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BWW Reviews: Opera Theatre of St. Louis' Unique and Amusing Take on THE BARBER OF SEVILLE Review BWW Reviews: Opera Theatre of St. Louis' Unique and Amusing Take on THE BARBER OF SEVILLE
by Chris Gibson - May 28, 2015

I think I bring this up every time I write about an opera, but it's just so funny to me that most of my early exposure to the medium came through films that I saw on TV when I was kid. Whether it was an Our Gang short (the one where Alfalfa wants to give up crooning to become an opera singer), a Bugs Bunny cartoon (Carl Stallings frequently drew from famous classical works), or even something from Tom and Jerry, I was privy to melodies that would eventually work their way into my musical subconscious. That's just one of the reasons I found the Opera Theatre of St. Louis' production of THE BARBER OF SEVILLE so engaging. Add to that the fact that the brilliant, sexy, funny, and colorful films of Pedro Almodovar provided the inspiration for the look and feel of this particular presentation, and you have a match made in heaven. You should make it a point to catch all of the Opera Theatre's productions, because they're always innovative, and I especially recommend the wacky comic delights of composer Giochino Rossini's THE BARBER OF SEVILLE. (more...)


BWW Reviews: Shakespeare Festival St. Louis' ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA Review BWW Reviews: Shakespeare Festival St. Louis' ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA
by Chris Gibson - May 28, 2015

One of the joys of late Spring is taking in the latest offering by Shakespeare Festival St. Louis each year in Forest Park. There's just something truly special about sitting under the stars and watching the immortal bard's words come to life on stage. This year the play of choice is the tragedy ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA, which has the distinction of having more scenes than any other play he penned. It's also chock full of wonderful, poetic language, takes place in an exotic location (ancient Egypt), and makes a convincing argument for staying out of the affairs of the Middle East. This production is distinguished by some particularly excellent performances, as well as some wonderful stagecraft, but it may be a bit too verbose, and lacking in action, for its own good. (more...)


BWW Reviews: Terrific NJT's MY MOTHER'S LESBIAN JEWISH WICCAN WEDDING Review BWW Reviews: Terrific NJT's MY MOTHER'S LESBIAN JEWISH WICCAN WEDDING
by Chris Gibson - May 14, 2015

Could there be a better way for The New Jewish Theatre to end their "Chai" season than with a sparkling production of MY MOTHER'S LESBIAN JEWISH WICCAN WEDDING, which celebrates the choices we make as individuals in the way we choose to lead our lives? I think not. This is well crafted show that speaks to its audience on many levels (book, music and lyrics by David Hein and Irene Sankoff), covering such touchy subjects as faith, politics, and the genuine love two individuals can have for one another, with heartfelt sentiment and catchy tunes. It's often laugh out loud funny, but it also produced a tear or two, at least for me, all while tackling topics that are front and center in the country we live in, and globally as well. This is a fast-paced delight that should not be missed, with a wonderful cast, terrific direction, and some fine musicianship all on display for your viewing pleasure. (more...)


BWW Reviews: Dystopian Brilliance of AN INVITATION OUT by Mustard Seed Theatre Review BWW Reviews: Dystopian Brilliance of AN INVITATION OUT by Mustard Seed Theatre
by Chris Gibson - May 01, 2015

Mustard Seed Theatre has provided St. Louis theater-goers with a wonderful season full of premiers that have captivated and entertained audiences. They close with an astoundingly engaging and timely work by playwright Shualee Cook titled An Invitation Out. This fresh pieces utilizes the tropes established by writers like Shaw and Wilde, but instead of an English drawing room, we find ourselves transported to the virtual reality of a chat room in the near future. To me, this is a cautionary tale that beckons us to take a hard look at how intoxicating an imagined world can seem, especially when it allows individual participants to present themselves as they would like to be perceived , rather than as who they actually are. It's challenging and engaging, and though people who have a natural aversion to all things computer related may not get the point, they should make the effort to stick with this tale, because it's a type of reality that is fast becoming concrete in nature. (more...)


