2012 Year In Review (Tongue-In-Cheek Edition)

Screen shot 2012-12-26 at 12.54.35 PMWith my fellow colleagues and I planning the first “Louie Awards” for this March, I thought it would be fun to just offer some thoughts from the 2012 theatre season in St. Louis with no commitment to truly “best” of the year. Our plans for the Louie’s include a nice break down of Drama, Comedy and Musicals but don’t worry, you won’t have a long and involved awards ceremony for this one- it’s casual, fast, with plenty of food and drink available next door to the Gaslight Theatre in the West End Grill and Pub. And it will be a great chance to meet and greet those of us who review  the actors, directors and tech folks throughout the year.

But now, let’s take a look at some of my personal “categories” this year…

Most Ambitious Production of the Year: Stray Dog Theatre’s “Angels In America.” Let’s face it, it’s great if it works and they gave us about 6-1/2 hours of the most gripping theatre we’ve seen in some time.

Best Look At “Gone With The Wind” Since Carol Burnett: Dramatic License production of “Moonlight and Magnolias.” How did this movie ever reach the screen let alone as one of the most enduring classics of all time?

Most Impressive Set Change: The exciting crew that changed the interior of the Chicago bungalow and added 50 years to the place in the Rep’s “Clybourne Park.” And a shout out to set designer Scott C. Neale for his marvelous work. First time I’ve seen an audience stick around during intermission when they realized what was going on- also prompted applause for the set change crew.

Best Shakespeare That Wasn’t Officially Shakespeare: With the Bard represented a great deal this year- “Othello,” “Coriolanus,” “Winter’s Tale,” two “Midsummer’s” and perhaps more, it was only fitting that they were all “trumped” by St. Louis Shakespeare’s “The Compleat Works…Abridged.”

Nazi’s, Nazi’s Everywhere: Despite Mel Brooks’ attempts to disparage Hitler for good with “The Producers” and his “Hitler On Ice” segment of “History of the World,” those pesky Nazi’s keep showing up. This year, another production of “Sound of Music”- this time at Stages, and STLAS’s marvelous production of C.P. Taylor’s “Good.”

Suicide is Painless…I Mean, Painful…That Is, Funny…Wait, I Just Don’t Know: This year R-S Theatrics showed us suicide is all of that and more with “Suicide, Inc.”

Best Non-English Speaking Character Speaking Gibberish: John Scherer in the Rep’s delightful return (after 30+ years) of “The Foreigner.”

Point of Please Return: We miss Avalon Theatre Company and NonProphet Theatre and hopefully will soon see the return of Citlitlites Theatre. We will also miss- if the blurb in the “Good” program is true- Rachel Fenton who plans a move to California.

But Let’s Keep These Good Times Rolling: A happy initial season to the St. Louis Fringe Festival. And congratulations on the marvelous success of Deanna Jent’s off-Broadway venture with her dynamic play, “Falling.” This one will live on in regional productions and maybe even a revival in the Big Apple. Finally, a big shout out to the cooperation of the St. Louis theatre community best exemplified by the folks at Gaslight Theatre opening their arms and doors to R-S Theatrics when they ran afoul of problems at the Black Cat Theatre in mid-rehearsal.

Best Show About Boxing Day: Hey, I can’t help it- I love Alan Ayckbourn and it was a delight to see “Season’s Greetings” at STLAS given such a “British” production thanks to the solid direction of Elizabeth Helman.

The “Rachel, Rachel” Awards (with apologies to Joanna Woodward) For The Best…Rachels: Two superb actresses sharing the same first name- Rachel Fenton and Rachel Hanks- displayed their acting chops in multiple productions this year. Let’s hear it for Rachel and, of course, Rachel.

Loose Cannon Awards: Since we’re on the subject, how about two folks sharing the same last name- Sarah Cannon and Jason Cannon lit up the stage as well this year. Audiences had a real “cannon”ball watching them both.

“Hands” On Award: We might as well stay in the pun ballpark and give a shout out to Michelle Hand who played a psychiatrist, a “friend” and even a donkey- among others- in roles that would stretch any actress (it’s rumored that- after that last role- she may have to carry Sancho Panza around on her back next year).

Heaven And Hell Awards: We were given some false hopes about heaven (“Way To Heaven” at New Jewish), a visit from, not one, but many “deities” in “Imaginary Jesus” at Mustard Seed and descended into the “9 Circles” of hell at R-S Theatrics.

Ya’ Smart Aleck Kid, Ya’ Awards: Lot’s of smart mouthed little ones running around on stages in St. Louis this year- good and bad. How about Ryan DeLuca as Eugene in the Rep’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs?” Chris Cross gave Ron Himes all he could handle as Billy Ray, Jr. in the Black Rep’s “On Golden Pond.” Ryan Foizey gave us the anguish of youth as Moritz in Stray Dog’s “Spring Awakening” and Ashley Emerson gave us the irrepressible young heroine in Opera Theatre’s “Alice In Wonderland.”


Most Outrageous Musical: The machinations and missteps of “Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson” at New Line featuring an even more outrageous performance by John Sparger.

Most Welcome Live Music: “Ain’t Misbehavin'” at Stages featured an on stage band. A welcome relief from the normal “canned” music in their productions.

Sondheim, Sweeney, Sunday: That’s right, both “Sweeney Todd” at Opera Theatre and “Sunday In The Park With George” at the Rep showed why Sondheim is still the king.

With Neighbors Like This…: Stray Dog brought us the trashiest musical of the year (but in a good way) with “The Great American Trailer Park Musical.”

Bet You Won’t See These Musicals Again: Despite “High Fidelity” at New Line being a “repeat,” you probably won’t see a production in town again. Also, their production of “Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson” is probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience. How about the aforementioned “Great American Trailer Park Musical?” And one more that we’re not likely too get a chance to see again is the excellent production from R-S Theatrics of “Adding Machine-The Musical.”

My Wife Hates Musicals With Kids: That’s right, Gail is not a friend of “Annie” and shows of that ilk (she likes “Le Miz” because the kid gets killed!) so you can imagine she did not accompany me to Stages’ “Sound of Music.” But she missed a dynamite performance by the Von Trapp children (and the adults were pretty darned good, too). BTW: She loves “teaching” children music having just retired last year after 35 years of teaching music in Pattonville School District.

Best Singing Schoolteacher: Keith Thompson in Stray Dog’s “Spring Awakening.”

Best Singer In A Non-Musical: Missy Miller gave a stirring rendition of Marlene Dietrich’s “Falling In Love Again” (in German, yet) in STLAS’s “Good.”

Best Belters: Nothing like a lady who knows how to belt a song- bringing it from her toes and blowing us out of our theatre seats. My choices this year were Willena Vaughn doing her best Nell Carter in Stages’ “Ain’t Misbehavin'” and Johanna Elkana Hale giving it her all in Insight Theatre’s production of Kander and Ebb’s “And The World Goes Round.”

I’m exhausted so that’s about all I’m up for his year. Hope you got to see a lot of theatre in our town this year and don’t forget the “Louie’s” coming in March- more details later.

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