Saturday, April 14, 2018

St. Louis theatre calendar for the week of April 16, 2018

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St. Charles Community College presents the romantic comedy Almost, Maine Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 10 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m., April 18 - 22. "Almost, Maine is a series of nine amiably absurdist vignettes about love, with a touch of good-natured magic realism. On a cold, clear, moonless night in the middle of winter, all is not quite what it seems in the remote, mythical town of Almost, Maine. As the northern lights hover in the star-filled sky above, the town's residents find themselves falling in and out of love in unexpected and often hilarious ways. Knees are bruised and hearts are broken, but the bruises heal, and the hearts mend-almost-in this delightful midwinter night's dream." Performances take place in the FAB Theater in the Donald D. Shook Fine Arts Building on the campus at 4601 Mid Rivers Mall Drive in Cottleville, MO. For more information, call 636-922-8050 or visit stchas.edu.

The Performing Arts Department at Washington University presents Aunt Dan and Lemon Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm through April 22. "Lemon has a notion that the Nazis were really quite 'refreshing' because they were never hypocrites and she articulates her admiration for them with ease, humor and intelligence. Aunt Dan, a former Oxford don, reveres everything Henry Kissinger has ever done, defends the bombing of North Vietnam, and regales Lemon with deadly and salacious tales about her prostitute friend Mindy. 'Simply put, this is a play about how literate, civilized societies can drift en masse into beastliness and commit the most obscene acts of history.' (Frank Rich, New York Times). Shawn's play would have us hear what evil sounds like close up - how funny, smart and lurid it can be." The performances take place in the Edison Theatre on the Washington University campus. For more information, call 314-935-6543 or visit pad.artsci.wustl.edu.

St. Louis Community College at Meramec presents the musical Avenue Q Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 and Sunday at 2 pm, April 18 - 22. "Avenue Q is part flesh, part felt and packed with heart. The laugh-outloud musical tells the timeless story of a recent college grad named Princeton, who moves into a shabby New York apartment all the way out on Avenue Q. He soon discovers that, although the residents seem nice, it's clear that this is not your ordinary neighborhood. Together, Princeton and his new-found friends struggle to find jobs, dates and their ever-elusive purpose in life. Avenue Q, Winner of the Tony “Triple Crown”, is a truly unique musical that addresses humorous adult issues while being similar to a beloved children's show; a place where puppets are friends, monsters are good and life lessons are learned. Mature audiences only. Admission is free. Sunday performance will be interpreted for the deaf and hard of hearing." Performances take place in the theatre on the campus at 11333 Big Bend Road. For more information, stlcc.edu/MC or call 314-984-7500.

The Bankside Repertory Theatre Company presents Falling by Deanna Jent April 19 - 28. " What constitutes a "normal" family? Jent's remarkable play presents the joys and challenges of real life family dynamics when one member is autistic." Performances take place at The Jacoby Arts Center, 627 E. Broadway in Alton, IL. For more information: www.banksiderep.com.

Webster University's Conservatory of Theatre Arts presents the Lerner and Loewe musical Brigadoon Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 pm and Sunday at 2 pm, April 18 - 22. " When New Yorkers Tommy Albright and Jeff Douglas get lost on a vacation in the Scottish Highlands, they stumble into Brigadoon. Brigadoon is a mythical village that appears for a single day once every hundred years. After falling head over heels for the headstrong Fiona, Tommy is forced to choose between returning to the world that he knows - or taking a chance on love in a mysterious new place. Including such famous hits as “Heather on the Hill” and “Almost Like Being in Love,” Lerner and Loewe's Brigadoon has music that will sweep you off your feet coupled with a whimsical story that is a tribute to the power of true love." Performances take place in the Stage III Auditorium on the Webster University campus. For more information, www.webster.edu/conservatory/season or call 314-968-7128.

Circus Flora presents its new show, The Case of the Missing Bellhop, April 19 - May 13. "The world-famous Balding Hotel has long been an exclusive getaway for dignitaries and nobility from around the world. A place where the staff and crew have unusual skills and where people can go about their business without many questions asked - making the hotel famous for luxury and impeccable service. But when a beloved bellhop goes missing, the Balding begins to attract attention. Secrets proliferate and questions abound! What happened to the bellhop, and who knew about it?" The show takes place at Circus Flora's new home at 3401 Washington in Grand Center. For more information: circusflora.org.

A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline
The Playhouse at Westport Plaza presents A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline April 17 - May 6. "The hit musical A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline is America's favorite Patsy Cline tribute starring Julie Johnson. This happy, loving tribute to country music's most enduring superstar traces the legendary singer's rise from her hometown in Winchester, Virginia to the Grand Ole Opry, Las Vegas and Carnegie Hall. Patsy Cline defined the term “crossover hit” by dominating country, blues, pop and gospel charts simultaneously in the 1950s and early '60s. Featuring 21 of Patsy's greatest hits." The Playhouse at Westport Plaza is at 635 West Port Plaza. For more information: playhouseatwestport.com.

CSZ St. Louis presents The ComedySportz Show on Saturday nights at 7:30 pm. The show is "action-packed, interactive and hilarious comedy played as a sport. Two teams battle it out for points and your laughs! You choose the winners the teams provide the funny!" Performances take place on the second floor of the Sugar Cubed, 917 S Main St. in St Charles, Mo. For more information: www.cszstlouis.com.

St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley presents the drama Constellations Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2 pm through April 21. "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 Fisher Theatre on the campus at 3400 Pershall Road. For more information, www.stlcc.edu/fv/ or call 314-644-5522.

St. Louis Actors' Studio presents The Dresser through Aprl 29. "Based on the author's own experiences as dresser to Sir Donald Wolfit, this bracing, heartbreaking drama is an elegy to a by-gone era. Backstage at a theatre in the English provinces during WWII, Sir, the last of the great breed of English actor/managers, is in a bad way tonight, as his dresser Norman tries valiantly to prepare him to go on stage as King Lear. Unsure of his lines as well as who and where he is supposed to be, Sir is adamantly determined to roar his last. With Herculean effort on the part of Norman, Sir finally makes it on stage and through the performance no thanks to an air raid courtesy of the Luftwaffe. Back in his dressing room after the performance, the worn out old trouper dies, leaving alone his company and the loyal dresser after one final bow." Performances take place at the Gaslight Theatre, 358 North Boyle For more information, call 314-458-2978 or visit stlas.org.

The Hawthorne Players present musical The Fantasticks through April 22 "'Try To Remember' a time when this romantic charmer wasn't enchanting audiences around the world. The Fantasticks is the longest-running musical in the world and with good reason: at the heart of its breathtaking poetry and subtle theatrical sophistication is a purity and simplicity that transcends cultural barriers. The result is a timeless fable of love that manages to be nostalgic and universal at the same time." 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 hawthorneplayers.info.

The Lemp Mansion Comedy-Mystery Dinner Theater presents A Fistful of Hollers April 20 - July 28. The Lemp Mansion is at 3322 DeMenil Place. For more information: lempmansion.com.

Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville presents The Great Divide Wednesday through Saturday at 7 pm and Sunday at 2 pm, April 18 - 22. Performances take place in the Dunham Hall Theater on the campus in Edwardsville, IL. For more information, call 618-650-2774 or visit siue.edu.

