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.
"Ain’t Misbehavin’" - 2 little words, 5 little syllables conjuring up Fats Waller’s vibrant songbook.
Victoria Grant (Janna Cardia) is a divorced, unemployed opera singer who is hungry and cold when she wanders into Chez Lui late one night. There she meets Caroll “Toddy” Todd (David Schmittou), a kindly gentleman who stands her to a hot chocolate and brandy (which is for him) over the protestations of the officious manager, Henri Labisse (James Beaman) who sounds like Inspector Clouseau. Labisse reminds Toddy of his outstanding tab, incurring one of his many minor injuries played for laughs. It is Paris, 1934, and several lives are about to change.
A reverie more than a drama, this production is enthralling. The simple story line is interspersed with dream sequences, incantations and other ethereal elements. This musical ignites our imagination with its hypnotic score by Lucy Simon. Beguiling Irish rhythms compete with plaintive airs. The lush design elements immerse us in an opulent fairy tale juxtaposed with morbid reality. The surrealistic design of Marsh Norman’s libretto prevents the play from wallowing in melodrama. Director Michael Hamilton pulls it all together.