By Lynn Venhaus Managing Editor THE BIZ IN SHOW: Congratulations to the recipients of this year’s St. Louis Arts Awards, which took place Jan. 21 at the Chase Park Plaza Royal Sonesta Hotel. Arts honorees included: Chris Hansen, executive director of the Kranzberg Arts Foundation, received Arts Innovator of the Year; Carrie Houk of the Tennessee Williams Festival, Arts Startup of the Year; Noémi and Michael Neidorff, Excellence in Philanthropy; Ken Page, Lifetime Achievement in the Arts; Brent Benjamin, Saint Louis Art Museum, Excellence in the Arts; Sue Greenberg, Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts, Champion for the Arts; and Amy Freet, Ferguson-Florissant School District, Art Educator of the Year.

Bryan Batt and Carrie Houk at A&E Arts Awards.

Nominations are sought from the community every spring by
the Arts and Education Council, who convenes a selection panel made of past
honorees, arts patrons, artists and others to review the nominations and select
the honorees.

A&E Council has recognized more than 175 artists,
educators, philanthropists, corporate citizens and arts groups since 1992.

Bryan Batt, who starred in “Mad Men” and appeared as Edna Turnblad in “Hairspray” at The Muny, will be returning in May for the Tennessee Williams Festival, Carrie Houk said. Exciting news to come! ***DOWN-HOME DIVA:  Grammy-winning artist, world-class soprano and proud resident of Lebanon, Ill., Christine Brewer can be seen in Doug Cuomo’s opera “Doubt” on PBS.

Christine Brewer of Lebanon, Ill.

The Minnesota Opera production is airing on the “Great
Performances” program and is now available for streaming on pbs.org/gperf and
PBS apps. Check local listings for programming. PBS Local is Ch. 9 KETC
and Ch. 8 WSIU in Carbondale.
The opera is based on playwright John Patrick Shanley’s acclaimed 2005 Broadway
play, which was later adapted into an Academy Award-nominated film in 2008
starring Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

The Union Avenue Opera company produced “Doubt” here in the summer of 2016, with Brewer as Sister Aloysius.

Brewer was on hand to introduce a showing and participate in a Q&A Jan. 27 at The Hettenhausen Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of her alma mater, McKendree University, in Lebanon, Ill. The opera also stars Adriana Zabala as Sister
James, Matthew Worth as Father Flynn and Denyce Graves as Mrs. Miller

 Great Performances
Executive Producer David Horn said “Doubt’ is a powerful story that has
resonated with Broadway and movie audiences alike. Minnesota Opera has brought
the story to life in an exciting new way, highlighting the company’s depth of
talent and willingness to take on the challenge of an emotionally charged new
work.”

In 1964 at a Bronx Catholic Schools, a battle of wills is ignited when Sister James shares her suspicion that Father Flynn, the progressive pastor, may be abusing the school’s only African-American student. Sister Aloysius, the school’s iron-fisted principal, embarks on a personal crusade to discover the truth. Brewer will return to the Union Avenue Opera stage this summer as the Mother Abbess in “The Sound of Music.” Performance dates are July 5, 6, 12 and 13. ***NO DAY BUT TODAY: The Fox Network has confirmed that the original Broadway cast of  the landmark musical “Rent” will be on the “Rent Live!” telecast Sunday, Jan. 27, from 7 to 10 p.m. on KTVI (ch. 2 local).

The original 1996 cast includes Tony winner Idina Menzel
who played Maureen Johnson, Tony nominee Adam Pascal as Roger Davis, Tony
nominee Daphne Rubin-Vega as Mimi Marquez, Anthony Rapp as Mark Cohen, Jesse L.
Martin as Tom Collins, Fredi Walker as Joanne Jefferson, Taye Diggs as Benny
and Wilson Jermaine Heredia in a Tony-winning turn as Angel.

Original Broadway Cast 1996The live cast will include Vanessa Hudgens as Maureen
Johnson, Brennin Hunt as Roger Davis, Tinashe as Mimi Marquez, Jordan Fisher as
Mark Cohen, Tony nominee Brandon Victor Dixon as Tom Collins, Kiersey Clemons
as Joanne Jefferson, Mario as Benny and Valentina as Angel, with Tony nominee
Keala Settle as the “Seasons of Love” soloist.

Jonathan Larson’s musical about a group of friends
surviving in New York City at the during the AIDS crisis won the 1996 Tony
Award for Best Musical and a Pulitzer Prize, among many others. A film
adaptation was released in 2005, featuring most of the original cast.

Original director Michael Greif is helming the TV version.  Producers include Julia and Al Larson, Jonathan’s
sister and father.

 ***FIT AND FAB: Conquering Mount Olympus, St. Louisan Derik Scott, 30, is the Reigning Titan after competing Jan. 24 on NBC’s “The Titan Games,” which is hosted by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Scott, a lawyer and professional mixed martial-arts fighter, grew up in Jefferson and south St. Louis counties. He is a 2006 graduate of Lindbergh High School and attended Lindenwood University, where he competed on the diving team and graduated in 2009.

Derik Scott of St. Louis

He earned his law degree from Baylor University and lived
in the Dallas area, moving back to the ‘Lou in 2015. This past summer, he moved
again, taking a job as general counsel with a chain of fitness centers.

His parents, Kevin and Dana Scott, owned Scotts Gymnastics
in Crestwood. He won his first national championship at age 7.

The 10-episode athletic competition show began Jan. 3 and is
produced by the team behind “America’s Ninja Warriors.”

Jeff Wright

HEAR YE: Local singer-actor Jeffrey M. Wright will be a guest performer at the CabaretFest in Provincetown, Mass., late May/early June. More details to come.

Alexandra Kay

Local singer-actress Lexi Krekorian returns to her roots, coming in from L.A. to play on Saturday, Feb. 16, with her Alexandra Kay Band at the Silver Creek Saloon & Grill, 2520 Masscoutah Ave., in Belleville. Matt Wynn will open the show that begins at 8:30 p.m. Cover is $5.

Lexi, aka Alexandra Kay, can be seen in the original Netflix reality series, “Westside.” She is from Waterloo, Ill.

The Zombies of PenzancePhoto by Jill Ritter Lindberg

***THE SINGING DEAD: The script, full piano-vocal score and live original cast recording of ‘The Zombies of Penzance” are now available on Amazon.com.

New Line Theatre’s world premiere of this comic-horror opera adaptation of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance” was in October 2018, with new text by Scott Miller and music adaptation and orchestration by John Gerdes. It contains adult language and adult content.

The cast album features the entire original St. Louis cast and band, recorded in front of a live audience at the Marcelle Theater in the Grand Center Arts District, recorded and mixed by New Line sound designer Ryan Day.

The show’s writers are also
accepting requests for production rights.

New Line’s original Zombies of
Penzance cast included Sean Michael as Frederic, Melissa Felps as Mabel,
Zachary Allen Farmer as Major-General Stanley the Zombie Hunter, Dominic
Dowdy-Windsor as the Zombie King, Kent Coffel as Zombie Sam, with Mara Bollini,
Robert Doyle, Matt Hill, Lindsey Jones, Tim Kaniecki, Kyle Kelesoma, Melanie
Kozak, Sarah Porter, Christina Rios, and Kimi Short.

The Zombies of Penzance band
included Nicolas Valdez (Conductor/Piano), John Gerdes (French Horn), Lea
Gerdes (Reeds), Joseph Hendricks (Bassoon), Emily Trista Lane (Cello), Twinda
Murry (Violin), Kelly Austermann (Reeds), and Hope Walker (Reeds).

The show was directed by Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor, with music direction by Nicolas Valdez.***

GO SEE A PLAY POLL: Want to see “Avenue Q” at the Playhouse at Westport? We are giving away two tickets for the Thursday, Jan. 31, performance. To enter this drawing, send your name, phone number and your answer to the question on Favorite Musicals About Neighbors by noon on Tuesday, Jan. 29 to: [email protected] All entries will be placed into a drawing, and winner will be notified that afternoon.What Is Your Favorite Musical About Neighbors?Avenue Q The Fantasticks Fiddler on the Roof In the Heights Promises, Promises Rent

Send your choice to Lynn Venhaus, [email protected], by Tuesday. Jan. 29, at noon.***WORD: What do you say when you receive three Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor for “A Star Is Born”?

Oscar nominees Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper“Everyone who worked on this film truly risked putting themselves out there — in the hope that in doing so people will connect and feel something deep and personal — the way films have made me feel since I was a kid.  When I got this opportunity I knew I had to risk it all because I may never get another chance — so to be here today in a place where people who have seen the film are talking about how it makes them feel, something deep — that simple human thing — that we need each other — and the Academy to recognize that this morning — I just am so grateful.” – statement from Bradley Cooper***

Awards March 25

THEATER PROM: More than 100 shows were produced by 40 companies during the calendar year for consideration for the St. Louis Theater Circle Awards. Nominations for the seventh annual ceremony were announced Jan. 25.Circle members recently voted for five nominees in 34 categories each — 54 shows received nominations, presented by 23 companies, and 120 artists recognized.

