Sunday, May 01, 2016

St. Louis classical calendar for the week of May 2, 2016

The Arianna String Quartet
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The Touhill Performing Arts Center presents The Arianna String Quartet in Beethoven's Triumps on Friday, May 6, at 8 PM. "The ASQ's season finale begins with Edvard Grieg's electrifying String Quartet in G minor, Op.27, an audience favorite that soars with a breadth of expression and powerful resonance like no other in the string quartet repertoire. The Arianna Quartet brings their 2015-16 series to a close with Beethoven's monumental late string quartet, the Quartet in C# minor, Op.131. As a musical testament to the power and fragility of the human experience, Beethoven's creation is a timeless masterpiece that offers hope, strength and insight into the complexity of humankind's emotional and intellectual existence." The Touhill Performing Arts Center in on the University of Missouri at St. Louis campus. For more information: touhill.org.

The St. Louis Children's Choirs present their Spring Concert on Sunday, May 7, at 2 and 7 p.m. "Music Makers, Children's Choirs 1A, Chorale 2A and 2UC, and Choristers will perform a variety of music to include Broadway songs, world music, classical favorites, and music from Americana." The concerts take place at in the J. Scheidegger Center for the Arts on the Lindenwood University campus in St. Charles. For more information: slccsing.org.

Christine Brewer
christinebrewer.com
David Robertson conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Chorus along with soloists Christine Brewer, soprano, and Kathleen Mattis, viola, on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m., May 6-8. The program includes Hosts's The Planets, Vaughan-Williams's Flos campi, and Berg's Altenberg Lieder. Performances take place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand. For more information: stlsymphony.org.

On Monday, at 8 p.m., The Tavern of Fine Arts presents classical guitarist Bryan Albert in an evening of raditional classical and jazz tunes, 90s alternative, and Mr. Albert's own compositions. The Tavern of Fine Arts is at 313 Belt in the Debaliviere Place neighborhood. For more information: tavern-of-fine-arts.blogspot.com.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Symphony Preview: Somethig old / something new / it's new music / from Mizzou

You might have noticed that there's no Friday, April 29, performance this weekend of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra concert featuring William Kraft's Timpani Concerto No. 2 and Schubert's Symphony No. 9. That's because Friday's "Storytelling" program is the last of the season's Whitaker Foundation "Music You Know" concerts. David Robertson is on the podium, SLSO violinist Celeste Golden Boyer is the soloist, and here's what you can expect.

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Leonard Bernstein in 1971
en.wikipedia.org
Bernstein: Candide Overture -- Leonard Bernstein's 1956 operetta Candide, based on the satire by Voltaire, has been through almost as many changes as its titular hero. By the time it opened on Broadway, it had already gone through a string of lyricists (including Dorothy Parker and James Agee) and over a dozen revisions by Lillian Hellman of her original book. Various incarnations of the show continued to pop up for the ensuing decades, including a 1973 Harold Prince "revival" that jettisoned half of the score and (after moving to the Broadway Theatre the following year) ended up over $150,000 in the red despite a string of Tony and Critics Circle awards. Somehow, the lively and tune-filled overture has remained largely intact.

Ponchielli: "Dance of the Hours" from La Gioconda -- Fans of Disney's Fantasia will, of course, recognize this as the music that accompanies a zoological ballet, while fans of the late Allan Sherman will immediately think of his hit "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah (A Letter from Camp)." Some of us think of both simultaneously, but that's another story. In Ponchielli's opera (which still gets performed now and then, especially in Italy), the title of which translates literally as "The Happy Woman," the ballet sequence comes towards the end of an otherwise dramatically grim Act III, the action of which includes the apparent suicide of the protagonist.

Vitali (orch. Charlier): Chaconne in G minor for Violin and Orchestra -- The chaconne is a series of variations on a repeating figure in the bass line. The form was popular during the Baroque period, which is when Tomaso Antonio Vitali (March 7, 1663 -- May 9, 1745) was composing. This chaconne is just about the only one of his works which is played with any frequency these days--which is somewhat ironic, given that it's not entirely clear whether or not he actually wrote it. This arrangement is by Léopold Charlier, about whom even less is known than about Vitali. Celeste Golden Boyer will be the violin soloist.

Not this guy
Humperdinck: Prelude to Hänsel und Gretel -- Engelbert Humperdinck (the original German composer, not the 1960s singer who appropriated his name) was a protégé of Richard Wagner, so it's not surprising that the prelude to his 1893 opera sounds more than a little bit like the one his mentor wrote for Die Meistersinger (note, in particular, the contrapuntal section towards the end). It's big, complex music for a modest fairytale story.

