By Lynn Venhaus Managing EditorGreetings! Spring has sprung after a miserable, dreary winter of 24 inches of snow and long stretches of gray days. We bring to you a long catch-up column, a winter wrap-up with lots o’ news about our wonderful theater talents in our metro area. It’s always sunny when we’re talking bright lights.

AWARDS SEASON: Spring means theater awards in St. Louis! For regional professional theater, the seventh annual St. Louis Theater Circle Awards will be presented on Monday, March 25, at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the campus of Webster University.

For general admission tickets ($15), visit: www.brownpapertickets.com You
can purchase tickets the night of the ceremony by cash or check. Our Circle
Facebook page is updated with information. We are not having pre-festivities
food, but Llewyn’s Catering will have drinks, desserts and snack boxes
available throughout the night.

If you missed who’s nominated, here is our Limelight link: https://stllimelight.com/2019/01/25/evita-streetcar-lead-st-louis-theater-circle-nominations/

See you at Theater Prom Monday!

For local community theater, Arts For Life will present the fourth annual Theatre Mask Awards, honoring comedies and dramas, on Saturday, April 6, at a.m. at The Atrium Banquet Center, Paul F. Detrick Building, on the campus of Christian Hospital, beginning at 10:30 a.m. Doors open at 10 a.m. Radio personality Vic Porcelli is the host.

A brunch buffet is served and awards in 18 categories are given out. Tables of 8 are available, and you can select what theater group or person you want to sit with – just tell [email protected] or mark it at checkout. Tickets are $25 and must be purchased by March 22. Visit www.artsforlife.org.

For a Power Point Presentation of the TMA Nominations, here
is the link: http://nebula.wsimg.com/60b66319ddb8e5ebbac7b8ba7019e6dd?AccessKeyId=901C1079C3BABD637603&disposition=0&alloworigin=1

AFL will present the 20th annual Best Performance Awards, for musicals, on Sunday, June 9, at 2 p.m. at the Skip Viragh Center for the Performing Arts, 425 Lindbergh Blvd. (Chaminade). Actor Ryan Cooper is the emcee.

From a pool of 1,302 community theater artists, 48 shows
produced by 26 community theater groups in the Metro-St. Louis area have been
reviewed for consideration for this year’s Best Performance Awards. Trophies
will be awarded in 33 categories.

The event will include performances from the 13 musicals
nominated in the three Best Musical Production categories and a special
presentation to Lifetime Achievement Award winner. Formal attire is
requested. 

All tickets are reserved seating. Group seating will not be
guaranteed on orders received after May 10. All ticket orders will be held at
the box office unless a self-addressed stamped envelope is included with ticket
order. Please let us know if you require any special needs.

Early Bird Tickets are $20 and available until May 10, and
regular tickets are $25 ($26/credit card at the door).
A special rate of $40 for a combined BPA/TMA ticket for both, which is $10 off,
is available until March 22.  Visit the
website for more information, www.artsforlife.org.

For a PDF of the BPA Nominations, here is the link: http://nebula.wsimg.com/b255dc30a55d222d652ab689930da965?AccessKeyId=901C1079C3BABD637603&disposition=0&alloworigin=1 *** ARTS LIVES: This year’s AFL Lifetime Achievements Awards are being bestowed on Joseph Paule Sr. at the Best Performance Awards June and Alton Little Theatre’s Kevin Frakes at the Theatre Mask Awards April 6.

Kevin Frakes

Frakes, current president of the Alton Little Theatre, will
be honored for his lifelong devotion and involvement in community theater, and
for helping with ALT’s growth and expansion. He began 40 years ago and has
directed and/or acted in more than 100 shows.

Joseph Paule Sr. has been involved with several community theater groups over the years, including Christ Memorial Productions and Hawthorne Players.

Caroline Santiago Turner

*** YOUTH PHENOMS: Special Awards recognition is going to two talented teens this year at AFL’s Best Performance Awards. Sean Harvey will receive Best Youth Featured Dancer for his fleet footwork as Bobby in “Crazy for You” produced by the Gateway Center for the Performing Arts and Caroline Santiago Turner will receive Best Youth Musical Performance for her exquisite vocals as Violet in “Violet,” also produced by the Gateway Center for the Performing Arts.

These awards are not giving annually, only when the Theatre
Recognition Guild judges deem performances so outstanding that they deserve
special recognition.

Sean Harvey in “Crazy for You”

Sean, who graduated from high school in Wentzville last
year, studies musical theatre at Chicago College of Performing Arts. Caroline,
who graduated from Visitation Academy in 2018, is working on her BFA in musical
theater at Indiana University.

