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 Production.

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 Illinois.

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.

Best Small Ensemble Musical “A New Brain”

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 event.

“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.

Performances from nominees for large ensemble musicals, two small ensemble musicals and five youth productions premiered on AFL’s YouTube channel for 10 days leading up to the awards, and are now available there, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnCSL5RPbHTrhbc0mbHcWnA

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 Valjean.

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).

Norbert Leo Butz

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

Jennifer Kerner

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 disorders.

McCreight was thrilled about Hanisch’s national award.

Diane Hanisch

“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.

CMP’s Oklahoma!

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).

Winners Will Shaw and Kimmie Kidd-Booker in “Nice Work If You Can Get It”

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 remain closed.

“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.

Riverbend Theatre’s The Drowsy Chaperone

A souvenir program is available to download online: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1YlomcYjVNqDNqmPTCrYGSjnAtDwkn9QT/view

A limited number of copies will be available for purchase as well.

For more information, contact AFL TRG Secretary Kim Klick at [email protected]

To see a list of the 2019 nominees and winners, as well as the awards history 1999-2019, visit the website: www.artsforlife.org

Follow AFL on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

2020 Best Performance Award Winners:

Best Musical Production Large Ensemble: “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” Kirkwood Theatre Guild

Best Musical Production Small Ensemble: “A New Brain,” Hawthorne Players

Best Youth Musical Production: “Les Miserables: School Edition,” Goshen Theatre Project

Best Director: Dani Mann, “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” Kirkwood Theatre Project

Best Musical Direction: Kathy Eichelberger and Joseph Paule Jr., “Oklahoma!” Christ Memorial Productions

Best Choreography: Kimberly Klick, “Oklahoma!” Christ Memorial Productions

Best Lead Actor: Cole Guttmann, “The Bridges of Madison County, “Alpha Players of Florissant

Best Lead Actress: Jaclyn Amber, “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” Kirkwood Theatre Guild

Best Featured Actor: Mike Huelsmann, “Oklahoma!” Christ Memorial Productions

Best Featured Actress: Kimmie Kidd-Booker, “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” Kirkwood Theatre Guild

Best Supporting Actor: Caleb Long, “Oklahoma!” Christ Memorial Productions

Best Supporting Actress: Dianne M. Mueller, “Oklahoma!” Christ Memorial Productions

Best Actor in a Comedic Role: George Doerr IV, “Young Frankenstein,” Alfresco Productions

Best Actress in a Comedic Role: Margery Handy, “The Wizard of Oz,” Alton Little Theater

Best Cameo Actor: Jacob Streuter, “Jesus Christ Superstar,” Looking Glass Playhouse

Best Cameo Actress: Chelsie Johnston, “The Bridges of Madison County,” Alpha Players of Florissant

Best Actor in a Non-Singing Role: Will Shaw, “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” Kirkwood Theatre Guild

Best Actress in a Non-Singing Role: Maria Wilken, “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” Kirkwood Theatre Guild

Best Duo/Group: Matthew Joost and Carole Ann Miller, “Annie,” Take A Bow Showcase

Best Set Design: Matt Dossett, “The Little Shop of Horrors,” Monroe Actors Stage Company

Best Lighting Design: Jonathan Hartley, “Oklahoma!” Christ Memorial Productions

Best Costume Design: Krysta Wenski, “Oklahoma!” Christ Memorial Productions

Best Juvenile Performer: Leontine Rickert, “Annie,” Take a Bow Showcase

Best Youth Director: Kristi Doering, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” Riverbend Theatre

Best Youth Music Direction: Michael Frazier and Alison Neace, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” Riverbend Theatre

Best Youth Choreography: Stephanie Fox, “Spring Awakening,” Gateway Center for the Performing Arts

Best Youth Lead Actor: Jayson Heil, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” Riverbend Theatre

Best Youth Lead Actress: Alli McDonald, “Once Upon a Mattress,” St. John’s UCC Performing Arts Camp

Best Youth Supporting Actor: Will Dery, “Newsies,” Young People’s Theatre

Best Youth Supporting Actress: Natalie Cochran, “Les Miserables School Edition,” Goshen Theatre Project

Best Youth Costume Design: Terry Pattison, “Les Miserables School Edition,” Goshen Theatre Project

Best Youth Set Design: Brisby Andrews and Greg Rackers, “Newsies,” Young People’s Theatre

Best Youth Lighting Design: Halli Pattison and Blake Churchill, “Les Miserables School Edition,” Goshen Theatre Project



By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
Treat Mom to a play or musical this weekend? Or next weekend! Any time is the
right time to Go See a Play! Here’s what is happening now.  And make time for the Tennessee Williams
Festival! Only once a year, and the time is now!

“Biloxi Blues” Clayton Community Theatre May 2-12 Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m.; Sunday at 2 p.m. but no performance May 10 Washington University South Campus Theatre 314-721-9228www.placeseveryone.org

What It’s About: The second in “The Eugene Trilogy,” Neil
Simon’s semi-autobiographical comedy centers on the contest of wills between a
drill sergeant and an intellectual recruit at an Army base in Biloxi, Miss., in
1943. Along the way, he loses his innocence in many ways.

“Death Tax” Mustard Seed Theatre May 9 – 19 Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Fontbonne Fine Arts Theatre What It’s About:  by Lucas Hnath “As Maxine nears the end of her life she is certain of three things: Death, Taxes and the Greed of her daughter who wants her to die quickly. A desperate nurse vows to keep her alive, but at what cost? Darkly comic, the play explores morality and forgiveness.” Performances take place at the Fontbonne Fine Arts Theatre, 6800 Wydown Blvd. For more information, call (314) 719-8060 or visit the web site at www.mustardseedtheatre.com.

“Dear Mr. Williams” The Tennessee Williams Festival Friday at 8:30 p.m. and Saturday at 3:30 and 8:30 p.m., May 10 and 11 Curtain Call Lounge www.twstl.org What It’s About: The blue devils of sex, alcohol, and mendacity take center stage in this tender and funny coming-of-age story of a young gay artist. With the great American playwright as his compass, writer and performer Batt takes us on a thrilling and very personal journey out of the shadows into a bright light of self-discovery. The tumultuous-and sometimes treacherous-journey from adolescence to adulthood is one we all must take, but Batt’s one-man tour de force proves that it’s oh so much more fascinating and fun with Tennessee Williams as your guide. “Freaky Friday” Curtain’s Up Theater Company May 10-12 Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Dunham Theatre, SIUEwww.curtainsuptheater.com

What It’s About: Based on the Disney movie, “Freaky Friday” is a musical about a mother and daughter changing places to comical effect.  

“A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur” The Tennessee Williams Festival May 11- 19 Saturdays and Sundays at 1 and 5 p.m.  www.twfstl.org

What It’s About: Four eccentric and unforgettable women fry
chicken, plan a picnic to Creve Coeur Lake, and cope with loneliness and lost
dreams in an efficiency apartment on Enright Avenue in the Central West End
circa the mid-1930s. Williams gives us more laughs than usual, but no less
poetry or poignancy. Williams believed that growing up in St. Louis was
essential to the shape of his work. A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur is one of
his few plays set here, and was the inspiration behind TV’s “The Golden
Girls.

