By Lynn Venhaus
The March winds are blowing in snow and ice, with productions starting strong, and there is a mix of classic musicals, hard-hitting dramas and hilarious comedies on local stages.
It’s the last weekend to catch the absorbing “Oslo” at the Rep, the tenth anniversary “Rock of Ages” tour comes to The Fox, and “Avenue Q” is extended at The Playhouse at Westport. New musicals opening include “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” “Company,” “La Cage Aux Folles.”
Wash U continues with “Angels in America” and SLU presents “The Misanthrope.”
“Well” opens at Mustard Seed Theatre, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” at Theatre Guild of Webster Groves, and “The Glitter Girls” at Alton Little Theatre. The Black Rep’s “Milk Like Sugar” continues at The Black Rep.
Roar back and go see a play!
“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”
O’Fallon Theatre Works
March 1-3 and 8-10
Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m.
O’Fallon City Hall
Tickets are on sale now at the Renaud Spirit Center and at the box office, which opens one hour before each show.
What It’s About: Winner of the Tony and the Drama Desk Awards for Best Book, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is a musical comedy with a funny book by Rachel Sheinkin and a vibrant musical score by William Finn.
An eclectic group of six adolescents vies for the spelling championship of a lifetime. While candidly disclosing hilarious and touching stories from their home lives, the tweens spell their way through a series of (potentially made-up) words, hoping never to hear the soul-crushing, pout-inducing, life un-affirming “ding” of the bell that signals a spelling mistake. Six spellers enter; one speller leaves! At least the losers get juice boxes.
A riotous ride complete with audience participation, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is a fast-paced crowd-pleasing comedy.
Director: Melissa Boyer, with music director Wendi Dicken and choreographer Cameron Bopp.
Starring: Ann Hier Brown, Mark Killmer, Benni Jillette, James McKinzie, Ben Ketcherside, Josh Towers, Hayden Hays, Mia Porcelli and Stefanie Kluba.
“Angels in America, Part 1: Millennium Approaches”
The Performing Arts Department at Washington University
Feb. 22 – March 3
Thursdays and Fridays at 7 p.m., 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays.
Tickets: 314-935-6543 or visit pad.artsci.wustl.edu
What It’s About: an epic that ranges from earth to heaven; focuses on politics, sex and religion; transports us to Washington, the Kremlin, the South Bronx, Salt Lake City and Antarctica; deals with Jews, Mormons, WASPs, blacks; switches between realism and fantasy, from the tragedy of AIDS to the camp comedy of drag queens to the death or at least the absconding of God.
The Playhouse at Westport Plaza
Jan. 25 – March 3
What It’s About: Part flesh, part felt and packed with heart, “Avenue Q” is a laugh-out-loud musical telling the story of Princeton, a college grad who moves into the city with big dreams and a tiny bank account. He and his Avenue Q neighbors struggle to find jobs, dates and their life’s purpose.
Director: Lee Anne Mathews, with Music Director Charlie Mueller
Starring: Andrew Keeler, Brent Ambler, Jennifer Theby-Quinn, Kevin O’Brien, Grace Langford, Illeana Kirven, April Strelinger
Of Note: For mature audiences. “Avenue Q” won three Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
Over Due Theatre
March 1-3, 8-10
8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
Olivette Community Center
What It’s About: First produced in 1970, Company was nominated for a record-setting fourteen Tony Awards and won six, including Best Musical. Company takes an unvarnished look at marriage through the eyes of Bobby who, unmarried on his thirty-fifth birthday, finds himself lost in the company of his married friends. With his trademark wit and sophistication, Stephen Sondheim examines the flawed nature of human relationships as Bobby journeys towards the realization that, in spite of all of his friends’ failings, there is no point in “Being Alive” unless he has someone with whom to share it.
“The Glitter Girls”
Alton Little Theatre
March 1- 10
Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
2450 North Henry in Alto
What It’s About: A brand new play economically described as “Steel Magnolias” meets “Survivor,” with a big dose of quirky humor thrown in for good measure. A strong ensemble play, which questions the wisdom of sudden wealth and the bonds of friendship.
“La Cage Aux Folles”
New Line Theatre
Feb. 28 – March 23
Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.
Marcelle Theater, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive
What It’s About: What happens when the son of a middle-aged gay couple brings home the daughter of an arch-conservative politician — and her parents — for dinner? Musical comedy ensues.
“La Cage Aux Folles” takes place on the French Riviera for a night of love, laughs, illusions and truths, and the triumph of family over bullies and bigots.
Based on the 1973 French play and its 1978 film adaptation, “La Cage Aux Folles” tells the story of a middle-aged show business couple, grappling with aging, fidelity, kids, and holding on to their dignity when the world around them would rather strip it away. At the center is Georges, a St. Tropez nightclub owner, and his husband Albin, who is also the club’s erratic headliner Zaza. When Georges’ son gets engaged to the daughter of a right-wing politician, we see the politics and culture wars of 2019, at their most ridiculous and most fevered, onstage right in front of us.
