Harrison Kaplan has been active in theater in the Midwest Region for the past 40 years, performing in numerous lead and character roles since he was knee high to a footlight. Harry, as his friends call him, lives for the smell of the greasepaint and the roar of the crowd!
Playwright Edward Bond parodies, skewers, and otherwise upends the restoration comedies so familiar to theatre-goers with his work RESTORATION. It's a wickedly funny piece that attempts to make some sense of how and why the division of wealth was so unbalanced (sound familiar, it should be since we're there again today), allowing the seemingly useless to rule their ivy covered roosts, replete with lush gardens and enough ornate clothing to allow for a costume change for some characters for every scene. St. Louis Shakespeare has mounted a wonderfully amusing production that also makes you think and that's a rarity these days.BWW Reviews: Muny Closes 2011 Season with Spirited Production of BYE BYE BIRDIE August 10, 2011
Audiences will probably be more familiar with the 1963 film version of BYE BYE BIRDIE from its innumerable screenings on television, with Dick Van Dyke, Ann Margaret, Janet Leigh, Maureen Stapleton and Paul Lynde all making vivid impressions under George Sidney's direction. But, seeing it live really is a special treat, especially on the expansive Muny stage. Opening night even provided the most gloriously mild weather one could have hoped for to enjoy this oft-played, but rarely perfected delight. Charles Strouse and Lee Adams wrote a number of memorable songs for this musical, and Michael Stewart's lightweight, but entertaining script which mixes romance and a satire on the cult of personality is a fairly sturdy framework to hang them upon. Happily, the production currently playing at the Muny is well worth your time and attention, and certainly beats seeing the film again for the umpteenth time.BWW Reviews: Max & Louie Productions Powerful and Disturbing Presentation of THRILL ME: THE LEOPOLD AND LOEB STORY August 9, 2011
The story of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb has been written about and filmed on a few separate occasions, most notably with Alfred Hitchcock's version of Patrick Hamilton's play, Rope (shot in single film reel length takes as an added novelty), and with Meyer Levin's more fictionalized account Compulsion, which was also made into a noteworthy movie. Of course, there were many others that co-opted the ideas present in their terrible tale, but playwright/composer Stephen Dolginoff's THRILL ME: THE LEOPOLD AND LOEB STORY, just may be the most potent, presenting their saga as a 'pocket musical' that's harrowing, haunting and disturbing all at the same time.BWW Reviews: NonProphet Theater Co. Provides Raunchy Adult Fun with DEBBIE DOES DALLAS-THE MUSICAL August 5, 2011
Debbie Does Dallas was a ground-breaking bit of sordid celluloid that ushered in an era of amateur pornography, where a pimply ass was not something to be ashamed of, but something to be celebrated, sort of. And it was a time when you could watch this kind of stuff at home without the fear of anyone seeing you walk out of a dingy, sticky-floored theatre like the old Fine Arts. Turning this bit of adult-oriented goofiness into a full-fledged musical is an inspired notion, and happily we have NonProphet Theatre Company to thank (and I truly mean that) for unleashing the peculiarly amusing aberration that is DEBBIE DOES DALLAS - THE MUSICAL on the stage-going public here in St. Louis.BWW Reviews: Rambunctious Production's SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS - Entertaining and Engaging August 3, 2011
When the 1954 musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was initially adapted for the stage it didn't meet with much success on Broadway back in the early 1980's (film director Joshua Logan had actually optioned the story for a stage musical). Yes, it's yet another adaptation culled from the big screen, which has been par for the course at The Muny this season, although to be fair, most of them have fared quite well, and actually, with its old fashioned themes, original CinemaScope filming, and rustic backdrops, this one fits the huge Muny boards like a glove, allowing the natural beauty of the trees that grace the back area of the stage to fill in for the frontier setting as realized by Steve Gilliams' scenic design. It's also an energetic, dance driven show that's both entertaining and engaging.BWW Reviews: Union Avenue Opera's LA CENERENTOLA (CINDERELLA) Enchants August 2, 2011
Jacopo Ferretti (libretto) and Gioachino Rossini's (composer) re-imagining of the fairy tale LA CENERENTOLA (CINDERELLA) is a clever and charming take on the original work that's suitable entertainment for the entire family. Apparently, the self-described 'jocular drama' was initially met with some hostility when it debuted in 1817, but has gone on to be a very popular piece, adding a number of neat little tweaks to the story, and offering up a wonderful leading part for a coloratura contralto that actually reaches the range of mezzo soprano. Union Avenue Opera's current production is delight, with strong, engaging performances driving this familiar, but reworked classic.NonProphet Theatre Company Presents DEBBIE DOES DALLAS - THE MUSICAL 8/4-20 July 28, 2011
The NonProphet Theater Company presents the second show of their fifth theater season DEBBIE DOES DALLAS - THE MUSICAL by Erica Schmidt, Andrew Sherman & Susan L. Schwartz August 4 - August 20, 2011, Thursdays - Saturdays at 8pm, plus Sunday, August 14th at 5pm at the Regional Arts Commission, 6128 Delmar Blvd., St. Louis, Missouri 63112. Tickets are $20 general admission, $15 for students (with a valid ID) and seniors 55 and older.BWW Reviews: Stages St. Louis' Touching Production of THE SECRET GARDEN July 28, 2011
Frances Hodgson Burnett's work, THE SECRET GARDEN, was initially serialized before being published in 1911 and becoming a children's classic. Several attempts by Hollywood have tried to capitalize on it's dramatic and hope-filled story, with the 1949 MGM adaptation, starring Margaret O'Brien, wonderfully changing from black and white into full-blown technicolor as the garden is revealed in all it's splendor. However. most folks today will probably be more familiar with the the rather staid, but thoughtful motion picture made in 1993, which was fairly well mounted. This current stage adaptation is far more appealing in any number of ways, with stronger acting and a memorably performed score being among the many highlights that are attractive to an audience interested in the material.BWW Reviews: St. Louis Shakespeare's THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR - Generally Fine July 28, 2011
It's been speculated that Queen Elizabeth I enjoyed the character of Falstaff so much she asked Shakespeare to write something else with him in it. Thus, we have one of the earliest examples of a sequel of sorts with THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR. Though it definitely lacks brevity, it's an amusing trifle for the most part, and St. Louis Shakespeare has put together a generally fine production of the play.
BWW Reviews: Tasty Production of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS Graces The Muny Stage July 28, 2011
I'm a big fan of lowbrow horror and science fiction films, especially those made between the 1930's and late 1970's, and I've always enjoyed the work of cult director/producer Roger Corman. The original 1960 film version of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, was supposedly shot in four days, and it downright bristles with a sense of energy and cheap thrills, even though the budget was a mere pittance compared to what's spent on the blockbusters we witness today. Howard Ashman (book and lyrics) and Alan Menken (music) took the basic premise put forward by writer Charles Griffith and crafted a very clever and funny off-Broadway musical which, in turn, spawned a rather lackluster and overblown movie version. So, it was with some trepidation that I looked forward to The Muny's current production. It's simply not a big splashy affair, and it would seem to benefit most from a smaller venue. Happily, they do the show justice, and the expansive stage that allows for larger production numbers doesn't get in the way of the simpleness of the story.
BWW Reviews: The Muny's Delightful and Tuneful Production of SINGIN' IN THE RAIN July 22, 2011
The movie version of SINGIN' IN THE RAIN is one of my all-time favorites. It has such an upbeat feel and infectious sense of humor that it's almost disappointing when you finish watching it, step outside, and it isn't raining. Happily, the stage version retains a great deal of the tone and vivacity that the movie contains, even though this kind of reverse-engineering usually winds up a mixed bag at best. But, The Muny's current production, even with the sweltering heat we're currently enduring, is worth braving the broiling for, with winning performances and a bevy of familiar hummable tunes that haven't lost a bit of their original charm.BWW Reviews: The Muny's Colorful and Splashy Production of THE LITTLE MERMAID July 14, 2011
When initially transforming Hans Christian Andersen's fairytale THE LITTLE MERMAID into an animated film, Disney provided an instant classic that was a smash hit with children and adults (and was a key player in their animation revival). But the transition to the stage proved more troublesome and cumbersome, reworking many plot elements, inserting about a dozen or so songs, and adding about an hour to the film's 80 minutes or so (depending on the version is being viewed) running time. While there's no denying that the audience who braved the heat and humidity in vast numbers at The Muny to see this colorful spectacle had a good time, there's also no denying that a good deal of the original's charm was somehow lost in the process.BWW Reviews: Union Avenue Opera's Stirring Production of TURANDOT July 12, 2011
