Thursday, August 20, 2015

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of August 21, 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:

Alexandra Walker LoBianco as Brünnhilde
Union Avenue Opera presents Wagner's Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods) Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, August 21 - 29. "A suspenseful tale of courage and sacrifice, Wagner's tale of gods, mortals and giants draws to a close in Götterdämmerung - Twilight of the Gods. The heroic Siegfried gifts Brünnhilde with the ring as a token of their love, but they are soon caught up in events beyond their control. Brünnhilde steps forward to return the universe to its natural order in the ultimate act of self-sacrifice. Watch as the Rhine overflows, Valhalla burns, and the kingdom of the gods is destroyed." 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 or call 314-361-2881.

My take: Union Avenue's ambitious presentation of Wagner's complete Ring cycle concludes with this final opera in the series. The company is using reduced versions of the opera prepared by British composer Jonathan Dove and director Graham Vick, but even so this has been a very big and very risky project for them, and it deserves our support. Chicago's Lyric Opera starts another Ring cycle next year, but it's unlikely that you will see another one in St. Louis, reduced or not, for a long time.

The Mighty Wurlitzer
The Fox Theatre presents Those Were the Days with Colonel Jack Moelmann and Friends on Sunday, August 23, at 2 p.m. The show "will take audiences back to a time in the early 1900s when organ concerts were popular entertainment at the Fox Theatre and other great movie palaces across the country. In addition to Jack, two other internationally famous organists are also on the bill - Walt Strony of California and Lew Williams of Arizona - to share the spotlight at the organ as they did in 2008 at the Music Hall. The three organists will display their talent at the organ console in a musical program that will include a variety of pop music, an audience sing-along and a short Laurel and Hardy silent movie comedy that will showcase what the theatre organ was designed to do – accompany silent films. The finale will consist of a tribute to America with a medley of patriotic songs." The Fox Theatre is on North Grand in Grand Center. For more information:

My take: The Fox Mighty Wurlitzer is second in size only to the one at Radio Music Hall. It is original to the theatre and was first played on opening night in 1929. Opportunities to hear the legendary theatre organ in action are sadly rare these days; the last time it accompanied a silent film was in 2007 when the legendary Stan Kann accompanied a showing of The Phantom of the Opera. If you're a fan of these remarkable instruments with their many voices and special effects, you won't want to miss this event, the proceeds of which go o to the Stan Kann Memorial Scholarship which encourages young aspiring organists.

Held Over:

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.

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