Thursday, May 19, 2016

Chuck's Coices for the weekend of May 20, 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:

Marsh Cobb
The Emerald Room at the Monocle presents singer Marsh Cobb in The Moon, the Stars, and Other Heavenly Bodies on Sunday, May 22, at 3 p.m. "There is probably no symbol more iconic in American popular music than the moon and stars. Sad songs, happy songs, and of course, love songs. It seems love and the moon go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Or chocolate and mint. Or chocolate and, well, just about anything. Marsh Cobb takes us on a tour of some of the best of these songs and what they meant to him throughout his life. A poet and lyricist himself, Marsh has a special connection to song lyrics and the magical effect they produce." The performances take place in The Emerald Room at The Monocle Bar, 4510 Manchester in The Grove neighborhood. For more information:

My take: The blossoming of local cabaret talent in St. Louis has been a wonderful thing to see over the last several years. The combination of the intensive training offered by Tim Schall's St. Louis Cabaret Conference and the availability multiple performance venues has generated enough attention to give the Mound City its own entry in the Reviews section of Cabaret Scenes magazine. Marsh has been a regular at the Cabaret Project's monthly open mic night (which I host) at Tavern of Fine Arts for a few years now, and I have come to admire both his smooth, old-fashioned crooner's delivery and his sense of humor.

Mara Bollini
The Kranzberg Arts Center presents singer Mara Bollini in Taking Chances on Friday, May 20, at 8 p.m. "A native of St. Louis, Mara Bollini has had the privilege of singing and dancing her way across stages throughout the area for decades. “Taking Chances,” Bollini’s debut solo cabaret, is an artistically crafted journey blending music from across the ages as well as musical genres." Tim Schall directs, with music direction by Carl Schmidt. The Kranzberg Center is at 501 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information:

My take: Here's more evidence of the flowering of St. Louis cabaret. Mara Bollini has been a familiar figure on the local theatre scene for a while now, which bodes well for her cabaret debut. I am firmly of the opinion that actors do some of the best cabaret.  And you can't go wrong with the team of Tim Schall and Carold Schmidt.

The Two-Character Play
The Midnight Company presents The Two-Character Play by Tennessee Williams Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m., through June 4. "Two actors, a brother and a sister, are stranded in a theatre, struggling to perform, struggling to survive." Performances take place at the Winter Opera Space, 2322 Marconi on The Hill. For more information:

My take: The recently-concluded Tennessee Williams festival produced a remarkable variety of performances, including an unconventional take on The Glass Menagerie by Upstream and this "weird but oddly wonderful production" (to quote Mark Bretz of Ladue News) of a late and rarely-seen play. It might not be the playwright's best work, but it's being performed by a pair of actors—Michelle Hand and Joe Hanrahan—who are among the best at their craft. That, for me, means that it deserves serious consideration.

Photo: Eric Woolsey
New Jewish Theater presents the musical Yentl through June 5 “Based on Isaac Bashevis Singer's short story “Yentl the Yeshiva Boy” and updated with new music and lyrics by Jill Sobule, “Yentl” tells the story of a young girl in 19th century Eastern Europe forbidden to pursue her dream of studying Talmud. Unwilling to accept her fate, she disguises herself as a man. But when she falls in love, Yentl must decide how far she's willing to go to protect her identity. This marks 40 years since the play - then without music - ran on Broadway. With parallels in Singer's short story coinciding with the burgeoning second wave of feminism, we find Yentl as an outsider seeking to find her own voice within a very proscribed world.” 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: This "rousing, spirited production" (to quote KDHX critic Tina Farmer) is effectively a world premiere, and I'm a big fan of the idea of bringing new works to local stages. Better yet, New Jewish has assembled a very strong cast for this, headed by Shanara Gabrielle in the title role and Andrew Michael Neiman as her love interest.

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