Saturday, August 30, 2014

St. Louis classical calendar for the week of September 1, 2014

Third Baptist Church presents an organ concert by Stephen Price, Resident organist of Beck Chapel at Indiana University, on Friday, September 5, at 12:30 PM as part of its free Friday Pipes series. "Join us on Fridays at Third Baptist Church for Friday Pipes, the free organ recital series celebrating the restoration of the church's 72-rank Kilgen/Möller pipe organ. Each week a different performer will be presenting a program of classical, church, and theatre organ music in the beautiful sanctuary of Third Baptist. This season's performers come from across the USA, and even from around the world. Free parking is available in the church lots on Washington Avenue." Third Baptist Church is at 620 N Grand. For more information: www.third-baptist.org

The Arianna String Quartet
The Touhill Performing Arts Center presents The Arianna String Quartet in "Dynamic Duo," on Friday, September 5, at 8 PM at the Touhill Performing Arts Center on the University of Missouri at St. Louis campus. "The season kicks off with two legendary works of the chamber repertoire that promises a night of unforgettable expression and emotional power. LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN: Quartet in E-flat Major, Op.127; JOHANNES BRAHMS: Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op.115 with St. Louis Symphony Orchestra principal clarinetist Scott Andrews." For more information: touhill.org.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of August 29th, 2014

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:

Rachel Tibbetts and Ellie Schwetye
Photo: Joey Rumpell
Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble presents Mary Shelley Monster Show by Nick Otten Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 through August 30. "Was Mary Shelley's most famous novel, Frankenstein, really an autobiography? Is she the creator or the creature?" Performances take place at The Chapel Venue, 6238 Alexander Drive. For more information: slightlyoff.org.

My take: In what Tina Farmer, in her KDHX review, describes as "a very intriguing and intellectually bent production," playwright Otten and his actor/collaborators Rachel Tibbetts and Ellie Schwetye have put together what looks like a fascinating experiment in story telling that allows Mary Shelley to be interviewed by her famous Monster. Ms. Farmer says it's "a thought-provoking, thoroughly entertaining performance that lingers, daring you to consider its questions." SATE has never been afraid to take chances and that fearless attitude deserves our support.

Held Over:

Photo: John Lamb
Union Avenue Opera presents Wagner's Siegfried in a condensed and reduced version by English composer Jonathan Dove, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, through August 30. Performances take place at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 Union at Enright in the Central West End. The opera is sung in German with projected English text. For more information, visit unionavenueopera.org or call 314-361-2881.

My take: Union Avenue opera is topping off a highly successful 20th season with the third entry in its multi-year traversal of Wagner's "Ring" cycle. Even in Dove's reduced versions, this is a highly ambitious undertaking for this highly ambitious company, and probably the only opportunity for local opera fans to see productions of these massive works here in town. The nearest city with a large and well-equipped enough opera house to mount the full productions is the Lyric Opera in Chicago, and they won't be doing one until 2016. "All the male voices of this production," writes Gary Scott in his KDHX review, "exude richness and vibrancy, and each one displays a keen sense of articulation, accurate phrasing and solid German diction."

Photo: Peter Wochniak
Stages St. Louis presents the musical Always..Patsy Cline through August 31. "Jacqueline Petroccia and Zoe Vonder Haar star in the return engagement of the show critics called 'exceptional, must see entertainment.' The touching and true story of Country music legend Patsy Cline and her friendship with Texas housewife Louise Seger returns to STAGES this spring. Combining down home country humor, heartache and 27 of Patsy Cline's unforgettable hits such as 'Crazy,' 'Walkin' After Midnight,' and 'Sweet Dreams,' Always... Patsy Cline endures as a piece of genuine Americana." Performances take place at The Playhouse at Westport Plaza. For more information, visit stagesstlouis.org or call 314-821-2407.

My take: Call this a qualified recommendation. If you're a lover of Patsy Cline or country music in general, I think you'll have a great time at this show, which is really more of a celebrity impersonation review than a book musical per se. Jacqueline Petroccia captures Cline's voice and manner so accurately it's eerie and Zoe Vonder Haar is a hoot and a half as Louise Seger, the real-life Houston fan who became a close friends and correspondent of Cline. With over two dozen Patsy Cline hits performed to perfection by Ms. Petroccia and a six-piece band, the show is a real feast for fans. See my KDHX review for more information. The show closes on the 31st but will re-open with the same cast on September 18th.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Gateway to Rashomon

Toshiro Mifune and Masayuki Mori
in "Rashomon"
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One man is dead.  Another admits to wielding the weapon that killed him.  On that, everybody agrees—but not on anything else.  What led up to the killing and how it all went down?  That's all lost in a confusing and contradictory mix of eyewitness testimony and personal agendas.

Is this a description of what happened in Ferguson, Missouri (a suburb of St. Louis just a few miles north of where I'm sitting as I write this), on August 9th, 2014?  Well, yeah.  But it's also an accurate description of the plot of Akira Kurosawa's cinema classic "Rashomon" from 1950. 

The film takes its title from the great Rashomon gate of the ancient cities of Nara of Kyoto where the action takes place.  Taking shelter from the rain under the gate, a woodcutter, a priest, and a commoner share their tales of the murder of a samurai and the rape of his wife by a bandit a few days before.  As each one recounts his version of testimony given to the court, which includes the testimony of the wife, the bandit, and even (via a medium) the dead samurai, it becomes clear that everyone has a slightly different version of the events, and that most of them place their respective narrators in the best light.  By the end of the movie it's still not clear "where the truth lies" (as they sing in "Hair") or even whether a real crime occurred at all.

Sound familiar?

William Shatner, Howard Da Silva,
and Edward G. Robinson in
"The Outrage"
"Rashomon" has been tremendously influential.  There have been numerous stage adaptations, mostly notably a 1959 version by Fay and Michael Kanin that ran for six months in New York with Rod Steiger and Claire Bloom in the leads.  Martin Ritt turned it into the 1964 Western "The Outrage," with a script by the Kanins and an all-star cast that included Paul Newman, Laurence Harvey, Claire Bloom, Edward G. Robinson, Howard Da Silva, and William Shatner.  Argentine composer Alejandro Viñao even made it the basis for a 1996 opera. 

The greatness and popularity of "Rashomon" rests, in part, on the universality of its story.  The wide variability of eyewitness testimony is a recognized phenomenon in law enforcement and in psychology, for example, and the conceit of the unreliable narrator has been a central  part of fiction for centuries.  The novel "An Instance of the Fingerpost" by British author Iain Pears makes an especially ingenious use of the idea. 

