Wednesday, 24 October 2018 21:58

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of October 25, 2018

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"Silent Sky" at Insight "Silent Sky" at Insight Photo by John Lamb

New items include cabaret shows from Mariposa Artists, the Gaslight Cabaret Festival, The Cabaret Project, and the Kranzberg Center, as well as the return of an important historical drama.

 


New This Week:


John McDaniel and  Barb Jungr

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The Kranzberg Arts Center presents John McDaniel and Barb Jungr in 1968: Let the Sun Shine In on Saturday, October 27th at 7 pm. "Award-winning "great British cabaret singer" (New York Times) and "one of the best night club singers in the world" (Time Out New York) Barb Jungr joins forces with St. Louis native, the formidably talented Grammy and two-time Emmy Award winning U.S. composer, arranger and Music Director, John McDaniel, alum of Kirkwood High School '79, to reinvent some of the most iconic anthems of 1968. The repertoire of "1968 - Let The Sun Shine In" reflects the tenor of the times - when the Viet Nam War raged, and the US saw the assassinations of both Robert F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King - with titles including "Born To Be Wild," "Do You Know The Way To San Jose?" and "Aquarius." The Kranzberg Center is at 501 N. Grand in Grand Center. For more information: metrotix.com.

My take: As I wrote when these two performers appeared together here this past January in a Beatles tribute show, the McDaniel/Jungr duo is an ideal team, and the obvious joy they take in working with each other is infectious. "Let's hope we get to see Ms. Jungr and Mr. McDaniel here again soon," I said. "It really has been too long." I guess I got my wish.


Faith Prince

The Gaslight Cabaret Festival presents Broadway star Faith Prince, with Alex Rybeck on piano, on Friday and Saturday, October 26 and 27, at 8 p.m. "Faith Prince has been dazzling Broadway audiences since winning the Tony Award for her performance as Ms. Adelaide in Guys and Dolls. As one of Broadway's most-loved leading ladies, Faith has starred in Annie and A Catered Affair. Tony Noms for Bells Are Ringing and Jerome Robbins' Broadway." The performances take place at the Gaslight Theater, 358 North Boyle. For more information: gaslightcabaretfestival.com.

My take: Ms. Prince is a major Broadway talent and Mr. Rybeck is one of the more in-demand music directors in the Big Apple. Expect big entertainment when you put them together.


Darius de Haas

Jazz St. Louis and The Cabaret Project present Darius de Haas in A Leonard Bernstein Thing on Thursday at 7:30 pm, October 25. "2018 is Leonard Bernstein's centennial and Obie winning Broadway singer/actor Darius de Haas (recently seen as The Lion in The Muny's production of The WIz) looks through the lens of jazz, blues and pop to reinvent Bernstein's classic songs such as West Side Story's "Something's Coming" and "Maria" -- proving that Bernstein's American masterpieces transcends time, genre, and generations. An original cast member of Broadway's Rent, Kiss of The Spider Woman and Shuffle Along, de Haas' celebrated solo appearances include Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center." Performances take place at the Ferring Jazz Bistro on Washington just east of the Fox in Grand Center. For more information: thecabaretproject.org.

My take: Mr. de Haas is a major star and Bernstein is, of course, one of the most important composers of the 20th century, so I don't see how you can go wrong. And if you haven't had a chance to check out the Jazz Bistro since it's recent renovation, you are in for a major treat. It's a great space for jazz and cabaret.


Merry Keller

Mariposa Productions presents Merry Keller: It's Personal on Friday, October 26, at 8 pm. "Merry Keller presents her newest cabaret solo show with an intimate look on life, love, family, and friends - meaningful moments in story and song." Rick Jensen is pianist and music director for the show, which is directed by Lina Koutrakos. The performance takes place at the Kranzberg Center, 501 N. Grand in Grand Center. For more information: metrotix.com.

My take: I will admit that this is a highly personal recommendation. I've been through the St. Louis Cabaret Conference a number of times with Merry and have done some shows with her as well. She's a strong, classically trained singer with great stage presence, and her collaborators on this show—Lina Koutrakos and Rick Jensen—are major figures in the cabaret world.


Michelle Collier

Mariposa Productions presents Michelle Collier: Confessions of a Bombshell on Sunday, October 28, at 3 pm. "Ever wonder what a nice girl from St. Louis learns from working in a Times Square jazz club? Find out in CONFESSIONS OF A BOMBSHELL, Michelle Collier's sultry musical tribute to life and love in the Big City, with homages to the great sirens of the Silver Screen on Sunday, October 28th at 3pm at The Kranzberg Arts Center... featuring a special guest appearance by Kay Love!" The performance takes place at the Kranzberg Center, 501 N. Grand in Grand Center. For more information: metrotix.com.

