STAGES St. Louis is thrilled to announce that five team members of the Pre-Broadway production of THE KARATE KID – The Musical have been nominated for 2022 Tony Awards. Lighting Designer Bradley King, Scenic Designer Derek McLane, and Projection
Designer Peter Nigrini each received nods, as did producer Kumiko Yoshii and STAGES St. Louis Executive Producer Jack Lane, when the full slate of this year’s nominees were announced May 9.

“I am thrilled for all of this year’s nominees, and most especially for my treasured collaborators on THE KARATE KID,” stated Kumiko Yoshii. “Today is a day of celebration for an industrthat has made a remarkable return to form.” King was nominated for Best Lighting Design of a Musical for FLYING OVER SUNSET, McLane and Nigrini were both nominated for Best Scenic Design of a Musical for MJ: THE MUSICAL.

Yoshii also serves as Co-Producer of MJ: THE MUSICAL, which earned 10 Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical, and Lane serves as a Co-Producer for COMPANY, which earned 9, including Best Revival of a Musical “These nominations are a testament to the caliber of talent that is surrounding THE KARATE KID – The Musical, and certainly add to the excitement of STAGES’ first Pre-Broadway World Premiere,” Jack Lane said. “What a great day for the city of St. Louis!”

THE KARATE KID – The Musical will “kick-off” the 36th Season at STAGES St. Louis at The Ross Family Theatre at the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center, running May 25 – June 26. Following the Pre-Broadway World Premiere will be the STAGES Premiere of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s To Award-Winning IN THE HEIGHTS (July 22 – August 21) and the return of the Pulitzer and Tony
Award-Winning classic A CHORUS LINE (September 9 – October 9).

Tickets are on sale now online at StagesStLouis.org or by phone at 314.821.2407. For more information, please follow STAGES on Facebook and Instagram or visit StagesStLouis.org

Flying Over Sunset

Awards to Be Given at March 28, 2022 Virtual Event Streaming on HEC Media

ST. LOUIS, February 23, 2022 – Special lifetime achievement awards to Michael Hamilton and Jack Lane, co-founders of Stages St. Louis, will be given by the St. Louis Theater Circle at its March 28 virtual event, which will be streamed by HEC Media. Ken and Nancy Kranzberg, who received a special award from the Theater Circle at the 2020 virtual streaming ceremony, will make an acceptance speech for that award, as will Lane for this year’s special award, for the 2022 ceremony.

After a hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and 2021, the St. Louis Theater Circle Awards are returning in 2022 in a ‘virtual’ ceremony. That event will be streamed at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 28, 2022 on HEC Media’s Facebook page, YouTube channel, and web site (www.hecmedia.org).

Nominees in more than 30 categories will vie for honors covering comedies, dramas, musicals and operas produced by local professional theater and opera companies in the combined calendar years of 2020 and 2021.

Hamilton, who served as artistic director for Stages since its founding in 1987, retired at the end of the company’s 2021 season. He directed both of Stages’ productions in 2021, “Always…Patsy Cline” and “Jersey Boys.” Hamilton has been nominated for both productions for Outstanding Director of a Musical.  Stages St. Louis has been nominated for a total of 16 awards, 11 for “Jersey Boys” and five for “Always…Patsy Cline.”

Lane, who serves as executive producer of Stages and co-founded the company with Hamilton in 1987, was instrumental in the development and eventual opening of the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center, which held its first productions by local companies in 2021.

Because the pandemic brought about the cancellation of so many productions by virtually all local professional theater companies, approximately 75 productions have been considered for nominations for the combined years of 2020 and 2021. This compares to roughly 110 to 120 productions normally considered in one year alone.

The eighth annual award ceremony, which was to have been held ‘live’ at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the campus of Webster University, was cancelled in February 2020 due to the escalating number of cases of COVID-19. Instead, that event was held virtually in a highly polished presentation produced by HEC Media and streamed on HEC’s Faceook page, YouTube channel and web site.  There was no ceremony of any type by the Theater Circle in 2021.

HEC’s 2020 production of the St. Louis Theater Circle Awards was one of the first major productions of any awards ceremony in the United States after the coronavirus pandemic shut down nearly all theatrical activities in mid-March 2020. The ceremony had one of the largest viewership figures for any virtual streaming event of HEC at that time.

For this ninth annual ceremony, members of the St. Louis Theater Circle considered nominees from shows produced in the first three months of 2020 and the last eight months of 2021 combined. In addition, a few shows produced between April 2020 and May 2021 were included. The total number of shows considered from the years 2020 and 2021 combined amounted to about 75 shows.

