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BWW Reviews: The Muny's Kooky and Outstanding Production of THE ADDAMS FAMILY Review BWW Reviews: The Muny's Kooky and Outstanding Production of THE ADDAMS FAMILY
by Chris Gibson - July 16, 2014

Cartoonist and creator of the creepy and kooky characters that make up THE ADDAMS FAMILY, Charles Addams, probably never envisioned his work gracing the Broadway stage, but then, could anyone have imagined that such a thing would come to pass. After all, the original single panel cartoons only hinted at the oddly dark nature of his characters. The rest was fleshed out by a terrific TV show that ran in the early sixties, and a couple of feature films that came along in the early 1990's. The current production of the Broadway show is now playing The MUNY, and it's a riotously amusing presentation that had me and my son laughing at the onstage antics (book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice), and bouncing along to the catchy score (Andrew Lippa). This is an exceptional show that features a great cast who seem to be having an absolutely splendid time. The Addams Family is must-see entertainment. (more...)


BWW Reviews: The St. Louis Actors' Studio Intriguing Presentation of the LABUTE NEW THEATER FESTIVAL (Part One) Review BWW Reviews: The St. Louis Actors' Studio Intriguing Presentation of the LABUTE NEW THEATER FESTIVAL (Part One)
by Chris Gibson - July 16, 2014

St. Louis should feel honored that the St. Louis Actors' Studio has established a new summer tradition with their LABUTE NEW THEATER FESTIVAL which began last week. It is an opportunity for all theater-goers to see fresh one act plays that are both thought-provoking and engaging. As a special treat playwright/screenwriter/director Neil LaBute also contributes a piece each year. This event is truly special and one that should not be missed. (more...)


BWW Reviews: The Union Avenue Opera's Exquisite Production of LA TRAVIATA Review BWW Reviews: The Union Avenue Opera's Exquisite Production of LA TRAVIATA
by Chris Gibson - July 16, 2014

When you think of classic operas LA TRAVIATA is certainly one that immediately comes to mind. Composer Giuseppe Verdi (with a libretto by Francesco Maria Piave) created a wonderful piece that has stood the test of time, and when hearing it, you'll often find a number of familiar themes, some of which have appeared as background underscoring for cartoons, films, and commercials. It has all the elements that define our conceptions of what opera is: a superb score, the demand for inspired performances, and a tragic love story. The Union Avenue Opera has put together a memorable and moving production of this timeless work that demands your time and attention. (more...)


BWW Reviews: The Muny's Intoxicating Production of THE GERSHWINS' PORGY AND BESS Review BWW Reviews: The Muny's Intoxicating Production of THE GERSHWINS' PORGY AND BESS
by Chris Gibson - July 09, 2014

Though the weather was stormy on the opening night of the MUNY's presentation of the American Repertory Theater's 2011 update of THE GERSHWINS' PORGY AND BESS, and believe me I drove through some heavy downpours as I made my way to Forest Park, somehow the rain held off and allowed this wonderful show to proceed. Purists have been in an uproar over the fact that the original show has been altered, and while I certainly understand what all the fuss was about, there's no denying the fact that this new interpretation is a moving and compelling production that's definitely a winning crowd-pleaser. (more...)


BWW Reviews: Family Fun as TARZAN Swings into Action at The MUNY Review BWW Reviews: Family Fun as TARZAN Swings into Action at The MUNY
by Chris Gibson - June 28, 2014

Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950) got into writing as a lark, musing that he could produce stories that were better than the pulp fiction that was currently on display. Of course, the rest is history, with the prolific author producing a number of memorable series (Tarzan, John Carter, Pellucidar, etc) that are still selling today. His most famous creation, Tarzan of the Apes, became a cultural icon shrewdly marketed in comic strips, novelty items and motion pictures. But, I wonder how the writer would have felt about his hero singing on stage about his conflicts and feelings? Actually, I think he'd be pleased because the story, expanded and slightly altered here and there from Disney's animated film version of TARZAN, still remains true to his original concept (book by David Henry Hwang). And,the MUNY's current production is great family fun that tackles issues of loyalty and love against an action-packed jungle backdrop that cleverly brings to life the creatures that inhabit that world. (more...)


BWW Reviews: Stages St. Louis's Charming Production of Disney's SLEEPING BEAUTY Review BWW Reviews: Stages St. Louis's Charming Production of Disney's SLEEPING BEAUTY
by Chris Gibson - June 23, 2014

Along with their regular productions each season, Stages St. Louis always presents a show that's part of their Theatre for Young Audiences series. Since I've been reviewing theatre in St. Louis I've made an effort to attend one of these performances (with my son along for the experience) because they're always very well done, and it's important to me that children are exposed to the arts. This year's effort is Disney's SLEEPING BEAUTY, and it continues an excellent tradition of providing families with a lively and fun show that's a genuine treat. (more...)


BWW Reviews: Stray Dog Theatre's Compelling and Poignant Production of LOVE! VALOUR! COMPASSION! Review BWW Reviews: Stray Dog Theatre's Compelling and Poignant Production of LOVE! VALOUR! COMPASSION!
by Chris Gibson - June 20, 2014

A lot happens over the course of the three acts that comprise playwright Terence McNally's work LOVE! VALOUR! COMPASSION!. What's particularly interesting is that way that he balances the funny moments that occur with the more poignant ones. There's no doubt that it's an important gay play, and yet, what I got out of the experience had nothing to do with homosexuality, but with the sheer humanity on display here. Stray Dog Theatre has assembled a talented and brave cast (there's a considerable amount of nudity) that really brings each of these characters to life in meaningful ways. This is powerful and compelling theatre that demands to be seen. (more...)


BWW Reviews: OTSL's DIALOGUES OF THE CARMELITES Grandly Rewards Your Patience Review BWW Reviews: OTSL's DIALOGUES OF THE CARMELITES Grandly Rewards Your Patience
by Steve Callahan - June 20, 2014

The Opera Theatre of St. Louis has opened the fourth production in its June festival season--'The Dialogues of the Carmelites', by Francis Poulenc. The cast features some St. Louis favorites: Kelly Kaduce, who gave us that jaw-dropping Salome five years ago, now plays a much timider leading lady-Sr. Blanche of the Agony of Jesus. And the wonderful Christine Brewer sings the role of the New Prioress. (more...)


BWW Reviews: The MUNY Opens with a Dazzling Production of BILLY ELLIOT Review BWW Reviews: The MUNY Opens with a Dazzling Production of BILLY ELLIOT
by Chris Gibson - June 19, 2014

Another St. Louis tradition continues this summer with the start of the MUNY's 96th season. The opening show is BILLY ELLIOT the Musical, and there are some absolutely electric moments to be found here. Adapted from the excellent film of the same name, the story follows a young boy who would rather dance in the ballet than take boxing lessons, drawing the ire of a strict father who's coping with the loss of his wife, and the possible loss of his livelihood due to the current politics of the time. The story is set in the early 1980's during the time that union-busting Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was in power, and personally orchestrating the swift decline of a once thriving British coal industry. Despite this rather dire backdrop, this is an inspirational show that's well worth seeing under the stars in Forest Park. (more...)


BWW Reviews:  OTSL's '27' Opens to Ovations Review BWW Reviews: OTSL's '27' Opens to Ovations
by Steve Callahan - June 18, 2014

Opera Theatre of St. Louis has just opened a new commissioned work entitled simply '27'. With music by Ricky Ian Gordon and libretto by Royce Vavrek, it brings us into the world of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. (more...)


BWW Reviews: Circus Flora's Delightful Production: THE PAWN Review BWW Reviews: Circus Flora's Delightful Production: THE PAWN
by Chris Gibson - June 09, 2014

Here in St. Louis we should never take for granted the fact that we have our very own circus. Of course, I'm talking about Circus Flora, the one ring big top that you'll find around this time every year situated just behind Powell Symphony Hall. And, this is a circus with a great deal of thought behind it. A theme is chosen, the book is written, acts are put together with an original score (composers Miriam Cutler and Janine Del'Arte), and a show is presented that combines all these elements in grand fashion. Take your family to CIRCUS FLORA'S THE PAWN (through June 22, 2014) and they will not be disappointed! (more...)


BWW Reviews: THEY'RE PLAYING OUR SONG Shines at Stages St. Louis Review BWW Reviews: THEY'RE PLAYING OUR SONG Shines at Stages St. Louis
by Chris Gibson - June 09, 2014

I've always been curious about THEY'RE PLAYING OUR SONG, but I'd never had the chance to see it before. You have to be intrigued by the fact that prolific playwright Neil Simon wrote the book, and also because Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager, who are responsible, together and separately, for some of the biggest hits to come out of the 1970's and early 80's, wrote the score. So, I'm here to report that the current production by Stages St. Louis is a delightful romantic comedy filled with catchy tunes that would make a perfect "date night" for couples. (more...)


