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: The MUNY'S Spectacular 42ND STREET
July 9, 2016

If you missed The Muny's production of 42nd STREET, you missed a show that was an absolutely perfect fit for the wide open spaces its stage presents. The original Warner Bros. 1933 pre-production code film was a blend of behind the scenes melodrama and onstage eye-candy. It gave depression era audiences a chance to escape from their worries with Lloyd Bacon's direction of the story and Busby Berkley's show-stopping musical direction. And, that's the caliber of entertainment you'll find on stage at The MUNY. It's an extravaganza that verges on pure spectacle, with that enormous canvas worked to perfection; a snappy mix of what made the movie and the Broadway version so successful.

BWW Review: STAGES St. Louis' Terrific Production of DISNEY'S ALICE IN WONDERLAND
June 23, 2016

Every year you can count on STAGES St. Louis to produce a wonderful season of musicals, and you can always be sure there will be something for the younger set in the schedule as well. And,they make sure that the same care and professionalism goes into the production of each and every show, no matter who it's aimed at. The Westport Playhouse has also proved to be a good venue for these Theatre for Young Audiences presentations, and with each subsequent show here they seem to really be getting more and more comfortable with the very intimate surroundings it provides. Such is the case with their offering this year, DISNEY'S ALICE IN WONDERLAND, a very colorful, engaging, and extremely entertaining musical that manages to pack a lot into around an hours time. It may just be the best show of this type they've ever produced, and I highly recommend it!

BWW Review: Shakespeare Festival St. Louis' Fantastic A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM
June 18, 2016

It's always fun to take in the many treats available at Shakespeare Festival St. Louis each year in Forest Park, and I'm not just talking about the food and drink stands, but also all the performers, mini-versions of the show, etc, that take place before the main attraction begins (arrive early). And,with the weather just a touch cooler there's no excuse not to attend, Besides, it's truly special watching a classic work by the immortal bard under the stars. This year a most apropos example of his work, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, takes flight in the wooded confines, exactly the place where the action of this play occurs. It's a match made in heaven, and it's also a work that, as I've stated in other reviews, is a great introduction to the playwright. So, by all means, bring the family and enjoy this fantastic production.

June 17, 2016

THE WIZARD OF OZ opens The MUNY's 98th season this year, and it's a lively and colorful production that provides an enjoyable experience for kids of all ages. This is an excellent presentation of one of The MUNY's most beloved shows, filled with fine performances and enough action to keep even the tiniest of tykes fully engaged. Yes, I know the unseasonably hot weather we're currently experiencing is a consideration for a lot of patrons, but with the fans running at full blast, you'll find it's a lot more comfortable than you would expect. My son and I had a blast, and this is the fourth production of the musical he's seen, and as he said, easily the best. It's a perfect show to take the family to, and one I know that you'll have an absolutely wonderful time seeing. It's also a larger than life spectacle that fits the expansive MUNY stage like a glove.

BWW Review: STAGES St. Louis' Wonderfully Funny IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU
June 15, 2016

STAGES St. Louis celebrates their 30th year with a very funny musical that deserved a much better fate that the short run it had on Broadway, IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU. A play of sorts on the old song 'It Had to be You', this work is difficult to describe simply because there are so many farcical twists and turns that revealing any would spoil the experience. What I can tell you is how terrific this production is. It features a top notch cast that all seem to be having a great time, and why not? It's filled with clever lines and a fine score (music by Barbara Anselmi, book by Brian Hargrove and lyrics by Hargrove, Jill Abramovitz, Michael Cooper, Carla Rose Fisher, Ernie Lijoi, and Will Randall) that's catchy and really fits the show well. I will provide a brief synopsis, but suffice to say, this might be considered the Murphy's Law of shows that feature a wedding. But, you can't go wrong by taking in this superbly rendered presentation, and I heartily recommend that you see it!

BWW Review: Circus Flora's PASTIME is a Real HIT!
June 14, 2016

It's that time of year again! Yes, right before it's officially Summer, our own town's one-ring circus pops up the big top behind Powell Symphony Hall. Circus Flora is a local tradition, and this years' presentation, PASTIME, also touches on another St. Louis tradition; baseball. It's a delightful mix of humor and athleticism that presents us with a slate full of premium acts, all in an intimate environment, and freed from all the 'scary clown' nonsense you've seen in movies any number of times. No, Circus Flora is guaranteed fun for everyone!

