Saturday, February 16, 2019

St. Louis theatre calendar for the week of February 18, 2019

New shows this week include Angels in America at Washington U., Our Town at Lindenwood, and the monthly Singers Open Mic at Sophie's Artist Lounge.

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The Performing Arts Department at Washington University presents Angels in America, Part 1: Millennium Approaches Thursdays and Fridays at 7 pm, Saturday at 2 and 8 pm, and Sundays at 2 pm, February 22 - March 3. "Perhaps Jack Kroll in Newsweek described Millennium Approaches best: "The most ambitious American play of our time: an epic that ranges from earth to heaven; focuses on politics, sex and religion; transports us to Washington, the Kremlin, the South Bronx, Salt Lake City and Antarctica; deals with Jews, Mormons, WASPs, blacks; switches between realism and fantasy, from the tragedy of AIDS to the camp comedy of drag queens to the death or at least the absconding of God." The performances take place in the Edison Theatre on the Washington University campus. For more information, call 314-935-6543 or visit pad.artsci.wustl.edu.

Avenue Q
The Playhouse at Westport Plaza presents the musical Avenue Q running through March 3. "Part flesh, part felt and packed with heart, AVENUE Q is a laugh-out-loud musical telling the timeless story of a bright-eyed college grad named Princeton. When he arrives in the city with big dreams and a tiny bank account, he has to move into a shabby apartment all the way out on AVENUE Q. Still, the neighbors seem nice. There, he meets Kate (the girl next door), Lucy (the slut), Rod (the Republican), Trekkie (the internet entrepreneur), superintendent Gary Coleman (yes, that Gary Coleman) and other new friends! Together, they struggle to find jobs, dates, and their ever-elusive purpose in life." The Playhouse at Westport Plaza is at 635 West Port Plaza. For more information: www.playhouseatwestport.com.

The Lemp Mansion Comedy-Mystery Dinner Theater presents Bullets in the Bathtub through April 13. The Lemp Mansion is at 3322 DeMenil Place. For more information: lempmansion.com.

Webster University's Conservatory of Theatre Arts presents By the Way...Meet Vera Stark Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through February 24 "In a new comedy from the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of Ruined, Lynn Nottage draws upon the screwball films of the 1930s to take a funny and irreverent look at racial stereotypes in Hollywood. By the Way...Meet Vera Stark is a seventy-year journey through the life of Vera Stark, a headstrong African-American maid and budding actress, and her tangled relationship with her boss, a white Hollywood star desperately grasping to hold on to her career. When circumstances collide and both women land roles in the same Southern epic, the story behind the cameras leaves Vera with a surprising and controversial legacy scholars will debate for years to come " Performances take place in the Emerson Studio Theatre at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information, www.webster.edu/conservatory/season or call 314-968-7128.

CSZ St. Louis presents The ComedySportz Show on Saturday nights at 7:30 pm. The show is "action-packed, interactive and hilarious comedy played as a sport. Two teams battle it out for points and your laughs! You choose the winners the teams provide the funny!" Performances take place on the second floor of the Sugar Cubed, 917 S Main St. in St Charles, Mo. For more information: www.cszstlouis.com.

The Crucible
Photo by Dan Donovan
Stray Dog Theatre presents Arthur Miller's The Crucible Thursdays through Saturdays through February 23. There will also be a show at 2 pm on Sunday, February 17. "Lies. Betrayal. Lust. In 1690s Salem, a young girl leads a Puritanical purge of witchcraft against a local farmer and his wife. As fear and excitement grow in the town, the accusations grow more ferocious and terrifying, until no one is safe, and the truth is obscured completely. Winner of the 1953 Tony Award for Best Play." Performances take place at The Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee. For more information, visit straydogtheatre.org or call 314-865-1995.

St. Louis Actors' Studio presents Farragut North Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 3 pm through February 24. Performances take place at the Gaslight Theatre, 358 North Boyle. For more information call 314-458-2978 or visit stlas.org.

The Hundred Dresses
Metro Theatre Company presents The Hundred Dresses through February 25 " Wanda Petronski, the new girl in Room 13, is a Polish immigrant who lives in a shabby house and doesn't have any friends. Every day she wears the same faded blue dress, but tells her new class-mates that she has a hundred dresses at home. Her classmates tease Wanda about her hundred dresses until one day she disappears from school. As guilt overtakes the children, they decide to find out what happened to Wanda and to make amends. But is it too late? Bullying, friendship and forgiveness are at the center of this play adapted from the beloved Newbery Honor Book by Eleanor Estes." The performance takes place at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square in Grand Center. For more information: metroplays.org.

The Black Rep presents Milk Like Sugar opening on Wednesday, February 13, and running through March 3. "Milk Like Sugar is an astute gut-wrenching observation of the impact of racism on African American youth. We see the cyclical nature of inherited trauma, the normalization of underfunded communities, the dire need for education that nurtures latent talent, childhood hunger, the categorization of Black youth as adults, and the injustice of the criminal system. The myth of self-determination and seeing those who cannot escape their circumstance as inferior is keeping us for mobilizing and tithing whatever time and talent we might have to give into those communities. This play affirms these children need us, just as much as we need them." Performances take place at the Hotchner Studio Theatre on the Washington University campus. For more information: theblackrep.org.

The Bissell Mansion Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre presents Nursery Crimes through May 9. The Bissell Mansion is at 4426 Randall Place. For more information: bissellmansiontheatre.com.

Oslo
Photo by Peter Wochniak
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents the drama Oslo running through March 3. "Winner of the 2017 Tony Award for Best Play. In 1993, two bitter enemies shocked the world by shaking hands and agreeing to work toward peace. This breathtaking drama tells the story of the secretive and precarious negotiations that made that moment possible. By focusing on the Norwegian couple who brokered talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, Oslo finds the unlikely story behind this historic event." Performances take place at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information: repstl.org

Lindenwood University presents Thornton Wilder's Our Town Thursday through Saturday, February 21-23, at 7:30 pm. "This timeless drama of life in the mythical village of Grover's Corners, New Hampshire, has become an American classic with universal appeal. Thornton Wilder's most frequently performed play, Our Town appeared on Broadway in 1938 to wide acclaim and won the Pulitzer Prize. From the very beginning, Our Town has been produced throughout the world." Performances take place at the Scheiegger Center for the Arts on the Lindenwood campus in St. Charles, MO. For more information: www.lindenwood.edu.

The Fox Theatre presents The Rat Pack is Back Friday at 7:30 pm, Saturday at 2 and 7:30 pm, and Sunday at 1 and 6:30 pm, February 22-24. The Fox Theatre is at 527 North Grand in Grand Center. "What happens in Vegas...all started with The Rat Pack. This spirited show recreates one of the famous "Summit at the Sands" nights when the swingin', ring-a-ding group known as "The Rat Pack" was creating hipster legend with a free-wheeling, no-holds-barred nightclub act starring Vegas' four favorite sons: Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin and Joey Bishop." For more information: fabulousfox.com.