They will be in good company. Past youth winners Zach Erhardt, Troyer Coultas and Yvette Lu toured nationally in ‘The Book of Mormon,” “The Wizard of Oz” and “Hamilton” respectively last year.

***BROADWAY BUZZ: The Tony Awards are Sunday, June, at 7 p.m. on CBS, and nominations will be announced on April 30. The local folks involved in producing the original musical “The Prom” are hoping for good news that day. The original musical comedy was among the best reviewed shows in 2018, after opening Nov. 15 on Broadway.  

The PromThe 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. A number of cast members have performed at The Muny: St. Louisans Drew Reddington and Jack Sippel, and stars Beth Leavel and Christopher Sieber.

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.

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.

As one of four musical acts in the 92nd annual Macy’s
Thanksgiving Day Parade, they made parade history with the first same-sex kiss
televised live.

Here is that performance: https://youtu.be/VDZDLJjzJBI

And the cast also performed live on “Late Night with Seth
Meyers.”

***VIVE LA VISIONARIES: More local arts awards for women! The St. Louis Visionary Awards will honor established working arts professionals, arts educators, emerging artists and community impact artists on Monday, April 22, at 6 p.m. at the Sun Theatre.

The Saint Louis Visionary Awards celebrates the numerous
contributions and achievements of women who work in or support the arts in the
greater St. Louis region. The awards are presented by an independent committee
of women dedicated to promoting the arts here.

Brava! To the 2019 Saint Louis Visionary Awards honorees, who  are, from left: Standing: Carmen Dence; Susan Barrett; Kathie Winter; and Kari Ely. Seated: Brea McAnally; Jacqueline Thompson. Photo by Diane Anderson ***COMMUNITY RECOGNITION: Congratulations to the Alton Little Theater will receive a prestigious national award for excellence in innovation, dedication to community and organizational development ensuring the future of live theater. The Twink Lynch Organizational Development Award will be presented to Kevin Frakes and Lee Cox at the AACT  (American Association of Community Theaters) National Convention in Gettysburg, Pa.,  in June.

A Raisin in the Sun

The Hawthorne Players give out “Duckies” at the year’s end, as voted on by the members and season ticket holders. The awards are named after the late veteran Hawthorne actress and director, Duckie DeMere. “A Raisin in the Sun” was the most lauded production, with , including Best Show, Best Director (Nancy Crouse), Best Actor (Erick Lindsey), Best Actress (Kimmie Kidd-Booker), Best Supporting Actor (Moses Weathers), Best Cameo Actress (Rhonda Cropp), Best Set Design (Nancy Crouse) and a Special Award (Archie Coleman).Elizabeth Breed Penny won Best Supporting Actress, for her role as Pauline in “Legally Blonde” and John Robertson won Best Cameo Actor in “The Fantasticks.” Eric Wennlund won two — Best Lighting and Best Sound for “The Fantasticks” Special Awards went to Connie Mulch of “The Fantasticks” and Michele Paladin, “Legally Blonde.”

*** NAME-DROPPING: Did you know the musical “Beautiful – The Carole King Musical” has a local connection? Producers are Paul Blake, former executive director at the Muny for 22 seasons, and Mike Bosner, Burroughs grad and Muny front office alum. The second national tour recently stopped at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis for a limited 5-day engagement. The musical celebrated its fifth season on Broadway in January. They tell me a movie is in the works! Here is my article ICYMI: https://stllimelight.com/2019/03/12/local-producers-found-beautiful-success-with-carole-king-musical/

There is another big-news local connection. Perhaps you’ve
heard about the college admissions scandal. Well, turns out Joe Buck’s daughter
is the roommate of Lori Laughlin’s daughter, the clueless and vapid video blogger
Olivia Jade, at University of Southern California. Ms. Buck is attending the
prestigious USC Film School. (Thanks, J.C. Corcoran for this tidbit).

Meadow Nguy

Meadow Nguy of O’Fallon, Ill., appeared in a new musical “Arrowhead” in concert at Feinstein’s/54 Below. The new Jackson Teeley and Sarah Galante work takes you inside the cozy and tuneful world of Arrowhead Café — from the heartache of love unrequited to the bliss of love that’s true, uncover all the ups, downs, and inevitable complications of modern love over a simple cup of coffee. The concert was directed by Dan Barron and music directed by Michael Pacifico, and featured a cast of 14.

