Sunday, April 16, 2017

SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET • Stray Dog Theatre

Anybody hungry?
Stray Dog Theatre invites audiences to “Attend the tale...” in their latest offering, Stephen Sondheim’s brilliant, meaty musical thriller, Sweeney Todd. With a 2007 film version and contemporary stage variations, it’s a welcomed opportunity to get the chance to see this classic onstage in its more “OG” version -- though that wasn’t its original form.

The story of a murderous barber was introduced in a “Penny Dreadful” -- ghastly publications that were popular in the Victorian era. The serial, originally called “The String of Pearls: A Romance,” emerged many years and adaptations later, when Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s musical version debuted in 1979, winning eight Tony Awards.

There’s solid casting here, starting with Jonathan Hey in the title role. His imposing, brooding Sweeney will unnerve you -- in a good way. After being sent to the clink for life on a bogus charge, Sweeney escapes after 15 years and returns to London, hoping to discover the fate of his wife and daughter.
Mrs. Nellie Lovett (Lavonne Byers)
and Sweeney Todd (Jonathan Hey).
Photo credit: John Lamb
He is also determined to exact revenge on Judge Turpin, who had Sweeney sent down so he could have Sweeney’s wife for himself. Hey’s strong baritone and acting chops take you along into his descent into hell-bent vengeance, with props for his pale-faced, dark-eyed make-up design. His willing accomplice is Mrs. Nellie Lovett, a role filled by another great pick, Lavonne Byers. Lovett owns a pitiful meat-pie shop and she’s Sweeney’s biggest fan-girl. After teaming up, Sweeney’s retribution is indulged while Lovett’s pie shop business is invigorated. No spoilers... Byers lands all of her comedic beats, and handles her musical numbers well, kicking her voice up when the score gets high. Some of her expressions alone are worth the price of admission, and their "A Little Priest" is a gem.

Vocal standouts include Kay Love as the woeful and erratic Beggar Woman, Eileen Engel’s Johanna, who tackles the challenging phrasing well, along with her beau, Cole Gutmann as an open-faced Anthony. Mike Wells as Judge Turpin’s right-hand man, Beadle Bamford, is also impressive vocally -- his “Parlor Songs” number is a treat. The cast is rounded out by Tyler Cheatem’s flamboyant Adolfo Pirelli, Gerry Love as the unscrupulous Judge Turpin and Connor Johnson, who does a fantastic job as Toby -- an orphaned street kid who ends up hawking for Mrs. Lovett’s pie business.

Mrs. Nellie Lovett (Lavonne Byers),
Sweeney Todd (Jonathan Hey)
Adolfo Pirelli (Tyler Cheatem) and ensemble.
Photo credit: John Lamb
The ensemble sounds layered and deep, and all of those iconic big numbers like, "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd” and its reprises, "God, that's Good!”, and "City on Fire”, shine. Also, huge props to Kimmie Kidd and Stephanie Merritt for adding their clear soprano voices overtop of those numbers. They're kicking' it.

Being a Sondheim show, this score is no joke. Complex music and tight lyrics make his musicals challenging. Music director, Stray Dog vet Chris Petersen, keeps his eight-piece band pretty tight, but the orchestra and cast were occasionally out of pocket, but it’s a minor quibble, sure to smooth out over the course of the run.

Sweeney Todd (Jonathan Hey)
and Mrs. Nellie Lovett (Lavonne Byers).
Photo credit: John Lamb
Rob Lippert’s set has rotating portions that hint at the bakehouse and reveal Sweeney’s upstairs tonsorial parlor, bathed in lighting designer, Tyler Duenow’s purple and pinks. Ryan Moore’s costume design suggests a dirty, 19th century London, and all of these elements, along with Stray Dog’s aisle-roaming ensemble, come together to great effect.

Under Justin Been's perfectly paced direction, if you’ve never seen Sweeney Todd onstage, this is the time to check it out. It runs at Tower Grove Abbey until April 22. Get your tickets now, because it will sell out!


SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET

Music/lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Hugh Wheeler
Directed by Justin Been
Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee Ave.
through April 22 | tickets: $20 - $25
Performances Thursdays to Saturdays at 8pm, additional performance 8pm Wednesday, April 19

"City on Fire" Cast of Stray Dog’s Sweeney Todd
Photo credit: John Lamb
Cast
Anthony Hope: Cole Gutmann
Sweeney Todd: Jonathan Hey
Beggar Woman: Kay Love
Mrs. Nellie Lovett: Lavonne Byers
Johanna Barker: Eileen Engel
Judge Turpin: Gerry Love
Beadle Bamford: Mike Wells
Tobias Ragg: Connor Johnson
Adolfo Pirelli: Tyler Cheatem
Fogg: Scott Degitz-Fries

Ensemble
Angela Bubash
Ted Drury
Laura Megan Deveney
Kimmie Kidd
Stephanie Merritt
Kevin O’Brien
Belinda Quimby
Benjamin Sevilla

1979 Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street artwork
Creative
Dramaturge: Sarajane Alverson
Artistic Director: Gary F. Bell
Lighting Designer: Tyler Duenow
Stage Manager: Robert M. Kapeller
Scenic Designer: Rob Lippert
Costume Designer: Ryan Moore

The Band
Clarinet: Kelly Austerman
Violin: Steve Frisbee
Trumpet: Bill Hershey
French Horn: Liz Kuba
Cello: Michaela Kuba
Music Director/Piano: Chris Petersen
Bass: M. Joshua Ryan
Percussion: Joe Winters

Thursday, March 23, 2017

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

The fifth anniversary of the St. Louis Theater Circle Awards is in the books, and as always, the number of talented individuals and companies in town never cease to amaze.

Congratulations to all of the nominees and award recipients! Here's the list of the 2017 St. Louis Theater Circle Award nominees with the award recipients in red.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy
Katie Donnelly, As You Like It, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble
Rachel Hanks, As You Like It, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble
Shannon Nara, Five Women Wearing the Same Dress, Stray Dog Theatre
Nancy Nigh, boom, R-S Theatrics
Margeau Steinau, The Heir Apparent, St. Louis Shakespeare

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy
Will Bonfiglio, As You Like It, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble
Isaiah DiLorenzo, The Heir Apparent, St. Louis Shakespeare
Evan Fornachon, Brighton Beach Memoirs, ACT INC.
Stephen Pilkington, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis
Shane Signorino, The Heir Apparent, St. Louis Shakespeare

Outstanding Actress in a Comedy
Nancy Anderson, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis
Cara Barresi, As You Like It, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble
Lindsay Gingrich, Five Women Wearing the Same Dress, Stray Dog Theatre
Elizabeth Van Pelt, boom, R-S Theatrics
Maggie Wininger, Educating Rita, West End Players Guild

Outstanding Actor in a Comedy
Will Bonfiglio, Buyer & Cellar, Stray Dog Theatre
Joe Hanrahan, Thom Pain (based on nothing), Midnight Company
Tom Kopp, Educating Rita, West End Players Guild
Andrew Kuhlman, boom, R-S Theatrics
Zac O’Keefe, Brighton Beach Memoirs, ACT INC.

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Play
Rob Denton, A Christmas Carol, The Rep
Patrick Huber, Ivanov, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Kathy Perkins, Miss Julie, Clarissa and John, The Black Rep
Nathan Schroeder, Macbeth, St. Louis Shakespeare
John Wylie, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Sound Design in a Play
Ted Drury, Macbeth, St. Louis Shakespeare
Tom Mardikes, Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Swing, The Rep
Rick Sims, Twisted Melodies, The Black Rep
Rusty Wandall, A Christmas Carol, The Rep
Rusty Wandall, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Costume Design in a Play
Dorothy Marshall Englis, A Christmas Carol, The Rep
Dorothy Marshall Englis, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis
Jennifer “JC” Krajicek, Macbeth, St. Louis Shakespeare
Meredith LaBounty, Trash Macbeth, Equally Represented Arts
Michele Friedman Siler, The Heir Apparent, St. Louis Shakespeare