BWW Review: ATOMIC Triumphs at New Line Theatre
June 10, 2016

ATOMIC receives it's Midwestern regional debut with New Line Theatre's thoroughly engaging and informative production. While it might not seem typical of the productions you're used to seeing the company present, it falls into a category which they excel at; breathing fresh life into a new show, and in the process, displaying its many artistic merits. As noted in the director's notes, this is a modern Prometheus story in a sense, with physicists creating a sort of Frankenstein's monster as they construct this weapon of mass destruction. The analogy of letting the genie out of the bottle could also apply, since this new technology also led directly to the Cold War and arms escalation that occurred. This isn't just a slice of history that explains how the atomic bomb was created, but more a piece that shows us the emotional impact it had on its creators, Filled with a clever and catchy pop/rock score that drives the angst the characters feel, particularly Leo Szilard, a name passed over in many history books despite his brilliance, feels over how the bomb is going to be utilized. Full of surprising amounts of both humor and heart, this is great theatre, and I could tell from the discussions that happened during intermission, a show that will surely provoke a lot of lively debate. It's essentially must-see entertainment that will have you pondering many of its myriad of aspects and points of view long after the lights have dimmed.

BWW DVD Review: Severin Film's Amazing THAT'S SEXPLOITATION!
June 2, 2016

In the grand tradition of MGM's classic That's Entertainment! (parts 1&2) comes the latest release from Severin Films called That's Sexploitation!, which takes us on a journey from silent cinema up to the 1970's when hardcore XXX films rendered them passe. It's a mind-bending excursion into over 2 hours of clips culled mostly from co-producer (the late, great) Mike Vraney's collection, which you can find on the internet under the site name of Something Weird Video. These films, some of which may seem misogynistic and exploitative (duh), are actually so cartoonish that they shouldn't be taken seriously except as examples of a forgotten age. Honestly, while there's certainly some shock value to be had here, you'll probably find yourself laughing hysterically at the more inane things that have been captured. At this point, Quentin Tarantino and his many imitators have picked the bones of grindhouse cinema clean, and to the extent that a lot what you see here is actually quite tame in comparison. The stuff that isn't is so over the top that your jaw will drop in astonishment. It's all here: nudie-cuties, filmed burlesque shows, the "roughies", exotic dancers, acid era body painting, etc. This is definitely on the must-see list of all psychotronic film junkies, and should be required viewing for everyone else.

BWW Review: Delightful and Charming YENTL at The New Jewish Theatre
May 24, 2016

Apparently, due to legal issues with rights that had to be worked out, this version of YENTL, based on the short story "Yentl, the Yeshiva Boy" written by Isaac Bashevis Singer (book by Leah Napolin and Singer), cannot be referred to in its title as a musical. It all has to do with Barbra Streisand's dreary and dreadful (although some people adore it) 1983 musical film version. But, there's no confusing the two once you see this utterly charming adaptation. It adheres closely to Singer's work, while the film veers off into a direction which not only makes little sense, but also butchers the author's intent. That's a shame, but when you're writing, directing, starring, etc, you can tend to lose sight of the actual story, turning it instead into a nothing more than a self-serving star vehicle. Jill Sobule's music (she composed "I Kissed a Girl", oddly enough) provides a genre-hopping mix of styles that may, at times, seem anachronistic, but which serve the tale very well. The New Jewish Theatre's current production is a delight, and I heartily recommend it.

BWW Review: Lively and Hilarious BULLETS OVER BROADWAY at The Peabody Opera House
May 6, 2016

If you think about it, BULLETS OVER BROADWAY is the perfect Woody Allen film to turn into a Broadway musical, especially since it pokes fun at the process of producing one. Add some particularly well drawn characters (book by Allen, based on the original screenplay written with Douglas McGrath) and a copious amount of humor, and combine that with a score that cherry-picks a wealth of classic period music, and you've got a winning combination. The current touring production, which is stopping briefly at The Peabody Opera House (one night only - May 5, 2016), is a hilariously engaging show, full of flashy song and dance numbers from a bygone era, that shouldn't be missed.