Chuck Lavazzi
The Cabaret Project presents its weekly Singers Open Mic Night on Wednesday, February 19, from 7 to 10 pm. Drop by and enjoy a night of great music from St. Louis cabaret artists, backed up by pianist and music director Carol Schmidt and hosted by 88.1 KDHX's Chuck Lavazzi. If you're planning to sing, be prepared to do one or two songs and bring music, preferably in your key. It's also recommend that you have your song memorized. The event takes place at Sophie's Artist Lounge on the second floor of the .ZACK performing arts space at 3226 Locust in Grand Center. For more information: thecabaretproject.org.

St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley presents Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire February 21-24. Performances take place in the Fisher Theatre on the campus at 3400 Pershall Road. For more information, www.stlcc.edu/fv/ or call 314-

The Q Collective presents Transluminate, a short-play festival and celebration of transgender, agender, non-binary, genderqueer, and genderfluid artists, Thursday, February 21, and Friday, February 22, at 7:00 pm, and Saturday, February 23 at 4:30 and 8:00 pm. Performances take place at The Chapel, 6238 Alexander Drive in Clayton. For more information: https://theqcollective.theater.

Looking for auditions and other artistic opportunities? Check out the St. Louis Auditions site.
For information on events beyond this week, check out the searchable database at the Regional Arts Commission's Events Calendar.
Would you like to be on the radio? KDHX, 88.1 FM needs theatre reviewers. If you're 18 years or older, knowledgeable in this area, have practical theatre experience (acting, directing, writing, technical design, etc.), have good oral and written communications skills and would like to become one of our volunteer reviewers, send an email describing your experience and interests to chuck at kdhx.org. Please include a sample review of something you've seen recently.

Friday, February 15, 2019

St. Louis classical calendar for the week of February 18, 2019

This week brings a black history month celebration to Powell Hall along with an appearance by Broadway star Sutton Foster, as well as chamber music at Washington U. and Eliot Unitarian Chapel.

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Eliot Unitarian Chapel presents a Friends of Music concert on Sunday, February 24, at 3 pm. "The program will feature Beverly Field and Toni Pearson performing the Sonata in E minor for cello and piano, Op. 38, by Johannes Brahms and The Missouri Women's Chorus directed by Scott Schoonover singing a program of motets, songs from Scotland and Ireland, and African-American spirituals." The concert takes place at Eliot Unitarian Chapel is at 100 South Argonne in Kirkwood. For more information: fomcstl.org.

St. Louis Civic Orchestra
The St. Louis Civic Orchestra performs on Sunday, February 23, at 3 pm. "The St. Louis Civic Orchestra, under the direction of Maestro Edward Dolbashian, will be paying homage to American jazz music on February 23. The orchestra will present Berstien's On the Town, and Gershwin's An American in Paris. Joining the Civic for this concert will be local musician T.J. Muller and his band. The concert takes place at Logan University, just a few minutes off of highway forty. Children 5 and under are free." The concert takes place at the Purser Center at Logan University, 1851 Schoettler Rd in Chesterfield, MO. For more information: stlco.org.

Kevin McBeth and the IN UNISON Chorus
Kevin McBeth conducts the St. Louis Symphony IN UNISON Chorus, along with soloists Jermaine Smith and Denise Thimes, in Lift Up Every Voice and Sing: A Black History Month Celebration on Friday, February 22, at 7:30 pm. "Founded by Dr. Robert J. Ray, the IN UNISON Chorus will perform Dr. Ray's composition, Gospel Mass, as part of the program this February. Celebrate this special Black History Month concert with powerful music that focuses on the interpretation and preservation of African-American and African cultures." The concert takes place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: stlsymphony.org.

Kevin McBeth conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and guest vocalist Sutton Foster on Saturday, February 23, at 7:30 pm. "Tony Award-winning actor, singer and dancer Sutton Foster will dazzle audiences as she makes her SLSO debut for a one-night-only concert experience. Experience an evening of incredible music with the Broadway triple threat as her 'big, gleaming presence floods the house.” (The New York Times)'" The concert take places at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: stlsymphony.org.

Trio Virado
The Washington University Department of Music presents the Trio Virado on Sunday, February 24, at 4 pm. "Trio Virado is a fresh collaboration consisting of AmyPorter (flute), João Luiz (guitar), and Juan-Miguel Hernandez (viola). They bring excitement to live concerts and are equally impressive in educational settings at schools and universities. In 2015 the Trio released their long-awaited debut album, “Mangabeira” which includes premieres by Paquito D'Rivera, João Luiz, Frederic Hand, and Sergio Assad." The concert takes place at the 560 Music Center, 560 Trinity in University City. For more information, music.wustl.edu.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Symphony Preview: Three faces of Sergei

This article originally appeared at 88.1 KDHX, where Chuck Lavazzi is the senior performing arts critic.

This weekend (February 15-17) St. Louis Symphony Orchestra Music Director Designate Stéphane Denève concludes his first 2019 appearance with the orchestra with an all-Prokofiev concert series that highlights the many moods of the 20th century Russian master. There will be regular season concerts on Friday and Saturday and a special abbreviated Family Series Concert Sunday afternoon.

Prokofiev in New York, 1918
Photo by Bain News Service
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The regular series concerts will open with a suite assembled by Mr. Denève from the score for Prokofiev's 1945 ballet "Cinderella." It's music that finds the composer in a playful and romantic mood--remarkable, given that it was begun in the depths of World War II and that the composer's wife had just left him.

SLSO program annotator Tim Munro says that Prokofiev "escaped into a fairy tale" by writing the score for this faithful adaptation of Perrault's classic. But Mr. Denève, in his own remarks in the program, points out that Prokofiev was "like Mozart, a man who reveals the child he continued to be. He has a sense of enchantment, a way of building music as if it were made of simple cubes." So perhaps it didn't necessarily take external stress to move him in that direction.

The score for "Cinderella" is, in any case, about as much fun as you can legally have in public. The thirteen numbers Mr. Denève has selected don't include many of the more whimsical and comic moments--although he has included "The Shawl Dance" in which Cinderella's two awful stepsisters fight absurdly over a scarf. His suite also contains some of my favorite bits, such as the romantic "Grand Waltz" in which Cinderella and the Prince fall in love, and "Midnight," in which the clock ticks away in the percussion section and each toll of the fateful midnight bell is met with increasingly ominous growls in the low brass and piano.

The "Cinderella" suite is the only thing on the Family Series concert, but the Friday and Saturday night concerts follow it up with the Piano Concerto No. 2. Unlike the "Cinderella" suite, the concerto is dark, sardonic, and aggressive. Which seems only fair, as its genesis involved both death--literal as well as musical--and resurrection.

The literal death was that of the composer's close friend, the pianist Maximilian Schmidt. As Alexander Carpenter writes at allmusic.com, "Schmidt committed suicide in 1913, and left a note to Prokofiev that read, in part, 'I am reporting the latest news to you. I have shot myself. Don't grieve overmuch. The reasons were not important.'" The musical death was that of the original score for the concerto, which was lost in a fire in Prokofiev's St. Petersburg apartment shortly after the work's premiere.