The mission of the St. Louis Theater Circle is simple: To honor outstanding achievement in St. Louis professional theater. Other cities around the country, such as Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., pay tribute to their own local theatrical productions with similar awards programs.

Members of the St. Louis Theater Circle include Steve Allen (stagedoorstl.com); Mark Bretz (Ladue News); Bob Cohn (St. Louis Jewish Light); Tina Farmer (KDHX); Michelle Kenyon (snoopstheatrethoughts.com); Gerry Kowarsky (Two on the Aisle, HEC-TV); Chuck Lavazzi (KDHX); Rob Levy (Broadwayworld.com); Judith Newmark (judyacttwo.com); Ann Lemons Pollack (stlouiseats.typepad.com); Lynn Venhaus (PopLifeSTL.com); Bob Wilcox (Two on the Aisle, HEC-TV); and Calvin Wilson (St. Louis Post-Dispatch). Eleanor Mullin, local performer and arts supporter, is group administrator.

For more information, contact [email protected] or like the St. Louis Theater Circle on Facebook.

By Lynn Venhaus
Let’s hear it for love and ‘Zazz’!

An original musical comedy that remains a breath of fresh air, “The Prom” pops with color and pizzazz. Because it is a big-hearted splashy production, the show now on national tour is a perfect tonic in dark times and well-timed during a cold, dreary winter.

The Fox Theatre’s patrons eager to laugh and feel the connection that only live theater can provide may come away singing the catchy lyric “Life’s no dress rehearsal” from the show’s exuberant song, “Tonight Belongs to You,” while humming others from the tuneful and upbeat score by Tony-nominated writing partners Chad Beguelin and Matthew Sklar.

Beguelin, the lyricist and co-book writer from Centralia, Ill., grew up seeing shows at The Fox. He and Sklar are known for musical adaptations of “The Wedding Singer” and “Elf,” and he provided new lyrics for composer Alan Menken for “Aladdin,” which had a pre-Broadway tryout at The Muny in 2012.

Beguelin co-wrote the book with Bob Martin, whose credits include “The Drowsy Chaperone.” Based on Jack Viertel’s concept from a true story in the Itawamba County School District in Mississippi, where a high school decided to cancel its prom rather than allow a senior student to bring her girlfriend as her date in 2010.

The case, which involved the ACLU and a decision on violating the First Amendment, wound up in court. The girl was allowed to attend the prom, but local parents organized a separate prom for the rest of the students. Celebrities rallied to help sponsor a special prom without a homophobic backlash. Being a self-centered celebrity magnet gets a few dings here, but the goal is all positive.

Through its cheerful humor that’s drawn from both narcissistic Broadway performers who live in a showbiz bubble and the charms and drawbacks of small-town Midwest living, the play promotes tolerance, inclusivity and understanding.

After its premiere at a regional Atlanta theater in 2016, a Broadway run in 2018-2019 received seven Tony nominations, the Drama Desk Award for Best Musical and rave reviews.

Privileged to see it on Broadway in May 2019, I was excited for others to discover its charm and celebrate its spirit. But the original planned tour shut down during the pandemic’s first wave.

With great anticipation, it was set to bow Jan. 25 in St. Louis, home to several backers, including one of the three leading producers, Jack Lane, executive director of Stages St. Louis, and multiple co-producers.

Despite its peppy moves and colorful characters, the company couldn’t escape from the 2022 reality of a highly transmissible Omicron variant. During the stop in Baltimore that preceded St. Louis, the Jan. 21-23 shows were cancelled because too many cast members were affected by the coronavirus.

And despite the rocky start Friday after three-day delay, the fact that the cast, crew, and creatives could rally to put on a show at all, given the issues and obstacles to overcome, is a miraculous triumph.

The Fabulous Fox performances are now Jan. 28 through Feb. 6, with an extra performance scheduled then.

Safety protocols have always been a part of the tour, which began in late 2021. And for admission to the Fox Theatre, patrons are required to show a vaccination card in advance, or a negative COVID-19 test.

Because of cast illnesses, five people substituted for eight roles Friday, including the leading role of entitled prima donna Dee Dee Allen, with understudy Ashley Bruce replacing headliner Courtney Balan. Another main stage diva, Juilliard graduate Trent Oliver, was played by Jordan Alexander instead of Bud Weber.

Understudy Thad Turner Wilson replaced Shavey Brown as publicist Sheldon Saperstein and Christopher McCrewell slam-dunked it as Principal Hawkins, filling in for Sinclair Mitchell. Swing Jordan De Leon, a Stages St. Louis veteran, capably took on four roles, including Olivia Keating, Kevin, Motel Clerk and in the ensemble.

