Allen’s Alley (5-1-13) News & Notes On Theatre In St. Louis

Allen's Alley picAnother edition of “Allen’s Alley” and first an answer to last week’s quiz. The former managing director of HotCity Theatre, John Armstrong, has the same name as actor John Armstrong from the now defunct City Players. Also in common is that HotCity is an offshoot of the old City Players.

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Before we launch into some local theatre news, let me explain a bit about “Allen’s Alley.” Besides an “outlet” for me to talk about theatre in our town and offer a few opinions as well as other tidbits of information, I’d like you to send me any info you’d like to get the word out on about auditions, casting, season schedules, etc. Just send it here or to my personal email-

THE NAME: Although a big fan of my late namesake, Steve Allen, another comedian from that era (and a bit before) I was fond of was Fred Allen. He created a wide range of characters for his old radio show that he called “Allen’s Alley.” When I first started writing theatre reviews, my written column in several publications was called the same. So I decided to bring it back for this special weekly (or every other weekly or monthly or whatever strikes me) look into the theatre world around me.

THE LOGO: I met several remarkable people during my 23 years at Maryville University. Among those was a shy art student named Jim Brune who became one of my student assistants during his four year program at the college. I asked him to design a logo for my theatre review column using the “stage door” theme. This rather crude sketch became a favorite of mine and I searched high and low for it when I decided to create this column. Jim worked with me at the theatre department on campus and I got him involved in the Hawthorne Players community theatre as well. Unfortunately his life was cut short when, like so many of our friends during those late ’70’s and early ’80’s, he got flu symptoms and died of them in a few months. We later found out he died of AIDS before that term came into being. I’m proud of him, the confidence he gained and the man he became during his time at Maryville and Hawthorne and am pleased to honor Jim again by using his logo for my column.

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DramaDeskAwardTony and Drama Desk… A day after the wonderful news that the Drama Desk Awards included three nods to our town’s own Deanna Jent and her wonderful play, “Falling,” the Tony nominations were announced and there are some local ties involved there as well. First, a look at the head of Fontbonne’s theatre department and Mustard Seed Artistic Director Deanne Jent. Based on her own experience raising an autistic son, her play was a knock-out hit here in St. Louis and then producer Terry Schnuck took it to the Minetta Lane Theatre off-Broadway where it garnered rave reviews and now Drama Desk nominations for Best Play, Best Actress- Julia Murney and Best Actor- Daniel Everidge. More good news as “Falling” will be presented locally again- with the original St. Louis cast- as part of Mustard Seed’s season next year.

Another musical produced locally, “Bring It On: The Musical,” surprised the theatre world including now Muny executive producer Mike Isaacson and Fox Theatrical’s Kristin Caskey by garnering a Best Musical nod for the Tony Awards as well as Best Choreography for Andy Blankenbuehler. It had it’s pre-Broadway run at the Fox last year. And, of course, it starred the Bourbon, MO native, Taylor Louderman.

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Stages Announce Casting For Summer Season- Muny Starts Casting As Well…

stagesStages’ Summer season will see many favorites returning to the stage and some new actors as well. Running May 31-June 30 is “Always…Patsy Cline” and will feature Jacqueline Petroccia as Patsy and the wonderful Zoe Vonder Haar as Louise Seger. “Legally Blonde, The Musical” plays July 19-August 18 and will bring Lauren Zakrin to town in the role of Elle Woods with familiar faces like Ben Nordstrom and David Schmittou lighting up the stage as well. Playing September 6-October 6 is the Lerner and Loewe classic, “My Fair Lady” featuring Christopher Guilmet as Professor Higgins and Pamela Brumley Screen shot 2013-05-01 at 2.24.38 PMas Eliza Doolittle with David Foley, Jr. as Alfred P. Doolittle and John Flack as Colonel Pickering. And don’t forget this year’s young audiences’ production of “Disney’s Cinderella” running June 19-30. Of course, you’ll see a lot of other local talent- always a highlight of any Stages season. BTW, Stages has moved their offices and box office, along with rehearsal space for the young audiences and other programs across Olive Blvd. to new digs at 1023 Chesterfield Parkway East- the new Kent Center for Theatre Arts.

the munyThe Muny has made a few casting announcements with lots more to come over the next month or so. Right now we can look forward to John O’Hurley as Arthur in “Spamalot” and recent Tony nominee Rob McLure returning to town as Lord Farquaad in “Shrek-The Musical.” Local talent, Phyllis Smith- famous as Phyllis in “The Office”- comes to the Muny stage as Sister Julia Child of God in “Nunsense-Muny Style” along with another local favorite who has re-settled into our town, Ken Page. And, of course, we’re looking forward to the new cooling system with fans quiet enough to run during the run of the shows. As I said, there’s a lot more to be cast in the seven show season so keep checking for new postings and, as always, we’re bound to see a lot of local talent on the Muny stage as well.

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Pop Quiz: Since we’ve been talking about Stages, what was the very first production they put on the boards in Kirkwood back in 1987?

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