As far as this Broadway fan is concerned, it doesn't get much better than classic Andrew Lloyd Weber, except maybe when he's paired with lyricist Tim Rice. Their very first collaboration, the exuberant classic "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," returned to the Fox last night for a two week run, directed and choreographed by Tony® Award-winner Andy Blankenbuehler.
Pedro Calderon de la Barca is often called "the Spanish Shakespeare". His play, "Life is a Dream", is enjoying a superb production at SIU Edwardsville. This play, from 1635, is one of the brightest gems of the Golden Age of Spanish Drama. I thank the gods for university theatres; they seem the only producers who have the desire and the ability to present such classical wonders.
How often have you seen a modern play that was not written in America or England? Most St. Louis companies produce them rarely or never. How can we not be provincial in our outlook if we close our eyes and ears to most of the world? Phillip Boehm's Upstream Theater is a precious bulwark against that provincialism: they do only international plays. And they do them very well.
I went to "Blue Man Group" at the Peabody last night and my eyes, my ears, my intelligence, my taste and my patience were all violently assaulted. This sort of production is aimed at audiences who won't be satisfied unless they're left staggering out the doors, reeling from sensory overload.
The Webster Conservatory has mounted a simply terrific "Into the Woods"! I always say that your best bang for the buck in entertainment comes from university theatres—and the Conservatory is right at the top of my list when it comes to unfailingly excellent musical theatre.
What can one make of "Hamlet"? Last night I learned that if someone is very intelligent and gifted she can "Make Hamlet" into a refreshing, gripping delight.
The Washington University Performing Arts Department production of "Twelfth Night" is a well-acted, well-interpreted production that does a lot to please its audience. The set and lighting design, by Quinlan Maggio and Sean M. Savoie, is simple, location, time and mood are suggested by projected shadows of bar tops and palm trees, as well as simple tables and benches. This simplicity by design helps to keep the long show moving at an enjoyable pace, energizing the actors and ensuring the audience remains engaged.
A clever gear, perhaps a machine of some sort, but represented as a clock, sets the stage for the imaginative and inventive "Unsorted," a children's show from the Metro Theater Company. The actors, in costumes that cleverly represent piles of specific clothing types, are each expressive and emotionally warm. Their colorful garb, broadly emphatic gestures and friendly vocal tones create an inviting, engaging show for young audiences.
The University of Missouri -- St. Louis department of Theatre, Dance and Media Studies brought heart and compassion to their production of "The Laramie Project" April 10 through April 13, 2014. The clarity and voice of the production stood out, and was nicely complemented by the technical design.
It's been two-and-a-half years since Deanna Jent's remarkable play, "Falling", premiered at the Mustard Seed Theatre. This has been a busy time for Ms. Jent and her play. An off-Broadway production in 2012 was met with glowing reviews (and a nomination for a Drama Desk Award for "Outstanding Play"). "Falling" was produced in Los Angeles in 2013 and is appearing all over the country this year. Next year Brazil!
When I went to grad school at the University of Leeds in England—way back in 1960—some of the theatre folks there still told tales of a "crazy Nigerian" student who used to hang by his heels at cast parties. Well, that crazy Nigerian was Wole Soyinka and he went on to become one of Africa's greatest playwrights and novelists. In 1986 he received the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Lovely and heartfelt, “Once” tells the story of two musicians who share a deeply profound love that can only be expressed through songs. This beautifully staged and performed tale is bittersweet and softly played in gentle melodies and pure harmonies, with just the right mix of Irish and Czech-influenced folk traditions.
The title of actor/singer Taylor Pietz's show "If I Only Had a Brain" is somewhat deceptive. She not only clearly has a brain, she has put it to good use concocting a fresh, funny, and polished cabaret evening that gave the old "this is my life" school of cabaret a quirky, self-effacing spin.
Kimber Lee's "brownsville song (b-side for tray)" opens on a bare, harshly illuminated stage. Lena (Cherene Snow), a middle-aged African-American woman, is in pain. A resident of the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, Lena has been working two jobs and doing everything she can to raise her two grandchildren properly. Now the older, Tray (John Clarence Stewart), has been gunned down stupidly and senselessly simply because he was standing too close to his gangbanger friend Junior (Joshua Boone).
When the lights come up on Lucas Hnath’s compelling idea-rich drama “The Christians,” the Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Pamela Brown auditorium is instantly transformed into the sanctuary of a typical Christian mega-church, complete with video screens, an organ, and a choir.
Devised theatre can be many things, created in many ways. Unpredictability is its most predictable quality. You simply have to go to find out and the quality of what you find can vary widely, from the banal and boring to the brilliant.
Webster University’s Conservatory program, “A Reconsolidated Life: A Devised Piece” deserves a full two-week run of its own – it is just that good.
Clare (Annie Purcell) is an aspiring chef married to Paul (David Ross), an IT manager for a New York City law firm. She loves trying out new recipes on her best friend Ezra (Kasey Mahaffy) and his boyfriend Brady (LeRoy McClain), who teaches "at risk" kids. Ezra wants to start a Tex-Mex food truck business with Clare. She, in turn, wants him to marry Brady. When Clare gets an unexpected financial windfall as a result of a long-forgotten class-action lawsuit, She, Paul, and Ezra find themselves faced with some tricky choices.
A lot of talent went into the Actors Theatre of Louisville and SITI Company’s co-production of "Steel Hammer"—and I'm not just talking about the gifted, versatile, and physically robust six-person cast.
It may be trite to say that big things come in small packages, but as a description of this short (45 minute) trio of one-acts, it's also completely true.
This weekend, I was lucky enough to experience two new experiences that I thoroughly enjoyed: the Humana Festival of New American Plays, presented by the Actors Theatre of Louisville, and posting short, “in the moment” video blog reviews of the five plays I attended. I enjoyed both experiences very much, and plan to add more video reviews to my repertoire, watch for them over the coming months.
Every Humana Festival has a late night show that features the members of the Acting Apprentice Company. In previous years, the format has been an evening of short plays with a common theme.
As Jordan Harrison's play begins, ten-year-old Kai (Matthew Stadelmann) is enthralled when his grandfather (Paul Niebanck) tells him a story about a magical doorknob fashioned from a crystal eye of the mermaid figurehead from an ancient ship. Pop the doorknob off, his grandfather tells him, and place it on another door, and that door will magically take you somewhere else.
Neil Simon's "Laughter on the 23rd Floor" is a memory play. A writer remembers his younger days and the people he worked with on his first job in the big time.