Thursday, March 02, 2017

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of March 3, 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:

Photo: Wylde Brothers Productions
Winter Opera St. Louis presents Bizet's Carmen Friday at 7:30 PM and Sunday at 3 PM, March 3 and 5. Performances take place at The Skip Viragh Center for the Arts at Chaminade College Preparatory School, 425 S. Lindbergh. For more information, visit

My take: This production is not without its flaws, but the things about it that are good—like Benedetta Orsi's performance in the title role and the fine work by the chorus—far outweigh any other considerations. If you like Carmen, you won't want to miss this latest effort from a small opera company that gets more consistently polished with each season.

The Performing Arts Department at Washington University presents Shakespeare's Macbeth and Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., March 3-5. "Shakespeare's bloody psychological thriller blends witchcraft, murder, madness, ghosts and an unbridled lust for power-into one boiling cauldron. Reflect on America's recently concluded Presidential election by experiencing Shakespeare at his most politically powerful. Depicting a world where “fair is foul, and foul is fair,” the playwright provides us no easy answers to the problem of evil; instead, he probes into the recesses of our subconscious drives, illuminating our essential humanity with rich poetry and unforgettable power. " The performances take place in the Edison Theatre on the Washington University campus. For more information, call 314-935-6543 or visit

My take: The Scottish Play has always been one of my favorites. Its fierce economy and relentless pace are irresistible when done well. In his review for KDHX, Ken Haller says that this production "does a remarkable job of bringing the horror, the disgust, the wonder, the tragedy, and even the humor of Shakespeare's play to its audience...Director Henry I. Schvey and dramaturg Daniel Washelesky make smart cuts (Donalbain, Duncan's second son, is gone and not missed) and insightful changes (Banquo here is a woman, and therefore, mother of kings) to keep the action moving, in a fleet, intermissionless, immersive 100 minutes."

Held Over:

Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill
Max and Louie Productions presents the one-woman show Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill throughMarch 4. "It's March 1959 and at a small Philadelphia club, jazz and blues "phenom" Billie Holiday takes the stage for one of the last shows of her life. Playwright Lanie Robertson's Musical Drama allows us a penetrating look into the life and times of Billie "Lady Day" Holiday, as we listen to the profound legacy of her artistry-the music itself." Performances take place at the Kranzberg Arts Cener, 501 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information, visit

My take: Whenever I read about some of the legendary performers of the past, I often wish I had a TARDIS so I could zip back in time an see (say) Houdini or Nora Bayes in their prime. Sure, some of the great musical performers of the past are represented on recordings, but can any recording really capture what made the greats—well—great? In her review of Lady Day, Ann Lemmons Pollack agrees, noting that "[t]here are some musicians whose recordings, no matter how good, how beloved, don't do them justice. Chief among them, I would argue, is Billie Holiday. If I ever had any doubt of that, they were erased Friday night as Alexis J. Roston sang part of Holiday's repertoire in Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill...It is, essentially, a glorious cabaret act – and those who enjoy cabaret should have a swell time seeing this at the Kranzberg Arts Center." We saw the show tonight, and I can tell you that Ms. Roston's performance is so accurate it's eerie, and the script is a sharp indictment of the kind of society that some people apparently think made America "great". Get your tickets now, though; the Kranzberg is not a big space and this could sell out.

To Kill a Mockingbird
Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents Christopher Sergel's stage adaptation of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird through March 5. "Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is a beloved tale that still resonates today. Scout Finch is growing up in Depression-era Alabama, where poverty and prejudice dominate daily life. With the guidance of her wise father, Atticus, the rebellious Scout discovers her own path, learning the power of empathy and the struggle for justice." Performances take place at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information:

My take: With racism and bigotry on the rise again in America, this classic story of one lawyer's courageous stand for justice is, I'm sorry to say, every bit as relevant as it was when Harper Lee first set it down in novel form. And the Rep's innovative production has many admirers, including yours truly. "I find myself again and again wanting to use the word 'strong when I think about what the Rep is doing with Mockingbird," writes Ann Lemmons Pollack. "It's moving, extremely well executed, and a perfect fit for almost any audience." "There is a rhythm that's unique to this production," notes Lynn Venhaus at the Belleville News-Democrat. "The small tight-knit black community moves through scenes by singing spirituals and gospel songs, their voices strong in unison. Using music to depict their culture and struggles was a brilliant stroke, punctuating the racism and discrimination."

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