Bruce and Alexander eventually found their groove in the clueless Gang of Four, who flamboyantly land in Edgewater, Indiana, aka Podunk USA, to support the scorned Emma, who wanted to bring a single-sex date to the prom at her not-having-it high school.

After a somewhat flat first act, the cast recovered its rhythm and came roaring back in the second, and much stronger, act. The relief shown on the beaming performers’ faces during a rousing “It’s Time to Dance” finale, and the jubilant curtain call afterwards said it all. They did it! And deserve all the high-fives and praise for seizing the moment.

Casey Nicholaw’s crisp direction and snappy choreography keep things tight and bright.

The Prom, Music by Matthew Sklar, Book by Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin, Lyrics by Chad Beguelin, Directed and Choreographed by Casey Nicholaw cast: Kaden Kearney (Emma), Kalyn West (Alyssa Greene), Courtney Balan (Dee Dee Allen), Patrick Wetzel (Barry Glickman), Emily Borromeo (Angie Dickinson), Bud Weber (Trent Oliver), Sinclair Mitchell (Mr. Hawkins), Ashanti J’Aria (Mrs. Greene) and Shavey Brown (Sheldon Saperstein)

The triple-threat cast is solid, with national tour newbie (and non-binary) Kaden Kearney impressive as Emma, the lesbian student reluctantly at the center of the firestorm. With their strong pipes, they crushes “Just Breathe,” confidently takes on “Dance with You,” and emotionally delivers “You Happened.” Kearney’s most moving song is the acoustic solo, “Unruly Heart,” which they record for social media posting from her bedroom, explaining exactly how Emma feels.

The poised Ashanti J’Aria gives more dimension to PTA President Mrs. Greene instead of being a one-note villain, while Kalyn West, a veteran of the Broadway cast, shines as her daughter. West and Kearney have a nice chemistry that carries over to the musical numbers.

Each of the Broadway stars has an opportunity to shine, with lithe-limbed Emily Borromeo smooth as the game chorus girl Angie Dickinson, standing out in the signature “Zazz” song-and-dance with its iconic Fosse moves.

Patrick Wetzel comically embodies Barry Glickman, the very theatrical sidekick who basks in the spotlight 24/7, and his scenes with Emma take on a heart-tugging poignancy. His sweet “Barry Is Going to Prom” shows another side to the bombastic showman.

Alexander stands out in the vivacious “Love Thy Neighbor,” which points out hypocrisy to the judgy youngsters in a relevant way.

The showy out-of-towners are funny in “It’s Not About Me” and “The Acceptance Song,” as the humor in the lyrics cleverly blends with the story. Through hilarity, the show’s writers get their points across. – without being strident or pretentious.

The fun musical is a tidy two hours, with a 15-minute intermission. Once the rights are released to perform, it will translate well to regional and community theaters and schools.

While the musical is livelier and more endearing than the extravagant and glitzy Netflix film, produced and directed by Ryan Murphy (“Glee”), the fact that it reached more people through his involvement is a good thing.

Murphy wanted to support its message through a broader audience and signed on an A-list cast including Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Kerry Washington, Andrew Rannells, James Corden, Keegan-Michael Key and Ariana Debose. The star-spangled movie musical came out in December 2020.

Like the characters Emma and Alyssa, Murphy, too, grew up in Indiana as a gay male struggling with his identity. Because its uplifting story encourages teenagers to be their authentic selves, the LGBTQ-supportive show has brought people together around the globe.

The stars aren’t that helpful – except they do get people to see Emma for who she is, and that’s a win-win victory. What’s not to love about a teachable moments that result in joy?

It might be time to dance!

For more information, visit www.fabulousfox.com. For tickets, visit: MetroTix.com

Matinee performance of “The Prom” in NYC 2019

Here are links to articles about the local connections to “The Prom” and an interview with a cast member.

Article with producer Jack Lanehttps://www.timesnewspapers.com/webster-kirkwoodtimes/its-pure-joy/article_6290955c-7a08-11ec-9236-b37ee0f21626.html

Here is our podcast with Ashanti J’Aria, who plays Mrs Greene in “The Prom”https://soundcloud.com/lynn-zipfel-venhaus/a-conversation-with-ashanti-jaria?si=ef9f75bc20cc4b638b6f411aaed38cea&utm_source=clipboard&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=social_sharing

Local Producers Going to the Tonys
https://www.bnd.com/living/magazine/article230691424.html

Netflix Movie Has Local Ties
https://www.bnd.com/news/local/article247813845.html

STAGES St. Louis is thrilled to announce a new partnership with Emerson, STAGES 2021 Season Education Sponsor, titled Emerson Educates. The new program, exclusively for students, will offer special priced tickets to all 2021 Season STAGES’ productions in an effort to promote arts education and access throughout the region.