The resurrection took place in 1923, when Prokofiev completely re-wrote the concerto from memory. By then, however, his approach to composition and orchestration had changed significantly and he had written another concerto (his Third, in C major). "I have so completely rewritten the Second Concerto," he wrote to a friend "that it might be considered the Fourth."

The concerto is, in any case, a testament to Prokofiev's skill at the keyboard. It's a wildly difficult piece, with four movements in which the tempo never falls below Allegro and a stunningly challenging first movement cadenza that, at around five minutes, takes up almost as much time as the rest of the movement. "A decade ago," wrote David Nice in a review of a new recording of the concerto for BBC Music Magazine, "I'd have bet you there were only a dozen pianists in the world who could play Prokofiev's Second Piano Concerto properly. [Martha] Argerich wouldn't touch it, [Evgeny] Kissin delayed learning it, and even Prokofiev as virtuoso had got into a terrible mess trying to perform it with [Ernest] Ansermet and the BBC Symphony Orchestra in the 1930s, when it had gone out of his fingers."

I'm reminded by Balakirev's infamous "Islamey," a work so formidable that, in the end, even the composer couldn't play it. We should expect no such problems this weekend, though, as the soloist will be the justifiably celebrated Russian-born Yefim Bronfman, whose prodigious technique should be more than up to the task. He gave us a first-rate Beethoven Concerto No. 3 in 2016, for example, and a Tchaikovsky Concerto No. 1 in 2011 that practically danced across the stage.

He also recorded a pretty impressive "Islamey" back in 1998.

Teutonic knights take over Pskov in
Alexander Nevsky
Closing the concerts will be the 1939 cantata "Alexander Nevsky." Based on the score Prokofiev wrote for Sergei Eisenstein's 1938 film of the same name, the work placed the composer, who had just returned to Russia to live, at the top of the People's Composer list and therefore at the bottom of the Bourgeois Formalists Headed for a Gulag list. "When you arrive in the U.S.S.R. from abroad," Prokofiev wrote at the time, "you feel something completely different. Here, dramatic works are needed, and there is no doubt what subject they should address: the subject must be heroic and constructive (it must be creative, not destructive). This is what our era demands." (Cited in "Red Zone: Sergey Prokofiev and the Soviet Union," a Playbill article by Eddie Silva).

If you have ever seen the film, you will undoubtedly remember its vivid images of the ominous, armored Teutonic Knights, which have always struck me as evocative of Nazi Germany's massive Panzer tank divisions. Relations between Russia and Germany were, to put it mildly, strained at the time, so both the film's anti-German message and anti-clerical sentiment played well with Communist officialdom. The great thing about both the film and Prokofiev's music, though, is the way they reached beyond simple agitprop to create real art. It's a thrilling and captivating score.

The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Chorus have performed "Alexander Nevsky" numerous times, both alone and as part of a showing of the film. They even recorded it in 1979 under Leonard Slatkin (when the chorus was directed by Thomas Peck), with Claudine Carlson at the mezzo-soprano soloist. The recording is still available in SACD format and worth having in your collection.

The Essentials: Stéphane Denève conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, along with pianist Yefim Bronfman and mezzo-soprano Dolora Zajick (a change from the originally scheduled Clémentine Margaine), Friday and Saturday at 8 pm, February 15 and 16. The all-Prokofiev program consists of a suite from the ballet "Cinderella," the Piano Concerto No. 2, and the cantata "Alexander Nevsky." Mr. Denève also conducts the orchestra in the "Cinderella" suite in a Family Concert on Sunday at 3 pm, February 17. The concerts take place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand in Grand Center.

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of February 15, 2019

There's plenty of new theatre this week, from cabaret to adult drama to children's theatre. Go see a play!

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New This Week:

Farragut North
Photo by Patrick Huber
St. Louis Actors' Studio presents the political thriller Farragut North Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 3 pm through February 24. Performances take place at the Gaslight Theatre, 358 North Boyle. For more information call 314-458-2978 or visit stlas.org.

My take: Mark Bretz says this story of political intrigue on the campaign trail is "a fascinating political cautionary tale written by John Burroughs alumnus Beau Willimon, is a compelling and provocative story as told by director Wayne Salomon and his smart cast." "At a time when the absurdities of national politics are virtually unavoidable," writes Calvin Wilson at STLToday, "theatergoers might be wary of yet another reminder. But for anyone interested in how we got here, "Farragut North" offers a provocative and entertaining education." Mr. Salomon's cast includes some of our most reliable local actors.


The Hundred Dresses
Metro Theatre Company presents The Hundred Dresses through February 25 " Wanda Petronski, the new girl in Room 13, is a Polish immigrant who lives in a shabby house and doesn't have any friends. Every day she wears the same faded blue dress, but tells her new class-mates that she has a hundred dresses at home. Her classmates tease Wanda about her hundred dresses until one day she disappears from school. As guilt overtakes the children, they decide to find out what happened to Wanda and to make amends. But is it too late? Bullying, friendship and forgiveness are at the center of this play adapted from the beloved Newbery Honor Book by Eleanor Estes." The performance takes place at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square in Grand Center. For more information: metroplays.org.

My take: This 1998 stage adaptation of a 1945 Newberry Award-winning children's book deals with adult themes. "Yes, it is a children's play," writes Richard Green, [b]ut The Hundred Dresses contains all the elements, in story and characterization, of a more ambitious story." Mark Bretz at Ladue News agrees: "Metro Theater Company artistic director Julia Flood and her acting quintet do poetic justice to this sweet, affecting story by Eleanor Estes in a production tailored to children but with a message of tolerance and understanding important for all." At a time when hatred of the "other" is making a repellent comeback, this show seems very timely.

Paula Stoff Dean
The Hermann Showboat Community Theatre presents Paul Stoff Dean in an encore performance of her solo debut cabaret, Its About The Journey, on Friday and Saturday, February 15 and 16, at 8pm. "It's been several years in the making but Paula Stoff Dean is finally debuting in her first ever solo cabaret. Paula's voice has been described as one that can shake the rafters or break your heart. If you haven't heard her sing, make sure you mark this date on your calendars. She has been in various productions with several different theatre companies in the St Louis area such as Stray Dog Theatre, West End Players, Non Prophet Theatre Company, Dramatic License Productions, and most recently ComedySportz St. Louis." The show is directed by Kay Love with musical direction by Carol A Schmidt. Performances take place at the Showboat Community Theatre, 112 E. 4th St. in Herrmann, MO. For more information: showboattheatre.org.

My take: I first encountered the very talented Ms. Dean back in 2009 when we shared the stage in Stray Dog Theatre's first production of The Rocky Horror Show. I have since had opportunities to admire her work in other shows, including her remarkable Sally Bowes in Stray Dog's dark Cabaret a few years later. Reviewing the first performance of this show for KDHX in September, Steve Callahan praised Ms. Dean's "very special sexy, vivacious, comic gift." I agree.


