Friday, 02 November 2018 19:56

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of November 2, 2018

Written by 
"Into the Breeches!" "Into the Breeches!" Photo by Phillip Hamer

New items include cabaret shows from the Gaslight Cabaret Festival and The Monocle as well as a local premiere from the Shakespeare Festival.

 


New This Week:


Carrie St. Louis

The Gaslight Cabaret Festival presents Carrie St. Louis Friday and Saturday, November 2 and 3, at 8 pm. "A beautiful, smart, really funny and immensely talented Broadway phenom named St. Louis should like do a show here, right? That's what we thought. Fresh off a Broadway run of Kinky Boots, Carrie makes her St. Louis debut. She's thrilled to bring her goofy personality, backstage stories, and the songs she loves to The Gaslight!" The performances take place at the Gaslight Theater, 358 North Boyle. For more information: gaslightcabaretfestival.com.

My take: Carrie St. Louis has substantial Broadway credits and some very positive reviews. "Every Broadway season new talent emerge," noted the Huffington Post, "this year, one star might just be Carrie St. Louis, who found her way to the big stage remarkably fast."


Into the Breeches!
Photo by Phillip Hamer

Shakespeare Festival St. Louis presents In the Works, a festival of contemporary American plays inspired by Shakespeare, featuring the regional premiere of Into the Breeches!, through November 24. "Building on its beloved summer productions in Forest Park and the acclaimed Shakespeare in the Streets program, the Festival now presents its very first season of contemporary American plays by writers in dialogue with Shakespeare, headlined by the regional premiere of Into the Breeches! Written by the award-winning playwright of Grounded, which starred Anne Hathaway in its New York run, Into the Breeches! is a hilarious and heartwarming look at the WWII home front and a group of ladies who band together to keep the local theater going with their very own production of Henry V. "In the Works" will also feature family matinees of A Most Outrageous Fit of Madness, a delightful new play for young audiences by Festival favorite Nancy Bell, inspired by the mistaken identity hijinks of The Comedy of Errors, as well as staged readings of the Festival-commissioned The Thousand Natural Shocks, a moving coming-of-age story about a teenage boy who finds strength and resilience through a high school production of Hamlet. (The Thousand Natural Shocks is appropriate for ages 13 and over.)" Performances take place at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 N. Grand in Grand Center. For more information, including dates and times: sfstl.com.

My take: I haven't seen any reviews of Into the Breeches yet, but the idea sounds like great fun and the Shakespeare Festival has had a rather good track record for many years now. Reviewing the play's world premiere earlier this year, the Providence (Rhode Island) Journal called it "a gem of a play, one of the sweetest nights of theater you’re likely to see".


Paula Stoff Dean

The Monocle presents Paula Stoff Dean in an encore performance of her solo debut cabaret, Its About The Journey, on Saturday, November 3, at 8pm. "It's been several years in the making but Paula Stoff Dean is finally debuting in her first ever solo cabaret. Paula's voice has been described as one that can shake the rafters or break your heart. If you haven't heard her sing, make sure you mark this date on your calendars. She has been in various productions with several different theatre companies in the St Louis area such as Stray Dog Theatre, West End Players, Non Prophet Theatre Company, Dramatic License Productions, and most recently ComedySportz St. Louis." The show is directed by Kay Love with musical direction by Carol A Schmidt. The performance takes place in the Emerald Room at The Monocle on Manchester in The Grove. For more information: themonoclestl.com.

My take: I first encountered the very talented Ms. Dean back in 2009 when we shared the stage in Stray Dog Theatre's first production of The Rocky Horror Show. I have since had opportunities to admire her work in other shows, including her remarkable Sally Bowes in Stray Dog's dark Cabaret a few years later. Reviewing the first performance of this show for KDHX in September, Steve Callahan praised Ms. Dean's "very special sexy, vivacious, comic gift." I agree.


Bob Gerchen

The Gaslight Cabaret Festival presents Bob Gerchen in Joe Cocker: Never Forget on Thursday, November 1, at 8 p.m. "Bob Gerchen finds the beauty, the grit, the soul and the pathos in the work of Joe Cocker, with a little help from a St. Louis Grown Blues Band. Bob sings Joe's hits, but also some songs you might not know. He tells the story of Joe's improbable rise and influence on American blues and soul (he got inside a lot of our souls), as well as on the life of the show's creator. A Joe Cocker cabaret, in the big tent of cabaret at The Gaslight." The performances take place at the Gaslight Theater, 358 North Boyle. For more information: gaslightcabaretfestival.com.

My take: Cabaret's tent can, indeed, be very big, as anyone who has ever seen Barb Jungr or Storm Large can attest, so a show dedicated to the hits of late British rocker Joe Cocker isn't particularly out of line. Mr. Gerchen is a local actor with a solid resume, and I have always felt that theatre folk have an inside track on cabaret, which is essentially a story-telling genre.


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.


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."

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