Stages St. Louis opens its 29th season with a rousing, toe-tapping, finger-snapping production of "Smokey Joe's Café," a musical revue celebrating the songs of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The selected numbers, from the nascent days of rock-n-roll, represent a variety of styles that continue to have an influence on popular music today. Throughout the evening, the audience is treated to skillful productions featuring the steady rhythms and harmonies of swing, heartfelt ballads and sultry torch songs, high-energy rock numbers, and powerful soul tunes.
"Fiddler on the Roof" is a classic of American Musical Theatre, book by Joseph Stein, music by Jerry Bock, and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick. The story of Tevye and his family in 1905 Tsarist Russia is—as the lyrics of its song, "Sunrise, Sunset" says—laden with happiness and tears.
You might think that a show like "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," which was widely regarded as a timely musical satire when it opened on Broadway in 1961, would now look pretty dated. And you'd be wrong, as the big, bright, and tremendously entertaining Stages production clearly demonstrates.
It has been over three decades since I saw the 1979 Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager musical "They're Playing Our Song" on tour at the old American Theatre. I remembered it as a funny, sweet, and charming little show but, of course, memory is an unreliable witness. Is it as good as my memory said it was? And does the new Stages production do it justice?
I should state up front that I was never a fan of the late country singer Patsy Cline. I didn't dislike her music; I was indifferent towards it.
At times, it was if the stage almost shimmered. The audience applauded the set (well, the costumes really) twice and the singing and dancing were spectacular. Despite a three-hour length, a few draggy parts in Act II while plot points are getting sorted out, and one of the most familiar stories in the world, we loved it all. Michael Hamilton’s "My Fair Lady" is the most beautiful show I’ve seen this year, and it is a lot more than just a pretty face.
To say that Stages St. Louis' production of "Legally Blonde" sparkles seems an understatement, the musical is big and confident, filled with bright lights, pink glitter and, yes, sparkle. The production never takes itself too seriously, however, and the actors work together well, keeping the emphasis on the plot's familiar twists while delivering smart, endearing performances.
Fifty years after her untimely death, the music of Patsy Cline is as beloved as ever, and her influence is still present in both country and pop music. In Stages current production, the voice of Patsy Cline is strong, clear and vibrant, filled with life, laughter and at least a couple of Schlitz beers. It's no wonder, then, that she and her friend Louise Seger are playing to sold out audiences night after night.
The minute C.K. Edwards, Richard Riaz Yoder and Boris York as the New Rhythm Boys stepped or I should say glided onto the stage, my musical loving side knew it was in good hands.