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.

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
Treat Mom to a play or musical this weekend? Or next weekend! Any time is the
right time to Go See a Play! Here’s what is happening now.  And make time for the Tennessee Williams
Festival! Only once a year, and the time is now!

“Biloxi Blues” Clayton Community Theatre May 2-12 Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m.; Sunday at 2 p.m. but no performance May 10 Washington University South Campus Theatre 314-721-9228www.placeseveryone.org

What It’s About: The second in “The Eugene Trilogy,” Neil
Simon’s semi-autobiographical comedy centers on the contest of wills between a
drill sergeant and an intellectual recruit at an Army base in Biloxi, Miss., in
1943. Along the way, he loses his innocence in many ways.

“Death Tax” Mustard Seed Theatre May 9 – 19 Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Fontbonne Fine Arts Theatre What It’s About:  by Lucas Hnath “As Maxine nears the end of her life she is certain of three things: Death, Taxes and the Greed of her daughter who wants her to die quickly. A desperate nurse vows to keep her alive, but at what cost? Darkly comic, the play explores morality and forgiveness.” Performances take place at the Fontbonne Fine Arts Theatre, 6800 Wydown Blvd. For more information, call (314) 719-8060 or visit the web site at www.mustardseedtheatre.com.

“Dear Mr. Williams” The Tennessee Williams Festival Friday at 8:30 p.m. and Saturday at 3:30 and 8:30 p.m., May 10 and 11 Curtain Call Lounge www.twstl.org What It’s About: The blue devils of sex, alcohol, and mendacity take center stage in this tender and funny coming-of-age story of a young gay artist. With the great American playwright as his compass, writer and performer Batt takes us on a thrilling and very personal journey out of the shadows into a bright light of self-discovery. The tumultuous-and sometimes treacherous-journey from adolescence to adulthood is one we all must take, but Batt’s one-man tour de force proves that it’s oh so much more fascinating and fun with Tennessee Williams as your guide. “Freaky Friday” Curtain’s Up Theater Company May 10-12 Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Dunham Theatre, SIUEwww.curtainsuptheater.com

What It’s About: Based on the Disney movie, “Freaky Friday” is a musical about a mother and daughter changing places to comical effect.  

“A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur” The Tennessee Williams Festival May 11- 19 Saturdays and Sundays at 1 and 5 p.m.  www.twfstl.org

What It’s About: Four eccentric and unforgettable women fry
chicken, plan a picnic to Creve Coeur Lake, and cope with loneliness and lost
dreams in an efficiency apartment on Enright Avenue in the Central West End
circa the mid-1930s. Williams gives us more laughs than usual, but no less
poetry or poignancy. Williams believed that growing up in St. Louis was
essential to the shape of his work. A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur is one of
his few plays set here, and was the inspiration behind TV’s “The Golden
Girls.

Director: Kari Ely
Starring: Kelly Weber, Ellie Schwetye,  

Madea’s Farewell Play Tour May 10 – 12 Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 3 and 7:30 p.m. The Fabulous Fox Theatre www.fabulousfox.com What It’s About: Tyler Perry’s 21st stage play Starring: Tyler Perry, Tamela Mann, David Mann and Cassi Davis Patton

“Mamma Mia!” Alton Little Theater May 10-19 Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. 2450 N. Henry in Alton 6180462-6562www.altonlittletheater.org What It’s About: Love, mishaps, and music by ABBA will have audiences dancing in the aisles again as they feel transported to the Greek Island of Kalokairi on the eve of a wedding.

“Mamma Mia!” Looking Glass Playhouse May 2 – 12 Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. 301 W. St. Louis St., Lebanon, Ill.www.lookingglassplayhouse.com 618-537-4962

What It’s About: Through ABBA’s hits, a romantic comedy
tell the hilarious story of a young woman’s search for her birth father. This
sunny and funny tale unfolds on a Greek island paradise. On the eve of her
wedding, a daughter’s quest to discover the identity of her father brings three
men from her mother’s past back to the island they last visited 20 years ago. A
mother. A daughter. Three possible dads.

“Nice Work If You Can Get It” Kirkwood Theatre Guild May 3-5, 9-12 Evenings at 8 p.m., Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Robert G. Reim Theatre Website: https://www.ktg-onstage.org/ 314-821-9956

What It’s About: A screwball comedy set in the Prohibition
era with songs by George and Ira Gershwin. Elegant socialists and boorish
bootleggers clash, when playboy Jimmy Winter meets a female bootlegger, Billie
Bendix, on the weekend of his third or fourth wedding.

“The Night of the Iguana” Tennessee Williams Festival May 9 – 19 The Grandel Theatre What It’s About: based on Williams’ 1948 short story, which was then developed into three acts for Broadway production in 1961. A Tony nominee for Best Play, it was adapted into a 1964 movie, directed by John Huston, that starred Richard Burton, Ava Gardner and Deborah Kerr. The play focuses on a former minister, barred from his church for defaming God, who works as a tour guide. He is accused of statutory rape of a 16-year-old girl in his tour group. Director: Tim Ocel Starring: James Andrew Butz, Lavonne Byers, Hannah Sturgis, Harry Weber, Spencer Sickmann, Greg Johnson, Victor Mendes, Luis Aguilar.“Over the Tavern” The Theatre Guild of Webster Groves May 3 – 11 Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.www.theatreguildwg.org 314-962-0876 What It’s About: In that most idealized period of 20th-century America, the Eisenhower years of the 1950s, the Pazinski family has a lot going on in their cramped Buffalo apartment. The youngest of the bunch, 12-year-old Rudy, is a smart, wise-cracking kid who’s starting to question family values and the Roman Catholic Church. When Rudy goes up against the ruler-wielding Sister Clarissa and announces that instead of being confirmed he’d rather shop around for a more “fun” religion, all hell breaks loose.” Parental discretion is advised.

