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Chris Gibson

Chris Gibson Chris has been active in the local theatre scene for over 30 years and reviewing local theatre for over 11. In addition to his acting work, he's also contributed as a director, writer and composer. Though, initially a film buff, he grew tired of the sanitized, PG-13 rated blockbusters that were being continually shoved down his throat by the studios. An opportunity to review theatre in St. Louis has grown exponentially with the sudden explosion of venues and talent in the region. He now finds himself obsessed with witnessing those precious, electric moments that can only happen live, on stage.



BWW Music Review: Rebecca Angel's Excellent WHAT WE HAD Brings Samba Grooves to a New Generation
July 11, 2018

Released on June 1, 2018 on the aptly named Timeless Grooves Records label, Rebecca Angel's WHAT WE HAD is a delightful series of tuneful excursions. In fact, the album's eponymous track written by Dennis Angel (her Father, who's also a trumpeter), Rebecca, and guitarist Jonah Prendergast, has already received airplay on some Billboard stations, and deservedly so. While some of the songs here are lovingly interpreted classics, the eponymous 'What We Had' is an evocative original that fits in perfectly with the exotic and jazzy vibe that's established at the outset by Angel and producer/arranger Jason Miles. Angel's voice and style are suggestive of both Sade and Astrud Gilberto, but not in a cloying manner. Indeed, it's an approach that is both endearing and enduring, lending each song a sensual immediacy that's undeniably appealing in an age where autotune and trap beats dominate the soundtrack of our lives.

BWW Review: Mustard Seed Theatre's Dystopian But Hopeful REMNANT
December 14, 2017

After ten seasons, Mustard Seed Theatre returns to one of their first productions, and it's an intriguing work called REMNANT by Ron Reed. It's a window into a plague-ravaged future where civilization has been lost, and mistrust runs rampant. But, there are remnants from the past that keep hope alive, and one of them is a passed down tale of Christmas.And, while this may seem like an unusual holiday presentation, I actually appreciate that aspect. Besides, this is a show that's amusing, tense, joyful, and touching, and that covers most people's experience of the holidays in one way or another. The dialog is also quite interesting since it reflects the loss of many aspects of a culture's language, and so some words substitute for more familiar ones, and others are pronounced differently. But that aspect only adds to the atmosphere of the show, since their meaning is always clear. Whether you're looking for something a little different this season, or not, REMNANT is well worth your time and attention.

BWW Review: St. Louis Actors' Studio Presents Profane and Peculiar A BEHANDING IN SPOKANE
December 12, 2017

The majority of Martin McDonagh's works are challenging in the most unexpected ways. What may seem to be a thriller is often a comedy of pitch-black proportions. His dialog is also quite profane, and often offensive, and yet, we find ourselves laughing when we should probably be shocked. Or, at least I do. A BEHANDING IN SPOKANE is the rare opportunity to see him set his ideas in America, and he delivers a bizarre representation that's disturbing and amusing at the same time. I love his work, and I'm always thrown for a loop by the twists that always seem to pop up along the way. The St. Louis Actors' Studio is presenting a deftly staged and executed production, and I recommend seeing it before the run ends. Especially if your taste runs toward the weird and absurd.

BWW Review: Repertory Theatre of St. Louis's Thoroughly Charming MISS BENNET: CHRISTMAS AT PEMBERLEY
December 5, 2017

It's always interesting when sequels are written to famous works because, in order to succeed, they must project some of the same style, skill, and taste of the original author. But, Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon have crafted a play that carries on some of the same wit and charm that the book in question, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, possesses. That makes MISS BENNET: CHRISTMAS AT PEMBERLEY an appealing new addition to the story, with the bookworm Mary finally given her due as a character. While she's certainly less exacting here than in Austen's work, a characteristic derived from her overly studious nature, she's still sort of a nerd-ish young woman with more of a thirst for knowledge than any outwardly evidenced desire for the flesh. The Repertory Theatre St. Louis has wrapped this holiday gift quite nicely, and what's more, there's an enjoyable and entertaining story inside that's both funny and touching. A nice new addition to the usual holiday fare, MISS BENNETT: CHRISTMAS AT PEMBERLEY is a warm return to the world of Jane Austen's characters as witnessed through a new set of lenses. A charming treat for the season!

BWW Review: Hilarious and Heart-Breaking A JEWISH JOKE at the New Jewish Theatre
December 5, 2017

You'll find plenty of humor and drama in playwrights Marni Freedman and Phil Johnson's A JEWISH JOKE, which is now playing at the New Jewish Theatre. Set during the McCarthy 'red scare' hearings during the early 1950's, the play offers up an examination of a Jewish comedy writer named Bernie Lutz who, along with his partner Morris, suddenly finds out about his name appearing in Red Channels, which published the names of individuals who had been implicated, or in anyway affiliated, with groups that promoted Socialism and Communism. For most, the results, if true (and even if it wasn't), resulted in an immediate blacklisting. That was it. Your career was over. But some survived, and under other names continued to work on films and TV, while others named names and slipped off the hook to continue working as themselves. This is an excellent examination of how quickly a career could fly off the rails during that period in time, and here, taking place in a single, stressful day. It's powerful and relevant material, laced with great helpings of humor, and it deserves a hearty recommendation.

BWW Review: Romantic and Fierce THE KING AND I at The Fox Theatre
December 4, 2017

A touring company of Rodgers and Hammerstein's THE KING AND I is currently playing the Fox Theatre, and it's a very engaging revival of the classic musical. It's an elegant and entertaining show that won a Tony for best revival in 2015, and it's easy to see why. With familiar and lovely songs like Getting to Know You and the rousing Shall We Dance, this venerable warhorse still lights up the stage, and I thoroughly recommend it!

BWW Review: Lively and Engaging ON YOUR FEET! at The Fox
November 9, 2017

There are jukebox musicals that utilize the catalog of a group to hang a story thread onto that may or may not fit particularly well, and there are those that are portraits of the songwriters themselves. I think the latter actually works the best, and that's what you get when you see ON YOUR FEET!, the Gloria and Emilio Estefan bio-musical that's currently playing at the Fox Theatre. If you're a fan of their music, and the strings of hits they created with the Miami Sound Machine, then you'll find plenty to enjoy here.

BWW Review: David Lanz's Gorgeous FRENCH IMPRESSIONS
November 6, 2017

As the liner notes reveal, this collection by composer/pianist David Lanz sprang forth from improvisations that resulted during preparations for the NORWEGIAN RAIN album. By warming up with these spontaneous songs, he allowed their gentle influence to wash over the latter work's tracks. But, FRENCH IMPRESSIONS stands on its own. Moody, ambient, and full of contemplative themes, the new release (recorded in 2016, while temporarily residing at a French villa) is a stunning and soothing piece that is, indeed, impressionistic. And, like the famed painters who chose that style to work in, it possesses the same kind of feelings those painting inspire. I believe each individual that listens to these compositions will have an experience that is unique to them. Like all of Lanz's catalog, especially from the last few years, it's lovely from start to finish, filled with songs that are evocative and gorgeous. This is yet another stellar accomplishment from an artist who only seems to get better and better with age, much like a fine wine.

BWW Review: Expect the Unexpected in Repertory Theatre St. Louis' Wonderful HEISENBERG
November 2, 2017

Life lurches along in unexpected directions for most of us, and that's what makes playwright Simon Stephens' HEISENBERG so identifiable. There actually is a Heisenberg Principle , which says: it is impossible to measure the position and velocity of a particle at the same time. So, we're never able to ascertain where they are or where they are going at any given time. A lot of my friends are like that. Which brings us to The Repertory Theatre St. Louis's wonderful production of this play, which is taking place in the Studio Theatre of the Loretto-Hilton. This is the perfect venue for it, since it allows us to eavesdrop on the odd and intimate encounters of two very unlikely companions. It all comes off very spontaneous in execution, which is certainly a credit to the two compelling performers (Joneal Joplin and Susan Louise O'Connor), as well as sparkling direction of Steven Woolf. This is, again, a real must-see work.