Director: Kari Ely
Starring: Kelly Weber, Ellie Schwetye,  

Madea’s Farewell Play Tour May 10 – 12 Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 3 and 7:30 p.m. The Fabulous Fox Theatre www.fabulousfox.com What It’s About: Tyler Perry’s 21st stage play Starring: Tyler Perry, Tamela Mann, David Mann and Cassi Davis Patton

“Mamma Mia!” Alton Little Theater May 10-19 Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. 2450 N. Henry in Alton 6180462-6562www.altonlittletheater.org What It’s About: Love, mishaps, and music by ABBA will have audiences dancing in the aisles again as they feel transported to the Greek Island of Kalokairi on the eve of a wedding.

“Mamma Mia!” Looking Glass Playhouse May 2 – 12 Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. 301 W. St. Louis St., Lebanon, Ill.www.lookingglassplayhouse.com 618-537-4962

What It’s About: Through ABBA’s hits, a romantic comedy
tell the hilarious story of a young woman’s search for her birth father. This
sunny and funny tale unfolds on a Greek island paradise. On the eve of her
wedding, a daughter’s quest to discover the identity of her father brings three
men from her mother’s past back to the island they last visited 20 years ago. A
mother. A daughter. Three possible dads.

“Nice Work If You Can Get It” Kirkwood Theatre Guild May 3-5, 9-12 Evenings at 8 p.m., Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Robert G. Reim Theatre Website: https://www.ktg-onstage.org/ 314-821-9956

What It’s About: A screwball comedy set in the Prohibition
era with songs by George and Ira Gershwin. Elegant socialists and boorish
bootleggers clash, when playboy Jimmy Winter meets a female bootlegger, Billie
Bendix, on the weekend of his third or fourth wedding.

“The Night of the Iguana” Tennessee Williams Festival May 9 – 19 The Grandel Theatre What It’s About: based on Williams’ 1948 short story, which was then developed into three acts for Broadway production in 1961. A Tony nominee for Best Play, it was adapted into a 1964 movie, directed by John Huston, that starred Richard Burton, Ava Gardner and Deborah Kerr. The play focuses on a former minister, barred from his church for defaming God, who works as a tour guide. He is accused of statutory rape of a 16-year-old girl in his tour group. Director: Tim Ocel Starring: James Andrew Butz, Lavonne Byers, Hannah Sturgis, Harry Weber, Spencer Sickmann, Greg Johnson, Victor Mendes, Luis Aguilar.“Over the Tavern” The Theatre Guild of Webster Groves May 3 – 11 Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.www.theatreguildwg.org 314-962-0876 What It’s About: In that most idealized period of 20th-century America, the Eisenhower years of the 1950s, the Pazinski family has a lot going on in their cramped Buffalo apartment. The youngest of the bunch, 12-year-old Rudy, is a smart, wise-cracking kid who’s starting to question family values and the Roman Catholic Church. When Rudy goes up against the ruler-wielding Sister Clarissa and announces that instead of being confirmed he’d rather shop around for a more “fun” religion, all hell breaks loose.” Parental discretion is advised.

Director: Warren Frank Starring: Henry Alverson, Jimmy Hall, Andrea Jacobson, Tracy Murphy, Pepi Parshall, Declan Ryan, Patrick Ryan “Salt, Root and Roe” Upstream Theatre April 26 – May 12 Shows at 8 p.m. except Sundays at 7 p.m. but May 12 at 2 p.m. Kranzberg Arts Centerwww.upstreamtheater.org What It’s About: Tim Price’s play is about the nature of change, the comfort of home and the eternal bond of love, set against the mythical backdrop of the Pembrokeshire coast in western Wales. Identical twins Iola and Anest, who are devoted to age other and aging fast. Anest’s daughter, Menna, rushes to her long-abandoned childhood home where her own ideas of love and compromise are tested to the limit. Director: Kenn McLaughlin Cast: Donna Weinsting, Sally Edmundson, Eric Dean White, Amy Loui

Of Note: A U.S. premiere in co-production with Stages
Repertory Theatre of Houston.

By Lynn VenhausManaging EditorLooking Glass Playhouse’s “Frost/Nixon,” a political drama based on a series of televised interviews between a disgraced president and a British journalist, was the big winner at the fourth annual Theatre Mask Awards.

The 43-year-old theater in Lebanon, Ill., earned four awards for Peter Morgan’s 2006 play, including outstanding drama production (tie), and for director Glenn Saltamachia, supporting actor Mike Russell (as Reston) and large ensemble.

A sold-out crowd of 265 attended the Arts For Life event on April 6, a brunch celebration in the Atrium Banquet Center at Christian Northeast Hospital. Awards were presented in 18 categories and Kevin Frakes of the Alton Little Theater received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

AFL honored plays produced by St. Louis area community theaters during the 2018 calendar year. The non-profit organization has sponsored awards for musical theater in community and youth productions for 20 years. AFL organized the TMAs in 2015 to recognize dramas and comedies.

Sharing in Outstanding Drama Production was the local premiere of “The Curious Incident with the Dog in the Night-time” by Actors’ Attic in Columbia, Ill. The play is about a gifted math genius with Asperger’s syndrome who begins a journey of self-discovery when he starts investigating the neighbor’s dog’s death. Simon Stephen’s acclaimed 2012 adaptation of Mark Haddon’s 2003 novel earned seven Olivier Awards and the 2015 Tony Award for Best Play.

Cast of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” at the TMAs. Photo by Kim KlickActors’ Attic’s two leading performers, Dan Haller and Emily Brutton, won outstanding actor and actress. Haller said it was a privilege to play Christopher, who is also the narrator, while Brutton played his primary school teacher Siobhan. Actors’ Attic, lead by MaryBeth Babcock, has produced plays for 10 years and joined the TMAs last year.

Haller said the awards event was inspiring and thanked everyone for working in theater because they love it.

“You do theater for the love of doing theater, and that’s the best reason to do it,” Haller said.

Brutton thanked director Babcock for “always knowing how a story needs to be told.”“People follow their dreams because of her,” she said. 

“Brighton Beach Memoirs” cast at TMAs. Photo by Kim Klick.Clayton Community Theatre’s production of Neil Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs” won three awards, including outstanding comedy production and for actor Patrick Blanner as Eugene and director Sam Hack. CCT, founded in 1998, plans to produce Simon’s entire Eugene trilogy, is working on “Biloxi Blues” now and will present “Broadway Bound” next year.

Clayton’s production of William Inge’s ‘Bus Stop” won for outstanding large ensemble.

Both Outstanding Lead Actors in a Drama and a Comedy were under 20 years old — Haller is 19 and Blanner is 18.

Other multiple winners included O’Fallon TheatreWorks’ play version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” which won two — supporting actress for Tori Stukins, who played Daisy’s society friend Jordan Baker, and costume design for Carole Lanham.

The drama “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” received awards for two different theater groups’ productions. Alton Little Theater’s show won lighting design for Lee Cox and Dennis R. Stephenson and the O’Fallon Theatre Works’ play won set design for Chris and Ellie Lanham.

Chris Lanham said working behind-the-scenes is a “labor of love,” quipping it’s really “mostly labor.”

Alton Little Theater also won outstanding actress in a comedy – Alison Beach as the frustrated daughter dealing with other people in line for her late billionaire father’s fortune in “Who’s in Bed with the Butler?” 

