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My take: I first saw Mr. Thomas shortly after he arrived in St. Louis last year at The Cabaret Project open mic night (which I host) . He impressed me (and everyone else who has seen him) with his smooth, charming song delivery, with its echoes of the great Nat "King" Cole and other classic crooners. I heard Maria for the first time at last night's open mic, and I think the two of them will deliver an entertaining evening of holiday tunes for you.
The Monocle Varieté presents Holi-Dazzle Done Fridays and Saturdays at 9 and 11 p.m., through December 27. "Holi-Dazzle is the avant-retro variety show that will help you make it through the season that's not all fun and good cheer. Isn't it just sometimes weird, and a little crazy? And not dazzling in the right way? Get your holiday cure right here on our stage." This ninety-minute comedy show will have you rolling in the aisles with the bawdy humor of the late Joan Rivers." The performance takes place in the Emerald Room at The Monocle, 4510 Manchester in the Grove neighborhood. For more information: buzzonstage.com/st-louis
My take: Looking for something a bit more adult in terms of holiday fun? The Monocle has just the thing for you. In her review for KDHX, Tina Farmer says the show "puts a little spice into the season with a festive evening of fun among friends...The Emerald Room at The Monocle is an intimate space, with audience members seated around tables just a few feet from the stage. The close proximity makes the venue a perfect setting for a cabaret that references the glitz and glamour of old Hollywood and New York supper clubs with a touch of vaudeville."
Photo: Sandy Durell
My take: When I reviewed Ms. Farr's first solo endeavor, Pure Imagination, back in 2010, I described it as a very intelligently crafted, beautifully sung and highly entertaining show. She's had five years of experience to build on since then, so you can probably expect great things from her this time around. A classically trained singer with a respectable theatre background, Ms. Farr has vocal technique to spare and a good sense of how to build a cabaret show.
|All is Calm|
Photo: John Lamb
My take: As I say in my review, this show combines splendid and often quite complex a cappella singing with readings of letters from soldiers and other historical documents. It's powerfully moving and beautifully performed by a fine ensemble of eleven of our town's most talented singing actors. Highly recommended, especially given the current level of hateful and aggressive political rhetoric that is currently despoiling our holiday season.
Photo: Eric Woolsey
My take: New Jewish Theater has brought some intriguing new shows to town over the years, and this one appears to be a good example. In her review for KDHX, Tina Farmer says Bad Jews is "a clever script filled with just the right levity, enabling the excellent cast to deliver a deeply evocative and thought-provoking story that sneaks up on you with surprising force."
|Devil Boys from Beyond|
Photo: John Lamb
My take: Ah, Stray Dog theatre! This small, smart local company treats is actors and its audiences like royalty and has produced some very fine work over the years. I'm a bit biased in that I've done a number of shows with them and always found the experience worthwhile, but the continued growth of their audience numbers and long string of good reviews indicate that I'm not alone in my admiration. "[T]he crisp, quick paced show," writes Tina Farmer in her review for KDHX, "is a mash up of science fiction and romantic comedy with abundant laughs, quirky characters, compromising situations, and a retro feel. To keep with the season, there's also and uplifting ending and genuine, positive messages about sexuality, gender roles, and acceptance."
|The Gin Game|
Photo: John Lamb
My take: Donald Coburn's script has been a staple of small theatre groups for a long time now, and with good reason. It's filled with great lines for two very well-drawn characters. "Similar to the game of gin itself," writes Tina Farmer at KDHX, "the story behind each of the two characters in the show is neither as simple nor straightforward as it may first appear, and neither are willing to reveal their hand too quickly. The result is a show that teeters on the line between comic and tragic, accidentally revealing truth that is at times humorous to behold, at times painful to consider."
Photo: Joan Marcus
My take: I haven't seen this particular tour, but in my review of the 2005 tour I noted that composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz and book author Winnie Holtzman have done a remarkable job of simplifying and reducing the story of Gregory McGuire's original novel while still remaining true to the original characters and their relationships. The score is one of Schwartz's best, and that's saying something.