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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