Beach said the year before, she had auditioned for many shows and had been turned down. After one tryout at Alton, director Lee Cox took the time to explain to her why she didn’t get a part.“I assured her it mattered. She gave me the strength to keep auditioning,” she said.

The Theatre Guild of Webster Groves was honored with three acting awards. Kaylee Ryan won outstanding juvenile performance in “The Children’s Hour” while Will Shaw won supporting actor in a comedy as bar patron Gaston in Steve Martin’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile”” and Sarah Hirshfield won supporting actress in a comedy as Carol, the only female writer, in Neil Simon’s “Laughter on the 23rd Floor.”

Cast of “Frost/Nixon with directors at TMAs. Photo by Kim Klick.Mike Russell, a past AFL nominee, won Outstanding Supporting Actor for his portrayal of James Reston Jr., an American author and government official who served as David Frost’s Watergate advisor for the Nixon interview. In “Frost/Nixon,” he also served as narrator. In his speech, he thanked LGP for taking a risk on the show “in today’s political climate.”

Kevin Frakes, current president of Alton Little Theater and longtime actor, director, set designer and mentor, received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

He joined the group, founded in 1933, 40 years ago. With his vision and hard work, the theater has grown into a creative center for the performing arts, presenter Lee Cox said.

“(Theater) changed my life and made me face my weaknesses. It made me a stronger, better person because of it,” he said.

Best friends Lee Cox and Lifetime Achievement Award winner Kevin Frakes, who have been doing theater together since she was 17 and he was 19. Photo by Kim Klick.Frakes told how he got into theater, and one of the reasons was to be accepted, for he was from a poor and abusive family.KLOU (103.3 FM) radio personality Vic Porcelli, who also acts in local productions, again served as the master of ceremonies, returning for the fourth time. Grace Boyer and Kailynn Stiff were the trophy presenters.

The TMAs include participation by 10 area theater companies. A judges panel scored 12 dramas and 13 comedies to determine the nominations, which are announced at the annual AFL trivia night, and the eventual winners. A large ensemble is nine or more people in the cast. TMA Chair is Glenn Guillermo and the Steering Committee is 26 people affiliated with the participating theater companies. The Judges Panel includes 42 volunteers. 

“I am proud of the dedication of the TMA Steering Committee and Director Glenn Guillermo,” said AFL President Mary McCreight. “The AFL Board of Directors congratulates all participants/nominees in last year’s shows. I am happy to see the TMAs thriving and creating a niche for yourselves in the theater community.”

The AFL’s 20th annual Best Performance Awards will take place on Sunday, June 9, at 2 p.m. at the Skip Viragh Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of Chaminade College Preparatory School, 425 S. Lindbergh Blvd. 

The musical theater awards reflect the work of 25 companies who produced 48 musicals – 21 large ensemble, 7 small ensemble and 20 youth productions. Two special youth awards will be presented to Caroline Santiago Turner for “Violet” (Best Youth Musical Performance) and Sean Harvey as Bobby in “Crazy For You” (Best Youth Featured Dancer), both works by the Gateway Center for the Performing Arts.The Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to Joe Paule Sr. Local professional actor Ryan Cooper is the returning master of ceremonies.Reserved tickets will be available for $20 until May 10, then tickets are $25. Formal attire is requested.

For more information, visit www.artsforlife.org

By Lynn VenhausManaging EditorWe Are Family — that’s the running theme of several productions opening or continuing their runs: “August: Osage County” at Kirkwood Theatre Guild, “La Cage Aux Folles” at New Line Theatre, “Farce of Habit” at KTK Productions and “Well” at Mustard Seed Theatre.And also the family that you make — “Company” at Over Due, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” at Theatre Guild of Webster Groves, “Avenue Q” at the Playhouse at Westport and “The Glitter Girls” at Webster Groves.The Carole King musical “Beautiful” comes to the Fox for a limited run and “Nonsense and Beauty” opens at The Rep’s Studio Theatre.Whether it’s deep-diving drama or lighthearted comedy, or catchy musicals that you are in the mood for, GO SEE A PLAY!

Photo by Lori Biehl“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”O’Fallon Theatre WorksMarch 1-3 and 8-10Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m.O’Fallon City HallTickets: www.ofallon.mo.usTickets 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. 

“August: Osage County”Kirkwood Theatre GuildMarch 8 – 17Roger G. Reim Theatre111 S. Geyer Roadwww.ktg-onstage.org314-821-9956What It’s About: Winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award for Best New Play, “August: Osage County” centers around the Weston family, brought together after their patriarch, world-class poet and alcoholic, Beverly Weston, disappears. The matriarch, Violet, depressed and addicted to pills and “truth-telling,” is joined by her three daughters who harbor their own deep secrets. More family arrives, equally well-trained in the Weston family art of cruelty. Bursting with humor, vivacity and intelligence.

“Avenue Q” The Playhouse at Westport PlazaJan. 25 – March 17www.playhouseatwestport.com

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.

Sarah Bockel as Carole King.“Beautiful – The Carole King Musical”Fox TheatreMarch 12-17Performances are Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m., and Sunday at 1 p.m. Matinee March 14 at 1 p.m.What It’s About: The life of composer Carole King.

“Company”Over Due TheatreMarch 1-3, 8-108 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. SundayOlivette Community Center9723 Grandview314-210-2959www.overduetheatrecompany.com

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.

“Farce of Habit”KTK ProductionsMarch 8 – 17Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. St. John the Baptist Church 4200 Delorwww.kurtainkall.org314-351-8984 What It’s About: This absurdly funny Southern-fried romp takes us back to the Reel ‘Em Inn fishing lodge where this bizarre family guides you through a new series of preposterous events in “Farce of Habit.” Add to the original characters a gaggle of nuns on retreat, a nationally known relationship guru, a shy retiree and a couple of women who may (or may not be) who they claim to be. Throw in an approaching “storm of the century” and the fact that there is an axe murderer on the loose and you will be laughing your way through the lunacy of another Jones, Hope and Wooten comedy.

“The Glitter Girls”Alton Little TheaterMarch 1- 10Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.2450 North Henry in Alto618.462.6562www.altonlittletheater.org.

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.

Of Note: Sunday, March 10 is sold out.

Robert Doyle and Zak Farmer. Photo by Jill Ritter Lindberg.“La Cage Aux Folles”New Line TheatreFeb. 28 – March 23Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.Marcelle Theater, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drivewww.newlinetheatre.com

Tickets: MetroTix.com

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.

. ©Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr.“Nonsense and Beauty”The Repertory Theatre of St. LouisEmerson Studio TheatreMarch 6 – 24www.repstl.org314-What It’s About: In 1930, the writer E.M. Forster met and fell in love with a policeman 23 years his junior. Their relationship, very risky for its time, evolved into a 40-year love triangle that was both turbulent and unique. Based on a true story, Nonsense and Beauty captures the wit and wisdom of one of the last century’s great writers. This world premiere was developed as part of The Rep’s 2018 Ignite! Festival of New Plays.Director: Seth GordonStarring: Jeffrey Hayenga, Robbie Simpson, John Feltch, Lori Vega and Donna Weinsting.

“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”The Theatre Guild of Webster GrovesMarch 1-3, 7-10Shows at 8 p.m., except Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. 517 Theatre Lane, Webster GrovesTickets are available only at the door (cash or check). Sorry, we do not take advanced reservationswww.theatreguildwg.org 314-962-0876

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 accessible.

“Twelfth Night”St. Charles Community CollegeMarch 6 – 10Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 10 a.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m.SCC Center Stage Theater in the Donald D. Shook Fine Arts Building on the campus at 4601 Mid Rivers Mall Drive in Cottlevillewww.stchas.edu636-922-8050 What It’s About: Stranded on the coast of Illyria, the quick-witted Viola assumes the disguise of a pageboy for Duke Orsino and finds herself at the center of an explosive love triangle in which identity, passion and gender all threaten to come undone. Bursting with vitality and romance, this delightful abbreviated version of “Twelfth Night” gives us one of Shakespeare’s most remarkable heroines matching wits with a host of captivating characters–from the love-struck Olivia to the puritanical Malvolio.

“Two Degrees”Tesseract Theatre CompanyMarch 8 – 17Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.The .ZACK, 3224 Locust in Midtownwww.tesseracttheatre.org

What It’s About: In a new play by Tira Palmquist, , Emma Phelps is a paleoclimatologist, focusing on ice in Greenland. In drilling and studying ice core samples, she sees first hand the symptoms of our changing planet, which makes the need to act all the more crucial and urgent. In addition to her growing sense of urgency for the planet, Emma, as a recent widow, experiences grief that compounds itself with each passing month. Now she’s been asked to come to Washington D.C. to testify in a Senate Committee regarding climate change legislation, and in this intersection of science and politics, of politics and the personal, she finds more than just a little is breaking up under the strain of change.

“Well”Mustard Seed TheatreFontbonne Fine Arts Theatre314-719-8060www.mustardseedtheatre.com

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?

Director: Deanna Jent

Starring: Lori Adams, Katy Keating, Alicia Reve Like, Carl Overly Jr., Robert Thibault and Leslie Wobbe.

By Lynn Venhaus Managing Editor As barren as the outdoors is of life, inside the walls of our theatrical spaces, large and small, are full of life. There are 15 shows available to audiences this weekend! There is something for every taste — pick one or two or three! And Go See a Play!

Accelerando – A Circus Spy Thriller Circus Harmony Jan. 26 at noon and 2 p.m. and Jan. 27 at 2 p.m.www.circusharmony.org/accelerando What It’s About: The annual show features their famous flying children with new acts, including Chinese Pole and Hoop Diving.

Photo by Jon Gitchoff“Alabama Story” Jan. 2 – 27 The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis www.repstl.org

What It’s About: A determined librarian and a
segregationist senator face off over an innocent children’s book in 1959
Montgomery. Depicting the marriage of two rabbits – who happen to have
different-colored fur – the story has Sen. E.W. Higgins calling for a book ban.
But even as the pressure mounts, librarian Emily Wheelock Reed refuses to yield
to censorship. Inspired by true events.

Directed by Paul Mason Barnes Starring: Larry Paulsen, Jeanne Paulsen, Carl Howell, Carl Palmer, Corey Allen, Anna O’Donoghue“Avenue Q” The Playhouse at Westport Plaza Jan. 25 – March 3 www.playhouseatwestport.com

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 MuellerStarring: Andrew Keeler, Brent Ambler, Jennifer Theby-Quinn, Kevin O’Brien, Grace Langford, Illeana Kirven, April Strelinger

Of Note: For mature audiences. “Avenue Q” won Tony Awards,
including

“Canfield Drive” The Black Rep Jan. 9 – 27 Edison Theatre on the campus of Washington University www.theblackrep.org What It’s About: The world premiere production is about two high-powered news reporters from across the aisle who are thrown together during the national coverage of the aftermath following the Michael Brown shooting death in Ferguson, Mo., in summer 2014.

As they untangle facts, they struggle to keep their private
lives out of the spotlight.
Directed by Ron Himes
Starring: Kristen Adele Calhoun, Christopher Hickey, Amy Loui, Eric Conners

Of Note: Created from diverse interviews of people from
around the corner and around the world, Canfield Drive was written by Kristen
Adele Calhoun and Michael Thomas Walker. It is a National Performance Network
Creation and Development Fund Project co-commissioned by 651 Arts in
partnership with The St. Louis Black Repertory Company, and NPN.

Photo by Eric Woolsey“District Merchants: An Uneasy Comedy” New Jewish Theatre Jan. 24 – Feb. 10 Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Wool Studio Theater Jewish Community Center, 2 Millstone Campus Drivewww.newjewishtheatre.org 314-442-3283

What It’s About: Love, litigation, deep passions and predatory lending are taken to a new level. The play wades fearlessly into the complexities of life in America. It is set among Black and Jewish populations in an imagined time and place, simultaneously Shakespearean and post- Civil War Washington, D.C. Directed by Jacqueline Thompson Cast: Gary Wayne Barker, J. Samuel Davis, Karl Hawkins, Ron White, Rae Davis Of Note: In Aaron Posner’s reimagining, the play becomes less about the quality of mercy and more about how flexible a supposedly egalitarian society can be to the varied tribes struggling to find partners in America. Aaron Posner expertly blends humor, emotional truths and topics that make people think. He is able to create characters who are deeply flawed, like we are. In his “uneasy” comedy, he wants us to look at a snapshot in time, the Reconstruction Era, but what he has written is relevant to audiences today.

Fiddler on the Roof “Fiddler on the Roof” Fox TheatreJan. 29 –“L’Italiana in Algeri” Winter Opera St. Louis Jan. 25 at 8 p.m. and Jan. 27 at 3 p.m. The Skip Viragh Center for the Arts at Chaminade 425 S. Lindbergh “Jekyll & Hyde” Next Generation Theatre Company Jan. 26 – Feb. 2 Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. James J. Eagan Center, Florissant http://www.nextgenerationtheatre.company/jekyll/

What It’s About: An evocative tale of two men – one, a
passionate doctor; the other, a terrifying madman – and two women, both in love
with the same man and both unaware of his dark secret. Murder and chaos is
pitted against love and virtue.

Starring: Keith Boyer as Dr. Henry Jekyll

Of Note: Rated PG-13 for violence.

“Jesus Christ Superstar” Looking Glass Playhouse Jan. 24 – Feb. 3 Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. 301 West St Louis Street in Lebanon, Ill. www.lookingglassplayhouse.com What It’s About: The Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice musical
is a timeless work set against the backdrop of a Biblical series of events but
seen through the eyes of Judas Iscariot.

“Love, Linda” Max and Louie Productions Jan. 18 – Jan. 27 Marcelle Theatre in Grand Arts Center www.maxandlouie.com

What It’s About: Linda Lee Thomas was the Southern beauty
who married and was the driving force behind legendary song writer Cole Porter
at the dawn of the roaring twenties. Though Cole Porter was gay, their
companionship and love lasted through 35 years of marriage and a spectacular,
glamour-filled life.
Through innovative jazz arrangements, the music and lyrics of Cole Porter
examine the darker sides of their life while also celebrating the deep love
that blossomed through their unconventional relationship.
Directed by Ken Page, Music Director Greg Schweizer
Starring Debby Lennon

“The Marvelous Wonderettes” Hard Road Theatre Productions Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Highland Elementary School auditorium in Highland, Ill. www.hardroad.org

What It’s about: The pop doesn’t stop in this musical about
a high school prom in 1958 and, in the second act, a 10-year reunion in 1968,
with a soundtrack that includes big hits from both decades.  

Photo by Jill Ritter Lindberg“The Motherf*cker with The Hat” R-S Theatrics Jan. 25 – Feb. 1 Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. .Zack, 3224 Locust www.r-stheatrics.com

What It’s About: How do you know where you’re going…if
you don’t know who has been in your home? The seriocomedy explores how 5 people
in New York navigate loyalty, trust, and duty through friendship, love and the
challenges of adulthood. And how no one should ever underestimate the
importance of cleaning up their accessories.

Directed by:

Starring: Adam Flores, Sofia Lidia, Jesse Munoz, Aaron Dodd, Taleesha Caturah

“On Golden Pond” Alton Little Theater Jan. 25 – 27 Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Alton Little Theater, 2450 N. Henry in Alton, Ill. 618-462-6562www.altonlittletheater.org What It’s About: At a summer lake home, the play focuses on a daughter’s turbulent relationship with her father, and also the trails of a loving couple in the twilight years of a long marriage.

“Wittenberg” Upstream Theater Jan. 25 – Feb. 10 Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.; Sunday at 7 p.m. except Feb. 10 at 2 p.m. Kranzberg Arts Center www.upstreamtheater.org

What It’s About: It’s October 1517, and the new fall
semester at the University of Wittenberg finds certain members of the faculty
and student body at personal and professional crossroads. Hamlet (senior, class
of 1518) is returning from a summer in Poland spent studying astronomy, where
he has learned of a revolutionary scientific theory that threatens the very
order of the universe, resulting in psychic trauma and a crisis of faith for
him. His teacher and mentor John Faustus has decided at long last to make an
honest woman of his paramour, Helen, a former nun who is now one of the
Continent’s most sought-after courtesans. And Faustus’ colleague and Hamlet’s
instructor and priest, Martin Luther, is dealing with the spiritual and medical
consequences of his long-simmering outrage at certain abusive practices of the
Church.

Directed by: Philip Boehm
Starring: Casey Boland, Steve Isom, Alan Knoll and Caitlin Mickey.

Of Note: St. Louis premiere.

Photo by Jon Gitchoff“The Wolves” The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis Jan. 18 – Feb. 3 Studio Theatre Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus www.repstl.org What It’s About: Nine teenage girls prepare for battle on a
soccer field. As they stretch and warm up together, the teammates’ nonstop
banter reveals how a collection of disparate personalities bonds to form a
team.

Directed by Melissa Rain Anderson
Starring: Cassandra Lopez, Cecily Dowd, Colleen Dougherty, Cece Hill, Maya J.
Christian, Mary Katharine Harris, Esmeralda Garza, Rachael Logue, Keaton Whittaker,
Nancy Bell,

Of Note: St. Louis premiere

“Workers’ Opera” Bread and Roses Sunday, Jan. 27 Missouri History Museum 1 to 2:30 p.m. Free and open to the public www.breadandrosesmo.gov What It’s About: Bread and Roses presents these vignettes of new and revised sketches about laborers, unions, and workers’ rights in the past and the present. Every sketch is full of good music, some history and lots of political humor.

Director: Kathryn Bentley, associate professor at
SIU-Edwardsville and Artistic Director of the Black Theater Workshop.

Music and script editing by Colin McLaughlin.

Of Note: Written and performed by members of Service
Employees International Union, Communications Workers of America, United Media
Guild, Actors Equity, Asbestos Workers, and others involved in the arts and
organized labor.

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
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
314-442-3283.
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
314-719-8060
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
“Annie”
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
www.ccshowcase.com
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
Tickets: MetroTix.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.
www.lookingglassplayhouse.com
“A Christmas Story”
Jerry Naunheim Jr. PhotoThe Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Nov. 28 – Dec. 23
Mainstage, Loretto-Hilton Centerwww.repstl.org
314-968-4925
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.
“Doomsday Faust”
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.
www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3739606
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
314-865-1995
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.
Director:
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
Tickets: MetroTix.com
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.
www.r-stheatrics.com
“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
618-462-6562www.altonlittletheater.org
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
314-968-7128
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.
314-458-2978
www.stlas.org
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
www.metroplays.org
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.