Hamilton
The Fox Theatre presents the musical Hamilton through April 22. "HAMILTON is the story of America's Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from the West Indies who became George Washington's right-hand man during the Revolutionary War and was the new nation's first Treasury Secretary. Featuring a score that blends hip-hop, jazz, blues, rap, R&B, and Broadway, HAMILTON is the story of America then, as told by America now." The Fox is at 527 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: fabulousfox.com.

The Monroe Actors Stage presents the drama An Inspector Calls Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. through April 22, in the Historic Capitol Theatre in downtown Waterloo, Illinois. For more information, visit www.masctheatre.org or call 618-939-7469.

Jesus Christ Superstar
Photo by Justin Been
Stray Dog Theatre presents Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar Thursdays through Saturdays through April 28. There will also be performances at 2 pm on Sunday, April 22, and 8 pm on Wednesday, April 18 and 25. "Jesus Christ Superstar has captivated audiences for more than 40 years. Loosely based on the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, this timeless rock opera follows the last week of Jesus' life, exploring his personal relationships and struggles with Judas Iscariot, Mary Magdalene, his disciples, and the Roman Empire" Performances take place at The Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee. For more information, visit straydogtheatre.org or call 314-865-1995.

Curtain's Up Theatre presents the musical Little Miss Sunshine, based on the film of the same name, Thursday and Friday at 7:30 pm, Saturday at 2 and 7:30 pm, and Sunday at 2 pm, April 20 - 22. Performances take place at The Wildey Theatre at 252 North Main Street in Edwardsville, Illinois. For more information, visit curtainsuptheater.com.

The Sheldon Concert Hall presents Broadway star Mandy Gonzalez in a special benefit performance on Monday, April 16, at 7 pm. "Proceeds from the benefit concert will fund the Writers and Artists Compensation Fund for december Magazine, a twice-yearly nationally recognized not-for-profit literary publication headquartered in St. Louis since 2012.' The Sheldon is at 3648 Washington in Grand Center. For more information: thesheldon.org.

The Bissell Mansion Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre presents Mayhem in Mayberry through April. "Welcome to the 10th annual Mayberry-fest. Everyone is looking forward to the highlight of this event - the Miss Mayberry contest. YOU and Sheriff Andy Trailer will judge the contestants (chosen from the audience) on beauty, poise, cookin' skills and a new category this year - Hog callin'. Will the next Miss Mayberry be the vivacious Dazey Doof from Hazzard County? Or the beautiful hillbilly, Elly May Klumpett? Or will it be the lovely Lois Lame from Smallville? Don't county out the charming Paris Hoosier from Hoosierville. She's the main reason the train stops at Petticoat Junction! Sheriff Andy, Deputy Blarney and Aint Bee invite you to join the fun and the mayhem in Mayberry cause it won't be the same without y'all." The Bissell Mansion is at 4426 Randall Place. For more information: bissellmansiontheatre.com.

New Jerusalem
Photo by Eric Woolsey
New Jewish Theater presents David Ives' New Jerusalem, the Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza at Torah Talmud Congregation: Amsterdam, July 27, 1656 through April 22. The play is the true story of Jewish philosopher Baruch de Spinoza who was excommunicated from the Jewish community of Amsterdam in the mid-1600's in order to keep the peace for that city's Jews." 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.

Poor Monsters presents Or What You Will, the Third through April 21. "Shakespeare: literary master or monkey with a typewriter? How about a coven of bad-ass vagina-wielding artists in Saint Louis? OR WHAT YOU WILL, THE THIRD is a choose-your-own-adventure of sketches inspired by Shakespeare's Richard III all written, produced, designed, and performed without Y-chromosomes." Performances take place at The Chapel, 6238 Alexander Drive in Clayton. For more information: brownpapertickets.com

Shakespeare Festival St. Louis presents Shake 38, a city-wide performance festival in which all 38 of Shakespeare's plays are performed by 38 different groups in a variety of neighborhoods and locations. Performances take place Wednesday through Sunday, April 18-22. For a complete schedule: sfstl.com.

The Black Rep presents the world premiere of Torn Asunder by Nikkole Salter running through April 29th. "TORN ASUNDER is set in Prince George's County, MD, 1859. Hannah, a relatively contented enslaved woman, has her world rocked when her master dies and she, for the first time, is separated from her family, new husband, and baby. But, just as she begins to lose all hope to ever see her husband and child again, the seceded south falls to the Union, slavery is abolished with the 13th Amendment, and Hannah has the opportunity to put her family back together...if she can find them. TORN ASUNDER dramatizes true stories of newly emancipated African Americans trying to overcome the ever-present vestiges of chattel slavery to reconnect with their families. Based on the research of Prof. Heather Andrea Williams in her book HELP ME TO FIND MY PEOPLE. Nikkole Salter was commissioned by Prof. Heather Andrea Williams and Kathy A. Perkins to write the script." Performances take place at the Edison Theatre on the Washington University campus. For more information: theblackrep.org.

A Tree Falling
Photo by Virginia Harold
Upstream Theater presents the U.S. premiere of A Tree Falling Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 7 pm (except for April 29, which is at 2 pm) through April 29. "Octogenarian Lenny was once a busy physician at the epicenter of a vibrant family who now has no recollection whatever of his earlier life. These days his chief adventure is the daily tracking down of the remote control-at least until a friendly social worker named Lola shows up. Try as she might to help Lenny recover his memory, though, he continues to live within the moment, and the poignancy of his plight forces Lola to question the meaning of her own past as well as her future." Performances take place at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information, including show times: upstreamtheater.org.

Union Avenue Opera presents A Topsy-Turvy Cabaret: An Evening With Glibert and Sullivan and Friends on Saturday, April 21, at 7 pm. "Enjoy hors d'oeuvres paired with 2nd Shift Brewing's fine, handcrafted beers along with their expertly chosen wine menu as Christine Brewer and friends entertain you. Join us for a memorable night in support of Union Avenue Opera." The event takes place at Second Shift Brewing, 1601 Sublette on The Hill. For more information: unionavenueopera.org.

The Kirkwood Theatre Guild presents Twisted Improv on Friday, April 20, at 8 pm at The Steamboat Room, 314 S. Clay in Kirkwood, MO. "Join Adam and his crew for an interactive night of fun and laughter.Beer, wine and food available from Kirkwood Station Brewery." For more information: ktg-onstage.org.

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.

St. Louis classical calendar for the week of April 16, 2018

The Bach Society at Powell Hall
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The Bach Society of St. Louis presents From Bach to Bernstein on Sunday, April 22, at 3 pm. "American soprano Marlissa Hudson has been described as a “superb lyric coloratura” by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Ms. Hudson recently made her Carnegie Hall debut and returns to her hometown of St. Louis to present a thrilling program spanning 250 years of music! Accompanied by Alla Voskoboynikova. Presented by Centene Charitable Foundation as part of the 2018 St. Louis Bach Festival." The concert takes place at The Ethical Society 9001 Clayton Road. For more information: bachsociety.org.

The Chamber Project St. Louis presents Eco on Friday, April 20 at 8 PM. "On Earth Day weekend we rejoice in the beauty of the natural world. Music by Ravel, Mahler and Schubert are inspired by Mother Nature and we commission a new work for soprano and small ensemble." The concert takes place at the 560 Music Center, 560 Trinity in University City. For more information: www.chamberprojectstl.org.

