Bright Lights Column: Walking on Sunshine

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
Greetings! Spring has sprung after a miserable, dreary winter of 24 inches of snow and long stretches of gray days. We bring to you a long catch-up column, a winter wrap-up with lots o’ news about our wonderful theater talents in our metro area. It’s always sunny when we’re talking bright lights.


AWARDS SEASON: Spring means theater awards in St. Louis! For regional professional theater, the seventh annual St. Louis Theater Circle Awards will be presented on Monday, March 25, at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the campus of Webster University.

For general admission tickets ($15), visit: www.brownpapertickets.com You can purchase tickets the night of the ceremony by cash or check. Our Circle Facebook page is updated with information. We are not having pre-festivities food, but Llewyn’s Catering will have drinks, desserts and snack boxes available throughout the night.

If you missed who’s nominated, here is our Limelight link: https://stllimelight.com/2019/01/25/evita-streetcar-lead-st-louis-theater-circle-nominations/

See you at Theater Prom Monday!

For local community theater, Arts For Life will present the fourth annual Theatre Mask Awards, honoring comedies and dramas, on Saturday, April 6, at a.m. at The Atrium Banquet Center, Paul F. Detrick Building, on the campus of Christian Hospital, beginning at 10:30 a.m. Doors open at 10 a.m. Radio personality Vic Porcelli is the host.

A brunch buffet is served and awards in 18 categories are given out. Tables of 8 are available, and you can select what theater group or person you want to sit with – just tell afltrg@artsforlife.org or mark it at checkout. Tickets are $25 and must be purchased by March 22. Visit www.artsforlife.org.

For a Power Point Presentation of the TMA Nominations, here is the link: http://nebula.wsimg.com/60b66319ddb8e5ebbac7b8ba7019e6dd?AccessKeyId=901C1079C3BABD637603&disposition=0&alloworigin=1

AFL will present the 20th annual Best Performance Awards, for musicals, on Sunday, June 9, at 2 p.m. at the Skip Viragh Center for the Performing Arts, 425 Lindbergh Blvd. (Chaminade). Actor Ryan Cooper is the emcee.

From a pool of 1,302 community theater artists, 48 shows produced by 26 community theater groups in the Metro-St. Louis area have been reviewed for consideration for this year’s Best Performance Awards. Trophies will be awarded in 33 categories.

The event will include performances from the 13 musicals nominated in the three Best Musical Production categories and a special presentation to Lifetime Achievement Award winner. Formal attire is requested. 

All tickets are reserved seating. Group seating will not be guaranteed on orders received after May 10. All ticket orders will be held at the box office unless a self-addressed stamped envelope is included with ticket order. Please let us know if you require any special needs.

Early Bird Tickets are $20 and available until May 10, and regular tickets are $25 ($26/credit card at the door).

A special rate of $40 for a combined BPA/TMA ticket for both, which is $10 off, is available until March 22.  Visit the website for more information, www.artsforlife.org.

For a PDF of the BPA Nominations, here is the link: http://nebula.wsimg.com/b255dc30a55d222d652ab689930da965?AccessKeyId=901C1079C3BABD637603&disposition=0&alloworigin=1
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ARTS LIVES: This year’s AFL Lifetime Achievements Awards are being bestowed on Joseph Paule Sr. at the Best Performance Awards June and Alton Little Theatre’s Kevin Frakes at the Theatre Mask Awards April 6.

Kevin Frakes

Frakes, current president of the Alton Little Theatre, will be honored for his lifelong devotion and involvement in community theater, and for helping with ALT’s growth and expansion. He began 40 years ago and has directed and/or acted in more than 100 shows.

Joseph Paule Sr. has been involved with several community theater groups over the years, including Christ Memorial Productions and Hawthorne Players.

Caroline Santiago Turner

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YOUTH PHENOMS: Special Awards recognition is going to two talented teens this year at AFL’s Best Performance Awards. Sean Harvey will receive Best Youth Featured Dancer for his fleet footwork as Bobby in “Crazy for You” produced by the Gateway Center for the Performing Arts and Caroline Santiago Turner will receive Best Youth Musical Performance for her exquisite vocals as Violet in “Violet,” also produced by the Gateway Center for the Performing Arts.

These awards are not giving annually, only when the Theatre Recognition Guild judges deem performances so outstanding that they deserve special recognition.