We're all unreliable narrators to dome degree because human perception does not operate like an electronic recording; the moment input from our eyes or ears hits our brain, our experience and expectations modify it.  As Richards J. Heuer, Jr. noted in the 1999 paper "Psychology of Intelligence Analysis" (written for the CIA), "perception is demonstrably an active rather than a passive process; it constructs rather than records 'reality.' Perception implies understanding as well as awareness.  It is a process of inference in which people construct their own version of reality on the basis of information provided through the five senses."

So the next time you see or hear somebody tell you he or she knows exactly what happened in Ferguson on August 9th, consider the lessons of "Rashomon."  "It's human to lie," notes the Commoner at one point. "Most of the time we can't even be honest with ourselves…  We all want to forget something, so we tell stories. It's easier that way." 

It's possible that, as the official inquiries sift through the mass of contradictory evidence, we may eventually get to the truth—or at least a part of it.  But there are no guarantees.  Life and art imitate each other far more often than many of us realize.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

St. Louis theatre calendar for the week of August 25, 2014

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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Photo: Peter Wochniak
Stages St. Louis presents the musical Always..Patsy Cline through August 31. "Jacqueline Petroccia and Zoe Vonder Haar star in the return engagement of the show critics called 'exceptional, must see entertainment.' The touching and true story of Country music legend Patsy Cline and her friendship with Texas housewife Louise Seger returns to STAGES this spring. Combining down home country humor, heartache and 27 of Patsy Cline's unforgettable hits such as 'Crazy,' 'Walkin' After Midnight,' and 'Sweet Dreams,' Always... Patsy Cline endures as a piece of genuine Americana." Performances take place at The Playhouse at Westport Plaza. For more information, visit stagesstlouis.org or call 314-821-2407. Read the 88.1 KDHX review!

Curtain's Up Theatre presents the musical Annie, based on the comic strip "Little Orphan Annie," Thursday through Sunday, August 28-31. The performances take place in the Dunham Hall Theater on the SIU-Edwardsville campus. For more information, visit curtainsuptheater.com.

The Bissell Mansion Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre presents A Big Easy Murder through October 26. The Bissell Mansion is at 4426 Randall Place. For more information: bissellmansiontheatre.com

Mustard Seed Theatre presents Human Terrain by Jennifer Blackmer. "This world-premiere explores the treasonous relationship between a US Cultural Advisor and an Iraqi woman during the Iraq War." Performances take place August 29-September 14 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.

Rachel Tibbetts and Ellie Schwetye
Photo: Joey Rumpell
Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble presents Mary Shelly Monster Show by Nick Otten Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 through August 30. "Was Mary Shelley's most famous novel, Frankenstein, really an autobiography? Is she the creator or the creature?" Performances take place at The Chapel Venue, 6238 Alexander Drive. For more information: slightlyoff.org. Read the 88.1 KDHX review!

Photo: John Lamb
Union Avenue Opera presents Wagner's Siegfried in a condensed and reduced version by English composer Jonathan Dove, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, through August 30. Performances take place at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 Union at Enright in the Central West End. The opera is sung in German with projected English text. For more information, visit unionavenueopera.org or call 314-361-2881. Read the 88.1 KDHX review!

Insight Theatre Company presents the musical The Spitfire Grill through August 31. "In this Off-Broadway musical, a feisty parolee named Percy follows a page from an old travel book to a small town in Wisconsin and finds a place for herself working at Hannah's Spitfire Grill. The grill is for sale, but there are no takers for the only eatery in the depressed town, so Percy suggests to Hannah that she raffle it off. New York Magazine called The Spitfire Grill the best musical of 2001.” Performances take place in the Heagney Theatre, 530 East Lockwood on the campus of Nerinx Hall High School in Webster Groves. For more information, call 314-556-1293 or visit insighttheatrecompany.com. 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 August 25, 2014

The Tavern of Fine Arts presents Experimental Arts Open Improv on Thursday, August 28, at 7:30 p.m. "All musicians, artists, poets, and authors are welcome to perform with members of the house ensemble, the St. Louis Avant-Garde Ensemble featuring Tom Zirkle, percussion; Jim Hegarty, piano/electronics; Tracy Andreotti, cello; Fred Tompkins, flute; and Scott Price, guitar. Be a part of a growing community of experimental and collaborative arts in St. Louis. Bring your instrument, your words, or your canvas for an evening of spontaneous experimental creation." 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 The First Annual Battle of the Divas on Friday, August 29, at 8 p.m. "Join St. Louis area singers in the 1st Annual Battle of the Divas at the Tavern. Funds raised by performers will benefit T.A.B.S. (Take a Bow Showcase), a community theater group in Belleville, IL." The Tavern of Fine Arts is at 313 Belt in the Debaliviere Place neighborhood. For more information: tavern-of-fine-arts.blogspot.com.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Opera Preview: "Siegfried" at Union Avenue Opera

Marc Schapman as Mime
David Dillard as Wanderer
(C) John Lamb 2014
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Union Avenue Opera is nothing if not fearless, often taking on works that strain the company's space at the Union Avenue Christian Church to the limit. This weekend and next, the company follows its highly praised productions of Verdi's "La Traviata" and Andre Previn's "A Streetcar Named Desire" with the final production of its 20th anniversary season, "Siegfried." It's the third installment of its most ambitious project yet—Wagner's mammoth four-opera cycle “Der Ring des Nibelungen” (“The Ring of the Nibelung”).

The story of the "Ring" is an epic fantasy involving clashes among gods and heroes over a magic ring that gives the wearer nearly unlimited magical power but also carries with it a terrible curse. There are dwarves, giants and (yes) even a dragon—but no hobbits or elves.

As did Tolkien for his "ring" cycle, Wagner (who wrote the libretti as well as the music) used stories from Norse and Scandinavian mythology to forge a tale of the passing of the old gods and magic and the rise of humanity. For both Wagner and Tolkien, great power comes not only with great responsibility, but with certain doom as well.

To get a feel for just how ambitions a "Ring" cycle is, consider the sheer scope of the project. The four epic operas of the "Ring" were intended to be performed as a single theatrical unit over four days, running a total of around 15 hours. The shortest of the four, "Das Rheingold" ("The Rhine Gold") runs around two and one half hours while the longest, "Götterdämmerung" ("The Twilight of the Gods") clocks in at around five hours, not including intermissions. For both performers and audience members, it's a major commitment.

Clay Hilley as Siegfried
Marc Schapman as Mime
(C) John Lamb 2014
The version of the "Ring" Union Avenue is presenting is not, I should point out, Wagner's original. That would be far beyond the technical capabilities not only of Union Avenue but, indeed, of every other opera company in town. The nearest city with a large and well-equipped enough opera house to mount a full production is the Lyric Opera in Chicago, and they won't be doing one until 2016. Even Wagner had to have his own theatre built for the purpose—the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, where the "Ring" and other Wagnerian operas are performed every summer at the Bayreuth Festival.