I am a founding member, and published the list here. https://stllimelight.com/2019/01/25/evita-streetcar-lead-st-louis-theater-circle-nominations/

The awards will be presented on Monday, March 25, on the Browning Mainstage at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus, home of The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. Admission remains $15 per person, and tickets can be purchased through www.brownpapertickets.com. Instead of a pre-show dinner, appetizers and drinks will be available from Llewellyn Catering***

Nominations for the Theatre Mask Awards (plays) and Best Performance Awards (musicals) will be announced at the 10th annual AFL Trivia Night this Friday, Feb. 1 at St. Joseph’s Parish Center in Manchester. Go to this page to sign up and for more information. The 70s theme is just for costumes (optional) and tables.http://www.artsforlife.org/trivia-night-1.htmlTRIVIA TIME-OUT: Whether you are a RENT-head or not, you must admit that “Rent” changed the cultural landscape when it opened on Broadway April 29, 1996, after being workshopped and off-Broadway. The night it was to be unveiled to the public, Jan. 25, 1996, composer-writer Jonathan Larson was found dead from an aneurysm (later diagnosed Marfan Syndrome). At the New York Theatre Workshop, the cast went on to sing-through the score for a closed audience of Jonathan’s family and friends instead.After its move to the Niederlander Theatre, it spent 12 years there and is the 11th-longest running musical of all-time. And it also pioneered the Broadway ticket lottery. Here are a few questions – test your knowledge (Answers Below):

The musical is based on what Puccini opera?Anthony Rapp, who originated the role of Mark
Cohen, went to high school with stage and screen star John Barrowman and comic
actor Andy Dick in what northern Illinois town?Four cast members were nominated for Tonys, but
who won?The cast of “Rent” performed “Seasons of Love” on the
opening day of the 1996 Democratic convention (Aug. 26). A year later,
President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary took Chelsea to see it for her 17th
birthday.
Another Broadway legend was inspired by seeing it when he turned 17 – Lin-Manuel
Miranda. He called it a revelation.
Here is the cast of “Rent” singing at the Chicago convention: https://youtu.be/WlOWRrXqTr4

Answers: 1. “La Boheme” 2. Joliet, Ill. 3. Wilson Jermaine Heredia, who played Angel. (Adam Pascal, Daphne Rubin-Vega and Idina Menzel were also nominated.) ***

Broadway fan David Letterman

MEMORY LANE: Friend to the Broadway theater community, David Letterman’s talk show “Late Night” debuted on Feb. 1, 1982, filmed at the NBC Studios in Rockefeller Center.

He moved to CBS on Aug. 30, 1993, broadcasting “Late Show” from the historic Ed Sullivan Theatre in mid-town Manhattan, in the heart of the Broadway theater district, and retired May 20, 2015. With his 33 year-tenure, he became the longest running talk show host ever.

Known for often presenting new musicals in thrilling live
performances, that mantel has moved to his successor, Stephen Colbert’s show in
the Ed Sullivan Theatre, and also Seth Meyer’s late-night show on NBC.
Letterman also involved local theaters and performers in comedy bits, and Broadway
stars were frequent guests.

When Letterman retired, Playbill published an article “Letterman Loves Broadway!” and included clips of some show performances, including “American Idiot,” “Catch Me If You Can,” “Nice Work if You Can Get It,” Spring Awakening,” “Jersey Boys,” “Lion King,” “Wicked,” “Million Dollar Quartet,” “The Producers,” “Spider-Man,” and “Young Frankenstein,” with revivals of  “Anything Goes,” “Cabaret,” “Hair,” “West Side Story,” “South Pacific” and “How to Succeed.”

Here is the article link with the video clips. “Matilda,” “Pippin” and “Rocky” have been removed, but all the mentions above are still there.

http://www.playbill.com/article/letterman-loves-broadway-see-more-than-two-dozen-thrilling-musical-performances-from-the-late-show-video-com-349539

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
You go, girls! Local singer-actors get national attention, and the St. Louis-produced Broadway musical “The Prom” made Thanksgiving Parade television history.
BREAKING OUT: We have a talented trio of local ladies who are living their dreams right now.
Lexi Krekorian, 27, of Waterloo, Ill., is one of the nine struggling musicians featured on the Netflix reality series, “Westside,” now available. She goes by the stage name, Alexandra Kay, and has released her first single, “You Think You Know Someone,” and several music videos of songs on the “Westside” soundtrack. She started out in school and community theater, and is chasing her dream in L.A. Here is the feature I wrote for the Belleville News-Democrat about her rising star.
https://www.bnd.com/living/magazine/article221600685.html
Kennedy Holmes of Florissant, the John Burroughs student and Muny Kid who is wowing the nation as a contestant on “The Voice,” made it through to the Top 11 Live Playoffs on Nov. 20. She sang “Wind Beneath My Wings” and is on Jennifer Hudson’s team, headed for the Top 10 showdown Nov. 26. Here is her Top 11 performance:
https://www.nbc.com/the-voice/video/kennedy-holmes-wind-beneath-my-wings/3832852
Thirteen proved to be lucky for Kennedy, as she was not among the 12 eliminated from the Top 24 Live Playoffs in Episode 13. She sang Beyonce’s “Halo.” “The Voice” is on Mondays and Tuesdays on NBC, with live voting the first night and results the second night. She is 13.
Meadow Nguy, providedMeadow Nguy, 23, of O’Fallon, Ill., performed in two musicals at Stray Dog Theatre (Marta in “Spring Awakening” in 2012 and the female lead in the original musical “Spellbound” in 2015), and in community and school theater. She guest-starred on the Nov. 18 episode of “Madam Secretary” called “Baby Steps,” as a Southeast Asia surrogate caught up in a human trafficking imbroglio . She made her crime-drama debut in ‘The Blacklist” earlier this year. Both shows available on demand. Here is the news article I wrote for the Belleville News-Democrat:
https://www.bnd.com/news/local/article221829910.html

***ATTABOY: Congratulations to Cory Finley, who scored a Film Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best First Screenplay for his “Thoroughbreds.” The annual awards, held since 1984, honor independent filmmakers working with small budgets. The awards are always announced the day before the Oscars, and this year, it will be Saturday, Feb. 23.
Focus Features photoIn fall 2017, the St. Louis Actors’ Studio presented Finley’s play, “The Feast.” A John Burroughs School grad, Finley’s movie opened nationwide in March after premiering at the Sundance Film Festival in January. It played the St. Louis International Film Festival in 2017.
Olivia Cooke (“Ready Player One,” “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”) and Anya Taylor-Joy (“Split,” “The Witch”) play upper-class Connecticut teenagers who rekindle their unlikely friendship and hatch a plan to solve both of their problems — no matter what the cost. It’s the last film of Anton Yelchin.                                                                    Finley, who grew up in Clayton, is based in New York City. He is a member of the Obie-winning Youngblood playwrights group at Ensemble Studio Theater, has received a commission from the Alfred P. Sloan foundation for playwrighting, and was the inaugural recipient of the Gurney Playwrights Fund for his play, “The Feast,” at The Flea Theater. Check out www.thoroughbredsmovie.com
***STANDING O’s: Standing ovation for stand-up guy, Kwofe Coleman, who started as an usher at the Muny the summer of 1998, and now has been named managing director! He has served as Director of Marketing and Communications since 2013.
Kudos to the Cinema St. Louis team on their record-setting attendance of 28,723 at this year’s St. Louis International Film Festival Nov. 1 – 11. SLIFF screened 413 films, including 88 narrative features, 77 documentary features, and 248 shorts. Local actors are often seen in the regionally produced short films.

Cast members from “Disney’s Aladdin” presented “Sultan’s Soiree,” an exclusive cocktail reception, Nov 18 to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Guests mingled while enjoying cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, photo opportunities, live entertainment and karaoke. To learn more, visit www.broadwaycares.org. Michael James Scott, a Webster University Conservatory graduate, is playing the Genie while Jonathan Weir, formerly of Belleville, is Jafar. “Aladdin” is at the Fox through Nov. 25.
***BIG SPLASH: The reviews are in, and it’s all raves for the new original musical comedy “The Prom,” which opened on Broadway Nov. 15 at the Longacre Theatre, following previews that began Oct. 23.
The New York Times said: “Makes you believe in musical comedy again.”
Variety said: “This original musical has laughs, tears and joy — not to mention jaw-dropping star-turns — in a clash-of-cultures hoot that earns a big Broadway corsage.”
Vanity Fair photoThe show has multiple local connections – Centralia, Ill., native Chad Beguelin is the co-book writer, with Bob Martin (co-creator of “The Drowsy Chaperone”) and lyricist, with music by Matthew Sklar. Beguelin wrote lyrics to Disney’s “Aladdin” and both he and Sklar were Tony-nominated for “The Wedding Singer.”
Some local producers include Jack Lane, executive director of Stages St. Louis; Ken and Nancy Kranzberg, Patty Gregory of Belleville, Terry Schnuck, Andrew S. Kuhlman of St. Louis and Fairview Heights native Joe Grandy. St. Louis performers Jack Sippel and Drew Reddington are part of the ensemble, and stars Beth Leavel and Christopher Sieber have appeared several times at The Muny. The Broadway cast also includes Brooks Ashmanskas (Tony nominee for ‘Something Rotten!”),
Casey Nicholaw, Tony winner for “The Book of Mormon,” directed and choreographed the show.
“The Prom” is about a canceled high school dance – a student is barred from bringing her girlfriend to the prom — and four fading Broadway stars who seize the opportunity to fight for justice — and a piece of the spotlight. Its tagline is “There’s no business like getting in other people’s business.”
***
NOBODY RAINED ON THEIR PARADE: “The Prom,” one of four musical acts in the 92nd annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Nov. 22, made parade history with the first same-sex kiss televised live. As the number, “It’s Time to Dance,” closed, cast mates Isabelle McCalla and Caitlin Kinnunen embraced and kissed. The LGBTQ community cheered.
Here is that performance: https://youtu.be/VDZDLJjzJBI
Tony nominee Taylor Louderman of Bourbon, Mo., performed with the cast of “Mean Girls.” She plays Regina, the snotty leader of the cool girls’ pack. Taylor was last seen locally on the Muny stage in 2016’s “Aida” as Amneris.
Fun Fact: The dance company, Radio City Rockettes, was founded in St. Louis in 1925 by Russell Markert. First known as the “Missouri Rockets,” the precision chorus line has performed in Radio City Music Hall since 1932.
***HANNUKAH HULLABALOO: The eighth annual Brothers Lazaroff show to benefit Metro Theater Company will take place on Saturday, Dec. 8, at 7 p.m. at The Grandel Theatre, and all ages welcome.
The show will feature Rabbi James Stone Goodman and the Eight Nights Orchestra, DJ Boogieman, tributes to Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and more! As always, free latkes will be fried on-stage! Food vendors will include Taco Buddha, The Dark Room and STL-Style will be selling their St. Louis-inspired apparel.
***AROUND TOWN: Legendary Wilco founder and Belleville native Jeff Tweedy took to The Pageant stage with Jon Hamm Nov. 17 to discuss his storied career. The book tour stop was sold-out.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch photoThe Grammy-winning singer-songwriter’s memoir “Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back”): Memoir of Recording and Discording with Wilco, Etc.,” features stories about his childhood, putting Uncle Tupelo together, and recollections about St. Louis record store, rock clubs and live-music scene during his formative years.
Now based in Chicago, Tweedy can be spotted in the indie movie “Hearts Beat Loud” as a customer, in what else, a record store.
Playwright Vladimir Zelevinsky was in town for the opening weekend of West End Players Guild “The Great Seduction,” and graciously spoke to Tina Farmer of KDHX and I about his interesting life and writing process.
 
