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New This Week:
|Robert Dubac in The Book of Moron|
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
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
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
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.