BWW Reviews: Fabulous Family Fun with the Black Rep's ONCE ON THIS ISLAND Review BWW Reviews: Fabulous Family Fun with the Black Rep's ONCE ON THIS ISLAND
by Chris Gibson - April 30, 2015

Parents often ask me where they can find 'family-friendly' shows to see, and judging by the small audience in attendance at the Edison Theatre for the Black Rep's terrific production of ONCE ON THIS ISLAND (by the award-winning duo of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty), they're unaware of the wonderful works that are out there just aching to be discovered. This fairytale (hence the play in the title on the standard 'Once upon a time' opening you often find in those types of stories) is simply delightful, and filled with a slew of catchy Caribbean-influenced songs that make up the score. I think it's truly a crime that this under-appreciated presentation is coming to a close this weekend, and I challenge anyone reading this review to get out and see it. You will certainly not be disappointed, in fact, you'll probably fall in love with it in the same way that my son and I did. (more...)


BWW Reviews: Provocative Production of ART by The St. Louis Actors' Studio Review BWW Reviews: Provocative Production of ART by The St. Louis Actors' Studio
by Chris Gibson - April 29, 2015

How many times have you heard someone say "my kid could have painted that" when referring to a particular piece of artwork. Art is something that has, and will always manage to, provoke different responses from different individuals. That's the true beauty and nature of it. Yasmina Reza's provocative script for her play ART (translation by Christopher Hampton) looks at those subjective perspectives, but it also examines relationships, and how they can become fractured when disagreements occur. It's equal parts amusing, thought provoking, and touching, and the St. Louis Actors' Studio has put together an excellent production of ART that is certainly worthy of your time and attention. (more...)


BWW Reviews: Excellent Production of THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER by Upstream Theater Review BWW Reviews: Excellent Production of THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER by Upstream Theater
by Chris Gibson - April 21, 2015

In the director's notes for Upstream Theater's recent production of THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER, Patrick Siler mentions the fact that he was first exposed to Samuel Taylor Coleridge's work when he was around ten years of age. Interestingly enough, I brought my nine year old along with me so that he could experience this wonderful classic for the first time. And, what he saw was an absolutely amazing production, adapted by Siler with original music composed and performed by Sleepy Kitty. What a great introduction to a timeless piece. From the excellent musical accompaniment, which was simply beyond cool, to the projected images of Gustave Dore's original wood-engraved illustrations, to the fabulous performance of the cast, this was a presentation that was truly special in every sense of the word. (more...)


BWW Reviews: Nostalgic I LOVE LUCY LIVE ON STAGE at the Peabody Opera House Review BWW Reviews: Nostalgic I LOVE LUCY LIVE ON STAGE at the Peabody Opera House
by Chris Gibson - April 21, 2015

When I was growing up, I Love Lucy was a morning television staple, even though it had been off the air for many years. Reality shows have since replaced pretty much all of the stuff I grew up on, at least on the major networks, but you can still find the re-runs on stations like Me TV, which cater to the boomer generation with their lineup of classic programs. If you were lucky enough to be at the Peabody Opera House this weekend (April 17-19, 2015), you had the opportunity to see a recreation of two episodes of this iconic show with their presentation of I LOVE LUCY LIVE ON STAGE. This touring production is one you should definitely check out if you're into nostalgia, or just need a good laugh. (more...)


BWW Reviews: Great Fun at The Fox with STOMP Review BWW Reviews: Great Fun at The Fox with STOMP
by Chris Gibson - April 13, 2015

One thing I really love about STOMP is that no matter how many times you've seen it, there are always a few new bits thrown in for you to enjoy. It's a constantly evolving show, although you can bet it will always begin with the troupe using their brooms to demonstrate how common items can be utilized to produce music and magic. Productions have been touring the world with various participants for so many years now that it's even become a touchstone for parents, who have already experienced it, to take their children to see it for the first time. My own son has seen it at least three times, but has grown to appreciate it even more as he's gotten older and more into music. The touring company that just passed through The Fabulous Fox Theatre (April 10-12, 2015) proved, once again, that the poly-rhythmic textures that reverberate in the venues they play overflow with a truly joyful noise that both amuses and delights. (more...)


BWW Reviews: Stray Dog Theatre's Riotous THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD Review BWW Reviews: Stray Dog Theatre's Riotous THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD
by Chris Gibson - April 09, 2015

If you're looking at the program for THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD, see the name Rupert Holmes (book, music, and lyrics) and are instantly reminded of the fact he wrote and sang the number one hit 'Escape (The Pina Colada Song'), you'll probably be a bit surprised at the production that you're about to watch. But, I guarantee you it will be a very pleasant one, because Holmes takes the tradition of circa 1890's English Music Hall and uses it in delightfully imaginative fashion to craft a vehicle for the unfinished last work of classic author Charles Dickens. It's a kind of play within a play, and in the cozy confines of the Tower Grove Abbey, it's an absolutely perfect fit. It brings the performers right into your lap, and it's so much fun that you can't help but get completely caught up in the merriment. This lively production by Stray Dog Theatre is sure to please, so get your tickets while you can! (more...)


