Sunday, July 24, 2016

St. Louis theatre calendar for the week of July 25, 2016

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

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

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St. Charles Community College presents the musical The Addams Family Tuesday through Sunday, July 26 - 31. "The weird and wonderful family created by New Yorker cartoonist Charles Addams comes to life in this zany musical comedy. All the memorable “creepy and kooky” characters are there: Morticia, Gomez, Uncle Fester, Lurch, Grandmama, Wednesday and Pugsley, accompanied on stage by some of their deceased ancestors. In this story, Morticia and Gomez Addams want to continue living amongst death, pain and suffering as they always have. But there is a change brewing.” Performances take place in the SCC Center Stage Theater in the Donald D. Shook Fine Arts Building on the campus at 4601 Mid Rivers Mall Drive in Cottleville, MO. For more information, call 636-922-8050 or visit stchas.edu.

The Lemp Mansion Comedy-Mystery Dinner Theater presents Bullets in the Bathtub through July 30. The Lemp Mansion is at 3322 DeMenil Place. For more information: mansion.com

Stages St. Louis presents the musical satire The Drowsy Chaperone through August 21. "With its laugh-a-minute script and one show-stopping song and dance number after another, it's easy to see why THE DROWSY CHAPERONE won the most Tony Awards of any musical on Broadway in 2006, including Best Book and Score. It all begins when a die-hard musical theatre fan decides to play his favorite cast album in his small brownstone apartment - a 1928 smash hit musical called "The Drowsy Chaperone." The show magically bursts to life before him as audiences are instantly transported to an earlier time and place and immersed in the glamorous and hilarious tale of a celebrity bride and her uproarious wedding day, complete with gangsters, mistaken identities, an off-course aviatrix, and an uplifting ride to the rafters. " Performances take place in the Robert G. Reim Theatre at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road in Kirkwood. For more information, visit stagesstlouis.org or call 314-821-2407.

Gateway Center for the Performing Arts presents Elf Jr. the Musical on Friday and Saturday, July 29 and 30, at 6:30 p.m. "Based on the beloved holiday film and featuring the Tony award-winning authors who brought you ANNIE, HAIRSPRAY, and THE PRODUCERS, this hilarious musical follows Buddy, a young orphan and would-be elf, who grows up at the North Pole until his enormous size and poor toy-making abilities cause him to face the truth. Buddy embarks on a journey to New York City to find his family, facing the harsh reality that his father is on the naughty list, and his stepbrother doesn't even believe in Santa. Still, Buddy is determined to win over his new family and help New York remember the true meaning of Christmas" The performance takes place in the Emerson Performance Center on the Harris-Stowe State University campus at 3101 Laclede in Midtown. For more information: gpastl.org.

Alton Little Theater presents Fame the Musical, based on the Hollywood movie, Thursdays through Sundays through July 31. "The Broadway Musical FAME is a sequel to the beloved film of the same name. Great Dance numbers and Inspirational Ballads become part of the tale when students at a Performing Arts Academy in New York City get down to work on "making it" in Show Business. The Cast of Twenty-Five (plus) performers ages 14 -24 will embrace the energy and dedication needed to actually find "fame". Under the direction of Kevin Frakes and Sue Parton Stanard (with choreography by Khristina Bemis), the Summer showcase production (ONLY SIX SHOWS) will have audience members ready to dance and reclaim their own big dreams! Local Musical Theater Professionals will be featured as "Instructors" at the Academy, making for summer ENTERTAINMENT not to be missed!" Performances take place at 2450 North Henry in Alton, IL. For more information, call 618.462.6562 or visit altonlittletheater.org.

The Muny presents the musical Fiddler on the Roof opening on Saturday, July 30, and running nightly at 8:15 pm through August 5 in the outdoor theatre in Forest Park. "A musical that celebrates family, tradition and community, Fiddler on the Roof is one of the greatest musicals ever written. This cherished musical is a poignant folk tale, laden with happiness and tears - a musical that grows more resonant with every passing year. See it with someone you love." For more information, visit muny.org or call 314-361-1900.

Grey Gardens
Photo: Dan Donovan
Max and Louie Productions presents the musical Grey Gardens through July 30. "Not since Mama Rose and Gypsy has there been a mother/daughter act as hilarious, as heartbreaking and as utterly unforgettable as "Big" Edith and "Little" Edie Beale - Jackie Kennedy's most outrageous relatives - in the acclaimed musical smash Grey Gardens! From the grandeur of an East Hampton high society party in 1941 to the sensational tabloid headlines that rocked the Kennedy clan in 1973, Grey Gardens is scandalously entertaining. Step into the world of Grey Gardens and see the other side of Camelot." Performances take place at the Wool Studio Theatre at the JCC, 2 Millstone Campus Drive. For more information, visit maxandlouie.com.

The Hawthorne Players present the musical Hairspray July 29 - August 7. "It's 1962 in Baltimore, and the lovable plus-size teen Tracy Turnblad has only one desire -- to dance on the popular Corny Collins Show. When her dream comes true, Tracy is transformed from social outcast to sudden star. She must use her newfound power to dethrone the reigning Teen Queen, win the affections of heartthrob Link Larkin, and integrate a TV network, all without denting her 'do!" The performances take place at the Florissant Civic Center Theatre at Parker and Waterford in Florissant, MO. For more information, call 921-5678 or visit hawthorneplayers.info.

Hard Road Theatre Productions presents the musical Happy Days July 29 - August 7. "Based on the tv show of the same name that starred Henry Winkler and Ron Howard, HAPPY DAYS follows Richie Cunningham, Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli, and their friends and family as they attempt to save Arnold's Diner from destruction in 1959 by holding a sock hop and wrestling competition." Performances will be held at the Highland High School Auditorium, 12760 Troxler Ave, Highland IL. For more information: www.hardroad.org.

jon and jen
Insight Theatre Company presents the musical jon and jen through July 31. "This is the story of Jen and her relationships with the two Johns of her life: her younger brother, who was killed in Vietnam, and his namesake, her son who is trying to find his way in a confusing world. Jen and her younger brother John are growing up in the ever-changing world of mid-century America. As the country becomes divided over the war in Vietnam, so does the family, and battle lines are drawn between the once-close siblings. When John is killed in Vietnam, Jen is left to reconcile her memory of their fractured relationship along with his namesake, her son who is trying to find his way in a confusing world." Performances take place in the Heagney Theatre, 530 East Lockwood on the campus of Nerinx Hall High School in Webster Groves. For more information, call 314-556-1293 or visit insighttheatrecompany.com.

Mamma Mia!
The Muny presents the musical Mamma Mia!, based on the songs of ABBA, running nightly at 8:15 pm through July 28 in the outdoor theatre in Forest Park. "After 14 years and nearly 6,000 performances on Broadway, the phenomenal worldwide megahit Mamma Mia! arrives at The Muny like a breath of fresh island air. Prepare to be swept into the contagious excitement of 22 memorable ABBA hits, including "Dancing Queen," "Take a Chance on Me" and "The Winner Takes It All." You haven't seen Mamma Mia! in its full splendor until you've seen it under the stars at The Muny." For more information, visit muny.org or call 314-361-1900.

COCA presents the musical Memphis Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m., July 29 and 30 "Set in the underground dance clubs, radio stations and recording studios of 1950s Memphis, this hot musical bursts off the stage with explosive dancing, irresistible songs and a tale filled with laughter, soul and rock & roll!" Performances take place in the Edison Theatre on the Washington University Campus. For more information visit www.cocastl.org.

