Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Very illegal aliens

Alan Ox
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Last weekend marked the opening of one of the more unusual one-man shows to hit local stages in quite some time. There's an Alien in My Soup is a one-man mini-musical with original songs by pianist/songwriter Curt Londes and writer/actor Alan Ox, who is also the performer. Mr. Ox portrays seven military men coming forward with their accounts of what actually happened "behind closed doors'" when unearthly "visitors" came to call.

I got Alan to beam down and answer few questions this week.

Q: What motivated you to write a show about close encounters of the third kind?

A: I was inspired toward creating this show due to my keen interest in the stories I ran across on the web. Stories as told in first person by everyday, yet colorful people who were in extraordinary situations. Being that I was a star gazer since I was a kid, I could not shake my fascination with the topic-the more I read, the higher the sources, such as NASA astronauts and high ranking military whistle-blowers, the more I was pulled into these galactic questions.

Q: Where did you find our source material?

A: I had differing sources. Youtube videos, web sources and books mainly. I never was a member of any UFO organizations per se, so did not work with any of these folks. My goal has been to make this play interesting and fulfilling to theatergoers, not just UFO buffs. I think the show fulfills that mission musically and theatrically.

Q: So did putting together There's An Alien in My Soup have any impact on you own thoughts about extraterrestrials?

A: Of course after studying the topic, my beliefs have strengthened that there is a strata of intelligence being purposely kept from the people of the world. But it's also disturbing to me that the accompanying technologies are ALSO hidden. And in this day of climate issues and 'petro- dependence', I believe that to be criminal in nature.

The Skinny: There's An Alien in My Soup runs Thursday through Saturday, February 2 through 4, at the Marcelle Theater, 3310 Samuel Shepherd Drive, just three blocks east of Powell Hall in Grand Center. Shepherd With tunes like the lighthearted "Call On The British" to the pulsing "Radar Don't Lie," the stories move as quickly as the onstage costume changes. Inn the end, the audience is left to ponder the revelations that seem to lead to even more questions. And by the way, it's okay to leave conspiracy theories and preconceived notions at the door and just enjoy the show!

For ticket information, visit metrotix.com.

Review: Why do we love David Robertson? Let us count the ways.

This review originally appeared at 88.1 KDHX, where Chuck Lavazzi is the senior performing arts critic.
David Robertson
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[Find out more about the music with my symphony preview post.]

This past weekend's St. Louis Symphony concerts (January 27-29) were the last regular subscription series programs before Maestro David Robertson and the orchestra leave for a tour of Spain in February. If what I heard Friday night is any indication, they'll do so (to quote Mr. Wordsworth) "trailing clouds of glory."

The evening was classic Robertson in every respect, beginning with the order structure of the evening: two audience favorites surrounding a new work getting its American premiere, thereby guaranteeing that the audience would at least give the new piece a chance.

It was smart programming, because the work in question—Rolf Wallin's 2011 Fisher King for trumpet and orchestra—doesn't have a lot of immediate appeal. In a program note on his publisher's web site Wallin, a trumpet player himself, notes that the work deals in part with "the love/hate instrument of my childhood and youth" and is "about visiting some dark places."

I found the piece suffused with an underlying sense of anxiety, with horror movie-style gliding passages in the strings and a challenging solo part with lots of nervous trills and aggressively rapid passages calling for plenty of double-tonguing and nimble fingers. There are even sections in which the score indicates a range of notes and it's left up to the soloist to decide which ones to actually play. It's fascinating stuff, especially for a former brass player like yours truly, but if the conversations I overheard in the lobby during intermission were any indication, it was not particularly well received by the audience, who apparently found it a bit monotonous.

But what a remarkable performance it got from the orchestra and soloist Håkan Hardenberger! Working with two different trumpets (a standard instrument for most of the concerto and a piccolo trumpet for the brief coda), Mr. Hardenberger navigated this difficult score with ease and authority. His tone, in the rare moments when his instrument was unmuted, was clean and clear. For the most part, though, we heard it filtered through a variety of mutes, reflecting the composer's desire to counteract the instrument's extroverted musical personality.

The two familiar works bracketing Fisher King were the 1945 suite from Aaron Copland's 1944 ballet Appalachian Spring and Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 in A major, op. 92. Both were performed with that mix of attention to orchestral detail and keen understanding of musical architecture that we have come to expect from Mr. Robertson over the years.

Håkan Hardenberger
Photo: Ben Ealovega
The Copland was classic Robertson, with enthusiastic yet precise podium choreography and pristine playing by the orchestra and impeccable solos from the principals. From the serene opening pages to the big treatment of "Simple Gifts" to the quiet finale, this was a performance that will represent the orchestra well when it's presented in Madrid next month.

It was the Beethoven that really brought down the house, though. Conducting without a score, Mr. Robertson brought this familiar music to new life, finding novel approaches to the piece without in any way imposing on it. Playing the Allegretto second movement attacca (without pause) after the first, for example, shed new light on both movements--and provoked spontaneous applause both Friday and Saturday night. Crescendos were beautifully shaped and tempo choices were relaxed enough to make every detail clear but still brisk enough to keep Beethoven's momentum going.

This was, in short, exactly the sort of thing that made Mr. Robertson so welcome when he joined the SLSO as music director in 2003, and it's why I will be sorry to see him go in 2019. His work with the orchestra reminds me in many ways of the good old days of Leonard Slatkin, and that's saying something.

The concerts conclude with an unscheduled encore, which is presumably going to Spain with the orchestra as well: the "Ritual Fire Dance" from de Falla's ballet El amor brujo. That got a rousing round of applause as well.

The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra leaves the first week in February for its 2017 Spain Tour with dates in València, Madrid, and Oviedo. Regular concerts resume February 24 and 25 as Sir Andrew Davis conducts the orchestra and chorus in Walton's Belshazzar's Feast along with Elgar's Falstaff and the overture to Nicolai's Merry Wives of Windsor.

Monday, January 30, 2017

St. Louis classical calendar for the week of January 30, 2017

The Boston Camerata
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The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis presents organist The Boston Camerata in The Play of Daniel on Tuesday, January 31 at 8 p.m. "The Ludus Danielis, or Play of Daniel, is a powerful medieval mystery play composed eight centuries ago in Beauvais, France. The Boston Camerata's recent new production of The Play of Daniel, edited, staged and directed by Anne Azéma, renews and transforms this classic work of early music theater. It brings together music and movement, theater and liturgy, light and shadow, to retell the biblical story of the young prophet for today's audiences." The performance takes place at the cathedral at 4431 Lindell. For more information: www.cathedralconcerts.org.

Founder and Director Emeritus Dan Presgrave conducts The St. Louis Wind Symphony in a program of music by American composer Vincent Persichetti, along with works by Dennis Blair, Percy Grainger, and Clifton Williams, on Sunday, February 5, at 2 PM. The concert features Persichetti's Symphony No. 6 for Band, written for and premiered by the Washington University Chamber Band under the direction of Clark Mitze on April 16, 1956 at the Music Educators National Conference in St. Louis. The performance takes place in the Viragh Center on the Chaminade School campus in on North Lindbergh in Ladue. For more information: stlwindsym.org.

The Touhill Performing Arts Center presents A Violin's Life featuring Frank Almondon Friday, February 3, at 8 PM. "When Frank Almond first began playing on the Lipi_ski back in 2008, there was a fair amount of speculation regarding its provenance and history. To most aficionados the violin had “disappeared” for a couple of decades, which was a bit unusual for a 1715 Stradivari. It also became obvious that a modern, technically advanced recording had never been made of this violin. On January 27, 2014, the “ex-Lipinski” Stradivari was stolen from Mr. Almond in an armed robbery after a concert. The violin was recovered nine days later, and the story continues to make headlines around the world." The Touhill Performing Arts Center in on the University of Missouri at St. Louis campus. For more information: touhill.org.

Joan Tower
The Washington University Department of Music presents on open rehearsal with composer Joan Tower and members of the St. Louis Symphony on Monday, January 30, at 2:30 p.m. The event takes place in the E. Desmond Lee Concert Hall at the 560 Music Center, 560 Trinity in University City. For more information, music.wustl.edu.

Washington University presents Equal Play: Celebrating Women Composers on Monday, January 30, at 5:30 p.m. The concert features performances by members of the St. Louis Symphony and consists of Clara Schumann's Piano Trio in G minor, Amy Beach's Theme and Variations for Flute and String Quartet, and Joan Tower's Second String Forces for solo violin and Rising for flute and string quartet. The performance takes place in Holmes Lounge in Ridgley Hall on the Washington University campus. For more information: news.wustl.edu.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

St. Louis theatre calendar for the week of January 30, 2017

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The Bissell Mansion Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre presents A Big Easy Murder through April 30. The Bissell Mansion is at 4426 Randall Place. For more information: bissellmansiontheatre.com.

Black Anthology presents Black and Blue, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., February 3 and 4. "Black Anthology was founded in 1989 by Marcia Hayes-Harris to provide a means of commemorating the history and progress of African Americans. Since its creation, the program was totally student run, from the script to set and costume design. However in the beginning skits were compilations centered on pertinent literature. Over the years, the productions have become a scripted play. Even with the changes in the format of the show, Black Anthology's aims remain the same and we, the executive board, hope to see the program continue to thrive." The performances take place in the Edison Theatre on the Washington University campus. For more information: edison.wustl.edu/event/black-anthology/2017-02-03

Circus Harmony presents Bravura Saturdays at 2 and 7 PM and Sundays at 2 PM, through January 29. "Bravura is a musical term whose definition also describes our youth circus performers: exceptional agility and brilliant style. Our theme this year is archetypes. Follow our King as he searches for the Trickster who stole his crown and finds out that one person can wear many hats." Performances take place at City Museum, 701 N. 15th Street. Show admission is free with museum admission. For more information: circusharmony.org.

Constellations
Photo: Erici Woolsey
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents Constellations through February 5 "One relationship, limitless possibilities. When Roland and Marianne meet at a party, a multiverse of potential outcomes unfolds. Each choice they make unlocks a series of branching paths - some wonderful, some tragic. Nick Payne's genre-busting new play explores these alternate universes with wit, wonder and an overflowing sense of life." 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.

Stray Dog Theatre presents Ibsen's drama A Doll's House February 2-18. “Nora Helmer once committed forgery in order to save the life of her authoritarian husband, Torvald. Years later she is being blackmailed, living in fear and shame of what might destroy Torvald's career. When the truth is revealed, Nora is shocked to learn where she really stands in her husband's esteem. Henrik Ibsen's world_renowned drama contains perhaps the most scandalous theatrical climax in all of 19th century drama." Performances take place at The Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee. For more information, visit straydogtheatre.org or call 314-865-1995.

Intimate Apparel
Photo: Eric Woolsey
New Jewish Theater presents Intimate Apparel through February 12. "New York, 1905, Esther, a black seamstress, lives in a boarding house where she sews intimate apparel for clients ranging from wealthy white patrons to prostitutes. As the other denizens of the boarding house marry and move away, Esther remains, lonely and longing. Through a mutual acquaintance, she begins to receive beautiful letters from a lonesome Caribbean man working on the Panama Canal. But Esther's heart seems to lie with the Hasidic shopkeeper from whom she buys cloth, and his heart with her, but the impossibility of the match is obvious to them both. The play offers poignant commentary on an era when the cut and color of one's dress-and of course, skin-determined whom one could and could not marry, even talk to in public." 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.

Solid Lines Productions presents Kimchee and Chitlins, written and directed by Elizabeth Wong, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., February 3 and 4. Performances take place in the CS Huh Auditorium in the Center for Global Citizenship on the Saint Louis University campus. For more information: solidlinesproductions.com.

The Midnight Company presents Little Thing, Big Thing Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. through February 11 " LITTLE THING, BIG THING tells the story of a nun, Sr. Martha, and an ex-con, Larry O'Donnell, who are thrown together in a desperate quest to safeguard film exposing deadly misdeeds of a powerful oil company. Chased by hired killers and corrupt cops, they risk their lives and head to Dublin to do the right thing, and deliver the film to the right hands. " Performances take place at Avatar Studios, 2675 Scott Avenue, downtown. Downtown. For more information: brownpapertickets.com.

Menopause the Musical
The Playhouse at Westport Plaza presents Menopause the Musical, "a celebration of women and The Change," through February 12. The Playhouse at Westport Plaza is at 635 West Port Plaza. For more information: westportstl.com.

The Lemp Mansion Comedy-Mystery Dinner Theater presents Murder at the Abbey through April 29. "Welcome to the world of Downton Abbey! A world full of aristocracy, old money but never anything as droll as murder! Congratulations! You've been invited to the dinner party held by the Earl of Grantham himself! Some would kill for the opportunity to meet the Crawley family. They'll all be there! The Earl, his beautiful wife and three daughters...not to mention all the other characters in, (and around), the Grantham house. That's right! All the family, staff and townsfolk will be there. You'll meet lots of fun characters...and you'll play as big, (or as small), of a part as you wish. Up to you. Hope nothing bad happens...but if it does...we might need you to help us figure it out? Or perhaps you're the killer?" The Lemp Mansion is at 3322 DeMenil Place. For more information: lempmansion.com.

Alton Little Theater presents the farce Nana's Naughty Knickers Thursdays through Sundays through February 5. "When Nana invites her granddaughter, Bridget, to live with her, mayhem ensues since Nana has been subsidizing her income with a lingerie business, catering to local ladies not yet ready to be "over the hill." Complications arise when Bridget brings home her cop boyfriend and the landlord gets wind of the shenanigans going on in Nana's rent-controlled apartment. The Senior Citizen's sexy sidelines will keep the audience in stitches...indeed, they may laugh themselves right out of their knickers!” Performances take place at 2450 North Henry in Alton, IL. For more information, call 618.462.6562 or visit altonlittletheater.org.

Cocktails and Curtain Calls presents One Last Job by Patrick Conroy through February 8. "The 1970's and 1980's were a turbulent time in Irish History. The Irish Republican Army (IRA), a paramilitary organization seeking civil rights for its people and the reunification of Ireland defended their areas against the occupying British Forces. This fictitious story tells of the chance encounter of a young British Soldier and a recently retired IRA operative. Their personal struggles, their lives and the lives of their families quickly become entangled and entwined. This play attempts to describe the thoughts and actions of people caught up in roles not entirely of their choosing. In war, there are no easy answers and lives are forever changed." Performances will take place at McGurk's Irish Pub in Soulard. For more information: eventbrite.com.

O'Fallon TheatreWorks presents the comedy Peter and the Starcatcher at the O'Fallon Municipal Centre auditorium February 3-12. "Tony-winning Peter and the Starcatcher upends the century-old story of how a miserable orphan comes to be The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up (a.k.a. Peter Pan). A wildly theatrical adaptation of Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson's best-selling novels, the play was conceived for the stage by directors Roger Rees and Alex Timbers and written by Rick Elice with music by Wayne Barker. From marauding pirates and jungle tyrants to unwilling comrades and unlikely heroes, Peter and the Starcatcher playfully explores the depths of greed and despair and the bonds of friendship, duty, and love." The O'Fallon Municipal Centre is located at 100 North Main Street in O'Fallon, MO. For more information, visit www.ofallon.mo.us or call 636-379-5606.