Outstanding Set Design in a Play
Kristin Cassidy, Burrow, YoungLiars
Kristin Cassidy, Wilson Webel, and Lucy Cashion, Trash Macbeth, Equally Represented Arts
Cristie Johnston, American Buffalo, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Robert Mark Morgan, A Christmas Carol, The Rep
Peter and Margery Spack, Golda’s Balcony, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama
Kirsten De Broux, Kindertransport, Mustard Seed Theatre
Sydney Frasure, The Glass Menagerie, Upstream Theater
Anita Jackson, The St. Louis Rooming House Plays, Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis
Alicia Revé Like, Miss Julie, Clarissa and John, The Black Rep
Kristin Rion, Arcadia, West End Players Guild

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama
Will Bonfiglio, Old Wicked Songs, New Jewish Theatre
Jason Contini, The Glass Menagerie, Upstream Theater
Leo Ramsey, American Buffalo, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
B. Weller, Ivanov, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Eric Dean White, Driving Miss Daisy, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Actress in a Drama
Lavonne Byers, Golda’s Balcony, New Jewish Theatre
Michelle Hand, Macbeth, St. Louis Shakespeare
Linda Kennedy, The Glass Menagerie, Upstream Theater
Dael Orlandersmith, Until the Flood, The Rep
Rachel Tibbetts, Cuddles, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

Outstanding Actor in a Drama
Charlie Barron, Richard III, St. Louis Shakespeare
J. Samuel Davis, Driving Miss Daisy, New Jewish Theatre
John Pasha, Disgraced, The Rep
Michael James Reed, I’m Gonna Pray for You So Hard, Blue Rose Stage Collective
Kelvin Roston, Jr., Twisted Melodies, The Black Rep

Outstanding New Play
Nancy Bell, Remember Me, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis
West Hyler, Matt Schatz, and Jack Herrick, Georama, The Rep
Dael Orlandersmith, Until the Flood, The Rep
Tammy Ryan, Molly’s Hammer, The Rep
Maya Arad Yasur, Suspended, Upstream Theater

Outstanding Achievement in Opera
Christine Brewer, Doubt, Union Avenue Opera
Andriana Chuchman, Shalimar the Clown, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis
Stephen Lord, Macbeth, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis
Neil Nelson, Tosca, Union Avenue Opera
Melody Wilson, Doubt, Union Avenue Opera

Outstanding Production of an Opera
Ariadne on Naxos, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis
Doubt, Union Avenue Opera
Macbeth, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis
The Merry Widow, Winter Opera Saint Louis
Shalimar the Clown, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

Outstanding Musical Director
Sue Goldford, American Idiot, New Line Theatre
Brad Haak, Fiddler on the Roof, The Muny
Brad Haak, Follies, The Rep
Neal Richardson, Grey Gardens, Max & Louie Productions
Ben Whiteley, 42nd Street, The Muny

Outstanding Choreographer
Stephen Bourneuf, Sister Act, Stages St. Louis
Denis Jones, 42nd Street, The Muny
Dana Lewis, The Drowsy Chaperone, Stages St. Louis
Ralph Perkins, Follies, The Rep
Lara Teeter, Disney’s Beauty & the Beast, Variety Children’s Theatre

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical
Taylor Louderman, Aida, The Muny
Laurie McConnell, Company, Insight Theatre Company
Corinne Melançon, The Drowsy Chaperone, Stages St. Louis
Anna Skidis Vargas, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Stray Dog Theatre
Donna Weinsting, Grey Gardens, Max & Louie Productions

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical
Will Bonfiglio, Grey Gardens, Max & Louie Productions
Zachary Allen Farmer, Celebration, New Line Theatre
Edward Juvier, The Drowsy Chaperone, Stages St. Louis
Terry Meddows, Grey Gardens, Max & Louie Productions
Luke Steingruby, Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show, Stray Dog Theatre

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Musical
Rob Denton, 42nd Street, The Muny
Tyler Duenow, Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show, Stray Dog Theatre
John Lasiter, Follies, The Rep
Sean M. Savoie, The Drowsy Chaperone, Stages St. Louis
Michael Sullivan, Grey Gardens, Max & Louie Productions

