Thursday, February 22, 2018

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of February 23, 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 International Brotherhood of Magicians, Ring 1, presents its annual Parade of Magic on Saturday, February 24, at 2 and 7 p.m. "Top professional magicians from all over the Midwest will converge on St. Louis to present TWO shows filled with fun, laughter and of course Magic! Nowhere else can you find such great entertainment for such an affordable price. Award winning magicians from the International Brotherhood of Magicians will be appearing and disappearing in a magical experience guaranteed to be unforgettable! A Great Family Event! You've seen them on TV and now you can see them Live!" Performances take place at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road. For more information: ibmring1.yapsody.com

My take: I got my start in showbiz as a magician, performing for kids shows and touring with a local variety show troupe. I'm no longer a member of the Society of American Magicians (the other big magic association, next to the IBM) but I'm still a sucker for a good magic show like this one. If you're looking for something that will be entertaining for the whole family, this is a good bet.

Held Over:

The Cabaret Project and The Improv Shop present The Blue Velvet Lounge on Saturday, February 24, at 8 pm. "The Cabaret Project teams up with The Improv Shop to co-present their dynamic, fully improvised theater piece featuring live jazz standards - direct from the mythical Blue Velvet Lounge. Each performance features eight smart, funny improvisers who create the stories and sagas of the patrons of the Blue Velvet Lounge - on the spot. Surrounded by live jazz vocal standards, this character driven story is a different show each night it's performed. The Blue Velvet Lounge is a perfect evening out for lovers of cabaret and comedy. Food and drink available at the Improv Shop." The performance takes place at The Improv Shop, 3960 Chouteau in The Grove. For more information: thecabaretproject.org.

My take: Cabaret shows are carefully planned, but so is a good improv show. Improvisation works best when there's some sort of structure to build on. So combining the two makes more sense than you might think, especially when the singer at the center of it all is local cabaret pro Tim Schall. I saw the show on February 10th and was impressed with the quick wit and inventiveness of the improv performers. Each improv segment is brief and the action shifts from one pair of actors to another quickly. Sometimes it relates directly to the song being sung, sometimes not, but it's always different.



Bud, Not Buddy
Metro Theatre Company presents Bud, Not Buddy Fridays and Saturdays at 7 and Sundays at 2 pm through February 25. "Based on the Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Award-winning novel, this play combines actors with a 13-piece jazz band performing an original score composed by five-time, Grammy-winning jazz artist Terence Blanchard to tell the story of a boy who finds a home and a passion for music." Performances take place at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square in Grand Center. For more information: metroplays.org.

My take: This original one-act play is a co-production with Jazz St. Louis and, according to Mark Bretz at Ladue News, it's "a sure-fire treat for theater patrons young and old as well as devotees of America's original musical art form." This is the first production on the USA since the play's premiere at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C many years ago, which makes it quite a feather in the cap of Metro. The story it tells of life under American apartheid is one of which far too many people in this country seemed determine to write out of history.


Menopause the Musical
The Playhouse at Westport Plaza presents Menopause the Musical, "a celebration of women and The Change," through March 31. Four women meet while shopping for a black lace bra at a lingerie sale. After noticing unmistakable similarities among one another, the cast jokes about their woeful hot flashes, mood swings, wrinkles, weight gain and much more. The Playhouse at Westport Plaza is at 635 West Port Plaza. For more information: playhouseatwestport.com.

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


Red Scare on Sunset
Photo: John Lamb
Stray Dog Theatre presents the comedy Red Scare on Sunset Thursdays through Saturdays through February 24. "In 1950s Hollywood, film star Mary Dale finds the Red Menace invading her Beverly Hills backyard. When she discovers her husband has been lured into the local Communist Party by way of a Method acting class and there is a left wing plot to abolish the star system, Mary wages a private war to save her husband, country, and billing over the title. The McCarthy era is turned on its head in this outlandish take on a serious subject." Performances take place at The Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee. For more information, visit straydogtheatre.org or call 314-865-1995.

My take: Actor, female impersonator, and playwright Charles Busch's plays include outrageous classics like Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, Psycho Beach Party, and Die, Mommie, Die! as well as the more mainstream (but no less hilarious) Tale of the Allergist's Wife. "Red Scare on Sunset," writes Mark Bretz at Ladue News, "provides a bevy of laughs about a subject that was anything but funny during its infamous heyday...It’s given a vivid and vivacious treatment by artistic director Gary Bell and his hard-charging cast, including an amazing star turn by Will Bonfiglio as fair Mary."

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Review: Matthew Halls conducts music for the young at heart

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

Matthew Halls
Photo by Eric Richmond
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[Find out more about the music with my symphony preview post.]

The accent was on youth this past Sunday (February 18, 2018) as guest conductor Matthew Halls made his St. Louis Symphony Orchestra debut with a program of music by a trio of early 19th-century composers who flourished early, died young, and left behind a sizeable body of music.

The concert opened with Symphony No. 3 in D major by Franz Schubert, dashed off in July 1815, when the composer was 18 years old. It opens with a slow, majestic introduction but the mood quickly turns sunny with a lilting main theme on the clarinet and remains cheerful for the next 25 minutes or so.

Conducting without a baton (as he did for the entire concert), Mr. Halls summoned those dramatic opening chords with a big, sweeping two-armed gesture and took the Adagio maestoso introduction at a relaxed pace that made the brisk first appearance of that main theme, expertly played by Associate Principal clarinet Diana Haskell, that much more energizing. It's marked Allegro con brio, which roughly translates as "quickly with energy," and it had energy in abundance.

In fact, his entire approach to the symphony made the most of the strong contrasts in the score. The Allegretto second movement was gracefully balletic, with a folksy charm in the contrasting middle section, while the Menuetto third movement danced along with subtle shadings of tempo and dynamics. The Presto vivace finale, with its tarantella-style 6/8 rhythm, raced along with fleet-footed playing by the strings and a satisfying sonic blend overall. Mr. Halls had Ms. Haskell stand for well-earned applause at the end along with her fellow woodwind leaders Philip Ross (Associate Principal oboe) and Andrew Gott (Associate Principal bassoon), but the fact is that everyone played extremely well.