BWW Reviews: The Rep's Hilarious VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE Review BWW Reviews: The Rep's Hilarious VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE
by Chris Gibson - April 01, 2015

Although a handful of playwrights have used elements from Anton Chekhov's canon of classics (such as Neil Simon's The Good Doctor), I can't think of any other writer who's displayed such ingenuity in incorporating bits and pieces from his work the way that Christopher Durang has in his play VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE. Referencing Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters, The Seagull, and The Cherry Orchard, Durang has put together a show that's so absurdly funny it hurts! It's not a parody of Chekhov, but instead neatly walks a tightrope that utilizes these traces in enjoyable and amusing ways that act to provide an intelligent depth that engages while it entertains. The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis closes their season on a gloriously high note that will make you wish their productions continued year round. Don't miss this hilarious show! (more...)


BWW Reviews: Funny and Touching BUYER & CELLAR by The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis Review BWW Reviews: Funny and Touching BUYER & CELLAR by The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
by Chris Gibson - April 01, 2015

Playwright Jonathan Tolins uses Barbra Streisand's book My Passion for Design as a jumping off point for his hilarious one man show BUYER & CELLAR. It's a fun-filled romp that fans of the lady with the magnificent voice, and questionable temperament, will find absolutely delightful. Even if you're not a fan, you'll enjoy this peek inside the peculiarities that are a part of this showbiz icon's lifestyle. The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis has fashioned a very enjoyable production that has been so popular that the run has been extended twice. See it for yourself and you'll know why. It's an amusing and often belly laugh inducing work that you should make every effort to check out! (more...)


BWW Reviews: The New Jewish Theatre's Compelling SIGHT UNSEEN Review BWW Reviews: The New Jewish Theatre's Compelling SIGHT UNSEEN
by Chris Gibson - March 27, 2015

Art is something that can be entirely subjective. Everyone can have their own opinion, with different people viewing a particular work and coming away with distinctly unique perspectives on its merit, or lack thereof. That's part of what makes SIGHT UNSEEN, by playwright Donald Margulies so intriguing. We're presented with a modern artist whose pieces are often categorized as obscene or shocking, although we're only allowed to glimpse an early canvas, so it's up to us to envision in our mind's eye the kind of product he has been creating that has presented him with such fame and success. And, like all people who work in the cultural arts fields, a muse is often instrumental in providing inspiration. When that muse is gone, does the work continue, and does it change? These elements are all examined quite thoughtfully in this play, and with an excellent cast and expert direction they come together in truly compelling fashion in The New Jewish Theatre's current production. (more...)


BWW Reviews: Metro Theater Company's Outstanding AFFLICTED: DAUGHTERS OF SALEM Review BWW Reviews: Metro Theater Company's Outstanding AFFLICTED: DAUGHTERS OF SALEM
by Chris Gibson - March 18, 2015

Playwright Laurie Brooks examines the events that led to the infamous Salem Witch Trials from a different perspective with her intriguing and thought-provoking work, AFFLICTED Daughters of Salem. Unlike Arthur Miller's masterpiece, The Crucible, this play focuses our attention solely on the young girls who wound up making the accusations that started the wheels in motion. What we're privy to are the private thoughts and desires of a group of young girls who meet in the woods under the moonlight with the mystical slave Tituba. What comes through is their unhappiness with the way they feel their individuality is being repressed by their strict Puritan community. Since they can see nearby Quakers experiencing a great deal more freedom, they've come to resent the way of life they feel has been imposed upon them. Metro Theater Company's production at the Missouri History Museum (through March 22, 2015) is a taut and vivid presentation that ends with the audience being asked specific questions as to whether these young women should be held accountable for their acts. Their response may shock you. It will certainly provide food for thought. (more...)


