Thursday, April 27, 2017

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of April 28, 2017

As always, the choices are purely my personal opinion. Take with a grain (or a shaker) of salt.

Share on Google+:

New This Week:

August: Osage County
Photo: John Lamb
St. Louis Actors' Studio presents August: Osage County by Tracy Letts through April 30. "A vanished father, a pill-popping mother and three sisters harboring shady little secrets. When the large Weston family unexpectedly reunites after Dad disappears, their Oklahoman family homestead explodes in a maelstrom of repressed truths and unsettling secrets. Mix in Violet, the drugged-up, scathingly acidic matriarch, and you've got a major new play that unflinchingly - and uproariously - exposes the dark side of the Midwestern family." Performances take place at the Gaslight Theatre, 358 North Boyle For more information, call 314-458-2978 or visit

My take: While I'm not usually a big fan of dysfunctional family plays (the genre has become something of a cliche these days), there's no doubt that August: Osage County is widely regarded as the Lexus of the line, with its operatic lenghth (nearly three hours) crammed with vital characters and compelling themes. The SLAS production has gotten good notices as well.

Saturday, April 29, at 11 a.m. The Sheldon Concert Hall presents vocalist Ben Nordstrom: Singing Gershwin. "One of St. Louis' favorite musical theatre performers, Ben Nordstrom, returns to The Sheldon stage with the luminous vocalist Julia Hanson Battaglia to sing the classic songs of Gershwin! Hear favorites such as "Embraceable You," "They Can't Take That Away From Me," "I Got Rhythm," and more!" The Sheldon Concert Hall is on Washington in Grand Center. For more information:

My take: Ben Nordstrom is one of our best singing actors, having distinguished himself in both musical theare and non-musical drama, and Gershwin is one of America's very best composer/songwriters. I don't see how you can go wrong here.

Shakespeare Festival St. Louis presents the one-man show Cry Havoc Friday and Saturday at 1 p.m., April 29 and 30. "Actor/veteran Stephan Wolfert will lead his audience on an interactive journey to meet Shakespeare's veterans, and confront the difficulties today's soldiers face in leaving military service to rejoin the civilian world. The powerful one-person play speaks to the impact of theater as a tool for social change and the way the themes of Shakespeare's 400-year-old works resonate meaningfully in modern life." The performances take place in the auditorium at the St. Louis City Library Headquaters at 1301 Olive downtown. For more information:

My take: Looking for evidence that The Bard of Avon remains relevant centuries later? Look no farther then this remarkable look at how little the dilemma of the former soldier trying to re-enter civilian has changed over the years. Shakespeare has much to teach us, if we will but listen.

Kristin Chenoweth
The Touhill Performing Arts Center presents Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth in concert on Friday, April 28, at 8 p.m. "In a career that spans film, television, and stage, Emmy and Tony Award-winning actor and songstress Kristin Chenoweth is perhaps best well known for her work on the ABC series Pushing Daisies, FOX's hit comedy Glee, and NBC's political drama, The West Wing. However, fans of Broadway know the "popular" Hollywood Walk of Fame performer as smash-hit Wicked's original Glinda the Good Witch." The Touhill Center is on the campus of the University of Missouri at St. Louis. For more information:

My take: If you only know of this exceptionally talented actor/singer from her TV appearances, you really owe it to yourself to see her live. She didn't get those Tony and Emmy awards for nothing, folks.

Equally Represented Arts presents twelfth period, or not another twelfth night Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. (except for April 29, when there is no performance) through May 6th. "Created and Presented by Equally Represented Arts, An experimental, multi-space, theatrical production From William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and high school, circa 1999 Welcome to Illyria Preparatory Academy - 'Where some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.'" Performances take place at Centene Center for the Arts, 3547 Olive in Grand Center. For more information:

My take: Twelfth Night in a 1990s high school? Sounds crazy, no? But if you step back and look at the social relationships (including the obvious use of bullying) it makes more sense than you might think. And it looks like ERA has done a smart job witht he adaptation. "The dialogue is Shakespeare interspersed with lines which the program credits to various sources from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to American Beauty," writes Ann Lemmons Pollack on her blog. "It’s way too fun, clearly not taking much of anything seriously." The storytelling style is ingeniously unconventional as well; designer/director Gabe Taylor divides the audiende up into four "teams," each with different "class schedules". That means each group sees the scenes in different order and don't reunite until the end.

