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

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

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
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

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

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

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

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


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