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
Myths, legends, historic figures and human foibles are on the boards for this week as several companies kick off their seasons with new productions as autumn moves in to the ‘Lou. A mad original twist on the famous pirate king opera brings the walking dead onto the musical stage for New Line’s 28th season, a legendary Lillian Hellman drama opens St. Louis Actor’s Studio’s 12th season and a new play on life and death, “This Random World (the myth of serendipity),” begins West End Players’ Guild’s 108th season.
One-woman shows “Chef” is at Upstream and “One Funny Mother” is at The Playhouse at Westport. Tributes to Bobby Darin and Patsy Cline show why they’re timeless at Westport and in Alton respectively.
We have The Midnight Company’s fresh take on the Faust myth and a look inside Lee Harvey Oswald’s family life in “Mama’s Boy” at Tesseract Theatre Company wrapping up their runs.
It’s unfinished business for the Phantom of the Opera in “Love Never Dies,” wrapping up its run at The Fox, another Andrew Lloyd Webber icon “Evita” at The Rep, the classic all-American pioneer spirit in “Oklahoma!” continuing at Stages St. Louis, the fortitude of survivors dealing with a historic flood in “The Flood” at Monroe Actors’ Stage Company and the pluck of New York “Newsies” at the Looking Glass Playhouse.
Go. See. A Play.
 “Always, Patsy Cline”
Alton Little Theater
Sept. 27 – 30
Thursday – Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
2450 North Henry in Alton, Ill.
618-462-6562
www.altonlittletheater.org
What It’s About: The show is based on a true story about Cline’s friendship with a fan from Houston named Louise Seger, who befriended the star in a Texas honky-tonk in 1961 and continued correspondence with Cline until her death. This musical includes many of Patsy’s unforgettable hits such as “Crazy,” “I Fall to Pieces,” “Sweet Dreams” and “Walkin’ After Midnight.”
Music by Steve Loucks and the Bodacious Bobcats.
Starring: Debbie Maneke as Patsy Cline, Lee Cox as Louise Seger
“An Apology for the Course and Outcome of Certain Events Delivered by Doctor John Faustus” and “The Hunchback Variations” (Two One-Acts by Mickle Maher)
Midnight Theatre Company
Sept. 20 – 29
Thursdays at 7 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
The Monocle, 4510 Manchester
www.midnightcompany.com
What It’s About: “Apology/Faustus” finds Dr. John Faustus (Hanrahan) in some room, at some time, apologizing to a random group of people (the audience) for not standing up against evil in his lifetime, as personified by Mephistopheles (Wassilak.)
“The Hunchback Variations” presents a series of variations on a panel discussion between The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Wassilak) and Ludwig Van Beethoven (Hanrahan) in which the two talk about their attempts to create a mysterious sound — the legendary, elusive sound effect of Anton Chekhov’s, described twice in the original production of “The Cherry Orchard.”
Director:
Starring: Joe Hanrahan, David Wassilak
Of Note: These shows are part of FAUSTival, an artistic collaborations among five St. Louis theatre companies – ERA, Theatre Nuevo, SATE, the Post-Romantics and Midnight – from August through December, each company presenting an adaptation of the Faust myth.  Festival passes and more info at FAUSTival.org.
“Chef”
Upstream Theater
Sept. 28-30, Oct. 5-7, Oct. 12-14
All shows at 8 p.m. except first two Sundays at 7 p.m. and last Sunday 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 ProPhotStl.com
“Darin: Bobby’s Biggest Hits”Sept. 26 – 30
The Playhouse at Westport
Tickets: MetroTix.com or 314-534-1111
www.playhouseatwestport.com
What It’s About: Back by popular demand, Artists Lounge Live presents a Bobby Darin tribute starring Christopher Kale Jones.
Jones, a PBS retro-rocker (“Under the Streetlamp”) and “Jersey Boys” star who played Frankie Valli on the first national tour, and in L.A. and San Francisco companies, embodies the dazzling versatility of Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bobby Darin. Jones tenderly recounts Darin’s story of life lived in the spotlight and lost too soon. Songs featured in the show include “Dream Lover,” “Mack the Knife” and “Beyond the Sea.”
“Evita”The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Sept. 5 – 30
www.repstl.org
What It’s About:  The incandescent Eva Perón’s rise from poverty to power electrified the world – and made her an iconic political celebrity. Winner of seven Tony Awards, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s tour-de-force musical revels in the glamour, charisma and controversy that defined the First Lady of Argentina. With its unforgettable anthem “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” and kaleidoscope of sights and sounds, “Evita” dazzles with pure passion.
Director: Rob Ruggiero, with music direction by Charlie Alterman and choreography by Gustavo Zajac.
Cast: Michelle Aravena (Eva Perón), Pepe Nufrio (Che), Sean MacLaughlin (Juan Perón), Nicolas Dávila (Augstín Magaldi/Ensemble), Shea Gomez (Perón’s Mistress/Ensemble).
Ensemble: Maria Bilbao, Nathaniel Burich, Ben Chavez, Samuel Druhora, Carmen Garcia, Esmeralda Garza, Samantha Gershman, Julie Hanson, Keith Hines, Jose Luaces, Ben Nordstrom, Waldemar Quinones-Villanueva, April Strelinger and Tim Wessel.
Eric Woolsey Photo
“The Flood”Monroe Actors Stage Company
Sept. 20 – 23, 27 – 30
Thursday – Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
Historic Capitol Theatre
202 South Main Street, Waterloo, IL 62208
Box Office: 618-939-7469
www.masctheatre.org
What It’s About: As the Mississippi River waters rise, the small town of Meyerville struggles with preparing for the worst. This creative and dramatic musical was written by Peter Mills and Cara Reichel after they visited the town of Valmeyer, Ill., following the 1993 floods. They interviewed Monroe County citizens and were intrigued by the citizens’ decision to rebuild to higher ground. Their adaptation of the story is based on the fictional town of Meyerville and members of its village.
Director: Amber Dillard, with Musical Director Marcia Braswell
Of Note: MASC and Show Sponsor George Obernagel observe the 25th Anniversary of the Great Mississippi Flood of 1993 with their production of “The Flood.” The show has been named an official event of the Illinois State Bicentennial.
House opens one half hour before curtain; ticket booth opens one hour before curtain. The theatre is only accessible by a staircase.
“The Little Foxes”St. 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
www.stlas.org
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.
Photo by Patrick Huber.
“Love Never Dies”
Love Never Dies
The Fox Theatre, 527 N. Grand
Sept. 18 – 30www.fabulousfox.com
Tickets: www.MetroTix.com or 314-534-1111 or Fox Box Office
What It’s About: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical is a sequel to the mega-hit “The Phantom of the Opera,” and takes place 10 years after the Phantom’s disappearance from the Paris Opera House. It is 1907 and he has escaped to a new life in New York, running a freak show vaudeville act at Coney Island. His music soars there, but he still yearns for his musical protégé and one true love, Christine Daae. Now a world-class soprano, she arrives in New York for a singing engagement that will hopefully get her now-jerk of a husband, Raoul, out of gambling debt. Lo and behold, the Phantom lures her to sing in his show. She has her young son Gustave, age 10, in tow. Is triumph or tragedy on the horizon?
Director: Simon Phillips
Starring: Bronson Norris Murphy as The Phantom, Meghan Picerno as Christine, Sean Thompson as Raoul, Mary Michael Patterson as Meg, Karen Mason as Madame Giry, and Jake Heston Miller and Christian Harmston alternating as Gustave.
Of Note: The show is the reworked Australia production of 2011, after the inaugural London West End musical opened in 2010 to mostly mixed reviews. It has yet to play Broadway but is now on its first North American tour.
“Mama’s Boy”Tesseract Theatre Company
Sept. 21 – 30
Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 4 p.m.
.Zack, 3224 Locust, St. Louiswww.tesseracttheatre.org
Tickets: MetroTix.com
What It’s About: A new play by Rob Urbinati is the riveting story of Lee Harvey Oswald and his complex relationship with his overbearing mother Marguerite. “Mama’s Boy” follows Marguerite’s reckless attempts to reunite her family, from Lee’s return to the U.S. from Russia, through the assassination of Kennedy, to her son’s own murder and her defense of his innocence in the months that follow. A fascinating examination of family dynamics and obsessive maternal devotion played out in the shadow of history.
Director: Bradley Schwartz
Starring: Donna Parrone, Carly Uding, Jeremy Goldmeier, Brandon Atkins
“Newsies”Looking Glass Playhouse
Sept. 20 – 23, 27-30
Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.
Looking Glass Playhouse
Lebanon, Ill.
www.lookingglassplayhouse.com
What It’s About: Disney’s Newsies tells the rousing tale of Jack Kelly, a charismatic newsboy and leader of a band of teenaged ‘newsies.’ When titans of publishing raise distribution prices at the newsboys’ expense, Jack rallies newsies from across the city to strike against the unfair conditions and fight for what’s right.
Based on the 1992 motion picture and inspired by a true story, “Newsies” features a Tony Award-winning score by Alan Menken (Little Shop of Horrors, Sister Act) and Jack Feldman and a book by Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein (Kinky Boots). Featuring the now classic songs “Carrying the Banner,” “Seize the Day,” and “Santa Fe,” Newsies is packed with non-stop thrills and a timeless message that is perfect for the whole family.
Director: Jason Johnson
Of Note: Looking Glass Playhouse is celebrating its 45th season.
“Oklahoma!”Stages St. Louis
Sept. 7 – Oct. 7
Robert G. Reim Theatre
Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road
www.stagesstlouis.org
What It’s About: Romance, conflict, comedy and colorful characters set in 1906 in the Oklahoma territory.
Director: Michael Hamilton
Starring: Zoe Vonder Haar as Aunt Eller, JBlake Price as Curly, Sarah Ellis as Laurie, ohn Flack as Andrew Carnes, Leah Berry as Bertie Cummings, David Sajewich as Jud,  aMatthew Curiano as Ali Hakim, Lucy Moon as Ado Annie and Con O’Shea-Creal as Will Parker.
Of Note: “Oh, what a beautiful musical! Rodgers and Hammerstein’s timeless first collaboration was, in many ways, their most innovative. And while OKLAHOMA! completely changed the face of American musical theatre 75 years ago, it remains as fresh and vital today as it was then with its loving celebration of the American spirit. A stunning blend of drama, music, and dance, the exhilarating Rodgers and Hammerstein score contains such classics as “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!” A 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.
“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
314-367-0025
www.westendplayers.org.
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”
Zak Farmer, Dominic Dowdy-Windsor, Sean Michael 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
Tickets: 314-534-1111
www.newlinetheatre.com
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.
 