“With Emerson’s generous support, we will offer the most affordable student rush ticket price in STAGES history at just $10 per ticket” Mosbacher Family Executive Producer Jack Lane said. “Thanks to Emerson, this offer has the potential to benefit and provide arts access to more than 700 students each year.”

The special $10 tickets will be available throughout the 2021 Season to all students with valid student ID. Up to two tickets can be sold per transaction with ten tickets available at every performance. In addition to special priced tickets, Emerson Educates will offer a one-of-a-kind educational experience in conjunction with the upcoming STAGES Premiere of JERSEY BOYS. Underserved schools will be offered specially designed programming and lessons plans tied directly to the themes featured in the production as well as complimentary tickets and talk backs with members of the JERSEY BOYS creative team and cast.

“Arts education and access are vitally important to students of all ages,” said Crissy Nordin, Director of Education & Outreach at STAGES. “Emerson Educates will not only help in providing teachers with the proper tools to bring this to the classroom, but it will also directly connect that to the stage with unique in person opportunities for learning.”

Emerson Educates tickets are available throughout the 2021 Season for productions of ALWAYS… PATSY CLINE (August 6-September 5) and JERSEY BOYS (September 24-October 24). Tickets can be purchased on the day of performance by calling the STAGES Box Office at 314.821.2407 or visiting their locations in both Chesterfield and Kirkwood.

For more information, please follow STAGES on Facebook and Instagram or visit the organization’s website. STAGES St. Louis is the region’s foremost not-for-profit company committed to preserving and advancing the art form of Musical Theatre through excellence in performance and education.

In 2021, STAGES celebrates its 35th year of producing Broadway-quality theatre, as well as the grand opening of their new home, the $25 Million Ross Family Theatre at The Kirkwood Performing Arts Center.


In celebration of the reopening of live theatre in St. Louis and their 35th Anniversary Season,
STAGES St. Louis has announced their 2022 Season will feature the regional premiere of the Tony-Award
Winning IN THE HEIGHTS, music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda and book by Quiara Alegría Hudes.

IN THE HEIGHTS is a vital and thrilling musical about the American Dream set in the vibrant NYC
neighborhood of Washington Heights. Exploring the hopes and dreams of family, community, and more,
the production is a perfect fit for the STAGES mission and audience.

Before there was HAMILTON, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s IN THE HEIGHTS took Broadway by storm, winning the
Tony Award for Best Musical, as well as the Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album. An acclaimed film
adaptation, directed by Jon M. Chu and starring Anthony Ramos, was released this past weekend.

“We are beyond excited about presenting IN THE HEIGHTS at STAGES in 2022. I can’t think of a better
show to be a part of our first full season at the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center. Everything about this
beautiful and melodic musical speaks to the stories that STAGES so loves to tell,” said Mosbacher Family
Executive Producer Jack Lane.

On its Broadway opening in 2008, The New York Times raved, “When this musical erupts in one of its
expressions of collective joy, the energy it gives off could light up the George Washington Bridge for a year
or two.” That energy will no doubt be alive and thriving on The Ross Family Theatre stage at the Kirkwood
Performing Arts Center in 2022.

STAGES St. Louis will announce the remainder of their 2022 Season later this summer. In the meantime,
tickets for STAGES 35th Anniversary Season, featuring the fan-favorite production of ALWAYS… PATSY
CLINE (August 6 – September 5) and the STAGES premiere of JERSEY BOYS (September 24 – October 24)
are on sale now. You can purchase two-show subscriptions or single tickets by visiting their website at
StagesStLouis.org or by calling the Box Office at 314.821.2407.

For more information, please follow STAGES on Facebook and Instagram or visit the organization’s website.
STAGES St. Louis is the region’s foremost not-for-profit company committed to preserving and advancing
the art form of Musical Theatre through excellence in performance and education. In 2021, STAGES
celebrates its 35th year of producing Broadway-quality theatre, as well as the grand opening of our new
home, the $25 Million Kirkwood Performing Arts Center.

STAGES Performing Arts Academy is regionally renowned for its innovative and multi-disciplinary programs
that transform lives through immersion in the Musical Theatre arts. Celebrating its 16th year, it is also the
only such program in the St. Louis region to be connected to a professional theatre company.


