Thursday, August 10, 2017

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of August 11, 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:

Is He Dead?
Photo: Ron James
St. Louis Shakespeare presents Mark Twain's Is He Dead?, adapted by David Ives, Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. through August 13. "When you're a brilliant young artist like Jean-Francois Millet and villainous debt collectors are on your tail, there's only one way out: death. Or faking it. Threatened with debtor's prison, Millet decides his best option is to die and return as the "sister" of the dead painter, much to the confusion of the town and the consternation of his beloved Marie." Performances take place at the Ivory Theatre, 7620 Michigan in the Carondelet neighborhood. For more information, call 314-361-5664 or visit

My take: Ives is a clever and creative playwright, and it appears that he's done a respectable job of updating Twain's piece with a dash of contemporary humor which St. Louis Shakespeare has exploited neatly. "The current presentation by St. Louis Shakespeare is expertly guided by director Edward Coffield," writes Mark Bretz at Ladue News, "who keeps the shenanigans moving at a brisk pace. He also allows his performers to utilize hyperbole without being too exaggerated, a delicate but important balance."

The Muny presents the musical Newsies running through Sunday. "The cult 1992 film became a smash 2012 Broadway musical, and Newsies now makes its long-awaited Muny premiere. With incredible music by Alan Menken, Newsies reveals the thrilling story of the Newsboy Strike of 1899 - how a bunch of rag tag orphans took on the mighty Joe Pulitzer and nearly brought down the city of New York. Newsies at The Muny is guaranteed to make headlines." Performances take place on the Muny's outdoor stage in Forest Park. For more information:

My take: The Muny is ending another successful season with what Judy Newmark at STLtoday calls "the show of the summer. It boasts fabulous musical numbers and a terrific story for children and adults alike. Plus, it's never been at the Muny before." "The Muny closes its 99th season with its first production of this energetic, high-stepping Disney musical," writes Mark Bretz, "which is built on strong choreography and the music of Alan Menken, led by a winning performance by Jay Armstrong Johnson as Jack Kelly."

Held Over:

9 to 5, the Musical
Stages St. Louis presents the 9 to 5, the Musical through August 20. "Based on the seminal 1980 hit movie, this hilarious musical romp that explores friendship and revenge in the Rolodex era is outrageous, romantic, and even a little bit thought provoking in its heroines' desire to break the glass ceiling. Chock-full of upbeat and optimistic songs by country superstar Dolly Parton and featuring the toe-tapping title tune, "9 to 5", three female coworkers concoct a plan to live out their wildest fantasies by giving their sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot of a boss the boot! In the process, the women give their workplace a dream makeover and take control of the company that had always kept them down. A bright and brand new musical bon-bon for STAGES audiences and a celebration for anyone who has ever struggled with any kind of authority figure, you will laugh, cry, and ultimately cheer the exploits of Violet, Judy, and Doralee as they discover the joys of working 9 to 5!" Performances take place in the Robert G. Reim Theatre at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road in Kirkwood. For more information:

My take: Hit movies don't necessarily make hit musicals, but 9 to 5, the Musical works surprisingly well as a stage vehicle. Sadly, the idea of taking revenge on a bad boss is just as timely now as it was when the movie made such a splash almost four decades ago. "Artistic director Michael Hamilton leads an energized cast in a spirited, high-octane performance of this gleeful musical with serious undertones," says Mark Bretz at Ladue News. "The underlying messages about respect and finding your place in the world are nice, though clunky," notes Tina Farmer at KDHX, "and the show wins with its can do attitude and humor."

Out on Broadway
Photo: Jill Ritter Lindberg
New Line Theatre presents the musical revue Out on Broadway: The Third Coming Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 PM through August 19. "Twenty-one years after the first edition premiered, OUT ON BROADWAY: THE THIRD COMING is an original revue of musical theatre songs performed from the perspective of five gay men, an intimate evening of funny and emotional performances, with just five guys, a piano, and no microphones. Some songs will be brought back from the earlier editions, with new songs as well, including numbers from Heathers, Kinky Boots, Hamilton, The Book of Mormon, Dreamgirls, Songs for a New World, Follies, Cabaret, Ordinary Days, Cry-Baby, Bye Bye Birdie, Into the Woods, and other musicals." 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: This is essential cabaret: intimate, acoustic, and heavily informed by American musical theatre. The performers will be familiar to fans of the local theatre and cabaret scene and at least one of them—Ken Haller—has been acting as a kind of roving cabaret ambassador for St. Louis in Chicago and New York.

Photo: John Lamb
Stray Dog Theatre presents the musical Ragtime, based on the novel by E.L. Doctorow, Thursdays through Saturdays through August 19. "Set in the volatile melting pot of New York at the turn of the century, three distinctly American tales are woven together. A stifled upper-class wife, a determined Jewish immigrant, and a daring young Harlem musician are united by courage, compassion, and belief in the promise of the future. As they confront the ongoing contradictions of society, their stories intertwine with notable historic figures in a sweeping musical portrait of an indelible era." Performances take place at The Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee. For more information, visit or call 314-865-1995.

My take: Yes, I'm actually in this one, but the fact is that I have been a great admirer of this show since I first saw it on Broadway almost two decades ago. Part historical pageant, part social and political critique and just a bit fantastical, Ragtime captures the wonder, horror, and inevitable decline of the mad optimism that began this century. It should be required viewing for the rabid free marketeers, so-called "white nationalists" (sounds nicer than "Nazis"...) and self-proclaimed populists who would have us believe that turn of the century America was the best of all possible worlds. This is a big, ambitious production, and reviews have been uniformly positive, and sometimes positively giddy. Just one example, from Steve Allen at Stage Door St. Louis: "Strong singing and acting performances highlight this massive undertaking that hits every note and every tug of the heartstrings with unabashed brilliance."Tickets are going fast (this weekend is already sold out) so get yours now.

No comments: