The movie “Hamilton” meets the moment! Creator Lin-Manuel Miranda’s game-changer remains a vibrant experience five years after opening on Broadway. Its brilliance shines brightest with the original cast, and its synergy is a thing of beauty.
The cultural phenomenon “Hamilton,” the most nominated musical ever on Broadway and winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, had two performances recorded on June 25-26, 2016, at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York City. This is after the musical won 11 Tony Awards, one shy of the record, and while the original cast was still intact. Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, is the central figure in this retelling of history and political scheming. It also includes Hamilton’s family and romantic drama, based on Ron Chernow’s biography.
Miranda’s masterpiece is a hopeful reflection on the ‘unfinished symphony’ that is America – he presents a history lesson, inside view on the messy political process and an amalgam of modern and Broadway styles of music in a grand and glorious way.
Miranda, who wrote the book, music and lyrics, also stars in the
title role. He cast black, Latino and Asian-Americans as the characters – “it
is about America then as told by America now.” This ensemble is the gold
standard – particularly Tony Award winners Leslie Odom Jr. as Aaron Burr, who
resents the ambitious Hamilton’s easy climb; Daveed Diggs as loyal Lafayette in
the first act and cocky Thomas Jefferson in the second; and Renee Elise
Goldsberry as fiery Angelica Schuyler, whose sweet sister Eliza marries
Hamilton; plus nominees Christopher Jackson as an imposing George Washington,
Phillipa Soo as the kind-hearted wife Eliza and Jonathan Groff, who makes the
most of his nine minutes as the snooty and catty King George.
Hamilton’s a fascinating human, and his journey keeps us riveted
through his personal evolution and the birth of our nation. His rivalry with
Burr adds a complexity – their flaws, fears, desires and regrets fuel the
story. Odom has some of the show’s best songs – “Wait for It,” and “Non-Stop,”
and his introduction “Talk Less” is memorable.
Featuring a score that blends hip-hop, jazz, R&B, pop and traditional
Broadway show tunes, “Hamilton” is a revolutionary moment in theatre,
and you won’t be able to get those songs out of your head: “My Shot,” The Story
of Tonight,” “The Room Where It Happened,” “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Our
Story,” “History Has Its Eyes on You” and “The World Turned Upside Down.” The
Cabinet Battles are comical and thought-provoking at the same time.
The Schuyler Sisters have a sensational introduction – and Peggy
(Jasmine Cephas Jones), and the songs “Helpless,” “Satisfied,” “Burn” have real
depth from a female point of view. “It’s Quiet Uptown” will tug on your
Already, the staged musical has had profound impact on culture, politics and education, and you will see why, as Hamilton the movie transports the audience inside the Broadway show in an intimate way. (I spontaneously broke into applause a few times).
As for the ‘film’ part, we might not be in the room where it happened (Richard Rodgers Theatre) but what it lacks in the palpable energy only live theater produces, it trades for the emotions you connect with in the close-ups.
Declan Quinn’s cinematography and Jonah Moran’s editing gives us
a crisp perspective. And the skill of that team — Thomas Kail’s seamless
direction, Alex Lacamoire’s exquisite orchestrations and conducting, Andy Blankenbuehler’s
fluid and innovative choreography and Manuel’s smart and clever words and music
— are a swirling mix of craft, art and talent.
With use of steady-cam, crane and dolly, the multiple cameras
create a view you would not have seen – even if you been fortunate enough in
the first couple of rows. We also benefit from it being performed before a live
audience – their reactions give ours some vitality. Lafayette’s line:
“Immigrants – we get the job done!” produces the loudest applause.
I saw the musical once two years ago, on its first national tour
at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis, and even with its cavernous 4500 seats, was
gobsmacked. It was among the best theatrical experience ever – and lived up to
This view has new opportunities for discovery, to marvel at
Manuel’s attention to detail and his nimble storytelling. The recurring themes
and repetitive nature of the score add texture to the rhythms and harmonies,
and the cast’s enunciation and verbal dexterity is remarkable.
In 2009, Miranda was invited to the White House to share what he
was working on during a night of poetry-inspired entertainment. President
Barack and Michelle Obama were a little taken aback by his concept – a hip-hop
concert album about the founding father who is on the $10 bill. OK. Well, the
rest, as they say, is history.
And Manuel has made history. An Emmy, Tony and Grammy Award
winner, among his theatrical accomplishments — he wrote and starred in the Tony-winning
2008 musical “In the Heights,” was co-composer and lyricist with Tom Kitt and
Amanda Green for “Bring It On!” in 2011 (produced by Mike Isaacson-led Fox
Theatricals) and at Stephen Sondheim’s request, wrote Spanish dialogue and
lyrics for the 2009 Broadway revival of “West Side Story.”
“Hamilton; An American Musical” opened at the Public Theatre on
Jan. 20, 2015 and moved to Broadway that August. Because of the demand for
tickets, he created the “Ham4Ham” lottery ($10 tickets for first couple of rows),
but those who couldn’t get to Broadway or afford the sky-high ticket prices, can
see the next best thing. The unforgettable theatrical experience has been made
accessible for an even wider audience to appreciate.
The lighting design, by Howell Binkley (Tonys for both
“Hamilton” and “Jersey Boys”), is effective on screen. Paul Tazewell’s costumes
and David Korins’ deceptively simple brick-lined set designs of scaffolds,
catwalks and staircases add to the show’s signature style and cohesiveness.
The film was slated for an October 2021 theatrical release, but
the decision was made to stream through Disney Plus ($6.99 a month subscription
or $69 for the year).
What a wonderful way to celebrate the birth of our nation and
see its impact today, after a grave period of uncertainty, unprecedented
pandemic and level civil unrest not seen in 50 years. It feels more urgent as a
call to action, to keep this great American experiment a righteous one.