Director: Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor, with music direction by Nicolas Valdez and choreography by Michelle Sauer and Sara Rae Womack.
Starring: Zachary Allen Farmer (Albin/Zaza), Robert Doyle (Georges), Kevin Corpuz (Jean-Michel), Tielere Cheatem (Jacob), Zora Vredeveld (Anne), Kent Coffel (M. Dindon), Mara Bollini (Mme. Dindon), Lindsey Jones (Jacqueline), Joel Hackbarth (Francis), and as the notorious Cagelles – Jake Blonstein, Dominic Dowdy-Windsor, Evan Fornachon, Tim Kaniecki, Clayton Humburg, and Ian McCreary..
Of Note: In its original 1983 production, the show was a safely old-fashioned musical comedy. But in its 2008 London revival and 2010 Broadway revival, the show was transformed from a lightweight comedy into a more serious story with a lot of laughs.
The original 1983 Broadway production ran four years and 1,761 performances. The show received nine Tony nominations and won six, including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book — beating out Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George. It’s been revived on Broadway and in London multiple times.
“Milk Like Sugar”
Saint Louis University Theatre
Feb. 28 – March 3
Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Kranzberg Arts Center Black Box
501 N. Grand Blvd.
Tickets through metrotix.com or 314.534-1111.
What It’s About: This Molière classic looks at the hypocrisy of society and the consequences of total honesty and will be directed by Lucy Cashion.
Of Note: The additional Saturday matinee was scheduled due to the limited seating at the venue. A seating policy is in place for this production: unfilled seats will be released 7 minutes prior to the start of the show.Your
cooperation is appreciated.
“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”
The Theatre Guild of Webster Groves
March 1-3, 7-10
Shows at 8 p.m., except Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.
517 Theatre Lane, Webster Groves
Tickets are available only at the door (cash or check).
Sorry, we do not take advanced reservations
What It’s About: Ken Kesey’s iconic counter-culture novel is set in a psychiatric hospital, where convicted criminal McMurphy winds up. He challenges authority and changes patients’ lives. This is the play adaptation, which was turned into an Oscar-winning film.
Director: Jessica Johns-Kelly.
Starring: Jerry Crump, Matthew Linhardt, Betsy Gasoske, Greg Savel, Tyler Crandall, Hal Morgan, Jason Blackburn, David Eiben, Christian Davis, Sherre Ward, Scott Ewers, Russ Leonard, Donald Kidd, Aaron Mermelstein, Noreen Ann G. Rhodes and Amie Bossi.
Of Note: This show contains content not suitable for children.
The Theatre Guild of Webster Groves is very old historic building with many steps and is not handicapped or wheelchair assessable.
Photo by Peter Wochniak
Feb. 8 – March 3
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
130 Edgar Road, St. Louis
What It’s About: The winner of the 2017 Tony Award for Best Play, this play by J.T. Rogers is set in 1993, when two bitter enemies shocked the world by shaking hands and agreeing to work towards peace. “Oslo” finds the unlikely story behind the historic event.
The drama explores the secretive and precarious negotiations that made that moment possible and focuses on the Norwegian couple who brokered talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Director: Steven Woolf
Starring: Jim Poulos, Kathleen Wise, Rajesh Bose, Ben Graney, Jerry Vogel, Michael James Reed, Amro Salama, John Rensenhouse, Michelle Hand, Jonathan Gillard Daly, Jeff Cummings, Jim Shankman, Chaunery Kingsford Tanguay, Jack Theiling and Tom Wethington.
Of Note: “Oslo” is recommended for adult audiences. The show contains strong adult language and weighty discussions about global politics and diplomatic relations.
“Rock of Ages”
The Fox Theatre
Friday at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at 2 and 7:30 p.m, and Sunday at 1 and 6:30 pm,. The Fox Theatre is at 527 North Grand in Grand Center
What It’s About: Nominated for five Tony Awards®, including Best Musical,
Rock of Ages” captures the iconic era that was the big bad 1980s Hollywood. Know What Love Is, Feel the Noise, and Take Your Best Shot at one of the Sunset Strip’s last epic venues, a place where the legendary Stacee Jaxx returns to the stage and rock-n-roll dreamers line up to turn their fantasies into reality. Featuring the music of hit bands such as Styx, Poison, Twisted Sister, and Whitesnake among many others, this Tenth Anniversary production features a dynamic new cast revisiting the larger than life characters and exhilarating story that turned the musical into a global phenomenon. This is one for the ages that will have you singing “Here I Go Again.”
Mustard Seed Theatre
Fontbonne Fine Arts Theatre
What It’s About: Lisa Kron’s experimental play intends to explore racial and religious integration and cultural concepts of health. She does not want to talk about her Mother, who unexpectedly joins her on stage. What could possibly go wrong?
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.