Oslo
Photo by Peter Wochniak
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents the drama Oslo running through March 3. "Winner of the 2017 Tony Award for Best Play. In 1993, two bitter enemies shocked the world by shaking hands and agreeing to work toward peace. This breathtaking drama tells the story of the secretive and precarious negotiations that made that moment possible. By focusing on the Norwegian couple who brokered talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, Oslo finds the unlikely story behind this historic event." Performances take place at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information: repstl.org

My take: The Oslo peace accords might not seem as the most likely subject for a successful play, but then, neither would nuclear physics, and that didn't stop Michael Frayn from writing a hit with Copenhagen. In fact, as Ann Lemmons Pollack writes, "how the accord came to be is a fascinating and very human story about how individuals can make a difference in the world...It’s a fascinating play, well written and surprisingly funny." At Ladue News, Mark Bretz writes that "Steven Woof, The Rep’s Augustin artistic director, makes his final directorial effort at the helm of The Rep a smashing success with this riveting, superbly acted and beautifully modulated production."

That Uppity Theatre Company and NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri present The Vagina Monologues Saturday at 7:30 pm and Sunday at 2 pm, February 16 and 17. "The event will feature one of the largest and most diverse casts of women seen on stage in St. Louis and will include cisgender, transgender, non-binary, African American, Asian American, Latina, white, immigrant, and refugee women, spanning several decades in age. The play explores consensual and nonconsensual sexual experiences, body image, genital mutilation, direct and indirect encounters with reproduction, sex work, love, rape, menstruation, birth, orgasm, and many other topics. Performances take place at the .ZACK, 3224 Locust in Grand Center. For more information: https://www.metrotix.com/events/detail/naral-the-vagina-monologues.

My take: That Uppity Theatre Company remains our preeminent local theatre company with a conscience. And Eve Ensler's play feels more timely now than ever.

Held Over:

Avenue Q
Photo by John Flack

The Playhouse at Westport Plaza presents the musical Avenue Q running through March 3. "Part flesh, part felt and packed with heart, AVENUE Q is a laugh-out-loud musical telling the timeless story of a bright-eyed college grad named Princeton. When he arrives in the city with big dreams and a tiny bank account, he has to move into a shabby apartment all the way out on AVENUE Q. Still, the neighbors seem nice. There, he meets Kate (the girl next door), Lucy (the slut), Rod (the Republican), Trekkie (the internet entrepreneur), superintendent Gary Coleman (yes, that Gary Coleman) and other new friends! Together, they struggle to find jobs, dates, and their ever-elusive purpose in life." The Playhouse at Westport Plaza is at 635 West Port Plaza. For more information: www.playhouseatwestport.com.

My take: A smart, hip, and very funny parody of Sesame Street, Avenue Q is also an entertaining (if R-rated) story of college-educated twentysomethings--both flesh and foam rubber--coming to grips with the economic, political and sexual facts of life. The show is good, not-so-clean fun and always worth seeing. This production is "outrageously funny" (Calvin Wilson, STLToday). "A blend of national and local talent brings zest, exquisite precision and rampant enthusiasm to this delightful version of the Tony Award-winning musical melange of puppeteered optimism at its finest," writes Mark Bretz at Ladue News.


Classic Mystery Game
Photo by Joey Rumpell
Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble presents Classic Mystery Game Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 pm through February 16. "Classic Mystery Game: a parody (or a spoof, maybe a send-up, possibly a take-off). The use of parody in human culture is ritualistic, so here is SATE, once more, to perform yet another ritual. Classic Mystery Game investigates Western society in 2019 through the lens of the hilarious 1985 movie, CLUE...which in turn was investigating Western society in 1985 through the lens of McCarthyism. Perhaps by distilling our world through so many layers of comedy, as the ritual calls for, we'll discover a bit of Truth - even if it's merely a smile at the end of a funny play." Performances take place at The Chapel Venue, 6238 Alexander Drive. For more information: slightlyoff.org.

My take: Whatever else Classic Mystery Game's PR may claim, it would appear that it is ultimately a big, entertaining, and very funny show. At KDHX, Tina Farmer says its "a comic circus of sorts, paying tribute to the fun of the board game and the campy excess of the 1985 movie. If you are looking for a genuine comedy that the whole family can enjoy or just a fun night out with friends or a date, "Classic Mystery Game"...is an excellent choice." "This is a hilarious show," writes Michelle Kenyon on her blog, "with a spirit reminiscent of old-time sketch comedy shows..There's wordplay and innuendo, along with physical comedy, sight gags and more as the story continues on its rapid pace until its suitably hilarious conclusion. I won't give any more details, because that will spoil the fun. And fun, it certainly is."


The Crucible
Photo by Dan Danovan
Stray Dog Theatre presents Arthur Miller's The Crucible Thursdays through Saturdays, February 7 - 23. There will also be a show at 2 pm on Sunday, February 17. "Lies. Betrayal. Lust. In 1690s Salem, a young girl leads a Puritanical purge of witchcraft against a local farmer and his wife. As fear and excitement grow in the town, the accusations grow more ferocious and terrifying, until no one is safe, and the truth is obscured completely. Winner of the 1953 Tony Award for Best Play." Performances take place at The Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee. For more information, visit straydogtheatre.org or call 314-865-1995.

My take: In a 1989 New York Times article reflecting The Crucible, Arthur Miller wrote, "Political movements are always trying to position themselves against the unknown-vote for me and you're safe." The relevance to contemporary politics could hardly be more obvious. Inspired in part by the 20th century witch hunts of the late Senator McCarthy, the play is a searing indictment of the power of mob mentality and the moral corruption of politicians who feed on it. Today the mob is on the Internet and social media, but the intellectually disreputable process is the same. I don't think it's coincidental that the last couple of years have seen a reawakening of interest in this work. In a review for STLtoday Calvin Wilson calls this a "stunning and hauntingly memorable production." "The play's four acts clock in at a total of 3.5 hours including three intermissions," writes Jacob Juntunen at KDHX, "but the quick pacing of Gary F. Bell's direction and the solid acting and design elements make the time fly by like binge watching four episodes of an online streaming drama." And, yes, I have a small part in it.


Exit, Pursued by a Bear
Photo by John Lamb
The West End Players Guild opens its 108th season with the St. Louis premiere of the comedy Exit, Pursued by a Bear Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM, February 8 - 17. "Our twisted take on Valentine's Day is Exit, Pursued by a Bear by Lauren Gunderson, author of last season's smash hit Silent Sky. Exit is a nasty feminist revenge comedy featuring a good old boy named Kyle, his beleaguered spouse Nan and her two buddies, a sweetheart of a cross dresser named Simon and a stripper named Sweetheart. Nan has decided to teach Kyle a long-deserved lesson, and then cover him with meat and honey and feed him to a bear. Yes, it's that funny." There will also be a show on Thursday, February 14, at 8 pm. Performances take place at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 North Union at Enright in the Central West End. For more information, call 314-367-0025 or visit www.westendplayers.org.

My take: I haven't seen any of the rehearsals for this production yet, but I'm on West End's play reading committee and so I have read the script. It's a hilarious wild ride that's very different in tone from Gunderson's more well-known Silent Sky. This is definitely an adult comedy, though, so leave the little ones at home. At KDHX, Tina Farmer says it's a "laugh out loud funny and oddly relatable as it delivers a few heartfelt lessons on friendship, loyalty and finding yourself."

