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New This Week:
|A Christmas Carol|
My take: "I have always thought of Christmas time," wrote Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol, "as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys." These days such a notion is considered politically radical, which makes partaking of the Dickens classic that much more important. Go thou and enjoy.
|A Christmas Story|
Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
My take: The film on which this show is based has always been a favorite of mine, as is the autobiographical Jean Shepherd novel In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, that was the basis for the movie. The Rep last produced this fine stage adaptation back in 2009, so this revival is welcome.
My take: St. Louis's own Craig Pomranz has made a nice career for himself on the international theater and cabaret stage, but that doesn't mean he neglects the home town crowd, as his repeated visits to local stages attest. When he played the Kranzberg Center back in 2011 I wrote that he had "impressive vocal technique with an enviable head voice, easy falsetto, and solid breath control " along with the theatrical skill necessary to convincingly act a song.
|Christine Ebersole and Billy Stritch|
My take: Ms. Ebersole's musical intelligence and theatrical insight are impressive and Mr. Stritch is an entertainment powerhouse all by himself. Together, they should be brilliant. Full disclosure: I am on the board of The Cabaret Project, but my high opinion of theses performers predates my involvement with the organization by many years.
Photo by Johh Lamb
My take: At Ladue News, Mark Bretz writes that this is "a sizzling presentation of Nina Raine’s searing drama about a bruising family where impulses are acted out and thoughts of any kind are expressed with nary a concern for hurt feelings. Tribes is an extraordinary play brilliantly interpreted by director Annamaria Pileggi and her first-rate cast." At lot of theatre at this time of year is all about the holidays. Kudos to STLAS for choosing to present something more weighty.
My take: Lewis Carroll's characters have been through so many revisions and re-interpretations over the years that this new rock musical version hardly seems unusual at all. At Ladue News, Mark Bretz calls it a "festive, musical adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s beloved stories, updated with a modern message and ‘happening’ music which makes for a frolic-filled production." The cast includes KDHX theatre critic Shannon Cothran as well as the exceptionally talented Omega Jones. And as an added bonus, it has nothing to do with Christmas.
|All is Calm|
Photo by Ann K. Aurbach
My take: All is Calm has become an annual winter tradition at Mustard Seed. With a script by Peter Rothstein and musical arrangements by Erick Lichte and Timothy C. Takach, this story of the remarkable Christmas truce of 1914—a spontaneous outbreak of peace that occurred at multiple points along the trenches in France—combines splendid and often quite complex acappella singing with readings of letters from soldiers and other historical documents. At a time when opportunistic politicians are pushing an agenda of hate, fear, and eternal war, this is a play that everyone needs to see. As we used to ask back in the 1960s, "what if they gave a war and nobody came?
My take: More interested in comedy? If audience participation is your thing, consider the return engagement of this Shakespeare-themed evening of semi-improv comedy. "Shotspeare," writes Ann Lemmons Pollack, "is way not just for Shakespeare buffs. In fact, I’m sure that some Deeply Serious Shakespeare-ophiles will be Deeply Offended by it. But rowdy, indeed bawdy humor was common in Elizabethan times. Shotspeare fits right into that." And as they say in Hamilton, don't throw away your shot.