The St. Louis Brass Band presents Blazing Brass on Sunday, April 22, at 2:30 p.m. "This concert will also feature the Saint Louis Youth Brass Band, an ensemble of high school and college students selected through auditions earlier in the season. The Youth Brass Band will perform several selections led by their two conductors. They will be followed by the adult band who will feature a wide variety of selections, from serious to light, sure to delight all those in attendance. The two bands will join forces for a big finale, bringing the concert season to “Blazin' Brass” ending!" The concert takes place at The Chapel, 6238 Alexander Drive in Clayton, MO. For more information: stlbb.org.

Hannu Lintu
Hannu Lintu conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Chorus Friday and Saturday at 8 pm, April 20 and 21. The program Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain, Rachmaninoff's The Bells, and Tchaiovsky's Variations on a Roccoco Theme with cello soloist Narek Hakhnazaryan. The concerts take place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: stlsymphony.org. Read my preview!

Gemma New conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in A World of Make-Believe on Sunday, April 22, at 3 pm. "Music sparks the imagination! It transports us to faraway lands and leads us on thrilling adventures. Discover how music and imagination work hand in hand as your St. Louis Symphony Orchestra takes you on a journey through make-believe. Hear beloved selections from Prokofiev's Cinderella, Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty plus family favorites by the legendary John Williams including Superman, E.T. and more." The concert takes place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: stlsymphony.org.

The Washington University Department of Music presents a Department of Music Honors Recital on Saturday, April 21 at 3 pm. The program takes place in the Pillsbury Theatre at the 560 Music Center at 560 Trinity in University City. For more information, music.wustl.edu/events.

The Washington University Department of Music presents the Calidore String Quartet, on Sunday, April 22 at 7 pm. The program, which consists of music by Mendelssohn, Shostakovich, and Beethoven, takes place in the E. Desmond Lee Concert Hall at the 560 Music Center at 560 Trinity in University City. For more information, music.wustl.edu/events.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of April 13, 2018

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:

The Monroe Actors Stage presents the drama An Inspector Calls Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 and Sundays at 2:30 p.m., April 13 - 22, in the Historic Capitol Theatre in downtown Waterloo, Illinois. For more information, visit www.masctheatre.org or call 618-939-7469.

My take: I won't be able to see this production, so this recommendation is based entirely on the fact that the play itself is a powerful indictment on the smugness and moral rot that can accompany material comfort. As such, it's as relevant now as when it was first performed in 1945, if not more so. An Inspector Calls neatly subverts the conventions of drawing-room drama to deliver a radical message which, sadly, still needs to be delivered today.


Jesus Christ Superstar
Photo by Justin Been
Stray Dog Theatre presents Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar Thursdays through Saturdays, April 12 - 28. There will also be performances at 2 pm on Sunday, April 22, and 8 pm on Wednesday, April 18 and 25. "Jesus Christ Superstar has captivated audiences for more than 40 years. Loosely based on the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, this timeless rock opera follows the last week of Jesus' life, exploring his personal relationships and struggles with Judas Iscariot, Mary Magdalene, his disciples, and the Roman Empire" Performances take place at The Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee. For more information, visit straydogtheatre.org or call 314-865-1995.

My take: Here's another one I'm recommending in advance purely on the strength of the material and on the track record of the producing company. Stray Dog has had quite a string of critical and commercial success lately with its seasons in general and in particular with its musicals. Last year's Ragtime (in which, to be fair, I performed) walked away with multiple St. Louis Theater Circle awards and sold-out houses. This production of Jesus Christ Superstar, which features some of the same stars as Ragtime, is already selling out as well. Hence the early inclusion.


New Jerusalem
Photo by Eric Woolsey
New Jewish Theater presents David Ives' New Jerusalem, the Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza at Torah Talmud Congregation: Amsterdam, July 27, 1656 through April 22. The play is the true story of Jewish philosopher Baruch de Spinoza who was excommunicated from the Jewish community of Amsterdam in the mid-1600's in order to keep the peace for that city's Jews." 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.

My take: I'm a sucker for this kind of intellectual drama, and New Jewish appears to be doing an impressive job with it. In her review for KDHX, Tina Farmer says that director Tim Ocel and his cast "work in unison to create a moving and effective show that allows history to reverberate with issues of contemporary concern...The impact of Spinoza's genius is still felt in our national conversation, and the captivating and sharply performed show contains enough story and dramatic tension to engage a broad audience."

Rosenkrantz and Guildernstern Are DeadPhoto by Ron James
St. Louis Shakespeare presents Tom Stoppard's Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m., through April 15. "This comedy, penned during the height of the absurdist movement, follows the two hapless friends of Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, as they go on a journey from which they never return. On a day like any other, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's peaceful morning is suddenly disrupted when a messenger from Elsinore castle raps on their window informing them that they have been summoned. Thus, begins the journey for our befuddled travelers as they explore fate, their purpose and very nature of existence." Performances take place at the Ivory Theatre, 7620 Michigan in the Carondelet neighborhood. For more information, call 314-361-5664 or visit stlshakespeare.org.

My take: Speaking of lively intellectual theatre, Stoppard's play is still a classic example of how to pour old wine into new bottles. It's "Shakespeare through the wrong end of the telescope" concept is brilliantly executed and always worth seeing. "The dizzying imagination of Tom Stoppard's razor-sharp mind," writes Mark Bretz at Ladue News, "is in evidence throughout this brisk, brilliant comedy currently being given a delightful rendering by St. Louis Shakespeare."

Held Over:

Cardboard Piano
Photo by John Lamb
The West End Players Guild concludes its 107th season with the St. Louis premiere of Hansol Jung's drama Cardboard Piano Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM, April 6 - 15. "In civil war-torn northern Uganda a missionary's daughter and a local teenaged girl exchange secret wedding vows and plan their escape, but they cannot evade the reach of the encroaching civil war. The play explores the deep but tragic relationship between the two young women and a troubled child soldier they try to save. The cardboard piano is their symbol of the hope and courage needed to carry on in a hopeless world. But can anyone have the courage to forgive the unforgiveable?" There will also be a show on Thursday, April 12, 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 www.westendplayers.org.

My take: I'm on the play reading committee as well as the board of WEPG, and was a strong supporter of this play from the beginning. I first saw it at the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville in 2016, where I was very impressed with the writing. In my review, I wrote that Cardboard Piano manages to balance the immediacy of it's "ripped from the headlines" story with a contemplation of deeper issues. As our own domestic political process plays out the conflict between a version of Christianity based on mercy and compassion vs. one based on anger and judgment, the issues in Cardboard Piano feel both immediate and timeless.


Hamilton
The Fox Theatre presents the musical Hamilton running through April 22. "HAMILTON is the story of America's Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from the West Indies who became George Washington's right-hand man during the Revolutionary War and was the new nation's first Treasury Secretary. Featuring a score that blends hip-hop, jazz, blues, rap, R and B, and Broadway, HAMILTON is the story of America then, as told by America now." The Fox is at 527 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: fabulousfox.com.

My take: Yeah, like you need my encouragement to see this massive hit. Reviewing the Chicago production in 2016, I wrote that Hamilton is a flat-out brilliant piece of musical theatre that manages to be both educational and entertaining at the same time. In nations, as in nature, diversity is a source of strength. Hamilton is a reminder of that strength. We are, as JFK wrote in his book of the same name, "a nation of immigrants," so it's encouraging to note that, when we saw Hamilton, spontaneous applause burst out when Jefferson and Hamilton sang "immigrants: we get the job done."

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Symphony Preview: Exit music

This article originally appeared at 88.1 KDHX, where Chuck Lavazzi is the senior performing arts critic.

