Thursday, March 24, 2016

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of March 25, 2016

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: Joan Marcus
The Fox Theatre presents the musical If/Then opening on Tuesday, March 15, and running through March 27. "IF/THEN is a contemporary Broadway musical about living in New York today - and all the possibilities of tomorrow. With unforgettable songs and a deeply moving story by the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award®-winning creators of Next to Normal, this "fascinating, ambitious, and original new musical" (New York Post) simultaneously follows one woman's two possible life paths, painting a deeply moving portrait of the lives we lead, as well as the lives we might have led." The Fox is on North Grand in Grand Center. For more information:

My take: Ever wonder about the path not taken? If/Then follows two parallel story lines featuring the same character but different life choices. I find this a fascinating premise and would have seen the show if a family medical emergency hadn't intervened. Originally a starring vehicle of Idina Menzel of Wicked fame, If/Then on tour features Menzel's Broadway understudy Jackie Burns in the lead role, and she's apparently an impressive performer. Writing for the Belleville News-Democrat, Lynn Venhaus says Burns "makes the role her own with tremendous poise and powerhouse vocals."

Old Wicked Songs
Photo: Eric Woolsey
New Jewish Theater presents the Old Wicked Songs through April 3 "Hoping to reconnect with his music and shatter the artistic block that has plagued his career, a young American piano prodigy travels to Vienna in the spring of 1986. He is assigned to a vocal teacher who gives him the "Dicheterliebe" song cycle by Robert Schumann. Marans incorporates the poetry of Heinrich Heine and the music of Robert Schumann into the series of events. Through the sessions between the two men, Marans creates a link between two generations who find they much more in common than they think. This is the inspirational journey of two very different men who, with music as their one common bond, must find a way to break through their pasts." 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: I recall being very taken with this script when the Rep did it many years ago. In the Jewish Light, Bob Cohn describes this as "a challenging, thought-provoking play." "Playwright Jon Marans has created a play that ebbs and flows like a musical composition," writes Steve Allen for Stage Door St. Louis. "Yes, the music is at the heart of the production but the real heart in the production is the strength and resolve of teacher and student and the life lessons they each learn from one another. It’s a beautiful script handled by two truly great actors."

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis Ignite! New Play Festival presents Until the Flood by Daniel Orlandersmith Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 1 p.m., March 25 and 26. "The Rep has commissioned celebrated writer, performer and Pulitzer Prize finalist Dael Orlandersmith to write and perform a play about the recent events in Ferguson. She has fashioned a sensitive and moving portrayal of the people in our community, and how they feel about an event that placed St. Louis in a spotlight it didn't expect or relish." The Friday performance takes place at the Sally S. Levy Opera Center, 210 Hazel Avenue in Webster Groves and the Saturday performance at St. Louis Public Radio in Grand Center. For more information

My take: It's always interesting to see new plays—it's the main reason I attend the Humana Festival every year— and the shows previewed in Rep's Ignite! festival often go on to full productions at the Rep and elsewhere. This is a good chance to see art while it's being made.

Held Over:

American Idiot
Photo: Jill Ritter Lindberg
New Line Theatre presents the musical American Idiot, based on the album by Green Day, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 PM through March 26. " New Line continues its 25th season with the powerful, high-octane, rock fable AMERICAN IDIOT, based on the powerhouse album by Green Day, a scorching attack on what they saw as the hypocrisy and moral evils of the Bush Administration after the attacks of Sept. 11, as well as the increasingly submissive nature of the American public. The score includes every song from Green Day's hit album American Idiot, as well as several songs from their follow-up release, 21st Century Breakdown, with music by Green Day, lyrics by front man Billie Joe Armstrong, a book by Armstrong and Michael Mayer, and musical arrangements and orchestrations by Broadway composer Tom Kitt (High Fidelity, Next to Normal, If/Then). The Toronto Star called the show 'the first great musical of the 21st century.'" Performances take place at the Marcelle Theater, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive, three blocks east of Grand, in Grand Center. For more information, visit or call 314-534-1111.

My take: As you can see from the description of this show, it could hardly be more relevant during the current primary campaign season, especially in light of the Republican Party's slide into drooling insanity. In her review for KDHX, Tina Farmer says this "is a fantastic production, and several scenes flash with brilliance. The cast are uniformly strong singers and the interpretations of the songs are spot on. " At Ladue News, Mark Bretz says "New Line’s presentation superbly captures the musical essence of the album and show as well as making the most of the straightforward plot."

Molly's Hammer
Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents the world premiere of Molly's Hammer through March 27. "Molly Rush was focused on the endgame- save the world, protect her family. But what would she have to sacrifice? In 1980, the Pittsburgh housewife and mother of six walked into a General Electric plant and took a hammer to a nuclear warhead to protest the buildup of America's nuclear arsenal. Based on the true story of the Plowshares Eight, Molly's Hammer is the world-premiere account of one woman's unwavering beliefs and her family's desperate attempts to protect her from infamy." Performances take place in the studio theater at the Loretto-Hlton Center, 130 Edgar Road in Webster Groves, MO. For more information, call 314-968-4925 or visit

My take: What's the price of compassion? What is the extent of a citizen's obligation to oppose fundamentally evil policies by a government? How much should one be expected to sacrifice for the common good? As I write in my review, these and many other questions are raised by Tammy Ryan's gripping drama Molly's Hammer. At a time when the very foundations of our political system are being openly challenged by the forces of fascism and hysterical fear, and when the leading candidates of one of our political parties are almost drooling with pleasure at the possibility of starting a nuclear war, these questions could not be more timely.

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