Dukas: The Sorcerer's Apprentice -- Speaking of Fantasia, Paul Dukas's popular 1897 tone poem has, perhaps, become far too closely associated with a certain animated rodent for its own good, so it's always good to hear it live, in an environment in which those delicate opening measures can emerge from complete silence. The inspiration for both the music and Disney's animation was a 1797 poem by Goethe, Der Zauberlehrling. Dukas wrote other works that deserve at least as much attention as this one, by the way. His 1896 Symphony in C, for example, is a very dramatic and colorful piece that deserves far more attention than it has gotten.

Stefan Freund
music.missouri.edu
Stefan Freund: Cyrillic Dreams -- The "Music You Know" concerts always include at least one work that you probably don't know, but should. This time around, that work is by a composer who is an associate professor at the University of Missouri, the cellist and one of the co-founders of the new music ensemble Alarm Will Sound, artistic director of the Mizzou New Music Initiative, and the principal conductor and music director of the Columbia Civic Orchestra. Which is not a bad collection of accomplishments for someone in his early forties. The composer is quoted in Eddie Silva's program notes as saying that Cyrillic Dreams was inspired by a series of dreams in which he was surrounded by the daunting and foreign letters of the Cyrillic alphabet, as well as by "the colorful domes and clamorous bells of Moscow and St. Petersburg," which he visited in 2008.

As my friend Dean Minderman pointed out to me in a recent email, this is one of just eight works by living composers on this year's schedule, and marks the second time in three seasons the SLSO has played a work by a Missouri composer. The last time it was Stephanie Berg's entertaining Ravish and Mayem back in 2014.

Wagner: "Ride of the Valkyries" (arr. Hutschenruyter) from Die Walküre -- Maybe you associate this music with the words "kill da waabit." Or possibly with "I love the smell of napalm in the morning." Or maybe just with the image of women in helmets singing very forcefully. It is, in any case, an integral part of the musical DNA of the Western world and an appropriately rousing final work for the concert.

The Essentials: David Robertson conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra with violin soloist Celeste Golden Boyer on Friday, April 29, at 8 p.m. The performance takes place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Chuck's St. Louis theatre choices for the weekend of April 29, 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:

Christy Simmons
Topper Productions presents Christy Simmons in Count Your Blessings: A Tribute to Rosemary Clooney on Sunday, May 1, at 3 p.m. "Christy Simmons reprises her critically acclaimed tribute to Rosemary Clooney, "Count Your Blessings", at the beautiful Boom Boom Room. Wonderful songs, an amazing life story, a great 3 piece band (Joe Dreyer, Dave Troncoso, and Clancy Newell), beautiful surroundings (with delicious food and drink available), and an engaging performance by "The First Lady Of St. Louis Cabaret", Christy Simmons. Come join Christy and company for this powerful tribute to a beloved star." The Boom Boom Room is at500 N. 14th St. downtown. For more information: christysimmons.brownpapertickets.com/.

My take: When I reviewed this show back in 2012, I wrote that Ms. Simmons’s stage experience is obvious is nearly every moment of this remarkable mix of cabaret, biography, and musical theatre that recounts the ups and downs of the famed singer's often troubled life with a canny combination of song and story. It looks as polished and professional as it sounds, and it sounds awfully fine. The mix of songs includes plenty of Clooney’s hits along with some less familiar titles, the balance of music and biography is right, and the presentation is first-rate. The late Ms. Clooney did not have a trouble-free life, but this biography-based show avoids the maudlin and concentrates on the songs that made Ms. Clooney a major celebrity.


Ken Haller
The Presenters Dolan and the Emerald Room Cabaret present Ken Haller in Song by Song by Sondheim on Thursday, April 28, at 7:30 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.buzzonstage.com/st-louis.

My take: "Haller is a charming and talented performer with a voice as smooth as a brandy Alexander," wrote Robert Mitchell in a KDHX review of this show back in 2011. I couldn't agree more. Ken is an immensely talented gent with impressive credentials in both the theatrical and cabaret worlds and he has been producing top-notch cabaret here in town as well as in Chicago and New York for several years now. This love letter to Sondheim is not to be missed.


The Fox Theatre presents the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music opening Tuesday, April 26, and running through May 8. "The hills are alive! A brand new production of THE SOUND OF MUSIC, directed by Jack O'Brien, is coming to the Fox. The spirited, romantic and beloved musical story of Maria and the Von Trapp Family will once again thrill audiences with its Tony®, Grammy® and Academy Award® winning Best Score, including "My Favorite Things," "Do-Re-Mi," "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," "Edelweiss" and the title song." The Fox is on North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: fabulousfox.com.

My take: I haven't seen any reviews yet and my schedule probably won't allow me to see this, but how can you go wrong with this Rodgers and Hammerstein classic? The original stage show isn't as sentimental as the often-criticized film and a big revival is long overdue. This particular production has been gathering very positive reviews as it makes its way across the USA.

Held Over:

Bosnian-American: The Dance of Life
Photo: John Lamb
Mustard Seed Theatre presents Bosnian-American: The Dance of Life, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through May 1. "Born in Bosnia and raised in St. Louis - painful history meets present reality in this collaboratively created script that celebrates the true stories of our neighbors." 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: Unlike some cities I could name, St. Louis has opened its doors to Muslim immigrants—especially those from Bosnia—and experienced considerable economic growth in the neighborhoods were they have settled. Mustard Seed has turned their experiences into what Steve Callahan calls "a most heartening and hopeful evening celebrating the Bosnian-American experience." At Ladue News, Mark Bretz writes: "Bosnian/American: The Dance for Life succeeds as a tribute to the valiant spirit of a people and culture driven from their homeland to start life anew in a land a continent away."


Trash Mabceth
Equally Represented Arts presents Trash Macbeth running through May 7th. "Lady Macbeth says, 'What's done cannot be undone.' But can it be repurposed? Based on Shakespeare's iconic tragedy, ERA's experimental production Trash Macbeth resuscitates meaning within a climate of destruction, reestablishes the societal norms of America's most traditional era, and reframes the value of our revered Shakespeare, housewifery, and garbage. Trash Macbeth is a full-length, theatrical production created by an ensemble of theatre artists with text from Shakespeare's Macbeth, Emily Post's Etiquette, the book of Revelations, Dr Benjamin Spock's Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care, and 1950's era advertisements." Performances take place at The Chapel, 6238 Alexander Drive. For more information: eratheatre.org.

My take: In a review of the original St. Louis University production of this last October, 88.1 KDHX reviewer Sarah Richardson wrote that "[t]he fates that are spun and the lives unwound in this tragedy reach astounding dramatic heights thanks to a marvelous alchemy of all the elements of theatre: design, staging, performance, and text...A delicious, theatrical nightmare par excellence." Reviewing the current version for KDHX, Steve Callahan calls it "a most remarkable evening of theatre." This is a chance to see the play done by the ensemble whose founder, Lucy Cashion, created the piece for St. Louis U. last fall. Ms. Cashion has made a name for herself locally for her ingenious reworkings of classic plays.

Symphony Preview: SLSO Principal Timpani Shannon Wood on playing above the staff and behind the back

Shannon Wood rehearsing
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The big news about the St. Louis Symphony concerts this weekend (April 29-May 1) is the local premiere of the Timpani Concerto No. 2, "The Grand Encounter," written in 2005 by former Los Angeles Philharmonic Principal Timpani William Kraft. SLSO Principal Timpani Shannon Wood will be the soloist. We chatted briefly via email about the music and his relationship with his instrument of choice.

Chuck Lavazzi: I imagine when most people hear the words "timpani concerto" they probably wonder how much music you can really get out of a few kettledrums. But Kraft's concerto actually calls for a virtual timpani orchestra. Tell us about what people will actually see at Powell this weekend.

Shannon Wood: It's true that the very words "timpani concerto" summon a loud, bangy, 'drummy' sensibility to most, but Kraft steers away from cliché devices and rhythmic patterns that often become trite and he instead pushes the limits of range by incorporating nine tenor timpani suspended on a rack written for C#-A above staff (bass clef). On the floor he writes for six pedal drums ranging from a low C below staff to a high C above staff. The entire range of the concerto spans nearly three octaves. This collection of 15 drums allows for extensive lyrical writing resulting in a musical composition full of melodies and phrases. The sheer set up is enthralling and captivating. Kraft is a jazz lover and his use of 7th, 9, 11 and 13 chords is throughout the concerto. The Epilogue even has a section that is reminiscent of a jazz combo consisting of solo timpani, percussion, piano and harp. The Timpani are muted and played with bundles of rattan in place of traditional mallets, which to me depicts a jazz kit played by brushes on coated heads.

Chuck: How do you see Kraft's Second Concerto comparing with other works in the form that you've had experience with? You mentioned the lyricism and jazz; what do you see other differences or similarities?

Shannon: I see more melodic use of the Timpani compared with other works of the same form. The writing is more mature and less gimmicky. The melodic motifs are developed and built upon throughout the work. This concerto also stretches the limits of the performer. It's very athletic and the range of motion is vast. The work also demands the player to stand while pedaling, which is challenging.

The fifteen drums
Chuck: That suggests my next question: Aside from the aerobics, are there other aspects of the Kraft concerto makes that make it different from what a timpanist normally does with the orchestra? Are there things you've had to do to prepare for it that are a stretch for you?

