By Lynn Venhaus
Heroes and villains, and every shade of gray in between are featured on local stages this weekend. And some are in desperate need of love – and a hug!
Mean Girl Day is fast approaching (Oct. 3), and we have the classic big bad green one – the Wicked Witch of the West, who terrorizes munchkins, the land of Oz and Dorothy – and Toto, too in Christ Memorial Production’s “The Wizard of Oz” with a cast of 100.+
We have a deal with the devil, presented Midnight Company-style, with two one-acts including one that’s part of Faustival, a celebration of that evil liaison between the good doctor and Satan.
Did Lee Harvey Oswald assassinate President Kennedy? Tesseract Theatre Company explores Oswald’s relationship with his mother in “Mama’s Boy.”
More wicked this way comes in Mother Nature, when the great floods of 1993 wreak havoc on a small river town in southern Illinois in the musical tale of hope and survival,“The Flood,” presented by folks who lived through it, the Monroe Actors Stage Company.
Dealing with adversity is the poster boy, Job, the one from the Bible. Only Neil Simon has updated it for modern times in “God’s Favorite.” Laughter ensues in a joint venture between the Alton Little Theater and Curtain’s Up Theater.
The once-frightening Phantom of the Opera returns in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel, “Love Never Dies,” now playing at the Fox Theatre on its first North American tour, this time he’s in Coney Island.
That’s in New York, New York – and that’s where you’ll find our plucky newsboys saving their jobs and the world in Disney’s “Newsies” at Looking Glass Playhouse.”
More all-American characters appear in the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic “Oklahoma!” now playing at Stages St. Louis, showing that the farmers and cowmen can be friends.
Friendship is celebrated, along with family and cultural heritage in “Crowns” a gospel musical at The Black Rep, last chance to see it.
And then there are the icons. South American folk hero Eva Peron is immortalized in Webber’s “Evita,” now playing at The Rep. Crooner Bobby Darin is remembered in “Darin” Bobby’s Biggest Hits” at the Playhouse at Westport.
And Robert Dubac provides gales of laughter pointing out the idiocy of modern society in “The Book of Moron,” now playing at The Playhouse at Westport.
Happy Fall, y’all! And Go See a Play!
“An Apology for the Course and Outcome of Certain Events Delivered by Doctor John Faustus” and “The Hunchback Variations” (Two One-Acts by Mickle Maher)
Midnight Theatre Company
Sept. 20 – 29
Thursdays at 7 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
The Monocle, 4510 Manchester
What It’s About: “Apology/Faustus” finds Dr. John Faustus (Hanrahan) in some room, at some time, apologizing to a random group of people (the audience) for not standing up against evil in his lifetime, as personified by Mephistopheles (Wassilak.)
“The Hunchback Variations” presents a series of variations on a panel discussion between The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Wassilak) and Ludwig Van Beethoven (Hanrahan) in which the two talk about their attempts to create a mysterious sound — the legendary, elusive sound effect of Anton Chekhov’s, described twice in the original production of “The Cherry Orchard.”
Starring: Joe Hanrahan, David Wassilak
Of Note: These shows are part of FAUSTival, an artistic collaborations among five St. Louis theatre companies – ERA, Theatre Nuevo, SATE, the Post-Romantics and Midnight – from August through December, each company presenting an adaptation of the Faust myth. Festival passes and more info at FAUSTival.org.
“The Book of Moron”
The Playhouse at Westport Plaza
Sept. 13 – 23
What It’s About: Robert Dubac’s newest Off-Broadway hit “The Book of Moron” has been described as one of the most hilarious, intelligent and scorching satirical attacks on idiocracy since Mark Twain. Having been brainwashed by a culture that worships the Kardashians over character, delusion over truth, and selfies over self-effacement, Dubac begins his journey with a simple question: Who am I? What do I believe? What’s the point?
Okay, that’s three questions but suffice to say, he has no answers. Just voices. Inner voices who come to life with precision and wit. One by one they pull him into a hysterical alternative universe of critical thought in search of the bigger picture. It’s a head trip on a banana peel.”
“Crowns: The Gospel Musical”
The Black Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Sept. 5 – 23
Edison Theatre at Washington University
Box Office: (314) 534-3807
What It’s About: Crowns refers to hats worn by black women. Hats become a springboard for an exploration of black history and identity as seen through the eyes of a young black woman who has come down South to stay with her aunt after her brother is killed in Brooklyn.
Hats are everywhere, in exquisite variety, and the characters use the hats to tell tales about everything from the etiquette of hats to their historical and contemporary social functions.
Director: Linda Kennedy
Cast: Anita Jackson leads the cast as Mother Shaw, with Maureen Williams as Wanda, Amber Rose as Velma, Leah Stewart as Mabel, Eleanor Humphrey as Jeannette, Myke Andrews as The Man and Tyler White as Yolanda.
