Tuesday, April 19, 2016

BRIEFS: A Festival of Short LGBTQ Plays • That Uppity Theatre Company and Vital VOICE Magazine

That Uppity Theatre Company and Vital VOICE were back again last weekend for "Briefs: A Festival of Short LGBTQ plays,” presenting eight works selected from over 200 nation-wide submissions. Presented by Pearl Vodka and celebrating its 5-year anniversary, the festival’s cornerstone of diverse subject matter has attracted a wider net of St. Louis talent and also widening LGBTQ and racial diversity. The plays were varied in tone, but there was a thread of family, love and acceptance that seemed to run underneath many. Max Friedman, playwright of “The Grind,” directed by Gad Guterman, was the winner of this years’ second annual Ken Haller Playwriting Competition for LGBTQ and Allied Youth.

Jared Campbell and Kai Klose.
Photo credit: John Lamb
In Friedman’s play, a couple of young men meet via an ever growing invasion of online dating apps, with opposing perspectives on relationship building vs. quick hook-ups. Michael (Jared Campbell) isn’t used to the intimidating arena of online dating, while it’s overfamiliar to Chris (Kai Klose).

Jacqueline Thompson directs Vincent Terrell Durham’s affable “Black Baby Jesus,” where Darryl (Darian Michael Garey) is dreading going to yet another Christmas Eve dinner at his boyfriend, Richard’s mom’s house.
Carl Overly and Darian Michael Garey.
Photo credit: John Lamb
Richard (Carl Overly) has not come out to his family yet, and his mom thinks her son and Darryl are “just friends.” Darryl can’t stomach another holiday dinner down the table from his man, instead seated next to “groping Aunt Thelma.” After a little conversation and an unexpected phone call, they take their first steps towards coming out as a long-time couple to the family.

James Still’s “When Miss Lydia Hinkley Gives a Bird the Bird” finds a women’s literary club, circa 1850, together for their regular meeting, when Lydia (Laura Singleton) bristles at the idea of allowing married ladies into their circle. To her shock and dismay, another member, Della Mann (Nicole Angeli), has recently become engaged. After some delicately cloaked suggestions, Lydia’s heartbreak is clear. To confirm any doubts, she catches the ladies off guard with a provocative recitation of a few titillating passages from Gray's Anatomy. What?! Yeah. Pamela Reckamp directs.

Donna Weinsting, Rachel Tibbetts,
Nicole Angeli, Maggie Wininger and Laura Singleton.
Photo credit: John Lamb
“I Knew It,” written by Scott C. Sickles and directed by Matthew R. Kerns, features Lavonne Byers and Shannon Nara, last seen together in Max & Louie’s “The Killing of Sister George,” as the wives of rock celebrities. Jodilyn (Nara) is devastated to discover the proclivities of her husband, while Francesca (Byers), used to the drill, calms her concerns and challenges her to adopt a new frame of mind. But this wasn’t a “my husband is sleeping with this woman!!” scenario. Jodilyn shockingly discovers her husband in bed with Francesca’s husband. (Jagger...? Bowie...? Maybe...?) The chemistry between the actors works wonderfully, and was a standout for me.

Shannon Nara and Lavonne Byers.
Photo credit: John Lamb
“When Oprah Says Goodbye,” written by Dan Berkowitz, takes place in an elderly folks home, with grouchy resident Rose (Thomasina Clarke), after having the room to herself for a minute, dreading the arrival of a roommate. It turns out that her new bunky, Julie (Peggy Calvin), has known Rose for years, and grudgy love triangles are mended with renewed friendships.

Charles Zito’s “Runaway” shows us a close family where Rose (Jenny Smith) has come to her brother’s house to fetch her gay teenaged son, Tommy (Pierce Hastings). Tommy has run away to Uncle Tony’s (Rich Scharf) because Rose won’t let Tommy’s boyfriend sleep over. While Rose tries to talk her son into coming back home, a widely known secret of Uncle Tony’s comes up. Yes, Uncle Tony -- we all know you’re gay. This subtext provides a humorous dynamic to the proceedings.

Thomasina Clarke and Peggy Calvin.
Photo credit: John Lamb
Local playwright and actor Stephen Peirick writes and directs “A Comfortable Fit,” with a casual day of shoe shopping between Gwen (Kim Furlow) and her daughter Jennifer (Emily Baker). Gwen is trying to fix up her divorced daughter with shoe salesman, Charlie (Casey Boland), who, while being a nice guy, doesn't play on Jennifer's team. Peirick’s story surprises with the revelation that Gwen, recently transitioned, is Jennifer’s dad, and made all the sweeter for the love and understanding father and daughter still share.

In Kathleen Warnock’s “The Adventures Of...” Maggie (Sarah Porter), a burgeoning writer, introduces us to one of her favorite childhood tv shows, featuring Prince Kal (Brian Claussen) and his trusty companion Zoron (Todd Schaefer). All of the scenarios that Maggie describes are played out with comedic zest by Claussen and Schaefer. In a gratifying turn, we learn that Maggie has her own reasons for personally identifying with this duo of heroes.

Rich Scharf, Jenny Smith and Pierce Hastings.
Photo credit: John Lamb
With the festival expanding year after year, it’s exciting to see what will be offered next, as one of the only festivals of short LGBTQ plays in the nation. Keep an eye out for it next year, and make sure to snag tickets. It’s only for an all too brief weekend.


BRIEFS

Rialto Ballroom, 3547 Olive, St. Louis 63103
Run concluded

Emily Baker and Kim Furlow.
Photo credit: John Lamb
“Baby Black Jesus” written by Vincent Terrell Durham, directed by Jacqueline Thompson.
Cast
Richard: Carl Overly
Darryl: Darian Michael Garey

“When Miss Lydia Hinkley Gives a Bird the Bird” written by James Still, directed by Pamela Reckamp
Cast
Constance Owen Fauntleroy: Donna Weinsting
Della Mann: Nicole Angeli
Lydia Hinkley: Laura Singleton
Mary Sampson: Rachel Tibbetts
Eliza Jane Twigg: Maggie Wininger

“The Grind” written by Max Friedman, directed by Gad Guterman
Cast
Michael: Jared Campbell
Chris: Kai Klose

Brian Claussen, Todd Schaefer and Sarah Porter.
Photo credit: John Lamb
“I Knew It” written by Scott C. Sickles, directed by Matthew R. Kerns
Cast
Francesca Strange: Lavonne Byers
Jodilyn Riggs: Shannon Nara

“When Oprah Says Goodbye” written by Dan Berkowitz, directed by Fannie Belle-Lebby
Cast
Rose: Thomasina Clarke
Julie: Peggy Calvin
Anne: Sarah McKenney

“Runaway” written by Charles Zito, directed by Christopher Limber
Cast
Tony: Rich Scharf
Rose: Jenny Smith
Tommy: Pierce Hastings

“A Comfortable Fit” written and directed by Stephen Peirick
Cast
Gwen: Kim Furlow
Jennifer: Emily Baker
Charlie: Casey Boland

“The Adventures Of...” written by Kathleen Warnock, directed by Ryan Scott Foizey
Cast
Maggie: Sarah Porter
Prince Kal: Brian Claussen
Zoron: Todd Schaefer

Production Staff
Executive Producers: Joan Lipkin and Darin Slyman
Associate Producer: Jimmy Lesch
Productions Manager/Video Design: Michael B. Perkins
House Manager: Kate Warden
Assistant Stage Managers: William Bush and Quinn Erb
Box Office Managers: Kevin Schmidt and Becky Galambos
Script Submissions Manager: Becky Galambos
Marketing Intern: Jared Campbell
Dramaturg: Gad Guterman

Friday, April 8, 2016

HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH • Stray Dog Theatre

Stray Dog’s latest production has every bit the vibe of a rock concert when you walk into the theatre. The band, typically secluded somewhere behind the set, is front and center, warming up before the show. Rob Lippert’s scenic design features TV screens and speakers galore. The bar, usually out in the lobby, is in the house on the floor against the stage, with a pair of Stray Dog alums (the night I went) serving as bartenders. So grab a drink and buckle up -- you’re about to be entertained by the song stylings of Hedwig, a genderqueer rock singer from East Germany, and her band, The Angry Inch.

