Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Symphony Preview: What's New?

Gemma New
The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra's 18/19 season opens this weekend (Saturday and Sunday, September 22 and 23) with a mix of the old and the new--in more ways than one.

There's the music, to begin with. The major works on the program are old favorites: the stirring tone poem "Finlandia" by Sibelius, Grieg's tuneful Piano Concerto, and Edward Elgar's "Enigma Variations." But there's also a relatively new piece: "Musica celestis" by the prolific American composer Aaron Jay Kernis, whose credits range from the New York Philharmonic to the Walt Disney Company. It was first performed by the San Francisco Symphony in 1992 and is getting its St. Louis premiere this weekend.

And then there are the performers. The SLSO certainly counts as old, having been founded in 1880, but this weekend's piano soloist is Behzod Abduraimov, who is around the same age as Mr. Kernis' piece (Mr. Abduraimov was born in 1990). And the conductor is, to paraphrase James Bond, "New. Gemma New."

Sorry about that.

Behzod Adburaimov
Ms. New, as you probably know, was appointed Resident Conductor of the SLSO back in 2016. That means she's the Music Director of the SLSO Youth Orchestra and also works on the orchestra's various educations and community outreach concerts. Her appearance conducting a regular season concert last spring drew rave reviews--my KDHX colleague, Gary Scott, wrote that she "directed brilliantly, exhibiting poise and control"--so it will be interesting to see how she does this weekend.

I'm also looking forward to the local debut of Mr. Abduraimov. Described as "a new superstar pianist" in a 2012 NPR profile, he has had praise heaped upon him for his work in the Russian repertoire, notably Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky. I couldn't find any reviews online pairing him with the Grieg concerto, although his performance this May of the piano part in Grieg's Cello Sonata in A minor was described as "understated but devastating" by the Washington Classical Review, which bodes well.

Aaron Jay Kernis
I probably can't tell you much about the two "greatest hits" on this weekend's program that you don't already know. The patriotic fervor that moved Sibelius to write "Finlandia" is well known, as is the importance of Norwegian folk influences in the Grieg concerto. Less well known is the fact that Grieg was unable to attend the premiere of the work--one of seven "interesting facts" provided by Shari Mathias in program notes for the Parker (Colorado) Symphony Orchestra earlier this year.

As for new work on the program, "Musica celestis," it started out as the slow movement of the composer's String Quartet No. 1 (also titled "Musica celestis") but soon gained an independent life of its own. The title translates as "heavenly music", as the composer observes in notes on the string quartet original:
The second movement musica celestis, is inspired by the medieval conception of that phrase which refers to the singing of the angels in heaven in praise of God without end. "The office of singing pleases God if it is performed with an attentive mind, when in this way we imitate the choirs of angels who are said to sing the Lord's praises without ceasing." (Aurelian of Réöme, translated by Barbara Newman) I don't particularly believe in angels, but found this to be a potent image that has been reinforced by listening to a good deal of medieval music, especially the soaring work of Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179). This movement follows a simple, spacious melody and harmonic pattern through a number of variations (like a passacaglia) and modulations, and is framed by an introduction and codas.

Edward Elgar, circa 1900
en.wikipedia.org
The theme of the new SLSO season is "From Our Family to Yours," which makes the concluding work on the program, Elgar's "Enigma Variations," an ideal fit. Effectively a musical family album, the fourteen variations are vivid little sound portraits of Elgar, his wife, and his friends. Even a pet bulldog puts in an appearance in a comical variation (number 11) that portrays the dog tumbling down a grassy bank into the river Wye and then, according to the composer, "paddling up stream to find a landing place (bars 2 and 3) and his rejoicing bark on landing (second half of bar 5)."

The "Enigma" of the title, according to Elgar, refers to "another and larger theme" which is "not played". The composer never revealed what that theme might be and speculation has been lively ("most convincingly Auld Lang Syne," according to the late British musicologist Robin Golding in liner notes for the Sir Adrian Boult recording) but I'm inclined to go along with the school of thought that the "theme" to which Elgar referred wasn't musical at all but rather the common thread of friendship and good humor that pervades the music.

P.S.: the first concert of the season always has a celebratory air, and this time it will be accompanied by a champagne toast in the Wightman Grand Foyer at intermission.

The essentials: Gemma New conducts The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and pianist Behzod Abduraimov Saturday at 8 pm and Sunday at 2 pm, September 22 and 23 (2018). The program consists of Elgar's "Enigma Variations", Grieg's Piano Concerto, Sibelius' "Finlandia," Alan Jay Kernis' "Musica celestis," and an arrangement of "The Star Spangled Banner" by Walter Damrosch and John Phillip Sousa. The concerts take place at Powell Hall in Grand Center.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

St. Louis classical calendar for the week of September 17, 2018.

Only two new events on the calendar this week: the big opening concert of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra season and a violin recital by the Washington U. Department of Music.


Pianist Behzod Abduraimov
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Gemma New conducts The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and pianist Behzod Abduraimov on Saturday at 8 pm and Sunday at 2 pm, September 22 and 23. "Resident Conductor Gemma New leads Opening Weekend with the musical puzzle, Elgar’s Enigma Variations, and Grieg’s Piano Concerto featuring pianist Behzod Abduraimov in his SLSO debut. Join us in the Wightman Grand Foyer at intermission for a champagne toast to the new season!" The concerts take place at Powell Hall in Grand Center. For more information: stlsymphony.org.

