Friday, March 06, 2020

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of March 6, 2020

New this week: a rarely seen opera and play, plus cabaret at the Blue Strawberry.

New This Week:

Aphra Behn
Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble presents The Aphra Behn Festival Friday through Sunday at 8 pm March 6-8. "Instead of producing original plays in its fourth year, this year's Aphra Behn Festival will consist of scenes from Aphra Behn's "The Rover", directed by Summer Baer, Taleesha Caturah, Miranda Jagels FĂ©lix, and Victoria Thomas. The Aphra Behn Festival is named for the British playwright, poet, translator, and fiction writer from the Restoration era. As one of the first English women to earn her living by writing, Aphra Behn broke cultural barriers and served as a literary role model for later generations of women. Founded in 2017, The Aphra Behn Festival was inspired by SATEs 2015 production of Or, a play by Liz Duffy Adams featuring Aphra Behn as a character." Performances take place at The Centene Center for the Arts and Education, 3547 Olive in Grand Center. For more information:

My take: This is a rare chance to see a work by a neglected playwright which very likely has never been seen on a local stage. The fact that each act has a different director is also a rare chance to see multiple takes on the same material in the same evening.

Dean Christopher
The Blue Strawberry presents Dean Christopher in A Dean Martin Tribute on Friday, March 6, at 8 pm. "First of all, there is no better or funnier Dean Martin impressionist on earth - talking or singing - than Dean Christopher, no one better at mixing it up with his audience, and no one with more affection or admiration for Dino. Cabaret? Theater piece? Vegas act? You decide as you journey through the music and humor of one of the most beloved entertainers of the 20th century - Dean Martin. Brought to life by award winning actor, singer, and impressionist Dean Christopher, featuring Joe Dreyer at the piano." The Blue Strawberry is at 364 N. Boyle in the Central West End. For more information:

My take: When I saw Dean Christopher's "Rat Pack Christmas" show back in December I was, frankly, bowled over by it. . More to the point, I wrote that his Dean Martin impersonation was especially impressive, completely nailing the singer's vocal quality and "drunk act" shtick . Needless to say, I can recommend this show without reservation (although I wouldn't try to see it without a reservation, as it is officially sold out). Call the Blue Strawberry and see if they can fit you in. You won't regret it.

La fanciulla del west
Photo by Riq Dilly
Winter Opera St. Louis presents the St. Louis premiere of Puccini's La Fanciulla del West (The Girl of the Golden West) Friday at 8 PM and Sunday at 3 PM, March 6 and 8. "Set in gold mining era California, the story includes rough outlaws, rowdy miners, and the 'take no flack' Minnie, owner of the local saloon. When bandit Dick Johnson rides into town, things get hairy between Johnson and Sheriff Jack Rance, with Minnie stuck right in the middle." Performances take place at The Skip Viragh Center for the Arts at Chaminade College Preparatory School, 425 S. Lindbergh. For more information, visit

My take: As I write in my review for KDHX, this rarely seen Puccini melodrama is an unexpected pleasure. Rarely seen operas by major composers are often rare for good reasons, but La Fanciulla del West is, in many ways, a better piece of theatre than some of Puccini's more popular works. Winter Opera is doing a bang-up job with it as well.

Uvee Hayes
The Blue Strawberry presents The True Facts of Life As Revealed by the Blues and Soul of Uvee Hayes on Saturday, March 7, at 8 pm. "A Macon, Mississippi native, Uvee Hayes was born and reared with the Blues. Her mom had a little country store where she would have Friday and Saturday night gatherings. People would come from all over to play, to sing, to listen, to dance. "You heard nothing but the blues,” says Uvee, "and those folks danced the dust up off the floor.” Join Uvee for a night of classic Blues straight from the source." The Blue Strawberry is at 364 N. Boyle in the Central West End. For more information:

My take: I have missed the previous appearances at the Blue Strawberry by Ms. Hayes, but what I have heard from those who have seen her leads me to believe I have missed a damn fine show. Hence the recommendation.

Held Over:

The Band's Visit
Photo by Matthew Murphy
The Fabulous Fox Theatre presents the musical The Band's Visit  running through March 8. "In this joyously offbeat story, set in a town that's way off the beaten path, a band of musicians arrive lost, out of the blue. Under the spell of the desert sky, and with beautiful music perfuming the air, the band brings the town to life in unexpected and tantalizing ways. Even the briefest visit can stay with you forever." The Fabulous Fox Theatre in on N. Grand in Grand Center. For more information:

My take: In the era of the jukebox musical, the amusement park musical, the reverse revival musical rewrite , and similar extravaganzas, one occasionally encounters an intimate, small-cast show that stands out like a tiny diamond in a pile of costume jewelry. Reviews, including my own, have been uniformly positive. This is an intimate show that nevertheless fills the huge Fox with heart and warmth.

Spell #7
The Black Rep presents Ntozake Shange's Spell #7 running through March 8. "This striking choreopoem by the author of For Colored Girls, Ntozake Shange, is set in a bar in St. Louis frequented by Black artists and musicians, actors, and performers. In a series of dreamlike vignettes and poetic monologues, they commiserate about the difficulties they face as black artist. The piece is framed by the narrator, Lou, a magician who wants to use his magic to help the artist come to terms with their blackness and rejoice in their identities. " Performances take place at the Edison Theatre on the Washington University campus. For more information:

My take: A St. Louis native who is best known for her "choreopoem" For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf, a work that combines theatre, dance, music and poetry to produce a unique hybrid art form. Her Spell #7 is less well known but, as Calvin Wilson writes at the Post-Dispatch, it nevertheless "conjures a mood of poetic enchantment." "Director Ron Himes and choreographer Heather Beal collaborate impressively," he notes, "coordinating words and movement with seeming effortlessness. And the performances are splendid, capturing the nuances of Shange&'s avant-garde sensibility."

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