Hedwig (Michael Baird) is in town for a St. Louis engagement, and during her roughly 90-minute show, we’ll hear about her younger years as Hansel Schmidt, her travels, misadventures, heartbreaks and her surgically fucked-up sex change operation that leaves her with, what Hedwig has titled, an “angry inch” -- her band’s namesake. A cheeky, tortured and fiercely funny Baird is in full command of this diva, carrying the titular headliner on his shoulders, holding the audience, and making the most of John Cameron Mitchell’s improvisational book. At times full of cavorting swagger and at other times slowing heartbreak, Baird physically and vocally handles numbers like, "The Origin of Love,” "Wicked Little Town" and “Midnight Radio” assuredly.

(l to r) Skszp (Chris Petersen), Hedwig (Michael Baird)
and Yitzhak (Anna Skidis Vargas).
Photo credit: John Lamb
Hedwig’s not alone, though. In addition to her band, she’s also joined by her put-upon husband Yitzhak (Anna Skidis Vargas), a former drag queen who now shares a codependent relationship with Hedwig. In hallmark fashion, Skidis Vargas adds her clear, soulful vocals to the duets and backup, and a well pitched performance in the role of a lover who cares deeply for Hedwig, as contentious as their relationship might be, killing the song, “The Long Grift.” Hedwig pretty much treats Yitzhak like shit though. She believes her true soulmate is someone she can’t have. That’s Tommy Gnosis -- a hugely successful rock star and one-time collaborator with Hedwig, currently on tour at Busch Stadium, milking fame from Hedwig’s songs. Shadowing his steps by following his tour, Hedwig plays the much lesser dives along the route, unable to let Tommy, a person she sees as her other half, go.

Hedwig (Michael Baird)
and Yitzhak (Anna Skidis Vargas).
Photo credit: John Lamb
Glam rock style is provided by Priscilla Case's wigs and makeup design, and Eileen Engel's costume design. Ryan Wiechmann’s illustrations and animations add a great deal of texture throughout the show (particularly during the mythic “The Origin of Love”). The band, under the direction of Chris Petersen, aka Skszp, brings Stephen Trask’s music and lyrics to dynamic life.

With sure-handed direction by Justin Been, this 1998 rock musical, rowdy and surprisingly poignant, may not be a show for everyone (leave the kids at home), but seeing Hedwig make the journey from life on the conflicted fringes toward self-understanding and acceptance is gratifying, and something everyone can relate to. You should get a ticket before it sells out, because it most certainly will.


HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH

Book by John Cameron Mitchell
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Trask
Directed by Justin Been
(front) Sarajane Alverson. (l to r) Skszp (Chris Petersen),
Hedwig (Michael Baird), Krzyzhtoff (A.J. Lane),
Jadzia (M. Kuba), and Yitzhak (Anna Skidis Vargas).
Photo credit: John Lamb
Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee Ave.
through April 16 | tickets: $20 - $25 Signature Seating: $45.00
Performances Thursdays to Saturdays at 8pm, Saturday, Additional performances 8pm Wednesdays, April 6 and 13

Cast
Hedwig: Michael Baird
Yitzhak: Anna Skidis Vargas

Creative
Artistic Director: Gary F. Bell
Wig and Makeup Stylist: Priscilla Case
Lighting Designer: Tyler Duenow
Costume Designer: Eileen Engel
Production Manager: Jay V. Hall
Scenic Designer: Rob Lippert
Assistant Director/Stage Manager: Kevin O’Brien
Illustrator/Animator: Ryan Wiechmann

Hedwig (Michael Baird).
Photo credit: John Lamb
The Angry Inch
Bass, vocals (Jadzia): M. Kuba
Drums, vocals (Bob): Bob McMahon
Guitar, vocals (Krzyzhtoff): A.J. Lane
Keyboard, vocals (Skszp): Chris Petersen

Monday, April 4, 2016

OLD WICKED SONGS • The New Jewish Theatre

Jon Marans' Pulitzer Prize-nominated play offers a lot of layers underneath a facade that seems, initially, predictable. Stephen Hoffman is a 25 year old piano prodigy who’s burned out, and though he’s a “superb technician,” he’s lost touch with his passion. He has traveled to Vienna, Austria to study accompaniment with a Professor Schiller, but learns, much to his irritation, that he must first spend three months with Professor Mashkan to study singing.