The Emerald Room at the Monocle presents Reggi and Shaw's Evening of Improvised Theatre on Thursday, February 2 at 8 p.m. "Local actors Cooper Shaw and Ed Reggi are delighted to bring their comedic talents to The Grove. These Thursday evening performances will include Shaw's PINKY SWEAR and Reggi's THE MARTY. PINKY SWEAR is a Long Form Improv Duo based in St. Louis, MO, featuring Shannon Geier and Cooper Shaw. Through character and relationship-based moment-to-moment explorations, inspired by a suggestion from the audience, Geier and Shaw bring stories to life with heart and soul. THE MARTY is a two-person improvised play inspired by suggestions from the audience." The performance takes place in the Emerald Room at The Monocle, 4510 Manchester in the Grove neighborhood. For more information: themonoclestl.com.

The Looking Glass Playhouse presents Ruthless the Musical through February 5. "Eight-year-old Tina Denmark knows she was born to play Pippi Longstocking, and she will do anything to win the part in her school musical. Anything includes murdering the leading lady! This aggressively outrageous musical hit garnered rave reviews during its long Off-Broadway run." Performances take place at 301 West St. Louis Street in Lebanon, Ill. For more information, visit www.lookingglassplayhouse.com.

The Marcelle Theater presents Alan Ox in the original one-man musical There's an Alien in My Soup Thursday through Saturday, February 2-4, at 8 p.m. The show "breaches the UFO taboo by diving headfirst into it. No holds barred. Featuring 7 military personnel coming forward, forsaking their anonymity to share what really happened behind closed doors when 'they' came to visit Earth." Performances take place at the Marcelle Theater in Grand Center, three blocks east of Powell Hall. For more information: metrotix.com.

Tesseract Theatre Company presents To the New Girl, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m., February 3-12. "This entertaining evening consists of 10 monologues from various women scorned who directly address their exes' new wives and lovers. “To the New Girl”, a ten-woman show focusing on resilient, and sometimes vengeful, broken hearts." Performances take place at The .ZACK, 3224 Locust in Midtown. For more information: tesseracttheatre.org.

The Monroe Actors Stage Company presents the comedy Vanya And Sonia And Masha And Spike, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 and Sundays at 2:30 p.m., February 3-12, in the Historic Capitol Theatre in downtown Waterloo, Illinois. "Stuck in their family home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Vanya and his adopted sister Sonia live a quiet existence until their lives are thrown into comic upheaval with the arrival of their B-list celebrity sister, Masha, and her 20-something boy toy, Spike. Add to that a soothsaying housekeeper, a star struck young neighbor and a rather odd costume party, and the stage is set for mayhem and hilarity in this present-day homage to Chekhov. Winner of the 2013 Tony Award for Best Play.” For more information, visit www.masctheatre.org or call 618-939-7469.

Alfresco Productions presents the musical Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory through February 4. "The delicious adventures experienced by Charlie Bucket on his visit to Willy Wonka's mysterious chocolate factory light up the stage in this captivating adaptation of Roald Dahl's fantastical tale. Featuring the enchanting songs from the 1971 film starring Gene Wilder and new songs by Leslie Bricusse (Jekyll & Hyde, Doctor Dolittle) and Anthony Newley, Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka is a scrumdidilyumptious musical guaranteed to delight everyone's sweet tooth. Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka follows enigmatic candy manufacturer, Willy Wonka, as he stages a contest by hiding golden tickets in five of his scrumptious candy bars. Whomever comes up with these tickets will win a free tour of the Wonka factory, as well as a lifetime supply of candy. Four of the five winning children are insufferable brats: the fifth is a likeable young lad named Charlie Bucket, who takes the tour in the company of his equally amiable grandfather. The children must learn to follow Mr. Wonka's rules in the factory… or suffer the consequences." Performances take place at the Alfresco Art Center, 2401 Delmar in Granite City, IL. For more information: (618) 560-1947 or www.alfrescoproductions.org.

Yasmina's Necklace
Photo: John Lamb
Mustard Seed Theatre presents Yasmina's Necklace Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through February 12. “Fresh from its sold-out world premiere in Chicago, Yasmina's Necklace is an unlikely romance between Yasmina, a recent immigrant from Iraq and Abdul Samee, who wants to change his name to Sam and turn his back on his Iraqi and Puerto Rican heritage.” 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 www.mustardseedtheatre.com.

Upstream Theater presents the US premiere of The Year of the Bicycle Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through February 12. "Joanna Evans' award-winning play tells the story of Amelia and Andile who befriended each other over a garden when they were eight. Many years later, now grown up but estranged, they fall into a concussion at the exact same moment and meet once again in each other's mind. A witty and poignant examination of childhood, memory and South Africa's born-free generation. Skipping from frolicky lightness to the dark borders of loneliness, this US premiere shows people reaching across walls that separate: race and class, innocence and guilt, playfulness and fear, yesterday and today." Performances take place at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information, including show times: upstreamtheater.org.

The St. Louis Family Theatre Series presents the musical A Year With Frog and Toad Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m., February 3-5. " A Broadway hit, A Year with Frog and Toad is perfect for the whole family! Based on the well-loved books, this whimsical musical follows two great friends - the cheerful, popular Frog and the rather grumpy Toad - through the year. Waking from hibernation in the spring, Frog and Toad plant gardens, eat cookies, swim in funny bathing suits, rake leaves, go sledding, and learn life lessons along the way. Part vaudeville, part make-believe and all charm, A Year with Frog and Toad tells the story of a friendship that endures, weathering all seasons." Performances take place at the Florissant Civic Center Theatre at Parker and Waterford in Florissant, MO. For more information, call 314-921-5678 or visit www.florissantmo.com/topic/index.php?topicid=129&structureid=28.

Looking for auditions and other artistic opportunities? Check out the St. Louis Auditions site.
For information on events beyond this week, check out the searchable database at the Regional Arts Commission's Events Calendar.
Would you like to be on the radio? KDHX, 88.1 FM needs theatre reviewers. If you're 18 years or older, knowledgeable in this area, have practical theatre experience (acting, directing, writing, technical design, etc.), have good oral and written communications skills and would like to become one of our volunteer reviewers, send an email describing your experience and interests to chuck at kdhx.org. Please include a sample review of something you've seen recently.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Review: Flaws and all, Winter Opera's "La Cenerentola" is good fun

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Rossini's romantic comedy La Cenerentola, based in part on the classic fairy tale Cinderella, was your prototypical rush job. He threw it together in three weeks at the end of 1816 when the libretto for the opera he was originally supposed to write (on a completely different subject) was rejected by the Papal Censor. Bits of the opera (notably the overture) were recycled from earlier works and some of the music was composed not by Rossini but by his collaborator Luca Agolini.

L-R: Sharon Sullivan, Robin Bradley, Andrew Potter,
Joseph Ryan, Isaac Frishman
Photo: Wade Brothers Productions
Still, as the production Winter Opera is presenting this Friday and Sunday (January 27 and 29) demonstrates, it holds up pretty well. The score is a charming cornucopia of elaborate coloratura arias, rapid-fire patter songs, and the kind of layered ensembles that earned Rossini the nickname “Signor Crescendo.” Stage director Matthew Haney may be overly fond of cluttering up those ensembles with silly stylized movement that is almost (but not quite) choreography, but even so the good humor of Rossini's music and Jacopo Ferretti's libretto remain intact.

The role of Angelina (a.k.a. Cenerentola) is something of a rarity-a leading coloratura part written for a contralto. Kate Tombaugh, who sings the role here, is a mezzo but sounded quite at ease with the part's tessitura when I saw her at the final dress rehearsal Wednesday night. Combined with her capable acting, that higher voice gave the character an engagingly naïve charm that contrasted nicely with the acidic brattiness of her stepsisters. I thought she sounded a bit less comfortable with the role's coloratura side, however. Her big rondo finale ("Nacqui all'affanno ... Non più mesta") lacked the vocal fireworks I would have expected.

