Review: "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" at The Q Collective

Review: "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" at The Q Collective

The Q Collective is a new theatre company in St Louis. Their second production of the season is ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch.’ A perfect fit for the company focusing on the queer voice and lens in local theatre. In this time, when trans people are facing more hatred and threats, it is vital to hear and support these stories.

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Review: The Squips Hit St Louis, "Be More Chill" at New Line Theatre

Review: The Squips Hit St Louis, "Be More Chill" at New Line Theatre

New Line Theatre closes its 28th season with a bit of history. Known for producing edgy shows with loyal followings ‘Be More Chill’ was a perfect fit. They secured the rights, and then the show exploded in popularity after a sold-out Off-Broadway run and Broadway transfer. This does not usually happen, but a local theatre is legally doing a show that is also currently running on Broadway.

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Review: 'Waitress' Opens Up and Charms at The Fabulous Fox

Review: 'Waitress' Opens Up and Charms at The Fabulous Fox

‘Waitress’ continues this year's Fabulous Fox Theatre’s season. Based off of the film by Adrienne Shelley the story follows ‘Jenna’ a waitress who is known for her amazing pies. ‘Jenna’ finds herself struggling to be free from a cycle of abuse and finding the confidence within to grow. She discovers she is pregnant and ponders what that means to her future. Written by Grammy award winner Sara Bareilles the original score is charming, funny, and compelling.

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Review: "Bouffon Glass Menajoree" at Centene Center for the Arts St Louis

Review: "Bouffon Glass Menajoree" at Centene Center for the Arts St Louis

Ten Directions is a theatre company that originated in New York, but moved St. Louis Missouri recently. Connecting with the theatre company Young Liars lead to this production of “Bouffon Glass Menajoree: a parody of the beloved American classic.” Take that ‘parody’ as a warning. This production takes every extreme twist and turn while spinning the story of the Wingfield family.

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Review: ‘Tribes’ At Gaslight Theatre

Review: ‘Tribes’ At Gaslight Theatre

Tribes’, written by Nina Raine, is about what makes a family and the importance in how we communicate with those we love. It follows ‘Billy’ who is deaf as he discovers the Deaf World and British Sign Language (BSL). His family is hearing, so he never experienced sign and read lips to communicate instead, as is the case with many deaf people born into hearing families. He meets ‘Sylvia’ who is a Hard of Hearing and a Child of Deaf Adult (HoH and CODA) that changes his life. Raine does not hold back and touches on some crucial issues. Isolation, language deprivation, finding love, and employment are over analyzed by the family of academics that are all struggling to find a way to connect.

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Snaps to the Hawthorne Players “Legally Blonde: The Musical”

Snaps to the Hawthorne Players “Legally Blonde: The Musical”

The Hawthorne Players present “Legally Blonde: The Musical” at the Florissant Civic Center Theatre. The story follows the story of “Elle Woods” who gets scorned by her boyfriend and decides to change herself in order to win him back. That includes being admitted to Harvard Law school. The story is based off the film released in 2001, which is based off the novel by Amanda Brown also released in 2001.

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Review: "Annie" at The Muny

Review: "Annie" at The Muny

‘Annie’ continues the 100th season at The Muny in St Louis. The musical set in the time of the Great Depression is about an orphan named ‘Annie’ (Peyton Ella) who is selected by billionaire ‘Oliver Warbucks’ (Christopher Sieber) to stay with him in his mansion for Christmas. Both Ella and Sieber have amazing solos and fantastic chemistry as we follow the plot. 

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Review: R-S Theatrics - 'Love? Actually'

Erin Karll

  • OnStage Missouri Critic

R-S Theatrics latest production is an evening of unrequited love. The night is split into three acts, each lasting around 25 minutes.

First the cast is introduced and names with cabaret titles are selected from a bowl. These winners become the cabaret acts for the first section. Since the drawing is random each night is a completely different experience. The audience this evening was treated to a wonderful selection of songs from Phil Leveling, duets by Natasha Toro with Kelvin Urday and Linday Rae Gingrich with Sarajane Alverson, and a full group performance. The selection was heavily influenced by Lin-Manuel Miranda, which set the tone for a great show. Toro’s and Urday’s duet was ‘Champagne’ from ‘In the Heights’ which R-S Theatrics recently announced plans to produce next season. The group number started with a wonderful comic monologue that had me laughing and missing my practicum at the Arch, and finished with a wonderful cover from ‘Hamilton’. This was a great way to meet the cast. The diversity of the group and the talent was on display and excited me for the rest of the acts.

The second part is the opera by Steven Serpa ‘Thyrsis and Amaranth’. Set after a wedding Thyrsis (Gingrich) and Amaranth (Eileen Engel) emerge from the party and the story of unrequited love begins. Gingrich and Engel had sweet chemistry. As the story progressed with clever background acting from the other members of the cast, words are left unspoken and heartbreak is everywhere. Gingrich is relatable and makes a strong connection with her character. Engel’s voice shines brightly and gives her ‘Amaranth’ an extra pinch of innocence.

The third part is the musical ’21 Chump Street’ written by Lin-Manuel Miranda. I am a fan of this show after hearing it on NPR when it first aired. This production was simply staged with charming choreography (Taylor Pietz). Leah Luciano (Musical Director/Pianist) leads an amazing group of musicians. The story of Justin’s (Urday) and Naomi’s (Toro) unrequited love stems from an undercover drug sting in a Florida High School. Miranda’s word play is always a treat to hear, and you can tell the cast is having a great time telling this story. I will confess that I listen to my cast recording of this show often, and the choices that Toro and company made had me pleasantly surprised.

Over all the show is short and sweet night at the theatre that will defiantly leave you thinking of the special someone that may have gotten away.  ‘Love? Actually’ runs at the Westport Playhouse until September 18th Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. For ticket and show details check out r-stheatrics.com. 

Review: 'Aida' at The Muny

Erin Karll

  • OnStage St. Louis Critic

First I would like to say that I was not at the August 9th performance where the show was interrupted by protesters. I have the luck of missing wild nights at the theatre by one day. I missed Shia LaBouf’s fun time at “Cabaret” by one night, and now this. Mike Issacson (artistic director and executive producer) came out to say farewell to this season. He immediately addressed the events of the previous night, thanking the staff, cast, and crew for doing their jobs and making sure everyone was safe. I am not going to turn this review into a political editorial, so I will just say I am happy the demonstration ended peacefully and the show was able to finish. Now on with the review!

Closing out the 98th season of the Muny was “Aida”, the wonderful musical written by Elton John and Tim Rice. Set in ancient Egypt the story follows Radames (Zak Resnick) a captain in the Pharaoh’s (Lara Teeter) army. He is set to marry Pharaoh’s daughter Amneris (Taylor Louderman), as arranged by his father Zoser (Patrick Cassidy). He meets a Nubian woman named Aida (Michelle Williams, yes that Michelle Williams) and his world is changed. The topics of slavery, destiny, and being true to your self are all carefully told.

I have never seen this show, so I was excited for a new story and I was not disappointed. The fantastic cast was led by Resnick, Williams, and Louderman. Resnick plays the torn and lonely Radames with care and depth. Williams impressed me with her acting ability. I knew she had a top notch voice, but I was on the edge of my seat listening to her storytelling. Louderman shows her range being able to lead to audience from laughter to grief as the show progresses.  Standouts also include Cassidy for his rock star voice, Wonza Johnson (Mereb) for his hilarious and charming take on the character, and Muny vet Ken Page (Amonasro) who returned and commanded the stage. All of the cast voices and movements are so powerful.

There is thrilling choreography by Jon Rua on a beautiful stage by scenic designer Tim Macabee.  Matt Lenz (director) holds it all together. I was ecstatic to see the turn table used to its full potential. Simple set pieces made scene changes easy and keep the audience in the moment. Special notice to the sound team of John Shivers and David Patridge, I have never heard the Muny sound so good. Clear voices and powerful music (Andrew Graham Musical Director) make the show flow and a joy to follow. The costumes (Robin L McGee) were spectacular. I enjoyed Amneris’ stunning dresses throughout the show, truly her ‘strongest suit’. The ensemble members also looked great wither the palace guards, Nubian slaves, or dream dancers.