The first half of the concert concluded with the Clarinet Concerto No. 1 in F minor, which Carl Maria von Weber wrote in 1811 at the age of 24. As befits a composer best known for his operas, the concerto is a work that often feels like it should be sung, with a dark and technically challenging first movement, a second that could pass for an opera aria, and a flashy Rondo finale.

Scott Andrews
SLSO Principal Clarinet Scott Andrews was the soloist, delivering a performance that had plenty of heart and soul (to cite an old song title) along with an easy virtuosity that allowed him to sail through the concerto's many difficult passages with an Astaire-like grace. He had a sensitive, singing tone in the lyrical second movement and approached the Rondo finale with a playful joy. He got great support from Mr. Halls and the orchestra, including some lovely playing from Roger Kaza and his fellow horns.

The concert ended with big, passionate interpretation of the Symphony No. 1 in C minor by Felix Mendelssohn from 1824. The composer was only 15 when he wrote it, but as he already had a dozen string symphonies to his credit at that point you could hardly call it the work of a beginner. It has, in fact, a maturity that belies Mendelssohn's youth, and Mr. Halls gave it a sense of weight and majesty that I have not always heard in other interpretations.

Conducting without a score, he drew a muscular, bold sound from the orchestra from the dramatic opening right through to the dynamic final movement with its powerful sense of momentum and sophisticated double fugue. There were many wonderful moments here, such as the almost inaudibly soft string pizzicati in the final movement and the elegant woodwind chorale in the Andante second movement. The sharp contrast between the vigorous outer sections and the gentle center of the third movement Menuetto was especially striking, generating a kind of tension that called to mind the transition into the finale of the fifth symphony of Beethoven, whose final symphony appeared the same year as Mendelssohn's first.

One could take issue with some of Mr. Halls' choices, but the sheer power of the overall result spoke for itself. As SLSO conducting debuts go, this one was pretty auspicious, and I look forward to seeing more of Mr. Halls in the future.

Next at Powell Hall: Kevin McBeth conducts the St. Louis Symphony IN UNISON Chorus and soloist Oleta Adams in Lift Every Voice, a concert commemorating the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on Friday, February 23, at 7:30 pm; note that as this is being written, the concert is standing room only. On Saturday at 7 pm and Sunday at 3 pm, February 24 and 25, the SLSO presents a showing of the Alfred Hitchcock classic North by Northwest with the score performed live by the orchestra. All concerts take place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand in Grand Center.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

St. Louis theatre calendar for the week of February 19, 2018

The Performing Arts Department at Washington University presents Tracy Letts's drama August: Osage County Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm, February 23 - March 4. "A vanished father, a pill-popping mother and three sisters harboring shady little secrets. When the large Weston family unexpectedly reunites after Dad disappears, their Oklahoman family homestead explodes in a maelstrom of repressed truths and unsettling secrets. Mix in Violet, the drugged-up, scathingly acidic matriarch, and you've got a major new play that unflinchingly - and uproariously - exposes the dark side of the Midwestern family." 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.

Blackbird
Photo: Patrick Huber
St. Louis Actors' Studio presents Blackbird through February 25. "This intense work was commissioned by the Edinburgh International Festival, where it received its world premiere. After years in prison and subsequent hardships, Ray, fifty-six, has a new identity and has made a new life for himself, thinking that he cannot be found. Una, twenty-seven, has thought of nothing else; upon seeing a photo of Ray in a magazine, she has arrived unannounced at his office. Guilt, rage, and raw emotions run high as they recollect the passionate relationship they had fifteen years ago, when she was twelve and he was forty. Without any moral judgments, the play never shies away from the brutal truth of this abandoned and unconventional love. Una is looking for answers, not vengeance. Nevertheless, the consequences are shattering." Performances take place at the Gaslight Theatre, 358 North Boyle For more information, call 314-458-2978 or visit stlas.org.

The Cabaret Project and The Improv Shop present The Blue Velvet Lounge Saturday at 8 pm., February 24. "The Cabaret Project teams up with The Improv Shop to co-present their dynamic, fully improvised theater piece featuring live jazz standards - direct from the mythical Blue Velvet Lounge. Each performance features eight smart, funny improvisers who create the stories and sagas of the patrons of the Blue Velvet Lounge - on the spot. Surrounded by live jazz vocal standards, this character driven story is a different show each night it's performed. The Blue Velvet Lounge is a perfect evening out for lovers of cabaret and comedy. Food and drink available at the Improv Shop." The performance takes place at The Improv Shop, 3960 Chouteau in The Grove. For more information: thecabaretproject.org.

Bud, Not Buddy
Metro Theatre Company presents Bud, Not Buddy Fridays and Saturdays at 7 and Sundays at 2 pm through February 25. "Based on the Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Award-winning novel, this play combines actors with a 13-piece jazz band performing an original score composed by five-time, Grammy-winning jazz artist Terence Blanchard to tell the story of a boy who finds a home and a passion for music." Performances take place at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square in Grand Center. For more information: metroplays.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 The Comic Book Killer through April 14. The Lemp Mansion is at 3322 DeMenil Place. For more information: lempmansion.com.

The Humans
Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents Stephan Karam's The Humans through March 4. "Three generations of the Blake family have gathered in a dingy New York City apartment for Thanksgiving. Everyone's trying to make the best of it, but life's little indignities are piling up. With a mixture of pathos and dark humor, Karam's vivid family portrait is nothing but honest." Performances take place at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information: repstl.org.

Upstream Theater presents the St. Louis premiere of Infected Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 7 pm (except for February 25, which is at 2 pm) through February 25. "A day trader in quarantine delivers a relentless, near-manic monologue that reveals his derailment from the fast track, and the resultant downward, deadly spiral… as though he may have contracted some horrible virus from the stock market monitors themselves. This gripping piece by one of Germany's leading poet/playwrights is a relentless collage of ideas and images, where past and present collide and where one man's innermost thoughts ricochet inside his head with all the volatility of a stock market in crisis. A very timely psychological study of a man and a society infected by greed." Performances take place at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information, including show times: upstreamtheater.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.

JPEK Creativeworks presents The Meeting Friday at 8 pm, Saturday at 3 and 8 pm, and Sunday at 3 pm, February 23 - 25. "Fascinating and dramatically compelling, this eloquent play depicts the supposed meeting of two of the most important men of modern time: Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Differing in their philosophies, but alike in their mutual respect, the two men debate their varying approaches to the same grave social problems." Performances take place at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 N. Grand in Grand Center. For more information: metrotix.com.

Webster University's Conservatory of Theatre Arts presents the comedy Men on Boats Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through February 25. "In 1869, one-armed explorer John Wesley Powell and his crew of 9 men in 4 boats went down the Colorado River into the Grand Canyon, not knowing what lay ahead. This great adventure is reenacted by ten women -- the rapids, the rations, and the ride of their lives. An ingenious, hilarious, and brilliant new play, Men On Boats brings to life the true(ish) history of a 1869 expedition like you have never seen it before." Performances take place in the Studio Theatre of the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information, www.webster.edu/conservatory/season or call 314-968-7128.

Menopause the Musical
The Playhouse at Westport Plaza presents Menopause the Musical, "a celebration of women and The Change," through March 31. Four women meet while shopping for a black lace bra at a lingerie sale. After noticing unmistakable similarities among one another, the cast jokes about their woeful hot flashes, mood swings, wrinkles, weight gain and much more. The Playhouse at Westport Plaza is at 635 West Port Plaza. For more information: playhouseatwestport.com.

The International Brotherhood of Magicians, Ring 1, presents its annual Parade of Magic on Saturday, February 24, at 2 and 7 p.m. "Top professional magicians from all over the Midwest will converge on St. Louis to present TWO shows filled with fun, laughter and of course Magic! Nowhere else can you find such great entertainment for such an affordable price. Award winning magicians from the International Brotherhood of Magicians will be appearing and disappearing in a magical experience guaranteed to be unforgettable! A Great Family Event! You've seen them on TV and now you can see them Live!" Performances take place at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road. For more information: ibmring1.yapsody.com

Red Scare on Sunset
Photo: John Lamb
Stray Dog Theatre presents the comedy Red Scare on Sunset Thursdays through Saturdays through February 24. "In 1950s Hollywood, film star Mary Dale finds the Red Menace invading her Beverly Hills backyard. When she discovers her husband has been lured into the local Communist Party by way of a Method acting class and there is a left wing plot to abolish the star system, Mary wages a private war to save her husband, country, and billing over the title. The McCarthy era is turned on its head in this outlandish take on a serious subject." Performances take place at The Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee. For more information, visit straydogtheatre.org or call 314-865-1995.

YoungLiars presents The Coldhearts production of the punk-rock opera The Unrepentant Necrophile Friday and Saturday at 8 pm, February 23 and 24. "A mortician falls in love with a man as she prepares his corpse for burial. She has three days until the funeral... but three days isn't enough. "The Unrepentant Necrophile" is a three-person, minimalist musical created with drums, electric bass, and electric guitar.A blend of physical theater, music and horror, it explores sexuality, consent and gender politics through the anarchistic lens of punk rock. It premiered at the 2015 Twin Cities Horror Festival in Minneapolis. Performances take place on the 4th floor of the Centene Center for Arts and Education in Grand Center. For more information: brownpapertickets.com.

KTK Productions presents the comedy Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through February 25. "Stuck in their family home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Vanya and his adopted sister Sonia live a quiet existence until their lives are thrown into comic upheaval with the arrival of their B-list celebrity sister, Masha, and her 20-something boy toy, Spike. Add to that a soothsaying housekeeper, a star struck young neighbor and a rather odd costume party, and the stage is set for mayhem and hilarity in this present-day homage to Chekhov. Winner of the 2013 Tony Award for Best Play.” Performances take place at Southampton Presbyterian Church, 4716 Macklind. For more information: kurtainkall.org or call 314-351-8984.

St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley presents Clifford Odets's drama Waiting for Lefty Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2 pm through February 24. "Clifford Odets' ground breaking 1935 WAITING FOR LEFTY is the story of a meeting of a New York cab drivers' union on the verge of a strike. The union's corrupt leader Harry Fatt does everything he can to discourage it, and the mysterious absence of the left-leaning advocate Lefty Costello doesn't bode well for the would-be strikers. After hearing the heart-wrenching tales of four hard-working cab drivers - each story dramatized before the eyes of the audience before transitioning seamlessly back into the union meeting-Agate Keller takes the stage and demands immediate action." 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.

Alton Little Theater presents the comedy mystery Who's in Bed With the Butler? Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through February 18. "Mad-Capped hilarity with mile-a-minute dialogue and a very twisted plot ensues when a California Billionaire bequeaths all his assets to his only daughter.....but what about the Mistress? The loyal Housekeeper? or even the bumbling Detective - is he for REAL? Audiences will love sorting it all out!" Performances take place at 2450 North Henry in Alton, IL. For more information, call 618.462.6562 or visit altonlittletheater.org.

The Fabulous Fox presents The Wizard of Oz Friday at 7:30 pm, Saturday at 2 and 7:30 pm, and Sunday at 1 and 6 pm, February 23 - 25. "There truly is no place like home as the greatest family musical of all time, the wonderful WIZARD OF OZ, twists its way into St. Louis! The entire family will be captivated as they travel down the Yellow Brick Road and beyond with Dorothy, Toto and their friends the Cowardly Lion, Tin Man and Scarecrow in this lavish production, featuring breathtaking special effects, dazzling choreography and classic songs." The Fox is at 527 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: fabulousfox.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.

Friday, February 16, 2018

St. Louis classical calendar for the week of February 19, 2018

Robert Aiki Aubrey Loew
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New Music Circle presents Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe performing on modular synthesizer, electronics, voice, and video on Saturday, February 24, at 8 p.m. "Beginning with his solo electronic work in the late-nineties, Lowe's vernacular has continually evolved deeper into a world comprised of spontaneous electronic sound, droning modular synthesizer, and vocal improvisations. Lowe was a vital part of the thriving Chicago underground for some thirteen years before eventually moving to his current home in Brooklyn, where he entered a new chapter of musical creativity. Enamored with the possibilities of electronics, he began exploring the pliable workings of modular synthesizers: 'They're interchangeable, and have the potential to be ever-transforming,' he enthuses. Upon listening to his recorded works, one encounters Lowe's intuitive method of using analog modular systems to echo the organic nature of the human voice to produce subliminal, trance-like sounds." The performance takes place at Urb Arts, 2600 N. 14th Street in Old North St. Louis. For more information: newmusiccircle.org.

