Thursday, December 11, 2014

Chuck's Theatre Choices for the weekend of December 12, 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:

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 Fox Theatre presents The Nebraska Theatre Caravan's musical adaptation of A Christmas Carol Friday through Sunday, December 12-14. "The Nebraska Theatre Caravan has been touring Charles Jones' delightful adaptation of A CHRISTMAS CAROL since 1979. The Caravan's Carol, which weaves traditional Christmas carols throughout the narrative, is probably the most widely produced production of Dickens' in the nation, annually performing for more than 100,000 people in more than 60 cities across the country." The Fox is at 527 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information,

My take: The Nebraska Theatre Caravan's version of this holiday classic has become an annual tradition at the Fox. I'm not enough of a Scrooge to suggest you shouldn't see it. "If the audience wasn't in the holiday spirit when they arrived," wrote Tina Farmer in her KDHX review of last year's visit, "I am confident the theater's sparkling lobby decorations and the sweetly reverent tone of this holiday classic quickly put them in the mood."

Photo: Michael Young
R-S Theatrics presents Courtney Baron's seriocomedy Eat Your Heart Out through December 14. " childless couple desperate to adopt become surprisingly involved in the life of their social worker and her daughter." Performances take place at The Chapel, 6238 Alexander Drive in Clayton. For more information:

My take: I've been hearing good things about this show from some of my theatrical friends, and reviews seem to bear that out. Writing for Ladue News, for example, Mark Bretz says the production is "richly rewarding, compelling and engaging food for thought and some gut-wrenching emotion, too." When I saw this play at the Humana Festival in 2012 (where it had its world premiere), I wrote that it "ultimately deals with very real issues of pain, rejection, and the difficulty of real-world love, even if it does sometimes feel more like the unfinished first act of a more substantial work." R-S continues to do the hard work of bringing new theatre to St. Louis, and deserves our support.

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."

Craig Pomranz
Midtown Artists and Topper Productions present cabaret artist Craig Pomranz in Here's to the Ladies on Saturday, December 13, at 7 p.m. "In his new show, Craig will lead you on an exploration of women's names in song, as only he can...with wit, sensitivity, and one of the dreamiest voices you'll ever hear! "Here's To The Ladies" will be presented at Cyrano's Cafe Webster Groves (603 East Lockwood), in their beautiful event room. Dinner is available before the show (in the main dining room), or during the show. If you plan to dine during the show, please arrive by 6:30, to place your order." Cyrano's is at 603 East Lockwood in Webster Groves, MO. For more information:

My take: St. Louis's own Craig Pomranz has made a nice career for himself on the international theater and cabaret stage, but that doesn't mean he neglects the home town crowd, as his repeated visits to local stages attest. When he played the Kranzberg Center back in 2011 I wrote that he had "impressive vocal technique with an enviable head voice, easy falsetto, and solid breath control " along with the theatrical skill necessary to convincingly act a song. I haven't seen the event space at Cyrano's, but I've eaten there often enough to testify to the high quality of the food and drink.

Peabody Opera House presents the Stephen Schwartz musical Pippin on Wednesday through Sunday, December 10-14. For more information, visit or call 314-622-5420.

My take: It's a pity my schedule doesn't allow me to see this one as the reviews have been glowing. It's a musical I have always enjoyed, especially after appearing as Charles in the Stray Dog production a few years back. This revival, originally created for Diane Paulus's American Repertory Theater in Chicago back in 2011, adds stage magic and circus elements to the show, with what appear to be spectacular results.

The Flying Wallendas at Powell Hall
Circus Flora and the St. Louis Symphony present A Winter Fable Friday through Sunday, December 12-14. "Set among the High Tatras Mountains in the ancient and beautiful Kingdom of the Spiis, A WINTER FABLE is a classic fairy tale with an edge of romance and deceit. Imagine a strange and wonderful world, in which the pairing of symphony and the circus arts is only the beginning of the magic you will experience. With a cast that mixes all-new Circus Flora performers with returning favorites including the gravity-defying Flying Wallendas, there's no better way to usher in winter and the Christmas season than with Circus Flora and the Symphony!" Performances take place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information:

My take: Music has always been a part of the Circus Flora experience, so the partnership with the symphony isn’t as unusual as it might seem. This is, in fact, the orchestra's fourth team-up with our much-loved local circus; the last one was "A Child's Christmas in Wales" two years ago. SLSO Resident Conductor Steven Jarvi conducts a program with a heavy Eastern European and Russian flavor. Dvorak, Bartok, Janacek, and Ippolitov-Ivanov are heavily featured. There are also some Brahms "Hungarian Dances," along with Berlioz's "Hungarian March" from "The Damnation of Faust."

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."

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 14. "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.

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