Lisa Ramey, who performed at The Muny, Stages St. Louis and The Black Rep, was picked by John Legend for his team on Season 16 of “The Voice,” now finished with the Blind Auditions. Ramey currently lives in New York City and fronts a band called Superbad. She auditioned last year but did not get a chair turn, talked to the coaches about what she should do to improve, and returned this year.

Beau Willimon, third from left, speaks to the cast, while one of his mentors, director Wayne Salomon stands next to him. (Photo provided)Playwright Beau Willimon attended the preview night of his first Broadway play, “Farragut North,” which was produced at St. Louis Actors’ Studio last month. Willimon grew up in St. Louis and is a graduate of John Burroughs. He is most known for developing the American version of “House of Cards” for Netflix and was show runner for four years. His recent screenplay was the 2018 film “Mary, Queen of Scots.”

St. Louis’ sunny Jenna Fischer can now be seen with Ted Danson in a commercial for Smirnoff Vodka.

***

AND THEN THERE WERE 15: A harpist, juggler, dancers, acrobats, musicians and singers will be competing in Fox Performing Arts Charitable Foundation’s 9th Annual St. Louis Teen Talent Competition, which takes place Saturday, April 13, at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis. The public is invited to attend for free, but general admission tickets must be reserved at Metrotix.com or 314-534-1111. You can vote for the Audience Award.

The youths will have an opportunity to win scholarships and prizes. They were selected from a process that began with 140 acts auditioning in the preliminary round, and a semifinal round on March 9 that featured 45 acts who were then whittled down to the 15 finalists. More than 50 high schools, homeschoolers and performing arts schools were represented.

Congratulations to those who advanced — quite a lot of variety: Modern Dancers: Arielle Adams, Senior DessaRae Lampkins, Senior Brooke Reese, Senior De’Jai Walker, Senior Hazelwood Central High School. Musical Theatre Act: Kaley Bender, Sophomore, Nerinx Hall Nathaniel Mahone, Sophomore, Lafayette High School. Consecrated: pianist and drummer Emmanuel Morgan, Junior Thaddaeus Morgan, Sophomore Kirkwood High School.Expressions Academy of Dance: Emma Bilzing, Sophomore; Mackenzie Branson, Freshman; Kaele Kidwell, Senior; Ja’la Stancil, Sophomore Belleville East High School Ukulele/Vocalist/Sonwriter Afiya Faatuono, Sophomore McKinley Classical Leadership Academy Pop Vocalist Jameson Falconer, Sophomore Ladue Horton Watkins High School Modern Dancer Ashley Gardner, Junior Trinity Catholic High School Pop Vocalist Madelynn Gartland, Sophomore Kirkwood High School Partner Acrobatics K.O. Duo, Oliver Layher, Senior, Vianney High School Kyran Walton, Senior, Metro Academic and Classical High School Bharatnatyam Dancer Samanvita Kasthuri, Junior Parkway South High School Ballet Dancer Anne Oberman, Junior Cor Jesu Academy Juggler Sean Petric, Sophomore Oakville High School Harpist Mereya Riopedre, Junior MICDS Guitarist and Vocalist Joanna Serenko, Senior Kirkwood High School Musical Theatre Vocalist Troy Staten, Sophomore McCluer High School These talented teens are the entertainers of tomorrow.

For more information about the competition, visit: http://www.foxpacf.org/programs/teen-talent-competition/ for more information. ***SCHOLARSHIP OPPORTUNITY:  Since 2012, Arts For Life has awarded a scholarship to a student who is pursuing an education in the arts. The deadline for applicants is April 12. Applicant must be enrolled in an arts undergraduate program at an accredited college or university. Arts programs include, but are not exclusive to: performing arts (music, dance, theatre) and visual arts (painting, sculpture, architecture, film,photography, etc). Arts programs not defined as Fine Arts but related to the arts may be considered if superior work has been demonstrated in this area. Applicant must have participated in a Metro St. Louis community theater production or event in the past two years (1/1/2016-12/31/2018). Metro St. Louis defined as any location within 35 miles from Clayton. Here is the link: http://www.artsforlife.org/scholarship.html***

Taylor Louderman

THE POWER OF THEATRE: Tony Award nominee Taylor Louderman will host a one-night-only cabaret to celebrate performing arts education and support rural Missouri’s Ozark Actors Theatre.

It’s set for May 20 at 7:30 p.m. at the Sheldon Concert Hall.