The Union Avenue Opera begins season seventeen with Giacomo Puccini's classic, and final work, TURANDOT (with libretto by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni), and it's an excellent production buoyed by several fine performances. The opera itself combines the exotic, the romantic, and the poignant in Puccini's dynamic score, and the orchestra, conducted by artistic director Scott Schoonover is in fine fettle with their achievements here. Although Puccini died with only about two-thirds of the material finished, it's certainly engaging from start to finish, and appears to be a fully realized piece.BWW Reviews Citilites Theatre Presents Captivating Production of SONGS FROM AN UNMADE BED July 11, 2011
Citilites Theatre presents a late night show, making a sort of double bill for theatre patrons after they take in THE CRUMPLE ZONE, with the short musical, SONGS FROM AN UNMADE BED. Fortunately, it's well worth staying over for (although I took in a Sunday matinee performance), featuring a terrific performance from Justin Ivan Brown. It's a collection of eighteen songs by various composers, but all featuring the pithy and amusing lyrics of Mark Campbell. The brevity of the show, which runs about an hour, is perfectly suited to the material, and easily outshines the production that plays before it.BWW Reviews: Citilities Theatre's THE CRUMPLE ZONE Fails to Spark July 11, 2011
Buddy Thomas takes the typical trappings of a romantic triangle and places them in a rundown New York apartment somewhere in Staten Island, with the twist here being that all the participants (in the triangle) are gay. THE CRUMPLE ZONE certainly has some entertaining moments and a few memorable lines, but unfortunately, it fails to spark. Part of this is the play itself, which recycles the situation with little verve or panache, and part of it is due to a lackluster presentation that's just a little too loose in execution, despite a fairly sharp cast, to succeed. Citilities Theatre is currently producing this fairly recent work as part of a double night of theatre, with SONGS FROM AN UNMADE BED taking the stage about a half hour after the initial show ends. I didn't see it in that manner, but those who do will find the latter far more engaging.Gateway Festival Orchestra Launches 48th Season Beginning 7/10 July 10, 2011
DANNY AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA is an early piece by playwright John Patrick Shanley, but you wouldn't know it, since it's filled with the same kind of crackling dialogue and troubled characters that populate most of his work. I was reminded more than once of Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler's classic composition 'Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea', not just because of the obvious similarities between the titles, but due to Koehler's lyrics like: 'I don't want you/but I hate to lose you' and 'I want to cross you off my list/but when you come knocking at my door/fate seems to give my heart a twist/and I come running back for more'. Those words really seem to fit this pair of damaged individuals who are searching for something positive in their lives, despite their inability to connect with anyone, at least until they meet up with one another. The NonProphet Theatre Company's presentation is a real stunner, powered by two great performances that make it must-see viewing.BWW Reviews: The Muny's Lively Production of KISS ME KATE June 29, 2011
Following closely on the heels of Shakespeare Festival St. Louis' sparkling 1950's update of THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, audiences at the Muny get the unique opportunity to compare and contrast the original with the musical remake as KISS ME KATE takes the stage in wondrous fashion. The chance to hear a swinging ensemble play Cole Porter's terrific score is reason enough to take in this production of Kiss Me Kate, but when you add in the eye-catching costumes, enthusiastic performances and lively dance numbers, you have the complete package.BWW Reviews: Stages St. Louis's Howlingly Funny Production of 101 DALMATIANS June 28, 2011
The stage version of 101 DALMATIANS differs greatly from the original 1961 Disney film classic, but the changes are smart ones that focus our attention more on the evil villain of the piece, Cruella De Vil, rather than on a lengthy, suspense filled chase through snowy woods and icy ponds, which really wouldn't translate well to the stage anyway. Instead we're left with a brisk piece of family-friendly entertainment that's not only delightful, but never dull in the least. Stages St. Louis is presenting a wonderfully realized production of this material that features a terrific cast singing and barking their hearts out.BWW Reviews: Muddy Waters Continues Season of Paula Vogel with THE MINEOLA TWINS June 22, 2011
Muddy Water Theatre continues their season devoted to playwright Paula Vogel with her work THE MINEOLA TWINS, and it's an interesting piece that covers a period of around 40 years in the lives of two very different twins, Myra and Myrna. The play is, at times, very funny and wryly examines the changing roles of women during the time that's covered, focusing primarily on three different presidential terms, including those of Eisenhower, Nixon and George Bush, Sr. It's certainly no coincidence that those are all conservative eras, and it definitely skews the attitudes and humor that abound. This production is amusing and occasionally touching, and it's definitely worth a look.