By Lynn Venhaus
Head indoors this rainy weekend and check out magical make-believe! Women rule in these offerings. New York’s first punk-rock, Jewish, Lesbian caterer tells her story in “Raging Skillet,” a prison cook talks about her haute cuisine career and unfortunate life,
Women take center stage in “Bells Are Ringing and “Legally Blonde” and stand up in “The Little Foxes,” “The Zombies of Penzance” and “Oklahoma!” And then there is “One Funny Mother” who really is that funny.
Dark comedy “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” opens Wednesday, and is apparent in “Drop Dead” too, “This Random World” looks at life from both sides.
And there is real magic in “The Illusionists — Live from Broadway,” a sensational mix of different tricks, including the incredible mind readings of Colin Cloud.
We need some magic right now. Go See a Play for some.
“Bells Are Ringing”
Oct. 5, 6, 12, 13 at 7:30 p.m., and Oct. 14 at 2 p.m.
Florissant Civic Center Theatre
Parker Road at Waterford Drive in Florissant
Box Office: 314-921-5678
What It’s About: Ella Peterson is an operator for an answering service run by her cousin, Sue. Lacking excitement in her personal life, Ella starts becoming involved in the lives of the service’s clients, including a struggling playwright, Jeffrey Moss
Director: David Wicks
Starring: Lisa Rosenstock, Jeff Kargus, Mary McCreight, Nori Rhodes, Brittany Hester, Marlee Wenski, Bob Veatch, Priscilla Case, Dan Stockton, Steven Cook, Sydnee Edward, Mike Nash and Glenn Guillermo.
Oct. 5-7, Oct. 12-14
All shows at 8 p.m. except Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. and Oct. 14 at 2 p.m.
Kranzberg Arts Center (Grand and Olive)
Box Office Hotline: 314-669-6382
Running time: 1 hr., 15 min.
What It’s About: “Chef” is the gripping story of how one woman went from being a haute-cuisine head chef to a convicted inmate running a prison kitchen. Leading us through her world of mouth-watering dishes and heart-breaking memories, Chef questions our attitudes to food, prisoners, violence, love and hope.
Director: Marianne de Pury
Starring: Linda Kennedy
Of Note: U.S. premiere of “Chef” by UK/Egyptian playwright and poet Sabrina Mahfouz.
Photo by ProPhotoStl.com
Clinton County Showcase
Oct. 5 – 7 and 12-14
Avon Theatre, 525 N. Second St., Breese, Ill.
What It’s About: An odd-ball cast of has-been actors revive their careers in ‘Drop Dead!,’ a potboiler murder mystery directed by ‘Wonder Child of the Broadway Stage’ Victor Le Pewe. At the dress rehearsal, the set falls, props break, and the producer and an actor are murdered. But the show must go on! During the opening night performance, the murders continue. The remaining thespians must save the show and their careers, solve the mystery, and stay alive for curtain call.
“The Illusionists – Live from Broadway”Oct. 5 – 7
Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 1 p.m.
Fox Theatre, 527 N. Grand
What It’s About: “Full of hilarious magic tricks, death-defying stunts and acts of breathtaking wonder, The Illusionists has shattered box office records worldwide and thrilled audiences of all ages with a mind-blowing spectacular showcasing the jaw-dropping talents of seven of the most incredible illusionists on earth.
“The Last Days of Judas Iscariot”
Mustard Seed Theatre
Oct. 10 – 28
Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.
Fontbonne University Fine Arts Theatre
What It’s About: In this irreverent exploration of the afterlife of Judas Iscariot, will sin or grief or grace prevail? This brutal dark comedy puts love and justice on trial.
Director: Adam Flores, resident artist
Starring: Courtney Bailey Parker, Rae Davis, Graham Emmon, Carmen Garcia, Chelsea Krenning, Erick Lindsey, Carl Overby, Chandler Spradling, Arielle Rovinsky, Rachel Tibbetts, Chris E. Ware, and Eric Dean White
Of Note: Mature/adult subject matter, language and content. Not recommended for children.
There are no Friday performances.
Thursday evening performances on Oct. 18 and 25 are Pay With A Can/Pay What You Can performances.
Oct. 5 – 14
Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m.
