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BWW Reviews: Family Fun at The MUNY with BEAUTY AND THE BEAST Review BWW Reviews: Family Fun at The MUNY with BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
by Chris Gibson - July 30, 2015

Each year The MUNY makes it a point to present a full-blown musical that's aimed at the younger set. This year it's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, which was given the patented Disney treatment when adapted for the stage from their own 1991 animated film. So, it retains plenty of the elements that made the film so successful, while also featuring some additional songs by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, some of which were cut from the movie. There's no denying the appeal of this material, and it's a perfect way to introduce kids to the wonders of live theatre in such a lovely setting, and on such a grand scale. (more...)


BWW Reviews: Stages St. Louis' Delightful and De-Lovely ANYTHING GOES Review BWW Reviews: Stages St. Louis' Delightful and De-Lovely ANYTHING GOES
by Chris Gibson - July 24, 2015

When you've been reviewing shows for a while you're bound to see a few more than once or twice. And, while I've had the opportunity to see ANYTHING GOES a couple of times before, I can honestly say this is the finest production I've been privileged to attend. Packed with a slew of memorable tunes (music and lyrics by the late, great Cole Porter), a clever and very amusing script (new book by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman), high energy dancing, and a top notch cast, this ranks as one of my favorites shows of the year. Stages St. Louis consistently delivers quality entertainment, but this presentation far exceeded my already high expectations, and I honestly consider it to be a must-see! It's a genuine crowd pleasing experience that will make you want to come back for more. But, get your tickets now, because it will surely sell-out quickly! (more...)


BWW Reviews: Ricky Skaggs, Sharon White & Ry Cooder at The Sheldon Concert Hall Review BWW Reviews: Ricky Skaggs, Sharon White & Ry Cooder at The Sheldon Concert Hall
by Chris Gibson - July 23, 2015

When an audience gives a group of performers a standing ovation before they've even played a single note you know you're in for a very special evening. Such was the case this past Monday (July 20, 2015) at The Sheldon Concert Hall, as Ricky Skaggs, Sharon White, Ry Cooder and company took to the stage to perform a memorable and moving collection of classic gospel, country, and bluegrass tunes. It really doesn't get any better than this if you're a fan of the roots of country music. Not too far removed in execution from the terrific performance earlier this year by Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives, this is a group of musicians who seek to keep the fire burning for tunes that seem to have a life all their own, even if a lot of them have been overlooked, underplayed, and overshadowed by the pop sensibilities that have overtaken a great deal of modern country music. If you missed it, then you should be kicking yourself - this was pure bliss from start to finish. (more...)


BWW Reviews: The MUNY's Awesome INTO THE WOODS at Forest Park Review BWW Reviews: The MUNY's Awesome INTO THE WOODS at Forest Park
by Chris Gibson - July 22, 2015

I purposely avoided the recent film version of INTO THE WOODS because I really didn't find the previews or the stunt casting appropriate. For me, it's a work that requires an audience to use their imagination to a great extent, and movies tend to give form to those things that are much better left conjured up in your own mind. That's why my son and I absolutely loved The MUNY's current presentation of the show. Let's face it, a woodland setting created utilizing green screen technology and a few key set pieces is nowhere near as effective at conveying the atmosphere desired, especially when you already have those actual elements growing freely at the back of this marvelous outdoor stage. Stephen Sondheim (music and lyrics) and James Lapine (book) crafted a brilliant mash-up of several fairy tales and fables that is smart, funny, and, ultimately, touching. When I asked my boy what he thought of the show at the end of the night he neatly summed it up: "I thought it was awesome!" I agree wholeheartedly. Superbly cast and conceived, this is a production that's simply tailor made for The MUNY. Go see it, and take your kids with you! It may have a few moments that are a bit gruesome or adult in content, but they'll have a wonderful time, and so will you! (more...)


BWW Reviews: Labute New Theater Festival at the St. Louis Actors' Studio Review BWW Reviews: Labute New Theater Festival at the St. Louis Actors' Studio
by Chris Gibson - July 17, 2015

The St. Louis Actors' Studio is presenting the first part of their annual LABUTE NEW THEATER FESTIVAL, where a group of one act plays are chosen from a group of submissions, and includes a new work by Neil Labute himself. I wish I could say they were all exciting pieces, and maybe the second part will showcase some real gems, but the first group is a mixed bag. But despite this, I think it's an important festival our town should be very proud to be hosting. And, I think there are moments that definitely make this worthy of your time and attention, particularly if you like seeing fresh new works. (more...)


BWW Reviews: Max & Louie Productions' Brilliant THE KILLING OF SISTER GEORGE Review BWW Reviews: Max & Louie Productions' Brilliant THE KILLING OF SISTER GEORGE
by Chris Gibson - July 16, 2015

If you've seen director Robert Aldrich's 1968 film version of THE KILLING OF SISTER GEORGE you're probably going to be greatly surprised when you see the actual play it was based on (written by Frank Marcus). The film was initially rated 'X' due to the era in which it was released, as well as the inclusion of a two minute sequence that's much more titillating than anything present in the original work itself. But, things are different these days. Television shows broadcast during what used to be referred to as the 'family hour' are far more racy with their content and dialog than anything you'll encounter watching Max & Louie Productions' superb staging of this play. Marcus crafted a brilliant, pitch black comedic farce that may have just been a bit too subtle for the motion picture industry, which, at the time, was just beginning to explore alternative lifestyles in a more graphic fashion. The film is good, but the play is much better. See it for yourself. It's required viewing as far as I'm concerned. (more...)


BWW Reviews: The MUNY's Smashing BUDDY - THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY Review BWW Reviews: The MUNY's Smashing BUDDY - THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY
by Chris Gibson - July 15, 2015

I think that nearly every review of the MUNY's extraordinary production of BUDDY - THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY will probably make mention of Don McLean's song 'American Pie', which is lyrically centered around the tragic plane crash that claimed the lives of three of music's rising stars one very cold day in February of 1959. In fact, 'the day the music died' has become a rather morbid catchphrase of sorts that has been utilized far too often by the media whenever an iconic musician passes on. I also believe I'm not alone in my assessment that this early'jukebox' musical is an absolutely terrific show that's immensely entertaining. I not only highly recommend this excellent show, but am branding it as a must see production! (more...)


BWW Reviews: DON GIOVANNI Seduces St. Louis! Review BWW Reviews: DON GIOVANNI Seduces St. Louis!
by Steve Callahan - July 15, 2015

From the moment that Scott Schoonover raised his baton to invoke that incredible athletic overture it was re-confirmed to me that DON GIOVANNI is indeed the zenith of 18th Century opera (more...)


BWW Reviews: Lively and Fun HOLIDAY INN at The Muny Review BWW Reviews: Lively and Fun HOLIDAY INN at The Muny
by Chris Gibson - July 07, 2015

I remember as a kid always getting the movie HOLIDAYINN confused with the movie White Christmas, usually because they played them back to back, and of course, both feature the tuneful music of Irving Berlin, as well as a splendid performance by Bing Crosby. A few years back, when I first started reviewing theatre I covered The MUNY's early production of the stage version of White Christmas, and here I am years later taking in only the second presentation of HOLIDAYINN. I think this is a terrific show filled with eye-popping choreography, big splashy numbers, and enough romantic entanglements to please any fan of the original film. If you're looking for a perfect example of how an old wartime flick can be transformed into a lively and fun stage musical, then look no further, the MUNY has you covered with their highly enjoyable production of Holiday Inn. (more...)


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...)






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