BWW Review: Upstream Theater's Truly Special THE GLASS MENAGERIE
May 6, 2016

I've always appreciated live stagings of THE GLASS MENAGERIE far more than the attempts by Hollywood to turn it into a film. They always spoil it by messing with the ending. It's a melancholy slice of playwright Tennessee Williams' life, albeit, one that bears more than a slight resemblance, but which has been fictionalized to a degree. And, you won't find any tacked on 'happy ending' here, which is the way I like it. Williams disowned the first film version, and rightly so. It's not meant to be neatly resolved, and that's why it makes an emotional impact. Upstream Theater's current production is brilliantly staged, cast, and directed. I don't think I've seen a finer presentation, or one that was as engaging as this one. I think it's a must-see, even if you've seen the play many, many times before. This is a fresh and lively take that's well worthy of your time and attention, so go already!

BWW Review: Undeniably Tuneful THE SOUND OF MUSIC at The Fox Theatre
April 29, 2016

Rodgers and Hammerstein's THE SOUND OF MUSIC is still popular today, and there's really no need to wonder why. The songs are undeniably familiar, and the story and characters go through a number of compelling moments. However, it does require a good, solid cast and sharp direction to live up to the expectations of all those folks who have seen the 1965 film over and over and over again. Thankfully, this touring company currently playing The Fox Theatre (through May 8, 2016) is more than up to the task. This classic still has its many charms. and holds up remarkably well despite its age and overexposure in various forms over the years.

BWW Review: Mustard Seed Theatre's Splendid BOSNIAN/AMERICAN: THE DANCE FOR LIFE
April 29, 2016

BOSNIAN/AMERICAN: THE DANCE FOR LIFE is a winning little piece, dedicated to educating and informing the public about the immigration of Bosnian refugees who fled to St. Louis, MO, when frequent massacres and religious and cultural persecution became more and more prevalent in their homeland. It's a wonderful thing to have a Bosnian community in our hometown, and hopefully we're representing the true spirit of the melting pot that is America with our welcoming attitude. Surely, this migration has been taking place for a long time, so there are roots now established here. But, there's always that need to be fully recognized as a true part of the community that sometimes goes unfulfilled. Luckily, playwright Deanna Jent has lent her considerable skills to the task with a work that speaks to people of all ages.

BWW Review: Harrowing TWISTED MELODIES at The Black Rep
April 29, 2016

Donny Hathaway is the very definition of 'tortured genius', a singer/songwriter with velvety pipes, and melodies that were both memorable and timeless. Just listen to the gritty truths he expresses on his breakthrough tune, 'The Ghetto (pt. 1)', or his collaborations with Roberta Flack, particularly 'The Closer I Get to You' or 'Where is the Love?', and try and not fall right into the mood that each song creates. The tragedy of the whole thing is that Hathaway suffered from schizophrenia, often hearing voices in his head that ultimately led to his terribly untimely demise.This is by no means your typical revue or jukebox musical, but an internal exploration of the demons that haunted Hathaway, and from which he ultimately could not escape.

BWW Review: St. Louis Actors' Studio's Amusing IVANOV
April 29, 2016

IVANOV is a formative work in the canon of Anton Chekhov. He was presenting us with the situations and character types we'd come to know and understand, but with the lack of irony that often permeates his material. The St. Louis Actors' Studio has put together a splendid evening of entertainment with their superbly performed and directed production. However, it should be noted that this is a translation by Tom Stoppard, and thus, should be viewed with that in mind. Adaptations are tricky enough on their own, but when you're dealing with a play written in another language, you're often relying on a literal translation in order to produce your take. And, that's precisely what this is. It's Tom Stoppard's IVANOV, full of unexpected humor and nicely etched characterizations, but far afield from Chekhov's early foray, which he himself revised after its initial premier. Either way, this is worth checking out, and surprisingly amusing.

