Marissa Mulder's "The Songs of Tom Waits," which had its premiere last March at New York's Metropolitan Room under the more accurately descriptive title "Tom…In His Words," comes to The Gaslight Cabaret Festival dripping with praise. In a profile of Ms. Mulder in the current issue of Cabaret Scenes, Stephen Hanks reports that the show "drew rave reviews from almost the entire New York Cabaret press, including Stephen Holden of the New York Times who called it 'Far and away the season's best cabaret show'." Mr. Hanks himself calls it "surprisingly stunning."
There's a contemporary swagger present in the Fox Theatre's current production of "Jersey Boys" that slides smoothly into the history of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. The combination works well, resulting in a smart, snappy production that thoroughly entertains. Openly addressing the influence of perspective and self-interest, the show also avoids self-reverence, even as it keeps the conflict light.
Ah, bliss! Here's a toast to the post-WWI, emerging from the Depression leisure class. Particularly when they are as delightfully portrayed as by the student actors in Washington University's "You Can't Take It with You." The show breezes along, and right past, the bleak realities of the period with a joyful self-indulgence. And, as pithy as the title may seem, there is, after all, a genuine truth hiding underneath the straightforward statement.
I've always maintained that actors in general and musical theatre actors in particular have something of a head start when it comes to cabaret. They already know how to give meaning to a lyric and how to connect with an audience. As evidence, I offer up Ken Page's "Old, New, Borrowed, and Blue," which kicked off The Presenters Dolan's Gaslight Cabaret Festival on February 20 and 21.
Some family secrets are mere trifles, intended to spare hurt feelings. Others are meant to secure someone's place in the family tree or inheritance. And then, there are those family secrets that cause deep hurt and lasting damage. The Repertory Theater's "Other Desert Cities" falls decidedly in the latter.
Playwright Brian Friel, best known for "Dancing at Lughnasa," wrote "Lovers" fairly early in his career. It's now being produced by West End Players Guild under Jan Meyer's sure-handed direction.
The story of the community of Gee's Bend, Alabama, its origins and struggles, is an interesting and important square in the American quilt. That this small community also contributed to the American folk art movement in significant ways with their own quilts adds an amazing layer of beauty and warmth. Mustard Seed Theatre's production may lack a bit in vibrant colors and conflict, but the show is grounded with memorable performances and dramatic tension.
Audiences at the beautiful Peabody Opera House were treated to a brief escape from the winter's chill in St. Louis with a warm and inviting production of "Man of La Mancha" from Chasing Windmills LLC. The cast is strong throughout and the story an interesting and engaging interpretation of Cervantes life, as well as his most famous tale.
Though "The Little Dog Laughed" is filled with biting and insightful humor that keeps the audience laughing along, I can't remember the last time a "happy ending" made me feel so blue. The short scenes, well defined characters and sharp direction complement Douglas Carter Beane's Tony Award winning play in Stray Dog Theatre's enjoyable production.
Nine years ago I fell in love with an adorable musical when it came to the Fox. It was "Mamma Mia!" and I loved it not just because of its engaging and imaginative music, but because the story was a lovely old-fashioned romantic situation-comedy, simply and economically told with sensitivity and moderation. Well, that old flame is back in town, and God, how she's changed. Nine years ago I left the Fox full of warmth, with just the gentlest sweet hint of heartache. This time it was more like heart-burn: "Mamma Mia!", that'sa one spicy meatball! Quick, the Alka Seltzer!
Upstream Theater's poignant production of "Forget Me Not" explores the little known history of non-humanitarian child migration. The story is one of sorrow, regret and pain, and the company does not gloss over this hard truth or the lasting damage this policy inflicted on countless children.
The Black Rep's production of the near iconic "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf" is a vibrant interpretation that keeps the focus squarely on the material and performances. Based on the 1975 choreopoem by Ntozake Shange, the production features 20 spoken word poems interwoven with choreography, as voiced by seven formidable actresses and musician Jeff Anderson.
For the second time in less than a year, St. Louis audiences have the opportunity to see Matthew Lopez's "The Whipping Man," a fine script that has now received two excellent productions. The Black Repertory Theatre put it on in 2013 to great acclaim, making many "Best Of the Year" lists and receiving several Critics' Circle Nominations. New Jewish Theatre's version that opened last night (Jan. 30) matches that level of excellence, and due primarily to directorial choices, occasionally surpasses it.