Friday, August 17, 2018

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of August 17, 2018

New on the list: Rarely-seen musicals by Union Avenue Opera and R-S Theatrics, along with the annual St. Lou Fringe festival.

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New This Week:

The Light in the Piazza
Photo by Michael Young
R-S Theatrics presents the musical The Light in the Piazza Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. through August 26. "Winner of numerous Tony Awards in 2005, this musical tells the story of a young American woman vacationing with her mother in Florence in the 1950s. When the woman falls for a local Italian man, uncomfortable truths come to light about what was past and what may be future." Performances take place at The Marcelle Theatre in Grand Center. For more information: r-stheatrics.com.

My take: Corporate Broadway, like corporate Hollywood, has become a place for high-stakes gambling, where big producers spend bigger money on huge shows in the expectation of massive returns on their investments. In such an environment, it's remarkable that a modest, romantic show like Adam Guettel's The Light in the Piazza was produced at all. That it also ran over 500 performances and garnered a raft of awards in the process is downright miraculous. The book, by noted playwright Craig Lucas, handles this tale of “love among the ruins” with great warmth and, when appropriate, good humor. The score, by third-generation theatre composer Adam Guettel, is lavish and romantic without being saccharine. The R-S production has gotten good notices, so I have no hesitation in recommending it. At KDHX, for example, Tina Farmer calls it a "lovely gem of a show that finds a silver lining in a bittersweet tale of parental and romantic love." At Ladue News, Mark Bretz writes that it is "charming and beautifully sung." Performances of this piece are rare; don't miss it."


Lost in the Stars
Photo by John Lamb
Union Avenue Opera presents Kurt Weill's Lost in the Stars Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, August 17 - 25. Lost in the Stars is "a provocative work which addresses the weighty moral issues of racism and injustice, relevant now more than ever in St. Louis. For his final Broadway score, Kurt Weill gave passionate voice to this powerful, uncompromising social indictment of apartheid South Africa. The stirring story is of two aging men - a black country parson and a white British planter - drawn into friendship by a shared grief. The parson's faith is challenged by his son's unintentional murder of the planter's son, while the planter acquires faith through the loss of his son. Sadly, the years have not diminished the timeliness of the theme, which is the tragedy of all people." Performances take place at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 Union at Enright in the Central West End. The opera is sung in English with projected English text. For more information, visit unionavenueopera.org or call 314-361-2881.

My take: I'm a member of the cast of this show, so I'm hardly a disinterested party, but if you look through my reviews you'll see that I have had plenty of positive things to say about Union Avenue's work in the past. And this is a powerful work that is, I'm sorry to say, as relevant now as it was when it first appeared on Broadway in 1949. Check out my preview article and come see this remarkable masterpiece of musical theatre. There hasn't been a local production since St. Louis Community College at Forest Park presented it back in the last 1970s and I don't think there has ever been a locally produced professional production. This could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.


The St. Lou Fringe Festival runs through August 26 at multiple venues in the Grand Center area including the Kranzberg Arts Center, Grandel Theatre and the .ZACK Arts Center. Performances include traditional theater, dance, music, comedy, circus arts, performance art, cabaret, and burlesque, with acts from St. Louis and around the country. "Fringe features an array of original material-meant to celebrate all of the arts. Tech is minimal and time is a factor at our festivals. Shows are often kept brief (Fringes most frequently have shows right around 60 minutes in length) and technical requirements kept simple (minor sets, streamlined cues, nothing elaborate)." For a complete schedule, visit stlouisfringe.com.

My take: From its humble beginnings as a loosely organized experiment back in 2012, the St. Lou Fringe has evolved into a major performing arts festival, featuring both national touring acts and local performers. It have, in short, come a long way, baby. The Fringe has garnered national media attention and has also formed partnership with many local arts and education organizations. No wonder festival founder Em Piro got a special award from the St. Louis Theater Circle back in 2014 for the Fringe's contribution to the local performing arts scene. There's no better time to fringe.

Held Over:

Mamma Mia!
Photo by Peter Wochniak
Stages St. Louis presents the musical Mamma Mia!, based on the music of ABBA, through August 19. "The ultimate feel-good show, MAMMA MIA! uses the music of ABBA to tell the hilarious and touching tale of a teen's search for her birth father on a Greek Island paradise. See why 54 million people all around the world have fallen in love with this pop-music phenomenon of a mother, a daughter, three possible dads, and an unforgettable trip down the aisle! Chock full of explosive dance numbers, you'll want to unleash your inner "Dancing Queen" with such ABBA hits as "Winner Takes It All," "Take A Chance On Me," and the smash title tune, "Mamma Mia." This enchanting tale of love between mothers and daughters, laughter between old friends, and a celebration of newly found family is a guaranteed non-stop party that you won't want to miss!!" Performances take place in the Robert G. Reim Theatre at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road in Kirkwood. For more information: stagesstlouis.org.

My take: As I wrote in my review of the 2002 USA tour of this show on its first visit to the Fox, I am not now nor have I ever been a fan of the 1970s pop quartet ABBA. When they were cranking out hits like "Dancing Queen", I was sneering at them and listening to Elvis Costello and The Ramones. But when I first saw Mamma Mia! in London back in 2001 surrounded by wildly enthusiastic Brits (who apparently feel about ABBA the way the French feel about Jerry Lewis), I had to admit it was great fun. I found it a completely captivating evening of musical theatre, mostly because Judy Craymer, director Phyllida Lloyd and playwright Catherine Johnson (all from Britain, where this show began) have put together a fast-paced, funny, and occasionally even touching show that can send even a die-hard ABBA hater like yours truly out of the theatre with a smile on his face and a handful of those bouncy, hook-laden melodies rattling around in his brain. So enjoy it, already.


The Robber Bridegroom
Photo by John Lamb
Stray Dog Theatre presents the musical The Robber Bridegroom Thursdays through Saturdays through August 18. This rousing, bawdy Southern fairytale comes from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Driving Miss Daisy. Set in Mississippi, the show follows Jamie Lockhart, a rascally robber of the woods, as he courts Rosamund, the sole daughter of the richest planter in the country. Thanks to a case of double-mistaken identity, the entangled relationship begins to unravel. Throw in an evil stepmother, her pea-brained henchman, and a hostile talking head-in-a-trunk, and you have a rollicking country romp." Performances take place at The Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee. For more information, visit straydogtheatre.org or call 314-865-1995.