Why singing? Well, by Schiller’s reckoning, before sitting in front of those black and white keys, an accompanist has to experience the other side of the equation -- the singing part, for a broader understanding of that connection. As portrayed by Will Bonfiglio, Hoffman’s a tense, walled-off young man from the minute he steps into Josef Mashkan’s studio -- flinching at the threat of a hand on his shoulder and impervious to Mashkan’s natural charm. Jerry Vogel is perfectly cast as Professor Mashkan, who feels deeply, musically and otherwise. Intimate, grumbly and funny, with an anti-jewish veneer he displays like a shield, he tries to urge Hoffman to tap into the emotional side of the music -- a probing that peels away the layers of both characters.

Professor Mashkan (Jerry Vogel).
Photo credit: Eric Woolsey
Mashkan and Hoffman’s developing relationship is couched within the piece they work on together -- Robert Schumann’s song cycle, Dichterliebe (“A Poet’s Love”). Really, this piece serves as a third character in the play. The dissonance and resolution of the song’s cycle taps into the play’s dynamics, with old hurts revisiting fresh scars, and director Tim Ocel pulls it all out nicely. Dunsi Dai’s set of Mashkan’s studio is lovely, complimented by Maureen Berry’s lighting design, and Michele Friedman Siler’s costume design informs the characters, especially Hoffman, with his attire loosening up as his character does.

Stephen Hoffman (Will Bonfiglio).
Photo credit: Eric Woolsey
This tear-jerking education in music offers a study in much more than just that, with the music craftily integrated into an alluring, poignant story.


OLD WICKED SONGS

Written by Jon Marans 
Directed by Tim Ocel
Marvin & Harlene Wool Studio, 2 Millstone Campus Drive Creve Coeur
run concluded | tickets: $39.50 - $43.50

Cast
Professor Mashkan: Jerry Vogel*
Stephen Hoffman: Will Bonfiglio

Creative
Music Director: Jeffrey Richard Carter
Stage Manager: Sarah Luedloff*
Scenic Design and Artist: Dunsi Dai
Photo credit: Eric Woolsey
Lighting Design: Maureen Berry
Costume Design: Michele Friedman Siler
Properties Design: Kyra Bishop
Sound Design: Robin Weatherall
Master Electrician: Scott McDonald
Board Operator: Justin Smith
Assistant Stage Manager: Becky Fortner
Wardrobe: Craig Jones
Dialect Coach: Katy Keating

* Denotes member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of
Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States

Sunday, March 27, 2016

MOLLY’S HAMMER • The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis (Studio Theatre)

In the 1980’s, the threat of nuclear war hung heavy over the country like radioactive ash. That threat, and Liane Ellison Norman's book, Hammer of Justice, inspired Tammy Ryan’s play, receiving its world premiere, thanks to the Rep’s Ignite! New Play Festival last season.

The story follows Molly Rush, a member of a group of peace advocates called the Plowshares Eight. In 1980, they entered the General Electric Re-entry Division in Pennsylvania, damaged nuclear nose cones and drenched blueprints and documents in blood. Ryan’s play focuses in on Molly Rush, a mother of six whose faith drives her and others to do what they feel is a moral responsibility, and Nancy Bell beautifully holds the center as Molly.

Molly Rush (Nancy Bell).
Photo credit: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
From the time we meet her washing dishes at the start, to her growing resolve as she’s pulled deeper into the cause, to her exhilaration when she marches into the nuclear missile facility, she displays an indomitable, introspective spirit that holds your attention from start to finish. Joe Osheroff is Molly’s husband Bill who feels like their marriage is taking a back seat to her new friends and determination to carry out an act of civil disobedience, even under threat of jail time. Kevin Orton is activist Daniel Berrigan, another member of the Plowshares Eight, and everyone else in the play -- from Molly’s children and siblings, to a prison cell-mate and judge.