Overall this is a production I would recommend seeing. You can check out ticket and show information and muny.org. Aida runs until August 14 and closes the muny season. Check out the website also for off season concerts and the party to announce next season’s shows. 

Review: 'Mama Mia' at The Muny

Erin Karll

  • OnStage St. Louis Critic

Mama Mia, here we go again!  The most recent production of the Muny season was the ABBA jukebox musical “Mama Mia”. A beautiful beach and disco ball lights filled Forest Park. The crowd was dancing and singing along to the classic songs.

Photo: Michael Thomas

Photo: Michael Thomas

Stand outs of the cast for me were Julia Murney (Donna Sheridan), Justin Guarini (Sam Carmichael), Ann Harada (Rosie), Mike Mcgowan (Bill Austin), Brittany Zeinstra (Sophie Sheridan), Jason Gotay (Sky), and Alexander Aguilar (Peper).  I know that is a lot of stand outs, but it was a great show. Murney and Gaurini had amazing chemistry and duets were filled with emotion, but only half as heartbreaking as their solos. Guarini’s voice has an edge and youth to it. When I first heard about his casting I thought that he seemed a bit young to be one of the fathers. Guarini did not disappoint and showed maturity that fit the character. Murney powerfully held the stage during her characters emotional roller-coaster. Harada and Mcgowan hit the comedy jackpot, and “Take a Chance on Me” received laughter and applause all throughout the scene. Zeinstra and Gotay helped keep the show focused and the story moving, making it more than just an ABBA cover concert. Aguilar only had a few scenes, but stole the stage each time. “Does Your Mother Know?” was funny and the dancing was impressive.

The set was beautifully done. Using the turntable to their advantage director Dan Knechtges and scenic designer Tim Mackabee created a gorgeous Greek resort; seriously I want to go there. Jessica Hartman’s choreography was wonderful. The large ensemble numbers filled the stage, but still drew your eye to certain couples or a group. The finale was amazing. Leon Dobkowski’s costumes were fantastic in the finale and a special nod for the quick change that took place after the bows.

The one issue I had with the production was the sound. I have mentioned it before, but this season the volume is quite loud. Also there were some feedback issues when a few songs were just starting. Controlling the sound for such a large outdoor space cannot be easy, but I have never seen so many shows in a row have this technical issue. The show went on and the glitches were just that, a quick few seconds of feedback.

This was a wonderful, fun, and enchanting show. The power of family and knowing yourself set to the sounds of disco works in this production. I look forward to the rest of the season from The Muny. If you attend, do not forget to vote for next seasons shows. Looks like a lot of great choices coming up. 

Review: 'The Music Man' at The Muny

Erin Karll

  • OnStage St. Louis Critic

St Louis MO - Summer in St. Louis means another amazing season at the Muny in Forest Park. The most recent production was the classic “The Music Man”.  Sitting in the seats and feeling the wind brought back some wonderful memories from my high school senior year production. The crowd was excited and happy for the show and the decent weather.

The staging, I have to confess, was not my favorite. It took a while for me to see where they (Michael Schweikardt -scenic design and Rob Ruggiero-director) were going with the set. The Muny stage is large and known for the turntable. Many sets are built back to back and the turntable takes care of the scene change. Most of the time this system works out perfectly, creating Muny magic. The timing just seemed off in some scenes, and at one time Harold Hill (Hunter Foster) led the children through the Paroo house and up the staircase to reach the other part of town. Normally the runway that circles the pit would have been use, but it was taken out for this production. Another time Mayor Shinn (Mark Linn-Baker) began to speak and turntable made a complete stop and was visible from my seat. These issues did take me out of the show a few times.  But even with the timing trouble, the set looked amazing and fit the story well. My favorite part was the forest behind the footbridge in act two. And the backdrop video screen (Rob Denton) looked beautiful in that Iowa sort of way.  

