By Lynn Venhaus
Christ Memorial Productions’ presentation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic “Oklahoma!” won eight Best Performance Awards for choreography, music direction, lighting, costumes, acting and Best Featured Dancer while Kirkwood Theatre Guild’s production of the George and Ira Gershwin 1920s musical-screwball comedy “Nice Work If You Can Get It” won seven, including Best Large Ensemble Musical Production, Best Director and five acting awards, from Arts For Life Sunday.

It was KTG’s sixth win for musical production since 2000. Both shows had been nominated for 17 awards apiece. “A New Brain,” which was a local community theater premiere for Hawthorne Players, won Best Small Ensemble Production.

Arts For Life is a nonprofit organization that encompasses 140 communities and 8,460 square miles in St. Louis city, county and St. Charles County in Missouri and Madison, Monroe and St. Clair counties in Illinois.

Founded in 1994 by Lucinda Gyurci as a group dedicated to the healing power of the arts, AFL has honored community theater musicals for performances and achievements since 1999 (BPAs), plays since 2015 (Theatre Mask Awards) and expanded awards in youth musical theater in 2013.

Best Small Ensemble Musical “A New Brain”

But this is the first time AFL did not host a live gala. Because of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the ceremony was re-imagined as a pre-recorded virtual celebration. The 21st annual BPAs took place June 14, which was the original date, but transitioned to a streaming format broadcast on Facebook and YouTube.

AFL President Mary McCreight said the coronavirus safety measures in place and restrictions on gatherings in St. Louis County were factors in the decision to cancel the live show but still have some sort of event.

“We wanted to provide an opportunity for our local arts community to come together online and celebrate the many outstanding achievements of the previous year,” McCreight said.

Performances from nominees for large ensemble musicals, two small ensemble musicals and five youth productions premiered on AFL’s YouTube channel for 10 days leading up to the awards, and are now available there, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnCSL5RPbHTrhbc0mbHcWnA

There were 15 community theaters and 10 youth-only groups who participated last year. More than 60 judges in the Theatre Recognition Guild scored 46 shows — 19 large ensembles, 3 small and 24 youth, featuring 939 roles. For 2019, there were 154 individual nominations from 22 groups, with 36 percent first-time nominees and 65 percent first-time winners.

Goshen Theatre Project, which led all groups with 18 nominations, won five youth awards overall for “Les Miserables School Edition,” including Best Youth Musical Production, Supporting Actress Natalie Cochran as Eponine, costume design (Terry Pattison), lighting design (Halli Pattison and Blake Churchill) and Bennett English as Best Youth Musical Performance as Jean Valjean.

Other multiple winners in the youth categories were Riverbend Theatre, which won three for “The Drowsy Chaperone” — director (Kristi Doering), music direction (Michael Frazier/Alison Neace) and lead actor (Jayson Heil as the Man in Chair), and Young People’s Theatre, which won two for “Newsies” – best supporting actor (Will Dery as Les) and set design (Brisby Andrews and Gary Rackers).

Norbert Leo Butz

Thirty-three awards honoring excellence during 2019 were announced by past winners and members of the AFL board of directors, with two special guest presenters — Norbert Leo Butz, two-time Tony Award winner who grew up in St. Louis, and Hana S. Sharif, the Augustin Family Artistic Director of The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis.

Butz, who also announced the youth musical production winner, told the audience to believe in themselves, even when it’s hard, and follow their dreams, noting he had supportive parents and “great” teachers.

“Believe in yourself and keep on being grateful. Stick to it,” he said from his home in New Jersey. “(Performing arts) feeds our soul, our minds, our hearts.”

AFL donated to Butz’s charity, The Angel Band Project, which uses music therapy to help victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence and advocates for rights of survivors. For more information, visit www.angelbandproject.org

Jennifer Kerner

Four special honors were given out to Jennifer Kerner for her inclusion efforts, Bennett English for Best Youth Musical Performance as Jean Valjean in Goshen Theatre Project’s “Les Miserables: School Edition,” Kayla Dressman for Best Featured Dancer as Dream Laurie in  CMP’s “Oklahoma!” and Diane Hanisch, the BPA musical director/conductor for the past 20 years, who won a national Spotlight Award from the American Association of Community Theatres, presented by Quiana Clark-Roland. A Lifetime Achievement Award was not designated this year.

