Thursday, December 29, 2016

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of December 30, 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:


Robert Dubac in The Book of Moron
The Playhouse at Westport Plaza presents The Book of Moron, running through January 1. "Robert Dubac's newest Off-Broadway hit The Book Of Moron has been described as one of the most hilarious, intelligent and scorching satirical attacks on idiocracy since Mark Twain. Having been brainwashed by a culture that worships the Kardashians over character, delusion over truth, and selfies over self-effacement, Dubac begins his journey with a simple question: Who am I? What do I believe? What's the point? Okay, that's three questions but suffice to say, he has no answers. Just voices. Inner voices who come to life with precision and wit. One by one they pull him into a hysterical alternative universe of critical thought in search of the bigger picture. It's a head trip on a banana peel." The Playhouse at Westport Plaza is at 635 West Port Plaza. For more information: westportstl.com.

My take: I haven't seen the local reviews on this one yet, but I'm putting it on the list on the basis of the concept alone. As I noted in a blog post several years ago, we have become so overloaded with information that we are getting very bad at distinguishing between the important and the trivial. As the recent election demonstrated, many of us also seem unable (or unwilling) to distinguish between truth and fantasy. The Denver Post described this show as "high-concept comedy that is provocative and smart; a philosophy lecture with punch lines." Sound like a plan to me.

Held Over:


The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
Metro Theatre Company and the Missouri History Museum present The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane through December 30. "Edward Tulane is a toy who cares for nobody but himself. Ripped from the arms of the little girl who adores him, this privileged china rabbit is thrown into a life-changing adventure. From the depths of the ocean to the top of a garbage heap, Edward discovers what it means to love others on his extraordinary journey home. With themes of family, empathy, home and redemption, this play is the perfect way to celebrate the warmth of the holiday season." Performances take place in the Lee Auditorium at the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park. For more information: mohistory.org.

My take: At the other end of the spectrum from American Buffalo is this heart-warming, family-friendly show from Metro. "If you believe the holidays are about loving and being loved," writes Shannon Cothran at KDHX, "then this show is for you."

Sunday, December 25, 2016

St. Louis theatre calendar for the week of December 26, 2016

Robert Dubai in The Book of Moron
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The Playhouse at Westport Plaza presents The Book of Moron, opening on Tuesday, December 27, and running through January 1. "Robert Dubac's newest Off-Broadway hit The Book Of Moron has been described as one of the most hilarious, intelligent and scorching satirical attacks on idiocracy since Mark Twain. Having been brainwashed by a culture that worships the Kardashians over character, delusion over truth, and selfies over self-effacement, Dubac begins his journey with a simple question: Who am I? What do I believe? What's the point? Okay, that's three questions but suffice to say, he has no answers. Just voices. Inner voices who come to life with precision and wit. One by one they pull him into a hysterical alternative universe of critical thought in search of the bigger picture. It's a head trip on a banana peel." The Playhouse at Westport Plaza is at 635 West Port Plaza. For more information: westportstl.com.

The Emerald Room at the Monocle presents Christopher Sears in Concert on Thursday, December 29 at 8 p.m. "Christopher Sears is back in town from NYC to share his music and raise money for his first album recording in New Orleans this January. A theatrical blend of folk & soul with a unique Brechtian flair Christopher awakens your spirit with his poetical style. A special treat to have his sister Sienna add her warm full toned harmonies and wails to highlight his tunes." The performance takes place in the Emerald Room at The Monocle, 4510 Manchester in the Grove neighborhood. For more information: themonoclestl.com.

St. Margaret of Scotland presents the musical The Clown of God Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., December 29 and 30. "With an original musical score by Peter Hesed and lyrics by Tom Kavanaugh, The Clown of God is a modern day descendant of the medieval miracle play; part cantata, part ballet, part storytelling, this magical fable celebrates the glory of God found in “great things, small things, each and all things.” Performances take place at St. Margaret of Scotland church, 3854 Flad in the Shaw neighborhood. For more information: stmargaretstl.weshareonline.org/cog

The Bissell Mansion Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre presents It's a Wonderful Death through January 8, 2017. The Bissell Mansion is at 4426 Randall Place. For more information: bissellmansiontheatre.com

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
Metro Theatre Company and the Missouri History Museum present The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane through December 30. "Edward Tulane is a toy who cares for nobody but himself. Ripped from the arms of the little girl who adores him, this privileged china rabbit is thrown into a life-changing adventure. From the depths of the ocean to the top of a garbage heap, Edward discovers what it means to love others on his extraordinary journey home. With themes of family, empathy, home and redemption, this play is the perfect way to celebrate the warmth of the holiday season." Performances take place in the Lee Auditorium at the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park. For more information: mohistory.org.

Looking for auditions and other artistic opportunities? Check out the St. Louis Auditions site.
For information on events beyond this week, check out the searchable database at the Regional Arts Commission's Events Calendar.
Would you like to be on the radio? KDHX, 88.1 FM needs theatre reviewers. If you're 18 years or older, knowledgeable in this area, have practical theatre experience (acting, directing, writing, technical design, etc.), have good oral and written communications skills and would like to become one of our volunteer reviewers, send an email describing your experience and interests to chuck at kdhx.org. Please include a sample review of something you've seen recently.

Friday, December 23, 2016

St. Louis classical calendar for the week of December 26, 2016

Aram Demirjian
Photo: David Bickley
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Aram Demirjian conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra along with vocalists Lisa Livesay, Whitney Claire Kaufman, Aaron Phillips, and Andrew Johnson in Disney in Concert Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m., December 29 and 30. "Join the STL Symphony, for a magical journey into storytelling and music as only the timeless tales of Disney can evoke. Brought to life by the talents of four Broadway caliber singers and featuring high resolution Animated Feature Film sequences, Disney In Concert Tale as Old as Time explores iconic moments, plot twists and feats of daring heroics from Frozen, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Tangled, The Lion King and many more. This musical celebration is certain to remind the young and young at heart that through the magical storytelling of Disney, wishes can be made on stars, hope is eternal and love conquers all." The concerts take place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: stlsymphony.org.

David Robertson conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in a New Year's Eve Celebration on Saturday, December 31, at 7:30 p.m. "Ring in the New Year with Music Director David Robertson and the STL Symphony for the annual New Year Eve's Celebration. Enjoy an enchanting evening full of magical music and unforgettable surprises! As one of our most popular and highly anticipated performances of the season, this celebration is the perfect way to end the year." The concert takes place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: stlsymphony.org.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of December 23, 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:


A Gnome for Christmas
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis's Imaginary Theatre Company presents the children's musical A Gnome for Christmas, running through December 23. "When Lulu's quirky father fails to sell yet another of his odd inventions, the pair must pack their bags and move to more meager accommodations. All they can afford is a rundown old farmhouse where the fence needs mending and the landlord's cranky, even at Christmastime! Lulu's about ready to give up, but when mysterious and magical things start happening, it seems that this farm might be home to more than meets the eye. This warm-hearted holiday musical reminds us of the importance of helping others and the happiness found in friends." Performances take place in the Heagney Theatre at Nerinx Hall High School, 530 East Lockwood Avenue, Webster Groves. For more information: repstl.org.