Kevin McBeth conducts the St. Louis Symphony IN UNISON Chorus and soloist Oleta Adams in Lift Every Voice, a concert commemorating the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The performance takes place on Friday, February 23, at 7:30 pm. "Join the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Grammy-nominated guest Oleta Adams and the IN UNISON Chorus for an evening of reflective and soulful music that has influenced not only St. Louis, but communities around the world." The concert takes place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: stlsymphony.org.

The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra presents a showing of the Alfred Hitchcock classic North by Northwest Saturday at 7 pm and Sunday at 3 pm, February 17 and 18. The orchestra will play the score live to accompany the film. The concerts take place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: stlsymphony.org.

The University City Symphony Orchestra
The University City Symphony Orchestra presents Focus on St. Louis on Sunday, February 25, at 3 p.m. "Join us as we feature and celebrate local artists Bill Hopkins (guitar), Ryan Janus (saxophone), Timothy Jansen (piano) and Robert McNichols, Jr. (bass-baritone). At 2:15pm, the soloists will join Maestro Burke for the pre-concert talk. The concert is FREE and open to the public." The performance includes the Liszt Piano Concerto No. 1 alsong with music by Kenneth Fuchs, Nkeiru Okoye, and Francisco de Paula Magdaleno, and takes place at the 560 Music Center, 560 Trinity in University City. For more information: ucso.org.

Washngton University's Danforth University Center Chamber Music Series presents a concert by violinist Wendy Toh and pianist Xi Chen on Wednesday, February 21, at 7:30 p.m. The concert includes music by Bartok, Janacek, Victoria Bond and Morton Gould, and takes place at the Goldberg Formal Lounge in the Danforth University Center on the Washington University Campus. For more information: music.wustl.edu

The Washington University Department of Music presents Revisiting the Origins of the Italian Madrigal, a lecture by Julie Cumming, Associate Professor of Music History in the Schulich School of Music at McGill University, on Friday, February 23 at 3 pm. "Julie Cumming is the author of The Motet in the Age of Du Fay (Cambridge University Press, 1999), in which she explores the transformation of the motet from 1400-1474. Cumming has published articles and reviews in Speculum (the journal of the Medieval Academy of America), the Journal of Musicology, New Grove Opera, and Early Music, as well as in numerous edited collections, including the Cambridge History of Fifteenth-Century Music. Her current work looks at fifteenth- and sixteenth-century compositional process, with emphasis on the connections between historical improvisation and composition. " The concert, which includes music by Mozart, Saint-Saëns, and Astor Piazzola, takes place in the Lee Concert Hall at the 560 Music Center at 560 Trinity in University City. For more information, music.wustl.edu or call 314-935-5566.

The Washington University Department of Music presents a Senior Recital of musical theatre songs by singer Janie Herbener on Saturday, February 24, at 3 pm. "Janie Herbener is a senior, double majoring in Traditional Mathematics and Music. When she's not in class, she spends most of her time with her musicals, movies, and soundtracks a cappella group, The Ghost Lights, of which she is the Music Director."  The concert, which includes music from Gypsy, Wonderful Town, Fun Home, and My Fair Lady, takes place in the Recital Hall at the 560 Music Center at 560 Trinity in University City. For more information, music.wustl.edu or call 314-935-5566.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of February 16, 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:

Steve Brammeier
Mariposa Artists presents Steve Brammeier in Dancing at Keukenhof on Friday, February 16, at 8 pm. "After successfully debuting his show at Don't Tell Mama in New York City this past October, Steve is bringing this popular show to St. Louis! From 1950 to 2018…From St. Louis to Amsterdam. Join Steve as he shares an autobiographical evening of songs and stories through his unique cabaret journey. Rick Jensen in pianist and music director for the show, which is directed by Lina Koutrakos.The show takes place at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 N. Grand in Grand Center. For more information: metrotix.com.

My take: I saw a preview of this show when Steve was getting it ready for its local premiere last fall. It's a warm, charming, and captivating trip, with expert guidance from cabaret legends Lina Koutrakos and Rick Jensen.


Beverly Brennan
Mariposa Artists presents Beverly Brennan in Love and Marriage on Saturday, February 17, at 8 pm. The show takes place at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 N. Grand in Grand Center. "With her new show Love and Marriage, Bev offers an inside take on long term relationships - the good, the bad and the outrageously funny. With stories, jokes and songs her show will take you on the roller coaster ride of falling in love and the consequences. Songs include hits by Patsy Cline, Billy Joel, John Lennon and James Brown as well as selections from musical theater and the great American Song Book. It's time to get real and tell it like it is about being married to the same (wonderful) guy for 46 years! Rick Jensen serves as musical director and accompanist for this show on Beverly's birthday!! Co-directed by Lina Koutrakos and Ken Haller." For more information: metrotix.com.

My take: This is the third (at least) solo outing for Ms. Brennan, a St. Louis native (and daughter of sportscasting legend Jack Buck) who grew up on The Hill. Her first, St. Louie Woman, played to sold-out houses both here and in Chicago in 2010. As she did in her Doris Day tribute show back in 2013, she has teamed up with the always-impressive Rick Jensen along with cabaret legend Lina Koutrakos and one of our city's most notable cabaret exports, Ken Haller. Fun will be had.


Red Scare on Sunset
Photo: John Lamb
Stray Dog Theatre presents the comedy Red Scare on Sunset Thursdays through Saturdays through February 24. "In 1950s Hollywood, film star Mary Dale finds the Red Menace invading her Beverly Hills backyard. When she discovers her husband has been lured into the local Communist Party by way of a Method acting class and there is a left wing plot to abolish the star system, Mary wages a private war to save her husband, country, and billing over the title. The McCarthy era is turned on its head in this outlandish take on a serious subject." Performances take place at The Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee. For more information, visit straydogtheatre.org or call 314-865-1995.

My take: Actor, female impersonator, and playwright Charles Busch's plays include outrageous classics like Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, Psycho Beach Party, and Die, Mommie, Die! as well as the more mainstream (but no less hilarious) Tale of the Allergist's Wife. "Red Scare on Sunset," writes Mark Bretz at Ladue News, "provides a bevy of laughs about a subject that was anything but funny during its infamous heyday...It’s given a vivid and vivacious treatment by artistic director Gary Bell and his hard-charging cast, including an amazing star turn by Will Bonfiglio as fair Mary."