Show of Affection
Photo: John Lamb
St. Louis Actors' Studio presents the Neil LaBute New Theater Festival, Part 2 through July 31 at the Gaslight Theatre, 358 North Boyle. The festival features professional, new and previously unproduced one-act plays 45 minutes or less in length, chosen from submissions to the festival over the previous year. The plays in Part 2 are "Life Model" by Neil LaBute, "American Outlaws" by Adam Seidel, "Blue Balls" by Willie Johnson, and "Show of Affection" by Laurence Klavan. For more information, call 314-458-2978 or visit stlas.org.

The Bissell Mansion Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre presents Nursery Crimes through July 31. The Bissell Mansion is at 4426 Randall Place. For more information: bissellmansiontheatre.com.

Dayspring Arts and Education presents the musical Peter Pan Friday and Saturday, July 29 and 30, at 7 p.m. "With just three short but intense weeks of rehearsal DaySpring students ages 6-18 will wow you with their performances of the full production of “Peter Pan” the musical. Follow Peter Pan, Wendy, Michael, and John on their adventures as they fight pirates, save Tinker Bell, and declare that they will “never grow up!” This sweet, fun, and endearing show will touch your heart and the upbeat musical numbers will have you leaving the theater singing! Surely this show will not disappoint an audience of all ages." Performances take place Christ Memorial Lutheran Church, 5252 S. Lindbergh in South County. For more information: dayspringarts.org.

Over Due Theatre presents the Seussical the Musical, based on the stories and drawings of Theodore Seuss Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 PM and Sundays at 2 PM, July 29 - August 7. Performances take place at the Olivette Community Center, 9723 Grandview Drive, in Olivette, MO. For more information, call 314-210-2959 or visit overduetheatrecompany.com.

The Presenters Dolan and The Emerald Room Cabaret present Ken Haller in Song by Song by Sondheim on Saturday, July 30, at 8 p.m. "Pairing his passions with the songs of Stephen Sondheim, Ken Haller reprises his long ago solo cabaret debut. In songs by turn as sentimental, witty, lacerating, sweet, and rollicking as "Send in the Clowns," "The Little Things You Do Together," "Comedy Tonight," "Children Will Listen," "Not While I'm Around," "Broadway Baby," and "Putting It Together," Ken displays the gifts that led Post-Dispatch theatre critic Judith Newmark to give him a "Judy" Award." The performance takes place in The Emerald Room at The Monocle Bar, 4510 Manchester in The Grove neighborhood. For more information: www.themonoclestl.com/events-page.

The Midnight Company presents Will Eno's THOMPAIN (based on nothing) Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., through August 6. Performances take place at Herbie's Vintage72, 405 N. Euclid in the Central West End, It will be a 10-year anniversary revival production for Midnight, with Artistic Director Joe Hanrahan once again the performer, and Larry Dell once again directing. "Nearly indescribable, THOMPAIN was described thus by the NYTimes: 'A surreal meditation on the empty promises life makes, the way experience never lives up to the weird and awesome fact of being...but also, in its odd, bewitching beauty an affirmation of life's worth...a small masterpiece.' Actor Joe Hanrahan calls it 'Existential Stand-Up,' while director Larry Dell describes it as 'Stand-Up Tragedy.'" Tickets will be on sale later in the spring at brownpapertickets.com.

Union Avenue Opera presents Puccini's Tosca Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, July 29 - August 6. "Tosca is a powerful tale of an unholy bargain between the tragic heroine Floria Tosca and the chief of the Roman police, Baron Scarpia, arguably one of opera's vilest characters, who will stop at nothing to get his way. Will Tosca give herself to a man she hates to save Cavaradossi, the man she loves? Will she betray everything her lover believes to spare his life? Intrigue, cruelty, and betrayal swirl about the doomed diva in this riveting drama that explores the dark side of human emotion, set to some of Puccini's most passionate and unforgettable music." Performances take place at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 Union at Enright in the Central West End. The opera is sung in Italian with projected English text. For more information, visit unionavenueopera.org or call 314-361-2881.

Ken Haller
The Presenters Dolan and The Emerald Room Cabaret present Ken Haller in The TV Show on Friday, July 29, at 8 p.m. "Ken performs songs written for TV from “Sesame Street” to “Smash,” from “Cinderella” to “Animaniacs,” from “Moonlighting” to “The Monkees.” And of course, there will be songs with lyrics you love (“Mary Tyler Moore”), lyrics you never knew existed (“Bewitched”), and lyrics you can't get out of your head (the Barry Manilow Commercial Jingle Extravaganza!). KDHX's Chuck Lavazzi calls it “a tremendously entertaining and often extremely funny romp through TV land.” The performance takes place in The Emerald Room at The Monocle Bar, 4510 Manchester in The Grove neighborhood. For more information: www.themonoclestl.com/events-page.

Take Two Productions presents the rock musical Xanadu through July 30. "Xanadu follows the journey of a magical and beautiful Greek muse, Kira, who descends from the heavens of Mt. Olympus to Venice Beach, California in 1980 on a quest to inspire a struggling artist, Sonny, to achieve the greatest artistic creation of all time - the first ROLLER DISCO! (Hey, it's 1980!) But, when Kira falls into forbidden love with the mortal Sonny, her jealous sisters take advantage of the situation and chaos abounds." Performances take place at Bayless High School Auditorium, 4532 Weber Road in South County. For more information, visit taketwoproductions.org.

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 July 25, 2016

The Compton Heights Concert Band in Tower Grove Park
Photo: Jim Sparks
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The Compton Heights Concert Band presents free Musical Mondays concerts featuring marches, show tunes and classical favorites at Mondays at 7:30 p.m. through August 8. The guest performer this week (July 25) is soprano and Winter Opera founder Gina Galati. The concert takes place in Tower Grove Park at the historic Henry Shaw Bandstand. For more information: chband.org.

The Compton Heights Concert Band presents free Sunday Serenades concerts featuring marches, show tunes and classical favorites on Sundays at 7:30 PM through August 7. . This week (July 31) is Band Showcase Night. The concerts takes place in Francis Park at Donovan and Eichelberger on the Compton Heights Band's "Carol Joy Brooks Memorial" Stage. For more information: chband.org.

The Gateway Festival Orchestra
The Gateway Festival Orchestra presents Music for the Royals, a free concert on Monday, July 25, at 7:30 PM. "Enjoy a free live concert by a fifty-piece professional orchestra. Bring a lawn chair or a blanket for relaxing on the grass in beautiful Brookings Quadrangle on the campus of Washington University. Parking is free and plentiful. Ted Drewes Frozen Custard is available for purchase, and children receive an attendance prize." The program includes music by Handel Mozart, Beethoven and Rodgers and Hammerstein. The concert takes place at the Brookings Quadrangle on the Washington University campus. For more information: www.gatewayfestivalorchestra.org.

The Gateway Festival Orchestra presents Triumph or Tragedy, a free concert on Sunday, July 31, at 7:30 PM. "Enjoy a free live concert by a fifty-piece professional orchestra. Bring a lawn chair or a blanket for relaxing on the grass in beautiful Brookings Quadrangle on the campus of Washington University. Parking is free and plentiful. Ted Drewes Frozen Custard is available for purchase, and children receive an attendance prize." The program includes Schubert's Symphony No. 4 ("Tragic"), Brahms's Tragic Overture, and music from James Horner's score for the movie Titanic. The concert takes place at the Brookings Quadrangle on the Washington University campus. For more information: www.gatewayfestivalorchestra.org.