Instead of the originals, Union Avenue is using reduced versions of the operas created in 1990 by British composer Jonathan Dove and director Graham Vick for use by smaller companies without the resources to mount full-scale productions. They're noticeably shorter, but that's not the sacrilege you might think. Wagner the librettist does not always serve Wagner the composer well, and there's much in the texts or the originals that is redundant and discursive.

This reduced "Ring" is still a big deal for a small company, though, and Union Avenue deserves a lot of credit for taking it on.

Union Avenue's "Ring" got off to a somewhat rocky start in August of 2012 with a production of “Das Rheingold" marred by some technical glitches and sluggish tempi. Things improved noticeably in last year's "Die Walküre", which packed a considerable dramatic punch. Will "Siegfried" continue that trend? The only way to find out is to see it. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., August 22-30, at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 Union at Enright in the Central West End. For more information: unionavenueopera.org. Note that there is a parking lot but it tends to fill up quickly, so you'll want to get there not later than 7:30 if you can.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of August 22, 2014

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:

Stray Dog Theatre's New Works Laboratory presents Stephen Peirick's Four Sugars Thursdays through Saturday, August 21-23. "Alyse and her gay best friend, Travis, are getting ready to bid adieu to their “fake” marriage of three years and celebrate Alyse having become an official U.S. citizen. Unfortunately, no aspect of their real-life relationships seem to operate as smoothly as their make-shift marriage did. This two-act, contemporary serio-comedy is written by St. Louis Playwright Stephen Peirick, who is the recipient of an Individual Artist Grant from the Regional Arts Commission to help make this fully realized production of Four Sugars a reality. " Performances take place at The Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee. For more information, visit straydogtheatre.org or call 314-865-1995.

My take: Stray Dog's New Works Lab deserves your support for giving local playwrights a chance to present their work to an audience in a supportive atmosphere. I've performed in a couple of these shows in the past and can attest to the fact that Stray Dog gives them the same loving care they lavish on their regular shows. Stephen Peirick's name will be familiar to many of you as both an actor and playwright. His comedy Wake Up, Cameron Dobbs had a very successful run at West End Players a couple of years ago.

Photo: Brian Peters
St. Louis Shakespeare presents The Liar by David Ives, adapted from the comedy by Pierre Corneille through August 24. "David Ives (the brilliant mind who penned All In The Timing) offers a fresh, witty and split-your-pants funny translation of Pierre Corneille's 1644 comedy about Dorante, a compulsive liar who masterfully spins an intricate web of lies...now if he could only keep his lies straight!" Performances take at the 560 Music Center in University City. For more information, call 314-361-5664 or visit stlshakespeare.org.

My take: Ives is a funny and creative playwright who has come up with a clever modern reworking of a classic French farce. In her review for 88.1 KDHX, Tina Farmer describes this as a "a fast-paced, light-hearted romantic comedy."

Photo: Ron Lindsey
Union Avenue Opera presents Wagner's Siegfried in a condensed and reduced version by English composer Jonathan Dove, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, August 22-30. Performances take place at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 Union at Enright in the Central West End. The opera is sung in German with projected English text. For more information, visit unionavenueopera.org or call 314-361-2881.

My take: Union Avenue opera is topping off a highly successful 20th season with the third entry in its multi-year traversal of Wagner's "Ring" cycle. Even in Dove's reduced versions, this is a highly ambitious undertaking for this highly ambitious company, and probably the only opportunity for local opera fans to see productions of these massive works here in town. The nearest city with a large and well-equipped enough opera house to mount the full productions is the Lyric Opera in Chicago, and they won't be doing one until 2016.

Held Over:

Photo: Peter Wochniak
Stages St. Louis presents the musical Always..Patsy Cline through August 31. "Jacqueline Petroccia and Zoe Vonder Haar star in the return engagement of the show critics called 'exceptional, must see entertainment.' The touching and true story of Country music legend Patsy Cline and her friendship with Texas housewife Louise Seger returns to STAGES this spring. Combining down home country humor, heartache and 27 of Patsy Cline's unforgettable hits such as 'Crazy,' 'Walkin' After Midnight,' and 'Sweet Dreams,' Always... Patsy Cline endures as a piece of genuine Americana." Performances take place at The Playhouse at Westport Plaza. For more information, visit stagesstlouis.org or call 314-821-2407.

My take: Call this a qualified recommendation. If you're a lover of Patsy Cline or country music in general, I think you'll have a great time at this show, which is really more of a celebrity impersonation review than a book musical per se. Jacqueline Petroccia captures Cline's voice and manner so accurately it's eerie and Zoe Vonder Haar is a hoot and a half as Louise Seger, the real-life Houston fan who became a close friends and correspondent of Cline. With over two dozen Patsy Cline hits performed to perfection by Ms. Petroccia and a six-piece band, the show is a real feast for fans. See my KDHX review for more information.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

St. Louis theatre calendar for the week of August 18, 2014

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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Photo: Peter Wochniak
Stages St. Louis presents the musical Always..Patsy Cline through August 31. "Jacqueline Petroccia and Zoe Vonder Haar star in the return engagement of the show critics called 'exceptional, must see entertainment.' The touching and true story of Country music legend Patsy Cline and her friendship with Texas housewife Louise Seger returns to STAGES this spring. Combining down home country humor, heartache and 27 of Patsy Cline's unforgettable hits such as 'Crazy,' 'Walkin' After Midnight,' and 'Sweet Dreams,' Always... Patsy Cline endures as a piece of genuine Americana." Performances take place at The Playhouse at Westport Plaza. For more information, visit stagesstlouis.org or call 314-821-2407. Read the 88.1 KDHX review!

The Bissell Mansion Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre presents A Big Easy Murder through October 26. The Bissell Mansion is at 4426 Randall Place. For more information: bissellmansiontheatre.com

Chuck Lavazzi
The Cabaret Project and 88.1 KDHX present the Cabaret Open Mic Night on Wednesday, August 20, from 7 to 10 PM at the Tavern of Fine Arts. The master of ceremonies is 88.1 KDHX senior performing arts critic Chuck Lavazzi and the music director is Carol Schmidt. 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 Tavern of Fine Arts is at 313 Belt at Waterman in the Central West End. There's free parking in the lot right across the street. For more information, visit tavern-of-fine-arts.blogspot.com or call 314-367-7549.

Stray Dog Theatre's New Works Laboratory presents Stephen Peirick's Four Sugars Thursdays through Saturday, August 21-23. "Alyse and her gay best friend, Travis, are getting ready to bid adieu to their “fake” marriage of three years and celebrate Alyse having become an official U.S. citizen. Unfortunately, no aspect of their real-life relationships seem to operate as smoothly as their make-shift marriage did. This two-act, contemporary serio-comedy is written by St. Louis Playwright Stephen Peirick, who is the recipient of an Individual Artist Grant from the Regional Arts Commission to help make this fully realized production of Four Sugars a reality. " Performances take place at The Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee. For more information, visit straydogtheatre.org or call 314-865-1995.

Brass Rail Players present Sondheim's Into the Woods through August 24. The performances take place at The Turkey Hill Grange, 1375 Illinois Rte. 15 in Belleville, IL. For more information, visit brassrailplayers.org.

Alfresco Productions presents Jason Robert Brown's musical The Last Five Years Friday through Sunday, August 22-24. Performances take place at the Alfresco Art Center, 2401 Delmar in Granite City, IL. For more information: (618) 560-1947 or www.alfrescoproductions.org.

Photo: Brian Peters
St. Louis Shakespeare presents The Liar by David Ives, adapted from the comedy by Pierre Corneille through August 24. "David Ives (the brilliant mind who penned All In The Timing) offers a fresh, witty and split-your-pants funny translation of Pierre Corneille's 1644 comedy about Dorante, a compulsive liar who masterfully spins an intricate web of lies...now if he could only keep his lies straight!" Performances take at the 560 Music Center in University City. For more information, call 314-361-5664 or visit stlshakespeare.org.

Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble presents Mary Shelly Monster Show by Nick Otten Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 August 20-30. "Was Mary Shelley's most famous novel, Frankenstein, really an autobiography? Is she the creator or the creature?" Performances take place at The Chapel Venue, 6238 Alexander Drive. For more information: slightlyoff.org.

The Ivory Theatre presents The Rum Luck of the Irish, an new comedy by Stephen Werner set in St. Louis's Irish "Kerry Patch" neighborhood during Prohibition. Performances take place Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., August 22-24. The Ivory Theatre is at 7620 Michigan Avenue in the Carondelet neighborhood. For more information: ivorytheatrestl.com.

Photo: Ron Lindsey
Union Avenue Opera presents Wagner's Siegfried in a condensed and reduced version by English composer Jonathan Dove, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, August 22-30. Performances take place at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 Union at Enright in the Central West End. The opera is sung in German with projected English text. For more information, visit unionavenueopera.org or call 314-361-2881.

Insight Theatre Company presents the musical The Spitfire Grill August 21-31. "In this Off-Broadway musical, a feisty parolee named Percy follows a page from an old travel book to a small town in Wisconsin and finds a place for herself working at Hannah's Spitfire Grill. The grill is for sale, but there are no takers for the only eatery in the depressed town, so Percy suggests to Hannah that she raffle it off. New York Magazine called The Spitfire Grill the best musical of 2001.” Performances take place in the Heagney Theatre, 530 East Lockwood on the campus of Nerinx Hall High School in Webster Groves. For more information, call 314-556-1293 or visit insighttheatrecompany.com.

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

Friday, August 15, 2014

St. Louis classical calendar for the week of August 18, 2014

Alec Feldges
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The Tavern of Fine Arts presents guitarist Alec Feldges on Thursday, August 21, at 8 p.m. "Classical guitarist Alec Feldges performs at the Tavern before returning to school at Mizzou. He will perform music by Granados, Sor, Mertz, and Fuenllana." 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 Rebin Ali's Benefit Concert and Going-Away Party on Saturday, August 23, at 5:30 p.m. "Join violinist Rebin Ali in a special benefit concert at the Tavern. Donations will be accepted and will go to offset Rebin's tuition at University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana. Joining Rebin on the stage will be:Vera Parkin, piano; Marc Thayer, violin; Emily Ottwein, soprano; and Magdalena Sustere, cello." 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 Sarah Price, soprano; Stephen Luermann, viola; and Jon Garrett, piano on Saturday, August 23, at 8 p.m. The Tavern of Fine Arts is at 313 Belt in the Debaliviere Place neighborhood. For more information: tavern-of-fine-arts.blogspot.com.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of August 15, 2014

As always, the choices are purely my personal opinion. Take with a grain (or a shaker) of salt.

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Photo: Phillip Hamer
The Muny presents the classic musical Hello Dolly Monday through Sunday at 8:15 PM, August 11-17, in the outdoor theatre in Forest Park. "Mrs. Dolly Levi makes her grand Muny return in the classic musical, Hello, Dolly!. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of its Broadway opening, this award-winning musical features the irresistible story of matchmaker extraordinaire Dolly Levi as she “meddles” her way from Yonkers to New York City. Full of familiar tunes and plenty of big dance numbers, Hello, Dolly! promises an evening of classic Muny fun!" For more information, visit muny.org or call 314-361-1900.

My take: As I write in my review for OnSTL.com, this is a big, flashy, polished production of a good, old-fashioned Broadway musical comedy. It's the sort of thing the Muny has always done well, and it's a tremendously entertaining finale for a generally very strong season. Go see it and smile. Doll's lookin' swell and the Muny's got her.

Held Over:

Photo: Peter Wochniak
Stages St. Louis presents the musical Always..Patsy Cline through August 31. "Jacqueline Petroccia and Zoe Vonder Haar star in the return engagement of the show critics called 'exceptional, must see entertainment.' The touching and true story of Country music legend Patsy Cline and her friendship with Texas housewife Louise Seger returns to STAGES this spring. Combining down home country humor, heartache and 27 of Patsy Cline's unforgettable hits such as 'Crazy,' 'Walkin' After Midnight,' and 'Sweet Dreams,' Always... Patsy Cline endures as a piece of genuine Americana." Performances take place at The Playhouse at Westport Plaza. For more information, visit stagesstlouis.org or call 314-821-2407.

My take: Call this a qualified recommendation. If you're a lover of Patsy Cline or country music in general, I think you'll have a great time at this show, which is really more of a celebrity impersonation review than a book musical per se. Jacqueline Petroccia captures Cline's voice and manner so accurately it's eerie and Zoe Vonder Haar is a hoot and a half as Louise Seger, the real-life Houston fan who became a close friends and correspondent of Cline. With over two dozen Patsy Cline hits performed to perfection by Ms. Petroccia and a six-piece band, the show is a real feast for fans. See my KDHX review for more information.

Photo: Peter Wochniak
Stages St. Louis presents the musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying through August 17. "Big business means big laughs in this delightfully clever lampoon of life on the corporate ladder. A tune-filled comic gem that took Broadway by storm winning both the Tony Award for Best Musical and a Pulitzer Prize, How to Succeed...boasts an exhilarating score by Frank Loesser including “I Believe in You,” “Brotherhood of Man,” and “The Company Way.” Bustling with humor, romance and song, this swingin' 60s send-up of Madison Avenue charts the spectacular rise (in record time!) of an ambitious young window washer to VP of Advertising!" Performances take place in the Robert G. Reim Theatre at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road in Kirkwood. For more information, visit stagesstlouis.org or call 314-821-2407.

My take: It's a sad commentary on the state of the nation that the cheerfully cynical satire of the mendacity, mediocrity, and Machiavellian backstabbing of corporate America that makes up the book of "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" is as relevant now as it was when the show opened back in 1961. The Stages production is, as I write in my review for KDHX, a big, bright, hilarious technicolor cartoon that keeps the action firmly in the "Mad Men" era, so its sexism feels funny rather than creepy. The cast is wonderful, headed by Ben Nordstrom as perhaps the ideal J. Pierrepont Finch.

Photo: John Lamb
Max and Louie Productions presents Doug Wright's Quills through August 17. “This wickedly witty, erotically charged play is about the conflict between the imprisoned Marquis de Sade (infamous, irreverent literary bad boy of 18th Century France) and the keepers entrusted with silencing the perverse tales that drip from his ink-laden quill. De Sade's only sword is his pen; his opponents are armed with far deadlier weapons. Quills explores the delicate and often malleable line between morality and personal freedom, while satirizing the hypocrisy and convenience of censorship and sexuality.” Performances take place at the Wool Studio Theatre at the JCC, 2 Millstone Campus Drive. For more information, visit maxandlouie.com.

My take: If this sounds like in intriguing idea, that's probably because it is. In her review for 88.1 KDHX, Tina Farmer says "Quills" is "a deliciously inventive play weighing our decidedly human fascination with social and sexual mores against the lengths society will go to in the attempt to stifle the works of artists who push the envelope or in other ways make us nervous...Brooke Edwards' direction is clear and small details, such as having the stage crew dress as patients in the asylum, show a thoughtful approach to storytelling. When accompanied by as talented and committed a cast as in this current production, the result in an engaging, thought-provoking play."

Joe Hanrahan
The Midnight Company
presents Eric Bogosian's Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll through August 17. "Bogosian's solo shows, which also include DRINKING IN AMERICA, WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE and POUNDING NAILS IN THE FLOOR WITH MY FOREHEAD, are scorching social commentaries on the urban and suburban scene - presenting portraits of contemporary men, from the homeless to possession-crazed millionaires to fading rock stars - “scabrously funny ” (Boston Phoenix) and “combustibly funny” (Newsday) monologues exposing their hidden fears, hypocrisy and rage." The performances take place at Herbie's Vintage 72, 405 N. Euclid in the Central West End. A special pre/post-theatre menu will be available before or after the show, cocktails will be available for the performance, and live music will follow Sunday performances. For more information: midnightcompany.com

My take: Joe Hanrahan has become the king of the one-man show locally and has quite an affinity for Bogosian's dark, funny, edgy work. The location has a lot going for it as well; Herbie's has been a Central West End institution for decades (I recall going there fairly often back in the 70s and 80s), with a high-end food and wine list and a French bistro atmosphere.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

'Hello, Dolly' at the Muny: You're lookin swell

Photo: Eric Woolsey
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The Jerry Herman/Michal Stewart musical “Hello, Dolly” turned fifty this year and The Muny is closing out their summer season with one hell of a birthday party.

The original “Hello, Dolly,” opened on Broadway in January, 1964, after some rocky out-of-town previews and several revisions. It ran for 2,844 performances, considerably raising the bar for the definition of “blockbuster.” It's not hard to see why. Herman's score is one of his best (not that he ever wrote a bad song anyway) and the book retains all the humanitarian humor of the Thornton Wilder play on which it's based.

Running nightly through this Sunday, August 17th, the Muny's “Hello, Dolly” (the company's seventh since 1968) is something of a blockbuster itself—a big, flashy, polished production of a good, old-fashioned Broadway musical comedy. It's the sort of thing the Muny has always done well, and it's a tremendously entertaining finale for a generally very strong season.

Photo: Phillip Hamer
A lot of actresses of a certain age have sashayed down that big staircase in the Act II Harmonia Gardens scene, beginning with the most famous Dolly of them all, Carol Channing. Fortunately there's plenty of room for interpretation in the character, and Beth Leavel uses it to make this Dolly entirely her own. Ms. Leavel's Dolly is big, bawdy, and a bit earthy—slightly reminiscent of Channing's performance in the 1995 revival but far more in control and completely endearing. Her big Act I closer, “Before the Parade Passes By,” was a real showstopper. Yes, it helped that the massive Muny stage was filled to the brim with singers, dancers, and the O'Fallon Township High School Marching Band, but the blitzkrieg charisma was all hers.

The wonderful supporting cast is headed by the remarkably fleet-footed Rob McClure and Jay Armstrong Johnson as Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker, respectively; Mamie Parris as a warm and winning Irene Molloy; Eloise Kropp as the comically perky Minnie Fay; and John O'Hurley as the crotchety Horace Vendergelder. There's also fine work from Daniel Berryman as artist Ambrose Kemper, smitten with Vendergelder's comically lachrymose niece Ermengarde, and April Strelinger as Mrs. Rose and the hilariously coarse Ernestina.

Photo: Phillip Hamer
The choreography by Ralph Perkins appears to pay homage to Gower Champion's original work without simply copying it, and it's executed with impressive precision by the ensemble. The athletic “Waiters' Galop” was remarkable enough to be repeatedly interrupted by applause. Director Rob Ruggiero's sure hand makes the intimate scenes as precise and finely shaped as the big crowd numbers.

With pleasant temperatures and no rain in the forecast until Saturday, this is pretty much a perfect week to take in a pretty much perfect show at the Muny.

Monday, August 11, 2014

St. Louis theatre calendar for the week of August 11, 2014

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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Photo: Peter Wochniak
Stages St. Louis presents the musical Always..Patsy Cline through August 31. "Jacqueline Petroccia and Zoe Vonder Haar star in the return engagement of the show critics called 'exceptional, must see entertainment.' The touching and true story of Country music legend Patsy Cline and her friendship with Texas housewife Louise Seger returns to STAGES this spring. Combining down home country humor, heartache and 27 of Patsy Cline's unforgettable hits such as 'Crazy,' 'Walkin' After Midnight,' and 'Sweet Dreams,' Always... Patsy Cline endures as a piece of genuine Americana." Performances take place at The Playhouse at Westport Plaza. For more information, visit stagesstlouis.org or call 314-821-2407. Read the 88.1 KDHX review!

The Bissell Mansion Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre presents A Big Easy Murder through October 26. The Bissell Mansion is at 4426 Randall Place. For more information: bissellmansiontheatre.com

The Muny presents the classic musical Hello Dolly Monday through Sunday at 8:15 PM, August 11-17, in the outdoor theatre in Forest Park. "Mrs. Dolly Levi makes her grand Muny return in the classic musical, Hello, Dolly!. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of its Broadway opening, this award-winning musical features the irresistible story of matchmaker extraordinaire Dolly Levi as she “meddles” her way from Yonkers to New York City. Full of familiar tunes and plenty of big dance numbers, Hello, Dolly! promises an evening of classic Muny fun!" For more information, visit muny.org or call 314-361-1900.

