By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
At its best, “Crowns” is a jubilant celebration of family, faith and traditions, and the Black Rep’s sharp ensemble radiates joy as they take us to church. It’s a gem of a show, gleaming with polish and pizzazz.
The small cast of seven raises their glorious voices in beautiful harmonies, delivering spirituals, gospel standards, church hymns and ballads, which are woven into a story thread that includes vignettes.
As the youngest Yolanda, Tyler White, opens with hip-hop, to set the scene for her life in Brooklyn and showing her youthful energy and independent spirit. She moves down South, to stay with her grandmother, Mother Shaw (Anita Jackson), after a family tragedy. She learns about her history, forges an identity and what it means to have these “church ladies” in her life.

By honoring women who have impacted their lives, we feel the reverence and love for these role models. They are having as much fun on stage as the audience.
With outstanding creative elements, the show pops with color – especially Designer Daryl Harris’ gorgeous costumes and an incredible array of hats that reflect time periods and fashion trends.
The women are decked out in well-tailored Sunday best that reflects their characters. In a dramatic entrance, a rainbow of similar dresses is lowered for the women to change into and tell us about their journey.
Scenic Designer Dunsi Dai’s innovative set includes a large straw hat as the centerpiece. Joe Clapper’s lighting design enhances that symbolic piece.
With considerable flair, director Linda Kennedy focused on what made this 2002 gospel musical by Regina Taylor strike a chord with audiences. It has become the most produced musical in the country.
If Taylor’s name rings a bell, she is an award-winning actress, best known as the housekeeper on “I’ll Fly Away,” NBC’s critically acclaimed drama that ran for two seasons from 1991 to 1993.
She was inspired not only by her role models and the music of their churches, but also a coffee-table book, “Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church,” by Craig Marberry and Michael Cunningham.
Musical Director Charles Creath expertly plays keyboards and Matthew Clark handles the percussion, a tight combo at the rear of the stage; they sound terrific. The score, with familiar gospel songs, is at times moving and other times fun.
The movements all have a purpose, too. An experienced Alvin Ailey dancer, choreographer Kirven Douthit-Boyd’s work is another bright spot, conveying the faith, hope and love of this group.
Eleanor Humphrey as Jeanette, Tyler White as Yolanda and Anita Jackson as Mother Shaw in “Crowns.” Photo by Phillip Hamer.Anita Jackson, with customary power and grace, commands the stage with her vocal prowess and leadership role.
Other likable presences include Leah Stewart as Mabel, Amber Rose as Velma, Maureen L. (Hughes) Williams as Wanda and Eleanor Humphrey as Jeanette. They work together well. Tyler White is a natural as Yolanda.
As the sole male in multiple roles, Myke Andrews’ winning personality is a plus, and he also has a strong voice.
The show is structured with vignettes that are told like at a church service – procession, morning service, wedding, funeral, baptism and recessional. It flows well, engaging us with their stories and songs.
The cast connects the message and history lessons with warmth and good cheer. They make these characters come alive – people you know or wish you knew.
The Black Rep’s production of “Crowns” runs Thursdays through Sundays Sept. 5 through Sept. 23 at Washington University’s Edison Theatre, 6445 Forsyth Blvd. For more information, call (314) 534-3807 or visit www.theblackrep.org.

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
 
 
 
 

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
Oh, the places you’ll go – the Oklahoma territory in 1906, Buenos Aires, the Emerald City, church, an art gallery, a boarding school, and a comedic mind on pop culture brainwashing. From classic musicals to iconic playwrights, you’ll be transported on adventures. Pick a place and go see a play!
“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.”

The Children’s Hour”The Theatre Guild of Webster Groves
Sept. 7 – 16
Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.
314-962-0876
www.theatreguildwg.org
What It’s About:  Longtime friends Karen and Martha run a boarding school for girls. After a malicious youngster starts a rumor about the two women, the rumor soon turns to scandal. As the young girl comes to understand the power she wields, she sticks by her story, which precipitates tragedy for the women. It is later discovered that the gossip was pure invention, but it is too late. Irreparable damage has been done
Director: Barbara Mulligan
Cast: Jessica Johns Kelly, Nori Rhodes, Pepi Parshall, Patrick Ryan, Melanie Klug, Betsy Gasoske, Kaylee Ryan, Lydia Foss, Valletta Thurmon, Adrianna Misra, Sydney McClenning, Jesen Clendennen, Gracie Giles, Gentry Giles, Sophia Leritz and Christian Davis.
Of Note: Tickets are Adults $15, Seniors and Students $12, and are available at the door (cash or check). They do not take advanced reservations.
The Guild is a very old building, historic in fact, but because of this we are not wheelchair or handicap accessible. The Guild has a total of 31 steps.
Robert Stevens photo
“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.
“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
“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
“Social Security”Alfresco Productions
Sept. 14, 15 and 16
7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Sunday at 2 p.m.
Alfresco Arts Center
2041 Delmar Ave., Granite Citywww.alfrescoproductions.org
What It’s About: The comedy focuses on trendy Manhattan art gallery owners Barbara and David Kahn, whose lives is turned upside down when her sister Trudy deposits their eccentric mother Sophie, on the couple’s doorstep, while she and her husband head to Buffalo to rescue their sexually precocious college student from a menage a trois!   Sophie is introduced to Maurice, who offers to paint her portrait and soon begins to brighten her life in ways she never expected, in her twilight years.
Director: Tim Callahan
Cast: Leslie Aerts, Danny Brown, Julie Cox, Nick Drago, John Mefford and Trish Nelke.
Photo Provided
“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. Lindbergh>www.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
Lucy – Toto
Victor Landon – Munchkin Mayor / Monkey / Tap & Dancer / Chorus
Elena Adams – Munchkin Barrister / Poppy / Chorus
Abigail Roberts – Munchkin Coroner / Poppy / Chorus
Delaney McCoy – Munchkin Lullaby League / Monkey / Tap Dancer / Chorus
Ella Blasé – Munchkin Lullaby League / Monkey / Tap Dancer
Ginger Cox – Munchkin Lullaby League / Poppy / Chorus
Dakota Davis – Munchkin Lollipop Guild / Nikko
Jackson Ehlen – Munchkin Lollipop Guild / Poppy / Chorus
John McCreary – Munchkin Lollipop Guild / Poppy / 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.

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
“Try to remember the kind of September when life was slow, and oh so mellow”…Anyone?
I only recall Septembers with lots o’ activities and many good theater choices. Have we got them this week!
An Andrew Lloyd Webber masterpiece about celebrity and power, an American classic celebrating 75th anniversary, Disney wholesomeness, celebration of black women with the vocal gifts of Anita Jackson, and fresh young voices in St. Louis, capturing a time and place – shout out to Tre’von Griffith. And that’s just musicals. Drama from the great American playwrights Lillian Hellman opens, and a modern opera is offered, too.
Go See a Play!

“Bye Bye Birdie”
Ignite Theatre Company
Wednesday, Sept. 12
7 p.m.
Bayless High School
Special Sensory Performance
www.ignitewithus.org
314-717-1851
“The Children’s Hour”
The Theatre Guild of Webster Groves
Sept. 7 – 16
Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.
314-962-0876
www.theatreguildwg.org
What It’s About:  Longtime friends Karen and Martha run a boarding school for girls. After a malicious youngster starts a rumor about the two women, the rumor soon turns to scandal. As the young girl comes to understand the power she wields, she sticks by her story, which precipitates tragedy for the women. It is later discovered that the gossip was pure invention, but it is too late. Irreparable damage has been done
Director: Barbara Mulligan
Cast: Jessica Johns Kelly, Nori Rhodes, Pepi Parshall, Patrick Ryan, Melanie Klug, Betsy Gasoske, Kaylee Ryan, Lydia Foss, Valletta Thurmon, Adrianna Misra, Sydney McClenning, Jesen Clendennen, Gracie Giles, Gentry Giles, Sophia Leritz and Christian Davis.
Of Note: Tickets are Adults $15, Seniors and Students $12, and are available at the door (cash or check). They do not take advanced reservations.
The Guild is a very old building, historic in fact, but because of this we are not wheelchair or handicap accessible. The Guild has a total of 31 steps.
Robert Stevens photo
“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.
“Evita”
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Sept. 5 – 30www.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
Disney’s “Newsies”
Next Generation Theatre Company
Aug. 31 – Sept. 9
Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Florissant Civic Center Theatre
314-921-5678
www.nextgenerationtheatre.company
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: Joe Elvis Baker, who is also choreographer, with music direction by Meredith Todd.
Cast: Main characters – Jack Kelly – Matthew Riordan; Crutchie – Matthew Cox; Davey – Jack Erbs; Les – Max Slavik; Katherine Plumber – Leigha Stockton; Joseph Pulitzer – Joel Hackbarth; and Medda Larkin – Brenda Bass.
Newsies: Race – Andrew Maroney, Albert/Crutchie Understudy – Corey Fraine, Romeo – Braden Stille, Henry – DJ Wojciehowski, Finch – Isaiah Henry, Specs – Rebekah Side, Elmer – Conrad Powell, Mush – Joel Brown, Jo Jo – Mia Polittle, Buttons – Andrea Brown, Sniper – Justin Harris, Splasher – Jess Gerst, Spot Conlon – Kellen Green, Scab 1 – Cami Dummerth, Scab 2 – Hayden Rodgers, Scab 3 – Justin Harris, Trey Ball, Elise Brubaker, Sabrina Furman, Gabby Diebold, Nya Martin, Kate Shaefer, Sarah Burke, Logan Brown, Aiden Kelly, Rebecca Walthall
Nuns: Mica Tharp, Elise Brubaker, Caitlin Sauors, Mackenzie Baum
Bowery Beauties: Devon Shipley, Nya Martin, Kate Shaefer, MacKenzie Baum
“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: Blake Price as Curly, Sarah Ellis as Laurey, Con O’Shea-Creel as Will Parker, David Sajewich as Jud Fry, Lucy Moon as Ado Annie, Matthew Curiano as Ali Hakim, Zoe Vonder Haar as Aunt Eller, John Flack as Andrew Carnes, Leah Berry as Bertie Cummings, Mark MacKillop as Slim, Christopher Deprophetis as Ike Skidmore and Steve Isom as Cord Elam.
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
“Three Decembers”
STL Opera Collective
Friday and Saturday, Sept. 7-8
7:30 p.m.
Kranzberg Arts Center
501 N. Grand
www.stloperacollective.org
What It’s About: The secrets that have shaped a family’s relationships. Composer Jake Heggie’s deeply moving opera explores the emotional shrapnel, secrets and hard truths that take place over three decades in the life of a Broadway diva, who has long ignored her children, now adults, as she pursues her career. Her daughter is struggling with a failing marriage, and her son is facing the death of his partner. The libretto is by Gene Scheer. The beautiful score highlights the tangled emotions of this family as they come to grips with the secrets which have shaped their relationships.”
Cast: Stephanie Ruggles, Aleksander Dragojevic, Emily Truckenbrod, Curtis Moeller, Kurtis Shoemake
“VOICES: Sounds of America”
TLT Productions
Sept. 6 – 9 for five performances
.Zack
What It’s About: A musical montage of monologues and songs by Tre’von Griffith and Lauron Thompson-Cosby that aim to bridge the gap between young and old, educate and inspire. The showed inspired by youth in St. Louis bring to life issues of race, self-esteem, identity and body image.
Of Note: This is the finale of their second season. The company founded by creative duo, Tre’von “TreG” Griffith and Lauron “Linnae” Thompson-Cosby, will end this season the way their inaugural season began. VOICES, possesses a timeliness the duo felt was worth revisiting. Identity, self-esteem, social justice, family matters and community are just a few of the subject matters addressed in this musical montage created by Griffith and Cosby.
“VOICES is one of our cornerstone works. It’s a compilation of our personal experiences and data generated from workshops done with youth in St.Louis. The workshops conducted, over the course of six years focused on life in this city and the daily issues teens face. We used a lot of their opinion to structure the show,” Griffith said.
Griffith and Cosby will be starring in this show alongside a core of TLT’s ensemble members.
It was last produced in 2017, at the Marcelle Theater.
Of Note: For more information visit metrotix.com or kranzbergartsfoundation.org/events Tickets are also available at the door.