Louderman, proud native of Bourbon, Mo., will take part in “The Power of Theatre,” bringing together the voices of some of St. Louis’s best performers as they share the power of theater education.

Currently starring on Broadway as Regina George in “Mean
Girls,” she is well-known on local stages. Her career began at Ozark Actors
Theater in 2001, when she played the title role of ‘Annie.”

Since then, she appeared on Broadway in “Bring It On: The
Musical” and “Kinky Boots,” as well as NBC’s “Peter Pan Live.” She spent
summers performing at the Muny, last seen in “Aida.” She voices the character
Blair on Nickelodeon’s “Sunny Day” and can be seen in “The Good Fight” and HBO’s
“High Maintenance.”

She likes to give back to the community where she started
and grateful to be a part of the OAT board.

Evening also includes silent and live auctions, and a special introduction by News 4’s Paige Hulsey.

All proceeds from this event will benefit Ozark Actors
Theatre’s education programming.

Tickets are available in person at the Fox Theatre box office without a handling fee. For more information: https://www.thesheldon.org/concert-detail.php?id=768

***

Wendy Renee Greenwood as war photographer in “Time Stands Still”GO SEE A PLAY POLL: Modern relationships are certainly complicated, aren’t they? But they sure make compelling dramas. We’re giving away two tickets to New Jewish Theatre’s upcoming production of “Time Stands Still” that runs March 28 – April 15. All you have to do is enter our drawing and select your favorite play on modern relationships for our poll (see below).

“Time Stands Still” revolves around Sarah, a photojournalist who has returned from covering the Iraq war after being injured by a roadside bomb, and her reporter boyfriend James who is swamped by guilt after having left Sarah alone in Iraq. The two are trying to find happiness in a world that seems to have gone crazy. Theirs is a partnership based on telling the toughest stories, and together, making a difference. But when their own story takes a sudden turn, the adventurous couple confronts the prospect of a more conventional life. Can they stay together amidst unspoken betrayals and conflicting ideals? Playwright Donald Margulies answers these questions, while leaving unanswered qualms regarding the way America deals with war and tragedy coverage.

Directed by Doug Finlayson, the cast includes Wendy Renee Greenwood as Sarah, Ben Nordstrom as James, Jerry Vogel as Robin and Eileen Engel as Mandy.

To enter our drawing, please send your email address and
phone number to Lynn Venhaus, [email protected], by Friday,
March 22, before 5 p.m., with your choice for your favorite contemporary play
on modern relationships.

What would yours be? Here’s our list from which to select:August: Osage County God of Carnage The Humans Proof Rabbit Hole Stop Kiss Venus in Fur

Thanks for entering. Our last drawing for tickets to “Avenue Q” at the Playhouse @Westport Playhouse was won by Jennelle Gilreath. *** BEST WISHES: Kelly Hummert, founder and artistic director of Rebel and Misfits Productions, has decided to move on to other projects, and will no longer be producing shows in St. Louis.

Kelly Hummert

We will miss seeing what innovative and immersive plays she
put her heart and soul into, and the outstanding ensembles she brought together
during the past three years.

Rebel and Misfits’ “The Realistic Joneses” and “Macbeth: Come Like Shadows” have been nominated for Best Ensemble in this year’s St. Louis Theater Circle Awards, and last year, both Andrew Michael Niemann and Jim Butz won acting awards for “Uncle Vanya: Valiantly Accepting Next Year’s Agony.”

Break a leg, Kelly! The best is yet to come!

*** AUTHOR! AUTHOR!: Don Miller, an expert on media literacy and a local playwright, actor and professor, wrote a reference book, “Coming of Age in Popular Culture: Teenagers, Adolescence, and the Art of Growing Up,” that is getting good reviews. He is being lauded for his thoughtful work and providing insight into popular culture.

“And the beat goes on! What a wonderful tribute to the
decades. A entertaining explanation of our influences of the decades that
brought back so many memories,” said bestselling author Wade Rouse.

“This text is a tremendous boost to the media literacy
education field at a time when both the media communicator as well as the media
consumer hold great sway on many platforms in our digital communications
environment and understanding these processes can help both be better. And, the
timing couldn’t be better to have this definitive, well researched and
well-documented textbook regarding an age-old relationship about teens and
their media,” said Jessica Z. Brown, founder of Gateway Media Literacy
Partners.

Miller documented the evolution of teens and media from the
1950s through 2010, this book examines the films, books, television shows, and
musical artists that impacted American culture and shaped the “coming of
age” experience for each generation.

He will speak to the Mid Rivers Ethical Society in July.