My take: Stray Dog has been racking up an enviable record of successes lately with its musicals and judging from the reviews this one is no exception. "The songs are catchy and swinging," writes Tina Farmer at KDHX, "and the action is fast, furious and funny, ensuring plenty of laughter and toe-tapping good time for all." At Limelight, Lynn Venhaus concurs. "For a rooting-tooting time at the theater," she says, "head yonder to the Tower Grove Abbey, where wacky hi-jinx are afoot in the Southern-fried 'The Robber Bridegroom'." "Stray Dog Theatre strikes gold," writes Mark Bretz at Ladue News "with its hilarious, high-kicking good time of a production of this infectious musical written by Driving Miss Dais

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Backstage at "Lost in the Stars" III: Un bel dì

The cast of Lost in the Stars
Photo by John Lamb
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While I am mostly a music and theatre critic these days I have also been an actor/singer since roughly the late Jurassic Era and still do a show now and then. My current acting gig in Union Avenue Opera's production of Kurt Weill's last masterpiece, "Lost in the Stars" (August 17 - 25, 2018). This is the second in a short series of observations from backstage.

Observation 3: We get a day off. And it's not the day one would expect from the non-operatic theatre world.

I'm writing this the night of the day before opening night. And I'm writing not from backstage but from the comfort of my dining room. That's because, in the operatic world, it's standard practice to give the cast a night off before opening.

Why? Because singers are the star athletes of the musical theatre world. They have trained and studied for years and their voices are highly developed instruments that need a rest before they hit the boards. When we open tomorrow night (Friday, August 17, 2018), it will be with leads and choristers who have had a whole day of vocal rest and will be at the top of their form.

Frankly, I'm not sure other theatre companies, musical or otherwise, shouldn't consider adopting the same procedure. I've been in some shows in which opening night was a bit rocky because everyone was so exhausted from a solid week of tech and dress rehearsals. A night off before opening might have helped.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Backstage at "Lost in the Stars" II: La voix humaine

View from the supertitles operator's perch
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While I am mostly a music and theatre critic these days I have also been an actor/singer since roughly the late Jurassic Era and still do a show now and then. My current acting gig in Union Avenue Opera's production of Kurt Weill's last masterpiece, "Lost in the Stars" (August 17 - 25, 2018). This is the second in a short series of observations from backstage.

Observation No. 2: We're playing it Old School. There are no body mics in opera. When I first started acting back in the 1960s, nobody used microphones on stage. That may come as a surprise in an era in which even the smallest houses now use wireless body mics for everything but, trust me, back in the day you had to project and make sure your voice bounced off the rear wall of the house. It has been a while since I've had to do that, so it's kind of refreshing to be in a musical theatre piece in which all the music is acoustic. It's back to the good old days of projection and enunciation.

The somewhat unwelcome surprise for me was that I had gotten a bit rusty about the kind of projection and enunciation. That's especially true in the sections in which I have to speak over background music. It's good to have a chance to sharpen those skills again.

Backstage at "Lost in the Stars" I: A short sharp shock

The "unsung artists" (the non-singing actors) of
"Lost in the Stars"
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While I am mostly a music and theatre critic these days I have also been an actor/singer since roughly the late Jurassic Era and still do a show now and then. I was in Stray Dog Theatre's award-winning production of “Ragtime” last year, for example, and will be appearing in “The Crucible” there next year.

I have done a lot of non-musical theatre, a fair amount of musical theatre and, in recent years, my share of cabaret. What I haven't done is perform with an opera company (unless you count by brief appearance in the chorus of a production of “Amahl and the Night Visitors” many years ago, which I don't). So my current acting gig in Union Avenue Opera's production of Kurt Weill's last masterpiece, “Lost in the Stars” (August 17 - 25, 2018) has given me some interesting insights into a form of musical theatre that I had previously experienced only as a critic. Over the next few days, I'm offering some possibly interesting observations.

Observation No. 1: The rehearsal period is short. I'm accustomed to rehearsal schedules of around four weeks or so, including tech week. “Lost in the Stars” started full rehearsals on August 1st, less than three weeks before opening night. Everyone was expected to have their roles fully memorized before the first rehearsal--an unusual requirement, but entirely reasonable given the short time frame.

One of the reasons this is practical, I think, is that (unlike theatre companies in general) opera companies tend to repeat a lot of the same core repertoire, so it's plausible to assume most singers in the major roles are not approaching their parts for the first time. That means most of them will already know their roles anyway and will only need to polish them a bit before starting rehearsals. That's less likely with a relative rarity like "Lost in the Stars," of course, but in general it's a respectable rule of thumb.

The chorus, which plays an important role in the work, started rehearsing about two weeks before the rest of us. More on our remarkable chorus later.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

St. Louis theatre calendar for the week of August 13, 2018

This week we have new shows from St. Louis Shakespeare and Slightly Askew, a rarely-seen work by Kurt Weill at Union Avenue Opera, the Cabaret Project's monthly open mic, and the opening of the St. Lou Fringe Festival.

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The Bissell Mansion Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre presents Addams Family Affair through October 28. The Bissell Mansion is at 4426 Randall Place. For more information: bissellmansiontheatre.com.

Stages St. Louis presents Cheers: Leading Men Don't Dance, the company's annual fund-raising cabaret, on Monday, August 13. The pre-show reception begins at 6:30 pm followed by the performance at 8 pm. The events takes place at the Robert G. Reim Theatre at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 S. Geyer Road. For more information: stagesstlouis.org.

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 Dead Like Me through November 3. The Lemp Mansion is at 3322 DeMenil Place. For more information: lempmansion.com.

Equally Represented Arts presents Faust go down with all the re$t, through August 18. The show is "an experimental, rock-opera-adaptation of Goethe's most celebrated work. The script was created by the ensemble. Join us for this capitali$t tragedy with music, dancing, and drinking." Performances take place at Foam, 3359 S. Jefferson Ave. For more information: www.eratheatre.org.

Act Two Theatre presents The Great American Trailer Park Musical through August 19. "A country-rock and blues musical about agoraphobia, adultery, '80s nostalgia, spray cheese, road kill, hysterical pregnancy, a broken electric chair, kleptomania, strippers, flan, and disco, The Great American Trailer Park Musical centers around regular guy Norbert and his agoraphobic wife, Jeannie, whose marriage is threatened by Armadillo Acres' newcomer, the hot young stripper Pippi. The trailer park also plays home to a Greek-chorus-like trio of women Linoleum, Betty and Pickles, each dysfunctional in her own right." Performances take place in the St. Peters Cultural Arts Centre at 1 St Peters Centre Blvd, St. Peters, MO 63376. For more information: act2theater.com.

St. Louis Shakespeare presents Mike Bartlett's King Charles III August 17 - 26. "The Story: The Queen is dead: After a lifetime of waiting, the prince ascends the throne. A future of power. But how to rule? Mike Bartlett's controversial play explores the people beneath the crowns, the unwritten rules of our democracy, and the conscience of Britain's most famous family." Performances take place at the Ivory Theatre, 7620 Michigan in the Carondelet neighborhood. For more information, call 314-361-5664 or visit stlshakespeare.org.

R-S Theatrics presents the musical The Light in the Piazza Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. through August 26. "Winner of numerous Tony Awards in 2005, this musical tells the story of a young American woman vacationing with her mother in Florence in the 1950s. When the woman falls for a local Italian man, uncomfortable truths come to light about what was past and what may be future." Performances take place at The Marcelle Theatre in Grand Center. For more information: r-stheatrics.com.

Union Avenue Opera presents Kurt Weill's Lost in the Stars Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, August 17 - 25. Lost in the Stars is "a provocative work which addresses the weighty moral issues of racism and injustice, relevant now more than ever in St. Louis. For his final Broadway score, Kurt Weill gave passionate voice to this powerful, uncompromising social indictment of apartheid South Africa. The stirring story is of two aging men - a black country parson and a white British planter - drawn into friendship by a shared grief. The parson's faith is challenged by his son's unintentional murder of the planter's son, while the planter acquires faith through the loss of his son. Sadly, the years have not diminished the timeliness of the theme, which is the tragedy of all people." Performances take place at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 Union at Enright in the Central West End. The opera is sung in English with projected English text. For more information, visit unionavenueopera.org or call 314-361-2881.

Mamma Mia!
Photo by Peter Wochniak
Stages St. Louis presents the musical Mamma Mia!, based on the music of ABBA, through August 19. "The ultimate feel-good show, MAMMA MIA! uses the music of ABBA to tell the hilarious and touching tale of a teen's search for her birth father on a Greek Island paradise. See why 54 million people all around the world have fallen in love with this pop-music phenomenon of a mother, a daughter, three possible dads, and an unforgettable trip down the aisle! Chock full of explosive dance numbers, you'll want to unleash your inner "Dancing Queen" with such ABBA hits as "Winner Takes It All," "Take A Chance On Me," and the smash title tune, "Mamma Mia." This enchanting tale of love between mothers and daughters, laughter between old friends, and a celebration of newly found family is a guaranteed non-stop party that you won't want to miss!!" Performances take place in the Robert G. Reim Theatre at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road in Kirkwood. For more information: stagesstlouis.org.

Madden Productions presents Maybe This Time Friday and Saturday at 8 pm and Sunday at 2 pm, August 17 - 19. "This 90-minute play shows four online dates with good and bad, humorous and sad results. You not only see and hear the two people on the blind date but also see and hear what their brains are thinking. It shows how miscommunication and misunderstanding can lead to all kinds of unexpected and unwarranted consequences. You will laugh, you will be moved and you may even see yourself in there too." Performances take place at the Gaslight Theatre, 358 N. Boyle. For more information: brownpapertickets.com

Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble presents Jean-Paul Sartre's No Exit Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 pm, August 15 - September 1. "SATE celebrates its twelfth year producing theatre in St. Louis with its Season of Entrapment. The 2018 season will explore the definition of entrapment: the state of being caught in or as in a trap. For the third production of its Season of Entrapment, SATE will present No Exit. No Exit, or Huis clos, is Jean-Paul Sartres existentialist play in which three damned souls are brought to the same room in hell by a mysterious Valet. Expecting medieval torture devices to punish them for eternity, they are surprised by the deceptively simple and relatively ugly room. As they are all introduced, none of them will admit the reason for their damnation: Garcin says that he was executed for being a pacifist, while Estelle insists that a mistake has been made. Inez however, demands that they all stop lying to themselves and confess to their crimes. This play is an exploration into the human psyche and the invisible wounds we are capable of inflicting upon others, and ourselves. No Exit is the source of Sartre's famous quotation 'L'enfer, c'est les autres' or 'Hell is other people.'" Performances take place at The Chapel Venue, 6238 Alexander Drive. For more information: slightlyoff.org.

The Robber Bridegroom
Photo by John Lamb
Stray Dog Theatre presents the musical The Robber Bridegroom Thursdays through Saturdays through August 18. There will also a show at 8 pm on Wednesday, August 15. This rousing, bawdy Southern fairytale comes from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Driving Miss Daisy. Set in Mississippi, the show follows Jamie Lockhart, a rascally robber of the woods, as he courts Rosamund, the sole daughter of the richest planter in the country. Thanks to a case of double-mistaken identity, the entangled relationship begins to unravel. Throw in an evil stepmother, her pea-brained henchman, and a hostile talking head-in-a-trunk, and you have a rollicking country romp." Performances take place at The Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee. For more information, visit straydogtheatre.org or call 314-865-1995.

Ken Haller
The Cabaret Project presents its monthly Singers Open Mic Night on Wednesday, August 15, from 7 to 10 pm. Drop by and enjoy a night of great music from St. Louis cabaret artists, backed up by pianist and music director Carol Schmidt. This month's special guest MC is St. Louis cabaret star Ken Haller. If you're planning to sing, be prepared to do one or two songs and bring music, preferably in your key. It's also recommend that you have your song memorized. The event takes place at Sophie's Artist Lounge on the second floor of the .ZACK performing arts space at 3226 Locust in Grand Center. For more information: thecabaretproject.org.

The St. Lou Fringe Festival opens on Wednesday, August 15, and runs through August 26 at multiple venues in the Grand Center area including the Kranzberg Arts Center, Grandel Theatre and the .ZACK Arts Center. Performances include traditional theater, dance, music, comedy, circus arts, performance art, cabaret, and burlesque, with acts from St. Louis and around the country. "Fringe features an array of original material-meant to celebrate all of the arts. Tech is minimal and time is a factor at our festivals. Shows are often kept brief (Fringes most frequently have shows right around 60 minutes in length) and technical requirements kept simple (minor sets, streamlined cues, nothing elaborate)." For a complete schedule, visit stlouisfringe.com.

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.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of August 10, 2018

New on the list: Musicals from the Muny and Stray Dog and cabaret shows directed by a pair of legends in the field.

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New This Week:

Lina Koutrakos
Mariposa Productions presents Lina Koutrakos and Rick Jensen's In Concert: A Summer Sunday Filled with Soul on Sunday, August 12, at 3 pm. Featured singers are Katie McGrath, Jerome Elliott, Phil Kassel, Gabriela Kassel Gomez, Debbie Schuster, Beverly Brennan, Robert Breig, Shauna Sconce, Dionna Raedeke, Charlene Reimann, and Patricia Salinski. The performance takes place at the .ZACK Performing Arts Center, 3224 Locust in Grand Center. For more information: metrotix.com

My take: I have worked with most of the singers in the show in the past and can attest to their talent. I have also worked with and taken classes from Rick and Lina. They're cabaret powerhouses with an uncanny ability to bring out the best in the singers they direct. Expect the best; you won't be disappointed.


