By Lynn Venhaus
Another Opening, Another Show! Summertime kicks off with annual traditions inside and outdoors — Shakespeare Festival St. Louis’ “Love’s Labors Lost” opens for its month-long free admission run in Forest Park while Opera Theatre St. Louis has two shows in repertory – Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” and Verdi’s “Rigoletto.”
Major musicals make their St. Louis debut this week – the still-running-on-Broadway “Be More Chill” at New Line Theatre and the Peter Allen biopic “The Boy from Oz” kicks off Stages St. Louis’s season.
Joe Hanrahan’s Midnight Company presents the St. Louis premiere of the one-man-show “Charlie Johnson Reads All of Proust.”
It’s the last chance to see the comedy “I Now Pronounce” at New Jewish Theatre and the musical “Nina Simone: Four Women” at The Black Rep.
Start your summer by going to see a play!
“Be More Chill”
May 30-June 22
Thursday – Sunday, 8 p.m.
New Line Theatre
The Marcelle Theatre, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive
What It’s About: “The Breakfast Club” meets “Little Shop of Horrors” in the new sci-fi rock musical, “Be More Chill,” with music and lyrics by Joe Iconis and book by Joe Tracz, based on the bestselling novel by New Vizzini. It’s a look at life in the digital age, exploring teen depression, bullying and other current issues through the comic lens of sci-fi films of the 50s, horror flicks of the 80s and the teen movies of the 90s.
Directors: Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor, with music
direction by Nicolas Valdez
Starring: Jayde Mitchell (Jeremy), Dominic Dowdy-Windsor (Squip), Kevin Corpuz (Michael), Zachary Allen Farmer (Jeremy’s Dad), Melissa Felps (Brooke), Evan Fornachon (Rich), Isabel Cecilia Garcia (Jenna), Grace Langford (Christine), Ian McCreary (Jake), and Laura Renfro (Chloe).
Of Note: “Be More Chill” made its world premiere at the Two River Theater in Red Bank, New Jersey in 2015, had a successful off-Broadway run, it’s now being produced across the country, and it just opened on Broadway in March. It has a Tony nomination for Best Original Score (Joe Iconis, music and lyrics).
“The Boy from Oz”
May 31 – June 30
Stages St. Louis
Robert G. Reim Theatre, Kirkwood Community Center
111 S. Geyer Road, Kirkwood
What It’s About: Dazzling and hilarious as the legendary Peter Allen himself, THE BOY FROM OZ follows the Australian singer-songwriter from his humble beginnings performing in backcountry pubs to his international stardom beside such Hollywood icons as Judy Garland and her daughter Liza Minnelli.
Director: Michael Hamilton
Starring: David Elder as Peter Allen, Sarah Ellis as Liza Minnelli, Zach Trimmer as Greg Connell, Corinne Melancon as Marion Woolnough, Michele Ragusa as Judy Garland, Brad Frenette as George Woolnough, Steve Isom as Dick Woolnough, Erik Keiser as Chris Bell, Nic Thompson as Mark Herron, Ben Iken and Simon Desilets as Young Peter, Lydia Ruth Dawson, Bryn Purvis and Madison Tinder as Trio, Frankie Thams as Trick, Nathanial Burich as Dealer and Ashley Chasteen as Alice. Ensemble includes Kari Ely and Caleb Dicke.
Of Note: Thrilling news from Stages St. Louis comes in the form of two celebratory evenings focused around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in conjunction with performances of “The Boy From Oz.” The 8 pm performances on Saturday, June 1 and Friday, June 7 will offer special $30 tickets to diversity, equity, and inclusion groups at corporations and organizations throughout the St. Louis region. The tickets will include a special post show champagne and dessert reception featuring lively conversation with members of the cast.
“Charlie Johnson Reads All of Proust”
May 30 – June 15
The Midnight Company
Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m.
Kranzberg Center, 501 N. Grand
What It’s About: An older man taking a break from Christmas shopping with his family at a Starbucks. Hungry for dinner, he tides himself over with the purchase of a small package of soft, spongy cookies. When he dips one in his coffee, his snooty daughter-in-law asks him if he’s having his “Madeleine moment,” and then proceeds to lecture him about Marcel Proust and “Remembrance of Things Past” – the classic multi-volume novel inspired by the narrator dipping a madeleine cake into tea, with the taste bringing back memories of his boyhood, and leading to a retelling of his time in 19th/20th century aristocratic France. Charlie decides he’s going to read that book (not realizing it is seven books) and be able to talk about it with his daughter-in-law next Christmas. And along the way, he discovers the epic that is his own life.
Director: Sarah Holt
Starring: Joe Hanrahan
“The Dixie Swim Club”
May 31 – June 19
Monroe Actors Stage Company
Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
Historic Capitol Theatre in Waterloo
What It’s About: Five Southern women, whose friendships began many years ago on their college swim team, set aside a long weekend every August to recharge those relationships. Free from husbands, kids and jobs, they meet at the same beach cottage on North Carolina’s Outer Banks to catch up, laugh and meddle in each other’s lives. The play focuses on four of those weekends and spans a period of thirty-three years.