BWW Reviews: COCA Theatre Company's Extraordinary THE LITTLE PRINCE Review BWW Reviews: COCA Theatre Company's Extraordinary THE LITTLE PRINCE
by Chris Gibson - March 11, 2015

If you're looking for thoughtful entertainment that's suitable for children and adults then you should definitely check out the COCA Theatre Company's current production of THE LITTLE PRINCE based on the classic book by Antoine de Saint Exupery (music by Rick Cummins with book and lyrics by John Scoullar). Even if you've never read the story, you'll still be captivated by the whimsical, yet decidedly philosophical, journey of a little boy who travels the stars seeking answers while delivering certain truths. An excellent cast combines professional and non-professional actors who carry this material well. Best of all, there are stunning visual elements and musical numbers that act to enhance the overall experience. (more...)


BWW Reviews: New Line Theatre's Shocking and Superb JERRY SPRINGER THE OPERA Review BWW Reviews: New Line Theatre's Shocking and Superb JERRY SPRINGER THE OPERA
by Chris Gibson - March 11, 2015

I always know to expect the unexpected when I attend a production by New Line Theatre. Artistic Director Scott Miller has a gift for choosing shows that are consistently engaging, entertaining, and smartly cast and directed. Whether it's a revival of a classic or something of a more recent vintage, each receives the same special care and attention that makes the old seem new again, and makes you wonder why some of the newer material wasn't more successful during their initial runs. With JERRY SPRINGER THE OPERA, New Line brings us a St. Louis premier of a musical that has actually achieved a modicum of success (including a filmed staging in 2005), but it's not a choice that you're likely to find anywhere else in this region due to its adult nature and content. New Line is dedicated to taking those kind of risks. And, I'm so glad they are, because I love seeing presentations that push the envelope, especially when they're done so brilliantly. JERRY SPRINGER THE OPERA (music by Richard Thomas with book and lyrics by Stewart Lee and Thomas) delivers a unique, funny, tuneful, and completely tasteless parade of humanity that will win you over immediately. Prepare yourself to see opera from an entirely different perspective, in way that manages to stay true to the very tropes that define the genre, while turning them on their head with delicious blasphemy. (more...)


BWW Reviews: MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET Rocks the Fabulous Fox Theatre Review BWW Reviews: MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET Rocks the Fabulous Fox Theatre
by Chris Gibson - March 01, 2015

While it is certainly a fact that on December 4, 1956, Sun Records was host to an incredible gathering of talent (Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis), a listen to the actual recordings made that day were more along the lines of favorite folk and gospel numbers that the four shared in common. And though some of that does come through, the stage musical, MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET, utilizes this historic meeting as a jumping off point for an evening of truly classic rock and roll, with some other more reverent material sprinkled in for good measure. But honestly, a faithful recreation of the truth would be a bit of a letdown to most fans, so instead we're treated to a re-imagining that might bend the truth a bit (book by Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux), but only in the quest to give audiences a glimpse at what could have been. (more...)


BWW Reviews: St. Louis Actors' Studio's Stunning Production of WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? Review BWW Reviews: St. Louis Actors' Studio's Stunning Production of WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?
by Chris Gibson - February 19, 2015

Most people are familiar with WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?, undoubtedly playwright Edward Albee's masterpiece, from the film that starred Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor (released in 1966). But, seeing the play in person is a completely different experience, and one that's incredibly worthwhile, if harrowing at times. The St. Louis Actors' Studio is currently presenting an excellent production of this work that features strong performances and insightful direction. You'll forget all about the movie once you experience this show in the flesh. (more...)


BWW Reviews: Outstanding Production of THE WINSLOW BOY by The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis Review BWW Reviews: Outstanding Production of THE WINSLOW BOY by The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
by Chris Gibson - February 17, 2015

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis' artistic director, Steven Woolf, always has a knack for finding a classic, sometimes a neglected one, to present each season. This year it's Terence Rattigan's revered play THE WINSLOW BOY, which some will remember from various revivals and film versions (1948 & 1999), and which stands out as a dramatic piece fraught with injustice. It's a story, based on fact, that is still as relevant today as it was when it was written. A splendid cast and keenly sharpened direction combine to provide a very compelling piece of theatre. (more...)


BWW Reviews: Entertaining New Work WHITE TO GRAY at Mustard Seed Theatre Review BWW Reviews: Entertaining New Work WHITE TO GRAY at Mustard Seed Theatre
by Chris Gibson - February 12, 2015

Rob Maesaka, a St. Louis playwright, receives the opportunity to have one of his works premiered with Mustard Seed Theatre's presentation of his play, WHITE TO GRAY. It's an engaging piece of theatre that tells an interesting story that's dramatic and even occasionally funny at times. Judging a new play can sometimes be a challenge because it's unique; there's never been a production for the viewer to gauge it against. But for viewers and critics alike, that's the fun part of seeing something fresh. We have no expectations going in, so we're being engaged by the actors and playwright for the first time. On the whole, I would say this is an entertaining show that features a number of good performances, and it covers a period of time that is ripe with dramatic possibilities that the writer explores. Maesaka's play, and Mustard Seed's production of it is definitely worthy of your time and attention. (more...)


