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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...)


BWW Reviews: Lovely Production of RODGERS + HAMMERSTEIN'S CINDERELLA at the Fabulous Fox Review BWW Reviews: Lovely Production of RODGERS + HAMMERSTEIN'S CINDERELLA at the Fabulous Fox
by Chris Gibson - January 26, 2015

A fairytale is brought to its full fruition on the stage of the Fabulous Fox Theatre with their current presentation of RODGERS + HAMMERSTEIN'S CINDERELLA. It's a lovely experience that makes the most of the large stage, filling it with songs and beautiful surroundings fit such a lavishly told tale. Originally conceived and broadcast as a musical for television during the late 1950's and starring Julie Andrews in the title role, this work has been altered many times over the years with musical numbers added and subtracted, and the plot rejiggered as well (book by Douglas Carter Beane) to make it have a more political bent, at least where Cinderella's feelings toward how the kingdom is being are concerned. But, here we have a production that's suitable for children of all ages. In other words, perfect family entertainment. (more...)


BWW Reviews: Chris Gibson's Best of 2014 in St. Louis Review BWW Reviews: Chris Gibson's Best of 2014 in St. Louis
by Chris Gibson - January 16, 2015

I thought it was time to start compiling my best of 2014 since this past year was such an exceptional time for theatre in St. Louis. Although we lost the wonderful contributions of the now defunct HotCity Theatre, there are still new companies starting up and producing quality productions in our region. HotCity will certainly be missed, but when one door closes it always seems like another one opens, and that's a good thing to remember. (more...)


BWW Reviews: The Rep's Uplifting and Amusing GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER Review BWW Reviews: The Rep's Uplifting and Amusing GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER
by Chris Gibson - January 14, 2015

It seems like more and more films are being adapted for the stage these days. Some for the better and some for the worse. Which brings us to the classic film, GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER, which starred Spencer Tracy (in his final screen appearance), Katherine Hepburn and Sidney Poitier, in a wonderfully inspiring and humorous production being presented by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. One might think that this particular piece of cinema is outdated, but the fact is that this story is one that will still resonate with audiences today, and maybe that's a just a sad dose of reality that we all have to face. Todd Kreidler's script follows the movie fairly closely (based on the original screenplay by William Rose), but includes large doses of laughs that neatly leaven the dramatic aspects of the piece, making it an engaging and thoroughly entertaining theatrical experience that I cannot recommend highly enough. (more...)


BWW Reviews: The Imaginary Theatre Company's Delightful BAH! HUMBUG! Review BWW Reviews: The Imaginary Theatre Company's Delightful BAH! HUMBUG!
by Chris Gibson - December 22, 2014

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis's Imaginary Theatre Company has produced a wonderful musical spoof of Charles Dickens' holiday classic, A Christmas Carol, titled BAH! HUMBUG!. There have been so many different takes on the original story that one would think it's already been played out, but this standard will probably never go out of style. Jack Herrick (book, music and lyrics) does a marvelous job of making it all seem fresh again with a number of catchy little tunes, and a plethora of gags that make use of cultural references that will amuse both children and adults. If you've got a wee one you'd like to introduce to this vintage tale, I definitely recommend that you take the time to see this show. (more...)


BWW Reviews: NJT's Fascinating BECOMING DR. RUTH Review BWW Reviews: NJT's Fascinating BECOMING DR. RUTH
by Chris Gibson - December 20, 2014

Few people reach that status in life where all you have to do is hear their name, or voice, and you know exactly who they are, but Dr. Ruth Westheimer is certainly one of those individuals that have reached that level of fame. Her place in history is undeniable, and she's definitely someone whose journey is inspiring and worthy of inclusion in The New Jewish Theatre's 'chai', or 18th season, which celebrates life. If there is anyone who could truly be called a survivor, but maybe would better be described as a 'thriver', because she seems to have an uncanny drive to succeed, it would be her. NJT's presentation of Mark St. Germain's BECOMING DR. RUTH is a fascinating tour through the highlights and lowlights she dealt with on her rise to becoming a cultural icon, and it's a very entertaining and emotional piece of theatre that should not be missed. (more...)


BWW Reviews: A CHRISTMAS STORY: THE MUSICAL at the FOX Review BWW Reviews: A CHRISTMAS STORY: THE MUSICAL at the FOX
by Chris Gibson - December 20, 2014

I'd heard of Jean Shepherd's work as an author when I was younger, but my first true exposure to him came in 1983 in a tiny, and mostly empty, movie theater where I sat and watched director Bob Clark's wonderful valentine to the late 1930's and early 1940's, A Christmas Story. I've since seen it go from sleeper to television staple, then to the stage in a theatrical version, and now I've had the opportunity to view it as a musical. I must say, this endearingly hilarious account of young Ralphie Parker and his quest to own a Red Ryder BB Gun (here essayed by either Evan Gray and Colton Maurer, with Cal Alexander as younger brother, Randy) is still funny to me all these years later. The musical, which is currently playing the Fabulous Fox Theatre, is a twinkling Christmas delight, with pleasant and lively numbers that aim to enhance key moments that you'll recall from the original. This is fun for the whole family, and my son and I had a terrific time. (more...)


BWW Reviews: Magical PIPPIN at the Peabody Opera House Review BWW Reviews: Magical PIPPIN at the Peabody Opera House
by Chris Gibson - December 13, 2014

Combining acrobatics with choreography (by Chet Walker) that recalls Bob Fosse's original work on the show, the current touring company of PIPPIN(book by Roger O. Hirson with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz) at the Peabody Opera House provides quite an enjoyable spectacle. There's a circus-like quality (courtesy of Gypsy Singer) to this presentation that's unexpected, and even a bit magical, making it more suitable for the younger set than some versions, even though most of its sexier elements are still firmly intact. It's certainly well worthy of your time and attention. (more...)


BWW Reviews: The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis's Incendiary Production of RING OF FIRE Review BWW Reviews: The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis's Incendiary Production of RING OF FIRE
by Chris Gibson - December 10, 2014

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis has produced something truly special with their current presentation of RING OF FIRE - THE MUSIC OF JOHNNY CASH. This is a biographical musical with broad appeal to people of all ages. Created by Richard Maltby, Jr. and conceived by William Meade, the show chronicles the life and times of Johnny Cash from his humble upbringing to his final breath, and it captures it all with over 30 memorable tunes that showcase his wonderful catalog of material, while touching on key events that shaped the "Man in Black", and his beliefs. Ring of Fire is an incendiary delight that will have audiences singing and clapping along to the beat of a man who overcame his personal demons to become a very fondly remembered icon in the world of music. I cannot recommend this show highly enough. You'll simply have to see it for yourself! I personally guarantee that you will be absolutely floored by what you witness. So get your tickets now, because they're going to go fast. (more...)


BWW Reviews: Stray Dog Theatre's Side-Splitting THE GREAT AMERICAN TRAILER PARK CHRISTMAS MUSICAL Review BWW Reviews: Stray Dog Theatre's Side-Splitting THE GREAT AMERICAN TRAILER PARK CHRISTMAS MUSICAL
by Chris Gibson - December 10, 2014

Have you ever seen a sequel to a show and thought, wow, that was even better than the original? Well, that's what you're going to think if you take the time to check out Stray Dog Theatre's current production of THE GREAT AMERICAN TRAILER PARK CHRISTMAS MUSICAL (book by Betsy Kelso, with music and lyrics by David Nehls), and you really should see it. It's a return to Starke, Florida, the home of Armadillo Acres, where The Great American Trailer Park Musical took place. It's your chance to catch up on what's been happening in the lives of the amusing and bawdy trio of Betty, Pickles and Linoleum, since we last left them. If you're looking for a quirky Christmas show that's extremely funny and a little bit raunchy, then you owe it to yourself to see this show. (more...)


BWW Reviews: David Lanz & Kristin Amarie's Gorgeous FOREVER CHRISTMAS Review BWW Reviews: David Lanz & Kristin Amarie's Gorgeous FOREVER CHRISTMAS
by Chris Gibson - December 08, 2014

As I sit here writing this review I have David Lanz and Kristin Amarie's latest release, FOREVER CHRISTMAS, playing in the background. Any regular reader of my music reviews knows that I have a genuine soft spot in my heart for David's elegant and brilliantly inventive work on piano. He's simply one of the finest musicians in the world, and this collaboration with the love of his life, Kristin, continues his string of unbelievably wonderful and joyous works. This time, the focus is on Christmas, and with a blend of original compositions and some classic holiday fare that have special meaning to each of them, they've managed to capture the spirit of the season with a sense of warmth and sensitivity that's often missing in most holiday collections. (more...)


BWW Reviews: ANNIE Sparkles at the Fabulous Fox Review BWW Reviews: ANNIE Sparkles at the Fabulous Fox
by Chris Gibson - December 03, 2014

Harold Gray, the original creator of the cliff-hanging comic strip that features the pupil-less girl known as 'Little Orphan Annie', may be just a footnote in history, but most people are aware of the musical adaptation, ANNIE, of his creation that premiered in 1977. Even though it was reworked a couple of years ago, that version is not the one that's currently on tour. I didn't see it, so I have no clue what was changed, but I do know that this charming and delightful work by Thomas Meehan, with music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Martin Charnin, still maintains its humor and heart with its heroine's search for love and acceptance during the darkest days of the depression. (more...)