Kerner’s recognition was for her advocacy on inclusion and helping to make the live theater experience accessible to all individuals. Kerner, a local singer and actress, works to help place people with developmental disabilities in jobs. She has guided local theater companies in providing sensory-friendly performances and has worked to create comfortable environments for those on the autism spectrum and those with sensory processing disorders.

McCreight was thrilled about Hanisch’s national award.

Diane Hanisch

“This award is designed to help pay tribute to an individual for long or special service. It recognizes outstanding dedication, service and contribution to your organization. It is for someone who has made a significant impact on the quality of your organization. Diane has done just that with per professionalism and charm. She is a gem! Not only can she calm the nerves of a 12-year-old singing a solo, but others who are singing in front of 700 people for the first time. She arranges and writes the music, gathers her professional band, and conducts the show with aplomb. Diane cares as much about our legacy as anyone involved on the Arts for Life Board. No one is more deserving,” she said.

The annual Youth Scholarships, which are awarded to two students pursuing a degree in the arts, were announced, with Alaina Bozarth, a graduate of Metro East Lutheran High School, and Josiah Haan, a graduate of Fort Zumwalt High School, each given $500. Bozarth plans to major in musical theatre at Belmont University in Louisville, Ky., and Haan plans to major in technical theatre and design at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo.

Other ensemble nominees include “Hello, Dolly!” from Wentzville Christian Church, “Oklahoma!” from Monroe Actors Stage Company and “The Bridges of Madison County” from Alpha Players of Florissant for Best Large Ensemble and “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” from O’Fallon TheatreWorks for Best Small Ensemble.

For Best Youth Production, in addition to “Les Miserables,” nominees include “The Drowsy Chaperone” from Riverbend Theatre, “Matilda” from Gateway Center for the Performing Arts, “Newsies” from Young People’s Theatre and “Spring Awakening” from Gateway Center for the Performing Arts.

CMP’s Oklahoma!

For the record books, Kimberly Klick won her sixth BPA for choreography for CMP’s “Oklahoma!”. She had previously won for CMP’s “Mary Poppins” and “The King and I,” plus “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” “Big the Musical” and “Fiddler on the Roof” for other companies. It was her 10th overall, including wins for Best Featured Dancer in “Brigadoon” in 2000, Lead Actress for Millie in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” 2006 and Jo in “Little Women” in 2008, and Cameo Actress in “Titanic” 2003.

It was three in a row for Jonathan Hartley, who won for lighting design of “Oklahoma!” and had won last year for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at DaySpring Center for the Arts; he won for set design for DSA’s “Little Shop of Horrors” in 2017. Stephanie Fox won her third in four years for choreography in Gateway Center for the Performing Arts shows – “Spring Awakening” 2019, “Carrie the Musical” 2017 and “Thoroughly Modern Millie” 2016. Terry Pattison also won her third for costume design since 2017: “Peter Pan,” “The Lion King Jr.” and “Les Miz,” all for Goshen Theatre Project, and won set design for “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” in 2018.

Joe Paule Sr. won his third for musical direction, for CMP’s “Oklahoma!”, following CMP’s “The King and I” in 2014 and Hawthorne Players’ “The Producers” in 2010. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award last year. It was the second award for Michael Frazier and Alison Neace for musical direction, this year for Riverbend Theatre’s “The Drowsy Chaperone” and for Alton Little Theatre’s “The Spitfire Grill” in 2011.

Other multiple winners included two for Alpha Players of Florissant’s “The Bridges of Madison County” for Lead Actor (Cole Guttmann) and Cameo Actress (Chelsie Johnston) and Take a Bow Showcase for “Annie” – juvenile performer (Leontine Rickert) and duo/group (Matthew Joost and Carole Ann Miller).

Winners Will Shaw and Kimmie Kidd-Booker in “Nice Work If You Can Get It”

In the acting categories, Mike Huelsmann’s award for Best Featured Actor as Jud Fry was his third, after Lead Actor as Javert in Take Two Productions’ “Les Miz” (2013) and as part of Best Duo/Group in Looking Glass Playhouse’s “Young Frankenstein” 2015. Kimmie Kidd-Booker’s award for Best Featured Actress as Estonia Dulworth in “Nice Work If You Can Get It” was her second win, after Best Featured Actress in “The Wiz” in 2014. George Doerr IV won his second, as Igor in Alfresco’s “Young Frankenstein,” after winning Best Actor in 2017 for Alfresco’s “The Rocky Horror Show.”

