Thursday, August 13, 2015

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of August 14, 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 Muny presents Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic musical Oklahoma! nightly at 8:15 PM, August 10-16, in the outdoor theatre in Forest Park. "Rodgers and Hammerstein's masterpiece Oklahoma!, the musical that changed Broadway and America, returns to The Muny stage in a grand and glorious production. In its first Muny production since 2007, this beautiful and dramatic show features an unforgettable story and a score filled with landmark songs such as "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'," "The Surrey With the Fringe on Top," "People Will Say We're in Love," and of course, "Oklahoma!"" For more information, visit or call 314-361-1900.

My take: It's easy to forget, all these years later, how innovative this first collaboration between Rodgers and Hammerstein was when it opened in 1943. With direction by Rouben Mamoulian and choreography by Agnes de Mille (the first of her 15 Broadway shows), this was serious musical theatre. The tight integration of book, music, and dance was unusual at the time, as was the seriousness of the subject matter. "A show this deeply ingrained in our collective memory can be tough to produce," writes Tina Farmer at KDHX, "but the MUNY's production delivers the familiar with affection in a bright, quick-paced show that mostly hits all the right notes." "This lovingly rendered production breathes new life into a show that's an absolute natural for the outdoor setting that The MUNY's stage provides," says Chris Gibson at "See it, and be enriched by a vibrant presentation that's a perfect way to introduce your family to the considerable charms of this musical, as well as the venue staging it!"

Mariposa Artists presents Dionna Raedeke in Shine Like Gold on Friday, August 14, at 8 p.m. Described as "a musical journey from dark to light," the show features guest performers Mike Krysl on guitar, Ben Wheeler on bass, Jonnie Brown on percussion, and vocalist Emilie Nevins-Carter. Admission include two complimentary drinks and parking is free. The performance takes place at The Chapel, 6238 Alexander Drive in Clayton. For more information:

My take: When most folks think of cabaret, I expect the image that comes to mind is that of a single performer backed up by a piano, possibly augmented with bass or percussion. That's certainly the most common arrangement but, as singer (and visual artist) Dionna Raedeke and guitarist Mike Krysl will be demonstrating this Friday, it's by no means the only one. A relatively new addition to the St. Louis cabaret scene, Ms. Raedeke has garnered raves for her singing and musical taste. "Dionna is one of my new favorite singers," says actor, singer and teacher Jason Graae. "Her voice has such a haunting beauty and it comes directly from her soul." New York-based singer, songwriter and music director Rick Jensen—who accompanied Ms. Raedeke for her 2011 show Sight - Sound—agrees, describing her as a "vocally compelling and consistently original in her performance." An inventive musician who lists influences as diverse as Robin Trower, Django Reinhardt and Leonard Bernstein, Mike Krysl has often impressed me with both the ingenuity and virtuosity of his inventive and original takes on rock and pop standards. Note also the The Chapel provides its space for free, so all procedes go straight to the artists.

Photo: John Lamb
Stray Dog Theatre presents the musical Spellbound! A Musical Fable Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 PM through August 22. "Spellbound is the story of a young woman's journey for inner strength and self-worth in a mythical land where at every turn she is thwarted by an evil enchantress, shape-shifting beasts, and a plethora of magic potions. Full of humor and adventure this world premiere musical is not to be missed! " Performances take place at The Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee. For more information, visit or call 314-865-1995.

My take: Written by Stray Dog founder Gary F. Bell and Robert L. White, Spellbound! is a big step forward for this gutsy company. In her review for KDHX, Tina Farmer writes that the show "doesn't tell a new story, and it never pretends to be more than the lovely, fantasy-laden fable that it presents. But it is richly layered, with several memorable tunes that successfully mix musical genres into a fresh, uplifting story. The effect is immersive and cathartic, encouraging audiences to let go of their cares and embrace a delightfully new interpretation of a much-loved tale." I'm a great admirer of Stray Dog's work, both as an actor and audience member, so I have no hesitation in recommending this first foray into presenting original material.

Held Over:

The cast of Anything Goes
Photo: Peter Wochniak
Stages St. Louis presents Cole Porter's Anything Goes through August 16. "Set sail on the S. S. American with a zany group of travelers, bound from New York to merry old England, where gangsters, socialites, and arrow-collar lads collide in a true tap-sensation from a by-gone era when travel was still fun and as unpredictable as the weather. There'll be laughs a-plenty set to a raucous and romantic Cole Porter score. Enjoy meltingly romantic melodies as "I Get A Kick Out Of You," "It's De-Lovely," "Easy To Love," "You're The Top," and "Anything Goes," that will inspire an uproarious and tune-filled trip across the Atlantic where ANYTHING GOES!" 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.

My take: Porter's hit-laden score and the breezy (and often revised book) combine for great fun, and it looks like Stages is doing it justice. "Every song, every character, every step, every gesture, every tiny comic bit is perfect," writes Steve Callahan at KDHX. "Every single moment of this show is a delight." Having finally had a chance to see it myself, I concur. The original Billy Crocker has been replaced by Brent Michael Diroma, who is a very talented comic actor with a lovely crooner's light baritone/tenor. Definitely worth seeing.

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