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Review: Passionate Mozart, Brahms, and Vaughan Williams with Denève and the SLSO

This article originally appeared at 88.1 KDHX, where Chuck Lavazzi is the senior performing arts critic.

Stéphane Denève
www.stephanedeneve.com
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In an interview last week, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra Music Director Designate Stéphane Denève observed that "nobody should ever conduct music that he or she doesn't believe in. Because music is about passion." You could hear that kind of deep emotional commitment in the program he conducted last weekend with the orchestra (February 8-10).

[Find out more about the music with my symphony preview.]

When I reviewed Mr. Denève back in 2011 I described him as a very charismatic conductor who takes an obvious joy in his work. You could see and hear that joy from the very beginning Sunday afternoon as Mr. Denève conducted a version of Mozart's "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" that positively sparkled with good cheer, beautifully shaped orchestral details, and displayed an ideal combination of lyricism and classical restraint. The symphony strings sounded wonderful--silky and luminescent.

There is plenty of joy as well in the work that concluded the concerts, the Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 72, by Brahms. Written during an escape from the hurly-burly of Vienna to the little town of Pörtschach am Wörthersee during the summer of 1877, the symphony is undoubtedly one of the most cheerfully bucolic things the composer ever wrote. "It is all rippling streams, blue sky, sunshine, and cool green shadows," observed Brahms's friend Theodore Billroth upon playing through the score for the first time. "How beautiful it must be at Portschach."

It was certainly beautiful enough on the stage at Powell Hall Sunday, as Mr. Denève's interpretation captured all of the happiness Brahms must have felt in his beloved countryside. The hushed, lyrical introduction of the Allegro non troppo first movement contrasted nicely with the high drama later in that movement. The Adagio non troppo second movement radiated warmth, and the Allegretto grazioso was filled with good humor. The Allegro bon spirito finale--surely one of the sunniest ever composed--came to a properly blazing conclusion with spectacular work by the horn section under Principal Roger Kaza, who also turned in some fine solo work during the piece.

This weekend's performances of the Brahms were recorded for future CD release, so Mr. Denève was obliged to wait for complete silence before starting each movement. At least on Sunday, he got it fairly consistently, demonstrating that we all can, when necessary, keep our coughing and shuffling to a minimum.

SLSO Chorus Director Amy Kaiser
The best part of the program for me, though, was the double dose of Vaughan Williams that closed the first half of the concert: "The Lark Ascending" and the "Serenade to Music" played attacca--one right after the other, without pause. They're both lovely works, but joined together this way they combined to produce one of the most beautiful things I've ever head at Powell Hall.

Begun in 1914 but not completed until after World War I, "The Lark Ascending" is a brief romance for violin and orchestra in which the violin takes on the role of the bird in the George Meredith poem that inspired the composition. The violin in featured prominently as well in the "Serenade to Music," a work for sixteen solo singers and orchestra that sets to music some lines from Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice" about the joy of music.

Many have seen both Meredith's poem and the work it inspired it as a metaphor for the soul's climb to heaven, expressed musically in the way the work's lovely melody floats and, in the end, slowly fades into silence as it makes its final ascent. Mr. Denève is one of them. In remarks from the stage, he said he sees the "Serenade to Music" as a logical companion to "Lark" because "I like to think souls return to us on waves of music." So the real logic for joining the two works is as much philosophical as it is musical.

The important thing is that it worked both intellectually and emotionally. The transition from the final ascent of Concertmaster David Halen's solo at the end of "Lark" to the first notes of the warm and engaging solo that opens the "Serenade" felt completely right. The ethereal beauty of the first work nicely set off the more contemplative serenity of the second. It was all incredibly moving, especially when the entire vocal ensemble sang of how the "[s]oft stillness of the night / Become the touches of sweet harmony."

Here, once again, Mr. Denève showed a real love for the music, perfectly shaping the performances and drawing flawless singing and playing from all concerned. The members of Amy Kaiser's chorus all delivered their solo lines beautifully and with great clarity. And a special shout-out is due Associate Principal Horn Thomas Jöstlein for his work here, particularly during the many duet passages with Mr. Halen, who played with his usual consummate skill.

The SLSO has been referring to this as the "engagement" season between the orchestra and Mr. Denève, who assumes the role of Music Director officially this fall. If so, it has clearly been successful, as both the audience and the musicians appear to love him. In this week before Valentine's Day, that only seems right.

Next at Powell Hall: Stéphane Denève conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, along with pianist Yefim Bronfman and mezzo-soprano Clémentine Margaine, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm, February 15 and 16. The all-Prokofiev program consists of a suite from the ballet "Cinderella," the Piano Concerto No. 2, and the cantata "Alexander Nevsky." Mr. Denève also conducts the orchestra in the "Cinderella" suite in a Family Concert on Sunday at 3 pm, February 17. The concerts take place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand in Grand Center.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

"Music is about passion": a talk with St. Louis Symphony Orchestra Music Director Designate Stéphane Denève

This article originally appeared at 88.1 KDHX, where Chuck Lavazzi is the senior performing arts critic.

Stéphane Denève
Photo by Drew Farrell
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The Music Director Designate of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Stéphane Denève, is in town through February 17 for to conduct a pair of concerts. Despite a busy rehearsal schedule, he has been doing media interviews to promote the 19/20 season (in which he will officially become the orchestra's Music Director), and I sat down to chat with him and SLSO Vice President-Artistic and Operations Erik Finley. Here's a transcript of our conversation, minus some edits for clarity.

Chuck Lavazzi (CL): We've been reading a lot about what will be new next season, but let's talk for a minute about what's not going to change. What will people find familiar next season?

Stéphane Denève (SD): That's a good question, actually. Obviously the orchestra is part of this community but every conductor shapes the sound of the orchestra instantly. That's why you have some good concerts and some less good concerts with the same orchestra.

In a way, I hope that all of my concerts will reflect on what I am and what I have achieved during my eight visits before. So I think what they can expect is to see a continuation of what I built with the orchestra--which is very good, because I'm not arriving totally new. Since 2003 I have really built a relationship with them of trust and mutual love.

The quality of the hall will be the same as well. I adore the acoustic of this hall. So that will be the same, but I hope everything else will be different.

Erik Finley (EF): I understand you're also continuing a long-standing commitment to American music, even to the point of inviting John Adams.

SD: Yes, the legacy of the orchestra is very much respected in my first season. I admire what the American conductors-Leonard Slatkin and the David Robertson-did for the orchestra. I happen to love this country and I am probably one of the most American of the French conductors because I have worked a lot in this country for many years. So we will perform a lot of American music and a lot of music of our time.

CL: Speaking of new music, what are the criteria you use in deciding what new works to present?

SD: It's a very simple and very genuine thing. I ask myself, do I love them? Because I feel that nobody should ever conduct music that he or she doesn't believe in. Because music is about passion. It's like you're a chef and you have a wonderful meal and you want people to eat it. You want them to enjoy it as much as you do yourself.

