place at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information: repstl.org.

My take: With racism and bigotry on the rise again in America, this classic story of one lawyer's courageous stand for justice is, I'm sorry to say, every bit as relevant as it was when Harper Lee first set it down in novel form. And the Rep's innovative production has many admirers. "I find myself again and again wanting to use the word 'strong when I think about what the Rep is doing with Mockingbird," writes Ann Lemmons Pollack. "It’s moving, extremely well executed, and a perfect fit for almost any audience." "There is a rhythm that’s unique to this production," notes Lynn Venhaus at the Belleville News-Democrat. "The small tight-knit black community moves through scenes by singing spirituals and gospel songs, their voices strong in unison. Using music to depict their culture and struggles was a brilliant stroke, punctuating the racism and discrimination"

Held Over:

A Doll's House
Photo: John Lamb
Stray Dog Theatre presents Ibsen's drama A Doll's House through February 18. “Nora Helmer once committed forgery in order to save the life of her authoritarian husband, Torvald. Years later she is being blackmailed, living in fear and shame of what might destroy Torvald's career. When the truth is revealed, Nora is shocked to learn where she really stands in her husband's esteem. Henrik Ibsen's world_renowned drama contains perhaps the most scandalous theatrical climax in all of 19th century drama." Performances take place at The Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee. For more information, visit straydogtheatre.org or call 314-865-1995.

My take: Stray Dog seems to have done it again with a highly-praised mounting of Ibsen's once-controversial (and still trenchant) look at the battle of the sexes. "Ibsen’s prescient look at a stifling marriage in an oppressive 19th Century Norway jumps off the page in this acting showcase," writes Lynn Venhaus at the Belleville News-Democrat, "featuring possibly career-best work from four principals and seamless support from minor characters." Mark Bretz at Ladue News agrees, calling it "a richly textured and faithful rendition to the spirit of Ibsen’s classic work, bolstered with finely etched characterizations by an ensemble of players who benefit from artistic director Gary Bell’s meticulous and carefully measured direction."


Something Rotten
Photo: Jeremy Daniel
The Fox Theatre presents the musical Something Rotten through February 19. "Set in 1595, this hilarious smash tells the story of Nick and Nigel Bottom, two brothers who are desperate to write a hit play. When a local soothsayer foretells that the future of theatre involves singing, dancing and acting at the same time, Nick and Nigel set out to write the world's very first MUSICAL!" The Fox is on North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: fabulousfox.com.

My take: This "boistrous, brainy Broadway hit" (Judy Newmark, STLToday.com) just closed recently after a highly successful run on the Great White Way, in part because it does something that has proved very successful in recent years: make fun of the genre it represents. The fact that it does so by also sending up Shakespeare and theatre in general just adds to the fun. "The show really shouldn’t work," notes Ann Lemmons Pollack—"it’s a first effort from two brothers who had different careers, one a songwriter and the other a screenwriter for Disney, it pokes nasty at Shakespeare, and there’s plenty of mash-up in it. But the show is so deeply We-Love-Theater (another potential danger point) that the mash-up becomes homage with tongue inserted, nay, sutured, into cheek."

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The reign in Spain, part 2: Reviews of the St. Louis Symphony's Spanish tour

David Robertson
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If you follow the peregrinations of our St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, you are no doubt aware that they have just completed a tour of Spain, playing gigs in Valencia, Madrid, and Oviedo.

Reviews have been hard to find. My wife, who can read and speak Spanish and is also more canny about Google searches than I am, has only managed to turn up two so far. I included a link to the first one—a largely negative review of the orchestra's first Spanish tour concert in Valencia on February 8th—in a previous blog post.

Since then, a review has surfaced of the orchestra's performance in Oviedo (the last stop on their tour) of the same program presented at their first stop in Valencia. It's the America-themed evening featuring music by John Adams, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, and Dvorak. I liked it a lot when I heard it here in January and it appears Aurelio M. Seco, writing for the classical music web site codalario.com, agrees.

