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.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Love? Actually... • R-S Theatrics

Dedicated to presenting thought provoking St. Louis premieres, R-S Theatrics is at it again. R-S opens its “Season of Semi-Requited Love” with a collection of mostly musical one-acts to fill out a terrific evening, including its first-ever staging of a short opera by Steven Serpa.

Act 1 of the evening is a cabaret called “Out of a Bowl,” where random audience members come onstage and pull pieces of paper out of a bowl, and the corresponding numbers picked -- a mix of solos, duets and group numbers, are performed by members of the cast. The night I attended, Kelvin Urday performed “Mr. Brightside” by the rock band “The Killers” -- a song about crushing infidelity and its results. There was also Lindsay Gingrich, performing “Gooch’s Song” from Mame, Omega Jones and Eileen Engel in an entertaining, scenery-chewing "The Song That Goes Like This" from Spamalot, and a duet from Rent with Gingrich and Sarajane Alverson. The cabaret portion ended with a rousing group number, if memory serves, “Somebody to Love” from Queen.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

TELL ME ON A SUNDAY • New Line Theatre

New Line Theatre closed its 25th anniversary season with an unlikely choice. It was an intimate, one-act, one-person musical about a British girl, Emma, living in the States and steering her way through the ups and downs of a string of romantic journeys. This lesser known musical from Andrew Lloyd Webber (Cats, Evita, Jesus Christ SuperstarPhantom of the Opera) was initially conceived as a cycle of shows for television. It eventually became the first act of Song & Dance in the early 80’s debuting in the West End, and then was finally re-introduced as a stand-alone one-act in 2003, with an Off-Broadway debut in 2008. While one-person shows fill some with dread, I would say to you; fear not. New Line veteran Sarah Porter definitively came into her own here. With a sung-through score of over 20 songs, Porter holds the evening together with a style that made it look easy.

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