The Washington University Department of Music presents a concert by violinist Silvian Iticovici with pianist Damien Francoeur-Krzyzek on Sunday, September 23, at 7 pm. The program includes the Violin Sonata No. 10, Op. 96 by Beethoven, the Sonata for Violin and Piano by Debussy, and the Divertimento for Violin and Piano by Stravinsky. The performance takes place in the Pillsbury Theater at the 560 Music Center, 560 Trinity in University City. For more information, music.wustl.edu.

St. Louis theatre calendar for the week of September 17, 2018

The a second Andrew Lloyd Webber musical joins the roster this week, along with shows by The Midnight Company and Tesseract, and the monthly Singer's Open Mic at Sophie's (which I host).

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The Bissell Mansion Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre presents Addams Family Affair through October 28. The Bissell Mansion is at 4426 Randall Place. For more information: bissellmansiontheatre.com.

Midnight Theatre Company presents two one-act plays by Mickle Maher: An Apology for the Course and Outcome of Certain Events Delivered by Doctor John Faustus and The Hunchback Variations Thursdays at 7 pm and Saturdays and Sundays at 8 pm, September 20 - 29. Performances take place at The Monocle, 4510 Manchester in The Grove. For more information: midnightcompany.com.

Robert Dubac in The Book of Moron
The Playhouse at Westport Plaza presents The Book of Moron running through September 23. "Robert Dubac's newest Off-Broadway hit The Book Of Moron has been described as one of the most hilarious, intelligent and scorching satirical attacks on idiocracy since Mark Twain. Having been brainwashed by a culture that worships the Kardashians over character, delusion over truth, and selfies over self-effacement, Dubac begins his journey with a simple question: Who am I? What do I believe? What's the point? Okay, that's three questions but suffice to say, he has no answers. Just voices. Inner voices who come to life with precision and wit. One by one they pull him into a hysterical alternative universe of critical thought in search of the bigger picture. It's a head trip on a banana peel." The Playhouse at Westport Plaza is at 635 West Port Plaza. For more information: westportstl.com.

CSZ St. Louis presents The ComedySportz Show on Saturday nights at 7:30 pm. The show is "action-packed, interactive and hilarious comedy played as a sport. Two teams battle it out for points and your laughs! You choose the winners the teams provide the funny!" Performances take place on the second floor of the Sugar Cubed, 917 S Main St. in St Charles, Mo. For more information: www.cszstlouis.com.

Crowns
Photo by Phillip Hamer
The Black Rep presents the musical Crowns through September 23. "Hats become a springboard for an exploration of black history and identity as seen through the eyes of a young black woman who has come down South to stay with her aunt after her brother is killed in Brooklyn. Hats are everywhere, in exquisite variety, and the characters use the hats to tell tales about everything from the etiquette of hats to their historical and contemporary social functions." Performances take place at the Edison Theatre on the Washington University campus. For more information: theblackrep.org.

The Lemp Mansion Comedy-Mystery Dinner Theater presents Dead Like Me through November 3. The Lemp Mansion is at 3322 DeMenil Place. For more information: lempmansion.com.

Evita
Photo by Eric Woolsey
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's musical Evita through September 30. "The incandescent Eva Perón's rise from poverty to power electrified the world - and made her an iconic political celebrity. Winner of seven Tony Awards, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's tour-de-force musical revels in the glamour, charisma and controversy that defined the First Lady of Argentina. With its unforgettable anthem "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" and kaleidoscope of sights and sounds, Evita dazzles with pure passion." Performances take place on the mainstage at the Loretto-Hlton Center, 130 Edgar Road in Webster Groves, MO. For more information, call 314-968-4925 or visit repstl.org.

Love Never Dies
The Fox Theatre presents Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Love Never Dies: The Phantom Returns opening on Tuesday, September 18, and running through September 30. "The year is 1907. It is 10 years after his disappearance from the Paris Opera House and The Phantom has escaped to a new life in New York where he lives amongst the screaming joy rides and freak shows of Coney Island. In this new, electrically charged world, he has finally found a place for his music to soar, but he has never stopped yearning for his one true love and musical protégée, Christine Daaé. Now one of the world's finest sopranos, Christine accepts an invitation to travel from Paris to New York to perform at a renowned opera house. Christine's marriage to Raoul is suffering at the hands of his drinking and gambling and they desperately need the financial rewards that America can give them. In a final bid to win back Christine's love, The Phantom lures her, Raoul, and their young son Gustave, from Manhattan to the glittering and glorious world of Coney Island - not knowing what is in store for them." The Fox is at 527 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: fabulousfox.com.

Tesseract Theatre Company presents Mama's Boy, a new play by Rob Urbinati, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 4 pm, September 21 - 30 "The riveting story of Lee Harvey Oswald and his complex relationship with his overbearing mother Marguerite, Mama's Boy follows Marguerite's reckless attempts to reunite her family, from Lee's return to the U.S. from Russia, through the assassination of Kennedy, to her son's own murder and her defense of his innocence in the months that follow. A fascinating examination of family dynamics and obsessive maternal devotion played out in the shadow of history. " Performances take place at The .ZACK, 3224 Locust in Midtown. For more information: tesseracttheatre.org.

