Union Avenue Opera presents Puccini's MADAMA BUTTERFLY Friday and Saturday at 8 PM and Sunday at 3 PM, July 12-20. Performances take place at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 Union at Enright in the Central West End. The opera is sung in Italian with projected English text. My take: Union Avenue is a small local opera company that has successfully produced both classics like this one as well as newer works—most notably the Jake Heggie and Terrence McNally collaboration DEAD MAN WALKING in 2011—that stretch the company's artistic and physical limits. I'm seeing this one opening night and will be reviewing it for 88.1 KDHX. For more information, visit unionavenueopera.org or call 314-361-2881.
St. Louis Actors' Studio presents the NEIL LABUTE NEW THEATER FESTIVAL PART 1 through July 14 at the Gaslight Theatre, 358 North Boyle. Part 1 features performances of THE POSSIBLE by LaBute along with PINKY SWEAR by Tyler Vickers, 2 IRISHMEN DIGGING A GRAVE by GD Kimble, ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM by Alexis Clements, and CLEANSING ACTS by Carlos Perez. My take: I'm not a huge LaBute fan myself, but in her review for 88.1 KDHX Tina Farmer describes this production as "five well-written, well-performed new works that pack a punch. Each piece features contemporary persons in contemporary settings exploring the fine art of living, and the selection committee is to be commended on their choices." Besides, an evening of new plays by local playwrights always merits attention. For more information, call 314-458-2978 or visit stlas.org.
The Black Rep presents the musical THE WIZ July 13-28. Performances take place at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square. Joining the cast for this extended production are J. Samuel Davis as The Wiz, Leslie Johnson as the Tinman, and Alicia Reeve as the Scarecrow. My take: This 1970s soul version of THE WIZARD OF OZ crackles with energy, and a good production is always fun. This particular production of THE WIZ was originally scheduled to close on June 30. Ticket sales were so brisk, though, that the Black Rep elected to go an hiatus for two weeks, re-cast the roles whose actors had conflicts for July, and re-open this weekend. "I had a blast," wrote Sheila Schultz in her review of the original production for 88.1 KDHX. "I head home humming 'Ease on Down the Road'. Still humming." For more information, visit theblackrep.org or call 314-534-3810.