By Lynn Venhaus
Patsy Cline was that rare artist who made a deep connection with anyone who listened to her sing.

A similar effect happens with actresses Diana DeGarmo and Zoe Vonder Haar, who are a delightful combo of sweet and salty, smooth and sassy, silky and spirited, in the jukebox musical “Always…Patsy Cline,” now playing at Stages St. Louis through Sept. 5.

Raised in Georgia and now living in Nashville, DeGarmo has returned to her country music roots in a thoroughly engaging performance.

She sleekly inhabits Cline, who is considered the most popular female country singer in recording history. DeGarmo emulates Cline’s richly textured, emotive voice, and effortlessly delivers 27 numbers, including five with Vonder Haar, who plays Cline’s fan-turned-friend, Louise Seger.

DeGarmo, who was the runner-up on Season 3 of “American Idol” at age 16 in 2004, which Fantasia Barrino, 19, won (a total of 65 million votes were cast for both), has since pursued a music and musical theatre career, appearing on Broadway and in national tours.

Diana DeGarmo as Patsy Cline, Photographed by ProPhotoSTL

Previously in St. Louis, she was impressive as Doralee Rhodes in the first national tour of “9 to 5: The Musical,” which stopped at the Fox Theatre in February 2011, and also at the Fox in 2014 as the Narrator in the revival tour of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” Her husband, Ace Young, was Joseph. (She met Young, who was on American Idol’s fifth season, when they were cast in “Hair” and have been married since 2013).

She is poised and commanding as she interprets one hit song after another, showcasing her range and control. The vocals on the ballads “Crazy,” “I Fall to Pieces” and “Sweet Dreams” are particularly lush, tugging on your heart strings.

She has fun changing tempos with the more down-home numbers, such as “Stupid Cupid” and “Shake Rattle and Roll.”

DeGarmo projects an elegance, which is enhanced by Brad Musgrove’s gorgeous vintage costume designs, and she is exquisitely lit by lighting designer Sean M. Savoie.

She has a dynamic chemistry with feisty firecracker Vonder Haar, the veteran fan favorite who has played Louise twice before. Vonder Haar won the St. Louis Theater Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical for the first time (and would go on to win that same award for Stages’ “The Full Monty” two years later).

It’s a good match. Seger, a colorful Texas housewife, was a devoted fan who first saw Patsy on “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts” in 1957, when she won after singing “Walkin’ After Midnight.” Living near Houston, she attended the singer’s show at the Esquire Ballroom in 1961, and they connected as friends, writing letters and talking on the phone until the singer’s tragic death at age 30 in a plane crash in 1963.

Playwright Ted Swindley fashioned the interviews Seger did for the biographies “Patsy Cline: An Intimate Biography” and “Honky Tonk Angel: The Intimate Story of Patsy Cline” into the source material for his 1988 two-woman tribute revue, “Always…Patsy Cline,” which is the epitome of a crowd-pleaser. It is licensed by Cline’s family and estate.

Zoe Vonder Haar as Louise Seger, photographed by ProPhotoSTL

From Seger in “Country Weekly”: “The person inside me recognized the person who lived inside her. It was truly eerie.”

Patsy joined Louise and her friends and after the show accepted an invitation to Louise’s home for a late-night breakfast. “It was like I was living in a dream. There was Patsy Cline in my kitchen helping me fix bacon and eggs. She took her shoes off and wore an apron I gave her.

“She told me about her life, her hopes, her dreams. We discussed loves lost, loves found, loves yet to be.

“We talked about her troubled marriage and the pain she endured being away from her children. It was just two people baring their souls.

“We both sang and harmonized old Gospel songs and hillbilly tunes. We sat there and smoked and sang until 4:00 in the morning.”

Louise rushed Patsy to the airport, expecting never to hear from her again. But within two weeks, Louise received her first in what was to be many letters and phone calls they would exchange.

“I often would receive calls at 1:00 in the morning. She’d be singing in some town wanting a friend to talk to.”

