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New This Week:
puppetfestivalstl.org, but here are a few I thought look especially interesting:
- Puppet Potpourri and Puppet Slam on Friday, August 5, at 10 p.m.: "This is a combination of an open mike and slam. The Puppet Potpourri features an "open mike" short 3 to 5 minute acts by volunteer puppeteers attending The Great Regional Puppet Festival. The Potpourri acts are usually family friendly, sometimes including performances by budding child puppeteers. The second part of the program is the Puppet Slam. Here there are no time limits or rules. The acts are often more adult oriented anywhere from reverent to artistic to bawdy." The performance takes place at The Stage at KDHX, 3524 Washington in Grand Center.
- Still Life on Saturday, August 6, at 2:30 p.m.: "Sill Life is a collection of (mostly) nonverbal shadow puppetry shorts. In these vignettes, people struggle-humorously, for the greater part-to make sense of or contend with a world that refuses to obey their expectations." The performance takes place at the St. Louis University Theatre, 3733 West Pine on the St. Louis University campus. For more information: puppetfestival.org.
- A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Death Star on Saturday, August 6, at 3:15 p.m.: "Mike Horner imagines what would have happened if George Lucas had turned his epic space saga into a musical puppet show? Find out in this wacky parody of the Star Wars trilogy written by musician Curt Bright and adapted and performed by puppeteer Mike Horner. Wookies and Jedis and Droids, Oh my! " The performance takes place at the St. Louis University Theatre, 3733 West Pine on the St. Louis University campus.
- Immigrant Stew at the Chat 'n' Chew on Saturday, August 6, at 4 p.m.: "Eulenspiegel Puppets and Friends present a humorous, touching, and quite timely as we welcome immigrants into the rural Midwest. Cathy Schmidt-McGillicutty, played by Monica Leo, is the proprietress of the local cafe, the Chat 'N' Chew. She's upset because her daughter wants to marry a member of a Mexican immigrant family. She confronts her prejudice as flashbacks play out scenes from her own family history. The flashbacks are performed by older children or adults from the local community to an accompaniment of live music by Tim Hillis." The performance takes place at the St. Louis University Theatre, 3733 West Pine on the St. Louis University campus.
|THOMPAIN (based on nothing)|
My take: Joe Hanrahan has had something of a monopoly on the one-man show genre for many years, and with good reason. He's a skilled actor who is not afraid to take on unusual and difficult material. "Hanrahan is relaxed, comfortable in the world of the narrator, oddball as it is," writes Ann Lemmons Pollack, "pacing and gesturing and occasionally talking to specific members of the audience. He makes it look easy, creating an experience as much as he’s creating theatre." She goes on to note how much the whole experience reminds her of the early days of Gaslight Square, which ain't bad.
Photo: John Lamp
My take: This production has been updated to Mussolini's Italy. Which, if you think about it, makes a fair amount of sense. The political subtext for the opera, after all, is the struggle between a democratic underground and an autocratic government that uses torture and terror as political tactics. Reviews have been very positive—Steve Callahan's for KDHX is a good example—and while I won't see the show until Friday, I see no reason to doubt their accuracy. Union Avenue has a very impressive track record.
|The Drowsy Chaperone|
Photo: Peter Wochniak
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.
|Fiddler on the Roof|
My take: Bock and Harnick's music is as engaging today as it was nearly fifty years ago. Joseph Stein's book, adapted from Sholem Aleichem, remains powerful. Its tragic depiction of the plight of refugees trying to hold on to their religion and culture as they are persecuted and driven from their homes ought to feel very relevant today. I haven't seen the Muny production, but the fact is this is the sort of big, old-fashioned Broadway chestnut that they usually do quite well. Besides, those actors wearing those bulky costumes in this sub-tropical heat really do deserve our support.