***

“The Lusty Month of May” from the movie “Camelot” 1967TRIVIA TIME-OUT: We flip seasons to spring! Yay! Happy Dance. What a cold, dreary, gray winter. Here are some questions about productions focused on a spring.

In “The Producers,” what is the name of the musical
that Max Bialistock and Leo Bloom are mounting?Who sings “The Lusty Month of May” on the
original cast recording of “Camelot”? In the movie?What original cast member won a Tony Award in
the musical “Spring Awakening”?What musical features the song “Younger Than
Springtime”?ANSWERS 1. “Springtime for Hitler” 2. Julie Andrews; Vanessa Redgrave (Guinnevere)3. John Gallagher Jr.4. “South Pacific”

***

Richard Beymer and Natalie Wood in “West Side Story”MOVIE MUSICAL MAKEOVER: “Angels in America” playwright Tony Kushner is writing the script for Steven Spielberg’s new version of “West Side Story,” which is expected to be released in 2020. The announced movie cast includes Ansel Elgort as Tony, Rachel Zegler as Maria, Tony Award nominee Ariana DeBose (Donna Summer) as Anita, Tony Award winner David Alvarez (Billy Elliot) as Bernardo, Josh Andres Rivera as Chino, Brian d’Arcy James as Sergeant Krupke and Corey Stoll as Lieutenant Schrank.

The sole returning cast member of the original is EGOT
winner Rita Moreno, who will play a new character, Valentina. She won an Oscar playing
Anita.

This will be Spielberg’s first musical. He had a casting
call for Latinx performers and received 30,000 submissions. Seventeen-year-old
high school newcomer Rachel Zegler won the part of Maria.

The 1961 landmark film is the most-award winning movie musical
of all-time, nominated for 11 Academy Awards and winning 10. With choreography
by Jerome Robbins, music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim,
the movie adaptation was directed by Robert Wise (“The Sound of Music”) and
Robbins.

Fun Fact: Natalie Wood played Maria but her singing was
dubbed by Marni Nixon, who also subbed for Audrey Hepburn in “My Fair Lady.”

***

Jared Sanz-Agero

IN MEMORIAM: Friends, family and colleague are remembering the wonderful talent that Jared Sanz-Agero was. The actor died Feb. 19, from injuries suffered in a horrific automobile accident two weeks earlier, on Feb 5.

Twice-nominated for St. Louis Theater Circle Awards for “Stones
in My Pocket” and “The Liar,” he was a passionate presence on many regional
group’s stages. You might have chatted with him at the .Zack, working at the
bar and concessions. He attended Southwest Missouri State University.

Jared, 47, was traveling to Kansas City for a commercial
shoot when his 2004 Toyota Matrix slid off the ice-covered roadway. He was
taken to the Centerpoint Hospital ICU in Independence, Mo., according to the
police report.
Official cause of death was internal bleeding and loss of blood, and is being
investigated by his family, from what’s on the Go Fund Me page.

A memorial service is being planned for a later date. If
you would like to contribute to a Go Fund Me account set up by his brother
Gentry after the accident to help with his medical expenses, and now, costs
related to his death investigation, and services, here is the link to the Jared
Sanz-Agero Memorial Fund: https://www.gofundme.com/help-jared-heal-fund

***WORD: To quote Jonathan Larson, who wrote “Rent” and died on opening day from an aneurysm:

“It’s not how many years you live, but how you fulfill the time you spend here.”

s

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
Legendary singer-songwriter Carole King’s joyous and wistful music is the sound
of a generation and her remarkable life story parallels the evolution of women
in the 1960s and 1970s.

How she found her voice is chronicled in the wildly popular long-running show, “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” now on tour at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis for a limited engagement March 12 – 17. The show celebrated its fifth anniversary on Broadway in January.

It’s easy to love this smartly constructed show –
compelling rise to stardom story and a glorious score bursting with catchy pop
songs. Carole’s character goes through a tremendous amount of growth (and hairstyle
changes), so she’s relatable and sympathetic.

Sarah Bockel immerses herself in the role, making a believable transformation from insecure but talented teen into a strong independent woman. The smooth and crisp production is just as much about the beginnings of rock ‘n roll – the tunes that had a good beat and we could dance to it, as a young Carole was part of the hit machine at the Brill Building, hired by producer Don Kirshner. Her husband, Gerry Goffin, was the lyricist while she wrote the melodies, and the string of hits kept coming.