You can read the full review at the codalario web site but the bottom line is that Mr. Seco's view is very positive and strikingly similar to my own in many ways.

He praises Maestro Robertson for his "remarkable talent on the stage and his evident communicative gift" and violin soloist Gil Shaham for his "beautiful, clear sound."  He also comments on the close communication between Mr. Shaham and Mr. Robertson, something I noted in my own review.

His view of the music itself is a bit more mixed. He finds John Adams's The Chairman Dances, Foxtrot for Orchestra interesting but a bit too repetitious to sustain interest and repeats some of the usual criticisms of the structural weaknesses of Dvorak's "New World" symphony. He's very taken with Korngold's Violin Concerto, though, because of its "attractive aesthetic, cinematographic nature, and rich expressive moments."

In any case, he had great things to say about the St. Louis Symphony's playing and Mr. Robertson's conducting, which is a nice change from the Valencia review. And, unlike the Valencia critic, he didn't feel compelled to make snarky comments about Mr. Robertson's Spanish pronunciation.

We will continue to look for reviews and I'll post them here as they turn up.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The reign in Spain, part 1: Reviews of the St. Louis Symphony's Spanish tour

Violinist Gil Shaham
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If you follow the peregrinations of our St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, you are no doubt aware that they have just completed a tour of Spain, playing gigs in Valencia, Madrid, and Oviedo.

Wondering how the band was received by the local critics, I asked my wife (who can actually read and speak Spanish) to do some Spanish-language Googling for me. So far the only thing that has surfaced is a critique of their February 8th appearance in Valencia by Justo Romero, the senior critic at Levante-EMV in Valencia and originally published there. It's not available at the Levante-EMV web site for some reason but was retrieved from beckmesser.com, which appears to be an arts aggregator of some sort.

Anyway, Sherry says he pretty much disliked everything and everyone except for Gil Shaham. As far as I can tell from the clunky Google Translate English version, he singles out nearly every section of the orchestra for some sort of criticism and hates both Maestro Robertson's podium style and his artistic decisions.

As my own review of this same program clearly indicates, I don't agree.

As this was the orchestra's first concert after their transatlantic flight, it's possible they weren't in peak form (I am certainly not in peak form after one of those), and I will admit that some of his comments single out issues that I have brought up as well in the past. But it feels to me like the reviewer is making mountains out of molehills to some extent. When a critic goes out of his way to make snarky comments about the conductor's Spanish pronunciation, one is perhaps justified in raising an eyebrow. I know that if a foreign conductor said "thank you" in heavily accented English, I wouldn't regard the quality of his or her accent as worthy of mention in my review.

Anyway, Sherry and I will continue to look for reviews and I'll post them here as they turn up.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

St. Louis theatre calendar for the week of February 13, 2017

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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.

Alton Little Theater presents the comedy Buying the Moose Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., February 17-19. Performances take place at 2450 North Henry in Alton, IL. For more information, call 618.462.6562 or visit altonlittletheater.org.

Chuck Lavazzi and Carol Schmidt
The Cabaret Project and The Emerald Room at the Monocle present a Cabaret Open Mic Night on Wednesday, February 15, from 7 to 10 p.m. Drop by and enjoy a night of great music from St. Louis cabaret artists, backed up by the pianist and music director Carol Schmidt. 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.

St. Louis Community College at Meramec presents Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead Wednesday through Sunday, February 15-19. "A New York Fringe Festival hit which satirizes the Peanuts comic strip by aging its cast of characters into their teenage years. Consumed with teenage angst, experimentation and sexual identity, CB and his friends face questions of morality, the existence of an afterlife and true friendship." The production is recommended for mature audiences. Performances take place in the theatre on the campus at 11333 Big Bend Road. For more information, stlcc.edu/MC or call 314-984-7500.