CL: Because a chef wouldn't cook something that he wouldn't eat himself.

SD: Yes, that would be very weird. And I really believe that's crucial, especially for new music. It's very important that the audience understand that the new music we will perform is music that I believe they can love. It is true that my preference is for music that is very emotional, that is often very tonal and that has a lot of melodies. I think that the Holy Grail of music is the tune, the melody.

I'm a lyrical conductor. I started my career as an opera conductor and I love lyricism and so the reason I conduct a piece of whatever repertoire, old or new, is because I believe in it.

Of course, the danger when you do a premiere is that you may love the style of the composer but every composer--it's a fact--can write a bad piece. So there is a risk taken when you do a world premiere. But when I conduct something, it's because I believe in it.

SLSO Chorus Director Amy Kaiser
CL: So it has to speak to the heart as well as the head.

SD: Yes, it's not one or the other. All the masterworks of music, for me, have this power to speak to everybody. For instance Mozart's "Magic Flute" can be enjoyed so much by kids. Every Papageno of this world, every Tamino of this world, or every Zarastro of whatever age or knowledge or spirituality you have, there is something to be inspired by in "Magic Flute." For me a masterwork is something that has that power.

So I really don't see a dichotomy of between something that will speak to your brain or your heart, it has to speak to both.

And it is something of a cliché that modern music is not accessible because it's complex. I find this to be very weird and wrong because complexity for me to be able to find two notes that give a full presence. Like the music of Shostakovich or Arvo Pärt that has no accompaniment and just a simple melody can still be, for me, extremely complex because of that. Because it's magic how much something can have a soul presence in a pure, simple form.

What is important is that I am a musician. I love music, it is my life, and so I pretend pretentiously that I can judge if your music has substance, and as long as I believe in that substance, then there's nothing simple or complex, it's just good.

CL: Yes, I think it was Duke Ellington who said there are only two kinds of music, good music and bad music. SD: There's a joke in France that there's only good music, bad music, and music by Ambroise Thomas-which is neither.

CL: One of the interesting things you're doing this season is the "symphonic play" by Didi Balle, "Maurice Ravel: A Musical Journey." Can you tell me a bit about that? You did the world premiere of that last year.

SD: Yes, we created that together. I love that writer. She's very good at this kind of "edutainment" thing-both very informative and very pedagogical in a way, but which is so much fun and has such a great sense of drama. So it's really a very good balance. And I'm really very proud of this project because it's a multimedia project with projections, actors, and soloists. So you have a journey into themes connected with Ravel's music andit's very unique as an art form. It's not a concert and it's not a play, it's something in-between. I think it will be fun to bring that here.

The audience will hear a lot of Ravel's music. There will be an actor on stage who actually looks quite a lot like Ravel. They can expect to learn a lot about the context and really enjoy it because it's full of emotion. It's all about the great mystery of the relationship between the work of a man and the man himself. It's always interesting to see the reality of the human being behind so many masterworks. Sometimes, since we play so many pieces from the past, we forget this link, which I think is fascinating.

CL: I see that you have programmed a number of ballet scores. In the past the symphony has sometimes used visuals with those. Will you be doing anything like that?

SD: No. It's very interesting, because as much as I love combining art forms I'm very doubtful about the visual and the music together. There have been some experiments in which that has been successful. But somebody I love, John Williams, told me that music can never win because the visual is so distracting and so prominent. So every time you have a visual which is very powerful the music tends to become an accompaniment. And therefore it's very hard to find the right balance to make that successful.

In the case of "Rite of Spring" I think the music is so extremely powerful I doubt that there is anything that cannot detract from the music except, of course, a live performance of the ballet. Not so long ago in Paris I saw a ballet based on (Ravel's) Concerto in G that Jerome Robbins did and I thought it was complicated because it becomes something else, it becomes ballet music and you listen less. It can give you some other type of emotions.

A lot of people say today "oh, well, you live in a visual world" and so we have to give the audience something to enhance the experience. And I don't want to appear to be a Puritan or austere, but I think the opposite. I think this is our chance to offer something different. I think that music has the power to bring us together through the sheer power of the vibration.

And it does something strange. Have you noticed, for instance, when somebody makes music well, this person becomes beautiful? I mean, you can be objectively not beautiful, nevertheless the music has the power to make you look at an artist for an hour or two and never question the look.

This is one of the many powers of great music. You know that word is an adjective, belonging to the Muses, and I think it's the super art, more inspiring than anything else just because of vibration in the air itself.

CL: Music is itself and doesn't necessarily need anything else.

SD: Unless it is designed that way, I think. But I have seen (Smetana's) "Ma Vlast" ("My Homeland") with photos, or a video DJ mixing abstract images live with music. I did an experiment in Scotland some time ago where we had projections with the music and every time I felt doubtful that this was successful musically. It was entertaining but did we serve the music more? I don't think so.

CL: I notice you have really interesting things coming up for the chorus as well: Mozart's C Minor Mass, Vaughan Williams's "Dona Nobis Pacem," and Berlioz's "Damnation of Faust." That last one is a pretty big undertaking, isn't it?

SD: Yes, it is really a genre all by itself, because it's not really an opera but at the same time it really wants you to imagine, so I would say it's almost psychedelic. It's extremely evocative and it's so powerful and it's very difficult. I feel very confident because before I was even considered by this orchestra I conducted a big masterwork for chorus here-"Daphnis and Chloe," the full ballet-and I was so impressed by the quality of the chorus and by the work of Amy Kaiser.

For me the full family of the (St. Louis Symphony) Orchestra is extremely rich. There is the orchestra, and the St. Louis Symphony Chorus, and the IN UNISON, and so many activities for the kids. It's huge. And I love vocal music. As I said before, I come from the opera world and I love to do opera in concert. That's why I feel very confident to program big works. I will do the Mahler Second.

CL: Another favorite of mine.

SD: Yes, it's fantastic. And also the Beethoven Ninth in my first season, so I'll have the opportunity to really develop a relationship with the chorus, and I love that.

EF: The cast for the Berlioz is also amazing. To do "Damnation" with you, we would only have done it if we could have found an excellent cast, and we have done that.

SD: The cast could not be better, it's amazing. The Marguerite of Isobel Leonard is fantastic. We are in for a special night. I hope people will take the opportunity to see it because it will be an event.

Stéphane Denève conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Chorus today (Sunday, February 10) and again on February 15-17. All concerts take place at Powell Hall in Grand Center.

Saturday, February 09, 2019

St. Louis theatre calendar for the week of February 11, 2019

New shows this week include a Lynn Nottage play at Webster Conservatory, an encore of Paula Stoff Dean's cabaret in Hermann, MO, local premieres at the Black Rep and the Rep, and a special presentation of Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues by That Uppity Theatre Company.