The care and skill that went into this production is obvious. “Hamilton” deserves a standing ovation in every living room across this great country of ours. The musical makes America more beautiful this Independence Day weekend.
“Hamilton” is a filmed musical directed by Thomas Kail, starring Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., Daveed Diggs, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Phillipa Soo, Christopher Jackson and Jonathan Groff. Rated: PG-13 for language and some suggestive material, it runs 2 hours 40 minutes with 1-minute intermission. Lynn’s Grade: A Streaming on Disney Plus beginning July 3.
By Lynn Venhaus Sharp as a tack and a needed gut punch, “Irresistible” is a savage political satire that aims at both major political parties and the media. It is a wake-up call about how money-influenced political campaigns are run these days and how crazy it all is. And if you are cynical, writer-director Jon Stewart explains why.
The story centers on a Democratic political consultant who helps a retired Marine colonel run for mayor in a small Wisconsin town, and soon the national spotlight is on rural Deerlaken, for its ‘authenticity.’
It might not sound entertaining, and the big city slickers coming to small-town America is a well-worn trope, but “Irresistible” is clever and for the most part, amusing. It zips along, contrasting caring, connected life in rural America with the go-go-go sophistication of New York as a media and liberal center, and the cutthroat political scene in Washington D.C.
The performances are first-rate. Former Daily Show correspondent Steve Carell is in his wheelhouse as Gary Zimmer, a driven Democratic strategist who puts all his muscle and know-how into winning elections. His new pet project is more about his redemption and finding someone who can take the next step to the national arena.
Oscar winner Chris
Cooper, the Kansas City-born actor who consistently depicts integrity, is
perfect as Jack Hastings, a widower and retired Marine, who has the right
demeanor for electability and the wisdom to size up what’s happening in this
super-charged environment. No fool, he knows how he is being presented as a
candidate, and, used. Cooper, who majored in acting and agriculture at
University of Missouri-Columbia, embodies the role with a genuine gravitas.
As his grown daughter
Diana, Mackenzie Davis, last seen in “Terminator: Dark Fate,” is another high
mark, conveying her concerns regarding her dad, being protective and wary of
Acting as Gary’s archrival Faith Brewster, Rose Byrne’s GOP political operative
is abrasive and crude, and in that regard, annoying. Of course, that’s the
point, but ick.
The supporting cast
is having fun – including Topher Grace and Natasha Lyonne as slick national
pollsters, Will Sasso and Will McLaughlin as the “Two Mikes,” Brent Sexton as
Mayor Braun and Blair Sams as the local baker Ann.
During this election
year in the middle of the pandemic, people may have developed fatigue about the
news and how campaigns are covered, but this is on the mark. It bites and
stings, as evidenced by the talking heads and the insatiable need to make
predictions and blow things out of proportion.
Stewart, who spent 16 years on “The Daily Show,” knows his material and
personalities, and treats the small-town hicks with respect, while depicting
the easy way they are patronized.
While the barbs don’t always land well, and the sarcasm can get tedious, “Irresistible” presents a case for campaign finance reform. And you might just crave some warm, fresh-baked streusel coffeecake. Required viewing is all the way through the credits.
“Irresistible” is a contemporary comedy-drama directed by Jon Stewart, and starring Steve Carell, Chris Cooper, Rose Byrne, Mackenzie Davis, Topher Grace and Natasha Lyonne. Run time is: 1 hr. 41 min. and rated R for language including sexual references. Lynn’s Grade: B+. Available on Video on Demand June 26.
A version of this review appeared in the Webster-Kirkwood Times
A Late Summer Night’s Stroll: An Interactive Walk Experience in Forest ParkWill Be Offered Aug. 12 – Sept. 6
Producing Artistic Director Tom Ridgely has officially announced the postponement of St. Louis Shakespeare Festival’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” its 20th Anniversary Shakespeare in the Park production, as well as “Shakespeare in the Streets: The Ville” in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Bruce Longworth, has been rescheduled for the 2022 summer season, and “Shakespeare in the Streets: The Ville”, written by Mariah Richardson and directed by Thomasina Clarke, will take place in September 2021. Final dates will be announced at a later time.
“In the end, it boiled down to the safety of the artists,” Ridgely said in a statement. “The actors’ union hired a very well-qualified epidemiologist to assess the situation, and their determination was that it just wouldn’t be safe to return to work this summer. We wish it could be otherwise, but we have to trust the experts and not take any chances when it comes to people’s health and well-being. We’ll be back though, and we’re already looking forward to how good it will feel when we can all be together again.”
The Festival will spend the additional time investing in The Ville, working closely with 4the Ville and Young Friends of the Ville, its partner organizations on Shakespeare in the Streets.
“I am saddened about the delay but excited about the extra time and opportunity to really learn about the residents of the Ville. Their story is rooted in the earliest history of our city. And a story crying out to be heard,” said playwright Mariah Richardson.
The Festival is continuing to collect stories from current and past residents of the neighborhood and encourage anyone with a connection to submit via mail, email or phone. Details and questions are available at stlshakes.org/theville.
“A Late Summer Night’s Stroll”
In lieu of the original scheduled 20th-anniversary production of Shakespeare in the Park, the Festival is offering a new socially-distant walking experience in Forest Park. A LATE SUMMER NIGHT’S STROLL, loosely inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, will take guests on a 90-minute walk through some of the park’s most iconic spots and hidden gems.
The STROLL will use music, dance and visual art to offer a new and surprising way of experiencing both the story and the park. “Midsummer is one of the most magical and beloved plays in all of world drama. It follows the flight of four lovers into the woods and the night of lyrical transformations that drive them apart and back together again – capped by the famous and hilarious “play-within-a-play” put on by local tradesmen,” says Ridgely.