A Doll's House
Photo: John Lamb
Stray Dog Theatre presents Ibsen's drama A Doll's House through February 18. "Nora Helmer once committed forgery in order to save the life of her authoritarian husband, Torvald. Years later she is being blackmailed, living in fear and shame of what might destroy Torvald's career. When the truth is revealed, Nora is shocked to learn where she really stands in her husband's esteem. Henrik Ibsen's world_renowned drama contains perhaps the most scandalous theatrical climax in all of 19th century drama." Performances take place at The Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee. For more information, visit straydogtheatre.org or call 314-865-1995.

Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville presents Five Women Wearing the Same Dress Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. February 15-19. "During a very fancy wedding reception five, reluctant, identically clad bridesmaids hide out in an upstairs bedroom, each with their own reason to avoid the proceedings below. As the afternoon wears on, these five very different women, joyously discover a common bond in this wickedly funny, irreverent, and touching celebration of women's spirit." Performances take place in the Dunham Hall Theater on the campus in Edwardsville, IL. For more information, call 618-650-2774 or visit siue.edu

St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley presents the Sam Shepard drama Fool for Love February 17-25. Performances take place in the Fisher Theatre on the campus at 3400 Pershall Road. For more information, www.stlcc.edu/fv or call 314-644-5522.

KTK Productions presents the Agatha Christie's Go Back for Murder February 17-26. "Imprisoned for poisoning her husband fifteen years earlier, Caroline Crale finds herself at death's door and writes a letter expressing her undeniable innocence to her daughter Carla. Carla, aided by Justin Fogg - a former admirer of Caroline - persuades those present on the day of her father's death to return to the scene of the crime. When the witnesses reassemble, Fogg discovers the identity of the true murderer, and Carla discovers her true feelings for Fogg." Performances take place at Southampton Presbyterian Church, 4716 Macklind. For more information: kurtainkall.org or call 314-351-8984.

The Ice Fishing Play
Photo: John Lamb
The West End Players Guild continues their 106th season with The Ice Fishing Play Thursday through Saturday at 8 PM and Sunday at 2 PM, February 16-19. Described as "Joel and Ethan Coen meet Samuel Beckett," The Ice Fishing Play is written by story teller and NPR radio broadcaster Kevin Kling, dubbed the "Minnesota Story Laureate." 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.

Act Two Theatre presents the musical I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change through February 19. "This celebration of the mating game takes on the truths and myths behind that contemporary conundrum known as 'the relationship.' Act I explores the journey from dating and waiting to love and marriage, while Act II reveals the agonies and triumphs of in-laws and newborns, trips in the family car and pick-up techniques of the geriatric set. This hilarious revue pays tribute to those who have loved and lost, to those who have fallen on their face at the portal of romance, to those who have dared to ask, 'Say, what are you doing Saturday night?'" Performances take place in the St. Peters Cultural Arts Centre at 1 St Peters Centre Blvd, St. Peters, MO 63376. For more information: act2theater.com.

Peabody Opera House presents the Fiasco Theatre production of the Sondheim musical Into the Woods on Sunday, February 19, at 2 and 7:30 p.m. "Venture back INTO THE WOODS as the Dodgers (Jersey Boys, Matilda) team up with Networks (Phantom, War Horse, South Pacific) to present the acclaimed Fiasco Theater production that became New York's surprise hit of this season, coming to Peabody Opera House for two performances on February 19. Unanimously acclaimed, extended twice at the Roundabout's Laura Pels Theater, the Tony Award-winning musical classic by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine has been mounted with boundless imagination. This witty and wildly theatrical re-invention is INTO THE WOODS like you've never seen it before!" The Peabody Opera House is at 14th and Market, downtown. For more information: peabodyoperahouse.com.

Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill
Max and Louie Productions presents the one-woman show Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill February 17 - March 4. "It's March 1959 and at a small Philadelphia club, jazz and blues "phenom" Billie Holiday takes the stage for one of the last shows of her life. Playwright Lanie Robertson's Musical Drama allows us a penetrating look into the life and times of Billie "Lady Day" Holiday, as we listen to the profound legacy of her artistry-the music itself." Performances take place at the Kranzberg Arts Cener, 501 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information, visit maxandlouie.com.