BWW Reviews:  OTSL's ELIXIR OF LOVE is intoxicating! Review BWW Reviews: OTSL's ELIXIR OF LOVE is intoxicating!
by Steve Callahan - June 03, 2014

Well, it worked on me! 'The Elixir of Love' opened last night at the Opera Theatre of St. Louis, and after only a sip or two I fell head over heels for it. At the end of the evening I was, like Nemorino, giddy (oh, let's admit it, the better word is 'drunk') with happiness and delight. It was simply perfection! (more...)


BWW Reviews: New Line Theatre's Wonderful Production of HANDS ON A HARDBODY Review BWW Reviews: New Line Theatre's Wonderful Production of HANDS ON A HARDBODY
by Chris Gibson - June 02, 2014

Looking over a list of New Line Theatre's shows for the past 23 years is a very telling experience. This is a group dedicated to restoring the old and embracing the new. That's why their current production of HANDS ON A HARDBODY shouldn't shock you that it's so damn good (it really is), because this is exactly what they do so well. They take something tuneful and different, perform it enthusiastically in an intimate environment, and the audience is rewarded with a fresh and invigorating experience. Go see HANDS ON A HARDBODY now! (more...)


 BWW Reviews: St. Louis Actors' Studio's Powerful Production of THE HOMECOMING Review BWW Reviews: St. Louis Actors' Studio's Powerful Production of THE HOMECOMING
by Chris Gibson - June 02, 2014

Harold Pinter's THE HOMECOMING has been referred to as one of his early 'menacing' comedies. I suppose that that's an accurate enough description, but I would say that the actual humor is pitch black in nature. It's a twisted tale that Pinter writes, and it's funny in the most unsettling ways. Characters ask questions that are often ignored, leaving long uncomfortable silences that truly speak volumes. The St. Louis Actors' Studio has assembled a superb cast that understands this material has to be played straight to really pay off, and under Milton Zoth's expert direction they excel. (more...)


BWW Reviews: Shakespeare Festival St. Louis's Triumphant Productions of HENRY IV and HENRY V Review BWW Reviews: Shakespeare Festival St. Louis's Triumphant Productions of HENRY IV and HENRY V
by Chris Gibson - June 02, 2014

Since the stories and cast of HENRY IV (pts. 1 & 2) and HENRY V intertwine, it's only fitting that I review Shakespeare Festival St. Louis' marvelous productions together. The shows will alternate (every evening except Tuesdays), and there will be special performances the next two weekends where both plays will be performed back to back. It's an amazing feat and since it's free to the public there's no reason not to pack up the whole family for a trip to Forest Park to check out these entertaining history lessons. Artistic Director Rick Dildine has put together an experience that I cannot recommend highly enough. It's truly a triumph. (more...)


BWW Reviews: OTSL's MAGIC FLUTE Delights St. Louis Review BWW Reviews: OTSL's MAGIC FLUTE Delights St. Louis
by Steve Callahan - May 27, 2014

Opera Theatre of St. Louis has opened its thirty-ninth season with a bang. Their production of The Magic Flute is unlike any other you've seen (or ever will see). (more...)


BWW Reviews: WIZARD OF OZ Is A Decidedly Mixed Bag at the Fox Theatre Review BWW Reviews: WIZARD OF OZ Is A Decidedly Mixed Bag at the Fox Theatre
by Chris Gibson - May 23, 2014

I hesitated to review the current touring production of THE WIZARD OF OZ (Fox Theatre, through May 18, 2014), which has been adapted by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jeremy Sams, because even though I thought it told essentially the same tale as the original, I didn't particularly care for it. There's certainly a lot more spectacle than you'd find in your typical production, but the script is so camped up, and the additional songs so mundane, that it comes off as trying that they may have been trying a little too hard when they updated the show. In any event, the flashy and colorful show seemed to appeal to the crowd, but I'm wondering if they're aware of how much it's been pared down technically so that it could tour and play different size venues. (more...)


BWW Reviews: The New Jewish Theatre's Hilarious Production of OLD JEWS TELLING JOKES Review BWW Reviews: The New Jewish Theatre's Hilarious Production of OLD JEWS TELLING JOKES
by Chris Gibson - May 15, 2014

It's impossible to analyze humor, and even if you try to it just takes all the fun out of it anyway. Some say jokes are mostly 'tragedy plus time', and that 'laughter is the best medicine'. Both are true to a certain extent. So, when it comes to reviewing OLD JEWS TELLING JOKES (created by Peter Gethers and Daniel Okrent), I think any kind of critical analysis would be a boring waste of time. And, in a time when show titles can sometimes be cryptic metaphors, it's nice to see something so simple and direct as one that succinctly and accurately sums up the premise of this show. The current production by The New Jewish Theatre is a well-cast, smartly directed show that delivers hearty laughs from start to finish. Everyone could use a good chuckle now and then, so I strongly suggest you check out this hilarious show! (more...)