“This experience will put the walkers at the center of the story.” A LATE SUMMER NIGHT’S STROLL run evenings, Tuesday-Sunday, August 12 to September 6. Groups will be limited to 10 and under with scheduled start times to maintain social distance. The walk is free, but registration is required and will open to the public on Monday, July 13. Suggested donations are $20, and post-walk picnics will be available at an additional charge. “In this time when safe, fun, out-of-home experiences have been almost impossible to come by, we hope to create an activity that allows the people of St. Louis to reconnect with the city and each other in an act of engagement and shared pleasure,” concludes Ridgely.
More information will be available online at www.stlshakes.org/stroll. Leadership support for 2020’s Shakespeare in the Park programming is provided by The Whitaker Foundation, Emerson, The Bellwether Foundation, Edward Jones, Enterprise Holdings Foundations, The Strive Fund, the Missouri Arts Council, The Trio Foundation of St. Louis, Buckingham Asset Management, and the Regional Arts Commission.
The St. Louis Shakespeare Festival presents Shakespeare and works inspired by his legacy of storytelling. Since 2001, the festival has grown from producing a single production of Shakespeare in the Park to a year-round season of impactful theater in exciting and accessible venues throughout the St. Louis community. The festival’s artistic and education programs reached over 50,000 patrons and students during the 2018 season and have reached over one million since 2001. In 2019, the Festival received a “What’s Right with the Region” award from Focus St. Louis
The Whitaker St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase, an annual presentation of the nonprofit Cinema St. Louis (CSL), serves as the area’s primary venue for films made by local artists. The Showcase screens works that were shot in the St. Louis region or were written, directed, or produced by St. Louis-area residents or by filmmakers with strong local ties who are now working elsewhere.
Because of the Covid-19 health crisis, the Showcase will be presented virtually in 2020. CSL is partnering with Eventive, which also handles our ticketing, to present the Virtual Festival. Films will be available to view on demand anytime from July 10-19. There are no geographic limits on accessing the programs. Once a ticket-holder begins watching a program, access remains available for 48 hours.
The Showcase’s 15 film programs range from full-length fiction features and documentaries to multi-film compilations of fiction and documentary shorts. Most programs will feature recorded Q&As with filmmakers, which will also be available on CSL’s YouTube channel.
In addition to the film programs, which will be available for streaming anytime during the July 10-19 run of the Showcase, this year’s event features a series of free master classes focused on key aspects of making and marketing an independent narrative feature. These will be offered as live streams at specific times/dates during the Showcase, but recordings of the presentations will also be archived and available on the CSL YouTube channel. A free live stream on the evening of July 19 will present the Showcase jury awards — including a $500 prize to the Best Showcase Film — and announce the films that will move on to the Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival in November.
This year’s Showcase includes the following:
America’s Last Little Italy: The Hill: A documentary feature by Joseph Puleo that explores the deep historic roots of the Hill, St. Louis’ iconic Italian neighborhood.
The Ballad of John Henry: A documentary feature by Matthew Rice that analyzes how an ex-slave became one of America’s greatest tall-tale heroes: John Henry.
College Bound: A documentary feature by Jenna Gandolfo that chronicles a diverse group of Ritenour High School students as they overcome an array of obstacles to be accepted into some of the top universities in the country.
Doc Shorts Programs: The first of the two programs focuses on food, wine, and nature, and the second is anchored by Post-Dispatch columnist Aisha Sultan’s “33 and Counting,” a true-crime story about a 70-year-old grandmother serving a life sentence for a murder she says her rapist committed.
Easy-Bake: A narrative feature by writer-director-star Zoë Kennison — a Webster U. grad — in which a 22-year-old college student is informed by her doctor that she is on an unexpected biological clock: Because of a medical issue, she has only one year to conceive a child.
Master Classes: A series of four free master classes — featuring filmmakers and industry professionals — focused on key aspects of making an independent narrative feature: Finding Financing (July 11), Developing a Budget (July 12), Casting (July 18), and Securing Distribution (July 19).
My Ireland: A documentary feature by Anthony Monaghan, a working-class immigrant now living in St. Louis, that takes a hard look at the rampant emigration, mass evictions, and homeless crisis that plague his homeland of Ireland today.
Narrative Shorts Programs: The 56 films in the six programs include comedies, dramas, thrillers, and experimental works.
Resolution: A narrative feature by former St. Louisan Jacob T. Martin in which a tight-knit group of friends gathered for a New Year’s Eve party have their night of celebration descend into chaos when the host couple breaks up.
Wake Up: A documentary feature by Nate Townsend that weaves together stories from four different frontlines of suicide prevention across the country. The film premiered at We Are One: A Global Film Festival.
The Whitaker Foundation again serves as the Showcase’s title sponsor. The foundation’s twofold mission is to encourage the preservation and use of parks and to enrich lives through the arts. The Chellappa-Vedavalli Foundation is underwriting both the Showcase’s master classes and the $500 prize for the Best Showcase Film.
The event’s other sponsors include the Arts & Education Council, Grizzell & Co., Missouri Arts Council, Missouri Film Office, Regional Arts Commission, St. Louis Public Radio, and Washington University Film & Media Studies.
The Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis (TWSTL) will increase its reach this summer with a new radio show. “Something Spoken: Tennessee Williams On the Air” is set to launch on July 11. The program will air every other Saturday at 5 p.m. on Classic 107.3 FM. The festival decided to embark on this new venture because “It is important now to unify, elevate and enrich humanity during this very challenging year,” explains Carrie Houk, Executive Artistic Director of TWSTL.
Each episode of “Something Spoken: Tennessee Williams On the Air” will consist of fully produced Williams’ one-act plays along with interviews with scholars, directors and actors. Specific details of each broadcast will be posted on the websites of both Classic 107.3 (classic1073.org) and TWSTL (twstl.org).
Broadway legend and St. Louisan Ken Page will narrate and noted Williams scholar Tom Mitchell will offer commentary on each episode. Performers will include: Nisi Sturgis; Rayme Cornell; J. Samuel Davis; Bob Harvey; Anita Jackson; Tony Merritt II; Elizabeth Teeter; Bradley Tejeda; Rachel Tibbits; Donathan Walters; Kelley Weber; Donna Weinsting and Maggie Wininger. Brian Hohlfeld, David Kaplan and Tim Ocel will be directing.
“The peak of my virtuosity was in the one-act plays.
Some of which are like firecrackers on a rope.” – Tennessee Williams
“Williams felt that one-acts were his strongest format,” Houk points out. “He started out in St. Louis writing one-act plays, and one of his biggest breaks was winning a competition sponsored by the Group Theater in New York—the first time he signed his name as ‘Tennessee’ rather than ‘Tom.’ He wrote more than 70 throughout his career—sometimes edgy, often experimental, and always infused with his unsurpassed poetry. Many of them have been presented at the Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis.”
“Something Spoken: Tennessee Williams On the Air” will be sponsored by Mary Strauss, Jane and Bruce P. Robert Charitable Foundation, Ted Wight, John Russell and Terry Schnuck, with more patrons to be announced in the coming weeks.
TWSTL’s reboot of their Fifth Annual Festival this fall will focus on Williams’ youth and time spent with The Mummers, an offbeat St. Louis theatre company that tried out a number of his early plays and is immortalized in Williams essay “Something Wild.” As long as conditions remain safe to produce, “Tennessee Williams: Something Wild” will run October 22 through November 1 at The Link Auditorium (thelinkauditorium.org), formerly The Wednesday Club and the theatre where The Mummers performed.
About the Festival
The Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis was established in 2016 by Carrie Houk, the award-winning producer, casting director, actor, and educator. The Festival, which aims to enrich the cultural life of St. Louis by producing an annual theater festival and other artistic events that celebrate the artistry and life of Tennessee Williams, was named the 2019 Arts Startup of the Year by the Arts & Entertainment Council.
In 2014, Houk produced Williams’ Stairs to the Roof with such success that the on- going annual Festival was established. The inaugural Festival was themed “Tennessee Williams: The St. Louis Years,” followed by “The Magic of the Other” in 2017 and “The French Quarter Years” in 2018. The 2019 festival featured Night of the Iguana and A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur. As the years have passed, the awards have mounted. Last year’s St. Louis Theater Circle gave them eleven nominations and seven awards, and this year’s seven nominations garnered four more awards. The Festival has attracted thousands to its readings, panel discussions, concerts, exhibitions, and productions.
Lead sponsorship of the festival is provided by Emerson. The Festival is also funded in part by Mary Strauss, Ken and Nancy Kranzberg, The Whitaker Foundation, Regional Arts Commission, the Missouri Arts Council, Missouri Humanities Council, Trio Foundation of St Louis and the Arts and Education Council.
About Tennessee Williams
Born Thomas Lanier Williams III in 1911 in Mississippi, Williams moved to St. Louis at age seven, when his father was made an executive with the International Shoe Company (where the City Museum and the Last Hotel are now located). He lived here for more than two decades, attending Washington University, working at the International Shoe Company, and producing his first plays at local theaters. He credited his sometimes difficult experiences in St. Louis for the deeply felt poetic essence that permeates his artistry. When asked later in life when he left St. Louis, he replied, “I never really left.” Most people are familiar with the famous works that have garnered multiple Pulitzer Prizes, Tony Awards and Academy Awards, such as The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Suddenly Last Summer. He also wrote hundreds of additional plays, stories, essays, and poems, many of which are only now seeing the light of day as his estate permits greater access. He is today considered by many leading authorities to be America’s greatest playwright.
About Classic 107.3
Classic 107.3, “The Voice for the Arts in St. Louis”, broadcasts at 107.3 FM and on KNOU 96.3 HD2 with a mission to support the cultural landscape in the St. Louis region through programming and outreach efforts. Classic 107.3 plays a variety of music from classical to jazz, opera to blues, Broadway and more, and features local programming including the “Slatkin Shuffle”, hosted by conductor Leonard Slatkin, and Musical Ancestries™, designed to educate school-aged children about world music. In addition, the station airs interviews with artists, musicians, creators and performers, bringing their stories and events to the attention of the St. Louis community. Classic 107.3 is a non-profit station, receiving support from listeners as well as organizations like PNC, the William T. Kemper Foundation and others. More information, as well as live streaming, archived interviews, and podcasts can be found at www.classic1073.org.
By Lynn Venhaus On a routine Airbus flight from Berlin to Paris, terrorists try to seize control of the plane, but the mild-mannered American co-pilot Tobias (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) tries to thwart the chaos, struggling to save the lives of the 85 passengers and small crew.
The code for a hijacked airplane is 7500, hence the title. This straightforward suspense has nearly all its action contained in the cockpit, which makes it taut – and claustrophic. First-time feature director Patrick Vollrath co-wrote the script with Senad Halilbasic, and they make sure it’s gritty instead of a slick Hollywood film. In fact, you will question decisions made by the characters.
Smaller in scale but gripping nonetheless, the film takes a
procedural approach, detailing the initial steps of the terrorists as they move
through the airport and the two pilots as they check off their lists of to-dos.
Flight-attendant Gokce (Aylin Tezel) is Tobias’ baby mama, they have a
2-year-old, but they are low-key about their relationship when working
together. After Tobias is injured, his arm slashed when the hijackers stormed
the cockpit, he contacts ground control and plans an emergency landing in
Hanover. Their pleas for him to open the door are unmet, so they kill a
passenger and threaten more carnage. That sets off a chain of excruciating life-or-death
Vollrath, Oscar-nominated for a German short film,
“Everything Will Be OK,” realistically builds tension. The script leaves key
details out, so we are forced to use our imagination. It is specifically vague,
which can be frustrating.
