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New This Week:
|The Boy Who Loved Monsters and|
the Girl Who Loved Peas
My take: Metro Theatre Company has been in the business of producing world-class theatre for children—including works like To Kill a Mockingbird that were not written only for children—for many years now. In his review for 88.1 KDHX, Steve Callahan describes their latest as "a bright, happy, sweet, perfect joy for kids (and for me)." If you're looking for some theatre that's friendly to the whole family, this is a good bet.
Photo: Ken Howard
My take: An out of town trip prevented my from seeing this revival of Tobias PIcker's 1996 opera, although I did get a chance to chat with the director beforehand. Reviews of this production have been very positive, though, and its sharp critique of what I would describe as soulless self-congratulation of corporate Christianity is as relevant as ever. In his review for 88.1 KDHX, Steve Callahan describes it as "a strikingly beautiful opera—visually and musically." "Both musically and theatrically," says Mark Bretz at Ladue News, "Emmeline is a bravura performance that resonates with its beauty."
|My Fair Lady|
My take: I've always had a soft spot for this show. The script is literate and funny and the score is one of Lerner and Lowe's best. Reviews of the Muny production have been pretty much uniformly positive. Chris Gibson at Broadwayworld.com, for example, describes it as "an elegant must-see presentation." "The talented cast clearly enjoys the show," says Tina Farmer at 88.1 KDHX, "and they deliver an abundance of spectacular moments that are framed and complemented by the excellent band and technical crew."
The Gateway Men's Chorus presents Prom on Friday and Saturday, June 19 and 20, at 8 p.m. "With the lights turned low and the perfect song in the air, the Gateway Men's Chorus will take you back to that magic high school night, where the emotions ran hot and the possibilities were unlimited. Reminisce on a time of first loves, incredible friendships, and never-ending summers. Dress up, dance, and make it a night to remember with the love of your life." The concerts take place at the Edison Theatre on the Washington University campus. For more information: gmcstl.org.
My take: Strictly speaking, this isn't theatre, but the GMC has always had a distinctly theatrical take on anything they perform. They are, in any case, a local cultural treasure that deserves our support.
|Richard the Lionheart|
Photo: Ken Howard
My take: This is another opening I missed because of my travels (I'll be seeing it this Saturday), but the critical word on this one has been generally good. "The chief point of Baroque opera," writes Sarah Bryan Miller at stltoday.com, "is the production and enjoyment of lavish vocal displays; if you can have an effective and engaging staging to go with them, all the better. In its new production of Handel’s “Richard the Lionheart” (“Riccardo Primo”), Opera Theatre of St. Louis has largely succeeded in both". At 88.1 KDHX, Steve Callahan calls it "truly astonishing" and "the most perfect production of an opera that I've ever seen". And how often do you get to see an American premiere of an opera written nearly three centuries ago?
|Smokey Joe's Café|
Photo: Peter Wochniak
My take: What's not to love about this jaunty musical revue of the songs of Leiber and Stoller? If you know of this duo only as the composers of rock classics like "Get a Job" or "Jailhouse Rock," though, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the variety of their songwriting skills. The Stages version has gotten lots of praise, too. At 88.1 KDHX, Tina Farmer calls it "a rousing, toe-tapping, finger-snapping production," while over at stltoday.com Judy Newmark praises "nonstop numbers that put the familiar songs onto their twinkling feet." Baby, that is rock and roll!
The St. Lou Fringe Festival opens on Wednesday, June 17, and runs through June 27 at several venues in the Grand Center area including the Kranzberg Arts Center (501 N. Grand) and The Stage at KDHX. Performances include traditional theater, dance, music, comedy, circus arts, performance art, cabaret, and burlesque, with acts from St. Louis and around the country. For a complete schedule, visit stlfringe.com.
My take: I've been a big booster of the Fringe since its scrappy beginnings as a four-day, low-budget events at a handful of venues in the summer of 2012. Now budgets are bigger, there are more event spaces (including The Stage @ KDHX, with state-of-the-art lights and sound), and the festival runs for ten days, but the same spirit of pushing the entertainment envelope is still there. I'll be seeing a dozen of the shows (and posting capsule commentaries at KDHX), and there will be coverage from my fellow KDHX critics Steve Callahan and Tina Farmer. Check us out and, by all means, check out the Fringe. There's a little something for everyone.
|Emily Fons as Rosina and|
Dale Travis as Dr. Bartolo
Photo: Ken Howard
My take: As I write in my review for KDHX, everyone connected with this production can congratulate themselves on a job well done. Taking as his point of departure the animated and colorful films of Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, Mr. Shell has produced a loopy, slightly surreal, and highly engaging take this comic opera classic. The updated bits are always funny and sometimes inspired. And there aren't so many of them that they pull focus from the singers and the text and score of the opera. This is a production that respects the intelligence of its audience and doesn't assume that we need to be constantly distracted in order to be entertained.
|Black and Blue|
My take: The events in Ferguson, Missouri, last year resonated throughout the nation. This drama by St. Louis playwright Lee Patton Chiles is, in the words of KDHX theatre reviewer Tina Farmer, "a thought provoking, well-acted and strongly worded play that stirs discussion in an attempt to create a fuller, more varied and nuanced understanding of racial conflict, not only in St. Louis but across America." Theatre can educate, enlighten, and provoke as well as entertain, and it looks like Gitana has a production here that does all three.
|One Summer on 2nd Street|
My take: One of the more welcome harbingers of summer in St. Louis is the appearance of Circus Flora's air-conditioned tent on the parking lot just south of Powell Hall. Once the big top is in place, you know that an evening of thrills, comedy and all-around family friendly entertainment awaits you within its pleasantly cool confines. "Circus Flora shows always tell a story," Tina Farmer reminds us in her KDHX review. "[T]his year it's 'One Summer on Second Street.' A tale of summer in the city with a nostalgic feel, the story encourages us to meet our neighbors and treat our animal friends with love and respect. Naturally, the lesson is delivered with an abundance of fantastic feats of skill, strength, and athleticism." Grab some popcorn and cotton candy, listen to the band organ before the show, and be a kid again. Or stay one, as the case may be.
|Photo: Ken Howard|
My take: La Rondine was always a bit of a problem child for Puccini. He left it in three different versions. I've seen two of them, and while in both cases the libretto was so cryptic that characters' decisions often seemed weirdly unmotivated, there was no getting around the fact that the composer lavished some truly wonderful music on that text. The music and, even more importantly, the singing actors are the reasons to see this beautifully sung, impeccably acted, intelligently directed, and all-around entertaining production. As I say in my review for KDHX, this production is a reminder of why we love opera in the first place.