BWW Reviews: Dramatic License Production's Funny Presentation of THE NERD Review BWW Reviews: Dramatic License Production's Funny Presentation of THE NERD
by Chris Gibson - May 13, 2014

I would've written about Dramatic License Production's presentation of playwright Larry Shue's THE NERD sooner, but my computer crashed. Not once, but twice. It's fixed with the help of some technical assistance, but some things got lost in the process. Kind of like how I've generally felt about most productions of THE NERD that I've seen. The number is astounding since it's a community theatre staple, and yet none have really made me laugh. That's what makes DLP's staging so intriguing and entertaining. I'm finally seeing the play done justice by a sharp cast and finely tuned direction that allows the humor to shine through. So, this is another one of those times where my opinion is that you may have thought you'd seen the play before, but you really haven't. (more...)


BWW Reviews: JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT at the Fox Theatre Review BWW Reviews: JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT at the Fox Theatre
by Chris Gibson - May 03, 2014

Though it was written before Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's successful Jesus Christ Superstar, JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT caught on after Superstar's success as a kind of adjunct sequel. Family friend in tone and full of catchy musical numbers, it's a pleasant and upbeat show with considerable appeal. Oddly enough, the majority of the times I've seen this show the stars have been a married couple, and the current production playing at the Fox Theatre is no exception, with Diana DeGarmo and Ace Young headlining. (more...)


BWW Reviews: Engaging and Fun BLUE MAN GROUP at the Peabody Opera House Review BWW Reviews: Engaging and Fun BLUE MAN GROUP at the Peabody Opera House
by Chris Gibson - May 02, 2014

I've seen BLUE MAN GROUP live quite a few times, and on this particular occasion I brought along my son for his second go around with the show. What's appealing to me is that there's still a freshness about their performances, even if a lot of the bits are familiar, such as: the camera tour down an audience member's throat, the snarky message board, the various rock poses, etc. There's certainly no denying the fact that they continually draw large, enthusiastic crowds. The current production that played the Peabody Opera House (April 25-27) provided a cool evening's entertainment, for fans and newbies alike. (more...)


BWW Reviews: Upstream Theater's Brilliant Production of WINDMILL BABY Review BWW Reviews: Upstream Theater's Brilliant Production of WINDMILL BABY
by Chris Gibson - May 02, 2014

Upstream Theater continues their fine season with the U.S. premiere of Australian David Milroy's engaging work, WINDMILL BABY. Upstream continues to bring us some of the finest and most thought-provoking plays from around the globe, both educating us and enhancing our perspective on the world around us in the process. This time around we're transported to the outback for a fascinating story that touches the heart and soul. A bravura performance, superb direction and inspired musical accompaniment combine to provide a scintillating evening of theatre that should not be missed. (more...)


BWW Reviews: Wonderful Revival of ALWAYS...PATSY CLINE by Stages St. Louis Review BWW Reviews: Wonderful Revival of ALWAYS...PATSY CLINE by Stages St. Louis
by Chris Gibson - May 01, 2014

Another welcome revival hits the local theatre scene with the Stages St. Louis production of ALWAYS...PATSY CLINE at The Playhouse at Westport Plaza. It's an excellent show, full of good humor and packed with a great collection of classic country tunes. It plays out as more than just your typical tribute show, because it actually has a story to tell to go along with its superb music. What really makes this show work are the performances by the cast and band, all of whom do absolutely impeccable work. And, what makes this revival a special sort of success is the sense of intimacy that the cozy confines of this venue provide. It really allows the actors to interact with the audience, and they take advantage of that to get up close and personal. I've said all this before, but this is must-see entertainment, and I can't recommend it highly enough! (more...)


BWW Reviews: Mustard Seed Theatre's Revival of FALLING Well Worth Revisiting Review BWW Reviews: Mustard Seed Theatre's Revival of FALLING Well Worth Revisiting
by Chris Gibson - April 17, 2014

It's been a couple of years since playwright Deanna Jent's FALLING debuted here in St. Louis, and since then it's been published, and gone on to receive rave reviews on both coasts. FALLING's impact has been a wonderful thing to witness from afar, and so it's especially nice that we get the opportunity to revisit the play in Mustard Seed Theatre's current production. This was challenging and rewarding must-see theatre when I reviewed it in 2011, and I can assure you that my opinion is even stronger. This is a powerful piece that raises a number of important questions. (more...)


 
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