Thursday, July 12, 2018

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

New on the list: Cabaret, operetta, and a biographical juke-box muscial.

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New This Week:

Bob Wetzel and Craig Becker
Mariposa Productions presents Bob Wetzel and Craig Becker in A Fine Bromance on Friday, July 13, at 8 pm. The show is "a musical journey through a lifelong friendship! Featuring songs by Stephen Sondheim, James Taylor, Noel Coward, Paul Simon....and more!" Lina Koutrakos directs, with musical direction by Rick Jensen. The performance takes place at The Kranzberg Center, 501 N. Grand in Grand Center. For more information: metrotix.com.

My take: Honsesty compels me to point out that Bob is a fellow member of the board of The Cabaret Project, but honesty also comples me to say that I've been very impressed by his smooth and musically sharp work at the Cabaret Project open mic nights. And you can never go wrong when cabaret legends Lina Koutrakos and Rick Jensen are your directors.


H.M.S. Pinafore
Photo by John Lamb
Union Avenue Opera presents Gilbert and Sullivan's comic operetta H.M.S. Pinafore Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm through July 14. 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: As I write in my review for KDHX, this is a jolly and entertaining production of a G&S classic that's a little bit of Savoyard heaven. It's satisfyingly silly and sung to perfection.


Jersey Boys
Photo by Philiip Hamer
The Muny presents the musical Jersey Boys opening on Monday, July 9, at 8:15 pm and running through July 16. 'The international sensation arrives at The Muny in style! Jersey Boys, winner of the 2006 Tony Award for Best Musical, is the authentic biographic story of the magic behind the music of worldwide megahit group, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Featuring over 30 chart-topping hits, including fan favorites "Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry," "Walk Like a Man" and "Can't Take My Eyes Off You," this Muny premiere is almost too good to be true, and will leave audiences saying, "Oh, What a Night!"' Performances take place on the Muny's outdoor stage in Forest Park. For more information: muny.org.

My take: I have always managed to curb my enthusiasm for Franki Valli and the Four Seasons, but there's no question that this juke-box musical gloss on the lives and careers of the group has met with considerable critical acclaim. Writing for MaxSTL, Tina Farmer says Jersey Boys "is more than a touch nostalgic, but the show doesn't feel old. The story is still relatable and nearly every song is a well-crafted piece of pop music history...the focus on the songs and storytelling creates a satisfying and surprisingly intimate evening of theater." "The Muny showcases its best and brightest presentation yet," enthuses Mark Bretz at Ladue News.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Review: "All the airs from that infernal nonsense Pinafore"

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

The cast of H.M.S. Pinafore
Photo by John Lamb
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Union Avenue Opera dropped anchor for their 24th season this past weekend with a jolly and entertaining production of Gilbert and Sullivan's "H.M.S. Pinafore" that's a little bit of Savoyard heaven.

The cast is excellent. As Sir Joseph Porter, the First Lord of the Admiralty who admits that the junior partnership in a law firm was "the only ship [he] ever had seen," baritone Steven Condy has the character's clueless pomposity and bottomless self-regard down pat, and he delivers Gilbert's lyrics with impressive clarity. Baritone Thomas Gunther shows an equally firm grasp of comic timing as Captain Corcoran, who's "hardly ever" sick at sea, and he brings an impressive, powerful voice to the role. His "Fair moon, to thee I sing" at the top of the second act was a genuine crowd pleaser.

Anthon Heinemann and Leann Schuering
Photo by John Lamb
Tenor Anthony Heinemann brings solid acting skills and an impressive vocal range to the role of Ralph Rackstraw, the sturdy sailor in love with Corcoran's daughter Josephine, although he sounded a bit underpowered compared to the rest of the cast. Soprano Leann Schuering is a real delight as Josephine, displaying a clear, attractive voice in her big second act aria, "The hours keep on apace," in which she tries to decide between true love and true money.

Mezzo Katherine Calcamuggio is an endearingly funny Little Buttercup, and baritone Jacob Lassetter shows a remarkable lower register as the despised Dick Deadeye, a role usually assigned to a bass. Mezzo Erin Haupt makes the small role of Cousin Hebe a comic gem.

As is so often the case, Union Avenue's chorus sings with an authority and clarity that belies its small size, often rendering the projected English supertitles irrelevant. Under Scott Schoonover's expert baton, the orchestra delivers a fine, robust performance of Sullivan's wonderful score, with tempi that are invariably perfect. There were a few moments when singers and orchestra were not quite in synch on opening night, but I'd expect that to work itself out with time.