 

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
Heroes and villains, and every shade of gray in between are featured on local stages this weekend. And some are in desperate need of love – and a hug!
Nicky Collett Photo by Aaron JostMean Girl Day is fast approaching (Oct. 3), and we have the classic big bad green one – the Wicked Witch of the West, who terrorizes munchkins, the land of Oz and Dorothy – and Toto, too in Christ Memorial Production’s “The Wizard of Oz” with a cast of 100.+
We have a deal with the devil, presented Midnight Company-style, with two one-acts including one that’s part of Faustival, a celebration of that evil liaison between the good doctor and Satan.

Did Lee Harvey Oswald assassinate President Kennedy? Tesseract Theatre Company explores Oswald’s relationship with his mother in “Mama’s Boy.”
More wicked this way comes in Mother Nature, when the great floods of 1993 wreak havoc on a small river town in southern Illinois in the musical tale of hope and survival,“The Flood,” presented by folks who lived through it, the Monroe Actors Stage Company.
Dealing with adversity is the poster boy, Job, the one from the Bible. Only Neil Simon has updated it for modern times in “God’s Favorite.” Laughter ensues in a joint venture between the Alton Little Theater and Curtain’s Up Theater.
The once-frightening Phantom of the Opera returns in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel, “Love Never Dies,” now playing at the Fox Theatre on its first North American tour, this time he’s in Coney Island.
That’s in New York, New York – and that’s where you’ll find our plucky newsboys saving their jobs and the world in Disney’s “Newsies” at Looking Glass Playhouse.”
More all-American characters appear in the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic “Oklahoma!” now playing at Stages St. Louis, showing that the farmers and cowmen can be friends.
Friendship is celebrated, along with family and cultural heritage in “Crowns” a gospel musical at The Black Rep, last chance to see it.
And then there are the icons. South American folk hero Eva Peron is immortalized in Webber’s “Evita,” now playing at The Rep. Crooner Bobby Darin is remembered in “Darin” Bobby’s Biggest Hits” at the Playhouse at Westport.
And Robert Dubac provides gales of laughter pointing out the idiocy of modern society in “The Book of Moron,” now playing at The Playhouse at Westport.
Happy Fall, y’all! And Go See a Play!
“An Apology for the Course and Outcome of Certain Events Delivered by Doctor John Faustus” and “The Hunchback Variations” (Two One-Acts by Mickle Maher)
Midnight Theatre Company
Sept. 20 – 29
Thursdays at 7 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
The Monocle, 4510 Manchesterwww.midnightcompany.com
What It’s About: “Apology/Faustus” finds Dr. John Faustus (Hanrahan) in some room, at some time, apologizing to a random group of people (the audience) for not standing up against evil in his lifetime, as personified by Mephistopheles (Wassilak.)
“The Hunchback Variations” presents a series of variations on a panel discussion between The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Wassilak) and Ludwig Van Beethoven (Hanrahan) in which the two talk about their attempts to create a mysterious sound —  the legendary, elusive sound effect of Anton Chekhov’s, described twice in the original production of “The Cherry Orchard.”
Starring: Joe Hanrahan, David Wassilak
Of Note: These shows are part of FAUSTival, an artistic collaborations among five St. Louis theatre companies – ERA, Theatre Nuevo, SATE, the Post-Romantics and Midnight – from August through December, each company presenting an adaptation of the Faust myth.  Festival passes and more info at FAUSTival.org.
“The Book of Moron”
The Playhouse at Westport Plaza
Sept. 13 – 23
www.westportstl.com
What It’s About:  Robert Dubac’s newest Off-Broadway hit “The Book of Moron” has been described as one of the most hilarious, intelligent and scorching satirical attacks on idiocracy since Mark Twain. Having been brainwashed by a culture that worships the Kardashians over character, delusion over truth, and selfies over self-effacement, Dubac begins his journey with a simple question: Who am I? What do I believe? What’s the point?
Okay, that’s three questions but suffice to say, he has no answers. Just voices. Inner voices who come to life with precision and wit. One by one they pull him into a hysterical alternative universe of critical thought in search of the bigger picture. It’s a head trip on a banana peel.”
“Crowns: The Gospel Musical”The Black Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Sept. 5 – 23
Edison Theatre at Washington University
Box Office: (314) 534-3807
www.blackrep.org
What It’s About: Crowns refers to hats worn by black women. Hats become a springboard for an exploration of black history and identity as seen through the eyes of a young black woman who has come down South to stay with her aunt after her brother is killed in Brooklyn.
Hats are everywhere, in exquisite variety, and the characters use the hats to tell tales about everything from the etiquette of hats to their historical and contemporary social functions.
Director: Linda Kennedy
Cast: Anita Jackson leads the cast as Mother Shaw, with Maureen Williams as Wanda, Amber Rose as Velma, Leah Stewart as Mabel, Eleanor Humphrey as Jeannette, Myke Andrews as The Man and Tyler White as Yolanda.
Of Note: Director Linda Kennedy says: “The mothers and grandmothers, women of the church, were the glue that held us all together. They helped to raise us and helped make us accountable for our actions. We feared them then but are so grateful to them now. One of the greatest gifts a child can receive is the opportunity to sit and listen to and learn from an elder.” Rounding out the behind the scenes team will be the stage manager, Tracy D. Holliway-Wiggins, set designer, Dunsi Dai, lighting by Joe Clapper, and costumes by Daryl Harris.
“Darin: Bobby’s Biggest Hits”Sept. 26 – 30
The Playhouse at Westport
Tickets: MetroTix.com or 314-534-1111
www.
What It’s About: Back by popular demand, Artists Lounge Live presents a Bobby Darin tribute starring Christopher Kale Jones.
Jones, a PBS retro-rocker (“Under the Streetlamp”) and “Jersey Boys” star who played Frankie Valli on the first national tour, and in L.A. and San Francisco companies, embodies the dazzling versatility of Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bobby Darin. Jones tenderly recounts Darin’s story of life lived in the spotlight and lost too soon. Songs featured in the show include “Dream Lover,” “Mack the Knife,” and “Beyond the Sea.”
“Evita”The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Sept. 5 – 30
www.repstl.org
What It’s About:  The incandescent Eva Perón’s rise from poverty to power electrified the world – and made her an iconic political celebrity. Winner of seven Tony Awards, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s tour-de-force musical revels in the glamour, charisma and controversy that defined the First Lady of Argentina. With its unforgettable anthem “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” and kaleidoscope of sights and sounds, “Evita” dazzles with pure passion.
Director: Rob Ruggiero, with music direction by Charlie Alterman and choreography by Gustavo Zajac.
Cast: Michelle Aravena (Eva Perón), Pepe Nufrio (Che), Sean MacLaughlin (Juan Perón), Nicolas Dávila (Augstín Magaldi/Ensemble), Shea Gomez (Perón’s Mistress/Ensemble).
Ensemble: Maria Bilbao, Nathaniel Burich, Ben Chavez, Samuel Druhora, Carmen Garcia, Esmeralda Garza, Samantha Gershman, Julie Hanson, Keith Hines, Jose Luaces, Ben Nordstrom, Waldemar Quinones-Villanueva, April Strelinger and Tim Wessel.
Eric Woolsey Photo
“The Flood”Monroe Actors Stage Company
September 20 – 23, 27 – 30
Thursday – Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
Historic Capitol Theatre
202 South Main Street, Waterloo, IL 62208
Box Office: 618-939-7469
www.masctheatre.org
What It’s About: As the Mississippi River waters rise, the small town of Meyerville struggles with preparing for the worst. This creative and dramatic musical was written by Peter Mills and Cara Reichel after they visited the town of Valmeyer, Ill., following the 1993 floods. They interviewed Monroe County citizens and were intrigued by the citizens’ decision to rebuild to higher ground. Their adaptation of the story is based on the fictional town of Meyerville and members of its village.
Director: Amber Dillard, with Musical Director Marcia Braswell
Of Note: MASC and Show Sponsor George Obernagel observe the 25th Anniversary of the Great Mississippi Flood of 1993 with their production of “The Flood.” The show has been named an official event of the Illinois State Bicentennial.
House opens one half hour before curtain; ticket booth opens one hour before curtain. The theatre is only accessible by a staircase.
“God’s Favorite”
Alton Little Theater and Curtain’s Up Theater
Sept. 14 – 23
Box Office 618-462-3205www.altonlittletheater.org
What It’s About: Neil Simon’s very funny show is loosely based on the Biblical Book of Job. A (rare) devout multimillionaire whose faith is tested encounters every malady and yet stands firm while real estate collapses around him. This is often called Simon’s most imaginative play.
Director:
Cast: Joe Benjamin, Howard Bell; Ben Benjamin,  Anthony Tuzzo; Sarah Benjamin, Christy Luster; Rose Benjamin, Carol Hodson; David Benjamin, Brant McCance; Mady, Sarah Chapman-Wiser; Morris, Vince Ojeda; and Sidney Lipton, Aaron Mermelstein.
Of Note: Alton Little Theatre presented this play 20 years ago and this is a return engagement.
“Love Never Dies”

