COVID-19 Pandemic Results in Production Streamcast by HEC Media

New Jewish Theatre led the way with six awards at the eighth annual St. Louis Theater Circle Awards ceremony on Tuesday, April 7, 2020. Max & Louie Productions’ performance of Indecent garnered five awards, followed by four awards to The Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis for its production of A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Circle’s gala event for this year’s award ceremony, originally scheduled for March 30, 2020 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, was canceled. Instead, HEC Media produced a version of the ceremonies that was streamcast on HEC Media’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/hectv/live/) as well as telecast on Spectrum channel 989 and AT&T U-verse channel 99. Here is the YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/embed/tCo0AFHbChE

Awards were given in 31 categories covering comedies, dramas and musicals as well as two categories for opera. In addition, Ken and Nancy Kranzberg received a special award for their philanthropic contributions to the arts and theater in the St. Louis area, including many developments in Grand Center. The awards honored outstanding achievement in locally produced professional theater for the calendar year 2019.

A total of 21 productions and 14 companies were recognized by the awards, including eight individuals who have received honors in previous years. Will Bonfiglio, honored as Outstanding Actor in a Comedy for his performance in New Jewish Theatre’s production of Fully Committed, received an award for the third time in the last four years.

The 2020 presentation featured nominees from two companies, Black Mirror Theatre and The Q Collective, which were represented for the first time in consideration of St. Louis Theater Circle Awards.  Each company received an award for outstanding achievement.

In all, 25 local companies received nominations in 33 categories for comedy, drama, musical and opera, as well as 125 individuals up for awards. Honorees who have previously received St. Louis Theater Circle Awards include Will Bonfiglio, J. Samuel Davis, Kari Ely, Michael Hamilton, Patrick Huber, Sean M. Savoie, Margery and Peter Spack, and Maggie Wininger.

The mission of the St. Louis Theater Circle is simple: To honor 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.

Nominations for the St. Louis Theater Circle Awards were divided into categories for musicals, dramas, comedies and operas.  More than 120 local professional theatrical productions were staged in the St. Louis area in 2019.

Honorees of the eighth annual St. Louis Theater Circle Awards are:

Outstanding Ensemble in a Comedy

A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur, Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy

Kelley Weber, A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur, Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy

Patrick Blindauer, Love’s Labors Lost, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Actress in a Comedy (tie)

Katie Kleiger, Pride and Prejudice, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Maggie Wininger, A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur, Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Actor in a Comedy

Will Bonfiglio, Fully Committed, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Director of a Comedy

Kari Ely, A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur, Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Production of a Comedy

Brighton Beach Memoirs, New Jewish Theatre

Indecent

Outstanding Ensemble in a Drama

Indecent, Max & Louie Productions

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama

Carly Uding, Translations, Black Mirror Theatre

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama

J. Samuel Davis, District Merchants, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Actress in a Drama

Donna Weinsting, Salt, Root and Roe, Upstream Theater

Outstanding Actor in a Drama

Gary Wayne Barker, District Merchants, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Director of a Drama

Joanne Gordon, Indecent, Max & Louie Productions

Outstanding Production of a Drama

Indecent, Max & Louie Productions

Outstanding Set Design in a Play

Margery and Peter Spack, Brighton Beach Memoirs, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Costume Design in a Play

Felia Davenport, District Merchants, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Play

Patrick Huber, Indecent, Max & Louie Productions

Outstanding Sound Design

Phillip Evans, Indecent, Max & Louie Productions

Outstanding Set Design in a Musical

Mary Engelbreit and Paige Hathaway, Matilda, The Muny

Outstanding Costume Design in a Musical

Sarah Porter, La Cage aux Folles, New Line Theatre

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Musical

Sean M. Savoie, Man of La Mancha, Stages St. Louis

Outstanding Musical Director

Charles Creath, Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope, The Black Rep

Outstanding Choreographer

Dexandro Montalvo, Such Sweet Thunder, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis,

Big Muddy Dance Company, Jazz St. Louis, Nine Network of Public Media

Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical

Matilda, The Muny

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical

Taylor Louderman, Kinky Boots, The Muny

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical

Tielere Cheatem, La Cage aux Folles, New Line Theatre

Outstanding Actress in a Musical

Kendra Kassebaum, Guys and Dolls, The Muny

Outstanding Actor in a Musical

Luke Steingruby, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, The Q Collective

Outstanding Director of a Musical

Michael Hamilton, Man of La Mancha, Stages St. Louis

Outstanding Production of a Musical

Such Sweet Thunder, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis,

Big Muddy Dance Company, Jazz St. Louis, Nine Network of Public Media

Outstanding New Play

Nonsense and Beauty, by Scott C. Sickles, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

La Boheme

Outstanding Achievement in Opera (tie)

Terence Blanchard and Kasi Lemmons, Fire Shut Up in My Bones, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

Roland Wood, Rigoletto, Opera Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding Production of an Opera

La Boheme, Union Avenue Opera

Special Award

Ken and Nancy Kranzberg

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 Media); Chuck Lavazzi, KDHX; Sarah Bryan Miller, St.Louis Post-Dispatch; Judith Newmark, judyacttwo.com; Ann Lemons Pollack, stlouiseats.typepadcom; Tanya Seale, Broadwayworld.com; Lynn Venhaus, PopLifeSTL.com; Bob Wilcox, Two on the Aisle (HEC Media); and Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch.Eleanor Mullin, local actress and arts supporter, is the group’s administrator. 

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

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By CB Adams
Contributing Writer

What happens when you take Puccini’s La Boheme (The Breakfast Club of its day) out for a sexed-up, drugged-up, angst-amped joy ride through lower Manhattan in the upper decade of the former millennium?

Well, if it’s 24 years ago, it snags a Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Musical while running for an impressive 12 years and grossing more than $280 million.

But what if it’s 24 years later? Do a quick internet search about the 20th-anniversary touring production of Jonathan Larson’s Rent, which opened at the Fabulous Fox on Friday, Feb. 21, and you’ll find a significant amount of critics-sphere dithering about the dreaded R-word – relevance.

Is this Puccini reboot (of sorts) still relevant now that the LGBTQ and AIDS epidemic cultural landscape has shifted in the past two decades — to say nothing of New York City real estate?

On the other hand, is a focus on relevance really that…well, relevant? After all, is Oklahoma and its “surrey with the fringe on top” relevant? Is South Pacific and its hair washing man removal relevant? Will Hamilton still be hip-hoppin’ relevant in 20 years?

Kelsee Schweigard as Maureen

The crucible for relevance of any piece of theater (define relevance any way you please) is, ultimately, time. It’s about longevity. It’s about audiences willing – eager even – to engage with a new production of a show and embrace it anew. Within this context, the relevance of Rent, now 20 years on, is proved by its ability to enthusiastically fill seats, which this touring production certainly did on opening night at the Fox Theatre. The audience demographic was “youthier” than some other recent Fox shows, which makes sense because Rent is talkin’ ‘bout that younger generation that bridges the analogue and digital worlds.

The audience was greeted immediately by Paul Clay’s muscular, industrial set design, adapted for this production by Matthew Maraffi, which provided an effective visual environment that evoked the vibe and spirit of (to cross genres) the Dandy Warhols’ “Bohemian Like You.” The lighting was noteworthy, too, appropriately shifting from candle-lit love-mood to spotlighted rock concert stage. Tucked stage right was the lean pit orchestra, led by conductor/keyboardist Mark Binns, which was seamlessly – visually and aurally – integrated into the production. In fact, it was easy to forget they were on stage most of the time.   

Rent is a demanding show choreographically speaking. It requires a range of athleticism during numbers such Mimi’s Tina Turner-channeling “Out Tonight” to the company’s languid, funereal “Goodbye, Love.” This production is generally up to that challenge, though Aiyana Smash as Mimi appeared unsure and overly studied during some of her pole-dancing moves while climbing and hanging from the railings during “Out Tonight.” Such hesitancy was quickly forgotten after her tabletop romping later in that number.   

Costume Design by Angela Wendt was true to the original and to the 90s era it represented. Costumes were mostly rags that thankfully didn’t veer too deeply into Uriah Heep territory and enlivened with some Jane Fonda workout and Where’s Wally? flourishes. One misstep was the portrayal of the riot police who wore oversized, cartoonish visors, cupped their batons like rural sheriffs and marched like children on parade. That may have been the intent, but it detracted from the emotional reach of their scenes.

The 20th reunion Rent benefits from a strong, deep-bench cast:

Cody Jenkins as Mark Cohen

Cody Jenkins as Mark Cohen provided the connective tissue throughout as both emcee and cast member. He delivered an admirable range that modulated from affable to earnest and, at-times, angry and callow.

Coleman Cummings delivered a strong but uneven performance as Roger Davis. On numbers that required his “big voice,” his voice was strong, meaty and powerful, but in quieter moments he was ineffectively torpid and lispy, even though Roger is not in good health.

Audience favorite Angel Schunard was Pussy-Galored/Pussy-Glamoured with a cat-like, Jack Skellington-esque aplomb by Joshua Tavares. His drag queen persona rightly drew applause and you-go-girl affirmations, but his quieter, sick and dying scenes were equally as memorable for their quiet power – especially his simulated puking. Schunard had the perfect blend of range and moves for the entirety of this demanding part.

Kelsee Sweigard delivered one of the show’s most impressive performances as Maureen Johnson during the “Over the Moon” performance art number. She played the preposterous “milk in the cyber world” scene with a believable, earnest awkwardness that wasn’t easy to achieve – in the same way playing believably drunk is never easy.  