The University City Summer Band presents a concert on Tuesday, July 19, at 7 p.m. "Concerts last about 80 minutes, and include a short intermission. Seating is on the lawn. Bring a lawn chair or blanket as available seating is limited. Bring your children! Bring a picnic!" The concert takes place in Heman Park, 1028 Midland in University City. For more information: ucsummerband.org.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of July 22nd, 2016

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:


Mamma Mia!
The Muny presents the musical Mamma Mia!, based on the songs of ABBA, opening on Thursday, July 21, and running nightly at 8:15 pm through July 28 in the outdoor theatre in Forest Park. "After 14 years and nearly 6,000 performances on Broadway, the phenomenal worldwide megahit Mamma Mia! arrives at The Muny like a breath of fresh island air. Prepare to be swept into the contagious excitement of 22 memorable ABBA hits, including "Dancing Queen," "Take a Chance on Me" and "The Winner Takes It All." You haven't seen Mamma Mia! in its full splendor until you've seen it under the stars at The Muny." For more information, visit muny.org or call 314-361-1900.

My take: As I wrote in my review of the 2002 USA tour of this show on its first visit to the Fox, I am not now nor have I ever been a fan of the 1970s pop quartet ABBA. When they were cranking out hits like "Dancing Queen", I was sneering at them and listening to Elvis Costello and The Ramones. But when I first saw Mamma Mia! in London back in 2001 surrounded by wildly enthusiastic Brits (who apparently feel about ABBA the way the French feel about Jerry Lewis), I had to admit it was great fun. I found it a completely captivating evening of musical theatre, mostly because Judy Craymer, director Phyllida Lloyd and playwright Catherine Johnson (all from Britain, where this show began) have put together a fast-paced, funny, and occasionally even touching show that can send even a die-hard ABBA hater like yours truly out of the theatre with a smile on his face and a handful of those bouncy, hook-laden melodies rattling around in his brain. So enjoy it, already.


Orgullo
Photo: Mike Snodderly
Theatre Nuevo presents Orgullo: A Pride of One Acts through July 24. Orgullo (Spanish for "pride") will feature bilingual scripts from playwrights nationwide, focusing on the themes of Latin pride and identity. Original work from national playwrights like Tlaloc Rivas, José Casas, Alvaro Saar Rios and more will be featured in the lineup of one act plays. Performances take place at the 1900 Park Creative Space in Lafayette Square. For more information: www.theatrenuevo.com.

My take: With deranged hatred of immigrants in general and Latino immigrants in particular spewing from Cleveland right now, the timing of this unusual evening could not be better. "The ten stories tell of the Latino experience with contemporary, relatable stories that could happen in almost any community in the United States," writes Tina Farmer in her review for KDHX. "But each story is varied, with truths and complexities that represent the fullness of life, not simply a single perspective. Rather than focusing on fancy sets or big production numbers, Theatre Neuvo demonstrates a deep commitment to storytelling with this production...a compelling evening's entertainment."


The Cabaret Project presents The St. Louis Cabaret Conference Closing Night Showcase and Celebration on Sunday, July 24, at 7 p.m. as part of the 2016 St. Louis Cabaret Festival. "The newly remolded Jazz at the Bistro is the perfect supper club! Dinner seating or just drinks and appetizers start at 6 pm. And at 7 p.m. its time for the core group of talented singers of the St. Louis Cabaret Conference to show audiences why they've come from all over the country to be mentored by the Conference's renowned faculty. Join us for this closing night showcase and stick around for the post show party that starts up as soon as the last bow is taken. Party noshes are on us!" The performance takes place at Jazz at the Bistro, across from The Fox in Grand Center. For more information: thecabaretproject.org.

My take: As someone who has seen and/or performed in most of the closing showcases over the years, I can attest to the wonderful variety and skill of the performers who take the stage in this big, two-act show. Seating for pre-show dinner or drinks begins at 6 p.m. and the show starts at 7.


The Cabaret Project presents The St. Louis Cabaret Conference Professional Track Showcase on Saturday, July 23, at 8 p.m. as part of the 2016 St. Louis Cabaret Festival. "Mentored by Marilyn Maye, Faith Prince, Tedd Firth and Billy Stritch, as well as other members of the prestigious St. Louis Cabaret Conference Faculty, these singers take to the stage to show you why they are on the right track! The St. Louis Cabaret Conference presents these select singers in there own showcase of mini cabaret sets to show so you can see why they are ready to take their talents and ambitions and make their mark in the cabaret world - if they haven't already." The performance takes place at The Stage @ KDHX in Grand Center. For more information: thecabaretproject.org.

My take: These are singers from the most advanced of the Cabaret Conference's three tracks. They're established cabaret pros from around the country, often with many shows to their credit, who are polishing their craft here in St. Louis. The showcase presents each of them in short, carefully tailored sets that display their range and talent. Pro Track students have also been acting as warm-up acts for the three shows by Conference faculty this year (the last of which, starring Tony DeSare, is tonight, the 22nd) and their work has been truly impressive.


Tont DeSare
The Cabaret Project presents singer/pianist Tony DeSare and his Trio in From Sinatra to Prince on Friday, July 22, at 8 p.m. as part of the 2016 St. Louis Cabaret Festival. "Named a Rising Star Male Vocalist in Downbeat magazine, DeSare brings his youthful, contemporary flair to the masterful Sinatra style standards of the past and offers sophisticated takes on pop classics such as the late genius Prince's Kiss- throwing in some of his own top notch originals along the way. DeSare has three top ten Billboard jazz albums under his belt and has headlined in prestigious venues such as New York's 54 Below and Carnegie Hall, along with major performing arts centers and numerous symphony orchestras throughout North America and abroad. Tony DeSare and his trio offer St. Louis audiences a fresh take on old school class that swings, swoons and gets your feet stompin'!" The performance takes place at the Sheldon Concert Hall in Grand Center. For more information: thecabaretproject.org.

My take: Although he has appeared in St. Louis as part of jazz combos in the past, this is Mr. DeSare's first solo cabaret appearance in town. Singers attending the St. Louis Cabaret Conference, where Mr. DeSare (like the other Cabaret Festival headliners) is on the faculty, have had nothing but good to say about him. Here's your chance to catch a rising star.


Held Over:


Grey Gardens
Photo: Dan Donovan
Max and Louie Productions presents the musical Grey Gardens through July 30. "Not since Mama Rose and Gypsy has there been a mother/daughter act as hilarious, as heartbreaking and as utterly unforgettable as "Big" Edith and "Little" Edie Beale - Jackie Kennedy's most outrageous relatives - in the acclaimed musical smash Grey Gardens! From the grandeur of an East Hampton high society party in 1941 to the sensational tabloid headlines that rocked the Kennedy clan in 1973, Grey Gardens is scandalously entertaining. Step into the world of Grey Gardens and see the other side of Camelot." Performances take place at the Wool Studio Theatre at the JCC, 2 Millstone Campus Drive. For more information, visit maxandlouie.com.

My take: The folks at Max and Louie must be popping open the champagne right now, given how much critical praise they're getting. Steve Allen's review at Stage Door STL is typical. "Reviewing a production is, of course, a personal viewpoint", he writes, "and every one of the several critics we have in our town will vary in their opinions. But with “Grey Gardens,” the current musical from Max and Louie Productions, I think we'll join forces in our praise for just about every aspect from casting and direction down through the technical creators. If it isn't flawless, it comes pretty darn close." 'Nuff said, I guess.

Monday, July 18, 2016

This week, life is a cabaret

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Lovers of the art of cabaret will find a lot to like in Grand Center this week as The Cabaret Project of St. Louis (of which I am a board member) presents the annual St. Louis Cabaret Festival. Held in conjunction with the St. Louis Cabaret Conference, a nine-day professional training seminar for cabaret singers from St. Louis and around the country, the festival features six nights of widely varied performances by local and national artists. Both the conference and festival are spearheaded by St. Louis cabaret entrepreneur Tim Schall.