My take: When I reviewed Ms. Collier's Tribute to the Hollywood Blondes show at the Jazz Bistro in 2013, I wrote that she was an ebullient and engaging performer with a fine voice and impressive dance moves. She's a St. Louis native who has gone on to big things. It's nice to see her back in town after all these years.


Silent Sky
Photo by John Lamb

Insight Theatre Company presents Lauren Gunderson's Silent Sky Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm through November 4. "When Henrietta Leavitt begins work at the Harvard Observatory in the early 1900s, she isn't allowed to touch a telescope or express an original idea. Instead, she joins a group of women "computers," charting the stars for a renowned astronomer who calculates projects in "girl hours" and has no time for the women's probing theories. As Henrietta, in her free time, attempts to measure the light and distance of stars, she must also take measure of her life on Earth, trying to balance her dedication to science with family obligations and the possibility of love. The true story of 19th-century astronomer Henrietta Leavitt explores a woman's place in society during a time of immense scientific discoveries, when women's ideas were dismissed until men claimed credit for them. Social progress, like scientific progress, can be hard to see when one is trapped among earthly complications; Henrietta Leavitt and her female peers believe in both, and their dedication changed the way we understand both the heavens and Earth." Performances take place at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 N. Grand in Grand Center. For more information, call 314-556-1293 or visit insighttheatrecompany.com.

My take: The significant contributions women have made to the sciences over the years (and the difficulty they have had in getting proper credit for them) have provided fodder for a fair number of books and plays recently. Silent Sky is fiction, of course, but it's based on solid history, and tells a tale that needs to be heard. Local theatre companies appear to agree, as there have been multiple productions of this play over the last few years (St. Louis University did it first, I believe, with West End Players presenting the professional theatre debut this past February). Reviewing for Ladue News, Mark Bretz says that director Maggie Ryan's "careful direction and her cast's studied approach to their roles make Insight's version of Silent Sky a richly rewarding reading of Gunderson's fascinating script."


Held Over:


A Doll's House, Part 2
Photo by Peter Wochniak

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents A Doll's House, Part 2 by Lucas Hnath through November 4. "Hnath's audacious sequel, written more than 135 years after Henrik Ibsen's original, hit Broadway in 2017 like a sneak attack. Ibsen's familial drama remains a foundational piece of theatre, with a still-controversial ending in which a married woman chooses to walk out on her family. But Hnath took the themes and characters of that familiar classic and flipped them on their heads, imagining what would happen if protagonist Nora Helmer returned home 15 years after her dramatic exit." Performances take place on the mainstage at the Loretto-Hlton Center, 130 Edgar Road in Webster Groves, MO. For more information, call 314-968-4925 or visit repstl.org.

My take: I'm a great admirer of the work of playwright Lucas Hnath. His plays Death Tax and The Christians (both of which had their world premiere's at the Humana Festival in Louisville) are very strong and very different, so I'm interested to see what his revisionist take on Ibsen's classic looks like. Reviews have been very favorable. "Re-imagining a character such as Nora... is illuminating," writes Andrea Braun at STL Limelight. "A Doll's House, Part 2 provides a deeper examination of what's going on with her, shows how her actions may have affected one of her children, and, at long last, lets us hear from Torvald. The play got a slew of awards and nominations; it deserves them." "Director Timothy Near," writes Ann Lemmons Pollack, "gives us a play that is both period and modern. It balances both sides beautifully." I agree. As I wrote in my review, this is a show and a production that grow in the memory, which is always a good sign.


The Last Days of Judas Iscariot

Mustard Seed Theatre presents The Last Days of Judas Iscariot Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm, through October 28. “In this irreverent exploration of the afterlife of Judas Iscariot, will sin or grief or grace prevail? This brutal dark comedy puts love and justice on trial. Adult language and situations, not appropriate for children.” Performances take place at the Fontbonne Fine Arts Theatre, 6800 Wydown Blvd. For more information, call (314) 719-8060 or visit the web site at www.mustardseedtheatre.com.

My take: How can you not like the concept of this show? Still consumed with guilt, Judas has had enough of Hell and wants a new trial. Witnesses include Freud, Mother Teresa, Pilate and, of course, Satan himself. In his review for STL Today, Calvin Wilson says that the script "is a droll, poignant and surreally intriguing meditation on nothing less than the meaning of life. And this production is outstanding." At STL Limelight, Lynn Venhaus says the production "is an extraordinary achievement for all involved. It's tough, tender, edgy and above all, heartfelt." This is another one of those shows I'd see if only I had one of those time turners that J.K. Rowling describes in her Harry Potter books.

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