Zelevinsky also wrote “Manifest Destiny,” performed at WEPG in 2016, which was nominated for Best Ensemble by the St. Louis Theater Circle.
***SANTA’S COMING! I KNOW HIM: With the holiday essential film “Elf” as its next movies-for-foodies event, Tenacious Eats returns to the St. Louis Banquet Center in Holly Hills, at 5700 Leona Street, on Saturday, Dec. 15.
Guests will feast on five courses and have cocktails themed to the movie, and the event also includes contests and live music. Chef Liz Schuster has left West End Grill and Pub to devote more time to her cinema-and-theme-dining experience – and Tenacious Eats is known for its “full-contact dining experiences.” Tickets are on sale now at BrownPaperTickets.com.
***GO SEE A PLAY POLL: Ah, Church Ladies and Christmas Pageants are customary fixtures during the holiday season, so the folks behind the Lutheran laugh-apalooza, “Church Basement Ladies: Away in a Basement” have returned with a warm, sentimental and uproarious show.
Now playing at The Playhouse @ Westport through Jan. 6, this is a perfect show to take your mom or grandma to – and you can win two free tickets to the show if you enter our drawing.
Select a show from the list below to answer our question: “What is your favorite holiday-themed play or musical?”
 
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
A Christmas Carol
A Christmas Story
Elf
Inspecting Carol
It’s a Wonderful Life
White Christmas
And send it via email, along with your name, cell phone and email address by 5 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 25, to [email protected] and you will be entered in a drawing. Winner will receive 2 tickets to an upcoming show.
In our last “Go See a Play” poll, Graham Emmons of St. Louis won two tickets to Rebel and Misfits’ “Macbeth: Come Like Shadows.” The survey’s response to best mystery play landed the 1952 classic “Dial M for Murder” by Frederick Knott op top, with “Wait Until Dark” – another Frederick Knott play from 1966 — a close second.
***FOSSE, VERDON AND ALL THAT JAZZ: The next show-biz limited series for FX will be “Fosse/Verdon” in 2019, about the legendary Broadway choreographer Bob Fosse and his professional and personal relationship with dancer Gwen Verdon.
Oscar winner Sam Rockwell is cast as Fosse while Oscar nominee Michelle Williams will be Verdon, returning to the network 20 years after “Dawson’s Creek.”
The cast features St. Louis native Norbert Leo Butz as writer Paddy Chayefsky, Margaret Quall as Ann Reinking and Nate Corddry as Neil Simon.
Lin-Manuel Miranda is executive-producing the eight episodes and “Hamilton” choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler is creating the dance.
***WHISTLING A HAPPY TUNE: The lavish acclaimed Tony-winning revival, “The King and I,” will be shown two nights at the Plaza Frontenac Cinema, on Nov 29 and Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical filmed during its run at the London Palladium, June 21 to Sept. 29 and features more than 50 performers.
Kelli O’Hara reprised her Tony Award-winning performance and Tony and Oscar nominee Ken Watanabe played The King again. Tony winner Ruthie Ann Miles returned as Lady Thiang and West End “Aladdin” star Dean John Wilson and Na-Young Jeon played Lun Tha and Tuptim. Director Bartlett Sher reunited the original creative team.
***TRIVIA TIME-OUT: With St. Louis performers making a name for themselves on the national stage, here’s a little flashback to the halcyon days of “American Idol,” the big-bang of reality competition singing shows.
1. Who is the only St. Louisan to make “American Idol” Top Ten Finalists?
2. What “American Idol” winner tried out in St. Louis one of the two times auditions were held here?
Answers (both Season 4):
Nikko Smith, born Osborne Earl Jr., son of Cardinal Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith, who wound up ninth overall in 2005. He had been voted off in the third round of the semi-finals, but the producers asked him back to take the place of Mario Vazquez, who left for “family reasons.”
Carrie Underwood, who drove up with her mom from the family farm in Checotah, Okla., in 2004, sang “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt.
Here’s that audition: https://youtu.be/P0j9NGV-Jm4
She just won CMA Female Vocalist of the Year, killed with a live awards show performance of “Love Wins” at six months’ pregnant, and has to date seven Grammy Awards, including Best New Artist in 2007, the only second country artist to win it.
St. Louis has hosted auditions for Seasons 4 and 11.
***WORD: “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” – Plato
 