Photo: Jon Gitchoff

Photo: Jon Gitchoff

The cast was wonderful. Foster brought a fresh take on Hill’s con style, and his energy could be felt all the way in the free seats. Elena Shaddow (Marian Paroo) and Foster had great chemistry. The arc of their relationship was easy to feel. The Quartet (J.D. Daw, Adam Haplin, Ben Nordstrom, and Joseph Torello) gave me goosebumps. They worked the harmonies and gave a new air to the classic barbershop sound. I must add that Owen Hanford (Winthrop) and Gretta Leigh Clark (Amaryllis) were stand outs. They handled the dramatic and comedic scenes with ease earning laughs and sighs from the audience. Of course I cannot forget the Muny kids and teens. These young talents proved they were ready for the big stage doing the large group songs.

Overall this was a wonderful production. The costumes (Amy Clark) popped on the stage and worked well with the choreography (Chris Bailey). The cast fit together perfectly and the harmonies were amazing. I would recommend a trip to River City, via Forest Park in St. Louis. Check out Muny.org for ticket information and show details. 

Review: “Atomic” drops powerful truths at New Line Theatre

Erin Karll

  • OnStage Missouri Critic

The success of ‘Hamtilon’ shows us that history is full of amazing stories waiting to be told. ‘Atomic’ is one of them. New Line Theatre’s latest production is powerful. Doing what theatre does best, this show opens a dialog that has importance in todays socitey. I consider myself a history buff, but the writers Danny Ginges (book and lyrics) and Philip Foxman (music and lyrics) taught the story behind the atomic bomb in thought provoking way. When the finale ended and the band hit the last note the audience is left with the questions these scientists ask themselves. Just because we can, does that mean we should? Can we forgive ourselves for our actions, or lack of actions?

The story of the Manhattan Project’s Leo Szilard (Zachary Allen Farmer) is followed during the origins of the project and the aftermath when the bomb was used on Japan. Act one focus on the challenges the scientist faced not knowing who to trust and where to find support. Act two deals with the fallout, both physically and emotional after the bombs are dropped.

The cast was full of stand outs, but also worked together to form hefty harmonies. J Robert Oppenheimer (Jeffery M Wright) got quite a few laughs by just walking in and out of a door. Wright and Farmer showed layers of the characters, showing the audience that these are not just bolded names in text books.

The costumes (Sarah Porter) were impeccable. Fitted suits with hats and army uniforms for the men. The ladies had some quick changes from World War II era skirts to Rosie the Riveter outfits for a wonderful chorus number that brought visions of Edward Snowden nightmares to my mind. The lighting (Rob Lippert) was brilliant. Not wanting to spoil the show I will just say the use of colors during the bombing and while talking about the victims of the fall out added to the storytelling. Also there was a scene where Leo is torn between the two worlds. One controlled by his heart with his love Trude Weiss (Ann Hier) and the other controlled by his brain filled with the scientist of the Manhattan Project. The light choice and staging was so simple, but powerful and I enjoyed it.

‘Atomic’ runs at The Marcelle Theatre in St. Louis until June 25th. For tickets and show information call MetroTix at 314-534-1111 or visit newlinetheatre.com. Also, check out #newlinelive for live tweets from opening night.

Review: 'American Idiot' at New Line Theatre

Erin Karll

Calling out to idiot America! The musical based off of the Green Day album “American Idiot” is rocking the Marcelle Theatre in the Grand Center here in St Louis.  Newline Theatre is known for producing edgy and hard hitting shows. This show is no exception. From the start to finish the show is a train ride that doesn’t slow or show mercy.

Full disclosure, this is one of my favorite shows. The story is very powerful, the music is amazing, and you can’t get more theatrical then punk rock. In a world where many things are being questioned this show is a generations warning to be tuned in and aware of our ability to affect change.

