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New This Week:
|August: Osage County|
Photo: John Lamb
My take: While I'm not usually a big fan of dysfunctional family plays (the genre has become something of a cliche these days), there's no doubt that August: Osage County is widely regarded as the Lexus of the line, with its operatic lenghth (nearly three hours) crammed with vital characters and compelling themes. The SLAS production has gotten good notices as well.
Saturday, April 29, at 11 a.m. The Sheldon Concert Hall presents vocalist Ben Nordstrom: Singing Gershwin. "One of St. Louis' favorite musical theatre performers, Ben Nordstrom, returns to The Sheldon stage with the luminous vocalist Julia Hanson Battaglia to sing the classic songs of Gershwin! Hear favorites such as "Embraceable You," "They Can't Take That Away From Me," "I Got Rhythm," and more!" The Sheldon Concert Hall is on Washington in Grand Center. For more information: sheldonconcerthall.org.
My take: Ben Nordstrom is one of our best singing actors, having distinguished himself in both musical theare and non-musical drama, and Gershwin is one of America's very best composer/songwriters. I don't see how you can go wrong here.
Shakespeare Festival St. Louis presents the one-man show Cry Havoc Friday and Saturday at 1 p.m., April 29 and 30. "Actor/veteran Stephan Wolfert will lead his audience on an interactive journey to meet Shakespeare's veterans, and confront the difficulties today's soldiers face in leaving military service to rejoin the civilian world. The powerful one-person play speaks to the impact of theater as a tool for social change and the way the themes of Shakespeare's 400-year-old works resonate meaningfully in modern life." The performances take place in the auditorium at the St. Louis City Library Headquaters at 1301 Olive downtown. For more information: sfstl.com.
My take: Looking for evidence that The Bard of Avon remains relevant centuries later? Look no farther then this remarkable look at how little the dilemma of the former soldier trying to re-enter civilian has changed over the years. Shakespeare has much to teach us, if we will but listen.
My take: If you only know of this exceptionally talented actor/singer from her TV appearances, you really owe it to yourself to see her live. She didn't get those Tony and Emmy awards for nothing, folks.
Equally Represented Arts presents twelfth period, or not another twelfth night Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. (except for April 29, when there is no performance) through May 6th. "Created and Presented by Equally Represented Arts, eratheatre.org An experimental, multi-space, theatrical production From William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and high school, circa 1999 Welcome to Illyria Preparatory Academy - 'Where some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.'" Performances take place at Centene Center for the Arts, 3547 Olive in Grand Center. For more information: eratheatre.org.
My take: Twelfth Night in a 1990s high school? Sounds crazy, no? But if you step back and look at the social relationships (including the obvious use of bullying) it makes more sense than you might think. And it looks like ERA has done a smart job witht he adaptation. "The dialogue is Shakespeare interspersed with lines which the program credits to various sources from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to American Beauty," writes Ann Lemmons Pollack on her blog. "It’s way too fun, clearly not taking much of anything seriously." The storytelling style is ingeniously unconventional as well; designer/director Gabe Taylor divides the audiende up into four "teams," each with different "class schedules". That means each group sees the scenes in different order and don't reunite until the end.
|Dancing at Lughnasa|
My take: Brian Friel's 1990 memory play of life in rural Ireland has always been highly regarded, and it looks like Mustard Seed has mounted a very successful production. At Ladue News, Mark Bretz describes it as "a heart-rending rendition of Brian Friel’s haunting Irish drama, featuring superb performances by an ensemble cast given affecting direction by Gary Barker." Ann Lemmons Pollack agrees. "Mustard Seed Theatre has put together an ensemble for Brian Friel’s 1990 play that enlivens an already sparkling script," she writes at her St. Louis Eats and Drinks blog. There's basic benevolence at the heart of Dancing at Lughnasa that makes it a welcome antidote to the toxic spite that dominates the daily news cycle these days.
|The Lion King|
Photo: Daniel Murphy
My take: How could I not include this? Making its fourth or fifth trip (but who's counting?) to our city since its first appearance here in 2003, this ingenious stage adaptation of the popular Disney film remains a stunning piece of theatre. For those of you who have yet to see this remarkable show, know that the spectacular opening number sets the tone for the entire evening. As a giant red-orange sun rises over the African plain, the first sounds you hear are not those of Elton John and Tim Rice’s Anglo-American pop, which makes up the majority of the score, but rather the distinctly African melodies of Lebo M. Led the baboon Shaman Rafiki and answered by actors high in the side balconies, the call and response changes into “The Circle of Life” as the animals gather at Pride Rock, which slowly rises from the center of the stage. Tall, elegant giraffes, a lumbering elephant, leaping gazelles, a graceful cheetah, colorful birds—they stream in from every aisle and across the stage, surrounding the audience in light, sound, and color. And that's just the beginning of this extraordinary bucket of brilliance from the seemingly bottomless well of Julie Taymor’s genius. Go, take the kids, and enjoy.
Photo: John Lamb
My take: [Full disclosure: I'm on the board of West End but have not worked on this show.] This wildly inventive and wholly original potpourri combines the general outline of the Oedipus legend (including bits and pieces of the Sophocles tragedy) with classical mechanics, plane geometry, Freudian psychology (naturally!) and contemporary pop culture. A site-specific piece composed with West End’s location in mind, Oedipus Apparatus includes live Philip Glass-ish music by Joe Taylor (who also, of course, plays Apollo), ritualistic dance that reminded me of Pina Bausch, a mobile industrial set by Kristin Cassidy and Jacob Francis, live video, and pretty much everything but the kitchen sink. Although there might have been one of those in the loopy junk-shop set from which the oracles of Delphi broadcast their vacuous chat show in a style reminiscent of "The View" or "Fox and Friends," with Athena the oleaginous hostess. At just under two hours with no intermission, it could use some editing, but as this is a world premiere that's not very surprising. It gets superb performances, in any case, from a very fine ensemble cast. You might love it or hate it, but you won't soon forget it.