A wonderful nostalgia is evoked when The Drifters, The Shirelles, Little Eva and other recording artists perform their hit songs, a vivacious blast from the past that strikes a chord: “Up on the Roof,” “One Fine Day,” “The Locomotion,” and “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” among them. John Michael Dias, who was on the first tour at the Fox, and Paul Scanlan as The Righteous Brothers delivered a rousing, soulful “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling.”

The recognition factor to those chart-toppers is high, and
the emotional connection to the story is immediate.

Douglas McGrath’s witty and warm book showcases plenty of
heart and humor. In addition to Bockel’s affability and
believability, Dylan S. Wallach conveys the hard-working early years as well as
the pressures of the business that overtook the talented but troubled Gerry.

A supportive sisterhood was in full force opening night, as
whoops, hollers and cheers met every “Attagirl!” woman empowerment line in the
second act, when Carole emerges from divorce as a solo artist.

Her landmark 1971 album, “Tapestry,” which sold over 25 million copies, won Grammys for Best Record, Song and Album of the Year. It is still one of the bestselling albums of all-time, and the longest Billboard run by a female artist.

My generation knows every single word — still, and showed
appreciation Tuesday night, for it was a true lovefest, along with a
sentimental flashback to our youth, and a delightful walk down memory lane.

It’s a thrilling, magical moment when Carole decides to
sing her own material and tries out ‘It’s Too Late” at the Bitter End.

Another key to this show’s success is because it isn’t just about Carole. Songwriting partners Cynthia Weil (Alison Whitehurst) and Barry Mann (hilarious Jacob Heimer), who were also at work, literally next door, are an integral part of the story. The foursome’s good-natured competitiveness resulted in many standards that defined the rock era, and it’s a sweet reflection on good friendships as well.

The strong cast embodies well-drawn characters. James Clow plays a significant mentor — producer Don Kirshner as both a boss and as a caring friend. Suzanne Grodner reprised her role as Carole’s supportive but nagging mom,

Director Marc Bruni, who has worked at The Muny eight times, kept the focus on the relationships and the work, as the couples go through the changing times of the 1960s. He made sure the show flowed well, with an up-tempo for the most part.

The production team captured the era well. The show isn’t only for Baby Boomers, it is for anyone who loves music and can identify with Carole’s progression. The musical celebrates the music that played in her head with style, rhythm and passion.

“Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” is on national tour, and playing at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis March 12-17. For more information, visit www.fabulousfox.com. For tickets, visit www.MetroTix.com or call 1-314-534-1111.

Former Muny Executive Director Paul Blake and Associate Producer Mike Bosner Left St. Louis for New York and Have a Tony-winning Show still running on Broadway

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
After Paul Blake listed “Carole King Musical” on a Muny survey one summer and
it received only a few votes, he worried if the in-the-works “Beautiful” would draw
an audience. His fretting was all for naught, as the musical recently
celebrated its fifth anniversary on Broadway and is currently on its second
national tour.

The Tony and Grammy Award-winning “Beautiful – the Carole
King Musical” returns to the Fox Theatre for a limited engagement March 12-17.

Sarah Bockel stars as Carole King in national tour of “Beautiful” now playing at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis “I am thrilled that ‘Beautiful’ continues to delight and entertain audiences around the globe, in England, Japan and Australia. We are entering our fourth amazing year of touring the U.S.,” Producer Paul Blake said. “We are so grateful that over five million audience members have been entertained by our celebration of Carole’s story and her timeless music.”

Being the head producer on “Beautiful” has been a dream-come-true experience, he said. Blake took a leap of faith when a record executive contacted him with the idea. And the rest, as they say, is history.

From their New York office, Blake and his co-producer Mike
Bosner, a St. Louis native, recently talked about the show’s success, their
producing partnership, and what they have in the works.

Blake was the executive director of The Muny for 22
seasons, stepping down in 2011. While at the Muny, he created two Broadway
musicals from popular movies, “White Christmas” and “Roman Holiday,” so setting
up shop in New York after his years here was a natural progress.

Bosner was an associate producer at the Muny for five
seasons. Before he graduated fom John Burroughs high school, Wayne Salomon, his
theater director, told him about a Saint Louis University internship at the
Muny in the production office. Working in the business world of theater was
where he wanted to be, and now, he’s an official Tony-nominated Broadway
producer.

They are two motivated guys.
“We really love what we do. When you love what you do, it doesn’t seem like
work,” Bosner said.

They are currently working on a couple of new shows, not at
liberty to say what, but will always have a special place in their heart for “Beautiful.”
“This was something special,” Bosner said.