BWW Review: Marvelous HAMLET at The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
October 18, 2017

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents a uniquely engaging and compelling presentation of one of Shakespeare's finest plays with their current production of HAMLET. So many great lines that have become a part of our language are present here, and it's really amazing to think that the Rep hasn't staged this show until now. I think that just makes it all the more special, especially since director Paul Mason Barnes, who has an undeniable talent for interpreting the Bard, brings his vision to the project. Purists may quibble with it, but I found this staging utterly remarkable. Some people prefer their Shakespeare straight up, no chaser. But I've always found his canon to be extremely malleable; no matter how much you tinker with certain aspects, the powerful and poetic text will always shine through. Now, a lot has been cut to keep the show to a reasonable length (three hours split over two acts; we're not Elizabethan audiences, after all), but they're not things that are central to the plot, and overall, this trimming adds momentum, as well as ratcheting up the tension. I wholeheartedly recommend this production, and I think it's an example of must-see theater performed at its highest level.

BWW Review: Upstream Theater's Delightful Slice of History SWEET REVENGE
October 9, 2017

SWEET REVENGE, with the subtitle of: as performed by the Julius Slowacki Players, Saint Louis, 1933, is a delightful look back at our city's own Polish heritage. Artistic Director Philip Boehm translates ZEMSTA by playwright Aleksander Fredo, but gives the work a twist by showing us how the troupe, which ceased performing in 1959, would have staged the piece, albeit, in English. This is an enjoyable romp that's amusing, and supposedly based on a true bit of history that Fredo ran across. Boehm's translation maintains Fredo's clever rhyming scheme, which gives it a playful, lighthearted air.

BWW Review: New Jewish Theatre's Touching TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE
October 9, 2017

watch, and some people, who might be especially sensitive on these matters, might be put off at the thought of witnessing a person deteriorate over time due to the ravages of ALS. But they'd be depriving themselves of the chance to learn some of the same life lessons that author Mitch Albom did during the precious time he was able to spend with his former teacher before he passed. The New Jewish Theatre opens their 21st season with a warm, funny, and lovingly rendered production of this play, which only gets more relevant with age, as we have become even more tied down to lifestyles that move so fast, and demand so much of us, that we rarely get the time to actually enjoy them. And, maybe, just maybe, we were really meant for other things. It's a question this play asks.

BWW Review: Music Provides the Highlights for THE BODYGUARD at the Fox Theatre
October 6, 2017

There have been some truly successful musicals that have been adapted from films, and there have been more than a few that just didn't work. Often, what plays well on screen simply doesn't translate to the stage, no matter how much technical wizardry you utilize. THE BODYGUARD isn't the worst musical taken from a movie that I've ever seen, there are certainly plenty of other contenders for that title, but it seems slightly misguided to me. It isn't a jukebox musical or a revue, and it's not authorized by the estate of Whitney Houston, although its score is made up of selections from the movie along with additional songs from Houston's catalog. But, maybe that would have been a better direction to take since the show changes so many key elements from the film (screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan, disappointing adaptation by recent Academy Award winner Alexander Dinelaris) that only act to weaken the story, not improve upon it. Fans of the flick, and particularly of Houston, will probably enjoy it for the musical performances more than anything, and in that respect I can see the appeal. Others may find it a bit flat and forced, a least in regards to the dramatic aspects.

BWW Review: New Line Theatre's Excellent LIZZIE Rocks Hard!
October 4, 2017

LIZZIE is a unique musical experience, and I was absolutely blown away by it. The product of the team of Steven Cheslik-deMeyer, Alan Stevens Hewitt, and Tim Maner, who all contributed to the book, music, lyrics and orchestrations; it's a true rock opera. Watching and listening to this powerful show is like discovering a forgotten concept album from the past, and I'm amazed that no group from rock's rich history ever tackled the subject of Lizzie Borden before, although I could be wrong about that. But you have to realize that none of those predominately male-dominated groups of the late 60's, 70's and early 80's, who were churning out double or triple albums with a narrative thread, had four female vocalists who could take on the various roles that are present here, and not with such a degree of variety. Some selections remind me of blistering Iron Maiden type material, and some have that Runaways vibe, and some are definitely arena rock, but there are also songs that are chamber-pop in style; delicate and rich with harmony. New Line Theatre has put together a production that's like the coolest rock concert ever, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

BWW Review: The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis's Brilliant THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME
September 25, 2017

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis opens their season with an amazing bit of brilliance called THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME, adapted from the novel by Mark Haddon by playwright Simon Stephens. It's a story filled with marvelous touches that plunges you into a world filtered through the view of a fifteen year old boy who is dealing with what we might perceive as a kind of autism, with aspects of Asperger syndrome, among other personality traits. In fact, it's never truly specified as such. But the story itself is really a mystery, and one that, when solved, only produces further inquiry. It's a superbly acted, imaginatively staged tale, that will engage, stun, and delight you. It's a must-see experience on every level!

TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE at New Jewish Theatre
September 20, 2017

The New Jewish Theatre will begin its 3rd decade of Theatrical Excellence with an adaptation of Mitch Albom's well-loved book, Tuesdays with Morrie. The play will run October 4 - 22. Albom adapted the play with playwright Jeffrey Hatcher from his book of the same title. It quietly tells the story of the renewed relationship between sports columnist Albom and his former Brandeis professor and mentor, Morrie Schwartz.

BWW Review: STAGES St. Louis's Superb SOUTH PACIFIC
September 18, 2017

STAGES St. Louis ends their season with an wonderfully mounted production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's SOUTH PACIFIC. It's a classic musical absolutely filled to the brim with memorable songs, many of which have become standards. In fact, you'll likely find yourself humming any number of them as you head home after the show. Then there are the social issues that this Pulitzer prize winning drama tackles, which were groundbreaking for their time, yet still retain their impact today. Sadly, issues concerning race and acceptance have only intensified in our current volatile and divisive environment. Sparked by an excellent cast, this is an incredibly touching testament to the power this work still wields.

BWW Review: STL Opera Collective Presents TESLA'S PIGEON and TO HELL AND BACK
September 13, 2017

Since our resident opera critic, Steve Callahan, was appearing in one of the pocket operas produced this past weekend (September 8-9, 2017) by the STL Opera Collective, he asked if I would cover the shows, and I was happy to do so. This is a group that is just in their second season, but judging by the quality of the performances presented they show a great deal of promise. Two short operas were showcased on this occasion; TESLA'S PIGEON (by Melissa Dunphy) and TO HELL AND BACK (music by Jake Heggie and libretto by Gene Scheer). Both are striking, artful productions that move and challenge an audience, and I found them both to be highly engaging and superbly performed.

BWW Review: New Line Theatre's Lovely OUT ON BROADWAY THE THIRD COMING
August 22, 2017

Originally conceived by artistic director Scott Miller over 20 years ago, OUT ON BROADWAY (THE THIRD COMING), is, as titled, the third incarnation of a revue designed to reinterpret songs from an array of classic and offbeat, but brilliant, musicals ( this time with a new song from Jason Robert Brown, 'Hope'). This production acts to show just how much these works still retain their emotion, even when the players in each are now gay. I can assure you that the meaning remains, and so does the depth of feeling. It's a collection of over 30 pieces that are arranged to weave together a kind of narrative. Some people might find some of the choices obscure, but that actually adds to the charm for me, because then I'm exposed to things that I'll want to seek out afterwards. I'm late with this review, so forgive me, but life intrudes sometimes. But, if you didn't catch it you really missed an exceptional theatrical cabaret of sorts, which was truly wonderful, and which I hope sparks a fourth coming!

BWW Review: The MUNY Closes with Spirited and Charming NEWSIES!
August 11, 2017

The original film version of NEWSIES wasn't exactly a blockbuster when it was released in 1992, but it developed a substantial cult following, especially as kids and adults alike discovered its many charms on cable and DVD. Actually, the fact that it wasn't a huge hit initially is why it seems like such a great, and logical, choice to rework for Broadway, where its transformation resulted in Tony Awards for best score (music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Jack Feldman) and choreography back in 2012. Perhaps this is proof that the material might have been better served as a stage production from the start. As The MUNY's current, and final, presentation of the season it packs an entertaining wallop that brings the season to a close on a delightfully high note. Audiences certainly will find plenty to enjoy, and I cannot recommend this show highly enough!

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