Southampton Presbyterian Church
What It’s About: Elle Woods appears to have it all. Her life is turned upside down when her boyfriend Warner dumps her so he can attend Harvard Law. Determined to get him back, Elle geniously charms her way into the prestigious law school. While there, she struggles with peers, professors and her ex. With the support of some new friends, though, Elle quickly realizes her potential and sets out to prove herself to the world.
Cast: Sarah Polizzi, Elle; Kevin Kickham, Emmett; Natalie Torrence, Paulette; Kyle Kelesoma, Professor Callahan; Kyle Kranes-Rutz, Warren; Kathy Dailey, Vivienne; Rachel Livingston, Brooke; and Jon Bray, Kyle the UPS guy.
“The Little Foxes”
“The Little Foxes” at St. Louis Actors Studio. Photo by Patrick HuberSt. Louis Actors’ Studio
Sept. 28 – Oct. 14
Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m.
The Gaslight Theatre, 358 North Boyle
What It’s About: Lillian Hellman’s drama about greed and ambition, set in Alabama in 1900. Regina Giddens and her
ruthless clan clash as they try to strike the deal of their lives.
Director: John Contini
Starring: Kari Ely, Laurie McConnell, William Roth, Bob Gerchen, Wendy Greenwood, Bridget Bassa, Ryan Lawson-Maeske, Chuck Brinkley, Richard Lewis and Dennis Jethroe II.
Of Note: Far from a sentimental look at a bygone era, the play has a surprisingly timely resonance with important issues facing our country today.
“Oklahoma!”Stages St. Louis
Sept. 7 – Oct. 7
Robert G. Reim Theatre
Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road
What It’s About: Romance, conflict, comedy and colorful characters set in 1906 in the Oklahoma territory.
Director: Michael Hamilton
Starring: Blake Price as Curly, Sarah Ellis as Laurey, David Sajewich as Jud, Con O’Shea-Creal as Will Parker, Lucy Moon as Ado Annie, Matthew Curiano as Ali Hakim, Zoe Vonder Haar as Aunt Eller, John Flack as Andrew Carnes, Leah Berry as Bertie Cummings, and Steve Isom as Cord Elam.
Of Note: “Oklahoma!” completely changed the face of American musical theatre 75 years ago, The first collaboration of Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers blended drama, comedy, music and dance. Their score featured “People Will Say We’re In Love,” “The Surrey With The Fringe On Top,” “Kansas City,” “I Cain’t Say No,” and the pulsating title tune, “Oklahoma!”, becoming the gold standard that set the bar for all great musicals that came after it.
Peter Wochniak Photo
“One Funny Mother”
Dena Blizzard, former Miss New JerseyThe Playhouse @ Westport
Oct. 3 – 7
635 Westport Plaza in Maryland Heights
Box Office: 314-616-4455
Tickets: MetroTix.com or 314-534-1111
Running time: 80 min.
What It’s About: Creator of the wildly popular viral videos “Chardonnay Go!” and the “Back to School Rant,” comedian Dena Blizzard returns to St. Louis with her hilarious one-woman show. The off-Broadway hit has been touring the country.
A former Miss New Jersey, and mother of three, Blizzard has created a show about the trials and tribulations of motherhood and marriage. We follow Blizzard on a hilarious journey through her day as she prepares for her long-awaited girl’s night out. Along the way, she laments how her life and marriage have changed since becoming a mother of three; wrestling with the eternal question “have I gone crazy since having these kids?”
Of Note: It was named “Best One-Woman Show” at the 2015 United Solo Festival in New York City. You can sneak a peek of the show at www.onefunnymother.com.
Performances at 8 p.m. Oct. 3, 4, 5 and 6, with another 4 p.m. show Oct. 6 and 2 p.m. matinee Oct. 7.
Sarajane Alverson in “Raging Skillet”Photo by Eric WoolseyNew Jewish Theatre
Oct. 4 – 21
What It’s About: A tasty adaptation of celebrity Chef Rossi’s autobiographical memoir, “Raging Skillet” – is equal parts book launch, cooking demonstration, heaping helping of comedy and a side of Jewish mother guilt. When Rossi’s Jewish mother discovers the microwave, home-cooked meals become a thing of the past. What starts as a rebellion against her Orthodox parents, chauvinism in the kitchen and the pressures of conformity ends with Rossi becoming New York’s #1 punk-rock, Jewish, Lesbian caterer. This hilarious and heartfelt new comedy is based on her true-life story.