 

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing EditorGREEN DAY: We have been changed for good by the cultural phenomenon “Wicked,” which has broken records in St. Louis and is still “Popular” around the world after opening on Oct. 30, 2003 on Broadway.
To commemorate the musical’s 15th anniversary, NBC will air a tribute concert on Monday, Oct. 29, at 9 p.m. (CST).
“A Very Wicked Halloween” was recorded live Oct. 16 at the Marquis Theatre, hosted by the original Elphaba and Glinda, Idina Menzel and Kristen Chenoweth.
The celebration will feature Pentatonix, Ariana Grande and Ledisi. Adam Lambert will join them, and he is certainly not mourning the wicked. He left the Los Angeles cast after making “American Idol,” and from 2005 to 2008, had been in the ensemble and understudy for Fiyero, and on a national tour.
The current Broadway cast will also make an appearance.

This spellbinding untold story about the Witches of Oz is now the sixth longest-running musical in Broadway history, having surpassed “A Chorus Line” on July 12 with its 6,128th performance.
Since its debut, “Wicked” has broken box office records around the world. St. Louis is one of the cities where “Wicked” currently holds the weekly-gross-takings records, along with Los Angeles, Chicago and London.
It has played the Fox Theatre five times since 2005, selling out and each week broke box office records. The national tours stopped here in 2005, 2007, June 2010, for four weeks Dec. 12, 2012 – Jan. 6, 2013, and for four weeks in Dec. 9, 2015 to Jan. 5, 2016. Another tour is under way but St. Louis isn’t listed – as yet.
St. Louisan Norbert Leo Butz originated Fiyero in “Wicked.”The original Broadway cast featured St. Louisan Norbert Leo Butz as Fiyero. The Bishop DuBourg and Webster U. Conservatory grad played Elphaba’s love interest Fiyero twice, from Oct. 8 to Nov. 23, 2003, and from Jan. 20 to July 18, 2004. He met his second wife, Michelle Federer, during the production – she played Nessarose, and they were married in 2007.
Norbie, the seventh of 11 children born to Elaine and Norbert A. Butz, went on to win two Tony Awards, for “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” and “Catch Me If You Can.” He is planning to leave his Tony-nominated role as Alfred P. Doolittle in the Lincoln Center revival of “My Fair Lady” on Jan. 6, 2019.
Composer Stephen Schwartz told Playbill why he cast him.
“I’ve wanted to work with Norbert since I saw him in ‘Thou Shalt Not’ and particularly in ‘The Last Five Years.’ He’s a lyricist’s dream. In ‘Wicked,’ I wrote ‘Dancing Through Life’ especially for him to take advantage of both his voice and charisma.”
In July 2017, “Wicked” surpassed “The Phantom of the Opera” as Broadway’s second-highest grossing show, trailing only “The Lion King.”
Based on the best-selling 1995 novel by Gregory Maguire, “Wicked” has won more than 100 international awards, including three Tony Awards and a Grammy.
The TV special isn’t the only way “Wicked” is celebrating its milestone – Ben and Jerry’s locations in Times Square and Rockefeller Center will sell special ice cream sand-Witches beginning Oct. 26. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the National School Climate Center’s BullyBust campaign.
The NBC Studios Store has an Ozmopolitan apparel display. And a special “Wicked” cupcake, baked by Melissa, is available online and at all 14 store locations through the rest of October. A portion of the cupcake proceeds with benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and A BroaderWay.
***GET REEL: Native sons and daughters can bask in the klieg lights in the ‘Lou during the 27th annual St. Louis International Film Festival, which will screen a record 414 films from 63 countries Nov. 1 through Nov. 11 at nine venues.
John GoodmanJohn Goodman, one of St. Louis’ favorite sons, will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award. That program and a screening of “The Big Lebowski” on Nov. 2 are already sold out. Goodman, who grew up in Affton, has enjoyed a long career – in movies, on TV and on stage. He is part of the “Roseanne” reboot called “The Conners,” along with former Edwardsville resident Laurie Metcalf, who plays his sister-in-law Jackie. The TV   sitcom began Oct. 16 on ABC and can be seen at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays.
Yours truly is hosting a special event film. The fest is celebrating the Golden Anniversaries of several influential films that came out in 1968: “Bullitt,” “Medium Cool,” “Once Upon a Time in the West,” “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Pretty Poison.”
