Thursday, May 18, 2017

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of May 19, 2017

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:

Chuck Lavazzi
The Cabaret Project and The Curtain Call Lounge at the Fox present the fifth anniversary edition of the monthly Broadway Open Mic Night on Thursday, May 18, from 8 to 11 p.m. Drop by and enjoy a night of great music from St. Louis cabaret artists, backed up by the pianist and music director Carol Schmidt. Your host is KDHX Senior Performing Arts Critic and Cabaret Project board member Chuck Lavazzi. If you're planning to sing, be prepared to do one or two songs and bring music, preferably in your key. It's also recommend that you have your song memorized. The Curtain Call Lounge is next door to the Fabulous Fox in Grand Center. For more information:

My take: What can I say? It's our fifth birthday party. Come one down and share a song or just enjoy the entertainment.

The Theatre Guild of Webster Groves presents John Patrick Shanley's drama Doubt Fridays through Sundays through May 21. "Father Flynn enjoys a secure appointment and popularity in the community until Sister James suspects him of carrying on an improper relationship with the school's first African-American student. Sister Aloysius, the school's authoritarian principal, sets out to remove Flynn. Gender politics, race relations and the role of the church, questions about personal responsibility, doubt, right and wrong are all brought to bear here. So much in Doubt is about what is left unsaid and continually running beneath the surface." Performances take place in the Guild theatre at Newport and Summit in Webster Groves, MO. For more information: or call 314-962-0876.

My take: Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Shanley's play is a masterful examination of the dangers of both moral certainty and ethical blindness—issues which are once again part of the national dialogue, thanks to an excess of both qualities in the current administration. Jane Abling, who has the pivotal role of Sister Aloysius, is an actress I've known for many years both professionally and personally. She's just about ideal for this part.

A Human Being Died that Night
Photo: ProPhotoSTL
Upstream Theater presents the St. Louis premiere of A Human Being Died That Night Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through May 28. "During the 1990s, psychologist Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela interviewed Eugene de Kock, commanding officer of the South African government's death squad stationed at Vlakplaas--a man who had ordered and carried out the torture and murder of dozens of anti-apartheid activists, earning the nickname 'Prime Evil.' De Kock was serving a 212-year prison sentence for crimes against humanity. Nicholas Wright takes us inside the prison where these interviews were conducted for a moving study of remorse, a timely call for truth and accountability, and a remarkable exploration of the power of forgiveness. " Performances take place at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information, including show times:

My take: As Judy Newmark writes in her review, this script is not without its issues, but the ideas it deals with are important and the performances by its two-person cast are outstanding. LIght entertainment it ain't, but it deserves our attention.

Photo: Carol Rosegg
The Fox Theatre presents the 20th anniversary tour of the rock musical Rent Friday through Sunday, May 19 - 21 "In 1996, an original rock musical by a little-known composer opened on Broadway… and forever changed the landscape of American theatre. Two decades later, Jonathan Larson's RENT continues to speak loudly and defiantly to audiences across generations and all over the world. And now, this Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award®-winning masterpiece returns to the stage in a vibrant 20th anniversary touring production. A re-imagining of Puccini's La Bohème, RENT follows an unforgettable year in the lives of seven artists struggling to follow their dreams without selling out. With its inspiring message of joy and hope in the face of fear, this timeless celebration of friendship and creativity reminds us to measure our lives with the only thing that truly matters-love." The Fox in at 527 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information:

My take: I've always been a fan of this musical. Jonathan Larson's score is inventive and stylistically eclectic and his lyrics are artful and intelligent. What strikes me about Rent is how much this modern and supposedly revolutionary show reminds me of another one to which those same adjectives were applied back in 1968: Hair, the show that defined the genre of rock musical. Like Hair, Rent takes jabs at the older generation - mine - and thumbs it's nose at the American status quo from the bottom of the economic pyramid. Unlike Hair, though, it's less overtly political, covers a wider emotional spectrum, and may actually be a better piece of theatre.

Held Over:

Will Mr. Merriweather Return From Memphis?
Photo: Peter Wochniak
The Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis presents Will Mr. Merriweather Return From Memphis? by Tennessee Williams running through May 21. "Local favorite Jef Awada directs the first professional production in fifty years of this intimate, funny, poignant play." Performances take place at Stockton House, 3508 Samuel Shepherd Drive in midtown. For more information:

My take: Here's another Williams oddity that's getting an innovative and much-praised presentation. Performed in Stockton House, a mansion just east of Powell Hall built in 1890 and now on the National Register of Historic Places (you've undoubtedly noticed it if you're a regular at the St. Louis Symphony), the production has the audience follow the actors through the rooms of the house. With cross-gender casting, dancing, and live music, this show "feels like the sort of nonrealistic fantasy Williams might have enjoyed himself," according to Judy Newmark at As I noted in my own review for OnSTL, it's inscrutable fun and well worth a visit.

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