Clinton County Showcase presents Ken Ludwig's farce Lend Me a Tenor through February 19. "World-renowned tenor Tito Merelli has signed on to play Otello at a Cleveland opera company in the fall of 1934. He arrives late and, through a set of crazy circumstances, passes out after mixing wine with a huge dose of tranquilizers. Believing that the divo is dead, the excitable opera manager taps his hapless assistant, an aspiring singer named Max, to suit up as the Moor and replace Merelli. Meanwhile, the tenor's jealous wife, his ambitious female co-star, Max's young girlfriend and the flirtatious head of the opera guild are on the scene fighting-sometimes literally-for the star's attention. Nominated for a Tony Award in Best Play and a Lawrence Olivier Award for Comedy of the Year, this farce is sure to bring you lots of laughter and entertainment." Performances take place at the Avon Theater, 525 North 2nd Street Breese IL. For more information, visit ccshowcase.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.

Webster University's Conservatory of Theatre Arts presents The Philadelphia Story Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., Febr 15-26. "Socialite Tracy Lord is preparing for her second marriage at the estate of her family. The Philadelphia Lords have all gathered for the celebration. So has Tracy's ex-husband C.K. Dexter Haven and an attractive reporter named Mike Connor. This makes the weekend a little more complicated. These American nobles handle all with a lot of wit in this classic 1930s comedy. There's nothing like a high-society wedding for some high-caliber entertainment." Performances take place in the Emerson Studio Theatre at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information, www.webster.edu/conservatory/season or call 314-968-7128.

The Playhouse at Westport Plaza presents the musical Pump Boys and Dinettes Tuesday through Sunday, February 14-19. " Set in a gas station and diner,  Pump Boys and Dinettes stars four gas station attendants (L.M., Jackson, Jim and Eddie) and two waitresses (Prudie and Rhetta Cupp), a musical group who love fishin', beer, and a slice of homemade pie. Equipped with guitar, piano, bass, cello, ukulele, banjo, and a few kitchen utensils, they are serving up a night of fun in this concert-style show about life's simple pleasures. The music is a quirky, highly imaginative blend of country, rock-a-billy, swing, rock and jazz." The Playhouse at Westport Plaza is at 635 West Port Plaza. For more information: playhouseatwestport.com.

Something Rotten
Photo: Jeremy Daniel
The Fox Theatre presents the musical Something Rotten through February 19. "Set in 1595, this hilarious smash tells the story of Nick and Nigel Bottom, two brothers who are desperate to write a hit play. When a local soothsayer foretells that the future of theatre involves singing, dancing and acting at the same time, Nick and Nigel set out to write the world's very first MUSICAL!" The Fox is on North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: fabulousfox.com.

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents Christopher Sergel's stage adaptation of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird through March 5. "Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is a beloved tale that still resonates today. Scout Finch is growing up in Depression-era Alabama, where poverty and prejudice dominate daily life. With the guidance of her wise father, Atticus, the rebellious Scout discovers her own path, learning the power of empathy and the struggle for justice." Performances take place at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information: repstl.org.

The Kirkwood Theatre Guild presents Twisted Improv on Friday, February 17, 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.

The Way We Get By
Photo: John Lamb
V-Day Wash U presents The Vagina Monologues Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m., February 17 and 18. "Produced, directed and performed by Wash U students, the Vagina Monologues is an annual fundraiser for V-Day Wash U. V-Day Wash U is a local chapter of an international movement dedicated to ending violence against women and girls around the world. V-Day is a catalyst that promotes creative events to increase awareness, raise money, and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations. All money raised through ticket sales and other fundraisers by V-Day Wash U will support Planned Parenthood's educational endeavors." The performances take place in Holmes Lounge on the Washington University campus. For more information: edison.wustl.edu.