Sean Harvey in “Crazy for You”

Sean, who graduated from high school in Wentzville last year, studies musical theatre at Chicago College of Performing Arts. Caroline, who graduated from Visitation Academy in 2018, is working on her BFA in musical theater at Indiana University.

They will be in good company. Past youth winners Zach Erhardt, Troyer Coultas and Yvette Lu toured nationally in ‘The Book of Mormon,” “The Wizard of Oz” and “Hamilton” respectively last year.

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BROADWAY BUZZ: The Tony Awards are Sunday, June, at 7 p.m. on CBS, and nominations will be announced on April 30. The local folks involved in producing the original musical “The Prom” are hoping for good news that day. The original musical comedy was among the best reviewed shows in 2018, after opening Nov. 15 on Broadway.  

The Prom

The show has multiple local connections – Centralia, Ill., native Chad Beguelin is the co-book writer, with Bob Martin (co-creator of “The Drowsy Chaperone”) and lyricist, with music by Matthew Sklar. A number of cast members have performed at The Muny: St. Louisans Drew Reddington and Jack Sippel, and stars Beth Leavel and Christopher Sieber.

Some local producers include Jack Lane, executive director of Stages St. Louis; Ken and Nancy Kranzberg, Patty Gregory of Belleville, Terry Schnuck, Andrew S. Kuhlman of St. Louis and Fairview Heights native Joe Grandy.

Casey Nicholaw, Tony winner for “The Book of Mormon,” directed and choreographed the show.

“The Prom” is about a canceled high school dance – a student is barred from bringing her girlfriend to the prom — and four fading Broadway stars who seize the opportunity to fight for justice — and a piece of the spotlight.

As one of four musical acts in the 92nd annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, they made parade history with the first same-sex kiss televised live.

Here is that performance: https://youtu.be/VDZDLJjzJBI

And the cast also performed live on “Late Night with Seth Meyers.”

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VIVE LA VISIONARIES: More local arts awards for women! The St. Louis Visionary Awards will honor established working arts professionals, arts educators, emerging artists and community impact artists on Monday, April 22, at 6 p.m. at the Sun Theatre.

The Saint Louis Visionary Awards celebrates the numerous contributions and achievements of women who work in or support the arts in the greater St. Louis region. The awards are presented by an independent committee of women dedicated to promoting the arts here.

Brava! To the 2019 Saint Louis Visionary Awards honorees, who  are, from left: Standing: Carmen Dence; Susan Barrett; Kathie Winter; and Kari Ely. Seated: Brea McAnally; Jacqueline Thompson. Photo by Diane Anderson
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COMMUNITY RECOGNITION: Congratulations to the Alton Little Theater will receive a prestigious national award for excellence in innovation, dedication to community and organizational development ensuring the future of live theater. The Twink Lynch Organizational Development Award will be presented to Kevin Frakes and Lee Cox at the AACT  (American Association of Community Theaters) National Convention in Gettysburg, Pa.,  in June.

A Raisin in the Sun

The Hawthorne Players give out “Duckies” at the year’s end, as voted on by the members and season ticket holders. The awards are named after the late veteran Hawthorne actress and director, Duckie DeMere. “A Raisin in the Sun” was the most lauded production, with , including Best Show, Best Director (Nancy Crouse), Best Actor (Erick Lindsey), Best Actress (Kimmie Kidd-Booker), Best Supporting Actor (Moses Weathers), Best Cameo Actress (Rhonda Cropp), Best Set Design (Nancy Crouse) and a Special Award (Archie Coleman).
Elizabeth Breed Penny won Best Supporting Actress, for her role as Pauline in “Legally Blonde” and John Robertson won Best Cameo Actor in “The Fantasticks.” Eric Wennlund won two — Best Lighting and Best Sound for “The Fantasticks”
Special Awards went to Connie Mulch of “The Fantasticks” and Michele Paladin, “Legally Blonde.”

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NAME-DROPPING: Did you know the musical “Beautiful – The Carole King Musical” has a local connection? Producers are Paul Blake, former executive director at the Muny for 22 seasons, and Mike Bosner, Burroughs grad and Muny front office alum. The second national tour recently stopped at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis for a limited 5-day engagement. The musical celebrated its fifth season on Broadway in January. They tell me a movie is in the works!