Photo Credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg

Photo Credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg

For me, walking into a black box theatre is a magical experience because it is different for every production. This set felt like a cramped apartment with a bed, sofa and chair covering the front of the stage.  A staircase and bridge is set in the center, with a design that fit the punk club feel, along with the rows of chairs and guitars that lined the walls. Those walls covered in newspapers, band posters, and graffiti. The band is set in the left corner. The costumes had just the right amount of accessories to show the undertone of red, white, and blue.  

Directors Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy hit a homerun with this production. In the director note printed in the program they discuss this story being a Hero Myth.  I could see that very clearly with the journey from Jingletown to the City and back again being a symbol for so much more. The serious topics of the show were treated with respect and as with any good piece brought front and center for all to see.  Drug addiction, family, patriotism, and self-worth were broken down with a punk rock soundtrack. I literally felt the walls shaking with the power of the band and cast during the opening number. The musicians did a wonderful job under the conduction of Sue Goldford.

Evan Fornachon (Johnny) showed an amazing range with the highs and lows of the character. Brendan Ochs (Will) and Frederick Rice (Tunny) brought layers to the friendship between the trios that I really enjoyed. Chris Kernan (St. Jimmy) vocals were truly dramatic and felt like a pied piper leading the youth. Not to be outdone the women of the cast were phenomenal. Sarah Porter (Whatsername/Costume designer), Sicily Mathenia(extraordinary girl), and Larissa White(Heather) all shone bright adding to the story of how far these characters have fallen.  The show stoppers were when the whole cast would unite onstage. Harmonies were tear-jerking during ‘21 Guns’ and ‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’.  The ensemble acted like strong glue that brought three stories back together. Stand outs were Kevin Corpuz (favorite son) and Gabe Taylor with Camiesha Cotton, who rocked ‘too much too soon’.

American Idiot runs through March 26th. Visit newlinetheatre.com for ticket and show information.  Also check out #newlinelive for a look at the show from the fans view on opening night. 

Review: 'The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee' at Act Two Theatre

Erin Karll

I have never been to the Act Two Theatre, but like many regional shows I have attended the atmosphere was warm and welcoming. The building was easy to find as it is attached to the city hall. They had friendly staff everywhere to lead the new comers like myself in the right direction.  I am happy to say that they are hosting a Deaf Night at the Theatre on February 20th with interpreters for the show and volunteer signers around the theatre for any needs! It should be a fun filled night for everyone with access for all! Check out acttwotheatre.com for details on this event and other shows for this season. 

Now on to the bee! I found this production is funny and fresh, and enjoyed the audience participation. The last minute spellers were all wonderful sports and had a blast onstage. Much of the choreography (Rachel Lampert) was designed so the actors could interact with the audience, sometimes very personally (looking at you two “Chip” and “Marigold”).  This is one of those shows where you need to keep your eyes peeled all over the house. The action is fast paced and fills the room, flowing off the stage and into the seats, adding to the excitement.  The set was filled the stage and was fully used. I caught myself watching for all the moving parts as the actors played other characters in flashbacks.

The harmonies from this cast were stunning in the opening number and in “The I Love You Song”.  Ryan Wood and Theresa Hermann added to “Olive’s” beautiful voice.  Nathan Robert Hinds (William Barfee) kept my attention with just a facial move and a simple “I know.” Kurtis Heinrich (Leaf Coneybear) hit the jokes without going overboard and had the best exit I have seen in a while. Lindsay Gingrich (Olive Ostrovsky) was sweet, with an air of confidence that matured her character in a believable way. Michael Barrows-Fitzgerald (Vice Principal Panch) and Grace Langford (Marcy Park) had amazing delivery on some favorite lines of the show.

Alex Dyer (Logainne Shwartzandgrubenierre) had the perfect mix of humor and sadness to show her characters layers.

There were some technical issues with microphone feedback and a light cue. They were small and handled quickly by this wonderful group.  Live theatre people!  It is almost like magic seeing this well-rehearsed crew trouble shoot on the fly. Working with the unknown is where theatre people thrive and the Act Two theatre did an amazing job with this charming and hilarious show.  Bravo to the whole cast and crew.