Thursday, November 09, 2017

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of November 10th, 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:

Emily Skinner
The Gaslight Cabaret Festival presents Emily Skinner in Broadway Her Way on Saturday, November 11, at 8 p.m. "In her captivatingly all-in cabaret show, Tony-nominated Broadway star Emily Skinner (Side Show, Billy Elliot, The Full Monty) takes us on a tour of her neighborhood. A favorite at The Rep in Follies and at the MUNY in The Little Mermaid. Among his many accomplishments, Emily's MD John Fischer is the Music Director of the renowned center of dance, Jacob's Pillow, located in The Berkshires of western Massachussetts." The performances take place at the Gaslight Theater, 358 North Boyle. For more information:

My take: If you liked Alice Ripley's show last month, there's a good chance you'll find this one appealing as well, since she and Ms. Ripley (who famously co-starred in Sideshow on Broadway) teamed up for a duet show, Unattached, at 54 Below last year. If you were lucky enough to see her in Follies at the Rep last year, you know she's a real musical theatre pro.

Elsie Parker
The Jacoby Arts Center presents Elsie Parker and the Poor People of Paris in Days of Wine and Piaf, an evening of the songs of Edith Piaf, on Friday, November 10, at 8 p.m. The Jacoby Arts Center is at 627 E. Broadway in Alton, IL. For more information:

My take: i will confess to being a huge admirer of Edith Piaf (I have visited her grave in Paris twice) and French popular songs in general. Elsie Parker and her group have the same affection for this material and it shows on their polished and committed performances.

Katie McGrath
The Gaslight Cabaret Festival presents Katie McGrath in Significant Others on Friday, November 10, at 8 p.m. "Significant Others: the people, places and events that make us - well, us. Features a lively mix of Great American Songbook, pop, country and soul. McGrath's proceeds will benefit St. Louis's own Guardian Angel Settlement Association, whose social services programs and developmental childcare program work to improve the lives of those in our community struggling with poverty." The performances take place at the Gaslight Theater, 358 North Boyle. For more information:

My take: Katie McGrath was a notable cabaret artist here in St. Louis for years before her recent move to the Big Apple. In addition to her solo work, she was a member of the rockin' Women Under the Influence as well as a political activist, organizing two Concert Across America events to raise awareness about gun violence. Since then she has been making a name for herself in NYC. It's good to have her back in town for a few days.

The Spitfire Grill
Photo: Ken Clark
The Hawthorne Players present musical The Spitfire Grill through November 12. "Recent parolee, Percy Talbott, is trying to find a place for a fresh start and ends up in the small town of Gilead, Wisconsin. The local sheriff finds her a job at the only eatery in this struggling town, The Spitfire Grill-for sale for the last 10 years. Percy suggests the gruff owner, Hannah, try raffling it off. The entry fee is one hundred dollars and an essay on why you want the grill. This musical triumph is an inspiring celebration of new beginnings and the power of what one person can do." The performances take place at the Florissant Civic Center Theatre at Parker and Waterford in Florissant, MO. For more information, call 921-5678 or visit

My take: Is this production worth a trip out Florissant? Richard Green over at Talkin' Broadway certainly thinks so. "100% charming, and perfectly cast, the 2001 musical Spitfire Grill finds its magic in unexpected places," he writes. "There's the frightening modern chasm of economic dislocation (set in a rural Wisconsin community) and a slow-dawning miracle of escape for all concerned, as you may remember from the 1996 movie with Ellen Burstyn. And, at the Florissant Civic Center Theatre, Hawthorne Players gives it the perfect setting, heartwarming, with a good dash of snark. Yes, this is an unadulterated rave." My experience with Hawthorne is that they often do very good work, and have a well-equipped and comfortable theatre to work with.  Add this to your musical theatre list for the weekend.

