Thursday, July 14, 2016

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of July 15, 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:

Black and Blue
Gitana Productions presents Black and Blue by Lee Patton Chiles at on Friday, July 15, at 7:30 p.m. "An original play of hope and healing, exploring the assumptions that all young black men are dangerous, and that all cops are bad. " The performance takes place at Christ Church Cathedral, 1210 Locust downtown. For more information:

My take: The events in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014 resonated throughout the nation. As headlines continue to demonstrate, what happened there was hardly an isoloated incident. Originally presented back in June of 2015, this drama by St. Louis playwright Lee Patton Chiles is, in the words of KDHX theatre reviewer Tina Farmer, "a thought provoking, well-acted and strongly worded play that stirs discussion in an attempt to create a fuller, more varied and nuanced understanding of racial conflict, not only in St. Louis but across America." Theatre can educate, enlighten, and provoke as well as entertain, and it looks like Gitana has a production here that does all three.

Grey Gardens
Photo: Dan Donovan
Max and Louie Productions presents the musical Grey Gardens through July 30. "Not since Mama Rose and Gypsy has there been a mother/daughter act as hilarious, as heartbreaking and as utterly unforgettable as "Big" Edith and "Little" Edie Beale - Jackie Kennedy's most outrageous relatives - in the acclaimed musical smash Grey Gardens! From the grandeur of an East Hampton high society party in 1941 to the sensational tabloid headlines that rocked the Kennedy clan in 1973, Grey Gardens is scandalously entertaining. Step into the world of Grey Gardens and see the other side of Camelot." Performances take place at the Wool Studio Theatre at the JCC, 2 Millstone Campus Drive. For more information, visit

My take: The folks at Max and Louie must be popping open the champagne right now, given how much critical praise they're getting. Steve Allen's review at Stage Door STL is typical. "Reviewing a production is, of course, a personal viewpoint", he writes, "and every one of the several critics we have in our town will vary in their opinions. But with “Grey Gardens,” the current musical from Max and Louie Productions, I think we’ll join forces in our praise for just about every aspect from casting and direction down through the technical creators. If it isn’t flawless, it comes pretty darn close." 'Nuff said, I guess.

Claudia Hommel
The Presenters Dolan and The Emerald Room at the Monocle present singer Claudia Hommel and singer-pianist Elizabeth Doyle in Your Ticket to Paris, an evening of classic French songs, on Saturday, July 16, at 8 p.m. "Singer-actor-coach and producer, a favorite from the Art Institute of Chicago to the Lapin Agile in Paris, Claudia specializes in concerts and cabaret shows of French chansons, art songs, and American Songbook standards. She tours nationally and to Europe playing concert halls, clubs, theatres, museums, schools and special events. The magnet for many years at Chicago's famed Pump Room, singer-pianist-composer Elizabeth Doyle has created, performed in and often music-directed an array of shows at Chicago's major cabaret rooms and theatres." The Monocle is at 4510 Manchester in the Grove. For more information:

My take: Over the past few years, I have become a dedicated fan of French popular songs, and after seeing her work at the St. Louis Cabaret Conference last year, I have no doubt that Claudia Hommel shares that affection. She also loves Paris at least as much as I do, often leading cabaret-oriented tours of the City of Light. As I'm writing this, tickets are going fast (the show may even be sold out), so if you haven't ordered your tickets by now, you'll want to do so ASAP.

Held Over:

The Mikado
Photo: John Lamb
Union Avenue Opera presents Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, July 8 - 16. "Oh how complicated love can be! Nanki-Poo is desperately in love with Yum-Yum who happens to be betrothed to the new Lord High Executioner. Ko-Ko must find someone to execute or it will be his neck on the line. Will a case of mistaken identity save the day as these two conspire - or will heads roll? Witty lyrics and a topsy-turvy plot make this light-hearted tale of forbidden love and trickery a story that reaches beyond traditional interpretations. Widely regarded as the finest Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, The Mikado will captivate and delight at every turn." Performances take place at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 Union at Enright in the Central West End. The opera is sung in English with projected English text. For more information, visit or call 314-361-2881.

My take: I have a friend who says he loves directing Shakespeare because it's so easy to do. Just don't get in the playwright's way and you can't lose. I think the same could be said of the better Gilbert and Sullivan operettas as well. Don't mess with G&S and you're golden. And while, as I note in my review for KDHX, director Eric Gibson has messed with Gilbert's text a bit more than I'd like, the show as a whole is tremendously entertaining and well worth your attention.

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