Thursday, September 13, 2018

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of September 14, 2018

New on the list: musicals at the Black Rep, the Rep, and Stages, along with political satire at Westport.

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New This Week:

Robert Dubac in The Book of Moron
The Playhouse at Westport Plaza presents The Book of Moron, opening on Thursday, September 13, and running through September 23. "Robert Dubac's newest Off-Broadway hit The Book Of Moron has been described as one of the most hilarious, intelligent and scorching satirical attacks on idiocracy since Mark Twain. Having been brainwashed by a culture that worships the Kardashians over character, delusion over truth, and selfies over self-effacement, Dubac begins his journey with a simple question: Who am I? What do I believe? What's the point? Okay, that's three questions but suffice to say, he has no answers. Just voices. Inner voices who come to life with precision and wit. One by one they pull him into a hysterical alternative universe of critical thought in search of the bigger picture. It's a head trip on a banana peel." The Playhouse at Westport Plaza is at 635 West Port Plaza. For more information:

My take: I haven't seen the local reviews on this one yet, but I'm putting it on the list on the basis of the concept alone. As I noted in a blog post several years ago, we have become so overloaded with information that we are getting very bad at distinguishing between the important and the trivial. As the recent election demonstrated, many of us also seem unable (or unwilling) to distinguish between truth and fantasy. The Denver Post described this show as "high-concept comedy that is provocative and smart; a philosophy lecture with punch lines." Sounds like a good combination to me.

Photo by Phillip Hamer
The Black Rep presents the musical Crowns through September 23. "Hats become a springboard for an exploration of black history and identity as seen through the eyes of a young black woman who has come down South to stay with her aunt after her brother is killed in Brooklyn. Hats are everywhere, in exquisite variety, and the characters use the hats to tell tales about everything from the etiquette of hats to their historical and contemporary social functions." Performances take place at the Edison Theatre on the Washington University campus. For more information:

My take: This show, as Mark Bretz notes in his review for Ladue News, is one of those rare works that both informs and entertains. "Crowns," he writes, "succeeds both in providing engaging musical and comic entertainment as well as an informative explanation of the historical meaning and value given to the hats worn by African-American women in church, one of the few places they were afforded freedom to express themselves for too much of American history". At STLToday, com, Calvin Wilson calls the production "an entertaining and often hilarious blend of coming-of-age story and concert" and notes that "director Linda Kennedy maintains a brisk pace while eliciting first-rate performances from her ensemble cast." It looks like the Black Rep's new season is off to a strong start.

Photo by Eric Woolsey
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's musical Evita through September 30. "The incandescent Eva Perón's rise from poverty to power electrified the world - and made her an iconic political celebrity. Winner of seven Tony Awards, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's tour-de-force musical revels in the glamour, charisma and controversy that defined the First Lady of Argentina. With its unforgettable anthem "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" and kaleidoscope of sights and sounds, Evita dazzles with pure passion." Performances take place on the mainstage at the Loretto-Hlton Center, 130 Edgar Road in Webster Groves, MO. For more information, call 314-968-4925 or visit

My take: Evita has certainly gone through some changes since it first appeared as a two-LP "concept album" back in 1976 (note to younger readers: the LP is a primitive sound reproduction device invented by the ancient Mayans), with a 1978 Broadway production and a 2006 London stage revision that also made its way to the Great White Way. Based on the reviews, it sounds like the Rep's version is based on that 2006 revival, which featured a re-orchestrated score and new staging that placed the emphasis heavily on dance. I liked that when I saw it at the Fox in 2013 and local critics appear to like the Rep's production quite a lot a well. "The whirlwind that was the life of Eva Peron," writes Steve Allen, "travels at break neck speed with dazzling performances, costumes and set design all sweeping across the Rep stage in the capable hands of director Rob Ruggiero." Ann Lemmons Pollack calls it "a blockbuster of a show that takes full advantage of the extra time the summer gave to crank things up." "The Rep’s powerful production,"observes Tina Farmer at KDHX, "expertly captures the energy and excitement of revolution, the sneering, snide commentary of the elite and the fiery, passionate personas of the Peróns."

Photo by Peter Wochniak, ProPhotoSTL
Stages St. Louis presents the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma! through October 7. "Oh, what a beautiful musical! Rodgers and Hammerstein's timeless first collaboration was, in many ways, their most innovative. And while OKLAHOMA! completely changed the face of American musical theatre over seventy years ago, it remains as fresh and vital today as it was then with its loving celebration of the American spirit. A stunning blend of drama, music, and dance, the exhilarating Rodgers and Hammerstein score contains such classics as "People Will Say We're In Love," "The Surrey With The Fringe On Top," "Kansas City," "I Cain't Say No," and the pulsating title tune, "Oklahoma!" A gold standard that set the bar for all great musicals that came after it, OKLAHOMA! is unforgettable entertainment for the entire family!" Performances take place in the Robert G. Reim Theatre at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road in Kirkwood. For more information:

My take: History (or at least Wikipedia) tells us that when Lorenz Hart was approached by his then-partner Richard Rodgers to work on a musical stage version of the 1931 Theatre Guild flop Green Grow the Lilacs, he declined, shrugging off the story of farmers and cowboys in turn-of-the-century Oklahoma as corny and uninteresting. He had a point there—the corn really is "as high as an elephant's eye" at times—but even so Oklahoma! was a box office smash in 1943 (a record-breaking 2,212 performances), garnered rave reviews, and has remained a favorite of audiences and critics ever since. The Stages production, which I saw last night, is broad and even borderline cartoonish in spots, but executed so flawlessly and with such precision that it's impossible not to find it vastly entertaining. Performances are top drawer and the score is, of course, irresistible.

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