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BWW Reviews: HAIRSPRAY is a Blast at The MUNY Review BWW Reviews: HAIRSPRAY is a Blast at The MUNY
by Chris Gibson - June 24, 2015

The MUNY continues its season with an exuberant and colorful staging of HAIRSPRAY, the musical based on filmmaker and author John Waters' most accessible, and mainstream, movie. Of course, the master of bad taste allowed some of the rougher edges to get smoothed over in the process, but the core messages of understanding and acceptance in the face of prejudice and intolerance is still present, and that's what's truly important. Get out while the weather is gorgeous and take in the MUNY's fabulous production of HAIRSPRAY! (more...)


BWW Reviews: SDT's Moving DOG SEES GOD Review BWW Reviews: SDT's Moving DOG SEES GOD
by Chris Gibson - June 17, 2015

With the complete commercialization (a score of TV commercials, a new movie coming out, etc.) of Charles Schulz's creation, Peanuts, it seems only fitting that there should be some kind of satirical look at these classic characters. I'm not convinced that Bert V. Royal's script for DOG SEES GOD: CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE BLOCKHEAD is completely successful at offering us a look at the teenage version of them, but it does tell a very poignant and moving story amidst a barrage of debauchery and unexpected behavior. I'm just not sure this story couldn't have been told just as effectively without them as reference points, but it does make the proceedings more interesting, to say the least. Stray Dog Theatre's current production makes the most of this uneven work by giving us committed performances that overcome their shallow stereotypes to actually make us feel true emotion. It's a surprising response that I was not prepared for. Go see this show and experience something much more thoughtful than what was, perhaps, intended. (more...)


BWW Reviews: MY FAIR LADY Shines at The MUNY Review BWW Reviews: MY FAIR LADY Shines at The MUNY
by Chris Gibson - June 17, 2015

MY FAIR LADY is a classic musical, and a perfect opening show for The Muny's 97th season. Even the threat of rain couldn't dampen the high spirits of this show, and in most unlikely fashion, the skies cleared and provided us with a terrific evening of song, dance, and romance. Based on G.B. Shaw's superb play Pygmalion, whose basic story has been reworked for all manner of media, there's no denying how well the concept still holds up. The incredibly memorable score (book & lyrics Alan Jay Lerner, music by Frederick Lowe), in combination with a marvelous cast, makes for a full evening of wit and charm. The Muny's production is truly an elegant must-see presentation! (more...)


BWW Reviews: EMMELINE Will Wring Your Heart at Opera Theatre of St. Louis Review BWW Reviews: EMMELINE Will Wring Your Heart at Opera Theatre of St. Louis
by Steve Callahan - June 17, 2015

This review was first published by KDHX 88-1 St. Louis. Opera Theatre of St. Louis has opened a very fine production of 'Emmeline,' by Tobias Picker, with libretto by J. D. McClatchy. This remarkable piece premiered at the Santa Fe Opera in 1996 to great praise. It was done at the New York City Opera in '98 (with much the same cast)—again to considerable praise. It was deemed one of the great modern operas. Except for two 'reduced version' productions the work lay fallow until this full-scale revival by Opera Theatre of St. Louis. (more...)


BWW Reviews: New Line Theatre's Sinister and Sizzling THE THREEPENNY OPERA Review BWW Reviews: New Line Theatre's Sinister and Sizzling THE THREEPENNY OPERA
by Chris Gibson - June 13, 2015

Originally adapted from John Gay's "The Beggar's Opera" with a writing collective Bertolt Brecht had formed, THE THREEPENNY OPERA, with Brecht's lyrics brought to life by Kurt Weill's inspired musical compositions, is a dark look at the underworld, oozing with depravity, and filled with a sense of desperation, neatly leavened by a sharpened satirical edge. New Line Theatre gives us this stage noir classic with all its wickedness intact. It's a pitch-black masterpiece that sucks you in with its nightmarish charms. This is the Marc Bliztstein translation, and I only mention that because there have been numerous attempts at re-imagining the work over the years. New Line Theatre gives us the Brecht/Weill collaboration I've imagined in my mind after only hearing select musical pieces, and watching a fuzzy copy of G.W. Pabst's 1931 film. This is true art, and a show that you absolutely need to see! (more...)