Director: Lee Anne Mathews
Starring: Sarajane Alverson as Chef Rossi, Kathleen Sitzer as her mother, and Erin Renee Roberts as DJ Skillet, sous chef and part-time DJ.
Of Note: Talkbacks scheduled for Oct. 14 and 18. Chef Rossi will be attending the Oct. 4 and 6 performances
“This Random World (the myth of serendipity)”The West End Players Guild
Sept. 28 – Oct. 7
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 4 at 8 p.m.
Union Avenue Christian Church
733 North Union at Enright in the Central West End
What It’s About: Funny. He doesn’t look dead. Or like he’s going to be. In fact, Tim looks like he’s feeling much better. But don’t try telling that to funeral director Rhonda, who has read his obituary on her iPad and is now trying to explain the facts of life (or rather, death) to Tim.
Now, if that situation sounds a little “random,” that’s because it is. It’s one of many strange but funny encounters in Steven Dietz’s 2016 play “This Random World (the myth of serendipity).”
Director: Renee Sevier-Monsey
Starring: Ted Drury, Kate Weber, Eleanor Humphrey, Jessa Knust, Joel Zummak, Lynn Rathbone and Tinah Twardowski.
Of Note: This is the opening show of West End Players Guild’s 108th season.
“The Zombies of Penzance”
Dominic Dowdy-Windsor in “The Zombies of Penzance” at New Line Theatre. Photo by Jill Ritter LindbergNew Line Theatre
Sept. 27 – Oct. 20
Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m.
The Marcelle Theater
3310 Samuel Shepard Drive in Grand Arts Center
What It’s About: The world premiere of the rock musical, “The Zombies of Penzance: At Night Come the Flesh Eaters,” is based on Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance.”
Based on the conceit that the original draft, never seen before, was dated December 1878, Major-General Stanley is a retired zombie hunter, who doesn’t want his daughters marrying the dreaded Zombies of Penzance, for obvious reasons.
Co-Directors: Scott Miller and Mike Windsor-Dowdy. Miller has painstakingly reassembled these rediscovered materials into their original form, filling in the gaps with educated guesses based on other G&S shows and drafts. St. Louis composer and orchestrator John Gerdes is reconstructing Sullivan’s music.
Cast: Most of the cast from New Line’s public reading in January will return, with Sean Michael as Frederic, Melissa Felps as Mabel, Zachary Allen Farmer as Major-General Stanley the Zombie Hunter, Dominic Dowdy-Windsor as the Zombie King, with Mara Bollini, Kent Coffel, Robert Doyle, Matt Hill, Lindsey Jones, Tim Kaniecki, Kyle Kelesoma, Melanie Kozak, Sarah Porter, Christina Rios, and Kimi Short.
Of Note: New Line Theatre, “the bad boy of musical theatre,” opens its 28th season of adult, alternative musical theatre. New Line has shocked the music world by discovering a controversial, long-lost first draft by the legendary British team of librettist W.S. Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan, who together wrote 14 comic operas between 1871 and 1896.
One of the team’s best-known works, The Pirates of Penzance, originally debuted in New York in 1879, and was revived to great success in the early 1980s with Kevin Kline, Linda Ronstadt, and Rex Smith. What we now know is that there was an earlier, stranger draft of the show, which nobody knew about, with most of the same characters but a somewhat different plot.
In 2013, New Line Theatre artistic director Scott Miller discovered the original manuscripts for “The Zombies of Penzance” in the second sub-basement of the Judson Memorial Church in New York, hidden beneath some moldy band parts from Rockabye Hamlet and Shogun the Musical, and Miller set about reconstructing the bizarre original show as G&S intended. Gilbert’s living dead and their Zombie King now make their long-delayed world premiere.
Voices of Valhalla: A Hayride Through History
Oct. 5 – 13
Valhalla Cemetery and The Hawthorne Players
What It’s About: Hayrides through Valhalla Cemetery depart every fifteen minutes beginning at 6:30 each evening as members of the Hawthorne Players portray some of the noted locals buried in Valhalla. Valhalla Cemetery is located at 7600 St. Charles Rock Road.
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.