By Lynn Venhaus
Oh, those summer nights. As we head into August, the month where it seems the world is on holiday, we have all sorts of adventures to experience on local stages. Two plays are making their St. Louis premieres – Rajiv Joseph’s Pulitzer Prize finalist “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo” and Will Eno’s “The Realistic Jones.”
The annual Neil LaBute New Theatre Festival presents four new works and one of the strongest selections yet.
We can experience fizzy fun musicals like “Dames at Sea,” “Mamma Mia!” and “Legally Blonde: The Musical” or the classics – “Gypsy,” West Side Story,” “The Music Man” and “Sweeney Todd (school edition), or enjoy the audience participation of cult classic “The Rocky Horror Show.” Verdi takes over the Union Avenue Opera stage with Biblical epic “Nabucco.”
Come sail away and GO SEE A PLAY.
“Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo”
The Black Mirror Theatre Company
July 26-28, Aug. 2-4
Kranzberg Arts Center
501 N. Grand in Grand Center
Tickets: Metrotix.com or 314-534-1111
What It’s About: A tiger haunts the streets of present-day Baghdad seeking the meaning of life. As he witnesses the puzzling absurdities of war, the tiger encounters Americans and Iraqis who are searching for friendship, redemption and a toilet seat made of gold.
Director: Catherine Hopkins
Starring: Don McClendon, Brian Rolfe, Charles Winning, Laura Kyro, Kalen Riley, Erik Kuhn and Hailey Medrano.
Of Note: St. Louis premiere of Rajiv Joseph’s dark comedy set during the early stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. It was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
“Dames at Sea”
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.
July 27 – Aug. 2 nightly at 8:15 p.m.
Muny outdoor stage in Forest Park
What It’s About: Gypsy Rose Lee’s semi-autobiographical tale of an ambitious stage mother, Momma Rose, who fights for her two daughters’ success while secretly yearning for her own.
With a book by Arthur Laurents, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and music by Jules Stein, the 1959 musical features such songs as “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” “Together, Wherever We Go,” “Some People,” “Let Me Entertain You” and “You Gotta Have a Gimmick.”
Director: Rob Ruggiero, with music direction by James Moore and choreography by Ralph Perkins.
Starring: Beth Leavel (Rose), Adam Heller (Herbie), Julia Knitel (Louise), Hayley Podschun (Dainty June), Jennifer Cody (Tessie Tura/Miss Cratchitt), Ann Harada (Electra), Ellen Harvey (Mazeppa), Kip Niven (Pop /Cigar/Philadelphia Announcer), Drew Redington (Tulsa), Michael James Reed (Weber/Bourgeron-Cochon/Detroit Announcer), Lara Teeter (Uncle Jocko/Phil/Minsky’s Announcer), Elise Edwards (Baby Louise) and Amelie Lock (Baby June).
Of Note: This is the sixth production of “Gypsy” at the Muny, and the first one since 2006.
“Legally Blonde: The Musical”
The Hawthorne Players
July 27 – Aug. 5
Florissant Civic Center Theatre at Parker and Waterford
Box Office 314-921-5678 Monday through Friday
What It’s About: Elle Woods’ life is turned upside down when her boyfriend Warner dumps her. Determined to get him back, Elle gets into Harvard Law School where he is at, but it’s a struggle with him, her peers and professors. With support of new friends, she realizes her potential and set out to prove her worth in the world.
Of Note: You can purchase raffle tickets to win Elle’s big pink chair! Tickets are on sale at performances, and t winning ticket will be drawn by Elle in a live Facebook broadcast after the show on Sunday, Aug. 5.
Proceeds will benefit the scholarship fund. Since 1992, Hawthorne Players has presented nearly $58,900 in scholarships to high school seniors active in the performing arts.
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 18 sold-out performances and the advance single ticket sales have been the highest yet.
Photo by Peter Wochniak
“The Music Man”
Over Due Theatre Co
July 27,28 and Aug. 3, 4 @ 7:30 p.m. and July 29, Aug. 5 at 2 p.m.
9723 Grandview Drive, Olivette M0 63132
Tickets: 314-292-9368 or email email@example.com.
What It’s About: Oh we got trouble, right here in River City. Con artist Harold Hill comes to small town in Iowa to swindle townsfolk into thinking their kids will be in a big brass band. But he falls in love with prim librarian and changes his tune. Sorta.
Union Avenue Opera
July 27 – Aug. 4
Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.