Here is my article ICYMI: https://stllimelight.com/2019/03/12/local-producers-found-beautiful-success-with-carole-king-musical/

There is another big-news local connection. Perhaps you’ve heard about the college admissions scandal. Well, turns out Joe Buck’s daughter is the roommate of Lori Laughlin’s daughter, the clueless and vapid video blogger Olivia Jade, at University of Southern California. Ms. Buck is attending the prestigious USC Film School. (Thanks, J.C. Corcoran for this tidbit).

Meadow Nguy

Meadow Nguy of O’Fallon, Ill., appeared in a new musical “Arrowhead” in concert at Feinstein’s/54 Below. The new Jackson Teeley and Sarah Galante work takes you inside the cozy and tuneful world of Arrowhead Café — from the heartache of love unrequited to the bliss of love that’s true, uncover all the ups, downs, and inevitable complications of modern love over a simple cup of coffee. The concert was directed by Dan Barron and music directed by Michael Pacifico, and featured a cast of 14.


Lisa Ramey, who performed at The Muny, Stages St. Louis and The Black Rep, was picked by John Legend for his team on Season 16 of “The Voice,” now finished with the Blind Auditions. Ramey currently lives in New York City and fronts a band called Superbad. She auditioned last year but did not get a chair turn, talked to the coaches about what she should do to improve, and returned this year.

Beau Willimon, third from left, speaks to the cast, while one of his mentors, director Wayne Salomon stands next to him. (Photo provided)

Playwright Beau Willimon attended the preview night of his first Broadway play, “Farragut North,” which was produced at St. Louis Actors’ Studio last month. Willimon grew up in St. Louis and is a graduate of John Burroughs. He is most known for developing the American version of “House of Cards” for Netflix and was show runner for four years. His recent screenplay was the 2018 film “Mary, Queen of Scots.”

St. Louis’ sunny Jenna Fischer can now be seen with Ted Danson in a commercial for Smirnoff Vodka.

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AND THEN THERE WERE 15:
A harpist, juggler, dancers, acrobats, musicians and singers will be competing in Fox Performing Arts Charitable Foundation’s 9th Annual St. Louis Teen Talent Competition, which takes place Saturday, April 13, at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis.

The public is invited to attend for free, but general admission tickets must be reserved at Metrotix.com or 314-534-1111. You can vote for the Audience Award.

The youths will have an opportunity to win scholarships and prizes. They were selected from a process that began with 140 acts auditioning in the preliminary round, and a semifinal round on March 9 that featured 45 acts who were then whittled down to the 15 finalists. More than 50 high schools, homeschoolers and performing arts schools were represented.

Congratulations to those who advanced — quite a lot of variety:
Modern Dancers: Arielle Adams, Senior DessaRae Lampkins, Senior Brooke Reese, Senior De’Jai Walker, Senior Hazelwood Central High School.
Musical Theatre Act: Kaley Bender, Sophomore, Nerinx Hall Nathaniel Mahone, Sophomore, Lafayette High School.
Consecrated: pianist and drummer Emmanuel Morgan, Junior Thaddaeus Morgan, Sophomore Kirkwood High School.
Expressions Academy of Dance: Emma Bilzing, Sophomore; Mackenzie Branson, Freshman; Kaele Kidwell, Senior; Ja’la Stancil, Sophomore Belleville East High School
Ukulele/Vocalist/Sonwriter Afiya Faatuono, Sophomore McKinley Classical Leadership Academy
Pop Vocalist Jameson Falconer, Sophomore Ladue Horton Watkins High School
Modern Dancer Ashley Gardner, Junior Trinity Catholic High School
Pop Vocalist Madelynn Gartland, Sophomore Kirkwood High School
Partner Acrobatics K.O. Duo, Oliver Layher, Senior, Vianney High School Kyran Walton, Senior, Metro Academic and Classical High School
Bharatnatyam Dancer Samanvita Kasthuri, Junior Parkway South High School
Ballet Dancer Anne Oberman, Junior Cor Jesu Academy
Juggler Sean Petric, Sophomore Oakville High School
Harpist Mereya Riopedre, Junior MICDS
Guitarist and Vocalist Joanna Serenko, Senior Kirkwood High School
Musical Theatre Vocalist Troy Staten, Sophomore McCluer High School
These talented teens are the entertainers of tomorrow.