Mariposa Productions presents Kelsey Bearman in Lost and Found on Thursday, August 9, at 8 pm. "Traveling from New York City to her hometown of St. Louis and back again, Kelsey's show explores the ebb and flow of life, with a humorous and thoughtful take on its challenges and triumphs. Including jazz standards, contemporary musical theatre, and pop songs from James Taylor to Taylor Swift sprinkled throughout, Bearman musically travels through the confusion and joy of having choices!" Lina Koutrakos directs, with musical direction by Rick Jensen. The performance takes place at the .ZACK Performing Arts Center, 3224 Locust in Grand Center. For more information: metrotix.com.

My take: As I said, Rick and Lina know how to bring out the best in a performer, and based on what I have seen in the past, Kelsey's best is very good indeed.


Meet Me in St. Louis
Photo by Phillip Hamer
The Muny presents the musical Meet Me in St. Louis running through August 12. "Clang, clang, clang, we are off to The Muny! Based on the heartwarming 1944 MGM film, Meet Me In St. Louis paints a wholesome portrait of a turn of the century American family. Set in the summer of 1903, the Smiths eagerly await the grand opening of the 1904 World's Fair. With hits such as "The Trolley Song," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," "The Boy Next Door" and the title number, this is the perfect finale to our 100th season, and will evoke nothing but love and pride…right here in St. Louis." Performances take place on the Muny's outdoor stage in Forest Park. For more information: muny.org.

My take: I haven't been very impressed by this show in the past, but the Muny's production uses a new book by Gordon Greenburg that apparently addresses some of the shortcomings in Hugh Wheeler's original. In her review for KDHX, Tina Farmer praises this version's "more fully developed characters" and more well-established sense of place. And it looks like a good production. "This "Meet Me in St. Louis" makeover is a richly textured tapestry significant to St. Louis," writes Lynn Venhaus at Limelight "one that you can see and feel. With a freshly revised book and new orchestrations, the Muny has connected the ordinary Smith Family’s quaint story to emotionally resonate through the ties that bind us." The Muny's decision to use "color blind" casting has also garnered praise. As former Post-Dispatch theatre critic Judy Newmark writes at her new personal blog, "Sally Benson, who wrote the semi-autobiographical short stories that evolved in "Meet Me in St. Louis," was white (as was her family). But by mixing up the members of this cast, director Marcia Milgrom Dodge makes a smart and sensitive decision.The whole point of ending the season with "Meet Me in St. Louis" is that this show celebrates the St. Louis community at a proud moment. Inclusivity deserves to play a part in that."

The Robber Bridegroom
Photo by John Lamb
Stray Dog Theatre presents the musical The Robber Bridegroom Thursdays through Saturdays through August 18. There will also a 2 pm on Sunday, August 12, and 8 pm on Wednesday, August 15. This rousing, bawdy Southern fairytale comes from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Driving Miss Daisy. Set in Mississippi, the show follows Jamie Lockhart, a rascally robber of the woods, as he courts Rosamund, the sole daughter of the richest planter in the country. Thanks to a case of double-mistaken identity, the entangled relationship begins to unravel. Throw in an evil stepmother, her pea-brained henchman, and a hostile talking head-in-a-trunk, and you have a rollicking country romp." Performances take place at The Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee. For more information, visit straydogtheatre.org or call 314-865-1995.

My take: Stray Dog has been racking up an enviable record of successes lately with its musicals and judging from the reviews this one is no exception. "The songs are catchy and swinging," writes Tina Farmer at KDHX, "and the action is fast, furious and funny, ensuring plenty of laughter and toe-tapping good time for all." At Limelight, Lynn Venhaus concurs. "For a rooting-tooting time at the theater," she says, "head yonder to the Tower Grove Abbey, where wacky hi-jinx are afoot in the Southern-fried 'The Robber Bridegroom'." "Stray Dog Theatre strikes gold," writes Mark Bretz at Ladue News "with its hilarious, high-kicking good time of a production of this infectious musical written by Driving Miss Daisy playwright Alfred Uhry."

Held Over:

Mamma Mia!
Photo by Peter Wochniak
Stages St. Louis presents the musical Mamma Mia!, based on the music of ABBA, through August 19. "The ultimate feel-good show, MAMMA MIA! uses the music of ABBA to tell the hilarious and touching tale of a teen's search for her birth father on a Greek Island paradise. See why 54 million people all around the world have fallen in love with this pop-music phenomenon of a mother, a daughter, three possible dads, and an unforgettable trip down the aisle! Chock full of explosive dance numbers, you'll want to unleash your inner "Dancing Queen" with such ABBA hits as "Winner Takes It All," "Take A Chance On Me," and the smash title tune, "Mamma Mia." This enchanting tale of love between mothers and daughters, laughter between old friends, and a celebration of newly found family is a guaranteed non-stop party that you won't want to miss!!" Performances take place in the Robert G. Reim Theatre at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road in Kirkwood. For more information: stagesstlouis.org.

My take: As I wrote in my review of the 2002 USA tour of this show on its first visit to the Fox, I am not now nor have I ever been a fan of the 1970s pop quartet ABBA. When they were cranking out hits like "Dancing Queen", I was sneering at them and listening to Elvis Costello and The Ramones. But when I first saw Mamma Mia! in London back in 2001 surrounded by wildly enthusiastic Brits (who apparently feel about ABBA the way the French feel about Jerry Lewis), I had to admit it was great fun. I found it a completely captivating evening of musical theatre, mostly because Judy Craymer, director Phyllida Lloyd and playwright Catherine Johnson (all from Britain, where this show began) have put together a fast-paced, funny, and occasionally even touching show that can send even a die-hard ABBA hater like yours truly out of the theatre with a smile on his face and a handful of those bouncy, hook-laden melodies rattling around in his brain. So enjoy it, already.


The Realistic Jonses
Photo by Eric Woolsey
Rebel and Misfits Productions presents The Realistic Joneses through August 12. "In The Realistic Joneses, Will Eno connects two suburban couples who have so much more in common than their identical homes and their shared last names. As their relationships begin to irrevocably intertwine, the Joneses must decide between their idyllic fantasies and their imperfect realities and, ultimately, confront mortality." Performances take place at the black box theater at the JCC, 2 Millstone Campus Drive in Ladue. For more information: www.rebelandmisfitsproductions.com.