Of course, this was 60 years ago, before entertainers had security, a ‘team’ and ‘people.’ It was just two women bonding at a kitchen table.

While Swindley took some poetic license, the story is true – a glamorous celebrity who grew up without privilege and her plain-spoken, music-lovin’ pal.

From the moment she sashays on to scenic designer James Wolk’s vintage 1950s-era kitchen set, Vonder Haar, a St. Louis treasure, is a funny and sincere Louise. She engages the audience as comic relief with her folksy charm, coming across like a neighbor joining you for a kaffee klatch.

This memoir, which opens the theater company’s 35th anniversary year, is the most popular show in Stages’ history. This is the third time it’s being presented, after back-to-back runs in 2013 and 2014, which demonstrates again how endearing and charming it is. It was as warmly received Aug. 11 as it was seven and eight years ago.

The cozy show, first at Stages’ former home at Kirkwood’s Community Center, then moved intact to The Playhouse at Westport Plaza, is opening their new venue, the Kirkwood Center for the Performing Arts. The Ross Family Theatre seats 529 comfortably.

Artistic Director Michael Hamilton has recreated the production, capitalizing on the actress’s strengths. The premise is simple – showing Cline singing at the Grand Old Opry and other locations, with Louise listening to her on the radio, which was a communication lifeline for people back then.

A simpler time, a touch of nostalgia, admiration for a career cut way too short, but spotlighting music that continues to warm hearts to this day.

The lively band, conducted by music director Jeremy Jacobs, who also plays the piano, is an expert blend of Steve Hitsman on steel pedal guitar, Dave Black on electric and acoustic guitars, Kevin Buckley on acoustic guitar and fiddle, Eric Grossman on bass and Joe Meyer on drums. Their tight sound is mighty in an alcove perched behind a scrim.

Original orchestrations for the band and vocals were crafted by August Eriksmoen and Tony Migliore.

While the songs take center stage, the fascinating tale of a close friendship between kindred spirits is what resonates, drawing an audience in, one who welcomes the warm embrace of harmony in music and life.

Diana DeGarmo as Patsy Cline, photographed by ProPhotoSTL

Stages St. Louis presents “Always…Patsy Cline” through Sept. 5, performance times vary, at the Ross Family Theatre inside the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center at 210 Monroe St. ASL interpreting and audio description by MindsEye will be available for the Aug. 20 show. For more information, call 314-821-2407 or visit www.StagesSt.Louis.org. Follow Stages on Facebook and Instagram.

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
You go, girls! Local singer-actors get national attention, and the St. Louis-produced Broadway musical “The Prom” made Thanksgiving Parade television history.
BREAKING OUT: We have a talented trio of local ladies who are living their dreams right now.
Lexi Krekorian, 27, of Waterloo, Ill., is one of the nine struggling musicians featured on the Netflix reality series, “Westside,” now available. She goes by the stage name, Alexandra Kay, and has released her first single, “You Think You Know Someone,” and several music videos of songs on the “Westside” soundtrack. She started out in school and community theater, and is chasing her dream in L.A. Here is the feature I wrote for the Belleville News-Democrat about her rising star.
https://www.bnd.com/living/magazine/article221600685.html
Kennedy Holmes of Florissant, the John Burroughs student and Muny Kid who is wowing the nation as a contestant on “The Voice,” made it through to the Top 11 Live Playoffs on Nov. 20. She sang “Wind Beneath My Wings” and is on Jennifer Hudson’s team, headed for the Top 10 showdown Nov. 26. Here is her Top 11 performance:
https://www.nbc.com/the-voice/video/kennedy-holmes-wind-beneath-my-wings/3832852
Thirteen proved to be lucky for Kennedy, as she was not among the 12 eliminated from the Top 24 Live Playoffs in Episode 13. She sang Beyonce’s “Halo.” “The Voice” is on Mondays and Tuesdays on NBC, with live voting the first night and results the second night. She is 13.
Meadow Nguy, providedMeadow Nguy, 23, of O’Fallon, Ill., performed in two musicals at Stray Dog Theatre (Marta in “Spring Awakening” in 2012 and the female lead in the original musical “Spellbound” in 2015), and in community and school theater. She guest-starred on the Nov. 18 episode of “Madam Secretary” called “Baby Steps,” as a Southeast Asia surrogate caught up in a human trafficking imbroglio . She made her crime-drama debut in ‘The Blacklist” earlier this year. Both shows available on demand. Here is the news article I wrote for the Belleville News-Democrat:
https://www.bnd.com/news/local/article221829910.html

