Thursday, November 10, 2016

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of November 11, 2016

As always, the choices are purely my personal opinion. Take with a grain (or a shaker) of salt.

Share on Google+:

New This Week:

The 2015 cast of All is Calm
Photo: John Lamb
Mustard Seed Theatre presents the a cappella musical All is Calm Thursdays through Sundays, November 11-December 4. “Join us in celebrating the power of peace in this acapella musical based on the true story of soldiers during World War I who for one night, put down their arms and played soccer instead of exchanging bullets.” Performances take place at the Fontbonne Fine Arts Theatre, 6800 Wydown Blvd. For more information, call (314) 719-8060 or visit the web site at

My take: All is Calm has become an annual winter tradition at Mustard Seed. With a script by Peter Rothstein and musical arrangements by Erick Lichte and Timothy C. Takach, this story of the remarkable Christmas truce of 1914—a spontaneous outbreak of peace that occurred at multiple points along the trenches in France—combines splendid and often quite complex a cappella singing with readings of letters from soldiers and other historical documents. At a time when opportunistic politicians are pushing an agenda of hate, fear, and eternal war, this is a play that everyone needs to see. As we used to ask back in the 1960s, "what if they gave a war and nobody came?"

Photo: Joey Rumpell
Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble presents Cuddles Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m., November 9 - 12. " Eve is a young vampire. Tabby is her sister. Tabby makes the rules. Eve has never left her room. All she knows about the world comes from Tabby and from Eve's storybook characters. Eve does everything a good little vampire girl should do; including drinking Tabby's blood when she has to. But one day, Tabby tires of opening her veins, her heart, and in a breath, Eve's world changes. " Performances take place at The Chapel Venue, 6238 Alexander Drive. For more information:

My take: Ready for some things that go "bump" in the night? Slightly Askew apparently has what you're looking for in this darkly ambiguous vampire story. "As evidenced by this pensively dark, intensely nuanced and complex production of Joseph Wilde's Cuddles," writes Tina Farmer at KDHX, "Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble remains among the most artistically and intellectually stimulating theaters in the region, if not the entire Midwest. This may be reason enough for theatergoers to add the company's current production to their calendar. Add in Joe Hanrahan's viciously perceptive direction, Tibbetts and Schwetye's profoundly broken yet mesmerizing performances, and excellent stagecraft, and you get a piece of noir theater that shines with brilliance."

The Hawthorne Players present the comedy Driving Miss Daisy through November 13. " Having recently demolished another car, Daisy Werthan, a rich, sharp-tongued Jewish widow of seventy-two, is informed by her son, Boolie, that henceforth she must rely on the services of a chauffeur. The person he hires for the job is a thoughtful, unemployed black man, Hoke, whom Miss Daisy immediately regards with disdain and who, in turn, is not impressed with his employer's patronizing tone and, he believes, her latent prejudice. The performances take place at the Florissant Civic Center Theatre at Parker and Waterford in Florissant, MO. For more information, call 921-5678 or visit

My take: I haven't seen this production and my schedule won't give me a chance to do so, but I have loved this play ever since I played Boolie (Miss Daisy's put-upon son) in the West End Players production many years ago. And the leading actress, Nancy Crouse, is an ideal pick for the role of the cantankerous Miss Daisy. Having worked with Hawthorne Players in the past, I can also attest to the consistently high technical quality of their shows as well.

Judy Carmichael
The Presenters Dolan presents pianist Judy Carmichael on Friday, November 11, at 8 p.m. as part of the Gaslight Cabaret Festival. "Grammy-nominated Judy Carmichael, one of the world's leading interpreters of stride piano, is a flat-out wonderful entertainer - singing, playing or talking. Judy hosts her own weekly show "Judy Carmichael's Jazz Inspired" on SiriusXM, Public Radio and podcast. Count Basie nicknamed her "Stride," acknowledging the command with which she plays this technically and physically demanding jazz piano style. Judy has appeared frequently on Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion, and has been featured on National Public Radio's Morning Edition, Entertainment Tonight and CBS' Sunday Morning with Charles Kuralt and now with Charles Osgood." The performances take place at the Gaslight Theater, 358 North Boyle. For more information:

My take: As a failed pianist, I always like it when (to quote a lyric from a Jimmy Durante classic) "a real piano player sits down at the keys." I also happen to be very fond of ragtime and its immediate descendants like stride. Ms. Carmichael has an impressive resume and the intimate space of the Gaslight should be good for this kind of show.