Faith Prince
It all starts on Tuesday, July 19, at 8 p.m. with First Stage: The St. Louis Cabaret Conference High School Showcase. The evening features young performers from the High School track of the St. Louis cabaret conference. As with the adult tracks, these performers first had to audition for slots. Those who made the cut then got intensive training in the art of song performance from Broadway's Karen Mason and American Idol's Peisha McPhee along with Tim Schall and Webster University's Carol Schmidt. I've seen the High School showcase in the past and it's wonderful to witness how talented these kids are so early in their careers. The performance takes place at The Stage @ KDHX, just east of Jazz at the Bistro in Grand Center.

Jason Graae
Wednesday, July 20, at 8 p.m. brings a double bill of two powerhouse performers: Tony Award winner Faith Prince and her long time friend and L.A. Drama Critics Circle winner Jason Graae. Titled The Prince and the Showboy (a joking reference to the 1957 Marilyn Monroe/Laurence Olivier comedy The Prince and the Showgirl), the evening promises to be one of belly laughs and great music. Having seen both Ms. Prince and Mr. Graae on stage in the past (and having been coached by both of them at previous St. Louis Cabaret Conferences), I can guarantee you that they are tremendously talented actors, singers, and comics. Expect an evening of high-powered entertainment that will keep you smiling long after you leave. The performance takes place at the Sheldon Concert Hall in Grand Center.

Marilyn Maye
Thursday, July 21, at 8 p.m. it's a return engagement by the astonishing Marilyn Maye with pianists and long-time collaborators Billy Stritch and Tedd Firth and (as if there weren't already enough talent on stage) a guest appearance by jazz diva Ann Hampton Callaway. A cabaret legend who appeared a record number of 76 times on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Maye has been packing them in at Carnegie Hall, New York's 54 Below, Feinstein's, Birdland, and in clubs and concert venues throughout the country. Reviewing her appearance here in 2007, I praised her "immediate and honest communication with the audience." "Maye's boundless energy and obvious delight in her material," I wrote, "in combination with her cheerful, off-the-cuff repartee, establish an immediate bond with those of us on the other side of the spotlight."

Both Stritch and Firth are strong solo performers as well, by the way, and for local jazz lovers Ms. Callaway surely needs no introduction. It will be a joyous, jazzy, spectacular cabaret event created specifically for St. Louis Cabaret Festival audiences, and you can see it at the Sheldon Concert Hall.

Tony DeSare
Friday, July 22, at 8 p.m., the Sheldon will play host to Tony DeSare and his Trio in a wide-ranging evening that runs the gamut from Sinatra classics to Prince, and includes some of Mr. DeSare's own tunes. Named a Rising Star Male Vocalist in Downbeat magazine, DeSare has three top ten Billboard jazz albums under his belt and has headlined in prestigious venues such as New York's 54 Below and Carnegie Hall, along with major performing arts centers and numerous symphony orchestras throughout North America and abroad. This is Mr. DeSare's first appearance here in St. Louis, so this is a great chance to catch a rising star.

Saturday, July 23, at 8 p.m. it's back to The Stage @ KDHX for The St. Louis Cabaret Conference Professional Track Showcase. Mentored by Marilyn Maye, Faith Prince, Tedd Firth and Billy Stritch, as well as other members of the Cabaret Conference faculty, these are singers from the most advanced of the Cabaret Conference's three tracks. They're established cabaret pros from around the country, often with many shows to their credit, who are polishing their craft here in St. Louis. The showcase presents each of them in short, carefully tailored sets that display their range and talent. The first pro track showcase was last year, and it was impressive.

Ann Hampton Callaway
The St. Louis Cabaret Festival concludes on Sunday, July 24, with the St. Louis Cabaret Conference Closing Night Showcase and Celebration at the newly remodeled Jazz at the Bistro in Grand Center. After five days of working on their craft, its time for the core group of talented singers of the St. Louis Cabaret Conference to show audiences why they've come from all over the country to be mentored by the Conference's notable faculty. As someone who has seen and/or performed in most of the closing showcases over the years, I can attest to the wonderful variety and skill of the performers who take the stage in this big, two-act show. Seating for pre-show dinner or drinks begins at 6 p.m. and the show starts at 7. This year, your admission also includes a post show party complete with free munchies that starts up as soon as the last bow is taken.

For more information, visit The Cabaret Project web site. Tickets for all events are available via MetroTix. You can also hear interviews with Tim Schall and Marilyn Maye on St. Louis Public Radio and Faith Prince on KDHX, and watch Tony DeSare's preview video on YouTube.

The St. Louis Cabaret Conference and Festival are just two reasons why St. Louis is now regarded as a serious cabaret city. Come one down to Grand Center this week and find out why.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

St. Louis theatre calendar for the week of July 18, 2016

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

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

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The St. Lou Fringe presents Act Your Pants Off, a special benefit performance for the Fringe, on Tuesday, July 19, beginning at 7 PM. " The stakes - and waistlines - have never been higher. St Lou Fringe pairs up with local Actor's Equity Association professional actors to offer you the very best talent in St Louis, in the most relentless setting. Top St Louis talent put themselves and their craft to the test as our city's strongest actors face off in challenges the likes of which they've never seen, fighting for audience approval - and fighting to keep their belts buckled! And you thought auditions were a beast." The event takes place at Off Broadway, 3511 Lemp. For more information: stlfringe.com

The Lemp Mansion Comedy-Mystery Dinner Theater presents Bullets in the Bathtub through July 30. The Lemp Mansion is at 3322 DeMenil Place. For more information: mansion.com

Stages St. Louis presents the musical satire The Drowsy Chaperone July 22 - August 21. "With its laugh-a-minute script and one show-stopping song and dance number after another, it's easy to see why THE DROWSY CHAPERONE won the most Tony Awards of any musical on Broadway in 2006, including Best Book and Score. It all begins when a die-hard musical theatre fan decides to play his favorite cast album in his small brownstone apartment - a 1928 smash hit musical called "The Drowsy Chaperone." The show magically bursts to life before him as audiences are instantly transported to an earlier time and place and immersed in the glamorous and hilarious tale of a celebrity bride and her uproarious wedding day, complete with gangsters, mistaken identities, an off-course aviatrix, and an uplifting ride to the rafters. " Performances take place in the Robert G. Reim Theatre at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road in Kirkwood. For more information, visit stagesstlouis.org or call 314-821-2407.

Alton Little Theater presents Fame the Musical, based on the Hollywood movie, Thursdays through Sundays, July 22 - 31. "The Broadway Musical FAME is a sequel to the beloved film of the same name. Great Dance numbers and Inspirational Ballads become part of the tale when students at a Performing Arts Academy in New York City get down to work on "making it" in Show Business. The Cast of Twenty-Five (plus) performers ages 14 -24 will embrace the energy and dedication needed to actually find "fame". Under the direction of Kevin Frakes and Sue Parton Stanard (with choreography by Khristina Bemis), the Summer showcase production (ONLY SIX SHOWS) will have audience members ready to dance and reclaim their own big dreams! Local Musical Theater Professionals will be featured as "Instructors" at the Academy, making for summer ENTERTAINMENT not to be missed!" Performances take place at 2450 North Henry in Alton, IL. For more information, call 618.462.6562 or visit altonlittletheater.org.

The Cabaret Project presents First Stage: The St. Louis Cabaret Conference High School Showcase on Tuesday, July 19, at 8 p.m. as part of the 2016 St. Louis Cabaret Festival. "Join Broadway's Karen Mason, American Idol's Peisha McPhee and St. Louis Cabaret Conference's Tim Schall and Carol Schmidt as they present to you the new, young voices of cabaret. These talented young people will have just worked with the above faculty on the art and craft of song performance. And tonight they will celebrate what they have learned with a special showcase performance of their budding talents. As the saying goes "There's a lot of talent out there" and this evening singers at the first stages of their careers prove it." The performance takes place at The Stage @ KDHX in Grand Center. For more information: thecabaretproject.org.