My take: As you can tell by the other new items this week, summer theatre in St. Louis isn't limited to big musicals and light comedies. This latest from Rebel and Misfits is a good bet for anyone looking for something more challenging and unconventional on stage. As Tina Farmer writes at KDHX, this is "a visually and intellectually layered show that takes audiences on a wild ride with a startling and abrupt finish. Darkly funny and expertly paced, the emotional pull of the show lies below the surface and audience members are invited to wade in as deeply as suits their preference. Once again, Rebel and Misfits Productions presents a work that challenges audiences while providing a satisfying and comically driven story."

Preview: Cry the beloved opera

On Wednesday, August 7th, Union Avenue Opera hosted a fascinating panel discussion about Kurt Weill's "Lost in the Stars," which the company is presenting August 17 - 25.

Lost in the Stars at Cape Town Opera
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Dr. Timothy Parsons of Washington University talked about the historical background of the opera (described by its composer as a "musical tragedy"), which takes place in South Africa under apartheid. We learned, among other things, that the seeds of that pernicious system of segregation were sown back in 1913 when South Africa passed the Natives Land Act, which forced the black 80% of the population to live on so-called "native reserves," which made up only 13% of the land. Ostensibly designed to protect native culture, the real purpose of the law was to generate cheap labor for South African industry, since the natives, who had a primarily agrarian economy, couldn't support themselves on such small amount of land-and were legally forbidden to farm elsewhere.

Noted writer and director Tazewell Thompson (the production's Kurt Weill Mentor) recalled his experiences directing the show for Cape Town Opera in South Africa (pictured above)  and how the issues it deals with--racial separation and the fear it generates--resonate in America today. He reminded us that Alan Paton's "Cry the Beloved Country," the celebrated novel on which "Lost in the Stars" is based, was actually banned in South Africa for many years.

Kenneth Overton
Director Shaun Patrick Tubbs observed how his approach to the show is informed by the work Thompson and others have done before him. Baritone Kenneth Overton reflected on how his view of the role of Rev. Stephen Kumalo, the black preacher who tries and fails to save his son Absalom from the hangman's noose, has changed since he did the role nine years ago. And Mezzo Krysty Swann talked about the vocal and dramatic challenges of her role as Irina, the woman whom Absalom loves and marries.

Hosted by KETC's Ruth Ezell, the event included some valuable comments from the floor. Most notable was a recollection by a member of the Dunham Foundation board of directors of the time he saw the original cast of "Lost in the Stars" perform at the American Theater in 1950. The American was segregated at the time, with black patrons relegated to the top balcony. But Todd Duncan, who was playing Stephen Kumalo, demanded that black patrons be allowed into the first balcony. A brief story in the Post-Dispatch carried the headline "American Theater eases color line for one show."

Two years later, the American abruptly desegregated.

Krysty Swamm
Preview events continue on Wednesday, August 8, at 6 pm with a brief concert of selections from the opera featuring Mr. Overton and Ms. Swann at Centennial Christian Church, 4950 Fountain in north St. Louis. You can also hear music from the opera on Thursday, August 9--this time with tenor Roderick George, who sings the role of Leader, joining Ms. Swann--as part of Union Avenue's Opera's Open House at Centro Modern Furnishings, 4727 McPherson in the Central West End.

If you missed the panel discussion, you can still get plenty of deep background on "Lost in the Stars" at Union Avenue's Friday Night Lecture Series on August 17th and 24th at 7 pm. Dr. Glenn Bauer will discuss the opera's history and give you a sneak peak at the upcoming performance.

I should note that I'm not exactly a disinterested party in all this. As many of you may know, I have been an actor and singer for about as long as I have been a music and theatre critic, and as it happens I'm performing in "Lost in the Stars" in the non-singing role of Mark Eland. Watching this remarkable work come together has been gratifying, to say the least.

More information on "Lost in the Stars" is available at the Union Avenue Opera web site.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Conducting for bucks, or, how much is that music director in the window?

David Robertson conducting the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
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We've all seen the news stories about how inflated salaries have become at the highest levels of the American corporatocracy. Whether the performances of the companies they manage is good, bad, or indifferent, compensation for those at the top continues to rise. Honeywell made headlines earlier this year when it was revealed that its CEO made 333 times what the average worker did, for example, and other companies commonly pay the big shots 100 times what their employees make.

As revealed in a recent article by New York Times classical music editor Zachary Woolfe there's a similar (if much less outrageous) trend in salaries of the music directors of America's major orchestras. At a time when many orchestras are experiencing financial difficulties, he notes, "the amount orchestras pay their conductors is increasing. Another marker has been passed as the average compensation for the music directors of 64 American ensembles analyzed in an annual report by the arts consultant Drew McManus topped $600,000 for the first time."

A glance at Mr. McManus's report, which is based on 2015/16 data, indicates that the list of orchestras with the highest-paid music directors includes our own St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, which paid David Robertson $1.04 million. That made him one of only nine conductors who made over $1 million.

Mr. Woofle notes that "national debates about chief executive compensation have included sobering discussions about how much that pay has skyrocketed compared with an average worker's salary. Perhaps orchestras should consider anchoring their music directors' packages to a sane multiple of their players' base pay: "Ten times what the musicians make," [former Seattle Symphony Orchestra music director Gerard] Schwarz said. "That to me sounds reasonable."'

Stéphane Denève
So how does Mr. Robertson's salary measure up by that standard? Fairly well, as it turns out. A recent article at Slippedisc.com points out that SLSO musicians are making just under $100k annually right now and will make over that in 2021/22. Unless Mr. Robertson's compensation increased significantly after 2016, that would make it more or less in line with Mr. Schwarz's suggestion. I don't know whether Stéphane Denève's paycheck will be significantly different when he takes over officially in 2019, of course.

Fortunately, the SLSO can afford to pay well. Unlike many American orchestras, it's on a fairly sound financial footing these days . It ended the 2017 Fiscal Year with a small surplus and signed a new five-year contract with the American Federation of Musicians. Ticket revenues continue to grow and the orchestra's Live at Powell Hall events, featuring movies and guest appearances by performers from the world of popular music, continue to be very popular.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

St. Louis theatre calendar for the week of August 6, 2018

This week brings us the first performance in over a decade of the musical The Light in the Piazza as well as a new cabaret show from Kelsey Bearman and a soulful Sunday afternoon with Rick Jensen, Lina Koutrakos, and a host of local singers.


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The Bissell Mansion Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre presents Addams Family Affair through October 28. The Bissell Mansion is at 4426 Randall Place. For more information: bissellmansiontheatre.com.