It’s also intense and bloody, ramping up the anxiety and
Projecting calm at times while other moments are anguished, Gordon-Levitt is quite strong as the conflicted Tobias. He hasn’t
been seen on the big screen in a feature since 2016’s “Snowden,” although he
has done voice work and some TV. In fact, he is nominated for a Daytime Emmy as
host of the Sesame Street 50th Anniversary Special. Here, he
effectively carries the movie, keeping us riveted to the action in the cockpit.
The stretch to the ending is wobbly and lacks a definitive punch. Had the finale packed as much as the terrifying take-over of the plane, we’d really have something here, instead of a routine skyjacking with a few nail-biting scenes.
“7500” is a thriller directed by Patrick Vollrath and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Aylin Tezel, Carlo Kitzlinger. It’s rated R for violence/terror and language, and run time is 92 minutes. Lynn’s Grade: B- Amazon Prime original available June 19
A version of this review is online at the Webster-Kirkwood Times.
To help celebrate Pride Month, the 13th Annual QFest St. Louis — presented by Cinema St. Louis (CSL) — will take place from June 19-28. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, CSL will offer all programs virtually, protecting the health of patrons. Programs can be streamed at any time during the festival’s dates. Recorded and live introductions and Q&As will be available for most film programs.
The St. Louis-based LGBTQ film festival, QFest will present a record number of 40 films (28 shorts, six narrative features, and six documentary features). The participating filmmakers represent a wide variety of voices in contemporary queer world cinema. The mission of the film festival is to use the art of contemporary gay cinema to spotlight the lives of LGBTQ people and to celebrate queer culture.
The fest is especially pleased to host the St. Louis premiere of the new bio-doc “The Capote Tapes,” about renowned novelist, playwright, and social butterfly Truman Capote (“In Cold Blood,” Breakfast at Tiffany’s”). Among the other QFest highlights is this year’s Q Classic, the 20th anniversary of Del Shore’s “Sordid Lives,” which first screened locally at the 2000 St. Louis International Film Festival.
Two films were directed by alums of QFest. Cindy Abel (“Breaking Through”) returns with the doc feature “Surviving the Silence,” about two closeted military women who were involved in the ultimate dismissal of Army Col. Margarethe Cammermeyer for admitting she was a lesbian. Two-time alum Wendy Jo Carlton (“Hannah Free,” “Jamie and Jessie Are Not Together”) directed the romantic dramedy “Good Kisser” and produced the narrative short that precedes it, “Carol Support Group.”
Several films this year have strong local connections, including a trio of projects featuring former St. Louisans: writer/co-star Gretchen Wylder’s hilarious new YouTube web series, “These Thems”; writer/co-star Kevin Spirtas’ award-winning and moving dramatic web series, “After Forever”; and the dramatic short “Bill & Robert,” which stars Brandon Smith.
Thanks to several generous sponsors, CSL is able to make the festival more accessible to all by offering five shows that will be free and open to the public for the duration of the event: all four shorts programs and the web series “These Thems.”
For the full schedule of screenings and events, including trailers and descriptions of the films, visit the festival website at www.cinemastlouis.org/qfest.
The 2020QFest St. Louis begins on Friday, June 19, and runs through Sunday, June 28. Tickets go on sale June 1. Tickets are $10 each or $8 for Cinema St. Louis members, students with valid and current IDs, and ARTS Card holders. An all-access festival pass is available for $75. All screenings will be held virtually for residents of Missouri and Illinois via Eventive, CSL’s ticketing and online presentation partner. Direct ticket links are available on the QFest website.
QFest St. Louis is sponsored by AARP in St. Louis, Arts & Education Council, CheapTRX, Grizzell & Co., Missouri Arts Council, Panera Bread, Bob Pohrer & Donnie Engle, Regional Arts Commission, Deb Salls, St. Louis Public Radio, Cindy Walker, and Webster U. Film Series.
The festival is underwritten in part through a grant from the Creative Impact Fund for Diversifying the Arts, a partnership between the Arts & Education Council and local community leaders.
By Lynn Venhaus Christ Memorial Productions’ presentation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic “Oklahoma!” won eight Best Performance Awards for choreography, music direction, lighting, costumes, acting and Best Featured Dancer while Kirkwood Theatre Guild’s production of the George and Ira Gershwin 1920s musical-screwball comedy “Nice Work If You Can Get It” won seven, including Best Large Ensemble Musical Production, Best Director and five acting awards, from Arts For Life Sunday.
It was KTG’s sixth win for musical production since 2000. Both
shows had been nominated for 17 awards apiece. “A New Brain,” which was a local
community theater premiere for Hawthorne Players, won Best Small Ensemble
Arts For Life is a nonprofit organization that encompasses
140 communities and 8,460 square miles in St. Louis city, county and St.
Charles County in Missouri and Madison, Monroe and St. Clair counties in
Founded in 1994 by Lucinda Gyurci as a group dedicated to
the healing power of the arts, AFL has honored community theater musicals for
performances and achievements since 1999 (BPAs), plays since 2015 (Theatre Mask
Awards) and expanded awards in youth musical theater in 2013.
But this is the first time AFL did not host a live gala.
Because of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the ceremony was re-imagined as a
pre-recorded virtual celebration. The 21st annual BPAs took place
June 14, which was the original date, but transitioned to a streaming format broadcast
on Facebook and YouTube.
AFL President Mary McCreight said the coronavirus safety
measures in place and restrictions on gatherings in St. Louis County were
factors in the decision to cancel the live show but still have some sort of
“We wanted to provide an opportunity for our local arts
community to come together online and celebrate the many outstanding
achievements of the previous year,” McCreight said.
There were 15 community theaters and 10 youth-only groups
who participated last year. More than 60 judges in the Theatre Recognition
Guild scored 46 shows — 19 large ensembles, 3 small and 24 youth, featuring
939 roles. For 2019, there were 154 individual nominations from 22 groups, with
36 percent first-time nominees and 65 percent first-time winners.
Goshen Theatre Project, which led all groups with 18
nominations, won five youth awards overall for “Les Miserables School Edition,”
including Best Youth Musical Production, Supporting Actress Natalie Cochran as
Eponine, costume design (Terry Pattison), lighting design (Halli Pattison and
Blake Churchill) and Bennett English as Best Youth Musical Performance as Jean
Other multiple winners in the youth categories were Riverbend
Theatre, which won three for “The Drowsy Chaperone” — director (Kristi
Doering), music direction (Michael Frazier/Alison Neace) and lead actor (Jayson
Heil as the Man in Chair), and Young People’s Theatre, which won two for
“Newsies” – best supporting actor (Will Dery as Les) and set design (Brisby
Andrews and Gary Rackers).
Thirty-three awards honoring excellence during 2019 were
announced by past winners and members of the AFL board of directors, with two
special guest presenters — Norbert Leo Butz, two-time Tony Award winner who
grew up in St. Louis, and Hana S. Sharif, the Augustin Family Artistic Director
of The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis.
Butz, who also announced the youth musical production
winner, told the audience to believe in themselves, even when it’s hard, and follow
their dreams, noting he had supportive parents and “great” teachers.
“Believe in yourself and keep on being grateful. Stick to
it,” he said from his home in New Jersey. “(Performing arts) feeds our soul,
our minds, our hearts.”
AFL donated to Butz’s charity, The Angel Band Project,
which uses music therapy to help victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence
and advocates for rights of survivors. For more information, visit www.angelbandproject.org
Four special honors were given out to Jennifer Kerner for
her inclusion efforts, Bennett English for Best Youth Musical Performance as
Jean Valjean in Goshen Theatre Project’s “Les Miserables: School Edition,”
Kayla Dressman for Best Featured Dancer as Dream Laurie in CMP’s “Oklahoma!” and Diane Hanisch, the BPA
musical director/conductor for the past 20 years, who won a national Spotlight
Award from the American Association of Community Theatres, presented by Quiana
Clark-Roland. A Lifetime Achievement Award was not designated this year.
Kerner’s recognition was for her advocacy on inclusion and
helping to make the live theater experience accessible to all individuals.
Kerner, a local singer and actress, works to help place people with
developmental disabilities in jobs. She has guided local theater companies in
providing sensory-friendly performances and has worked to create comfortable
environments for those on the autism spectrum and those with sensory processing
McCreight was thrilled about Hanisch’s national award.
“This award is designed to help pay tribute to an
individual for long or special service. It recognizes outstanding dedication,
service and contribution to your organization. It is for someone who has made a
significant impact on the quality of your organization. Diane has done just
that with per professionalism and charm. She is a gem! Not only can she calm
the nerves of a 12-year-old singing a solo, but others who are singing in front
of 700 people for the first time. She arranges and writes the music, gathers
her professional band, and conducts the show with aplomb. Diane cares as much
about our legacy as anyone involved on the Arts for Life Board. No one is more
deserving,” she said.
The annual Youth Scholarships, which are awarded to two students
pursuing a degree in the arts, were announced, with Alaina Bozarth, a graduate
of Metro East Lutheran High School, and Josiah Haan, a graduate of Fort Zumwalt
High School, each given $500. Bozarth plans to major in musical theatre at
Belmont University in Louisville, Ky., and Haan plans to major in technical
theatre and design at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo.
Other ensemble nominees include “Hello, Dolly!” from
Wentzville Christian Church, “Oklahoma!” from Monroe Actors Stage Company and
“The Bridges of Madison County” from Alpha Players of Florissant for Best Large
Ensemble and “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” from O’Fallon
TheatreWorks for Best Small Ensemble.
For Best Youth Production, in addition to “Les Miserables,”
nominees include “The Drowsy Chaperone” from Riverbend Theatre, “Matilda” from
Gateway Center for the Performing Arts, “Newsies” from Young People’s Theatre
and “Spring Awakening” from Gateway Center for the Performing Arts.
For the record books, Kimberly Klick won her sixth BPA for
choreography for CMP’s “Oklahoma!”. She had previously won for CMP’s “Mary
Poppins” and “The King and I,” plus “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” “Big the
Musical” and “Fiddler on the Roof” for other companies. It was her 10th
overall, including wins for Best Featured Dancer in “Brigadoon” in 2000, Lead
Actress for Millie in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” 2006 and Jo in “Little Women”
in 2008, and Cameo Actress in “Titanic” 2003.
It was three in a row for Jonathan Hartley, who won for
lighting design of “Oklahoma!” and had won last year for “Joseph and the
Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at DaySpring Center for the Arts; he won for set
design for DSA’s “Little Shop of Horrors” in 2017. Stephanie Fox won her third
in four years for choreography in Gateway Center for the Performing Arts shows –
“Spring Awakening” 2019, “Carrie the Musical” 2017 and “Thoroughly Modern
Millie” 2016. Terry Pattison also won her third for costume design since 2017:
“Peter Pan,” “The Lion King Jr.” and “Les Miz,” all for Goshen Theatre Project,
and won set design for “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” in 2018.
Joe Paule Sr. won his third for musical direction, for
CMP’s “Oklahoma!”, following CMP’s “The King and I” in 2014 and Hawthorne
Players’ “The Producers” in 2010. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award
last year. It was the second award for Michael Frazier and Alison Neace for
musical direction, this year for Riverbend Theatre’s “The Drowsy Chaperone” and
for Alton Little Theatre’s “The Spitfire Grill” in 2011.