Stones in His Pockets
Photo: John Lamb
The West End Players Guild continues its 107th season with the comedy Stones in His Pockets Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM, November 10 - 19. "The play offers a sharply satiric look at what happens when an American movie company sets up shop in a down-on-its-luck village in County Kerry, Ireland, to film a major motion picture. Enticed by the prospect of making more money as film extras every day than most can make in a week, everyone in the village wants in on the action. Most do get involved but some are left behind, and the village soon learns that there can be a steep price to pay for a few weeks of easy money and Hollywood excitement." There will also be a show on Thursday, November 17, at 8 PM. 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 and play reading committee at West End, but I have also been a great admirer of the remarkable comedy/drama since my wife and I first saw it in London many years ago. It's a virtuoso exercise for the two-man cast, who have to shift characters rapidly and often to portray around 30 roles in the course of the evening. I have shared the stage with both of the guys in this cast and I can tell you from personal experience that they've got the goods.

The Student Prince
Photo: Wylde Brothers Productions
Winter Opera St. Louis presents Sigmund Romberg's operetta The Student Prince Friday at 8 PM and Sunday at 3 PM, November 10 and 12. 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: We don't get to see much operetta these days. Sure, there's the occasional Gilbert and Sullivan, but I can't recall the last time I saw a professional production of Rombert's tuneful The Student Prince. Winter Opera gave us one of the best productions of Merry Widow I've ever seen last year, and while what I saw at final dress rehearsal last night wasn't quite in that league, it was still quite good. Soprano Caitlin Cisler and tenor Andrew Marks Maughan sound terrific in the leads and in the role of Detlef tenor Zachary Devin leads the men's chorus in a fine version of the famous "Serenade." The orchestra under Scott Schoonover has never sounded better.

Held Over:

Windsor Theatre Group presents the musical revue Broadway: The Early 1900's - Victor Herbert and His Contemporaries at 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, November 11 and and 12. "Talented professional singers and dancers will take the audience to an era that was very interesting for music lovers. Fantastic shows were staged on Broadway, and jazz, blues and tango began receiving mainstream recognition. Broadway tunes include the great male chorus numbers from Rose-Marie, The Student Prince, The Merry Widow, and The New Moon. There will be solo and duet performances of more Broadway selections and the other genres gaining fame. In addition, highlights of plots or other interesting facts about a song will enhance the enjoyment of the attendees." Performances take place at the historic Ozark Theatre, 103 E. Lockwood in Webster Groves. For more information call 314-832-2114 or visit the group's Facebook page.

My take: I'm putting this on the list for the simple reason that I'm very fond of music from the early years of the 20th century. Heck, I even created an entire show around it. Herbert and his contemporaries aren't heard that much these days, which is a pity. Thanks to Windsor for bringing us a full evening of this classic stuff.

Ken Haller and Marty Fox
The Gaslight Cabaret Festival presents singer Ken Haller and pianist Marty Fox in Happy Haller Days on Thursday, November 9, at 8 p.m. "In his take on the holidays, Ken promises to be surprising,funny, personal, moving, great company and just a little exasperating. Just like all our holidays! The very well done video below by Paul Schankman takes you into the world of Ken's shows. " The performances take place at the Gaslight Theater, 358 North Boyle. For more information:

My take: In my review of Ken's last production, The Medicine Show, I noted that he "delivered the goods with that combination of theatrical smarts and vocal authority that has made him one of our town's principal cabaret exports." He and Marty Fox have done another first rate job this time around; check out my review of this show for details.

Titus Androgynous
YoungLiars presents Titus Androgynous through November 11. "Did you know that Shakespeares most brutal tragedy is actually a comedy? YoungLiars aim to prove the point with a vengeance in this riotous reimagining of Titus Andronicus - where the Italian Commedia smashes into All-American Splatter, and Shakespeare comes along for the ride. Titus Androgynous is YoungLiars deliciously deranged deep-dive into the perverse passions and vaudeville violence of the Bard's bloodiest play." Performances take place in in the hundred-year-old basement of the Centene Center for the Arts, 3547 Olive Street in Grand Center. For more information:

My take: I'm not a fan of grand guignol theatre in general, but if (say) Evil Dead: The Musical is your particular cup of stage blood, you might want to take a look at this unapologetically outrageous revision of Shakespeare's most violent play (which, to be fair, is often cited as an early example of grand guignol). Over at Ladue News, Mark Bretz praises the production's "inspired silliness" and says this Hallowe'en-themed show is "as much treat as trick."

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