***ATTABOY: Congratulations to Cory Finley, who scored a Film Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best First Screenplay for his “Thoroughbreds.” The annual awards, held since 1984, honor independent filmmakers working with small budgets. The awards are always announced the day before the Oscars, and this year, it will be Saturday, Feb. 23.
Focus Features photoIn fall 2017, the St. Louis Actors’ Studio presented Finley’s play, “The Feast.” A John Burroughs School grad, Finley’s movie opened nationwide in March after premiering at the Sundance Film Festival in January. It played the St. Louis International Film Festival in 2017.
Olivia Cooke (“Ready Player One,” “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”) and Anya Taylor-Joy (“Split,” “The Witch”) play upper-class Connecticut teenagers who rekindle their unlikely friendship and hatch a plan to solve both of their problems — no matter what the cost. It’s the last film of Anton Yelchin.                                                                    Finley, who grew up in Clayton, is based in New York City. He is a member of the Obie-winning Youngblood playwrights group at Ensemble Studio Theater, has received a commission from the Alfred P. Sloan foundation for playwrighting, and was the inaugural recipient of the Gurney Playwrights Fund for his play, “The Feast,” at The Flea Theater. Check out www.thoroughbredsmovie.com
***STANDING O’s: Standing ovation for stand-up guy, Kwofe Coleman, who started as an usher at the Muny the summer of 1998, and now has been named managing director! He has served as Director of Marketing and Communications since 2013.
Kudos to the Cinema St. Louis team on their record-setting attendance of 28,723 at this year’s St. Louis International Film Festival Nov. 1 – 11. SLIFF screened 413 films, including 88 narrative features, 77 documentary features, and 248 shorts. Local actors are often seen in the regionally produced short films.

Cast members from “Disney’s Aladdin” presented “Sultan’s Soiree,” an exclusive cocktail reception, Nov 18 to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Guests mingled while enjoying cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, photo opportunities, live entertainment and karaoke. To learn more, visit www.broadwaycares.org. Michael James Scott, a Webster University Conservatory graduate, is playing the Genie while Jonathan Weir, formerly of Belleville, is Jafar. “Aladdin” is at the Fox through Nov. 25.
***BIG SPLASH: The reviews are in, and it’s all raves for the new original musical comedy “The Prom,” which opened on Broadway Nov. 15 at the Longacre Theatre, following previews that began Oct. 23.
The New York Times said: “Makes you believe in musical comedy again.”
Variety said: “This original musical has laughs, tears and joy — not to mention jaw-dropping star-turns — in a clash-of-cultures hoot that earns a big Broadway corsage.”
Vanity Fair photoThe show has multiple local connections – Centralia, Ill., native Chad Beguelin is the co-book writer, with Bob Martin (co-creator of “The Drowsy Chaperone”) and lyricist, with music by Matthew Sklar. Beguelin wrote lyrics to Disney’s “Aladdin” and both he and Sklar were Tony-nominated for “The Wedding Singer.”
Some local producers include Jack Lane, executive director of Stages St. Louis; Ken and Nancy Kranzberg, Patty Gregory of Belleville, Terry Schnuck, Andrew S. Kuhlman of St. Louis and Fairview Heights native Joe Grandy. St. Louis performers Jack Sippel and Drew Reddington are part of the ensemble, and stars Beth Leavel and Christopher Sieber have appeared several times at The Muny. The Broadway cast also includes Brooks Ashmanskas (Tony nominee for ‘Something Rotten!”),
Casey Nicholaw, Tony winner for “The Book of Mormon,” directed and choreographed the show.
“The Prom” is about a canceled high school dance – a student is barred from bringing her girlfriend to the prom — and four fading Broadway stars who seize the opportunity to fight for justice — and a piece of the spotlight. Its tagline is “There’s no business like getting in other people’s business.”
***
NOBODY RAINED ON THEIR PARADE: “The Prom,” one of four musical acts in the 92nd annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Nov. 22, made parade history with the first same-sex kiss televised live. As the number, “It’s Time to Dance,” closed, cast mates Isabelle McCalla and Caitlin Kinnunen embraced and kissed. The LGBTQ community cheered.
Here is that performance: https://youtu.be/VDZDLJjzJBI
Tony nominee Taylor Louderman of Bourbon, Mo., performed with the cast of “Mean Girls.” She plays Regina, the snotty leader of the cool girls’ pack. Taylor was last seen locally on the Muny stage in 2016’s “Aida” as Amneris.
Fun Fact: The dance company, Radio City Rockettes, was founded in St. Louis in 1925 by Russell Markert. First known as the “Missouri Rockets,” the precision chorus line has performed in Radio City Music Hall since 1932.
***HANNUKAH HULLABALOO: The eighth annual Brothers Lazaroff show to benefit Metro Theater Company will take place on Saturday, Dec. 8, at 7 p.m. at The Grandel Theatre, and all ages welcome.
The show will feature Rabbi James Stone Goodman and the Eight Nights Orchestra, DJ Boogieman, tributes to Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and more! As always, free latkes will be fried on-stage! Food vendors will include Taco Buddha, The Dark Room and STL-Style will be selling their St. Louis-inspired apparel.
***AROUND TOWN: Legendary Wilco founder and Belleville native Jeff Tweedy took to The Pageant stage with Jon Hamm Nov. 17 to discuss his storied career. The book tour stop was sold-out.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch photoThe Grammy-winning singer-songwriter’s memoir “Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back”): Memoir of Recording and Discording with Wilco, Etc.,” features stories about his childhood, putting Uncle Tupelo together, and recollections about St. Louis record store, rock clubs and live-music scene during his formative years.
Now based in Chicago, Tweedy can be spotted in the indie movie “Hearts Beat Loud” as a customer, in what else, a record store.
Playwright Vladimir Zelevinsky was in town for the opening weekend of West End Players Guild “The Great Seduction,” and graciously spoke to Tina Farmer of KDHX and I about his interesting life and writing process.
 
Zelevinsky also wrote “Manifest Destiny,” performed at WEPG in 2016, which was nominated for Best Ensemble by the St. Louis Theater Circle.
***SANTA’S COMING! I KNOW HIM: With the holiday essential film “Elf” as its next movies-for-foodies event, Tenacious Eats returns to the St. Louis Banquet Center in Holly Hills, at 5700 Leona Street, on Saturday, Dec. 15.
Guests will feast on five courses and have cocktails themed to the movie, and the event also includes contests and live music. Chef Liz Schuster has left West End Grill and Pub to devote more time to her cinema-and-theme-dining experience – and Tenacious Eats is known for its “full-contact dining experiences.” Tickets are on sale now at BrownPaperTickets.com.
***GO SEE A PLAY POLL: Ah, Church Ladies and Christmas Pageants are customary fixtures during the holiday season, so the folks behind the Lutheran laugh-apalooza, “Church Basement Ladies: Away in a Basement” have returned with a warm, sentimental and uproarious show.
Now playing at The Playhouse @ Westport through Jan. 6, this is a perfect show to take your mom or grandma to – and you can win two free tickets to the show if you enter our drawing.
Select a show from the list below to answer our question: “What is your favorite holiday-themed play or musical?”
 