My take: Children's theatre can be a mixed bag, but the Imaginary Theatre Company has a good track record of producing shows that take kids on their own terms rather than treating them like dimwitted adults. "A Gnome for Christmas," writes Tina Farmer at KDHX, "introduces the youngest members of the family to live theater with a mix of story and song that offers gently persuasive, positive lessons about persistence, belief, and self-confidence...The story is told with an emphasis on possibility and the benefits of helping each other, whether you're efforts are initially recognized or not. That's an important message, but it's delivered in a natural, unaffected story that doesn't make too much of the lesson."

Held Over:

A Christmas Carol
Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
Through December 24, the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents A Christmas Carol, adapted by David H. Bell from the novel by Charles Dickens. "On Christmas Eve, the miser Ebenezer Scrooge is given a chance at redemption as he's visited by four ghosts - his old partner Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future - who teach him it's never too late to change." Performances take place at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information: repstl.org.

My take: Some of my friends turn into Scrooges at this time of year. I turn into Scrooge's nephew, cheerfully singing along with every carol and enjoying the hell out of holiday gatherings. That means I'd probably recommend this even if the reviews weren't so good, but as it happens my fellow critics are in danger of running out of verbal laurel wreaths to bestow on this production. Harry Hamm calls it "a polished, warm and large-scale production". "The redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge is among the most beloved of holiday stories," writes Tina Farmer at KDHX, "and The Rep's production delivers the spectacle of the story in a standout revival that's a welcome theatrical treat." As you can tell from my own review at OnSTL, I could not agree more.


The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
Metro Theatre Company and the Missouri History Museum present The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane through December 30. "Edward Tulane is a toy who cares for nobody but himself. Ripped from the arms of the little girl who adores him, this privileged china rabbit is thrown into a life-changing adventure. From the depths of the ocean to the top of a garbage heap, Edward discovers what it means to love others on his extraordinary journey home. With themes of family, empathy, home and redemption, this play is the perfect way to celebrate the warmth of the holiday season." Performances take place in the Lee Auditorium at the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park. For more information: mohistory.org.

My take: At the other end of the spectrum from American Buffalo is this heart-warming, family-friendly show from Metro. "If you believe the holidays are about loving and being loved," writes Shannon Cothran at KDHX, "then this show is for you."

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Symphony Preview: What are you doing New Year's?

Robert Ellison, Hugh Smith, and Gina Galati with the band
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In an earlier post I gave you a preview of upcoming holiday concerts at Powell Hall. At the time I thought I had included everything right up to Christmas, but it seems I missed an important event. Here's the story, along with a preview of post-Christmas action.

Friday, December 23, 7:30 p.m.: The Compton Heights Concert Band Holiday Pops Spectacular -Best known for its summer concerts in Tower Grove and Francis parks in the city, the band pulls out all the stops for this 18th annual evening of holiday favorites. On the podium will be the band's Music Director, Edward Dolbashian, who is also the Music Director of the St. Louis Civic Orchestra and Alton Symphony. The concert marks the 40th Anniversary Celebration of the founding of the band and features what's described as a "family friendly program" of holiday favorites, Christmas carols, sacred classics such as "O Holy Night", and the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's Messiah, done as an audience sing-along.

Soloists are tenor Hugh Smith and baritone Robert Ellison (who have performed with the band often over the years), along with Winter opera founder and noted soprano Gina Galati, along with the 100-voice East Central College Combined Choirs.

The Compton Heights Concert Band is a St. Louis institution. I don't know how I could have missed it. You won't want to do the same. Tickets are available at the St. Louis Symphony web site. The band is also offering a limited number of Gold Patron tickets that include seats in the Dress Circle Box and Grand Tier Box Seats, along with a gala post-concert reception in the lobby with Hugh Smith, Gina Galati, and Robert Ellison, catered by LoRusso's Cucina. To order Gold Patron tickets, you'll need to call 314-776-2227.

Aram Demirjian
Photo: David Bickley
Thursday and Friday, December 29 and 30, 7 p.m.: Disney in Concert - Aram Demirjian conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra along with vocalists Lisa Livesay, Whitney Claire Kaufman, Aaron Phillips, and Andrew Johnson.

Disney in Concert: Tale as Old as Time is one of a collection of concert packages marketed by Symphony Pops Music in which orchestras play selections from Disney films while synchronized clips are shown on screen. In some cases, clips from multiple movies like Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, and The Little Mermaid are combined into medleys with titles like "Villains," "Enchanted Helpers," and "They Finally Meet." There are also film-specific collections like the "Hercules Gospel Medley" and selections from The Princess and the Frog and Frozen. Symphony Pops provides the video, the soloists, the arrangements, and a scripted narrative. The local orchestra provides the players and the conductor who, in this case, is Kansas City Symphony Associate Conductor Aram Demirjian.

This will be the first SLSO appearance for Mr. Demirjian, who has been praised by the Kansas City Star for his “confident and expressive style.” His crowded 2016-2017 schedule includes conducting gigs with the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Louisiana Philharmonic, and debuts in San Antonio, Corpus Christi, and Fresno, as well as his European debut with the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra. He's also the Music Director Designate of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra.

Tickets for this one are selling fast and the SLSO web site notes that "limited view seating" is now available. A quick check of the site as I'm writing this indicates that available seats are few and far between, so if you're planning to attend, you'll want to order now.

David Robertson
Photo: Dan Dreyfus
Saturday, December 31, 7:30 p.m.: New Year's Eve Celebration - David Robertson conducts the orchestra in the annual New Year's Eve gala. "Enjoy an enchanting evening full of magical music and unforgettable surprises!" says the SLSO web site. And by "surprises" they mean "the concert program" because that is, in fact, a secret that won't be revealed until the music starts.

Still, we can make educated guesses based on previous years. Expect lots of good humor, both from the music and from Mr. Robertson, who can be a very funny guy when he gets his hands on a microphone. In 2012, for example, the orchestra did Morton Gould's "Tap Dance Concerto" and featured some good-natured sing-alongs with the audience. Dance music has, in fact, been a major part of the New Year's concerts. And waltzes are always associated with New Year's Eve in any case.