BWW Reviews: Opera Theatre of St. Louis' RICHARD THE LIONHEART Astonishes with its Beauty Review BWW Reviews: Opera Theatre of St. Louis' RICHARD THE LIONHEART Astonishes with its Beauty
by Steve Callahan - June 11, 2015

This review was first published by KDHX, St. Louis. Opera Theatre of St. Louis has opened Handel's 'Richard the Lionheart,' and it is truly astonishing! It is, in all aspects, the most perfect production of an opera that I've ever seen. And voices? Ah, the voices are quite stunning! This is not to be missed. This is a masterpiece. (more...)


BWW Reviews: Stages St. Louis' Absolutely Delightful THE ARISTOCATS Review BWW Reviews: Stages St. Louis' Absolutely Delightful THE ARISTOCATS
by Chris Gibson - June 10, 2015

The feature length animated film, THE ARISTOCATS (1970), was the last project Walt Disney approved before his death in 1966. My son and I watched it several years ago on DVD, when he was just a little tyke. And then, in 2010 we attended Stages St. Louis' wonderful production of the show. Five years later I was little hesitant to bring him to their latest presentation, just because he's that much older, but I think he actually enjoyed it more the second time around. He's now at an age where he can really appreciate the work that goes into bringing these shows to the stage. He loved the performances and music, and so did I. Stages has put together an excellent show that, obviously, has appeal for kids of all ages (and adults as well), and it's currently gracing the stage of The Westport Playhouse. I think the intimacy of the venue acts to enhance the experience, bringing the audience that much closer to the action. (more...)


BWW Reviews: Theatre Lab's Intense THE PILLOWMAN Review BWW Reviews: Theatre Lab's Intense THE PILLOWMAN
by Chris Gibson - June 07, 2015

I've seen three of Martin McDonagh's plays, and I can honestly say that each has been a genuine corker. They're beyond dark at times, but filled with an offbeat sense of humor that often makes you care more about a character than think you, perhaps, should. It's a part of their charm, at least for the ones I've been privileged to see. McDonagh also brings a real sense of humanity to his creations, and that's especially evident in the Theatre Lab's amazing production of his harrowing, often horrific work, THE PILLOWMAN. Seeing this production offers an intense experience enhanced greatly by the moody compositions of Luke Viertel, and the graphic artistry and illustrations of Aaron Allen. Combined, these elements along with sharp direction and a crackerjack cast, provide a spellbinding evening of theatre. (more...)


BWW Reviews: Stages St. Louis' Rollicking Good Time at SMOKEY JOE'S CAFE Review BWW Reviews: Stages St. Louis' Rollicking Good Time at SMOKEY JOE'S CAFE
by Chris Gibson - June 07, 2015

Stages St. Louis opens their 29th season with an all out party, with their audience-pleasing presentation of SMOKEY JOE'S CAFE, which celebrates the musical collaborations of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Now, if you want to know their backstory, then read their autobiography, 'Hound Dog', but if you just want to have a blast of an evening, then sit back and enjoy this imaginative musical tribute to 39 of their songs, keeping in mind that's just the tip of the iceberg for these Brill Building wonders who had 70 charted hits over the course of their writing partnership. Stages really pulls out all the stops to make sure that each number is unique in its own way, and when they aren't seriously rocking the house, they are either scorching hot, or just plain hilarious. You won't want to miss this rollicking revue! (more...)


BWW Reviews: Puccini's LA RONDINE is a Winner at Opera Theatre of St. Louis Review BWW Reviews: Puccini's LA RONDINE is a Winner at Opera Theatre of St. Louis
by Steve Callahan - June 03, 2015

A rare Puccini receives a lovely production: 'La rondine' at Opera Theatre of St. Louis (more...)


BWW Reviews: Grand Fun at Circus Flora with ONE SUMMER ON SECOND STREET Review BWW Reviews: Grand Fun at Circus Flora with ONE SUMMER ON SECOND STREET
by Chris Gibson - June 02, 2015

There's just something about a circus that brings out the kid in all of us, and when you take along a youngster to enjoy the show, the sense of wonder and excitement that they radiate is simply contagious. That's why I've always loved this time of year, when our town's own Circus Flora erects the big top behind Powell Symphony Hall and, for 29 seasons, has presented us with feats of daring-do and humorous antics that have consistently left audiences smiling and satisfied. This year is no exception. Take your family and go, immediately! (more...)


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...)






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