Outstanding Set Design in a Musical (tie)
Luke Cantarella, Follies, The Rep
Dunsi Dai, Grey Gardens, Max & Louie Productions
Robert Mark Morgan, The Wizard of Oz, The Muny
Scott C. Neale, Georama, The Rep
Peter and Margery Spack, Yentl, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Costume Design in a Musical
Amy Clark, Follies, The Rep
Jennifer “JC” Krajicek, Grey Gardens, Max & Louie Productions
Andrea Lauer, 42nd Street, The Muny
Brad Musgrove, The Drowsy Chaperone, Stages St. Louis
Margaret E. Weedon, Georama, The Rep

Outstanding Actress in a Musical
Shanara Gabrielle, Yentl, New Jewish Theatre
Debby Lennon, Grey Gardens, Max & Louie Productions
Sarah Porter, Tell Me on a Sunday, New Line Theatre
Jonalyn Saxer, 42nd Street, The Muny
Emily Skinner, Follies, The Rep

Outstanding Actor in a Musical
Michael Baird, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Stray Dog Theatre
Zachary Allen Farmer, Atomic, New Line Theatre
Corey Fraine, Bat Boy: The Musical, Stray Dog Theatre
Adam Heller, Follies, The Rep
David Schmittou, The Drowsy Chaperone, Stages St. Louis

Outstanding Ensemble in a Comedy
As You Like It, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble
The Dispute: A Spectacle for Lovers and Fighters, YoungLiars
The Heir Apparent, St. Louis Shakespeare
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis
Remember Me, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Ensemble in a Drama
Arcadia, West End Players Guild
Manifest|Destiny, West End Players Guild
Miss Julie, Clarissa and John, The Black Rep
The St. Louis Rooming House Plays, Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis
Trash Macbeth, Equally Represented Arts

Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical
42nd Street, The Muny
The Drowsy Chaperone, Stages St. Louis
Follies, The Rep
Grey Gardens, Max & Louie Productions
Sister Act, Stages St. Louis

Outstanding Director of a Comedy (tie)
Gary F. Bell, Buyer & Cellar, Stray Dog Theatre
Rick Dildine, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis
Chuck Harper, The Dispute: A Spectacle for Lovers and Fighters, YoungLiars
Donna Northcott, The Heir Apparent, St. Louis Shakespeare
Ellie Schwetye, As You Like It, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

Outstanding Director of a Drama
Lucy Cashion, Trash Macbeth, Equally Represented Arts
John Contini, American Buffalo, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Joe Hanrahan, Cuddles, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble
Tim Ocel, Old Wicked Songs, New Jewish Theatre
Wayne Salomon, Three Tall Women, St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Outstanding Director of a Musical
Justin Been, Bat Boy: The Musical, Stray Dog Theatre
Michael Hamilton, The Drowsy Chaperone, Stages St. Louis
Denis Jones, 42nd Street, The Muny
Annamaria Pileggi, Grey Gardens, Max & Louie Productions
Rob Ruggiero, Follies, The Rep

Outstanding Production of a Comedy
As You Like It, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble
Buyer & Cellar, Stray Dog Theatre
The Dispute: A Spectacle for Lovers and Fighters, YoungLiars
The Heir Apparent, St. Louis Shakespeare
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Production of a Drama
American Buffalo, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Disgraced, The Rep
The Glass Menagerie, Upstream Theater
Old Wicked Songs, New Jewish Theatre
Trash Macbeth, Equally Represented Arts

Outstanding Production of a Musical
42nd Street, The Muny
The Drowsy Chaperone, Stages St. Louis
Follies, The Rep
Georama, The Rep
Grey Gardens, Max & Louie Productions

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Bit of News... • Yes, I’m gonna use the words “I” and “My” a lot

For those first hearing this, I'm bowing out of the St. Louis Theater Circle. This is nothing at all personal, as I value all of the new friendships I’ve made through the Circle, and this incredible theatre community. I'm still going to review shows, but I need to just ease back on the number of plays and musicals I see a little bit.

Honestly, my 9 to 5 job as a video editor has required more of my time lately -- called in for late weekday nights and weekend assignments, and that's made blogging challenging. And, as most know, I’m already challenged when it comes to getting stuff out on time. The annual number of shows required for members (40) is more than fair, considering the massive number of shows that happen in St. Louis during any given year -- but if I can't hold up my end of the bargain, I'd rather step aside, out of the group, relieve some of the pressure, and try to work on becoming a better reviewer/writer, while keeping the job that pays the mortgage.

