Go See a Play: What’s Happening July 19 – 25


By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
Old-fashioned and new-fangled fun times are the offerings this week. Lots o’ girl power is present: “Mamma Mia” opens Friday at Stages, “Dames at Sea” runs two weekends at Alfresco Productions, “Girls’ Night” is at Westport for a weekend-only engagement, “Annie” is at The Muny and “Gypsy” is at The Actors’ Attic.
The Altar Boyz continue their Raise the Praise Tour with lots o’ ‘90s boy band moves, “The Importance of Being Earnest” is a Wilde classic and “Seussical” is Spotlight’s annual musical. “Portrait of Christina” is an original work by Jim Danek at the Theatre Guild of Webster Groves.
Pint-sized or larger-than-life, funny or fun, happy, friends or foes, there is always something for every mood and taste. Go see a play!

“Altar Boyz”
Silhouettes Production Company
July 19-21 at 8 p.m.
Kranzberg Arts Center black box theater
Metro-Tix: 314-534-1111

What It’s About: The Altar Boyz are a fictitious Christian boy band from Ohio in the 1990s, and is 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

The Muny
July 18 – 25

What It’s About: Plucky Little Orphan Annie, heroine of the 1920s comic strip by Harold Gray, became the star 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 and the St. Louis Strutters.

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.

Photo by Phillip Hammer

“Dames at Sea”
Alfresco Productions
July 20-21 and 27-28, all at 7:30 p.m.
Alfresco Arts Center, Granite City

What It’s About: The show is a parody of big flashy 1930s movie musicals like “Footlight Parade” and “42nd Street” that follows a starry-eyed chorus girl who seeks fame and fortune in the big city, nabs a role on Broadway but calamity ensues, and our plucky heroine must save the day.

Ruby steps off a bus from Utah and into her first Broadway show, but hours before the opening night curtain is to rise, the cast learns their theater is being demolished. So Ruby and the cast, with the help of some adoring sailors, set a plan in motion to perform the show on a naval battleship.

Director: Lisa Fensterman

Cast: Morgan Ladyman, Connor McDonald, Elizabeth Semko, Jason Blackburn, Kathy Piercy, John Jauss, Priscilla Case, Lisa Hinrichs, and Aaron Williams

Of Note: The role of Ruby made Bernadette Peters a star when she appeared in the 1968 off-Broadway production.

Photo provided.

“Girls Night: The Musical”
The Playhouse at Westport, 635 West Port Plaza
Friday through Sunday, July 20-22

This musical takes audiences on a journey into the lives of a group of female friends as they go from heartbreak to happiness during a wild night of karaoke. The audience just might sing along and dance to some of the most popular hits of the ‘80s and ‘90s.

Photo provided.

The Actors’ Attic
July 19 – 21 at 7 p.m., July 22 at 2 p.m.
Gibault Catholic High School, 501 Columbia Ave., Waterloo, Ill.

What It’s About: “Gypsy” is a 1959 musical with music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and a book by Arthur Laurents that is loosely based on the 1957 memoirs of famous striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee, the famous striptease artist, and focuses on her ultimate stage mother, Rose. The character of Louise is based on Lee, and June is based on Lee’s sister, the actress June Havoc.

Director: MaryBeth Scherr

Cast: MaryBeth Scherr as Rose, Jeff Clinebell, as Herbie, Sophie Spurgeon as June and Sara Landsberger as Louise.

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: Patrons must be age 18 or older. Nudity is in the show. 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.

“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, Sophia Brown 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

“Mamma Mia!”
Stages St. Louis
July 20 – Aug. 19
Robert G. Reim Theatre at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 S. Geyer Road.

What It’s About: The musical phenomenon uses the music of ABBA to tell the story of a teen’s search for her birth father. Sophie lives on a Greek island paradise with her mother, who runs a taverna. There are three possible dads, whom she invites to her wedding. Humor, heart, and lots o’ song and dance ensue.

Director: Michael Hamilton

Cast: Corinne Melancon, Greg Goodbrod, Dana Winkle, Dan’yelle Williamson, Summerisa Bell Stevens, David Sajewich, David Schmittou and Steve Isom

Of Note: There are at least 16 sold-out performances and the advance single ticket sales have been the highest yet.

“LaBute New Theatre Festival”
St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Part 2: July 20-22, 26-29
Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m.
Gaslight Theatre
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 2 are “4th Reich” by Neil LaBute, “Unabridged” by Sean Abley, “The Gettier Problem” by Michael Long, and “The Process” by Peter McDonough.

Directors: John Pierson, Wendy Greenwood, Ryan Scott Foizey

Cast: Eric Dean White, Colleen Backer, Carly Rosenbaum, Erin Brewer, Spencer Sickmann and Zak Farmer.

Photo by Patrick Huber

“Portrait of Christina”
The Theatre Guild of Webster Groves
July 20 – 29, Fridays through Sundays
Guild Theatre at Newport and Summit in Webster Groves, Mo.

What It’s About: This comedy is the story of Geoffrey Flynn a successful New York novelist who is looking for a retreat where he can escape from the city so that he might work on his latest novel in peace and quiet.

It is the late 1940’s and Flynn has found a New England estate for sale that sits on 250 acres of prime country land. Feeling this would be the perfect place for a retreat, Flynn agrees to buy the estate and thus he can finish up work on his latest novel starring his heroine Queen Christina III, which would be a sequel to his highly successful novel The Queen’s Lover.

Director: Jim Danek, who wrote it.

Cast: Julie Cox, Tom Day, Brad Kinzel, Helen Pancella and Madeleine Trull

Of Note: This is world premiere by a local St. Louis writer.

Spotlight Productions
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

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