Held Over:


Bud, Not Buddy
Metro Theatre Company presents Bud, Not Buddy Fridays and Saturdays at 7 and Sundays at 2 pm through February 25. "Based on the Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Award-winning novel, this play combines actors with a 13-piece jazz band performing an original score composed by five-time, Grammy-winning jazz artist Terence Blanchard to tell the story of a boy who finds a home and a passion for music." Performances take place at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square in Grand Center. For more information: metroplays.org.

My take: This original one-act play is a co-production with Jazz St. Louis and, according to Mark Bretz at Ladue News, it's "a sure-fire treat for theater patrons young and old as well as devotees of America's original musical art form." This is the first production on the USA since the play's premiere at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C many years ago, which makes it quite a feather in the cap of Metro. The story it tells of life under American apartheid is one of which far too many people in this country seemed determine to write out of history.


The How and the Why
Photo: Eric Woolsey
New Jewish Theater presents The How and the Why through February 11. "In Sarah Treem's smart and provocative play about science, family and survival of the fittest, evolution and emotion collide as two women of different generations struggle to come together both on a professional and on a personal level. The play explores many areas of struggle for women, especially in the field of scientific research: the fierce competition among scientists for recognition of their discoveries; the struggles in the academic world for prestigious positions and grant funding: and female attitudes about sex, relationships, men, motherhood and families." 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 great admirer of plays that can deal with complex subjects like nuclear physics (Michael Frayn's Copenhagen) or international economics (Ayad Akhtar's The Invisible Hand) in a way that's dramatically compelling and which illuminates areas of knowledge which are dark for many of us. The reviews indicate that The How and the Why does that with evolutionary biology. Tina Farmer at KDHX says the show "is riveting and filled with interesting ideas that come across as both real science and contemporarily relevant."


Menopause the Musical
The Playhouse at Westport Plaza presents Menopause the Musical, "a celebration of women and The Change," through March 31. Four women meet while shopping for a black lace bra at a lingerie sale. After noticing unmistakable similarities among one another, the cast jokes about their woeful hot flashes, mood swings, wrinkles, weight gain and much more. The Playhouse at Westport Plaza is at 635 West Port Plaza. For more information: playhouseatwestport.com.

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


Silent Sky
Photo: John Lamb
The West End Players Guild continues its 107th season with the drama Silent Sky Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM, February 9 - 18. "It is the inspiring true story of Henrietta Leavitt who, in the earliest days of the 20th century, triumphed over sexist prejudice and devastating personal hardship to reshape for all time our scientific understanding of our universe and our own place in it." There will also be a show on Thursday, February 15, 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: The significant contributions women have made to the sciences over the years (and the difficulty they have had in getting proper credit for them) have provided fodder for a fair number of books and plays recently. Silent Sky is fiction, of course, but it's based on solid history, and tells a tale that needs to be heard. This also happens to be an excellent production, with impressive technical values and brilliant performances from a top-notch cast.

Symphony Preview: Forever young

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

Mendelssohn, age 12
Painting by Carl Joseph Begas
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Youth is the theme at Powell Hall this weekend (February 17 and 18, 2018) as Matthew Halls makes his St. Louis Symphony Orchestra debut conducting Schubert's Symphony No. 3 (written when the composer was 18), Weber's Clarinet Concerto No. 1 (age 24), and Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 1 (age 15; the picture above is Mendelssohn at age 12).

All three of this weekend's composers were guys who bloomed early and died young. Schubert passed away at the age of 30, Mendelssohn at 38, and Weber was the relative Methuselah of the bunch, dying just short of 40. And yet, despite their short time on this earth, all three produced an impressive body of music. Schubert led the pack with over 1000 compositions (not bad for someone whose career lasted only 20 years), but Mendelssohn and Weber were no slackers, either.

As you might have guessed from the amount of music he wrote, Schubert composed very quickly. His "Symphony No. 3" was dashed off in the summer of 1815 (mostly between July 11th and 19th) and was probably first performed by an amateur orchestra that was meeting at the house of the violinist Otto Hatwig. Like most of Schubert's symphonies, it didn't get an official public performance until well after the composer's death.

The symphony opens with the kind of slow dramatic introduction for which Haydn was so famous, but the mood quickly turns sunny with a chirping main theme on the clarinet and remains cheerful for the next 25 minutes or so. The Allegretto second movement is lilting and graceful, the third movement is almost too boisterous to truly justify its Menuetto designation, and the finale gallops along to a rapid tarantella rhythm. If this doesn't bring a smile to your lips, you're a hopeless grouch.

Carl Maria von Weber's first clarinet concerto (he wrote two, along with a concertino for the instrument) dates from 1811 and was written for the virtuoso Heinrich Joseph Baermann, whose playing also inspired pieces by Meyerbeer, Franz Danzi, and even Mendelssohn. Unlike the Schubert symphony, the Weber concerto is dramatic and operatic, with a dark and technically challenging first movement, a second that could pass for an opera aria, and a flashy Rondo finale. It's quite a workout, and should offer a chance for the soloist, SLSO Principal Clarinet Scott Andrews, to strut his stuff.

Carl Maria von Weber
Painting by Ferdinand Schimon
Mendelssohn's 1824 C minor symphony might bear the number "one," but the reality is that he had already written over a dozen string symphonies at that early point in his life, so he was hardly a newcomer to the form. That said, there's no doubt, as the anonymous annotator for the Utah Symphony points out, that the influences of Mozart and Beethoven can be heard here. Mendelssohn's love of Bach shows up as well, most notably in the fugal passages in the final movement. Mendelssohn put his own personal melodic spin on it, though, especially in the lyrical second movement, with what John Palmer at Allmusic calls its "beautifully transparent" orchestration.

Adding to the youthful feel of this weekend's concerts is the fact that guest conductor Matthew Halls, making his SLSO debut, is no geezer himself. Although he's only in his early 40s, he has already performed with orchestras around the world.