Held Over:

Dancing at Lughnasa
Mustard Seed Theatre presents Brian Friel's Dancing at Lughnasa Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., through April 30. “Set in 1936 Ireland, the play explores the potential for romance and the lure of pagan rituals in a family's day-to-day life.” There is no performance on Easter Sunday, April 16. 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

My take: Brian Friel's 1990 memory play of life in rural Ireland has always been highly regarded, and it looks like Mustard Seed has mounted a very successful production. At Ladue News, Mark Bretz describes it as "a heart-rending rendition of Brian Friel’s haunting Irish drama, featuring superb performances by an ensemble cast given affecting direction by Gary Barker." Ann Lemmons Pollack agrees. "Mustard Seed Theatre has put together an ensemble for Brian Friel’s 1990 play that enlivens an already sparkling script," she writes at her St. Louis Eats and Drinks blog. There's basic benevolence at the heart of Dancing at Lughnasa that makes it a welcome antidote to the toxic spite that dominates the daily news cycle these days.

The Lion King
Photo: Daniel Murphy
The Fox Theatre presents Disney's The Lion King running through May 7. "Giraffes strut. Birds swoop. Gazelles leap. The entire Serengeti comes to life as never before. And as the music soars, Pride Rock slowly emerges from the mist. This is Disney's The Lion King, making its triumphant return to the Fabulous Fox. More than 85 million people around the world have experienced the awe-inspiring visual artistry, the unforgettable music, and the uniquely theatrical storytelling of this Broadway spectacular - one of the most breathtaking and beloved productions ever to grace the stage." The Fox in at 527 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information:

My take: How could I not include this? Making its fourth or fifth trip (but who's counting?) to our city since its first appearance here in 2003, this ingenious stage adaptation of the popular Disney film remains a stunning piece of theatre. For those of you who have yet to see this remarkable show, know that the spectacular opening number sets the tone for the entire evening. As a giant red-orange sun rises over the African plain, the first sounds you hear are not those of Elton John and Tim Rice’s Anglo-American pop, which makes up the majority of the score, but rather the distinctly African melodies of Lebo M. Led the baboon Shaman Rafiki and answered by actors high in the side balconies, the call and response changes into “The Circle of Life” as the animals gather at Pride Rock, which slowly rises from the center of the stage. Tall, elegant giraffes, a lumbering elephant, leaping gazelles, a graceful cheetah, colorful birds—they stream in from every aisle and across the stage, surrounding the audience in light, sound, and color. And that's just the beginning of this extraordinary bucket of brilliance from the seemingly bottomless well of Julie Taymor’s genius. Go, take the kids, and enjoy.

Oedipus Apparatus
Photo: John Lamb
The West End Players Guild continues its 106th season with the world premiere of Oedipus Apparatus, written and directed by Lucy Cashion, based on Sophocles' Oedipus Tyrannus, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM, April 21-30. There will also be a show on Thursday, April 27, at 8 PM. "Lucy Cashion is one of St. Louis's most exciting and creative young theatre artists. Her Equally Represented Arts Theatre Company is well-known for cutting edge works such as Trash Macbeth, Make Hamlet and The Residents of Craigslist. Now Lucy brings to our stage the world premiere Oedipus Apparatus, her original work inspired by Sophocles' Oedipus Tyrannus. It is most definitely NOT the version of this classic tale you read in freshman English!" 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: [Full disclosure: I'm on the board of West End but have not worked on this show.] This wildly inventive and wholly original potpourri combines the general outline of the Oedipus legend (including bits and pieces of the Sophocles tragedy) with classical mechanics, plane geometry, Freudian psychology (naturally!) and contemporary pop culture. A site-specific piece composed with West End’s location in mind, Oedipus Apparatus includes live Philip Glass-ish music by Joe Taylor (who also, of course, plays Apollo), ritualistic dance that reminded me of Pina Bausch, a mobile industrial set by Kristin Cassidy and Jacob Francis, live video, and pretty much everything but the kitchen sink. Although there might have been one of those in the loopy junk-shop set from which the oracles of Delphi broadcast their vacuous chat show in a style reminiscent of "The View" or "Fox and Friends," with Athena the oleaginous hostess. At just under two hours with no intermission, it could use some editing, but as this is a world premiere that's not very surprising. It gets superb performances, in any case, from a very fine ensemble cast. You might love it or hate it, but you won't soon forget it.

No comments: