By Lynn Venhaus
Love and shenanigans are underway on local stages these mid-summer nights, in the classic Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” and Gilbert and Sullivan’s “H.M.S. Pinafore.”
Music is in the warm night air, too, as the “Altar Boyz” are on their “Raise the Praise” tour, the Jersey Boys are climbing the charts, hippies are letting the sunshine in, Dr. Seuss’ menagerie cavorts, and little orphan Annie is hoping the sun will come out tomorrow.
But it’s not always sunny on local stages – the LaBute New Theater Festival continues with hot-button drama one-act plays and “The Drowning Girls” share their dark tales.
Whatever you are in the mood for, you’ll find it in St. Louis. Go see a play!
Silhouettes Production Company
July 13-15, 19-21
All at 8 p.m. except July 15 at 3 p.m.
Kranzberg Arts Center black box theater
What It’s About: The Altar Boyz are a fictitious Christian boy band from Ohio in the 1990w, and this musical comedy satirizes the boy band trend and Christian-themed music in contemporary culture.
Music and lyrics are by Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker, with book by Kevin Del Aguila, based on an idea by Marc J. Kessler and Ken Davenport. Songs include “Church Rulez,” “The Rhythm in Me,” “The Calling” and “Everybody Fits.”
Cast: Matthew – Riley Dunn, Mark – Clayton Humburg, Luke – Kevin Corpuz, Juan – Marshall Jennings and Abraham – Corey Fraine.
Director: Elisabeth Wurm and Music Director Joel Hackbarth
Of Note: It is the ninth longest-running Off-Broadway musical of all-time (March 1, 2005 to Jan. 10, 2010, it played 16 previews and 2,032 regular performances.)
Photo by Tyler Gruen
July 18 – 25
What It’s About: Plucky Little Orphan Annie, heroine of the 1920s comic strip by Harold Gray, became the heroine of a beloved Broadway musical, with music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin and book by Thomas Meehan.
This is the Muny’s annual “children’s show.”
Director: John Tartaglia, with music director Colin Welford.
Cast: Christopher Sieber (Warbucks), Jennifer Simard (Miss Hannigan), Peyton Ella (Annie), Britney Coleman (Grace Farrell), Holly Ann Butler (Lily), Jon Rua (Rooster), John Scherer (FDR), Madeline Domain (Tessie), Kennedy Holmes (July), Samantha Iken (Pepper), Trenay LaBelle (Duffy), Ana Mc Alister (Molly) and Ella Grace Roberts (Kate).
Ensemble includes Patrick Blindauer, Maya Bowles, Chloe Davis, Julie Hanson, Michael Hoey, Abigail Isom, Madison Johnson, Zachary Daniel Jones, Graham Keen, Rich Pisarkiewicz, Whit Reichert, Rochelle Scudder, Josh Walden, and Rebecca Young. The company will also be joined by the Muny Kid and Teen ensembles.
Of Note: The original Broadway production opened in 1977 and ran for nearly six years, setting a record for the Alvin Theatre (now the Neil Simon Theatre). It won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The musical’s songs include “Tomorrow,” “It’s the Hard Knock Life” and “You’re Never Fully Addressed Without a Smile.”
The mother of Peyton Ella, who is playing Annie, was an orphan in the original Broadway cast, and eventually played the title role.
“The Drowning Girls”
Fourth Wall Down
June 22 – July 14
Wild Carrot, 3901 Shaw Blvd., in the Shaw Neighborhood
What It’s About: This is about England’s first serial killer from the point of view of his three brides whom he strangled in their bathtubs, at the turn of the century.
Director: Nick Hendersen
Of Note: Moving Victorian bathtubs are part of the theater in the round set.
Local artists are displaying works on abuse in an exhibit.
A portion of the proceeds goes to A.L.I.V.E, (Alternatives to Living in a Violent Environments), www.AliveSTL.org
Alton Little Theater
July 13 – 22
Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
2450 North Henry in Alton, Ill.
What It’s About: First known as “The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical,” this work was a product of the hippie counterculture of the late 1960s, and several of its songs reflected the anti-war movement.
Book and lyrics are by Gerome Ragni and James Rado, and music by Galt MacDermot. Songs include “The Age of Aquarius,” “Easy to Be Hard,” “Good Morning Starshine” and “Let the Sunshine In.”
“Hair” is about a “tribe” — a group of politically active hippies living a bohemian life in New York City and fighting against the Vietnam War. Claude, his good friend Berger, their roommate Sheila and their friends try balance their lives and loves amid the sexual revolution as they rebel against society, including their conservative parents.
Director: Kevin Frakes, with music direction by Kurt Seible.
Cast: Nathan Beilsmith, Tiffani Bowen, Mary Grace Brueggemann, Ty Dunn, Joe File, Gabriel Generally, Jaylyn Jordan, Tiffany Knighten, Pat Kulish, Karlena Lahey, Jessica McCawley, Sydney Martin, Hal Morgan, Anthony Michael Shepard, Margaret Sommerhof and Kat Wissler.
Of Note: The musical broke new ground in musical theatre. It defined the “rock musical” genre, used a racially integrated cast, and invited the audience onstage for a “Be-In” finale.