The concert is a big seller-as I'm writing this only a handful of tickets are left, mostly in the upper reaches of the balcony-but if you can't get tickets, don't despair. Last year St. Louis Public Radio began broadcasting the concert live.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Review: Steven Jarvi puts his own stamp on a festive holiday concert with the St. Louis Symphony

This review originally appeared at 88.1 KDHX, where Chuck Lavazzi is the senior performing arts critic.
SLSO Resident Conductor
Steven Jarvi
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Although it's usually a heavily attended event, freezing drizzle and the resulting treacherous streets put a major dent in the turnout for the Mercy Holiday Celebration at the St. Louis Symphony Friday night (December 16, 2016). And that's a shame, since conductor Steven Jarvi really put his stamp on the evening, with an intelligent selection of music that included more than a few works I'd never heard before.

For a pops concert that usually sticks to the tried and true, that was a delightful and welcome surprise. Morton Gould's arrangement of "Jingle Bells'" for example, was ingenious and whimsical, with icy harmonics from the violins, a plaintive oboe, muted horns, and a quiet finale that gave the whole thing a kind of pointillist delicacy. The orchestration of "Carol to the King" by Mormon Tabernacle Choir music director Mack Wilberg featured lively "fife and drum" interchanges among the flutes, trumpets, and snare drums. And the "Refried Farandole" by composer/performer/producer Sam Hyken brought the concert to an appropriately rousing conclusion. This virtuoso expansion of the "Farandole" (from Bizet's incidental music for L'Arlesienne, which includes the traditional Proven├žal carol "The March of the three Kings") was completely new to me and it was tremendous fun, especially when performed with such precision.

Kevin McBeth
Perhaps the most beautiful selection of the evening, though, came from Kevin McBeth's Holiday Festival Chorus, composed of singers from area high schools. For an a cappella performance of the "Ave Maria" by twentieth-century German composer Franz Xaver Biebl, the choir was split in half, with singers and soloists both on stage and upstairs in the dress circle. Heard from our seats on the orchestra floor, this gave the music a wonderful antiphonal quality that called to mind the works of Gabrielli and the other Venetian Renaissance polychoral composers. Mr. Jarvi conducted with a look of real joy that was, I'm sure, shared by many of us in the audience.

The chorus also distinguished itself in more traditional selections like "The First Nowell" and, most notably, in the decidedly non-traditional "South African Gloria" by William Bradley Roberts, Professor of Church Music at Virginia Theological Seminary. With its syncopated percussion and lively foot stomping from the chorus, this was music guaranteed to bring a smile to the face and joy to the heart. It also sounded tricky to perform, so kudos to Mr. McBeth and his singers for doing so well by it.

That's not to say that the usual trappings of this annual holiday event weren't in place. The concert opened with a swinging, brassy arrangement of "Winter Wonderland." St. Nick (played with engaging jollity by Whit Reichert) showed up for his usual visit and arranged for a child from the audience to "conduct" the orchestra in Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride." And there was a guest appearance by a singer from the world of Broadway and TV: Nicole Parker.

Nicole Parker
Ms. Parker is probably best known for her work on MADtv, but she also has extensive musical theatre credits, including the plum role of Elphaba in the first North American tour of Wicked. She had some great moments, including a charming "White Christmas" with the orchestra and chorus and a funny "My Favorite Things" with impersonations of Ellen DeGeneres, Julie Andrews (eerily accurate), Diane Keaton, and Celine Dion (complete with an absurdly ornamented vocal line). Her "Defying Gravity" might not have had much to do with the holidays, but it certainly soared. So, icy streets not withstanding, it was an evening as festive as the holiday decorations in the Powell Hall lobby and as cozy as a red Christmas sweater.

Seasonal concerts continue at Powell Hall with the Bach Society Christmas Candlelight Concert on Thursday, December 22nd, and Disney in Concert on the 29th and 30th. The orchestra will round out the year with the annual New Year's Eve gala on the 31st. Visit the SLSO web site for details.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

St. Louis classical calendar for the week of December 19, 2016

The Bach Society at Powell Hall
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The Bach Society of St. Louis presents the annual Christmas Candlelight Concert on Thursday, December 22, at 7:30 PM. “Join the Bach Society Chorus and Orchestra, soprano Emily Birsan and The St. Louis Children's Choirs for an evening featuring John Rutter's Magnificat followed by the beloved candlelight processional and traditional carols of the season-all in the festive ambiance of Powell Hall!" The performance takes place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: www.bachsociety.org.

The Compton Heights Concert Band presents a Holiday Pops Spectacular on Friday, December 23, at 7:30 p.m. at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand. Featured soloists are Hugh Smith, tenor; Robert Ellison, baritone; and Gina Galati, soprano, along with the East Central College Combined Choirs. "Holiday favorites, sacred classics & carols with a glorious finale: an audience sing-along of Handel's Messiah Hallelujah Chorus led by the Soloists, Chorus, Band, and Herald Trumpets, concludes this unforgettable, joyous holiday experience!" For more information: chband.org.

The Washington University Department of Music presents The 442s Holiday Spectacular featuring Jeremy Davenport, trumpet; Peter Martin, piano; Erin Bode, and Brian Owens, vocals; and Montez Coleman, drums on Tuesday, December 20, at 7:30 p.m. The performance takes place in the E. Desmond Lee Concert Hall at the 560 Music Center, 560 Trinity in University City. For more information, music.wustl.edu.

St. Louis theatre calendar for the week of December 19, 2016

A Gnome for Christmas
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The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis's Imaginary Theatre Company presents the children's musical A Gnome for Christmas, running through December 23. "When Lulu's quirky father fails to sell yet another of his odd inventions, the pair must pack their bags and move to more meager accommodations. All they can afford is a rundown old farmhouse where the fence needs mending and the landlord's cranky, even at Christmastime! Lulu's about ready to give up, but when mysterious and magical things start happening, it seems that this farm might be home to more than meets the eye. This warm-hearted holiday musical reminds us of the importance of helping others and the happiness found in friends." Performances take place in the Heagney Theatre at Nerinx Hall High School, 530 East Lockwood Avenue, Webster Groves. For more information: repstl.org.

Chuck Lavazzi
The Cabaret Project and The Emerald Room at the Monocle present a Holiday Cabaret Open Mic Night on Wednesday, December 21, from 7 to 10 p.m.. Drop by and enjoy a night of great music from St. Louis cabaret artists, backed up by the inimitable Carol Schmidt on the baby grand. The master of ceremonies is 88.1 KDHX senior performing arts critic Chuck Lavazzi. If you're planning to sing, be prepared to do one or two songs and bring music, preferably in your key. It's also recommend that you have your song memorized. Holiday songs are encouraged but not required. The Emerald Room at The Monocle is at 4510 Manchester in The Grove. For more information, visit thecabaretproject.org

The Bissell Mansion Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre presents It's a Wonderful Death through January 8, 2017. The Bissell Mansion is at 4426 Randall Place. For more information: bissellmansiontheatre.com

The Stage at KDHX presents Dom Thomas and Maria Bartolotta in Lucky on Thursday, December 22, at 8 p.m. Bring in the holiday season with songs of love and hope by Johnny Mathis, John Legend, Otis Redding, and more. The Stage at KDHX is at 3524 Washington, just east of the Jazz Bisitro in Grand Center. Tickets are available at the door.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
Metro Theatre Company and the Missouri History Museum present The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane through December 30. "Edward Tulane is a toy who cares for nobody but himself. Ripped from the arms of the little girl who adores him, this privileged china rabbit is thrown into a life-changing adventure. From the depths of the ocean to the top of a garbage heap, Edward discovers what it means to love others on his extraordinary journey home. With themes of family, empathy, home and redemption, this play is the perfect way to celebrate the warmth of the holiday season." Performances take place in the Lee Auditorium at the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park. For more information: mohistory.org.

Looking for auditions and other artistic opportunities? Check out the St. Louis Auditions site.
For information on events beyond this week, check out the searchable database at the Regional Arts Commission's Events Calendar.
Would you like to be on the radio? KDHX, 88.1 FM needs theatre reviewers. If you're 18 years or older, knowledgeable in this area, have practical theatre experience (acting, directing, writing, technical design, etc.), have good oral and written communications skills and would like to become one of our volunteer reviewers, send an email describing your experience and interests to chuck at kdhx.org. Please include a sample review of something you've seen recently.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of December 16, 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:


American Buffalo
Photo: John Lamb
St. Louis Actors' Studio presents David Mamet's American Buffalo through December 18. "This volatile drama starred Robert Duvall in the original Broadway production and has seen revivals with Al Pacino most recently on Broadway . In a Chicago junk shop three small time crooks plot to rob a man of his coin collection, the showpiece of which is a valuable “Buffalo nickel”. These high-minded grifters fancy themselves businessmen pursuing legitimate free enterprise. But the reality of the three- Donny, the oafish junk shop owner; Bobby, a young junkie Donny has taken under his wing and “Teach”, a violently paranoid braggart- is that they are merely pawns caught up in their own game of last-chance, dead-end, empty pipe dreams." Performances take place at the Gaslight Theatre, 358 North Boyle For more information, call 314-458-2978 or visit stlas.org.

My take: Too much Christmas cheer in the air? Here's what KDHX's Tina Farmer describes as "a gritty, raw production" of "a dark tale of petty crime and life lived under the radar." It dates from a period in Mamet's artistic life before he became just another angry white fascist.

Cabaret St. Louis presents singer/songwriter John McDaniel, singer Lennie Watts, and guest vocalist Kay Love in Celebrate Me Home Friday and Saturday at 7 and 9 p.m., December 16 and 17. "Hometowners John McDaniel and Lennie Watts return from NYC with their brand new Holiday Cabaret. You likely know John as a Broadway Music director and Lennie as an NYC Cabaret director. But these two combine their musical and vocal skills for a stellar holiday show - right here where it all started." The performances take place at the Kranzberg Center, 501 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2599728.

My take: Both of these guys are entertainment powerhouses, so if you're willing to brave the elements you'll be rewarded by some truly great cabaret.


The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
Metro Theatre Company and the Missouri History Museum present The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane through December 30. "Edward Tulane is a toy who cares for nobody but himself. Ripped from the arms of the little girl who adores him, this privileged china rabbit is thrown into a life-changing adventure. From the depths of the ocean to the top of a garbage heap, Edward discovers what it means to love others on his extraordinary journey home. With themes of family, empathy, home and redemption, this play is the perfect way to celebrate the warmth of the holiday season." Performances take place in the Lee Auditorium at the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park. For more information: mohistory.org.

My take: At the other end of the spectrum from American Buffalo is this heart-warming, family-friendly show from Metro. "If you believe the holidays are about loving and being loved," writes Shannon Cothran at KDHX, "then this show is for you."


Held Over:


Will Bonfiglio in Buyer and Cellar
Photo: John Lamb
Stray Dog Theatre presents the one-man comedy Buyer and Cellar through December 17. “Underemployed Los Angeles actor, Alex More, is hired to work in a faux shopping mall created by superstar, Barbra Streisand in the basement of her Malibu home. One day, the Lady Herself comes below to play. It soon feels like real bonding downstairs, but will their relationship ever make it upstairs? Buyer & Cellar is a comedic tour-de-force, fictionally drawn from fact, which explores the price of fame, the cost of things, and the oddest of odd jobs." Performances take place at The Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee. For more information, visit straydogtheatre.org or call 314-865-1995.

My take: A one-actor show can be great fun if the script is worthwhile and the actor is up to the task. The script for Buyer and Cellar got plenty of praise from local critics when the Rep did it last spring and Will Bonfiglio has gotten good marks for his work (Judy Newmark calls it a "knockout performance"), so this looks like a safe bet for your weekend.


A Christmas Carol
Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
Through December 24, the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents A Christmas Carol, adapted by David H. Bell from the novel by Charles Dickens. "On Christmas Eve, the miser Ebenezer Scrooge is given a chance at redemption as he's visited by four ghosts - his old partner Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future - who teach him it's never too late to change." Performances take place at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information: repstl.org.

My take: Some of my friends turn into Scrooges at this time of year. I turn into Scrooge's nephew, cheerfully singing along with every carol and enjoying the hell out of holiday gatherings. That means I'd probably recommend this even if the reviews weren't so good, but as it happens my fellow critics are in danger of running out of verbal laurel wreaths to bestow on this production. Harry Hamm calls it "a polished, warm and large-scale production". "The redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge is among the most beloved of holiday stories," writes Tina Farmer at KDHX, "and The Rep's production delivers the spectacle of the story in a standout revival that's a welcome theatrical treat." As you can tell from my own review at OnSTL, I could not agree more.


Driving Miss Daisy
Photo: Eric Woolsey
New Jewish Theater presents Driving Miss Daisy through December 18. "In 1948 Atlanta, Daisy Werthan, a rich, sharp-tongued, Jewish, 72-year-old widow has just demolished another car. Her son Boolie informs her that he will from this point on be hiring a chauffeur for her. Thus begins the 25-year relationship between Daisy and Hoke Colburn, her driver. She regards him with disdain and he is not impressed with her patronizing tone and latent prejudice. But despite their differences, they grow closer and more dependent on each other over time. The once contentious relationship blossoms into a profound, life-altering friendship that transcends all the societal boundaries placed between them. An iconic tale of pride, changing times and the transformative power of friendship." Performances take place in the Marvin and Harlene Wool Studio Theater at the Jewish Community Center, 2 Millstone Campus Drive in Creve Coeur. For more information: www.newjewishtheatre.org or call 314-442-3283.

