Thursday, August 18, 2016

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of August 19, 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:

Inherit the Wind
Photo: John Lamb
Insight Theatre Company presents the drama Inherit the Wind through August 28. "Bert Cates a 1920's schoolteacher is put on trial for violating the Butler Act, a state law that prohibits public school teachers from teaching evolution instead creationism. Rachel Brown who is Cates girlfriend is also the daughter of Reverend Brown is torn between the opposing beliefs held by Cates and her father and her love for both of them." Performances take place in the Heagney Theatre, 530 East Lockwood on the campus of Nerinx Hall High School in Webster Groves. For more information, call 314-556-1293 or visit

My take: This classic portrayal of the struggle between science and superstition ought to be a museum piece, but the resurgence of radical fundamentalism has created a new wave of attacks on science in our public schools, making this script sadly relevant again. "In a political season," writes Tina Farmer at KDHX, "a play like Inherit the Wind, running through August 28, 2016 at Insight Theatre Company, serves to remind us that our vote often has ramifications that extend well beyond a politician's name or party affiliation. Our response to the challenges that face our country impacts society on every level, including the education of future generations. This stirring production presents a fresh, engaging, and well-performed case for education, helmed by two of our most persuasive stage veterans."

Mary Shelley Monster Show
Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble presents Mary Shelley Monster Show by Nick Otten Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m., August 17 - 20. "SATE will remount its original play, Mary Shelley Monster Show, by Nick Otten. Mary Shelley: the impulsive teen in a runaway love triangle, the precocious novelist, the daughter of revolutionaries, the lover and wife of philosopher-poet. Mary Shelley: the grieving mother, the martyr-widow, the hack writer. Mary Shelley: the monster and monster's mother. Was Mary Shelley's most famous novel, “Frankenstein” really an autobiography? Is she the creator or the creature? " Performances take place at The Chapel Venue, 6238 Alexander Drive. For more information:

My take: This innovative piece was very well received when it first appeared back in 2014. At the Stage Door blog, for example, Steve Allen called it "a wonderful, creative piece of theatre" while Mark Bretz at Ladue News said it was "riveting and thought-provoking."

The St. Lou Fringe Festival opens on Friday, August 19, and runs through August 27 at several venues in the Grand Center area including the Kranzberg Arts Center (501 N. Grand) and TheStage at KDHX. Performances include traditional theater, dance, music, comedy, circus arts, performance art, cabaret, and burlesque, with acts from St. Louis and around the country. "This year's festival will coincide with Grand Center's new arts event Music at The Intersection and will include both new and familiar programming. 2016 will see the premiere of microtheater (short performances for an audience of no more than 9 patrons in an intimate, immersive setting), spin rooms (post show talk backs an workshops), Voices Unleashed (A number of festival slots are reserved for producers who are underrepresented in mainstream theatrical settings based on ethnicity, gender identity, language, dialect, age, physical ability, BMI, or other barrier), and an incubator program (a specialized collaborative showcase setting with more support for emergent artists). Past favorite programs like Fringe Family and the Artica sculpture garden will again enliven Strauss Park." For a complete schedule, visit

My take: I've been an enthusiastic supporter of the St. Lou Fringe since its scrappy beginnings in June of 2012. Four years later, the Fringe is a major player on the local cultural scene and is attracting attention nation-wide. If you've never "fringed," you have missed an awful lot of unusual—and often unique—entertainment. And this year, with the festival expanded to two weekends, there's no excuse not to check it out.

Tell Me On a Sunday
Photo: Jill Ritter Lindberg
New Line Theatre presents Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Tell Me on a Sunday Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 PM through August 27. "This pop-rock song cycle follows a young English woman newly arrived in New York, brimming with optimism, and her journey through America and the perils of ill-advised romance. As she seeks out success and love, she weaves her way through the maze of New York and Hollywood social life, and through her own anxieties, frustrations, and heartaches, and she begins to wonder whether there are better choices to be made." 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: Tell Me On a Sunday may be one of the least-known of Andrew Lloyd Webber's many musicals, right down there with the impressive Aspects of Love. As a one-woman show, it's also one of the most modest. It's by no means ALWs best work and, in fact, the composer himself later turned it into the first act of his full-length musical Song and Dance, but is has some fine music, including the lovely "Unexpected Song", and star Sarah Porter has gotten lots of praise for her performance.

Kelsey Bearman
The Emerald Room Cabaret presents singer Kelsey Bearman in Whatever I Want to Be on Saturday, August 20, at 8 p.m. "Kelsey offers her fresh, fun take on this wonderfully crazy journey we call “life,” as she playfully explores life's paradoxes, from falling in love to breaking up, from facing fears to embracing life's mysteries. The show includes classic golden-age favorites by Rodgers and Hammerstein as well as selections by contemporary musical theatre composers such as Heisler and Goldrich and Michael John LaChiusa. Engaging and hysterically edgy, “Whatever I Want It To Be” embraces life and the opportunity to make each moment whatever we want it to be." The performance takes place in The Emerald Room at The Monocle Bar, 4510 Manchester in The Grove neighborhood. For more information:

My take: As her performance at the St. Louis Cabaret Conference last month reminded me, Kelsey is a very talented performer who very likely has a promising career ahead of her. She's off to New York soon to make a name for herself, so here's your opportunity to say you saw her when.

Held Over:

Bat Boy
Stray Dog Theatre presents Bat Boy: the Musical Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 PM, through August 20. “This offbeat comedy/horror musical is a big-hearted satire about prejudice. As ripped from a bizarre tabloid headline and set in a tiny West Virginia town, a strange, deformed boy is found alone in a cave. Once the “bat boy” is brought to light, dark - and hilarious - secrets emerge, shaking the community to its core. A clever, playful pop/rock score highlights the show's delirious take on American eccentricities._For MATURE AUDIENCES: In an effort to keep the selection of shows engaging and dynamic, this production may not be appropriate for all ages." Performances take place at The Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee. For more information, visit or call 314-865-1995.

My take: This is not the first local appearance of this odd little musical which first saw the light of day in London in 1997, and I expect it won't be the last. Reviews have been good, which is not surprising, given that this is just the sort of ensemble cast thing Stray Dog does so well. They show is also a kind of memorial to Stray Dog's late production manager Jay Hall, who died during rehearsals.

The Drowsy Chaperone
Photo: Peter Wochniak
Stages St. Louis presents the musical satire The Drowsy Chaperone through August 21. "With its laugh-a-minute script and one show-stopping song and dance number after another, it's easy to see why THE DROWSY CHAPERONE won the most Tony Awards of any musical on Broadway in 2006, including Best Book and Score. It all begins when a die-hard musical theatre fan decides to play his favorite cast album in his small brownstone apartment - a 1928 smash hit musical called "The Drowsy Chaperone." The show magically bursts to life before him as audiences are instantly transported to an earlier time and place and immersed in the glamorous and hilarious tale of a celebrity bride and her uproarious wedding day, complete with gangsters, mistaken identities, an off-course aviatrix, and an uplifting ride to the rafters. " 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: The Drowsy Chaperone is a very smart and mostly very funny parody of musical theatre and, to a certain extent, the very concept of theatre itself. It's fun to watch, and when I saw the local premiere at the Fox back in 2007 I found my appreciation of its cleverness increasing in retrospect - always a good sign. It's essentially the most elaborate in joke in living memory. I haven't seen the Stages production, but honestly it's hard to see how they could not do well by this very strong material. If you love musical theatre, you won't want to miss it.

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