For more information about the competition, visit: http://www.foxpacf.org/programs/teen-talent-competition/ for more information.
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SCHOLARSHIP OPPORTUNITY:  Since 2012, Arts For Life has awarded a scholarship to a student who is pursuing an education in the arts. The deadline for applicants is April 12. Applicant must be enrolled in an arts undergraduate program at an accredited college or university. Arts programs include, but are not exclusive to: performing arts (music, dance, theatre) and visual arts (painting, sculpture, architecture, film,photography, etc). Arts programs not defined as Fine Arts but related to the arts may be considered if superior work has been demonstrated in this area. Applicant must have participated in a Metro St. Louis community theater production or event in the past two years (1/1/2016-12/31/2018). Metro St. Louis defined as any location within 35 miles from Clayton. Here is the link: http://www.artsforlife.org/scholarship.html
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Taylor Louderman

THE POWER OF THEATRE: Tony Award nominee Taylor Louderman will host a one-night-only cabaret to celebrate performing arts education and support rural Missouri’s Ozark Actors Theatre.

It’s set for May 20 at 7:30 p.m. at the Sheldon Concert Hall.

Louderman, proud native of Bourbon, Mo., will take part in “The Power of Theatre,” bringing together the voices of some of St. Louis’s best performers as they share the power of theater education.

Currently starring on Broadway as Regina George in “Mean Girls,” she is well-known on local stages. Her career began at Ozark Actors Theater in 2001, when she played the title role of ‘Annie.”

Since then, she appeared on Broadway in “Bring It On: The Musical” and “Kinky Boots,” as well as NBC’s “Peter Pan Live.” She spent summers performing at the Muny, last seen in “Aida.” She voices the character Blair on Nickelodeon’s “Sunny Day” and can be seen in “The Good Fight” and HBO’s “High Maintenance.”

She likes to give back to the community where she started and grateful to be a part of the OAT board.

Evening also includes silent and live auctions, and a special introduction by News 4’s Paige Hulsey.

All proceeds from this event will benefit Ozark Actors Theatre’s education programming.

Tickets are available in person at the Fox Theatre box office without a handling fee. For more information: https://www.thesheldon.org/concert-detail.php?id=768

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Wendy Renee Greenwood as war photographer in “Time Stands Still”


GO SEE A PLAY POLL: Modern relationships are certainly complicated, aren’t they? But they sure make compelling dramas. We’re giving away two tickets to New Jewish Theatre’s upcoming production of “Time Stands Still” that runs March 28 – April 15. All you have to do is enter our drawing and select your favorite play on modern relationships for our poll (see below).

“Time Stands Still” revolves around Sarah, a photojournalist who has returned from covering the Iraq war after being injured by a roadside bomb, and her reporter boyfriend James who is swamped by guilt after having left Sarah alone in Iraq. The two are trying to find happiness in a world that seems to have gone crazy. Theirs is a partnership based on telling the toughest stories, and together, making a difference. But when their own story takes a sudden turn, the adventurous couple confronts the prospect of a more conventional life. Can they stay together amidst unspoken betrayals and conflicting ideals? Playwright Donald Margulies answers these questions, while leaving unanswered qualms regarding the way America deals with war and tragedy coverage.

Directed by Doug Finlayson, the cast includes Wendy Renee Greenwood as Sarah, Ben Nordstrom as James, Jerry Vogel as Robin and Eileen Engel as Mandy.

To enter our drawing, please send your email address and phone number to Lynn Venhaus, lynnvenhaus@gmail.com, by Friday, March 22, before 5 p.m., with your choice for your favorite contemporary play on modern relationships.

What would yours be? Here’s our list from which to select:
August: Osage County
God of Carnage
The Humans
Proof
Rabbit Hole
Stop Kiss
Venus in Fur

Thanks for entering. Our last drawing for tickets to “Avenue Q” at the Playhouse @Westport Playhouse was won by Jennelle Gilreath.
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BEST WISHES: Kelly Hummert, founder and artistic director of Rebel and Misfits Productions, has decided to move on to other projects, and will no longer be producing shows in St. Louis.

Kelly Hummert

We will miss seeing what innovative and immersive plays she put her heart and soul into, and the outstanding ensembles she brought together during the past three years.

Rebel and Misfits’ “The Realistic Joneses” and “Macbeth: Come Like Shadows” have been nominated for Best Ensemble in this year’s St. Louis Theater Circle Awards, and last year, both Andrew Michael Niemann and Jim Butz won acting awards for “Uncle Vanya: Valiantly Accepting Next Year’s Agony.”

Break a leg, Kelly! The best is yet to come!