St. Louis Actors' Studio presents Neil Labute's The Way We Get By through February 26. "Meet Beth and Doug, two people who have no problems getting dates with their partners of choice. After a drunken party and a hot night, they wake up to a blurry morning where the rules of attraction, sex, and society are waiting for them before their first cup of coffee. It's very awkward-and it also leads the pair to ponder how much they really know about each other, and how much they really care about what other people think." Performances take place at the Gaslight Theatre, 358 North Boyle For more information, call 314-458-2978 or visit stlas.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.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

St. Louis classical calendar for the week of February 13, 2017

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Music at St. Paul's presents an organ concert by Dr. Barbara Raedeke on Sunday, February 19, 4:00 P.M. "Music at St. Paul's invites you to an organ concert featuring Dr. Barbara Raedeke, Organ Instructor at Washington University in St. Louis, Organist and Choir Director at Parkway United Church of Christ, and past dean of the St. Louis Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. Dr. Raedeke will perform on St. Paul's recently renovated and expanded Martin Ott Pipe Organ, Opus 28. Light refreshments to follow." The concert takes place at St. Paul's Lutheran Church, 12345 Manchester Road in Des Peres. For more information: stpaulsdesperes.org.

Nate Wooley
New Music Circle presents Ikue Mori, electronics, and Nate Wooley, amplified trumpet, on Saturday, February 18, at 8 p.m. "Ikue Mori has been a key experimental musician since moving to New York City from Tokyo in 1977. Inspired by the music of punk rock, she began her career playing drums for the seminal No Wave group DNA. Throughout the 1980's Mori improvised and recorded with a wide range of experimental musicians, and by 1985 had completely abandoned the standard drum set in favor of her own unique drum machine/sampler setup. Nate Wooley is an experimental trumpeter and improviser currently based in New York City. Critically regarded as one of the leading lights of a movement to redefine the physical boundaries of the horn, Wooley has gathered international acclaim for his idiosyncratic trumpet language and vigorous sound - utilizing extended technique, amplification and feedback to create site-specific spontaneous compositions. A collaborator with some of the brightest voices of his generation like Chris Corsano, C. Spencer Yeh, and Mary Halvorson, Wooley has been been championed by icons such as John Zorn, Anthony Braxton, Eliane Radigue, and Evan Parker." The performance takes place at Joe's Café, 6014 Kingsbury. For more information: newmusiccircle.org.

The Sheldon Concert Hall presents St. Louis Symphony violinist Erin Schreiber and pianist Lindsay Garritson, former St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra concertmaster, in a concert of music of Kreisler, Faure and Ravel on Wednesday, February 15, at 8 p.m. The Sheldon is at 3648 Washington in Grand Center. For more information: sheldonconcerthall.org.

Byron Stripling
The St. Louis Symphony presents Lift Every Voice: A Black History Mont Celebration on Friday, February 17, at 7:30 p.m "This annual concert celebrates African-American culture and traditions that have influenced the history of St. Louis, as well as cities around the world. Join the STL Symphony, guest Byron Stripling and the IN UNISON Chorus to commemorate culture and community with a celebration of music including soul-stirring classics “Holy Is He,” “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” “When the Saints Go Marchin' In” and more!" The concert takes place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: stlsymphony.org.

Ben Folds joins The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra on Saturday and Sunday, February 18 and 19, at 7:30 at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand. “Acclaimed as witty and engaging, singer-songwriter Ben Folds returns to Powell Hall after a sold-out performance in 2011 joining the STL Symphony to perform fan-favorites from his celebrated albums.” For more information: stlsymphony.org.

Second Presbyterian Church presents an organ concert by Andrew Peters on Sunday, February 19, at 4 p.m. "Organist Andrew Peters plays a varied program of American composers on the church's Schantz pipe organ. Music includes works of Dudley Buck, Aaron Copland, Emma Lou Diemer, Charles Ives, Libby Larsen, and more. A screen placed in the front of the Sanctuary will enable the audience to watch the organists' hands and feet." The church is at 4501 Westminster Place in the Central West End. For more information: secondchurch.net.

