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New This Week:
|Jeffrey M. Wright|
My take: Jeff, as I have noted in the past, has classic “leading man” charisma, an equally classic crooner’s voice and substantial musical theatre credentials. We have appeared on stage together and he's a regular at the Cabaret Project open mic night, which I host, so I have some first-hand knowledge here. Expect solid entertainment.
Photo: Eric Woolsey
My take: Sometimes a play's film adaptation will completely eclipse the original—just ask Murray Burnett and Joan Alison, whose 1940 drama Everybody Comes to Rick's would achieve fame as Casablanca. In the case of the 1938 thriller Angel Street, the 1944 film adaptation Gaslight (as the play was originally name in Britain) has become so familiar that the Rep adding it to the title. In any case, the original seems to have retained its suspense, despite the fact that pretty much everybody on the planet now knows the plot twists. "This is expertly crafted entertainment that will surely get you in the mood for the Halloween season," writes Chris Gibson at Broadwayworld.com, "and I highly recommend it!" At KDHX, Sarah Richardson says it's "an enjoyable, diverting show with a delightful cast and fantastic design."
My take: Mr. Christopher has made a name for himself locally with his Rat Pack tribute shows, so this looks right up his alley. I agree that Deano was probably the coolest of the original pack.
My take: Yes, I have worked on stage with Mr. Haller in the past and we've known each other personally for several years now, but that doesn't change the fact that he's an immensely talented gent with impressive credentials in both the theatrical and cabaret worlds. I described his last show "The TV Show," as "a tremendously entertaining and often extremely funny romp through TV land" in my review for KDHX back in 2012, and having seen this one last year I can say without reservation that it's definitely in the same league. But don't just take my word for it. "Haller is a charming and talented performer with a voice as smooth as a brandy Alexander," wrote Robert Mitchell in a KDHX review of Mr. Haller's "Song by Song by Sondheim" show back in 2011.
My take: OK, here I go quoting myself again. As I wrote in my KDHX review of Ms. Kirk's The Story Goes On this past spring, she is a tremendously talented and charismatic performer—a classic singing actress with solid vocal technique and the acting chops necessary to inhabit a lyric. The Emerald Room at The Monocle (the former Meyer's Grove, with the bar all spruced up and looking very Parisian Art Deco) is small, seating around fifty, which makes it a good size for the intimacy of cabaret. The other performers on the bill are also well known on the local cabaret scene, so I don't see how you can go wrong.
|The Piano Lesson|
Photo: John Lamb
My take: August Wilson's play is ambitious for any company, much less a community theatre, but CCT has apparently nailed it. "Clayton Community Theatre shows just how successful community theater can be", writes Tina Farmer at KDHX, "with a stirring production that demonstrates an appreciation of Wilson's exceptional script and an emotional connection to its themes...The story is compelling when simply presented, and the talented cast in this show digs much deeper with a good deal of success."
|The Sunshine Boys|
Photo: Eric Woolsey
My take: As a local actor remarked to me the other night, this production has been "snake bit," with both of the original actors replaced for health reasons. Which makes it that much more impressive that the result is, in the words of KDHX reviewer Tina Farmer, "a sweet tribute to the era of vaudeville that's also an honest look at aging in an American culture increasingly focused on youth. Engaging performances and a pleasantly amusing script ensure this show is entertaining even for audiences with no recollection of the uniquely American variety of entertainment known as vaudeville." Chris Gibson at Broadwayworld.com agrees, saying that "this version of the show has a certain poignancy and emotional affectation that provides the play with additional depth...Go see this wonderfully fresh take on THE SUNSHINE boys, you'll certainly be glad you did."
My take: By now you are probably tired of hearing about The Cabaret Project open mic, but the fact is that this is where I first saw Mr. Thomas shortly after he arrived in St. Louis last year. He impressed me (and everyone else who has seen him) with his smooth, charming song delivery, with its echoes of the great Nat "King" Cole and other classic crooners. And the Tavern (which, yes, is where we hold the open mic night...) is a nice, casual space with a solid wine list and menu of flatbreads, sandwiches, and the like.
My take: Line and Rick have become familiar figures on the local cabaret scene over the years, first as regular faculty members in the St. Louis Cabaret Conference, and then as directors and advisers for many local performers. "Rick Jensen is a coveted music director and arranger for many local singers and performs his solo shows," wrote Katie McGrath in her KDHX review of Rick and Lina's appearance here last year. "He’s here often enough to have his favorite flavor of gooey butter cake. Then there’s Lina Koutrakos. She calls St. Louis her second home, her favorite U.S. city after NYC. She loves our town and our citizens with an unusual passion, although this really shouldn’t be considered unusual. There’s very little this woman doesn’t do with passion, bridled or otherwise." As someone who has learned from them at the Conference on multiple occasions, I couldn't agree more.
Photo: John Lamb
My take: Based on the 1991 movie of the same name, Dogfight juxtaposes the personal cruelty of a contest in which three Marines each try to find the ugliest girl to take to a dance in hopes of winning the prize for having the biggest "dog" of a date with the impersonal cruelty of the Vietnam war. Writing for the Ladue News, Mark Bretz notes that the "youthful cast expertly conveys all the emotions of the time. Seeing that bravado so genuinely portrayed on stage makes the memories of history all that more painful and powerful". I'll admit to being a bit biased in Stray Dog's favor, having done a number of shows with them over the years, but my experience has been that you can usually count on them for professional work and innovative programming.
Photo: Jill Ritter Lindberg
My take: New Line is in a new space and judging from the reviews it's a big improvement over their old digs at the Washington University South Campus Theatre on Clayton. "The company's new space is comfortable," writes Tina Farmer at KDHX, "and offers good views from every seat in the house, a bonus when watching a show with such a strong ensemble." The show is just the kind of edgy material that Scott Miller and New Line have made a speciality for many years now.
My take: The program for this show includes the following quote from the playwright: "Sometimes people discover heir purpose, their dignity, not in happiness, but in a twist of fate". As someone who found happiness as an indirect result of what most people would probably consider to be an unpleasant twist of fate, I could not agree more. Notices for the local premiere of this two-character play have been good, demonstrating that Upstream has once again demonstrated that taking on risky material can be very rewarding.