Director: Warren Frank Starring: Henry Alverson, Jimmy Hall, Andrea Jacobson, Tracy Murphy, Pepi Parshall, Declan Ryan, Patrick Ryan “Salt, Root and Roe” Upstream Theatre April 26 – May 12 Shows at 8 p.m. except Sundays at 7 p.m. but May 12 at 2 p.m. Kranzberg Arts Centerwww.upstreamtheater.org What It’s About: Tim Price’s play is about the nature of change, the comfort of home and the eternal bond of love, set against the mythical backdrop of the Pembrokeshire coast in western Wales. Identical twins Iola and Anest, who are devoted to age other and aging fast. Anest’s daughter, Menna, rushes to her long-abandoned childhood home where her own ideas of love and compromise are tested to the limit. Director: Kenn McLaughlin Cast: Donna Weinsting, Sally Edmundson, Eric Dean White, Amy Loui

Of Note: A U.S. premiere in co-production with Stages
Repertory Theatre of Houston.

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
Voices are unleashed at the St. Louis Fringe Festival now underway in the Grand Arts Center.
Voices are soaring in the St. Louis premiere of “The Light in the Piazza” and Kurt Weill’s “Lost in the Stars.”
Voices are having fun in “Mamma Mia!”, “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” and “The Robber Bridegroom,” which all end their run this weekend.
Voices are questioning in a post-modern twist on Goethe’s “Faust (Go Down with All the Re$t),” Jean-Paul Sartre’s “No Exit,” the regional premiere of “King Charles III” and a comedy about online dating in “Maybe This Time.”
Go, hear these voices, see a play!

