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|The Light in the Piazza|
Photo by Michael Young
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
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.
Photo by Peter Wochniak
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
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