Union Avenue Christian Church
733 Union at Enright
What It’s About Verdi’s “Nabucco” is an epic Biblical tale. Nabucco, King of Babylon, seizes control of Jerusalem in his war with the Israelites. Meanwhile, his daughter Fenena and her half-sister Abigaille are both in love with Ismaele, the nephew of the King of Jerusalem. War rages on between Babylon and Jerusalem. Abigaille, thinking to stop the warring once and for all, tells Ismaele that she wills save his people if he vows to love her and not Fenena. When he denies her, Abigaille ruthlessly plans to take down the kingdom, claim Nabucco’s throne, and kill all the imprisoned Israelites.
Director: Mark Freiman
Starring: Robert Garner as Nabucco, Marsha Thompson as Abigaille, Melody Wilson as Fenena, Zachary James as Zaccaria, Jesse Donner as Ismaele, Karen Kanakis as Anna, Clark Sturdevant as Abdallo, and Jacob Lassetter as High Priest of Baal.
Ensemble – Douglas Allebach, Madeline Black, Aleksandar Dragojevic, David Fournie, Jon Garrett, Rebecca Hetlelid, Michael Hawkins, Emily Heyl, Jeffrey Heyl, Lori Hoffman, Hannah Kauffmann, Amy Mazzeo, Jayde Mitchell, Joel Rogier, Tina Sayers and Caetlyn Van Bure.
Of Note: The opera is sung in Italian with English titles. Not since Wagner’s Ring cycle has Union Avenue Opera presented a show with such epic splendor. It features some of Verdi’s grandest orchestral and choral music ever written, including the soul-stirring “Va, pensiero” chorus.
Photo by John Lamb
Neil LaBute New Theater Festival – Part 2
St. Louis Actors’ Studio
July 26 – 28 at 8 p.m.; July 29 at 3 p.m.
358 N. Boyle
MetroTix: 314-534-1111 or purchase at box office before
What It’s About: The festival features professional, 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 “The Fourth Reich” by Neil LaBute, “Unabridged” by Sean Abley, “The Gettier Problem” by Michael Long, and “The Process” by Peter McDonough.
Directors: John Pierson, Wendy Renee Greenwood and Ryan Scott Foizey.
Cast: Colleen Backer, Erin Brewer, Zak Farmer, Carly Rosenbaum, Spencer Sickmann and Eric Dean White.
Photo by Patrick Huber
“Portrait of Christina”
The Theatre Guild of Webster Groves
Guild theatre at Newport and Summit in Webster Groves
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.
“The Realistic Jones”
Rebel and Misfits Productions
July 26 – Aug. 12
Jewish Community Center black box theatre
2 Millstone Campus
What It’s About: Will Eno connects two suburban couples who have so much more in common than their identical homes and their shared last names. As their relationships begin to irrevocably intertwine, the Joneses must decide between their idyllic fantasies and their imperfect realities and, ultimately, confront mortality.
Director: Edward M. Coffield
Cast: Isaiah DiLorenzo, Kelly Hummert, Alan Knoll and Laurie McConnell.
Of Note: It is the St. Louis premiere. It was named to the list of “Best 25 Plays Since ‘Angels in America’” by the New York Times.
Photo by Eric Woolsey
“The Rocky Horror Show”
Looking Glass Playhouse
July 27 and 28, at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.
301 W. St. Louis St., Lebanon, Ill.
What It’s About: In an homage to B-movies, sweethearts Brad and Janet have a flat tire during a storm and take refuge in the bizarre mansion of transvestite scientist Dr. Frank-N-Furter, where a cavalcade of wild characters sing and dance.
Of Note: For mature audiences only. Audience participation is encouraged. Goodie bags are available for purchase to enhance your experience. No outside accessories or large bags allowed.
“Sweeney Todd” (School Edition)
Ignite Theatre Company
July 26 – 29
The Marcelle Theatre in Grand Center
What It’s About: Exiled barber Sweeney Todd seeks vengeance against the lecherous judge who framed him, ravaged his wife, and is now guardian to his daughter. In 19th century London, he teams up with Mrs. Lovett, who runs a pie shop below his barbershop.
Of Note: Advisory for strong language, adult themes and gore.
“West Side Story”
July 27 and 28
Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.
Edison Theatre at Washington University
What It’s About: “Romeo and Juliet” set in 1950s New York City. That’s where the two star-crossed lovers Tony and Maria are caught in the crossfire of gang warfare. One of the most powerful musical dramas of all-time, their struggle to live in a world without prejudice still resonates.
Of Note: Book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and original production directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins.