Thursday, October 06, 2016

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of October 7, 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:

Photo: Jill Ritter Lindberg
New Line Theatre presents the musical Celebration Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 PM through October 22. "With words by Tom Jones and music by Harvey Schmidt (The Fantasticks, I Do! I Do!, 110 in the Shade), CELEBRATION tells a wild, adult fable set on New Year's Eve, centered on Orphan, an idealistic and cheerfully optimistic young man, who reminds the wealthy and jaded old man William Rosebud Rich of his younger self; Angel, a sweet but not so angelic erotic dancer who longs to be Somebody; and the cynical Potemkin, who serves as narrator, commentator, and instigator. At the story's core is the primal, often comic struggle between youth and old age, innocence and corruption, love and ambition, poverty and wealth, as Angel tries to decide if she would be better served by her feelings for Orphan or Rich's willingness to fulfill all her material dreams." 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: Everybody knows Fantasticks, but other Jones/Schmidt shows like I Do, I Do and 110 in the Shade get less attention than they deserve, so it's good to see New Line take on this adventurous 1960s period piece. "Part fable, part love triangle, and part 1960s hippie/Brechtian/Fantasticks-style love-in," writes Richard Green at Talking Broadway, "this seldom-seen show succeeds brilliantly thanks to its post-Vietnam urgency, its post-Civil Rights egalitarianism, and perhaps even a soupçon of pre-Watergate naiveté—along with excellent leads and the sheer wit and exuberance of the whole ensemble."

The Emerald Room at the Monocle and The Presenters Dolan present Dean Christopher in Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime: A Tribute to Dean Martin on Friday and Saturday, October 7 and 8, at 8 p.m. "Dean Christopher has opened for Frank Sinatra, Jr. and several times for Don Rickles. He is thrilled to have the opportunity to pay tribute to one of his show business idols, Dean Martin. Dean just regrets that he is not and never could be as cool." The performance takes place in the Emerald Room at The Monocle, 4510 Manchester in the Grove neighborhood. For more information:

My take: Well, do doesn't like Dean Martin? Sammy Davis Jr. was undoubtedly the most talented member of the Rat Pack, but Martin, in my view, was the most charming. Mr. Christopher knows and loves the songs his idol made famous, so I don't think you can go wrong either with this show or with the Emerald Room's cool ambience and great drinks.

Held Over:

Alpha Players present the musical 1776 through October 9. "It's the summer of 1776, and the nation is ready to declare independence... if only our founding fathers can agree to do it! 1776 follows John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia as they attempt to convince the members of the Second Continental Congress to vote for independence from the shackles of the British monarchy by signing the Declaration of Independence." Performances take place at The Florissant Civic Center Theater, Parker Rd. at Waterford Dr. in Florissant, MO. For more information:, call 314-921-5678.

My take: This is one of my favorite musicals. The book by Peter Stone (one of the small number of writers to earn an Oscar, Tony, and Emmy during his career) sticks fairly close to historical events, portraying the shifting alliances and political deals that eventually led to the break with Great Britain. Sherman Edwards's score supports that book and illuminates character brilliantly. I haven't seen this production, of course, but there's no question that they've got really strong material to work with.

Photo: John Lamb
The West End Players Guild opens their 106th season with Tom Stoppard's Arcadia Thursday through Saturday, October 6 - 8, at 8 p.m and Sunday, October 9, at 2 p.m. "Stoppard spins simultaneous tales set two centuries apart in the same room of an English manor. The stories are bittersweet, the characters are endearing and the play is a delight." Performances take place at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 North Union at Enright in the Central West End. For more information, call 314-367-0025 or visit

My take: This is another case of a recommendation based on the strength of the material. Stoppard's play is a brilliant piece of work, combining comedy, drama, and a centuries-spanning mystery with crackling, intellectually rich dialog. But don't take my word for it; here's Richard Green at Talking Broadway: "The fictionalized 13-year-old girl who first theorizes the blossoming (and, perhaps, terrifying) mechanical mechanisms that are algorithms, Thomasina Coverly (Kristin Rion) is quite adorable: Arcadia follows her up to the riveting eve of her first romance and ... well, you'll see. But it's definitely worth the wait. As everything finally comes together in the end, your mind will feel like it's a deck of cards being shuffled by an expert blackjack dealer." Director Ellie Schwetye, by the way, is well known locally for her impressive work with Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble. I'm on the board of West End Players Guild, but have not been involved in this production.

Three Tall Women
Photo: Patrick Huber
St. Louis Actors' Studio presents Edward Albee's Three Tall Women through October 9. "In Act One, a young lawyer, "C," has been sent to the home of a client, a ninety-two-year-old woman, "A," to sort out her finances. "A," frail, perhaps a bit senile, resists and is of no help to "C." Along with "B," the old woman's matronly paid companion/caretaker, "C" tries to convince "A" that she must concentrate on the matters at hand. In "A's" beautifully appointed bedroom, she prods, discusses and bickers with "B" and "C," her captives. "A's" long life is laid out for display, no holds barred. She cascades from regal and charming to vicious and wretched as she wonders about and remembers her life: her husband and their cold, passionless marriage; her son and their estrangement. How did she become this? Who is she? Finally, when recounting her most painful memory, she suffers a stroke. In Act Two, "A's" comatose body lies in bed as "B" and "C" observe no changes in her condition. In a startling coup-de-theatre, "A" enters, very much alive and quite lucid. The three women are now the stages of "A's" life: the imperious old woman, the regal matron and the young woman of twenty-six. Her life, memories and reminiscences-pondered in the first act-are now unceremoniously examined, questioned, accepted or not, but, at last, understood." Performances take place at the Gaslight Theatre, 358 North Boyle For more information, call 314-458-2978 or visit

My take: It has been a long time since I have seen a production of Albee's autobiographical play (the principal character is modeled on his mother) and I don't recall finding it very engaging. But reviews of the Actors' Studio production have been very positive (article by Steve Allen and Ann Lemmons Pollack are typical) so I'm giving it a tip of the virtual topper here. It's not a script that gets produced very often, probably because it's not necessarily easy to cast, so it's hard to say when you'll get another opportunity to see it.

Voices of Valhalla
Photo: Ken Clark
Valhalla Cemetery and The Hawthorne Players present Voices Of Valhalla: A Hayride Through History September 30 - October 9. Hayrides through Valhalla Cemetery depart every fifteen minutes beginning at 6:30 each evening as members of the Hawthorne Players portray some of the noted locals buried in Valhalla. Valhalla Cemetery is located at 7600 St. Charles Rock Road. For more information, visit

My take: I had a chance to both see and appear in this annual event for the first time in 2014 (missed last year's because of travel commitments), and I must say that I was impressed by the professionalism of both the script (assembled by director Larry Marsh from historical sources) and the quality of the performances. Here's how it works: you pile on a hay wagon and are driven through historic Valhalla Cemetery. At various points during the ride, the wagon stops and an actor portraying a historical figure buried at Valhalla steps out of the darkness and delivers a monolog on his or her life. They can be comic, tragic, or a combination of the two, but they're always well researched and informative. I'm acting in it again this year, playing the "oldest dead person" in Valhalla. Come on out and find out the details.

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