Shannon: Yes, there are several aspects to this concerto that call upon the player to do things outside of the traditional boundaries of orchestral repertoire; the first being reading above the staff. It's rare a Timpanist has written notes higher than a C above the staff. This work has notes written as high as an A above staff. The range of motion is extreme, calling upon the player to rotate in a complete 360 at times and reaching far beyond the normal playing sphere radius. It also calls upon the player to perform glissandos across six pedal drums continuously without pause or interruption with one foot while standing on the other.

A few things I've had to do in preparation of this concerto that have been a stretch for me is expanding my range of motion and memorizing placement / location of timpani in places I usually don't have drums as well as reading above the staff which is unusual for me. I normally sit while playing, however it would be impossible to sit because of the high degree of athleticism involved. Standing on one foot while pedaling a glissando across six drums is very difficult as well.

Chuck: One final question: I've always wondered what motivates musicians to choose particular instruments. I remember being fascinated with the euphonium, for example, when they first introduced us to the school band back in fifth grade and I went on to play it and other low brass right through high school. What made you choose percussion in general in the timpani in particular? What's the source of the appeal for you?

Shannon: I gravitated towards drums at a very early age. My parents bought me a toy drum set when I was around 5 and the match was made. At 7, I was turning my mother's show boxes upside down, drawing circles in the center imitating black dots reminiscent of REMO black dot drum heads and I'd use chop sticks to play on the makeshift drums. At age 9, my father got me drum set lessons as a birthday present. In fourth grade I started a rock band which consisted of my brother on bass, best friend on guitar, and me on drums. We played together through college writing mainly our own material, which was prog-rock (YES, RUSH, King Crimson). I journeyed through the public school system music program playing percussion and upon graduation decided to major in music in percussion performance. I continued on with grad school and after a few stops in several other places landed here. Although I've always had a love for percussion and drum set, I started to focus solely on Timpani after grad school in private studies and that's when I knew I wanted to play Timpani exclusively.

The Essentials: David Robertson conducts the Orchestra in two different programs April 29-May 1. With violin soloist Celeste Golden Boyer, he presents a Whitaker Foundation "Music You Know" concert on Friday, April 29, at 8 p.m. featuring works by Ponchielli and Dukas as well as a new work by Stefan Freund. On Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., he conducts the local premier of William Kraft's Timpani Concerto No. 2 with soloist Shannon Wood, as well as Schubert's monumental Symphony No. 9, "The Great."

Monday, April 25, 2016

Symphony Review: Nathalie Stutzmann brings a unique, joyous approach to familiar classics in her St. Louis Symphony debut

Nathalie Stutzmann conducing the
Monte Carlo Philharmonic
Photo: nathaliestutzmann.com
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The St. Louis Symphony concerts this weekend (April 22-24, 2016) offered a remarkable study in contrasts, with familiar classics by Mendelssohn, Sibelius, and Dvořák getting novel, idiosyncratic, and very compelling interpretations by French singer and conductor Nathalie Stutzmann in her SLSO debut.

Ms. Stutzmann's dual career path as both a singer and conductor is unusual, if not unique.  And while I don't want to read too much into that, it's hard not to hear in her performances the kind of direct emotional connection that I get from an accomplished singer. 

In the cabaret world we talk a lot about the importance of having a strong emotional connection to the music and lyrics of our songs.  That's the kind of strong connection I heard in Ms. Stutzmann's approach to the oft-heard works on the program this weekend.  It made me hear them in different ways that shed new light on the music.  In this respect she reminded me of the late Leopold Stokowski, whose work I admired tremendously even when it wasn't entirely to my taste—which was sometimes the case with Ms. Stutzmann.

The exceptionally delicate and slow opening of Mendelssohn's The Hebrides (Fingal's Cave) Overture, for example, suggested an overblown and even lethargic approach to this depiction of the Scottish seacoast.  But while Ms. Stutzmann's extreme contrasts of tempo and dynamics sometimes felt more appropriate to Bruckner than Mendelssohn, the overall result was fascinating and even revelatory at times. To pick just one example: the full-orchestra climaxes, with Shannon Wood's tympani projecting forcefully over the rest of the band from his position on an elevated platform upstage center, vividly evoked the stormy landscape that had so impressed Mendelssohn.  I wouldn't call this a definitive interpretation by any means, but I'm glad I heard it.

Karen Gomyo
Photo: karengomyo.com
There was a similar interpretive freedom in the Sibelius Violin Concerto which, like the Mendelssohn, opened so quietly that the first few notes were almost inaudible, with soloist Karen Gomyo's entrance seemingly floating in from another plane of existence.  This was another ear-opening performance, with orchestral details revealed in high contrast.  It made the long-winded first movement feel even more discursive than it usually does, but the overall result was stunning in its impact.