Photo: Peter Wochniak
Stages St. Louis presents the musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying through August 17. "Big business means big laughs in this delightfully clever lampoon of life on the corporate ladder. A tune-filled comic gem that took Broadway by storm winning both the Tony Award for Best Musical and a Pulitzer Prize, How to Succeed...boasts an exhilarating score by Frank Loesser including “I Believe in You,” “Brotherhood of Man,” and “The Company Way.” Bustling with humor, romance and song, this swingin' 60s send-up of Madison Avenue charts the spectacular rise (in record time!) of an ambitious young window washer to VP of Advertising!" Performances take place in the Robert G. Reim Theatre at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road in Kirkwood. For more information, visit stagesstlouis.org or call 314-821-2407. Read the 88.1 KDHX review!

Brass Rail Players present Sondheim's Into the Woods August 15-24. The performances take place at The Turkey Hill Grange, 1375 Illinois Rte. 15 in Belleville, IL. For more information, visit brassrailplayers.org.

St. Louis Shakespeare presents The Liar by David Ives, adapted from the comedy by Pierre Corneille August 15-24. "David Ives (the brilliant mind who penned All In The Timing) offers a fresh, witty and split-your-pants funny translation of Pierre Corneille's 1644 comedy about Dorante, a compulsive liar who masterfully spins an intricate web of lies...now if he could only keep his lies straight!" Performances take at the 560 Music Center in University City. For more information, call 314-361-5664 or visit stlshakespeare.org.

Photo: John Lamb
Max and Louie Productions presents Doug Wright's Quills through August 17. “This wickedly witty, erotically charged play is about the conflict between the imprisoned Marquis de Sade (infamous, irreverent literary bad boy of 18th Century France) and the keepers entrusted with silencing the perverse tales that drip from his ink-laden quill. De Sade's only sword is his pen; his opponents are armed with far deadlier weapons. Quills explores the delicate and often malleable line between morality and personal freedom, while satirizing the hypocrisy and convenience of censorship and sexuality.” Performances take place at the Wool Studio Theatre at the JCC, 2 Millstone Campus Drive. For more information, visit maxandlouie.com. Read the 88.1 KDHX review!

The Midnight Company presents Eric Bogosian's Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll through August 17. "Bogosian's solo shows, which also include DRINKING IN AMERICA, WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE and POUNDING NAILS IN THE FLOOR WITH MY FOREHEAD, are scorching social commentaries on the urban and suburban scene - presenting portraits of contemporary men, from the homeless to possession-crazed millionaires to fading rock stars - “scabrously funny ” (Boston Phoenix) and “combustibly funny” (Newsday) monologues exposing their hidden fears, hypocrisy and rage." The performances take place at Herbie's Vintage 72, 405 N. Euclid in the Central West End. A special pre/post-theatre menu will be available before or after the show, cocktails will be available for the performance, and live music will follow Sunday performances. For more information: midnightcompany.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.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

St. Louis classical calendar for the week of August 11, 2014

The Tavern of Fine Arts
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The Tavern of Fine Arts presents a classical open stage night on Monday, August 11, 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 an open rehearsal by the Linjadi Trio on Tuesday, August 12, at 5:30 PM. The trio will be rehearsing: "Piano Trio No. 1 in B Major," Op. 8 by Brahms and "Piano Trio No. 1 in D Minor," op. 49 by Mendelssohn. 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 Linjadi Trio on Saturday, August 16, at 8 p.m. The trio will be performing "Piano Trio No. 1 in B Major," Op. 8 by Brahms and "Piano Trio No. 1 in D Minor," op. 49 by Mendelssohn. The Tavern of Fine Arts is at 313 Belt in the Debaliviere Place neighborhood. For more information: tavern-of-fine-arts.blogspot.com.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Billy Stritch and Marilyn Maye double your pleasure at the St. Louis Cabaret Festival

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When does a three-hour cabaret evening feel too short? Why, when it stars Billy Stritch and Marilyn Maye, of course.

As part of the St. Louis Cabaret Festival, The Cabaret Project—a non-profit dedicated to promoting, developing, and sustaining cabaret in St. Louis—presented a dynamite double bill on Friday, August 1st: Mr. Stritch's Cy Coleman tribute and Ms. Maye's high-energy tribute to life, love, and sad saloon songs.

Full disclosure: I'm a member of the board of The Cabaret Project. With an evening of this quality, though, that's pretty much beside the point.

Mr. Stritch calls his show "I've Got Your Number: the Jazz of Cy Coleman," and, in fact, his set list relied as heavily on Coleman's stand-alone songs as it did on numbers from his Broadway shows. Examples of the former included "Witchcraft" and the ballad "It Amazes Me" (which Mr. Stritch singled out as one of his favorites). From the Broadway stage, we had familiar hits like "The Other Side of the Tracks" and "I've Got Your Number" (both from "Little Me"), as well as obscure goodies like "I'm Watching You" from "Nothing But the Truth," a show that died aborning. The songs Coleman wrote to lyrics by Carolyn Leigh—regarded by many as his best creative partner—were heavily favored.

It was a nicely balanced show, and performed in the dynamic, breezy, jazzy style that has made Mr. Stritch one of the most admired singer/songwriters on the cabaret and jazz scenes. He's also an impressive pianist, throwing off complex jazz riffs with deceptive ease and trading licks with drummer Jim Eklof and bassist Gerald Spaits, who backed up both him and Ms. Maye. They've both played with Mr. Stritch and Ms. Maye for many years, as their easy camaraderie made apparent.

It was, in short, a tribute to one of America's most versatile songwriters that was as entertaining as it was educational.

After intermission, the stage and the audience belonged entirely to cabaret and supper club legend Marilyn Maye who, at the ripe young age of 86, can still tell a joke, belt the blues, and croon a ballad with the best of them—all with a charm and energy that would be the envy of someone half her age.

From the moment she hit the stage—with an ingenious medley of "Rainbow" songs—until she exited almost ninety minutes later with an exuberant reading of Jerry Herman’s “It’s Today” (apparently her signature encore these days), Ms. Maye had the crowd at the Sheldon in the palm of her hand. As I noted in my review of her 2007 appearance at the now-defunct Cabaret at Savor, her boundless energy and obvious delight in her material, in combination with her cheerful, off-the-cuff repartee, inevitably establish an immediate bond with those of us on the other side of the spotlight.