Ken Haller
The Presenters Dolan presents Ken Haller in The Medicine Show on Saturday, November 12, at 8 p.m. as part of the Gaslight Cabaret Festival. "Ken Haller's shows have been described as "touching," "hilarious," "intimate," and "tremendously entertaining." In The Medicine Show, where "miracle cures" are peddled, Ken weaves songs as diverse as "The Physician" (Cole Porter), "Someone to Fall Back on," (Jason Robert Brown), "Pirelli's Miracle Elixir" (Stephen Sondheim) and more, into a narrative of how becoming a doctor is only the first step toward becoming a healer." The performances take place at the Gaslight Theater, 358 North Boyle. For more information:

My take: "Haller is a charming and talented performer with a voice as smooth as a brandy Alexander," wrote Robert Mitchell in a KDHX review of Ken's Sondheim show back in 2011. I couldn't agree more. Ken is an immensely talented gent with impressive credentials in both the theatrical and cabaret worlds and he has been producing top-notch cabaret here in town as well as in Chicago and New York for several years now. And right now this country very much needs a show about the healing power of music.

Mara Bollini
The Emerald Room at the Monocle and The Presenters Dolan present singer Mara Bollini in Taking Chances on Friday, November 11, at 7 p.m. "A native of St. Louis, Mara Bollini has had the privilege of singing and dancing her way across stages throughout the area for decades. “Taking Chances,” Bollini's new cabaret show, is an artistically crafted journey blending music from across the ages as well as musical genres. Carol Schmidt is pianist and music director for the show, which is directed by Tim Schall." The performance takes place in the Emerald Room at The Monocle, 4510 Manchester in the Grove neighborhood. For more information:

My take: We have an embarrassment of cabaret riches in St. Louis this weekend, as this show clearly indicates. Mara is a great talent and Carol Schmidt is one of our town's finest music directors. And the Emerald Room is one of the coolest music venues in town.

Held Over:

Manifest / Destiny
Photo: John Lamb
The West End Players Guild opens their 106th season with the world premiere of Manifest / Destiny by Vladimir Zelevinsky Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM, November 4 - 13. There will also be a show on Thursday, November 10, at 8 PM. "In a year when America's immigration history and policies have been front-and-center in political conversations, Zelevinsky's play is especially timely and insightful. An ensemble cast playing dozens of roles offers poignant vignettes of the love and suffering, bravery and betrayal endured by four centuries-worth of immigrants fleeing the Old World for a chance to reinvent themselves in the new one. " Performances take place at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 North Union at Enright in the Central West End. For more information, call 314-367-0025 or visit

My take: I'm on the board at West End Players as well as the play selection committee, so I'm pretty much pre-sold on this script. When we read it last year, we were all just bowled over by how well-written it was, but I don't think any of us could have anticipated just how relevant it would become in a year when mindless nativism once again spreads its poison over the land. We have been here before, and more than once. Zelevinsky's play reminds us that we are, in the words of JFK, a nation of immigrants. An excellent ensemble cast under the fluid direction of Steve Callahan reminds us forcefully of where we all came from and why we should remember how much our ancestors had to give up to get here.

Mothers and Sons
Photo: Peter Wochniak
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents Mothers and Sons by Terrence McNally through November 13. "Time stopped for Katharine the day her son died of AIDS. Twenty years later, she seeks out his former partner, Cal, only to discover that he has a husband and a six-year-old son. As she and Cal explore memories of someone they both loved, Katharine begins a rocky journey toward reconciliation with the side of her son that she never understood." 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: Like Until the Flood, the show on the Rep mainstage right now, Mothers and Sons deals with how the untimely death of a young man affects and changes the living. Unlike the characters in Until the Flood the characters in Mothers and Sons are entirely fictional. But they are also clearly inspired by playwright McNally's personal experience as a man of the theatre living through a period that brought both the triumph of marriage equality and the tragedy of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. It's a powerful show with top-notch performances.

No comments: