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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 www.lookingglassplayhouse.com.
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
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
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|
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."
Photo: Deen van Meer
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: circusharmony.org.
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.
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 stltoday.com, 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.
Photo: Stewart Goldstein
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."