Anthony Perkins, Tuesday Weld in “Pretty Poison”I will introduce “Pretty Poison” and lead the post-show discussion after the free screening on Saturday, Nov. 10, at 11 a.m. at the St. Louis Public Library central headquarters downtown on Olive. The film is sponsored by the St. Louis Film Critics Association.
This underrated film noir-like thriller starred Anthony Perkins and Tuesday Weld, and has gained new appreciation as a cult gem, its influence noted in Terence Malick’s “Badlands” and Billy Bob Thornton’s “Sling Blade.” Think “Gun Crazy” meets “Lolita.” Mix in conspiracy theories, passion, greed and fantasy. With its inspired casting, it’s a strange and wonderful film about a teenage arsonist who is paroled, becomes smitten with a young femme fatale, and dangerous plans are put into play.
For a complete schedule or for more information, www.cinemastlouis.org For the trailer by Sleepy Kitty Arts (you rock Paige Brubeck and Evan Sult), watch this: https://youtu.be/UTm2PZJng_0
I was fortunate to be the moderator of a Q&A session after a sold-out screening of “Beautiful Boy” Sunday at the Hi-Pointe, with writer Nic Sheff, whose story is the film, and star Timothee Chalamet, whose fans started lining up at 8 a.m. for the 11 a.m. screening. St, Louis was one of four stops the Oscar-nominated Chalamet did over the weekend; Nic Sheff is appearing at over 10 locations.
Lynn Venhaus, Timothee Chalamet, Nic Sheff at “Beautiful Boy” Q&A. Photo by Kevin Brackett.***
APPLAUSE FOR: Congratulations to Kathleen Sitzer on her honor from the Alliance for Jewish Theatre, an International organization dedicated to promoting the creation, presentation, and preservation of theatrical endeavors by, for, and about the Jewish experience.
She is seen here with honoree Tovah Feldshuh at the recent Alliance for Jewish Theatre annual conference in Philadelphia. Feldshuh’s one-woman show, “Golda’s Balcony,” is the longest running in Broadway history. She received the Theodore Bikel Award for Excellence in Jewish Theatre.
Kathleen, the recently retired Founding Artistic Director of New Jewish Theatre, was recognized for her years of service and dedication to the concept of Jewish Theatre.
In addition to Sitzer, the conference will honor actress Tovah Feldshuh with the Theodore Bikel Award for Excellence in Jewish Theatre. Her one-woman show “Golda’s Balcony” was the longest running in Broadway history.
The conference provides an opportunity for theatre artists and organizations to network and learn from each other through a variety of workshops, panel discussions and performances. It is hosted annually by a member theatre. This year’s conference in Philadelphia is hosted by Theatre Ariel. New Jewish Theatre hosted the conference two years ago in 2016 and also in 2002.
For more information, visit: www.alljewishtheatre.org.
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AROUND TOWN: Sarajane Alverson, who played Chef Rossi in the autobiographical “The Raging Skillet” at the New Jewish Theatre, was able to meet the real-life inspiration when she came to St. Louis for the play’s premiere.
Sarajane Alverson, Chef RossiHere is a photo of the two from their appearance on a Fox 2 news segment. Photo courtesy of Aemi Tucker. Sarajane made it through three weeks of performances without a knife injury!
Country singer Alexandra Kay of Waterloo, Ill.Let’s hear it for country singer Alexandra Kay, aka Lexi Krekorian from Waterloo, Ill., who is among the nine people on Netflix’s new “Westside” that premieres Nov. 9. (I have an in-depth feature article that will be published in the Belleville News-Democrat soon).
Mark Saunders isn’t trying out his Halloween costume — he began the national tour of “Something Rotten!” last month and revealed his character Brother Jeremiah’s look.
His show will be in Champaign, Ill., on Monday, Oct. 29, for a one-night performance at 7:30 p.m. at the State Farm Center (University of Illinois). It’s a 2-hour, 43-minute drive from St. Louis. For more information, visit www.rottenbroadway.com.
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AMERICAN IDOL: Interesting in auditioning for the next season of “American Idol” on ABC? Online audition videos are being accepted now through Nov. 5. You must be at least 15 years old to submit a video for consideration. You’ll be notified by Nov. 19 if you made the cut.
More information can be found here: https://fmna.etribez.com/ag/fmna/ai2abc/welcome.html
***BOOK SHELF: St. Louis native Ellie Kemper, a John Burroughs graduate, has published a collection of uplifting essays called “My Squirrel Days.” Her Oct. 13 book signing at the St. Louis County Library Headquarters was sold out.
The comic actress, known for “The Office” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” has written about her journey from Midwestern naif to Hollywood.