 “Faust (Go Down with All the Re$t)”
Equally Represented Arts (ERA Theatre)
Aug. 15-18
Foam
3359 S. Jefferson Ave. 63118www.eratheatre.org
What It’s About: How much is a soul worth? Based on Goethe’s most celebrated work, ERA’S experimental production, “Faust” (go down with all the re$t), is a post-modern, rock-opera-adaptation in which Heaven is the bank and everyone prays to the Almighty Dollar.
“Faust” is a full-length theatrical production created by ERA’s ensemble of theatre artists with text from Goethe’s “Faust,” Mikhail Bulgakov’s “The Master and Margarita” and contemporary television game shows. The script was created by the ensemble. The music was created by Kid Scientist.
Join us for this capitali$t tragedy with music, dancing, and drinking!
Directors: Lucy Cashion and Gabe Taylor
Cast: Will Bonfiglio as Mephistopheles, Miranda Jagels Félix as Dineras, Grace Langford: God & Margaret’s Mother, Alicen Moser as Margaret Dustin Sholtes, Gabe Taylor, Joe Taylor as Faust, composer and music director, and Erica Withrow: Dark Pearl the Magnificent.
Of Note: This is the first show of the “Faustival.” For more information, visit www.faustival.org.
“The Great American Trailer Park Musical”
Act Two Theater
Aug. 8 – 19
St. Peters Cultural Arts Center
1 St. Peters Centre Blvd.
St. Peters, MO 63376
https://www.acttwotheatre.com/…/the-great-american-trailer…/
What It’s About: A country-rock and blues musical about agoraphobia, adultery, ‘80s nostalgia, spray cheese, road kill, hysterical pregnancy, a broken electric chair, kleptomania, strippers, flan and disco.
Norbert and his agoraphobic wife Jeannie are living in Armadillo Acres when a hot young stripper Pippi moves in and threatens their marriage. Linoleum, Betty and Pickles also live in the trailer park and act like a Greek chorus.
Director: Brooke Viegut, with music direction by Karla Curry
Starring: Betty – Theresa Peters Nigus; Lin – Laura Deveney; Pickles – Abby Cockerham; Jeannie – Dana Wachtel; Norbert – Jeffrey Pruett; Pippi – Katy Leigh; Duke – Jack Theiling.
Photo by Lori Biehl
“King Charles III”
St. Louis Shakespeare
Aug. 17 – 26
The Ivory Theatre
7620 Michiganwww.stlshakespeare.org
314-361-5664
What It’s About: Mike Bartlett’s controversial 2014 play is “a future history” about what happens after Queen Elizabeth II dies, and the prince ascends to the throne after a lifetime of waiting. But how to rule? Who are these people beneath the crowns, the conscience of Britain’s most famous family and the unwritten rules of our democracy.
Director: Donna Northcutt
Of Note: This is the first production of St. Louis Shakespeare’s 34th season.
Photo by Ron James
“The Light in the Piazza”
R-S Theatrics
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 7 p.m.
Aug. 10 – 26
The Marcelle Theatre
3310 Sam Shepard Drive
www.r-stheatrics.org
What It’s About: Winner of numerous Tony Awards in 2005, this musical tells the story of a young American woman vacationing with her mother in Florence in the 1950s. When the woman falls for a local Italian man, uncomfortable truths come to light about what was past and what may be future.”
Director: Christina Rios, with music direction by Sarah Nelson
Starring: Kay Martin Love as Margaret, Macia Noorman as Clara, Tielere Cheatem as Fabrizio, Stephanie Merritt as Franca, Micheal Lowe as Guiseppe, Kent Coffel as Signor Naccarelli, Jodi Stockton as Signora Naccarelli and Avery Smith as Young Clara.
Ensemble includes Robert Doyle, Lindy Elliott, Anthony Randle, Melissa Felps, Ann Heir, Chris Kernan, Jason Meyers and Louisa Wimmer.
Of Note: St. Louis premiere.
“Lost in the Stars”
Union Avenue Opera
Aug. 17 – 25
Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.
Union Avenue Christian Church
733 Union at Enright.www.unionavenueopera.org
314-361-2881
What It’s About: Kurt Weill’s provocative work addresses the weighty moral issues of racism and injustice, more relevant now than ever in St. Louis. For his final Broadway score, Weill took “Cry, the Beloved Country” – a powerful, uncompromising social indictment of apartheid South Africa – and gave it a passionate voice.
Two aging men – a black country parson and a white British planter – are drawn into friendship by a shared grief. The parson’s faith is challenged by his son’s unintentional murder of the planter’s son, while the planter acquires faith through the loss of his son.
Director: Shaun Patrick Tubbs
Cast: Leader – Roderick George, Nita – Evan Adams*, Grace Kumalo – Jeanitta Perkins*, Stephen Kumalo – Kenneth Overton*, James Jarvis – Tim Schall*, Edward Jarvis – Charlie Mathis*, Arthur Jarvis – Stephen Peirick*, John Kumalo – Reginald Pierre*, Alex – Sherrod Murff*, Foreman – Ross Rubright, Mrs. Mkize – Rose Fischer, Hlabeni – Michael Hawkins, Mark Eland – Chuck Lavazzi*, Linda – Melody Wilson, Johannes Pafuri – Abraham Shaw*, Matthew Kumalo – Carl Overly, Jr.*, Absalom Kumalo – Myke Andrews*, Irina – Krysty Sawnn*, Burton – Anthony Heinemann and The Judge – Joel Rogier.
Ensemble – Evan Adams*, Sharifa Black*, Madeleine Buckley*, Erika Cockerham*, Laurel Ellison Dantas, Ebony Easter*, Rose Fischer, David Goldman*, Brittany Graham*, Michael Hawkins, Anthony Heinemann, Merry Keller, Lisa Khaimova*, Gina Malone, Randell McGee, Maika Miller*, Paul Herbert Pitts*, Joel Rogier, Ross Rubright, Mark Saunders, Moses Anthony Weathers* and Benjamin Worley*.
*Union Avenue Opera debut
Photo by John Lamb
“Maybe This Time”
Madden Productions
Aug. 17-19
Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.
The Gaslight Theatre, 358 N. Boyle
www.brownpapertickets.com
What It’s About: The 90-minute play is about four online dates with good, bad, humorous and sad results.  You not only see and hear two people on a blind date, but you also see and hear what their brains are thinking. It shows how miscommunication and misunderstanding can lead to unexpected and unwarranted consequences.
Director: Pamela Reckamp
Cast: Mara Bollini, George Doerr IV, Carrie Priesmeyer, Paul James, Tonya Darabcsek and Todd Micali.
Of Note: Written and produced by Michael Madden.
“Mamma Mia!”
Stages St. Louis
July 20 – Aug. 19
Robert G. Reim Theatre at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 S. Geyer Road.
www.stagesstlouis.org
What It’s About: The musical phenomenon uses the music of ABBA to tell the story of a teen’s search for her birth father. Sophie lives on a Greek island paradise with her mother, who runs a taverna. There are three possible dads, whom she invites to her wedding. Humor, heart, and lots o’ song and dance ensue.
Director: Michael Hamilton
Cast: Corinne Melancon, Greg Goodbrod, Dana Winkle, Dan’yelle Williamson, Summerisa Bell Stevens, David Sajewich, David Schmittou and Steve Isom
Of Note: There have been 30 sold-out performances and the advance single ticket sales have been the highest yet.
Photo by Peter Wochniak
““No Exit”
Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble
Aug. 15 – Sept. 1
Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m.
The Chapel
6238 Alexander Drive
www.slightlyoff.org
What It’s About: Jean-Paul Sartre’s existential play “No Exit” is about three damned souls are brought to the same room in hell by a mysterious Valet. Expecting medieval torture devises to punish them for eternity, they are surprised by the deceptively simple and relatively ugly room. As they are all introduced, none of them will admit the reason for their damnation. But Inez demands that they all stop lying to themselves and confess to their crimes. The play is an exploration into the human psyche and the invisible wounds we are capable of inflicting upon others, and ourselves.
Director: Bess Moynihan
Cast: Rachel Tibbetts, Shane Signorino, Sarah Morris, Katy Keating
Of Note “No Exit” is the source of Sartre’s famous quotation ‘L’enfer, c’est les autres’ or “Hell Is Other People.”
Photo by Joey Rumpell
“The Robber Bridegroom”
Stray Dog Theatre
Aug. 2 – 18
Tower Grove Abbey
Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Additional performances at 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 12 and 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 15
www.straydogtheatre.org
What It’s About: A bawdy, rousing Southern fairy tale is set in Mississippi follows Jamie Lockhart, a rascally robber of the woods, as he courts Rosamund, the sole daughter of the richest planter in the country. Thanks to a case of double-mistaken identity, the entangled relationship begins to unravel. Throw in an evil stepmother, her pea-brained henchman, and a hostile talking headin-a-trunk, and you have a rollicking country romp.
Director: Justin Been, with music direction by Jennifer Buchheit and choreography by Mike Hodges.
Starring: Phil Leveling, Dawn Schmid, Jeffrey Wright, Logan Willmore, Bryce Miller, Kevin O’Brien, Chris Ceradsky, Susie Lauren, Sarah Gene Dowling, Christen Ringhausen, Shannon Lampkin and Rachel Sexson.
Photo by John Lamb
 