Elaborate and intelligently assembled medleys seem to be the backbone of Ms. Maye's act these days. She and Mr. Stritch, her long-time music director, put together some doozies for this show, including a nine-song set based on the weepy ballads that, according to Ms. Maye, are typical of what you get when you open a show up for requests. Starting with Barry Manilow's "Paradise Café" and winding up with Arlen and Mercer's world-weary classic "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)," it was a bravura survey of some of the most notable "alcohol and lost love" songs from the Great American Songbook.

Mr. Stritch did the keyboard honors and joined Ms. Maye on some powerful jazz vocals. At one point Ted Firth (Ms. Maye's "other" music director) took over at the keyboard for a number that wound up with him and Mr. Stritch playing four-handed piano, to the delight of the audience.

For jazz and cabaret lovers, it just doesn't get much better than that.

The St. Louis Cabaret Festival concluded on Saturday, August 2nd, with a showcase the featuring 32 singers from the St. Louis Cabaret Conference, a professional training program that runs concurrently with the festival. For more information on The Cabaret Project, visit the web site.

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of August 8, 2014

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:

Photo: John Lamb
Max and Louie Productions presents Doug Wright's Quills through August 17. “This wickedly witty, erotically charged play is about the conflict between the imprisoned Marquis de Sade (infamous, irreverent literary bad boy of 18th Century France) and the keepers entrusted with silencing the perverse tales that drip from his ink-laden quill. De Sade's only sword is his pen; his opponents are armed with far deadlier weapons. Quills explores the delicate and often malleable line between morality and personal freedom, while satirizing the hypocrisy and convenience of censorship and sexuality.” Performances take place at the Wool Studio Theatre at the JCC, 2 Millstone Campus Drive. For more information, visit maxandlouie.com.

My take: If this sounds like in intriguing idea, that's probably because it is. In her review for 88.1 KDHX, Tina Farmer says "Quills" is "a deliciously inventive play weighing our decidedly human fascination with social and sexual mores against the lengths society will go to in the attempt to stifle the works of artists who push the envelope or in other ways make us nervous...Brooke Edwards' direction is clear and small details, such as having the stage crew dress as patients in the asylum, show a thoughtful approach to storytelling. When accompanied by as talented and committed a cast as in this current production, the result in an engaging, thought-provoking play."

Joe Hanrahan
The Midnight Company presents Eric Bogosian's Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll through August 17. "Bogosian's solo shows, which also include DRINKING IN AMERICA, WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE and POUNDING NAILS IN THE FLOOR WITH MY FOREHEAD, are scorching social commentaries on the urban and suburban scene - presenting portraits of contemporary men, from the homeless to possession-crazed millionaires to fading rock stars - “scabrously funny ” (Boston Phoenix) and “combustibly funny” (Newsday) monologues exposing their hidden fears, hypocrisy and rage." The performances take place at Herbie's Vintage 72, 405 N. Euclid in the Central West End. A special pre/post-theatre menu will be available before or after the show, cocktails will be available for the performance, and live music will follow Sunday performances. For more information: midnightcompany.com

My take: Joe Hanrahan has become the king of the one-man show locally and has quite an affinity for Bogosian's dark, funny, edgy work. The location has a lot going for it as well; Herbie's has been a Central West End institution for decades (I recall going there fairly often back in the 70s and 80s), with a high-end food and wine list and a French bistro atmosphere.

Action for Autism presents the drama The Violinist Friday through Sunday, August 8-10. " Written by the mother of a child with autism, the story of Thomas, a 13-year-old boy with autism, takes audiences on a thrill ride of deception and murder, as a young boy must overcome all the odds to bring down the dangerous villains pursuing him. A live string quartet will play an all new musical score with a new song written by Hollywood composer Bryan Arata. Sculptor Harry Weber donated original artwork for the event." The performances take place at the Gaslight Theater, 356 North Boyle in the Central West End. For more information: thevioliniststl.org

My take: This is a play with an fascinating premise and the proceeds all go to a worthy charity, Action for Autism. The show is directed by the very talented Kirsten Wylder. I don't think you can go wrong here.

Held Over:

Photo: Peter Wochniak
Stages St. Louis presents the musical Always..Patsy Cline through August 31. "Jacqueline Petroccia and Zoe Vonder Haar star in the return engagement of the show critics called 'exceptional, must see entertainment.' The touching and true story of Country music legend Patsy Cline and her friendship with Texas housewife Louise Seger returns to STAGES this spring. Combining down home country humor, heartache and 27 of Patsy Cline's unforgettable hits such as 'Crazy,' 'Walkin' After Midnight,' and 'Sweet Dreams,' Always... Patsy Cline endures as a piece of genuine Americana." Performances take place at The Playhouse at Westport Plaza. For more information, visit stagesstlouis.org or call 314-821-2407.

My take: Call this a qualified recommendation. If you're a lover of Patsy Cline or country music in general, I think you'll have a great time at this show, which is really more of a celebrity impersonation review than a book musical per se. Jacqueline Petroccia captures Cline's voice and manner so accurately it's eerie and Zoe Vonder Haar is a hoot and a half as Louise Seger, the real-life Houston fan who became a close friends and correspondent of Cline. With over two dozen Patsy Cline hits performed to perfection by Ms. Petroccia and a six-piece band, the show is a real feast for fans. See my KDHX review for more information.

Photo: Peter Wochniak
Stages St. Louis presents the musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying through August 17. "Big business means big laughs in this delightfully clever lampoon of life on the corporate ladder. A tune-filled comic gem that took Broadway by storm winning both the Tony Award for Best Musical and a Pulitzer Prize, How to Succeed...boasts an exhilarating score by Frank Loesser including “I Believe in You,” “Brotherhood of Man,” and “The Company Way.” Bustling with humor, romance and song, this swingin' 60s send-up of Madison Avenue charts the spectacular rise (in record time!) of an ambitious young window washer to VP of Advertising!" Performances take place in the Robert G. Reim Theatre at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road in Kirkwood. For more information, visit stagesstlouis.org or call 314-821-2407.

My take: It's a sad commentary on the state of the nation that the cheerfully cynical satire of the mendacity, mediocrity, and Machiavellian backstabbing of corporate America that makes up the book of "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" is as relevant now as it was when the show opened back in 1961. The Stages production is, as I write in my review for KDHX, a big, bright, hilarious technicolor cartoon that keeps the action firmly in the "Mad Men" era, so its sexism feels funny rather than creepy. The cast is wonderful, headed by Ben Nordstrom as perhaps the ideal J. Pierrepont Finch.

Photo: John Lamb
Union Avenue Opera presents Andre Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire, based on the play by Tennessee Williams, Friday and Saturday at 8 PM, August 1 - 9. Performances take place at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 Union at Enright in the Central West End. The opera is sung in English with projected English text. For more information, visit unionavenueopera.org or call 314-361-2881.