Can’t get enough of Tony winner “Dear Evan Hansen”? The smash-hit has been turned into a young adult novel by Val Emmich and published on Oct. 9 by Little Brown. T
o promote the book, show composers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul went on a 10-city bus tour with musical book writer Steven Levenson and author Emmich. Fellow Michigan alumnus Darren Criss joined them in Ann Arbor, and Tony winner and late-night host James Corden sang “Waving through the Window” at an L.A. bookstore.
A new deluxe album, including cut songs along with the original Broadway cast recording, is now available through Atlantic Records.
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LIFE IS ART – SAVE THE DATE: Who will be nominated for their work in 2018 St. Louis metropolitan area community theater – in musicals (Best Performance Awards) and plays (Theatre Mask Awards)?
Winners will be revealed at the annual Arts For Life Trivia Night, now set for Saturday, Feb. 1 at St. Joseph’s parish hall in Manchester. Ryan Cooper returns as the emcee.
Our theme this year is “That ‘70s Trivia” – you can decorate your table and dress accordingly (costumes optional) – but questions are a variety related to the category titles (announcing the show nominees).
AFL awards excellence in large and small ensemble musicals, dramas and comedies, and youth musical productions. The TMAs will take place on Saturday, April 6, at and the BPAs on Sunday, June 9, at the Skip Viragh Center for the Performing Arts at Chaminade.
Boogie the night away with AFL! Enjoy 10 rounds featuring a variety of trivia, silent auction, raffles, table decoration contest, “STL Theatre Sampler” ticket raffle, attendance prizes, and more.
New this year – VIP Tables – $200/8 people. VIP Tables include snacks, soda/water, prime seating, and a dedicated runner.  Reserve your table today! $160/8 people
For more information, visit AFL’s Facebook page or website, www.artsforlife.org.
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THEATRE RECOGNITION GUILD: Interested in scoring community theater and youth production musicals during the calendar year 2019? From now through Nov. 15, you can apply to be an AFL judge in what’s called the Theatre Recognition Guild. It’s the branch of AFL that judges musical theater for the Best Performance Awards given in 33 categories every June.
This is the only time during the year that you can apply. The online application is available here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2019trgapplication
You will be notified in December if you have been selected. Between 50 and 60 volunteers are judges, and 10-12 judges are assigned to score each eligible show for about 25 groups in the metropolitan St. Louis area.
Judges are required to attend shows throughout the bi-state region. There is no monetary compensation – it is all volunteer. If you judge 8 shows, you receive a free ticket to the BPAs. In 2018, TRG will have judged a total 48 shows (21 large ensemble, 7 small ensemble and 20 youth).
If you have any questions, please contact me, the TRG Chairman on the AFL Board of Directors since 2010, at [email protected]
***GO SEE A PLAY POLL: Artistic Director Kelly Hummert whipped us into a frenzy for months trying to figure out clues as to what Shakespeare play would be the next Immersive Theatre Project by her Rebel and Misfits Productions.
She recently revealed it’s “Macbeth: Come Like Shadows” which opened Oct. 24 and runs through Nov. 10, Wednesday through Saturday.
Sean Michael Higgins, Kelly Hummert in “Macbeth: Come Like Shadows”You can be there, too. Rebel and Misfits is offering 2 tickets to a performance for our current giveaway. All you do is answer our poll below – we’re asking about your favorite mystery play because Kelly was so mysterious about her show.
Send your pick, along with your name and phone number, to [email protected] by noon on Tuesday, Oct. 30. A winner will be selected from the entries, we’ll announce the name, and get the lucky pair set up for this yet-to-b-revealed enticing fall premiere.
FAVORITE MYSTERY PLAY (make selection to enter the drawing):
Deathtrap
Dial M for Murder
The Mousetrap
Night Must Fall
Sleuth
Wait Until Dark
Send your choice by noon Tuesday, Oct. 30, to enter the drawing to: [email protected]

WORD: “Movies will make you famous, television will make you rich, but theatre will make you good.” – Terrence Mann
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