Tont DeSare
The Cabaret Project presents singer/pianist Tony DeSare and his Trio in From Sinatra to Prince on Friday, July 22, at 8 p.m. as part of the 2016 St. Louis Cabaret Festival. "Named a Rising Star Male Vocalist in Downbeat magazine, DeSare brings his youthful, contemporary flair to the masterful Sinatra style standards of the past and offers sophisticated takes on pop classics such as the late genius Prince's Kiss- throwing in some of his own top notch originals along the way. DeSare has three top ten Billboard jazz albums under his belt and has headlined in prestigious venues such as New York's 54 Below and Carnegie Hall, along with major performing arts centers and numerous symphony orchestras throughout North America and abroad. Tony DeSare and his trio offer St. Louis audiences a fresh take on old school class that swings, swoons and gets your feet stompin'!" The performance takes place at the Sheldon Concert Hall in Grand Center. For more information: thecabaretproject.org.

Grey Gardens
Photo: Dan Donovan
Max and Louie Productions presents the musical Grey Gardens through July 30. "Not since Mama Rose and Gypsy has there been a mother/daughter act as hilarious, as heartbreaking and as utterly unforgettable as "Big" Edith and "Little" Edie Beale - Jackie Kennedy's most outrageous relatives - in the acclaimed musical smash Grey Gardens! From the grandeur of an East Hampton high society party in 1941 to the sensational tabloid headlines that rocked the Kennedy clan in 1973, Grey Gardens is scandalously entertaining. Step into the world of Grey Gardens and see the other side of Camelot." Performances take place at the Wool Studio Theatre at the JCC, 2 Millstone Campus Drive. For more information, visit maxandlouie.com.

Jon and Jen
Photo: David Sanford
Insight Theatre Company presents the musical Jon and Jen through July 31. "This is the story of Jen and her relationships with the two Johns of her life: her younger brother, who was killed in Vietnam, and his namesake, her son who is trying to find his way in a confusing world. Jen and her younger brother John are growing up in the ever-changing world of mid-century America. As the country becomes divided over the war in Vietnam, so does the family, and battle lines are drawn between the once-close siblings. When John is killed in Vietnam, Jen is left to reconcile her memory of their fractured relationship along with his namesake, her son who is trying to find his way in a confusing world." Performances take place in the Heagney Theatre, 530 East Lockwood on the campus of Nerinx Hall High School in Webster Groves. For more information, call 314-556-1293 or visit insighttheatrecompany.com.

Family Musical Theater presents the Disney's The Little Mermaid running through July 24. Performances take place at the Ivory Theatre, 7622 Michigan. For more information, visit familymusicaltheater.org or call 314-571-9579.

The Muny presents the musical Mamma Mia!, based on the songs of ABBA, opening on Thursday, July 21, and running nightly at 8:15 pm through July 28 in the outdoor theatre in Forest Park. "After 14 years and nearly 6,000 performances on Broadway, the phenomenal worldwide megahit Mamma Mia! arrives at The Muny like a breath of fresh island air. Prepare to be swept into the contagious excitement of 22 memorable ABBA hits, including "Dancing Queen," "Take a Chance on Me" and "The Winner Takes It All." You haven't seen Mamma Mia! in its full splendor until you've seen it under the stars at The Muny." For more information, visit muny.org or call 314-361-1900.

Marilyn Maye
The Cabaret Project presents Marilyn Maye and Ann Hampton Callaway with pianists Billy Stritch and Tedd Firth on Thursday, July 21, at 8 p.m. as part of the 2016 St. Louis Cabaret Festival. "When the legendary Marvelous Marilyn Maye performs its with one of her two favorite musical collaborators at the keys - the celebrated Billy Stritch or the award winning Tedd Firth. The St. Louis Cabaret Festival thought why not put both Stritch and Firth on stage and give them each a baby grand to play? And just when you thought it couldn't get any better we decided to add their friend and St. Louis' favorite divaliscious diva herself Ann Hampton Callaway to the party. Two Divas and Two Pianos on one stage! Don't miss this joyous, jazzy, spectacular cabaret event created specifically for St. Louis Cabaret Festival audiences." The performance takes place at the Sheldon Concert Hall in Grand Center. For more information: thecabaretproject.org.

 St. Louis Actors' Studio presents the Neil LaBute New Theater Festival, Part 2 July 22 - 31 at the Gaslight Theatre, 358 North Boyle. The festival features professional, new and previously unproduced one-act plays 45 minutes or less in length, chosen from submissions to the festival over the previous year. The plays in Part 2 are "Life Model" by Neil LaBute, "American Outlaws" by Adam Seidel, "Blue Balls" by Willie Johnson, and "Show of Affection" by Laurence Klavan. For more information, call 314-458-2978 or visit stlas.org.

The Bissell Mansion Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre presents Nursery Crimes through July 31. The Bissell Mansion is at 4426 Randall Place. For more information: bissellmansiontheatre.com.

Theatre Nuevo presents Orgullo: A Pride of One Acts through July 24. Orgullo (Spanish for "pride") will feature bilingual scripts from playwrights nationwide, focusing on the themes of Latin pride and identity. Original work from national playwrights like Tlaloc Rivas, José Casas, Alvaro Saar Rios and more will be featured in the lineup of one act plays. Performances take place at the 1900 Park Creative Space in Lafayette Square. For more information: www.theatrenuevo.com.

Faith Prince and Jason Graae
The Cabaret Project presents Faith Prince and Jason Graae in The Prince and the Showboy Wednesday, July 20, at 8 p.m. as part of the 2016 St. Louis Cabaret Festival. "Tony Award winner Faith Prince unites with her long time friend and L.A. Drama Critics Circle winner Jason Graae for a night of belly laughs and great music. Combing showbiz chutzpah, great vocal chops and incomparable comedic gifts, these celebrated veterans of a combined 17 Broadway shows deliver on the promise of an evening that keeps you smiling long after you leave." The performance takes place at the Sheldon Concert Hall in Grand Center. For more information: thecabaretproject.org.

The Cabaret Project presents The St. Louis Cabaret Conference Closing Night Showcase and Celebration on Sunday, July 24, at 7 p.m. as part of the 2016 St. Louis Cabaret Festival. "The newly remolded Jazz at the Bistro is the perfect supper club! Dinner seating or just drinks and appetizers start at 6 pm. And at 7 p.m. its time for the core group of talented singers of the St. Louis Cabaret Conference to show audiences why they've come from all over the country to be mentored by the Conference's renowned faculty. Join us for this closing night showcase and stick around for the post show party that starts up as soon as the last bow is taken. Party noshes are on us!" The performance takes place at Jazz at the Bistro, across from The Fox in Grand Center. For more information: thecabaretproject.org.

The Cabaret Project presents The St. Louis Cabaret Conference Professional Track Showcase on Saturday, July 23, at 8 p.m. as part of the 2016 St. Louis Cabaret Festival. "Mentored by Marilyn Maye, Faith Prince, Tedd Firth and Billy Stritch, as well as other members of the prestigious St. Louis Cabaret Conference Faculty, these singers take to the stage to show you why they are on the right track! The St. Louis Cabaret Conference presents these select singers in there own showcase of mini cabaret sets to show so you can see why they are ready to take their talents and ambitions and make their mark in the cabaret world - if they haven't already." The performance takes place at The Stage @ KDHX in Grand Center. For more information: thecabaretproject.org.

The Midnight Company presents Will Eno's THOMPAIN (based on nothing) Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., July 22 - August 6. Performances take place at Herbie's Vintage72, 405 N. Euclid in the Central West End, It will be a 10-year anniversary revival production for Midnight, with Artistic Director Joe Hanrahan once again the performer, and Larry Dell once again directing. "Nearly indescribable, THOMPAIN was described thus by the NYTimes: 'A surreal meditation on the empty promises life makes, the way experience never lives up to the weird and awesome fact of being...but also, in its odd, bewitching beauty an affirmation of life's worth...a small masterpiece.' Actor Joe Hanrahan calls it 'Existential Stand-Up,' while director Larry Dell describes it as 'Stand-Up Tragedy.'" Tickets will be on sale later in the spring at brownpapertickets.com.