St. Lou Fringe Festival
Aug. 15 – 26, Wednesday through Sunday
Grand Arts Centerwww.stlouisfringe.com
www.MetroTix.com
What It’s About: Original material – theater, dance, music, comedy, circus arts, performance art, cabaret and burlesque – are accepted for the annual festival. Tech is minimal and shows are often brief.
Fringe builds community by connecting uncensored, unjuried performing arts with accessible and affordable performances for audiences.
Here is the line-up Aug. 15 – 19. For dates and venues, visit www.stlouisfringe.com
“Any Man in America” – Declaration Stage Company
“Aphrodite’s Refugees” – MonTra Performance
“As We Stumble Along” – Desire Declyne
“Bae” – Prime
“The Bothered” – Rogue Theatre Company
“Broadway Favorites” – Debut Theater Company
“The Countdown” – Open House Theatre
“The Depths” – State of Clayton
“The Devil’s Passion” – Bankside Repertory
“Empathy on Sale” – Krish Mohan
“The Gringo” – Colin Healy/Fly North Music
“Intervals” – MillHill Productions
#MeToo, Her Voice Must be Heard” – Until You’ve Walked in Her Shoes Inc.
“Now Playing Third Base for the St. Louis Cardinals…Bond, James Bond – The Midnight Company
“Pain” – Tony Marr Jr.
“Pollack” A Frequency Parable – Unconventional Empire
“The Vicious Hillbilly or Dating in the Deep South”
“Til the Cold Winter’s Through – because, why not?

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
Fields of green or inside stages? If you’re not watching pro golfers this weekend at Bellerive Country Club, you can be indoors watching theater, or outdoors catching the final show of the Muny Opera 100th anniversary season. Or you can do it all. Who said these are dog days? These shows are just the tickets for hot summer nights because they all sizzle!
GO SEE A PLAY!

“Faust (Go Down with All the Re$t)”
Equally Represented Arts (ERA Theatre)
Aug. 8, 10-11, 15-18
Foam
3359 S. Jefferson Ave. 63118www.eratheatre.org
What It’s About: How much is a soul worth? Based on Goethe’s most celebrated work, ERA’S experimental production, “Faust” (go down with all the re$t), is a post-modern, rock-opera-adaptation in which Heaven is the bank and everyone prays to the Almighty Dollar.
“Faust” is a full-length theatrical production created by ERA’s ensemble of theatre artists with text from Goethe’s Faust, Mikhail Bulgakov’s “The Master and Margarita” and contemporary television game shows. The script was created by the ensemble. The music was created by Kid Scientist.
Join us for this capitali$t tragedy with music, dancing, and drinking!
Directors: Lucy Cashion and Gabe Taylor
Starring: Will Bonfiglio as Mephistopheles, Miranda Jagels Félix as Dineras, Grace Langford: God & Margaret’s Mother, Alicen Moser as Margaret Dustin Sholtes, Gabe Taylor, Joe Taylor as Faust, composer and music director, and Erica Withrow: Dark Pearl the Magnificent.
Of Note: This is the first show of the “Faustival.” For more information, visit www.faustival.org.