Bill Rush (Joe Osheroff).
Photo credit: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
Mark Wilson lights the play, and provides projections that feature various locations and powerful images of mushroom clouds. It plays well against Gianni Downs’s stark scenic design, featuring a wall of mixed rectangular panels.

The threat of nuclear war is something we have probably all but forgotten about nowadays, with a new variety of threats popping up with disturbing frequency. Molly's journey, displayed one step at a time, makes us all want to be courageous. Only a couple more chances to check it out at the Rep. It’s an intimate performance worth your while.


Molly Rush (Nancy Bell)
and her 12-year-old son Greg (Kevin Orton).
Photo credit: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
MOLLY’S HAMMER

Written by Tammy Ryan
Based on the book Hammer of Justice by Liane Ellison Norman
Directed by Seth Gordon
Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road
through March 27 | tickets: $50 - $65
Performances Tuesdays at 7pm, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 4pm, selected Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2 pm and 7pm

Cast
Molly Rush: Nancy Bell*
Bill Rush: Joe Osheroff*
Daniel Berrigan and others: Kevin Orton*

Creative
Scenic Designer: Gianni Downs
Costume Designer: Lou Bird
Lighting and Projections Designer: Mark Wilson
Sound Designer: Amanda Werre
Casting Directors: Rich Cole and Bob Cline
Stage Manager: Shannon B. Sturgis*

* Denotes member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of
Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Fourth Annual St. Louis Theater Circle Awards • Skip Viragh Center for the Arts

Another St. Louis Theater Circle Awards ceremony has come and gone, and the award recipients, as well as the impressive bevy of nominees, are a testament to the talent we’re lucky enough to have in “the Lou.” Here’s the list of the nominees, with the award recipients in red. Congrats to all! And a huge thanks to those who attended, watched at home, and came out to see the enormous variety of theatre on offer each and every year.
Yay, theatre!!!
(If you missed it, you can stream the show courtesy of HEC-TV.)


Outstanding Ensemble in a Comedy
Bad Jews, New Jewish Theatre
Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play, R-S Theatrics
The 39 Steps, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Wild Oats, St. Louis Shakespeare

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy
Betsy Bowman, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, St. Louis
Actors’ Studio
Shinnerie Jackson, Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike,
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Erin Kelley, The Killing of Sister George, Max & Louie
Productions
Shannon Nara, The Killing of Sister George, Max & Louie
Productions
Jeanitta Perkins, The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler, St.
Louis Shakespeare

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy
John Bratkowski, The World Begun, Shakespeare Festival St.
Louis
Michael Brightman, Mr. Marmalade, West End Players Guild
Jeffrey C. Hawkins, Peter and the Starcatcher, Repertory
Theatre of St. Louis
Pete Winfrey, Bad Jews, New Jewish Theatre
John Wolbers, Wild Oats, St. Louis Shakespeare

Outstanding Actress in a Comedy
Lavonne Byers, The Killing of Sister George, Max & Louie
Productions
Kari Ely, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, St. Louis Actors’
Studio
Suzanne Grodner, Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike,
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Linda Kennedy, The Gin Game, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Em Piro, Bad Jews, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Actor in a Comedy
John Feltch, Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike,
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Peter Mayer, The Gin Game, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Antonio Rodriguez, Bad Jews, New Jewish Theatre
William Roth, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, St. Louis Actors’
Studio
Jeremy Webb, Buyer and Cellar, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding Director of a Comedy
John Contini, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, St. Louis Actors’
Studio
Michael Evan Haney, Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike,
Repertory Theatre St. Louis
Sydnie Grosberg Ronga, Bad Jews, New Jewish Theatre
Jacqueline Thompson, The World Begun, Shakespeare
Festival St. Louis
Kirsten Wylder, The 39 Steps, Slightly Askew Theatre
Ensemble

Outstanding Production of a Comedy
The Gin Game, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
The Killing of Sister George, Max & Louie Productions
The 39 Steps, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Wild Oats, St. Louis Shakespeare

Outstanding Ensemble in a Drama
All the Way, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Antony and Cleopatra, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis
One Flea Spare, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble
Safe House, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
The Winslow Boy, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama
Em Piro, Sight Unseen, New Jewish Theatre
Kelly Taffe, Safe House, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Jennifer Theby-Quinn, Afflicted: Daughters of Salem, Metro
Theater Company
Cassia Thompson, Safe House, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Elizabeth Van Pelt, Rapture, Blister, Burn, West End Players
Guild

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama
Will Cobbs, Safe House, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
John Flack, Sublime Intimacy, Max & Louie Productions
Andrew Kuhlman, One Flea Spare, Slightly Askew Theatre
Ensemble
Michael James Reed, All the Way, Repertory Theatre of St.
Louis
Chris Tipp, Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage
Blockhead, Stray Dog Theatre

Outstanding Actress in a Drama
Shirine Babb, Antony and Cleopatra, Shakespeare Festival St.
Louis
Emily Baker, Sight Unseen, New Jewish Theatre
Danielle Carlacci, I and You, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Amy Loui, The Amish Project, Mustard Seed Theatre
Lisa Tejero, The Kiss, Upstream Theatre

Outstanding Actor in a Drama
J. Samuel Davis, Bashir Lazhar, Upstream Theater
Brian Dykstra, All the Way, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Daniel Morgan Shelley, Safe House, Repertory Theatre of St.
Louis
Jerry Vogel, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Upstream
Theater
Eric Dean White, The Kiss, Upstream Theater

Outstanding Director of a Drama
Deanna Jent, The Amish Project, Mustard Seed Theatre
Jane Page, I and You, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Ellie Schwetye, One Flea Spare, Slightly Askew Theatre
Ensemble
Patrick Siler, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Upstream
Theater
Steven Woolf, All the Way, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding Production of a Drama
All the Way, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
I and You, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
One Flea Spare, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Upstream Theater
The Winslow Boy, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding Set Design in a Play
Wilson Chin, Angel Street, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Scott C. Neale, Antony and Cleopatra, Shakespeare Festival
St. Louis
Paul Shortt, Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike,
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Peter and Margery Spack, Safe House, Repertory Theatre of St.
Louis
Mark Wilson, An Invitation Out, Mustard Seed Theatre

Outstanding Costume Design in a Play
Beth Ashby, An Invitation Out, Mustard Seed Theatre
Dorothy Marshall Englis, The Winslow Boy, Repertory Theatre
of St. Louis
Jennifer "JC" Krajicek, The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler, St. Louis
Shakespeare
Cyndi Lohrmann, The Killing of Sister George, Max & Louie
Productions
David Toser, Angel Street, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Play
Joseph Clapper, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Upstream
Theater
Patrick Huber, Sublime Intimacy, Max & Louie Productions
Bess Moynihan, One Flea Spare, Slightly Askew Theatre
Ensemble
Peter E. Sargent, Angel Street, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Nathan Schroeder, Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play, R-S
Theatrics

Outstanding Sound Design in a Play
Paige Brubeck and Evan Sult, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,
Upstream Theater
Fitz Patton, All the Way, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Greg Mackender and Rusty Wandall, Antony and Cleopatra,
Shakespeare Festival St. Louis
Rusty Wandall, Angel Street, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Rusty Wandall, I and You, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding Set Design in a Musical
Shoko Kambara, The Barber of Seville, Opera Theatre of Saint
Louis
Rob Lippert, Dogfight, Stray Dog Theatre
Rob Lippert, Heathers, New Line Theatre
Rob Lippert, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Stray Dog Theatre
James Wolk, Anything Goes, Stages St. Louis

Outstanding Costume Design in a Musical
Eileen Engel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Stray Dog Theatre
Andrea Lauer, Into the Woods, The Muny
Brad Musgrove, Anything Goes, Stages St. Louis
Sarah Porter, The Threepenny Opera, New Line Theatre
Alejo Vietti, Holiday Inn, The Muny

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Musical
Christoper Akerlind, Emmeline, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis
Tyler Duenow, Dogfight, Stray Dog Theatre
John Lasiter, Oklahoma!, The Muny
Sean M. Savoie, Once on This Island, The Black Rep
Sean M. Savoie, Anything Goes, Stages St. Louis

Outstanding Musical Director
Jeffrey Richard Carter, The Threepenny Opera, New Line
Theatre
Charles Creath, Once on This Island, The Black Rep
Michael Horsley, Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, The Muny
George Manahan, Emmeline, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis
Chris Petersen, Dogfight, Stray Dog Theatre

Outstanding Choreographer
Stephen Bourneuf, Anything Goes, Stages St. Louis
Denis Jones, Holiday Inn, The Muny
Dan Knechtges and Jessica Hartman, Hairspray, The Muny
Susan Stroman and Ginger Thatcher, Oklahoma!, The Muny
Keith Tyrone Williams, Once on This Island, The Black Rep

Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical
Anything Goes, Stages St. Louis
Dogfight, Stray Dog Theatre
Into the Woods, The Muny
Heathers, New Line Theatre
The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Stages St. Louis

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical
Eileen Engel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Stray Dog Theatre
Heather Headley, Into the Woods, The Muny
Sydney Mancasola, La rondine, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis
Sarah Porter, The Threepenny Opera, New Line Theatre
Zoe Vonder Haar, The Full Monty, Stages St. Louis

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical
Dan Fenaughty, Anything Goes, Stages St. Louis
Joneal Joplin, The Fantasticks, Insight Theatre Company
Rob McClure, Beauty and the Beast, The Muny
Milton Craig Nealy, The Full Monty, Stages St. Louis
Sam Weber, Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, The Muny

Outstanding Actress in a Musical
Julie Cardia, Anything Goes, Stages St. Louis
Shannon Cothran, Dogfight, Stray Dog Theatre
Erin Dilly, Into the Woods, The Muny
Joyce El-Khoury, Emmeline, Opera Theatre of St. Louis
Anna Skidis, Heathers, New Line Theatre

Outstanding Actor in a Musical
Andy Christopher, Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, The Muny
Ben Davis, Oklahoma!, The Muny
Evan Fornachon, Heathers, New Line Theatre
Gerry Love, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Stray Dog Theatre
Jordan Shanahan, Rigoletto, Union Avenue Opera

Outstanding Director of a Musical
Justin Been, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Stray Dog Theatre
Michael Hamilton, Anything Goes, Stages St. Louis
Scott Miller, The Threepenny Opera, New Line Theatre
Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy, Heathers, New Line Theatre
Rob Ruggiero, Oklahoma!, The Muny

Outstanding Production of a Musical
Anything Goes, Stages St. Louis
Dogfight, Stray Dog Theatre
Heathers, New Line Theatre
The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Stray Dog Theatre
The Threepenny Opera, New Line Theatre

Outstanding New Play
Nancy Bell, The World Begun, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis
Shualee Cook, An Invitation Out, Mustard Seed Theatre
Neil LaBute, Kandahar, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Ken Page, Sublime Intimacy, Max & Louie Productions
Alec Wild, Off the Record, OnSite Theatre

Saturday, March 12, 2016

AMERICAN IDIOT • New Line Theatre

The fury that simmers within generations of young adults is nothing new, but New Line’s current production of Green Day’s American Idiot, adapted from the band’s 2004 concept album of the same name, is painted in sharp-edged, pop-punk strokes that strike a familiar chord, particularly now. With the country in the midst of a divisive political season, Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer’s rock opera about coming of age in a post 9/11 world of uncertainty, taps into an angry restlessness that’s as palpable today as it’s ever been.

The show’s opening sets the tone with an eruption of its title number, “American Idiot.” Three disillusioned twenty-somethings, Johnny (Evan Fornachon), Tunny (Frederick Rice) and Will (Brendan Ochs), are sick of the monotony of suburbia, and plan to head off to New York City, answering a call in search of... something. Anything. As long as it’s away from where they are now.

Tunny (Frederick Rice), Will (Brendan Ochs),
and Johnny (Evan Fornachon).
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg
Will ends up having to stay behind with his newly pregnant girlfriend, Heather (Larissa White), Tunny enlists in the army to fight in Iraq, with all of its horrors, and Johnny, the only one who makes it to New York, finds himself falling into a chasm of drug addiction, provided by his second self, a charismatic dealer named St. Jimmy (Chris Kernan) -- “The needle in the vein of the establishment.” St. Jimmy tempts Johnny further and further down a dark path, and proves a rival to Johnny’s affection – a girl he becomes obsessed with called Whatsername (Sarah Porter).

St. Jimmy (Chris Kernan).
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg
Jukebox musicals rarely work all that well, but the three different paths of Johnny, Tunny and Will provide enough variety to massage some plot in and out of Green Day’s mostly sung through, tuneful musical. With a couple of extra songs included from their 21st Century Breakdown album and unreleased songs, the music includes a nice mix of driving rock, thoughtful melodies, soaring harmonies and potent lyrics, that are strongly executed by New Line’s muscular ensemble.

Ochs and Rice are superb as Will and Tunny, while Fornachon leads the cast with a commanding presence as Johnny. Kernan plays St. Jimmy with confident energy, and White turns in great work as Will's exasperated girlfriend Heather. Porter is powerful as Whatsername, frustrated with Johnny’s refusal to take responsibility for his increasingly erratic behavior, and Sicily Mathenia is impressive as the Extraordinary Girl, a nurse whom Tunny falls in love with while recovering from the wounds of war. Speaking of that, costuming the Extraordinary Girl in Statue of Liberty garb during a scene involving a hallucination of Tunny’s, a creative alteration from the original production, was a clever move, adding depth to the meaning of the song. And kudos to Kevin Corpuz also as a pop-culture phenom turned soldier in “Favorite Son.”

Whatsername (Sarah Porter) and Johnny (Evan Fornachon).
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg
Directors Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy’s staging and choreography ensure high intensity, though the playing space is shallow and wide, obscuring some of the action on the far left and right sides of the stage, so sometimes you have to keep an eye out for who’s singing when. The band (yay strings!), under the direction of Sue Goldford, handles the score wonderfully, with scorching guitars courtesy of D. Mike Bauer and Aaron Doerr. “21 Guns,”
“Letterbomb,” “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” “Favorite Son” and “Extraordinary Girl” were standouts for the band and cast.

Will (Brendan Ochs) and Heather (Larissa White).
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg
This fully executed musical is magnetic, whether you’re a Green Day fan or not. With doses of surprising introspection, a dedicated cast and heart-pumping music, you’ll leave the theatre with a memorable high. It’s playing until the 26th.


AMERICAN IDIOT

Music by Green Day
Lyrics by Billie Joe Armstrong
Book by Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer
Directed by Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy 
Extraordinary Girl (Sicily Mathenia) and Tunny (Frederick Rice).
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg

Marcelle Theater, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive 
through March 26 | tickets: $10 - $25
Performances Thursdays to Saturdays at 8pm

Cast
Johnny: Evan Fornachon
Will: Brendan Ochs
Tunny: Frederick Rice
St. Jimmy: Chris Kernan
Whatsername: Sarah Porter
Heather: Larissa White
Extraordinary Girl: Sicily Mathenia
Favorite Son: Kevin Corpuz
Rock & Roll Boyfriend: Clayton Humburg
Ensemble: Kevin Corpuz, Cameisha Cotton, Clayton Humburg, Jeremy Hyatt, Omega Jones, Sean Michael, Ariel Saul, Tanya Sapp and Gabe Taylor

Ensemble of New Line Theatre's AMERICAN IDIOT.
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg
Creative
Stage Manager/Lighting Technician: Michael Juncal
Scenic Designer: Rob Lippert
Costume Designer: Sarah Porter
Sound Designer: Ben Rosemann
Lighting Designer: Kenneth Zinkl
Props Master: Kimi Short
Dance Captain: Cameisha Cotton
Scenic Artists: Patrick Donnigan, Gary Karasek, Melanie Kozak, Kate Wilkerson
Box Office Manager: Kimi Short
Volunteer Coordinator: Alison Helmer
Graphic Designer: Matt Reedy
Videographer: Kyle Jeffery Studios
Photographer: Jill Ritter Lindberg

Musicians
Conductor/Piano: Sue Goldford
Guitar: D. Mike Bauer
Guitar: Aaron Doerr
Bass: Andrew Gurney
Violin: Twinda Murry
Cello: Jessica Nations
Percussion: Clancy Newell

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