The virtual program included the following production team: directors Mary McCreight and David Wicks Jr., video supervisor Kim Klick, visual designers Colin Dowd and Bethany Hamilton, voice-over announcer Ken Clark and host Karen Fulks.

A list of winners is included here, below.

AFL’s Theatre Mask Awards was originally set for April 4, then moved to July 18, but now will also be a virtual celebration. The 2020 TMAs will honor excellence in community theater productions of dramas and comedies during 2019 in a live interactive viewing event at 11 a.m. Saturday, July 18, on the AFL Facebook page and YouTube Channel. The awards show will be recorded beforehand and the content will remain on social media.

On March 16, McCreight suspended all public activities of the AFL organization because of the public health crisis. The extension has been extended until further notice. Both TRG and TMA branch judges and participating groups will receive announcements on future developments. As the region re-opens, social distancing and wearing face coverings continues. At this time, all AFL performance venues remain closed.

“I am incredibly grateful to all of our constituencies – the board, judges, participating groups, audience members and donors – for their commitment to AFL and their engagement and unwavering support of our local theatre community during these uncertain times,” McCreight said.

Any company that won can have a representative pick up their trophies on July 19 from 1 to 3 p.m. in the parking lot of Clayton Community Theatre, which is located at the Washington University South Campus Theatre, 6501 Clayton Road, St. Louis, MO 63117.

Riverbend Theatre’s The Drowsy Chaperone

A souvenir program is available to download online: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1YlomcYjVNqDNqmPTCrYGSjnAtDwkn9QT/view

A limited number of copies will be available for purchase as well.

For more information, contact AFL TRG Secretary Kim Klick at [email protected]

To see a list of the 2019 nominees and winners, as well as the awards history 1999-2019, visit the website: www.artsforlife.org

Follow AFL on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

2020 Best Performance Award Winners:

Best Musical Production Large Ensemble: “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” Kirkwood Theatre Guild

Best Musical Production Small Ensemble: “A New Brain,” Hawthorne Players

Best Youth Musical Production: “Les Miserables: School Edition,” Goshen Theatre Project

Best Director: Dani Mann, “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” Kirkwood Theatre Project

Best Musical Direction: Kathy Eichelberger and Joseph Paule Jr., “Oklahoma!” Christ Memorial Productions

Best Choreography: Kimberly Klick, “Oklahoma!” Christ Memorial Productions

Best Lead Actor: Cole Guttmann, “The Bridges of Madison County, “Alpha Players of Florissant

Best Lead Actress: Jaclyn Amber, “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” Kirkwood Theatre Guild

Best Featured Actor: Mike Huelsmann, “Oklahoma!” Christ Memorial Productions

Best Featured Actress: Kimmie Kidd-Booker, “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” Kirkwood Theatre Guild

Best Supporting Actor: Caleb Long, “Oklahoma!” Christ Memorial Productions

Best Supporting Actress: Dianne M. Mueller, “Oklahoma!” Christ Memorial Productions

Best Actor in a Comedic Role: George Doerr IV, “Young Frankenstein,” Alfresco Productions

Best Actress in a Comedic Role: Margery Handy, “The Wizard of Oz,” Alton Little Theater

Best Cameo Actor: Jacob Streuter, “Jesus Christ Superstar,” Looking Glass Playhouse

Best Cameo Actress: Chelsie Johnston, “The Bridges of Madison County,” Alpha Players of Florissant

Best Actor in a Non-Singing Role: Will Shaw, “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” Kirkwood Theatre Guild

Best Actress in a Non-Singing Role: Maria Wilken, “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” Kirkwood Theatre Guild

Best Duo/Group: Matthew Joost and Carole Ann Miller, “Annie,” Take A Bow Showcase

Best Set Design: Matt Dossett, “The Little Shop of Horrors,” Monroe Actors Stage Company

Best Lighting Design: Jonathan Hartley, “Oklahoma!” Christ Memorial Productions

Best Costume Design: Krysta Wenski, “Oklahoma!” Christ Memorial Productions

Best Juvenile Performer: Leontine Rickert, “Annie,” Take a Bow Showcase

Best Youth Director: Kristi Doering, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” Riverbend Theatre

Best Youth Music Direction: Michael Frazier and Alison Neace, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” Riverbend Theatre

Best Youth Choreography: Stephanie Fox, “Spring Awakening,” Gateway Center for the Performing Arts

Best Youth Lead Actor: Jayson Heil, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” Riverbend Theatre

Best Youth Lead Actress: Alli McDonald, “Once Upon a Mattress,” St. John’s UCC Performing Arts Camp

Best Youth Supporting Actor: Will Dery, “Newsies,” Young People’s Theatre

Best Youth Supporting Actress: Natalie Cochran, “Les Miserables School Edition,” Goshen Theatre Project

Best Youth Costume Design: Terry Pattison, “Les Miserables School Edition,” Goshen Theatre Project

Best Youth Set Design: Brisby Andrews and Greg Rackers, “Newsies,” Young People’s Theatre

Best Youth Lighting Design: Halli Pattison and Blake Churchill, “Les Miserables School Edition,” Goshen Theatre Project



The Fabulous Fox Theatre is excited to announce a fetch 2020-2021 U.S. Bank Broadway Series. You can sit with us! When MEAN GIRLS opens the seven-show season ticket package this September. You’ll dance all night when the Lincoln Center Theater Production of Lerner & Loewe’s MY FAIR LADY graces the Fox stage in October. Hear the evolution of an icon when THE CHER SHOW turns back time and experience the Broadway magic only Disney can deliver at their newest hit musical FROZEN. Get ready for those Grammy winning songs and Tony winning moves when AIN’T TOO PROUD – THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE TEMPTATIONS makes its St. Louis debut. Throw on a corsage because it’s time to dance at Broadway’s hit musical comedy THE PROM. Fall in love all over again when PRETTY WOMAN: The Musical dazzles audiences as the final show in the Broadway series.

MEAN GIRLS | September 22 – October 4, 2020

Direct from Broadway, MEAN GIRLS is the hilarious hit musical from book writer Tina Fey (“30 Rock”), composer Jeff Richmond (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”), lyricist Nell Benjamin (Legally Blonde) and director Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon). Cady Heron may have grown up on an African savanna, but nothing prepared her for the vicious ways of her strange new home: suburban Illinois. Soon, this naïve newbie falls prey to a trio of lionized frenemies led by the charming but ruthless Regina George. But when Cady devises a plan to end Regina’s reign, she learns the hard way that you can’t cross a Queen Bee without getting stung. New York Magazine cheers, “MEAN GIRLS delivers with immense energy, a wicked sense of humor and joyful inside-jokery.” USA Today says, “We’ll let you in on a little secret, because we’re such good friends: GET YOUR TICKETS NOW!”

MY FAIR LADY | October 14-25, 2020

From Lincoln Center Theater and director Bartlett Sher comes “a sumptuous new production of the most perfect musical of all time” (Entertainment Weekly), Lerner & Loewe’s MY FAIR LADY.  Boasting such classic songs as “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “The Rain in Spain,” and “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” MY FAIR LADY tells the story of Eliza Doolittle, a young Cockney flower seller, and Henry Higgins, a linguistics professor who is determined to transform her into his idea of a “proper lady.”  But who is really being transformed?

THE CHER SHOW | November 17-29, 2020

The Tony Award®-winning musical! Her life. Her story. Her legend. Superstars come and go. Cher is forever. For six straight decades, only one unstoppable force has flat-out dominated popular culture — breaking down barriers, pushing boundaries, and letting nothing and no one stand in her way. THE CHER SHOW is the Tony Award-winning musical of her story, and it’s packed with so much Cher that it takes three women to play her: the kid starting out, the glam pop star, and the icon. THE CHER SHOW is 35 smash hits, six decades of stardom, two rock-star husbands, a Grammy®, an Oscar®, an Emmy®, and enough Tony Award-winning Bob Mackie gowns to cause a sequin shortage in New York City, all in one unabashedly fabulous new musical that will have you dancing in the aisles!

Disney’s FROZEN | February 10-21, 2021

From the producer of The Lion King and Aladdin, FROZEN, the Tony®-nominated Best Musical, is now on tour across North America, and the critics rave, “It’s simply magical!” (LA Daily News). FROZEN features the songs you love from the original Oscar®-winning film, plus an expanded score with a dozen new numbers. An unforgettable theatrical experience filled with sensational special effects, stunning sets and costumes, and powerhouse performances, FROZEN is everything you want in a musical: It’s moving. It’s spectacular. And above all, it’s pure Broadway joy.