The Fox Theatre, 527 N. Grand
Sept. 18 – 30www.fabulousfox.com
Tickets: www.MetroTix.com or 314-534-1111 or Fox Box Office
What It’s About: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical is a sequel to the mega-hit “The Phantom of the Opera,” and takes place 10 years after the Phantom’s disappearance from the Paris Opera House. It is 1907 and he has escaped to a new life in New York, running a freak show vaudeville act at Coney Island. His music soars there, but he still yearns for his musical protégé and one true love, Christine Daae. Now a world-class soprano, she arrives in New York for a singing engagement that will hopefully get her now-jerk of a husband, Raoul, out of gambling debt. Lo and behold, the Phantom lures her to sing in his show. She has her young son Gustave, age 10, in tow. Is triumph or tragedy on the horizon?
Director: Simon Phillips
Starring: Bronson Norris Murphy as The Phantom, Meghan Picerno as Christine, Sean Thompson as Raoul, Mary Michael Patterson as Meg, Karen Mason as Madame Giry, and Jake Heston Miller and Christian Harmston alternating as Gustave.
Of Note: The show is the reworked Australia production of 2011, after the inaugural London West End musical opened in 2010 to mostly mixed reviews. It has yet to play Broadway but is now on its first North American tour.
“Mama’s Boy”Tesseract Theatre Company
Sept. 21 – 30
Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 4 p.m.
.Zack, 3224 Locust, St. Louiswww.tesseracttheatre.org
Tickets: MetroTix.com
What It’s About: A new play by Rob Urbinati is the riveting story of Lee Harvey Oswald and his complex relationship with his overbearing mother Marguerite. “Mama’s Boy” follows Marguerite’s reckless attempts to reunite her family, from Lee’s return to the U.S. from Russia, through the assassination of Kennedy, to her son’s own murder and her defense of his innocence in the months that follow. A fascinating examination of family dynamics and obsessive maternal devotion played out in the shadow of history.
Director: Bradley Schwartz
Starring: Carly Uding, Jeremy Goldmeier, Brandon Atkins
Of Note: Playwright Rob Urbinati is in town the first weekend to see the show.
“Newsies”Looking Glass Playhouse
Sept. 20 – 23, 27-30
Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.
Looking Glass Playhouse
Lebanon, Ill.www.lookingglassplayhouse.com
What It’s About: Disney’s Newsies tells the rousing tale of Jack Kelly, a charismatic newsboy and leader of a band of teenaged ‘newsies.’ When titans of publishing raise distribution prices at the newsboys’ expense, Jack rallies newsies from across the city to strike against the unfair conditions and fight for what’s right.
Based on the 1992 motion picture and inspired by a true story, “Newsies” features a Tony Award-winning score by Alan Menken (Little Shop of Horrors, Sister Act) and Jack Feldman and a book by Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein (Kinky Boots). Featuring the now classic songs “Carrying the Banner,” “Seize the Day,” and “Santa Fe,” Newsies is packed with non-stop thrills and a timeless message that is perfect for the whole family.
Director: Jason Johnson
Of Note: Looking Glass Playhouse is celebrating its 45th season.
“Oklahoma!”Stages St. Louis
Sept. 7 – Oct. 7
Robert G. Reim Theatre
Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road
www.stagesstlouis.org
What It’s About: Romance, conflict, comedy and colorful characters set in 1906 in the Oklahoma territory.
Director: Michael Hamilton
Starring: Zoe Vonder Haar as Aunt Eller, John Flack as Andrew Carnes, Leah Berry as Bertie Cummings and
Of Note: “Oh, what a beautiful musical! Rodgers and Hammerstein’s timeless first collaboration was, in many ways, their most innovative. And while OKLAHOMA! completely changed the face of American musical theatre 75 years ago, it remains as fresh and vital today as it was then with its loving celebration of the American spirit. A stunning blend of drama, music, and dance, the exhilarating Rodgers and Hammerstein score contains such classics as “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!” A gold standard that set the bar for all great musicals that came after it.
Peter Wochniak Photo
“The Wizard of Oz”Christ Memorial Productions
Sept. 14 – 23
Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
Christ Memorial Lutheran Church, 5252 S. Lindberghwww.CMPShows.org
314-631-0304
What It’s About: L. Frank Baum’s classic tale, with music and lyrics by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, background music by Herbert Stothart, dance and vocal arrangements by Peter Howard, orchestration by Larry Wilcox. It is adapted by John Kane for the Royal Shakespeare Company, and based upon the classic MGM motion picture owned by Turner Entertainment Company.
Dorothy Gale of Kansas journeys to the Land of Oz, where she encounters the Scarecrow, Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion, and is besieged by the Wicked Witch of the West, all with her beloved Toto by her side. Will she make it back home to Auntie Em and Uncle Henry with The Wizard’s help?
Cast: Grace Wilkinson – Dorothy, Jennifer Kerner – Aunt Em / Chorus, Kathryn Nestor Klein – Glinda / Chorus, Michael Klein – Uncle Henry / Winkie / Chorus, Ray Martin – Tinman / Hickory, Nathan Gallop – Scarecrow / Hunk, John Jauss – Lion / Zeke, Nicky Collett – Wicked Witch of the West / Miss Gulch, Keith Poppitz – Wizard / Professor / Chorus
Of Note: The cast has more than 100 members. If you are interested in a special Sensory Friendly performance on Thursday, Sept. 20. please email [email protected] for details.
Photo by Aaron Jost
Feature Image of “Crowns” by Phillip Hamer