By Lynn Venhaus
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and there are offerings to get you into the Christmas spirit — whether traditional like ‘A Christmas Carol” or “A Christmas Story,” or more humorous parodies, like Magic Smokey Monkey’s take on the stop-motion animation TV classics.
God’s a character in both Stray Dog’s “The Most Outrageous Story Ever Told” and New Jewish Theatre’s “An Act of God.:
Warm family-fare like “Annie” and “Smoke on the Mountain: Homecoming” are on community theater stages.
Whether you’re feeling like Scrooge (two productions) or ready to deck the halls (Church Basement Ladies, A Christmas Story), go see a play!
(Editor’s Note; Been having lots o’ computer problems, so this is late this week, but the good news is that a new laptop is ready to hook up! YAY. Apologize for delays.)
Alan Knoll in “An Act of God.” Photo by Eric Woolsey“An Act of God”
New Jewish Theater
Nov. 29 – Dec. 16
Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Wool Studio Theatre
Jewish Community Center, 2 Millstone Campus, Creve Coeurwww.newjewishtheatre.org
What It’s About: Delivering a new and improved set of Commandments, God’s introduction of the revised laws is positive, insisting on separation of church and state, and encouraging us to believe in ourselves, not some elderly white guy in the sky. He sets the record straight, and he’s not holding back.
Director: Edward Coffield
Starring: Alan Knoll, Cassidy Flynn and Amanda Wales
“All Is Calm”Mustard Seed Theatre
Nov. 15 – Dec. 16
Thursdays through Sundays
Fontbonne Fine Arts Theatre
6800 Wydown Blvd.www.mustardseedtheatre.com
What It’s About: Celebrate the power of peace in this acapella musical based on the true story of soldiers during World War I who for one night, put down their arms and played soccer instead of exchanging bullets.
Director: Deanna Jent
Clinton County Showcase
Dec. 7 – 16
Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.
The Avon Theatre
525 N. Second St., Breese, IL
What It’s About: The sun will come out tomorrow…With equal measures of pluck and positivity, little orphan Annie charms everyone’s hearts despite a next-to-nothing start in 1930s New York City. She is determined to find the parents who abandoned her years ago on the doorstep of a New York City Orphanage that is run by the cruel, embittered Miss Hannigan. With the help of the other girls in the Orphanage, Annie escapes to the wondrous world of NYC.
“Away in the Basement: A Church Basement Ladies Christmas”The Playhouse @ Westport
Nov. 8 – Jan. 6
635 Westport Plaza in Maryland Heightswww.playhouseatwestport.com
MetroTix: www.metrotix.com or 314-534-1111
What It’s About: An all-new holiday show is set in 1959, on the day of the Sunday School Christmas Program. During holiday preparations, the down-to-earth ladies are creating their own memories from Christmases past and present. Content to do things the way they have always been done, yet pondering new ideas, the reality of everyday life hits home as they plan the Sunday School Christmas Program.
As the children rehearse in the sanctuary, several of the ladies are in the kitchen finishing up the treat bags filled with apples, peanuts and ribbon candy while the others put the final touches on the nativity pieces. As they mend old bathrobe costumes, discuss the politics of who’s going to play the various roles, little do the ladies know what surprises are in store for them.
Known for their hilarious antics and subtle charm, they are once again called upon to step in and save the day!
Directors: Lee Anne Mathews and Emily Clinger, with music direction by Joseph Dreyer
Cast: Rosemary Watts, Lee Anne Mathews,
Of Note: Performances are Sundays and Tuesdays at 2 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays at 2 p.m., Saturdays and Wednesdays at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Additionally, tickets will be available at the Playhouse @ Westport Plaza box office one hour prior to show time. Groups of 10 or more can call 314-616-4455 for special rates.
All five installments of the musical comedy “Church Basement Ladies” are inspired by the books of author/humorists Janet Letnes Martin and Suzann Nelson, including the bestseller “Growing Up Lutheran.”
“A Christmas Carol”Dec. 6 – 9
The Fox Theatre
Friday at 7: 30 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 1 and 6 p.m.www.fabulousfox.com
What It’s About: An annual tradition, presenting Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” the timeless tale of Ebenezer Scrooge on a journey through time and space, forced to confront his past, present and future through the aid of his spiritual guides.
Of Note: The Nebraska Caravan production has 23 actors playing the characters.
“A Christmas Carol”
Dec. 6 – 9
Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.
Looking Glass Playhouse
301 St. Louis St.
“A Christmas Story”
Jerry Naunheim Jr. PhotoThe Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Nov. 28 – Dec. 23
Mainstage, Loretto-Hilton Centerwww.repstl.org
What It’s About: “You’ll shoot your eye out”! An adaptation of the classic holiday film, “A Christmas Story” is about Ralphie Parker’s quest to get a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Filled with small-town family vignettes and colorful characters,
Director: Seth Gordon
Starring: Charlie Matthis, as nine-year-old Ralphie, and Ted Deasy, as the grown-up Ralph who narrates the play.
Brad Fraizer is The Old Man, Laurel Casillo is Mother, Spencer Slavik is younger brother Randy, Jo Twiss is Miss Shields. Tanner Gilbertson, Gigi Koster, Ana McAlister, Rhadi Smith and Dan J. Wolfe are featured child performers.
Of Note: The show had an acclaimed run at The Rep in 2009.
Equally Represented Arts and
Dec. 5 – 8
Centene Center for the Arts, 3547 Olive Street
What It’s About: A post-modern collage that re-imagines Marlowe’s tragic hero is an ambitious businessman who strikes a deal with the devil to become the most magical and powerful leader on the world stage. This is a re-imagined post-modern collage that says Faustus’ doomsday, as well as our own, is just on the horizon.
“The Holiday Stop-Motion Extravaganza Parody”Nov. 30 – Dec. 8
St. Louis Shakespeare’s Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre
Regional Arts Commission in University City
Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 5 and 6, 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, Dec. 7 and 8, 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.
What It’s About: Join Rudolph, Santa, Hermey, Bumble, the Miser Bros and other wonderful misfits as they parody your favorite 1970s childhood holiday shows by Rankin/Bass. If you’ve ever had aspirations of becoming a dentist, this parody is for you! This parody includes: “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “The Year Without Santa Claus.”
Director: Suki Peters
Starring: Ben Ritchie, Tyson Blanquart, Amy Kelly, Ron Strawbridge, Payton Gillam, Robert Thibaut, Stan Davis, Joseph Garner, Joseph Cella, Jeremy Branson, Shannon Nara, Cliff Turner and Mike Stephens.
Of Note: Magic Smoking Monkey is partnering with Shriner’s Hospital to help make the holidays merry and bright for children in the St. Louis area. Bring a new, unwrapped toy to the box office with you on any night of the performance to be entered in a special drawing to win 4 tickets to a future Magic Smoking Monkey production.
“The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told”
Stray Dog Theatres’ The Most Outrageous Story Ever ToldStray Dog Theatre
Dec 6 – 22
Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Special performance Wednesday, Dec. 19
Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee Ave.www.straydogtheatre.org
What It’s About: This outlandish comedy by Paul Rudnick is about the first men on earth, Adam and Steve, and their lesbian friends Jane and Mabel, who decide to start civilization, despite the challenges. The stage manager, who might be God, leads them through the Garden of Eden, the Great Flood, a visit with a Pharaoh and the Messiah’s birth.
Starring: Patrice Foster, Luke Steingruby, Jennelle Gilreath, Stephen Henley, Maria Bartolotta, Angela Bubash, Jeremy Goldmeier, Dawn Schmid.
Of Note: For mature audiences.
Stray Dog Theatre presents The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told Thursdays through Saturdays, December 6 – 22. There will also be a show at 8 pm on Wednesday, December 19. “First men on earth Adam and Steve and their lesbian friends Jane and Mabel decide to start civilization, despite the provocative challenges of procreation. They are led by the stage manager (who may be God) through the Garden of Eden, the Great Flood, a visit with a highly rambunctious Pharaoh, and finally, the birth of the Messiah. This outlandish comedy is a perfect alternative holiday treat!” Performances take place at The Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee. For more information, visit straydogtheatre.org or call 314-865-1995.
