Thursday, July 07, 2016

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of July 8, 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 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. So while I haven't seen this production yet, I'm going to say that, based on Union Avenue's track record to date, it's reasonable to assume they won't get in Gilbert and Sullivan's way. Which should make this great fun all the way around.

The Music Man
The Muny presents Meredith Willson's The Music Man opening on Tuesday, July 5, and running nightly at 8:15 pm through July 11 in the outdoor theatre in Forest Park. "Buyer beware! Professor Harold Hill, the slickest, slyest con man on the Iowa circuit is headed our way, eager to make mischief and steal your heart. Set on the 4th of July, every note in Meredith Willson's iconic score is as delectable as a slice of Mom's apple pie. And by the way, if you think The Muny will settle for just “76 Trombones” onstage - you don't want to miss this parade!." For more information, visit or call 314-361-1900.

My take: This show has been a favorite of audiences and critics alike since its 1957 premiere. It beat out West Side Story for the New York Critics' Circle Best Musical award that year, ran for 1,375 performances, and made a star out of Robert Preston. Playwright William Saroyan declared it "one of the great pieces of Americana", and audiences apparently agree with him. It's a family-friendly crowd pleaser that also gets in som sharp digs at small -town small mindedness and anti-intellectualism—a neat trick. Mark Bretz's review for Ladue News is typical of the praise this production has received: "The Muny’s spacious outdoor theater and expansive stage are an ideal combination for Meredith Willson’s memorably tuneful musical," he writes. "Director Rob Ruggiero moves this version of The Music Man like one of those trains that adheres strictly to its schedule, sending the audience happily home after two acts played out in two and a half snappy hours".

Ben Watts
The Emerald Room at the Monocle and The Presenters Dolan present Ben Watts in Wonderful Enough on Saturday, July 9, at 8 p.m. "Ben Watts is a throwback to the Golden Age of Hollywood. He brings charm and class to jazz standards, long-forgotten show tunes, 80s power rock ballads, and everything in between. Wry, witty, and darkly funny, his stories and songs will leave you laughing and wanting more. With sings Cole Porter, Noël Coward, Kurt Weill, Peggy Lee andJerry Herman." The performance takes place in the Emerald Room at The Monocle, 4510 Manchester in the Grove neighborhood. For more information:

My take: As I said in my preview article, for this show's first appearance a little over a year ago, a well-constructed cabaret act is ultimately a kind of one-act play, which is why actors—who have the advantage of understanding dramatic form—often create some of the best cabaret. Mr. Watts has shown that he can do both comedy and drama, and his appearances at The Cabaret Project's open mic nights (which I host) have been very impressive. And, of course, Tim Schall and Carol Schmidt are cabaret pros of considerable standing themselves.

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