New This Week:
My take: I'm going to recommend this one purely on the basis of the strength of the concept and of Ms. Sheperd's theatre credits. "We'll be jamming out to all styles from jazz to swing to musical theatre to rock/pop," she writes on her Facebook page. "Would love to see your faces there if you're in the area!" Could be an offer you can't refuse. And, as I have noted in the past, the Blue Strawberry is an excellent cabaret room with a good drinks list and first rate kitchen.
Winter Opera St. Louis presents Donizetti's comedy La Fille du Régiment Friday at 8 PM and Sunday at 3 PM, November 8 and 10. "Army life is all Marie, the régiment's canteen girl, knows after being abandoned as a baby and saved by the soldiers. She has fallen in love with prisoner-turned soldier Tonio, but after a chance encounter with her long-lost aunt, the Marquise of Berkenfield, Marie reluctantly leaves the régiment. Will Marie stay with the Marquise and live a life of luxury or will the regimental songs call her back to the soldier she loves?" Performances take place at The Skip Viragh Center for the Arts at Chaminade College Preparatory School, 425 S. Lindbergh. For more information, visit winteroperastl.org.
My take: Donizetti's tragic operas are so well known that it's easy to forget his comedy hits. This 1840 romp has long been a favorite of audiences and performers alike, and has been a reliable vehicle for star sopranos from Jenny Lind to Joan Sutherland. I don't think there has been a local production of this since the two excellent versions from Union Avenue Opera in 2010 and Opera Theatre in 2011, so we're due for another one. I plan to attend Sunday, but I'm happy to recommend this now based on the strength of the material and of Winter Opera's recent work.
Photo by Caroline Guffey
My take: New scripts are always welcome (as our new theatre companies), and a couple of our local critics are very taken with both the show and the production. "Madam," writes Michelle Kenyon on her blog, "takes a look at a once-prominent but now more obscure figure in St. Louis history, fashioning a story around her that proves to be a vehicle for a memorable score and strong performances. Even though some of the plot elements are predictable, it proves to be a thoroughly entertaining theatrical experience." "While the acting is solid," writes Mark Bretz at Ladue News, "what really distinguishes in this production of Madam are the standout vocal performances by the cast. The women in particular have stellar voices which beautifully shape Healy’s lyrics and successfully navigate his sometimes intricate melodies."
|Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back|
Photo courtesy of the SLSO
My take: No, it's not theatre, strictly speaking. But the combination of a film on Powel Hall's big screen and a live orchestra playing the score has a theatrical impact that's hard to beat. You will certainly hear that John Williams score in a way that can't be duplicated in a movie theatre, no matter how good their sound system might be. And speaking of sound systems, recent upgrades in the one at Powell Hall have made dialog much easier to understand. The films also include captioning these days, which is a real boon to the hard of hearing who can appreciate the music but can sometimes find dialog hard to hear over a full symphony orchestra. I have been to many of these film events over the years and they're always fun. You can buy popcorn and drink specials at the Powell Hall bars along with their usual menu of libations and snacks, so go and enjoy.
|The Thanksgiving Play|
Photo by Phil Hamer
My take: The best of intentions can be taken to silly extremes. I have seen it happen in real life, so the premise of this comedy strikes me as fairly plausible. As Ann Lemmons Pollack writes in her blog, playwright Larissa FastHorse is "really tired of how history is so often wrong, being written by the winners, and how strongly people cling to the errors despite information to the contrary. Her attempt to set things straight on the subject of Thanksgiving, rather than a this-is-what-really-happened line, is a comedy to remind us to think more about the real story of Thanksgiving, and, by inference, a lot of other things...Great fun, considerable laughter, and ninety minutes with no intermission. " "FastHorse’s satire is incisive but affectionate," writes Calvin Wilson at the Post-Dispatch, "maintaining a tone somewhere between “Doonesbury” and Dorothy Parker. And her comically flustered characters are at once quirky and recognizable."
|Circus Harmony: Legato (2018)|
My take: Circus Harmony does excellent outreach work that demonstrates how the arts can make a big difference in the community. If you've ever seen a Circus Flora show, of course, you've seen some of Circus Harmony's students at work as The St. Louis Arches, but the organization's reach and mission go far beyond that. "Circus Harmony," according to their web site, "teaches the art of life through circus education. We work to build character and expand community for youth of all ages, cultures, abilities and backgrounds. Through teaching and performance of circus skills, we help people defy gravity, soar with confidence, and leap over social barriers, all at the same time." Since their 2001 Circus Salaam Shalom, which brought Jewish and Muslim kids in St. Louis together, Circus Harmony has been advancing its philosophy of "peace through pyramids, harmony through hand springs" to "inspire individuals and connect communities."
|Two Trains Running|
Photo by Phil Hamer
My take: Critical reaction to this has been rather ecstatic. "In St. Louis," writes Calvin Wilson at the Post-Dispatch, "standing ovations have become routine and are often unmerited. But in this case, that gesture is much deserved." At KDHX, Jacob Juntunen calls it "an exquisite production of a superb script by one America's most important playwrights." And at Ladue News, Mark Bretz writes that director Ed Smith "weaves a masterpiece of a production through the expert utilization of his cast and technical staff." 'Nuff said.