For more information on the Academy or to register today please call 636.449.5775 or visit us online at
www.StagesStLouis.org.Two-show subscription and single tickets for the 2021 Season are on sale now. For more information,
please call 314.821.2407 or visit www.StagesStLouis.or

STAGES St. Louis Artistic Director and co-founder, Michael Hamilton, has announced that he will be retiring at the end of the 2021 Season.

“From our opening season in 1987 to our launch into the stunning new Kirkwood Performing Arts Center, every moment at STAGES has been an extraordinary one for me. As I explore and embrace the next chapter in my life, my heart will always remain at STAGES,” said Artistic Director Michael Hamilton. “It is truly a life legacy that I am incredibly proud of. But I am particularly proud and grateful of all the
extraordinary people that I met and worked with in my 35 years at STAGES. That is something I will be able
to keep in my heart for the rest of my life.”

A co-founder of STAGES St. Louis, Michael has directed over 100 productions in his 35-year STAGES history and has been the creative force behind the company’s most iconic productions that patrons have come to know and love. For his work at STAGES, Michael has been honored with multiple awards including the Art & Education Council’s 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award (with Jack Lane) and both Kevin Kline and St. Louis Theatre Circle Awards for Outstanding Director of a Musical. Michael’s list of award-winning productions
include FOOTLOOSE (2005); THE FULLY MONTY (2007); PROMISES, PROMISES (2010); ANYTHING GOES
(2015); and MAN OF LA MANCHA (2019).

Additionally, Michael’s acclaimed production of ALWAYS…PATSY CLINE (2013) was not only transferred to the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, but also played a record-breaking eight-month run at the Playhouse at Westport Plaza.

“When Michael and Jack asked me in my role as Kirkwood’s Director of Parks and Recreation to rent the Robert G. Reim Theatre for the first STAGES Season in 1987, I don’t think any of us imagined what would come of that meeting,” said STAGES Board President Dave White. “But Michael had a vision and knew what he could do with that stage at the Reim. Seeing the growth of the organization from that point is one of the proudest parts of my career. Under Michael’s direction, STAGES has absolutely raised the bar for
what theatre looks like in St. Louis.”

“As the saying goes, there will be very big shoes to fill with the departure of Michael Hamilton,” said Mosbacher Family Executive Producer Jack Lane. “But, I have no doubt that there is a future artistic leader of STAGES out there waiting for us. As we enter our new phase in the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center, STAGES is setting sail onto a national platform that no doubt will unfold in dynamic new ways and be embraced by both our loyal patrons and newcomers alike.”

Jack added, “We are also pleased to announce that we are establishing The Michael Hamilton Artistic Fund, where contributions will support the advancement of artistic needs at STAGES.”

The entire STAGES family wishes Michael the best in his well-deserved retirement and thanks him for his steadfast leadership and dedication to the mission of STAGES for 35 years. A national search has begun for the new Artistic Director role.

The organization looks forward to the curtain rising again with the return of Michael’s critically-acclaimed and audience-loved production of ALWAYS… PATSY CLINE (August 6-September 5) this upcoming season, followed by the STAGES premiere of JERSEY BOYS (September 24-October 24).

For more information, please follow STAGES on Facebook and Instagram or visit the organization’s website. STAGES St. Louis is the region’s foremost not-for-profit company committed to preserving and advancing the art form of Musical Theatre through excellence in performance and education.

Michael Hamilton

In 2021, STAGES celebrates its 35th year of producing Broadway-quality theatre, as well as the grand opening of our new
home, the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center. STAGES Performing Arts Academy is regionally renowned for its innovative and multi-disciplinary programs that transform lives through immersion in the Musical Theatre arts. Celebrating its 16th year, it is also the
only such program in the St. Louis region to be connected to a professional theatre company. Whatever the age or experience level, whether a new or continuing student, aspiring performing artists throughout the St. Louis region have the opportunity to explore and cultivate their talent at STAGES, and set the stage for life changing experiences.

For more information or to register today please call 636.449.5775 or visit us online at www.StagesStLouis.org.
Two-show subscription purchases for the 2021 Season will go on sale on May 17. Single ticket sales begin June 1. For more information, please call 314.821.2407 or visit www.StagesStLouis.org.

In response to continuing COVID-19 restrictions and after extensive discussions with staff leadership and the Board of Trustees, STAGES St. Louis will officially amend the 2021 Mainstage Season.

The mainstage production of A CHORUS LINE as well as the Family Theatre Series production of A YEAR WITH FROG & TOAD are cancelled. STAGES will still celebrate its 35th Anniversary Season and move into the new Kirkwood Performing Arts Center with revised schedules for ALWAYS… PATSY CLINE and JERSEY BOYS,

Subscribers will receive a mailing the week of March 29 containing additional information and confirming these changes. The letter will also lay out all possible ticketing options for A CHORUS LINE.

