Archive for June, 2017

Under The Sea Under The Stars As The Muny Brings Us “The Little Mermaid”

June 23, 2017

litt-ArielThis season’s children’s show at the Muny is one for all ages- “The Little Mermaid.” The spectacle, the colors popping all over stage and the magic of song, dance and puppetry make this a must see for young and old alike.

litt-dinnerAnother adaptation of a Disney animated hit, “The Little Mermaid” is a snappy, tune-filled hit that works well on the stage. Emma Degerstedt is a wonderful, wide-eyed Ariel who wishes she could walk around like the humans she sees- she is a mermaid, after all. Her lilting voice soars and teaming with Jason Gotay as Prince Eric, they make a delightful pair. She saves him from drowning and this gives her even more incentive to be where the people are.

litt-ursulaEmily Skinner, who wowed us last year at the Rep in “Follies,” returns as the sea witch, Ursula. What a beautiful job she does with her “living” tentacles- four incredible young men who truly bring her to life. Her powerful singing voice shakes us to the core with her “Poor Unfortunate Souls.” Jerry Dixon gives a fine performance as Ariel’s father, King Triton and James T. Lane dazzles as Sebastian, the calypso inspired crab. Spencer Jones is Ariel’s buddy, Flounder and Jeffrey Schecter is the seagull, Scuttle. Frank Vlastnik gives a rounding rendition of Chef Louis and Richard B. Watson is Grimsby.

litt-penzance“The Little Mermaid is enhanced by a wonderful technical crew as well. First, Director Marcia Milgrom Dodge keeps things moving quickly and with all the humor needed to keep kids awake for a long evening. Josh Walden provides inspired choreography and Puppet Kitchen Productions provide the wonderful designs that turn actors and dancers into mermaids and all of the other denizens of the deep.

litt-sebas,etalCostume designer Robin L. McGee gives us eye-popping color and flowing, gooey gowns that would make Roger DeBris jealous. Michael Schweikardt’s set design is a marvel of ingenuity and Nathan W. Scheuer’s lights and the marvelous video design of Matthew Young just add to the beauty and grandeur of being under the sea.

litt-kissthegirl“The Little Mermaid” will be enchanting young and old alike through June 29th. Give them a call at 314-361-1900 for tickets or more information.

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Wordplay Is The Order Of The Day In Midnight Company’s “Title And Deed”

June 14, 2017
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Joe Hanrahan in “Title And Deed” at The Midnight Company. Photo: Liz Henning

Will Eno is a master wordsmith and Joe Hanrahan of The Midnight Company is a master storyteller. So this one man show, “Title And Deed,” is a marvelous hour or so with wordplay and a bit of mystery that draws you in like an ant to a picnic.

The forlorn but happy- or is he?- “foreigner” wanders on stage with a bag and announces we are in an airport. He is traveling, as he so often does- or does he?- and decides to impart some wisdom as he waits for his next destination. The reason there are so many questions in this description is because he has so many questions. In fact, a recurring question he seems to be fascinated with is “What is it all about?” He manages to keep us guessing by questioning himself- and us- as he rambles through stories of hope and disappointment and the quest for commitment.

He jumps from subject to subject but often returns to an earlier subject as he talks and even interacts with a few members of the audience. He describes himself as “unhomed,” a word he has evidently made up to describe his trek from one destination to the next- sometimes with no thought in mind why he’s going to this place or that. But, as a philosopher of sorts, he manages to keep us intrigued and waiting for the next pearl of wisdom to fall in our collective laps.

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“Title And Deed” with Joe Hanrahan at The Midnight Company. Photo: Liz Henning

Ideas from his past- his younger days- include a lesson he learned from wandering away from his mother- “don’t ever get too lost for too long.” This advice seems to serve him well in present day as well. The quintessential philosophical question may come late in the play when he offers an off-hand remark- “In some rooms, no corner is corner enough.” The more you think about that one, the more complex your life becomes.

As the master of the one-man play, Mr. Hanrahan has all the right moves and inflections- knowing just when to pause- even for many seconds at a time- as if he is pondering his next move in this chess wordplay he’s playing with his audience. It’s a brilliant performance that not only astounds, but tugs at several emotions along the way. We’re used to that with Joe Hanrahan’s volume of work, but this one has the overwhelming script of Will Eno to impact the performance even more.

Sarah Whitney has tweaked his monologue with expert movement- it’s just him on stage- and a sense of what this script is trying to impart. Bess Moynihan has designed the simple set in this film/photography studio that successfully throws shadow images of “the foreigner” along the back and both sides of the background, enhancing the power of the words and movements. Amy Greenhalgh has provided musical arrangement and her expertise on violin along with the tuba- almost comic in the context- of Jeff Hoard. Elizabeth Henning has provided stage management and has also taken the photographs that enhance this review.

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Joe Hanrahan in “Title And Deed” at The Midnight Company. Photo: Liz Henning

Words- there’s nothing like them when they are written in beauty and wonder like they are in “Title And Deed.” Will Eno’s script and Joe Hanrahan’s performance make a winning combination that is nothing short of dazzling. It runs through June 24th. Find The Midnight Company online and get tickets now for this amazing show and amazing performance.

