By Lynn Venhaus
Sometimes, we see magic happen under the stars in Forest Park. This summer, we saw a different kind of Muny Magic – but enchanted evenings nonetheless.

It took a global pandemic for the Muny to achieve its greatest magic trick ever – they transformed our isolation into a community through a live variety special.

And they did it with such hard work and passion. Using modern technology, incredibly creative professionals and tip-top talent from coast to coast, it was a huge undertaking, which was obvious to anyone who tuned in for even a fraction of an episode.

For the fifth Summer Variety Hour Live! on Monday, Aug. 17, the Muny supersized the presentation and it was a splashy grand finale, tugging on our heartstrings in a big but intimate way. So much genuine emotion in new works, in memories and archival footage that reminded us how special our outdoor theatre is, the largest and oldest one in the country.

Seeing Muny mainstay Beth Leavel perform her showstopper “Rose’s Turn” from “Gypsy” (2018) with the view from the wings! My heart was bursting. Tari Kelly leading the ebullient “Forget About the Boy” in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” (2012) and one of the all-time great musical theater numbers, ‘Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat” from last year’s “Guys and Dolls,” with the surprise appearance by Kennedy Holmes to hit those high notes. I was grinning ear to ear. The Mission: Feel-Good was on!

Zoe Vonder Haar, Orville Mendoza and Kennedy Holmes in “Guys and Dolls” – Photo by Phillip Hamer

For five episodes, the Muny reinvigorated its treasure trove of tradition, 102 years strong, to provide virtual entertainment that filled the void of a cancelled season. The collaborative spirit on display was inspiring.

Let’s face it, the summer has been dismal, especially with rising coronavirus cases in our bi-state region. More things shut down and were postponed in a never-ending stream of disappointments in 2020. But as a gift to “the Muny family,” the management and creative teams conceived a way to connect us. We all felt it, whether tuning in on Monday or catching the rerun on Thursday from July 20 to Aug. 17 as the evening twilight faded.

For a brief shining moment, it seemed like old times. The 8:15 p.m. start was a constant to look forward to in an uncertain year during an unprecedented public health crisis. With Executive Producer and Artistic Director Mike Isaacson’s bold and unique concept, and his ability to attract the talent he did, each episode was a captivating mix of tempo and tone, under the direction of multi-talented Michael Baxter.

Colby Dezelick

What an emotional palette we experienced, touching on why we love the Muny, from veteran performer Colby Dezelick’s touching original song, “I Will Be Your Home” — with a behind-the-scenes video love letter dedicated to his Muny family, to sweet Jenny Powers describing her feelings about flying above the audience as Mary Poppins in 2013, and how the staff took such good care of her. Straight to the heart.

And while seeing up-and-coming talent do what they do best is always enjoyable, feeling their sheer joy in performing is blissful. Watching St. Louis native and Broadway performer Richard Riaz Yoder use his exceptional talents to dance “Broadway Melody” using the Muny as his canvas – tap-dancing for a time in sneakers! – was breathtaking.

So was jubilant Jack Sippel’s choreographed dance number, the cheery “You Can’t Stop the Beat!” from “Hairspray,” which was performed by 19 Muny alums and sung by Nasia Thomas, Muny vet and Broadway performer in “Beautiful,” “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” and soon, the revival of “Caroline, or Change.”

In the 2017 production of “A Chorus Line,” director-choreographer Denis Jones used young versions of the dancers in certain scenes, to emphasize their dreams and drive. On Monday, they showed the wistful “At the Ballet” number, which was performed by Holly Ann Butler as Sheila, Bronwyn Tarboton as Maggie and Caley Crawford as Bebe, with little ballerinas in view.

As lump-in-the-throat as that song is, nothing can match the show’s curtain call for its spectacular finish, and they recreated it for The Muny Centennial Gala, complete with fireworks. Such a thrilling moment to revisit.

The energy, enthusiasm and talent of the Muny Teens and Kids each episode was another heart-tugger. Because six teens were graduating, they had a special senior sendoff: Michael Harp, Cate Phillips, Michael Lee Jr., Fiona Scott, Jack Deters and Caitlin Chau sang “Our Time” from Stephen Sondheim’s “Merrily We Roll Along.” I have seen these kids grow up. Misty eyes.

“Worlds to change, and worlds to win Our turn, coming through.”

The Muny Kids’ adorable and confident youngsters mashed up “Come Alive” from the film “The Greatest Showman,” with songs by Oscar and Tony winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, with “A Little More Homework” from Jason Robert Brown’s “13.”