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
A Christmas Carol
A Christmas Story
Elf
Inspecting Carol
It’s a Wonderful Life
White Christmas
And send it via email, along with your name, cell phone and email address by 5 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 25, to [email protected] and you will be entered in a drawing. Winner will receive 2 tickets to an upcoming show.
In our last “Go See a Play” poll, Graham Emmons of St. Louis won two tickets to Rebel and Misfits’ “Macbeth: Come Like Shadows.” The survey’s response to best mystery play landed the 1952 classic “Dial M for Murder” by Frederick Knott op top, with “Wait Until Dark” – another Frederick Knott play from 1966 — a close second.
***FOSSE, VERDON AND ALL THAT JAZZ: The next show-biz limited series for FX will be “Fosse/Verdon” in 2019, about the legendary Broadway choreographer Bob Fosse and his professional and personal relationship with dancer Gwen Verdon.
Oscar winner Sam Rockwell is cast as Fosse while Oscar nominee Michelle Williams will be Verdon, returning to the network 20 years after “Dawson’s Creek.”
The cast features St. Louis native Norbert Leo Butz as writer Paddy Chayefsky, Margaret Quall as Ann Reinking and Nate Corddry as Neil Simon.
Lin-Manuel Miranda is executive-producing the eight episodes and “Hamilton” choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler is creating the dance.
***WHISTLING A HAPPY TUNE: The lavish acclaimed Tony-winning revival, “The King and I,” will be shown two nights at the Plaza Frontenac Cinema, on Nov 29 and Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical filmed during its run at the London Palladium, June 21 to Sept. 29 and features more than 50 performers.
Kelli O’Hara reprised her Tony Award-winning performance and Tony and Oscar nominee Ken Watanabe played The King again. Tony winner Ruthie Ann Miles returned as Lady Thiang and West End “Aladdin” star Dean John Wilson and Na-Young Jeon played Lun Tha and Tuptim. Director Bartlett Sher reunited the original creative team.
***TRIVIA TIME-OUT: With St. Louis performers making a name for themselves on the national stage, here’s a little flashback to the halcyon days of “American Idol,” the big-bang of reality competition singing shows.
1. Who is the only St. Louisan to make “American Idol” Top Ten Finalists?
2. What “American Idol” winner tried out in St. Louis one of the two times auditions were held here?
Answers (both Season 4):
Nikko Smith, born Osborne Earl Jr., son of Cardinal Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith, who wound up ninth overall in 2005. He had been voted off in the third round of the semi-finals, but the producers asked him back to take the place of Mario Vazquez, who left for “family reasons.”
Carrie Underwood, who drove up with her mom from the family farm in Checotah, Okla., in 2004, sang “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt.
Here’s that audition: https://youtu.be/P0j9NGV-Jm4
She just won CMA Female Vocalist of the Year, killed with a live awards show performance of “Love Wins” at six months’ pregnant, and has to date seven Grammy Awards, including Best New Artist in 2007, the only second country artist to win it.
St. Louis has hosted auditions for Seasons 4 and 11.
***WORD: “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” – Plato
 
 

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing EditorGREEN DAY: We have been changed for good by the cultural phenomenon “Wicked,” which has broken records in St. Louis and is still “Popular” around the world after opening on Oct. 30, 2003 on Broadway.
To commemorate the musical’s 15th anniversary, NBC will air a tribute concert on Monday, Oct. 29, at 9 p.m. (CST).
“A Very Wicked Halloween” was recorded live Oct. 16 at the Marquis Theatre, hosted by the original Elphaba and Glinda, Idina Menzel and Kristen Chenoweth.
The celebration will feature Pentatonix, Ariana Grande and Ledisi. Adam Lambert will join them, and he is certainly not mourning the wicked. He left the Los Angeles cast after making “American Idol,” and from 2005 to 2008, had been in the ensemble and understudy for Fiyero, and on a national tour.
The current Broadway cast will also make an appearance.

This spellbinding untold story about the Witches of Oz is now the sixth longest-running musical in Broadway history, having surpassed “A Chorus Line” on July 12 with its 6,128th performance.
Since its debut, “Wicked” has broken box office records around the world. St. Louis is one of the cities where “Wicked” currently holds the weekly-gross-takings records, along with Los Angeles, Chicago and London.
It has played the Fox Theatre five times since 2005, selling out and each week broke box office records. The national tours stopped here in 2005, 2007, June 2010, for four weeks Dec. 12, 2012 – Jan. 6, 2013, and for four weeks in Dec. 9, 2015 to Jan. 5, 2016. Another tour is under way but St. Louis isn’t listed – as yet.
St. Louisan Norbert Leo Butz originated Fiyero in “Wicked.”The original Broadway cast featured St. Louisan Norbert Leo Butz as Fiyero. The Bishop DuBourg and Webster U. Conservatory grad played Elphaba’s love interest Fiyero twice, from Oct. 8 to Nov. 23, 2003, and from Jan. 20 to July 18, 2004. He met his second wife, Michelle Federer, during the production – she played Nessarose, and they were married in 2007.
Norbie, the seventh of 11 children born to Elaine and Norbert A. Butz, went on to win two Tony Awards, for “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” and “Catch Me If You Can.” He is planning to leave his Tony-nominated role as Alfred P. Doolittle in the Lincoln Center revival of “My Fair Lady” on Jan. 6, 2019.
Composer Stephen Schwartz told Playbill why he cast him.
“I’ve wanted to work with Norbert since I saw him in ‘Thou Shalt Not’ and particularly in ‘The Last Five Years.’ He’s a lyricist’s dream. In ‘Wicked,’ I wrote ‘Dancing Through Life’ especially for him to take advantage of both his voice and charisma.”
In July 2017, “Wicked” surpassed “The Phantom of the Opera” as Broadway’s second-highest grossing show, trailing only “The Lion King.”
Based on the best-selling 1995 novel by Gregory Maguire, “Wicked” has won more than 100 international awards, including three Tony Awards and a Grammy.
The TV special isn’t the only way “Wicked” is celebrating its milestone – Ben and Jerry’s locations in Times Square and Rockefeller Center will sell special ice cream sand-Witches beginning Oct. 26. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the National School Climate Center’s BullyBust campaign.
The NBC Studios Store has an Ozmopolitan apparel display. And a special “Wicked” cupcake, baked by Melissa, is available online and at all 14 store locations through the rest of October. A portion of the cupcake proceeds with benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and A BroaderWay.
***GET REEL: Native sons and daughters can bask in the klieg lights in the ‘Lou during the 27th annual St. Louis International Film Festival, which will screen a record 414 films from 63 countries Nov. 1 through Nov. 11 at nine venues.
John GoodmanJohn Goodman, one of St. Louis’ favorite sons, will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award. That program and a screening of “The Big Lebowski” on Nov. 2 are already sold out. Goodman, who grew up in Affton, has enjoyed a long career – in movies, on TV and on stage. He is part of the “Roseanne” reboot called “The Conners,” along with former Edwardsville resident Laurie Metcalf, who plays his sister-in-law Jackie. The TV   sitcom began Oct. 16 on ABC and can be seen at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays.
Yours truly is hosting a special event film. The fest is celebrating the Golden Anniversaries of several influential films that came out in 1968: “Bullitt,” “Medium Cool,” “Once Upon a Time in the West,” “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Pretty Poison.”