Shafiq Hicks as big-man Tom Collins belted out his deep, resonant, “Old Man River”-tinged voice in all his solos, especially his reprise of “I’ll Cover You.” His best stage moments begged the production make a hard stop – in only good ways – to pay special attention to his performance.

Ditto for Smash as Mimi. Smash’s show-stopping power was evident in equal measures in her dance and singing. Her Mimi shared an impressive spectrum of radiance, assertiveness, horniness, vulnerability and, ultimately, transfigured. 

Rent at 24 resonates a little differently than it did in its Broadway and touring heyday. Perhaps at its 30th and 40th anniversaries will find a different relevance, though audiences may need footnotes to explain references to the Sex Pistols, Spike Lee, Ecstasy, etc.

But, as Dale Carnegie (of all people) once wrote, “Your purpose is to make your audience see what you saw, hear what you heard, feel what you felt. Relevant detail, couched in concrete, colorful language, is the best way to recreate the incident as it happened and to picture it for the audience.”

Yeah, Rent does that.

The 20th anniversary tour of “Rent”

The Fabulous Fox Theatre presented “Rent” February 21-23.

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
A variety of classics old and new are currently on local stages. Opening this
weekend are “Paint Your Wagon” at The Muny and “La Boheme” at Union Avenue
Opera, with community theater productions of “Joseph and the Amazing
Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “The Wizard of Oz,” and “Mamma Mia!”, a college production
of “Catch Me If You Can” and youth productions of “Carrie,” “Frozen Jr.,” “Seussical”
and “Into the Woods.”

An annual tradition, “The Rocky Horror Show,” is performed
twice each evening on Friday and Saturday at the Looking Glass Playhouse in
Lebanon.

Continuing on regional stages are “Grease,” “Jaws the
Parody: Live” and the second leg of the LaBute New Theater Festival.

“Carrie” at Debut TheatreWhatever your plans on this last weekend in July, go see a play!“Carrie” Debut Theatre Company July 26-28 Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. The Olive Tree, 1211 S. Newstead Ave., St. Louis https://debuttheatreco.weebly.com/ What It’s About: Based on the Stephen King novel and Brian DePalma movie, Carrie White is bullied in high school and her religious fundamentalist mother doesn’t want her going to the prom. Carrie has telekinesis and all hell will break loose.

Starring: Carrie White-MacLean Blanner, Margaret White-Isabel Cecilia Garcia, Sue Snell-Jessica Watts, Tommy Ross-Charlie Wehde, Chris Hargensen-Gabby Anderson, Billy Nolan-Sam Guillemette, Ms. Gardner-Ally Wukitsch, Norma-Emma Gulovsen, Helen-Gabby DeRennaux, Frieda-Allison Crandall, Claudia-Savannah Lamb, -Thomas Molen, Freddy-Nathan Hakenworth and Stokes-Santino Bono. Also Featuring Ginger Cox-Young Carrie, Children’s Ensemble- Tatum Douglas, Chloe Grieshaber, and Riley Kummer.“Catch Me If You Can” July 24-28 St. Charles Community College FAB Theater in the Donald D. Shook Fine Arts Building 4601 Mid Rivers Mall Drive in Cottleville, Mo 636-922-8050 www.stchas.edu/events

What It’s About: Based on the hit film and the incredible true story, “Catch Me If You Can” is a musical comedy about chasing your dreams without getting caught. Seeking fame and fortune, precocious teenager, Frank Abignale Jr., runs away from home to begin an unforgettable adventure. With nothing more than his boyish charm, a big imagination and millions of dollars in forged checks, Frank successfully poses as a pilot, a doctor and a lawyer – living the high life and winning the girl of his dreams. When Frank’s lies catch the attention of FBI agent, Carl Hanratty, though, Carl pursues Frank across the country to make him pay for his crimes“Frozen Jr.” Rock Show Productions Thursday, July 25 at 7 p.m., Friday, July 26 at 7 p.m., Saturday, July 27 at 7 p.m. The Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square, St. Louis, MO 63103www.rockshowproductions.org What It’s About: Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale, “The Snow Queen,” based on the Disney animated musical adaptation.

“Beauty School Dropout”“Grease” Stages St. Louis July 19 – Aug 18 Robert G. Reim Theatre at the Kirkwood Community Center 111 South Geyer Road in Kirkwood www.stagesstlouis.org

What It’s About: Welcome to Rydell High where Danny Zuko
and his gang of Burger Palace Boys and Pink Ladies rule the school! Bursting
with explosive energy and 1950’s nostalgia, GREASE blends an irresistible mix
of adolescent angst and All-American teen spirit to create a high-octane,
pop-culture phenomenon.

