By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
Plays with substantial women roles were spotlighted at the seventh annual St.
Louis Theater Circle Awards March 25, with The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis’
musical production of “Evita” and a homegrown “A Streetcar Named Desire” from
the third annual Tennessee Williams Festival each receiving seven awards.

Both iconic female-lead shows had received the most
nominations, 11 apiece, when the Circle announced them in January. The awards
recognized outstanding work locally produced by regional professional companies
during the calendar year 2018.

Nominees Kari Ely and Michelle Hand in “Into the Breeches!”The comedy “Into the Breeches!”, the first play in Shakespeare
Festival St. Louis’ new program, “In the Works,” won four awards. The world
premiere was in January 2018, with its first St. Louis performances in
September. The comedy from Chicago playwright George Brant is about a
fictitious theater group in 1942, and with the men away at war, the director’s
wife sets out to produce an all-female version of “Henry V.” It had roles for
six women and two men. In addition to awards for ensemble, director Nancy Bell
and best production, Michelle Hand won best actress.

The Circle, which includes veteran area theater critics, annually recognizes outstanding work in comedies, dramas and musicals, and with two opera categories.

Each of the 33 categories featured five nominees, with 23 local companies cited for 54 shows, and 120 artists receiving nods, including 10 with two apiece.

This year, there were three ties: sound design in a play, costume design in a musical and musical ensemble.

Evita won seven awards from the Circle“Evita,” the vibrant Tony Award-winning Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice musical, earned awards for musical direction (Charlie Alterman), choreography (Gustavo Zajac and Mariana Parma), set design (Luke Canterella), lighting (John Lasiter), director (Rob Ruggiero, his third), ensemble and production of a musical.

The landmark “A Streetcar Named Desire,” written in 1947 by the great American playwright Tennessee Williams, who spent his formative years in St. Louis, earned honors for Sophia Brown as Outstanding Actress – for her heart-wrenching portrayal of the emotionally needy and mental fragile faded beauty Blanche Dubois, sound design (original music by Henry Palkes and sound by Amanda Werre), lighting design (Sean M. Savoie), set design (James Wolk), direction (Tim Ocel), ensemble and production of a drama.

The 18 other awards went to separate shows, with both The
Black Rep and The Muny winning three apiece, and The Rep adding two more for earning
the most, nine.

Jeff Cummings and Katy Keating in “Life Sucks.” Photo by ProPhotoSTLIn comedy, Katy Keating won for Supporting Actress as feisty but unrequited lovesick Sonia in New Jewish Theatre’s “Life Sucks,” a ‘sort of’ adaptation of Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya” by Aaron Posner. She was also part of the award-winning ensemble of “Into the Breeches!”.

Isaiah Di Lorenzo in “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.” Photo by Ron James.Isaiah Di Lorenzo won Supporting Actor as The Player, the leader of the Tragedians, in St. Louis Shakespeare’s production of Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.” He also was in the award-winning ensemble of “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

Will Bonfiglio as Mary Dale in “Red Scare on Sunset.” Photo by Justin Been. Will Bonfiglio won his second Outstanding Actor Award, as film star Mary Dale in Stray Dog Theatre’s “Red Scare on Sunset.” He was honored in 2017 for the one-man show, “Buyer & Cellar,” also at Stray Dog.

For costume designs, Lou Bird won for The Rep’s “Born Yesterday” vintage wardrobe in the play category and there was a tie in the musical category between Leon Dobkowski, who won for The Muny’s colorful “The Wiz,” and Darryl Harris for the elegant “Crowns: A Gospel Musical” at The Black Rep.

There was another tie in sound design in a play – besides “Streetcar,” Rusty Wandall won for Lucas Hnath’s contemporary “The Humans” at The Rep.

Laurie McConnell, left, as Birdie Hubbard in “The Little Foxes.” Photo by Patrick HuberIn drama, Laurie McConnell won Supporting Actress as forlorn
Birdie Hubbard in St. Louis Actors’ Studio’s production of Lillian Hellman’s “The
Little Foxes.” She won in 2017 for Supporting Actress in a Musical, for her portrayal
of Joanne in “Company” at Insight Theatre Company.