Originally a keyboard player and early music specialist, he has since expanded his repertoire to include Mozart, Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, and even Messiaen and Michael Tippet. Reviewing his Beethoven Symphony No. 9 with the Toronto Symphony, the Toronto Star said that he "captured much of the energy and excitement that its first audience must have felt at its premiere nearly 200 years ago." It will be interesting to see if he brings that same fresh perspective to this weekend's program.

The Essentials: Matthew Halls conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and clarinet soloist Scott Andrews Saturday at 8 pm and Sunday at 3 pm, February 17 and 18. The concerts take place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand in Grand Center.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Review: The big sing

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

The St. Louis Symphony Chorus
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[Find out more about the music with my symphony preview post.]

It was a gala festival of the human voice this past weekend (February 9 - 11) at Powell Hall as Bramwell Tovey conducted the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Chorus, and Children's Chorus in two great 20th century works for chorus and orchestra--one of which is by a composer whose centenary the music world is celebrating right now.

That composer is Leonard Bernstein. Born in 1918, the famed conductor, composer, and media personality didn't produce a huge catalog of works, and not all of them have aged well. But when he was at the top of his game, he produced appealing music of tremendous power. And he was definitely at the top of his game when he wrote the opening work in last weekend's concerts, the 1965 Chichester Psalms.

Scored for "treble" voice (boy soprano/contralto or countertenor), solo quartet, choir, and orchestra, the work is quintessentially Bernstein with its yearning melodic lines, theatrical flourishes, and just enough dissonance to add spice without assaulting one's ears. It's a beautiful and moving plea for peace that feels every bit as timely now as it was over sixty years ago.

In her pre-concert remarks, SLSO Chorus director Amy Kaiser noted that the Chichester Psalms presents significant linguistic and musical challenges. The psalms are sung in Hebrew (not a language often encountered in the classical world) and the music uses unconventional time signatures like 7/4 and 10/4, which create a sense of urgency but can be difficult to sing. Her singers handled it all beautifully, though, with a seamless sonic blend and all the power a person could wish for. The brief SATB (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) quartet section towards the end was wonderfully clear, as was the lovely a cappella finale.

Amy Kaiser
Vocal soloist Devin Best's voice had an ethereal clarity in the second movement, with its setting of the well-known 23rd Psalm ("The Lord is my shepherd"), but even with amplification it was sometimes difficult to hear him.

A former student of Bernstein, Mr. Tovey conducted with an impressive feel for the theatricality of this music, and the orchestra responded with expert playing. The string sound, in particular had a wonderful richness, and there were lovely solo moments from Associate Concertmaster Heidi Harris along with cellists Melissa Brooks (the Associate Principal) and Anne Fagerburg.

It has been almost 16 years since the SLSO has tackled the Chichester Psalms, but I hope we don't have to wait that long to hear it again.

For most of the audience last weekend, I expect, big draw was the second work on the program, Carl Orff's 1936 "scenic cantata" Carmina Burana. It's a piece that has been performed many times here over the past several years, most recently in a fully staged version by the Nashville Ballet in 2015. The SLSO last did it in May, 2014 with Carlos Izcaray on the podium.

Mr. Tovey's was possibly the most unabashedly theatrical interpretation of the piece yet, and while I'm not convinced that all of his decisions were the best ones, there's no denying that this was a very exciting and entertaining Carmina Burana overall. He made smart use of dramatic pauses and wasn't shy about playing with tempos here and there. He brought out more of the bawdy humor in some of the poems than some conductors have in the past, most notably in the "In Taverna" (In the Tavern) section, and had the baritone and soprano soloists play a steamy love scene at the conclusion of "Cour D'Amours" (Court of Love).

That could have come across as artificially stagey, but the soloists made it work. Baritone James Westman and soprano Tracy Dahl clearly had great fun with their romantic scene, and Ms. Dahl handled the absurdly difficult upward glissando in "Dulcissime" with easy elegance. Mr. Westman's comically inebriated abbot in "Ego sum abbas" was a real crowd pleaser as well.

The tenor has only one number, but done properly "Olim lacut colueram"--a macabre number sung from the point of view of a roasted swan about to be eaten--is a neat little musical horror show. The melody lies at the very top of the tenor range, often forcing the singer into his falsetto, but Benjamin Butterfield sounded completely at ease with it. I'm not persuaded that playing the piece mostly for laughs, complete with avian shakes of the head and arms, really does the text justice, but Mr. Butterfield did it extraordinarily well.

The bulk of Carmina Burana, though, is carried by the chorus, which has to sing in Latin, Middle High German, and Old Provençal, and do it consistently for an entire hour. When we heard them Friday night, their articulation was crisp and clean and the sound well balanced. The Children's Chorus was in fine collective voice as well.

Next at Powell Hall: Singer/songwriter Rufus Wainwright performs with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra on Friday, February 16, at 7:30 pm. Then Matthew Halls conducts the orchestra and clarinet soloist Scott Andrews (SLSO Principal Clarinet) Saturday at 8 pm and Sunday at 3 pm, February 17 and 18. The program consists of Schubert's Symphony No. 3, Carl Maria von Weber's Clarinet Concerto No. 1, and Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 1 (written when the composer was 15). The concerts take place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand in Grand Center.

Monday, February 12, 2018

St. Louis theatre calendar for the week of February 12, 2018

Blackbird
Photo: Patrick Huber
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St. Louis Actors' Studio presents Blackbird through February 25. "This intense work was commissioned by the Edinburgh International Festival, where it received its world premiere. After years in prison and subsequent hardships, Ray, fifty-six, has a new identity and has made a new life for himself, thinking that he cannot be found. Una, twenty-seven, has thought of nothing else; upon seeing a photo of Ray in a magazine, she has arrived unannounced at his office. Guilt, rage, and raw emotions run high as they recollect the passionate relationship they had fifteen years ago, when she was twelve and he was forty. Without any moral judgments, the play never shies away from the brutal truth of this abandoned and unconventional love. Una is looking for answers, not vengeance. Nevertheless, the consequences are shattering." Performances take place at the Gaslight Theatre, 358 North Boyle For more information, call 314-458-2978 or visit stlas.org.