“The Great American Trailer Park Musical”
Act Two Theater
Aug. 8 – 19
St. Peters Cultural Arts Center
1 St. Peters Centre Blvd.
St. Peters, MO 63376
https://www.acttwotheatre.com/…/the-great-american-trailer…/
What It’s About: A country-rock and blues musical about agoraphobia, adultery, ‘80s nostalgia, spray cheese, road kill, hysterical pregnancy, a broken electric chair, kleptomania, strippers, flan and disco.
Norbert and his agoraphobic wife Jeannie are living in Armadillo Acres when a hot young stripper Pippi moves in and threatens their marriage. Linoleum, Betty and Pickles also live in the trailer park and act like a Greek chorus.
Director: Brooke Viegut, with music direction by Karla Curry
Starring: Betty – Theresa Peters Nigus; Lin – Laura Deveney; Pickles – Abby Cockerham; Jeannie – Dana Wachtel; Norbert – Jeffrey Pruett; Pippi – Katy Leigh; Duke – Jack Theiling.
Photo by Lori Biehl“Into the Woods”
Curtain’s Up Theater Company
Aug. 3-4, 9-11 at 7:30 p.m.
Alfresco Art Center in Granite Citywww.curtainsuptheater.com
What It’s About: Stephen Sondheim’s 1987 musical is a modern twist on several Brothers Grimm fairy tales.
Director: Glenn Saltamachia, with music direction by Chuck Noud and choreography by Jeffrey Yapp-Ellis.
Starring: Liz Murphy White, Kimmie Kidd-Booker, Mark Lull, Kevin Hester, Kellen Green, Kendra Moore, Miranda Mobley, Hannah Lindsey, Alie Morgan, Jason McAdams, Sarah Ratcliff, David McCausland, Steve Anderson, Anna Campbell, Diane Wingerter, Denny Patterson and Natalie Kurz.
“The Light in the Piazza”
R-S Theatrics
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 7 p.m.
Aug. 10 – 26
The Marcelle Theatre
www.r-stheatrics.org
What It’s About: Winner of numerous Tony Awards in 2005, this musical tells the story of a young American woman vacationing with her mother in Florence in the 1950s. When the woman falls for a local Italian man, uncomfortable truths come to light about what was past and what may be future.”
Director: Christina Rios, with music direction by Sarah Nelson
Starring: Kay Martin Love as Margaret, Macia Noorman as Clara, Tielere Cheatem as Fabrizio, Stephanie Merritt as Franca, Micheal Lowe as Guiseppe, Kent Coffel as Signor Naccarelli, Jodi Stockton as Signora Naccarelli and Avery Smith as Young Clara.
Ensemble includes Robert Doyle, Lindy Elliott, Anthony Randle, Melissa Felps, Ann Heir, Chris Kernan, Jason Meyers and Louisa Wimmer.
“Mamma Mia!”
Stages St. Louis
July 20 – Aug. 19
Robert G. Reim Theatre at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 S. Geyer Road.
www.stagesstlouis.org
What It’s About: The musical phenomenon uses the music of ABBA to tell the story of a teen’s search for her birth father. Sophie lives on a Greek island paradise with her mother, who runs a taverna. There are three possible dads, whom she invites to her wedding. Humor, heart, and lots o’ song and dance ensue.
Director: Michael Hamilton
Cast: Corinne Melancon, Greg Goodbrod, Dana Winkle, Dan’yelle Williamson, Summerisa Bell Stevens, David Sajewich, David Schmittou and Steve Isom
Of Note: There have been 30 sold-out performances and the advance single ticket sales have been the highest yet.
Photo by Peter Wochniak
“Meet Me in St. Louis”
The Muny
Aug. 4 – 12 nightly at 8:15 p.m.www.muny.org
Tickets: MetroTix 314-534-1111
What It’s About: The heartwarming 1944 movie, “Meet Me in St. Louis” became a wholesome portrait of a turn-of-the-century American family which was turned into a stage musical. Sally Benson wrote the book based on her family who lived on Kensington Ave. It begins in the summer of 1903, when the Smiths eagerly await the grand opening of the 1904 World’s Fair in Forest Park.
Director: Marcia Milgrom Dodge, with music direction by Charlie Alterman and choreography by Josh Walden
Starring: Erin Dilly (Mrs. Anna Smith), Stephen R. Buntrock (Mr. Alonso Smith), Ken Page (Grandpa Prophater), Kathy Fitzgerald (Katie), Emily Walton (Esther Smith), Liana Hunt (Rose Smith), Dan DeLuca (John Truitt), Jonathan Burke (Lon Smith), Elle Wesley (Agnes Smith) and Elena Adams (Tootie Smith).
Ensemble includes Akilah Ayanna, Michael Baxter, Leah Berry, Shawn Bowers, Michael Burrell, Emma Gassett, Berklea Going, Madison Johnson, Jeff Jordan, Halle Morse, Ben Nordstrom, Commodore C. Primous III, Payton Pritchett, Cooper Stanton, Julia Paige Thorn and Brion Marquis Watson. The company will also be joined by the Muny Kid and Teen youth ensembles.
Of Note: This is the finale to the centennial season. This production will feature a revised book by Gordon Greenberg and new orchestrations by John McDaniel.
“Meeting at the Elder’s Circle”
JPEK Creativeworks
Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.
Aug. 9 -12
Kranzberg Arts Center
501 N. Grand
www.metrotix.com.
What It’s About: A two-act inspirational comedy, that gives a satirical look on the issues reflecting religion and the church through drama, song and dance. The elders of Christian Tabernacle are gathering together for the Annual Usher’s Day. Coordinated by Sis. Martha Mooshae, she works diligently to assure the event’s success. As with every church, there’s always a tyrant in the fold who is Sis. Magalene Jefferies. She may be mean and unruly, but she “keeps it real.” Through the leadership of Pastor Moonshine, Christian Tabernacle defines a moment of truth that changes the hearts and minds of everyone. ‘The road to heaven doesn’t get shorter by pushing people away.”
“The Realistic Jones”
Rebel and Misfits Productions
July 26 – Aug. 12
Jewish Community Center black box theatre
2 Millstone Campus
www.rebelandmisfitsproductions.com
What It’s About: Will Eno connects two suburban couples who have so much more in common than their identical homes and their shared last names. As their relationships begin to irrevocably intertwine, the Joneses must decide between their idyllic fantasies and their imperfect realities and, ultimately, confront mortality.
Director: Edward M. Coffield
Cast: Isaiah DiLorenzo, Kelly Hummert, Alan Knoll and Laurie McConnell.
Of Note: It is the St. Louis premiere. It was named to the list of “Best 25 Plays Since ‘Angels in America’” by the New York Times.
Photo by Eric Woolsey
“The Robber Bridegroom”
Stray Dog Theatre
Aug. 2 – 18
Tower Grove Abbey
Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Additional performances at 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 12 and 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 15
www.straydogtheatre.org
What It’s About: A bawdy, rousing Southern fairy tale is set in Mississippi follows Jamie Lockhart, a rascally robber of the woods, as he courts Rosamund, the sole daughter of the richest planter in the country. Thanks to a case of double-mistaken identity, the entangled relationship begins to unravel. Throw in an evil stepmother, her pea-brained henchman, and a hostile talking headin-a-trunk, and you have a rollicking country romp.
Director: Justin Been, with music direction by Jennifer Buchheit and choreography by Mike Hodges.
Starring: Phil Leveling, Dawn Schmid, Jeffrey Wright, Logan Willmore, Bryce Miller, Kevin O’Brien, Chris Ceradsky, Susie Lauren, Sarah Gene Dowling, Christen Ringhausen, Shannon Lampkin and Rachel Sexson.
Photo by John Lamb
Feature Image of Ben Nordstrom in “Meet Me in St. Louis”

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
Are you on holiday or having a stay-cation? Fit in a play or musical! Let the very talented theater community entertain you! Right here in St. Louis!
The Muny concludes its 100th anniversary season with “Meet Me in St. Louis.” St. Louis premieres of Verdi’s opera “Nabucco,” “The Realistic Joneses” and “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo” continue this weekend.
Stray Dog Theatre opens the Southern romantic comedy musical “The Robber Bridegroom.”
Such popular musicals as “Mamma Mia!” “Legally Blonde: The Musical,” “The Music Man” and “Into the Woods” are on the boards.
Come sail away and GO SEE A PLAY.

“Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo”
The Black Mirror Theatre Company
Aug. 2-4
Kranzberg Arts Center
501 N. Grand in Grand Center
Home

Tickets: Metrotix.com or 314-534-1111
What It’s About: A tiger haunts the streets of present-day Baghdad seeking the meaning of life. As he witnesses the puzzling absurdities of war, the tiger encounters Americans and Iraqis who are searching for friendship, redemption and a toilet seat made of gold.
Director: Catherine Hopkins
Starring: Don McClendon, Brian Rolfe, Charles Winning, Laura Kyro, Kalen Riley, Erik Kuhn and Hailey Medrano.
Of Note: St. Louis premiere of Rajiv Joseph’s dark comedy set during the early stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. It was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
Submitted photo
“Gypsy”
The Muny
July 27 – Aug. 2 nightly at 8:15 p.m.
Muny outdoor stage in Forest Park
www.muny.org
What It’s About: Gypsy Rose Lee’s semi-autobiographical tale of an ambitious stage mother, Momma Rose, who fights for her two daughters’ success while secretly yearning for her own.
With a book by Arthur Laurents, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and music by Jules Stein, the 1959 musical features such songs as “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” “Together, Wherever We Go,” “Some People,” “Let Me Entertain You” and “You Gotta Have a Gimmick.”
Director: Rob Ruggiero, with music direction by James Moore and choreography by Ralph Perkins.
Starring: Beth Leavel (Rose), Adam Heller (Herbie), Julia Knitel (Louise), Hayley Podschun (Dainty June), Jennifer Cody (Tessie Tura/Miss Cratchitt), Ann Harada (Electra), Ellen Harvey (Mazeppa), Kip Niven (Pop /Cigar/Philadelphia Announcer), Drew Redington (Tulsa), Michael James Reed (Weber/Bourgeron-Cochon/Detroit Announcer), Lara Teeter (Uncle Jocko/Phil/Minsky’s Announcer), Elise Edwards (Baby Louise) and Amelie Lock (Baby June).
Of Note: This is the sixth production of “Gypsy” at the Muny, and the first one since 2006.
“Into the Woods”
Curtain’s Up Theater Company
Aug. 3-4, 9-11 at 7:30 p.m.
Alfresco Art Center in Granite Citywww.curtainsuptheater.com
What It’s About: Stephen Sondheim’s 1987 musical is a modern twist on several Brothers Grimm fairy tales.
Director: Glenn Saltamachia, with music direction by Chuck Noud and choreography by Jeffrey Yapp-Ellis.
Starring: Liz Murphy White, Kimmie Kidd-Booker, Mark Lull, Kevin Hester, Kellen Green, Kendra Moore, Miranda Mobley, Hannah Lindsey, Alie Morgan, Jason McAdams, Sarah Ratcliff, David McCausland, Steve Anderson, Anna Campbell, Diane Wingerter, Denny Patterson and Natalie Kurz.
“Legally Blonde: The Musical”
The Hawthorne Players
July 27 – Aug. 5
Florissant Civic Center Theatre at Parker and Waterfordwww.hawthorneplayers.info
Box Office 314-921-5678 Monday through Friday
What It’s About: Elle Woods’ life is turned upside down when her boyfriend Warner dumps her. Determined to get him back, Elle gets into Harvard Law School where he is at, but it’s a struggle with him, her peers and professors. With support of new friends, she realizes her potential and set out to prove her worth in the world.
Of Note: You can purchase raffle tickets to win Elle’s big pink chair! Tickets are on sale at performances, and t winning ticket will be drawn by Elle in a live Facebook broadcast after the show on Sunday, Aug. 5.
Proceeds will benefit the scholarship fund. Since 1992, Hawthorne Players has presented nearly $58,900 in scholarships to high school seniors active in the performing arts.
“Mamma Mia!”
Stages St. Louis
July 20 – Aug. 19
Robert G. Reim Theatre at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 S. Geyer Road.
www.stagesstlouis.org
What It’s About: The musical phenomenon uses the music of ABBA to tell the story of a teen’s search for her birth father. Sophie lives on a Greek island paradise with her mother, who runs a taverna. There are three possible dads, whom she invites to her wedding. Humor, heart, and lots o’ song and dance ensue.
Director: Michael Hamilton
Cast: Corinne Melancon, Greg Goodbrod, Dana Winkle, Dan’yelle Williamson, Summerisa Bell Stevens, David Sajewich, David Schmittou and Steve Isom
Of Note: There are at least 18 sold-out performances and the advance single ticket sales have been the highest yet.
Photo by Peter Wochniak
“Meet Me in St. Louis”
The Muny
Aug. 4 – 12 nightly at 8:15 p.m.www.muny.org
Tickets: MetroTix 314-534-1111
What It’s About: Clang, clang, clang, went the trolley, and the heartwarming 1944 movie, “Meet Me in St. Louis,” became a wholesome portrait of a turn-of-the-century American family. Sally Benson wrote the book, based on her family who lived on Kensington. Set in the summer of 1903, the Smiths eagerly await the grand opening of the 1904 World’s Fair in Forest Park.
Director: Marcia Milgrom Dodge, with music direction by Charlie Alterman and choreography by Josh Walden
Starring: Erin Dilly (Mrs. Anna Smith), Stephen R. Buntrock (Mr. Alonso Smith), Ken Page (Grandpa Prophater), Kathy Fitzgerald (Katie), Emily Walton (Esther Smith), Liana Hunt (Rose Smith), Dan DeLuca (John Truitt), Jonathan Burke (Lon Smith), Elle Wesley (Agnes Smith) and Elena Adams (Tootie Smith).
Ensemble includes Akilah Ayanna, Michael Baxter, Leah Berry, Shawn Bowers, Michael Burrell, Emma Gassett, Berklea Going, Madison Johnson, Jeff Jordan, Halle Morse, Ben Nordstrom, Commodore C. Primous III, Payton Pritchett, Cooper Stanton, Julia Paige Thorn and Brion Marquis Watson. The company will also be joined by the Muny Kid and Teen youth ensembles.
Of Note: This is the finale to the centennial season. This production will feature a revised book by Gordon Greenberg and new orchestrations by John McDaniel.
“The Music Man”
Over Due Theatre Co
Aug. 3, 4 @ 7:30 p.m. and Aug. 5 at 2 p.m.
9723 Grandview Drive, Olivette M0 63132
Tickets: 314-292-9368 or email [email protected]
What It’s About: Oh, we got trouble, right here in River City. Con artist Harold Hill comes to small town in Iowa to swindle townsfolk into thinking their kids will be in a big brass band. But he falls in love with prim librarian and changes his tune. Sorta.
 
