Thursday, September 22, 2016

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of September 23, 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:

Anna Skidis
The Presenters Dolan and the Emerald Room Cabaret present singer/actress Anna Skidis in Almost There on Saturday, September 24, at 8 p.m. "It feels great to set and achieve your dreams, but what about that bit in the middle? It's not as easy as a quick, musical montage like in the movies... but here's some music, anyway. Anna Skidis Vargas sings the songs of Radiohead, Katie Thompson, Etta James, Disney, and more." The performance takes place in The Emerald Room at The Monocle Bar, 4510 Manchester in The Grove neighborhood. For more information:

My take: It's my view that some of the best cabaret comes from experienced actors. That's because a well-constructed cabaret show is much like a one-act play, with an emotional arc and a distinct sends of beginning, middle, and end. Actors are most likely to be familiar with that structure. Ms. Skidis is a well-established local actor, so I'd expect this to be a show well worth your attention.

Stone Spiral Coffeehouse presents Jan Marra in a solo concert of original songs on Friday, September 23, at 8 p.m. "The Stone Spiral is in its ninth year of providing the friendliest and tastiest atmosphere in the neighborhood, with newspapers, coffee, tea, beer, wine and most especially espresso. Then there's all the nice plates of food and books to read and art to look at and buy." Stone Spiral Coffeehosue is at 2500 Sutton in Maplewood, MO. For more information:

My take: Jan provided us with some pretty amazing performances at the Cabaret Project's open mic night at the late lamented Tavern of Fine Arts over the years, so this should be a fascinating show. And Stone Spiral is a very funky and intimate setting (I have performed there myself in the past) with a nice selection of food and drink.

Toy Hyams and Lisa Rothauser
The Presenters Dolan and the Emerald Room Cabaret present Tor Hyams and Lisa Rothauser in The Songs of Tor and Lisa: How we became successful musical theater writers in only four years, three months, twenty-two days and eleven hours... on Friday, September 23, at 8 p.m. "Grammy-nominated songwriter Tor Hyams and veteran Broadway performer Lisa Rothauser debut their favorite selections from the dynamic duo's four-year collaboration in musical theatre. This one-night-only event will showcase music from four of their original musicals currently in development (Stealing Time, Auburn, LIFE. Who Knew?, and Green Acres The Musical) and a few songs too early to tell what they are. Tor and Lisa met at a bar one night four years, three months, twenty- two days and eleven hours ago and the rest is this story." The performance takes place in The Emerald Room at The Monocle Bar, 4510 Manchester in The Grove neighborhood. For more information:

My take: It's always interesting to hear from singer/songwriter teams. As a bonus, this show provides a behind-the-scenes look at some projects that are still in the development stage. And, let's face it, aren't you just a little bit intrigued by what Green Acres the Musical might sound like? As an added incentive, local musical theatre and cabaret star Ben Nordstrom will be opening for Hyams and Rothauser.

Held Over:

Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents Stephen Sondheim's musical Follies through October 2. “Featuring an all-star cast that includes three Tony nominees, Broadway stars and local favorites, Follies is the biggest Rep production in more than a decade. Join us for our 50th anniversary season opener as we present a breathtaking rendition of this Stephen Sondheim classic!” 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: 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.

A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder
Photo: Joan Marcus
The Fox Theatre presents the musical A Gentleman's Guide To Love And Murder opening Tuesday, September 13, and running through September 25. "Coming direct from New York, where a most gentlemanly NPR critic said he'd “Never laughed so hard at a Broadway musical," Gentleman's Guide tells the uproarious story of Monty Navarro, a distant heir to a family fortune who sets out to jump the line of succession by - you guessed it - eliminating the eight pesky relatives (all played by one fearless man) who stand in his way. All the while, Monty has to juggle his mistress (she's after more than just love), his fiancée (she's his cousin but who's keeping track?), and the constant threat of landing behind bars! Of course, it will all be worth it if he can slay his way to his inheritance... and be done in time for tea." The Fox is on North Grand in Grand Center. For more information:

My take: Speaking of rave reviews, this hit Broadway musical has been gather them for some time now, copping the 2014 Tony for Best Musical along the way. This tour has gotten great notices locally. "Sometimes people complain that theater isn’t 'fun", writes Judy Newmark at "These people need to see 'A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder,' the blithe treat that opened Tuesday at the Fox Theatre. If that doesn’t make them change their minds, nothing will."

Miss Julie, Clarissa and John
Photo: Phillip Hamer
The Black Rep presents the drama Miss Julie, Clarissa And John through September 25. "Inspired by August Strindberg's groundbreaking 1888 naturalistic drama Miss Julie, Mark Clayton Southers relocates the action from Sweden to a Reconstruction-era Virginia plantation.The dangerous attraction between the landowner's daughter and his top servant takes on new shades as its taboo nature expands from crossing boundaries of social class to also encompass racial lines. The situation is heightened further by Southers' extensive development of the third onstage character from Strindberg's play, who in this searing version becomes central to the conflict through her identity as the mulatto daughter of a slave woman. The result of the Midwest premiere production is an intense struggle that illuminates cultural dynamics of two key moments in U.S. history: then and now." Performances take place at the Edison Theatre on the Washington University campus. For more information:

My take: Rewriting Strindberg's 1888 tragedy and moving it to the post-Civil War South could be an invitation to disaster, but Mr. Southers appears to have pulled it off, based on the reviews. At Stage Door STL, Steve Allen says the script is "is nothing short of brilliant" while the production itself is "powerful theatre, well directed and a splendid cast who exemplifies the quality and longevity of the Black Rep."

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