Rossini was generous to the lower male voices as well, with choice roles for two basses and a baritone - the social-climbing stepfather Don Magnifico (the prototypical "buffo" clown of Italian comic opera), the Prince's wise tutor Alidoro (substituting for the fairy godmother because Rossini hated supernatural elements in opera), and the wily valet Dandini, who spends most of the opera masquerading as Prince Ramiro so the latter can get an unvarnished look at the Magnifico family.

Kate Tombaugh
Photo: Wade Brothers Productions
Winter Opera is blessed with three very strong performers in these key parts. Bass Andrew Potter's alcoholic pomposity is spot on, and he handles the role's more florid passages expertly, although at dress rehearsal he sometimes got out of synch with the orchestra. Baritone Joseph Ryan is equally strong vocally and makes the most of Dandini's droll observations.

Bass Nathan Resika turns in perhaps the most surprising performance, finding interesting shadings in what could be the fairly ordinary role of Alidoro. The character is essentially a saintly fellow who delivers the libretto's explicitly Christian message about the last being first, but Mr. Resika acting (and, more importantly, reacting) makes him more three-dimensional than one might expect.

Soprano Sharon Sullivan and mezzo Robin Bradley are Angelina's stepsisters Clorinda and Tisbe. In this version of the story they're not so much wicked as foolish, superficial, and terminally self-involved. Their vocal and physical battles are appropriately funny stuff, and nicely sung.

Tenor Isaac Frishman is Prince Ramiro, hiding behind a pair of glasses, Clark Kent style, to separate the gold diggers from the real princess candidates. Angelina passes the test, of course, by falling for him even though she believes him to be only a servant, while he spends much of the opera being moonstruck by her. Mr. Frishman acts the part a bit blandly but sings beautifully, which is ultimately more important. His voice blends perfectly with Ms. Tomaugh's, which is also a bonus.

The male chorus, under the direction of Nancy Mayo, sings with power and precision even when they're marching around the stage and then falling down into a heap (which happens more often than necessary). This is not the first time I have been impressed with Ms. Mayo's work at Winter Opera, and I expect it won't be the last.

Conductor Kostis Protopapas conducts with a sure hand-although I would have liked somewhat more fleet tempi in the overture-and the small orchestra (fewer than 20 players) sounded quite polished, especially for a final dress. There was especially nice work by (among others) Chamber Project St. Louis members Jennifer Gartley and Dana Hotle on flute and clarinet, respectively, as well as Peg Bumb on bassoon and St. Louis Symphony Associate Principal Horn Thomas Jöstlein.

Joseph Ryan (center) and the company
Photo: Wade Brothers Productions
Scenic Designer Scott Loebl and Costume Designer JC Krajicek have created a bright, colorful, fairy-tale world for Cenerentola, lit dramatically (if sometimes a bit obtrusively) by Maureen Berry. And while Mr. Haney's direction sometimes gilds the theatrical lily, as I noted earlier, for the most part it creates effective stage pictures and directs our focus where it needs to be.

Rossini's La Cenerentola isn't heard that often-it was last done in a somewhat stripped-down version by Union Avenue Opera in 2011—so this production is most welcome and a great deal of fun overall. Besides, Winter Opera remains one of the better practitioners of musical theatre in St. Louis. They also have the distinction of being the only one of our three opera companies to be working in a space that was actually built with an orchestra pit and music-friendly acoustics-a virtue not to be taken lightly.

Winter Opera's La Cenerentola will be performed Friday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m., January 27 and 29, at the Skip Viragh Center on the Chaminade campus on Lindbergh just north of Plaza Frontenac. The opera is sung in Italian with English supertitles. It's not especially long as operas go-around two and one-half hours, including intermission-and the bright comic action might make it a good choice for younger audience members as well as for adults. For more information: winteroperastl.org.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of January 27, 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:


An American in Paris
Photo: Matthew Murphy
The Fox Theatre presents the musical An American in Paris through January 29. "An American In Paris is the new Tony Award®-winning musical about an American soldier, a mysterious French girl and an indomitable European city, each yearning for a new beginning in the aftermath of war. Acclaimed director/choreographer and 2015 Tony Award® winner Christopher Wheeldon brings the magic and romance of Paris into perfect harmony with unforgettable songs from George and Ira Gershwin in the show that earned more awards than any other musical in the 2015 season!" The Fox is on North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: fabulousfox.com.

My take: 'S' wonderful, 's marvelous, 's a big, splashy, colorful love letter to Paris and, more importantly, to the art of the dance. You can read my review for details, but the bottom line is that this is a pretty darn fine show that the whole family will be able to appreciate. Note, thought, that with a run time of nearly three hours including intermission, it might be a bit much for smaller children.


La Cenerentola
Photo: Wylde Brothers Productions
Winter Opera St. Louis presents Rossini's comic opera La Cenerentola (Cinderella) Friday at 8 PM and Sunday at 3 PM, January 27 and 29. Performances take place at The Skip Viragh Center for the Arts at Chaminade College Preparatory School, 425 S. Lindbergh. For more information, visit winteroperastl.org.

My take: There's no fairy godmother in this version of Cinderella's story because Rossini hated the use of supernatural elements in opera and the wicked godmother has been exchanged for a pompous, social-climbing godfather, but otherwise this is familiar ashes-to-diamonds story done up with lots of patter songs and elaborate coloratura arias, mostly for low voices (even Cinderella is a contralto instead of a soprano). The opera's last appearance here was in the summer of 2011 at Union Avenue Opera, so Winter Opera's new production is welcome. The title role is sung with great charm by and she's backed up by a solid ensemble of singers with a good sense of comedy. Director is a little too fond of silly choreography in many of the ensemble numbers, but overall this is an impressive effort and well worth seeing.


The Marcelle Theater presents Alan Ox in the original one-man musical There's an Alien in My Soup opening on Thursday, January 26, and running through February 4th. The show "breaches the UFO taboo by diving headfirst into it. No holds barred. Featuring 7 military personnel coming forward, forsaking their anonymity to share what really happened behind closed doors when 'they' came to visit Earth." Performances take place at the Marcelle Theater in Grand Center, three blocks east of Powell Hall. For more information: metrotix.com.

My take: So far all I have seen of this show is one of the seven monologues and the song that goes with it—a British music hall pastiche titled "Call On the British"—but that was enough to spark my interest. The part was smartly acted by Mr. Ox and the song was a hoot. I won't get to see the show until the closing weekend but the idea of this show sounds appealing enough to merit inclusion here.


Held Over:

All My Sons
Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents Arthur Miller's drama All My Sons through January 29. "Miller's breakthrough play is a searing and deeply personal search for morality with shattering repercussions. During World War II, factory owner Joe Keller makes a questionable business decision that costs the lives of American airmen overseas. His misdeed leaves his family fractured as they grapple with the consequences of his actions." Performances take place at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information: repstl.org.

My take: Given the current depraved state of our national morality and what would appear to be our appalling acceptance of war as just another product, it seems almost quaint to raise the issue of war profiteering these days—which is why it so desperately needs to be done. Miller's play, in contrast with war-mongering politicians, has a strong moral core and is getting what Bob Cohn in the Jewish Light calls "a powerful, riveting production." I'm not entirely happy with some of director Seth Gordon's choices, but for me the importance of this play's message is what really counts.