My take: I've had a great deal of affection for this show since I played the role of Boolie many years ago at West End Players. NJT appears to be doing a good job with this very funny and moving script, and its message could not be more timely. As Robert Cohn writes at the Jewish LIght, the play "is not only good theater: It is a reminder that even in the darkest days, people of good will can improve human relations and substitute the power of love for the corrosive effects of hate."


Finding Neverland
Photo: Carol Rosegg
The Fox Theatre presents the musical Finding Neverland running through December 18. "Directed by visionary Tony®-winner Diane Paulus and based on the critically-acclaimed Academy Award®-nominated film starring Johnny Depp, Finding Neverland tells the incredible story behind one of the world's most beloved characters: Peter Pan. Playwright J.M. Barrie struggles to find inspiration until he meets four young brothers and their beautiful widowed mother. Spellbound by the boys' enchanting make-believe adventures, he sets out to write a play that will astound London theatergoers. With a little bit of pixie dust and a lot of faith, Barrie takes this monumental leap, leaving his old world behind for Neverland, where nothing is impossible and the wonder of childhood lasts forever. The magic of Barrie's classic tale springs spectacularly to life in this heartwarming theatrical event." The Fox is on North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: fabulousfox.com.

My take: Looking for a family friendly show that isn't A Christmas Carol? This might be a good bet. "The story behind the story of Peter Pan" writes Mark Bretz at Ladue News, "is a refreshing and delightful concoction of high-stepping choreography, intelligent lyrics and a lush, beautifully written score that make for an evening of engaging entertainment for children and adults alike. Handsomely mounted and energetically performed, Finding Neverland makes for an ideal holiday treat at the Fox Theatre." In a review soon to be published at KDHX, Amy Burger calls it an "inspiring story of life, death, love and the power of imagination."

Monday, December 12, 2016

Review: "A Christmas Carol" at the Rep delivers holiday cheer with a message

Scrooge and the Cratchit family
Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
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"I have always thought of Christmas time," wrote Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol, "as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys."

In our current greed-besotted American culture, with its veneration of wealth and power and poisonous hatred for those who possess neither, this may seem like a naïve or even a subversive view. Certainly it was the latter when an itinerant rabbi in the Middle East made it his core teaching two millennia ago. At least now you don't get nailed to a tree for suggesting it.

The Ghost of Christmas Present and Scrooge
Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
Still, it's an important message and it remains at the heart of the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis's splendid production of David H. Bell's stage adaptation of the Dickens novella. If anything, Bell's adaptation drives home the message of the sheer heartlessness of the "profit above all" mentality by having the young Ebenezer Scrooge go into partnership with Marley and drive his generous former employer Fezziwig into debtors' prison-a twist even Dickens didn't consider. It gilds the dramatic lily a bit but it also drives home how far Scrooge has fallen.

A very strong cast, including many more local actors than is sometimes the case at the Rep, does a fine job bringing the classic Dickens characters to life. Rep regular John Rensenhouse is a wonderfully irascible Scrooge who becomes hilariously giddy in redemption. Joneal Joplin in an imposing Marley, Ben Nordstrom thoroughly engaging as Scrooge's generous nephew Fred, and Jerry Vogel shows versatility as the Ghost of Christmas Present and Fezziwig, as does Susie Wall in the roles of the dotty Mrs. Dilber and the cheerful Mrs. Fezziwig. Amy Loui and James Michael Reed are a winning pair as the Cratchits.

A transformed Scrooge and Fred
Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
There are many other fine performances in this large and diverse cast-far too many to list here. English accents were a bit wobbly among some of the smaller parts at times, but only a real Scrooge would make a big deal about that.

Scenic Designer Robert Mark Morgan, Costume Designer Dorothy Marshall Englis, and Lighting Designer Rob Denton have all conspired to make this a strikingly good-looking and atmospheric production, with some genuinely magical appearances and disappearances for the ghosts. Steve Woolf directs with a sure hand and a good eye for striking stage pictures.

The Rep's production of A Christmas Carol is a holiday treat that will entertain the whole family while delivering an important message. It's stated most forcefully by Marley's ghost when Scrooge tries to placate him was declaring that he was always a good man of business: "Business! Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!" This Christmas, it's a message we very much need to hear.

A Christmas Carol runs through Christmas Eve on the main stage at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University Campus. Visit the Rep's web site for details.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

St. Louis theatre calendar for the week of December 12, 2016

American Buffalo
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St. Louis Actors' Studio presents David Mamet's American Buffalo through December 18. "This volatile drama starred Robert Duvall in the original Broadway production and has seen revivals with Al Pacino most recently on Broadway . In a Chicago junk shop three small time crooks plot to rob a man of his coin collection, the showpiece of which is a valuable “Buffalo nickel”. These high-minded grifters fancy themselves businessmen pursuing legitimate free enterprise. But the reality of the three- Donny, the oafish junk shop owner; Bobby, a young junkie Donny has taken under his wing and “Teach”, a violently paranoid braggart- is that they are merely pawns caught up in their own game of last-chance, dead-end, empty pipe dreams." Performances take place at the Gaslight Theatre, 358 North Boyle For more information, call 314-458-2978 or visit stlas.org.

Will Bonfiglio in Buyer and Cellar
Photo: John Lamb
Stray Dog Theatre presents the one-man comedy Buyer and Cellar through December 17. “Underemployed Los Angeles actor, Alex More, is hired to work in a faux shopping mall created by superstar, Barbra Streisand in the basement of her Malibu home. One day, the Lady Herself comes below to play. It soon feels like real bonding downstairs, but will their relationship ever make it upstairs? Buyer & Cellar is a comedic tour-de-force, fictionally drawn from fact, which explores the price of fame, the cost of things, and the oddest of odd jobs." Performances take place at The Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee. For more information, visit straydogtheatre.org or call 314-865-1995.

Cabaret St. Louis presents singer/songwriter John McDaniel, singer Lennie Watts, and guest vocalist Kay Love in Celebrate Me Home Friday and Saturday at 7 and 9 p.m., December 16 and 17. "Hometowners John McDaniel and Lennie Watts return from NYC with their brand new Holiday Cabaret. You likely know John as a Broadway Music director and Lennie as an NYC Cabaret director. But these two combine their musical and vocal skills for a stellar holiday show - right here where it all started." The performances take place at the Kranzberg Center, 501 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2599728.

A Christmas Carol
Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
Through December 24, the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents A Christmas Carol, adapted by David H. Bell from the novel by Charles Dickens. "On Christmas Eve, the miser Ebenezer Scrooge is given a chance at redemption as he's visited by four ghosts - his old partner Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future - who teach him it's never too late to change." Performances take place at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information: repstl.org.

