Friday, November 15, 2013

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of November 15, 2013

As always, the choices are purely my personal opinion. Take with a grain (or a shaker) of salt.

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New this week:

Peabody Opera House presents the Stephen Schwartz musical Godspell Friday through Sunday, November 15-17. “Enjoy all the good gifts of one of the most enduring shows of all time in a brand new and up-to-date, intimate, one-of-a-kind production. Raise your spirit with the Tony®-nominated score filled with the popular hits 'Day By Day,' 'Light of the World,' and 'Turn Back, O Man.'” For more information, visit or call 314-622-5420.

My take: Judging by the pictures, this Godspell has gotten a slick modern makeover.  Schwartz's wonderful score is still no doubt the same, though, and the book presents the essential lessons of Christianity without becoming preachy.

Anthony Dean Griffey as Peter Grimes
David Robertson leads The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and in a concert performance of Benjamin Britten’s opera Peter Grimes on Saturday, November 16, at 8 PM.  Vocal soloists include tenor Anthony Dean Griffey as Peter Grimes (a role he has sung often, including at the Metropolitan Opera in New York), soprano Susanna Phillips as schoolmistress Ellen Orford, bass-baritone Alan Held as Captain Balstrode, and contralto Meredith Arwady as Auntie. It’s a preview of the performance they’ll be giving of the work at Carnegie Hall on Britten’s 100th birthday on November 22nd. The performance takes place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand. For more information:

My take: Inspired by a section of the poem The Borough by clergyman and poet George Crabbe (1754-1832), the story revolves around the persecution of the title character – a sullen and socially awkward fisherman – by the denizens of a small coastal fishing village. In the poem he's a clear villain but in Montagu Slater's libretto it's ambiguous how much of Grimes's tragic end is his fault and how much the result of persecution by villagers. What's not ambiguous is that, even at the relatively young age of 31, Britten was already a master of orchestral color and mood.  As noted in my symphony preview post, this is your one and only chance to see this before the symphony takes it to New York next week.  St. Louis hasn't had a full production of the work since Opera Theatre staged it back in 1990, so this is a rare chance to see one of Britten's most highly-regarded works for the stage.

Held Over:

Mustard Seed Theatre presents the a capella musical All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM through November 24. “Join us in celebrating the power of peace in this a capella musical based on the true story of soldiers during World War I who for one night, put down their arms and played soccer instead of exchanging bullets.” Performances take place at the Fontbonne Fine Arts Theatre, 6800 Wydown Blvd. For more information, call (314) 719-8060 or visit the web site at

My take: The play is based on a remarkable true story of a spontaneous truce between Allied and German forces in No Man's Land during Christmas of 1914. In some areas it lasted only one night while elsewhere it lasted until New Year's Day. While it was in effect, soldiers laid down their arms, shared Christmas carols (as well as food and drink), buried each others' dead, and even played soccer. Playwright Peter Rothstein, artistic director of Theater Latté Da where the play was developed, wanted to tell the story in the words of the real soldiers who experienced it. "I created the drama," he relates, "primarily through found text including letters, official war documents, autobiographies, World War I poetry, grave stone inscriptions and even an old radio broadcast." In his review for 88.1 KDHX, Dennis Corcoran says "this complex piece of musical theatre comes off as a beautifully, simply performed tribute to a poignant moment in the horrors of war."

The Hawthorne Playerspresent Paul Osborn's comedy Morning's at Seven through November 17. The performances take place at the Florissant Civic Center Theatre at Parker and Waterford in Florissant, MO. For more information, call 921-5678 or visit

My take: I've always had a soft spot for this funny and touching tale of four aging sisters in a small Midwestern town in 1938 and their eccentric families—even more so since I played the role of the sarcastic David in the Stray Dog Theatre production a few years ago. Originally produced on Broadway by Joshua Logan in 1939 (with a cast that included Dorothy Gish and Jean Adair), the play got a new lease on life after a 1980 Broadway revival sparked productions all over the country, including one locally by Act Inc in 1982. This is family friendly fare in the very best sense of the term.

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