The cast of Bravura
Circus Harmony presents Bravura Saturdays at 2 and 7 PM and Sundays at 2 PM, through January 29. "Bravura is a musical term whose definition also describes our youth circus performers: exceptional agility and brilliant style. Our theme this year is archetypes. Follow our King as he searches for the Trickster who stole his crown and finds out that one person can wear many hats." Performances take place at City Museum, 701 N. 15th Street. Show admission is free with museum admission. For more information: circusharmony.org.

My take: Circus Harmony does excellent outreach work that demonstrates how the arts can make a big difference in the community. If you've ever seen a Circus Flora show, of course, you've seen some of Circus Harmony's students at work as The St. Louis Arches, but the organization's reach and mission go far beyond that. "Circus Harmony," according to their web site, "teaches the art of life through circus education. We work to build character and expand community for youth of all ages, cultures, abilities and backgrounds. Through teaching and performance of circus skills, we help people defy gravity, soar with confidence, and leap over social barriers, all at the same time." Since their 2001 Circus Salaam Shalom, which brought Jewish and Muslim kids in St. Louis together, Circus Harmony has been advancing its philosophy of "peace through pyramids, harmony through handspirngs" to "inspire individuals and connect communities."


Menopause the Musical
The Playhouse at Westport Plaza presents Menopause the Musical, "a celebration of women and The Change," through February 12. The Playhouse at Westport Plaza is at 635 West Port Plaza. For more information: westportstl.com.

My take: This popular ensemble show has been around for a while now, having premiered in 2001 in Orlando, Florida, in a 76-seat theatre that once housed a perfume shop. It's last visit at the Westport Playhouse was ten years ago, and it seems to have lost none of it's comic shine. "Who will enjoy this," asks Ann Lemmons Pollack in her blog, "beyond women of what they call un age certain? People of both genders around them unless they have no sense of humor. That includes family, friends and co-workers. One of life's cruel jokes is that the menopause hits many households about the same time adolescence does. Here's something to tide us over."


Kirkwood Theatre Guild presents the comedy Wake Up, Cameron Dobbs by St. Louis playwright Steve Peirick through January 29. "Some would say Cameron Dobbs is a loser who never gets a break. He's turning 30 and all he wants is a quiet birthday dinner with his brother, Owen, and sister-in-law, Abby. Unfortunately, they have different plans. Unknown to Cameron, Abby has decided to fix him up with her friend, Natalie, and Owen has invited their loving but neurotic mother, Helen. Cameron is not thrilled by these surprise guests, and to add to his chagrin, the dinner menu is a list of food to which he is allergic. After an unenthusiastic introduction, Natalie convinces Cameron to leave the dinner party and celebrate with her. As his family awaits his return, Cameron begins the journey toward recreating his life and embracing manhood." Performances take place in the Robert G. Reim Theatre of the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road. For more information, call 314-821-9956 or visit ktg-onstage.org.

My take: I haven't seen Kirkwood's production, but having worked on the world premiere of this very funny play at West End Players several years ago, I can attest to the high quality of the script. Although it's essentially a situation comedy, Wake Up, Cameron Dobbs goes in unexpected and very smart directions. This is at least it's third local production, and I expect there will be more as time goes by.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Preview: Music of renewal and decay at the St. Louis Symphony

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This weekend (January 27-29, 2017) brings us the last of the regular St. Louis Symphony season concerts before the orchestra departs for its tour of Spain next month (the subscription season resumes at the end of February). The orchestra is saying "¡Hasta luego!" with concerts featuring a couple of familiar favorites and one piece that's getting its American premiere.

Aaron Copland, 1962
The concerts open with one of the favorites, the 1945 suite from Aaron Copland's 1944 ballet Appalachian Spring. Dating from a time in Copland's career when he was trying to write in a more popular and accessible style, the score for Appalachian Spring is direct and uncomplicated in its appeal. Which is only fitting, since the ballet scenario devised by legendary choreographer Martha Graham is equally straightforward, telling the simple story of a young couple in rural Pennsylvania starting their life together and building their home with the help of their neighbors and the local preacher.

Although the ballet was originally scored for a small ensemble of 13 players, it's Copland's later suite for full orchestra that has become the most familiar. It was last heard here in a 2010 performance that was accompanied by projected images from a children's book: Jan Greenberg's Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring.

Ballet for Martha was, in fact, the original working title for Appalachian Spring. The ballet didn't get its official title until shortly before the premiere, when Ms. Graham suggested Appalachian Spring based on lines from the Hart Crane poem "The Dance":
O Appalachian Spring! I gained the ledge; Steep, inaccessible smile that eastward bends And northward reaches in that violet wedge Of Adirondacks!

So the "spring" is more a reference to the aquatic feature than to the season, although since the poem overall is about the coming of spring it would probably be fair to say that it's a reference to both.

The classic Beethoven
The other selection from the classical "top of the pops" is Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 in A major, op. 92, last heard here in an exhilarating performance by last weekend's guest conductor, Andrey Boreyko, in 2014. First performed at a December 8, 1813, charity concert to benefit widows and orphans of soldiers killed in the Battle of Hanau-which marked the beginning of the end of Napoleon's dreams of empire-the work was greeted with wild acclaim by audiences and critics alike. The second movement Allegretto, in particular, "enchanted connoisseur and layman," according to a contemporary review in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung. Welsh musicologist David Wyn Morris has called the symphony "the continuous cumulative celebration of joy."

Perhaps the most famous and most enthusiastic review, though, came from Richard Wagner. It's so effusive it's worth quoting at length:
All tumult, all yearning and storming of the heart, become here the blissful insolence of joy, which carries us away with bacchanalian power through the roomy space of nature, through all the streams and seas of life, shouting in glad self-consciousness as we sound throughout the universe the daring strains of this human sphere-dance. The Symphony is the Apotheosis of the Dance itself: it is Dance in its highest aspect, the loftiest deed of bodily motion, incorporated into an ideal mold of tone.

They just don't write pull quotes like that anymore.

The big news this weekend, though, is the first American performance of Fisher King for Trumpet and Orchestra, written in 2011 by Norwegian composer and trumpet player Rolf Wallin. The title refers to the Arthurian legend of a wounded monarch, the last in a long line of kings charged with keeping the Holy Grail, whose injuries make it impossible for him to move on his own power. In despair, he spends all his time fishing while his kingdom falls in to ruin, and only magic worked by a true king can cure him.

Rolf Wallin
Photo: Benjamin Ealovega
In the first known version of the story-Chrétien de Troyes's Perceval, the Story of the Grail from the late 12th century-the cure is worked by the knight Perceval, who would later become the model for Wagner's Parsifal. Mr. Wallin doesn't specify which version of the story he was thinking of, but in a program note on his publisher's web site he's very frank about the source of his concerto's inspiration:
In many ways, since we're dealing with the love/hate instrument of my childhood and youth, this trumpet concerto was bound to be become almost autobiographical. It is about visiting some dark places. Low places. The place inhabited by the mythical wounded Fisher King, his country degenerating into a Wasteland, a place we all have been at least once in our life. But it is even more about the hope of transforming that Wasteland into brightness and abundant, flowing energy.

Fisher King is laid out as one continuous movement running a little under a half hour, but it's divided up into three sections that roughly correspond to the traditional fast-slow-fast pattern of the classical concerto. You can read an excellent detailed description of the work in Paul Schiavo's SLSO program notes, but I'd also recommend listening to the recording this weekend's soloist, Håkan Hardenberger, made for Naxos with the Bergen Philharmonic under John Storgårds. The label has thoughtfully made it available on YouTube.

. There's an underlying sense of anxiety in this piece, with lots of thorny passages for both the soloist and the orchestra. There are moments of real beauty in the slower central section and passages of great drama elsewhere, capped with a rather abrupt ending. In the end, I found that I rather liked this somewhat enigmatic music; your mileage may vary.

The essentials: David Robertson conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and trumpet soloist Håkan Hardenberger on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m., January 27-29. The concerts take place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: stlsymphony.org.

Review: A gripping performance of Shostakovich's final symphony by Andrey Boreyko and the St. Louis Symphony

This review originally appeared at 88.1 KDHX, where Chuck Lavazzi is the senior performing arts critic.
Conductor Andrey Boreyko
Photo: Richard de Stoutz
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[Find out more about the music with my symphony preview post.]

“It's not where you start”, runs a Dorothy Fields lyric from the 1973 musical Seesaw, “it's where you finish. It's not how you go, it's how you land.” If the fifteenth and final symphony by Dmitri Shostakovich is any indication, the great Russian composer's own landing was bleak and despairing, but this past weekend's performance (Saturday, January 21) by the dynamic Russian conductor Andrey Boreyko and the St. Louis Symphony was gripping nevertheless.

That's impressive because Shostakovich's Symphony No. 15 in A major-written in 1971 from a hospital bed as the composer was being treated for the lung cancer that would kill him four years later-is not easy music for the listener or the performers.

For the musicians, the Shostakovich fifteenth consistently calls for nothing but the best playing. That's because, although written for large orchestra with a massive percussion section, the symphony contains long stretches of delicately scored passages for solo instruments or small ensembles. There's nowhere to hide for musicians who aren't top drawer.

For the listener, the challenge is to accept the music's many outpourings of anguish without being overwhelmed by them. This was the final big statement by a man who had survived all the horror the Soviet Union could throw at him, and it's filled with remembered desolation. Uplifting socialist realism is nowhere to be found.

Fortunately, the musicians of the St. Louis Symphony were more than up to the challenges Shostakovich created. Under Mr. Boreyko's skilled baton-or just his hands, for the more delicate passages-they played their hearts out in flawless, virtuoso performances.

There was wonderful work here by Principal Flute Mark Sparks (most notably in the first movement), Principal Clarinet Scott Andrews, and Principal Bassoon Andrew Cuneo. Ditto Principal Trombone Timothy Myers in his long second movement solo. In that same movement, Principal Cello Daniel Lee brought out all the anguish in the solo that pushes the instrument to the very top of its range. Concertmaster David Halen demonstrated his skill in multiple passages, as did Principal Bass Erik Harris.

Shostakovich gives an important role to the percussion section, mostly notably in the enigmatic coda in which castanets, snare drum, wood block, xylophone, and triangle clatter away in what sounds to me like a reference to the hospital machinery that was probably in the background as the symphony was written. Principal William James and the rest of his crew brought it all to life brilliantly.

For his part, Mr. Boreyko—who made such a strong impression here in 2012 and 2014—pulled everything together in an absolutely riveting interpretation that honored both the sound and the silence of Shostakovich's enigmatic sonic tapestry. The pain, the nostalgia, and the sarcasm all came through powerfully. So did the dark humor of the first movement (originally subtitled "The Toyshop") with its not-quite-funny quotes from Rossini's William Tell Overture. And the final percussion toccata was appropriately chilling. Mr. Boreyko paused at the end just long enough for everyone to hear the silence.

Pianist Till Fellner
Photo: Ben Ealovega
The concerts opened with a positively dynamic reading of that Rossini overture, distinguished by a fine cello solo from Daniel Lee and an especially fiery coda that accelerated to a breakneck finish. I think it must be difficult to put one's own stamp on a piece as famous (and frequently parodied) as the William Tell Overture, but Mr. Boreyko did so nevertheless.

Between the Rossini and Shostakovich, Mr. Boreyko and soloist Till Fellner gave us a delightfully crisp and graceful performance of the Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major, Op. 19, by Beethoven. Written before but published after the Concerto No. 1, it marks the beginning of Beethoven's dual careers as pianist and composer of concerti for his instrument of choice. The influences of Mozart and Haydn are easy to hear, but ultimately it's all Beethoven. That's particularly obvious in the dramatic cadenza, written around 14 years after the concerto.

Soloist Till Fellner did especially well by that cadenza, positively burning up the keyboard. He and Mr. Boreyko were every bit as compelling in the rest of their performance, which included a heartfelt Adagio and a glittering, jolly Rondo finale. Mr. Fellner's program bio refers to his "scrupulous musi¬cianship, purity of style, and sparkling key¬board command" and, while it's usually best to take such things with a grain of salt, I have to say I heard all of those qualities in this very gratifying reading.

Next at Powell Hall: David Robertson conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and trumpet soloist Håkan Hardenberger on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m., January 27-29. The program consists of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony, Copland's Appalachian Spring Suite, and the local premiere of Fisher King (Trumpet Concerto) by contemporary Norwegian composer Rolf Wallin. The concerts take place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand in Grand Center.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Review: "Constellations" benefits from the star power of its actors and director

This review originally appeared at 88.1 KDHX, where Chuck Lavazzi is the senior performing arts critic.
Eric Gilde and Ellen Adair
Photo: Eric Woolsey
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The road not taken; where does it lead? If this or that tiny aspect of my life changed, what would the result be? That's the question at the heart of British playwright Nick Payne's ingenious but less than compelling comedy/drama Constellations, getting its local premiere at the Rep Studio through February 5th.

It's not exactly a new question, of course. It's the basic premise behind theatrical vehicles as diverse as the 2014 musical If/Then and the 1921 play If by Lord Dunsany, to say nothing of numerous films and science fiction novels. Mr. Payne's take on it is somewhat innovative, though, in that he puts it in the context of the quantum physics concept of the "multiverse"—the idea that there is an effectively infinite number of different universes in which every possible permutation of every possible human decision and/or physical event exists.

So there's a universe in which I started writing this review at 11 p.m. on a Friday night, but there's another in which I started earlier or later, or never wrote it at all because I was hit by a truck on the way back from the theater. And yet another in which I never wrote it because I'm a world-famous actor and I get reviews instead of giving them. And so on.

In Constellations, the case for the multiverse is first made by Marianne, a cosmologist who links up (or doesn't) with beekeeper Roland at a cookout. The script gives us a half-dozen different variations of the scene, all slightly altered in tone and text, and then spins out permutations of the relationship between the two characters. Breakups and infidelity are involved, and marriage might be. There's also an illness for Marianne that is, in all but one version, fatal. Essentially, the play boils down to a handful of scenes repeated with variations so minor that they might as well be identical.

It's a clever and unorthodox structure. It's also the play's greatest weakness.

Final scene
Photo: Eric Woolsey
In an essay quoted in director Steve Woolf's program notes, Dr. Liliane Campos—a professor of Performing Arts, Literary Theory and English Literature at the Sorbonne—notes that in Constellations, Mr. Payne "creates a space for the spectator's active gaze, inviting us to group his fragments together and to find new meanings in the constellation they produce." Unfortunately, the repetitive nature of those fragments means that the characters never are allowed to take on any real depth, so there's not that much meaning to work with. In the final analysis, Constellations feels like an intricate piece of dramaturgical clockwork, fascinating to watch but not very engaging, somewhat like Michael Frayn's Copenhagen, but without the intellectual or dramatic depth.

Fortunately, the Rep has a wonderfully talented pair of actors to carry the burden of what strikes me as a very challenging script from the performer's point of view. As Marianne and Roland, Ellen Adair and Eric Gilde (who are married in real life) navigate all the twists, turns, and switchbacks of Mr. Payne's multiverse with impressive skill. The often-subtle differences among the scenes require performers with good ears for verbal nuance and a finely tuned feel of body language, which Ms. Adair and Mr. Gilde have in abundance.

The director's job calls for a similar level of subtlety, and Steve Woolf is up to that challenge as well. His well-considered blocking and pacing serve Mr. Payne's script very well and make the best possible case for it.