Oklahoma!
Photo by Peter Wochniak, ProPhotoSTL
Stages St. Louis presents the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma! through October 7. "Oh, what a beautiful musical! Rodgers and Hammerstein's timeless first collaboration was, in many ways, their most innovative. And while OKLAHOMA! completely changed the face of American musical theatre over seventy years ago, it remains as fresh and vital today as it was then with its loving celebration of the American spirit. A stunning blend of drama, music, and dance, the exhilarating Rodgers and Hammerstein score contains such classics as "People Will Say We're In Love," "The Surrey With The Fringe On Top," "Kansas City," "I Cain't Say No," and the pulsating title tune, "Oklahoma!" A gold standard that set the bar for all great musicals that came after it, OKLAHOMA! is unforgettable entertainment for the entire family!" Performances take place in the Robert G. Reim Theatre at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road in Kirkwood. For more information: stagesstlouis.org.

The Kirkwood Theatre Guild presents Recipes for Ice, their monthly improv show, on Friday, August 17, at 8 and 10:30 pm 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.

Chuck Lavazzi
The Cabaret Project presents its weekly Singers Open Mic Night on Wednesday, September 19, from 7 to 10 pm. Drop by and enjoy a night of great music from St. Louis cabaret artists, backed up by pianist and music director Carol Schmidt and hosted by 88.1 KDHX's Chuck Lavazzi. If you're planning to sing, be prepared to do one or two songs and bring music, preferably in your key. It's also recommend that you have your song memorized. The event takes place at Sophie's Artist Lounge on the second floor of the .ZACK performing arts space at 3226 Locust in Grand Center. For more information: thecabaretproject.org.

Christ Memorial Productions presents the musical The Wizard of Oz, based on the classic movie, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 PM and Sundays at 2:30 PM, through September 23. The adaptation was originally created by John Kane for the Royal Shakespeare Company. Performances take place at Christ Memorial Lutheran Church, 5252 South Lindbergh. For more information, visit CMPShows.org or call 314-631-0304.

Looking for auditions and other artistic opportunities? Check out the St. Louis Auditions site.
For information on events beyond this week, check out the searchable database at the Regional Arts Commission's Events Calendar.
Would you like to be on the radio? KDHX, 88.1 FM needs theatre reviewers. If you're 18 years or older, knowledgeable in this area, have practical theatre experience (acting, directing, writing, technical design, etc.), have good oral and written communications skills and would like to become one of our volunteer reviewers, send an email describing your experience and interests to chuck at kdhx.org. Please include a sample review of something you've seen recently.

Review: Enchantment pours out of every door

The cast of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
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Anyone looking for some fine old family-friendly fun this past weekend (September 14 - 16, 2018) surely found it in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in Concert.

It was the hit movie with the soundtrack, by Scottish composer Patrick Doyle, played live by the impressive forces of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra at Powell Hall under the baton of conductor (and composer in his own right) Justin Freer whose company, CineConcerts, produces the Harry Potter concert series. The quality of the print was excellent, with crisp, clear dialog tracks delivered by Powell Hall's upgraded sound system, and captioning for the hard of hearing. It looked great on the big screen, as have earlier entries in this series.

As always, though, the music was the main attraction for events like this one. Best known for his work on high culture projects like Henry V, Hamlet, and Gosford Park, Mr. Doyle produced a score for his one and only Harry Potter film which, while not quite up to the standard set by John Williams in previous films in the series, is nevertheless very evocative of J. K. Rowling's fantastical world and filled with auditory delights.

Swirling high strings perfectly captured the empty chatter of gossip columnist Rita Skeeter, for example, while the low brasses underscored the ominous tone of this film compared to earlier entries in the series. This is, after all, the point at which the Potter saga takes a turn towards the dark side, as Voldemort and his racist "Death Eaters" begin their plan to impose a fascist regime on the wizarding world.

There were also amusing bits of pastiche, like the classic British brass band sound of the "Hogwarts March" and the mock-1930s dance music for the Hogwarts Yule Ball.

The score got the kind of solid virtuoso treatment that has become commonplace from the SLSO, with impressive work by the expanded brass and percussion section. On Friday night, Mr. Freer had all of the first chair players stand up for well-deserved applause during the curtain call.

This was the first entry in this season's "Live at Powell Hall" series, which includes movies, holiday concerts, and appearance by popular music artists; details are available at the SLSO web site.

Next at Powell Hall: The regular 18/19 season officially opens as Gemma New conducts The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and pianist Behzod Abduraimov Saturday at 8 pm and Sunday at 2 pm, September 22 and 23. The program consists of Elgar's Enigma Variations, Grieg's Piano Concerto, Sibelius' Finlandia, Alan Jay Kernis' Musica celestis, and an arrangement of "The Star Spangled Banner" by Walter Damrosch and John Phillip Sousa. The concerts take place at Powell Hall in Grand Center.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Review: The land we belong to is grand

Oklahoma!, the iconic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical that's getting a bang-up presentation right now at Stages, had a troubled beginning.

