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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 stlouisfringe.com.
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.
|9 to 5, the Musical|
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
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
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.