Constellations strikes me as a good idea that needs some work. Personally, I would have appreciated fewer scenes with more depth, so I could get to know the characters better. As the play stands now, it's hard to summon up much empathy. I would also have welcomed a more thorough exploration of the intellectual concepts behind the show. As it is, they're thrown out in the early scenes and never mentioned again.

It's always good to see new works, of course, and the Rep studio has an enviable track record of bringing worthwhile new scripts to the attention of local audiences. Performances of The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis production of Constellations continue through February 5 in the studio theatre of the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

St. Louis theatre calendar for the week of January 23, 2017

All My Sons
Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
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The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents Arthur Miller's drama All My Sons through January 29. "Miller's breakthrough play is a searing and deeply personal search for morality with shattering repercussions. During World War II, factory owner Joe Keller makes a questionable business decision that costs the lives of American airmen overseas. His misdeed leaves his family fractured as they grapple with the consequences of his actions." Performances take place at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information: repstl.org.

The Fox Theatre presents the musical An American in Paris through January 29. "An American In Paris is the new Tony Award®-winning musical about an American soldier, a mysterious French girl and an indomitable European city, each yearning for a new beginning in the aftermath of war. Acclaimed director/choreographer and 2015 Tony Award® winner Christopher Wheeldon brings the magic and romance of Paris into perfect harmony with unforgettable songs from George and Ira Gershwin in the show that earned more awards than any other musical in the 2015 season!" The Fox is on North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: fabulousfox.com.

The Bissell Mansion Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre presents A Big Easy Murder through April 30. The Bissell Mansion is at 4426 Randall Place. For more information: bissellmansiontheatre.com.

Circus Harmony presents Bravura Saturdays at 2 and 7 PM and Sundays at 2 PM, through January 29. "Bravura is a musical term whose definition also describes our youth circus performers: exceptional agility and brilliant style. Our theme this year is archetypes. Follow our King as he searches for the Trickster who stole his crown and finds out that one person can wear many hats." Performances take place at City Museum, 701 N. 15th Street. Show admission is free with museum admission. For more information: circusharmony.org.

Winter Opera St. Louis presents Rossini's comic opera La Cenerentola (Cinderella) Friday at 8 PM and Sunday at 3 PM, January 27 and 29. Performances take place at The Skip Viragh Center for the Arts at Chaminade College Preparatory School, 425 S. Lindbergh. For more information, visit winteroperastl.org.

Constellations
Photo: Eric Woolsey
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents Constellations through February 5 "One relationship, limitless possibilities. When Roland and Marianne meet at a party, a multiverse of potential outcomes unfolds. Each choice they make unlocks a series of branching paths - some wonderful, some tragic. Nick Payne's genre-busting new play explores these alternate universes with wit, wonder and an overflowing sense of life." 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.

Peabody Opera House presents the rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch Friday through Sunday, January 27-29. “The “internationally ignored song stylist” Hedwig Schmidt, an East German diva, is also the victim of a botched sex-change operation. As she tours the U.S. with her loyal band, Hedwig candidly shares her life story. Raucous, soulful and wickedly funny with a brilliant rock score, this show has inspired legions of fans." The Peabody Opera House is at 14th and Market, downtown. For more information: peabodyoperahouse.com.

Theatre Nuevo presents HELL Thursdays through Sundays at 8 p.m., through January 29. The show is "a devised piece exploring the concepts of personal and religious hells through music, movement, and text written by the performers and creative team. Influenced by a wide variety of cultures: from Christian Hell, the Mayan Xibalba, Buddhism, Islam, D ante's Inferno, to the hot and cold Hells of Naraka; Theatre Nuevo conducts a theatrical experiment to examine damnation and redemption, hand in hand." Performances take place at The Chapel, 6238 Alexander Drive in Clayton. For more information: www.theatrenuevo.com.

The Hettenhausen Center for the Arts presents The Improvised Shakespeare Company on Thursday, January 26, at 7:30 p.m. "Based on one audience member's suggestion, the cast creates a fully improvised play in Elizabethan style. Each play is completely unplanned, unrehearsed and therefore entirely new." The Hettenhausen Center for the Arts is at 701 College Rd., at Alton St. on the McKendree University campus in Lebanon, IL. For more information: www.thehett.com.

Intimate Apparel
Photo: Eric Woolsey
New Jewish Theater presents Intimate Apparel January 26 - February 12. "New York, 1905, Esther, a black seamstress, lives in a boarding house where she sews intimate apparel for clients ranging from wealthy white patrons to prostitutes. As the other denizens of the boarding house marry and move away, Esther remains, lonely and longing. Through a mutual acquaintance, she begins to receive beautiful letters from a lonesome Caribbean man working on the Panama Canal. But Esther's heart seems to lie with the Hasidic shopkeeper from whom she buys cloth, and his heart with her, but the impossibility of the match is obvious to them both. The play offers poignant commentary on an era when the cut and color of one's dress-and of course, skin-determined whom one could and could not marry, even talk to in public." 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.

The Black Rep presents the drama Lines in the Dust through January 29. "When Denitra loses the charter school lottery for her daughter, she must find another way to escape from their underperforming neighborhood school. The answer seems like a risk well worth taking but may end up requiring a bigger sacrifice than she ever could have imagined. It's been exactly 60 years since Brown Versus The Board of Education. Lines In The Dust questions how far we've come and more importantly, where we go from here." Performances take place at the Edison Theatre on the Washington University campus. For more information: theblackrep.org.

The Midnight Company presents Little Thing, Big Thing Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., January 27 - February 11 " LITTLE THING, BIG THING tells the story of a nun, Sr. Martha, and an ex-con, Larry O'Donnell, who are thrown together in a desperate quest to safeguard film exposing deadly misdeeds of a powerful oil company. Chased by hired killers and corrupt cops, they risk their lives and head to Dublin to do the right thing, and deliver the film to the right hands. " Performances take place at Avatar Studios, 2675 Scott Avenue, downtown. Downtown. For more information: brownpapertickets.com.

The Emerald Room at the Monocle presents Lola's Flavor of the Month on Friday and Saturday January 27 and 28, at 10:30 p.m. Lola Van Ella's Flavor of the Month! A delicious assortment of sweet and new acts, featuring hand picked performers from around the Saint Louis area and curated by Lola herself! Sponsored by Lola Van Ella Studios and The Emerald Room at the Monocle! " The performances take place in the Emerald Room at The Monocle, 4510 Manchester in the Grove neighborhood. For more information: themonoclestl.com.

Menopause the Musical
The Playhouse at Westport Plaza presents Menopause the Musical, "a celebration of women and The Change," through February 12. The Playhouse at Westport Plaza is at 635 West Port Plaza. For more information: westportstl.com.

The Lemp Mansion Comedy-Mystery Dinner Theater presents Murder at the Abbey through April 29. "Welcome to the world of Downton Abbey! A world full of aristocracy, old money but never anything as droll as murder! Congratulations! You've been invited to the dinner party held by the Earl of Grantham himself! Some would kill for the opportunity to meet the Crawley family. They'll all be there! The Earl, his beautiful wife and three daughters...not to mention all the other characters in, (and around), the Grantham house. That's right! All the family, staff and townsfolk will be there. You'll meet lots of fun characters...and you'll play as big, (or as small), of a part as you wish. Up to you. Hope nothing bad happens...but if it does...we might need you to help us figure it out? Or perhaps you're the killer?" The Lemp Mansion is at 3322 DeMenil Place. For more information: lempmansion.com.

