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 Review: MAMMA MIA! Has a Grand Farewell at the FOX This Weekend
August 1, 2017

MAMMA MIA! officially ended it's farewell tour this past weekend, and it was interesting to see the audience reaction to a show I've seen at least six times. But, I'm a critic. The appeal is obvious really, it's a simple story (book by Catherine Johnson) that allows you to enjoy the undeniably catchy Swedish pop of ABBA (music and lyrics of Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, and Stig Anderson). With the length of time that it's been touring, nationally and internationally, there's no doubt that generations will grow up knowing and loving this music, which, at the time, seemed like a passing fad back in the 1970's and 80's, although I'm not ashamed to admit I own their greatest hits vol. 1 and 2, most of which shows up in the score. The touring show that graced the stage of the Fox Theatre this past weekend (July 28-30) put on a splendid production, as engaging and charming as we've come to expect, and brimming with enough good humor to please everyone.

BWW Review: The MUNY's Incredible and Heartfelt A CHORUS LINE
August 1, 2017

A CHORUS LINE was the creation of Michael Bennett, one of Broadway's finest choreographers, who held a series of workshops in the mid 1970's to explore a way to examine the life that dancers lead. Then book writers James Kirkwood, Jr. and Nicholas Dante crafted a musical from this wealth of material collected to tell the story of Broadway's 'gypsies', the singers and dancers of the chorus that make their living by moving from production to production. And, it's how those stories are often vividly brought to life that distinguishes the current production at The MUNY. Instead of just relying solely on the compelling reasons that each character became a dancer, although some are left to stand alone in truly dramatic fashion, younger versions of themselves, whether through video projections or by using actual younger performers to act out their recollections as they speak are incorporated. It's an utterly charming touch that really stands out in stunning fashion. It makes this version particularly special, and when you combine that with a very talented ensemble, and an orchestra that sounds superb, you wind up producing a must-see show!

BWW Review: STAGES St. Louis's Hilarious Must-See 9 TO 5
July 29, 2017

It's not surprising that the 1980 film 9 to 5 was turned into a musical, since it's revenge driven farcical plot is a natural fit, and it's a period piece, so it has that going for it as well. Plus, you have Dolly Parton, whose physical attributes sometimes make one forget how great a songwriter she is, providing material written for the show, and adding pieces plucked from her own recordings. It's a great show for a strong and varied female cast, and STAGES' current production doesn't disappoint, with the lead roles filled by outstanding performers. And, one thing is certain, it's a real crowd-pleaser, generating tons of laughs, and a number of memorable moments.

BWW Review: The MUNY's Amazing and Wonderful THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN
July 25, 2017

Dick Scanlan (revised book and additional lyrics) deserves a hand for the long process that led to a reinvigorated and refocused version of Meredith Willson's THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN. A few years ago he started tinkering with this venerable classic, having workshops and readings before finally hitting the stage. Scanlan retains more than a half dozen of the original numbers, and adds some of Willson's trunk songs, as well as some songs written for the movie, to flesh out this tale, which truly highlights the life of Molly Brown in more accurately historical fashion. It's the current production playing at the MUNY, and it's a breath of fresh air, led by Beth Malone's scintillating performance, and staged with a scope that opens the show up like a piece of Colorado real estate. It's an invigorating must-see!

BWW Review: The MUNY's Engaging and Lively ALL SHOOK UP
July 14, 2017

ALL SHOOK UP, a celebration of music performed by the King, Elvis Presley, is a entertaining mash-up of Shakespeare's TWELFTH NIGHT, combined with some ideas from FOOTLOOSE, and with just a pinch of the movie version of GREASE (book by Joe DiPietro). I know how that sounds, but instead of taking itself or the music too seriously, this show actually achieves a sort of subversive and hilarious kitsch appeal. It's the current production on the MUNY's stage, and it's a splashy, funny, silly, and tune-filled hoot from start to finish.

July 9, 2017

Brimming with painfully amusing puns, by gag writers Larry Gelbart and Bert Shevelove , who bring a bit of borscht belt humor and a sprinkling of vaudeville to the proceedings, and adorned with the wonderful music and lyrics of Stephen Sondheim, A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM is an incredibly engaging and entertaining show, and it's the current attraction at The MUNY. It's a great match, and a perfect show for a summer evening, filled with sparkling, bawdy jokes, and brought to life with considerable energy by a stellar cast. I highly recommend this classic musical!

BWW Review: The MUNY's Outstanding and Visually Stunning THE LITTLE MERMAID
June 26, 2017

It's interesting to imagine just what fairy tale author Hans Christian Andersen would think of the musical version of THE LITTLE MERMAID (book by Doug Wright, music by Alan Menken, and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater) that's now gracing the stage of The MUNY. Though he might quibble with the liberties the book takes with his story, I think he would be absolutely blown away by the performances and stagecraft that are on display. It's a terrific and captivating production that doesn't skimp on the eye candy. Though the Disney film has been around since 1989, it's still a hugely popular movie for members of the younger set, and the equally successful musical has been beguiling audiences for almost 10 years as well. It's timeless charms are a perfect match for the MUNY's vast expanses, which are filled with imaginative imagery that families will find exquisitely appealing.

