Wednesday, July 31, 2013

LEGALLY BLONDE, THE MUSICAL • Stages St. Louis

"Legally Blonde, The Musical" was adapted from the 2001 film and premiered on Broadway in 2007 after a San Francisco tryout.  This female empowerment flavored confection about Elle Woods, a Malibu sorority girl who gains admission to Harvard Law School in an attempt to win her ex-boyfriend back, capitalizes on the popular girl power themes that charged the 2003 sensation, "Wicked", and wraps its central theme within high-octane choreography and lots of valley-girl pink.  Pinkness.  Pink-ti-tude?

The driving force behind the current Stages production is the tireless Michelle London as Elle.  She's got strong pipes, dances wonderfully, looks perfect, and brings a great deal of personality to a demanding role.  After the opening number, one of the show's most memorable, "Omigod You Guys",  Elle prepares for a proposal of marriage from her self-absorbed boyfriend, Warner Huntington III (Brandon Davidson).  What she gets, is dumped.  Warner needs a "serious girl" and Elle doesn't fit the bill.  Buoyed by her Delta Nu sisters, particularly her own personal Greek chorus -- Margot (Melinda Cowan), Serena (Julia Johanos) and Pilar (Sarah Rolleston), Elle decides to follow Warner into Harvard Law to prove that she can be more brains and less bombshell.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

LABUTE NEW THEATER FESTIVAL II • St. Louis Actors' Studio

Part two of the LaBute New Theater Festival started last Friday with the second set of four new plays that will run until the 28th, along with LaBute's "The Possible", written especially for the festival.

When Hank (David Wassilak) has the chance to meet his favorite actor (Paul Cooper) from his favorite tv show, he's beside himself.  In his cabin in the woods, this park ranger gets to talk to his idol, the guy who plays "Lyle" on a show called "Blood Brothers".  Never mind that the young actor is initially bound and gagged.  Hank just wants to hang out, that's all.  And talk.  Hank's intimate familiarity with every episode of every season of this series provides the humor.  Something I could never identify with.  Ha!  Kidding…  (Downton Abbey?  The Walking Dead?  Anybody?)  But there's a nice dose of tension in there too once the depths of Hank's obsessive connection with the show bubble to the surface and the young actor's aggravation with the position he's put in by the baggage of celebrity come to a head.  Directed by Wayne Solomon and written by Rachel Fenton, who is also featured in, "The Possible" and "Present Tense", "Blood Brothers" is a perfect start to the evening with fine performances from Cooper and Wassilak.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS • Stray Dog Theatre

Roger Corman's 1960 low-budget cult classic about a nebbishy flower shop employee named Seymour who raises a carnivorous plant, inspired a long-running off-Broadway production with book and lyrics by Howard Ashman and music by Alan Menken.  This spawned another popular film adaptation in 1986 and a 2003 Broadway revival.  Under Justin Been's direction, it's getting a scrumptious treatment at Stray Dog, closing out its tenth season with another solid production.

The cast is led by a marvelous Ben Watts who plays Seymour Krelborn, the orphan stuck in Mr. Mushnik's Skid Row flower shop.  As the unlikely hero of this dark comedy, Watts brings his vocal talents and ability to deftly disappear into any role.  Love him.  Our Greek chorus -- Chiffon (Jamie Lynn Marble), Crystal (Maria Bartolotta) and Ronette (a priceless Mark Saunders in drag), all equipped with good voices and attitude, kick off the show with a rousing "Little Shop of Horrors" and appear throughout, commenting on and engaging in the action.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

LABUTE NEW THEATER FESTIVAL I • St. Louis Actors' Studio

Tony-nominated playwright and screenwriter Neil LaBute's plays include, "In the Company of Men", "The Shape of Things", "Fat Pig", "reasons to be pretty" and "Reasons to Be Happy", that just closed off-Broadway.  His film credits include "Nurse Betty", "The Wicker Man", and "Death at a Funeral".  His body of work is often characterized as misanthropic, but with a style that is relatable, carrying weight in his words and unflinching honesty -- he calls it like he sees it. 

William Roth, founder and producing director for the St. Louis Actors' Studio, initially connected with LaBute when STLAS staged “The Shape of Things" in 2010 followed by a collection of his short plays called "Just Desserts" the next year.  LaBute agreed to lend his name to a festival of premiere one-acts -- The LaBute New Theater Festival, and submissions were accepted last October, with eight finalists and five high school finalists selected.  The festival kicked off this past Friday at the Gaslight Theater with the first four finalists.  These will run from the 5th to the 14th.  The second set of four will run from the 19th to the 28th.  The high school finalists were presented as readings on July 6th.  Submissions for next year's festival will be accepted from October 1 - December 31, 2013.

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