Friday, February 12, 2016

The chorus is the star in "Nabucco" at Lyric Opera Chicago

Act I opening chorus
Photo: Cory Weaver
Verdi's 1842 Biblical melodrama "Nabucco" ("Nebuchadnezzar") was the composer's first big hit. As Evan Baker observes in his program notes for Lyric Opera of Chicago's revival of their 1997 production (which runs through February 12), the opera "scored a rousing success at Milan's Teatro alla Scala and sealed Verdi's reputation." Anyone seeing "Nabucco" for the first time in this dramatically inert production, though, might be forgiven for wondering what all the fuss was about.

Things get off to a promising start, with a rousing rendition of the dramatic and tune-filled overture by the orchestra under maestro Carlo Rizzi, followed by an electrifying performance of the opening chorus ("Gli arredi festivi") in which the Hebrews pray to Jehovah to spare their temple from Nabucco's invading Babylonian army. The power and precision of Chorus Master Michael Black's singers suggests exciting things to come, but the fact that they're stuffed uncomfortably into a shallow playing area in front of the massive columns of Michael Yeargan's set proves to be more predictive.

Act II, sc. 1
Photo: Cory Weaver
Lumbered with a set which appears identical to the 1997 original and was therefore probably a scenic fait accompli, director Michael Ozawa, making his Lyric debut, seems unable to give his cast much to do except stand in one place, face downstage and sing. They do that quite well, and some of them even manage to create vivid characters in the process, but overall the static nature of this production tends to drain most of the drama away.

Which is a shame, because on paper "Nabucco" is pretty red-blooded stuff. Loosely based on Old Testament texts, it's the story of Nebuchadnezzar's conquest and exiling of the Jews and his subsequent conversion to Judaism following a curse from Jehovah for his sacrilegious arrogance. Librettist Temistocle Solera takes considerable liberties with both the OT and history, though, by adding a romantic triangle involving Fenena (Nabucco's youngest daughter), Abigaille (his eldest daughter), and Ismaele (a Jewish soldier), as well as a backstabbing power struggle between Abigaille and Nabucco. The story delivers passion, violence, and rapid plot reversals in quantity, all accompanied by powerful music that illuminates character even as it dazzles.

Tatiana Serjan
Photo: Andrew Cioffi
From a purely musical point of view, in fact, nearly everything about this "Nabucco" is impressive, starting with the work by the chorus. Verdi assigns the chorus an important narrative role that has them on stage for much of the opera's length, switching between black-clad Jews and red-coated Babylonians. They get some of the opera's most memorable music, including the famous "Va pensiero" of Act III in which the exiled Jews long for their native land, and they do it up proud in this production, providing some of the most memorable moments of the evening. The chorus part of "Nabucco" is physically taxing, with frequent costume changes and music that sometimes pushes singers to the limits of their tessiture. The Lyric choristers deserve a musical Bronze Star for their splendid work here.

Things are a bit more uneven among the principal singers. Clearly the best performance of the evening is turned in by Russian soprano Tatiana Serjan as a fiery and compelling Abigaille. She handles the role's high drama and bel canto passages with equal assurance and radiates a dramatic energy that grips and holds one's attention. The night we attended, her entrance at the final curtain call was greeted with a standing ovation and well-earned shouts of "brava!"

Dmitry Belosselskiy and chorus
Photo: Cory Weaver
Ms. Serjan's fellow countryman, bass Dmitry Belosselskiy, is just as impressive as the prophet Zaccaria. His potent performance, with the chorus, of the aria "Del futuro nel buio discerno," in which he rouses the disheartened Hebrews with a vision of Babylon's downfall, was a highlight of Act III, and typical of his work throughout.

There's also solid (if less striking) work from Russian tenor Sergei Skorokhodov as Ismaele and American soprano Elizabeth DeShong as Fenena. Their characters are less well defined, although their singing is beyond reproach. Serbian baritone 
--> Željko Lučić's Nabucco, on the other hand, had a monochromatic, "phoned in" feel the night we saw it, and his voice lacked the presence of his fellow cast members.
Elizabeth DeShong and
Sergei Skorokhodov
Photo: Cory Weaver
Mr. Yeargan's sets, as noted previously, look rather actor unfriendly, but they certainly make for great eye candy, as you can no doubt tell from the accompanying pictures. The use of Hebraic script vs. Babylonian cuneiform as decorative elements to establish locations is a nice touch—and a necessary one, given the neutral and impersonal nature of the huge, rectangular arches that dominate the set. Jane Greenwood's costumes make smart use of color to immediately tell us whether we're looking at Jews (black and white) or Babylonians (red with black accents), but I found the floppy caps and Star Trek-ish uniforms of the Babylonian soldiers a bit too cartoonish. De gustibus and all that.

Still great music making rules the stage in this "Nabucco". In his program notes, Mr. Rizzi observes that "a conductor's greatest challenge in 'Nabucco' is creating a unity, rather than a stop-and-start idea of the opera; certain episodes don't flow easily into one another." You wouldn't know that from his interpretation, though, which delivers a dramatic through-line that the staging lacks. He and his musicians do exemplary work here and deserve heaps of praise.

"Nabucco" runs through Friday, February 12, at the Civic Opera House in Chicago. For more information: lyricopera.orghttp://lyricopera.org.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

St. Louis theater calendar for the week of February 8. 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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Act Two Theatre presents the musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee February 12-21. "An eclectic group of six mid-pubescents vie for the spelling championship of a lifetime. While candidly disclosing hilarious and touching stories from their home life, the tweens spell their way through a series of [potentially made-up] words hoping to never hear the soul-crushing, pout-inducing, life un-affirming “ding” of the bell that signals a spelling mistake. Six spellers enter; one speller leaves! At least the losers get a juice box" Performances take place in the St. Peters Cultural Arts Centre at 1 St Peters Centre Blvd, St. Peters, MO 63376. For more information: act2theater.com.

The Bissell Mansion Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre presents And Away You Go through March 27. The Bissell Mansion is at 4426 Randall Place. For more information: bissellmansiontheatre.com.

Metro Theatre Company and the Missouri History Museum present And in This Corner...Cassius Clay by Idris Goodwin February 12-28. "This is the story of young Muhammad Ali as he struggles with racism and segregation in Jim Crow Louisville, Kentucky, how a chance encounter with police officer Joe Morgan (later to become his first coach) sets him on the path toward becoming a legendary boxer and how finally he learns that it is not enough to achieve personal success, one must also work for the good of others." Performances take place in the Lee Auditorium at the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park. For more information: mohistory.org.

Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble presents Shakespeare's As You Like It Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. through February 13. " SATE adapts Shakespeare's beloved pastoral comedy As You Like It to Depression-era Ozark forests, complete with original, Old-Time tunes played live by the cast and Jason Scroggins, of the local band, The Foggy Memory Boys. Old-Time music features playing styles that pre-date bluegrass, emerging from the string band tradition stretching back to the early years of United States history. SATE's adaptation takes place in 1929 when the Union Electric Company began to buy-out farm property to create what is now the Lake of the Ozarks. Duke Senior, one of the usurped land owners now lives in the forest with her farm hands. Duke's daughter, Rosalind, has determined to find and live with her mother in the forest along with her cousin, Celia and friend, Touchstone. Along the way and disguised as a boy, leading to her mistaken identity as Ganymede, she meets and falls in love with Orlando, another usurped land-owner. Learning the Ozark ways of life from the locals, Rosalind, Orlando, Celia, and Duke find love, music, and a home among the trees of an Ozark forest." Performances take place at The Chapel Venue, 6238 Alexander Drive. For more information: slightlyoff.org. Read the 88.1 KDHX review!

