Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

BWW Reviews: BEST OF 2010 IN ST. LOUIS

The theatre scene in St. Louis in 2010 turned out to be another year filled with fine productions and superb performances. Despite the economic barriers faced by all the local theatre companies many continued to take risks, presenting material that challenged audience expectations, but entertained them as well. And so, I'm presenting my own top ten of 2010, to honor the shows that beguiled and entranced me this past year.

The year got off to a bright start with Upsteam Theater's wonderful presentation of Michael Huffman's witty translation of the Peter Suskind play, The Double Bass. J. Samuel Davis delivered a pitch perfect performance, making this disgruntled musician into something very special indeed. Philip Boehm continues to bring the world to St. Louis through his choices, and we're all the more enlightened by his efforts.

August: Osage County graced the stage of the Fox theatre soon after, and this much-anticipated show certainly lived up to expectations. Estelle Parsons was completely captivating as the acid-tongued matriarch, Beverly Weston, who rides rough shod over her wildly dysfunctional brood. Even a spectacular multi-story set was dwarfed by the dramatic and hilarious work of this terrific ensemble led by Parsons.

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis continued their own strong season with an absolutely brilliant and compact production of Dostoyevsky's classic work, Crime and Punishment. An exceptional cast (Jimmy King, Amy Landon and Triney Sandoval) combined with excellent direction (Stuart Carden), and clever scenic design of Gianni Downs to produce a home run. Only a handful of shows came anywhere close to the intensity level of this production.

If there's any group capable of generating similar sparks it's New Line Theatre, and their dark and decadent production of Andrew Lippa's The Wild Party blew me away. Scott Miller's impeccable direction, as well as his sharp work on the ivories pounding out this genre-hopping blend of space age bachelor pad music and cool jazz, brought this black comedy to life in fine fashion. Jeffrey Pruett's performance as the scary clown named Burrs was especially memorable.

The Black Rep took an interesting look at friendship with their stellar presentation of Yasmina Reza's Art. Ron Himes, Tim Schall and Robert A. Mitchell are well cast, and do wonderful work under Andrea Frye's direction, as three close friends whose bonds are tested when one purchases a particular piece of abstract art. All three deliver, but Mitchell's ingratiating work as Yvan adds the spice that really made this show cook.

Continuing with the theme of exceptional ensemble work, the New Jewish Theatre put together one of the funniest shows of the year with their production of Neil Simon's Laughter on the 23rd Floor. This loving recreation of the goings-on within the writer's room of revered 1950's fare like "Your Show of Shows" and "Caesar's Hour" was a laugh riot in the hands of talented comedic actors like Alan Knoll and Bobby Miller. This was easily one of finest productions of one of Simon's works that I've been privileged to see.

While some might view a presentation of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's Evita as a safe choice, New Line Theatre's incendiary production was anything but, infusing this modern classic with a rock and roll edge that served the material particularly well. Taylor Pietz (Eva Peron), Todd Schaefer (Juan Peron) and John Sparger (Che) do stunning work under Scott Miller's direction, neatly bringing these characters to life with a genuine sense of enthusiasm and energy that I've found lacking in other productions. This stripped-down, rocking rendition of Evita was truly inspired.

I'd always wanted to see the Neil Simon, Burt Bacharach, and Hal David collaboration Promises, Promises, and thankfully Stages St. Louis put together a sparkling package featuring Ben Nordstrom in a role that seemed tailor-made for his talents and charm. Brandi Wooten also enlivened the proceedings greatly with her part as a boozy flirt named Marge Macdougall. Lisa Campbell Albert added the icing to the cake with her wordless vocals filling in the musical gaps with pure Bacharach-influenced style.

HotCity Theatre made several notable contributions to the year with presentations of exciting new original works, but it was their excellent production of Equus that really captured my attention. I had only seen the disappointing movie version from the 1970's, so this production of Peter Shaffer's psychological mystery was a revelation. I was simply mesmerized by the completely focused work of James Anthony (Martin Dysart) and Drew Pannebecker (Alan) under the assured guidance of director Doug Finlayson.

While there were several enormously funny shows, none made me laugh quite as much as the Rep's production of playwright Tom Dudzick's Over the Tavern. The entire cast is splendid, but it's the interplay between Spencer Davis Milford (Rudy) and Darrie Lawrence (Sister Clarissa) that really makes the work bristle. Director Michael Evan Haney finds the heart at the center of Dudzick's play, and renders a warm and humor-filled look back at the late 1950's, when America was on the cusp of major social upheavals.

Here's my top ten again (in chronological order):

The Double Bass

Crime and Punishment

August: Osage County

The Wild Party

Art

Laughter on the 23rd Floor

Evita

Promises, Promises

Equus

Over the Tavern

Best Children's shows: the dazzling Darwin (Corbian Arts and Dance), the amusing and athletic work of Jamie Adkins as a one man big top in Circus Incognitus, the fun-filled antics of The Aristocats (Stages St. Louis), the mixed-up musicality of ScrapArtsMusic, and the breathtaking charms of Ingenioso (Circus Flora).

Honorable Mention: The 39 Steps and Next Fall (Repertory Theatre of St. Louis), Shirley Valentine and Master Class and As Bees in Honey Drown (Stray Dog Theatre), Slasher and The Sinker (HotCity Theatre), Outlying Islands and Oedipus King (Upstream Theater), I Love My Wife (New Line Theatre), Desire Under the Elms and Long Days Journey into Night (Muddy Waters Theatre), Romeo and Juliet and Five Guys Named Moe (the Black Rep), Crumble (Lay Me Down Justin Timberlake) and Another Home Invasion and God's Ear (Echo Theatre Company), The Queen of Spades (Pikovaya Dama) (Union Avenue Opera), That Championship Season and This Wonderful Life (Dramatic License), A Doll's House and November and Rock and Roll (St. Louis Actors' Studio), Hamlet (Shakespeare Festival St. Louis), and South Pacific (Fox Theatre).

Best concerts: John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension, Sutton Foster, Eliane Elias, Jewel, Katy Tibbets and Ben Nordstrom (Sheldon Concert Hall), and Mark Knopfler (Fox Theatre).

I'm certainly grateful for the opportunity to cover over 120 shows a year. In doing so, I get the chance to report on some of the finest talent in the area, and from around the world. With the continued growth and propagation of new companies, and in spite of the bleak economic climate, the future of theatre in St. Louis appears to be filled with excitement and the promise of bigger things to come.


Buy at the Theatre Shop

T-Shirts, Mugs, Phone Cases & More
Branded Broadway Merch

Related Articles View More St. Louis Stories

From This Author Chris Gibson