BWW Review: STAGES St. Louis's Incredibly Fun SEUSSICAL
June 26, 2017

There's just something magical about the world of Dr. Seuss and its hold on children. It's the language he uses to tell his fanciful tales. It's re-invented and rhymed in a manner that clearly appeals to children and adults. SEUSSICAL is a catchy and clever musical that adapts various elements from some of his most famous works, and it comes in many shapes and sizes. STAGES St. Louis is presenting a wonderful production of one of the shorter versions in their Theatre for Young Audiences series this season, and I cannot recommend it highly enough! It seems like I'm always saying that at this time of the year, but the professionalism you see each season is amazing, and it continues to develop, especially at the Westport Playhouse, where the intimate confines allow close and plentiful contact with audience members. This particular aspect really makes a difference when you're taking your child to the theatre for the first time. They actually become completely immersed in the experience, and adults will as well.

BWW Review: The MUNY Opens Season with Spectacular JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR
June 13, 2017

Growing up in the 1970's I can't tell you how many times I came across the boxed LP set, complete with booklet, that housed Tim Rice (lyrics) and Andrew Lloyd Webber's (music) classic, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR. For those of us who grew up on the records, and even the movie version, it was a rock, pop, rhythm and blues, funk, and music hall influenced opera that produced a bumper crop of wildly tuneful and intriguing compositions. JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR opens The Muny's 99th season and it's a fabulously constructed and performed production that's jaw-droppingly amazing. Back in the day the songs themselves conjured up mental images that are unique to each individual, and on this stage they came alive anew, with loads of energy, and a heavy dose of anachronistic charm. The action is superb, the vocalists shine, the orchestra sounds fantastic, and I simply can't think of more uplifting way to spend an evening under the stars.

June 9, 2017

I've seen several stagings of JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT over the years, and I've always enjoyed the Tim Rice (book and lyrics) and Andrew Lloyd Webber (music) show each time. However, STAGES St. Louis has really outdone themselves with their latest production of this exuberant musical. The piece has always lent itself to approaching it with a great deal of imagination and creativity, since it's chock-full of hilarious, anachronistic humor and song, and this production takes full advantage of that fact. This show is a real treat, with strong performances and plenty of fun to go around, and I highly recommend it!

June 9, 2017

Just before Summer arrives each year the iconic red big top of Circus Flora pops up behind Powell Symphony Hall to provide a refreshing (it's air-conditioned inside) and entertaining show that mixes a specific theme with various performing acts. It's a unique kind of circus play that never fails to thrill and delight audiences, young and old alike. I've taken my son and wife with me every year that I've been able to attend since I started reviewing theatre in St. Louis, and I'm constantly amazed by the quality of talent that we're privy to when Circus Flora presents their annual production. This year the title is TIME FLIES, and it's a funny mix of time travel and rainmaking that features some wonderful acts we've all grown to know and to love to newcomers that bring their own flair to the proceedings. Come down and check out the frivolity running through June 25, 2017. It's truly a family-friendly, and scary clown-free, experience!

BWW Review: New Line Theatre's Smashing SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS
June 9, 2017

There are so many things to love about New Line Theatre's latest production, SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS, that this review is certain to be filled with superlatives. I've watched the 1957 film a number of times, and I like the way John Guare's book for the show uses the first act as a backstory before it touches on the events that actually take place in the movie during the second act. By attacking the story this way Guare adds depth and establishes the characters in ways that the film doesn't. The score is a cool and jazz-tinged effort by the late Marvin Hamlisch, with lyrics, by Craig Camelia, which give the numbers added bite. It's clear to me that the show requires the intimacy this production provides to fully succeed, and also explains its short run on Broadway. That's just one of the things that New Line does so consistently well. The movie is a dark, film noir masterpiece, and in adapting it as a musical for a large stage that claustrophobic atmosphere that is so necessary to the genre is lost. Here, the viewer becomes a fly on the wall, observing the machinations of the plot unfolding in the same way that the film utilizes closeups and shadows to pull us into its cynical world. Superior performances, a great band, and sharp direction make this show a must-see.

BWW Review: Upstream Theater's Provocative A HUMAN BEING DIED THAT NIGHT
May 20, 2017

It's uncanny the way that Upstream Theater is able to produce plays that consistently tackle issues that, while often international in scope, often resonate with situations we face in our own country and, in particular, the current political climate we find ourselves in. A HUMAN BEING DIED THAT NIGHT is a very intriguing and powerful work by Nicholas Wright (adapted from a book by Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela) that focuses our attention on post-apartheid South Africa, and which delves into the institutionalized racism that gripped that area of the world for many, many years. It's a subject that it is abhorrent in nature, but one which we seem to see America headed toward with the rise of white nationalist actions and policies. The seeds seem to have been sown with the cultural backlash from certain quarters following the election of Barack Obama, our first African American president, and which are starting to become more dangerously vocal and violent since he left office and was replaced by our current president, who surrounds himself with people whose agendas and ideologies are in direct conflict with the progress that has occurred since the Civil Rights movement of the 1960's. This work, though it deals mainly with conciliatory efforts, is one that needs to be seen as a reminder that, if we are to continue to progress as an open society, we need to remain vigilant as citizens to ensure we do not take steps backwards in this regard. There's a lot to contemplate here, and this production is decidedly must-see theatre.