Eric Dean White as Satan and Chris Ware as Judas. Photo by Ann AuerbachEric Dean White, a previous nominee, won Supporting Actor for playing the slick, smooth, haughty and conniving Satan in “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” at Mustard Seed Theatre.

Ron Himes in “Fences”

Another previous nominee and winner, Ron Himes won Outstanding Actor as bitter garbage collector Troy in August Wilson’s “Fences at The Black Rep last winter. In 2014, The Black Rep won best ensemble and production for “The Whipping Man.”

The Black Rep’s “Torn Asunder” best new playThe Black Rep also won Best New Play for Nikkole Salter’s “Torn
Asunder,” which dramatized true stories of newly emancipated African Americans
trying to overcome the vestiges of slavery so they could reconnect with their
families.

Joy Boland won Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of the imposing villainess sea witch in Variety Theater’s “Disney’s The Little Mermaid.”

Beth Leavel as Mama Rose in “Gypsy.” Photo by Philip Hamer.For their powerhouse musical performances, Corbin Bleu won Outstanding Actor as the fleet-footed matinee idol Don Lockwood in “Singin’ in the Rain” and Beth Leavel was honored as the controlling stage parent Mama Rose in “Gypsy,” both at The Muny.

Corbin Bleu in “Singin’ in the Rain” at The Muny. Photo by Phil Hamer.Leavel had been nominated three times before (“Hello Dolly!” “Oklahoma!” and “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” all at the Muny. She is currently performing on Broadway in a St. Louis-produced original musical, “The Prom.”

Stephanie Merritt and Kent Coffel in “The Light in the Piazza” Kent Coffel won Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical for his performance as well-meaning haberdasher Signor Naccarelli, Fabrizio’s father, in “The Light in the Piazza,” presented by R-S Theatrics in its St. Louis regional premiere.

Anything Goes at New Line Theatre. Photo by Jill Ritter LindbergTying with “Evita” for musical ensemble was New Line Theatre’s vivacious “Anything Goes.”

It was a three-peat for Ruggiero, who won for directing “Evita,” and had previously been honored for The Rep’s productions of “Follies” and “Sunday in the Park with George.”

“Regina” at OTSL was Outstanding Opera ProductionIn the opera categories, Opera Theatre of St. Louis was honored
for both Outstanding Achievement in Opera, which was given to director Patricia
Racette for “La Traviata,” and the Mark Blitzstein adaptation of “The Little Foxes”
— “Regina,” as Outstanding Production of an Opera.
Three special awards were bestowed:  To the
Muny for a century of performances celebrated during its centennial season of
2018; to Kathleen Sitzer, founder and long-time artistic director of the New
Jewish Theatre, for lifetime achievement; and to Steven Woolf, Augustin
artistic director of The Rep for more than 30 years, also for lifetime
achievement.

Sitzer retired after New Jewish Theatre’s 2017-18 season, while Woolf will retire after The Rep’s 2018-19 season this spring. Organized in 2012, the St. Louis Theater Circle includes founding members Steve Allen of stagedoorstl.com, Mark Bretz of the Ladue News, Robert A. Cohn of the St. Louis Jewish Light, Chris Gibson of Broadway World, Gerry Kowarsky of HEC-TV’s “Two on the Aisle,” Chuck Lavazzi of KDHX, Judith Newmark, now of judyacttwo.com, Ann Pollack of stlouiseats.typepad.com, Lynn Venhaus, now of St. Louis Limelight magazine, Bob Wilcox of HEC-TV’s Two on the Aisle, and Calvin Wilson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Tina Farmer of KDHX and Michelle Kenyon of snoopstheatrethoughts.com. Eleanor Mullin is the administrator.

Those who helped produce the show at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the campus of Webster University included Andrea Torrence and Peggy Holly, who put together the slide show; awards assistance Hannah Daines, stage manager Alycia Martin and assistant stage manager Delaney Dunster, voice-over announcer Colin Nichols and box office assistants Kimberly Sansone and Harry Ginsburg.

Renowned local musician Joe Dreyer was the accompanist and Deborah Sharn performed an opening number.

Special thanks to Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts, Price Waterhouse Cooper LLC, who tabulate the Circle ballots, and to the awards certificate calligrapher Susan Zenner.

Contact the Circle by email: [email protected] and like us on Facebook.

