Archive for December, 2011

Hot City, St. Louis Actors’ Studio Announce New Seasons

December 23, 2011

Although St. Louis Actors’ Studio has two shows left in this season, they’ve come out with their 2012-2013 season and this one refers to “kings, queens and pawns.” It will focus on those who act and those who are acted upon and involve these three figures either directly or figuratively.

“Dinner With Friends,” the Pulitzer Prize winning script from Donald Margolies will open the Fall season on October 5 to be followed by the dysfunctional fun from Alan Ayckbourn, “Seasons Greetings” on November 30.

As 2013 comes in, St. Louis Actors’ Studio brings us Edward Albee’s disturbing but highly intriguing “The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia?” starting January 18. Then the rarely produced Tennessee Williams’ play, “A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur opens March 8.

April 19 is the ¬†beginning of the enigmatic Samuel Beckett classic, “Waiting For Godot” and then the season closes with the June 3 opening of Shakespeare’s “King Lear.” It’s a powerful season that will light up the historic Gaslight Square Theatre.

Over at the Kranzberg Arts Center, Hot City Theatre opens January 20 with David Mamet’s controversial play about sexual harassment, “Oleanna.” Powerful performers John Pierson and the lovely Rachel Fenton star. Then a couple of other strong actors, Steve Isom and Chris Lawyer will bring us Richard Dresser’s “Rounding Third” opening May 11.

This year’s play festival winner, “Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday” opens September 7 and explores what happens when a person must follow their destiny. Then, a production of the Charles Busch hilarious take on nuns from movies to real life takes place with a November 30 opening, “The Divine Sister.” Should be fun with the outrageous antics of this playwright/actor.

Let’s face it, we’re in for some great shows as 2012 (and even 2013) begin to take shape for the local theatre scene. Contact St. Louis Actors’s Studio at 314-458-2978 to find out how to get tickets to the rest of this season which includes the Tracy Letts zany shenanigans of “Killer Joe” and the classic “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” and their new 2012-2013 season. And give Hot City a call at 314-289-4063 to get season ticket info.

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St. Louis Will Host First Annual Fringe Festival

December 23, 2011

The streets of St. Louis will transform into a stage for the St. Lou Fringe Festival for the first time this summer. Scheduled for the last week-end of June 2012, the celebration will take place on the fringes of Grand Center and in the Locust Business District.

The St. Lou Fringe Festival will be a five-day immersion in cutting edge performing arts, connecting brave artists with bold audiences. Organizers expect to welcome over one hundred performances by thirty local and national companies. “We are excited to see passionate artists converge to create an explosive pressure cooker of artistic expression,” says festival Executive Director, Em Piro.

Characterized by their original, accessible, uncensored and rapid-fire nature and because of the enormous success of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, Fringe Festivals have been popping up around the globe. With the founding of St. Lou Fringe, St. Louis will join the ranks of metropolitan cultural hotspots like New York, L.A., New Orleans, Orlando, Chicago, Minneapolis and Kansas City. St. Lou Fringe is a member of the United States Association of Fringe Festivals.

Fringes are traditionally considered theatre festivals but often include dance, music, comedy, slam/spoken word, performance art, fashion, vaudeville, burlesque or circus acts. Patrons can pop into half-a-dozen shows on any given night to experience something new while street performers roam the festival grounds.

STLF needs the support of arts patrons and local businesses to make the festival a success. Potential donors and sponsors are encouraged to contact Em Piro at 314-643-7853 (STLF). Find more info at stlfringe.com. And we’ll have more information at Stage Door St. Louis as events are booked.

 

New Seasons: Citilites and Stages

December 13, 2011

Both Citilites and Stages-St. Louis begin their seasons later in the year. At Citilites, we’ll be treated to three great plays and, who knows, we may even see the re-emergence of Citilites West. Leading off the season is the once-controversial “The Boys In The Band- hitting the boards from March 2-18. This Mart Crowley classic raised eyebrows when it first opened and then transformed into a great movie- due in part to the original cast all participating. I remember a heavy police presence at the first community theatre production in St. Louis when it was presented at the Florissant Civic Center.

Coming up next will be “Brave Smiles-Another Lesbian Tragedy” by The Five Lesbian Brothers. This one holds forth at the Gaslight Square Theatre July 13-29.

Closing out their regular season will be the uproarious “Ruthless! The Musical.” This story of the ultimate stage mothers and little girls worthy of today’s “Toddlers and Tiaras” will have you rolling in the aisles. It runs November 2-18. Contact them at 314-773-1879 or citilitestheatre.com for season tickets or more information.

