Thursday, March 23, 2017

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of March 24, 2017

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 Gateway Men's Chorus presents Light: A Celebration of Life, their 30th anniversary concert, on Sunday, March 26, at 3 p.m. The concert is a "celebration that illuminates the struggles and victories of the LGBT community" and takes place at the 560 Music Center, 560 Trinity in University City. The program includes music by Verdi and Bruckner as well as Radiohead and Florence and the Machine. For more information: gmcstl.org.

My take: The Gateway Men's Chorus has been a local cultural treasure for three decades now, and deserves our support. And with darkness seemingly pressing in on us from all sides these days, we can certainly use a celebration of light and life.


Million Dollar Quartet
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents the musical Million Dollar Quartet through April 9. "Million Dollar Quartet is the Tony® Award winning Broadway musical, inspired by the electrifying true story of the famed recording session that brought together rock 'n' roll icons Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins for the first and only time." Performances take place at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information: repstl.org.

My take: This is clearly the week for "jukebox musicals" in St. Louis, with both Million Dollar Quartet and Motown the Musical (see below) available for your nostalgic pleasure. "Million Dollar Quartet is a big, celebratory rock 'n roll party," writes Tina Farmer in an upcoming review for KDHX, "filled with early classic rock songs, good-humored teasing, and the heart and soul of a dedicated promoter. The show's got a beat you can dance to and engaging, infectious performances, ensuring a whole lotta shaking and a fitting close to The Rep's anniversary season. " "At times," says Mark Bretz at Ladue News, "The Rep's presentation of Million Dollar Quartet seems more like a concert than a musical, an infectious good time woven around a fascinating story...Million Dollar Quartet is a fitting end to The Rep's financially prosperous and critically acclaimed season. There's a whole lotta shakin' goin' on that set."

"The Temptations" in Motown the Musical
Photo: Joan Marcus
The Fox Theatre presents Motown the Musical opening on Tuesday, March 21, and running through Sunday the 26th. "It began as one man's story… became everyone's music… and is now Broadway's musical. Motown The Musical is the true American dream story of Motown founder Berry Gordy's journey from featherweight boxer to the heavyweight music mogul who launched the careers of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson and many more. Motown shattered barriers, shaped our lives and made us all move to the same beat. Featuring classic songs such as "My Girl" and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," experience the story behind the music in the record-breaking smash hit Motown The Musical!" The Fox in at 527 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: fabulousfox.com.

My take: Like Million Dollar Quartet, Motown the Musical uses a fairly flimsy story as the backdrop for an evening packed with classic tunes—in this case, soul and R&B hits from the legendary catalog of Motown Records. Motown founder Berry Gordy's self-congratulatory book is a Cliffs Notes history of Motown's rise from back-room recording studio to international hit factory, but the real entertainment here comes from over fifty Motown classics, performed by a versatile cast playing the individuals and groups Motown made famous. Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, The Supremes—they're all here and strikingly believable. And wait until you see the kid playing the young Michael Jackson! Motown the Musical is a celebration of the songs that had us all, as the exuberant final number reminds us, "Dancing in the Streets."


Never the Sinner
Photo: Eric Woolsey
New Jewish Theater presents Never the Sinner through April 2. "Chicago, 1924. Clarence Darrow is defending Nathan Leopold Jr., age 18, and Robert Loeb, age 19, in the 'Crime of the Century.' The two had decided to commit the 'perfect murder,' just for the thrill of it. Considering themselves Nietzsche's ├╝bermensch (supermen), they concluded they were removed from the moral and social imperatives of the world. They brutally murdered 14-year-old Bobby Franks but were quickly apprehended. Darrow's defense of them was an eloquent plea against capital punishment. This exquisite play asks what demons lurked in the minds of these two young men and the complex relationship between them. This is a love story set to themes of crime and punishment, the press, the times, humanism, Nietzsche's philosophy and the end of the jazz age." 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: As our toxic political climate clearly demonstrates, the overwhelming sense of entitlement of the hyper-rich easily leads to acts of cruelty and and depravity, but it rarely reaches the heights (or depths) displayed by the infamous "thrill killers" Leopold and Loeb. As Tina Farmer writes in an upcoming review for KDHX, this is "an engrossing tale that keeps you on the edge of your seat, with stunningly creepy and compelling performances by Pete Winfrey and Jack Zanger...The subject matter is at times disturbing, but the story is enthralling."


Held Over:

The Royale
Photo: John Gitchoff
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents The Royale through March 26. "The brutal rhythm of boxing underscores this brilliantly stylized drama. Rising black prizefighter Jay "The Sport" Jackson dominates his opponents, but the harsh social realities of the early 1900s force him to fight twice as hard to earn recognition outside of the ring. Loosely based on iconic fighter Jack Johnson, The Royale brings us ringside to one man's quest for victory against all odds." Performances take place in the studio theater at the Loretto-Hlton Center, 130 Edgar Road in Webster Groves, MO. For more information, call 314-968-4925 or visit repstl.org.

My take: The Rep has been presenting consistently provocative and usually very compelling new plays in its intimate studio space for many years now. The Royale appears to be right in that groove. "The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis' production," writes Tina Farmer at KDHX, "is a dynamic and captivating interpretation of Marco Ramirez's tightly wound play, teaming with purpose, raw emotion, and rhythm."


Zorba!
Photo: Jill Ritter Lindberg
New Line Theatre presents the Kander and Ebb musical Zorba! Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 PM through March 25. "ZORBA is a fearless, fiery, high-energy musical fable about living out loud, based on the famous 1946 novel Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis, its 1964 film adaptaion, and letters that Kander and Ebb found from the real-life Zorba. Originally conceived and directed in 1968 by the legendary Harold Prince, the musical opens in a rowdy bouzouki parlor in Greece where a group of locals has gathered to drink and tell stories. They introduce us to Zorba, the aging hedonist-philosopher dedicated to living life to the fullest, and his very emotional, tragic, but life-affirming encounter with a young man and with the love of a woman." Performances take place at the Marcelle Theater, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive, three blocks east of Grand, in Grand Center. For more information: newlinetheatre.com.

My take: New Line continues to surprise us with productions of rarely-seen and (in this case) largely forgotten shows. That's a bit surprising since the team behind Zorba! produced Cabaret—one of the biggest hits in Braodway history (and now playing the Fox). In her review for KDHX, Tina Farmer calls Zorba! "the most beautifully hopeful tragedy I've seen in quite some time. The score and dancing are evocative, drenched with the sounds of Greek folk music. The lyrics are filled with exposition and storytelling reminiscent of the classics. The musical tackles the story of humanity as told through the eyes of an aging man determined to squeeze every last ounce from his own life. Tragic in nature, because we all must die at some point, the tale is nonetheless spirited and filled with love and passion."

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