Friday, June 24, 2016

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of June 24, 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:

You can read more about all the upcoming operas at OTSL in my preview post.

Alice in Wonderland
Photo: Peter Wochniak
Stages St. Louis presents the musical Disney's Alice in Wonderland through July 3. "Tumble down the rabbit hole with Alice as she falls into the madcap world of Wonderland and meets such extraordinary characters as Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts, and the frantically late White Rabbit. Inviting and magical, Disney's ALICE IN WONDERLAND is a fantastic adventure the whole family can enjoy! Based on the classic literary tales of Lewis Carroll and the beloved Walt Disney film, this whimsical journey to a land beyond imagination is sure to bring you and yours the perfect“Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah” day." Performances take place in at the Playhouse at Westport Plaza. For more information, visit or call 314-821-2407.

My take: Looking for theatre that's fun for the whole family? Stages has a deal for you. Children's theatre can sometimes feel like it's aimed not so much at children as at simple-minded adults. Such is apparently not the case here. "Children will likely be enthralled by the clever dialogue, catchy songs, and abundantly joyful tone of the show" writes Tina Farmer at KDHX, "so much so that the simple but effective lesson about being true to yourself can easily sneak its way into their brains. Parents and older kids have not been forgotten, and most will appreciate the pop culture references, fast pacing, comic choreography, and high quality singing that ties the show up in a delightful bow."

An Inspector Calls
Photo: John Lamb
Act Inc presents J.B. Priestley's drama An Inspector Calls June 24-25. "Set in a pre-WWI English industrial town, nothing is as it seems for the Birling family when the curious Police Inspector Goole interrupts a celebratory dinner to investigate the tragic demise of a young woman. Who is responsible for her untimely death? Is anybody guilty? Is anybody truly innocent? Are there any answers at all?" Performances take place in the Emerson Black Box Theatre at the J. Scheidegger Center for the Arts on the Lindenwood campus in St. Charles, MO. For more information, visit

My take: I haven't seen this production, but the play itself is a powerful indictment on the smugness and moral rot that can accompany material comfort. As such, it's as relevant now as when it was first performed in 1945, if not more so. Writing for the Post-Dispatch, Judy Newmark calls it an "intriguing drama" and notes the way in which it subverts the conventions of drawing-room drama to deliver a radical message.

It Shoulda Been YouPhoto: Peter Wochniak
Stages St. Louis presents the musical It Shoulda Been You through July 3. "You are cordially invited to join us for what is certain to be the wedding of the year! Direct from Broadway and in its Mid-Western premiere, IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU comes to STAGES with a mad-cap wedding celebration we know you won't want to miss! After all, who doesn't love a wedding? Especially one that includes a beautiful blushing bride, her uninvited and unrequited boyfriend, a groom with a secret, a sister with her own hidden agenda, and a pair of mothers from hell. This refreshingly modern romantic comedy has more than a few surprising twists in store as out comes the bride and groom in a wedding you are sure to remember. Be the first to say “I do” to this wonderfully witty musical that kept Broadway audiences rolling in the aisles. " Performances take place in the Robert G. Reim Theatre at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road in Kirkwood. For more information, visit or call 314-821-2407.

My take: This world premiere musical has gotten considerable praise from my fellow critics. "Strong actors abound in the production," says Laura Kyro at KDHX, "and most have excellent singing voices." At Broadwayworld, Chris Gibson calls it a "superbly rendered presentation" and strongly recommends it.

Held Over:

Ariadne on Naxos
Photo: Ken Howard
Opera Theatre of St. Louis presents Richard Strauss's comedy Ariadne on Naxos running through June 24. "The wealthiest man in Vienna has hired both divas and clowns to perform two separate shows at the end of a lavish dinner party. When dinner runs long, the artists are stunned to find they must all take the stage together. What results is a mashup of slapstick comedy and deeply profound romance - mixing coloratura fireworks with spectacular arias." Performances take place at the Loretto-Hilton Center at 135 Edgar Road on the Webster University campus. All performances are sung in English with projected English text. For more information: or call 314-961-0644.

My take: Your mileage may vary, but I have always found the comic carrying on of Zerbinetta and company to be some of the best bits. That said, the concluding love duet for Bacchus and Ariadne shows Strauss at his most rhapsodic. Look for distinguished St. Louis-based actor/singer/playwright Ken Page in the role of the Majordomo. In his review for KDHX, Steve Callahan says OTSL has done "a simply perfect production of this work. It's entire sensibility -- staging, costumes, sets, lights, and especially the acting style -- expresses a profound empathy with Strauss's subtle blend of classicism and parody."

Photo: Jill Ritter Lindberg
New Line Theatre presents the St. Louis premiere of the musical Atomic Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 PM through June 25. "New Line continues its 25h season with the regional premiere of the exhilarating and provocative new rock musical ATOMIC, based on the true story of the creation of the atomic bomb. With book and lyrics by Danny Ginges, and music and lyrics by Philip Foxman, this powerful rock musical blasts open the doors of The Manhattan Project, a government-funded program of top scientists with the task of creating the world's first Atomic Bomb." Performances take place at the Marcelle Theater, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive, three blocks east of Grand, in Grand Center. For more information, visit or call 314-534-1111.

My take: "A long forgotten but important historical figure gets his due in the zealous rock musical Atomic,'" writes Lynn Venhaus at the Belleville News-Democrat, "which bursts with passionate performances, an expressive score and combustible conversations. New Line Theatre's smart production features a synergetic ensemble fully committed to telling this complex, fascinating story about Leo Szilard. We Americans should know of him, but unfortunately many of us don't." New Line is once again breaking new ground in St. Louis musical theatre.