David Robertson
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The old chestnut about all good things coming to an end plays out over the next four weeks at Powell Symphony Hall as David Robertson's tenure as the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra's Music Director--a thing widely acknowledged as very good, indeed--comes to an end at the close of the current season.

The SLSO is observing this passing of an era, not with lamentation, but rather with celebration. Specifically, it's giving local music lovers four big concerts--three with Mr. Robertson at the podium and one with Finnish conductor Hannu Lintu, who has proven to be very popular locally. The concerts are packed with flash and crowd-pleasing works, as well as with high-profile soloists like pianist Simon Trpceski, violinist Christian Tetzlaff, and, for the final concert series, celebrated trumpeter/composer Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.

Not shabby, eh? Here is an overview of what you can expect.

Pianist Simon Trpceski
Saturday and Sunday, April 14 and 15: David Robertson conducts the orchestra in Aaron Copland's rousing "Fanfare for the Common Man," Rachmaninoff's much-loved Piano Concerto No. 2 (with Mr. Trpceski at the keyboard), and Howard Hanson's Symphony No. 2 ("Romantic").

The Copland and Rachmaninoff surely need no introduction, but you might not be as familiar with the Hanson. Written on commission from noted conductor Serge Koussevitzky for the 50th anniversary of the Boston Symphony in 1930, it's a bold, expansive work, rich in appealing melodies. Because Hanson was then a guest conductor at the Interlochen Arts Camp, he offered the main theme of the second movement to the organization as a kind of theme song; it's still played there today at the end of every student concert.

Music from the symphony was also used (without permission) in the film "Alien." Mr. Hanson was reportedly less than thrilled with that appropriation.

Standing room tickets are now being sold for these concerts. The Saturday concert will be preceded by a pricey dinner-and-cocktails gala to honor Mr. Robertson.

Conductor Hannu Lintu
Friday and Saturday, April 20 and 21: Hannu Lintu conducts the orchestra and chorus in a blockbuster of a program consisting of the original 1867 version of Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain," Tchaikovsky's "Nocturne in D minor" and "Variations on a Rococo Theme" (both for cello and orchestra with Armenian cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan as soloist), and Rachmaninoff's cinematically colorful oratorio "The Bells," based on poems by Edgar Allan Poe.

You undoubtedly know "Night on Bald Mountain" in Rimski-Korsakov's orchestration, which corrects what the older composer saw as Mussorgsky's "mistakes" in composition and orchestration. If you've never heard the original, though, you're in for a treat. It's loaded with raw power--as is the Rachmaninoff work.

Friday and Saturday, April 27 and 28: Mr. Robertson returns to the podium to conduct Jörg Widmann's 2007 Violin Concerto with Mr. Tetzlaff as soloist and Anton Bruckner's monumental Symphony No. 4, known as the "Romantic" (although the word seems redundant when applied to Bruckner's expansive symphonic vision).

I'm not familiar with the Widman concerto, but I can heartily recommend the Bruckner. Mr. Robertson has proved to be an impressively sympathetic Brucknerian, as he demonstrated forcefully in his excellent Bruckner 7th back in 2011, and I regret not having the chance to hear him conduct more of the composer's imposing musical cathedrals. Expect greatness.

Wynton Marsalis
Friday through Sunday, May 4-6: It's the grand finale as Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center orchestra join the SLSO for Leonard Bernstein's "Three Dance Episodes from On the Town" and "Preludes, Fugues, and Riffs" for clarinet and jazz band. The latter was written in 1949 for the Woody Herman combo but never actually performed by them; SLSO Principal Clarinet Scott Andrews has the solo spot this time.

The concerts will conclude with Mr. Marsalis's "Swing Symphony," featuring Mr. Marsalis on trumpet and the Lincoln Center band along with the SLSO. When Simon Rattle conducted this back in 2012 with the London Symphony, reviews were ecstatic. "It was the start of a journey through jazz's history," wrote Ivan Hewett at The Telegraph. "The energy and invention were amazing; at one point we had a swinging fugue. One could hear the sounds of America itself, above all the hoot of trains." Sounds like a good time.

And with that, we will draw the curtain on Mr. Robertson's remarkably successful time as SLSO Music Director, a post he has held since the 2005-2006 season. The orchestra's fortunes were a bit in decline at the time, partly because of labor issues and partly because Hans Vonk, who had been Music Director since 1995, had to resign abruptly in 2002 due to an illness that would later be diagnosed as ALS, a.k.a. "Lou Gehrig's disease." Under Mr. Robertson's direction, the SLSO once again commanded international attention, toured extensively, expanded its community outreach programs, and recorded several important works, including a truly wonderful Gershwin disc with Kirill Gerstein for Myrios. His cheerful podium presence and lively pre-concert talks will be very much missed, but he leaves behind a significant legacy.

Which, ultimately, is all any of us can hope for, seems to me.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Review: Enchanted

This article originally appeared at 88.1 KDHX, where Chuck Lavazzi is the senior performing arts critic.

Professor Flitwick conducts the Hogwarts chorus
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It was a magical afternoon this Sunday (April 8, 2018) as Powell Symphony Hall filled up with witches and wizards of all ages, many in the colors of their favorite Hogwarts Houses. They were gathered for a showing of "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," with the John Williams score played live by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, directed by composer/conductor Justin Freer.

They were rewarded with combination of music and film that could only be called enchanting.

I've seen many film concert events at Powell over the years, but this was one of the best. The dialog tracks of the movie, to begin with, had a clarity and presence that has often been lacking in earlier blockbuster film events. Even when the massive, Mahler-sized orchestra was playing full tilt, I could make out every word. Better yet, the dialog was all closed-captioned.

And it was, of course, the music that was the real attraction. "Prisoner of Azkaban" was the third and last Potter film for which the great John Williams would write the entire score, and a wonderfully rich and detailed one it is. The big action sequences have all the excitement one would wish for, but there are also many interesting smaller touches, like the live folk-inspired violin solo that introduces the first scene in Hogsmeade Village and the pseudo-Renaissance dances that underscore sequences in the Hog's Head Pub.

Mr. Williams has also given the chorus some interesting material, including a complicated setting of lines from Act IV of Shakespeare's "Macbeth" ("Double, double, toil and trouble") and a lively tune for Christmas carolers in Hogsmeade. There's also a lovely wordless choral passage that accompanies Harry's first successful invocation of the patronus charm in Professor Lupin's Defense Against the Dark Arts class.

Conductor Justin Freer
All this was performed with the virtuosity I have come to expect from the SLSO musicians. The individual solo lines were crystal clear, the expanded brass and horn sections played heroically, and the oversized percussion battery had power and exactitude to spare. Mr. Freer, whose company, CineConcerts, produced the event, brought it all together brilliantly. My only regret is that an attack of the flu prevented me from seeing the showings of "Chamber of Secrets" earlier this week.

There was an additional bit of good news for Potter fans at the top of the program, when Mr. Freer announced that the SLSO planned to present the remaining five films in the series as well. If they're prepared with the same care this one was, I'm very much looking forward to them.