Director: Michael Hamilton
Starring: Sam Harvey, Summerisa Bell Stevens, Morgan Cowling, Jessie Corbin,
Patrick Mobley, Collin O’Connor, Frankie Thams, Julia Knitel, Lucy Moon and
Brooke Shapiro.

“Into the Woods” COCA July 26-27 Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 1 and 5 p.m. Edison Theatre on the Washington University campus www.cocastl.org

What It’s About: An epic fairytale about wishes, family and
the choices we make. James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim take everyone’s favorite
storybook characters and bring them together for a timeless, and relevant,
piece.
Director: Jim Butz, with music direction by Colin Healy and choreography by
Christopher Page-Sanders

Of Note: Ages 9 and up.

Great White Shark scares“Jaws The Parody: Live!” St. Louis Shakespeare’s Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre July 19 – July 27 Wednesday and Thursday, July 24 and 25, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 26 and 27, at 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.  Regional Arts Commission in University Citywww.stlshakespeare.org What It’s About: A spoof of the 1975 movie about the killer shark that terrorized a New England beach community, Amity Island, based on Peter Benchley’s 1974 bestseller.

Director: Donna Northcott
Starring: Ryan Glosemeyer as Chief Brody, James Enstall as Matt
Hooper, Rob McLemore as Quint, Shannon Nara as Ellen Brody, Dylan Comer as
Mayor Vaughn and playing multiple roles are CeCe Day, Jack Janssen, Maya Kelch,
Deanna Massie, Bethany Miscannon, and others.

“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” July 26 – Aug. 4 Over Due Theatre Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Olivette Community Center 9723 Grandview Drive, Olivette, MO 314-210-2959 www.overduetheatrecompany.com

What It’s About: Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2019, “Joseph”
is one of the most enduring shows of all time and reimagines the biblical story
of Joseph, his father Jacob, eleven brothers and the coat of many colors.

“La Boheme”“La Boheme” Union Avenue Opera July 26 – Aug. 2 Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Union Avenue Christian Church 733 Union at Enright 314-361-2881www.unionavenueopera.org What It’s About: Puccini’s opera about a group of poor artists and their search for love and happiness.

Of Note: The opera is sung in Italian with projected
English text.

LaBute New Theater Festival July 19-28 Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m. The Gaslight Theatre 358 N. Boyle, St. Louiswww.stlas.org 314-458-2978 Box Office: www.ticketmaster.com, 800-982-2787; will also be available at the theater box office one hour prior to performances

What It’s About: New previously unproduced one-act play
submissions of 45 minutes or less are juried and selected. They must not have
more than four characters and be able to

 Six plays were
chosen: One group was performed in the first two weeks of July, the final group
in the second two weeks. “Great Negro Works of Art,” a Midwest Premiere from
Mr. LaBute, will be performed every night for the run of the festival.

Set 2 includes:

 “Great Negro Works
of Art” by Neil LaBute, Directed by John Pierson, starring Carly Rosenbaum and
Jaz Tucker

“Predilections” by Richard Curtis, directed by Wendy Renee
Greenwood, starring Kim Furlow and Tielere Cheatem
 “Henrietta” by Joseph Krawczyk,
directed by Wendy Renee Greenwood, starring Carly Rosenbaum and Chuck Brinkley

“Sisyphus and Icarus a Love story” by William
Ivor Fowkes, directed by Wendy Renee Greenwood, starring Colleen Backer, Shane
Signorino and Tielere Cheatem

“Mamma Mia!” July 26 – Aug. 4 Hard Road Theatre Productions Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Highland Elementary School auditorium in Highland, Ill. www.hardroad.org

What It’s About: ABBA songs on a Greek isle. Three possible
dads, a wedding, and Donna and the Dynamos.

 “Overdone” by David
Hamley and “Screaming at Optimum Pitch” by Peg Flach
First Run Theatre
July 19 – 28
Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Theatre Guild of Webster Groves, 517 Theatre Lane in Webster Groves, Mo. www.firstruntheatre.com.

“Paint Your Wagon” The Muny July 27 – Aug. 2 Nightly at 8:15 p.m. Forest Park outdoor stagewww.muny.org What It’s About: A reimagined version of a 1951 Lerner and Loewe musical set in the California gold rush. It’s a moving tale of ambition, love and home that features such songs as “They Call the Wind Mariah,” “I Talk to the Trees” and “Wand’rin’ Star.” This adaptation has a revised book by Jon Marans. It’sproduced in association with On the Wagon Productions and Garmar Ventures.