BWW Review: The New Jewish Theatre's Funny and Heartfelt 4000 MILES
May 19, 2017

Amy Herzog's marvelous play, 4000 MILES, draws upon relationships and people from the playwright's own life. The experience of watching these characters interact is undeniably affecting, and definitely warms the heart. It made me wish I had had a grandmother like the one that is portrayed on stage. The New Jewish Theatre is presenting a fine production of this show that's both hilarious and touching, and highly recommended.

BWW Review: Mustard Seed Theatre's Bittersweet DANCING AT LUGHNASA
April 27, 2017

Parts of playwright Brian Friel's DANCING AT LUGHNASA are joyous, and some are unsettling, mainly because we come to care so much about the Mundy family that inhabits it. I personally found it fascinating and disturbing at the same time. It's that dichotomy that drives the action, and it provides no easy answers for the viewer. I actually like that aspect. Because life isn't a bed of roses for most of us, instead it's a journey where obstacles pop up, sometimes unexpectedly, forcing us to constantly adapt and change, or risk being steamrolled by circumstance. Mustard Seed Theatre is presenting this engrossing play as they close their tenth season, and it's a production well worth your time and attention. Go see it!

BWW Review: St. Louis Actors' Studio's Superb and Intense AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY
April 27, 2017

Several years ago the Steppenwolf Theatre Company's touring production of AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY touched down at the Fox Theatre and I was blown away by it. I think it spoiled me with its massive set and terrific ensemble. So, when regional theatre companies began staging playwright Tracy Letts' work, I have to admit I was a bit skeptical. But recently I saw the St. Louis Actors' Studio's presentation. Again, I thought this was a work that couldn't be scaled down to fit into the confines of a black box theatre. But, I was wrong. They've done an exceptional job with this production. The acting is superb, and somehow they've managed to parlay the intimacy into something that makes the play seem even more powerful. I think this is must-see theatre, and I urge you to check out this amazing production.

BWW Review: The Black Rep's Powerful and Intriguing SEVEN GUITARS
April 13, 2017

August Wilson's SEVEN GUITARS represents the sixth installment in his "Pittsburgh Cycle", this time representing the decade of the 1940's. Apropos of the story, there are seven characters that we encounter in this play, which plays out as a sort of murder mystery. While I haven't yet seen all the works in the cycle, the ones that I have seen are rich with character and commentaries on their various eras. The Black Rep continues their 40th season with a very well done production that sparkles with superb performances all around.

BWW Review: Stray Dog Theatre's Gloriously Dark and Gruesome SWEENEY TODD
April 13, 2017

Stephen Sondheim's gloriously dark and enormously tuneful take on the tale of the 'Demon Barber of Fleet Street', SWEENEY TODD, is given a highly entertaining presentation in Stray Dog Theatre's latest production. There have been several different stagings of the musical over the years, one of which even featured the actors playing the music score, but this one features a great music ensemble, terrific performances, and a wonderful representation of a grungy and corrupt London, circa 1846. Since Stray Dog first started performing musicals a few years ago they've become more and more adept at it with each successive offering. SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET is an exceptional show, and if you haven't gotten your tickets yet, you'd better hurry because the run is selling out quickly. It's a must-see!

BWW Review: MADCO's 40th Anniversary Results in Amazing Production of FREEDOM
April 3, 2017

Before the performance of MADCO's FREEDOM took place the four choreographers who created this piece, along with Executive and Artistic Director Stacy West, took the stage to discuss the genesis of their work, and to take questions from the packed audience who gathered to witness these amazing segments. Drawing on research from Washington University's Olin Library for historical perspective, combined with the death in 2014 of Michael Brown in Ferguson, each choreographer created a unique experience that reflected on the theme of civil rights. This is an extremely timely production that was very well received by the audience in attendance. This is MADCO's 40th anniversary, and a short video which played before the dancers took the stage reinforced the vast array of incredibly talented people who have been involved in the company both onstage and off. The performance itself featured four different takes on the issues mentioned above, and it was a huge triumph.

April 3, 2017

Magicians have always found a home on stage, whether it was during vaudeville's heyday or on Broadway, and THE ILLUSIONISTS is proof that this association is still going strong (of course, the art of magic goes back many centuries, long before either existed). I have to confess that I've never actually seen any magician perform live. Most of my experience has been limited to watching various acts perform on television over the years. But, when you watch them on TV the more skeptical viewer is always aware that even though a particular stunt may seem phenomenal, there's that sense that maybe this was edited or achieved through camera trickery. That's not necessarily a fair assumption, but it's one I think a lot of people share. After having witnessed THE ILLUSIONISTS in person I find myself at a loss to explain how most of their illusions were created. And that's what makes this show so amazing. Their recent performance at the Fox Theatre was a truly wondrous and amusing experience that had me pondering over and over afterwards: "Just how did they do that?"