Chuck Lavazzi is the producer for the arts calendars and senior performing arts critic at 88.1 KDHX, the local correspondent for Cabaret Scenes magazine, the host of The Cabaret Project’s monthly open mic night at the Tavern of Fine Arts, and entirely to blame for the Stage Left blog at stageleft-stlouis.blogspot.com. He’s a member of the Music Critics Association of North America and the St. Louis Theater Circle.
Chuck has been acting, designing sound, and occasionally directing theatrical productions since roughly the Bronze Age. His one-man show Just a Song at Twilight: the Golden Age of Vaudeville, presented at the Missouri History Museum, was the opening production of the West End Players Guild’s 101st season. He has also appeared with Stray Dog, Metro Theatre Company, The Rep, Midwest Lyric Opera, St. Louis Actors’ Studio, St. Louis Shakespeare, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, and even the St. Louis Symphony, where he narrated Peter and the Wolf. He and his lovely wife Sherry live in a house that’s older than both of them put together in the historic and utterly charming Soulard neighborhood.
Who: Ethan Rogers
What: Classical piano
When: Tonight at 8 PM
Where: The Tavern of Fine Arts, 313 Belt in Debaliviere Place
Why: The Yamaha baby grand at the Tavern will get a workout in this free program of music by Mozart, Chopin, John Adams (the composer, not the dead president), and Rachmaninoff.
Oh, the shows dwindle down to a precious few as we approach September—or at least as we approach the Labor Day weekend, one of handful of big holiday weekends when many theatre companies would rather be dark. Still there are two that merit your attention: a very dysfunctional family comedy and a cutting edge theatre/dance combo.
My friend the playwright/producer Joan Lipkin (of That Uppity Theatre Company fame) once remarked that theatre in St. Louis was mostly about real estate. What she meant was that there are far more theatre companies in town than there are spaces in which they can perform. Companies with dedicated spaces are becoming rare, and many of those have to share with other groups. Some are even homeless, migrating from stage to stage like the Wandering Jew of medieval legend. Sadly, one of our more prestigious professional companies has just joined the ranks of the homeless.
For some years now the classical music world has been all abuzz with news of ensembles reaching out beyond the usual performance venues and taking the classics places where they've never been before. The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra's "Liquid Music" series, for example, includes performances in downtown bars and partnerships with pop and rock ensembles, while New York City's Le Poisson Rouge has become a popular spot for just about every possible type of music from hip-hop to the classics. Locally The Chamber Project St. Louis is leading the non-traditional charge.
Here's your guide to what's up on local stages. Yeah, the summer season is winding down, but there's still a lot going on right through the Labor Day weekend. Let me know if I left anything out or got anything wrong.
Who: The Webster University Film Series
What: Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay
When: Tonight and Sunday at 7:30 PM; also Friday through Sunday at 7:30 PM, August 30-September 1
Where: The Winifred Moore Auditorium, 470 East Lockwood
Why: OK, I realize I'm stepping out of my usual niche by writing about film. But I got started in Show Biz as a magician performing for children's parties and the like. I even won a trophy for my card act at a Society of American Magicians conference when I was 14 (we had to use gaslight back then) (yes, that's a joke). I don't make things disappear any more (except for my hairline) but I've never lost my love for the work of great magicians, and Ricky Jay is one of the best. Maybe the best.
Who: The Creative Ministry Of St. Peter's UCC
What: The Jeweltones in concert
When: Tonight at 7:00 PM
Where: St. Peter's United Church of Christ, 1425 Stein Road (at West Florissant Ave.) in Ferguson, MO
Why: The Jeweltones are Jenn Clodi, Kathy Fugate, Amalia LaViolette, Kay Love, and Connie Mulch. They're an a capella vocal ensemble old friends with substantial musical theatre credentials, which sets them apart from other groups and gives them a theatrical edge.
Labor Day weekend will shortly signal the end of the summer theatre season, but there are still good shows out there. My recommendations this weekend include new plays by a St. Louis actor and playwright going for the directorial hat trick, classic operatic sex and violence (because, as Anna Russell noted, you can get away with anything if you sing it), and a complex four-character drama.
Who: The Cabaret Project of St. Louis and media sponsor 88.1 KDHX
What: Cabaret open mic night
When: Tonight from 7 to 10 PM
Where: The Tavern of Fine Arts, 313 Belt between Pershing and Waterman
Why: Since last May, Carol Schmidt and I have been hosting The Cabaret Project's monthly open mic night for cabaret singers here in Mound City. I'm the MC and Carol presides over the baby grand. Over the last year or so, it has become the destination of choice for local performers trying out new material, new talent, and audience members who want to connect with the burgeoning cabaret scene here.
The theatre has been pretty good to St. Louis actor and playwright Steve Peirick lately. As an actor, he's gotten good reviews in roles as diverse as Fr. Flynn in John Patrick Shanley's Doubt at Kirkwood Theatre Guild, Joe Pitt in Tony Kushner's Angels in America at Stray Dog, Dorian in the local premiere of Opus at West End Players Guild, and Mrs. Forrest in Charles Busch's Psycho Beach Party at Stray Dog. As a playwright, he's seen his one-acts produced in nine states as well as at the 2012 St. Lou Fringe Festival. His full-length comedy Wake Up, Cameron Dobbs has been produced by both West End (where it copped a St. Louis Theatre Circle Award nomination for Outstanding New Play) and Meramec Community College. This weekend he's going for the hat trick.