The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis (The Rep) is excited to bring an extraordinary production with a cast and crew from around the globe to St. Louis in the organization’s return to live theatre with ‘Mlima’s Tale,’ a moving, lyrical journey through the dark world of the international ivory trade from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage. 

Performances of ‘Mlima’s Tale’ begin at COCA’s Berges Theatre onMay 28. The show runsMay 28 to July 11, times can be found here. Tickets begin at $20.50. 

‘Mlima’s Tale’ tells the story of a majestic and powerful African elephant murdered for his tusks. From beyond the veil of death, Mlima’s spirit follows the path of his tusks on a captivating and haunting journey through the dark world of the international ivory trade.

“As artists we are often tasked with examining our shared human experiences to help others imagine, dream and heal during a time of global crisis,” said Director Shariffa Ali. “Directing ‘Mlima’s Tale’ allowed me to dig deep into my own personal history, where as a child I would listen to the stories of my grandmother and the village elders of Nandi Hills, Kenya, planting the seed of storytelling in my soul. This cast and crew – from all over the world – has created a production that brings to life the bold majestic gestures and expressive faces of my motherland and beyond, as it so aptly exposes the social issues that come with the greed of human desire in our global economy.”

Mlima’s Tale cast includes Kambi Gathesha as Mlima, with Ezioma Asonye, Will Mann and Joe Ngo as the ensemble. The production will be directed by Shariffa Ali, Kirven Douthit-Boyd will serve as the choreographer, You-Shin Chen (scene design), Helen Huang (costume design), Jasmine Lesane (lighting design), Avi Amon (composer and sound design), Shannon B. Sturgis (stage management), R. Christopher Maxwell (assistant stage manager) and Madison Booth as the costume assistant; with Barbara Rubin and Julie Foh serving as dialect coaches.

“We are thrilled to bring Lynn Nottage’s haunting and riveting tale of globalism to our St. Louis audience,” said Hana S. Sharif, Augustin Family Artistic Director at The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. “Mlima’s Tale is an exquisite story about culture, art, beauty, economics, greed and the incredible cost of conspicuous consumption. Through Mlima’s majestic spirit’s journey tracing its tusks around the world, we come to discover the collective power and impact of our choices.

For audience and performer safety, theatre capacity will be kept at 25 percent, in line with  St. Louis County Department of Health’s COVID-19 guidelines. In addition, The Rep is adhering to its comprehensive plan to keep actors, production staff and patrons safe during the return to live theatre. ‘Mlima’s Tale’ is The Rep’s only performance from the 2020-2021 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tickets will be available to the general public on May 20 at repstl.org. Subscribers will have earlier access to seating and tickets. For more information, visit repstl.org.

The Black Rep will present a concert version of the
Broadway hit musical “Ain’t Misbehavin’” at the 560 Music Center on Saturday,
Oct, 12, for One Night Only.

“Ain’t Misbehavin’” is a musical revue with a book by
Murray Horwitz and Richard Maltby, Jr., and music by various composers and
lyricists as arranged and orchestrated by Luther Henderson. It is named after
the song by Fats Waller (with Harry Brooks and Andy Razaf), “Ain’t Misbehavin’”.

The musical is a tribute to the black musicians of the
1920s and 1930s who were part of the Harlem Renaissance, an era of growing
creativity, cultural awareness, and ethnic pride. It was a time when Manhattan
nightclubs like the Cotton Club and the Savoy Ballroom were the playgrounds of
high society and Lenox Avenue dives were filled with piano players banging out
the new beat known as swing.
An ensemble of performers present an evening of rowdy, raunchy, and humorous
songs that encapsulate the various moods of the era and reflect Waller’s view
of life as a journey meant for pleasure and play.

The Chicago Sun Times said: “Fun and off-the-charts
galvanic energy are the main orders of the day in this show… Talk about
“Spreadin’ the Rhythm Around.” Pure joy.”

The Huffington Post said: “This is a boozy, after hours
party, and we’re all invited.”

The cast of Ain’t Misbehavin’ in concert features cast
members from the Season 43 opening hit production of “Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t
Cope” led by Drummond Crenshaw, Amber Rose, Tyler White, Robert Crenshaw, and
Sieglinda Fox.

It is directed by Producing Director Ron Himes, with
musical direction by Charles Creath, choreography by Kirven Douthit-Boyd and
Heather Beal.

Proceeds from the 2019 Gala go to support The Black Rep’s
Community and Education programs such as: 
Summer Performing Arts (SPA), Teen Tech Program, The Professional Intern
Program and many others.

Other highlights of the evening will also feature a
presentation of the Frankie Muse Freeman Spirit Awards to Anne Marie Clark and
Wesley Bell as well as the Woodie King Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award to Dr.
Glory Van Scott and George Faison.

“Ain’t Misbehavin’” is sponsored in part by Centene
Corporation, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Edward Jones, Webster University, McCormack
Baron Salazar Inc., Keith Williamson, Gisele Marcus, Tom and Barbara Feiner,
Loren and Marcia Grossman, Lionel Phillip, Hank Webber and Chris Jacobs.

For tickets or more information, contact the box office at
314-534-3807 or go online to theblackrep.org.

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

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