Kyra Bishop Sanford's multi-level set appears to have sailed straight out of "Anything Goes," an image reinforced by the straw boaters worn by the sailors, but otherwise Teresa Doggett's bright costumes suggest we're still comfortably ensconced in the Victorian era, with horizontal striped shirts for the men and blue and white bustle skirts for the women. Sir Joseph looks appropriately ridiculous, especially in his tacky second act smoking jacket.

L-R: Thomas Gunther, Leann Schuering, Steven Condy
Photo by John Lamb
Director Eric Gibson is sometimes a little too fond of gilding the comic lily with overly busy stage business and unnecessary extra lyrics for the popular patter song "When I was a lad," but that's minor stuff. His pacing is brisk, his blocking makes dramatic sense, and the minimal choreography he has provided for a couple of the chorus numbers makes everyone look good without calling for significant terpsichorean skills.

So, yeah, Union Avenue Opera has gotten their season off to a strong start with a bit of classic Gilbert and Sullivan that's fun and funny. It's not entirely to my taste, but it's awfully well done and that, in these times of what Tom Lehrer might describe as "universal brouhaha," is more than enough.

Performances of "H.M.S Pinafore" continue through Saturday, July 14th 2018, at the Union Avenue Christian Church, at Union and Enright in the Central West End. More information is available at the company web site.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

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

New items this week include a biographical musical at the Muny, an Oscar Wilde classic at Insight, and a new cabaret show at the Kranzberg.

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Hard Road Theatre Productions presents the children's musical Annie Jr. Thursday through Sunday, July 12 - 15. Performances will be held at the Highland School Kennel , 12760 Troxler Avenue in Highland IL. For more information: www.hardroad.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.

Bob Wetzel and Craig Becker
Mariposa Productions presents Bob Wetzel and Craig Becker in A Fine Bromance on Friday, July 13, at 8 pm. The show is "a musical journey through a lifelong friendship! Featuring songs by Stephen Sondheim, James Taylor, Noel Coward, Paul Simon....and more!" Lina Koutrakos directs, with musical direction by Rick Jensen. The performance takes place at The Kranzberg Center, 501 N. Grand in Grand Center. For more information: metrotix.com.

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

The Bissell Mansion Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre presents Get "Hitched" To A Redneck Or Die through July 29. The Bissell Mansion is at 4426 Randall Place. For more information: bissellmansiontheatre.com.

Alton Little Theater presents the rock musical Hair Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2 pm, July 13 - 22. Performances take place at 2450 North Henry in Alton, IL. For more information, call 618.462.6562 or visit altonlittletheater.org.

H.M.S. Pinafore
 Photo by John Lamb
Union Avenue Opera presents Gilbert and Sullivan's comic operetta H.M.S. Pinafore Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm through July 14. 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.

Insight Theatre Company presents Oscar Wilde's comedy The Importance of Being Earnest July 12 - 22. "The Importance of Being Earnest is a Trivial Comedy for Serious People. Set in 1890s London, two friends use the same pseudonym (“Ernest”) for their on-the-sly activities. Hilarity ensues. " Performances take place at The .ZACK, 3224 Locust in Midtown. For more information, call 314-556-1293 or visit insighttheatrecompany.com.

The Muny presents the musical Jersey Boys opening on Monday, July 9, at 8:15 pm and running through July 16. 'The international sensation arrives at The Muny in style! Jersey Boys, winner of the 2006 Tony Award for Best Musical, is the authentic biographic story of the magic behind the music of worldwide megahit group, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Featuring over 30 chart-topping hits, including fan favorites “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don't Cry,” “Walk Like a Man” and “Can't Take My Eyes Off You,” this Muny premiere is almost too good to be true, and will leave audiences saying, “Oh, What a Night!”' Performances take place on the Muny's outdoor stage in Forest Park. For more information: muny.org.

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville presents a musical version of the Shakespeare comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream, adapted and directed by Chuck Harper, Department Chair of Theater and Dance, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2 pm through July 15. Performances take place in the Metcalf Theater on the campus of SIU Edwardsville, next to the Student Fitness Center. For more information: siue.edu.

