Tuesday, April 29, 2014

SHAKE 38 • Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Shakespeare Festival St. Louis honored the Bard's 450th birthday with Shake 38 last week, a five day festival with various companies staging all of Shakespeare's plays. The plays were performed in a variety of locations around the city -- everywhere from coffee shops to backyards -- all free. The festivities began with a wreath laying at the Shakespeare statue in Tower Grove Park on Wednesday morning.

Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble had a couple of plays on offer, starting with "The Merry Wives of Windsor" playing out at the ruins in Tower Grove Park. This presentation, directed by Mollie Amburgey, featured Carl Overly as a smooth, pimp Falstaff, deciding to court two rich women in town -- Mistress Ford (Rachel Tibbetts) and Mistress Page (Ellie Schwetye), hoping to gain some financial footing. This feisty, condensed version streamlined the focus to Falstaff and the Mistresses and their husbands, Master Page and the disguised Master Ford (Stephanie Amoroso and Jared Sanz-Agero).

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

ONCE • The Fox

After an off-Broadway run in 2011, “Once” opened on Broadway the next year, snagging eight Tony awards. Based on the 2006 film bearing the same title, the song "Falling Slowly" also won an Oscar for Best Original Song.

 Right off the bat, as the audience files into the Fox, there's already an Irish-flavored party happening onstage, where you are welcomed to go up to the onstage bar and get a drink before the show starts. The house lights are up during this pre-show jam session, and they stay up well into the prologue. Every member of the ensemble here is a musician -- really talented ones at that, functioning as the show’s orchestra as well as its cast of characters.

Monday, April 7, 2014

CABARET • Stray Dog Theatre

Stray Dog kicks off the last half of its season with Kander and Ebb's classic, "Cabaret", turning the space at Tower Grove Abbey into Berlin's Kit Kat Klub. This darkly ironic musical about the collision between the fun-loving hedonism of 1930's Berlin and the impending Nazi upheaval has been staged twice in town during the past year, but Justin Been's excellent direction and fresh interpretation, some wonderful performances, and smart use of the intimate space give this production an edge.

After a bit of pre-show activity that has the Kit Kat boys and girls sauntering throughout the audience, the Emcee (Lavonne Byers) struts her way into the first number, "Willkomen", welcoming us to the club, introducing us to the girls and the band, and telling us that here, "life is beautiful."