Friday, January 29, 2016

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of January 29, 2016

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 Looking Glass Playhouse presents the musical comedy Avenue Q Wednesdays through Sundays January 28 - February 7. "The laugh-out-loud musical tells the timeless story of a recent college grad named Princeton who moves into a shabby New York apartment all the way out on Avenue Q. He soon discovers that although the residents seem nice, it's clear that this is not your ordinary neighborhood. Together, Princeton and his new-found friends struggle to find jobs, dates, and their ever-elusive purpose in life." The show is recommended for mature audiences. Performances take place at 301 West St. Louis Street in Lebanon, Ill. For more information, visit

My take: I have not seen Looking Glass's production, but I can tell you that the show itself is very funny and very true to life, even though all the characters are puppets manipulated by actors who are visible at all times, in the manner of Japanese bunraku (or Disney's Lion King, for a more Western reference).

Photo: Peter Wochniak
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents the world premiere of the musical Georama through February 7. "In the mid 1800s, John Banvard created the first georama, a three-mile long scrolled painting celebrating the majesty of the Mighty Mississippi. Once a starving sketch artist, his creation catapulted him to a life of luxury and notoriety, but also brought competition and deception that threatened to push his passion to the wayside. Georama illustrates an artist's rise and fall, and the choice between the art he loves and the life he's always longed for." Performances take place in the studio theater at the Loretto-Hlton Center, 130 Edgar Road in Webster Groves, MO. For more information, call 314-968-4925 or visit

My take: As I write in my review, this show could use some tweaking here and there (this is the world premiere, after all) but otherwise it's a very entertaining and educational look at an overlooked aspect of late 19th-century showbiz: the moving panorama. Arguably the precursor of motion pictures (since it was, after all, a picture that moved), the moving panorama was eclipsed by photography and then movies, but for a while it was all the rage. And this is the fascinating tale of the man who invented the genre.

Underneath the Lintel
Photo: Eric Woolsey
New Jewish Theater presents the one-character play Underneath the Lintel by Glenn Berger January 28 - February 13. “A haunting, beautifully constructed one-person meditation on time and devotion. A returned library book, 113 years overdue with a clue scribbled in the margin and an unclaimed dry-cleaning ticket take the Dutch librarian on a life-changing quest with an obsession to find its owner. Our protagonist follows multiple clues- tickets to the Peking Opera, a love letter written in Yiddish - on a world-wide search that ultimately decodes the meaning of life. A metaphysical detective story that is funny and fierce, quirky and smart.” Performances take place in the Marvin and Harlene Wool Studio Theater at the Jewish Community Center, 2 Millstone Campus Drive in Creve Coeur. For more information: or call 314-442-3283.

My take: I haven't seen the New Jewish production yet, but having reviewed the play itself when the St. Lou Fringe presented in in 2014 (in a bravura performance by Pat O'Brien), I can tell you that it's a terrific script. It's a fantasy, a mystery, and a wonderfully human story about the pursuit of someone who is no longer human at all. New Jewish is doing a revised version of the script in which the character is female rather than male, but given that the character's gender is largely irrelevant to the story, I think we can assume the script will be little different from what I saw back in 2014.

The cast of The Weir
Cocktails and Curtain Calls presents The Weir, the award-winning play by Irish playwright Conor McPherson, Monday through Thursday at 8:00pm, Jan 25 to February 11. It will be the first local production to utilize the new Members' Project Code, under the auspices of the Actors' Equity Association. All profits from ticket sales go directly to the artists. Performances will take place at McGurk's Irish Pub and Dressel's in the Central West End. For details on performance times and locatsions, visit

My take: We saw McPherson's play many years ago in London, and found it a rattling good ghost story: well written with plausible characters. In his review for KDHX, Steve Callahan says that "Cocktails and Curtain Calls company gives us what, to me, must be the definitive production of this beautiful play." At Ladue News, Mark Bretz writes that the company "makes an impressive debut with a grand regaling of Irish playwright Conor McPherson’s chilling drama...Setting the production in an actual tavern enhances the atmosphere immensely and, combined with director Kari Ely’s careful direction of a top-rate cast, makes The Weir a fanciful tale and a tonic for a deep winter’s night."