For comic relief, there was the fun “Munywood Squares” game show, good sports all, and jolly John Tartaglia reprising his Murray the Muny Raccoon schtick, making Isaacson laugh.

Mike Isaacson

Isaacson, who has been the visionary executive producer and artistic director since the 2012 season, named to the post in 2010, cares deeply about the Muny’s place in historic context and local lore, and with his Broadway experience, he’s able to give us quality casts, teams and a really dedicated staff.

Clearly wearing his heart on his sleeve as this summer’s host, he gave us something that we could enjoy on many levels and for many reasons. Isaacson has multiple Tony Awards and 24 Broadway shows and national tours to his credit. He makes things happen in a way that elevates the Muny in stature, boosting our civic pride, but also gains respect in the larger theatrical world. His reverence for the art form is obvious, and he has shown us, time and again, the possibilities of what the Muny can accomplish.

That connection that he spoke of, all the people who came together without hesitation, all the selfless devotion, a renewed sense of purpose – it felt very real and elicited a teary farewell.

I think, like “Field of Dreams,” Forest Park and the Muny are mystical places. After all, musical theatre is a constant in our lives, like baseball. We want to believe that in a time of everything turned upside down, of norms being shattered, that there exists a place we feel safe, happy, loved. That sharing theater and music brings us together like no other art form.

So, the Muny Variety Hour gave us the opportunity to be in the company of performers who love the Muny like it is a family, a home. That theme was repeated over and over. And that’s what we are craving in these anxious times.

And in Colby’s song: “When it’s dark, I’ll be the light.”

Beth Malone

Another almost spiritual song was the centuries-old tune and Muny season-ender tradition “Auld Lang Syne,” sung by Beth Malone, who accompanied herself on acoustic guitar. Beautiful and bittersweet.

The ties that bind us, recalling happy golden days of yore. “Meet Me in St. Louis” appeared again in the line-up – of course. Yes, it’s schmaltzy, but its inclusion of the 1904 World’s Fair, which has impacted our lives and region ever since those seven months, and the work preceding it, make it a nostalgic chestnut.

Married couple and Muny performers Erin Dilly and Stephen R. Buntrock sang a lovely duet, “You and I,” from their home. They appeared as Mr. and Mrs. Smith in the 2018 production, the Centennial season finale.

Maggie Kuntz, a Muny vet and two-time winner of the Best Actress Award from the St. Louis High School Musical Theatre Awards, sang the iconic “The Trolley Song” live from under the Culver Pavilion with polish and panache.

Dan De Luca and Emily Walton in “Meet Me in St. Louis” Photo by Phillip Hamer

And then in the sentimental sweet spot, they played “The Skinker’s Swamp” picnic scene featuring Emily Walton as Esther and Dan DeLuca as John Truitt. The video projection was The Palace of Fine Arts, now the St. Louis Art Museum, under construction in a muddy field.

How many times have we been in the shadow of our treasured landmarks?

The world was watching when the Louisiana Purchase Exposition celebrated the 100th anniversary of the U.S. expansion under Thomas Jefferson. More than 60 countries and 43 states participated from April 30 to Dec. 1 in Forest Park and nearby locations.

So, the Muny and Forest Park remain crown jewels that we cherish.

And the Summer Variety Hour Live! reinforced our past, present and future. I’ll meet you at the Muny next summer. Looking forward to greeting the Muny family once more. “Through the years, we’ll always be together, if the fates allow.”

The Third Annual St. Louis High School Musical Theatre Awards winners were announced Sunday, June 2 at the Fabulous Fox Theatre.

The ceremony was hosted by KTVI Fox 2’s Mandy Murphey and directed by Tony Parise.

The winners were named in 14 categories (plus WOW! Performance Awards and Special Recognition Awards) including the Outstanding Lead Actress and the Outstanding Lead Actor who will go on to compete in the Jimmy Awards/National High School Musical Theatre Awards on Monday, June 24 at the Minskoff Theatre in New York City, presented by The Broadway League Foundation.

The pair going on to The Jimmy Awards were in Cor Jesu Academy’s “42nd Street” — Anna Gassett, who played Peggy Sawyer, and Michael Harp, who played Billy Lawlor. Anna is a recent graduate of Cor Jesu who plans to major in musical theatre at Texas State University. Michael will be a senior at Althoff Catholic High School in Belleville. He lives in Swansea.