My take: I haven't seen this yet, but I'm putting it in here simply because it's the local premiere of a major work by an American compose noted equally for his work in the jazz and classical worlds. I can't think of a more appropriate person to set Williams's classic to music. "Mr. Previn has a fine ear for voices," wrote New York Times critic Bernard Holland of the work's 1998 premiere. "He knows how to flatter and coax it and send it gracefully from one musical episode to the next.....one had the impression that Mr. Previn had been writing for the musical theater all his life." In his review of this production for 88.1 KDHX, Gary Scott says "Union Avenue provides a first-rate production, with careful lighting, creative staging within a church sanctuary, soloists of the highest caliber and some of St. Louis's finest instrumentalists."

Monday, August 04, 2014

St. Louis theatre calendar for the week of August 4, 2014

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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Photo: Peter Wochniak
Stages St. Louis presents the musical Always..Patsy Cline through August 31. "Jacqueline Petroccia and Zoe Vonder Haar star in the return engagement of the show critics called 'exceptional, must see entertainment.' The touching and true story of Country music legend Patsy Cline and her friendship with Texas housewife Louise Seger returns to STAGES this spring. Combining down home country humor, heartache and 27 of Patsy Cline's unforgettable hits such as 'Crazy,' 'Walkin' After Midnight,' and 'Sweet Dreams,' Always... Patsy Cline endures as a piece of genuine Americana." Performances take place at The Playhouse at Westport Plaza. For more information, visit stagesstlouis.org or call 314-821-2407. Read the 88.1 KDHX review!

The Bissell Mansion Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre presents A Big Easy Murder through October 26. The Bissell Mansion is at 4426 Randall Place. For more information: bissellmansiontheatre.com

Act Two Theatre presents The Curious Savage through August 10 in the St. Peters Cultural Arts Centre at 1 St Peters Centre Blvd, St. Peters, MO 63376. "Mrs. Savage has been left ten million dollars by her husband and wants to make the best use of it, in spite of the efforts of her grown-up stepchildren to get their hands on it. Knowing that the widow's wealth is now in negotiable securities, and seeing they cannot get hold of it, they commit her to a “sanatorium” hoping to “bring her to her senses.” In the sanatorium she meets various social misfits and in getting to know them, she realizes that she will find happiness with them and plans to spend the rest of her life as one of them. The dominant mood is high comedy, and the audience is left with a feeling that the neglected virtues of kindness and affection have not been entirely lost in a world that seems motivated at times only by greed and dishonesty." For more information: act2theater.com.

The Missouri History Museum Theatre in the Museum Series presents Flappers to Smashers: Women, Prohibition, and the 1920s Tuesdays and Thursdays at 2 PM through August 5. "A look at how the 18th Amendment changed women's lives." Performances take place at the Missouri History Museum at Lindell and De Baliviere in Forest Park. For more information, visit mohistory.org.

Photo: John Lamb
Stray Dog Theatre presents the musical Funny Girl Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 PM through August 9. "In turn-of-the-century New York, a young Jew from the Lower East Side dreams of becoming a Broadway star despite her unglamorous appearance. This fabulous musical follows the life and career of Fanny Brice and her stormy relationship with Nicky Arnstein. A true New York love story of a Ziegfeld Follies star." 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!

The Muny presents the musical Grease nightly at 8:15 PM through August 8, in the outdoor theatre in Forest Park. “One of the most popular shows in Muny history, Grease returns for nine nights in its first Muny production since 2007. Packed with explosive energy, Grease takes you back to a simpler time as “bad boy” Danny and “the girl next door” Sandy fall in love all over again. Join us this summer and share in this timeless classic.” For more information, visit muny.org or call 314-361-1900.

Photo: Peter Wochniak
Stages St. Louis presents the musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying through August 17. "Big business means big laughs in this delightfully clever lampoon of life on the corporate ladder. A tune-filled comic gem that took Broadway by storm winning both the Tony Award for Best Musical and a Pulitzer Prize, How to Succeed...boasts an exhilarating score by Frank Loesser including “I Believe in You,” “Brotherhood of Man,” and “The Company Way.” Bustling with humor, romance and song, this swingin' 60s send-up of Madison Avenue charts the spectacular rise (in record time!) of an ambitious young window washer to VP of Advertising!" Performances take place in the Robert G. Reim Theatre at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road in Kirkwood. For more information, visit stagesstlouis.org or call 314-821-2407. Read the 88.1 KDHX review!

Max and Louie Productions presents Doug Wright's Quills through August 17. “This wickedly witty, erotically charged play is about the conflict between the imprisoned Marquis de Sade (infamous, irreverent literary bad boy of 18th Century France) and the keepers entrusted with silencing the perverse tales that drip from his ink-laden quill. De Sade's only sword is his pen; his opponents are armed with far deadlier weapons. Quills explores the delicate and often malleable line between morality and personal freedom, while satirizing the hypocrisy and convenience of censorship and sexuality.” Performances take place at the Wool Studio Theatre at the JCC, 2 Millstone Campus Drive. For more information, visit maxandlouie.com.

The Midnight Company presents Eric Bogosian's Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll through August 17. "Bogosian's solo shows, which also include DRINKING IN AMERICA, WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE and POUNDING NAILS IN THE FLOOR WITH MY FOREHEAD, are scorching social commentaries on the urban and suburban scene - presenting portraits of contemporary men, from the homeless to possession-crazed millionaires to fading rock stars - “scabrously funny ” (Boston Phoenix) and “combustibly funny” (Newsday) monologues exposing their hidden fears, hypocrisy and rage." The performances take place at Herbie's Vintage 72, 405 N. Euclid in the Central West End. A special pre/post-theatre menu will be available before or after the show, cocktails will be available for the performance, and live music will follow Sunday performances. For more information: midnightcompany.com

Clinton County Showcase presents the musical The Sound of Music August 7-10 Performances take place at the Avon Theater, 525 North 2nd Street Breese IL. For more information, visit ccshowcase.com.

Photo: John Lamb
Union Avenue Opera presents Andre Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire, based on the play by Tennessee Williams, Friday and Saturday at 8 PM, August 8 and 9. Performances take place at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 Union at Enright in the Central West End. The opera is sung in English with projected English text. For more information, visit unionavenueopera.org or call 314-361-2881.

Action for Autism presents the drama The Violinist Friday through Sunday, August 8-10. " Written by the mother of a child with autism, the story of Thomas, a 13-year-old boy with autism, takes audiences on a thrill ride of deception and murder, as a young boy must overcome all the odds to bring down the dangerous villains pursuing him. A live string quartet will play an all new musical score with a new song written by Hollywood composer Bryan Arata. Sculptor Harry Weber donated original artwork for the event." The performances take place at the Gaslight Theater, 356 North Boyle in the Central West End. For more information: thevioliniststl.org

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