It helped that Ms. Gomyo is such a technically proficient and artistically committed performer. The violin was Jean Sibelius’s first musical love and his concerto is both thoroughly idiomatic and incredibly demanding.  The long solo passages in the first movement and virtuoso fireworks in the finale will test the mettle of the best performers.  Ms. Gomyo handled it all with aplomb, delivering the intense passion of the second movement and fireworks of the third with equal credibility.  She was also completely in synch with Ms. Stutzmann, often moving and (seemingly) even breathing together.

The concluding work on the program, Dvořák’s Symphony No. 7 in D minor, Op. 70,  as always been a favorite of mine, for reasons that are difficult to articulate.  I can’t hear it without thinking of a long journey down a dark mountain river.  Flashes of light illuminate the trip, but we don’t see the sun until the work’s final moments, when the tonality changes from D minor to D major.

Maintaining a strong rhythmic pulse and a sense of momentum, then, have always been the hallmarks of a great Dvo?ák Seventh for me.  Ms. Stutzmann's interpretation had both, despite an opening tempo which felt a bit slow but turned out, in the end, to be exactly right for the musical structure she was creating.  By the time she got to the end of the energetic third movement Scherzo, she had built up such a head of steam that the decision to go straight to the final movement attacca (without pause) felt not just right but actually inevitable.   I wouldn't want this to be anyone's only exposure to Dvo?ák's masterpiece, given the number of fine recordings available out there, but it was entirely original and, taken on its own terms, entirely successful.

Ms. Stutzmann's style on the podium, by the way, is as uniquely personal as her conceptualization of the music.  She sways and dances with the music, virtually sculpting phrases out of the air with gestures that could be encompass everything from her fingers to her entire upper body.  And she does it all with a delighted smile that suggests a real pleasure in the business of making music.  That sense of joy on the part of a performer is always infectious and goes a long way towards winning over an audience.

Next at Powell Hall: David Robertson conducts the orchestra in two different programs April 29 – May 1.  With violin soloist Celeste Golden Boyer, he presents a Whitaker Foundation Music You Know concert on Friday, April 29, at 8 p.m. that features works by Ponchielli and Dukas as well as a new work by Stefan Freund.  On Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., he conducts the local premier of William Kraft's Tympani Concerto No. 2 with soloist Shannon Wood, as well as Schubert's monumental Symphony No. 9 ("The Great").  For more information, visit the symphony web site.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

St. Louis theatre calendar for the week of April 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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Kirkwood Theatre Guild presents musical The Addams Family, based on the cartoons of Charles Addams, April 29 - May 8. "Gomez and Morticia are worried about their daughter Wednesday...she's showing signs of “normal” behavior and they can't help but wonder where they've gone wrong. The change in behavior is explained when they find out their little girl has done something unthinkable...she has fallen in love with a kind, smart, and handsome young man who comes from a respectable family from Ohio. When the boyfriend, Lucas Beineke, and his parents are invited to join the Addams family for dinner, Wednesday asks her family to act as ordinary as possible and Lucas warns his parents to be open-minded. As with most family gatherings, the evening includes a giant pet squid, a secret potion, and an uncle announcing he's in love with the moon...you get the picture. Join the creepy, kooky and always lovable Addams family as they deal with their own version of growing pains." Performances take place in the Robert G. Reim Theatre of the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road. For more information, call 314-821-9956 or visit ktg-onstage.org.

Bosnian-American: The Dance for Life
Photo: John Lamb
Mustard Seed Theatre presents Bosnian-American: The Dance for Life, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through May 1. "Born in Bosnia and raised in St. Louis - painful history meets present reality in this collaboratively created script that celebrates the true stories of our neighbors." 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.

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

The Gateway Men’s Chorus presents Cabaret Risque, its annual fundraiser, on Saturday, April 30, at 8:30 p.m., preceded by a cocktail hour at 7 p.m. The show will star Anna Skidis and Ben Watts, and offers an exclusive after-party hosted by Fred Schneider of the B-52's. Procedes benefit the Gateway Men's Choruis. The show takes place Rialto Ballroom on the fourth floor of the Centene Center for the Arts, 3547 Olive in Grand Center. For more information: gatewaymenschorus.org.

Christy Simmons
Topper Productions presents Christy Simmons in Count Your Blessings: A Tribute to Rosemary Clooney on Sunday, May 1, at 3 p.m. "Christy Simmons reprises her critically acclaimed tribute to Rosemary Clooney, "Count Your Blessings", at the beautiful Boom Boom Room. Wonderful songs, an amazing life story, a great 3 piece band (Joe Dreyer, Dave Troncoso, and Clancy Newell), beautiful surroundings (with delicious food and drink available), and an engaging performance by "The First Lady Of St. Louis Cabaret", Christy Simmons. Come join Christy and company for this powerful tribute to a beloved star." The Boom Boom Room is at500 N. 14th St. downtown. For more information: christysimmons.brownpapertickets.com/.

The St. Louis Art Museum presents a live HD broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera's production Richard Strauss's Elektra on Saturday, April 30, at 11:55 a.m. "The genius director Patrice Chéreau (From the House of the Dead) didn't live to see his great Elektra production, previously presented in Aix and Milan, make it to the stage of the Met. But his overpowering vision lives on with soprano Nina Stemme-unmatched today in the heroic female roles of Strauss and Wagner-who portrays Elektra's primal quest for vengeance for the murder of her father, Agamemnon. Legendary mezzo-soprano Waltraud Meier is chilling as Elektra's fearsome mother, Klytämnestra. Soprano Adrianne Pieczonka and bass-baritone Eric Owens are Elektra's troubled siblings. Chéreau's musical collaborator Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts Strauss's mighty take on Greek myth." The live digital HD video broadcast from New York takes place in The Farrell Auditorium at the Art Museum in Forest Park. For more information: slam.org.

The Glass Menagerie
Photo: ProPhotoSTL
Upstream Theater presents Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie, with live music by Joe Dreyer, April 29 - May 15. "As Tennessee Williams'classic has entered our collective memory, it has moved from cutting-edge to canonical. Upstream Theater aims to take the piece out of the museum in a way guaranteed to move you, and move you to think. We are proud to present this production in conjunction with the inaugural Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis." Performances take place at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information, including show times: upstreamtheater.org.

St. Louis Actors' Studio presents Ivanov by Anton Chekov, as translated by Tom Stoppard, running through May 1. "Once a man of limitless promise, Ivanov is plunged into debt. His marriage is in crisis, and his evenings are spent negotiating loans, avoiding love affairs and fighting to resist the small town jealousies and intrigues which threaten to engulf his life." Performances take place at the Gaslight Theatre, 358 North Boyle For more information, call 314-458-2978 or visit stlas.org.

KTK Productions presents the comedy Laughing Stock April 28 - May 8. "A hilarious backstage farce and genuinely affectionate look into the world of the theatre. When the Playhouse, a rustic New England Summer Theatre, schedules a repertory season of Dracula, Hamlet and Charley's Aunt, comic mayhem ensues. We follow the well-intentioned but over-matched company from outrageous auditions to ego-driven rehearsals through opening nights gone disastrously awry to the elation of a great play well told and the comic and nostalgic season close." Performances take place at Southampton Presbyterian Church, 4716 Macklind. For more information: kurtainkall.org or call 314-351-8984.

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.

St. Louis Community College at Wildwood presents Peter/Wendy, a lyrical atmospheric interpretation of Peter Pan. on Friday and Saturday, April 29 and 30, at 7 p.m. The play is written by Jeremy Bloom and directed by Taylor Gruenloh. The campus is at 2645 Generations Drive in Wildwood, MO. For more information: calendar.stlcc.edu.

Ken Haller
The Presenters Dolan and the Emerald Room Cabaret present Ken Haller in Song by Song by Sondheim on Thursday, April 28, at 7:30 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.buzzonstage.com/st-louis.

The Fox Theatre presents the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music opening Tuesday, April 26, and running through May 8. "The hills are alive! A brand new production of THE SOUND OF MUSIC, directed by Jack O'Brien, is coming to the Fox. The spirited, romantic and beloved musical story of Maria and the Von Trapp Family will once again thrill audiences with its Tony®, Grammy® and Academy Award® winning Best Score, including “My Favorite Things,” “Do-Re-Mi,” “Climb Ev'ry Mountain,” “Edelweiss” and the title song." The Fox is on North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: fabulousfox.com.

Trash Macbeth
Photo: eratheatre.org
Equally Represented Arts presents Trash Macbeth running through May 7th. "Lady Macbeth says, 'What's done cannot be undone.' But can it be repurposed? Based on Shakespeare's iconic tragedy, ERA's experimental production Trash Macbeth resuscitates meaning within a climate of destruction, reestablishes the societal norms of America's most traditional era, and reframes the value of our revered Shakespeare, housewifery, and garbage. Trash Macbeth is a full-length, theatrical production created by an ensemble of theatre artists with text from Shakespeare's Macbeth, Emily Post's Etiquette, the book of Revelations, Dr Benjamin Spock's Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care, and 1950's era advertisements." Performances take place at The Chapel, 6238 Alexander Drive. For more information: eratheatre.org.

The Black Rep presents the drama Twisted Melodies April 20 - May 1. "Twisted Melodies is a fictionalized journey through the mind of musical genius Donny Hathaway. We see a man lost in space and time, battling schizophrenia and trying to come to terms with - everything.Join us for an experience that explores the psychology of a genius and his music as he deals with the extreme circumstances of mental illness" Performances take place at the Edison Theatre on the Washington University campus. For more information: theblackrep.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.

