Friday, March 04, 2016

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of March 4, 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:

Jeffrey M. Wright
The Presenters Dolan present Jeffrey M. Wright in The 40's: Theirs...And Mine on Saturday, March 5, at 8 PM as part of the Gaslight Cabaret Festival. "A very popular and immensely likable leading man, Jeff Wright comes back with his sold-out splash. Songs made famous by Comden and Green, Cole Porter, Garth Brooks, Jimmy Webb, U2 and Rodgers and Hammerstein." The performance takes place at the Gaslight Theater, 358 North Boyle. For more information:

My take: Jeff, as I have written in the past, has classic “leading man” charisma, an equally classic crooner’s voice and substantial musical theatre credentials. Granted, I have worked with Jeff on stage in the past and know him fairly well so I'm not exactly disinterested. But I know real talent when I see it, and he's got it.

Elephant's Graveyard
Photo: Joe Angeles
The Performing Arts Department at Washington University presents Elephant's Graveyard Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM, February 26 - March 6. "Something went very wrong when Sparks Traveling Circus arrived in the small Appalachian town of Erwin, Tennessee in 1916. Join us for this unbelievable, yet true, story about the desire for spectacle and Old Testament-style retributive justice in America." Performances take place in the Edison theatre in the Mallinckrodt Student Center on the Washington University campus. For more information, visit or call 314-935-6543.

My take:The Elephant’s Graveyard by George Brant," writes Steve Callahan at KDHX, "is part poetic dream, part nightmare. And though it’s set in a small Tennessee town in 1916 its thrill and its horror are frighteningly resonant with rising populist urges we see in headlines every day. It’s a play you will never forget...This Wash U production is an example of the very best that Educational Theatre can offer—and it can offer very fine things indeed. The student cast are, without exception, excellent. The designers of set, lights, costumes and sound quite perfectly serve the needs of this play. And I’ve never heard more wonderfully managed live music." University-based theatre companies have the kinds of resources that can allow them to take on risky and unusual material that other companies can't, and Washington University has been at the forefront of that kind of theatre lately.

Robert Breig
The Presenters Dolan present Robert Breig in Making Every Moment Count-The Music of Peter Allen on Sunday, March 6, at 3 PM as part of the Gaslight Cabaret Festival. "Robert Breig celebrates the life and times of Peter Allen, a giant of live performance in the 70s and 80s. Judy Garland discovered him in 1964, at age 20, performing in a trio at the Hong Kong Hilton. (Allen was Australian.) He left immediately to go on tour with Garland, and soon after married her daughter, Liza Minelli. Thus anointed, he started performing in small cabarets in New York, including Reno Sweeney, the Continetental Baths and the Bitter End. His grew so popular that he regularly sold out the 6,000-seat Radio City Music Hall. His signature songs were "I Go to Rio" and "Quiet Please, There's a Lady Onstage." If you don't know his music or performance genius, check out the video of Peter Allen below." The performance takes place at the Gaslight Theater, 358 North Boyle. For more information:

My take: Robert is a very open and engaging personality on stage with a smooth, seamless voice that is a good match for Mr. Allen's music. The fact that he created this show in collaboration with cabaret powerhouses Lina Koutrakos and Rick Jensen (both fiercely talented performers in their own right) is icing on the cake.

L-R: Maria Kanyova and Neil Nelson
Winter Opera St. Louis presents Verdi's Il Trovatore Friday at 8 PM and Sunday at 3 PM, March 4 and 6. Performances take place at The Skip Viragh Center for the Arts at Chaminade College Preparatory School, 425 S. Lindbergh. For more information, visit

My take: We saw the final dress rehearsal of this production on Wednesday, and while there were a few minor technical glitches of the sort one would expect in a final dress, the production looked very solid on the whole. The principal singers—tenor Jorge Pita Carreras as Manrico, soprano Maria Kanyova as Leonora, mezzo Claudia Chapa as Azucena, and baritone Neil Nelson as Count di Luna—all have impressive voices. Ms. Kanyova, Ms. Chapa, and (especially) Mr. Nelson are also fine actors, highly invested in their characters (not always a given in opera, even in these more theatrically aware days). The orchestra sounds great and the Viragh Center is one of the best venues for musical theatre in town.

Held Over:

Beautiful—The Carole King Musical
Photo: Joan Marcus
The Fox Theatre presents Beautiful—The Carole King Musical opening on Tuesday, February 23, and running through March 6. "BEAUTIFUL - The Carole King Musical tells the inspiring true story of King's remarkable rise to stardom, from being part of a hit songwriting team with her husband Gerry Goffin, to her relationship with fellow writers and best friends Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, to becoming one of the most successful solo acts in popular music history. Along the way, she made more than beautiful music, she wrote the soundtrack to a generation." The Fox is on North Grand in Grand Center. For more information:

My take: Abby Mueller shines in the title role of this bright, fast-paced jukebox musical loosely based on the early years of Carole King's songwriting career, culminating with her emergence as a singer in her own right with her best selling Tapestry LP in 1971. The performers playing pop idols like The Drifters, The Shirelles, Little Eva, and The Righteous Brothers, though, really steal the show. There's just enough plot to keep things going without getting in the way of a nostalgic score that highlights hits by King and her first songwriting partner (and first husband) Gerry Goffin as well as equally well-known tunes by their fellow songwriters at Aldon Music, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. Go and enjoy.

Photo: Peter Wochniak
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar through March 6. "Successful corporate lawyer Amir Kapoor comes from a Pakistani family, but he long ago distanced himself from his roots to embrace life as a slick New Yorker. On course to become a partner at his law firm, Amir's carefully constructed world begins to unravel when unexpected events cause him to question his own beliefs. Raw, turbulent and unsettling, this smart drama reveals hidden attitudes toward modern culture and faith. Winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama." Performances take place on the mainstage at the Loretto-Hlton Center, 130 Edgar Road in Webster Groves, MO. For more information, call 314-968-4925 or visit

My take: The playwright who gave us the brilliant Invisible Hand at the Rep Studio back in 2012 it again with a powerful portrayal of the problems immigrants face, especially when they're part of a demonized and poorly understood minority. How much can you assimilate before you lose your own identity? And is it ever enough for people who will always see you as the "other" no mater what you do or say? We learn from history that we do not learn from history, which makes this a very relevant play these days.

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