Thursday, October 10, 2019

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of October 11, 2019

New this week: a revival of a regional premiere at New Line.

New This Week:
Photo by Jill Ritter Lindberg
New Line Theatre presents the musical Cry-Baby Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 pm through October 19. "It's 1954. Everyone likes Ike, nobody likes communism, and Wade 'Cry-Baby' Walker is the coolest boy in Baltimore. He's a bad boy with a good cause -- truth, justice, and the pursuit of rock and roll." Performances take place at the Marcelle Theater, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive, three blocks east of Grand, in Grand Center. For more information, visit or call 314-534-1111.

My take: Critical opinion seems to be pretty much unanimously positive on this one. Judy Newmark calls it "keen-witted...a youthful cast that sparkles with energy as they sing and dance their way through one hilarious song after another." At Ladue News, Mark Bretz says it's a "bright, energized rock musical, which dabbles creatively in several genres, including rockabilly, barbershop quartets and old-fashioned rock ‘n' roll." And over at KDHX, Tina Farmer writes that Cry-Baby "bristles with energy and hormonal frenzy that's played for laughs, but delivers plenty of commentary on everything from classism to our definition of beauty." I could go on, but you get the idea. New Line originally did this show back in 2012. Mark Bretz points out that this revival, by New Line's artistic director Scott Miller "was approved by the show's creators with a reduced cast and fresh orchestrations by original orchestrator Chris Jahnke." Sounds like a bit of a coup for New Line.

Held Over:

The Agitators
Photo by ProPhotoSTL
Upstream Theater presents The Agitators running through October 13. "Upstream Theater is excited to present Mat Smart's compelling play The Agitators, which takes us straight into the thunder and lightning of the 45-year friendship between Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony. After meeting in Rochester in the 1840's, these two social activists became great allies and, at times, great adversaries. They agitated the nation, they agitated (and sometimes aggravated) each other and, in so doing they helped change the Constitution and the course of American history." Performances take place at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information, including show times:

My take: This is a somewhat qualified recommendation, based mostly on the rave reviews about the work of the two actors in the show, J. Samuel Douglas and Erin Kelley. In her KDHX review, for example, Tina Farmer writes that "J. Samuel Davis returns to the Upstream stage in the role of Frederick Douglass. Once again he gives a superb performance...Erin Kelley does fine work in her portrayal of Susan B. Anthony, convincing us of this woman's utter, tireless commitment to the cause." But she goes on to note tha the script is "rather weak" and that the characters themselves are a bit one-dimensional. At Limelight, Andrea Braun strikes a similar note, observing that "much of the play seems rather like a lecture" but adds "if there are better actors than Kelley and Davis to play these parts, I don't know who they are." All the other aspects of the production have gotten plenty of praise as well and the play tells a story that is probably not well known, so (to quote The Bard), "'tis enough, 'twill suffice."

Hello, Dolly!
The Fabulous Fox Theatre presents the musical Hello Dolly! running through October 13. "Winner of four Tony® Awards including Best Musical Revival, HELLO, DOLLY! is the universally acclaimed smash that NPR calls "the best show of the year!" and the Los Angeles Times says "distills the mood-elevating properties of the American musical at its giddy best." Director Jerry Zaks' "gorgeous" new production (Vogue) is "making people crazy happy!" (The Washington Post). After breaking box office records week after week and receiving unanimous raves on Broadway, this HELLO, DOLLY! is now touring America, paying tribute to the original work of legendary director/choreographer Gower Champion - hailed both then and now as one of the greatest stagings in musical theater history." The Fabulous Fox Theatre in on N. Grand in Grand Center. For more information:

My take: How can anyone not like this show? The original Hello, Dolly opened on Broadway in January of 1964 after some rocky out-of-town previews and several revisions. It ran for 2,844 performances, considerably raising the bar for the definition of "blockbuster." It's not hard to see why. Herman's score is one of his best (not that he every wrote a bad song anyway) and the book retains all the humanitarian humor of the Thornton Wilder play on which it's based. Go and enjoy.

Valhalla Cemetery and The Hawthorne Players present Voices Of Valhalla: A Hayride Through History through October 12. Hayrides through Valhalla Cemetery depart every fifteen minutes beginning at 6:30 each evening as members of the Hawthorne Players portray some of the noted locals buried in Valhalla. Valhalla Cemetery is located at 7600 St. Charles Rock Road. For more information, visit

My take: I had a chance to both see and appear in this annual event in 2014 and again in 2016, and I must say that I was impressed by the professionalism of both the script (assembled by director Larry Marsh from historical sources) and the quality of the performances. Here's how it works: you pile on a hay wagon and are driven through historic Valhalla Cemetery. At various points during the ride, the wagon stops and an actor portraying a historical figure buried at Valhalla steps out of the darkness and delivers a monologue on his or her life. They can be comic, tragic, or a combination of the two, but they're always well researched and informative.

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