When I started this blog, it was a refreshing hobby to fill in the creative holes that my job left open, while indulging a latent passion for theatre. The last thing I want is for theatre going and reviewing to become a chore, as opposed to a welcomed comfort. I admire our pros in the Circle who write beautifully thoughtful reviews in a timely manner. Alas, I’m not there yet. :)

I look forward to contributing to the Circle Awards Ceremony as I can, (and certainly promoting it and going, cause it’s hella fun) and again, I will continue to see shows and keep up the blog. And I’ll keep seeing all of you at shows and stuff -- a reward I'm grateful for. I just had to take a self-imposed “time-out” from the organization -- a group that I'm proud to have been one of several founding members.

Now, here’s where I pimp myself out -- if you haven’t already, please “like” my Facebook page, check me out on Twitter, Youtube, and of course, the blog, where you can catch up on a selection of our vast array of companies, and productions happening now and in the future.

Thanks to you all, and GO SEE A PLAY!!

Friday, October 7, 2016

CELEBRATION • New Line Theatre

Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt’s musical is pretty much devoid of any conventional narrative, with roots that reach back to ancient ritual and the winter solstice -- the planet’s shortest day and longest night. Clashes between Winter and Summer, from the beginning of time, have proven that the young inevitably conquer the old, and in Celebration, fresh ambition stamps out numb indifference. The musical premiered Off-Broadway in 1969, but lost a little bit of its magic when it moved to the bigger Ambassador Theatre on Broadway. Rarely produced, the musical has undergone revisions over a long period of time, and New Line Theatre is the first to premiere this revised version. Under the lively direction of Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor, the intimate black box space at the Marcelle seems like a marvelous fit.

It’s New Year’s Eve, and Orphan (Sean Michael), a young innocent, is in the big city, hoping to get the rights to his farm back so he can grow living things. The deed to the land is currently held by William Rosebud Rich (Zachary Allen Farmer).
Orphan (Sean Michael), Potemkin (Kent Coffel)
and Mr. Rich (Zachary Allen Farmer).
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg
He’s a monocled millionaire with a Trumpy... (Trump-esque?) hair-piece, satin robe and all, who’s a successful manufacturer of artificial things. Despite his wealth, he’s empty, and wants to feel something -- anything, perfectly epitomized in Farmer’s deliciously poker-faced number, “Bored.” Potemkin (Kent Coffel), our narrator, is a huckster who offers to help Orphan maneuver the cruel ways of the world, and maybe sidle up to Rich for his own gains. Angel (Larissa White) is the scantily clad entertainer who’s slated to perform at Rich’s lavish New Year’s Eve party. She’s after some fame and success, laid out in her number, “Somebody,” accompanied by her wonderful “give-a-shit” Devil Girls who look like they’d rather be anywhere else. Orphan falls for Angel instantly, even though she’s soon claimed by Rich. A reckoning is imminent, climaxing during the big party, with Orphan and Angel realizing their mutual love, and Rich grasping for the last threads of relevance.

Larissa White (Angel).
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg
Michael’s virtuous characterization as Orphan and White’s appetite for celebrity as Angel work together well as the lovers who yearn to be together, and Farmer is brilliant as Rich, selling his character with the most minimal of movements, telegraphing tons through his expressions. Coffel is an enigmatic, slightly ominous Potemkin, guiding us through, breaking the fourth wall -- even hipping us to upcoming key changes, and taking part in the action, with a great voice and charm. The strong-voiced ensemble of Revelers (Colin Dowd, Sarah Dowling, Christopher Lee, Todd Micali, Nellie Mitchell, Michelle Sauer and Kimi Short) provide a constant source of energy throughout -- typical of all of New Line’s shows.

The Revelers.
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg
The score is brimming with a varied number of great songs. Hell, there’s even a little harpsichord action in there. Music director Sarah Nelson’s band is tight, and choreographer Michelle Sauer provides some nice moves for the Revelers, particularly during Potemkin’s “Not My Problem,” where the ensemble fills in as a robotic chorus, complemented with some eerie lighting design by Kenneth Zinkl. Sarah Porter’s costumes are fittingly eccentric, and Scott L. Schoonover provides the show’s cool mask design.