The Lemp Mansion Comedy-Mystery Dinner Theater presents Clueless through April 16. The Lemp Mansion is at 3322 DeMenil Place. For more information: lempmansion.com

The Cast of Disgraced
Photo: Lon Brauer
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar February 10 - March 6. “Successful corporate lawyer Amir Kapoor comes from a Pakistani family, but he long ago distanced himself from his roots to embrace life as a slick New Yorker. On course to become a partner at his law firm, Amir's carefully constructed world begins to unravel when unexpected events cause him to question his own beliefs. Raw, turbulent and unsettling, this smart drama reveals hidden attitudes toward modern culture and faith. Winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.” 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.

YoungLiars present The Dispute: A Spectacle for Lovers and Fighters, opening on Friday, February 12, and running through February 26. "It's 1744 (sort of) and an exasperated playwright with a wicked case of writer's block accidentally launches the world's first reality entertainment. Four self-absorbed teenagers, raised in total isolation, are turned loose on each other to figure out who committed the first infidelity - men or women. Baroque Farce, Euro-Dance, and The Dandy Warhols collide in this new adaptation of Marivaux's classic comedy where Courtship Etiquette turns into Mortal Combat and the only true love is the one in the mirror.__The creative team that brought you Whammy! The Seven Secrets to a Sane Self and other HotCity favorites make their debut as YoungLiars. __Performances take place in the fourth floor ballroom at the Centene Center for Arts and Education, 3547 Olive Street in Grand Center. For more information: youngliarsdispute.brownpapertickets.com.

Educating Rita
Photo: John Lamb
The West End Players Guild continues their 105th season with Willy Russell's comedy Educating Rita Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM, February 12-21. "Frank is a tutor of English in his fifties whose disillusioned outlook on life drives him to drink and to bury himself in his books. Enter Rita, a forthright 26-year-old hairdresser who is eager to learn. After weeks of cajoling, Rita slowly wins over the very hesitant Frank with her innate insight and refusal to accept no for an answer. Their relationship as teacher and student blossoms, ultimately giving Frank a new sense of self and Rita the knowledge she so craves." There will also be a show on Thursday, February 18, at 8 PM. Performances take place at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 North Union at Enright in the Central West End. For more information, call 314-367-0025 or visit www.westendplayers.org.

Mustard Seed Theatre presents the comedy Eleemosynary Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through February 21. "Both funny and poignant, this play examines the subtle and often perilous relationship between three remarkable women: a young girl, her mother, and her grandmother. Artie abandons her daughter Echo to be raised by Echo's grandmother, Dorothea. But when Dorothea's health begins to fail, can Artie and Echo move beyond the superficiality of words and begin to build a deeper relationship?" 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. Read the 88.1 KDHX review!

The Monroe Actors Stage Company presents Foxfire Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. through February 14, in the Historic Capitol Theatre in downtown Waterloo, Illinois. For more information, visit www.masctheatre.org or call 618-939-7469.

St. Louis Actors' Studio presents Gidion's Knot February 12-28 at the Gaslight Theatre, 358 North Boyle. "Over the course of a parent/teacher conference, a grieving mother and an emotionally overwhelmed primary school teacher have a fraught conversation about the tragic suicide of the mother's son, Gidion. Gidion may have been bullied severely-or he may have been an abuser. As his story is slowly uncovered, the women try to reconstruct a satisfying explanation for Gidion's act and come to terms with excruciating feelings of culpability." For more information, call 314-458-2978 or visit stlas.org.

The Improv Shop presents Heartbreak running through March 19. "Heartbreak is an improvised serial show where we explore, in depth, the stages of doomed relationships. Watch characters go from strangers to friends, friends to lovers, and from lovers to heartbreakers. Heartbreak. It doesn't happen all at once." The Improv Shop is at 510 North Euclid in the Central West End. For more information on this and other Improv Shop shows: theimprovshop.com.

I'll Be Back Before Midnight
Photo: John Lamb
Stray Dog Theatre presents the thriller I'll Be Back Before Midnight Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 PM through February 20. "Having suffered a nervous breakdown, Jan retreats with her husband to an old, country farmhouse where the owner delights in telling gruesome ghost stories. Before long, eerie sounds and visions are tormenting Jan. Is she suffering another breakdown or is someone trying to drive her mad?" Performances take place at The Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee. For more information, visit straydogtheatre.org or call 314-865-1995. Read the 88.1 KDHX review!

Brass Rail Players present Meshuggah Nuns Live February 13-21. The performances take place at The Turkey Hill Grange, 1375 Illinois Rte. 15 in Belleville, IL. For more information, visit brassrailplayers.org.

St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley presents Shakespeare's comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream February 12-20. Performances take place in the Fisher Theatre on the campus at 3400 Pershall Road. For more information, call 314-644-5522.

The Emerald Room at the Monocle and The Presenters Dolan present the a cappella vocal group One Too Many on Thursday, February 11, at 7:30 p.m. "Tight harmonies, sharp, funny, homegrown. If you like Straight No Chaser, you'll be very happy. These guys are on the move." The performance takes place in the Emerald Room at The Monocle, 4510 Manchester in the Grove neighborhood. For more information: buzzonstage.com/st-louis.

The Monocle presents an open mic night every Mondays from 9:00pm to midnight. "Musical Theater actor? Cabaret singer? Balladeer? Beleter? Coloratura soprano? Crooner? Student? Teacher? Performer? Fan? Come on down and sing. All are welcome. Ron Bryant is your accompanist. Bring your sheet music"." The monocle is at 4510 Manchester in The Grove neighborhood. For more information: themonoclestl.com.

St. Louis Community College at Meramec presents Ionesco's absurdist comedy Rhinoceros Wednesday through Sunday, February 10-14. Performances take place in the theatre on the campus at 11333 Big Bend Road. For more information, call 314-984-7500.

Riverdance
Photo: Jack Hartin
The Fox Theatre presents Riverdance - The 20th Anniversary World Tour Friday through Sunday, February 12-14. Riverdance - The 20th Anniversary World Tour is an innovative and exciting blend of dance, music and song. Drawing on Irish traditions, the combined talents of the performers propel Irish dancing and music into the present day, capturing the imagination of audiences across all ages and cultures. Riverdance - The 20th Anniversary World Tour has set design by Robert Ballagh, lighting design by John Comiskey, costume design by Joan Bergin and sound design by Michael O'Gorman. The Fox is on North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: fabulousfox.com.