The Playhouse at Westport Plaza presents the bawdy interactive comedy Dixie's Tupperware Party through December 18. "After a final meeting with her parole officer, this ex-con mother of three from a trailer park in Alabama straighten out her life by selling the iconic plastic bowls. She quickly became the hottest seller in the country by throwing the kind of parties you won't soon forget. With her booze-filled sippy cup, Dixie shares many alternative uses for what she calls "the most fantastic plastic crap on the planet" which made THE TODAY SHOW cheer, "This is not your grandmother's Tupperware Party." The show is bawdy and interactive and you can actually buy some Tupperware along the way. ADULT CONTENT." The Playhouse at Westport Plaza is at 635 West Port Plaza. For more information: westportstl.com.

Driving Miss Daisy
Photo: Eric Woolsey
New Jewish Theater presents Driving Miss Daisy through December 18. "In 1948 Atlanta, Daisy Werthan, a rich, sharp-tongued, Jewish, 72-year-old widow has just demolished another car. Her son Boolie informs her that he will from this point on be hiring a chauffeur for her. Thus begins the 25-year relationship between Daisy and Hoke Colburn, her driver. She regards him with disdain and he is not impressed with her patronizing tone and latent prejudice. But despite their differences, they grow closer and more dependent on each other over time. The once contentious relationship blossoms into a profound, life-altering friendship that transcends all the societal boundaries placed between them. An iconic tale of pride, changing times and the transformative power of friendship." Performances take place in the Marvin and Harlene Wool Studio Theater at the Jewish Community Center, 2 Millstone Campus Drive in Creve Coeur. For more information: www.newjewishtheatre.org or call 314-442-3283.

Finding Neverland
Photo: Carol Rosegg
The Fox Theatre presents the musical Finding Neverland running through December 18. "Directed by visionary Tony®-winner Diane Paulus and based on the critically-acclaimed Academy Award®-nominated film starring Johnny Depp, Finding Neverland tells the incredible story behind one of the world's most beloved characters: Peter Pan. Playwright J.M. Barrie struggles to find inspiration until he meets four young brothers and their beautiful widowed mother. Spellbound by the boys' enchanting make-believe adventures, he sets out to write a play that will astound London theatergoers. With a little bit of pixie dust and a lot of faith, Barrie takes this monumental leap, leaving his old world behind for Neverland, where nothing is impossible and the wonder of childhood lasts forever. The magic of Barrie's classic tale springs spectacularly to life in this heartwarming theatrical event." The Fox is on North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: fabulousfox.com.

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis's Imaginary Theatre Company presents the children's musical A Gnome for Christmas opening on Saturday, December 17, with performances at 11 am and 3 pm, and running through December 23. "When Lulu's quirky father fails to sell yet another of his odd inventions, the pair must pack their bags and move to more meager accommodations. All they can afford is a rundown old farmhouse where the fence needs mending and the landlord's cranky, even at Christmastime! Lulu's about ready to give up, but when mysterious and magical things start happening, it seems that this farm might be home to more than meets the eye. This warm-hearted holiday musical reminds us of the importance of helping others and the happiness found in friends." Performances take place in the Heagney Theatre at Nerinx Hall High School, 530 East Lockwood Avenue, Webster Groves. For more information: repstl.org.

Catherine Chesboro
The Emerald Room at the Monocle presents singer Catherine Chesboro in I Enjoy Being a Girl on Friday, December 16, at 8 p.m. "A die hard musical theater nerd tells her story the best way she knows how. Follow Cathrine as she connects celebrated Broadway repertoire to her life offstage. For one night, Cathrine fan girls over the shows she adores." The performance takes place in the Emerald Room at The Monocle, 4510 Manchester in the Grove neighborhood. For more information: themonoclestl.com.

The Bissell Mansion Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre presents It's a Wonderful Death through January 8, 2017. The Bissell Mansion is at 4426 Randall Place. For more information: bissellmansiontheatre.com

Metro Theatre Company and the Missouri History Museum present The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane through December 30. "Edward Tulane is a toy who cares for nobody but himself. Ripped from the arms of the little girl who adores him, this privileged china rabbit is thrown into a life-changing adventure. From the depths of the ocean to the top of a garbage heap, Edward discovers what it means to love others on his extraordinary journey home. With themes of family, empathy, home and redemption, this play is the perfect way to celebrate the warmth of the holiday season." Performances take place in the Lee Auditorium at the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park. For more information: mohistory.org.

Rachel Bisch
The Emerald Room at the Monocle and The Presenters Dolan present singer Rachel Bisch in Moving Too Fast: The Nomadic, Nonsensical life of a Hopelessly Romantic Twenty-Something on Saturday, December 17, at 8 p.m. An autobiographical retelling of the last 4 years of a decently atypical life, this evening will pull no punches in discussing friend-zoning, moving across the country, across the world, and managing to make it back home in one piece. Whether you're still stuck fighting through your twenties or looking to reminisce, this evening will help you hide from the real world and give you an excuse to cry and laugh at a life that is assuredly more screwed up than yours. Rachel may be new to the Cabaret world, but she is no stranger to the stage. She started performing with Kirkwood Crestwood Community Theatre when she was 5 and has hardly left the stage since--except for her recent hiatus to pursue her Engineering Degree. She can most often be found singing jazz and pop with The St. Louis Big Band. A senior at Bradley University, Rachel is honored to be making her Cabaret debut at The Monocle." The performance takes place in the Emerald Room at The Monocle, 4510 Manchester in the Grove neighborhood. For more information: themonoclestl.com.

Looking for auditions and other artistic opportunities? Check out the St. Louis Auditions site.
For information on events beyond this week, check out the searchable database at the Regional Arts Commission's Events Calendar.
Would you like to be on the radio? KDHX, 88.1 FM needs theatre reviewers. If you're 18 years or older, knowledgeable in this area, have practical theatre experience (acting, directing, writing, technical design, etc.), have good oral and written communications skills and would like to become one of our volunteer reviewers, send an email describing your experience and interests to chuck at kdhx.org. Please include a sample review of something you've seen recently.

St. Louis classical calendar for the week of December 12, 2016

Band Together
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BandTogether presents a In a Christmas Mood on Saturday, December 17, at 8 PM. "Celebrate the holiday season with a night of music showcasing the most wonderful time of the year. You'll hear all your favorite classics and a mix of new and original pieces that you'll love. Join Rudolph, Frosty, and the rest of your favorite holiday characters, and help us celebrate our 20th anniversary holiday concert with a packed house enjoying the sounds of the season!" The performance takes place at the 560 Music Center, 560 Trinity in University City, MO. For more information: www.bandtogetherstl.com.