The Goshen Theatre Project presents the children's musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 pm, August 9 - 11. Performances take place at the Hettenhausen Center for the Arts on the McKendree University campus in Lebanon, IL. For more information: www.goshentheatreproject.org.

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 Dead Like Me through November 3. The Lemp Mansion is at 3322 DeMenil Place. For more information: lempmansion.com.

Equally Represented Arts presents Faust go down with all the re$t, opening on Wednesday, August 8, at 7:30 pm and running through August 18. The show is "an experimental, rock-opera-adaptation of Goethe's most celebrated work. The script was created by the ensemble. Join us for this capitali$t tragedy with music, dancing, and drinking." Performances take place at Foam, 3359 S. Jefferson Ave. For more information: www.eratheatre.org.

Act Two Theatre presents The Great American Trailer Park Musical opening on Wednesday, August 8, at 7:30 pm and running through August 19. "A country-rock and blues musical about agoraphobia, adultery, '80s nostalgia, spray cheese, road kill, hysterical pregnancy, a broken electric chair, kleptomania, strippers, flan, and disco, The Great American Trailer Park Musical centers around regular guy Norbert and his agoraphobic wife, Jeannie, whose marriage is threatened by Armadillo Acres' newcomer, the hot young stripper Pippi. The trailer park also plays home to a Greek-chorus-like trio of women Linoleum, Betty and Pickles, each dysfunctional in her own right." Performances take place in the St. Peters Cultural Arts Centre at 1 St Peters Centre Blvd, St. Peters, MO 63376. For more information: act2theater.com.

Lina Koutrakos
Mariposa Productions presents Lina Koutrakos and Rick Jensen's In Concert: A Summer Sunday Filled with Soul on Sunday, August 12, at 3 pm. Featured singers are Katie McGrath, Jerome Elliott, Phil Kassel, Gabriela Kassel Gomez, Debbie Schuster, Beverly Brennan, Robert Breig, Shauna Sconce, Dionna Raedeke, Charlene Reimann, and Patricia Salinski. The performance takes place at the .ZACK Performing Arts Center, 3224 Locust in Grand Center. For more information: metrotix.com

Curtain's Up Theatre presents the Sondheim musical Into the Woods running through Saturday, August 11. Performances take place at the Alfresco Art Center, 2401 Delmar in Granite City, IL. For more information, visit curtainsuptheater.com.

R-S Theatrics presents the musical The Light in the Piazza Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m., August 10 - 26. "Winner of numerous Tony Awards in 2005, this musical tells the story of a young American woman vacationing with her mother in Florence in the 1950s. When the woman falls for a local Italian man, uncomfortable truths come to light about what was past and what may be future." Performances take place at The Marcelle Theatre in Grand Center. For more information: r-stheatrics.com.

The St. Louis Writers' Group presents a reading of the play Lock and Dam by Dennis Fisher on Monday, August 6, at 6:30 pm. "On a remote Illinois River waterfront in 1976, Thompson takes stock of his life. People are dying around him with unsettling regularity, he is barely paying the bills by selling dirty magazines to deck hands on barges that pass by, and his best friend has taken up with his ex wife. He petitions God for answers. The Gods respond. Answers are not forthcoming." The event takes place upstairs at Big Daddy's, 1000 Sidney in Soulard. For more information: www.stlwritersgroup.com.

Mariposa Productions presents Kelsey Bearman in Lost and Found on Thursday, August 9, at 8 pm. "Traveling from New York City to her hometown of St. Louis and back again, Kelsey's show explores the ebb and flow of life, with a humorous and thoughtful take on its challenges and triumphs. Including jazz standards, contemporary musical theatre, and pop songs from James Taylor to Taylor Swift sprinkled throughout, Bearman musically travels through the confusion and joy of having choices!" Lina Koutrakos directs, with musical direction by Rick Jensen. The performance takes place at the .ZACK Performing Arts Center, 3224 Locust in Grand Center. For more information: metrotix.com.

Union Avenue Opera presents a panel discussion on Kurt Weill's opera Lost in the Stars on Tuesday, August 7, at 6 pm. Participants include director Shaun Patrick Tubbs, conductor Scott Schoonover, and Kurt Weill mentor Tazewell Thompson. The event takes place at the Union Avenue Christian Church in the Central West End, where the company will present its production of the opera August 17 - 25. For more information: unionavenueopera.org.

Union Avenue Opera presents a free preview concert of selections from Kurt Weill's opera Lost in the Stars on Wednesday, August 8, at 6 pm. The concert will feature Kenneth Overton as Stephen Kumalo, Krysty Swannas Irina, along with members of the ensemble as they present selections from the opera, which the company will present August 17 - 25. The event takes place at Centennial Christian Church, 4950 Fountain in north St. Louis. For more information: unionavenueopera.org.

Mamma Mia!
Photo by Peter Wochniak
Stages St. Louis presents the musical Mamma Mia!, based on the music of ABBA, through August 19. "The ultimate feel-good show, MAMMA MIA! uses the music of ABBA to tell the hilarious and touching tale of a teen's search for her birth father on a Greek Island paradise. See why 54 million people all around the world have fallen in love with this pop-music phenomenon of a mother, a daughter, three possible dads, and an unforgettable trip down the aisle! Chock full of explosive dance numbers, you'll want to unleash your inner "Dancing Queen" with such ABBA hits as "Winner Takes It All," "Take A Chance On Me," and the smash title tune, "Mamma Mia." This enchanting tale of love between mothers and daughters, laughter between old friends, and a celebration of newly found family is a guaranteed non-stop party that you won't want to miss!!" Performances take place in the Robert G. Reim Theatre at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road in Kirkwood. For more information: stagesstlouis.org.

JPEK Creativeworks presents Meeting at the Elder's Circle Thursday through Saturday at 8 pm and Sunday at 3 pm, August 9 - 12. "Meeting at the Elder's Circle is a two-act inspirational comedy, that gives a satirical look on the issues reflecting religion and the church through drama, song and dance. The elders of Christian Tabernacle are gathering together for the Annual Usher's day. Coordinated by Sis. Martha Mooshae, she works diligently to assure the event's success. As with every church, there's always a tyrant in the fold who is Sis. Magalene Jefferies. She may be mean and unruly, but she “keeps it real”. Through the leadership of Pastor Moonshine, Christian Tabernacle defines a moment of truth that changes the hearts and minds of everyone. 'The road to heaven doesn't get shorter by pushing people away.'" Performances take place at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 N. Grand in Grand Center. For more information: metrotix.com.