“We are very lucky it has delighted audiences for over five
years – around the world,” Black said.

They work hard putting together shows – ‘So many things to
do!” Blake said, but they wouldn’t have it any other way. “It’s very fulfilling
what we’ve chosen to do.”

He credits the Muny experience for keeping them on their
toes.

“If I wouldn’t have done the Muny, I couldn’t get these shows together. It all comes together because we have that experience,” he said. “We learned how to put the best people together at the Muny.”

Since the tour’s launch in September 2015, “Beautiful” has
played 1,130 performances in 82 cities over 142 weeks to nearly 2.5 million
patrons.

Tony Winner Jessie Mueller as Carole King.Singer-songwriter Carole King’s true-life rise to stardom
is a tailor-made follow-your-dreams story. The chart-topping music legend grew
up in Brooklyn and then fought her way into the record business as a teenager.
By the time she was in her 20s, she was married to college classmate Gerry
Goffin and was flourishing as a songwriter in the fabled Brill Building,
churning out hits for the biggest rock ‘n roll acts.

It wasn’t until her personal life unraveled that she
finally managed to find her true voice, culminating in her landmark solo
“Tapestry” album in 1971, which won four Grammys – including Record, Song and
Album of the Year — and went on to be one of the greatest selling albums of
all-time.

One of the most successful acts in music history, Carole
wrote the soundtrack to a generation. The “Beautiful” music includes “I Feel the
Earth Move,” “One Fine Day,” “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” “(You Make Me
Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “You’ve Got A Friend,” “So Far Away,” the title
song and many more.

So, Blake was surprised when there wasn’t much love for it
on the end-of-season “What Shows Would You Like to See at the Muny?” survey.

“I was shocked. There was no recognition. I used to put on the
survey shows that didn’t exist, like “White Christmas” – it got six votes and “Roman
Holiday,” which got eight,” he said.

Blake made his debut as a Broadway producer with “Irving
Berlin’s White Christmas,” which opened in 2009. The musical adaptation of the
holiday movie classic had premiered at the Muny in 2000. The show had a second
Broadway run, and has turned into a popular seasonal show at theaters around
the country.

“It endures because it’s terrifically entertaining,” he
said. “It’s one of the most requested musicals.”

“Paramount Pictures had hired me to create musicals from
their film catalogue. I picked two – White Christmas and Roman Holiday,” Blake
said.

He and Bosner have re-worked “Roman Holiday,” which will be
coming to Broadway. It had a successful tryout in San Francisco last year. But
before that, it was at the Muny about 12 years ago.

“These things don’t happen overnight,” Blake said. “We feel
we have it right now – it needed some work. It has songs by Cole Porter. We
have always thought it felt like a stage musical,” he said.

“Roman Holiday” is an Oscar-winning movie starring Audrey
Hepburn as a Princess who escapes her confines and explores Rome with
journalist Gregory Peck. Hepburn won Best Actress, Dalton Trumbo won Best Story
and Edith Head won Best Costumes.

It’s on to the next project, but Blake recalls all the
effort that went into making “Beautiful” sparkle.

Bosner said they began working on it in 2009.

“It took five years of talking and trying to get the
contracts settled,” Blake said.

“So, after it got 6 votes, I wondered if there was an
audience for it, but when making ‘Beautiful,’ everyone seemed to know how to do
it. Let’s hope it works, I thought,” Blake said.

“At our very first reading, I asked Disney Theatrical Group
president Thomas Schumacher to come and give us his thoughts. He told me: ‘You
have made a ‘Jersey Boys’ for women.’”

Carole King and Gerry GoffinCarole King was reluctant to see her life played out
publicly, but she gave permission.

“She saw what we were trying to do. She said, ‘I trust you,’
I see where you’re going,’ but she did not want to be involved. She went away.
It was hard for her,” Blake said.

“Four months after we opened, we heard from her. We had
sent her the script. Carole is all about the truth. She went to see the show.
She was stunned. She’s been great.  She
let us know she supports us totally and fully,” Blake said.

“She performed at The Tonys. She came to New York City for
the fifth anniversary (Jan. 12). No one knew she was going to be there. They
were filming for CBS and we wanted to have the surprise moment be on camera, so
we didn’t tell the cast. It was sensational,” Blake said.

Carole KingIt wouldn’t be the only time he’s heard that. For women of
a certain age, the music is a walk down memory lane that has them on their feet
at the curtain call, singing loudly to “I Feel the Earth Move.”