For a rare interpretation of a story as old as time -- the passage of time itself when old things are stripped away and born anew, check it out. It’s playing until the 22nd.


Potemkin (Kent Coffel).
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg
CELEBRATION

Music by Harvey Schmidt
Book/lyrics by Tom Jones
Directed by Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor
Marcelle Theater, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive
through October 22 | tickets: $10 - $25
Performances Thursdays to Saturdays at 8pm

Cast
Potemkin: Kent Coffel
Orphan: Sean Michael
Angel: Larissa White
William Rosebud Rich: Zachary Allen Farmer
Revelers: Colin Dowd, Sarah Dowling, Christopher Lee, Todd Micali, Nellie Mitchell, Michelle Sauer and Kimi Short

Mr. Rich (Zachary Allen Farmer)
and Angel (Larissa White).
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg
Creative
Music Director: Sarah Nelson
Vocal Music Coach: Kyle Aucoin
Choreographer: Michelle Sauer
Stage Manager/Lighting Technician: Brendan O'Brien
Scenic Designer: Rob Lippert
Costume Designer: Sarah Porter
Sound Designer: Benjamin Rosemann
Assistant Sound Designer: Elli Castonguay
Mask Designer: Scott L. Schoonover
Lighting Designer: Kenneth Zinkl
Props Master: Mike Dowdy-Windsor
Scenic Artists: Melanie Kozak, Kate Wilkerson, Patrick Donnigan, Richard Brown and Paul Troyke
Box Office Manager: Jason Klefisch
Volunteer Coordinator: Alison Helmer
Graphics Designer: Matt Reedy
Videographer: Kyle Jeffery Studios
Photographer: Jill Ritter Lindberg

The New Line Band
Conductor/Piano: Sarah Nelson
Guitar: D. Mike Bauer
Keyboard 2: Sue Goldford
Percussion: Clancy Newell
Bass: Jake Stergos

Monday, October 3, 2016

REMEMBER ME • Shakespeare in the Streets: Maplewood

Shakespeare in the Streets, one of the outreach programs under Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, celebrates its fifth anniversary this year. Combining a community’s individuality and history with one of Shakespeare’s plays, past years have included Cherokee Street, the Grove, Clayton and Old North St. Louis. This year, Shakespeare in the Streets had its biggest audience yet, featuring Maplewood. Instead of one play though, playwright-in-residence Nancy Bell blends a mash-up of Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, and a dash of Romeo & Juliet, to tell a tale of shared community stories from the residents of Maplewood, and she does so skillfully. The production features professional actors and local residents and students, but also these magnificent puppets, up to about 15 feet tall, courtesy of the talented artists from Living Arts Studio. These striking creations represent Maplewood’s past -- or more appropriately, Maplewood’s ghosts.

Theseus, Mayor of Maplewood (Aaron Orion Baker)
and Hippolyta of Clayton (Jeanitta Perkins).
Photo credit: Michael Kilfoy, Studio X
Reminiscent of the opening of Midsummer, the wedding of Theseus, the mayor of Maplewood (Aaron Orion Baker) and Hippolyta of Clayton, (Jeanitta Perkins) is about to take place, but Maplewood’s spirits threaten to spoil the proceedings. We learn more about these ghosts through the research of our historian, Hamlet, played by Joanna Cole Battles. She learns about local figures like Vito, a father whose photo hangs in Mystic Valley New Age Gifts and More, and the spirits of Joseph Sunnen and John Collins, but the most looming figure of all (literally) is the ghost of Clara Clamorgan. Her story of interracial marriage and its heartbreaks in the early 1900s was thrillingly presented when her ghost appears larger than life on the roof of a building. These phantoms want to be remembered, so Hamlet stages a play-within-the-play designed to entertain Theseus and Hippolyta after their wedding, and also to remember and honor the ghosts of Maplewood’s past so they can be at rest.