The St. Louis Family Theatre Series presents the TheatreworksUSA production of Seussical the Musical Friday at 7:30 pm and Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm, February 12-14. " The Cat in the Hat is the host and emcee (and all-around mischief-maker) in this romp through the Seuss classics. When the good-natured elephant Horton hears a small cry for help coming from a speck of dust, he promises to rescue and guard it because "a person's a person, no matter how small." Dr. Seuss's beloved characters find themselves intertwined in an incredible crazy-quilt adventure, in which the power of imagination and a miraculous "think" save the day!" Performances take place at the Florissant Civic Center Theatre at Parker and Waterford in Florissant, MO. For more information, call 314-921-5678 or visit www.florissantmo.com.

Upstream Theater presents Shining City by Connor McPherson, with live music by Farshid Soltanshahi, through February 14. "In 2003 in a modest Dublin office, a young ex-priest-turned-therapist is consulted by a well-off businessman with a terrible secret. How these characters change, and how they change each other, is the story-a story that will grip you and move you and make you laugh and send shivers down your spine." Performances take place at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information, including show times: upstreamtheater.org. Read the 88.1 KDHX review!

Topper Productions presents Craig Pomranz in Spend the Night With Craig, a special Valentine's Day cabaret show on Sunday, February 14, at 7 p.m. "Romance is in the air when one of the dreamiest voices in music', international cabaret star, Craig Pomranz, comes back home for Valentine's Day." Michel Roberts is pianist and music director for the show, which takes place at the Boom-Boom Room, 500 North 14th Street downtown. For more information: craigpomranz.brownpapertickets.com.

Underneath the Lintel
Photo: Eric Woolsey
New Jewish Theater presents the one-character play Underneath the Lintel by Glenn Berger through February 13. "A haunting, beautifully constructed one-person meditation on time and devotion. A returned library book, 113 years overdue with a clue scribbled in the margin and an unclaimed dry-cleaning ticket take the Dutch librarian on a life-changing quest with an obsession to find its owner. Our protagonist follows multiple clues- tickets to the Peking Opera, a love letter written in Yiddish - on a world-wide search that ultimately decodes the meaning of life. A metaphysical detective story that is funny and fierce, quirky and smart." Performances take place in the Marvin and Harlene Wool Studio Theater at the Jewish Community Center, 2 Millstone Campus Drive in Creve Coeur. For more information: www.newjewishtheatre.org or call 314-442-3283. Read the 88.1 KDHX review!

Cocktails and Curtain Calls presents The Weir, the award-winning play by Irish playwright Conor McPherson, Monday through Thursday at 8:00pm, through February 18. It will be the first local production to utilize the new Members' Project Code, under the auspices of the Actors' Equity Association. All profits from ticket sales go directly to the artists. Performances will take place at McGurk's Irish Pub and Dressel's in the Central West End. For details on performance times and locatsions, visit CocktailsandCurtainCalls.com. Read the 88.1 KDHX review!

Would you like to be on the radio? KDHX, 88.1 FM needs theatre reviewers. If you're 18 years or older, knowledgeable in this area, have practical theatre experience (acting, directing, writing, technical design, etc.), have good oral and written communications skills and would like to become one of our volunteer reviewers, send an email describing your experience and interests to chuck at kdhx.org. Please include a sample review of something you've seen recently.

St. Louis classical calendar for the week of February 8, 2016

Xufei Yang
Photo: EMI Classics / Paul Mitchell
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The Ethical Society presents a Great Artist Guitar Series concert with Xuefei Yang on Saturday, February 13, at 8 p.m. "Born in Beijing and now based in the UK, she was the first-ever guitarist in China to enter a music school (Beijing's Central Conservatory of Music), and the first Chinese guitarist to launch an international professional career. A master of many styles from baroque to contemporary, Ms. Yang is committed to expanding the guitar repertoire, including the music of China." The performance takes at the Ethical Society of St. Louis, 9001 Clayton Road. For more information: ethicalstl.org.

The St. Louis Chamber Chorus presents Concert Four: Languish With Love on Sunday, February 14, at 3 p.m. "Music in honor of love is the natural complement for this day. We present Romances by Robert Schumann, Rakastava by Jean Sibelius, and a hymn to Juno, goddess of marriage, by Orlandus Lassus. Our modern masterwork is the passionate Amore Langueo of Francis Pott, which is paired with a commission from Clare Maclean." The concert takes place at Trinity Lutheran Church, 812 Soulard St. in Soulard. For more information: www.chamberchorus.org.

Anibal Diaz Dance With Carmen Morelos
Telemundo studios, Miami
The St. Louis Cultural Flamenco Society presents the Anibal Diaz Dance Company performing a world premier of Argentina-Andalucia, Two Tangos on Saturday, February 13, at 8 p.m. Passion, sensuality, virtuosity and rivalry are elements connecting two cultures in the same staging. Two Tangos, the Argentine Tango and the Flamenco Tango - come to the stage, with the most powerful expression of a New Vision through Dance, where passion and challenge dominate this presentation. Choreography by Anibal Diaz General Directo, Artistic Director Marisel Salascruz. The performance takes place at the Sheldon Concert Hall in Grand Center. For more information: stlouisflamenco.org.

The St. Louis Symphony presents Lift Every Voice: A Black History Month Celebration on Friday, February 12, at 7:30 p.m. Join conductor Kevin McBeth, special guest artist Larnelle Harris, and the STL Symphony IN UNISON Chorus to commemorate the legacy of African-American art, music, culture and community. The concert takes place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: stlsymphony.org.

The St. Louis Symphony presents A Night of Symphonic Rock on Saturday, February 13, at 7:30 p.m. "Bringing the sounds of the Strip to Powell Hall, this concert features the swingin' tunes of the Rat Pack and songs from Vegas icons including Tom Jones, Neil Diamond, Elvis Presley and more. A cast of crooners join the orchestra for this afternoon of romantic favorites including "Luck Be a Lady," "Young at Heart," "The Way You Look Tonight" and more!" The concert takes place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: stlsymphony.org.

The St. Louis Symphony presents A Las Vegas Valentine's Songbook on Sunday, February 14, at 3 p.m. Kansas' John Elefante joins the STL Symphony for an evening devoted to your favorite classic rock bands this Valentine's Day weekend. With songs from Aerosmith, Foreigner, Journey, Led Zepplin and more, relive generations of classic rock that changed music forever. The concert takes place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: stlsymphony.org.

Alarm Will Sound
The Sheldon Concert Hall presents the contemporary chamber ensemble Alarm Will Sound on Friday, February 12, at 8 PM. "The ensemble performs the newest music being composed today with energetic virtuosity and a sense of adventure, creating programs that not only span a wide range of styles, but also transform the traditional concert experience itself." The Sheldon is at 3648 Washington in Grand Center. For more information: thesheldon.org.

The Tavern of Fine Arts presents a classical open stage night on Monday, February 8, from 7:30 - 9 PM. "Come by yourself or bring your quartet. Sight read through a Beethoven quartet or use this as an opportunity to put the finishing touches on that Hindemith Viola Sonata you have been working on. All ages and skill levels are welcome. We have a 6' grand piano and an accompanist." The Tavern of Fine Arts is at 313 Belt in the Debaliviere Place neighborhood. For more information: tavern-of-fine-arts.blogspot.com.