First and foremost was the music – beloved songs written by
the husband-and-wife hit machine teams of Gerry Goffin and Carole King, and
Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.

“It had a bunch of great songs, catchy pop tunes,” Blake
said. “We got the rights, and then Douglas McGrath (a Tony and Academy Award
nominee) put the Brill Building in the book, and that makes it a story. Doug’s
book is so under-appreciated. It is a great book.”

Director Marc Bruni, who has directed at the Muny eight
times, “Singin’ in the Rain,” “My Fair Lady,” “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” “The
Music Man” and “The Sound of Music,” made his Broadway debut with “Beautiful.” He
has since helmed the new production of ‘Roman Holiday.”

The show opened Jan. 12, 2014, on Broadway at the Stephen
Sondheim Theatre, 125 West 43 Street, where it is still playing. It broke all
box office records there and recently became the theatre’s highest grossing
production in its history.

“Beautiful” was nominated for seven Tony Awards in 2014,
including Best Musical, and won two – for Best Lead Actress in a Musical
(Jessie Mueller) and Best Sound Design.

“We were so proud of the show as is, so the nominations
were the icing on the cake,” Bosner said.
The Original Broadway Cast Recording of “Beautiful – The Carole King Musical”
(Ghostlight Records) won the 2015 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album
and is available on CD, digitally, and on vinyl. 

“When asked about the show, nobody says they like it.
Everyone says they love it. There’s a lot of love there, and that’s powerful,”
Blake had said after the Tony nominations.

In addition to the current Broadway and North American
Touring productions, “Beautiful” is also playing internationally, with
productions in Japan, Australia and touring the UK.  An award-winning production recently
concluded its run in London’s West End after opening on Feb. 25, 2015.

“We saw it in Japan. It was wonderful,” Blake said.

The producers are now working on a movie version of the
musical.

“It’s in pre-production, might be one and half, two years.
We have a draft of a screenplay. The contract is drying as we speak,” Blake
said.

The cast of the Sony/ATV Music Publishing-sponsored North
American tour includes Sarah Bockel as Carole King, Dylan S. Wallach as Gerry
Goffin, Alison Whitehurst as Cynthia Weil, Jacob Heimer as Barry Mann, Muny
alum James Clow as Don Kirshner and Suzanne Grodner as Genie Klein.

The ensemble includes Ben Biggers, Darius Delk, John
Michael Dias, Leandra Ellis-Gaston, Kaylee Harwood, Willie Hill, Alia Hodge,
James Michael Lambert, Harper Miles, Dimitri Joseph Moïse, Ashley Morgan, Deon
Releford-Lee, Nathan Andrew Riley, Paul Scanlan, DeAnne Stewart, Danielle J.
Summons, Alexis Tidwell and Elise Vannerson.

The creative team includes Derek McLane (Set Design), Alejo
Vietti (Costume Design), Peter Kaczorowski (Lighting Design), Brian Ronan
(Sound Design), Charles G. LaPointe (Wig and Hair Design), Steve Sidwell
(Orchestrations and Music Arrangements), Jason Howland (Music Supervision) and
John Miller (Music Coordination). Vietti’s credits include The Repertory
Theatre of St. Louis – “Evita” and

Besides Blake, Bosner and Sony, producers included Jeffrey
A. Sine, Richard A. Smith, Mike Bosner, Harriet N. Leve/Elaine Krauss, Terry
Schnuck, Orin Wolf, Patty Baker/Good Productions, Roger Faxon, Larry Magid, Kit
Seidel, Lawrence S. Toppall, Fakston Productions/Mary Solomon, William Court
Cohen, John Gore, BarLor Productions, Matthew C. Blank, Tim Hogue, Joel Hyatt,
Marianne Mills, Michael J. Moritz, Jr., StylesFour Productions,
Brunish/Trinchero and Jeremiah J. Harris.

Performances Tuesday, March 12, through Sunday, March 17,
are 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and matinees at 2 p.m. Saturday, 1 p.m.
Sunday and 1 p.m. Thursday, March 14.

“Beautiful” is part of the U.S. Bank Broadway series.
Tickets are available through MetroTix.com, by calling 314-534-1111 or in
person at the Fabulous Fox Box Office. For more information, visit
www.FabulousFox.com

For more information and video, visit
www.BeautifulOnBroadway.com.

Paul Blake and Mike Bosner attend Beautiful – The Carole King Musical at The Aldwych Theatre, The Aldwych, London on Tuesday 24 February 2015 February 2015

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.