Meet Me in St. Louis
Photo by Phillip Hamer
The Muny presents the musical Meet Me in St. Louis running through August 12. "Clang, clang, clang, we are off to The Muny! Based on the heartwarming 1944 MGM film, Meet Me In St. Louis paints a wholesome portrait of a turn of the century American family. Set in the summer of 1903, the Smiths eagerly await the grand opening of the 1904 World's Fair. With hits such as "The Trolley Song," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," "The Boy Next Door" and the title number, this is the perfect finale to our 100th season, and will evoke nothing but love and pride…right here in St. Louis." Performances take place on the Muny's outdoor stage in Forest Park. For more information: muny.org.

The Realistic Jonses
Photo by Eric Woolsey
Rebel and Misfits Productions presents The Realistic Joneses through August 12. "In The Realistic Joneses, Will Eno connects two suburban couples who have so much more in common than their identical homes and their shared last names. As their relationships begin to irrevocably intertwine, the Joneses must decide between their idyllic fantasies and their imperfect realities and, ultimately, confront mortality." Performances take place at the black box theater at the JCC, 2 Millstone Campus Drive in Ladue. For more information: www.rebelandmisfitsproductions.com.

Stray Dog Theatre presents the musical The Robber Bridegroom Thursdays through Saturdays through August 18. There will also a 2 pm on Sunday, August 12, and 8 pm on Wednesday, August 15. This rousing, bawdy Southern fairytale comes from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Driving Miss Daisy. Set in Mississippi, the show follows Jamie Lockhart, a rascally robber of the woods, as he courts Rosamund, the sole daughter of the richest planter in the country. Thanks to a case of double-mistaken identity, the entangled relationship begins to unravel. Throw in an evil stepmother, her pea-brained henchman, and a hostile talking head-in-a-trunk, and you have a rollicking country romp." Performances take place at The Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee. For more information, visit straydogtheatre.org or call 314-865-1995.

The Monocle presents This Is Me: A Cabaret with Sam Revilla on Friday, August 10, at 8 pm. "Join Sam for an evening of music, laughter and tears as I share my journey through songs. Featuring songs from Smash, Jekyll and Hyde, First Date and many of your Broadway musicals to Disney movies, and songs by Whitney, Donnie Hathaway, John Legend and many more. You will surely leave The Emerald room loving life a little more." The performance takes place in the Emerald Room at The Monocle, 4510 Manchester in The Grove neighborhood. For more information: themonoclestl.com.

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.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of August 3, 2018

New on the list: A pair of challenging and unconventional plays, along with an exciting performance of Verdi's first Big Hit.

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New This Week:

Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
The Black Mirror Theatre Company presents Ravi Joseph's Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo through August 4. The show is about "a tiger that haunts the streets of present day Baghdad seeking the meaning of life. As he witnesses the puzzling absurdities of war, the tiger encounters Americans and Iraqis who are searching for friendship, redemption, and a toilet seat made of gold." Performances take place in the black box theatre at the Kranzberg Center, 501 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: metrotix.com.

My take: "Rajiv Joseph," writes Mark Bretz at Ladue News, "was a finalist in 2010 for a Pulitzer Prize in drama for this searing, gripping and provocative story which is given a first-rate rendering by Black Mirror Theatre". At KDHX, Tina Farmer writes that the show "powerfully effective, at times heart wrenchingly painful and always thoughtful and provocative." Black Mirror has had something of an on-again, off-again existence here in St. Louis, but their current season has been a strong one and bodes well for the company's future here.


Nabucco
Photo by John Lamb
Union Avenue Opera presents Verdi's Nabucco Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm through August 4. Performances take place at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 Union at Enright in the Central West End. The opera is sung in Italian with projected English text. For more information, visit unionavenueopera.org or call 314-361-2881.

My take: As I write in my review for OnSTL.com, Verdi's 1842 Biblical melodrama "Nabucco" ("Nebuchadnezzar") isn't the composer's biggest hit, but it was his first, sealing his reputation as a major new force in Italian opera. Union Avenue's fast-paced and splendidly sung production makes an exceptionally good case for it.


The Realistic Jonses
Photo by Eric Woolsey
Rebel and Misfits Productions presents The Realistic Joneses through August 12. "In The Realistic Joneses, Will Eno connects two suburban couples who have so much more in common than their identical homes and their shared last names. As their relationships begin to irrevocably intertwine, the Joneses must decide between their idyllic fantasies and their imperfect realities and, ultimately, confront mortality." Performances take place at the black box theater at the JCC, 2 Millstone Campus Drive in Ladue. For more information: www.rebelandmisfitsproductions.com.

My take: As you can tell by the other new items this week, summer theatre in St. Louis isn't limited to big musicals and light comedies. This latest from Rebel and Misfits is a good bet for anyone looking for something more challenging and unconventional on stage. As Tina Farmer writes at KDHX, this is "a visually and intellectually layered show that takes audiences on a wild ride with a startling and abrupt finish. Darkly funny and expertly paced, the emotional pull of the show lies below the surface and audience members are invited to wade in as deeply as suits their preference. Once again, Rebel and Misfits Productions presents a work that challenges audiences while providing a satisfying and comically driven story."

Held Over:

Mamma Mia!
Photo by Peter Wochniak
Stages St. Louis presents the musical Mamma Mia!, based on the music of ABBA, through August 19. "The ultimate feel-good show, MAMMA MIA! uses the music of ABBA to tell the hilarious and touching tale of a teen's search for her birth father on a Greek Island paradise. See why 54 million people all around the world have fallen in love with this pop-music phenomenon of a mother, a daughter, three possible dads, and an unforgettable trip down the aisle! Chock full of explosive dance numbers, you'll want to unleash your inner "Dancing Queen" with such ABBA hits as "Winner Takes It All," "Take A Chance On Me," and the smash title tune, "Mamma Mia." This enchanting tale of love between mothers and daughters, laughter between old friends, and a celebration of newly found family is a guaranteed non-stop party that you won't want to miss!!" Performances take place in the Robert G. Reim Theatre at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road in Kirkwood. For more information: stagesstlouis.org.

My take: As I wrote in my review of the 2002 USA tour of this show on its first visit to the Fox, I am not now nor have I ever been a fan of the 1970s pop quartet ABBA. When they were cranking out hits like "Dancing Queen", I was sneering at them and listening to Elvis Costello and The Ramones. But when I first saw Mamma Mia! in London back in 2001 surrounded by wildly enthusiastic Brits (who apparently feel about ABBA the way the French feel about Jerry Lewis), I had to admit it was great fun. I found it a completely captivating evening of musical theatre, mostly because Judy Craymer, director Phyllida Lloyd and playwright Catherine Johnson (all from Britain, where this show began) have put together a fast-paced, funny, and occasionally even touching show that can send even a die-hard ABBA hater like yours truly out of the theatre with a smile on his face and a handful of those bouncy, hook-laden melodies rattling around in his brain. So enjoy it, already.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

St. Louis theatre calendar for the week of July 30, 2018

New shows this week include a hometown favorite musical at the Muny and an unusual musical at Stray Dog with a book by the author of Driving Miss Daisy.

