Friday, December 20, 2019

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of December 20, 2019

This is your last chance for some highly-praised shows this week, as well as a chance to catch a children's classic at ITC and some cabaret at the Blue Strawberry.

New This Week:
The Elves and the Shoemaker
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis's Imaginary Theatre Company presents the children's musical The Elves and the Shoemaker opening on Saturday, December 21, with performances at 11 am and 3 pm, and running through Monday, December 23. The show is written by Sarah Brandt with music and lyrics by Neal Richardson. "When a kindly shoemaker gives his only remaining pair of shoes to a cold and hungry beggar woman, he finds his good deed rewarded in very unexpected ways. The shoemaker is shocked by the appearance of magic elves who turn his simple shoe shop into a great success, thrilling customers with their special creations. Based on the tale by the Brothers Grimm, this beloved, warm-hearted story is perfect for the holiday season, reminding us that where we find kindness, generosity and hope, anything is possible." Performances take place in the Heagney Theatre at Nerinx Hall High School, 530 East Lockwood Avenue, Webster Groves. For more information:

My take: Looking for some holiday fun for the kids? This recurring favorite by ITC is a good bet. In his review of the original 2011 production for Broadwayworld, Chris Gibson wrote that "Brandt and Richardson have concocted another intelligent winner that brings a beloved classic to life. My six year old son enjoyed it, and that's a sure stamp of approval." ITC treats its young audience with respect and clearly assumes that children's theatre should also be good theatre.

Ken Haller
The Blue Strawberry presents Happy Hallerdays with Ken Haller on Saturday, December 21, at 8 pm. "In his take on the holidays, Ken promises to be surprising, funny, personal, moving, great company and just a little exasperating. Just like all our holidays!" The Blue Strawberry is at 364 N. Boyle in the Central West End. For more information:

My take: In my review of the original 2017 production of this entertaiing show, I described it as "a romp through a full calendar year of three-day weekends, starting with Christmas and working around the calendar. Peppered with insights from Mr. Haller's life in medicine and theatre, the evening is fun and funny, but also touching and profound." 'Nuff said.

John McDaniel
The Blue Strawberry presents A John McDaniel Christmas on Friday, December 20, at 8 pm. "Grammy and Emmy Award winner John McDaniel comes home for the holidays in his first solo concert in 6 years. He has worked with many, many Broadway stars. John will share songs and stories from his career on Broadway and on television, as well as Christmas remembrances from his childhood in St. Louis." The Blue Strawberry is at 364 N. Boyle in the Central West End. For more information:

My take: Mr. McDaniel is a talented arranger/pianist and a highly engaging performer. I have seen him here twice (in 2007 and again just last year with Barg Jungr in a dynamite Beatles tribute show) and have been tremendously impressed with work both times. I'm looking forward to his holiday show; so should you.

Held Over:

Fully Committed
Photo: John Gitchoff
New Jewish Theater presents the comedy Fully Committed Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Saturdays at 4 and 8 pm, and Sundays at 2 pm through December 22 "The New Jewish Theatre's Artistic Director, Eddie Coffield, Artistic Director, announces the cast and creative team of Fully Committed. Arriving just in time for the holidays, Becky Mode's hilarious hit lets the madness run wild. “I am overjoyed to bring Fully Committed to the New Jewish Theatre during the most festive time of year!” Coffield said. “There's no actor more equipped to tackle 40-plus characters than our beloved Will Bonfiglio. I can hardly wait for St. Louis to see Will bring this timeless, one-man tour-de-force to life!” This hilarious comedy features more than 40 characters that come to life through one actor.” Performances take place in the Marvin and Harlene Wool Studio Theater at the Jewish Community Center, 2 Millstone Campus Drive in Creve Coeur. For more information: or call 314-442-3283.

My take: A one-actor show can be great fun if the script is worthwhile and the actor is up to the task. I've seen this show three times (here at the Rep and Stray Dog, and in Chicago with Bronson Pinchot) and found it vastly entertaining every time. The characters in Becky Mode's script are deftly and convincingly drawn, which raises this above the level of a simple virtuoso acting display. Mr. Bonfiglio has earned plenty of praise for his work on stage and is getting good notices for his performance here. "Bonfiglio doesn’t break a sweat at the frequently breakneck pace of character switches," writes Ann Lemmons Pollack, "flying back and forth between voices and faces. He’s just plain terrific. And he’s terrifically funny." That's pretty typical of the notices thus far. You should maybe get your tickets sooner rather than later.

A Life in the Theatre
Photo: Patrick Huber
St. Louis Actors' Studio presents A Life in the Theatre by David Mamet Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 3 pm through December 22. "The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Glengarry Glen Ross and Speed-The-Plow, takes us into the lives of two actors: John, young and rising into the first flush of his success; the other Robert, older, anxious, and beginning to wane. In a series of short, spare, and increasingly raw exchanges, we see the estrangement of youth from age and the wider, inevitable and endless cycle of life, in and out of the theatre." Performances take place at the Gaslight Theatre on North Boyle in the Central West End. For more information, call 314-458-2978 or visit

My take: I have found Mamet less and less interesting as he sinks deeper and deeper into his Angry Old White Guy role, but A Life in the Theatre is a much earlier work (from 1977) and free of political axe grinding. Reviews for the STLAS production have been good, with Calvin Wilson's notice for being a good example, which describes the show as "spellbinding and frequently hilarious...a rare and illuminating glimpse into what goes on in the mind and heart of an actor."

Pride and Prejudice
Photo: Phillip Hamer
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents Pride and Prejudice, adapted from the Jane Austen novel by Christopher Baker, through December 29. "In a world of opulent estates and lavish private balls, where women's entire futures hinge on marriage, Elizabeth Bennet stands apart. With a vibrant wit and a headstrong sense of pride, Elizabeth places her own needs first and refuses to marry for mere convenience. But she meets her match in the unlikely figure of Mr. Darcy. Beginning as a testy battle of words and ideas, their relationship blossoms into a remarkable romance between two passionate intellects who play by their own rules. " Performances take place at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information:

My take: Notices for this show have been very positive. "Augustin Family Artistic Director Hana S. Sharif makes her directorial debut at The Rep with this exquisitely conceived and accomplished paean to the timeless charm and acute observations of novelist Jane Austen," writes Mark Bretz at Ladue News. "The Rep’s adaptation of Austen’s enduring novel, Pride and Prejudice, is impossibly romantic and richly rapturous in its depiction of Austen’s finely etched characters." At, Calvin Wilson calls this "a brilliantly entertaining show that immediately sweeps the audience up in its joyous storytelling. Deftly sidestepping stodginess, Sharif elicits smart, engaging performances that bring Austen’s characters to vibrant life." I saw it last week and found it utterly engaging; highly recommended.

WickedPhoto courtesy of The Fabulous Fox
The Fox Theatre presents the musical Wicked opening on Wednesday, December 4, at 7:30 pm and running through December 29. "So much happened before Dorothy dropped in. WICKED, the Broadway sensation, looks at what happened in the Land of Oz…but from a different angle. Long before Dorothy arrives, there is another young woman, born with emerald-green skin-smart, fiery, misunderstood, and possessing an extraordinary talent. When she meets a bubbly blonde who is exceptionally popular, their initial rivalry turns into the unlikeliest of friendships…until the world decides to call one “good,” and the other one “wicked.”" The Fox Theatre is at 527 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information:

My take: I haven't seen this particular tour, but in my review of the 2005 tour I noted that composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz and book author Winnie Holtzman have done a remarkable job of simplifying and reducing the story of Gregory McGuire's original novel while still remaining true to the original characters and their relationships. The score is one of Schwartz's best, and that's saying something.

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