Other multiple winners included two for Alpha Players of
Florissant’s “The Bridges of Madison County” for Lead Actor (Cole Guttmann) and
Cameo Actress (Chelsie Johnston) and Take a Bow Showcase for “Annie” – juvenile
performer (Leontine Rickert) and duo/group (Matthew Joost and Carole Ann Miller).
In the acting categories, Mike Huelsmann’s award for Best
Featured Actor as Jud Fry was his third, after Lead Actor as Javert in Take Two
Productions’ “Les Miz” (2013) and as part of Best Duo/Group in Looking Glass
Playhouse’s “Young Frankenstein” 2015. Kimmie Kidd-Booker’s award for Best
Featured Actress as Estonia Dulworth in “Nice Work If You Can Get It” was her second
win, after Best Featured Actress in “The Wiz” in 2014. George Doerr IV won his
second, as Igor in Alfresco’s “Young Frankenstein,” after winning Best Actor in
2017 for Alfresco’s “The Rocky Horror Show.”
The virtual program included the following production team:
directors Mary McCreight and David Wicks Jr., video supervisor Kim Klick,
visual designers Colin Dowd and Bethany Hamilton, voice-over announcer Ken
Clark and host Karen Fulks.
A list of winners is included here, below.
AFL’s Theatre Mask Awards was originally set for April 4,
then moved to July 18, but now will also be a virtual celebration. The 2020
TMAs will honor excellence in community theater productions of dramas and
comedies during 2019 in a live interactive viewing event at 11 a.m. Saturday,
July 18, on the AFL Facebook page and YouTube Channel. The awards show will be recorded
beforehand and the content will remain on social media.
On March 16, McCreight suspended all public activities of the AFL organization
because of the public health crisis. The extension has been extended until
further notice. Both TRG and TMA branch judges and participating groups will receive
announcements on future developments. As the region re-opens, social distancing
and wearing face coverings continues. At this time, all AFL performance venues
“I am incredibly grateful to all of our constituencies –
the board, judges, participating groups, audience members and donors – for
their commitment to AFL and their engagement and unwavering support of our
local theatre community during these uncertain times,” McCreight said.
Any company that won can have a representative pick up
their trophies on July 19 from 1 to 3 p.m. in the parking lot of Clayton
Community Theatre, which is located at the Washington University South Campus
Theatre, 6501 Clayton Road, St. Louis, MO 63117.
By Lynn Venhaus In the first of eight books in Eoin Colfer’s successful fantasy series, 12-year-old genius Artemis Fowl wants to restore his family’s fortune, so he holds Holly Short (Lara McDonnell), a fairy and captain of the Lower Elements Police Reconnaissance force (LEPRecon), for ransom to exploit the magical Fairy People. In the second book, he allies with the Fairy People to rescue his father. from the Russian Mafia.
Are you with me? At first, he’s a villain and enemy, but as the series continued, he developed and changed into an anti-hero.
The movie, in adapting the first two novels, has substantially changed the story, but if you haven’t read them, you wouldn’t know. However, you can tell that it is a disjointed, disappointing adaptation that will neither satisfy franchise readers nor introduce a compelling story to new fans.
In short, this Harry Potter wannabe is a mess. Resembling bits
of Marvel, Star Wars and Fantastic Beasts movies, there is no clear vision in
this chaotic mishmash – just a hodgepodge of strange folk that fails to sustain
interest, even with all the CGI bells and whistles at their disposal. I am not
sure even director Kenneth Branagh knew how to give this story some pizzazz.
Miscasting is a real problem here. Ferdia Shaw is a bland as
the lead character who apparently, is a criminal mastermind – but you don’t
sense that at all. Josh Gad, as Mulch Diggums, a giant among the tiny folks,
and Judi Dench, in a gender-bending role as Commander Root, effect gravelly, growling
voices – why? And Gad’s character, in an attempt to make wisecracks and be
flippant, got on my last nerve.
Both Colin Farrell and newcomer Lara McDonnel are the film’s
saving grace, but they can’t do much about the story’s lack of appeal.
Screenwriters Conor McPherson and Hamish McColl do the source material a
disservice. It has been in development since 2016. That is the first red flag. The
rest of the problems indicate this is a big waste of time.
This film was set to open in theaters but is now available on Disney Plus.
“Artemis Fowl” is a fantasy, sci-fi film directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Ferdia Shaw, Lara McDonnell, Colin Farrell, Josh Gad and Judi Dench. It is Rated PG for fantasy action/peril and some rude humor and run time is 1 hr. 41 minutes. Lynn’s Grade: D. Available on Disney Plus streaming service as of June 12.
The Muny has announced that it will offer 10 weeks of free online Muny entertainment for the summer of 2020. For 10 consecutive Monday nights, with a single repeat stream on the subsequent Thursday, audiences and fans can experience the magic of their Muny summer online at muny.org with both curated and newly created entertainment. The Muny’s free online season is proudly sponsored by World Wide Technology.
Beginning Monday, June 15 through Monday, July 13 fans can enjoy five weeks of Muny Magic in Your Home. This new series will feature exclusive, never-before-seen footage of the The Muny’s concert series Muny Magic at The Sheldon. Launched in 2015, the popular off-season series hosts Muny fan-favorites for intimate evenings of music, song and story.
The online season launches this Monday, June 15 at 8:15 p.m. CDT with Muny favorite, and Tony and Drama Desk Award-winner, Beth Leavel. The first Muny Magic in Your Home will also feature a guest appearance from Tony Award nominee Lara Teeter, as well as other very special surprise artists. Ms. Leavel’s music director is Phil Reno and she is joined by Vince Clark on bass and Nick Savage on drums.
The complete Muny Magic in Your Home schedule is: Beth Leavel (June 15 and 18), A Night with the Buddy Holly Boys (June 22 and 25), Our Leading Ladies (June 29 and July 2), Our Leading Men (July 6 and 9) and Mikaela Bennett and Alex Prakken (July 13 and 16). For descriptions of each show, please see below.