AIN’T TOO PROUD – THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE TEMPTATIONS | March 2-14, 2021

AIN’T TOO PROUD – THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE TEMPTATIONS is the electrifying new smash-hit Broadway musical that follows The Temptations’ extraordinary journey from the streets of Detroit to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The winner of the 2019 Tony Award for Best Choreography, it’s a thrilling story of brotherhood, family, loyalty, and betrayal during a decade of civil unrest in America. Set to the beat of the group’s treasured hits, including “My Girl,” “Just My Imagination,” “Get Ready,” “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” AIN’T TOO PROUD tells the unforgettable story of the legendary quintet that Billboard Magazine named the greatest R&B group of all time.

The Prom

THE PROM | April 6-18, 2021

Everyone’s invited to the joyous Broadway hit that New York Magazine calls “smart and big-hearted” and The New York Times declares it “makes you believe in musical comedy again!” THE PROM is a new musical comedy about big Broadway stars on a mission to change the world and the love they discover that unites them all.  Variety raves, “It’s so full of happiness that you think your heart is about to burst.” And The Hollywood Reporter cheers, “It’s comic gold!” You belong at THE PROM!

PRETTY WOMAN: The Musical | April 27 – May 9, 2021

After an incredible run on Broadway, Audience Choice Award winner PRETTY WOMAN: The Musical is now on tour! PRETTY WOMAN: The Musical is brought to life by a powerhouse creative team representing the best of music, Hollywood, and Broadway. Featuring direction and choreography by two-time Tony Award® winner Jerry Mitchell (Hairspray, Kinky Boots, Legally Blonde), an original score by Grammy® winner Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance (“Summer of ’69”, “Heaven”), and a book by the movie’s legendary director Garry Marshall and screenwriter J.F. Lawton, Pretty Woman: The Musical will lift your spirits and light up your heart. “If you love the movie, you’ll love the musical!” (BuzzFeed News).

Series Specials

Six Broadway specials will be offered to 2020–2021 season ticket holders for priority seating before their public on-sale dates.

A holiday classic, Nebraska Theatre Caravan’s A CHRISTMAS CAROL will return December 3-6 and the “most famous reindeer of all” will soar into the Fox December 18-19 in RUDOLPH THE RED NOSED REINDEER. A new mesmerizing production of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR will kick off the New Year January 26-31. Experience the smash hit phenomenon that is BLUE MAN GROUP March 19-21. Discover the mystery of a brave young woman’s past in the romantic and adventure-filled musical ANASTASIA May 14-16. You can’t stop the beat when HAIRSPRAY takes you back to the 1960s May 21-23.

New seven-show season ticket packages will go on sale June 8 at 10 a.m. Current U.S. Bank Broadway season ticket holders will receive their renewal information the week of March 23. On-sale dates for individual shows will be announced later. For more information, please call the Fox Subscription office at 314-535-1700. Groups of 10 or more should call 314-535-2900 for special rates and reservations. The Broadway Series at the Fabulous Fox Theatre is presented by U.S. Bank.

2020 – 2021 U.S. Bank Broadway Series Shows and Specials:

(The Seven Season Ticket shows are in bold)

MEAN GIRLS * September 22 – October 4, 2020

MY FAIR LADY * October 14-25, 2020

THE CHER SHOW * November 17-29, 2020

A CHRISTMAS CAROL * December 3-6, 2020

RUDOLPH THE RED NOSED REINDEER * December 18-19, 2020

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR * January 26-31, 2021

Disney’s FROZEN * February 10-21, 2021

AIN’T TOO PROUD – THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE TEMPTATIONS * March 2-14, 2021

BLUE MAN GROUP * March 19-21, 2021

THE PROM * April 6-18, 2021

PRETTY WOMAN: The Musical * April 27 – May 9, 2021

ANASTASIA * May 14-16, 2021

HAIRSPRAY * May 21-23, 2021

By Lynn Venhaus Managing Editor As barren as the outdoors is of life, inside the walls of our theatrical spaces, large and small, are full of life. There are 15 shows available to audiences this weekend! There is something for every taste — pick one or two or three! And Go See a Play!

Accelerando – A Circus Spy Thriller Circus Harmony Jan. 26 at noon and 2 p.m. and Jan. 27 at 2 p.m.www.circusharmony.org/accelerando What It’s About: The annual show features their famous flying children with new acts, including Chinese Pole and Hoop Diving.