BWW Reviews: Passions Erupt in THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY at The Fox Theatre
April 9, 2016

Based on the novel by Robert James Waller, that people seem to either love or loath, THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY would seem to be a story which relies very heavily on particular imagery conjured up in the readers' mind by the landscape the characters occupy. The film version did make a valiant effort to convey that, even if it had a number of shortcomings. But, that would seem to be a rather large hurdle to clear for a stage production, much less a musical. So, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I genuinely enjoyed this musical adaptation. Jason Robert Brown's music and lyrics (book by Marsha Norman) fit each character and moment like a glove, while dancing around different styles to reflect various moods and emotions. Plus, the story is compelling enough to translate to a wide audience, especially those who like their stories a bit sentimental and bittersweet. The current touring production onstage at The Fox Theatre is certainly well worthy of your time and attention, and you can see it through April 17th, 2016.

BWW Review: HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH Wows at Stray Dog Theatre
April 8, 2016

John Cameron Mitchell's (text) scathing and kinky rock and roll cabaret, HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH, is given its just desserts with Stray Dog Theatre's memorable production, which is currently running at the Tower Grove Abbey through April 16, 2016. Michael Baird bares his soul as tortured songwriter, Hedwig/Hansel, forever altered and made androgynous by a sex change operation gone horribly, horribly wrong. It's more than that though, and what makes this presentation especially powerful is the way that Baird interacts with the crowd, gamely challenging them to listen to his/her angst-filled lament. With a score by Stephen Trask, this show is just amazing to listen to and react to. Trask finds the right voices in song for the various moods and emotions being touched on at any given moment, and a tight band led by Chris Petersen brings that vision to light. Go see it!

BWW Review: The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis' Amazing SATCHEL PAIGE AND THE KANSAS CITY SWING
March 24, 2016

With spring training winding down, and the approach of another baseball season approaching, The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis closes their 49th season with a terrific selection; SATCHEL PAIGE AND THE KANSAS CITY SWING. Set after the end of World War II, at a time when race relations were beginning to show small, incremental signs of progress, this story offers us an entertaining and thoughtful look at a time in our history when a beloved pastime could become one of the catalysts for the civil rights movement that would follow years later. It's a snapshot of an era which also reminds us that we still have issues that remain unresolved or fully addressed. And, it's told through the eyes of legendary pitcher Satchel Paige, who played in the Negro Leagues before making his debut in the majors as its oldest 'rookie'. Full of tension, disappointment, and Paige's own rascally sense of humor, the Rep's lovingly crafted production is a true must-see, and deserves a game ball!

BWW Review: The New Jewish Theatre's Inspirational OLD WICKED SONGS
March 23, 2016

Music has the power to move people in many different ways. As someone who plays a variety of instruments, I can speak firsthand about the ways it's made me feel, and the ways in which I've seen it affect others. I'm certainly no prodigy, and I've always been jealous of those who were born with gifts that I have to constantly work on to improve. Maybe that's one of the reasons The New Jewish Theatre's inspirational production of playwright Jon Maran's OLD WICKED SONGS, resonates so much with me. Full of surprising and moving revelations, this presentation is excellently conceived and executed. Issues of faith and identity abound in a play that absolutely demands your time and attention.

BWW Review: The Rep's MOLLY'S HAMMER Delivers Powerful Impact
March 23, 2016

Although activism is still alive and well, one wonders if future generations will be moved to make change due to their increased isolationism. We live in a world where people feel more and more entitled, and have been raised to expect instant gratification. People who make a stand are becoming rarer and rarer to find. Maybe that's why a play like Tammy Ryan's MOLLY'S HAMMER (based on the book Hammer of Justice by Liane Ellison Norman) is so important. The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis has, again, put together an outstanding production that will make you ponder weighty issues that still exist, but that have been replaced by a fear of terrorism that can arrive so suddenly and unexpectedly that we feel helpless against it. Maybe that's why you should take a young adult with you to experience this story. Nuclear weapons are still a threat to our continued existence on this planet, and we must never forget that we have a duty as citizens of the world to speak out and act out against tyranny. This excellent show takes us back to 1980, when a Pittsburgh housewife took just such a stand.