Evita at The RepInto the Breeches! at Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

“La Traviata” at Opera Theatre of St. Louis

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
Myths, legends, historic figures and human foibles are on the boards for this week as several companies kick off their seasons with new productions as autumn moves in to the ‘Lou. A mad original twist on the famous pirate king opera brings the walking dead onto the musical stage for New Line’s 28th season, a legendary Lillian Hellman drama opens St. Louis Actor’s Studio’s 12th season and a new play on life and death, “This Random World (the myth of serendipity),” begins West End Players’ Guild’s 108th season.
One-woman shows “Chef” is at Upstream and “One Funny Mother” is at The Playhouse at Westport. Tributes to Bobby Darin and Patsy Cline show why they’re timeless at Westport and in Alton respectively.
We have The Midnight Company’s fresh take on the Faust myth and a look inside Lee Harvey Oswald’s family life in “Mama’s Boy” at Tesseract Theatre Company wrapping up their runs.
It’s unfinished business for the Phantom of the Opera in “Love Never Dies,” wrapping up its run at The Fox, another Andrew Lloyd Webber icon “Evita” at The Rep, the classic all-American pioneer spirit in “Oklahoma!” continuing at Stages St. Louis, the fortitude of survivors dealing with a historic flood in “The Flood” at Monroe Actors’ Stage Company and the pluck of New York “Newsies” at the Looking Glass Playhouse.
Go. See. A Play.
 “Always, Patsy Cline”
Alton Little Theater
Sept. 27 – 30
Thursday – Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
2450 North Henry in Alton, Ill.
618-462-6562
www.altonlittletheater.org
What It’s About: The show is based on a true story about Cline’s friendship with a fan from Houston named Louise Seger, who befriended the star in a Texas honky-tonk in 1961 and continued correspondence with Cline until her death. This musical includes many of Patsy’s unforgettable hits such as “Crazy,” “I Fall to Pieces,” “Sweet Dreams” and “Walkin’ After Midnight.”
Music by Steve Loucks and the Bodacious Bobcats.
Starring: Debbie Maneke as Patsy Cline, Lee Cox as Louise Seger
“An Apology for the Course and Outcome of Certain Events Delivered by Doctor John Faustus” and “The Hunchback Variations” (Two One-Acts by Mickle Maher)
Midnight Theatre Company
Sept. 20 – 29
Thursdays at 7 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
The Monocle, 4510 Manchester
www.midnightcompany.com
What It’s About: “Apology/Faustus” finds Dr. John Faustus (Hanrahan) in some room, at some time, apologizing to a random group of people (the audience) for not standing up against evil in his lifetime, as personified by Mephistopheles (Wassilak.)
“The Hunchback Variations” presents a series of variations on a panel discussion between The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Wassilak) and Ludwig Van Beethoven (Hanrahan) in which the two talk about their attempts to create a mysterious sound — the legendary, elusive sound effect of Anton Chekhov’s, described twice in the original production of “The Cherry Orchard.”
Director:
Starring: Joe Hanrahan, David Wassilak
Of Note: These shows are part of FAUSTival, an artistic collaborations among five St. Louis theatre companies – ERA, Theatre Nuevo, SATE, the Post-Romantics and Midnight – from August through December, each company presenting an adaptation of the Faust myth.  Festival passes and more info at FAUSTival.org.
“Chef”
Upstream Theater
Sept. 28-30, Oct. 5-7, Oct. 12-14
All shows at 8 p.m. except first two Sundays at 7 p.m. and last Sunday at 2 p.m.
Kranzberg Arts Center (Grand and Olive)
Box Office Hotline: 314-669-6382
Running time: 1 hr., 15 min.
What It’s About: “Chef” is the gripping story of how one woman went from being a haute-cuisine head chef to a convicted inmate running a prison kitchen. Leading us through her world of mouth-watering dishes and heart-breaking memories, Chef questions our attitudes to food, prisoners, violence, love and hope.
Director: Marianne de Pury
Starring: Linda Kennedy
Of Note: U.S. premiere of “Chef” by UK/Egyptian playwright and poet Sabrina Mahfouz.
Photo by ProPhotStl.com
“Darin: Bobby’s Biggest Hits”Sept. 26 – 30
The Playhouse at Westport
Tickets: MetroTix.com or 314-534-1111