 
“Nabucco”
Union Avenue Opera
Aug. 3-4
Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.
Union Avenue Christian Church
733 Union at Enrightwww.unionavenueopera.org
314-361-2881
What It’s About Verdi’s “Nabucco” is an epic Biblical tale. Nabucco, King of Babylon, seizes control of Jerusalem in his war with the Israelites. Meanwhile, his daughter Fenena and her half-sister Abigaille are both in love with Ismaele, the nephew of the King of Jerusalem. War rages on between Babylon and Jerusalem. Abigaille, thinking to stop the warring once and for all, tells Ismaele that she wills save his people if he vows to love her and not Fenena. When he denies her, Abigaille ruthlessly plans to take down the kingdom, claim Nabucco’s throne, and kill all the imprisoned Israelites.
Director: Mark Freiman
Starring: Robert Garner as Nabucco, Marsha Thompson as Abigaille, Melody Wilson as Fenena, Zachary James as Zaccaria, Jesse Donner as Ismaele, Karen Kanakis as Anna, Clark Sturdevant as Abdallo, and Jacob Lassetter as High Priest of Baal.
Ensemble – Douglas Allebach, Madeline Black, Aleksandar Dragojevic, David Fournie, Jon Garrett, Rebecca Hetlelid, Michael Hawkins, Emily Heyl, Jeffrey Heyl, Lori Hoffman, Hannah Kauffmann, Amy Mazzeo, Jayde Mitchell, Joel Rogier, Tina Sayers and Caetlyn Van Bure.
Of Note: The opera is sung in Italian with English titles. Not since Wagner’s Ring cycle has Union Avenue Opera presented a show with such epic splendor. It features some of Verdi’s grandest orchestral and choral music ever written, including the soul-stirring “Va, pensiero” chorus.
Photo by John Lamb
“The Realistic Jones”
Rebel and Misfits Productions
July 26 – Aug. 12
Jewish Community Center black box theatre
2 Millstone Campuswww.rebelandmisfitsproductions.com
What It’s About: Will Eno connects two suburban couples who have so much more in common than their identical homes and their shared last names. As their relationships begin to irrevocably intertwine, the Joneses must decide between their idyllic fantasies and their imperfect realities and, ultimately, confront mortality.
Director: Edward M. Coffield
Cast: Isaiah DiLorenzo, Kelly Hummert, Alan Knoll and Laurie McConnell.
Of Note: It is the St. Louis premiere. It was named to the list of “Best 25 Plays Since ‘Angels in America’” by the New York Times.
Photo by Eric Woolsey
 
“The Robber Bridegroom”
Stray Dog Theatre
Aug. 2 – 18
Tower Grove Abbey
Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Additional performances at 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 12 and 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 15www.straydogtheatre.org
What It’s About: A bawdy, rousing Southern fairy tale is set in Mississippi follows Jamie Lockhart, a rascally robber of the woods, as he courts Rosamund, the sole daughter of the richest planter in the country. Thanks to a case of double-mistaken identity, the entangled relationship begins to unravel. Throw in an evil stepmother, her pea-brained henchman, and a hostile talking headin-a-trunk, and you have a rollicking country romp.
Director: Justin Been, with music direction by Jennifer Buchheit and choreography by Mike Hodges.
Starring: Phil Leveling, Dawn Schmid, Jeffrey Wright, Logan Willmore, Bryce Miller, Kevin O’Brien, Chris Ceradsky, Susie Lauren, Sarah Gene Dowling, Christen Ringhausen, Shannon Lampkin and Rachel Sexson.
 

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
“Mamma Mia!” – take me away! Stages St. Louis’ high-spirited production is a ticket to pure escapism, a refreshing summer confection that’s a welcome respite from real-world troubles.
What makes this version of the jukebox musical irresistible is the intimate staging at the Robert G. Reim Theatre and an exuberant ensemble whose joy is infectious. Under Michael Hamilton’s animated direction, they are having such a blast that it’s easy to be drawn into their merrymaking. The joint was jumping!
Don’t think too hard about the story’s timeline or do any math about the ages – for this fantasy is critic-proof and one must suspend belief. For supreme enjoyment, be on board for mindless fun when you take your seat, and if you are not singing, dancing or clapping in time during the festive curtain call, check your pulse.
The 1999 smash hit, now the ninth longest-running Broadway musical of all-time, cleverly weaves 1970s hit songs by Swedish pop group ABBA into a lightweight romantic comedy about a former singer and her soon-to-be-married daughter. It may be far-fetched, but it works – hence, the global phenomenon.
Sophie, 20, is obsessed with the looming question of who’s her father, so she invites the maybe-dads Australian adventurer Bill, stuffed-shirt British banker Harry and divorced American architect Sam. They all show up. At the same time.

