Thursday, 06 December 2018 17:57

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of December 6, 2018

Written by 
"Wonderland" at Metro Theater "Wonderland" at Metro Theater Photo by John Lamb

New this week: cabaret, holiday theatre, a rock version of Alice in Wonderland, and a more serious entry from STLAS.

 


New This Week:


A Christmas Carol

The Fox Theatre presents The Nebraska Theatre Caravan's musical adaptation of A Christmas Carol Thursday and Friday at 7:30 PM, Saturday at 2 and 7:30 PM, and Sunday at 1 and 6 PM, December 6 - 9. "A Christmas Carol features a spirited ensemble of 23 performers who bring Dickens' fable of redemption to life on a magical set created by noted designer James Othuse. A full array of timeless carols such as “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” “Away In a Manger” and “Here We Come A-Wassailing” are interwoven within the classic story of a tight-fisted, middle-class merchant Ebenezer Scrooge and all the beloved characters from Dickens' 1843 novel." The Fox is at 527 North Grand in Grand Center. For more information: fabulousfox.com.

My take: "I have always thought of Christmas time," wrote Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol, "as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys." These days such a notion is considered politically radical, which makes partaking of the Dickens classic that much more important. Go thou and enjoy.


A Christmas Story
Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents A Christmas Story, based on the movie by Jean Shepherd, through December 23. "Ralphie Parker's quest to get a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas returns to The Rep in all its heartwarming and hilarious glory. Filled with delightful holiday vignettes and endlessly quotable lines ("You'll shoot your eye out!"), this play is the perfect gift for the whole family to enjoy. See the classic movie brought to life on stage!" 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: The film on which this show is based has always been a favorite of mine, as is the autobiographical Jean Shepherd novel In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, that was the basis for the movie. The Rep last produced this fine stage adaptation back in 2009, so this revival is welcome.


Craig Pomranz

The Kranzberg Arts Center presents Craig Pomranz in Love: It Takes Time Friday and Saturday at 8 pm, December 7 and 8. "Winner of the MAC Award for best male vocalist, St. Louis native Craig Pomranz has been called 'The BEST male singer...his four-octave voice is alternately affecting, powerful, and nuanced; one of the finest instruments in the city' by the New York Post." The Kranzberg Arts Center is at 501 N. Grand in Grand Center. For more information: metrotix.com.

My take: St. Louis's own Craig Pomranz has made a nice career for himself on the international theater and cabaret stage, but that doesn't mean he neglects the home town crowd, as his repeated visits to local stages attest. When he played the Kranzberg Center back in 2011 I wrote that he had "impressive vocal technique with an enviable head voice, easy falsetto, and solid breath control " along with the theatrical skill necessary to convincingly act a song.


Christine Ebersole and Billy Stritch

Jazz St. Louis and The Cabaret Project present Christine Ebersole and Billy Stritch in Snowfall on Thursday at 7:30 pm, December 6. "Two time Tony winner Christine Ebersole's chemistry with Grammy winning songwriter, singer, pianist Billy Stritch began when they performed in Broadway's 42nd Street. She's added many more stage and screen successes (War Paint, Grey Gardens, Wolf of Wall Street) and he's headlined famed Manhattan nightspots and performed with Tony Bennett, Liza Minnelli and Marilyn Maye. Snowfall premiered in 2017 at Birdland and features Ebersole and Stritch's signature tight harmonies, lush vocals and swinging takes on beloved seasonal classics." 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: Ms. Ebersole's musical intelligence and theatrical insight are impressive and Mr. Stritch is an entertainment powerhouse all by himself. Together, they should be brilliant. Full disclosure: I am on the board of The Cabaret Project, but my high opinion of theses performers predates my involvement with the organization by many years.


Tribes
Photo by Johh Lamb

St. Louis Actors' Studio presents Tribes Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 3 pm through December 16. "Billy was born deaf into a hearing family. He was raised inside its fiercely idiosyncratic and politically incorrect cocoon. He has adapted brilliantly to his family's unconventional ways, but they've never bothered to return the favor. It's not until he meets Sylvia, a young woman on the brink of deafness, that he finally understands what it means to be understood." Performances take place at the Gaslight Theatre, 358 North Boyle. For more information call 314-458-2978 or visit stlas.org.

My take: At Ladue News, Mark Bretz writes that this is "a sizzling presentation of Nina Raine’s searing drama about a bruising family where impulses are acted out and thoughts of any kind are expressed with nary a concern for hurt feelings. Tribes is an extraordinary play brilliantly interpreted by director Annamaria Pileggi and her first-rate cast." At lot of theatre at this time of year is all about the holidays. Kudos to STLAS for choosing to present something more weighty.


Wonderland

Metro Theatre Company presents Wonderland: Alice's Rock and Roll Adventure through December 30th. "Part rock concert, part theater, all of your favorite characters as Metro Theater Company presents this new, wild and wondrous take on Lewis Carroll's beloved, poetic tale of self-actualization. A cast of actors/musicians plays an eclectic mix of everything from soul and rock to punk to ska as Alice chases through Wonderland in search of her own inner musical voice. A fun, hip, and refreshing fusion of music, theatre and poetry, Wonderland: Alice's Rock and Roll Adventure is the search for one's authentic self, asking how can you march to the beat of your own drummer when you're still writing the song? It places Alice in a strange, new world, where she conquers her fears and uses her musical skills to defeat the Jabberwock." The performance takes place at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square in Grand Center. For more information: metroplays.org.

My take: Lewis Carroll's characters have been through so many revisions and re-interpretations over the years that this new rock musical version hardly seems unusual at all. At Ladue News, Mark Bretz calls it a "festive, musical adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s beloved stories, updated with a modern message and ‘happening’ music which makes for a frolic-filled production." The cast includes KDHX theatre critic Shannon Cothran as well as the exceptionally talented Omega Jones. And as an added bonus, it has nothing to do with Christmas.


Held Over:


All is Calm
Photo by Ann K. Aurbach

Mustard Seed Theatre presents the acappella musical All is Calm Thursdays through Sundays through December 16. "Join us in celebrating the power of peace in this acapella musical based on the true story of soldiers during World War I who for one night, put down their arms and played soccer instead of exchanging bullets." 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: All is Calm has become an annual winter tradition at Mustard Seed. With a script by Peter Rothstein and musical arrangements by Erick Lichte and Timothy C. Takach, this story of the remarkable Christmas truce of 1914—a spontaneous outbreak of peace that occurred at multiple points along the trenches in France—combines splendid and often quite complex acappella singing with readings of letters from soldiers and other historical documents. At a time when opportunistic politicians are pushing an agenda of hate, fear, and eternal war, this is a play that everyone needs to see. As we used to ask back in the 1960s, "what if they gave a war and nobody came?


Shotspeare

The Playhouse at Westport Plaza presents Shotspeare Thursdays through Saturdays through December 8. "Shotspeare is equal parts bacchanal and classical theater. Harkening back to the actual time of Shakespeare where audience members (groundlings) were boisterous and partook in the show. Think Drunk History meets The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, hosted by the Gazillionaires English major nephew." The Playhouse at Westport Plaza is at 635 West Port Plaza. For more information: playhouseatwestport.com.

My take: More interested in comedy? If audience participation is your thing, consider the return engagement of this Shakespeare-themed evening of semi-improv comedy. "Shotspeare," writes Ann Lemmons Pollack, "is way not just for Shakespeare buffs. In fact, I’m sure that some Deeply Serious Shakespeare-ophiles will be Deeply Offended by it. But rowdy, indeed bawdy humor was common in Elizabethan times. Shotspeare fits right into that." And as they say in Hamilton, don't throw away your shot.

Media