Anthony Perkins, Tuesday Weld in “Pretty Poison”I will introduce “Pretty Poison” and lead the post-show discussion after the free screening on Saturday, Nov. 10, at 11 a.m. at the St. Louis Public Library central headquarters downtown on Olive. The film is sponsored by the St. Louis Film Critics Association.
This underrated film noir-like thriller starred Anthony Perkins and Tuesday Weld, and has gained new appreciation as a cult gem, its influence noted in Terence Malick’s “Badlands” and Billy Bob Thornton’s “Sling Blade.” Think “Gun Crazy” meets “Lolita.” Mix in conspiracy theories, passion, greed and fantasy. With its inspired casting, it’s a strange and wonderful film about a teenage arsonist who is paroled, becomes smitten with a young femme fatale, and dangerous plans are put into play.
For a complete schedule or for more information, www.cinemastlouis.org For the trailer by Sleepy Kitty Arts (you rock Paige Brubeck and Evan Sult), watch this: https://youtu.be/UTm2PZJng_0
I was fortunate to be the moderator of a Q&A session after a sold-out screening of “Beautiful Boy” Sunday at the Hi-Pointe, with writer Nic Sheff, whose story is the film, and star Timothee Chalamet, whose fans started lining up at 8 a.m. for the 11 a.m. screening. St, Louis was one of four stops the Oscar-nominated Chalamet did over the weekend; Nic Sheff is appearing at over 10 locations.
Lynn Venhaus, Timothee Chalamet, Nic Sheff at “Beautiful Boy” Q&A. Photo by Kevin Brackett.***
APPLAUSE FOR: Congratulations to Kathleen Sitzer on her honor from the Alliance for Jewish Theatre, an International organization dedicated to promoting the creation, presentation, and preservation of theatrical endeavors by, for, and about the Jewish experience.
She is seen here with honoree Tovah Feldshuh at the recent Alliance for Jewish Theatre annual conference in Philadelphia. Feldshuh’s one-woman show, “Golda’s Balcony,” is the longest running in Broadway history. She received the Theodore Bikel Award for Excellence in Jewish Theatre.
Kathleen, the recently retired Founding Artistic Director of New Jewish Theatre, was recognized for her years of service and dedication to the concept of Jewish Theatre.
In addition to Sitzer, the conference will honor actress Tovah Feldshuh with the Theodore Bikel Award for Excellence in Jewish Theatre. Her one-woman show “Golda’s Balcony” was the longest running in Broadway history.
The conference provides an opportunity for theatre artists and organizations to network and learn from each other through a variety of workshops, panel discussions and performances. It is hosted annually by a member theatre. This year’s conference in Philadelphia is hosted by Theatre Ariel. New Jewish Theatre hosted the conference two years ago in 2016 and also in 2002.
For more information, visit: www.alljewishtheatre.org.
***
AROUND TOWN: Sarajane Alverson, who played Chef Rossi in the autobiographical “The Raging Skillet” at the New Jewish Theatre, was able to meet the real-life inspiration when she came to St. Louis for the play’s premiere.
Sarajane Alverson, Chef RossiHere is a photo of the two from their appearance on a Fox 2 news segment. Photo courtesy of Aemi Tucker. Sarajane made it through three weeks of performances without a knife injury!
Country singer Alexandra Kay of Waterloo, Ill.Let’s hear it for country singer Alexandra Kay, aka Lexi Krekorian from Waterloo, Ill., who is among the nine people on Netflix’s new “Westside” that premieres Nov. 9. (I have an in-depth feature article that will be published in the Belleville News-Democrat soon).
Mark Saunders isn’t trying out his Halloween costume — he began the national tour of “Something Rotten!” last month and revealed his character Brother Jeremiah’s look.
His show will be in Champaign, Ill., on Monday, Oct. 29, for a one-night performance at 7:30 p.m. at the State Farm Center (University of Illinois). It’s a 2-hour, 43-minute drive from St. Louis. For more information, visit www.rottenbroadway.com.
***
 
