Thursday, December 28, 2017

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of December 28th, 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:

The Cabaret Project and The Improv Shop present The Blue Velvet Lounge Saturday, December 30, at 8 pm. There are also performances on January 13 and 27, and February 10 and 24. "The Cabaret Project teams up with The Improv Shop to co-present their dynamic, fully improvised theater piece featuring live jazz standards - direct from the mythical Blue Velvet Lounge. Each performance features eight smart, funny improvisers who create the stories and sagas of the patrons of the Blue Velvet Lounge - on the spot. Surrounded by live jazz vocal standards, this character driven story is a different show each night it's performed. The Blue Velvet Lounge is a perfect evening out for lovers of cabaret and comedy. Food and drink available at the Improv Shop." The performance takes place at The Improv Shop, 3960 Chouteau in The Grove. For more information:

My take: Cabaret shows are carefully planned, but so is a good improv show. Improvisation works best when there's some sort of structure to build on. So combining the two makes more sense than you might think, especially when the singer at the center of it all is local cabaret pro Tim Schall.

Lea DeLaria
Jazz St. Louis and The Cabaret Project present Lea DeLaria with special guest Janis Seigal of Manhattan Transer in Delaria + Bowie = Jazz on Wednesday and Thursday, December 27 and 28, at 7:30 p.m. "Lea DeLaria seems to have achieved overnight stardom with her two time, SAG Award winning, stand-out role as Carrie 'Big Boo' Black in the Netflix hit series Orange is the New Black. However, DeLaria's multi-faceted career as a comedian, actress, and jazz musician has, in fact, spanned decades. DeLaria was the featured vocalist at the 50th Anniversary of the Newport Jazz Festival, and has performed in some of the most prestigious houses in the world including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Chicago Symphony, Hollywood Bowl, The Royal Albert Hall and the Sydney Opera House. " Performances take place at the Ferring Jazz Bistro on Washington just east of the Fox in Grand Center. For more information:

My take: It may be cold as Paul Ryan's heart outside, but over at Jazz St. Louis it's positively smokin' as Lea DeLaria brings her David Bowie show (based on her CD House of David) to the stage. With a killer five-piece band and a special guest appearance by Manhattan Transfer founder Janis Siegel, this is a show guaranteed to kill any holiday blues. And the positively Wagnerian take on Bowie's cinematically dystopian "Life on Mars?" is worth the price of admission all by itself. The bistro boasts a short but interesting-looking menu, so you might want to seriously consider ordering dinner and making a night of it. The show is a co-presentation with The Cabaret Project (where, to be fair, I'm a board member).

Conductor Nicholas Buc
Nicholas Buc conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in Dreamworks in Concert on Friday and Saturday at 7 pm, December 29 and 30. "Relive the moments from Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon and more as they are projected on the big screen while the STL Symphony plays the magical music live. An experience for the entire family, join us to celebrate more than 20 years of inspired animation and iconic music scores by Hans Zimmer, Harry Gregson-Williams, John Powell, Alexandre Desplat, Alan Silvestri, Danny Elfman and many more!" The concerts take place at Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information:

My take: DreamWorks Animation is the animated film division of DreamWorks Studios, which was originally founded in 1994 by Steven Spielberg along with former Disney executive Jeffrey Katzenberg and recording industry mogul David Geffen. The DreamWorks Animation division of has been in the forefront of the digital animation revolution for nearly two decades now, with hits like Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, and Puss in Boots, to name only a few. The company has engaged some of Hollywood's leading composers to write scores for its hit films. This isn't a theatre event as such, but I'm adding it to the list anyway because in my experience these SLSO live film events are always great fun for the whole family. Which seems very appropriate for the holiday season.

Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates
Metro Theatre Company presents Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates through December 29. In this timeless story, Hans and Gretel Brinker strive to provide for their family and prove their own worth by entering a local speedskating contest - first prize is a pair of gleaming silver skates! The play culminates with a spectacular St. Nicholas Day race on the stage of The Grandel Theatre stage. Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates celebrates generosity, helping others and is an exhilarating tale of courage and determination." Performances take place at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square in Grand Center. For more information:

My take: If you're looking for a theatre events for the whole family, this is worth serious consideration. Metro has been producing family-friendly theatre isn't just kid stuff for many years now, and while this show is oriented more towards the kids than some past efforts, reviews indicate that it's done with a real polish that should appeal to adults as well. "Artistic director Julia Flood takes advantage of the spacious Grandel stage as the show’s director," writes Mark Bretz at Ladue News, "keeping her cast gliding around on their imaginary skates throughout the course of the play’s one act...It’s a treat for kids and also an education for them to take a glance at life 200 years ago, showing them how essential decency and dreams haven’t changed all that much across the centuries."

Held Over:

Photo: John Lamb
Max and Louie Productions presents Souvenir: A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins through December 31. "Dubbed by her critics as the "Dire Diva of Din", passionate music lover and wealthy socialite, Florence Foster Jenkins enjoyed a remarkably successful concert career even though she was unburdened by talent and deliriously tone deaf.Her story is told through the eyes of her pianist, Cosme McMoon. A truly talented musician, he regards her at first as a little more then an easy way to pay the rent, but his initial contempt gives way to reluctant admiration, then friendship and a unique kind of love." Performances take place at the Marcelle Theatre, 3310 Samuel Shepard Dr. in Grand Center. For more information, visit

My take: As I write in my review, the Christmas season is many things to many people, but to me it has always been a time to celebrate love and friendship. That's why I think this just might be the perfect holiday show. Debby Lennon is ideal as the legendary society matron soprano with the tin ear and Paul Cereghino is the impeccable foil as her accompanist and friend Cosme McMoon. Their story, in Mr. Temperley's telling, is a tribute to the power of love and friendship. It's funny, ultimately touching, and brilliantly done under Sydnie Grosberg Ronga's expert direction. Adding to the polish are Teresa Doggett's stunning costumes and Dunsi Dai's elegant set, enhanced greatly by Patrick Huber's lighting and digital projections.

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