Photo credit: Michael Kilfoy, Studio X
Lucy Cashion’s direction is marked by the unique style she brings to her shows at ERA, and Mark Wilson’s design and Jennifer ‘JC’ Krajicek’s costumes were excellent, along with the music and original songs by music director and composer, Joe Taylor. You can tell the team at Shakespeare Festival did their research.

Keep an eye out for their next production -- they only run for one weekend, they’re free, and always a unique experience.


Francisco, a sophomore at MRH High School (Stephen Vita Tronicek)
and Ms. Bottom, drama teacher at MRH (Phyllis Thorpe).
Photo credit: Michael Kilfoy, Studio X
REMEMBER ME

Written by Nancy Bell
Directed by Lucy Cashion
On Sutton Blvd. between Marietta & Hazel
Run concluded | tickets: FREE
Performances 8pm nightly

Cast
Theseus, Mayor of Maplewood: Aaron Orion Baker*
First Sister, Co-owner of Mystic Valley: Emily Baker
Hamlet, a Maplewood native: Joanna Cole Battles*
Second Sister, Co-owner of Mystic Valley: Anna Grimm
Hippolyta of Clayton, engaged to Theseus: Jeanitta Perkins
Bernardo, a junior at MRH High School: Reginald Pierre
Third Sister, Co-Owner of Mystic Valley: Traci Ponticello
Ms. Bottom, long-time beloved drama teacher at MRH: Phyllis Thorpe
Horatio, friend of Hamlet: Rachel Tibbetts
Francisco, a sophomore at MRH High School: Stephen Vita Tronicek
Osric, a wedding entertainer: Michael Weidle

Photo credit: Michael Kilfoy, Studio X
Voices of Maplewood Ghosts
Clara Clamorgan: Jeanitta Perkins
Ten-Foot Ghost: Emily Baker
Charles Ames: Phyllis Thorpe
Streetcar: Ashleigh Owens
Charles Rannells: Michael Weidle
John F. Kennedy: Patrick Meyers
Slave: Reginald Pierre
Joseph Sunnen: Stephen Vita Tronicek
John Collins: Aaron Orion Baker*
Vito: Benjamin Kaplan
Marilyn: Anna Grimm
Mr. Mines: Jason Meyers
Mrs. Mines: Shelley Nicole Spence

Creative
Production Designer: Mark Wilson
Costume Designer: Jennifer ‘JC’ Krajicek
Music Director/Composer: Joe Taylor
Production Manager: Tom Martin
Stage Manager: Richard B. Agnew*
Master Electrician: Toby Beck
Properties Master: Meg Brinkley
Sound Mixer: Casey Hunter
Assistant Stage Manager: Wilson Webel
House Manager/Playbill Design: Michael B. Perkins

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

Musicians
Fiddle: Kevin Buckley
Theremin: Josephine Kaplan
Accordion: Ashby Laws
Guitar/Drums: Matt McGaughey
Mandolin: Jason Scroggins
Bass: Jacob Stern
Keyboards: Joe Taylor
Drums/Trumpet: Philip Zahnd

Friday, September 30, 2016

FOLLIES • The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

The Rep’s 50th anniversary season kickoff was met with a palpable buzz -- and for good reason. While comfortably residing within the canon of Sondheim musicals, Follies is not often produced, but the Rep has pulled out all the stops on this one in an impressive reminder of why this musical is so cherished.

It’s 1971, and the home of the “Weismann's Follies” has long since seen its last lavish production number, and a reunion is taking place. Set designer, Luke Cantarella’s gorgeous backdrop of the dilapidated Weismann Theatre, is where the shadows of yesteryear mingle with the present talk of glamorous days gone by, and attempts to reverse the past bring regret. With a nimble cast of 28, including four sharp leads, a sweet 12-piece orchestra and Rob Ruggiero’s shrewd direction, the Rep’s production of this classic is a definitive one.

Phyllis (Emily Skinner) and Sally (Christiane Noll).
Photo credit: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
After thirty years, the former Weismann Follies girls and their husbands are getting together for one last hurrah before the building is to be demolished to make room for a parking lot. Those in attendance catch up with each other and reminisce about their glory days, as spectral twins look on. These grand divas have one last glorious go at their old songs, often mirrored by their ghostly counterparts who share the space. Show-stopping numbers, including Zoe Vonder Haar’s Hattie in an irresistibly nostalgic “Broadway Baby,” Nancy Opel as Carlotta in a resilient “I’m Still Here,” and E. Faye Butler bringing down the house in Stella’s "Who's That Woman?” are highlights.