The cast of Oklahoma!
Photo by Peter Wochniak, ProPhotoTSL
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The play it was based on, Green Grow the Lilacs, had been a flop when it was premiered by The Theatre Guild in 1931. Financial backing was not readily available. And when Lorenz Hart was approached by his then-partner Richard Rodgers to work on a musical stage version it he declined, shrugging off the story of farmers and cowboys in turn-of-the-century Oklahoma as corny and uninteresting.

He had a point there--the corn really is "as high as an elephant's eye" at times--but even so Oklahoma! was a box office smash in 1943 (running a record-breaking 2,212 performances). It garnered rave reviews and has remained a favorite of audiences and critics ever since.

Sarah Ellis and Blake Price
Photo by Peter Wochniak, ProPhotoSTL
Under the skilled direction of Michael Hamilton, the new Stages production isn't shy about spreading around plenty of corn of its own. The broad approach is almost cartoonish in places, but it's executed so flawlessly and with such precision that it's impossible not to find it vastly entertaining. The comic scenes are very funny, which makes the contrasting dramatic moments that much more effective. Mr. Hamilton clearly understands that when you're going to paint with a broad brush, it's that much more important to stay within the lines.

He has a great cast to work with. As Curly McLain, the cowboy in love with farm girl Laurey Williams, Blake Price sings beautifully (he has an impressive head voice) and perfectly captures both the character's swagger and underlying shyness. Sarah Ellis is a wonderfully winsome Laurey, with an equally strong voice and a wide-eyed charm that reminded me a bit of Liza Minnelli. Their voices blend to great effect in "People Will Say We're in Love."

L-R: Matthew Curiano, Con O'Shea-Creal, Lucy Moon
Photo by Peter Wochniak, ProPhotoSTL
Con O'Shea-Creal hits all the right comic notes as Will Parker, determined to marry the man-crazy Ado Annie, and he shows impressive dance moves in "Kansas City." Lucy Moon is a delight as the object of his affection, making "I Cain't Say No" a comic gem.

Matthew Curiano offers a brilliantly comic turn as the peddler Ali Hakim, straight out of Persia by way of the Borscht Belt, and David Sajewich is a dark presence as farm hand Jud Fry, whose thwarted affection for Laurey finally turns homicidal. His "Lonely Room," in which Jud faces the ugliness of his life, is a dramatic highlight. There's also great work here by (among others) John Flack as Annie's rough-hewn father, Zoe Vonder Haar as the charmingly garrulous Aunt Eller, and Steve Isom as Sherriff Cord Elam.

The men and women of the chorus are sold dancers and sing with a clarity that does full justice to Hammerstein's lyrics. The dancing chorus for the "Dream Ballet" sequence is excellent as well, skillfully executing Dana Lewis's choreography, which (at least to my eyes) appears to pay homage to Agnes de Mille's original. Nicholas De La Vega was apparently a late substitute for Mark Mackillop as Dancing Curly in that number, but you wouldn't know it from the high quality of his work.

L-R: Sarah Ellis, Blake Price, Zoe Vonder Haar
Photo by Peter Wochniak, ProPhotoSTL
Bright, colorful sets by James Wolk and costumes by Brad Musgrove set just the right tone, accented by Sean M. Savoie's lighting.

Oklahoma! has been around long enough now to have accumulated some unorthodox (if not outright revisionist) productions over the years, including an all-female version by Japan's Takarazuka Revue in 2006 and one by the Chichester Festival in 2009 that tried to impose a darker subtext, but if you're looking for a straightforward approach to this classic show, you can't go wrong with the one at Stages. It's an entertainment powerhouse and a fine finale for the company's season. Performances continue through October 7th at the Robert G. Reim theatre at the Kirkwood Community Center.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of September 14, 2018

New on the list: musicals at the Black Rep, the Rep, and Stages, along with political satire at Westport.

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New This Week:

Robert Dubac in The Book of Moron
The Playhouse at Westport Plaza presents The Book of Moron, opening on Thursday, September 13, and running through September 23. "Robert Dubac's newest Off-Broadway hit The Book Of Moron has been described as one of the most hilarious, intelligent and scorching satirical attacks on idiocracy since Mark Twain. Having been brainwashed by a culture that worships the Kardashians over character, delusion over truth, and selfies over self-effacement, Dubac begins his journey with a simple question: Who am I? What do I believe? What's the point? Okay, that's three questions but suffice to say, he has no answers. Just voices. Inner voices who come to life with precision and wit. One by one they pull him into a hysterical alternative universe of critical thought in search of the bigger picture. It's a head trip on a banana peel." The Playhouse at Westport Plaza is at 635 West Port Plaza. For more information: westportstl.com.

My take: I haven't seen the local reviews on this one yet, but I'm putting it on the list on the basis of the concept alone. As I noted in a blog post several years ago, we have become so overloaded with information that we are getting very bad at distinguishing between the important and the trivial. As the recent election demonstrated, many of us also seem unable (or unwilling) to distinguish between truth and fantasy. The Denver Post described this show as "high-concept comedy that is provocative and smart; a philosophy lecture with punch lines." Sounds like a good combination to me.