www.playhouseatwestport.com
What It’s About: Back by popular demand, Artists Lounge Live presents a Bobby Darin tribute starring Christopher Kale Jones.
Jones, a PBS retro-rocker (“Under the Streetlamp”) and “Jersey Boys” star who played Frankie Valli on the first national tour, and in L.A. and San Francisco companies, embodies the dazzling versatility of Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bobby Darin. Jones tenderly recounts Darin’s story of life lived in the spotlight and lost too soon. Songs featured in the show include “Dream Lover,” “Mack the Knife” and “Beyond the Sea.”
“Evita”The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Sept. 5 – 30
www.repstl.org
What It’s About:  The incandescent Eva Perón’s rise from poverty to power electrified the world – and made her an iconic political celebrity. Winner of seven Tony Awards, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s tour-de-force musical revels in the glamour, charisma and controversy that defined the First Lady of Argentina. With its unforgettable anthem “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” and kaleidoscope of sights and sounds, “Evita” dazzles with pure passion.
Director: Rob Ruggiero, with music direction by Charlie Alterman and choreography by Gustavo Zajac.
Cast: Michelle Aravena (Eva Perón), Pepe Nufrio (Che), Sean MacLaughlin (Juan Perón), Nicolas Dávila (Augstín Magaldi/Ensemble), Shea Gomez (Perón’s Mistress/Ensemble).
Ensemble: Maria Bilbao, Nathaniel Burich, Ben Chavez, Samuel Druhora, Carmen Garcia, Esmeralda Garza, Samantha Gershman, Julie Hanson, Keith Hines, Jose Luaces, Ben Nordstrom, Waldemar Quinones-Villanueva, April Strelinger and Tim Wessel.
Eric Woolsey Photo
“The Flood”Monroe Actors Stage Company
Sept. 20 – 23, 27 – 30
Thursday – Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
Historic Capitol Theatre
202 South Main Street, Waterloo, IL 62208
Box Office: 618-939-7469
www.masctheatre.org
What It’s About: As the Mississippi River waters rise, the small town of Meyerville struggles with preparing for the worst. This creative and dramatic musical was written by Peter Mills and Cara Reichel after they visited the town of Valmeyer, Ill., following the 1993 floods. They interviewed Monroe County citizens and were intrigued by the citizens’ decision to rebuild to higher ground. Their adaptation of the story is based on the fictional town of Meyerville and members of its village.
Director: Amber Dillard, with Musical Director Marcia Braswell
Of Note: MASC and Show Sponsor George Obernagel observe the 25th Anniversary of the Great Mississippi Flood of 1993 with their production of “The Flood.” The show has been named an official event of the Illinois State Bicentennial.
House opens one half hour before curtain; ticket booth opens one hour before curtain. The theatre is only accessible by a staircase.
“The Little Foxes”St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Sept. 28 – Oct. 14
Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m.
The Gaslight Theatre, 358 North Boyle
www.stlas.org
What It’s About: Lillian Hellman’s drama about greed and ambition, set in Alabama in 1900.  Regina Giddens and her
ruthless clan clash as they try to strike the deal of their lives.
Director: John Contini
Starring: Kari Ely, Laurie McConnell, William Roth, Bob Gerchen, Wendy Greenwood, Bridget Bassa, Ryan Lawson-Maeske, Chuck Brinkley, Richard Lewis and Dennis Jethroe II.
Of Note:  Far from a sentimental look at a bygone era, the play has a surprisingly timely resonance with important issues facing our country today.
Photo by Patrick Huber.
“Love Never Dies”
Love Never Dies
The Fox Theatre, 527 N. Grand
Sept. 18 – 30www.fabulousfox.com
Tickets: www.MetroTix.com or 314-534-1111 or Fox Box Office
What It’s About: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical is a sequel to the mega-hit “The Phantom of the Opera,” and takes place 10 years after the Phantom’s disappearance from the Paris Opera House. It is 1907 and he has escaped to a new life in New York, running a freak show vaudeville act at Coney Island. His music soars there, but he still yearns for his musical protégé and one true love, Christine Daae. Now a world-class soprano, she arrives in New York for a singing engagement that will hopefully get her now-jerk of a husband, Raoul, out of gambling debt. Lo and behold, the Phantom lures her to sing in his show. She has her young son Gustave, age 10, in tow. Is triumph or tragedy on the horizon?