Donna Sheridan’s bandmates Tanya and Rosie, aka The Dynamos, also arrive at her Greek island taverna. This reunion combo leads to a splendid “Dancing Queen” and “Super Trooper,” and a sweet “Chiquitita,” with all three strong-voiced actresses Corinne Melancon (Donna), Dan’yelle Williamson (Rosie) and Dana Winkle (Tanya) in robust harmony.
Book writer Catherine Johnson has injected plenty of light-hearted humor into what ultimately is a heartwarming celebration of family, friends and women empowerment, all played out on a tiny slice of paradise.
In a fresh and dynamic way, the creative team has emphasized the everlasting charm that makes the show so popular, and the ensemble projects a carefree day-at-the-beach mentality. Stages’ has concentrated on the characters’ feelings, which aids the believability of their connections.
Tony Gonzalez’ buoyant choreography is a highlight, with “Lay All Your Love on Me” featuring a unique tap-dance in snorkeling fins that prompted hearty applause.
He maintained the effusive party atmosphere in “Voulez-Vous” and “Gimme Gimme Gimme,” where the chorus shines.
The technical elements came together in such a pleasurable way that it truly enhanced the experience.
Ah, the sun-drenched days and starry nights are beautifully captured by Sean M. Savoie’s lighting design, with James Wolk’s scenic design adding a moon that moves. The taverna’s balcony is a smart addition for a stressed-out Donna and wistful musical numbers.
Resident costume designer Brad Musgrove’s penchant for glitz gets a workout here, and the colorful eye-candy costumes pop. He outdoes fashion designer Bob Mackie for the razzle-dazzle finale, and noteworthy are the ensemble’s bright and flamboyant wedding attire. With the show set in 1999, I don’t think the outfits entirely reflected that period, but rather spotlighted a spirit of adventure.

The entire cast must be an integral component for this story to succeed, and this group is one of the finest I’ve seen. Music director Lisa Campbell Albert kept up a kicky pace for the singers, and oh, is it a tight chorus, not to mention the consummate professionalism of the principals. Stuart M. Elmore’s orchestral designs are on point.
I was surprised to find out that some patrons had never seen it before – and their joy of discovery was palpable. Fortunately, they experienced an outstanding show as their first time.
Corinne Melancon has become a versatile leading lady at Stages, capable of genuine conviction. She is an experienced Donna – she played the role as part of the 11 years she spent in the Broadway cast, and was also the other two Dynamos. She appeared to really love portraying this woman.
With all that experience, she could have coasted, but is fully engaged as a woman wrestling with a lot of pent-up feelings and frustrations. She brings a gravitas to the single mom who is a struggling businesswoman too.
She excels in a well-staged “Money, Money, Money” and the title song, but knocks “The Winner Takes It All” out of the auditorium.
In a superb “S.O.S.,” she beautifully blends with Gregg Goodbrod’s Sam, the love-of-her-life she scorned in 1979. Goodbrod is a strong Sam in acting and his solo “Knowing Me, Knowing You.” Nice to see him back in St. Louis after playing J.J. in “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” last summer at The Muny.
As the sultry Tanya, statuesque Dana Winkle, who was recently in the national tour of the elegant “An American in Paris,” shows off her slick dance moves in a cheeky “Does Your Mother Know.”
In a departure from the character’s typically frumpy appearance, sassy Rosie is portrayed by striking Dan’yelle Williamson, memorable as Dolores in “Sister Act” two summers ago. She’s convincing as a fierce determined woman and playful in “Take a Chance of Me.”
But Summerisa Bell Stevens as wide-eyed innocent Sophie just might be this show’s secret weapon. She’s one of the best Sophies I have ever seen – a total package who projects an innate sunniness and intelligence. So terrific as Doralee in last year’s “9 to 5,” she practically glows in “I Have a Dream,” “Honey, Honey,” and “Thank You for the Music.”
At first, David Sajewich seemed too old as Sky, but he and Stevens had so much chemistry, that it didn’t distract.
Reliable veterans Steve Isom and David Schmittou play Bill and Harry with their customary skill and crisp comic timing. They both nail their accents – Australian for Isom and British for Schmittou — and are admirably steady throughout, good sports in the dancing numbers.
The ensemble was noteworthy in the effective blacklight dream sequence “Under Attack,” which was thankfully not as silly as usual.
Of course, everyone does their part to raise the roof in the pull-out-all-the-stops finale, and when they come to “Waterloo,” no one wants this party to end.
I’m an unabashed fan of this musical – and it was my eighth time during the past 15 years. I compare it to the warm nostalgia of a “Gidget” movie from my youth. And yes, I cheerfully sang every word to “Dancing Queen” and “Mamma Mia!” at the curtain call – the audience is encouraged to do so (and I warned my neighbors to the right and left).
While it doesn’t matter if you have seen either the first or second movie, after viewing the just-released prequel-sequel, I did like that it shed more light on the backstory and motivations, so I thought of those things while watching this original show that sparked it all.
“Mamma Mia!” has sincere sentiment and its whole lotta fun vibe uplifted everyone. This production is one I’m not going to forget.
Stages St. Louis presents “Mamma Mia!” from July 20 through Aug. 19 at the Robert G. Reim Theatre in the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 S. Geyer Ave. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 314-821-2407 or visit: www.stagesstlouis.org. At least 18 shows are sold-out.Photos by Peter Wochniak