Director: Josh Rhodes, also choreographer, with Starring: Bogart (Ben Rumson), Mamie Parris (Cayla Woodling), Omar Lopez-Cepero (Armando), Mark Evans (William), Maya Keleher (Jennifer Rumson), Allan K. Washington (Wesley), Andrew Kober (Jake), Austin Ku (Ming-Li), Raymond J. Lee (Guang-Li), Rodney Hicks (H. Ford) and Michael James Reed (Craig Woodling). A golden ensemble completes this cast, including Akilah Ayanna, Juan Caballer, Matthew Davies, Richard Gatta, Sally Glaze, Michael Milkanin, Trina Mills, Pascal Pastrana, Michael Seltzer and Cooper Stanton. The company will also be joined by the Muny Teen youth ensemble.

Russ Reidelberger as Dr. Frank N. Furter“The Rocky Horror Show” Looking Glass Playhouse Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., July 26 and 27 301 W. St. Louis St. in Lebanon, Ill.www.lookingglassplayhouse.com What It’s About: In this cult classic, sweethearts Brad and Janet, stuck with a flat tire during a storm, discover the eerie mansion of Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a transvestite scientist. As their innocence is lost, Brad and Janet meet a houseful of wild characters, including a rocking biker and a creepy butler. Through elaborate dances and rock songs, Frank-N-Furter unveils his latest creation: a muscular man named “Rocky.“Seussical the Musical” DaySpring Arts July 26-27 at 7 p.m.; July 28 at 3 p.m. DeSmet High School, 222 N. Ballas Road, St. Louis dayspringarts.org

What It’s About: The musical by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn
Ahrens brings Dr. Seuss’ beloved characters to life, including Cat in the Hat, Gertrude
McFuzz and Horton the Elephant.

“The Wizard of Oz” Alton Little Theater July 25 – Aug. 4. Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. 2450 North Henry in Alton, Ill. 618-462-6562www.altonlittletheater.org

What It’s About: Based on the books by L. Frank Baum, Dorothy
needs to find her way home after following the yellow brick road and making her
way to the Emerald City.

For seven years we’ve celebrated the beginning of summer in the beautiful garden at the Campbell House Museum and we hope you’ll join us for this year’s eighth annual Arias in the Afternoon on Sunday, June 9.

This year’s event will feature eight members of UAO’s talentedCandide and La bohème choruses in a musical performance to delight audiences of all ages. Join us in the garden for the musical stylings of Madeleine Buckley, Aleksandar Dragojevic, Danielle Feinstein, Grace Fisher, Michael Hawkins, Emily Heyl, Liya Khaimova, and Philip Touchette.

Take in a piece of local history as you tour the Campbell House’s magnificently restored interiors and explore their new exhibit: Robert Campbell and the Fur Trade. 

A light lunch will be provided along with complimentary wine, Virginia Campbell’s Champagne Roman Punch and ice cream from Clementine’s Creamery.

Sunday, June 9 from 1:00pm to 4:00pm[first performance at 2:00pm]Campbell House Museum1508 Locust Street | St. Louis, MO 63103

$75 Patron Tickets [includes $35 donation]$40 Regular

To make reservations, visit this link:https://unionavenueopera.secure.force.com/donate/?dfId=a0n610000076MYrAAM

Union Avenue Opera presents two company premieres in 2019

Christine Brewer returns to Union Avenue Opera for role debut as The Old Lady in Bernstein’sCandide

Union Avenue Opera announces 25th Anniversary Gala, October 10, 2019

Christine Brewer

Over 21 artists will make their Union Avenue Opera (UAO) debut this summer as the company celebrates its 25th Anniversary Season. The seven-week summer season will open Friday, July 5 with Bernstein’s hilarious, philosophical, and fast-paced take on Voltaire’s 1759 biting satire of the same name, Candideand will feature the return of Christine Brewer to the UAO stage. The season continues through August 24th with performances of Puccini’s operatic blockbuster La bohème, a tribute to UAO’s tradition of presenting operas in original languages, and the St. Louis premiere of Tom Cipullo’s Glory Denied, the true saga of Vietnam veteran Colonel Jim Thompson, the longest-held American POW in US history.

The 25th Anniversary Season will culminate with a Gala on Thursday, October 10 at the Barnett on Washington. Guests will enjoy cocktails and hors d’oeuvres followed by a masterfully crafted gourmet meal with a special musical performance by three notable UAO alum: Kenneth Overton (Stephen Kumalo, Lost in the Stars), Elise Quagliata(Sister James, Doubt), and Marsha Thompson (Abigaille, Nabucco). The evening will be hosted by Kathy Lawton Brown of Classic 107.3, The Voice for the Arts in St. Louis

“UAO started off small but mighty. I was a 22-year-old, just out of college looking for opera conducting experience and with the help of the Arts Group of Union Avenue Christian Church we set out to ‘put on a show’” recalls UAO Founding Artistic Director Scott Schoonover. “Our first budget was $5,000 which included everything! Our first auditions drew 17 people, and our orchestra was a string quartet. The cast and I helped build the sets and costumes, and we held 6 performances each with about 50 people in attendance. Minutes before the first performance, the lighting system blew, and we had to perform with just the house lights – it wasn’t fun at the time, but we laugh about it now. Each season has been a season of growth for UAO – for me personally, for our artists, our staff, our infrastructure, and our board of directors – and we are now ready to tackle Season 25.”