Director: Simon Phillips
Starring: Bronson Norris Murphy as The Phantom, Meghan Picerno as Christine, Sean Thompson as Raoul, Mary Michael Patterson as Meg, Karen Mason as Madame Giry, and Jake Heston Miller and Christian Harmston alternating as Gustave.
Of Note: The show is the reworked Australia production of 2011, after the inaugural London West End musical opened in 2010 to mostly mixed reviews. It has yet to play Broadway but is now on its first North American tour.
“Mama’s Boy”Tesseract Theatre Company
Sept. 21 – 30
Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 4 p.m.
.Zack, 3224 Locust, St. Louiswww.tesseracttheatre.org
Tickets: MetroTix.com
What It’s About: A new play by Rob Urbinati is the riveting story of Lee Harvey Oswald and his complex relationship with his overbearing mother Marguerite. “Mama’s Boy” follows Marguerite’s reckless attempts to reunite her family, from Lee’s return to the U.S. from Russia, through the assassination of Kennedy, to her son’s own murder and her defense of his innocence in the months that follow. A fascinating examination of family dynamics and obsessive maternal devotion played out in the shadow of history.
Director: Bradley Schwartz
Starring: Donna Parrone, Carly Uding, Jeremy Goldmeier, Brandon Atkins
“Newsies”Looking Glass Playhouse
Sept. 20 – 23, 27-30
Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.
Looking Glass Playhouse
Lebanon, Ill.
www.lookingglassplayhouse.com
What It’s About: Disney’s Newsies tells the rousing tale of Jack Kelly, a charismatic newsboy and leader of a band of teenaged ‘newsies.’ When titans of publishing raise distribution prices at the newsboys’ expense, Jack rallies newsies from across the city to strike against the unfair conditions and fight for what’s right.
Based on the 1992 motion picture and inspired by a true story, “Newsies” features a Tony Award-winning score by Alan Menken (Little Shop of Horrors, Sister Act) and Jack Feldman and a book by Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein (Kinky Boots). Featuring the now classic songs “Carrying the Banner,” “Seize the Day,” and “Santa Fe,” Newsies is packed with non-stop thrills and a timeless message that is perfect for the whole family.
Director: Jason Johnson
Of Note: Looking Glass Playhouse is celebrating its 45th season.
“Oklahoma!”Stages St. Louis
Sept. 7 – Oct. 7
Robert G. Reim Theatre
Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road
www.stagesstlouis.org
What It’s About: Romance, conflict, comedy and colorful characters set in 1906 in the Oklahoma territory.
Director: Michael Hamilton
Starring: Zoe Vonder Haar as Aunt Eller, JBlake Price as Curly, Sarah Ellis as Laurie, ohn Flack as Andrew Carnes, Leah Berry as Bertie Cummings, David Sajewich as Jud,  aMatthew Curiano as Ali Hakim, Lucy Moon as Ado Annie and Con O’Shea-Creal as Will Parker.
Of Note: “Oh, what a beautiful musical! Rodgers and Hammerstein’s timeless first collaboration was, in many ways, their most innovative. And while OKLAHOMA! completely changed the face of American musical theatre 75 years ago, it remains as fresh and vital today as it was then with its loving celebration of the American spirit. A stunning blend of drama, music, and dance, the exhilarating Rodgers and Hammerstein score contains such classics as “People Will Say We’re In Love,” “The Surrey With The Fringe On Top,” “Kansas City,” “I Cain’t Say No,” and the pulsating title tune, “Oklahoma!” A gold standard that set the bar for all great musicals that came after it.
Peter Wochniak Photo
“One Funny Mother”
Dena Blizzard, former Miss New JerseyThe Playhouse @ Westport
Oct. 3 – 7
635 Westport Plaza in Maryland Heights
Box Office: 314-616-4455
Tickets: MetroTix.com or 314-534-1111
Running time: 80 min.
What It’s About: Creator of the wildly popular viral videos “Chardonnay Go!” and the “Back to School Rant,” comedian Dena Blizzard returns to St. Louis with her hilarious one-woman show. The off-Broadway hit has been touring the country.