The Town and Country Symphony Orchestra presents a special benefit concert for Ritenour High School Scholarship Fund on Sunday, February 19, at 2 p.m. The performance includes Lalo's Symphonie Espagnole, and Tchaiovsky's 1812 Overture and takes place at Ritenour High School, 9100 St. Charles Rock Road. For more information: tcsomo.org.

The Washington University Department of Music presents Keyboard Fest, on Sunday, February 19, at 7:00 p.m.. "A celebration of keyboard music with multi harpsichord concertos, chamber music with fortepiano, strings and horns and more!  With Maryse Carlin, Todd Decker, Charles Metz and the Kingsbury Chamber orchestra." The performance takes place at the 560 Music Center, 560 Trinity in University City. For more information, music.wustl.edu.

The Webster University Department of Music presents a recital by baritone Jacob Lassetter, Associate Professor of Voice at Webster University, accompanied by pianist Nancy Mayo, on Sunday, February 19, at 2 p.m. "Exploring both opera and art song, the recital features a variety of composers, styles, and languages. Experience the emotional depth of Johannes Brahms, the subtle nuance of Jacques Ibert, and the stunning power of Giuseppe Verdi." The performance takes place at Christ Church Cathedral, 1210 Locust. For more information: www.webster.edu/fine-arts/departments/music/

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of February 10, 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:


A Doll's House
Photo: John Lamb
Stray Dog Theatre presents Ibsen's drama A Doll's House through February 18. “Nora Helmer once committed forgery in order to save the life of her authoritarian husband, Torvald. Years later she is being blackmailed, living in fear and shame of what might destroy Torvald's career. When the truth is revealed, Nora is shocked to learn where she really stands in her husband's esteem. Henrik Ibsen's world_renowned drama contains perhaps the most scandalous theatrical climax in all of 19th century drama." Performances take place at The Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee. For more information, visit straydogtheatre.org or call 314-865-1995.

My take: Stray Dog seems to have done it again with a highly-praised mounting of Ibsen's once-controversial (and still trenchant) look at the battle of the sexes. "Ibsen’s prescient look at a stifling marriage in an oppressive 19th Century Norway jumps off the page in this acting showcase," writes Lynn Venhaus at the Belleville News-Democrat, "featuring possibly career-best work from four principals and seamless support from minor characters." Mark Bretz at Ladue News agrees, calling it "a richly textured and faithful rendition to the spirit of Ibsen’s classic work, bolstered with finely etched characterizations by an ensemble of players who benefit from artistic director Gary Bell’s meticulous and carefully measured direction."


Something Rotten
Photo: Jeremy Daniel
The Fox Theatre presents the musical Something Rotten February 7-19. "Set in 1595, this hilarious smash tells the story of Nick and Nigel Bottom, two brothers who are desperate to write a hit play. When a local soothsayer foretells that the future of theatre involves singing, dancing and acting at the same time, Nick and Nigel set out to write the world's very first MUSICAL!" The Fox is on North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: fabulousfox.com.

My take: This "boistrous, brainy Broadway hit" (Judy Newmark, STLToday.com) just closed recently after a highly successful run on the Great White Way, in part because it does something that has proved very successful in recent years: make fun of the genre it represents. The fact that it does so by also sending up Shakespeare and theatre in general just adds to the fun. "The show really shouldn’t work," notes Ann Lemmons Pollack—"it’s a first effort from two brothers who had different careers, one a songwriter and the other a screenwriter for Disney, it pokes nasty at Shakespeare, and there’s plenty of mash-up in it. But the show is so deeply We-Love-Theater (another potential danger point) that the mash-up becomes homage with tongue inserted, nay, sutured, into cheek."