In total, UAO will create over 150 opportunities during the festival season both on stage, in the pit, as part of the design/production teams not to mention the nearly 100 volunteers who will give of their time and talents. All operas will be fully staged and performed in their original language with project English Supertitles on the Union Avenue Opera stage at 733 N. Union Blvd, STL 63108, and accompanied by a full orchestra, all members of the AFM Orchestra Union.

Over the past twenty-four years, UAO has grown in artist quality and excellence. Known throughout the region for presenting original language operas such as Nabucco, Rigoletto, La traviata, and Wagner’s epic four-part Ring cycle alongside newer works including Lost in the Stars, Dead Man Walking, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Doubt.

Single tickets are on sale for as low as $32 and subscription packages start at $80. Tickets may be purchased online at www.unionavenueopera.org, by phone at (314) 361-2881, and in person at Union Avenue Opera, 733 N. Union Blvd, St. Louis, MO, 63108. Student rush tickets are available at the door for $15 (cash only) with a valid student ID. There is ample free parking available.

Leonard Bernstein’s: CANDIDE

Scottish Opera Version Four Performances: July 5, 6, 12, 13 at 8:00 p.m.

Presented in English with English supertitles

War! Earthquakes! Disease! Very bad things happen to very good people (and plenty of bad ones too). When young Candide’s marriage proposal to a baron’s daughter doesn’t quite go as planned, this naïve student of optimism is thrust into an eye-opening odyssey across lands near and far, discovering the horrors of existence at every turn.Candide is part opera, part musical, and entirely irreverent. Voltaire’s philosophical spoof becomes a brilliant and breathless operetta set to a vivid score by Bernstein which abounds with spectacular music that includes a famous overture, the soprano showpiece “Glitter and Be Gay,” and the soaring finale, “Make our Garden Grow.” Through all its hysterical scouring of 18th-century wickedness and woe, Candide still finds a way to move and inspire with life-affirming lessons that, surprisingly, ring just as true today.

World-renowned opera legend, Christine Brewer, returns to the UAO stage in her role debut as The Old Lady inCandide. Schoonover will conduct while local director Annamaria Pileggi makes her UAO directorial debut. Jesse Darden and Brooklyn Snow make their UAO debuts as Candide and Cunegonde while Thomas Gunther returns as Voltaire/Pangloss following last year’s successful UAO debut as Captain Corcoran in H.M.S. Pinafore. Local actors Greg Johnston and Graham Emmons make their UAO stage debuts covering a variety of supporting characters. The chorus is composed of 16 of the area’s most talented emerging artists including Leann Schuering,Liya Khaimova, Anthony Heinemann, and Aleksandar Dragojevic. 

“I have always enjoyed and been impressed with productions I have seen at UAO and I can’t think of a better place to make my opera directorial debut!” said Pileggi. “I love the sweeping and theatrical nature of Candide. The breadth and scope of the story, along with the lushness and scale of Bernstein’s music make Candide a quintessentially live event.”

Candide – Jesse Darden*

Voltaire/Pangloss – Thomas Gunther

Maximillian – Charlie Tingen*

Cunegonde – Brooklyn Snow*

Paquette – Gina Malone

The Old Lady – Christine Brewer

Captain/Vanderdendur – Christopher Nelson*

Director – Annamaria Pileggi*

Conductor – Scott Schoonover

Scenic Designer – Otiz Sweezy*

Lighting Designer – Michael Sullivan

Costume Designer – Teresa Doggett

Technical Direction – Theatre Marine Productions

Properties Designer – Kate Slovinski

Giacomo Puccini’s: LA BOHÈME 

Four Performances: July 26, 27, August 2, 3 at 8:00 p.m.

Presented in Italian with English supertitles

Join the Bohemian Revolution in the heart of 19th-century Paris as a group of struggling artist strives to create beautiful art, find love, and ultimately live life to the fullest in this romantic operatic blockbuster. Rodolfo and his friends scrape by using their wit and charm to escape life’s harsher consequences until a chance encounter one winter night when Mimi asks Rodolfo to light her candle, changing everything and sending the pair into a deep, passionate whirlwind. At the same time, Marcello can’t resist the flirtatious charms of the feisty Musetta. Follow the triumphs and toils of this band of struggling young artists as they search for love, life, and laughter against impossible odds. For over 100 years, La bohème, Puccini’s most celebrated opera, has moved audiences to laughter and tears with its irresistible music and timeless tale. 