The St. Louis Brass Band presents Christmas Wrapped in Brass on Sunday, December 18, at 2:30 p.m. "Favorites, both new and old, all with the Brass Band twist, will bring the spirit of the Season to the young and the old at this concert in the heart of the holiday time. A special visit from the Man from the North Pole is always a highlight. The Saint Louis Youth Brass Band will make its first appearance of the 2016-17 season so it will be two bands for the price of one!" The concert takes place at The Florissant Civic Center Theatre, 1 James J. Eagen Drive in Florissant. For more information: stlbb.org.

The St. Louis Chamber Chorus
The St. Louis Chamber Chorus presents Concert Three: Rejoice—A Baltic Christmas on Sunday, December 18, at 3 p.m. "Memorable evocations of the season from Scandinavia offered by Grieg, Nielsen, and Sibelius, with a modern classic from Estonia, the Seven Advent Antiphons by Arvo Part, new works from Einojuhani Rautavaara & Marten Jansson, and a commission from Eriks Esenvalds." The concert takes place at St. Mark's United Methodist Church, 315 Graham Road in Florissant. For more information: www.chamberchorus.org.

The St. Louis Low Brass Collective presents a Holiday Low Brass Play-Along on Saturday, December 17, starting at 10 a.m. "Participants will rehearse from 10 to 11 a.m. and the performance will take place at noon. This event is free and open to low brass musicians of all ages and abilities. Chairs will be provided, but if possible bring a stand. Festive dress is encouraged but not necessary." The event takes place at the in the Shoenberg Auditorium at the Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw. For more information: www.stllbc.org.

Steven Jarvi
Steven Jarvi conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra along with the Holiday Festival Chorus and soloist Nicole Parker in the Mercy Holiday Celebration Friday and Saturday at 2 and 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., December 16-18. "Glad tidings we bring this holiday season at the fantastically decorated Powell Hall! Join the St. Louis Symphony and Holiday Festival Chorus for a concert full of timeless holiday classics and, of course, a special visit with jolly ol' St. Nick! See why over 11,000 St. Louisans make this their annual holiday tradition." The concerts take place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: stlsymphony.org.

The Sheldon Concert Hall presents the contemporary chamber ensemble Alarm Will Sound on Thursday, December 15, at 8 PM. “The ensemble performs the newest music being composed today with energetic virtuosity and a sense of adventure, creating programs that not only span a wide range of styles, but also transform the traditional concert experience itself.” The Sheldon is at 3648 Washington in Grand Center. For more information: thesheldon.org.

The Washington University Department of Music presents a Guitar Gala on Sunday, December 18, at 3 p.m. The performance takes place in Graham Chapel on the Washington University campus. For more information, music.wustl.edu.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of December 9, 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 University of Missouri at St. Louis presents 1984, adapted from the George Orwell novel by by Michael Gene Sullivan, Friday and Saturday a 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., December 9 - 11. "1984 brings us the story of Winston Smith, a cog in the giant machine state of Oceania. Physically and mentally under the omnipresent eye of Big Brother, Winston has been caught struggling for scraps of love and freedom in a world awash with distrust and violence. With the brutal "help" of four Party Members, Winston is forced to confess his Thoughtcrimes before an unseen inquisitor, and the audience -- which acts as a silent witness to his torture. A ferocious and provocative adaptation of one of the most prescient works of literature of the last century." The performances take place at the Kranzberg Center at Grand and Olive in Grand Center. For more information, kranzbergartscenter.org/calendar/current-events/item/umsl-theatre-1984.

My take: In his review for KDHX, Steve Callahan calls this "a stunningly fine stage adaptation" of Orwell's apparently prophetic novel. "Director Matthew Kerns", he writes, "has done beautiful work in his staging of this difficult but very important piece." At a time when local theatre is running heavily towards vision of sugarplums, here's a dystopian nightmare that serves as a warning.


Will Bonfiglio in Buyer and Cellar
Photo: John Lamb
Stray Dog Theatre presents the one-man comedy Buyer and Cellar through December 17. “Underemployed Los Angeles actor, Alex More, is hired to work in a faux shopping mall created by superstar, Barbra Streisand in the basement of her Malibu home. One day, the Lady Herself comes below to play. It soon feels like real bonding downstairs, but will their relationship ever make it upstairs? Buyer & Cellar is a comedic tour-de-force, fictionally drawn from fact, which explores the price of fame, the cost of things, and the oddest of odd jobs." Performances take place at The Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee. For more information, visit straydogtheatre.org or call 314-865-1995.

My take: A one-actor show can be great fun if the script is worthwhile and the actor is up to the task. The script for Buyer and Cellar got plenty of praise from local critics when the Rep did it last spring and Will Bonfiglio has gotten good marks for his work (Judy Newmark calls it a "knockout performance"), so this looks like a safe bet for your weekend.


The Gateway Men's Chorus presents A Celebration of the Season on Friday and Saturday, December 9 and 10, at 8 p.m. GMC unwraps their 30th anniversary season with a night of beautiful music, campy carols, and holiday favorites, including John Rutter's "Gloria" with a full brass and percussion ensemble and pipe organ. The concert takes place at Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 Union at Enright in the Central West End. For more information: gmcstl.org.

My take: The GMC is a local musical treasure, so I always include them in this list. 'Nuff said.


A Christmas Carol
Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
Through December 24, the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents A Christmas Carol, adapted by David H. Bell from the novel by Charles Dickens. "On Christmas Eve, the miser Ebenezer Scrooge is given a chance at redemption as he's visited by four ghosts - his old partner Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future - who teach him it's never too late to change." Performances take place at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information: repstl.org.

My take: Some of my friends turn into Scrooges at this time of year. I turn into Scrooge's nephew, cheerfully singing along with every carol and enjoying the hell out of holiday gatherings. That means I'd probably recommend this even if the reviews weren't so good, but as it happens my fellow critics are in danger of running out of verbal laurel wreaths to bestow on this production. Harry Hamm calls it "a polished, warm and large-scale production". "The redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge is among the most beloved of holiday stories," writes Tina Farmer at KDHX, "and The Rep's production delivers the spectacle of the story in a standout revival that's a welcome theatrical treat." I'll be there this weekend; join me.


Driving Miss Daisy
Photo: Eric Woolsey
New Jewish Theater presents Driving Miss Daisy through December 18. "In 1948 Atlanta, Daisy Werthan, a rich, sharp-tongued, Jewish, 72-year-old widow has just demolished another car. Her son Boolie informs her that he will from this point on be hiring a chauffeur for her. Thus begins the 25-year relationship between Daisy and Hoke Colburn, her driver. She regards him with disdain and he is not impressed with her patronizing tone and latent prejudice. But despite their differences, they grow closer and more dependent on each other over time. The once contentious relationship blossoms into a profound, life-altering friendship that transcends all the societal boundaries placed between them. An iconic tale of pride, changing times and the transformative power of friendship." Performances take place in the Marvin and Harlene Wool Studio Theater at the Jewish Community Center, 2 Millstone Campus Drive in Creve Coeur. For more information: www.newjewishtheatre.org or call 314-442-3283.

My take: I've had a great deal of affection for this show since I played the role of Boolie many years ago at West End Players. NJT appears to be doing a good job with this very funny and moving script, and its message could not be more timely. As Robert Cohn writes at the Jewish LIght, the play "is not only good theater: It is a reminder that even in the darkest days, people of good will can improve human relations and substitute the power of love for the corrosive effects of hate."


Finding Neverland
Photo: Carol Rosegg
The Fox Theatre presents the musical Finding Neverland running through December 18. "Directed by visionary Tony®-winner Diane Paulus and based on the critically-acclaimed Academy Award®-nominated film starring Johnny Depp, Finding Neverland tells the incredible story behind one of the world's most beloved characters: Peter Pan. Playwright J.M. Barrie struggles to find inspiration until he meets four young brothers and their beautiful widowed mother. Spellbound by the boys' enchanting make-believe adventures, he sets out to write a play that will astound London theatergoers. With a little bit of pixie dust and a lot of faith, Barrie takes this monumental leap, leaving his old world behind for Neverland, where nothing is impossible and the wonder of childhood lasts forever. The magic of Barrie's classic tale springs spectacularly to life in this heartwarming theatrical event." The Fox is on North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: fabulousfox.com.

My take: Looking for a family friendly show that isn't A Christmas Carol? This might be a good bet. "The story behind the story of Peter Pan" writes Mark Bretz at Ladue News, "is a refreshing and delightful concoction of high-stepping choreography, intelligent lyrics and a lush, beautifully written score that make for an evening of engaging entertainment for children and adults alike. Handsomely mounted and energetically performed, Finding Neverland makes for an ideal holiday treat at the Fox Theatre." In a review soon to be published at KDHX, Amy Burger calls it an "inspiring story of life, death, love and the power of imagination."


The Glorious Ones
Webster University's Conservatory of Theatre Arts presents the musical The Glorious Ones Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., December 9-11. “In sixteenth-century Italy, a new form of comedic theatre is forming at the hands of Flaminio Scala: Commedia Dell'arte. Flaminio gathers a group of lowlifes together to create an acting troupe that specializes in improvisational comedy with masked characters. From the creators of Seussical and Ragtime comes a beautiful tribute to an important moment in theatre history and to the highs and lows of being an actor, then and now. Prepare yourselves for jokes that are as bawdy as they are old and as silly as they are sweet.” Performances take place in the Stage III Auditorium in Webster Hall on the Webster University campus. For more information, www.webster.edu/conservatory/season or call 314-968-7128.

My take: Anything by the team of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty is worth seeing, in my view. Writing for KDHX, Steve Callahan describes this as "a fond, loving, bawdy musical bouquet" and goes on to say that the production "is a small but rich one, under the caring direction of Quin Gresham. High praise must go to him as well as to music director Larry Pry and movement coach Jamie McKittrick. All the others in the production team--designers, actors and staff--are very gifted students at the Conservatory." The Webster students do consistently good work, in my experience, and this is a nice contrast with the various holiday sugarplums on stage right now.


The Making of the Star Wars Holiday Special
St. Louis Shakespeare's Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre presents The Making of the Star Wars Holiday Special Friday and Saturdas at 8 and 10:30 p.m. December 9 and 10. "Hop aboard the Millennium Falcon and help Luke, Leia, Han, Artoo, and Threepio get Chewbacca home in time to celebrate Life Day with his Wookie family! Originally airing just once in 1978, Magic Smoking Monkey brings this galactic and cosmically bizarre spectacular back to life, and takes you behind the curtain to witness its creation. Featuring a kitschy cavalcade of 70s superstars like Bea Arthur, Art Carney, Charles Bronson, and other surprises - your holiday season will never be the same! Costume contest nightly - come as your favorite member of the Rebel Alliance or Wookie or Droid or Representative of the Galactic Empire or 1970's TV personality and win! (braggin' rights and a cheap prize!)" Performances take place at the Regional Arts Commission in University City. For more information: stlshakespeare.org.

My take: Speaking of contrasts, here's a loopy tribute to one of the oddest things ever to hit the boob tube. Broadcast for the first (and only) time in 1978, the original show was greeted with a mix of incredulity and, by those watching it under the influence of the right chemicals, dangerous hilarity. It was perhaps best summed up by Nathan Rabin at AV Club, who wrote: ""I'm not convinced the special wasn’t ultimately written and directed by a sentient bag of cocaine." Reviewing this production for KDHX, Tina Farmer describes it as "a great choice for light, laughter filled entertainment with plenty of fresh references and skewering wit." Honestly, I'm surprised MSM hasn't decided to roast this particular turkey before.


Santa's Helpers Inc. presents Songs of Peace and Joy: The Music of Christmas on Sunday, December 11, at 3 p.m. "Merry Keller and her singing friends, Bob Becherer, Brian Derton, Paul MacFarlane, Katie McGrath, Angie Nicholson, and Dionna Raedeke will delight and entertain you with all your favorite holiday music! Ron Bryant is at the piano and Paul McFarlane will be on guitar. This concert will donate net proceeds to Santa's Helpers, Inc. providing the spirit of Santa to thousands of St. Louis families for over 48 years." The performance takes place at the Sun Theatre, 3625 Grandel Square in Grand Center. For more information: www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2592087

My take: Rounding out the new entries in this week's very long hit list, here's a show of holiday favorites by some of our finest cabaret artists, and all for a good cause. I've seen and worked with nearly all of these folks in the past and, trust me, you can't go wrong with this lineup of talent.


Held Over:

The 2015 cast of All is Calm
Photo: John Lamb
Mustard Seed Theatre presents the a cappella musical All is Calm Thursdays through Sundays through December 11. “Join us in celebrating the power of peace in this acapella musical based on the true story of soldiers during World War I who for one night, put down their arms and played soccer instead of exchanging bullets.” Performances take place at the Fontbonne Fine Arts Theatre, 6800 Wydown Blvd. For more information, call (314) 719-8060 or visit the web site at www.mustardseedtheatre.com.

My take: All is Calm has become an annual winter tradition at Mustard Seed. With a script by Peter Rothstein and musical arrangements by Erick Lichte and Timothy C. Takach, this story of the remarkable Christmas truce of 1914—a spontaneous outbreak of peace that occurred at multiple points along the trenches in France—combines splendid and often quite complex a cappella singing with readings of letters from soldiers and other historical documents. At a time when opportunistic politicians are pushing an agenda of hate, fear, and eternal war, this is a play that everyone needs to see. As we used to ask back in the 1960s, "what if they gave a war and nobody came?