Beginning Monday, July 20 through Monday, August 17 the Muny will produce five online variety shows featuring Muny friends and family from around the world. The full schedule and weekly lineup will be announced in early July.
All Muny online performances can be streamed on Monday and Thursday evenings at no cost via muny.org. These are exclusive, one-time-only streams and will not be available after the Thursday night airing.
“While we can’t be together in Forest Park this summer, we wanted to have a 102nd season to bring our community and our audiences together in whatever manner we can,” said Muny Artistic Director and Executive Producer, Mike Isaacson. “One of the reasons The Muny has survived and thrived for more than a century is because we’ve been a wonderful ritual, a life bookmark, for generations of St. Louisans. With our online season, we can keep and honor that beautiful tradition. We hope everyone will gather and enjoy these terrific Muny shows.
“Our teams have been hard at work putting together 10 incredible nights of programming that will hopefully help simulate a small piece of the Muny magic audiences feel each summer in Forest Park,” said Muny President and CEO, Denny Reagan. “To kick off our online season with beloved, longtime Muny favorite Beth Leavel is nothing short of exciting. Her Muny Magic in Your Home performance sets the bar for a great online summer season ahead. We are sad that we won’t see our Muny friends and family in person, but we are eager to spend 10 nights together virtually.”
Beth Leavel | June 15 and 18 Sponsored by World Wide Technology
Beth Leavel received Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and L.A. Drama Critics Awards for her performance as the title character in The Drowsy Chaperone. Other Broadway: Dee Dee Allen in The Prom (2019 Tony Award nomination), Florence Greenberg in Baby It’s You! (Tony, Drama Desk, OCC nominations); Bandstand, Elf, Mamma Mia!; Young Frankenstein, 42nd Street (original and revival), Crazy for You, The Civil War, Show Boat. Numerous credits off-Broadway, regional theatre, commercials and television, including the Paper Mill Playhouse production of The Bandstand. MFA from University of North Carolina, Greensboro.
Beth’s Muny credits include: inaugural Muny Magic at The Sheldon featured artist (2015), Mama Rose in Gypsy (2018), Aunt Eller in Oklahoma! (2015); Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levi in Hello, Dolly! (2014); Sister Robert Anne in Nunsense: Muny Style! (2013); Mrs. Meers in Thoroughly Modern Millie (2012), Miss Hannigan in Annie (2009), Vera Charles in Mame (2005), Dorothy Brock in 42nd Street (2004) and Betty Rizzo in Grease (1988). She has also served as an understudy for some of the greatest Muny leading ladies in 1983: Judy Kaye in Can-Can; Lucie Arnaz in I Do! I Do!; Lynn Redgrave in The King and I and Susan Powell in Promises, Promises.
The Buddy Holly Boys | June 22 and 25 Sponsored by Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, Drury Hotels, Safety National and Welsch Heating and Cooling Company
After starring as Buddy and the Crickets in The Muny’s 2015 summer blockbuster Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, Andy Christopher, Joe Cosmo Cogen, Kyle Lacy and Nathan Yates Douglass give an electrifying performance in the highest-attended Muny Magic at The Sheldon to date.
Our Leading Ladies | June 29 and July 2 Sponsored by Augusta Winery and Montelle Winery
Danielle Bowen (Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, 2016), Ali Ewoldt (Martha Jefferson in 1776, 2019; Philia in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, 2017; Maria in West Side Story, 2013), Stephanie Gibson (Gabrielle in Cinderella, 2019; Inga in Young Frankenstein, 2016; Gertie Cummings in Oklahoma!, 2007), and Elena Shaddow (Marian in The Music Man, 2016; Cinderella in Into the Woods, 2015) give heart-stirring tributes to leading ladies of past Muny seasons, including Ethel Merman, Shirley Jones and Bernadette Peters.
Our Leading Men | July 6 and 9 Sponsored by Centene Charitable Foundation
Ben Davis (John Dickinson in 1776, 2019; Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls, 2019; Pilate in Jesus Christ Superstar, 2017; Curly in Oklahoma!, 2015; Emile de Becque in South Pacific, 2013; Galahad in Spamalot, 2013), Davis Gaines (Joseph Pulitzer in Newsies, 2017), Jay Armstrong Johnson (Jack Kelly in Newsies, 2017, Billy Lawlor in 42nd Street, 2016; Barnaby Tucker in Hello, Dolly!, 2014) and Mykal Kilgore (Annas in Jesus Christ Superstar, 2017) celebrate iconic men from past Muny seasons.
Mikaela Bennett and Alex Prakken | July 13 and 16 Sponsored by U.S. Bank
Muny newcomer Mikaela Bennett (Ella in Cinderella, 2019) and St. Louis native, and former Muny Kid and Teen, Alex Prakken (Courier in 1776, 2019; Marius in Les Misérables, 2013) take audiences on an enchanted journey through the musical theatre songbook.
For digital assets, including the Muny Magic in Your Home logo and b-roll of Beth Leavel, please click here World Wide Technology (WWT) became the first overall season sponsor in the history of The Muny in 2014. They are committed to continuing in this role with their leadership gift as The Muny’s 2020 Online Season Presenting Sponsor To stay connected virtually and to receive the latest updates, please follow The Muny on their social media channels, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. ###
The Muny’s mission is to enrich lives by producing exceptional musical theatre, accessible to all, while continuing its remarkable tradition in Forest Park. As the nation’s largest outdoor musical theatre, we produce seven world-class musicals each year and welcome over 350,000 theatregoers over our nine-week season. Celebrating 102 seasons in St. Louis, The Muny remains one of the premier institutions in musical theatre.
For more information about The Muny, visit muny.org