Ukrainian born soprano, Yulia Lysenko makes her UAO debut in the role of the ill-fated Mimi alongside Cree Carrico as Musetta in La bohème. Jesse Donner returns following his triumphant UAO debut as Ismaele in Verdi’sNabucco last summer. Andrew Wannigman (Jigger, Carousel), Nicholas Ward (Pish-Tush, The Mikado) and Scott Levin (Pooh-Bah, The Mikado) also return to UAO as Marcello, Schaunard, and Alcindoro respectively while Isaiah Musik-Ayala makes his UAO debut as Colline. Elizabeth Hastings (Cenerentola ’11) returns to conduct the 16 chorus and 8 children’s chorus members while St. Louis’ Mark Freiman (Nabucco) directs.

“For people of all ages who have never been to an opera or find it intimidating, La bohème is a great first opera” said Freiman. “The story is surprisingly simple, the music is lush and melodic, there is a lot of humor, and one can’t help but fall in love with the characters. There is nothing like seeing La bohème close-up in an intimate setting like UAO. Our production of La bohème will be traditional, but every production is different, making it fresh and exciting for the audience.”

Mimi – Yulia Lysenko*

Rodolfo – Jesse Donner

Musetta – Cree Carrico*

Marcello – Andrew Wannigman

Schaunard – Nicholas Ward

Colline – Isaiah Musik-Ayala*

Alcindoro/Benoit – Scott Levin

Customs Agent – Randell McGee

Director – Mark Freiman

Conductor – Elizabeth Hastings

Scenic and Lighting Designer – Patrick Huber

Costume Designer – Teresa Doggett

Technical Direction – Theatre Marine Productions

Properties Designer – Kate Slovinski

Tom Cipullo’s: GLORY DENIED

Based on the novel “Glory Denied” by Tom Philpott

Presented in English with English supertitles

Performances Aug. 16, 17, 23 and 24 at 8 p.m.

America’s longest-held prisoner of war dreams of coming home. But home is a place he will not recognize. Follow the gut-wrenching saga of Colonel Jim Thompson as he transitions from the jungles of Southeast Asia to the tree-lined streets of suburban America. Glory Denied speaks to the plight of so many of our veterans who nobly fought for their country but face huge challenges when it comes to re-assimilating into society—and their longed-for normal lives—after service. This true story explores the unimaginable bravery asked of soldiers and the nature of hope itself. It is a story of a nation divided and a country that changed significantly in the decade of his imprisonment. Tom Cipullo’s Glory Denied made waves in opera circles when it premiered a decade a go and continues to do so today.

The Glory Denied cast of four includes David Walton (Albert, Albert Herring) as Younger Thompson, Peter Kendall Clark in his UAO debut as Older Thompson, Karina Brazas (Yum-Yum, The Mikado) as Younger Alyce, and Gina Galati (Donna Elvira, Don Giovanni) as Older Alyce. Schoonover conducts as St. Louis native Dean Anthonymakes his UAO directorial debut.

“Glory Denied is an emotional rollercoaster” said Anthony. “What we see in Glory Denied is the cause and effect on all sides. So often, lives of POWs have been forgotten and just become a part of our past. The sacrifice and commitment of these women and men who served our country should never be forgotten. As well as the families who were back home.” 

Older Thompson – Peter Kendall Clark*

Younger Thompson – David Walton

Older Alyce – Gina Galati

Younger Alyce – Karina Brazas

Director – Dean Anthony*

Conductor – Scott Schoonover

Scenic Designer – Roger Speidel

Lighting Designer – Joe Clapper

Costume Designer – Teresa Doggett

Technical Direction – Theatre Marine Productions

Properties Designer – Kate Slovinski

*UAO stage debut

Don’t miss UAO’s Free Friday Night Lecture Series at 7:00 p.m. before the performance in the Union Avenue Fellowship Gallery presented by Dr. Glenn Bauer of Webster University (July 5, 12, 26 August 2, 16, 23). Lectures are free and open to the public.

25th ANNIVERSARY GALA

Thursday, October 10 at 6pm

The Barnett on Washington [3207 Washington Blvd]

Join us as we celebrate Union Avenue Opera’s 25th Anniversary in the festive ambiance of The Barnett on Washington. Enjoy cocktails and hors d’oeuvres followed by a masterfully crafted gourmet meal with a musical performance by Kenneth Overton (Stephen Kumalo, Lost in the Stars), Elise Quagliata (Sister James, Doubt),Marsha Thompson (Abigaille, Nabucco) and hosted by Kathy Lawton Brown, Classic 107. 3. Tickets are on sale now. Call 314-361-2881 or visit unionavenueopera.org for more information.

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About Union Avenue Opera – UAO was founded in 1994 to bring affordable, professional, original-language opera to St. Louis, a mission the company continues to pursue to this day. UAO is committed to hiring the most talented artists, directors, designers and technicians both locally and from across the United States. UAO provides promising young singers the first steppingstone of their professional career. UAO is a publicly supported 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization registered in Missouri. In 2018 UAO became an OPERA American Professional Company Member. OPERA America is the national membership organization for artists, administrators and audiences, dedicated to support the creation, presentation and enjoyment of opera.UAO offers vibrant and affordable opera experiences in original languages to audiences who reflect the breadth and diversity of the St. Louis region from the acoustically superb sanctuary of an historic church located in the urban Visitation Park neighborhood in St. Louis’ Central West End. Financial assistance has been provided by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency, and with support from the Regional Arts Commission, and PNC Arts Alive.  Emily (DePauw) Stolarski Administrative Director | Union Avenue Opera733 N. Union Blvd | St. Louis, MO 63108 | 314-361-2881 Our 25th Anniversary SeasonCandide: Scottish Opera Version – July 5, 6, 12, 13La bohème – July 26, 27, August 2, 3Glory Denied – August 16, 17, 23, 24 The mission of Union Avenue Opera is to provide professional opportunities for gifted, emerging artists and to offer vibrant and affordable opera experiences in original languages to audiences that reflect the breadth and diversity of the St. Louis region. Believing that the arts are vital to the health and reputation of a community, Union Avenue Opera is committed to its urban setting, educational outreach and artistic integrity.

Union Avenue Opera’s University Artist Outreach program, Crescendo, will present a free recital on Sunday, March 10, at 5 p.m. The recital is the culmination for participants in UAO’s Crescendo program, a free, hands-on, performance based training program developed to further the education of local artists still young in their careers as they prepare to join the St. Louis art community.

The recital is free and open to all ages. It will be held on the Union Avenue Opera stage at 733 North Union Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63108. This is a non-ticketed event. Doors open 4:30 p.m.

In the spring of 2014, Union Avenue Opera launched their new collegiate enrichment program called Crescendo.

Participants take part in a series of masterclasses and workshops presented by UAO’s esteemed professionals in anticipation of a public recital on March 10, where they will compete for $2,500 in scholarships and spots in UAO’s 2019 productions of Candide and La Boheme.

The program is open to all voice students currently enrolled in an undergraduate program within 60 miles of St. Louis, and offers a unique opportunity for young artists to work with their contemporaries while honing their craft.

To date, 72 students have completed the Crescendo program, some as many as 4 times! As a result, these young artists have appeared in over 65 roles in 7 operas as part of UAO’s Festival Season.  This year, 24 students from seven local music programs are participating in Crescendo.

Union Avenue Opera’s Crescendo is designed for the motivated student, to provide the opportunity to hone their craft while working with UAO’s esteemed professionals.

UAO believes St. Louis has a lot to offer singers and they want to reach out to local students and make their acquaintance. In addition, participants will compete for scholarships as well as paid positions in UAO’s 2019 productions of Bernstein’s Candide, Puccini’s La bohème, and Tom Cipullo’s Glory Denied.* 

Numerous participants of the Crescendo Program have gained employment opportunities  working behind the scenes at Union Avenue Opera. Students were hired to work in the box office, run supertitles, as well as perform in productions, all of which gave them insight to a career in the performing arts.

cutline: 2018 Recital Winners: SIUE’s Sarah Paitz recipient of the John J. Prcic Memorial Scholarship, SIUE’s David Fournie winner of the Jack and Betty Swanson Scholarship, Webster University’s Abby Benson winner of the John Lessor Scholarship, and Artistic Director Scott Schoonover. Kari Frey Photography.

Meet the 2019 Crescendo Staff

Program Coordinator – Debra Hillabrand

Christine Armistead, Director of Vocal Activities, Washington UniversityJon Garrett, Adjunct Professor, Staff Accompanist and Music Director, St. Louis University; Adjunct Professor of Voice, Staff Accompanist and Music Director, Lindenwood University, Adjunct Professor, St. Charles Community CollegeSandra Geary, Piano Faculty, Washington UniversityMartha Hart, Associate Professor of Voice, Webster UniversityEric KuhnStella Markou, Director of  Vocal Studies, University of Missouri-St. LouisNancy Mayo, Piano Faculty, Webster UniversityJennifer MedinaAlice Nelson, Director of the Webster Opera Studio, Webster UniversityAnna Pileggi, Professor of the Practice in Drama, Washington UniversityNoël Prince, Voice Faculty, Washington UniversityMarc Schapman, Director of SIUE Opera Theatre, Southern Illinois University EdwardsvilleScott Schoonover, Artistic Director and Founder, Union Avenue Opera Stephanie Tennill, Assistant Professor of Music, Saint Louis University

 

Questions?Email Program Coordinator, Debra Hillabrand, at [email protected]