Thursday, August 17, 2017

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of August 17, 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:

David Giuntoli
The Cabaret Project and The Curtain Call Lounge at the Fox present the Broadway Open Mic Night on Thursday, August 17, 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. The special guest MC this month in David Giuntoli. 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: Normally I'd be hosting this, but since I'll be on stage in Stray Dog Theatre's Ragtime (see below) that's obviously impossible. I can tell you from personal experience that this is a great way to check out some local cabaret artists while taking advantage of the Curtain Call's food and drink menu. It's also a great way to try out new material yourself if you're a singer. Note that you can park for free on the street after 7 p.m. as well as in the Fox's lot on Washington.

The St. Lou Fringe Festival opens on Thursday, August 17, and runs through August 26 at several venues in the Grand Center area including the Kranzberg Arts Center and the Grandel Theatre. Performances include traditional theater, dance, music, comedy, circus arts, performance art, cabaret, and burlesque, with acts from St. Louis and around the country. "Fringe features an array of original material-meant to celebrate all of the arts. Tech is minimal and time is a factor at our festivals. Shows are often kept brief (Fringes most frequently have shows right around 60 minutes in length) and technical requirements kept simple (minor sets, streamlined cues, nothing elaborate)." For a complete schedule, visit

My take: From its humble beginnings as a loosely organized experiment back in 2012, the St. Lou Fringe has evolved into a major performing arts festival, featuring both national touring acts and local performers. It have, in short, come a long way, baby. The Fringe has garnered national media attention and has also formed partnership with many local arts and education organizations. No wonder festival founder Em Piro got a special award from the St. Louis Theater Circle back in 2014 for the Fringe's contribution to the local performing arts scene. There's no better time to fringe.

Held Over:

9 to 5, the Musical
Stages St. Louis presents the 9 to 5, the Musical through August 20. "Based on the seminal 1980 hit movie, this hilarious musical romp that explores friendship and revenge in the Rolodex era is outrageous, romantic, and even a little bit thought provoking in its heroines' desire to break the glass ceiling. Chock-full of upbeat and optimistic songs by country superstar Dolly Parton and featuring the toe-tapping title tune, "9 to 5", three female coworkers concoct a plan to live out their wildest fantasies by giving their sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot of a boss the boot! In the process, the women give their workplace a dream makeover and take control of the company that had always kept them down. A bright and brand new musical bon-bon for STAGES audiences and a celebration for anyone who has ever struggled with any kind of authority figure, you will laugh, cry, and ultimately cheer the exploits of Violet, Judy, and Doralee as they discover the joys of working 9 to 5!" Performances take place in the Robert G. Reim Theatre at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road in Kirkwood. For more information:

My take: Hit movies don't necessarily make hit musicals, but 9 to 5, the Musical works surprisingly well as a stage vehicle. Sadly, the idea of taking revenge on a bad boss is just as timely now as it was when the movie made such a splash almost four decades ago. "Artistic director Michael Hamilton leads an energized cast in a spirited, high-octane performance of this gleeful musical with serious undertones," says Mark Bretz at Ladue News. "The underlying messages about respect and finding your place in the world are nice, though clunky," notes Tina Farmer at KDHX, "and the show wins with its can do attitude and humor."

Out on Broadway
Photo: Jill Ritter Lindberg
New Line Theatre presents the musical revue Out on Broadway: The Third Coming Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 PM through August 19. "Twenty-one years after the first edition premiered, OUT ON BROADWAY: THE THIRD COMING is an original revue of musical theatre songs performed from the perspective of five gay men, an intimate evening of funny and emotional performances, with just five guys, a piano, and no microphones. Some songs will be brought back from the earlier editions, with new songs as well, including numbers from Heathers, Kinky Boots, Hamilton, The Book of Mormon, Dreamgirls, Songs for a New World, Follies, Cabaret, Ordinary Days, Cry-Baby, Bye Bye Birdie, Into the Woods, and other musicals." Performances take place at the Marcelle Theater, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive, three blocks east of Grand, in Grand Center. For more information, visit or call 314-534-1111.

My take: This is essential cabaret: intimate, acoustic, and heavily informed by American musical theatre. The performers will be familiar to fans of the local theatre and cabaret scene and at least one of them—Ken Haller—has been acting as a kind of roving cabaret ambassador for St. Louis in Chicago and New York.

Photo: John Lamb
Stray Dog Theatre presents the musical Ragtime, based on the novel by E.L. Doctorow, Thursdays through Saturdays through August 19. "Set in the volatile melting pot of New York at the turn of the century, three distinctly American tales are woven together. A stifled upper-class wife, a determined Jewish immigrant, and a daring young Harlem musician are united by courage, compassion, and belief in the promise of the future. As they confront the ongoing contradictions of society, their stories intertwine with notable historic figures in a sweeping musical portrait of an indelible era." Performances take place at The Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee. For more information, visit or call 314-865-1995.

My take: Yes, I'm actually in this one, but the fact is that I have been a great admirer of this show since I first saw it on Broadway almost two decades ago. Part historical pageant, part social and political critique and just a bit fantastical, Ragtime captures the wonder, horror, and inevitable decline of the mad optimism that began this century. It should be required viewing for the rabid free marketeers, so-called "white nationalists" (sounds nicer than "Nazis," although apparently some folks are OK with that label as well now) and self-proclaimed populists who would have us believe that turn of the century America was the best of all possible worlds. This is a big, ambitious production, and reviews have been uniformly positive, and sometimes positively giddy. Just one example, from Steve Allen at Stage Door St. Louis: "Strong singing and acting performances highlight this massive undertaking that hits every note and every tug of the heartstrings with unabashed brilliance." All shows are currently sold out for advance purchase, but it you show up at the theater an hour before show time you can be put on a wait list and the chances of being seated are very good. You can have a drink at the bar and check out the selection of fresh-baked pastries while you wait.

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