The regular St. Louis Symphony Orchestra season resumes this coming weekend as David Robertson conducts the orchestra and pianist Simon Trpceski Saturday at 8 pm, and Sunday at 3 pm, April 14 and 15. The program includes Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 and Hanson's Symphony No. 2, "Romantic". The Saturday concert will be preceded by a pricey dinner-and-cocktails gala to honor Mr. Robertson, whose tenure as the SLSO Music Director ends next month. The concerts take place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand in Grand Center.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

St. Louis theatre calendar for the week of April 9, 2018

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The Performing Arts Department at Washington University presents Aunt Dan and Lemon Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm, April 13 - 22. "Lemon has a notion that the Nazis were really quite 'refreshing' because they were never hypocrites and she articulates her admiration for them with ease, humor and intelligence. Aunt Dan, a former Oxford don, reveres everything Henry Kissinger has ever done, defends the bombing of North Vietnam, and regales Lemon with deadly and salacious tales about her prostitute friend Mindy. 'Simply put, this is a play about how literate, civilized societies can drift en masse into beastliness and commit the most obscene acts of history.' (Frank Rich, New York Times). Shawn's play would have us hear what evil sounds like close up - how funny, smart and lurid it can be." The performances take place in the Edison Theatre on the Washington University campus. For more information, call 314-935-6543 or visit pad.artsci.wustl.edu.

Cardboard Piano
Photo by John Lamb
The West End Players Guild concludes its 107th season with the St. Louis premiere of Hansol Jung's drama Cardboard Piano Thursday through Saturday at 8 PM and Sunday at 2 PM, April 12 - 15. "In civil war-torn northern Uganda a missionary's daughter and a local teenaged girl exchange secret wedding vows and plan their escape, but they cannot evade the reach of the encroaching civil war. The play explores the deep but tragic relationship between the two young women and a troubled child soldier they try to save. The cardboard piano is their symbol of the hope and courage needed to carry on in a hopeless world. But can anyone have the courage to forgive the unforgiveable?" There will also be a show on Thursday, April 12, 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 www.westendplayers.org.

Clinton County Showcase presents the musical comedy Church Basement Ladies Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm, through April 15. Performances take place at the Avon Theater, 525 North 2nd Street Breese IL. For more information, visit ccshowcase.com.

CSZ St. Louis presents The ComedySportz Show on Saturday nights at 7:30 pm. The show is "action-packed, interactive and hilarious comedy played as a sport. Two teams battle it out for points and your laughs! You choose the winners the teams provide the funny!" Performances take place on the second floor of the Sugar Cubed, 917 S Main St. in St Charles, Mo. For more information: www.cszstlouis.com.

The Lemp Mansion Comedy-Mystery Dinner Theater presents The Comic Book Killer through April 14. The Lemp Mansion is at 3322 DeMenil Place. For more information: lempmansion.com.

St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley presents the drama Constellations Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2 pm, April 13 - 21. "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 Fisher Theatre on the campus at 3400 Pershall Road. For more information, www.stlcc.edu/fv/ or call 314-644-5522.

St. Louis Actors' Studio presents The Dresser December April 13 - 29. "Based on the author's own experiences as dresser to Sir Donald Wolfit, this bracing, heartbreaking drama is an elegy to a by-gone era. Backstage at a theatre in the English provinces during WWII, Sir, the last of the great breed of English actor/managers, is in a bad way tonight, as his dresser Norman tries valiantly to prepare him to go on stage as King Lear. Unsure of his lines as well as who and where he is supposed to be, Sir is adamantly determined to roar his last. With Herculean effort on the part of Norman, Sir finally makes it on stage and through the performance no thanks to an air raid courtesy of the Luftwaffe. Back in his dressing room after the performance, the worn out old trouper dies, leaving alone his company and the loyal dresser after one final bow." Performances take place at the Gaslight Theatre, 358 North Boyle For more information, call 314-458-2978 or visit stlas.org.

The Hawthorne Players present musical The Fantasticks April 13 - 22 "'Try To Remember' a time when this romantic charmer wasn't enchanting audiences around the world. The Fantasticks is the longest-running musical in the world and with good reason: at the heart of its breathtaking poetry and subtle theatrical sophistication is a purity and simplicity that transcends cultural barriers. The result is a timeless fable of love that manages to be nostalgic and universal at the same time." 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 hawthorneplayers.info.

The St. Louis Writers' Group presents a reading of the play Golfing Brothers by David Margolis on Monday, April 9, at 6:30 pm. The event takes place upstairs at Big Daddy's, 1000 Sidney in Soulard. For more information: www.stlwritersgroup.com.

Hamilton
The Fox Theatre presents the musical Hamilton through April 22. "HAMILTON is the story of America's Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from the West Indies who became George Washington's right-hand man during the Revolutionary War and was the new nation's first Treasury Secretary. Featuring a score that blends hip-hop, jazz, blues, rap, R&B, and Broadway, HAMILTON is the story of America then, as told by America now." The Fox is at 527 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: fabulousfox.com.

The Monroe Actors Stage presents the drama An Inspector Calls Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 and Sundays at 2:30 p.m., April 13 - 22, in the Historic Capitol Theatre in downtown Waterloo, Illinois. For more information, visit www.masctheatre.org or call 618-939-7469.

Jesus Christ Superstar
Photo by Justin Been
Stray Dog Theatre presents Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar Thursdays through Saturdays, April 12 - 28. There will also be performances at 2 pm on Sunday, April 22, and 8 pm on Wednesday, April 18 and 25. "Jesus Christ Superstar has captivated audiences for more than 40 years. Loosely based on the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, this timeless rock opera follows the last week of Jesus' life, exploring his personal relationships and struggles with Judas Iscariot, Mary Magdalene, his disciples, and the Roman Empire" Performances take place at The Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee. For more information, visit straydogtheatre.org or call 314-865-1995.

The Bissell Mansion Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre presents Mayhem in Mayberry through April. "Welcome to the 10th annual Mayberry-fest. Everyone is looking forward to the highlight of this event - the Miss Mayberry contest. YOU and Sheriff Andy Trailer will judge the contestants (chosen from the audience) on beauty, poise, cookin' skills and a new category this year - Hog callin'. Will the next Miss Mayberry be the vivacious Dazey Doof from Hazzard County? Or the beautiful hillbilly, Elly May Klumpett? Or will it be the lovely Lois Lame from Smallville? Don't county out the charming Paris Hoosier from Hoosierville. She's the main reason the train stops at Petticoat Junction! Sheriff Andy, Deputy Blarney and Aint Bee invite you to join the fun and the mayhem in Mayberry cause it won't be the same without y'all." The Bissell Mansion is at 4426 Randall Place. For more information: bissellmansiontheatre.com.

New Jerusalem
Photo by Eric Woolsey
New Jewish Theater presents David Ives' New Jerusalem, the Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza at Torah Talmud Congregation: Amsterdam, July 27, 1656 through April 22. The play is the true story of Jewish philosopher Baruch de Spinoza who was excommunicated from the Jewish community of Amsterdam in the mid-1600's in order to keep the peace for that city's Jews." 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.

Lindenwood University presents the comedy Noises Off Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 pm and Sunday at 2 pm, April 12 - 15. "Called the 'funniest farce ever written,' Noises Off present a manic menagerie of itinerant actors rehearsing a flop called 'Nothing's On.' Doors slamming, on and offstage intrigue, and an errant herring all figure in the plot of this hilarious and classically comic play." Performances take place at Lindenwood's Belleville campus, 2600 W. Main St. in Belleville, IL. For more information: lindenwood.edu.