“Of Human Kindness – An Evening of Short Plays Thursdays through Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.,
Dec. 6 – 16
Black Mirror Theatre Company
Kranzberg Arts Center
What It’s About: Discarded lives. Some bound by hate, some by indifference – all human. All true stories, true enough – informed by eye witnesses: the psychiatrist who spoke of his homeless clients’ longing to lead meaningful lives, or the homeless man who told of his need for validation; by the letters from Mom and Dad – advice on growing up Black in America, or of Saint Maria Skobtsova who had the Jewish children hidden in her trash emptied to freedom outside of the city – executed, among so many others, in Ravensbruck; or of Isabella, Sojourner Truth, a Dutch speaker, beaten by her English owners for not obeying orders she couldn’t understand yet she became an ardent, iconic American voice for equal treatment of all.
“Perfect Arrangement”R-S Theatrics
The Marcelle Theatre
Dec. 7 – 23
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 7 p.m.
“Smoke on the Mountain: Homecoming”
Alton Little Theatre
Dec. 7 – 16
Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Alton Little Theatre, 2450 N. Henry in Alton
What It’s About: The Sanders Family, subject of the “Smoke on the Mountain” musicals, continue to be roles models of inspiration, humor and hope. Songs are a mix of Southern Gospel, hymns, country and bluegrass favorites from the World War II era.
“The Three Sisters”
Webster University’s Conservatory of Theatre Arts
Nov. 28 – Dec. 9
Wednesday through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Emerson Studio Theatre at the Loretto-Hilton Center
Webster University campus.www.webster.edu
What It’s About: Adapted by Sarah Ruhl, the Chekhov play is about three sisters trapped in a provincial Russian town after the death of their father, and lament the passing of better times and long for the excitement of Moscow. One of them has married a local teacher; another has become a teacher herself; the third has settled for a dull job in the local telegraph office. Their principal interest is focused on the officers of the local regiment, of which their father had been commandant, men who bring a sense of sophistication and the world outside to their suppressed existence. In the end the fateful pattern of their lives is made clear –their dreams will be denied but, despite all, there must always be hope, however futile, and the ways of the world are to be accepted, if not understood
“Tribes”St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Nov. 30 – Dec. 16
Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.
Gaslight Theatre, 358 N. Boyle.
What It’s About: Billy was born deaf into a hearing family. He was raised inside its fiercely idiosyncratic and politically incorrect cocoon. He has adapted brilliantly to his family’s unconventional ways, but they’ve never bothered to return the favor. It’s not until he meets Sylvia, a young woman on the brink of deafness, that he finally understands what it means to be understood.
Director: Annamaria Pileggi
Starring: Miles Barbee, who is deaf; Ryan Lawson-Maeske, Bridget Bassa, Elizabeth Townsend, Greg Johnston and Hailey Medrano.
Of Note: This comedy-drama by Nina Raine was staged in London in 2010 and off-Broadway in 2012, winning the Drama Desk Award for Best New Play.
William Roth, founder and artistic director of St. Louis Actors’ Studio, has announced that they will donate $2 of each ticket price to Deaf Inc, St. Louis. Deaf Inc is dedicated to providing effective communication access to the deaf, hard of hearing and hearing individuals in the St. Louis area. For more on this organization, visit www.deafinc.org.
Opening Night and all Sunday and Thursday performances will be sign-interpreted for our deaf patrons. Email [email protected] for details.
For more on Miles Barbee, visit www.milesbarbee.com.
“Wonderland: Alice’s Rock and Roll Adventure”Metro Theatre Company
Dec. 2 – Dec. 30
The Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square in Grand Center
What It’s About: Part rock concert, part theater, all of your favorite characters as Metro Theater Company presents this new, wild and wondrous take on Lewis Carroll’s beloved, poetic tale of self-actualization. A cast of actors/musicians plays an eclectic mix of everything from soul and rock to punk to ska as Alice chases through Wonderland in search of her own inner musical voice. A fun, hip, and refreshing fusion of music, theatre and poetry, it is the search for one’s authentic self, asking how can you march to the beat of your own drummer when you’re still writing the song? It places Alice in a strange, new world, where she conquers her fears and uses her musical skills to defeat the Jabberwock.
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, currently reviews films for Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio, covers entertainment for PopLifeSTL.com and co-hosts podcast PopLifeSTL.com…Presents, and writes features and news for Belleville News-Democrat and contributes to other publications. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association. She is a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle.