I first saw "Riffs in a Set of 10"—veteran St. Louis actor/director Chris Limber's loving and literate tribute to the hipster attitude of the "Beat Generation"—last summer at the St. Lou Fringe Festival. At the time I was pretty much blown away by the way this ingenious hybrid jazz/cabaret act knitted together big band and Great American Songbook classics from the 20s through the 40s with Mr. Limber's original image-rich poetic soliloquies that sounded like they would have been right at home coming from a skinny guy with a goatee, black turtleneck, and shades in an underground coffeehouse circa 1958.
A wise friend once said, "The older I get, the better my childhood becomes." In other words, if we're lucky, perspective comes with age. That thought came to mind throughout Ken Haller's cabaret show "Mama's Boy," which premiered on October 30 as part of the Gaslight Cabaret Festival at the Gaslight Theater in St. Louis.
Mabel Mercer Award–winning cabaret artist Steve Ross has a long and happy relationship with St. Louis, going back to the early days of the Grandel Cabaret Series. He was one of the first performers to be featured by Jim Dolan's Presenters Dolan organization when it got off the ground many years ago, so his appearance last weekend at Jim's Gaslight Cabaret Festival had something of the feel of a homecoming.
What's the essence of cabaret? Partly it's what my friend Ken Haller (no mean cabaret artist himself) calls the art of telling stories through song. But equally essential, as Karen Mason's show demonstrates, are the arrangements used to tell those stories.
Storm Large (yes, that's her real name) seems to be a one-woman entertainment conglomerate: rock star, author, actor, songwriter, and creator of the much-praised one-woman show "Crazy Enough" (based on her memoir of the same name).
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.
In an interview earlier this week, I asked Emily Bergl what it was about her approach to cabaret that set it apart from more traditional shows. "I'm presenting a complete evening of entertainment," she replied, "with a real narrative and lots of different characters. I don't assume that if I just sit on a stool and do a bunch of torch songs it's going to be fascinating. We like to entertain the folks!"
Killer Joe is a sordid, sick tale of violence, depravity, greed, drugs, nudity and sex all set in a Texas trailer park, peopled by the disturbingly dysfunctional Smith family and their hired gun – a cop by day, a hit man by night - Killer Joe.
Branch Rickey was a colorful, stubborn, dedicated man who lived baseball to the point of obsession and is credited with single handedly integrating the game. With a story like that you would expect a two hour performance of Rickey's years in baseball to fly by. That's what I expected. I was wrong.