Poor Monsters presents Or What You Will, the Third, opening on Thursday, April 12 at 8 pm and running through April 21. "Shakespeare: literary master or monkey with a typewriter? How about a coven of bad-ass vagina-wielding artists in Saint Louis? OR WHAT YOU WILL, THE THIRD is a choose-your-own-adventure of sketches inspired by Shakespeare's Richard III all written, produced, designed, and performed without Y-chromosomes." Performances take place at The Chapel, 6238 Alexander Drive in Clayton. For more information: brownpapertickets.com

St. Louis Shakespeare presents Tom Stoppard's Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m., through April 15. "This comedy, penned during the height of the absurdist movement, follows the two hapless friends of Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, as they go on a journey from which they never return. On a day like any other, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's peaceful morning is suddenly disrupted when a messenger from Elsinore castle raps on their window informing them that they have been summoned. Thus, begins the journey for our befuddled travelers as they explore fate, their purpose and very nature of existence." Performances take place at the Ivory Theatre, 7620 Michigan in the Carondelet neighborhood. For more information, call 314-361-5664 or visit stlshakespeare.org.

Peabody Opera House presents Set It Off Saturday at 3 pm, April 15. "Writer/Director/Producer Je'Caryous Johnson who brought you the sold out hit play, "Married But Single" and the hilarious romantic comedy, "Two Can Play That Game" is back with another one - Je'Caryous Johnson Presents SET IT OFF based on the hit iconic movie by the same name. Fans will get to relive the ride that made them love SET IT OFF the movie, but this time around they will experience it LIVE ON STAGE. The hit heist, cult classic movie you love is now a stage play and coming to your city. The same iconic characters - Frankie, Tisean (T.T.), Stoney and Cleo are back bringing the same action packed, adrenaline filled robbery scenes and emotionally charged antics against an equally exciting music soundtrack that will have you on the edge of your seat. Multi-platinum selling rapper DA BRAT will be starring as Cleopatra "CLEO" Sims, the role originally played by Queen Latifah in the movie. Fans will recall SET IT OFF centers on four childhood friends who spent a lifetime struggling to move away from the mean streets of their neighborhood. The system stole their dreams and now the four are determined to steal them back. With their world in turmoil and their backs against the wall, they decide to seek their fortune - literally. Targeting the banks of Los Angeles, Cleo, Stony, Tisean (T.T.) and Frankie rob the city's most vulnerable financial institutions. Flush with cash, they discover that mo' money equals mo' problems." The Peabody Opera House is at 14th and Market, downtown. For more information: peabodyoperahouse.com.

Folktale Productions presents Take the "A" Train Cabaret on Friday, April 13, at 7:30 pm. "Welcome to the Harlem Renaissance! All abroad for a musical cabaret of comedy, jazz, poetry & prose, and song. This show celebrates the amazing artistic achievements of African-Americans in the early 20th century, when art, music, poetry & literature exploded out of Harlem! Favorite songs include Satin Doll, Sophisticated Lady, Aint' Misbehavin' and Straighten Up and Fly Right. Prose selections include works by Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston and Paul Laurence Dunbar. UMSL Chancellor and pianist Tom George plays jazz music, Beverly Brennan ( by he way, she is the daughter of Jack Buck) belts out the songs and emcees, and three time Emmy award winning storyteller Bobby Norfolk brings to life the prose and poetry of Harlem." The performance takes place at the Ozark Theatre, 103 E. Lockwood in Webster Groves. For more information: folktale.com

The Black Rep presents the world premiere of Torn Asunder by Nikkole Salter opening on Friday, April 13th, and running through April 29th. "TORN ASUNDER is set in Prince George's County, MD, 1859. Hannah, a relatively contented enslaved woman, has her world rocked when her master dies and she, for the first time, is separated from her family, new husband, and baby. But, just as she begins to lose all hope to ever see her husband and child again, the seceded south falls to the Union, slavery is abolished with the 13th Amendment, and Hannah has the opportunity to put her family back together...if she can find them. TORN ASUNDER dramatizes true stories of newly emancipated African Americans trying to overcome the ever-present vestiges of chattel slavery to reconnect with their families. Based on the research of Prof. Heather Andrea Williams in her book HELP ME TO FIND MY PEOPLE. Nikkole Salter was commissioned by Prof. Heather Andrea Williams and Kathy A. Perkins to write the script." Performances take place at the Edison Theatre on the Washington University campus. For more information: theblackrep.org.

Upstream Theater presents the U.S. premiere of A Tree Falling Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 7 pm (except for April 29, which is at 2 pm), April 13 - 29. "Octogenarian Lenny was once a busy physician at the epicenter of a vibrant family who now has no recollection whatever of his earlier life. These days his chief adventure is the daily tracking down of the remote control-at least until a friendly social worker named Lola shows up. Try as she might to help Lenny recover his memory, though, he continues to live within the moment, and the poignancy of his plight forces Lola to question the meaning of her own past as well as her future." Performances take place at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information, including show times: upstreamtheater.org.

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.

St. Louis classical calendar for the week of April 9, 2018

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The Chamber Music Society of St. Louis presents The French Connection on Monday and Tuesday, April 9 and 10, at 7:30 pm. The concert includes music by Debussy, Polenc, Massanet, and Ravel, and takes place at the Sheldon Ballroom on Washington in Grand Center. For more information: chambermusicstl.org.

The St. Louis Art Museum presents The Art of Bach on Friday, April 13, at 7 pm. "Bach's Cello Suites are considered to be among the most profound of all classical music works. This concert will engage multiple senses with cellist Ken Kulosa performing three of the six suites, complemented by live painting and dancers." The event takes place in the Farrell Auditorium at the Art Museum in Forest Park. For more information: slam.org.

Manuel Barrueco
The St. Louis Classical Guitar Society presents a Great Artist Guitar Series concert with Manuel Barrueco on Saturday, April 14, at 8 pm. "The Cuban-born Manuel Barrueco came to the USA as a political refugee in 1967, then completed studies at the Peabody Conservatory. He has performed across the US, the far east, and virtually every Latin American country in over 3 decades of concertizing. He has over a dozen recordings for the EMI label, including both Grammy and Latin Grammy Award nominations." The performance takes at the Ethical Society of St. Louis, 9001 Clayton Road. For more information: guitarstlouis.net.

The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra presents a Pulitzer Series Concert on Wednesday, April 11, at 7:30 pm. The program of contemporary chamber music includs works by Stockhausen, John Cage, and Lutoslawsky, and takes place at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, 3716 Washington. For more information: stlsymphony.org.

David Robertson conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and pianist Simon Trpceski Saturday at 8 pm, and Sunday at 3 pm, April 14 and 15. The program includes Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 and Hanson's Symphony No. 2, "Romantic". The concerts take place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: stlsymphony.org.

The Sheldon Concert Hall presents violinist Celeste Golden Boyer, cellist Bjorn Ranheim and members of the St. Louis Symphony performing works by American composers in commemoration of Leonard Bernstein's 100th birthday on Wednesday, April 11, at 8 pm. The concert includes Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings. The Sheldon is at 3648 Washington in Grand Center. For more information: thesheldon.org.

Washington University's Danforth University Center Chamber Music Series presents a recital of music by American Composers by soprano Tamara Miller-Campbell, clarinetist Paul Garritson, and pianist Annette Burkhart on Monday, April 9, at 7:30 p.m. The concert includes music by Copland, Gershwin, Irving Berlin, and Amy Beach, and takes place at the Goldberg Formal Lounge in the Danforth University Center on the Washington University Campus. For more information: music.wustl.edu/events.