“When planning for our return to live performances last fall, no one imagined that we would be in this challenging position once again,” said Associate Producer Andrew Kuhlman. “But, like so many others, here we are. And while these decisions have been incredibly difficult, we believe that they have been made with the best interest of our community in mind and we remain steadfastly hopeful.”

ALWAYS… PATSY CLINE and JERSEY BOYS will be performed in the brand new Ross Family Theatre at The Kirkwood Performing Arts Center in Downtown Kirkwood. The adjusted season schedule will be as follows:

  • ALWAYS… PATSY CLINE (August 6 – September 5, 2021)
  • JERSEY BOYS (September 24 – October 24, 2021)

“Our top priority since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the health and safety of our patrons, performers, staff, students, and community,” said Executive Producer Jack Lane. “Despite the challenges of the past year, I cannot imagine a better way to celebrate a return to live theatre than with our 35th Anniversary Season premiering at our new home in The Ross Family Theatre at the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center.”

Two-show subscriptions will go on sale beginning May 17, as will subscriber exchanges and subscriber single ticket sales. General public single ticket sales will begin June 1. Any further changes to the 2021 Season will be posted on the STAGES website and shared via email and social media.

For more information, please follow STAGES on Facebook and Instagram or visit the organization’s website.

STAGES St. Louis is the region’s foremost not-for-profit company committed to preserving and advancing the art form of Musical Theatre through excellence in performance and education. In 2021, STAGES celebrates its 35th year of producing Broadway-quality theatre, as well as the grand opening of the new Kirkwood Performing Arts Center.

STAGES Performing Arts Academy is regionally renowned for its innovative and multi-
disciplinary programs that transform lives through immersion in the Musical Theatre arts. Celebrating its 16th year, it is also the only such program in the St. Louis region to be connected to a professional theatre company. Whatever the age or experience level, whether a new or continuing student, aspiring performing artists throughout the St. Louis region have the opportunity to explore and cultivate their talent at STAGES, and set the stage for life changing experiences. For more information or to register today please call 636.449.5775 or visit us online at
www.StagesStLouis.org.

Two-show subscription purchases for the 2021 Season will go on sale on May 17. Single ticket sales begin June 1. For more information, please call 314.821.2407 or visit www.StagesStLouis.org.

By Lynn Venhaus
Adapted from the 2018 splashy big-hearted Broadway musical, “The Prom” pops with color and pizzazz (or, in the show’s parlance, “Zazz.”).

Vain Broadway stars Dee Dee Allen (Meryl Streep) and Barry Glickman (James Corden) are slammed for their flop, “Eleanor!: The Eleanor Roosevelt Story.” With their careers suddenly flatlined, their chorus dancer pal Angie (Nicole Kidman) finds a cause they can get behind – in small-town Indiana, high school student Emma Nolan (Jo Ellen Pellman) wanted to go with her girlfriend Alyssa (Ariana DeBose) to the prom, so the PTA cancelled it. The insufferable divas race to the rescue in conservative Edgewater, along with Trent (Andrew Rannells) and Angie. Their involvement isn’t that helpful but gets people to see Emma for who she is and that’s OK.

Its potent message on tolerance and inclusivity is still intact, but the framing has lost some of its sincerity as director Ryan Murphy has stretched it into a bigger and flashier cinematic canvas.

The musical is based on concept by Jack Viertel, who had read about a teen lesbian denied attending her prom in Mississippi in 2010, which involved the ACLU and a decision on violating the First Amendment. It also was a magnet for celebrity activism, which gets a lot of dings in “The Prom.”

Murphy, who created and helmed six seasons of “Glee,” has ramped up the glitz and gone over-the-top at every opportunity. He knows his way around a show tune and aims for the heart. However, he pulls focus on his big-name stars so that the same-sex couple gets less attention.

Nevertheless, newcomer Jo Ellen Pellman is wonderful as Emma, who grows in confidence. Ariana DeBose, a veteran of “Hamilton” who will star as Anita in the upcoming remake of “West Side Story,” is a sensational talent and plays the closeted cheerleader.

Streep, at age 71, pulls off a self-centered star in the manner of Patti LuPone, and looks like she’s having a blast with Nicole Kidman, James Corden and Andrew Rannells. While they are fine, their lesser marquee counterparts were superior in the Broadway roles – Tony-nominated Beth Leavel as Dee Dee and Brooks Ashmanskas as Barry especially. Kidman shows off her abilities in a Fosse number, “Zazz,” only Murphy has chosen not to highlight the iconic total body moves. Hmmm….

Some of the characters are exaggerated in such a way to render them superficial on film while on Broadway they were played by seasoned pros who sustained the campy fun the whole two acts. And maybe it’s because some of the original Broadway cast were Muny veterans, so their familiarity sold the warmth and joy.

I dearly loved the Broadway musical, nominated for seven Tony Awards and winner of the 2019 Drama Desk Award for Best Musical, which was produced by Stages St. Louis’ Jack Lane and other local theater people. Zippy and full of fizzy fun, “The Prom” had us laughing at the big-city elites, inside-showbiz jokes and mocking hicks in the sticks, but not in a mean way.

Only here the small town doesn’t look like a podunk village, but rather a larger city because it has a mall and a motel in the manner of a Hampton Inn.

For the original musical, Chad Beguelin of Centralia, Ill., nominated for six Tonys, wrote the lyrics and co-wrote the book with Bob Martin. Matthew Sklar wrote the music. Beguelin and Sklar, who did fun musical adaptations of “The Wedding Singer” and “Elf,” have a flair for writing hummable tunes with clever turns of phrase. “It’s Time to Dance” is a delightful number and “Unruly Heart” has the endearing sweetness for Emma to gain acceptance with a wider audience.

Andrew Rannells gets to shine – and dance through a shopping mall – in “Love Thy Neighbor,” a teachable moment to the town’s judgy teens.

Casey Nicholaw, who directed the stage show, did the choreography, and it’s as peppy and fun for the big movie ensemble as it was for the intimate cast at the Longacre Theatre. St. Louis native Jack Sippel, a Muny and Broadway veteran, was the film assistant choreographer/dance captain.

Costume designer Lou Eyrich never met a sequin he didn’t like and the flamboyant production design by Jamie Walker McCall has combined mid-century modern with bright lights.

The movie is padded, at 2 hours and 10 minutes, which doesn’t help the momentum. However, the exuberance of the work is the takeaway, and fortunately, the show will be on a national tour next year, spreading its cheerful message about acceptance.

It’s at local theatres but debuts on Netflix Dec. 11.  To find out more about how you can support the Actors’ Fund and Broadway Cares, please visit BroadwayCares.org/TheProm.

“The Prom” is a musical comedy that runs 2 hours, 11 minutes. Directed by Ryan Murphy, it stars Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Andrew Rannells, Jo Ellen Pellman, Ariana DeBose, Kevin Chamberlin, Keegan Michael-Key, Sherry Washington and Mary Kay Place. It is rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some suggestive/sexual references and language. On Netflix.

In light of the COVID-19 crisis, and after extensive discussions with our leadership team and the Executive Committee of our Board of Trustees, the STAGES St. Louis organization will be adapting the schedule of its upcoming 2020 Season. It is with great sadness that STAGES announces the following changes regarding the 2020 schedule.

A CHORUS LINE, scheduled to run May 29-June 28, will be canceled
Disney’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND, scheduled to run June 16-28, will be canceled
LA CAGE AUX FOLLES, scheduled to run July 17-August 16, will be canceled The grand finale of our 2020 Season,
ALWAYS… PATSY CLINE will run as scheduled, September 4- October 4.

All subscribers will receive a letter the first week of May confirming changes to the season and laying out all possible ticketing options. The STAGES Box Office team will be able to answer any questions regarding tickets beginning Wednesday, May 6.

“In 34 Seasons of presenting the highest quality musical theatre productions in St. Louis, we have never been forced to cancel a performance, let alone a production. While these decisions were the most difficult our organization faced, I do believe they were made with the best interests of our audience, artists, staff, and community in mind,” said STAGES Executive Producer Jack Lane. “While we will miss each and every one of you. We look forward to seeing you during the run of ALWAYS… PATSY CLINE and at the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center in 2021 to celebrate our 35th Anniversary Season. The curtain will rise again, that I can promise you.”

Single tickets for ALWAYS… PATSY CLINE will be on sale online, by phone, or at the Chesterfield Box Office starting Monday, June 1. The Kirkwood Box Office will open at a date that will be announced later this summer. The STAGES Performing Arts Academy plans to open again with its summer session beginning Monday, June 1.

Additionally, the STAGES annual summer cabaret fundraiser, Cheers, will run as scheduled on Monday, August 10. The annual Applause Gala will also take place as schedule on Friday, November 6. Any further changes to the 2020 calendar will be updated on our website and shared via email and social media.

For more information, please visit us on Facebook, Instagram and our website. We look forward to seeing everyone again with the opening of ALWAYS… PATSY CLINE on September 4, 2020. Stay safe! STAGES St. Louis is the region’s foremost not-for-profit company committed to preserving and advancing the art form of Musical Theatre through excellence in performance and education. In 2020, STAGES celebrates its 34th year of producing Broadway-quality theatre. Single tickets for ALWAYS… PATSY CLINE will g
o on sale Monday, June 1, 2020. Single ticket prices range from $25 – $66.

STAGES’ Mainstage productions perform in the intimate, 377-seat Robert G. Reim Theatre at the Kirkwood Civic Center, 111 South Geyer Road in St. Louis, MO 63122. For more information or to purchase tickets call 314-821-2407 or visit www.StagesStLouis.org

STAGES Performing Arts Academy is regionally renowned for its innovative and multidisciplinary programs that transform lives through immersion in the Musical Theatre arts. Celebrating its 15th year, it is also the only such program in the St. Louis region to be connected to a professional theatre company. Whatever the age or experience level, whether a new or continuing student, aspiring performing artists throughout the St. Louis region have the opportunity to explore and cultivate their talent at STAGES, and set the stage for life changing experiences. #

STAGES St. Louis and the City of Kirkwood are thrilled to announce the naming of the Main Stage Theatre at the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center (PAC). Thanks to a very generous gift from Don and Nancy Ross, the theatre will be named The Ross Family Theatre.

“Nancy and Don Ross have been extraordinary supporters of Stages for many years. This amazing gift to name the Main Stage Theatre at the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center is a transformative one. The entire Stages organization will be forever grateful,” said Executive Producer Jack Lane.

The Ross Family Theatre will serve as the mainstage for STAGES performances, beginning with the organization’s 35th Anniversary Season in 2021. The theatre will feature both orchestra and mezzanine levels, totaling 525 seats.

“Our entire family is so pleased to support Stages St. Louis with the naming of the Ross Family Theatre at the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center. For 34 years, Stages has been a tremendous asset to the cultural landscape of our community. On this new national level with the stunning state-of-the-art building, the future appears limitless for Stages. We are very proud to play a role and we hope others in our community will join us in supporting Stages for future generations,” said Don and Nancy Ross.

In addition to The Ross Family Theatre, the new Kirkwood PAC will also house a 2,000 square-foot event space, spacious upper and lower level lobbies connected by a grand staircase, a 3,000 square-foot studio theatre, and community and artistic support spaces.

The Performing Arts Center is slated to open in July 2020. In its inaugural year, the PAC is projected to entertain over 100,000 patrons between the seasons at both STAGES and the Kirkwood Theatre Guild and community events hosted by the City of Kirkwood.

STAGES 2020 Season, the final one in the Robert G. Reim Theatre, will kick off May 29 and runs through Oct. 4, 2020. The season features:

A Chorus Line
Music by Marvin Hamlisch Lyrics by Edward Kleban
Book by James Kirkwood & Nicholas Dante
May 29 – June 28

La Cage Aux Folles
Music and Lyrics by Jerry Herman Book by Harvey Fierstein July 17 – August 16

Always… Patsy Cline
Written and originally directed by Ted Swindley
Featuring the music of Patsy Cline
September 4 – October 4

Disney’s Alice in Wonderland

Music and lyrics by Sammy Fain and Bob Hilliard, Oliver Wallace and Cy Coban, Allie Wrubel and Ray Gilbert, Mack David, Al Hoffman and Jerry Livingston
Music adapted and arranged and additional music and lyrics by Brian Louiselle
Book adapted and additional lyrics by David Simpatico
June 16 – June 28


STAGES St. Louis is the region’s foremost not-for-profit company committed to preserving and advancing the art form of Musical Theatre through excellence in performance and education.

In 2020, STAGES celebrates its 34th year of producing Broadway-quality theatre, presenting 132 performances from June through October to nearly 50,000 patrons. STAGES opened in 1987 with a budget of $50,000 and a part-time seasonal staff of eight. Today, the company employs a full-time staff of 23 overseeing a budget of $5.1 million. During the performance season, an additional 150 actors and crew members bring the productions to life.

To date, STAGES professionals have produced 119 musicals, with over 3,700 performances, playing to more than one million patrons. Subscriptions to the 2020 Season begin at just $120 and are on sale now. Single tickets will go on sale April 6, 2020. Single ticket prices range from $25 – $66.

STAGES’ Mainstage productions perform in the intimate, 377-seat Robert G. Reim Theatre at the Kirkwood Civic Center, 111 South Geyer Road in St. Louis, MO 63122. For more information or to purchase tickets call 314-821-2407 or visit www.StagesStLouis.org.