Of Note: Director Linda Kennedy says: “The mothers and grandmothers, women of the church, were the glue that held us all together. They helped to raise us and helped make us accountable for our actions. We feared them then but are so grateful to them now. One of the greatest gifts a child can receive is the opportunity to sit and listen to and learn from an elder.” Rounding out the behind the scenes team will be the stage manager, Tracy D. Holliway-Wiggins, set designer, Dunsi Dai, lighting by Joe Clapper, and costumes by Daryl Harris.
“Darin: Bobby’s Biggest Hits”
Sept. 26 – 30
The Playhouse at Westport
Tickets: MetroTix.com or 314-534-1111
What It’s About: Back by popular demand, Artists Lounge Live presents a Bobby Darin tribute starring Christopher Kale Jones.
Jones, a PBS retro-rocker (“Under the Streetlamp”) and “Jersey Boys” star who played Frankie Valli on the first national tour, and in L.A. and San Francisco companies, embodies the dazzling versatility of Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bobby Darin. Jones tenderly recounts Darin’s story of life lived in the spotlight and lost too soon. Songs featured in the show include “Dream Lover,” “Mack the Knife,” and “Beyond the Sea.”
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Sept. 5 – 30
What It’s About: The incandescent Eva Perón’s rise from poverty to power electrified the world – and made her an iconic political celebrity. Winner of seven Tony Awards, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s tour-de-force musical revels in the glamour, charisma and controversy that defined the First Lady of Argentina. With its unforgettable anthem “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” and kaleidoscope of sights and sounds, “Evita” dazzles with pure passion.
Director: Rob Ruggiero, with music direction by Charlie Alterman and choreography by Gustavo Zajac.
Cast: Michelle Aravena (Eva Perón), Pepe Nufrio (Che), Sean MacLaughlin (Juan Perón), Nicolas Dávila (Augstín Magaldi/Ensemble), Shea Gomez (Perón’s Mistress/Ensemble).
Ensemble: Maria Bilbao, Nathaniel Burich, Ben Chavez, Samuel Druhora, Carmen Garcia, Esmeralda Garza, Samantha Gershman, Julie Hanson, Keith Hines, Jose Luaces, Ben Nordstrom, Waldemar Quinones-Villanueva, April Strelinger and Tim Wessel.
Eric Woolsey Photo
Monroe Actors Stage Company
September 20 – 23, 27 – 30
Thursday – Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
Historic Capitol Theatre
202 South Main Street, Waterloo, IL 62208
Box Office: 618-939-7469
What It’s About: As the Mississippi River waters rise, the small town of Meyerville struggles with preparing for the worst. This creative and dramatic musical was written by Peter Mills and Cara Reichel after they visited the town of Valmeyer, Ill., following the 1993 floods. They interviewed Monroe County citizens and were intrigued by the citizens’ decision to rebuild to higher ground. Their adaptation of the story is based on the fictional town of Meyerville and members of its village.
Director: Amber Dillard, with Musical Director Marcia Braswell
Of Note: MASC and Show Sponsor George Obernagel observe the 25th Anniversary of the Great Mississippi Flood of 1993 with their production of “The Flood.” The show has been named an official event of the Illinois State Bicentennial.
House opens one half hour before curtain; ticket booth opens one hour before curtain. The theatre is only accessible by a staircase.
Alton Little Theater and Curtain’s Up Theater
Sept. 14 – 23
Box Office 618-462-3205
What It’s About: Neil Simon’s very funny show is loosely based on the Biblical Book of Job. A (rare) devout multimillionaire whose faith is tested encounters every malady and yet stands firm while real estate collapses around him. This is often called Simon’s most imaginative play.
Cast: Joe Benjamin, Howard Bell; Ben Benjamin, Anthony Tuzzo; Sarah Benjamin, Christy Luster; Rose Benjamin, Carol Hodson; David Benjamin, Brant McCance; Mady, Sarah Chapman-Wiser; Morris, Vince Ojeda; and Sidney Lipton, Aaron Mermelstein.
Of Note: Alton Little Theatre presented this play 20 years ago and this is a return engagement.
“Love Never Dies”
What It’s About: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical is a sequel to the mega-hit “The Phantom of the Opera,” and takes place 10 years after the Phantom’s disappearance from the Paris Opera House. It is 1907 and he has escaped to a new life in New York, running a freak show vaudeville act at Coney Island. His music soars there, but he still yearns for his musical protégé and one true love, Christine Daae. Now a world-class soprano, she arrives in New York for a singing engagement that will hopefully get her now-jerk of a husband, Raoul, out of gambling debt. Lo and behold, the Phantom lures her to sing in his show. She has her young son Gustave, age 10, in tow. Is triumph or tragedy on the horizon?
Director: Simon Phillips
Starring: Bronson Norris Murphy as The Phantom, Meghan Picerno as Christine, Sean Thompson as Raoul, Mary Michael Patterson as Meg, Karen Mason as Madame Giry, and Jake Heston Miller and Christian Harmston alternating as Gustave.
Of Note: The show is the reworked Australia production of 2011, after the inaugural London West End musical opened in 2010 to mostly mixed reviews. It has yet to play Broadway but is now on its first North American tour.
Tesseract Theatre Company
Sept. 21 – 30
Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 4 p.m.
.Zack, 3224 Locust, St. Louis
What It’s About: A new play by Rob Urbinati is the riveting story of Lee Harvey Oswald and his complex relationship with his overbearing mother Marguerite. “Mama’s Boy” follows Marguerite’s reckless attempts to reunite her family, from Lee’s return to the U.S. from Russia, through the assassination of Kennedy, to her son’s own murder and her defense of his innocence in the months that follow. A fascinating examination of family dynamics and obsessive maternal devotion played out in the shadow of history.
Director: Bradley Schwartz
Starring: Carly Uding, Jeremy Goldmeier, Brandon Atkins
Of Note: Playwright Rob Urbinati is in town the first weekend to see the show.
Looking Glass Playhouse
Sept. 20 – 23, 27-30
Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.
Looking Glass Playhouse
What It’s About: Disney’s Newsies tells the rousing tale of Jack Kelly, a charismatic newsboy and leader of a band of teenaged ‘newsies.’ When titans of publishing raise distribution prices at the newsboys’ expense, Jack rallies newsies from across the city to strike against the unfair conditions and fight for what’s right.
Based on the 1992 motion picture and inspired by a true story, “Newsies” features a Tony Award-winning score by Alan Menken (Little Shop of Horrors, Sister Act) and Jack Feldman and a book by Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein (Kinky Boots). Featuring the now classic songs “Carrying the Banner,” “Seize the Day,” and “Santa Fe,” Newsies is packed with non-stop thrills and a timeless message that is perfect for the whole family.
Director: Jason Johnson
Of Note: Looking Glass Playhouse is celebrating its 45th season.
Stages St. Louis
Sept. 7 – Oct. 7
Robert G. Reim Theatre
Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road
What It’s About: Romance, conflict, comedy and colorful characters set in 1906 in the Oklahoma territory.
Director: Michael Hamilton
Starring: Zoe Vonder Haar as Aunt Eller, John Flack as Andrew Carnes, Leah Berry as Bertie Cummings and
Of Note: “Oh, what a beautiful musical! Rodgers and Hammerstein’s timeless first collaboration was, in many ways, their most innovative. And while OKLAHOMA! completely changed the face of American musical theatre 75 years ago, it remains as fresh and vital today as it was then with its loving celebration of the American spirit. A stunning blend of drama, music, and dance, the exhilarating Rodgers and Hammerstein score contains such classics as “People Will Say We’re In Love,” “The Surrey With The Fringe On Top,” “Kansas City,” “I Cain’t Say No,” and the pulsating title tune, “Oklahoma!” A gold standard that set the bar for all great musicals that came after it.
Peter Wochniak Photo
“The Wizard of Oz”
Christ Memorial Productions
Sept. 14 – 23
Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
Christ Memorial Lutheran Church, 5252 S. Lindbergh
What It’s About: L. Frank Baum’s classic tale, with music and lyrics by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, background music by Herbert Stothart, dance and vocal arrangements by Peter Howard, orchestration by Larry Wilcox. It is adapted by John Kane for the Royal Shakespeare Company, and based upon the classic MGM motion picture owned by Turner Entertainment Company.
Dorothy Gale of Kansas journeys to the Land of Oz, where she encounters the Scarecrow, Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion, and is besieged by the Wicked Witch of the West, all with her beloved Toto by her side. Will she make it back home to Auntie Em and Uncle Henry with The Wizard’s help?
Cast: Grace Wilkinson – Dorothy, Jennifer Kerner – Aunt Em / Chorus, Kathryn Nestor Klein – Glinda / Chorus, Michael Klein – Uncle Henry / Winkie / Chorus, Ray Martin – Tinman / Hickory, Nathan Gallop – Scarecrow / Hunk, John Jauss – Lion / Zeke, Nicky Collett – Wicked Witch of the West / Miss Gulch, Keith Poppitz – Wizard / Professor / Chorus
Of Note: The cast has more than 100 members. If you are interested in a special Sensory Friendly performance on Thursday, Sept. 20. please email Tickets@CMPShows.org for details.
Photo by Aaron Jost
Feature Image of “Crowns” by Phillip Hamer