Stages-St. Louis, offering summer musical theatre in Kirkwood, will present season 26- The American Composer Celebration. Featuring some of the greatest American composers of musical theatre, they lead off with Fats Waller’s “Ain’t Misbehavin’. This musical revue of the great man’s work will offer great songs like “Honeysuckle Rose,” “Your Feets’ Too Big” and the captivating title number. It runs June 1 through July 1.

Rodgers and Hammerstein will be represented July 20-August 19 as Stages returns one of their biggest hits, “The Sound of Music.” The glorious story based on the Von Trapp family is a favorite for young and old alike. “Do-Re-Mi,” “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” “Favorite Things” and the title song are but a few of the hits from this wondrous score.

Closing out the regular season will be the great George Gershwin, represented by a new musical featuring his works, created originally by Tommy Tune, “My One And Only.” Besides the toe-tapping title number, thrill to great Gershwin favorites like “Strike Up The Band,” S’Wonderful” and “Funny Face.” It runs September 7- October 7.

Also part of their regular season is their traditional children’s musical- this time around and adaptation of the great Disney film, “Aladdin.” It runs June 20 to July 1. Contact them at 314-821-2407 or stagesstlouis.org for season tickets or more information. So join Citilites and Stages- St. Louis as they bring exciting theatre to our town.

New Seasons: Dramatic License and Black Rep

December 13, 2011

A regular series on Stage Door St. Louis is “New Seasons” which fills you in on what the local companies are presenting as their new seasons begin. A lot of the groups begin with the calendar year, some have only a summer season, others start in the Fall. This segment of the series will let you know about Dramatic License Productions and the St. Louis Black Rep. Continuing their popular Cabaret Series,

Dramatic License opens their new season with “A Valentine Cabaret” in February. Performing songs about finding and losing love, the show will once again feature local favorites performing songs from Broadway and beyond. Look for it February 10-12.

The regular season starts in March with the Tennessee Williams’ drama, “The Glass Menagerie.” Set in 1930’s St. Louis, this classic deals with the stern Amanda Wingfield who tries to protect her physically-challenged daughter from the outside world until the infamous “Gentleman Caller” upsets both of their lives. It runs March 1-18.

Dramatic License will then present their first musical, the delightful two-person musical version of “The Fourposter,” “I Do! I Do!” This Tom Jones/Harvey Schmidt¬†classic features the lives- from marriage to old age- of Michael and Agnes and gives us the haunting and beautiful song, “My Cup Runneth Over With Love.” This one runs from April 26 to May 13.

The 2000 Pulitzer Prize winning “Dinner With Friends” arrives for a September 13-30 run. Featuring two couples shows us true friendship, marriage and the effect of infidelity both.

“Moonlight and Magnolias” brings a side-splitting comedy to the boards based on the attempt to bring “Gone With The Wind” to the silver screen. David O. Selznick, director Victor Fleming and writer Ben Hecht close themselves in for a much needed re-write which leads to hilarious results. Watch for the high jinks coming to Dramatic License October 25- November 11.

Finally, the popular Holiday Cabaret returns for a December 7-9 run. Looks like another exciting and challenging season for Dramatic License Productions. Contact them at 636-220-7012 or dramaticlicenseproductions.org for season tickets or more information.

At the Black Rep, things get rolling January 4 with the classic story of love and the generation gap, “On Golden Pond.” Veteran performers Ron Himes and Linda

Ron Himes and Linda Kennedy star in the Black Rep's opening production of "On Golden Pond."

Kennedy star in the show which will run through February 5.

Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” follows running February 15 to March 4. Join them for this delightful comedy where we but slumber while these sprites cavort in Shakespeare’s classic tale.

“No Child” runs March 14 to April 1 and then the blues reign supreme as we’re treated to a musical tragedy, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” It runs April 11 through NMay 13.

The Black Rep then closes their season with the shocker, “Insidious,” which runs May 23 to June 24. Contact them at 314-534-3810 or theblackrep.org for season tickets or more information. Don’t miss out on the new seasons for both Dramatic License and, celebrating season 35, the St. Louis Black Rep.

Webster University/Muny- A Win-Win Deal

December 13, 2011

Webster University and the Muny announced the establishment of a new partnership that will blend the renowned outdoor theatre with Webster’s Conservatory of Theatre Arts.

The partnership will include the sharing of resources and opportunities to develop and train performers and production staff for careers in American musical theatre through internships at the Muny.

Webster’s musical theatre performance students will participate in master classes offered by Muny choreographers and directors and in workshop development projects for future seasons. They also will audition and be selected for Muny chorus opportunities. Conservatory production students with majors in design, production support and stage management will be selected through interviews and portfolio reviews for the internships at the Muny to assist with season planning in casting, scenic and costume design and production operations.

Beth Stroble, Webster’s president and Dennis Reagan, Muny’s president and CEO are excited about this first ever cooperative partnership between a professional theatrical organization and a University theatre program.

Super Quartet of Singers Brings It Home for “A Holiday Cabaret”

December 5, 2011

Dramatic License Productions focuses on the songs of the holidays as they bring a delightful quartet of performers to the stage in “A Holiday Cabaret.” It’s a quick 90 minutes- even with the intermission- but it’s a show jam-packed with traditional and not so traditional songs of the season.

Ron Gibbs is one of the performers as well as director of the show and he keeps things moving with a minimal of dialogue and a lot of great music. His rendition of “O’ Holy Night” is an early show stopper in the program and it’s just one of his highlights that includes a great duet with the other male performer in the show, Brian Kim in the Maltby and Shire grim holiday number, “I Don’t Remember Christmas.”

As for Brian Kim, he gets to showcase his talents as well as perform in the small ensemble. He delights with the pop sounds of “Last Christmas” and wows us with a strong rendition of “Mary, Did You Know?”

Ron Gibbs, Michele Burdette Elmore, Brian Kim and April Strelinger bring us songs of the season in the Dramatic License Production of "A Holiday Cabaret."

April Strelinger brings a sweet voice and real charm in her songs including a few solos including the Jason Robert Brown classic turn on Kurt Weill, “Surabuya Santa” and the perennial purr of the sultry “Santa Baby.”

Rounding out the talented quartet is the always wonderful Michele Burdette Elmore. As she and Ron Gibbs reminisce before their show-stopping song and dance number to “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” they both have a history (which still continues) with Stages. She still has marvelous stage presence and belts out a number like nobody else.

It’s just a delightful way to spend 90 minutes away from your hectic holiday shopping (Dramatic License is in Chesterfield Mall, after all) and enjoy the sounds of the season with some of the best singers and performers around our town today. Join them for “A Holiday Cabaret” through December 18th. Call 636-220-7012 or go online to http://www.dramaticlicenseproductions.org for tickets or more information.

Stray Dog Brings A Darker Side of The Holidays with “The Santaland Diaries”

December 5, 2011

Stray Dog Theatre and Ben Watts bring us the revenge of the elves as “The Santaland Diaries” tells us of comedy writer David Sedaris and his adventures as a Macy’s elf during one holiday season. It’s a story that was begging to be told.

Although the script could use a little update from the original Joe Mantello adaptation, it doesn’t take away the laugh-out-loud reaction to this little bit of reality during all of the usual happy holiday fare. Stray Dog Artistic Director, Gary F. Bell, has handled the on stage shenanigans with a flair for the dramatic and his star, Ben Watts, does not disappoint. His sarcastic approach to the “rally meetings” for the elves to instill spirit to the reality of rude parents and even ruder and cruder children make for a unabashed look at retail in general and the holiday season of retail in particular.

The spare but effective set design of Jay V. Hall gives you the feeling of the season and then Ben Watts takes you on a journey you’re not likely to forget as he dons his tacky elf outfit and leads us through the “greeter” elves, the “picture taking” elves, the “exit” elves and everything in between. Anyone who has worked in retail has to applaud the final moments as one worker has decided enough is enough and let’s a customer know exactly what she thinks.

It may not be a must-see holiday tradition like “Rudolph” or “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” but “The Santaland Diaries” is certainly something we can all identify with- whether we’ve been in retail or not. It’s surely a microcosm of the worst job any of us ever had.

See the amazing Ben Watts as “Crumpet the Elf” in “The Santaland Diaries” through December 17th at the Tower Grove Abbey. Contact Stray Dog Theatre at 314-865-1995 or online at straydogtheatre.org for tickets or more information.