The Tavern of Fine Arts presents Cupid's Celebration: A Senses in Harmony Production on Saturday, February 13, at 8 p.m. "Cupid and his friends would be delighted to entertain you for this cheery holiday! Our collective goal will be to transport us all back to the sweet days of annual Valentine's parties in grade school. Music, art, laughter, and many fun surprises are in store! " The Tavern of Fine Arts is at 313 Belt in the Debaliviere Place neighborhood. For more information: tavern-of-fine-arts.blogspot.com.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of February 5, 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:

Shining City
ProPhotoSTL
Upstream Theater presents Shining City by Connor McPherson, with live music by Farshid Soltanshahi, through February 14. "In 2003 in a modest Dublin office, a young ex-priest-turned-therapist is consulted by a well-off businessman with a terrible secret. How these characters change, and how they change each other, is the story-a story that will grip you and move you and make you laugh and send shivers down your spine." Performances take place at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information, including show times: upstreamtheater.org.

My take: Lovers of Irish theatre get not one but two shows by noted Irish playwright Conor McPherson. An site-specific production of The Weir is running at two local pubs through February 11 (see below) and now Upstream has opened Shining City. In his review for KDHX, Steve Callahan calls this "a splendid evening of moving theatre."

Held Over:

The Looking Glass Playhouse presents the musical comedy Avenue Q Wednesdays through Sundays through February 7. "The laugh-out-loud musical tells the timeless story of a recent college grad named Princeton who moves into a shabby New York apartment all the way out on Avenue Q. He soon discovers that although the residents seem nice, it's clear that this is not your ordinary neighborhood. Together, Princeton and his new-found friends struggle to find jobs, dates, and their ever-elusive purpose in life." The show is recommended for mature audiences. Performances take place at 301 West St. Louis Street in Lebanon, Ill. For more information, visit www.lookingglassplayhouse.com.

My take: I have not seen Looking Glass's production, but I can tell you that the show itself is very funny and very true to life, even though all the characters are puppets manipulated by actors who are visible at all times, in the manner of Japanese bunraku (or Disney's Lion King, for a more Western reference).

Georama
Photo: Peter Wochniak
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents the world premiere of the musical Georama through February 7. "In the mid 1800s, John Banvard created the first georama, a three-mile long scrolled painting celebrating the majesty of the Mighty Mississippi. Once a starving sketch artist, his creation catapulted him to a life of luxury and notoriety, but also brought competition and deception that threatened to push his passion to the wayside. Georama illustrates an artist's rise and fall, and the choice between the art he loves and the life he's always longed for." Performances take place in the studio theater at the Loretto-Hlton Center, 130 Edgar Road in Webster Groves, MO. For more information, call 314-968-4925 or visit repstl.org.

My take: As I write in my review, this show could use some tweaking here and there (this is the world premiere, after all) but otherwise it's a very entertaining and educational look at an overlooked aspect of late 19th-century showbiz: the moving panorama. Arguably the precursor of motion pictures (since it was, after all, a picture that moved), the moving panorama was eclipsed by photography and then movies, but for a while it was all the rage. And this is the fascinating tale of the man who invented the genre.

Underneath the Lintel
Photo: Eric Woolsey
New Jewish Theater presents the one-character play Underneath the Lintel by Glenn Berger through February 13. "A haunting, beautifully constructed one-person meditation on time and devotion. A returned library book, 113 years overdue with a clue scribbled in the margin and an unclaimed dry-cleaning ticket take the Dutch librarian on a life-changing quest with an obsession to find its owner. Our protagonist follows multiple clues- tickets to the Peking Opera, a love letter written in Yiddish - on a world-wide search that ultimately decodes the meaning of life. A metaphysical detective story that is funny and fierce, quirky and smart." Performances take place in the Marvin and Harlene Wool Studio Theater at the Jewish Community Center, 2 Millstone Campus Drive in Creve Coeur. For more information: www.newjewishtheatre.org or call 314-442-3283.

My take: As I noted in my review of the St. Lou Fringe presentation of this play in 2014 (which featured a bravura performance by Pat O'Brien), this is a terrific script. It's a fantasy, a mystery, and a wonderfully human story about the pursuit of someone who is no longer human at all. New Jewish is doing a revised version of the script in which the character is female rather than male, and Glynis Bell turns in a performance which, while very different from Mr. O'Brien's, is no less accomplished. As I write in my review for OnSTL, this .compelling and literate script offers plenty of food for thought, including implications about the nature of God that not everyone will find comfortable, and Ms. Bell's performance is a genuine gem. Don't miss it.

The cast of The Weir
Cocktails and Curtain Calls presents The Weir, the award-winning play by Irish playwright Conor McPherson, Monday through Thursday at 8:00pm through February 18. It will be the first local production to utilize the new Members' Project Code, under the auspices of the Actors' Equity Association. All profits from ticket sales go directly to the artists. Performances will take place at McGurk's Irish Pub and Dressel's in the Central West End. For details on performance times and locatsions, visit CocktailsandCurtainCalls.com.

My take: We saw McPherson's play many years ago in London, and found it a rattling good ghost story: well written with plausible characters. In his review for KDHX, Steve Callahan says that "Cocktails and Curtain Calls company gives us what, to me, must be the definitive production of this beautiful play." At Ladue News, Mark Bretz writes that the company "makes an impressive debut with a grand regaling of Irish playwright Conor McPherson's chilling drama...Setting the production in an actual tavern enhances the atmosphere immensely and, combined with director Kari Ely's careful direction of a top-rate cast, makes The Weir a fanciful tale and a tonic for a deep winter's night."

Sunday, January 31, 2016

St. Louis theatre calendar for the week of February 1, 2016

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

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

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The Bissell Mansion Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre presents And Away You Go through March 27. The Bissell Mansion is at 4426 Randall Place. For more information: bissellmansiontheatre.com.

The Looking Glass Playhouse presents the musical comedy Avenue Q Wednesdays through Sundays through February 7. "The laugh-out-loud musical tells the timeless story of a recent college grad named Princeton who moves into a shabby New York apartment all the way out on Avenue Q. He soon discovers that although the residents seem nice, it's clear that this is not your ordinary neighborhood. Together, Princeton and his new-found friends struggle to find jobs, dates, and their ever-elusive purpose in life." The show is recommended for mature audiences. Performances take place at 301 West St. Louis Street in Lebanon, Ill. For more information, visit www.lookingglassplayhouse.com.

The Lemp Mansion Comedy-Mystery Dinner Theater presents Clueless through April 16. The Lemp Mansion is at 3322 DeMenil Place. For more information: lempmansion.com

Mustard Seed Theatre presents the comedy Eleemosynary Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., February 5 - 21. “Both funny and poignant, this play examines the subtle and often perilous relationship between three remarkable women: a young girl, her mother, and her grandmother. Artie abandons her daughter Echo to be raised by Echo's grandmother, Dorothea. But when Dorothea's health begins to fail, can Artie and Echo move beyond the superficiality of words and begin to build a deeper relationship?” 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 Monroe Actors Stage Company presents Foxfire Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 and Sundays at 2:30 p.m., February 5-14, in the Historic Capitol Theatre in downtown Waterloo, Illinois. For more information, visit www.masctheatre.org or call 618-939-7469.