The Sheldon Concert Hall presents singer Brian Owens Tuesday and Wednesday, February 13 and 14, at 10 am. "Celebrate Valentine's Day with acclaimed soul singer Brian Owens as he performs timeless love songs. Owens is quickly making a name for himself locally and nationally with a recently released album featuring fellow St. Louis native Michael McDonald and concerts throughout the region." The Sheldon Concert Hall is on Washington in Grand Center. For more information: thesheldon.org.

Lindenwood University presents the drama The Cripple of Inishman Tuesday through Friday at 7:30 pm and Saturday at 2 pm, February 13 - 17. "Set on a remote island off the west coast of Ireland in 1934, The Cripple of Inishmaan is a strange comic tale in the great tradition of Irish storytelling. As word arrives on Inishmaan that the Hollywood director Robert Flaherty is coming to the neighboring island of Inishmore to film Man of Aran, the one person who wants to be in the film more than anybody is young Cripple Billy, if only to break away from the bitter tedium of his daily life." 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.

Metro Theatre Company presents Bud, Not Buddy Fridays and Saturdays at 7 and Sundays at 2 pm through February 25. "Based on the Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Award-winning novel, this play combines actors with a 13-piece jazz band performing an original score composed by five-time, Grammy-winning jazz artist Terence Blanchard to tell the story of a boy who finds a home and a passion for music." Performances take place at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square in Grand Center. For more information: metroplays.org.

Cold
Tesseract Theatre Company presents Cold by Meredith Ben Jolivet, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m. through February 18. "Facing the loss of their only child, Ellie and Jane hunt for hope. But when Jane suggests cryogenics as a way of holding back the inevitable, Ellie tailspins. Forced to make a choice under unbearable circumstances, faced with the minutiae of every day life, and taxed by the weirdness of the human brain, this couple comes together, breaks apart, and grapples with the right thing to do in a situation with no guidepost. At Ellie's lowest, a chatty and exhausted young nurse manages to provide unexpected insight, but this decision could leave this once-happy couple in the cold." Performances take place at The .ZACK, 3224 Locust in Midtown. For more information: tesseracttheatre.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 The Comic Book Killer through April 14. The Lemp Mansion is at 3322 DeMenil Place. For more information: lempmansion.com.

Mariposa Artists presents Steve Brammeier in Dancing at Keukenhof on Friday, February 16, at 8 pm. "After successfully debuting his show at Don't Tell Mama in New York City this past October, Steve is bringing this popular show to St. Louis! From 1950 to 2018…From St. Louis to Amsterdam. Join Steve as he shares an autobiographical evening of songs and stories through his unique cabaret journey. Rick Jensen in pianist and music director for the show, which is directed by Lina Koutrakos.The show takes place at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 N. Grand in Grand Center. For more information: metrotix.com.

The Monroe Actors Stage presents the drama Dark of the Moon Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. through February 18, in the Historic Capitol Theatre in downtown Waterloo, Illinois. For more information, visit www.masctheatre.org or call 618-939-7469.

Act Two Theatre presents the comedy Dearly Departed Fridays ad Saturdays at 7:30 and Sundays a 2 p.m. through February 18. "In the Baptist backwoods of the Bible Belt, the beleaguered Turpin family proves that living and dying in the South are seldom tidy and always hilarious. Despite their earnest efforts to pull themselves together for their father's funeral, the Turpin's other problems keep overshadowing the solemn occasion Amidst the chaos, the Turpins turn for comfort to their friends and neighbors, an eccentric community of misfits who just manage to pull together and help each other through their hours of need, and finally, the funeral." 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.

New Line Theatre presents Down With Love, Part 2 on Saturday, February 17, at 8 p.m. as part of the company's Off Line at the Monocle series. "They're back with even more awkward insanity and all new songs. Goofy, green-haired goddess, Marcy Ann Wiegert, and the sinfully charming, introverted exhibitionist, Luke Steingruby, open up about their strange collective experiences with strange dates, heartbreaks, and the single life. Through a program of pop and musical tunes, they explore the huge ups and downs of being in love...or something like that. VERY adult content." The performance takes place at The Monocle, 4510 Manchester in the Grove. For more information: themonoclestl.com.

The Humans
Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents Stephan Karam's The Humans through March 4. "Three generations of the Blake family have gathered in a dingy New York City apartment for Thanksgiving. Everyone's trying to make the best of it, but life's little indignities are piling up. With a mixture of pathos and dark humor, Karam's vivid family portrait is nothing but honest." Performances take place at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information: repstl.org.

Upstream Theater presents the St. Louis premiere of Infected Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 7 pm (except for February 25, which is at 2 pm) through February 25. "A day trader in quarantine delivers a relentless, near-manic monologue that reveals his derailment from the fast track, and the resultant downward, deadly spiral… as though he may have contracted some horrible virus from the stock market monitors themselves. This gripping piece by one of Germany's leading poet/playwrights is a relentless collage of ideas and images, where past and present collide and where one man's innermost thoughts ricochet inside his head with all the volatility of a stock market in crisis. A very timely psychological study of a man and a society infected by greed." Performances take place at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information, including show times: upstreamtheater.org.

Mariposa Artists presents Beverly Brennan in Love and Marriage on Saturday, February 17, at 8 pm. The show takes place at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 N. Grand in Grand Center. "With her new show Love and Marriage, Bev offers an inside take on long term relationships - the good, the bad and the outrageously funny. With stories, jokes and songs her show will take you on the roller coaster ride of falling in love and the consequences. Songs include hits by Patsy Cline, Billy Joel, John Lennon and James Brown as well as selections from musical theater and the great American Song Book. It's time to get real and tell it like it is about being married to the same (wonderful) guy for 46 years! Rick Jensen serves as musical director and accompanist for this show on Beverly's birthday!! Co-directed by Lina Koutrakos and Ken Haller." For more information: metrotix.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.

Webster University's Conservatory of Theatre Arts presents the comedy Men on Boats Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., February 14 - 25. "In 1869, one-armed explorer John Wesley Powell and his crew of 9 men in 4 boats went down the Colorado River into the Grand Canyon, not knowing what lay ahead. This great adventure is reenacted by ten women -- the rapids, the rations, and the ride of their lives. An ingenious, hilarious, and brilliant new play, Men On Boats brings to life the true(ish) history of a 1869 expedition like you have never seen it before." Performances take place in the Studio Theatre of the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information, www.webster.edu/conservatory/season or call 314-968-7128.