Held Over:

Photo: Deen van Meer
The Fox Theatre presents the musical Disney's Newsies, opening on Tuesday, January 19, and running through January 31. " They delivered the papers, until they made the headlines. Direct from Broadway comes NEWSIES, the smash-hit, crowd-pleasing new musical from Disney. Based on true events, NEWSIES tells the captivating story of a band of underdogs who become unlikely heroes when they stand up to the most powerful men in New York. It's a rousing tale about fighting for what's right...and staying true to who you are." The Fox Theatre is at 517 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information, or call 314-534-1678.

My take: In her review for KDHX, Missy Heinemenn says that musical adaptation of a not-very-successful film offers "a nostalgic treat for some and a high-energy theatrical experience for all." "Disney's crowd-pleasing musical includes triumphant tales of woe that will melt cold hearts," writes Lynn Venhaus at the Belleville News-Democrat, "while the robust dance routines have the touring show's rabid fan base cheering loudly." The show copped two Tonys when it opened on Broadway in 2012 (for choreography and score). If my week hadn't been so booked, I would have certainly been at the Fox on opening night to catch this one myself.

Circus Harmony presents Giocoso Saturdays at 2 and 7 PM and Sundays at 2 PM, January 23 - 31. Performances take place at City Museum, 701 N. 15th Street. Show admission is free with museum admission. For more information:

My take: Circus Harmony does excellent outreach work that demonstrates how the arts can make a big difference in the community. If you've ever seen a Circus Flora show, of course, you've seen some of Circus Harmony's students at work as The St. Louis Arches, but the organization's reach and mission go far beyond that. "Circus Harmony," according to their web site, "teaches the art of life through circus education. We work to build character and expand community for youth of all ages, cultures, abilities and backgrounds. Through teaching and performance of circus skills, we help people defy gravity, soar with confidence, and leap over social barriers, all at the same time." Since their 2001 Circus Salaam Shalom, which brought Jewish and Muslim kids in St. Louis together, Circus Harmony has been advancing its philosophy of "peace through pyramids, harmony through handspirngs" to "inspire individuals and connect communities."

The Lion in Winter
Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents James Goldman's The Lion in Winter through January 31. "During Christmas of 1183, King Henry II of England plans to announce his successor to the throne. But in this amusing and high-spirited romp, other members of the royal family have their own opinions of who should be crowned king. As he feuds with his estranged wife, Eleanor, and attempts to navigate the minefield of his bickering sons, all of whom have a stake in the game, it's open season on the English throne, bringing a whole new meaning to dysfunctional family drama." Performances take place on the mainstage at the Loretto-Hlton Center, 130 Edgar Road in Webster Groves, MO. For more information, call 314-968-4925 or visit

My take: This is a tough call for me. I'm not very persuaded by director Edward Stern's approach to the text. I think he rushes it a bit and misses many nuances in Goldman's witty dialog. Reviews, however, have been very positive. "The Rep's production," writes Tina Farmer at KDHX, "finds more humor in the script than I remember, and the subtle differences in inflection and emotion expertly counter the frequently ambiguous actions of the characters. The effect is mesmerizing, giving the well-known show a fresh, vibrant energy and suspenseful tone that propels the story." And over at, Judy Newmark calls it a "satisfying, well-seasoned, wonderfully witty drama — perfect fare for a cold winter's night." It has been a while since we've had a solid professional production of this literate and intelligent script and this one has an excellent cast and great production values, so I'm giving it a qualified thumbs up.

Sunset Baby
Photo: Stewart Goldstein
The Black Rep presents the drama Sunset Baby through January 31. "Kenyatta Shakur is alone. His wife has died, and now this former Black Revolutionary and political prisoner is desperate to reconnect with his estranged daughter." Performances take place at the Edison Theatre on the Washington University campus. For more information:

My take: The Black Rep has often delivered new and important plays that speak to the black experience, and this appears to be a case in point. "The Black Rep's production of Dominque Morisseau's searing contemporary drama", writes Tina Farmer at KDHX, "is a tense show that suffers no fools and offers no easy answers. Set in an urban neighborhood rife with gun crime, prostitution, and drugs, the show avoids simple stereotypes and pat responses. Instead we see authentic people, with significant flaws and genuinely admirable qualities combined, who are trying to make their way to a better place." "Sober, strong and striking," writes Mark Bretz at Ladue News, "Sunset Baby is a powerful study of both the past and the present."

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