Yasmina's Necklace
Photo: John Lamb
Mustard Seed Theatre presents Yasmina's Necklace Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through February 12. “Fresh from its sold-out world premiere in Chicago, Yasmina's Necklace is an unlikely romance between Yasmina, a recent immigrant from Iraq and Abdul Samee, who wants to change his name to Sam and turn his back on his Iraqi and Puerto Rican heritage.” Performances take place at the Fontbonne Fine Arts Theatre, 6800 Wydown Blvd. For more information, call (314) 719-8060 or visit the web site at www.mustardseedtheatre.com.

My take: With issues of immigration and the plight of refugees taking center stage these days in a political atmosphere of paranoia, ignorance, and bigotry (at least at the national level), Mustard Seed's show about the difficulty of adjusting to life in a new land could not be more timely. "Author and performance artist Rohina Malik," writes Tina Farmer at KDHX, "was inspired to look to the Chicago's immigrant and refugee population and ask: what might happen if the son of immigrants met a proud female refugee? The result is Yasmina's Necklace, a contemporary love story brought to life in a compelling and satisfying production that artfully weaves multiple cultures connected through a common religion and universally shared values...Mustard Seed Theatre has once again produced a thoroughly entertaining show that encourages audiences to broaden their perspective and to listen fully."

Held Over:

Intimate Apparel
Photo: Eric Woolsey
New Jewish Theater presents Intimate Apparel through February 12. "New York, 1905, Esther, a black seamstress, lives in a boarding house where she sews intimate apparel for clients ranging from wealthy white patrons to prostitutes. As the other denizens of the boarding house marry and move away, Esther remains, lonely and longing. Through a mutual acquaintance, she begins to receive beautiful letters from a lonesome Caribbean man working on the Panama Canal. But Esther's heart seems to lie with the Hasidic shopkeeper from whom she buys cloth, and his heart with her, but the impossibility of the match is obvious to them both. The play offers poignant commentary on an era when the cut and color of one's dress-and of course, skin-determined whom one could and could not marry, even talk to in public." Performances take place in the Marvin and Harlene Wool Studio Theater at the Jewish Community Center, 2 Millstone Campus Drive in Creve Coeur. For more information: www.newjewishtheatre.org or call 314-442-3283.

My take: Lynn Nottage's play has received plenty of praise since it was first performed in Baltimore in 2003. The subsequent New York production, for example, got the Outer Critics Circle award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Play. The New Jewish Theatre production is getting its share praise as well. Ann Lemmons Pollack calls it a "remarkable evening of theatre." "Outstanding performances by the entire cast under Gary Barker’s meticulous and well-crafted direction," writes Mark Bretz at Ladue News, "make Intimate Apparel a rare beauty stitched from the finest theatrical cloth." Try it on this weekend.


Rachel Tibbetts and Joe Hanrahan
The Midnight Company presents Little Thing, Big Thing Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. through February 11 " LITTLE THING, BIG THING tells the story of a nun, Sr. Martha, and an ex-con, Larry O'Donnell, who are thrown together in a desperate quest to safeguard film exposing deadly misdeeds of a powerful oil company. Chased by hired killers and corrupt cops, they risk their lives and head to Dublin to do the right thing, and deliver the film to the right hands. " Performances take place at Avatar Studios, 2675 Scott Avenue, downtown. Downtown. For more information: brownpapertickets.com.

My take: Joe Hanrahan's Midnight Company has mostly served as a platform for edgy one-man shows starring Mr. Hanrahan, but this time around it's a two-character show that is essentially, as Mark Bretz writes at Ladue News "a caper with heavy doses of wry comedy sprinkled along the way in the friendly if sometimes combative banter between the two main characters...Little Thing, Big Thing doesn’t attempt to be profound and that’s why it succeeds as much as it does. It’s a ripping good yarn told just right, one that will leave you in a light-hearted mood after the performance as you head toward the local pub for a pint or two to discuss." Sounds like a plan to me.
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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 they 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."