Crowns
Photo by Phillip Hamer
The Black Rep presents the musical Crowns through September 23. "Hats become a springboard for an exploration of black history and identity as seen through the eyes of a young black woman who has come down South to stay with her aunt after her brother is killed in Brooklyn. Hats are everywhere, in exquisite variety, and the characters use the hats to tell tales about everything from the etiquette of hats to their historical and contemporary social functions." Performances take place at the Edison Theatre on the Washington University campus. For more information: theblackrep.org.

My take: This show, as Mark Bretz notes in his review for Ladue News, is one of those rare works that both informs and entertains. "Crowns," he writes, "succeeds both in providing engaging musical and comic entertainment as well as an informative explanation of the historical meaning and value given to the hats worn by African-American women in church, one of the few places they were afforded freedom to express themselves for too much of American history". At STLToday, com, Calvin Wilson calls the production "an entertaining and often hilarious blend of coming-of-age story and concert" and notes that "director Linda Kennedy maintains a brisk pace while eliciting first-rate performances from her ensemble cast." It looks like the Black Rep's new season is off to a strong start.


Evita
Photo by Eric Woolsey
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's musical Evita through September 30. "The incandescent Eva Perón's rise from poverty to power electrified the world - and made her an iconic political celebrity. Winner of seven Tony Awards, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's tour-de-force musical revels in the glamour, charisma and controversy that defined the First Lady of Argentina. With its unforgettable anthem "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" and kaleidoscope of sights and sounds, Evita dazzles with pure passion." Performances take place on the mainstage at the Loretto-Hlton Center, 130 Edgar Road in Webster Groves, MO. For more information, call 314-968-4925 or visit repstl.org.

My take: Evita has certainly gone through some changes since it first appeared as a two-LP "concept album" back in 1976 (note to younger readers: the LP is a primitive sound reproduction device invented by the ancient Mayans), with a 1978 Broadway production and a 2006 London stage revision that also made its way to the Great White Way. Based on the reviews, it sounds like the Rep's version is based on that 2006 revival, which featured a re-orchestrated score and new staging that placed the emphasis heavily on dance. I liked that when I saw it at the Fox in 2013 and local critics appear to like the Rep's production quite a lot a well. "The whirlwind that was the life of Eva Peron," writes Steve Allen, "travels at break neck speed with dazzling performances, costumes and set design all sweeping across the Rep stage in the capable hands of director Rob Ruggiero." Ann Lemmons Pollack calls it "a blockbuster of a show that takes full advantage of the extra time the summer gave to crank things up." "The Rep’s powerful production,"observes Tina Farmer at KDHX, "expertly captures the energy and excitement of revolution, the sneering, snide commentary of the elite and the fiery, passionate personas of the Peróns."


Oklahoma!
Photo by Peter Wochniak, ProPhotoSTL
Stages St. Louis presents the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma! through October 7. "Oh, what a beautiful musical! Rodgers and Hammerstein's timeless first collaboration was, in many ways, their most innovative. And while OKLAHOMA! completely changed the face of American musical theatre over seventy years ago, it remains as fresh and vital today as it was then with its loving celebration of the American spirit. A stunning blend of drama, music, and dance, the exhilarating Rodgers and Hammerstein score contains such classics as "People Will Say We're In Love," "The Surrey With The Fringe On Top," "Kansas City," "I Cain't Say No," and the pulsating title tune, "Oklahoma!" A gold standard that set the bar for all great musicals that came after it, OKLAHOMA! is unforgettable entertainment for the entire family!" Performances take place in the Robert G. Reim Theatre at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road in Kirkwood. For more information: stagesstlouis.org.

My take: History (or at least Wikipedia) tells us that when Lorenz Hart was approached by his then-partner Richard Rodgers to work on a musical stage version of the 1931 Theatre Guild flop Green Grow the Lilacs, he declined, shrugging off the story of farmers and cowboys in turn-of-the-century Oklahoma as corny and uninteresting. He had a point there—the corn really is "as high as an elephant's eye" at times—but even so Oklahoma! was a box office smash in 1943 (a record-breaking 2,212 performances), garnered rave reviews, and has remained a favorite of audiences and critics ever since. The Stages production, which I saw last night, is broad and even borderline cartoonish in spots, but executed so flawlessly and with such precision that it's impossible not to find it vastly entertaining. Performances are top drawer and the score is, of course, irresistible.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

St. Louis theatre calendar for the week of September 10, 2018

The autumn theatre season picks up speed with the annual Xfest at SIU-E and Japanese theatre at the Touhill, along with new shows from Ignite and Christ Memorial Productions.

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The Bissell Mansion Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre presents Addams Family Affair through October 28. The Bissell Mansion is at 4426 Randall Place. For more information: bissellmansiontheatre.com.

Robert Dubac in The Book of Moron
The Playhouse at Westport Plaza presents The Book of Moron, opening on Thursday, September 13, and running through September 23. "Robert Dubac's newest Off-Broadway hit The Book Of Moron has been described as one of the most hilarious, intelligent and scorching satirical attacks on idiocracy since Mark Twain. Having been brainwashed by a culture that worships the Kardashians over character, delusion over truth, and selfies over self-effacement, Dubac begins his journey with a simple question: Who am I? What do I believe? What's the point? Okay, that's three questions but suffice to say, he has no answers. Just voices. Inner voices who come to life with precision and wit. One by one they pull him into a hysterical alternative universe of critical thought in search of the bigger picture. It's a head trip on a banana peel." The Playhouse at Westport Plaza is at 635 West Port Plaza. For more information: westportstl.com.

Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville presents Buffon Glass Menagerie at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 11 as part of Xfest: 4 Days of Experimental Theater. "Gentlemen callers beware: The Wingfields plume their nest with broken glass, twisted morals, and perverted minds. Each night a new audience member will get to play the role of Jim, the gentlemen caller. Tom, Amanda and Laura claim no responsibility for hurt feelings or offended sentiments. These deformed anti-clowns subversively take the piss out of everyone and everything. Why would anyone do this to an American Masterpiece!?!" The performance takes place in the Metcalf Theater on the campus in Edwardsvile, IL. For more information, call 618-650-2774 or visit siuexfest.com.

Ignite Theatre Company the musical Bye Bye Birdie Thursday Saturday at 7 pm and Sunday at 2 pm, September 13 - 16. "When the draft selects rock star Conrad Birdie (Noah Drake), his fans are devastated, but none more than struggling songwriter Albert Peterson (Aaron Drake), whose song Birdie was just about to record. Albert's longtime girlfriend, Rosie (Krista Hartmann), pushes Albert to write a new tune that Birdie will perform on television to a randomly selected fan. The scheme works, with young Ohio teenager Kim McAfee (Gabby Anderson) declared the winner, but no one has counted on the jealous wrath of her boyfriend." Performances take place at 3510 Giles Avenue in south St. Louis. For more information: ignitewithus.org.

CSZ St. Louis presents The ComedySportz Show on Saturday nights at 7:30 pm. The show is "action-packed, interactive and hilarious comedy played as a sport. Two teams battle it out for points and your laughs! You choose the winners the teams provide the funny!" Performances take place on the second floor of the Sugar Cubed, 917 S Main St. in St Charles, Mo. For more information: www.cszstlouis.com.

The Theatre Guild of Webster Groves presents Lillian Hellman's drama The Children's Hour Fridays through Sundays through September 16. "Two women run a school for girls. After a malicious youngster starts a rumor about the two women, the rumor soon turns to scandal. As the young girl comes to understand the power she wields, she sticks by her story, which precipitates tragedy for the women. It is later discovered that the gossip was pure invention, but it is too late. Irreparable damage has been done." Performances take place in the Guild theatre at Newport and Summit in Webster Groves, MO. For more information: theatreguildwg.org or call 314-962-0876.

Crowns
Photo by Phillip Hamer
The Black Rep presents the musical Crowns through September 23. "Hats become a springboard for an exploration of black history and identity as seen through the eyes of a young black woman who has come down South to stay with her aunt after her brother is killed in Brooklyn. Hats are everywhere, in exquisite variety, and the characters use the hats to tell tales about everything from the etiquette of hats to their historical and contemporary social functions." Performances take place at the Edison Theatre on the Washington University campus. For more information: theblackrep.org.

The Lemp Mansion Comedy-Mystery Dinner Theater presents Dead Like Me through November 3. The Lemp Mansion is at 3322 DeMenil Place. For more information: lempmansion.com.

Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville presents a performance by the Deeply Rooted Dance Theatre on Thursday, September 13, at 7:30 pm as part of Xfest: 4 Days of Experimental Theater. "Drawing from the companies repertoire, Deeply Rooted Dance Theater presents an evening of short pieces including "Desire", "When Men", "Lambs," and the companies signature pieces, "Church of Nations" & "Heaven". "Deeply Rooted is the city's answer to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, yet with a profile very much its own… spiritual fervor, physical prowess, and sheer, unalloyed joy in movement." (Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun Times)" The performance takes place in the Metcalf Theater on the campus in Edwardsvile, IL. For more information, call 618-650-2774 or visit siuexfest.com.

Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville presents Eddie Poe at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 13, as part of Xfest: 4 Days of Experimental Theater. "Eddie Poe is a two-_person dark, musical, comedy created and performed by Katie Hartman and Nick Ryan, in collaboration with Mark Benzel. It is a stand-alone sequel to their award-winning, Off-Broadway show Edgar Allan. It follows a sixteen year old Edgar Allan Poe during his first year at the University of Virginia, as he attempts to distinguish himself among the scholarly elite… but he soon finds his old compulsions difficult to control on a campus filled with temptation. Eddie Poe is a dark, comedic riff on the mania, the addictions, and the society that haunted the life and work of America's first professional writer." The performance takes place in the Metcalf Theater on the campus in Edwardsvile, IL. For more information, call 618-650-2774 or visit siuexfest.com.

Evita
Photo by Eric Woolsey
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's musical Evita through September 30. "The incandescent Eva Perón's rise from poverty to power electrified the world - and made her an iconic political celebrity. Winner of seven Tony Awards, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's tour-de-force musical revels in the glamour, charisma and controversy that defined the First Lady of Argentina. With its unforgettable anthem "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" and kaleidoscope of sights and sounds, Evita dazzles with pure passion." Performances take place on the mainstage at the Loretto-Hlton Center, 130 Edgar Road in Webster Groves, MO. For more information, call 314-968-4925 or visit repstl.org.