Avenue Q
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The Playhouse at Westport Plaza presents the musical Avenue Q running through March 3. "Part flesh, part felt and packed with heart, AVENUE Q is a laugh-out-loud musical telling the timeless story of a bright-eyed college grad named Princeton. When he arrives in the city with big dreams and a tiny bank account, he has to move into a shabby apartment all the way out on AVENUE Q. Still, the neighbors seem nice. There, he meets Kate (the girl next door), Lucy (the slut), Rod (the Republican), Trekkie (the internet entrepreneur), superintendent Gary Coleman (yes, that Gary Coleman) and other new friends! Together, they struggle to find jobs, dates, and their ever-elusive purpose in life." The Playhouse at Westport Plaza is at 635 West Port Plaza. For more information: www.playhouseatwestport.com.

The Lemp Mansion Comedy-Mystery Dinner Theater presents Bullets in the Bathtub through April 13. The Lemp Mansion is at 3322 DeMenil Place. For more information: lempmansion.com.

Webster University's Conservatory of Theatre Arts presents By the Way...Meet Vera Stark Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., February 13-24 "In a new comedy from the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of Ruined, Lynn Nottage draws upon the screwball films of the 1930s to take a funny and irreverent look at racial stereotypes in Hollywood. By the Way...Meet Vera Stark is a seventy-year journey through the life of Vera Stark, a headstrong African-American maid and budding actress, and her tangled relationship with her boss, a white Hollywood star desperately grasping to hold on to her career. When circumstances collide and both women land roles in the same Southern epic, the story behind the cameras leaves Vera with a surprising and controversial legacy scholars will debate for years to come " Performances take place in the Emerson Studio Theatre at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information, www.webster.edu/conservatory/season or call 314-968-7128.

Classic Mystery Game
Photo by Joey Rumpell
Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble presents Classic Mystery Game Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 pm through February 16. "Classic Mystery Game: a parody (or a spoof, maybe a send-up, possibly a take-off). The use of parody in human culture is ritualistic, so here is SATE, once more, to perform yet another ritual. Classic Mystery Game investigates Western society in 2019 through the lens of the hilarious 1985 movie, CLUE...which in turn was investigating Western society in 1985 through the lens of McCarthyism. Perhaps by distilling our world through so many layers of comedy, as the ritual calls for, we'll discover a bit of Truth - even if it's merely a smile at the end of a funny play." Performances take place at The Chapel Venue, 6238 Alexander Drive. For more information: slightlyoff.org.

CSZ St. Louis presents The ComedySportz Show on Saturday nights at 7:30 pm. The show is "action-packed, interactive and hilarious comedy played as a sport. Two teams battle it out for points and your laughs! You choose the winners the teams provide the funny!" Performances take place on the second floor of the Sugar Cubed, 917 S Main St. in St Charles, Mo. For more information: www.cszstlouis.com.

The Crucible
Photo by Dan Donovan
Stray Dog Theatre presents Arthur Miller's The Crucible Thursdays through Saturdays through February 23. There will also be a show at 2 pm on Sunday, February 17. "Lies. Betrayal. Lust. In 1690s Salem, a young girl leads a Puritanical purge of witchcraft against a local farmer and his wife. As fear and excitement grow in the town, the accusations grow more ferocious and terrifying, until no one is safe, and the truth is obscured completely. Winner of the 1953 Tony Award for Best Play." Performances take place at The Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee. For more information, visit straydogtheatre.org or call 314-865-1995.

Dennie Nast Is Back
Ten Directions and the St. Lou Fringe present Audrey Crabtree in her one-woman show Dennie Nast Is Back Fridays at 8 pm through February 15. "Oscar-winner, Emmy-winner, 2-time Tony winner, 6-time Kevin Klein Award Nominee and international performance superstar Deenie Nast delivers a no holds barred, song-filled tribute to her lonely fans. Nast heads to St Louis with a hilarious and heartbreaking exploration of relationships, loneliness, and true connections. Nast is back with a vengeance, singing the hits from her past, revealing very personal stories, and re-enforcing her legendary status to modern audiences. Songs, physical comedy, audience interaction and general 'Nast-iness" will ensue!" Performances take place in the Emerald Room at The Monocle in the Grove. For more information: www.deenienast.com.

Act Two Theatre presents the comedy Don't Dress for Dinner Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2 pm through February 17. "Bernard and Jacqueline are a not-so-happily married couple, both of whom are having extramarital affairs. As Jacqueline prepares to go out of town to visit her mother, Bernard invites his mistress and Robert, his best friend (and also Jacqueline's lover, unbeknownst to Bernard), over for the weekend. He's even hired a Cordon Bleu chef to cater the evening. Jacqueline discovers Robert is coming to town and cancels her trip, causing Bernard to panic. When Robert arrives, Bernard asks him to pretend Suzanne is Robert's mistress. Robert mistakes the chef, for Bernard's mistress, producing a highly complicated dinner of hilarious hijinks, secret trysts and slapstick comedy." Performances take place in the St. Peters Cultural Arts Centre at 1 St Peters Centre Blvd, St. Peters, MO 63376. For more information: act2theater.com.

Clayton Community Theatre presents the drama Eurydice Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through February 17. "This 'weird and wonderful' (New York Times) adaptation of the Greek myth of the musician Orpheus and his wife, Eurydice, ruminates on love, loss, and the power of memory. Unlike most re-tellings of the myth, this play is told from Eurydice's perspective. When Eurydice meets an untimely death on her wedding day, she travels to the Underworld and loses her memory in the River of Forgetfulness. She encounters her father, who has retained his memory. With his assistance, Eurydice regains her memory of the life that she once lied and rebuilds her relationship with her father. Meanwhile, Orpheus determinedly tries to make contact with his wife. He eventually makes his way to the Underworld, where he convinces the Lord of the Underworld to permit him to take Eurydice back. Torn between her love for her husband and her father, Eurydice must decide if she will stay in the Underworld with her father, or return to her life with Orpheus." Performances take place at the Washington University South Campus Theatre. For more information, call 314-721-9228 or visit placeseveryone.org.

Exit, Pursued by a Bear
Photo by John Lamb
The West End Players Guild opens its 108th season with the St. Louis premiere of the comedy Exit, Pursued by a Bear Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM through February 17. "Our twisted take on Valentine's Day is Exit, Pursued by a Bear by Lauren Gunderson, author of last season's smash hit Silent Sky. Exit is a nasty feminist revenge comedy featuring a good old boy named Kyle, his beleaguered spouse Nan and her two buddies, a sweetheart of a cross dresser named Simon and a stripper named Sweetheart. Nan has decided to teach Kyle a long-deserved lesson, and then cover him with meat and honey and feed him to a bear. Yes, it's that funny." There will also be a show on Thursday, February 14, at 8 pm. Performances take place at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 North Union at Enright in the Central West End. For more information, call 314-367-0025 or visit www.westendplayers.org.

St. Louis Actors' Studio presents Farragut North Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 3 pm through February 24. Performances take place at the Gaslight Theatre, 358 North Boyle. For more information call 314-458-2978 or visit stlas.org.

Clinton County Showcase presents the comedy First Date Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm through February 17. "Aaron is a “blind date virgin,” while Casey has been on more than her fair share. When the two are set up by a mutual friend, sparks fly-or do they? The night unfolds over the course of this couple's hilarious first date, and it's not without its share of surprises in the form of imaginary visits from Aaron's ex-girlfriend, Casey's uptight sister, the pair's protective parents and even their future son! Google background checks, awkward pauses and bailouts are all there during this unforgettable first encounter between two romantics, who just might be perfect for each other. Or not. " Performances take place at the Avon Theater, 525 North 2nd Street Breese IL. For more information, visit ccshowcase.com.

The Hundred Dresses
Metro Theatre Company presents The Hundred Dresses through February 25 " Wanda Petronski, the new girl in Room 13, is a Polish immigrant who lives in a shabby house and doesn't have any friends. Every day she wears the same faded blue dress, but tells her new class-mates that she has a hundred dresses at home. Her classmates tease Wanda about her hundred dresses until one day she disappears from school. As guilt overtakes the children, they decide to find out what happened to Wanda and to make amends. But is it too late? Bullying, friendship and forgiveness are at the center of this play adapted from the beloved Newbery Honor Book by Eleanor Estes." The performance takes place at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square in Grand Center. For more information: metroplays.org.

Paula Stoff Dean
The Hermann Showboat Community Theatre presents Paul Stoff Dean in an encore performance of her solo debut cabaret, Its About The Journey, on Friday and Saturday, February 15 and 16, at 8pm. "It's been several years in the making but Paula Stoff Dean is finally debuting in her first ever solo cabaret. Paula's voice has been described as one that can shake the rafters or break your heart. If you haven't heard her sing, make sure you mark this date on your calendars. She has been in various productions with several different theatre companies in the St Louis area such as Stray Dog Theatre, West End Players, Non Prophet Theatre Company, Dramatic License Productions, and most recently ComedySportz St. Louis." The show is directed by Kay Love with musical direction by Carol A Schmidt. Performances take place at the Showboat Community Theatre, 112 E. 4th St. in Herrmann, MO. For more information: showboattheatre.org.

The Monroe Actors Stage presents the musical Little Shop of Horrors Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 and Sundays at 2:30 pm through February 17. Performances take place in the Historic Capitol Theatre in downtown Waterloo, Illinois. For more information, visit www.masctheatre.org or call 618-939-7469.

The Black Rep presents Milk Like Sugar opening on Wednesday, February 13, and running through March 3. "Milk Like Sugar is an astute gut-wrenching observation of the impact of racism on African American youth. We see the cyclical nature of inherited trauma, the normalization of underfunded communities, the dire need for education that nurtures latent talent, childhood hunger, the categorization of Black youth as adults, and the injustice of the criminal system. The myth of self-determination and seeing those who cannot escape their circumstance as inferior is keeping us for mobilizing and tithing whatever time and talent we might have to give into those communities. This play affirms these children need us, just as much as we need them.” Performances take place at the Hotchner Studio Theatre on the Washington University campus. For more information: theblackrep.org.

The Bissell Mansion Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre presents Nursery Crimes through May 9. The Bissell Mansion is at 4426 Randall Place. For more information: bissellmansiontheatre.com.

Oslo
Photo by Peter Wochniak
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents the drama Oslo running through March 3. "Winner of the 2017 Tony Award for Best Play. In 1993, two bitter enemies shocked the world by shaking hands and agreeing to work toward peace. This breathtaking drama tells the story of the secretive and precarious negotiations that made that moment possible. By focusing on the Norwegian couple who brokered talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, Oslo finds the unlikely story behind this historic event." Performances take place at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information: repstl.org

The Kirkwood Theatre Guild presents Recipes for Ice, their monthly improv show, on Friday, February 15, at 8 and 10:30 pm at The Steamboat Room, 314 S. Clay in Kirkwood, MO. "Join Adam and his crew for an interactive night of fun and laughter. Beer, wine and food available from Kirkwood Station Brewery." For more information: ktg-onstage.org.

That Uppity Theatre Company and NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri present The Vagina Monologues Saturday at 7:30 pm and Sunday at 2 pm, February 16 and 17. "The event will feature one of the largest and most diverse casts of women seen on stage in St. Louis and will include cisgender, transgender, non-binary, African American, Asian American, Latina, white, immigrant, and refugee women, spanning several decades in age. The play explores consensual and nonconsensual sexual experiences, body image, genital mutilation, direct and indirect encounters with reproduction, sex work, love, rape, menstruation, birth, orgasm, and many other topics. Performances take place at the .ZACK, 3224 Locust in Grand Center. For more information: https://www.metrotix.com/events/detail/naral-the-vagina-monologues.

St. Louis Community College at Meramec presents the one acts The Zoo Story and Black Comedy Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 and Sunday at 2 pm, February 13-17. Performances take place in the theatre on the campus at 11333 Big Bend Road. For more information, stlcc.edu/MC or call 314-984-7500.

Looking for auditions and other artistic opportunities? Check out the St. Louis Auditions site.
For information on events beyond this week, check out the searchable database at the Regional Arts Commission's Events Calendar.
Would you like to be on the radio? KDHX, 88.1 FM needs theatre reviewers. If you're 18 years or older, knowledgeable in this area, have practical theatre experience (acting, directing, writing, technical design, etc.), have good oral and written communications skills and would like to become one of our volunteer reviewers, send an email describing your experience and interests to chuck at kdhx.org. Please include a sample review of something you've seen recently.

Friday, February 08, 2019

St. Louis classical calendar for the week of February 11, 2019

The Chamber Music Society of St. Louis
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The Chamber Music Society of St. Louis presents its Endless Lovefest on Monday and Tuesday, February 11 and 12, at 7:30 pm. The all-Mozart concert includes music by Beethoven, Schumann, and Poulenc and takes place at the Sheldon Concert Hall, 3648 Washington in Grand Center. For more information: chambermusicstl.org.

The St. Louis Chamber Chorus presents Love, a concert of music written by and for friends, on Sunday, February 17, at 3 pm. "While two works rue the challenges of finding a husband, one from 17th century England (Vautor) and another from 20th century Hungary (Béla Bartók), other pieces explore betrothals-a hymn to Juno, goddess of marriage, by the Renaissance master, Orlandus Lassus, and a series of ballads by a towering figure of German Romanticism, Robert Schumann." The concert takes place at Ladue Chapel Presbyterian Church, 9450 Clayton Rd. For more information: www.chamberchorus.org.

Yefim Bronfman
Photo by Dario Acosts
Stéphane Denève conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, along with pianist Yefim Bronfman and mezzo-soprano Clémentine Margaine, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm, February 15 and 16. The all-Prokofiev program consists of a suite from the ballet Cinderella, the Piano Concerto No. 2, and the cantata Alexander Nevsky. The concerts take place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: stlsymphony.org.

Stéphane Denève conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra Sunday, February 17, at 3 pm. The special Family Concert features a suite from Prokofiev's ballet Cinderella. The concert takes place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: stlsymphony.org.

Eighth Blackbird
The Washington University Department of Music presents the contemporary classical ensemble Eighth Blackbird on Friday, February 15, at 7:30 p.m. The concert takes place at the 560 Music Center, 560 Trinity in University City. For more information, music.wustl.edu.