 
 
AMERICAN IDOL: Interesting in auditioning for the next season of “American Idol” on ABC? Online audition videos are being accepted now through Nov. 5. You must be at least 15 years old to submit a video for consideration. You’ll be notified by Nov. 19 if you made the cut.
More information can be found here: https://fmna.etribez.com/ag/fmna/ai2abc/welcome.html
***BOOK SHELF: St. Louis native Ellie Kemper, a John Burroughs graduate, has published a collection of uplifting essays called “My Squirrel Days.” Her Oct. 13 book signing at the St. Louis County Library Headquarters was sold out.
The comic actress, known for “The Office” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” has written about her journey from Midwestern naif to Hollywood.
Can’t get enough of Tony winner “Dear Evan Hansen”? The smash-hit has been turned into a young adult novel by Val Emmich and published on Oct. 9 by Little Brown. T
o promote the book, show composers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul went on a 10-city bus tour with musical book writer Steven Levenson and author Emmich. Fellow Michigan alumnus Darren Criss joined them in Ann Arbor, and Tony winner and late-night host James Corden sang “Waving through the Window” at an L.A. bookstore.
A new deluxe album, including cut songs along with the original Broadway cast recording, is now available through Atlantic Records.
***
LIFE IS ART – SAVE THE DATE: Who will be nominated for their work in 2018 St. Louis metropolitan area community theater – in musicals (Best Performance Awards) and plays (Theatre Mask Awards)?
Winners will be revealed at the annual Arts For Life Trivia Night, now set for Saturday, Feb. 1 at St. Joseph’s parish hall in Manchester. Ryan Cooper returns as the emcee.
Our theme this year is “That ‘70s Trivia” – you can decorate your table and dress accordingly (costumes optional) – but questions are a variety related to the category titles (announcing the show nominees).
AFL awards excellence in large and small ensemble musicals, dramas and comedies, and youth musical productions. The TMAs will take place on Saturday, April 6, at and the BPAs on Sunday, June 9, at the Skip Viragh Center for the Performing Arts at Chaminade.
Boogie the night away with AFL! Enjoy 10 rounds featuring a variety of trivia, silent auction, raffles, table decoration contest, “STL Theatre Sampler” ticket raffle, attendance prizes, and more.
New this year – VIP Tables – $200/8 people. VIP Tables include snacks, soda/water, prime seating, and a dedicated runner.  Reserve your table today! $160/8 people
For more information, visit AFL’s Facebook page or website, www.artsforlife.org.
***
THEATRE RECOGNITION GUILD: Interested in scoring community theater and youth production musicals during the calendar year 2019? From now through Nov. 15, you can apply to be an AFL judge in what’s called the Theatre Recognition Guild. It’s the branch of AFL that judges musical theater for the Best Performance Awards given in 33 categories every June.
This is the only time during the year that you can apply. The online application is available here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2019trgapplication
You will be notified in December if you have been selected. Between 50 and 60 volunteers are judges, and 10-12 judges are assigned to score each eligible show for about 25 groups in the metropolitan St. Louis area.
Judges are required to attend shows throughout the bi-state region. There is no monetary compensation – it is all volunteer. If you judge 8 shows, you receive a free ticket to the BPAs. In 2018, TRG will have judged a total 48 shows (21 large ensemble, 7 small ensemble and 20 youth).
If you have any questions, please contact me, the TRG Chairman on the AFL Board of Directors since 2010, at [email protected]
***GO SEE A PLAY POLL: Artistic Director Kelly Hummert whipped us into a frenzy for months trying to figure out clues as to what Shakespeare play would be the next Immersive Theatre Project by her Rebel and Misfits Productions.
She recently revealed it’s “Macbeth: Come Like Shadows” which opened Oct. 24 and runs through Nov. 10, Wednesday through Saturday.
Sean Michael Higgins, Kelly Hummert in “Macbeth: Come Like Shadows”You can be there, too. Rebel and Misfits is offering 2 tickets to a performance for our current giveaway. All you do is answer our poll below – we’re asking about your favorite mystery play because Kelly was so mysterious about her show.
Send your pick, along with your name and phone number, to [email protected] by noon on Tuesday, Oct. 30. A winner will be selected from the entries, we’ll announce the name, and get the lucky pair set up for this yet-to-b-revealed enticing fall premiere.
FAVORITE MYSTERY PLAY (make selection to enter the drawing):
Deathtrap
Dial M for Murder
The Mousetrap
Night Must Fall
Sleuth
Wait Until Dark
Send your choice by noon Tuesday, Oct. 30, to enter the drawing to: [email protected]

WORD: “Movies will make you famous, television will make you rich, but theatre will make you good.” – Terrence Mann
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