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AUTHOR! AUTHOR!: Don Miller, an expert on media literacy and a local playwright, actor and professor, wrote a reference book, “Coming of Age in Popular Culture: Teenagers, Adolescence, and the Art of Growing Up,” that is getting good reviews. He is being lauded for his thoughtful work and providing insight into popular culture.

“And the beat goes on! What a wonderful tribute to the decades. A entertaining explanation of our influences of the decades that brought back so many memories,” said bestselling author Wade Rouse.

“This text is a tremendous boost to the media literacy education field at a time when both the media communicator as well as the media consumer hold great sway on many platforms in our digital communications environment and understanding these processes can help both be better. And, the timing couldn’t be better to have this definitive, well researched and well-documented textbook regarding an age-old relationship about teens and their media,” said Jessica Z. Brown, founder of Gateway Media Literacy Partners.

Miller documented the evolution of teens and media from the 1950s through 2010, this book examines the films, books, television shows, and musical artists that impacted American culture and shaped the “coming of age” experience for each generation.

He will speak to the Mid Rivers Ethical Society in July.

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“The Lusty Month of May” from the movie “Camelot” 1967

TRIVIA TIME-OUT: We flip seasons to spring! Yay! Happy Dance. What a cold, dreary, gray winter. Here are some questions about productions focused on a spring.

  1. In “The Producers,” what is the name of the musical that Max Bialistock and Leo Bloom are mounting?
  2. Who sings “The Lusty Month of May” on the original cast recording of “Camelot”? In the movie?
  3. What original cast member won a Tony Award in the musical “Spring Awakening”?
  4. What musical features the song “Younger Than Springtime”?

ANSWERS
1. “Springtime for Hitler”
2. Julie Andrews; Vanessa Redgrave (Guinnevere)
3. John Gallagher Jr.
4. “South Pacific”

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Richard Beymer and Natalie Wood in “West Side Story”


MOVIE MUSICAL MAKEOVER: “Angels in America” playwright Tony Kushner is writing the script for Steven Spielberg’s new version of “West Side Story,” which is expected to be released in 2020.

The announced movie cast includes Ansel Elgort as Tony, Rachel Zegler as Maria, Tony Award nominee Ariana DeBose (Donna Summer) as Anita, Tony Award winner David Alvarez (Billy Elliot) as Bernardo, Josh Andres Rivera as Chino, Brian d’Arcy James as Sergeant Krupke and Corey Stoll as Lieutenant Schrank.

The sole returning cast member of the original is EGOT winner Rita Moreno, who will play a new character, Valentina. She won an Oscar playing Anita.

This will be Spielberg’s first musical. He had a casting call for Latinx performers and received 30,000 submissions. Seventeen-year-old high school newcomer Rachel Zegler won the part of Maria.

The 1961 landmark film is the most-award winning movie musical of all-time, nominated for 11 Academy Awards and winning 10. With choreography by Jerome Robbins, music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, the movie adaptation was directed by Robert Wise (“The Sound of Music”) and Robbins.

Fun Fact: Natalie Wood played Maria but her singing was dubbed by Marni Nixon, who also subbed for Audrey Hepburn in “My Fair Lady.”

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Jared Sanz-Agero


IN MEMORIAM: Friends, family and colleague are remembering the wonderful talent that Jared Sanz-Agero was. The actor died Feb. 19, from injuries suffered in a horrific automobile accident two weeks earlier, on Feb 5.

Twice-nominated for St. Louis Theater Circle Awards for “Stones in My Pocket” and “The Liar,” he was a passionate presence on many regional group’s stages. You might have chatted with him at the .Zack, working at the bar and concessions. He attended Southwest Missouri State University.

Jared, 47, was traveling to Kansas City for a commercial shoot when his 2004 Toyota Matrix slid off the ice-covered roadway. He was taken to the Centerpoint Hospital ICU in Independence, Mo., according to the police report.

Official cause of death was internal bleeding and loss of blood, and is being investigated by his family, from what’s on the Go Fund Me page.

A memorial service is being planned for a later date. If you would like to contribute to a Go Fund Me account set up by his brother Gentry after the accident to help with his medical expenses, and now, costs related to his death investigation, and services, here is the link to the Jared Sanz-Agero Memorial Fund: https://www.gofundme.com/help-jared-heal-fund

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WORD: To quote Jonathan Larson, who wrote “Rent” and died on opening day from an aneurysm:

“It’s not how many years you live, but how you fulfill the time you spend here.”

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