“Tom Sawyer” A Major Treat for Young and Old Alike

December 5, 2011

Tim McKiernan as Tom Sawyer and Hayley Treider as Becky Thatcher in the Rep's "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer." (photo credit: Eric Woolsey)

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis takes a different step this holiday season and presents what is basically a children’s classic for the stage- “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.” This new adaptation by Laura Eason manages to capture the spirit of the great Mark Twain characters and keeps a children-loaded audience riveted through two acts. It’s a marvel to watch and an even bigger treat to hear the silence as the kids in the audience are enjoying the on-stage shenanigans as much as their folks. Leading the way as the title character is Tim McKiernan. He manages to provide the wonder and amazement that’s around every corner for a young boy. Joining him in the fun is Robbie Tann as Huckleberry Finn and Hayley Treider as Becky Thatcher. Although all post college age, they manage to embrace the exuberance of youth.

The rest of the cast shines as well as they all play major roles and bring other members of the ensemble to life as well. Michael D. Nichols is an imposing Injun’ Joe while Joseph Adams plays the wrongly accused Muff Potter and Nance Williamson is a stern Aunt Polly. Justin Fuller and Nate Trinrud round out the cast.

The cast of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" make an amazing discovery during the production's final moments. (photo credit: Eric Woolsey)

Director Jeremy B. Cohen brings the vivid characters to life and, as I mentioned before, manages to hold the rapt attention of young and old alike. Special notes go out to the technical staff including the Daniel Ostling set design which makes for colorful movement to portray the multiple locations including a highly effective sequence in the cave. And the powerful lighting design of Robert M. Wierzel brings those moments in the cave to life and dazzles us with some tricks for the eye during the whitewashing of Aunt Polly’s fence.

Although we miss the usual musical during this holiday slot, we’ll get our fill next month with Sondheim’s “Sunday In The Park With George.” All in all, you can’t ask for a better holiday show to share with the family than “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.” You can enjoy it through December 23rd on the Mainstage. Call 314-968-4925 or log onto http://www.repstl.org for tickets or more information.

 

Much Ado About “Ballyhoo”

December 3, 2011

New Jewish Theatre continues their season with the Alfred Uhry comedy, “The Last Night of Ballyhoo.” Set in 1939 Atlanta, it’s a comedy that broaches some very serious subjects that are still around today including the paradox of internal prejudice. These days we here mainly about “black on black” crime but this phenomenon stretches across race, class and ethnicity.

The cast of "The Last Night Of Ballyhoo" at New Jewish Theatre.

We’re introduced into a household occupied by brother and sister, Boo Levy and Adolph Freitag. Greg Johnston is admirable as the brother who has taken over the family business- a very successful one- and kept a steady course. Peggy Billo turns in another stunning performance as Boo, who has long resented the “man” in the family handed the job that she thinks she could have handled even better. This, as we find out, is just one in a long line of prejudices (real and imagined) that Boo has boiling inside of her. Not the least of those is her resentment of Jews of ethnicities other than her own. When Adolph brings a hot-shot New Yorker into the local business, she immediately shuns him. He’s a Jew of Russian descent, her family has a German background. With the Second World War approaching, this becomes even more significant to her.

In the meantime, other activities are keeping the household busy including Christmas which they celebrate with a decked out tree that Joe, the interloper (according to Boo), refers to as a Channukah bush. Also is the anticipation of the big debutante ball for the Jewish girls in town, Ballyhoo. Boo’s daughter Lala, played to sweet perfection by Rachel Fenton, hopes to snag a date with her childhood friend, Peachy Weil of the wealthy Mississippi Weil’s. Dylan Duke is marvelous as the obnoxious, boisterous Peachy who loves nothing better than stringing everyone along with his crass, childish behavior.

Meanwhile, Laurie McConnell is remarkable as the ditzy, lovable Reba Freitag. Her daughter, Sunny, is on her way home from Wellesley where she is an honor student- much to the chagrin of LaLa who couldn’t keep up with her studies at Michigan. Alexandra Woodruff is a charming, demure Sunny who falls for Joe. Adam Moskal plays Joe with proper indignation and winds up softening his stance in favor of love.

Director Gary Wayne Barker brings this family and their issues on stage with love, respect and just the right touch of pathos. He’s ably assisted by his technical staff including remarkable work by Justin Barisonek as the set designer and the Michael Sullivan lighting design as well as the costumes of Michele Friedman Siler. It all adds up to a night in Atlanta when “Gone With The Wind” is premiering and this lovable, mixed up family awaits “The Last Night Of Ballyhoo.”

Catch it all at the New Jewish Theatre through December 18th. Call 314-442-3283 or visit newjewishtheatre.org for tickets or more information.

Rachel Fenton, as LaLa, adjusts the star atop the tree in New Jewish Theatre's "The Last Night of Ballyhoo."