BWW Reviews: THE GHOST BROTHERS OF DARKLAND COUNTY at the Peabody Opera House Review BWW Reviews: THE GHOST BROTHERS OF DARKLAND COUNTY at the Peabody Opera House
by Chris Gibson - December 03, 2014

I guess when you're are a writer of Stephen King's stature you can't help be subject to expectations that are often simply too hard to live up to. Most of the criticism directed at THE GHOST BROTHERS OF DARKLAND COUNTY centers around the book he's cooked up for the show. He and composer (and rock icon) John Mellencamp had been kicking around this idea for about a dozen years, and when it was finally staged it was savaged in a number of ways, with most of the vitriol centered on King's narrative. I wonder if those critics felt the same way a few days after they'd posted their reviews. For me, I've found that the haunting mix of music and imagery has lingered in my memory long after I'd thought it would abate. Charged acting, a terrific roots rock and blues-inflected score, and a story that plays upon simmering tensions that threaten to boil over for the McCandless family, combine to produce something truly special and worthy of appreciation. (more...)


BWW Reviews: Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre's Outrageous CANNIBAL! THE MUSICAL Review BWW Reviews: Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre's Outrageous CANNIBAL! THE MUSICAL
by Chris Gibson - December 03, 2014

Back in 1993, CANNIBAL! THE MUSICAL was a peculiar foray into low budget film by director Trey Parker that didn't really find its audience. But, after the phenomenal success of South Park people starting renting it on DVD, soon discovering the kind of quirky humor and tuneful songwriting that had become such an integral part of the animated show's success. With everyone in need of a good laugh during the holiday season, Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre has put together a revival of their 2011 production, and it's every bit as funny and welcome as their original staging, in fact, it's on an even grander scale. This is a show I highly recommend, at least if you have the kind of offbeat sense of humor that I do. (more...)


BWW Reviews: The Black Rep's Timely Production of A RAISIN IN THE SUN Review BWW Reviews: The Black Rep's Timely Production of A RAISIN IN THE SUN
by Chris Gibson - December 03, 2014

Sometimes I'm amazed at the synchronicity that can occur when you see as many plays as I do. For instance, I've had weekends of shows in the past that appeared to be theme related, even though theatre companies are often mapping out their production schedules up to at least a year in advance, and tend to go in their own directions regardless of what other groups are doing. Which brings us to the Black Rep's powerful production of playwright/activist Lorraine Hansberry's work, A RAISIN IN THE SUN. At a time when our community finds itself fractured and unable to come up with solutions that can bring us together and make us whole again, we have the opportunity to see a play that shines a light on just how far we've come, and how far we still have to go. (more...)


BWW Reviews: MOTOWN THE MUSICAL at the Fabulous Fox Theatre Review BWW Reviews: MOTOWN THE MUSICAL at the Fabulous Fox Theatre
by Chris Gibson - November 21, 2014

I have no doubt that MOTOWN THE MUSICAL will be popular with audiences. It does, after all, contain the music that generations have grown up on, and it's still being played today. And, it's interesting that I was flipping channels on TV and saw an infomercial dedicated to the Motown 25th Anniversary special made in 1983 recently. That's the scene that opens the show, and where we first encounter the man who made it all happen, Berry Gordy. He's angry and doesn't want to attend because all his stars have left him for the greener pastures of other labels. This despite it being his own competitive spirit, and the fact that he instilled that in his roster of talent (songwriters, singers, and musicians), that created their desire to further pursue their careers in the first place. That makes for an interesting dichotomy that would seem ripe for the stage. So, why am I so disappointed? Because I wanted a real narrative (Gordy wrote the book himself) that doesn't gloss over important historical events while, at the same time, giving 60 fabulous tunes short shrift. (more...)


BWW Reviews: MADCO's Extraordinary WALLSTORIES Review BWW Reviews: MADCO's Extraordinary WALLSTORIES
by Chris Gibson - November 20, 2014

The Berlin Wall was erected in 1961 to supposedly 'protect' the population of East Germany from succumbing to socialism. But, all it actually accomplished was the emotionally painful separation of families and friends; preventing the so-called defection of individuals looking to avoid living in a communist state. And, until it's destruction in 1989, it served as a grim reminder to the rest of the world that oppression was still very much alive and well (and still is around the globe). Choreographer Nejla Yatkin has taken this dark history lesson and transformed it into a unique work called WALLSTORIES that combines modern dance with interviews she collected and edited, as well as the music of Pink Floyd, Bach, and Larsen and Sherman. MADCO presented this powerful and compelling production at the Touhill November 14-16, for a total of six performances, three of which played to students who were brought in to see the show. It was a truly moving experience that I felt privileged to see. (more...)