Photo by Jon Gitchoff“Alabama Story” Jan. 2 – 27 The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis www.repstl.org

What It’s About: A determined librarian and a
segregationist senator face off over an innocent children’s book in 1959
Montgomery. Depicting the marriage of two rabbits – who happen to have
different-colored fur – the story has Sen. E.W. Higgins calling for a book ban.
But even as the pressure mounts, librarian Emily Wheelock Reed refuses to yield
to censorship. Inspired by true events.

Directed by Paul Mason Barnes Starring: Larry Paulsen, Jeanne Paulsen, Carl Howell, Carl Palmer, Corey Allen, Anna O’Donoghue“Avenue Q” The Playhouse at Westport Plaza Jan. 25 – March 3 www.playhouseatwestport.com

What It’s About: Part flesh, part felt and packed with
heart, “Avenue Q” is a laugh-out-loud musical telling the story of Princeton, a
college grad who moves into the city with big dreams and a tiny bank account.
He and his Avenue Q neighbors struggle to find jobs, dates and their life’s
purpose.

Director: Lee Anne Mathews, with Music Director Charlie MuellerStarring: Andrew Keeler, Brent Ambler, Jennifer Theby-Quinn, Kevin O’Brien, Grace Langford, Illeana Kirven, April Strelinger

Of Note: For mature audiences. “Avenue Q” won Tony Awards,
including

“Canfield Drive” The Black Rep Jan. 9 – 27 Edison Theatre on the campus of Washington University www.theblackrep.org What It’s About: The world premiere production is about two high-powered news reporters from across the aisle who are thrown together during the national coverage of the aftermath following the Michael Brown shooting death in Ferguson, Mo., in summer 2014.

As they untangle facts, they struggle to keep their private
lives out of the spotlight.
Directed by Ron Himes
Starring: Kristen Adele Calhoun, Christopher Hickey, Amy Loui, Eric Conners

Of Note: Created from diverse interviews of people from
around the corner and around the world, Canfield Drive was written by Kristen
Adele Calhoun and Michael Thomas Walker. It is a National Performance Network
Creation and Development Fund Project co-commissioned by 651 Arts in
partnership with The St. Louis Black Repertory Company, and NPN.

Photo by Eric Woolsey“District Merchants: An Uneasy Comedy” New Jewish Theatre Jan. 24 – Feb. 10 Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Wool Studio Theater Jewish Community Center, 2 Millstone Campus Drivewww.newjewishtheatre.org 314-442-3283

What It’s About: Love, litigation, deep passions and predatory lending are taken to a new level. The play wades fearlessly into the complexities of life in America. It is set among Black and Jewish populations in an imagined time and place, simultaneously Shakespearean and post- Civil War Washington, D.C. Directed by Jacqueline Thompson Cast: Gary Wayne Barker, J. Samuel Davis, Karl Hawkins, Ron White, Rae Davis Of Note: In Aaron Posner’s reimagining, the play becomes less about the quality of mercy and more about how flexible a supposedly egalitarian society can be to the varied tribes struggling to find partners in America. Aaron Posner expertly blends humor, emotional truths and topics that make people think. He is able to create characters who are deeply flawed, like we are. In his “uneasy” comedy, he wants us to look at a snapshot in time, the Reconstruction Era, but what he has written is relevant to audiences today.

Fiddler on the Roof “Fiddler on the Roof” Fox TheatreJan. 29 –“L’Italiana in Algeri” Winter Opera St. Louis Jan. 25 at 8 p.m. and Jan. 27 at 3 p.m. The Skip Viragh Center for the Arts at Chaminade 425 S. Lindbergh “Jekyll & Hyde” Next Generation Theatre Company Jan. 26 – Feb. 2 Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. James J. Eagan Center, Florissant http://www.nextgenerationtheatre.company/jekyll/

What It’s About: An evocative tale of two men – one, a
passionate doctor; the other, a terrifying madman – and two women, both in love
with the same man and both unaware of his dark secret. Murder and chaos is
pitted against love and virtue.

Starring: Keith Boyer as Dr. Henry Jekyll

Of Note: Rated PG-13 for violence.

“Jesus Christ Superstar” Looking Glass Playhouse Jan. 24 – Feb. 3 Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. 301 West St Louis Street in Lebanon, Ill. www.lookingglassplayhouse.com What It’s About: The Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice musical
is a timeless work set against the backdrop of a Biblical series of events but
seen through the eyes of Judas Iscariot.