Buddy (Adam Heller).
Photo credit: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
The relationships at the center of this gathering though, are a pair of mismatched couples. Phyllis (Emily Skinner), acerbic and perfectly coiffed, is married to Benjamin (Bradley Dean), a wealthy, suave politician. They make a strikingly elegant, “living the life of luxury“ couple -- informed by Amy Clark’s knockout costume design. Then there’s the other couple -- Buddy (Adam Heller), a moderately successful salesman, who’s married to Sally (Christiane Noll), both more modest in dress and character, but no less wary of what this reunion might dredge up.

Ben (Bradley Dean) and Phyllis (Emily Skinner).
Photo credit: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
Ben and Buddy were best pals back in the day, and Sally and Phyllis were roommates. This is when Sally loved Ben and Ben loved Sally, and the rifts that formed back during this foursome’s wooing days are remembered. Old bruises are reopened into fresh wounds, particularly on display in a bold second act of heartbreaks and psychological meltdowns. Heller’s frantic "The Right Girl,” Skinner’s caustic rendition of "Could I Leave You?" and Noll’s potent torch song, "Losing My Mind" are second act gems, and under conductor and pianist Valerie Maze, the orchestra is in fine form.

Sally (Christiane Noll).
Photo credit: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
This is the last week to catch this Sondheim classic, so I suggest getting a ticket. Like, right now -- get a ticket.


FOLLIES

Book by James Goldman
Music/lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Directed by Rob Ruggiero
Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road
through October 2 | tickets: $18 - $81.50
Performances Tuesdays at 7pm, selected Wednesdays to Fridays at 8pm, selected Wednesdays at 1:30pm, Saturdays at 4pm, selected Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm, selected Sundays at 7pm

Hattie (Zoe Vonder Haar).
Photo credit: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
Cast
Sally Durant Plummer: Christiane Noll*
Phyllis Rogers Stone: Emily Skinner*
Buddy Plummer: Adam Heller*
Benjamin Stone: Bradley Dean*
Carlotta Campion: Nancy Opel*
Hattie Walker: Zoe Vonder Haar*
Solange LaFitte: Amra-Faye Wright*
Theodore Whitman: James Young*
Stella Deems: E. Faye Butler*
Heidi Schiller: Carol Skarimbas*
Roscoe: Robert DuSold*
Emily Whitman: Dorothy Stanley*
Dimitri Weismann: Joneal Joplin*
Max Deems: Ron Himes*
Young Phyllis: Kathryn Boswell*
Young Ben: Michael Williams*
Young Sally: Sarah Quinn Taylor*
Young Buddy: Cody Williams*
Young Heidi: Julie Hanson*
Ensemble: Kristen Smith Davis*, Gaby Gamache*, Luke Hamilton*, Julie Hanson, Dan Horn*, Adrienne Howard*, Drew Nellessen*, Brenna Noble, Kara Overlien and Brett Thiele*

The Follies ensemble in Loveland.
Photo credit: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
Creative
Choreographer: Ralph Perkins
Music Supervisor: Brad Haak
Scenic Designer: Luke Cantarella
Costume Designer: Amy Clark
Lighting Designer: John Lasiter
Sound Designer: Randy Hansen
Conductor: Valerie Maze
Orchestral Reduction: David Siegel
Casting Director: Pat McCorkle, McCorkle Casting, Ltd.
Stage Manager: Emilee Buchheit*
Assistant Stage Manager: Lorraine LiCavoli*

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

Musicians
Conductor/Piano: Valerie Maze
Reed I: Mike Buerk
Reed II: Mike Karpowicz
Trumpet I: Andy Tichenor
Trumpet II: Vicky Smolik
Trombone: Tom Vincent
Harp: Wesley Kelly
Drums: Steve Riley
Percussion: Chris Treloar
Violin: Tova Braitberg
Cello: Marian Drake
Bass: Jay Hungerford

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