Stray Dog’s World Premiere of “Monsters” Is Perfect Summer Fun

June 10, 2017
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Kevin O’Brien as Jeremy and Jeremy Goldmeier as Davis in Stephen Peirick’s “Monsters” at Stray Dog Theatre. Photo: John Lamb

Local actor and playwright, Stephen Peirick, gets a full fledged production of one of his plays that was in workshop with Stray Dog Theatre last year. The play, “Monsters,” is a black comedy that hits all the right notes in this initial presentation. Outrageous premise that brings out the wicked need for survival and a lot of surprise twists at the end make this 90-minute one act a breath of fresh air to lead us into a busy summer theatre schedule.

Mr. Peirick, who has been reworking the script since the initial reading, still needs a little polish on the dialogue but the jokes hit strong and the loony family situation is just as funny as it is macabre. Davis and his brother, Jeremy, have accepted a pocket full of money to “take out” a problem for the local mob (yes, it is set in St. Louis). They have stalked and captured Carl and have him tied up and gagged in a rolling office chair in Davis’s basement. Jeremy is standing guard waiting for Davis when Davis’s wife comes on the scene- she was supposed to be gone for the whole day. Although he has “hidden” Carl in one of the back rooms of the basement, it doesn’t take long for Andi to figure out something is wrong.

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Sarajane Alverson, Jeremy Goldmeier and Kevin O’Brien console each other the the Stray Dog Theatre production of “Monsters.” Photo: John Lamb

There’s a hilarious scene when Jeremy reveals the gun to Andi and he shows he’s not the sharpest tack in the box. Then Andi’s sister, Piper comes on the scene to do her weekly three loads of wash and so another member of the family becomes embroiled in the unlikely scheme. By the time Davis gets home, the action starts fast and furious as this inept quartet try to rationalize their now implicit plot to murder a perfect stranger. Andi has always been wary of the basement anyway as she feels ghosts and monsters lurk in every corner. This whole situation doesn’t ease her fears. A few nice plot twists (only one of which I figured out) lead us to a surprising finale that only tends to emphasize the need to be afraid of monsters wherever they lurk.

The wonderful cast leads us on this merry, if gruesome, romp led by Sarajane Alverson as Andi. Her attitudes change drastically as the seriousness of what her husband and his brother have gotten them into sink in. Jeremy Goldmeier is delightful as Davis. He really gets into the part and is perfectly believable as the guy who just seems to realize what a perfectly fine mess he has created for his family.

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Sarajane Alverson as Andi, scolds her husband, played by Jeremy Goldmeier while Kevin O’Brien looks on in Stephen Peirick’s “Monsters” at Stray Dog Theatre. Photo: John Lamb

Kevin O’Brien is superb as the dim-witted Jeremy who believes he is in control while everything around him is falling apart. A stellar performance by Eileen Engel  brings a part goth, part bewildered child to Piper who can’t seem to make up her mind if she’s in or out in this whole kidnap/murder thing. Finally, a remarkable performance by Michael A. Wells as (not to be confused with “The Drowsy Chaperone”) the man in the chair. He expresses emotions quite nicely as he rolls around, cringes and pleads while being securely tied to the chair and uttering only grunts and groans with the gag in his mouth.

Artistic Director of Stray Dog Theatre, Gary F. Bell, has directed with a keen eye for both the horror and hilarity of the “Monsters” script. As he says in his pre-curtain speech, it’s difficult to direct a world premiere because you just don’t really know until opening night if you’ve hit all the right marks. Well, he has and Mr. Peirick can be pleased that Mr. Bell is helming this production.

Justin Been has given us a modest but well cluttered basement set design with patchy dry wall and the various basement paraphernalia like paint cans, a slightly used love seat and even a few odds and ends like a fan (every basement needs one). Tyler Duenow’s lights enhance the proceedings and Gary F. Bell has brought smart choices to the costume design.

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More huddling as Eileen Engel grasps onto Jeremy Goldmeier and Sarajane Alverson in the Stray Dog Theatre production of Stephen Peirick’s “Monsters.” Photo: John Lamb

It’s really exciting to attend a world premiere and this one is a winner in the making. As I said, some dialogue needs to be smoothed out to keep it from getting too much like a sit-com but the jokes tend to feed off each other and cascade in fine fashion. Definitely off to a good start and well worth your theatre going dollars to see this fine cast and a dandy of a play that will keep you guessing. See Stephen Peirick’s “Monsters” at Stray Dog Theatre through June 24th. Give them a call at 314-865-1995 for tickets or more information.

“Joseph-” With Everything- Served Up Now At Stages-St. Louis

June 10, 2017
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat presented by STAGES St. Louis at Robert G. Reim Theatre in Kirkwood, Missouri on June 1, 2017.

