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Alpha Players present the musical 1776 September 30 - October 9. "It's the summer of 1776, and the nation is ready to declare independence... if only our founding fathers can agree to do it! 1776 follows John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia as they attempt to convince the members of the Second Continental Congress to vote for independence from the shackles of the British monarchy by signing the Declaration of Independence." Performances take place at The Florissant Civic Center Theater, Parker Rd. at Waterford Dr. in Florissant, MO. For more information: alphaplayers.org, call 314-921-5678.
My take: This is one of my favorite musicals. The book by Peter Stone (one of the small number of writers to earn an Oscar, Tony, and Emmy during his career) sticks fairly close to historical events, portraying the shifting alliances and political deals that eventually led to the break with Great Britain. Sherman Edwards's score supports that book and illuminates character brilliantly. I haven't seen this production, of course, but there's no question that they've got really strong material to work with.
Photo: John Lamb
My take: This is another case of a recommendation based on the strength of the material. Stoppard's play is a brilliant piece of work, combining comedy, drama, and a centuries-spanning mystery with crackling, intellectually rich dialog. And director Ellie Schwetye is well known locally for her impressive work with Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble. I'm on the board of West End Players Guild, but have not been involved in this production.
|Three Tall Women|
Photo: Patrick Huber
My take: It has been a long time since I have seen a production of Albee's autobiographical play (the principal character is modeled on his mother) and I don't recall finding it very engaging. But reviews of the Actors' Studio production have been very positive (article by Steve Allen and Ann Lemmons Pollack are typical) so I'm giving it a tip of the virtual topper here. It's not a script that gets produced very often, probably because it's not necessarily easy to cast, so it's hard to say when you'll get another opportunity to see it.
|Voices of Valhalla|
Photo: Ken Clark
My take: I had a chance to both see and appear in this annual event for the first time in 2014 (missed last year's because of travel commitments), and I must say that I was impressed by the professionalism of both the script (assembled by director Larry Marsh from historical sources) and the quality of the performances. Here's how it works: you pile on a hay wagon and are driven through historic Valhalla Cemetery. At various points during the ride, the wagon stops and an actor portraying a historical figure buried at Valhalla steps out of the darkness and delivers a monolog on his or her life. They can be comic, tragic, or a combination of the two, but they're always well researched and informative. I'm acting in it again this year, playing the "oldest dead person" in Valhalla. Come on out and find out the details.
Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
My take: Laurel wreaths are in order for director Rob Ruggiero and the cast and crew of this production of the utterly brilliant 1971 commercial flop by Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman (best known for his popular comedy/drama "The Lion in Winter"). Broadway and cabaret stars Christiane Noll and Emily Skinner head the large and impressive ensemble cast. This remarkable story of personal and cultural disintegration has always been an expensive challenge to produce, but the Rep has proved to be more than up to the task, getting their 50th season off to a rousing start. The big "mirror" production number, in particular, is a true coup de théâtre, as women of the ensemble execute Ralph Perkins' complex choreography with superhuman precision.