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The Bissell Mansion Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre presents Addams Family Affair August 3 through October 28. The Bissell Mansion is at 4426 Randall Place. For more information: bissellmansiontheatre.com.

Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
The Black Mirror Theatre Company presents Ravi Joseph's Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo through August 4. The show is about "a tiger that haunts the streets of present day Baghdad seeking the meaning of life. As he witnesses the puzzling absurdities of war, the tiger encounters Americans and Iraqis who are searching for friendship, redemption, and a toilet seat made of gold." Performances take place in the black box theatre at the Kranzberg Center, 501 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: metrotix.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.

Curtain's Up Theatre presents the Sondheim musical Into the Woods opening on Friday, August 3, at 7:30 pm and running through Saturday, August 11. Performances take place at the Alfresco Art Center, 2401 Delmar in Granite City, IL. For more information, visit curtainsuptheater.com.

The Lemp Mansion Comedy-Mystery Dinner Theater presents Dead LIke Me August 3 through November 3. The Lemp Mansion is at 3322 DeMenil Place. For more information: lempmansion.com.

Gypsy
Photo by Phillip Hamer
The Muny presents the musical Gypsy through August 2. "Revered by many as the greatest musical ever written, Gypsy is the timeless tale of an ambitious stage mother, Momma Rose, fighting for her daughters' success…while secretly yearning for her own. With a book by Academy Award-winner Arthur Laurents and lyrics by Tony Award-winner Stephen Sondheim, Gypsy features countless showstoppers, including "Let Me Entertain You," and "Together, Wherever We Go." Take our word for it, "You Gotta Get a Gimmick," or better yet a ticket, to see this spectacular Muny gem shine." Performances take place on the Muny's outdoor stage in Forest Park. For more information: muny.org.

Clinton County Showcase presents the musical The Hunchback of Notre Dame Thursday through Sunday at 8 pm, August 2 - 5. " The musical begins as the bells of Notre Dame sound through the famed cathedral in fifteenth-century Paris. Quasimodo, the deformed bell-ringer who longs to be "Out There," observes all of Paris reveling in the Feast of Fools. Held captive by his devious caretaker, Judge Claude Frollo, he escapes for the day and joins the boisterous crowd, only to be treated cruelly by all but the beautiful gypsy, Esmeralda. Quasimodo isn't the only one captivated by her free spirit, though - the handsome Captain Phoebus and Frollo are equally enthralled. As the three vie for her attention, Frollo embarks on a mission to destroy the gypsies - and it's up to Quasimodo to save them all." Performances take place at Breese Northside Park, 1000 North Main Street, Breese, IL. For more information, visit ccshowcase.com.

The Hawthorne Players present Legally Blonde the Musical through August 5. "Elle Woods appears to have it all. Her life is turned upside down when her boyfriend Warner dumps her so he can attend Harvard Law. Determined to get him back, Elle ingeniously charms her way into the prestigious law school. While there, she struggles with peers, professors and her ex. With the support of some new friends, though, Elle quickly realizes her potential and sets out to prove herself to the world." 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.

Mamma Mia!
Photo by Peter Wochniak
Stages St. Louis presents the musical Mamma Mia!, based on the music of ABBA, through August 19. "The ultimate feel-good show, MAMMA MIA! uses the music of ABBA to tell the hilarious and touching tale of a teen's search for her birth father on a Greek Island paradise. See why 54 million people all around the world have fallen in love with this pop-music phenomenon of a mother, a daughter, three possible dads, and an unforgettable trip down the aisle! Chock full of explosive dance numbers, you'll want to unleash your inner "Dancing Queen" with such ABBA hits as "Winner Takes It All," "Take A Chance On Me," and the smash title tune, "Mamma Mia." This enchanting tale of love between mothers and daughters, laughter between old friends, and a celebration of newly found family is a guaranteed non-stop party that you won't want to miss!!" Performances take place in the Robert G. Reim Theatre at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road in Kirkwood. For more information: stagesstlouis.org.

The Muny presents the musical Meet Me in St. Louis opening on Saturday, August 4, at 8:15 pm and running through August 12. "Clang, clang, clang, we are off to The Muny! Based on the heartwarming 1944 MGM film, Meet Me In St. Louis paints a wholesome portrait of a turn of the century American family. Set in the summer of 1903, the Smiths eagerly await the grand opening of the 1904 World's Fair. With hits such as "The Trolley Song," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," "The Boy Next Door" and the title number, this is the perfect finale to our 100th season, and will evoke nothing but love and pride…right here in St. Louis." Performances take place on the Muny's outdoor stage in Forest Park. For more information: muny.org.

Nabucco
Photo by John Lamb
Union Avenue Opera presents Verdi's Nabucco Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm through August 4. Performances take place at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 Union at Enright in the Central West End. The opera is sung in Italian with projected English text. For more information, visit unionavenueopera.org or call 314-361-2881.

Hard Road Theatre Productions presents Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! Fridays and Saturdays at 7 pm and Sundays at 2 pm, through August 5. Performances will be held at the Highland Elementary Schoo auditorium in Highland IL. For more information: www.hardroad.org.

Rebel and Misfits Productions presents The Realistic Joneses through August 12. "In The Realistic Joneses, Will Eno connects two suburban couples who have so much more in common than their identical homes and their shared last names. As their relationships begin to irrevocably intertwine, the Joneses must decide between their idyllic fantasies and their imperfect realities and, ultimately, confront mortality." Performances take place at the black box theater at the JCC, 2 Millstone Campus Drive in Ladue. For more information: www.rebelandmisfitsproductions.com.

The Robber Bridegroom
Stray Dog Theatre presents the musical The Robber Bridegroom Thursdays through Saturdays, August 2 - 18. There will also a 2 pm on Sunday, August 12, and 8 pm on Wednesday, August 15. This rousing, bawdy Southern fairytale comes from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Driving Miss Daisy. Set in Mississippi, the show follows Jamie Lockhart, a rascally robber of the woods, as he courts Rosamund, the sole daughter of the richest planter in the country. Thanks to a case of double-mistaken identity, the entangled relationship begins to unravel. Throw in an evil stepmother, her pea-brained henchman, and a hostile talking head-in-a-trunk, and you have a rollicking country romp." Performances take place at The Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee. For more information, visit straydogtheatre.org or call 314-865-1995.

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.