“Go, Go, Go Joseph” turns into “Hullabaloo” during “Joseph” at Stages-St. Louis. Photo: Peter Wochniak

I’m sure most of you, like me, have seen several productions of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s “Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” It started as a cantata and grew into a staged musical and now Stages-St. Louis has made it a glorious spectacle that transcends any of those other productions you may have seen. In other words- it’s not to be missed.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat presented by STAGES St. Louis at Robert G. Reim Theatre in Kirkwood, Missouri on June 1, 2017.

Kirsten Scott, Brent Michael Diroma, Molly Tynes and Jeff Sears get caught up in the fun during the Stages-St. Louis production of “Joseph.” Photo: Peter Wochnicak

Jeff Sears and Kirsten Scott lead the way as Joseph and the Narrator. People in the audience seemed to appreciate it when Mr. Sears stripped down to a loincloth, but he’s much more than just another pretty body and face. This guys got the chops to sing the heck out of the role and, unlike some performances of the title character I’ve seen in the past, he can act too. As for Ms. Scott- she runs away with almost every aspect of this show. Sure, she has a powerful singing voice but she joins in the intricate choreography brought to life by Stephen Bourneuf. Production numbers like you’ve never seen in “Joseph” before and she’s in there dancing and singing, keeping up with the always enthusiastic Stages ensemble.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat presented by STAGES St. Louis at Robert G. Reim Theatre in Kirkwood, Missouri on June 1, 2017.

The guys strut their stuff during the “Joseph Megamix” finale at Stages-St. Louis. Photo: Peter Wochniak

Stages favorite and all around quintessential actor/singer, Steve Isom is the father of the twelve sons, Jacob, and, since he doesn’t have enough to do, makes a cameo as a slovenly baker in a walk on and then shines during the “Joseph Megamix” finale and curtain call in his dashing white suit and slick dance moves.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat presented by STAGES St. Louis at Robert G. Reim Theatre in Kirkwood, Missouri on June 1, 2017.

Brent Michael Diroma holds court as Pharaoh/Elvis during “Joseph” at Stages-St. Louis. Photo: Peter Wochniak

The key to “Joseph” since the beginning has been the ridiculous, anachronistic touches with props, music styles and characters. The Pharaoh turns into Elvis, the brothers break into berets and become chanteuse during the famine, they become cowboys as they explain Joseph’s “disappearance,” Potiphar is a Gatsby-esque billionaire and the boys even break into a calypso number to rescue their youngest brother when the unrecognizable Joseph threatens to punish him. So these traditions continue but on steroids. Brent Michael Diroma doubles as Potiphar and Pharaoh/Elvis. Both treatments are hilarious but his Elvis brings the audience to their feet.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat presented by STAGES St. Louis at Robert G. Reim Theatre in Kirkwood, Missouri on June 1, 2017.

Kirsten Scott as the Narrator lead the women of the ensemble during the Stages-St. Louis production of “Joseph.” Photo: Peter Wochniak

Molly Tynes shines as the vampish Mrs. Potiphar and the ensemble, playing roles and backing up the hard-working brothers is out of this world. They do yeoman work and even break out their “Hullabaloo” moves during the “Go, Go, Go Joseph” number including- what else, go-go outfits and dance moves you haven’t seen since the 70’s. Those eleven brothers who attempt to rid their world of the boastful dreamer, Joseph, are on stage singing, dancing and cutting up for almost the entire show. Each one is a gem with several getting solo speaking or singing performances including Colin Israel as a Butler, Paul Aguirre as a Baker, Brad Frenette as the lead singer in the “cowboy” number, “One More Angel In Heaven,” Jeremiah Ginn taking the solo in “Those Canaan Days” and Jason Eno getting his Caribbean moves on in “Benjamin Calypso.”

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat presented by STAGES St. Louis at Robert G. Reim Theatre in Kirkwood, Missouri on June 1, 2017.

Kirsten Scott leads another ensemble number during the Stages-St. Louis presentation of “Joseph.” Photo: Peter Wochnicak

The design team has also outdone themselves with the outstanding set design of James Wolk hinting at both realistic and anachronistic backgrounds and the superb lighting design of Sean M. Savoie featuring a wonderful Joseph logo that changes colors and gets an extra round of applause from the audience. Brad Musgrove’s costumes are also a great combination of realism and hilarious “updates” while Lisa Campbell Albert and Stuart M. Elmore handle the musical chores beautifully. And, of course, another mention of the wonderful job Stephen Bourneuf does with both direction and choreography.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat presented by STAGES St. Louis at Robert G. Reim Theatre in Kirkwood, Missouri on June 1, 2017.

Jeff Sears, flanked by Steve Isom as Jacob and Kirsten Scott as the Narrator, displays his coat of many colors during “Joseph” at Stages-St. Louis. Photo: Peter Wochnicak.

This show is nothing but fun and nonsense but on a super-charged level. You’ll be amazed at how different this “Joseph” can be. Everything works, everything flows and everything has you jumping out of your seat. It plays through July 2nd, so give Stages-St. Louis a call at 314-821-2407 for tickets or more information.