The Washington University Department of Music presents a student solo and chamber music recital on Tuesday, April 10 at 7 pm. The program includes music by Rachmaninoff, Dvorak, Corelli, and Borodin and takes place in the Pillsbury Theatre at the 560 Music Center at 560 Trinity in University City. For more information: music.wustl.edu/events.

The Washington University Department of Music presents a senior recital by pianist Yujie Zhu on Sunday, April 15 at 3 pm. The program takes place in the Pillsbury Theatre at the 560 Music Center at 560 Trinity in University City. For more information: music.wustl.edu/events.

The Washington University Department of Music presents the Washington University Choirs in No Place Like Home, featuring works by St. Louis musicians and poets, on Sunday, April 15 at 7 pm. The program takes place in the E. Desmond Lee Concert Hall at the 560 Music Center at 560 Trinity in University City. For more information: music.wustl.edu/events.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of April 6, 2018

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:

Cardboard Piano
Photo by John Lamb
The West End Players Guild concludes its 107th season with the St. Louis premiere of Hansol Jung's drama Cardboard Piano Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM, April 6 - 15. "In civil war-torn northern Uganda a missionary's daughter and a local teenaged girl exchange secret wedding vows and plan their escape, but they cannot evade the reach of the encroaching civil war. The play explores the deep but tragic relationship between the two young women and a troubled child soldier they try to save. The cardboard piano is their symbol of the hope and courage needed to carry on in a hopeless world. But can anyone have the courage to forgive the unforgiveable?" There will also be a show on Thursday, April 12, 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 www.westendplayers.org.

My take: I'm on the play reading committee as well as the board of WEPG, and was a strong supporter of this play from the beginning. I first saw it at the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville in 2016, where I was very impressed with the writing. In my review, I wrote that Cardboard Piano manages to balance the immediacy of it's "ripped from the headlines" story with a contemplation of deeper issues. As our own domestic political process plays out the conflict between a version of Christianity based on mercy and compassion vs. one based on anger and judgment, the issues in Cardboard Piano feel both immediate and timeless.


Hamilton
The Fox Theatre presents the musical Hamilton running through April 22. "HAMILTON is the story of America's Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from the West Indies who became George Washington's right-hand man during the Revolutionary War and was the new nation's first Treasury Secretary. Featuring a score that blends hip-hop, jazz, blues, rap, R and B, and Broadway, HAMILTON is the story of America then, as told by America now." The Fox is at 527 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: fabulousfox.com.

My take: Yeah, like you need my encouragement to see this massive hit. Reviewing the Chicago production in 2016, I wrote that Hamilton is a flat-out brilliant piece of musical theatre that manages to be both educational and entertaining at the same time. In nations, as in nature, diversity is a source of strength. Hamilton is a reminder of that strength. We are, as JFK wrote in his book of the same name, "a nation of immigrants," so it's encouraging to note that, when we saw Hamilton, spontaneous applause burst out when Jefferson and Hamilton sang "immigrants: we get the job done."


The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents a staged reading of the play Nonsense and Beauty on Saturday, April 7, at 7:30 pm as part of the Ignite! New Play Festival. "In 1930, the writer E.M. Forster met and fell in love with a policeman 23 years his junior. Their relationship, very risky for its time, evolved into a 40-year love triangle that was both turbulent and unique. Based on a true story, Nonsense and Beauty captures the wit and wisdom of one of the last century's great writers." The reading takes place in the Studio Theatre of the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information: repstl.org.

My take: Want to see how new plays are born? The Rep's Ignite! festival is here for you.


Norm Lewis
The Cabaret Project presents Norm Lewis: Up Close and Personal on Saturday, April 7, at 8 pm. "Tony nominated star of Phantom of the Opera, NBC's Jesus Christ Superstar, Porgy and Bess and Les Miserables takes the night off of his current starring role in Broadway's Once On This Island to perform for St. Louis audiences." The performance takes place at the Sheldon Concert Hall on Washington in Grand Center. For more information: thecabaretproject.org.

My take: The New York Times has called Mr. Lewis "one of the most reliably impressive voices on Broadway." Reviewing his performance in the title role in Phantom, the Times noted that his "supple phrasing and power combined to gorgeous effect." Here's your chance to find out what they meant in the excellent acoustics of the Sheldon Concert Hall.


Ken Haller
The Presenters Dolan presents Ken Haller in Song by Song by Sondheim on Friday and Saturday, April 6 and 7, at 8 pm. "This will be the Year of Stephen Sondheim in St. Louis, as he is honored with the prestigious 2018 Saint Louis Literary Award. To salute the master lyricist and composer, Ken Haller is thrilled to reprise his critically-acclaimed debut cabaret show, "Song by Song by Sondheim." In songs as sentimental, witty, lacerating, sweet, and rollicking as Not a Day Goes By, Everybody Says Don't, Losing My Mind, Not While I'm Around, Marry Me a Little, and his own unique take in Send in the Clowns, Ken displays the gifts that led the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to name him Best St. Louis Cabaret Performer 2015." The performances take place at The Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 N. Grand in Grand Center. For more information: metrotix.com

My take: "Haller is a charming and talented performer with a voice as smooth as a brandy Alexander," wrote Robert Mitchell in a KDHX review of this show back in 2011. I couldn't agree more. Ken is an immensely talented gent with impressive credentials in both the theatrical and cabaret worlds and he has been producing top-notch cabaret here in town as well as in Chicago and New York for several years now. This love letter to Sondheim is not to be missed.


Held Over:

Born Yesterday
Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents the classic comedy Born Yesterday through April 8. "Junkyard tycoon Harry Brock swaggers into Washington, D.C., determined to buy a senator or two. The monkey wrench in his schemes is Billie Dawn, his seemingly dim-witted ex-showgirl girlfriend. But when Brock hires a reporter to tutor Billie, she rapidly comes into her own as a force to be reckoned with. This sharp and snappy comedy hilariously skewers Beltway corruption." Performances take place at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information: repstl.org.

My take: A boorish bully who knows the price of everything and the value of noting blows into our nation's capital, corrupting everything he touches. No, it's not today's headlines, but rather the 1946 stage hit by Garson Kanin. The Rep's excellent production doesn't make any effort to draw the parallel with the current circus in our nation's capitol because it doesn't need to; the quality of the acting, direction, and tech all speak for themselves and the issues addressed in the script are, sadly, timeless. If I have a complaint, it's that Kanin seems to have had a bit too much faith in the average citizen's ability to avoid being bamboozled. But maybe that makes it that much more important to see this play now.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

St. Louis theatre calendar for the week of April 2, 2018

Born Yesterday
Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
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The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents the classic comedy Born Yesterday through April 8. "Junkyard tycoon Harry Brock swaggers into Washington, D.C., determined to buy a senator or two. The monkey wrench in his schemes is Billie Dawn, his seemingly dim-witted ex-showgirl girlfriend. But when Brock hires a reporter to tutor Billie, she rapidly comes into her own as a force to be reckoned with. This sharp and snappy comedy hilariously skewers Beltway corruption." Performances take place at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information: repstl.org.

The West End Players Guild concludes its 107th season with the St. Louis premiere of Hansol Jung's drama Cardboard Piano Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM, April 6 - 15. "In civil war-torn northern Uganda a missionary's daughter and a local teenaged girl exchange secret wedding vows and plan their escape, but they cannot evade the reach of the encroaching civil war. The play explores the deep but tragic relationship between the two young women and a troubled child soldier they try to save. The cardboard piano is their symbol of the hope and courage needed to carry on in a hopeless world. But can anyone have the courage to forgive the unforgiveable?" There will also be a show on Thursday, April 12, 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 www.westendplayers.org.

