Thursday, June 18, 2015

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of June 19, 2015

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 Boy Who Loved Monsters and
the Girl Who Loved Peas
Metro Theatre Company presents The Boy Who Loved Monsters And The Girl Who Loved Peas through June 22. "Left alone at the dinner table to finish the remains of his meal (a single, enormous pea), 8-year-old Evan wishes he had a real live monster to eat his peas and play with him. When a real live monster actually arrives, life is turned upside down for Evan and his family in this hilarious and heartfelt comedy. " Performances take place at Wydown Middle School, 6500 Wydown in Clayton. For more information:

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
Opera Theatre of St. Louis presents Tobias Picker's drama Emmeline in rotating repertory with three other operas through June 27. "Inspired by a compelling true story from a mill town in 19th century New England, Emmeline's heart-wrenching saga echoes the age-old Oedipus legend." Performances take place at the Loretto-Hilton Center at 135 Edgar Road on the Webster University campus. All performances are sung in English with projected English text. For more information: or call 314-961-0644.

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
The Muny presents the classic musical My Fair Lady nightly at 8:15 PM, Monday through Sunday, June 14-21, in the outdoor theatre in Forest Park. "This all-time Muny favorite has some of the most enchanting Broadway songs ever written. You'll delight in "On The Street Where You Live," "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?," "The Rain in Spain," and "I Could Have Danced All Night." A witty and moving story of the sexes in their fiercest and funniest battle, My Fair Lady is the best of classic Broadway." For more information, visit or call 314-361-1900.

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, 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:

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
Opera Theatre of St. Louis presents the American premiere of Handel's Richard the Lionheart in rotating repertory with three other operas through June 26. "If you only know him from Robin Hood, you don't know the whole story of Richard the Lionheart. Shipwrecked on the way to the Third Crusade, one of England's bravest kings must disguise himself to protect his future bride and prevent war in a foreign land. But who can he trust in this all-too-real game of thrones? Handel's virtuosic vocal writing in this opera, never before heard in the United States, makes Richard an eagerly-anticipated event for all music-lovers." Performances take place at the Loretto-Hilton Center at 135 Edgar Road on the Webster University campus. All performances are sung in English with projected English text. For more information: or call 314-961-0644. Read the 88.1 KDHX review!

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, "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
Stages St. Louis presents the musical revue Smokey Joe's Café, based on the songs of Leiber and Stoller through June 28. " Welcome to the neighborhood for a nostalgic exploration of the lives, loves, and aspirations of a group of friends who know how to rock 60s style. Featuring nearly 40 chart-topping hits that span over three decades of popular American music, this thrilling Grammy Award-winning song celebration will knock your socks off. Relive the glory days of rock and roll with such pop standards as "Stand By Me,""Jailhouse Rock," "I'm A Woman," "Hound Dog," and "On Broadway." Now, Baby, that's rock 'n' roll! Words and Music by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller." Performances take place in the Robert G. Reim Theatre at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road in Kirkwood. For more information, visit or call 314-821-2407. Read the 88.1 KDHX review!

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 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

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.

Held Over:

Emily Fons as Rosina and
Dale Travis as Dr. Bartolo
Photo: Ken Howard
Opera Theatre of St. Louis presents Rossini's comedy The Barber of Seville in rotating repertory with three other operas through June 27. "There's a good reason it's one of the world's most popular operas! Rossini's zany and sparkling score sets the gold standard for opera that is fresh, elegant, funny, and brimming with vocal fireworks. Delight as the young barber Figaro helps Count Almaviva steal the beautiful Rosina from under the nose of her doddering guardian." Performances take place at the Loretto-Hilton Center at 135 Edgar Road on the Webster University campus. All performances are sung in English with projected English text. For more information: or call 314-961-0644.

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
Photo: ProPhotoSTL
Gitana Productions presents Black and Blue by by Lee Patton Chiles with music by Tbeats Entertainment Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m., June 19-21. "An original play of hope and healing, exploring the assumptions that all young black men are dangerous, and that all cops are bad. " Performances take place in the Fischer Theater at St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley, 3400 Pershall Road. For more information:

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
Circus Flora presents its new show, One Summer on 2nd Street through June 28 under the air-conditioned, red-and-white, big top tent in Grand Center next to Powell Hall. "Travel back with us to The Jazz Age - to a time at which American cities grew rapidly, becoming home to families from all walks of life and corners of the map. We'll journey together to a typical block in a typical city on a typical day - and meet a very atypical set of families. Find yourself enchanted by a small Ukrainian family who tame the cats that live in the alley. Feel the excitement as Russian carriage drivers ride wildly through the streets, and the Flying Wallendas maneuver their way along clotheslines strung between buildings. Experience the bliss of young love, determined to stand strong amid their families' protests. These stories, and more, will come alive under the Big Top this summer." For more information, visit

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
Opera Theatre of St. Louis presents Puccini's La Rondine in rotating repertory with three other operas through June 28. " Can a beautiful, sophisticated Parisian courtesan find happiness with a young man from the country? Or is her love affair doomed by a past she cannot keep secret? Celebrated OTSL music director Stephen Lord brings Puccini's gorgeous music and romantic storytelling to life in this stunning, new belle epoque period production." Performances take place at the Loretto-Hilton Center at 135 Edgar Road on the Webster University campus. All performances are sung in English with projected English text. For more information: or call 314-961-0644.

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.

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