Georama
Photo: Peter Wochniak
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents the world premiere of the musical Georama through February 7. "In the mid 1800s, John Banvard created the first georama, a three-mile long scrolled painting celebrating the majesty of the Mighty Mississippi. Once a starving sketch artist, his creation catapulted him to a life of luxury and notoriety, but also brought competition and deception that threatened to push his passion to the wayside. Georama illustrates an artist's rise and fall, and the choice between the art he loves and the life he's always longed for." Performances take place in the studio theater at the Loretto-Hlton Center, 130 Edgar Road in Webster Groves, MO. For more information, call 314-968-4925 or visit repstl.org. Read the 88.1 KDHX review!

Alpha Players present the drama Good People through February 7 at The Florissant Civic Center Theater, Parker Rd. at Waterford Dr. in Florissant, MO. "In South Boston, this month's paycheck covers last month's bills, bingo is a night out on the town, and single-mom Margie Walsh has lost her job again and is a Bingo game away from homelessness. She reaches out to an old flame from her youth - now a successful doctor - Margie risks everything to find her fresh start in this humor - filled drama, from Pulitzer Prize winner David Lindsay-Abaire, about how the twists and turns of life are fated to determine our path." For more information: alphaplayers.org or call 314-921-5678.

The Improv Shop presents Heartbreak running through March 19. "Heartbreak is an improvised serial show where we explore, in depth, the stages of doomed relationships. Watch characters go from strangers to friends, friends to lovers, and from lovers to heartbreakers. Heartbreak. It doesn't happen all at once." The Improv Shop is at 510 North Euclid in the Central West End. For more information on this and other Improv Shop shows: theimprovshop.com.

Stray Dog Theatre presents the Agatha Christie thriller I'll Be Back Before Midnight Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 PM February 4-20. “Having suffered a nervous breakdown, Jan retreats with her husband to an old, country farmhouse where the owner delights in telling gruesome ghost stories. Before long, eerie sounds and visions are tormenting Jan. Is she suffering another breakdown or is someone trying to drive her mad?" Performances take place at The Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee. For more information, visit straydogtheatre.org or call 314-865-1995.

Lunar New Year Festival (LNYF) presents a program in honor of the Lunar New Year Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m., February 5, and 6. "Through a great variety of exciting performances of acting, dancing, and music, people of all backgrounds can enjoy and celebrate the New Year together. LNYF seeks to leave a prolonged impact upon its viewers through our skit and philanthropy. In the skit, we seek to demonstrate important issues that Asian Americans deal with on a daily basis." The performances take place at the Edison Theatre on the Washington University campus. For more information: edison.wustl.edu.

The Monocle presents an open mic night every Mondays from 9:00pm to midnight. "Musical Theater actor? Cabaret singer? Balladeer? Beleter? Coloratura soprano? Crooner? Student? Teacher? Performer? Fan? Come on down and sing. All are welcome. Ron Bryant is your accompanist. Bring your sheet music"." The monocle is at 4510 Manchester in The Grove neighborhood. For more information: themonoclestl.com.

Upstream Theater presents Shining City by Connor McPherson, with live music by Farshid Soltanshahi, through February 14. "In 2003 in a modest Dublin office, a young ex-priest-turned-therapist is consulted by a well-off businessman with a terrible secret. How these characters change, and how they change each other, is the story-a story that will grip you and move you and make you laugh and send shivers down your spine." Performances take place at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information, including show times: upstreamtheater.org.

Underneath the Lintel
Photo: Eric Woolsey
New Jewish Theater presents the one-character play Underneath the Lintel by Glenn Berger through February 13. “A haunting, beautifully constructed one-person meditation on time and devotion. A returned library book, 113 years overdue with a clue scribbled in the margin and an unclaimed dry-cleaning ticket take the Dutch librarian on a life-changing quest with an obsession to find its owner. Our protagonist follows multiple clues- tickets to the Peking Opera, a love letter written in Yiddish - on a world-wide search that ultimately decodes the meaning of life. A metaphysical detective story that is funny and fierce, quirky and smart.” Performances take place in the Marvin and Harlene Wool Studio Theater at the Jewish Community Center, 2 Millstone Campus Drive in Creve Coeur. For more information: www.newjewishtheatre.org or call 314-442-3283.

Cocktails and Curtain Calls presents The Weir, the award-winning play by Irish playwright Conor McPherson, Monday through Thursday at 8:00pm, through February 18. It will be the first local production to utilize the new Members' Project Code, under the auspices of the Actors' Equity Association. All profits from ticket sales go directly to the artists. Performances will take place at McGurk's Irish Pub and Dressel's in the Central West End. For details on performance times and locatsions, visit CocktailsandCurtainCalls.com.

Would you like to be on the radio? KDHX, 88.1 FM needs theatre reviewers. If you're 18 years or older, knowledgeable in this area, have practical theatre experience (acting, directing, writing, technical design, etc.), have good oral and written communications skills and would like to become one of our volunteer reviewers, send an email describing your experience and interests to chuck at kdhx.org. Please include a sample review of something you've seen recently.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

St. Louis classical calendar for the week of February 1, 2016

The New Rosebud Café at the Scott Joplin House State Historic Site presents Jeff Barnhart in an evening of stride, blues and ragtime piano on Sunday, February 7, at 2 p.m.  The Scott Joplin House is at 2658 Delmar in midtown.  For more information: friendsofscottjoplin.org.

Anthony Marwood
The St. Louis Symphony conducted by violinist Anthony Marwood presents an evening of chamber music by Bach, Dvořák, and Peteris Vasks on Friday and Saturday, February 5 and 6, at 8 p.m.  The concerts take place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand in Grand Center.  For more information: stlsymphony.org.

The Tavern of Fine Arts presents pianist Michael Tsalka performaning Bach's Goldberg Variations on Monday, February 1, at 8 p.m.  "Early Keyboard performer and pianist Michael Tsalka (Netherlands/Israel) has won numerous prizes and awards in Europe, the U.S.A., the Middle East and Latin America. A versatile musician, he performs with equal virtuosity a wide span of repertoire from the early Baroque to our days on the modern piano, harpsichord, fortepiano, clavichord, square piano and chamber organ." The Tavern of Fine Arts is at 313 Belt in the Debaliviere Place neighborhood.   For more information: tavern-of-fine-arts.blogspot.com.

The Tavern of Fine Arts presents pianist the Concordia String Trio on Thursday, February 4, at 8 p.m.  "The Concordia String Trio (Marcia Henry Liebenow, violin; Leslie Perna, viola; Karen Becker, cello) explores and expands the eclectic repertoire of an under-appreciated genre – the string trio. Dedicated to discovering and performing lesser-known gems of chamber music, they will present three unique trios on this program by composers Julius Zellner, John Harbison, and Richard von Perger." The Tavern of Fine Arts is at 313 Belt in the Debaliviere Place neighborhood.   For more information: tavern-of-fine-arts.blogspot.com.