BWW Reviews: Stray Dog Theatre's Hilarious GOD OF CARNAGE Review BWW Reviews: Stray Dog Theatre's Hilarious GOD OF CARNAGE
by Chris Gibson - February 11, 2015

I first saw playwright Yasmina Reza's play, GOD OF CARNAGE, at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis before catching Roman Polanski's film adaptation (screenplay by Reza), which was simply called Carnage. It's an undeniably strong story that tells us a lot about how people behave, especially the feelings that we keep buried beneath the surface. Simply put, it's a comedy of manners that utilizes an unfortunate occurrence to bring together two sets of parents for a civilized discussion about the matter. But, once the alcohol begins to flow emotions and points of view start to skew in interesting directions that lift the veneer of civility. Stray Dog Theatre has put together an entertaining production of this fine work (translation by Christopher Hampton) that never fails to engage. A thoroughly game cast and sharp direction combine to produce superb theatre. (more...)


BWW Reviews: Upstream Theater's Remarkable BASHIR LAZHAR Review BWW Reviews: Upstream Theater's Remarkable BASHIR LAZHAR
by Chris Gibson - February 04, 2015

BASHIR LAZHAR, by Evelyne De La Cheneliere (translated into English by Morwyn Brebner) tells a fascinating story that will surely touch your heart, while making you think as well. Though primarily a one-man show (although there is a cameo appearance), this production benefits, as a lot of Upstream Theater shows have previously, from the presence of musician Farshid Soltanshahi. The combination of sensitive direction, an excellent portrayal, and an underscoring that communicates the mood and atmosphere of each scene, provideS the audience with a full sensory experience that has an almost cinematic, and I mean that in the best possible way, quality. This presentation is not to be missed; it's simply superlative theater, from a company that always gives its audience an entertaining and enlightening experience time after time. (more...)


BWW Reviews: Winter Opera St. Louis Shines with Rare Mascagni Review BWW Reviews: Winter Opera St. Louis Shines with Rare Mascagni
by Steve Callahan - January 29, 2015

Winter Opera St. Louis, after a brilliant production of 'Le Nozze di Figaro', continues its eighth season with a venture into less familiar fare - Pietro Mascagni's 'L'amico Fritz'. (more...)


BWW Reviews: The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis's Masterful Production of SAFE HOUSE Review BWW Reviews: The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis's Masterful Production of SAFE HOUSE
by Chris Gibson - January 27, 2015

America has a rich history, some of which, of course, we'd all prefer to forget. But, to ignore them can just lead to repeating them, and we all should know better than that by now. However, it's important that we continue to mine the events of the past in order to enlighten and provoke discussion. This is the very thing that Keith Josef Adkins' brilliant work SAFE HOUSE does with a considerable amount of power and conviction. It's a story set in Kentucky in 1843, when slavery was still very much a resident evil that ruled the land, even though there were African Americans who were freeborn. The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis is currently presenting this new play, and as they always seem to have a knack for doing, it's done in a completely compelling and infinitely memorable fashion that makes for a truly moving and enriching experience. (more...)


BWW Reviews: The New Jewish Theatre's Spellbinding IMAGINING  MADOFF Review BWW Reviews: The New Jewish Theatre's Spellbinding IMAGINING MADOFF
by Chris Gibson - January 27, 2015

There's no doubt in my mind that people who are familiar with the despicable actions of Bernie Madoff will never find it in their hearts to forgive the way he bilked so many trusting and innocent victims out of their life savings with his nefarious Ponzi schemes. And yet, with playwright Deborah Margolin's work, IMAGINING MADOFF, we're given an opportunity to examine in detail the man who concocted this plan. It's not that you feel any empathy or understanding for his motives, but that you see him as a real person, and not just another criminal elevated by the media due to his notorious actions. It's a really engaging and thought-provoking piece of theatre that exemplifies the kind of material that the New Jewish Theatre has become so well known for, and it's one that should not be missed at all costs. (more...)