Director: Tim Paeltz
Starring: Stacey Tunnicliff as Sheree Hollinger, Dawn Williamson as Lexi Richards, Terrie Thies as Dinah Grayson, Christine Miller as Vernadette Sims and Kelly Shaw as Jeri Neal McFeeley.
“I Now Pronounce”
May – June 2
New Jewish Theatre
Marvin and Harlene Wool Studio Theatre
Jewish Community Center, 2 Millstone Campus Drive in Creve Coeur
What It’s About: Most weddings have something that doesn’t go quite right – maybe several things go awry. Often these mishaps are the things that make the most endearing memories of the occasion, but Tasha Gordon-Solomon’s “I Now Pronounce” imagines a wedding that culminates in an awkwardly timed fatality, and a reception that spins into a strange and hilarious evening that leaves the bride and groom questioning just what it is they’re celebrating. The flower girls are running amuck; the bridal party members are more preoccupied with their own flailing relationships. But there’s no stopping the festivities! Comedies end in marriage.
Director: Edward Coffield
Starring: Graham Emmons, Will Bonfiglio, Ryan Lawson-Maeske, Jessica Kadish, Craig Neuman, Delaney Piggins, Frankie Ferrari
“Love’s Labors Lost”
May 31 – June 23
Shakespeare Festival St. Louis
8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday
Shakespeare Glen, Forest Park
What It’s About” Belonging to Shakespeare’s “lyrical” period, which also included Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the play tells the story of the Princess of France and her ladies who arrive on a diplomatic mission to Navarre only to be met by a young king and his lords who have taken a vow not to see women. Affairs of state give way to affairs of the heart as Shakespeare reveals with great humor and compassion the way our culture sometimes doesn’t fully prepare us for the realities of love and intimacy. A feast of language and theatrical virtuosity, Love’s Labors Lost shimmers with all the passion and promise of a first kiss.
Director: Tom Ridgely
Starring: Philip Hernandez as Don Adriano de Armado, Bradley James Tejeda (Duc de Biron), Kea Trevett (Princess of France), Sky Smith (King of Navarre), Patrick Blindauer (Costard), Katy Keating (Nathaniel), Michael James Reed (Forester/Marcadé), Jeffery Cummings (Boyet); Carl Howell (Dull), Carine Montbertrand (Holofernes), Randolph (Moth), Laura Sohn (Rosaline), Molly Meyer (Jaquenetta), Sam Jones (Longueville), Vivienne Claire Luthin (Maria), Kiah McKirnan (Catherine), and Riz Moe (DuMaine).
“The Marriage of Figaro”
May 25 – June 29
Opera Theatre of St. Louis
135 Edgar Road on Webster University campus
What It’s About: Mozart’s comedy masterpiece is about complicated life at court and how love should always prevail. The maid Susanna is determined to wed her fiancé, Figaro, while the Count is equally determined to add her to his list of conquests. But Susanna and Figaro won’t allow one self-entitled nobleman to ruin their happy ending! They each hatch their own plots to teach their master a lesson. What follows is a whirlwind day of romantic intrigue, cunning schemes, and uproarious fun. The opera runs three hours and ten minutes with one intermission and is sung in English with English supertitles.
“Nina Simone: Four Women”
The Black Rep
May 15 – June 2
Edison Theatre on Washington University campus
What It’s About: Nina Simone’s velvet voice was unafraid to sing lyrics that cut right to the truth. Her music and her life were a personal exploration branded in the kiln of the civil rights movement; so, in the aftermath of the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church and the tragic loss of the four little girls her powerful anthems, “Mississippi Goddam,” “Sinnerman” and “Old Jim Crow,” fueled the Civil Rights movement and changed her public persona from songstress to activist. From the iconic “I Put a Spell on You” to “Four Women,” Simone’s lyrics weave a story of four women alienated from themselves and one another due to the color of their skin.
Director: Ron Himes
Starring: Leah Stewart as Simone, Denise Thimes as Sarah (aka Auntie), Alex Jay as Sephronia and Camile “Cee” Sharp as Sweet Thing
Opera Theatre of St. Louis
June 1 – June 30
135 Edgar Road
What It’s About: Verdi’s powerful “Rigoletto” is a tale of innocence lost, wrenchingly poignant and all too human, presented in English with English supertitles. Rigoletto is a bitter court jester who serves the Duke of Mantua, a lecherous womanizer. Together, they are despised throughout the city. But alone, Rigoletto is all tenderness when it comes to his innocent young daughter, Gilda. Little does he know that an ominous curse is about to take its toll. When the Duke seduces Gilda, only to then abandon her, the enraged father swears vengeance.
Cover Photo: Vivienne Claire Luthin, Kea Trevett, Laura Sohn and Kiah McKirnan in “Love’s Labors Lost” — Photo by Philip Hamer.