The UMSL International Studies Program presents Mischief And Mayhem: Japanese Kyogen Farce, on Saturday, September 15, at 8 pm. "Kyogen, "mad words" or "wild speech", a form of traditional Japanese comic theater, is presented by Prof. Laurence Kominz of Portland State University, and his student performers." The performance takes place at the Touhill Center on the UMSL Campus. For more information: touhill.org.

Stages St. Louis presents the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma! through October 7. "Oh, what a beautiful musical! Rodgers and Hammerstein's timeless first collaboration was, in many ways, their most innovative. And while OKLAHOMA! completely changed the face of American musical theatre over seventy years ago, it remains as fresh and vital today as it was then with its loving celebration of the American spirit. A stunning blend of drama, music, and dance, the exhilarating Rodgers and Hammerstein score contains such classics as "People Will Say We're In Love," "The Surrey With The Fringe On Top," "Kansas City," "I Cain't Say No," and the pulsating title tune, "Oklahoma!" A gold standard that set the bar for all great musicals that came after it, OKLAHOMA! is unforgettable entertainment for the entire family!" Performances take place in the Robert G. Reim Theatre at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road in Kirkwood. For more information: stagesstlouis.org.

Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, in conjunction with the SIUE Student Experimental Theatre Organization, presents One and Done, a 24-hour play festival. on Friday, September 15, at 7:30 pm as part of Xfest: 4 Days of Experimental Theater. The performance takes place in the Metcalf Theater on the campus in Edwardsvile, IL. For more information, call 618-650-2774 or visit siuexfest.com.

Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville presents Type/Caste at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, September 12, as part of Xfest: 4 Days of Experimental Theater. "In Lagos, Nigeria, a young boy tries on his mother's wedding dress and discovers a liberating world of make-believe. His dreams of a dazzling theatrical career bring him to America, where he discovers that he'll first have to leap over obstacles placed by an industry that isn't always welcoming to applicants who are neither white nor straight. In his hilarious new solo show, San Francisco Mime Troupe and Beach Blanket Babylon veteran Rotimi Agbabiaka shape-shifts from character to character and uses monologue, song, dance, and drag to embody, explore, and expose the battles minority artists fight in the exclusive world of mainstream American theatre." The performance takes place in the Metcalf Theater on the campus in Edwardsvile, IL. For more information, call 618-650-2774 or visit siuexfest.com.

Christ Memorial Productions presents the musical The Wizard of Oz, based on the classic movie, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 PM and Sundays at 2:30 PM, September 14 - 23. The adaptation was originally created by John Kane for the Royal Shakespeare Company. Performances take place at Christ Memorial Lutheran Church, 5252 South Lindbergh. For more information, visit CMPShows.org or call 314-631-0304.

Looking for auditions and other artistic opportunities? Check out the St. Louis Auditions site.
For information on events beyond this week, check out the searchable database at the Regional Arts Commission's Events Calendar.
Would you like to be on the radio? KDHX, 88.1 FM needs theatre reviewers. If you're 18 years or older, knowledgeable in this area, have practical theatre experience (acting, directing, writing, technical design, etc.), have good oral and written communications skills and would like to become one of our volunteer reviewers, send an email describing your experience and interests to chuck at kdhx.org. Please include a sample review of something you've seen recently.

St. Louis classical calendar for the week of September 10, 2018

This week, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra has the calendar all to itself, with two popular concerts.

Gemma New
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Gemma New conducts The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in a free outdoor concert in Forest Park on Wednesday, September 12, starting at 7 p.m. "Pack a picnic, grab a blanket and enjoy our FREE concert in Forest Park. The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra performs classical favorites at the base of Art Hill, closing with an impressive firework display. Invite your family and friends to join us for one of St. Louis' favorite musical events of the year!" For more information: stlsymphony.org.

The St. Louis Sympony Orchestra presents a showing of the film Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, with the score played live by the orchestra and chorus, Friday and Saturday at 7 pm and Sunday at 2 pm, September 14 - 16. For more information: stlsymphony.org.

Monday, September 03, 2018

St. Louis classical calendar for the week of September 3, 2018

The fall concert season kicks off with the Arianna String Quartet and the Metropolitan Orchestra.

The Arianna String Quartet
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The Touhill Performing Arts Center presents The Arianna String QuartetVisionaries on Friday, September 7, at 8 p.m. "The Arianna Quartet celebrates the start of their 19th season in St. Louis in style, with an opening concert featuring three of the masterpieces of the classical, romantic, and 20th century repertoire! Beethoven’s irrepressible Quartet in B-flat, Op.18, No.6, kicks off the concert season with an effervescent energy and revolutionary new style that glimpses the winds of change that Beethoven plans to bring to the classical era. The revolution continues with Bela Bartok’s momentous String Quartet No.3. Internationally acclaimed piano virtuoso Alexandre Dossin joins the Arianna Quartet for Robert Schumann’s heroic Piano Quintet, Op,44, one of the essential gems of the chamber music repertoire." The Touhill Center is on the campus of the University of Missouri at St. Louis. For more information: touhill.org.

The Metropolitan Orchestra performs on Sunday, September 9, at 7 p.m. The program includes Arvo Pärt’s Fratres, Johannes Brahms’ Serenade No. 2, and Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 7. The concert takes place at First Presbyterian Church in Kirkwood. For more information: metro-orch.org.

Saturday, September 01, 2018

St. Louis theatre calendar for the week of September 3, 2018

The fall theatre season officially begins with musicals at the Black Rep, Stages and the Rep, as well as a classic drama at The Theatre Guild of Webster Groves.

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The Bissell Mansion Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre presents Addams Family Affair through October 28. The Bissell Mansion is at 4426 Randall Place. For more information: bissellmansiontheatre.com.

CSZ St. Louis presents The ComedySportz Show on Saturday nights at 7:30 pm. The show is "action-packed, interactive and hilarious comedy played as a sport. Two teams battle it out for points and your laughs! You choose the winners the teams provide the funny!" Performances take place on the second floor of the Sugar Cubed, 917 S Main St. in St Charles, Mo. For more information: www.cszstlouis.com.

The Theatre Guild of Webster Groves presents Lillian Hellman's drama The Children's Hour Fridays through Sundays, September 7 - 16. "Two women run a school for girls. After a malicious youngster starts a rumor about the two women, the rumor soon turns to scandal. As the young girl comes to understand the power she wields, she sticks by her story, which precipitates tragedy for the women. It is later discovered that the gossip was pure invention, but it is too late. Irreparable damage has been done." Performances take place in the Guild theatre at Newport and Summit in Webster Groves, MO. For more information: theatreguildwg.org or call 314-962-0876.

The Black Rep presents Crowns opening on Wednesday, September 5, at 7 pm and running through September 23. "Hats become a springboard for an exploration of black history and identity as seen through the eyes of a young black woman who has come down South to stay with her aunt after her brother is killed in Brooklyn. Hats are everywhere, in exquisite variety, and the characters use the hats to tell tales about everything from the etiquette of hats to their historical and contemporary social functions." Performances take place at the Edison Theatre on the Washington University campus. For more information: theblackrep.org.

The Lemp Mansion Comedy-Mystery Dinner Theater presents Dead Like Me through November 3. The Lemp Mansion is at 3322 DeMenil Place. For more information: lempmansion.com.

Evita
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's musical Evita September 5 - 30. "The incandescent Eva Perón's rise from poverty to power electrified the world - and made her an iconic political celebrity. Winner of seven Tony Awards, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's tour-de-force musical revels in the glamour, charisma and controversy that defined the First Lady of Argentina. With its unforgettable anthem “Don't Cry for Me Argentina” and kaleidoscope of sights and sounds, Evita dazzles with pure passion." Performances take place on the mainstage at the Loretto-Hlton Center, 130 Edgar Road in Webster Groves, MO. For more information, call 314-968-4925 or visit repstl.org.

Next Generation Theatre Company presents the musical Newsies Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 and Sundays at 2 pm, through September 9. "The Next Generation Theatre Company production of Disney's Newsies tells the rousing tale of Jack Kelly, a charismatic newsboy and leader of a band of teenaged 'newsies.' When titans of publishing raise distribution prices at the newsboys' expense, Jack rallies newsies from across the city to strike against the unfair conditions and fight for what's right!" Performances take place at the Florissant Civic Center Theatre at Parker and Waterford in Florissant, MO. For more information, call 314-921-5678 or visit www.nextgenerationtheatre.company.

Stages St. Louis presents the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma! September 7 - October 7. "Oh, what a beautiful musical! Rodgers and Hammerstein's timeless first collaboration was, in many ways, their most innovative. And while OKLAHOMA! completely changed the face of American musical theatre over seventy years ago, it remains as fresh and vital today as it was then with its loving celebration of the American spirit. A stunning blend of drama, music, and dance, the exhilarating Rodgers and Hammerstein score contains such classics as “People Will Say We're In Love,” “The Surrey With The Fringe On Top,” “Kansas City,” “I Cain't Say No,” and the pulsating title tune, “Oklahoma!” A gold standard that set the bar for all great musicals that came after it, OKLAHOMA! is unforgettable entertainment for the entire family!" Performances take place in the Robert G. Reim Theatre at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road in Kirkwood. For more information: stagesstlouis.org.

The STL Opera Collective presents Three Decembers Friday and Saturday, September 7 and 8, at 7:30 p.m. "Jake Heggie's deeply moving opera explores the emotional shrapnel, secrets and hard truths that take place over three decades in the life of a Broadway diva, who has long ignored her (now adult) children as she pursues her career. Her daughter is struggling with a failing marriage, and her son is facing the death of his partner. The beautiful score highlights the tangled emotions of this family as they come to grips with the secrets which have shaped their relationships." Performances take place at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 N. Grand in Grand Center. For more information: stloperacollective.org.

Looking for auditions and other artistic opportunities? Check out the St. Louis Auditions site.
For information on events beyond this week, check out the searchable database at the Regional Arts Commission's Events Calendar.
Would you like to be on the radio? KDHX, 88.1 FM needs theatre reviewers. If you're 18 years or older, knowledgeable in this area, have practical theatre experience (acting, directing, writing, technical design, etc.), have good oral and written communications skills and would like to become one of our volunteer reviewers, send an email describing your experience and interests to chuck at kdhx.org. Please include a sample review of something you've seen recently.