Friday, April 22, 2016

St. Louis classical calendar for the week of April 25, 2016

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On Tuesday, April 26th, at 6:30 p.m., New Music Circle, in collaboration with the St. Louis Public Library and St. Louis Polonia, presents 18&Counting, Vernacular String Trio, and Chris Smentkowski performing live scores to experimental films from Poland (1940-1980). This event, which is free and open to the public, takes place in the lower level auditorium at the St. Louis Public Library, 1301 Olive downtown. For more information: newmusiccircle.org.

Jennifer Gartley of
The Chamber Project
The Chamber Project St. Louis presents Wander on Tap on Tuesday, April 26, at 7:30 PM. "We close our season of original programing with a feisty program for flute, clarinet, harp and strings playing music from around the world. From the haunting beauty of French Impressionism, to Celtic sounds and a wild spin of gypsy music arranged by local composer Christian Woehr, this concert will lead you down a satisfying path!" The performance takes place at The Schlafly Tap Room, 2100 Locust. For more information: www.chamberprojectstl.org.

CHARIS, the St. Louis Women's Chorus, presents Behind the Scenes on Friday and Saturday, April 29 and 30, at 8 p.m. " For the 2nd concert of our 23rd season, CHARIS will present "Behind the Scenes," a concert offering an insider's perspective on the world of singing and performing. Songs and narration will take the audience from those first rehearsals in which singers get to know each other, all the way to concert night, examining what happens along the way. The audience will also be taken "behind the scenes" as CHARIS presents sneak peeks of their upcoming performances at the "Big Gay Sing" with the Gateway Men's Chorus, the 2016 North American OutGames (hosted here in St. Louis) in June and our performance at the international GALA choruses festival in Denver, Colorado in July." The performances take place in the auditorium at the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park. For more information: charischorus.org.

The Chess Club of St. Louis presents The Sound of Chess, a performance by the Mizzou New Music Ensemble, featuring original compositions inspired by the game of chess, on Saturday, April 30, at 6 p.m. The concert, which inclues cocktails and hors d'oeurves, takes place at the Kingside Diner, 4651 Maryland in the Central West End. For more information: saintlouischessclub.org.

The Community Music School of Webster University presents a concert by The Webster University New Music Ensemble on Friday, April 29, at 7 p.m. "The Webster University New Music Ensemble present two classics in European Minimalism: The Sinking of the Titanic (1969-) by Gavin Bryars and Worker's Union (1975) by Louis Andriessen." The Community Music School is at 535 Garden Avenue on the Webster University campus. For more information: webster.edu/cms.

Celeste Golden Boyer
David Robertson conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra with violin soloist Celeste Golden Boyer on Friday, April 29, at 8 p.m. "Symphonic music has tremendous power to tell the story! From Ponchielli's Dance of the Hours to Dukas's mischievous The Sorcerer's Apprentice, let the orchestra be your guide on this musical adventure exploring tales from around the globe." Performances take place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand. For more information: stlsymphony.org.

David Robertson conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra with tympani soloist Shannon Wood on Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m., April 30 and May 1. "STL Symphony timpanist Shannon Wood steps forward to perform William Kraft's unique and rhythmic Timpani Concerto No. 2, "The Grand Encounter." Subtitled from 15 chamber works called 'Encounters', this distinctive piece is rarely heard in concert. The orchestra brings the evening to a spectacular conclusion with Schubert's Symphony No. 9." Performances take place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand. For more information: stlsymphony.org.

The Tavern of Fine Arts presents two concerts by the Arianna String Quartet on Tuesday, April 26, at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. "The Arianna Quartet joins their friends, the internationally acclaimed Brazilian violin and guitar duo Daniel Guedes and Mario Ulloa, to perform a unique mix of Brazilian jazz standards, original compositions, and select classical movements in a unique cross-over soiree!" The Tavern of Fine Arts is at 313 Belt in the Debaliviere Place neighborhood. For more information: tavern-of-fine-arts.blogspot.com.

The West County Family YMCA presents The Dastan Ensemble in a concert of Persian classical music on Saturday, April 30, at 8 p.m. The concert features soloists on the tar, Kemenche, ud, setar and other Middle Eastern instruments. For more information: chicagopersianevents.com.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Chuck's Choices for the weend of April 21, 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:

Bosnian-American: The Dance of Life
Photo: John Lamb
Mustard Seed Theatre presents Bosnian-American: The Dance of Life, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through May 1. "Born in Bosnia and raised in St. Louis - painful history meets present reality in this collaboratively created script that celebrates the true stories of our neighbors." 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: Unlike some cities I could name, St. Louis has opened its doors to Muslim immigrants—especially those from Bosnia—and experienced considerable economic growth in the neighborhoods were they have settled. Mustard Seed has turned their experiences into what Steve Callahan calls "a most heartening and hopeful evening celebrating the Bosnian-American experience." At Ladue News, Mark Bretz writes: "Bosnian/American: The Dance for Life succeeds as a tribute to the valiant spirit of a people and culture driven from their homeland to start life anew in a land a continent away."  The show is a bit rocky in spots, but its heart is in the right place, which counts for a lot.