Clinton County Showcase presents the musical comedy Church Basement Ladies Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm, April 6 - 15. Performances take place at the Avon Theater, 525 North 2nd Street Breese IL. For more information, visit ccshowcase.com.

CSZ St. Louis presents The ComedySportz Show on Saturday nights at 7:30 pm. The show is "action-packed, interactive and hilarious comedy played as a sport. Two teams battle it out for points and your laughs! You choose the winners the teams provide the funny!" Performances take place on the second floor of the Sugar Cubed, 917 S Main St. in St Charles, Mo. For more information: www.cszstlouis.com.

The Lemp Mansion Comedy-Mystery Dinner Theater presents The Comic Book Killer through April 14. The Lemp Mansion is at 3322 DeMenil Place. For more information: lempmansion.com.

Webster University's Conservatory of Theatre Arts presents Fly by Night Friday at 7:30 pm, Saturday at 2 and 7:30 pm, and Sunday at 2 pm, April 6 - 8. "A star-crossed prophecy. A lot of music. Just not a lot of light. In this darkly comic rock-fable, a melancholy sandwich maker's humdrum life is intersected by two entrancing sisters. A sweeping ode to young love set against the backdrop of the Northeast blackout of 1965, Fly By Night is a tale about making your way and discovering hope in a world beset by darkness." Performances take place in the Stage III Auditorium on the Webster University campus. For more information, www.webster.edu or call 314-968-7128.

Hamilton
The Fox Theatre presents the musical Hamilton opening on Tuesday, April 3, and running through April 22. "HAMILTON is the story of America's Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from the West Indies who became George Washington's right-hand man during the Revolutionary War and was the new nation's first Treasury Secretary. Featuring a score that blends hip-hop, jazz, blues, rap, R&B, and Broadway, HAMILTON is the story of America then, as told by America now." The Fox is at 527 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: fabulousfox.com.

The Bissell Mansion Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre presents Mayhem in Mayberry through April. "Welcome to the 10th annual Mayberry-fest. Everyone is looking forward to the highlight of this event - the Miss Mayberry contest. YOU and Sheriff Andy Trailer will judge the contestants (chosen from the audience) on beauty, poise, cookin' skills and a new category this year - Hog callin'. Will the next Miss Mayberry be the vivacious Dazey Doof from Hazzard County? Or the beautiful hillbilly, Elly May Klumpett? Or will it be the lovely Lois Lame from Smallville? Don't county out the charming Paris Hoosier from Hoosierville. She's the main reason the train stops at Petticoat Junction! Sheriff Andy, Deputy Blarney and Aint Bee invite you to join the fun and the mayhem in Mayberry cause it won't be the same without y'all." The Bissell Mansion is at 4426 Randall Place. For more information: bissellmansiontheatre.com.

New Jerusalem
Photo by Eric Woolsey
New Jewish Theater presents David Ives' New Jerusalem, the Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza at Torah Talmud Congregation: Amsterdam, July 27, 1656 April 4 - 22. The play is the true story of Jewish philosopher Baruch de Spinoza who was excommunicated from the Jewish community of Amsterdam in the mid-1600's in order to keep the peace for that city's Jews." 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 Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents a staged reading of the play Nonsense and Beauty on Saturday, April 7, at 7:30 pm. "In 1930, the writer E.M. Forster met and fell in love with a policeman 23 years his junior. Their relationship, very risky for its time, evolved into a 40-year love triangle that was both turbulent and unique. Based on a true story, Nonsense and Beauty captures the wit and wisdom of one of the last century's great writers." The reading takes place in the Studio Theatre of the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information: repstl.org.

Norm Lewis
The Cabaret Project presents Norm Lewis: Up Close and Personal on Saturday, April 7, at 8 pm. "Tony nominated star of Phantom of the Opera, NBC's Jesus Christ Superstar, Porgy and Bess & Les Miserables takes the night off of his current starring role in Broadway's Once On This Island to perform for St. Louis audiences." The performance takes place at the Sheldon Concert Hall on Washington in Grand Center. For more information: thecabaretproject.org.

The Rogue Theatre Company presents The Rampage at the Rouge, a Harry Potter-inspired murder mystery dinner theatre, on Friday, April 6, at 7 pm. "Join us for a night of intrigue and murder as we try to solve a mysterious death. No actors! No scripts! And YOU are the detective! Enjoy a full catered meal, participate in team challenges, search for clues, solve puzzles, and more, all while trying to avoid the killer. Unless the killer is you!" The event takes place at 1320 Milton Rd. in Alton IL. For more information: theroguetheatreco.ticketspice.com

St. Louis Shakespeare presents Tom Stoppard's Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m., April 6 - 15. "This comedy, penned during the height of the absurdist movement, follows the two hapless friends of Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, as they go on a journey from which they never return. On a day like any other, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's peaceful morning is suddenly disrupted when a messenger from Elsinore castle raps on their window informing them that they have been summoned. Thus, begins the journey for our befuddled travelers as they explore fate, their purpose and very nature of existence." Performances take place at the Ivory Theatre, 7620 Michigan in the Carondelet neighborhood. For more information, call 314-361-5664 or visit stlshakespeare.org.

Ken Haller
The Presenters Dolan presents Ken Haller in Song by Song by Sondheim on Friday and Saturday, April 6 and 7, at 8 pm. "This will be the Year of Stephen Sondheim in St. Louis, as he is honored with the prestigious 2018 Saint Louis Literary Award. To salute the master lyricist and composer, Ken Haller is thrilled to reprise his critically-acclaimed debut cabaret show, "Song by Song by Sondheim." In songs as sentimental, witty, lacerating, sweet, and rollicking as Not a Day Goes By, Everybody Says Don't, Losing My Mind, Not While I'm Around, Marry Me a Little, and his own unique take in Send in the Clowns, Ken displays the gifts that led the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to name him Best St. Louis Cabaret Performer 2015." The performances take place at The Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 N. Grand in Grand Center. For more information: metrotix.com

Lindenwood University presents the Bertolt Brecht/Kurt Weill musical Threepenny Opera Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 pm, April 5 - 7. "Brecht and Weill turned to John Gay's 18th-century 'The Beggar's Opera' to fashion this savage, biting commentary on bourgeois capitalism and modern morality. Set in Victorian London, the bitter tale is told of the predatory outlaw known as Mack the Knife.Brecht and Weill turned to John Gay's 18th-century 'The Beggar's Opera' to fashion this savage, biting commentary on bourgeois capitalism and modern morality. Set in Victorian London, the bitter tale is told of the predatory outlaw known as Mack the Knife. " The performances take place at The Lindenwood Theatre at the J. Scheidegger Center for the Arts on the Lindenwood campus in St. Charles, MO. For more information, call 636-949-4433 or visit www.lindenwood.edu/center.

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents a staged reading of the musical Wind-Up Girl on Tuesday, April 3, at 7:30 pm. "Based on a true story, this imaginative new musical has René Descartes, the father of modern philosophy, attempting a very unusual project after being left bereft by the death of his daughter. A moving historical fantasy about the irrational machinations of the human heart." The reading takes place in the Studio Theatre of the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information: repstl.org.

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.
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