Take Two Productions presents the rock musical Xanadu July 22-30. "Xanadu follows the journey of a magical and beautiful Greek muse, Kira, who descends from the heavens of Mt. Olympus to Venice Beach, California in 1980 on a quest to inspire a struggling artist, Sonny, to achieve the greatest artistic creation of all time - the first ROLLER DISCO! (Hey, it's 1980!) But, when Kira falls into forbidden love with the mortal Sonny, her jealous sisters take advantage of the situation and chaos abounds." Performances take place at Bayless High School Auditorium, 4532 Weber Road in South County. For more information, visit taketwoproductions.org.

Young Frankenstein
The Muny presents the Mel Brooks musical Young Frankenstein running nightly at 8:15 pm through July 19 in the outdoor theatre in Forest Park. "The gang's all here: Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, Igor and the horse-frightening Frau Blücher - together again in scenic Transylvania to reanimate a monster. Only the deranged mind of Mel Brooks could have inspired such lunacy. As Mel's 1974 movie comedy classic comes to bawdy, musical life onstage, you too will feel like "Puttin' on the Ritz" as you revel in a madcap evening of mad scientists, yodeling lab assistants ... everything you need for one hilarious Muny night!" For more information, visit muny.org or call 314-361-1900.

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 July 18, 2016

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The Compton Heights Concert Band presents free Musical Mondays concerts featuring marches, show tunes and classical favorites at Mondays at 7:30 p.m. through August 8. The guest performer this week (July 18) is St. Louis Symphony trombonist Jonathan Reycraft, who will perform Rimski-Korsakov's Trombone Concerto. The concert takes place in Tower Grove Park at the historic Henry Shaw Bandstand. For more information: chband.org.

The Compton Heights Concert Band presents free Sunday Serenades concerts featuring marches, show tunes and classical favorites on Sundays at 7:30 PM through August 7. The guest performer this week (July 24) is soprano and Winter Opera founder Gina Galati. The concerts takes place in Francis Park at Donovan and Eichelberger on the Compton Heights Band's "Carol Joy Brooks Memorial" Stage. For more information: chband.org.

The Gateway Festival Orchestra
The Gateway Festival Orchestra presents Music for the Royals, a free concert on Sunday, July 24, at 7:30 PM. "Enjoy a free live concert by a fifty-piece professional orchestra. Bring a lawn chair or a blanket for relaxing on the grass in beautiful Brookings Quadrangle on the campus of Washington University. Parking is free and plentiful. Ted Drewes Frozen Custard is available for purchase, and children receive an attendance prize." The program includes music by Handel Mozart, Beethoven and Rodgers and Hammerstein. The concert takes place at the Brookings Quadrangle on the Washington University campus. For more information: www.gatewayfestivalorchestra.org.

The University City Summer Band presents a concert on Tuesday, July 19, at 7 p.m. "Concerts last about 80 minutes, and include a short intermission. Seating is on the lawn. Bring a lawn chair or blanket as available seating is limited. Bring your children! Bring a picnic!" The concert takes place in Heman Park, 1028 Midland in University City. For more information: ucsummerband.org.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of July 15, 2016

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:


Black and Blue
Gitana Productions presents Black and Blue by Lee Patton Chiles at on Friday, July 15, at 7:30 p.m. "An original play of hope and healing, exploring the assumptions that all young black men are dangerous, and that all cops are bad. " The performance takes place at Christ Church Cathedral, 1210 Locust downtown. For more information: www.gitana-inc.org.

My take: The events in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014 resonated throughout the nation. As headlines continue to demonstrate, what happened there was hardly an isoloated incident. Originally presented back in June of 2015, this drama by St. Louis playwright Lee Patton Chiles is, in the words of KDHX theatre reviewer Tina Farmer, "a thought provoking, well-acted and strongly worded play that stirs discussion in an attempt to create a fuller, more varied and nuanced understanding of racial conflict, not only in St. Louis but across America." Theatre can educate, enlighten, and provoke as well as entertain, and it looks like Gitana has a production here that does all three.


Grey Gardens
Photo: Dan Donovan
Max and Louie Productions presents the musical Grey Gardens through July 30. "Not since Mama Rose and Gypsy has there been a mother/daughter act as hilarious, as heartbreaking and as utterly unforgettable as "Big" Edith and "Little" Edie Beale - Jackie Kennedy's most outrageous relatives - in the acclaimed musical smash Grey Gardens! From the grandeur of an East Hampton high society party in 1941 to the sensational tabloid headlines that rocked the Kennedy clan in 1973, Grey Gardens is scandalously entertaining. Step into the world of Grey Gardens and see the other side of Camelot." Performances take place at the Wool Studio Theatre at the JCC, 2 Millstone Campus Drive. For more information, visit maxandlouie.com.

My take: The folks at Max and Louie must be popping open the champagne right now, given how much critical praise they're getting. Steve Allen's review at Stage Door STL is typical. "Reviewing a production is, of course, a personal viewpoint", he writes, "and every one of the several critics we have in our town will vary in their opinions. But with “Grey Gardens,” the current musical from Max and Louie Productions, I think we’ll join forces in our praise for just about every aspect from casting and direction down through the technical creators. If it isn’t flawless, it comes pretty darn close." 'Nuff said, I guess.


Claudia Hommel
The Presenters Dolan and The Emerald Room at the Monocle present singer Claudia Hommel and singer-pianist Elizabeth Doyle in Your Ticket to Paris, an evening of classic French songs, on Saturday, July 16, at 8 p.m. "Singer-actor-coach and producer, a favorite from the Art Institute of Chicago to the Lapin Agile in Paris, Claudia specializes in concerts and cabaret shows of French chansons, art songs, and American Songbook standards. She tours nationally and to Europe playing concert halls, clubs, theatres, museums, schools and special events. The magnet for many years at Chicago's famed Pump Room, singer-pianist-composer Elizabeth Doyle has created, performed in and often music-directed an array of shows at Chicago's major cabaret rooms and theatres." The Monocle is at 4510 Manchester in the Grove. For more information: www.themonoclestl.com/events-page.

My take: Over the past few years, I have become a dedicated fan of French popular songs, and after seeing her work at the St. Louis Cabaret Conference last year, I have no doubt that Claudia Hommel shares that affection. She also loves Paris at least as much as I do, often leading cabaret-oriented tours of the City of Light. As I'm writing this, tickets are going fast (the show may even be sold out), so if you haven't ordered your tickets by now, you'll want to do so ASAP.

Held Over:


The Mikado
Photo: John Lamb
Union Avenue Opera presents Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, July 8 - 16. "Oh how complicated love can be! Nanki-Poo is desperately in love with Yum-Yum who happens to be betrothed to the new Lord High Executioner. Ko-Ko must find someone to execute or it will be his neck on the line. Will a case of mistaken identity save the day as these two conspire - or will heads roll? Witty lyrics and a topsy-turvy plot make this light-hearted tale of forbidden love and trickery a story that reaches beyond traditional interpretations. Widely regarded as the finest Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, The Mikado will captivate and delight at every turn." Performances take place at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 Union at Enright in the Central West End. The opera is sung in English with projected English text. For more information, visit unionavenueopera.org or call 314-361-2881.