La Bohème
Photo: Ken Howard
Opera Theatre of St. Louis presents Puccini's La Bohème opening on Saturday, May 21, and running through June 25. "One of the most performed operas of all time, La bohème has gripped audiences for over a century. Rodolfo and his friends scrape by as bohemian artists, using their wit and charm to escape life's harsher consequences. Rodolfo can't imagine how love will change him until he encounters a beautiful dressmaker, Mimì. Set to lush, irresistible music, Puccini's masterpiece never fails to move audiences to both laughter and tears." Performances take place at the Loretto-Hilton Center at 135 Edgar Road on the Webster University campus. All performances are sung in English with projected English text. For more information: or call 314-961-0644.

My take: Pretty much everything I want to say about this fine production is in my 88.1 KDHX review!. There are some minor aspects of this particular La Bohème that I find less than ideal, but the production as a whole is so very good so often that I have no hesitation in recommending it.

Broken Bone Bathtub
Photo: Kimberly N.
That Uppity Theatre Company and The Drama Club Stl present the St. Louis Premiere of Broken Bone Bathtub Thursdays at 7 and 9:30 p.m, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. through June 26. "Created and performed by Siobhan O'Loughlin, this performance piece highlights disability-temporary or ongoing, vulnerability, the female body, community, and innovative theatre. Broken Bone Bathtub is an immersive theatre experience taking place inside a bathtub, in an actual home. After a serious bike accident, a young woman musters up the courage to ask for help, and shares her story, exploring themes of trauma, suffering, human generosity, and connection. The audience takes on the role of Siobhan's close friends; not only listening but sharing in their experiences, and assisting the cast-clad artist in the actual ritual of taking a bath." Friday through Sunday performances take place at the Lemp Mansion, 3322 DeMenil Place in south St. Louis. Thursday performances take place in bathtubs of private homes throughout the St. Louis metropolitan area. For more information:

My take: This is Siobhan O'Loughlin's second St. Louis appearance (her first was at last year's St. Lou Fringe Festival). I didn't catch her show, The Rope in Your Hands, back then, but I did see her display her considerable talents as a storyteller as part of a performance by the improv comedy group Sorry, Please Continue. “Broken Bone Bathtub is unlike anything you've ever seen before, says New York Theatre Now. "It will change your perspective.” And the supposedly haunted Lemp Mansion is a pretty fascinating space in any case. In her KDHX review, Tina Farmer says M. O'Loughlin "succeeds spectacularly by taking a very intimate act and showing us the universal connection."

Clayton Community Theatre presents the drama Inherit the Wind Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., through June 26. "Inherit the Wind is far more than a dramatic retelling of the Scopes Trial of 1925. It is a parable about attempting to mold society by enforcing a specific worldview or philosophy. It seeks, instead, to celebrate the individuality of man as a reasoning being, capable of living life according to his own personal convictions." Performances take place at the Washington University South Campus Theatre. For more information, call 314-721-9228 or visit

My take: I haven't seen any reviews of this production, but the play itself is, I'm sorry to say, as current now as when it was written. Attempts by the religious radicals to replace science with superstition continue to poison our educational system but here in the USA and abroad as well. The war on science, alas, isn't limited to any one religious system.

Photo: Ken Howard
Opera Theatre of St. Louis presents Verdi's Macbeth, based on the Shakespeare tragedy, opening on Saturday, May 28, and running through June 26. "This opera is a thriller from start to finish - from the eerie prophecies of witches, to Lady Macbeth's sleepwalking scene, to the chilling and bloody finale. Experience Shakespeare's tale of ruthless ambition and murder as a classic Verdi masterwork, set to some of the most magnificent music in all of opera." Performances take place at the Loretto-Hilton Center at 135 Edgar Road on the Webster University campus. All performances are sung in English with projected English text. For more information: or call 314-961-0644.

My take: I haven't seen this yet and won't get the opportunity to do so for a few weeks, but I'm recommending it anyway because I have always liked this economical and dramatically charged operatic version of Shakespeare's terse tragedy. Yes, it's more Italian than it is Scots or English, but it's rattling good yarn all the same.

Shakespeare Festival St. Louis presents the comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream nightly except for Tuesdays through June 26. "It's time for a comedy! Last seen at the Festival in 2002, Midsummer will feature a diverse cast of actors portraying some of Shakespeare's most beloved characters as they get lost and fall in and out of love in the woods around Athens." Beginning at 6:30 the Green Show presents pre-play entertainment a variety of local performers on multiple stages. The play begins at 8 p.m. Performances take place in Shakespeare Glen next to the Art Museum in Forest Park. For more information, visit

My take: I've had a soft spot for this play every since I appeared as Oberon in the St. Louis Shakespeare production many decades ago. Ann Lemmons Pollack says the production "is particularly easy-going and understandable. At times, it feels rather like a screwball comedy, not, goodness knows, that there’s anything wrong with that. ..The play is a delicious, somewhat elaborate pastry." Go and enjoy.

Circus Flora presents its new show, Pastime, through July 3 under the air-conditioned, red-and-white, big top tent in Grand Center next to Powell Hall. "Along with runs and hits, the box score will fill-up with flips, flights, and laughs throughout PASTIME. When the hometown Zephyrs struggle to get out of last place, only their biggest fan and some incredible (and unlikely) stunts can help them turn their season around. Join us, and the magic of baseball." For more information:

My take: Although I was born and have spent most of my life in St. Louis, there are some local traditions and institutions that I never have and probably never will understand. White Castle, for example, or the business about asking where you went to high school. What's THAT all about, anyway? Circus Flora, though, is a St. Louis tradition that anyone can embrace. And what could be more St. Louis than a show inspired by baseball? Happy 30th birthday, Circus Flora. The elephant after which you are named may have retired to Florida long ago, but you're still going strong.

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