Menopause the Musical
The Playhouse at Westport Plaza presents Menopause the Musical, "a celebration of women and The Change," through March 31. Four women meet while shopping for a black lace bra at a lingerie sale. After noticing unmistakable similarities among one another, the cast jokes about their woeful hot flashes, mood swings, wrinkles, weight gain and much more. The Playhouse at Westport Plaza is at 635 West Port Plaza. For more information: playhouseatwestport.com.

St. Louis Community College at Meramec presents The Piddlings Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 and Sunday at 2 p.m., October February 14 - 18. "STLCC-Meramec presents The Piddlings, a new work written by Pam Garvey, Professor of English and local playwright. The Piddlings focuses on a St. Louis household and features a hodgepodge of hilarious family members as they discuss and fall prey to the pitfalls of “coming home.” When you fear your family is wacky and weird, perhaps you need to recognize the wacky and weird in yourself in order to truly come home. The process of creating this work began with table work and scene development during the summer of 2017 and continued with workshops and staged readings in the fall of 2017. Be the first to experience The Piddlings, a world premiere of a play which is sure to delight. Mature audiences only." 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.

Red Scare on Sunset
Photo: John Lamb
Stray Dog Theatre presents the comedy Red Scare on Sunset Thursdays through Saturdays through February 24. "In 1950s Hollywood, film star Mary Dale finds the Red Menace invading her Beverly Hills backyard. When she discovers her husband has been lured into the local Communist Party by way of a Method acting class and there is a left wing plot to abolish the star system, Mary wages a private war to save her husband, country, and billing over the title. The McCarthy era is turned on its head in this outlandish take on a serious subject." Performances take place at The Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee. For more information, visit straydogtheatre.org or call 314-865-1995.

Silent Sky
Photo John Lamb
The West End Players Guild continues its 107th season with the drama Silent Sky Thursday through Saturday at 8 PM and Sunday at 2 PM, February 15 - 18. "It is the inspiring true story of Henrietta Leavitt who, in the earliest days of the 20th century, triumphed over sexist prejudice and devastating personal hardship to reshape for all time our scientific understanding of our universe and our own place in it." There will also be a show on Thursday, February 15, 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.

COCA presents The Story Pirates Saturday and Sunday at 1 and 5 p.m., February 17 and 18. "The Story Pirates celebrate the words and ideas of young people, turning their original stories into wild sketch comedy musicals. Some of the best improvisers and musicians in the country, recruited from the Upright Citizens Brigade, Second City, the Groundlings, and more, bring to life the unfiltered world of kids' imaginations. When the curtain rises, cats can fly, hot dogs save the world, and characters are named things like Captain Waffles and Snufflepants." Performances take place at Washington University's 560 Music Center, 560 Trinity in University City.. For more information: cocastl.org.

Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville presents Moliere's comedy Tartuffe Wednesday through Saturday at 7 pm and Sunday at 2 pm, February 14 - 18. " The story takes place in the home of the wealthy Orgon, where Tartuffe-a fraud and a pious imposter-has insinuated himself. He succeeds magnificently in winning the respect and devotion of the head of the house, and then tries to marry Orgon's daughter and seduce his wife, and scrounge the deed to the property. He nearly gets away with it, but an emissary from King Louis XIV arrives in time to recover the property, free Monsieur Orgon, and haul Tartuffe off to jail. His duplicity is finally exposed and punished, but not before the author has mercilessly examined the evil that men can commit in the guise of religious fervor and the dangers that imperil those who would believe, only what they choose to believe despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary." 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.

Clinton County Showcase presents Things My Mother Taught Me Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m and Sundays at 2 p.m through February 18. "Olivia and Gabe are moving into their first apartment together. They've just packed up all of their belongings and driven halfway across the country, to start a new life together in Chicago. Their moving day doesn't go exactly as planned, though, and things become slightly more complicated when all of their parents show up to help! Unbeknownst to Olivia, Gabe has invited both sets of parents to surprise her. One of the moms spills the beans that Gabe is going to propose and if that's not bad enough, the U-Haul, containing ALL OF THEIR POSSESSIONS - - -INCLUDING THE ENGAGEMENT RING is stolen from the street after only one load has been brought into the apartment! Can a two bedroom apartment contain all of the love, laughs, worry and wisdom that's about to happen? This brand new comedy takes a generational look at relationships, and how sometimes parents are passing their best lessons on to their children without even meaning to. Funny and touching, this one will make you laugh out loud and fall in love all over again." Performances take place at the Avon Theater, 525 North 2nd Street Breese IL. For more information, visit ccshowcase.com.

KTK Productions presents the comedy Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., February 15 - 25. "Stuck in their family home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Vanya and his adopted sister Sonia live a quiet existence until their lives are thrown into comic upheaval with the arrival of their B-list celebrity sister, Masha, and her 20-something boy toy, Spike. Add to that a soothsaying housekeeper, a star struck young neighbor and a rather odd costume party, and the stage is set for mayhem and hilarity in this present-day homage to Chekhov. Winner of the 2013 Tony Award for Best Play.” Performances take place at Southampton Presbyterian Church, 4716 Macklind. For more information: kurtainkall.org or call 314-351-8984.

St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley presents Clifford Odets's drama Waiting for Lefty Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2 pm, February 16 - 24. "Clifford Odets' ground breaking 1935 WAITING FOR LEFTY is the story of a meeting of a New York cab drivers' union on the verge of a strike. The union's corrupt leader Harry Fatt does everything he can to discourage it, and the mysterious absence of the left-leaning advocate Lefty Costello doesn't bode well for the would-be strikers. After hearing the heart-wrenching tales of four hard-working cab drivers - each story dramatized before the eyes of the audience before transitioning seamlessly back into the union meeting-Agate Keller takes the stage and demands immediate action." 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.

Alton Little Theater presents the comedy mystery Who's in Bed With the Butler? Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through February 18. "Mad-Capped hilarity with mile-a-minute dialogue and a very twisted plot ensues when a California Billionaire bequeaths all his assets to his only daughter.....but what about the Mistress? The loyal Housekeeper? or even the bumbling Detective - is he for REAL? Audiences will love sorting it all out!" Performances take place at 2450 North Henry in Alton, IL. For more information, call 618.462.6562 or visit altonlittletheater.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.