St. Louis Actors' Studio presents the Neil LaBute New Theater Festival, Part 1through July 15 at the Gaslight Theatre, 358 North Boyle. The festival features professional, new and previously unproduced one-act plays 45 minutes or less in length, chosen from submissions to the festival over the previous year. The plays in Part 1 are "4th Reich" by Neil LaBute, "Shut up and Dance"by Barbara Blumenthal-Ehrlich, "Advantage God" by Norman Kline, and "Hipster Noir" by James McLindon. For more information, call 314-458-2978 or visit stlas.org.

Spotlight Productions presents Suessical the Musical Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2 pm, July 13 - 22. "Now one of the most performed shows in America, Seussical is a fantastical, magical, musical extravaganza! Tony winners, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (Lucky Stiff, My Favorite Year, Once on This Island, Ragtime), have lovingly brought to life all of our favorite Dr. Seuss characters, including Horton the Elephant, The Cat in the Hat, Gertrude McFuzz, lazy Mayzie and a little boy with a big imagination - Jojo. The colorful characters transport us from the Jungle of Nool to the Circus McGurkus to the invisible world of the Whos." Performances take place at Lafayette High School Theater in Wildwood, MO. For more information: www.prcommunityed.org/spotlightproductions

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.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

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

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The new shows this week are a Gilbert and Sullivan classic, a musical version of a Shakespeare comedy, and this year's LaBute New Play Festival.

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 Drowning Girls
Photo by Aaron Markham
Fourth Wall Down presents The Drowning Girls through July 14. 'The play gasps to life with Bessie, Alice, and Margaret (English women of the early 1900s) trying to remember their lives. Though fragmented, the tragic truth is slowly unraveled: each unassuming, lonely and on the cusp of 'spinsterhood', they're surprised to find Love, along with an avenue toward societal worth… Marriage to "a man of independent means".' Performances take place at Wild Carrot, 3901 Shaw in the Shaw Neighborhood. For more information: www.fourthwalldown.org.

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

The Bissell Mansion Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre presents Get "Hitched" To A Redneck Or Die through July 29. The Bissell Mansion is at 4426 Randall Place. For more information: bissellmansiontheatre.com.

Union Avenue Opera presents Gilbert and Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, July 6 - 14. 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.

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville presents a musical version of the Shakespeare comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream, adapted and directed by Chuck Harper, Department Chair of Theater and Dance, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2 pm, July 6 - 15. Performances take place in the Metcalf Theater on the campus of SIU Edwardsville, next to the Student Fitness Center. For more information: siue.edu.

St. Louis Actors' Studio presents the Neil LaBute New Theater Festival, Part 1 July 6 - 15 at the Gaslight Theatre, 358 North Boyle. The festival features professional, new and previously unproduced one-act plays 45 minutes or less in length, chosen from submissions to the festival over the previous year. The plays in Part 1 are "4th Reich" by Neil LaBute, "Shut up and Dance"by Barbara Blumenthal-Ehrlich, "Advantage God" by Norman Kline, and "Hipster Noir" by James McLindon. For more information, call 314-458-2978 or visit stlas.org.

Take Two Productions the musical Rock of Ages Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2 pm through July 7. "It's the tail end of the big, bad 1980s in Hollywood, and the party has been raging hard. Aqua Net, Lycra, lace and liquor flow freely at one of the Sunset Strips last legendary venues, a place where sex machine Stacee Jaxx takes the stage and scantily clad groupies line up to turn their fantasies into reality. Amidst the madness, aspiring rock star (and resident toilet cleaner) Drew longs to take the stage as the next big thing (and longs for small-town girl Sherrie, fresh off the bus from Kansas with stars in her eyes). But the rock and roll fairy-tale is about to end when German developers sweep into town with plans to turn the fabled Strip into just another capitalist strip mall. Can Drew, Sherrie, and the gang save the strip - and themselves - before it's too late? Only the music of hit bands Styx, Journey, Bon Jovi, Whitesnake and more hold the answer." Performances take place at Southampton Presbyterian Church, 4716 Macklind. For more information, visit taketwoproductions.org.

Singin' in the Rain
The Muny presents the musical Singin' in the Rain opening on Wednesday, June 27, at 8:15 p.m. and running through July 3. "A timeless Muny favorite, Singin' in the Rain has all the makings of a Tinseltown tabloid headline - the starlet, the leading man, a love affair for the ages and the unexpected transition from the silent film era to "talkies." Known for its unforgettable hit-parade of Hollywood standards, splashy production numbers, hilarious situations and snappy dialogue, this Muny production is sure to be a downpour of pure delight." Performances take place on the Muny's outdoor stage in Forest Park. For more information: muny.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.