The Arianna String Quartet
The Touhill Performing Arts Center presents The Arianna String Quartet in Salud! Saude! on Friday, February 5, at 8 PM.  "In celebration of their seventh trip to Brazil, the Arianna Quartet brings the sounds from three of South America’s very best to St. Louis! The poised elegance of Heitor Villa-Lobos’ String Quartet No.1 is followed by the hypnotic, infectious sounds of Astor Piazzolla’s emblematic Argentinian tango style, and Alberto Ginastera’s sizzling String Quartet No.1 brings the evening to a fiery close."  The Touhill Performing Arts Center in on the University of Missouri at St. Louis campus.  For more information: touhill.org.

The Touhill Performing Arts Center presents Shelley Monier, flute, and Diane Umali, piano, on Saturday, February 6, at 8 PM.  " Dr. Shelly Monier is on faculty at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville where she teaches Applied Flute, Introduction to Music History and conducts the Flute Choir. She is also an Adjunct Professor at St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley and teaches and performs in the St. Louis area. Dr. Monier is the president of the Flute Society of Saint Louis and performs with the St. Louis Wind Symphony."  The Touhill Performing Arts Center in on the University of Missouri at St. Louis campus.  For more information: touhill.org.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of January 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:

The Looking Glass Playhouse presents the musical comedy Avenue Q Wednesdays through Sundays January 28 - February 7. "The laugh-out-loud musical tells the timeless story of a recent college grad named Princeton who moves into a shabby New York apartment all the way out on Avenue Q. He soon discovers that although the residents seem nice, it's clear that this is not your ordinary neighborhood. Together, Princeton and his new-found friends struggle to find jobs, dates, and their ever-elusive purpose in life." The show is recommended for mature audiences. Performances take place at 301 West St. Louis Street in Lebanon, Ill. For more information, visit www.lookingglassplayhouse.com.

My take: I have not seen Looking Glass's production, but I can tell you that the show itself is very funny and very true to life, even though all the characters are puppets manipulated by actors who are visible at all times, in the manner of Japanese bunraku (or Disney's Lion King, for a more Western reference).

Georama
Photo: Peter Wochniak
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents the world premiere of the musical Georama through February 7. "In the mid 1800s, John Banvard created the first georama, a three-mile long scrolled painting celebrating the majesty of the Mighty Mississippi. Once a starving sketch artist, his creation catapulted him to a life of luxury and notoriety, but also brought competition and deception that threatened to push his passion to the wayside. Georama illustrates an artist's rise and fall, and the choice between the art he loves and the life he's always longed for." Performances take place in the studio theater at the Loretto-Hlton Center, 130 Edgar Road in Webster Groves, MO. For more information, call 314-968-4925 or visit repstl.org.

My take: As I write in my review, this show could use some tweaking here and there (this is the world premiere, after all) but otherwise it's a very entertaining and educational look at an overlooked aspect of late 19th-century showbiz: the moving panorama. Arguably the precursor of motion pictures (since it was, after all, a picture that moved), the moving panorama was eclipsed by photography and then movies, but for a while it was all the rage. And this is the fascinating tale of the man who invented the genre.

Underneath the Lintel
Photo: Eric Woolsey
New Jewish Theater presents the one-character play Underneath the Lintel by Glenn Berger January 28 - February 13. “A haunting, beautifully constructed one-person meditation on time and devotion. A returned library book, 113 years overdue with a clue scribbled in the margin and an unclaimed dry-cleaning ticket take the Dutch librarian on a life-changing quest with an obsession to find its owner. Our protagonist follows multiple clues- tickets to the Peking Opera, a love letter written in Yiddish - on a world-wide search that ultimately decodes the meaning of life. A metaphysical detective story that is funny and fierce, quirky and smart.” Performances take place in the Marvin and Harlene Wool Studio Theater at the Jewish Community Center, 2 Millstone Campus Drive in Creve Coeur. For more information: www.newjewishtheatre.org or call 314-442-3283.

My take: I haven't seen the New Jewish production yet, but having reviewed the play itself when the St. Lou Fringe presented in in 2014 (in a bravura performance by Pat O'Brien), I can tell you that it's a terrific script. It's a fantasy, a mystery, and a wonderfully human story about the pursuit of someone who is no longer human at all. New Jewish is doing a revised version of the script in which the character is female rather than male, but given that the character's gender is largely irrelevant to the story, I think we can assume the script will be little different from what I saw back in 2014.

The cast of The Weir
Cocktails and Curtain Calls presents The Weir, the award-winning play by Irish playwright Conor McPherson, Monday through Thursday at 8:00pm, Jan 25 to February 11. It will be the first local production to utilize the new Members' Project Code, under the auspices of the Actors' Equity Association. All profits from ticket sales go directly to the artists. Performances will take place at McGurk's Irish Pub and Dressel's in the Central West End. For details on performance times and locatsions, visit CocktailsandCurtainCalls.com.

My take: We saw McPherson's play many years ago in London, and found it a rattling good ghost story: well written with plausible characters. In his review for KDHX, Steve Callahan says that "Cocktails and Curtain Calls company gives us what, to me, must be the definitive production of this beautiful play." At Ladue News, Mark Bretz writes that the company "makes an impressive debut with a grand regaling of Irish playwright Conor McPherson’s chilling drama...Setting the production in an actual tavern enhances the atmosphere immensely and, combined with director Kari Ely’s careful direction of a top-rate cast, makes The Weir a fanciful tale and a tonic for a deep winter’s night."

Held Over:

Newsies
Photo: Deen van Meer
The Fox Theatre presents the musical Disney's Newsies, opening on Tuesday, January 19, and running through January 31. " They delivered the papers, until they made the headlines. Direct from Broadway comes NEWSIES, the smash-hit, crowd-pleasing new musical from Disney. Based on true events, NEWSIES tells the captivating story of a band of underdogs who become unlikely heroes when they stand up to the most powerful men in New York. It's a rousing tale about fighting for what's right...and staying true to who you are." The Fox Theatre is at 517 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information, fabulousfox.com or call 314-534-1678.

My take: In her review for KDHX, Missy Heinemenn says that musical adaptation of a not-very-successful film offers "a nostalgic treat for some and a high-energy theatrical experience for all." "Disney's crowd-pleasing musical includes triumphant tales of woe that will melt cold hearts," writes Lynn Venhaus at the Belleville News-Democrat, "while the robust dance routines have the touring show's rabid fan base cheering loudly." The show copped two Tonys when it opened on Broadway in 2012 (for choreography and score). If my week hadn't been so booked, I would have certainly been at the Fox on opening night to catch this one myself.

Circus Harmony presents Giocoso Saturdays at 2 and 7 PM and Sundays at 2 PM, January 23 - 31. Performances take place at City Museum, 701 N. 15th Street. Show admission is free with museum admission. For more information: circusharmony.org.

My take: Circus Harmony does excellent outreach work that demonstrates how the arts can make a big difference in the community. If you've ever seen a Circus Flora show, of course, you've seen some of Circus Harmony's students at work as The St. Louis Arches, but the organization's reach and mission go far beyond that. "Circus Harmony," according to their web site, "teaches the art of life through circus education. We work to build character and expand community for youth of all ages, cultures, abilities and backgrounds. Through teaching and performance of circus skills, we help people defy gravity, soar with confidence, and leap over social barriers, all at the same time." Since their 2001 Circus Salaam Shalom, which brought Jewish and Muslim kids in St. Louis together, Circus Harmony has been advancing its philosophy of "peace through pyramids, harmony through handspirngs" to "inspire individuals and connect communities."

