Bright Lights: Accolades Aplenty to Heat Up Winter

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
THE BIZ IN SHOW: Congratulations to the recipients of this year’s St. Louis Arts Awards, which took place Jan. 21 at the Chase Park Plaza Royal Sonesta Hotel.

Arts honorees included: Chris Hansen, executive director of the Kranzberg Arts Foundation, received Arts Innovator of the Year; Carrie Houk of the Tennessee Williams Festival, Arts Startup of the Year; Noémi and Michael Neidorff, Excellence in Philanthropy; Ken Page, Lifetime Achievement in the Arts; Brent Benjamin, Saint Louis Art Museum, Excellence in the Arts; Sue Greenberg, Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts, Champion for the Arts; and Amy Freet, Ferguson-Florissant School District, Art Educator of the Year.

Bryan Batt and Carrie Houk at A&E Arts Awards.

Nominations are sought from the community every spring by the Arts and Education Council, who convenes a selection panel made of past honorees, arts patrons, artists and others to review the nominations and select the honorees.

A&E Council has recognized more than 175 artists, educators, philanthropists, corporate citizens and arts groups since 1992.

Bryan Batt, who starred in “Mad Men” and appeared as Edna Turnblad in “Hairspray” at The Muny, will be returning in May for the Tennessee Williams Festival, Carrie Houk said.
Exciting news to come!
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DOWN-HOME DIVA:  Grammy-winning artist, world-class soprano and proud resident of Lebanon, Ill., Christine Brewer can be seen in Doug Cuomo’s opera “Doubt” on PBS.

Christine Brewer of Lebanon, Ill.

The Minnesota Opera production is airing on the “Great Performances” program and is now available for streaming on pbs.org/gperf and PBS apps. Check local listings for programming. PBS Local is Ch. 9 KETC and Ch. 8 WSIU in Carbondale.

The opera is based on playwright John Patrick Shanley’s acclaimed 2005 Broadway play, which was later adapted into an Academy Award-nominated film in 2008 starring Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

The Union Avenue Opera company produced “Doubt” here in the summer of 2016, with Brewer as Sister Aloysius.

Brewer was on hand to introduce a showing and participate in a Q&A Jan. 27 at The Hettenhausen Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of her alma mater, McKendree University, in Lebanon, Ill.

The opera also stars Adriana Zabala as Sister James, Matthew Worth as Father Flynn and Denyce Graves as Mrs. Miller

 Great Performances Executive Producer David Horn said “Doubt’ is a powerful story that has resonated with Broadway and movie audiences alike. Minnesota Opera has brought the story to life in an exciting new way, highlighting the company’s depth of talent and willingness to take on the challenge of an emotionally charged new work.”

In 1964 at a Bronx Catholic Schools, a battle of wills is ignited when Sister James shares her suspicion that Father Flynn, the progressive pastor, may be abusing the school’s only African-American student. Sister Aloysius, the school’s iron-fisted principal, embarks on a personal crusade to discover the truth.

Brewer will return to the Union Avenue Opera stage this summer as the Mother Abbess in “The Sound of Music.” Performance dates are July 5, 6, 12 and 13.

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NO DAY BUT TODAY: The Fox Network has confirmed that the original Broadway cast of  the landmark musical “Rent” will be on the “Rent Live!” telecast Sunday, Jan. 27, from 7 to 10 p.m. on KTVI (ch. 2 local).

The original 1996 cast includes Tony winner Idina Menzel who played Maureen Johnson, Tony nominee Adam Pascal as Roger Davis, Tony nominee Daphne Rubin-Vega as Mimi Marquez, Anthony Rapp as Mark Cohen, Jesse L. Martin as Tom Collins, Fredi Walker as Joanne Jefferson, Taye Diggs as Benny and Wilson Jermaine Heredia in a Tony-winning turn as Angel.

Original Broadway Cast 1996

The live cast will include Vanessa Hudgens as Maureen Johnson, Brennin Hunt as Roger Davis, Tinashe as Mimi Marquez, Jordan Fisher as Mark Cohen, Tony nominee Brandon Victor Dixon as Tom Collins, Kiersey Clemons as Joanne Jefferson, Mario as Benny and Valentina as Angel, with Tony nominee Keala Settle as the “Seasons of Love” soloist.

Jonathan Larson’s musical about a group of friends surviving in New York City at the during the AIDS crisis won the 1996 Tony Award for Best Musical and a Pulitzer Prize, among many others. A film adaptation was released in 2005, featuring most of the original cast.