My take: I have a friend who says he loves directing Shakespeare because it's so easy to do. Just don't get in the playwright's way and you can't lose. I think the same could be said of the better Gilbert and Sullivan operettas as well. Don't mess with G&S and you're golden. And while, as I note in my review for KDHX, director Eric Gibson has messed with Gilbert's text a bit more than I'd like, the show as a whole is tremendously entertaining and well worth your attention.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Review: Union Aveune's "Mikado" is a gem in a mismatched setting

Act I finale
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Union Avenue Opera is kicking off its season with a sparkling production of Gilbert and Sullivan's venerable comic operetta The Mikado featuring superb singing, solid comic acting, and eye-pleasing sets and costumes. As a bit of a G&S purist I have a few issues with Eric Gibson's direction, but they pale in comparison to the sheer entertainment value of the show as a whole.

The cast, to begin with, is consistently strong, all the way down to the smallest roles. As Nanki-Poo, the royal heir disguised as a Second Trombone, tenor Drake Dantzler could hardly be better, with a light, fluid voice that allows him to tune his supple song to perfection. His beloved Yum-Yum is soprano Karina Brazas, also gifted with a wonderfully flexible voice and a fine comic sense.

L-R: E. Scott Levin, Elise LaBarge, Andy Papas
Zachary James
Baritone Andy Papas is a frenetically comic Ko-Ko, the “cheap tailor” raised to the exulted post of Lord High Executioner despite the fact that he literally wouldn't hurt a fly. He, too, has a rich, powerful voice-something you don't often hear in the "principal actor" roles in Gilbert and Sullivan. When he joins with Mr. Dantzler and Ms. Brazas in trios like "Here's a how-de-do" and "The flowers that bloom in the spring,” the vocal blend is lovely.

Resplendent in a flowing red-and-black gown, mezzo Melissa Parks cuts a commanding figure as Katisha, the "most unattractive old thing / with a caricature of a face" whose unwelcome attentions drove Nanki-Poo to flee the Mikado's court. She makes the character's frankly unnecessary Act II aria "Alone, and yet alive" more interesting than it sometimes is and she's appropriately formidable in "There is beauty in the bellow of the blast,” her duet with the hapless Ko-Ko, who has to woo her in order to save himself from a lingering death involving boiling oil. Or is it melted lead?

Melissa Parks
The title role of the Mikado isn't large. He has only two songs and the second one ("See how the fates") is often cut, as it is in this production. But bass Zachary James, who created the role of Lurch in The Addams Family on Broadway, turns his one number, "A more human Mikado,” into a real show stopper, complete with minimal but effective choreography. And that's despite being hampered with a hat that partially obscured his face.

Bass-baritone E. Scott Levin gets what is, for my money, the plum role of the snobbish Poo-Bah, the Lord High Everything Else whose family pride is “something inconceivable.” In his capable hands the character is hilariously stuffy and his solid voice handles the florid "long life to you" toast at the end of Act I with ease. Baritone Nicholas Ward, meanwhile, makes an impressive UAOT debut as Pish-Tush, providing a solid vocal anchor in "Brightly dawns the wedding day.”

Sopranos Gina Malone and Elise LaBarge are Peep-Bo and Pitti-Sing, Yum-Yum's school chums. They're both appropriately winning and Ms. LaBarge does a particularly nice job with her part of "The criminal cried," the trio in which she, Pooh-Bah, and Ko-Ko each provide self-congratulatory and wholly fictional accounts of the execution of Nanki-Poo.

The chorus is small but sings with great clarity. I don't see a chorus master credited, so I have to assume conductor Scott Schoonover gets credit for that.

Stage Director Eric Gibson is, for my taste, a bit too fond of noisy slapstick that sometimes overwhelms Gilbert's verbal humor. And while it's customary to replace the more dated jokes in the "list" songs of Ko-Ko and the Mikado, I think replacing nearly every word is a bit hubristic.

Act II finale
That said, he gets the important stuff right. He moves the show along at a good clip and his blocking is clear, focused, and character-driven. That's not always the case on the operatic stage, so it deserves praise.

I'm less persuaded by his visual design choices. Inspired by Jonathan Miller's somewhat controversial 1986 production for the English National Opera, which moved the action from Gilbert's colorful cartoon Japan to an English seaside resort in the 1920s, he and his designers have placed this Mikado in a "1920s cocktail hour at an English gentleman's club."

That allows Jeff Behm to create a two-level set that's visually striking, with realistic wood paneling, warm sconce lights, and even a chandelier, and Teresa Doggett's period costumes are ideally suited to their characters. It even allowed Mr. Gibson to create a nice little moment by turning that disposable second act aria of Katisha's into a torch song delivered to a handsome young bartender, who hands her a sympathetic martini at the end.

L-R: E. Scott Levin, Andy Papas, Nicholas Ward
None of this, however, has anything much to do with the music or text, so it ultimately amounts to an attractive distraction. For what it's worth, I don't think it worked all that well when Miller did it, either.

On the purely musical side, Mr. Schoonover conducts his 19-piece orchestra in an expertly played and well thought out account of Sullivan's irresistible score. He took a number of optional cuts, which is fine, but I do wish he had left the charming overture intact. He deleted the entire middle section of it, as he did with last November's Yeoman of the Guard at Winter Opera. In neither case could it be considered an improvement.

But these are ultimately minor complaints of the sort which, frankly, matter mostly to G&S devotees. They certainly aren't important enough to spoil this very polished and tremendously entertaining take on one of the classics of comic operetta. Union Avenue Opera's production of The Mikado continues through July 16th at the Union Avenue Christian Church at Union and Enright in the Central West End.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

St. Louis classical calendar for the week of July 11, 2016

The Compton Heights Concert Band in Tower Grove Park
Photo: Jim Sparks
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The Compton Heights Concert Band presents free Musical Mondays concerts featuring marches, show tunes and classical favorites at Mondays at 7:30 p.m. through August 8. The July 11 concert features David Morris, the "World's Top Whistler'. The concert takes place in Tower Grove Park at the historic Henry Shaw Bandstand. For more information: chband.org.

The Compton Heights Concert Band presents free Sunday Serenades concerts featuring marches, show tunes and classical favorites on Sundays at 7:30 PM through August 7. The guest performer this week (July 17) is St. Louis Symphony trombonist Jonathan Reycraft, who will perform Rimski-Korsakov's Trombone Concerto. The concerts takes place in Francis Park at Donovan and Eichelberger on the Compton Heights Band's "Carol Joy Brooks Memorial" Stage. For more information: chband.org.

The Gateway Festival Orchestra presents Let the Show Begin, a free concert on Sunday, July 17, at 7:30 PM. "Enjoy a free live concert by a fifty-piece professional orchestra. Bring a lawn chair or a blanket for relaxing on the grass in beautiful Brookings Quadrangle on the campus of Washington University. Parking is free and plentiful. Ted Drewes Frozen Custard is available for purchase, and children receive an attendance prize." The program includes popular overtures by Beethoven, Rossini, Offenbach, and Wagner. The concert takes place at the Brookings Quadrangle on the Washington University campus. For more information: www.gatewayfestivalorchestra.org.

The University City Summer Band presents a concert on Tuesday, July 12, at 7 p.m. "Concerts last about 80 minutes, and include a short intermission. Seating is on the lawn. Bring a lawn chair or blanket as available seating is limited. Bring your children! Bring a picnic!" The concert takes place in Heman Park, 1028 Midland in University City. For more information: ucsummerband.org.

St. Louis theatre calendar for the week of July 11, 2016

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

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

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Black and Blue
Gitana Productions presents Black and Blue by Lee Patton Chiles at on Friday, July 15, at 7:30 p.m. “An original play of hope and healing, exploring the assumptions that all young black men are dangerous, and that all cops are bad. ” The performance takes place at Christ Church Cathedral, 1210 Locust downtown. For more information: www.gitana-inc.org.