Alton Little Theater presents the farce Nana's Naughty Knickers Thursdays through Sundays, January 27 - February 5. "When Nana invites her granddaughter, Bridget, to live with her, mayhem ensues since Nana has been subsidizing her income with a lingerie business, catering to local ladies not yet ready to be "over the hill." Complications arise when Bridget brings home her cop boyfriend and the landlord gets wind of the shenanigans going on in Nana's rent-controlled apartment. The Senior Citizen's sexy sidelines will keep the audience in stitches...indeed, they may laugh themselves right out of their knickers!” Performances take place at 2450 North Henry in Alton, IL. For more information, call 618.462.6562 or visit altonlittletheater.org.

Cocktails and Curtain Calls presents One Last Job by Patrick Conroy opening on Monday, January 23, at 8 p.m. and running through February 8. "The 1970's and 1980's were a turbulent time in Irish History. The Irish Republican Army (IRA), a paramilitary organization seeking civil rights for its people and the reunification of Ireland defended their areas against the occupying British Forces. This fictitious story tells of the chance encounter of a young British Soldier and a recently retired IRA operative. Their personal struggles, their lives and the lives of their families quickly become entangled and entwined. This play attempts to describe the thoughts and actions of people caught up in roles not entirely of their choosing. In war, there are no easy answers and lives are forever changed." Performances will take place at McGurk's Irish Pub in Soulard. For more information: eventbrite.com.

The Florissant Fine Arts Council presents the Troupe America production of the musical Pump Boys and Dinettes on Sunday, January 29, at 2 p.m. at the Florissant Civic Center Theatre at Parker Road at Waterford Drive in Florissant, MO. "The original songs written in the style of 1950s hits have captured the flavor of bluegrass, country and early rock music in this Broadway precursor to the “Juke Box” musical. Tony nominated for best musical. From Troupe America." For more information, call 314-921-5678 or visit www.florissantmo.com/topic/index.php?topicid=129&structureid=28.

The Looking Glass Playhouse presents Ruthless the Musical opening on Thursday, January 26, and running through February 5. "Eight-year-old Tina Denmark knows she was born to play Pippi Longstocking, and she will do anything to win the part in her school musical. Anything includes murdering the leading lady! This aggressively outrageous musical hit garnered rave reviews during its long Off-Broadway run." Performances take place at 301 West St. Louis Street in Lebanon, Ill. For more information, visit www.lookingglassplayhouse.com.

The Marcelle Theater presents Alan Ox in the original one-man musical There's an Alien in My Soup opening on Thursday, January 26, and running through February 4th. The show "breaches the UFO taboo by diving headfirst into it. No holds barred. Featuring 7 military personnel coming forward, forsaking their anonymity to share what really happened behind closed doors when 'they' came to visit Earth." Performances take place at the Marcelle Theater in Grand Center, three blocks east of Powell Hall. For more information: metrotix.com.

Kirkwood Theatre Guild presents the comedy Wake Up, Cameron Dobbs by St. Louis playwright Steve Peirick through January 29. "Some would say Cameron Dobbs is a loser who never gets a break. He's turning 30 and all he wants is a quiet birthday dinner with his brother, Owen, and sister-in-law, Abby. Unfortunately, they have different plans. Unknown to Cameron, Abby has decided to fix him up with her friend, Natalie, and Owen has invited their loving but neurotic mother, Helen. Cameron is not thrilled by these surprise guests, and to add to his chagrin, the dinner menu is a list of food to which he is allergic. After an unenthusiastic introduction, Natalie convinces Cameron to leave the dinner party and celebrate with her. As his family awaits his return, Cameron begins the journey toward recreating his life and embracing manhood." Performances take place in the Robert G. Reim Theatre of the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road. For more information, call 314-821-9956 or visit ktg-onstage.org.

Alfresco Productions presents the musical Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory January 27 - February 4. "The delicious adventures experienced by Charlie Bucket on his visit to Willy Wonka's mysterious chocolate factory light up the stage in this captivating adaptation of Roald Dahl's fantastical tale. Featuring the enchanting songs from the 1971 film starring Gene Wilder and new songs by Leslie Bricusse (Jekyll & Hyde, Doctor Dolittle) and Anthony Newley, Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka is a scrumdidilyumptious musical guaranteed to delight everyone's sweet tooth. Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka follows enigmatic candy manufacturer, Willy Wonka, as he stages a contest by hiding golden tickets in five of his scrumptious candy bars. Whomever comes up with these tickets will win a free tour of the Wonka factory, as well as a lifetime supply of candy. Four of the five winning children are insufferable brats: the fifth is a likeable young lad named Charlie Bucket, who takes the tour in the company of his equally amiable grandfather. The children must learn to follow Mr. Wonka's rules in the factory… or suffer the consequences." Performances take place at the Alfresco Art Center, 2401 Delmar in Granite City, IL. For more information: (618) 560-1947 or www.alfrescoproductions.org.

The Gateway Men's Chorus presents Winter's Fire: A Homegrown Cabaret on Sunday, January 29, at 3 p.m. " Come and warm yourselves amongst the friendly smiles, laughs, memories and songs provided by members of the Gateway Men's Chorus. Tix are 25$ and includes one comp event themed beverage. Quantity limited, and seating is on a first come basis." The show takes place in the Emerald Room at The Monocle, 4510 Manchester in The Grove. For more information: themonocletstl.com.

Yasmina's Necklace
Photo: Traci Clapper
Mustard Seed Theatre presents Yasmina's Necklace Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., January 27 - February 12. “Fresh from its sold-out world premiere in Chicago, Yasmina's Necklace is an unlikely romance between Yasmina, a recent immigrant from Iraq and Abdul Samee, who wants to change his name to Sam and turn his back on his Iraqi and Puerto Rican heritage.” 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 www.mustardseedtheatre.com.

Upstream Theater presents the US premiere of The Year of the Bicycle Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., January 27 - February 12. "Joanna Evans' award-winning play tells the story of Amelia and Andile who befriended each other over a garden when they were eight. Many years later, now grown up but estranged, they fall into a concussion at the exact same moment and meet once again in each other's mind. A witty and poignant examination of childhood, memory and South Africa's born-free generation. Skipping from frolicky lightness to the dark borders of loneliness, this US premiere shows people reaching across walls that separate: race and class, innocence and guilt, playfulness and fear, yesterday and today." Performances take place at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information, including show times: upstreamtheater.org.

The Emerald Room at the Monocle presents The Chicago Cabaret Project in You Bette We Did on Saturday, January 28, at 8 p.m. "You Bette We Did! captures renditions of her swing-band era songs, not to mention Broadway classics, songbook standards, Sophie Tucker jokes and her smash hit movie ballads. You'll hear it all at this loving tribute to a true legend." The performance takes place in the Emerald Room at The Monocle, 4510 Manchester in the Grove neighborhood. For more information: themonoclestl.com.

The Next Generation Theatre Company presents You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m. "Come experience an average day in the life of Charlie Brown. It really is just that, a day made up of little moments picked from all the days of Charlie Brown, from Valentine's Day to the baseball season, from wild optimism to utter despair, all mixed in with the lives of his friends (both human and non-human) and strung together on the string of a single day, from bright uncertain morning to hopeful starlit evening." Performances take place at the Florissant Civic Center Theatre at Parker and Waterford in Florissant, MO. For more information, call 314-921-5678 or visit www.florissantmo.com/topic/index.php?topicid=129&structureid=28.

Looking for auditions and other artistic opportunities? Check out the St. Louis Auditions site.
For information on events beyond this week, check out the searchable database at the Regional Arts Commission's Events Calendar.
Would you like to be on the radio? KDHX, 88.1 FM needs theatre reviewers. If you're 18 years or older, knowledgeable in this area, have practical theatre experience (acting, directing, writing, technical design, etc.), have good oral and written communications skills and would like to become one of our volunteer reviewers, send an email describing your experience and interests to chuck at kdhx.org. Please include a sample review of something you've seen recently.