The Lion in Winter
Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents James Goldman's The Lion in Winter through January 31. "During Christmas of 1183, King Henry II of England plans to announce his successor to the throne. But in this amusing and high-spirited romp, other members of the royal family have their own opinions of who should be crowned king. As he feuds with his estranged wife, Eleanor, and attempts to navigate the minefield of his bickering sons, all of whom have a stake in the game, it's open season on the English throne, bringing a whole new meaning to dysfunctional family drama." 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: This is a tough call for me. I'm not very persuaded by director Edward Stern's approach to the text. I think he rushes it a bit and misses many nuances in Goldman's witty dialog. Reviews, however, have been very positive. "The Rep's production," writes Tina Farmer at KDHX, "finds more humor in the script than I remember, and the subtle differences in inflection and emotion expertly counter the frequently ambiguous actions of the characters. The effect is mesmerizing, giving the well-known show a fresh, vibrant energy and suspenseful tone that propels the story." And over at stltoday.com, Judy Newmark calls it a "satisfying, well-seasoned, wonderfully witty drama — perfect fare for a cold winter's night." It has been a while since we've had a solid professional production of this literate and intelligent script and this one has an excellent cast and great production values, so I'm giving it a qualified thumbs up.

Sunset Baby
Photo: Stewart Goldstein
The Black Rep presents the drama Sunset Baby through January 31. "Kenyatta Shakur is alone. His wife has died, and now this former Black Revolutionary and political prisoner is desperate to reconnect with his estranged daughter." Performances take place at the Edison Theatre on the Washington University campus. For more information: theblackrep.org

My take: The Black Rep has often delivered new and important plays that speak to the black experience, and this appears to be a case in point. "The Black Rep's production of Dominque Morisseau's searing contemporary drama", writes Tina Farmer at KDHX, "is a tense show that suffers no fools and offers no easy answers. Set in an urban neighborhood rife with gun crime, prostitution, and drugs, the show avoids simple stereotypes and pat responses. Instead we see authentic people, with significant flaws and genuinely admirable qualities combined, who are trying to make their way to a better place." "Sober, strong and striking," writes Mark Bretz at Ladue News, "Sunset Baby is a powerful study of both the past and the present."

St. Louis theatre circle announces nominees for 2015 awards

The St. Louis Theater Circle at the 2015 awards
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The joint will be jumpin' on Monday, March 21, 2016, at the 700-seat Skip Viragh Center on the Chaminade campus. There will be bright lights, video cameras, and a red carpet for the celebs. What's the buzz? Is it the Emmys, Oscars, Grammys, or maybe the Hugos? No to all. It's something uniquely St. Louis.

It will, in fact, be the third annual St. Louis Theater Circle Awards. Created in 2012, the St. Louis Theater Circle is a volunteer organization whose voting members are all theatre critics for local media outlets and web sites, including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The Vital Voice, KMOX, KDHX (yes, that would be me; also Tina Farmer), Ladue News, and ALIVE Magazine.

Our mission is to honor St. Louis professional theatre by saluting local actors, directors, and designers in all areas of theatre. The awards are designed to focus attention on the dozens of area theater companies which showcase the work of the work of those theatre professionals. Other cities around the country, such as Phoenix, San Diego, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington D.C., honor their own local theatrical productions with similar awards programs. See below for a complete list of nominees.

We're doing it not with a big, elaborate and expensive formal gala but with a party to which everyone is invited and for which the admission price is a mere $15 ("Cheap," to quote Alfred E. Neuman).  Tickets are available in advance at brownpapertickets.com. A pre-ceremony buffet and open bar will be situated just outside the theater entrance.  Food and drinks will be available on a cash basis, but the buffet has to be ordered and paid for in advance. Check out the With Love Catering site for details or call 314-637-7907.

That's a deal even the late Steve Mizerany would have found hard to beat. Because, bottom line, the whole point of this is for us to get together with our fellow theatre professionals and audience members and celebrate the lively and diverse scene here in St. Louis.

About those video cameras: the whole shebang is being broadcast and webcast live on HEC-TV Charter channel 989, U-Verse channel 99, and at hectv.org. So while we hope you'll join us in person, you can always settle down with some popcorn and watch us on TV. A previously taped program about the awards, prepared by HEC producer Julie Winkle, will be shown on HEC immediately preceding the festivities.

Local composer and pianist Joe Dreyer (whose latest cabaret show is part of the Gaslight Cabaret Festival) will provide musical accompaniment throughout the evening. Professional photographer Jill Ritter Lindberg will photograph it all.

As Mr. Mizerany often said, "come on down!"

Some interesting notes, courtesy of fellow Circle member Lynn Venhaus at the Belleville News Democrat:
  • The opera category received 6 nominations, the most yet: Opera Theatre with 5 (3 for Emmeline, 1 for The Barber of Seville, and 1 for La Rondine) and Union Avenue Opera with 1 for Rigoletto (which was one of the best opera productions I've seen anywhere, including Opera Theatre and Chicago Lyric).
  • The top individual vote getters were Rob Lippert with 3 (two set designs at New Line and one at Stray Dog) and Rusty Wandall with 3 (two sound designs for The Rep and one for Shakespeare Festival St. Louis).
  • Scott Miller received 2 directing nods, Em Piro two acting nods and Eileen Engel 2 - one for costumes, one for performance).
  • The company with the single largest number of nominations was the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
  • The most-nominated musical was "Anything Goes" at Stages with Stray Dog Theatre's "Mystery of Edwin Drood" a very close second (and both outstanding shows in my opinion).
  • Speaking of musicals, the two companies with the largest number of nominations were The Muny (15) and Stray Dog (14).  Given that Stray Dog's budget is a tiny fraction of the Muny's, I that Stray Dog can be very proud of that.  New Line and Stages shared second place with 11 each.
  • There were no special awards this year.  The Special Awards category is one that we decided could have as many or as few recipients as needed (including none) in any given year.

The St. Louis Theater Circle Award nominees for 2015:

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy
Betsy Bowman, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Shinnerrie Jackson, Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Erin Kelley, The Killing of Sister George, Max & Louie Productions
Shannon Nara, The Killing of Sister George, Max & Louie Productions
Jeanitta Perkins, The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler, St. Louis Shakespeare

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy
John Bratkowski, The World Begun, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis
Michael Brightman, Mr. Marmalade, West End Players Guild
Jeffrey C. Hawkins, Peter and the Starcatcher, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Pete Winfrey, Bad Jews, New Jewish Theatre
John Wolbers, Wild Oats, St. Louis Shakespeare

Outstanding Actress in a Comedy
Lavonne Byers, The Killing of Sister George, Max & Louie Productions
Kari Ely, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? , St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Suzanne Grodner, Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Linda Kennedy, The Gin Game, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Em Piro, Bad Jews, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Actor in a Comedy
John Feltch, Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Peter Mayer, The Gin Game, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Antonio Rodriguez, Bad Jews, New Jewish Theatre
William Roth, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Jeremy Webb, Buyer and Cellar, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Play
Joseph Clapper, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Upstream Theater
Patrick Huber, Sublime Intimacy, Max & Louie Productions
Bess Moynihan, One Flea Spare, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble
Peter E. Sargent, Angel Street, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis 
Nathan Schroeder, Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play, R-S Theatrics
Outstanding Sound Design in a Play
Paige Brubeck and Evan Sult, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Upstream Theater
Fitz Patton, All the Way, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Rusty Wandell, Angel Street, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis 
Rusty Wandall, Antony and Cleopatra, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis
Rusty Wandall, I and You, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Outstanding Costume Design in a Play
Beth Ashby, An Invitation Out, Mustard Seed Theatre
Dorothy Marshall Englis, The Winslow Boy, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
JC Krajicek, The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler, St. Louis Shakespeare
Cyndi Lohrmann, The Killing of Sister George, Max & Louie Productions
David Toser, Angel Street, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding Set Design in a Play
Wilson Chin, Angel Street, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis 
Scott C. Neale, Antony and Cleopatra, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis
Paul Shortt, Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Peter and Margery Spack, Safe House, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Mark Wilson, An Invitation Out, Mustard Seed Theatre

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama
Kelly Taffe, Safe House, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Jennifer Theby-Quinn, Afflicted: Daughters of Salem, Metro Theater Company
Cassia Thompson, Safe House, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Elizabeth Van Pelt, Rapture, Blister, Burn, West End Players Guild

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama
Will Cobbs, Safe House, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
John Flack, Sublime Intimacy, Max & Louie Productions
Andrew Kuhlman, One Flea Spare, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble
Michael James Reed, All the Way, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Chris Tipp, Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead, Stray Dog Theatre

Outstanding Actress in a Drama
Shirine Babb, Antony and Cleopatra, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis
Emily Baker, Sight Unseen, New Jewish Theatre
Danielle Carlacci, I and You, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Amy Loui, The Amish Project, Mustard Seed Theatre
Lisa Tejero, The Kiss, Upstream Theater

Outstanding Actor in a Drama
J. Samuel Davis, Bashir Lazhar, Upstream Theater
Brian Dykstra, All the Way, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Daniel Morgan Shelley, Safe House, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Jerry Vogel, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Upstream Theater
Eric Dean White, The Kiss, Upstream Theater

Outstanding New Play
Nancy Bell, The World Begun, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis
Shualee Cook, An Invitation Out, Mustard Seed Theatre
Neil LaBute, Kandahar, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Ken Page, Sublime Intimacy, Max & Louie Productions
Alec Wild, Off the Record, OnSite Theatre

Outstanding Musical Director
Jeffrey Richard Carter, The Threepenny Opera, New Line Theatre
Charles Creath, Once on This Island, The Black Rep
Michael Horsley, Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, The Muny
George Manahan, Emmeline, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis
Chris Petersen, Dogfight, Stray Dog Theatre 

Outstanding Choreographer
Stephen Bourneuf, Anything Goes, Stages St. Louis
Denis Jones, Holiday Inn, The Muny
Dan Knechtges and Jessica Hartman, Hairspray, The Muny
Susan Stroman and Ginger Thatcher, Oklahoma!, The Muny
Keith Tyrone Williams, Once on This Island, The Black Rep

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical
Eileen Engel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Stray Dog Theatre
Heather Headley, Into the Woods, The Muny
Sydney Mancasola, La rondine, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis
Sarah Porter, The Threepenny Opera, New Line Theatre
Zoe Vonder Haar, The Full Monty, Stages St. Louis

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical
Dan Fenaughty, Anything Goes, Stages St. Louis
Joneal Joplin, The Fantasticks, Insight Theatre Company
Rob McClure, Beauty and the Beast, The Muny
Milton Craig Nealy, The Full Monty, Stages St. Louis
Sam Weber, Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, The Muny

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Musical
Christopher Akerlind, Emmeline, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis
Tyler Duenow, Dogfight, Stray Dog Theatre 
John Lasiter, Oklahoma!, The Muny 
Sean M. Savoie, Once on This Island, The Black Rep
Sean M. Savoie, Anything Goes, Stages St. Louis

Outstanding Set Design in a Musical
Shoko Kambara, The Barber of Seville, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis
Rob Lippert, Dogfight, Stray Dog Theatre
Rob Lippert, Heathers, New Line Theatre
Rob Lippert, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Stray Dog Theatre
James Wolk, Anything Goes, Stages St. Louis

Outstanding Costume Design in a Musical
Eileen Engel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Stray Dog Theatre
Andrea Lauer, Into the Woods, The Muny
Brad Musgrove, Anything Goes, Stages St. Louis
Sarah Porter, The Threepenny Opera, New Line Theatre
Alejo Vietti, Holiday Inn, The Muny

Outstanding Actress in a Musical
Julie Cardia, Anything Goes, Stages St. Louis
Shannon Cothran, Dogfight, Stray Dog Theatre
Erin Dilly, Into the Woods, The Muny
Joyce El-Khoury, Emmeline, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis
Anna Skidis, Heathers, New Line Theatre

Outstanding Actor in a Musical
Andy Christopher, Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, The Muny
Ben Davis, Oklahoma!, The Muny
Evan Fornachon, Heathers, New Line Theatre
Gerry Love, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Stray Dog Theatre
Jordan Shanahan, Rigoletto, Union Avenue Opera

Outstanding Ensemble in a Comedy
Bad Jews, New Jewish Theatre
Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play, R-S Theatrics
The 39 Steps, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Wild Oats, St. Louis Shakespeare

Outstanding Ensemble in a Drama
All the Way, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Antony and Cleopatra, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis
One Flea Spare, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble
Safe House, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
The Winslow Boy, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical
Anything Goes, Stages St. Louis
Dogfight, Stray Dog Theatre 
Into the Woods, The Muny
Heathers, New Line Theatre
The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Stray Dog Theatre

Outstanding Director of a Comedy
John Contini, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? , St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Michael Evan Haney, Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Sydnie Grosberg Ronga, Bad Jews, New Jewish Theatre
Jacqueline Thompson, The World Begun, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis
Kirsten Wylder, The 39 Steps, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

Outstanding Director of a Drama
Deanna Jent, The Amish Project, Mustard Seed Theatre
Jane Page, I and You, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Ellie Schwetye, One Flea Spare, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble
Patrick Siler, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Upstream Theater
Steven Woolf, All the Way, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding Director of a Musical
Justin Been, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Stray Dog Theatre
Michael Hamilton, Anything Goes, Stages St. Louis
Scott Miller, The Threepenny Opera, New Line Theatre
Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy, Heathers, New Line Theatre
Rob Ruggiero, Oklahoma!, The Muny

Outstanding Production of a Comedy
The Gin Game, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
The Killing of Sister George, Max & Louie Productions
The 39 Steps, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Wild Oats, St. Louis Shakespeare

Outstanding Production of a Drama
All the Way, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
I and You, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
One Flea Spare, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Upstream Theater
The Winslow Boy, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding Production of a Musical
Anything Goes, Stages St. Louis
Dogfight, Stray Dog Theatre
Heathers, New Line Theatre
The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Stray Dog Theatre

The Threepenny Opera, New Line Theatre