Thursday, December 18, 2014

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of December 19, 2014

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:

Photo: Eric Woolsey
The Rep's Imaginary Theatre Company presents Bah! Humbug!, adapted from A Christams Carol, with book, music, and lyrics by Jack Herrick through December 23. "Mr. Scrooge throws his TV remote at ghosts while Bob Cratchit works inside the ATM in this hilarious modern update of a beloved holiday classic. Travel with the three spirits on a journey through past, present and future as old Ebenezer learns the joys of kindness and giving. Can Christmas be saved for the Cratchits? You'll find out in this musical romp that is sure to put a smile on the "Scroogiest" of faces." Performances take place at Heagney Theatre at Nerinx Hall High School, 530 East Lockwood Avenue in Webster Groves. For more information, call 314-968-4925 or visit

My take: Call this a qualified recommendation, as it mostly applies to families with with children. The Rep says the show is recommended "for all grades and family audiences," a recommendation bolstered by Tina Farmer's review for KDHX. "The entire cast," she writes, "exaggerates their reactions and emotions just enough to help little children understand the "make believe" nature of theater without patronizing them, and the script successfully weaves in subtle humor and off-topic references that keep the parents and other adults in the theater chuckling as well...The Imaginary Theatre Company hits all the right notes with a family friendly show that doesn't forget there are adults in the audience too."

Susie Wall as Dr. Ruth
New Jewish Theater presents Becoming Dr. Ruth through December 21. "There's more to famed sex therapist, Dr. Ruth Westheimer than meets the eye. Known from her career as a pioneering media sex therapist, Dr. Ruth has spoken frankly about sexual matters since her 1980 radio program. Few, however, know the incredible journey that preceded the fame. From her time as a youth fleeing from the Nazis in the Kindertransport, joining the Haganah, coming to America, marrying three times, we learn that there is much more to the 4'7" matronly therapist than meets the eye. Join her on this humourous, hope-filled journey filled with the honesty and the life affirming spirit of the girl who became "Dr. Ruth."" Performances take place in the Marvin and Harlene Wool Studio Theater at the Jewish Community Center, 2 Millstone Campus Drive in Creve Coeur. For more information: or call 314-442-3283. 

My take: While this one-woman show has not met with universal acclaim, notices have been mostly very positive. Lynn Venhaus at the Belleville News-Democrat, for example, calls it "an enchanting experience" while Tina Farmer at KDHX says it's "delightfully informative." Actress Susie Wall has been a fixture on the local theatre scene for many years and can be relied upon to deliver a solid performance.

Reality at HotCity
HotCity Theatre presents the world premiere of Reality by Lia Romeo through December 20. "What happens after the cameras stop rolling on TV's LOOKING FOR LOVE? It's amazingly funny how "happily ever after" can quickly turn into "Hell hath no fury..." Performances take place at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information, visit or call 314-289-4063.

My take: This recommendation comes with mixed emotions as it's the last production for this company. After many decades, a death and resurrection, and a merger, the company that started out life as City Players is finally calling it quits. A fixture in St. Louis theatre for decades, City Players went into hibernation for many years only to briefly emerge under new management before joining up with HotHouse Theatre to form HotCity. "At least," says Steve Allen's Stage Door blog, "we see them go out on a high note with a remarkable cast bringing in an original production." "What better way for artistic director Marty Stanberry, managing director Bess Moynihan et al to leave than with an original play cultivated in HotCity’s annual GreenHouse New Play Festival" asks Mark Bretz at Ladue News. "And a very fine one at that, a comedy with dark undertones penned by playwright Lia Romeo."

Held Over:

Mustard Seed Theatre presents the a cappella musical All is Calm Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 2 and 5 PM through December 21. "Join us in celebrating the power of peace in this acapella [sic] 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: This show is apparently going to be a holiday tradition at Mustard Seed, and with good reason. The story of the remarkable holiday truce that spontaneously interrupted the insanity of World War I remains an inspiring reminder of what happens when ordinary people ignore the manipulations of their leadership and allow their basic decency to take control of their actions. The lesson for contemporary politics is clear.

Blithe Spirit
Photo: John Lamb
St. Louis Actors' Studio presents Noel Coward's comedy Blithe Spirit through December 21 at the Gaslight Theatre, 358 North Boyle. "The smash comedy hit of the London and Broadway stages, this classic from the playwright of Private Lives offers up fussy, cantakerous novelist Charles Condomine, re-married but haunted (literally) by the ghost of his late first wife, the clever and insistent Elvira who is called up by a visiting "happy medium", one Madame Arcati. As the (worldly and un-) personalities clash, Charles' current wife Ruth is accidentally killed, "passes over", joins Elvira and the two "blithe spirits" haunt the hapless." For more information, call 314-458-2978 or visit

My take: This play is one of Coward's greatest hits, and with good reason. It's skillfully constructed, unfailingly witty, and sharply observant in its look at human foolishness. The SLAS production has gotten good notice from the majority of local critics. At the Riverfront Times, for example, Malcom Gay observes that "under Bobby Miller's skillful direction, the Actors' Studio cast ably channels the period piece's fluid charms." Steve Allen at the Stage Door St. Louis blog agrees. "All of the wit, charm and bubbling humor," he writes, 'come across from the deft and delicious cast with director Bobby Miller bringing out every nuance of this absurd yet somehow plausible scenario."

The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical
Photo: John Lamb
Stray Dog Theatre presents The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 PM through December 20. "In this sequel to the original show [the runaway hit of 2013 at Stray Dog Theatre], Betty, Lin and Pickles jingle all the way with some new neighbors in Florida's Armadillo Acres Mobile Home Park. All is calm and bright with holiday beer until the local Scrooge is stricken by a freak bout of amnesia, putting neighborly love to the test. Just as much cat-fightin', sun-worshippin', chair-throwin' as the first, but with tinsel and Keg Nog to boot!" Performances take place at The Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee. For more information, visit or call 314-865-1995.

My take: Stray Dog's Great American Trailer Park Musical was a tremendous hit with critics and audiences alike, and it looks like the holiday version is following suit. "If you're looking for a quirky Christmas show that's extremely funny and a little bit raunchy," writes Chris Gibson at, "then you owe it to yourself to see this show."

A Raisin in the Sun
Photo: Stewart Goldstein
The Black Rep presents Lorraine Hansberry's drama A Raisin in the Sun through December 21. Performances take place at the Emerson Performance Center at Harris-Stowe State University in midtown. For more information:

My take: Hansberry's classic family drama is getting a much-praised presentation at the Black Rep. Over at KDHX, Missy Heinemann describes it as "stellar." At the Riverfront Times, Malcom Gay says that the script "maintains enormous narrative power, which the Black Rep's talented cast harnesses well."

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