Feature: St. Louis' Top 10 Theatrical Events of 2022

Recognizing the best in St. Louis Theatre for the 2022 Season

By: Dec. 14, 2022
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Feature: St. Louis' Top 10 Theatrical Events of 2022

This past year was filled with exceptional theatrical productions in the St. Louis Arts Community. Nearly every performance in 2022 at STAGES St. Louis, The Muny, The Black Rep and Midnight Company were entertaining with only a few misfires. As a long-time season ticket holder to The Fabulous Fox Theatre and a first-time attendee to New Line Theatre, I had the opportunity to see nearly every theatrical production that was staged in these venues. Instead of compiling a top ten list of best shows, I decided this would be the opportunity to recognize the best work, both performing and technical theater, that I observed in 2022. Without further ado, here are the ten best works on the stages of St. Louis throughout the past year.

Number 10: The use of video projection effects by Caite Hevner (SWEENEY TODD at The Muny), and Margery and Peter Spack (multiple productions at The Black Rep.) complimented the set design and helped advance the story. Early use of projection effects on backdrops and LCD screens in the theatre were contrived and sometime intrusive, distracting from the set design and overall production. The first memorable use of effective projection effects was for the Tony Award Winning Cy Coleman show, CITY OF ANGELS. The most vibrantly beautiful projection effects ever used were the backdrops in the Broadway Musical adaptation of ANASTASIA. The work of Hevner and The Spacks illustrated how skilled artists can masterfully use video projection to tell the story and enhance the set design. Hevner's work in SWEENEY TODD provided a dark view of London coupled with the requisite blood splatter when Sweeney Todd murdered his victims. Gruesome? Yes. Grisly? Absolutely. Effective? Incredibly! Margery and Peter Spack's work consistently added to the set design of many of the Black Rep's 2022 productions, however their most memorable work was the seaside design used in DONTRELL, WHO KISSED THE SEA when The Spacks work transported the audience to the shores of Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

Number 9: The Muny's masterpiece production of SWEENEY TODD was perhaps the best overall production to ever play The Muny stage. The show was perfectly cast from the leads to the ensemble. The music direction by James Moore and the sound design by John Shivers and David Patridge played to the back of the enormous amphitheater. Every element of this grim tale was gripping and was the best of The Muny's 2022 season.

Number 8: The tour-de-force duo of Ariana Valdes (Daniela) and Tauren Hagans (Camila) in the STAGES St. Louis production of IN THE HEIGHTS. Filled with a company of incredible performers, these two actors took their supporting roles, elevated the overall company to enhance the story telling, and laid down two of the most memorable performances in St. Louis this year. Valdes delivered big laughs with her strong comedic timing, while Hagans stunned the audience with her emotional appeal to her family in her solo number "Enough." It was magic to see how these skilled actors can make the most of every minute they were on stage.

Number 7: The biggest surprise this year was New Line Theatre's production of SOMETHING ROTTEN at the Marcell theater. This show illustrated how a strong director can scale-down a production of a smartly written asset, transfer it to a smaller stage and deliver an exceptional night of entertainment in the theatre. The cast delivered animated performances with strong vocals, but the stand-out performance was that of Jeffery Izquierdo-Malon's Nostradamus. His characterization was eccentrically goofy and witty, delivering laugh after laugh with his soothsayer craziness.

Number 6: Heather Beal's choreography and Daryl Harris' costume design in The Black Rep's production of DONTRELL,WHO KISSED THE SEA. Beal and Harris took a simple scene at an aquarium and provided the most memorable moment in the 2022 season. The ensemble, dressed as fish, are fed by the aquarium employee who was related to the titular character. The movement and costumes were cheeky, adorable, colorful, playful and fun and provided a visual imagery conveying the magic that stagecraft can provide.

Number 5: Jovanni Sy's performance as Mr. Miyagi in the World Premiere production of THE KARATE KID: THE MUSICAL at STAGES St. Louis was among the best lead performances in the 2022 season. This emotive actor allowed the audience to experience a multi-faceted characterization that conveyed humor, sadness, mentorship and care. His connection with the audience illustrated how an actor's rich performance can flow from the stage, wash over an audience, and bind them to a character.

Number 4: Joe Hanrahan's (Midnight Company) supernatural play, ANOMALOUS EXPERIENCE, was the most interesting non-musical offering of the 2022 season. The dialogue driven script, Morgan Maul-Smith's direction, and the performances of Joe Hanrahan, Payton Gilliam and Joseph Garner delivered a completely believable story about alien abduction. It was 80-minutes of attention-grabbing, supernatural fun that seemed to go by in mere seconds.

Number 3: ST. LOUIS WOMAN at the Midnight Company celebrated the artistic contributions of many St. Louis Women of color who had ties to the local Area. Joe Hanrahan's script was an essay that explored the rich history of the artistic gifts of Josephine Baker, Tina Turner, Fontella Bass, Anne Peebles, Wille Mae Ford, Katherine Dunham, and Maya Angelou. This one-woman show was performed by the dynamo who is LAKA. She inhabited the spirt of more than a half dozen real life artists and disappeared entirely into her characterizations of each while performing music of different styles or emoting through poetic readings.

Number 2: The opportunity to experience The Black Rep's artistic director Ron Himes performing a role on stage is a gift for any St. Louis theatre fan. This year, Himes joined the company of August Wilson's JITNEY as a cast member to play the role of Turnbo. His comedic timing and ability to provide intense drama illustrated why Himes, in his work as actor, producing director and company founder, is a valued treasure to the St. Louis theatrical community.

Number 1: The World Premier and Pre-Broadway Tryout of THE KARATE KID: THE MUSICAL brought a first to the St. Louis theatre community, an early iteration of a full-scale Broadway bound musical. Upon hearing the announcement of THE KARATE KID: THE MUSICAL I was skeptical that it would be a cash-cow to fill audience seats. What wasn't apparent at the announcement was that this production was helmed by a high-powered technical theatre team assembled to deliver a quality production of a timeless story that still resonates with audiences. The creative team included screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen, acclaimed Japanese theatre director Amon Miyamoto, Tony Award winning set-designer Derek McLane, choreographers Keone and Mari Madrid and composer Drew Gasparini. The creative team melded together as a single unit to deliver an elegant production while still in its infancy. Gasparini's score relies on multiple musical motifs to set the mood for good, evil, and peaceful mentoring. The Madrid's choreography was unlike anything seen in a musical prior and lends itself well the martial arts theme. McLane's set design was luminous and dramatic. Finally, Miyamoto's directorial vision dynamically transition Kamen's asset to the stage. The World Premiere was the most exciting theatrical event of the 2022 season and brought many of the original cast members of the movie version to St. Louis to experience THE KARATE KID: THE MUSICAL.


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