“Hair” lost to “1776” for the Tony Award in 1969, but it won Best Revival of a Musical in 2009.
Union Avenue Opera
July 6-7, July 13-14
Union Avenue Christian Church
733 Union at Enright
What It’s About: Union Avenue Opera opens its 24th season with the Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera classic, “H.M.S. Pinafore,” or, “The Lass That Loved a Sailor.” It opened in 1878, becoming the second-longest run of any musical theater piece up to that time. It was the fourth collaboration by composer Arthur Sullivan and librettist W.S. Gilbert.
Aboard the ship, HMS Pinafore, the captain’s daughter, Josephine, is in love with a lower-class sailor, Ralph Rackstraw. However, he father wants her to marry Sir Joseph Porter. Things will go haywire and silliness will abound, as it pokes fun at the British class system, patriotism, party politics and the ‘Peter Principle’ rise of unqualified people to positions of authority.
Director: Eric Gibson, with conductor Scott Schoonover
Starring: Steven Condy* as the Rt. Hon. Sir Joseph Porter, KCB; Thomas Gunther*, Captain Corcoran; Anthony Heinemann, Ralph Rackstraw; Jacob Lassetter, Dick Deadeye; Jason Mallory*, Bill Bobstay: Randell McGee, Bob Becket; Leann Schuering as Josephine; Erin Haupt as Cousin Hebe; and Katherine Calcamuggio*, Little Buttercup.
Ensemble – Abby Benson, Danielle Feinstein, Grace Fisher, David Goldman, Christina Kruger*, Jason Mallory*, Randell McGee, Sarah Paitz, Mark Saunders, Philip Touchette, Louisa Wimmer and Benjamin Worley*.
Of Note: This opera is sung in English and there will be projected English text.
Photo by John Lamb
“The Importance of Being Earnest”
Insight Theatre Company
July 12 – 22
The Grandel Theatre
What It’s About: Known as “A Trivial Comedy for Serious People,” Oscar Wilde’s classic farce set in 1890s London tells the story of two friends who use the same pseudonym, “Ernest,” for their on-the-sly activities. Despite their best efforts, hilarity ensues as their plan begins to unravel. The play targets the foibles of society, highlighting forbidden love, antics of secret identities, and a surprise revelation.
Director: Ed Reggi
Cast: Tom Murray as Lady Bracknell, Gwen Wotawa as Gwendolyn Fairfax, Pete Winfrey as John Worthing, Julia Crump as Cecily Cardew, Will Bonfiglio as Algernon Moncreif, Ruth Ezell as Ms. Prism, Steve Springmeyer as Dr. Chasuble and Spencer Kruse as Lane/Merriman.
Of Note: Insight’s Dramaturg will join the cast and director for Talk Backs after Sunday matinees.
Photo by John Lamb
July 9 – 16, nightly at 8:15 p.m.
What It’s About: “Jersey Boys,” winner of the 2006 Tony Award for Best Musical, is the authentic biographic story of the magic behind the music of worldwide megahit group, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.
The musical, with book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, music by Bob Gaudio and lyrics by Bob Crewe, includes more than 30 chart-topping hits. Such fan favorites as “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” and “Oh What a Night.”
Director: Josh Rhodes, with music director Rick Bertone.
Cast: Mark Ballas, Keith Hines, Nicolas Dromard, Bobby Conte Thornton, Nicholas Rodriguez, Ben Nordstrom, Michelle Aravena and Neal Benari.
Of Note: The Muny production is the world regional premiere. “Jersey Boys” opened on Broadway in 2005 and closed in 2017, but with its tireless appeal, has reopened off-Broadway. It is currently the 12th longest-running Broadway show (4,642 performances in 11 years). In 2006, it won four Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Actor, Featured Actor and Lighting Design.
Photo by Phillip Hamer
“LaBute New Theatre Festival”
St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Part I: July 6-8, 12-15
Part 2: July 20-22, 26-29
Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m.
358 North Boyle
Tickets may be purchased at the box office one hour prior to curtain.
What It’s About: The festival features new and previously unproduced one-act plays, 45 minutes or less in length, chosen from submissions to the festival over the previous year.
The plays in Part 1 are “4th Reich” by Neil LaBute, “Shut up and Dance” by Barbara Blumenthal-Ehrlich, “Advantage God” by Norman Kline and “Hipster Noir” by James McLindon.
Directors: John Pierson, Wendy Greenwood, Ryan Scott Foizey
Cast: Eric Dean White, Colleen Backer, Reginald Pierre, Carly Rosenbaum, Erin Brewer and Joshua Parrack.
Photo by Patrick Huber
July 13 – 22
Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.
Lafayette High School Theater in Wildwood, Mo.
What It’s About: Favorite Dr. Seuss characters are brought to life in this musical by Tony winners Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. Horton the Elephant, The Cat in the Hat, Gertrude McFuzz, lazy Mayzie and a little boy with a big imagination – Jojo are among the colorful characters who transport us from the Jungle of Nool to the Circus McGurkus to the invisible world of the Whos.
Director: Mallory Duncan, with music director Timothy Clark