Angela Sapolis
The Emerald Room at the Monocle and The Presenters Dolan present Angela Sapolis in I Couldn't Have Said it Better on Saturday, April 23, at 7:30 p.m. "A native of St Louis, Angela Sapolis has made a name for herself on stages from coast to coast, and as far away as Tokyo. "I Couldn't Have Said It Better" is a potent marriage of words and music, taking us on a journey through the peak experiences of life, guided by the wit and wisdom of the world's great thinkers, writers, and musicians. Angela is sincerely grateful to her mentor, teacher, and friend, the legendary Andrea Marcovicci, for her invaluable support in creating this show." The performance takes place in the Emerald Room at The Monocle, 4510 Manchester in the Grove neighborhood. For more information: buzzonstage.com/st-louis

Gail Payne
The Emerald Room at the Monocle and The Presenters Dolan present Gail Payne in Let it Shine on Thursday, April 21, at 7:30 p.m. "Four years ago, Gail Payne mustered the courage to let her light shine as she serenaded friends in her living room. Living into her dream of singing professionally, "Let It Shine" is Payne's fifth solo cabaret show demonstrating her passion and talent for masterfully weaving together songs and stories not only about her journey to sing solo, but also to find love and live happily ever after. Music will include classics from the Great American Songbook, Broadway, jazz, folk/country, and popular music." The performance takes place in the Emerald Room at The Monocle, 4510 Manchester in the Grove neighborhood. For more information: buzzonstage.com/st-louis

My take: Ms. Payne and Ms. Sapolis are veterans of the St. Louis Cabaret Conference, a week-long intensive training program for musical theatre and cabaret singers. It attracts some top-flight talent. You can't go wrong with their of these very talented and engaging women, and the Emerald Room is a very cool venue.


Trash Macbeth at St. Louis University
Equally Represented Arts presents Trash Macbeth opening on Wednesday, April 20, and running through May 7th. "Lady Macbeth says, 'What's done cannot be undone.' But can it be repurposed? Based on Shakespeare's iconic tragedy, ERA's experimental production Trash Macbeth resuscitates meaning within a climate of destruction, reestablishes the societal norms of America's most traditional era, and reframes the value of our revered Shakespeare, housewifery, and garbage. Trash Macbeth is a full-length, theatrical production created by an ensemble of theatre artists with text from Shakespeare's Macbeth, Emily Post's Etiquette, the book of Revelations, Dr Benjamin Spock's Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care, and 1950's era advertisements." Performances take place at The Chapel, 6238 Alexander Drive. For more information: eratheatre.org.

My take: In a review of the original St. Louis University production of this last October, 88.1 KDHX reviewer Sarah Richardson wrote that "[t]he fates that are spun and the lives unwound in this tragedy reach astounding dramatic heights thanks to a marvelous alchemy of all the elements of theatre: design, staging, performance, and text...A delicious, theatrical nightmare par excellence." This is a chance to see the play done by the ensemble whose founder, Lucy Cashion, created the piece for St. Louis U. last fall. Ms. Cashion has made a name for herself locally for her ingenious reworkings of classic plays.

Held Over:

David Guintoli
The Emerald Room Cabaret presents David Giuntoli in Sinatra...The Man and His Music on Friday, April 22, at 8 p.m. "David Giuntoli sings songs that Frank Sinatra made famous. He would have been 100, if alive, and although he was from a different era, his musical stylings are a as swinging today as they were in the 40s, 50s, and 60s when he was at his peak. Sinatra had a gift of taking songs from great composers like, Cole Porter, Jimmy Van Heusen, Sammy Cahn, and, along with his fantastic arrangements, giving them that “Sinatra” stamp. The show includes these songs; I've Got the World on a String, All or Nothing at All, The Best is Yet to Come, I've Got You Under My Skin, The Way You Look Tonight, Angel Eyes, Fly Me to the Moon, Night and Day, The Lady is a Tramp and more." The show features Adam Maness on piano and Ben Wheeler on bass. The performance takes place in The Emerald Room at The Monocle Bar, 4510 Manchester in The Grove neighborhood. For more information: www.buzzonstage.com/st-louis

My take: No, this is not the David Giuntoli who stars in Grimm, but rather my fellow Cabaret Project board member in his first solo show. The focus on Sinatra makes perfect sense, given that Mr. Giuntoli is a baritone with a crooner's sensibility and an affection for the Great American Songbook. Last week's show was sold out, hence the reprise.