Original director Michael Greif is helming the TV version.  Producers include Julia and Al Larson, Jonathan’s sister and father.

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FIT AND FAB: Conquering Mount Olympus, St. Louisan Derik Scott, 30, is the Reigning Titan after competing Jan. 24 on NBC’s “The Titan Games,” which is hosted by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

Scott, a lawyer and professional mixed martial-arts fighter, grew up in Jefferson and south St. Louis counties. He is a 2006 graduate of Lindbergh High School and attended Lindenwood University, where he competed on the diving team and graduated in 2009.

Derik Scott of St. Louis

He earned his law degree from Baylor University and lived in the Dallas area, moving back to the ‘Lou in 2015. This past summer, he moved again, taking a job as general counsel with a chain of fitness centers.

His parents, Kevin and Dana Scott, owned Scotts Gymnastics in Crestwood. He won his first national championship at age 7.

The 10-episode athletic competition show began Jan. 3 and is produced by the team behind “America’s Ninja Warriors.”

Jeff Wright


HEAR YE: Local singer-actor Jeffrey M. Wright will be a guest performer at the CabaretFest in Provincetown, Mass., late May/early June. More details to come.

Alexandra Kay


Local singer-actress Lexi Krekorian returns to her roots, coming in from L.A. to play on Saturday, Feb. 16, with her Alexandra Kay Band at the Silver Creek Saloon & Grill, 2520 Masscoutah Ave., in Belleville. Matt Wynn will open the show that begins at 8:30 p.m. Cover is $5.

Lexi, aka Alexandra Kay, can be seen in the original Netflix reality series, “Westside.” She is from Waterloo, Ill.

The Zombies of Penzance
Photo by Jill Ritter Lindberg


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THE SINGING DEAD: The script, full piano-vocal score and live original cast recording of ‘The Zombies of Penzance” are now available on Amazon.com.

New Line Theatre’s world premiere of this comic-horror opera adaptation of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance” was in October 2018, with new text by Scott Miller and music adaptation and orchestration by John Gerdes. It contains adult language and adult content.

The cast album features the entire original St. Louis cast and band, recorded in front of a live audience at the Marcelle Theater in the Grand Center Arts District, recorded and mixed by New Line sound designer Ryan Day.

The show’s writers are also accepting requests for production rights.

New Line’s original Zombies of Penzance cast included Sean Michael as Frederic, Melissa Felps as Mabel, Zachary Allen Farmer as Major-General Stanley the Zombie Hunter, Dominic Dowdy-Windsor as the Zombie King, Kent Coffel as Zombie Sam, with Mara Bollini, Robert Doyle, Matt Hill, Lindsey Jones, Tim Kaniecki, Kyle Kelesoma, Melanie Kozak, Sarah Porter, Christina Rios, and Kimi Short.

The Zombies of Penzance band included Nicolas Valdez (Conductor/Piano), John Gerdes (French Horn), Lea Gerdes (Reeds), Joseph Hendricks (Bassoon), Emily Trista Lane (Cello), Twinda Murry (Violin), Kelly Austermann (Reeds), and Hope Walker (Reeds).

The show was directed by Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor, with music direction by Nicolas Valdez.
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GO SEE A PLAY POLL: Want to see “Avenue Q” at the Playhouse at Westport? We are giving away two tickets for the Thursday, Jan. 31, performance. To enter this drawing, send your name, phone number and your answer to the question on Favorite Musicals About Neighbors by noon on Tuesday, Jan. 29 to: lynnvenhaus@gmail.com All entries will be placed into a drawing, and winner will be notified that afternoon.

What Is Your Favorite Musical About Neighbors?

Avenue Q
The Fantasticks
Fiddler on the Roof
In the Heights
Promises, Promises
Rent

Send your choice to Lynn Venhaus, lynnvenhaus@gmail.com, by Tuesday. Jan. 29, at noon.
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WORD: What do you say when you receive three Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor for “A Star Is Born”?