“Love, Linda” Max and Louie Productions Jan. 18 – Jan. 27 Marcelle Theatre in Grand Arts Center www.maxandlouie.com

What It’s About: Linda Lee Thomas was the Southern beauty
who married and was the driving force behind legendary song writer Cole Porter
at the dawn of the roaring twenties. Though Cole Porter was gay, their
companionship and love lasted through 35 years of marriage and a spectacular,
glamour-filled life.
Through innovative jazz arrangements, the music and lyrics of Cole Porter
examine the darker sides of their life while also celebrating the deep love
that blossomed through their unconventional relationship.
Directed by Ken Page, Music Director Greg Schweizer
Starring Debby Lennon

“The Marvelous Wonderettes” Hard Road Theatre Productions Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Highland Elementary School auditorium in Highland, Ill. www.hardroad.org

What It’s about: The pop doesn’t stop in this musical about
a high school prom in 1958 and, in the second act, a 10-year reunion in 1968,
with a soundtrack that includes big hits from both decades.  

Photo by Jill Ritter Lindberg“The Motherf*cker with The Hat” R-S Theatrics Jan. 25 – Feb. 1 Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. .Zack, 3224 Locust www.r-stheatrics.com

What It’s About: How do you know where you’re going…if
you don’t know who has been in your home? The seriocomedy explores how 5 people
in New York navigate loyalty, trust, and duty through friendship, love and the
challenges of adulthood. And how no one should ever underestimate the
importance of cleaning up their accessories.

Directed by:

Starring: Adam Flores, Sofia Lidia, Jesse Munoz, Aaron Dodd, Taleesha Caturah

“On Golden Pond” Alton Little Theater Jan. 25 – 27 Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Alton Little Theater, 2450 N. Henry in Alton, Ill. 618-462-6562www.altonlittletheater.org What It’s About: At a summer lake home, the play focuses on a daughter’s turbulent relationship with her father, and also the trails of a loving couple in the twilight years of a long marriage.

“Wittenberg” Upstream Theater Jan. 25 – Feb. 10 Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.; Sunday at 7 p.m. except Feb. 10 at 2 p.m. Kranzberg Arts Center www.upstreamtheater.org

What It’s About: It’s October 1517, and the new fall
semester at the University of Wittenberg finds certain members of the faculty
and student body at personal and professional crossroads. Hamlet (senior, class
of 1518) is returning from a summer in Poland spent studying astronomy, where
he has learned of a revolutionary scientific theory that threatens the very
order of the universe, resulting in psychic trauma and a crisis of faith for
him. His teacher and mentor John Faustus has decided at long last to make an
honest woman of his paramour, Helen, a former nun who is now one of the
Continent’s most sought-after courtesans. And Faustus’ colleague and Hamlet’s
instructor and priest, Martin Luther, is dealing with the spiritual and medical
consequences of his long-simmering outrage at certain abusive practices of the
Church.

Directed by: Philip Boehm
Starring: Casey Boland, Steve Isom, Alan Knoll and Caitlin Mickey.

Of Note: St. Louis premiere.

Photo by Jon Gitchoff“The Wolves” The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis Jan. 18 – Feb. 3 Studio Theatre Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus www.repstl.org What It’s About: Nine teenage girls prepare for battle on a
soccer field. As they stretch and warm up together, the teammates’ nonstop
banter reveals how a collection of disparate personalities bonds to form a
team.

Directed by Melissa Rain Anderson
Starring: Cassandra Lopez, Cecily Dowd, Colleen Dougherty, Cece Hill, Maya J.
Christian, Mary Katharine Harris, Esmeralda Garza, Rachael Logue, Keaton Whittaker,
Nancy Bell,

Of Note: St. Louis premiere

“Workers’ Opera” Bread and Roses Sunday, Jan. 27 Missouri History Museum 1 to 2:30 p.m. Free and open to the public www.breadandrosesmo.gov What It’s About: Bread and Roses presents these vignettes of new and revised sketches about laborers, unions, and workers’ rights in the past and the present. Every sketch is full of good music, some history and lots of political humor.

Director: Kathryn Bentley, associate professor at
SIU-Edwardsville and Artistic Director of the Black Theater Workshop.

Music and script editing by Colin McLaughlin.

Of Note: Written and performed by members of Service
Employees International Union, Communications Workers of America, United Media
Guild, Actors Equity, Asbestos Workers, and others involved in the arts and
organized labor.