The Lemp Mansion Comedy-Mystery Dinner Theater presents Bullets in the Bathtub through July 30. The Lemp Mansion is at 3322 DeMenil Place. For more information: mansion.com

Cocktails and Curtain Calls presents A Company of Wayward Saints through July 17. " Performed in the style of commedia dell'Arte. A troupe of travelling players, who are far from home and without means, wanders into a public house putting on a play in the hopes that a wealthy patron may be their salvation if they can put on a good show for him. The play-within-a-play is nothing less than the history of man; from the Garden of Eden, through birth, adolescence, marriage and death. Along the way they enact other wayward adventures such as the homecoming of Odysseus and the assignation of Julius Caesar. It is a fine mosaic of life redeemed by humor and understanding. Best of all, there is no fourth wall, the audience is in on all of the fun! Come early and enjoy a delicious appetizer, meal and your favorite beverage in this popular central west end venue." Performances will take place at Dressel's in the Central West End. For details on performance times and locatsions, visit eventbrite.com.

Grey Gardens
Photo: Dan Donovan
Max and Louie Productions presents the musical Grey Gardens through July 30. “Not since Mama Rose and Gypsy has there been a mother/daughter act as hilarious, as heartbreaking and as utterly unforgettable as “Big” Edith and “Little” Edie Beale - Jackie Kennedy's most outrageous relatives - in the acclaimed musical smash Grey Gardens! From the grandeur of an East Hampton high society party in 1941 to the sensational tabloid headlines that rocked the Kennedy clan in 1973, Grey Gardens is scandalously entertaining. Step into the world of Grey Gardens and see the other side of Camelot.” Performances take place at the Wool Studio Theatre at the JCC, 2 Millstone Campus Drive. For more information, visit maxandlouie.com.

Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville's Summer Showbiz Series presents the musical Hairspray through July 17. "It's 1962 in Baltimore, and the lovable plus-size teen Tracy Turnblad has only one desire -- to dance on the popular Corny Collins Show. When her dream comes true, Tracy is transformed from social outcast to sudden star. She must use her newfound power to dethrone the reigning Teen Queen, win the affections of heartthrob Link Larkin, and integrate a TV network, all without denting her “'do!” 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.

Insight Theatre Company presents the musical Jon and Jen July 15 - 31. "This is the story of Jen and her relationships with the two Johns of her life: her younger brother, who was killed in Vietnam, and his namesake, her son who is trying to find his way in a confusing world. Jen and her younger brother John are growing up in the ever-changing world of mid-century America. As the country becomes divided over the war in Vietnam, so does the family, and battle lines are drawn between the once-close siblings. When John is killed in Vietnam, Jen is left to reconcile her memory of their fractured relationship along with his namesake, her son who is trying to find his way in a confusing world." Performances take place in the Heagney Theatre, 530 East Lockwood on the campus of Nerinx Hall High School in Webster Groves. For more information, call 314-556-1293 or visit insighttheatrecompany.com.

Family Musical Theater presents the Disney's The Little Mermaid opening on Friday, July 15, at 8 p.m. and running through July 24. Performances take place at the Ivory Theatre, 7622 Michigan. For more information, visit familymusicaltheater.org or call 314-571-9579.

The Mikado
Union Avenue Opera presents Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM through July 16. "Oh how complicated love can be! Nanki-Poo is desperately in love with Yum-Yum who happens to be betrothed to the new Lord High Executioner. Ko-Ko must find someone to execute or it will be his neck on the line. Will a case of mistaken identity save the day as these two conspire - or will heads roll? Witty lyrics and a topsy-turvy plot make this light-hearted tale of forbidden love and trickery a story that reaches beyond traditional interpretations. Widely regarded as the finest Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, The Mikado will captivate and delight at every turn." Performances take place at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 Union at Enright in the Central West End. The opera is sung in English with projected English text. For more information, visit unionavenueopera.org or call 314-361-2881.

The Music Man
The Muny presents Meredith Willson's The Music Man nightly at 8:15 pm through July 11 in the outdoor theatre in Forest Park. "Buyer beware! Professor Harold Hill, the slickest, slyest con man on the Iowa circuit is headed our way, eager to make mischief and steal your heart. Set on the 4th of July, every note in Meredith Willson's iconic score is as delectable as a slice of Mom's apple pie. And by the way, if you think The Muny will settle for just “76 Trombones” onstage - you don't want to miss this parade!." For more information, visit muny.org or call 314-361-1900.

St. Louis Actors' Studio presents the Neil LaBute New Theater Festival, Part 1 through July 17 at the Gaslight Theatre, 358 North Boyle. The festival features professional, new and previously unproduced one-act plays 45 minutes or less in length, chosen from submissions to the festival over the previous year. The plays in Part 1 are “Life Model” by Neil LaBute, “Fire Sans Matches“ by Jeff Carter, “Winter Break“ by James Haigney, and “Mark My Worms“ by Cary Pepper. For more information, call 314-458-2978 or visit stlas.org.

The Bissell Mansion Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre presents Nursery Crimes through July 31. The Bissell Mansion is at 4426 Randall Place. For more information: bissellmansiontheatre.com.

Theatre Nuevo presents Orgullo: A Pride of One Acts July 14 - 24. Orgullo (Spanish for “pride”) will feature bilingual scripts from playwrights nationwide, focusing on the themes of Latin pride and identity. Original work from national playwrights like Tlaloc Rivas, José Casas, Alvaro Saar Rios and more will be featured in the lineup of one act plays. Performances take place at the 1900 Park Creative Space in Lafayette Square. For more information: www.theatrenuevo.com.

First Run Theatre presents the world premiere of Trick and Antonia by Jenn Ciavarella Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through July 17. In the closing days of The Cold War, Patrick - a promising intelligence agent discovers his wife is a Soviet spy who has been pumping him for information. Years later, Patrick, at the end of his career and his rope, is tasked with discovering the whereabouts of a missing agent behind enemy lines. The person who may know is Patrick's former wife, who has been recently detained by the FBI. As tensions build, Patrick must navigate conspiracies and the demons of his past to find the truth and perhaps discovered whether he ever knew the woman he loved." The performances take place in the theatre on the campus of DeSmet Jesuit High School on Ballas Road in Creve Coeur. For more information on First Run Theater's Play Reading Festival - firstruntheatre.com.

The Kirkwood Theatre Guild presents Twisted Improv on Friday, July 15, 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 Muny presents the Mel Brooks musical Young Frankenstein opening on Wednesday, July 13, and running nightly at 8:15 pm through July 19 in the outdoor theatre in Forest Park. "The gang's all here: Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, Igor and the horse-frightening Frau Blücher - together again in scenic Transylvania to reanimate a monster. Only the deranged mind of Mel Brooks could have inspired such lunacy. As Mel's 1974 movie comedy classic comes to bawdy, musical life onstage, you too will feel like “Puttin' on the Ritz” as you revel in a madcap evening of mad scientists, yodeling lab assistants ... everything you need for one hilarious Muny night!" For more information, visit muny.org or call 314-361-1900.

Claudia Hommel
The Presenters Dolan and The Emerald Room at the Monocle present singer Claudia Hommel and singer-pianist Elizabeth Doyle in Your Ticket to Paris, an evening of classic French songs, on Saturday, July 16, at 8 p.m. "Singer-actor-coach and producer, a favorite from the Art Institute of Chicago to the Lapin Agile in Paris, Claudia specializes in concerts and cabaret shows of French chansons, art songs, and American Songbook standards. She tours nationally and to Europe playing concert halls, clubs, theatres, museums, schools and special events. The magnet for many years at Chicago's famed Pump Room, singer-pianist-composer Elizabeth Doyle has created, performed in and often music-directed an array of shows at Chicago's major cabaret rooms and theatres. " The Monocle is at 4510 Manchester in the Grove. For more information: www.themonoclestl.com/events-page.

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.