A former Miss New Jersey, and mother of three, Blizzard has created a show about the trials and tribulations of motherhood and marriage. We follow Blizzard on a hilarious journey through her day as she prepares for her long-awaited girl’s night out. Along the way, she laments how her life and marriage have changed since becoming a mother of three; wrestling with the eternal question “have I gone crazy since having these kids?”
Of Note: It was named “Best One-Woman Show” at the 2015 United Solo Festival in New York City. You can sneak a peek of the show at www.onefunnymother.com.
Performances at 8 p.m. Oct. 3, 4, 5 and 6, with another 4 p.m. show Oct. 6 and 2 p.m. matinee Oct. 7.
“This Random World (the myth of serendipity)”The West End Players Guild
Sept. 28 – Oct. 7
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 4 at 8 p.m.
Union Avenue Christian Church
733 North Union at Enright in the Central West End
314-367-0025
www.westendplayers.org.
What It’s About: Funny. He doesn’t look dead. Or like he’s going to be.  In fact, Tim looks like he’s feeling much better. But don’t try telling that to funeral director Rhonda, who has read his obituary on her iPad and is now trying to explain the facts of life (or rather, death) to Tim.
Now, if that situation sounds a little “random,” that’s because it is. It’s one of many strange but funny encounters in Steven Dietz’s 2016 play “This Random World (the myth of serendipity).”
Director: Renee Sevier-Monsey
Starring: Ted Drury, Kate Weber, Eleanor Humphrey, Jessa Knust, Joel Zummak, Lynn Rathbone and Tinah Twardowski.
Of Note: This is the opening show of West End Players Guild’s 108th season.
“The Zombies of Penzance”
Zak Farmer, Dominic Dowdy-Windsor, Sean Michael Photo by Jill Ritter LindbergNew Line Theatre
Sept. 27 – Oct. 20
Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m.
The Marcelle Theater
3310 Samuel Shepard Drive in Grand Arts Center
Tickets: 314-534-1111
www.newlinetheatre.com
What It’s About: The world premiere of the rock musical, “The Zombies of Penzance: At Night Come the Flesh Eaters,” is based on Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance.”
Based on the conceit that the original draft, never seen before, was dated December 1878, Major-General Stanley is a retired zombie hunter, who doesn’t want his daughters marrying the dreaded Zombies of Penzance, for obvious reasons.
Co-Directors: Scott Miller and Mike Windsor-Dowdy. Miller has painstakingly reassembled these rediscovered materials into their original form, filling in the gaps with educated guesses based on other G&S shows and drafts. St. Louis composer and orchestrator John Gerdes is reconstructing Sullivan’s music.
Cast: Most of the cast from New Line’s public reading in January will return, with Sean Michael as Frederic, Melissa Felps as Mabel, Zachary Allen Farmer as Major-General Stanley the Zombie Hunter, Dominic Dowdy-Windsor as the Zombie King, with Mara Bollini, Kent Coffel, Robert Doyle, Matt Hill, Lindsey Jones, Tim Kaniecki, Kyle Kelesoma, Melanie Kozak, Sarah Porter, Christina Rios, and Kimi Short.
Of Note: New Line Theatre, “the bad boy of musical theatre,” opens its 28th season of adult, alternative musical theatre. New Line has shocked the music world by discovering a controversial, long-lost first draft by the legendary British team of librettist W.S. Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan, who together wrote 14 comic operas between 1871 and 1896.
One of the team’s best-known works, The Pirates of Penzance, originally debuted in New York in 1879, and was revived to great success in the early 1980s with Kevin Kline, Linda Ronstadt, and Rex Smith. What we now know is that there was an earlier, stranger draft of the show, which nobody knew about, with most of the same characters but a somewhat different plot.
In 2013, New Line Theatre artistic director Scott Miller discovered the original manuscripts for “The Zombies of Penzance” in the second sub-basement of the Judson Memorial Church in New York, hidden beneath some moldy band parts from Rockabye Hamlet and Shogun the Musical, and Miller set about reconstructing the bizarre original show as G&S intended. Gilbert’s living dead and their Zombie King now make their long-delayed world premiere.
 
 

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
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.