Oscar nominees Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper

“Everyone who worked on this film truly risked putting themselves out there — in the hope that in doing so people will connect and feel something deep and personal — the way films have made me feel since I was a kid.  When I got this opportunity I knew I had to risk it all because I may never get another chance — so to be here today in a place where people who have seen the film are talking about how it makes them feel, something deep — that simple human thing — that we need each other — and the Academy to recognize that this morning — I just am so grateful.” – statement from Bradley Cooper
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Awards March 25

THEATER PROM: More than 100 shows were produced by 40 companies during the calendar year for consideration for the St. Louis Theater Circle Awards. Nominations for the seventh annual ceremony were announced Jan. 25.
Circle members recently voted for five nominees in 34 categories each — 54 shows received nominations, presented by 23 companies, and 120 artists recognized.

I am a founding member, and published the list here. https://stllimelight.com/2019/01/25/evita-streetcar-lead-st-louis-theater-circle-nominations/

The awards will be presented on Monday, March 25, on the Browning Mainstage at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus, home of The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. Admission remains $15 per person, and tickets can be purchased through www.brownpapertickets.com.
Instead of a pre-show dinner, appetizers and drinks will be available from Llewellyn Catering
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Nominations for the Theatre Mask Awards (plays) and Best Performance Awards (musicals) will be announced at the 10th annual AFL Trivia Night this Friday, Feb. 1 at St. Joseph’s Parish Center in Manchester. Go to this page to sign up and for more information. The 70s theme is just for costumes (optional) and tables.

http://www.artsforlife.org/trivia-night-1.html


TRIVIA TIME-OUT: Whether you are a RENT-head or not, you must admit that “Rent” changed the cultural landscape when it opened on Broadway April 29, 1996, after being workshopped and off-Broadway.
The night it was to be unveiled to the public, Jan. 25, 1996, composer-writer Jonathan Larson was found dead from an aneurysm (later diagnosed Marfan Syndrome). At the New York Theatre Workshop, the cast went on to sing-through the score for a closed audience of Jonathan’s family and friends instead.
After its move to the Niederlander Theatre, it spent 12 years there and is the 11th-longest running musical of all-time. And it also pioneered the Broadway ticket lottery. Here are a few questions – test your knowledge (Answers Below):

  1. The musical is based on what Puccini opera?
  2. Anthony Rapp, who originated the role of Mark Cohen, went to high school with stage and screen star John Barrowman and comic actor Andy Dick in what northern Illinois town?
  3. Four cast members were nominated for Tonys, but who won?

The cast of “Rent” performed “Seasons of Love” on the opening day of the 1996 Democratic convention (Aug. 26). A year later, President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary took Chelsea to see it for her 17th birthday.

Another Broadway legend was inspired by seeing it when he turned 17 – Lin-Manuel Miranda. He called it a revelation.

Here is the cast of “Rent” singing at the Chicago convention: https://youtu.be/WlOWRrXqTr4

Answers:
1. “La Boheme”
2. Joliet, Ill.
3. Wilson Jermaine Heredia, who played Angel. (Adam Pascal, Daphne Rubin-Vega and Idina Menzel were also nominated.)

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Broadway fan David Letterman


MEMORY LANE: Friend to the Broadway theater community, David Letterman’s talk show “Late Night” debuted on Feb. 1, 1982, filmed at the NBC Studios in Rockefeller Center.

He moved to CBS on Aug. 30, 1993, broadcasting “Late Show” from the historic Ed Sullivan Theatre in mid-town Manhattan, in the heart of the Broadway theater district, and retired May 20, 2015. With his 33 year-tenure, he became the longest running talk show host ever.

Known for often presenting new musicals in thrilling live performances, that mantel has moved to his successor, Stephen Colbert’s show in the Ed Sullivan Theatre, and also Seth Meyer’s late-night show on NBC.

Letterman also involved local theaters and performers in comedy bits, and Broadway stars were frequent guests.

When Letterman retired, Playbill published an article “Letterman Loves Broadway!” and included clips of some show performances, including “American Idiot,” “Catch Me If You Can,” “Nice Work if You Can Get It,” Spring Awakening,” “Jersey Boys,” “Lion King,” “Wicked,” “Million Dollar Quartet,” “The Producers,” “Spider-Man,” and “Young Frankenstein,” with revivals of  “Anything Goes,” “Cabaret,” “Hair,” “West Side Story,” “South Pacific” and “How to Succeed.”

Here is the article link with the video clips. “Matilda,” “Pippin” and “Rocky” have been removed, but all the mentions above are still there.

http://www.playbill.com/article/letterman-loves-broadway-see-more-than-two-dozen-thrilling-musical-performances-from-the-late-show-video-com-349539

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