Outstanding Lead Actress:

Anna
Gassett | Cor Jesu Academy

Outstanding Musical – Level 1
Budget:

Timberland High School, The Addams Family

Outstanding Supporting Actress:

Abi Mirikitani | Lafayette High
School

Outstanding Musical Direction:

Cor Jesu Academy

Outstanding Ensemble:

Westminster Christian Academy

Outstanding Choreography:

Kirkwood High School

Outstanding Technical Execution:

Cor Jesu Academy

Outstanding Lead Actor:

Michael Harp | Cor Jesu Academy

Outstanding Musical – Level 2
Budget:

Westminster Christian Academy, Meet Me In St. Louis

Outstanding Supporting Actor:

Kyle Rehme | Timberland High School

Outstanding Direction:

Chaminade College Prep

Outstanding Scenic Design &
Execution:

Central Visual and Performing Arts

Outstanding Costume Design &
Execution:

Timberland High School

Outstanding Orchestra:

Kirkwood
High School

Special Recognition Awards and
WOW! Performance Awards for outstanding work in support of the production were
also given out.

The Extra Mile:                                                                          Behind the Curtain:                                                                                                                       
                                                  

St.
Dominic High School, Les Misérables                                  Lindbergh
High School, Legally Blonde

Westminster
Christian Academy, Meet Me In St. Louis

Spirit of Theatre:                                                                                                                                                                             Union High School, Big Fish   

WOW! Moment:

Awarded for an outstanding performance in a
role not eligible for a nomination.

Ethan Budge | Rockwood Summit                                               
Brooke Hance | First Baptist Academy

Grant Morgan | Jerseyville
Community High School                  Hannah Wozniak | Lafayette High School

About
The St. Louis High School Musical Theatre Awards

The St. Louis High School Musical Theatre Awards (SLHSMTA) are produced by The Fabulous Fox, The Muny and The Fox Performing Arts Charitable Foundation. This program is designed to celebrate outstanding achievement in high school musical theatre. Participating schools will have their productions evaluated by a panel of theatre professionals.

The year-long adjudication process culminates in an awards ceremony modeled on the Tony Awards©. The winners of the Outstanding Actress and Outstanding Actor categories will travel to New York (all expenses paid) to compete in the National High School Musical Theatre Awards (Jimmy Awards©) program and to participate in a week-long professional development experience

About
The Jimmy Awards® / National
High School Musical Theatre Awards®

The Jimmy Awards®/The National High School Musical
Theatre Awards® (NHSMTA®) program impacts more than 100,000 students who
participate in high school musical theatre competitions sponsored by presenters
of Touring Broadway productions throughout the United States. Presented by the
Broadway League Foundation, the program sends a Best Actress and Best Actor
winner from each of these competitions to New York for a week-long theatre
intensive of coaching and rehearsals with industry professionals in preparation
for a one-night-only talent showcase on Broadway. Named for Broadway impresario
James M. Nederlander, the program has been the catalyst for more than
$2,000,000 in educational scholarships. The eleventh annual Jimmy Awards will
take place on Monday, June 24, 2019 at the Minskoff Theatre on Broadway.
Coaching and rehearsals for this one-of-a-kind event will be held Monday, June
17, 2019 through Monday, June 24, 2019 in New York City. For more information,
please visit www.JimmyAwards.com.

About The
Thomas A. Kooyumjian Foundation

The Thomas A. Kooyumjian Foundation is a not-for-profit
corporation organized and operated exclusively for charitable purposes and in
particular to preserve Armenian Culture of Americans of Armenian descent and support
other educational and charitable organizations.

*pronounced [coo-YUM-jun]

100th Season Included Two Regional World Premieres
The numbers are in: 393,398 people attended the Muny’s Centennial season under the stars at America’s oldest and largest outdoor musical theater.
It is a six percent increase over 2017, and that includes an 11 percent growth in season tickets. Nearly 100,000 guests experienced a Muny production at no cost through The Muny’s free seat and community access programs.
Of the seven shows, “Meet Me in St. Louis” drew the biggest crowds, with  76,500 in attendance.  The season included “Annie,” 69,638; “Singin’ in the Rain,” 56,385; “Jersey Boys,” 54,766;  “The Wiz,” 49,486;  “Gypsy,” 43,712; and “Jerome Robbins’ Broadway,” 42,911.
“This season – from that magnificent Gala all the way through the fireworks finale of Meet Me In St. Louis – was truly a community-wide celebration,” said Muny President and CEO Denny Reagan. “We are so proud to have had this opportunity to share this summer with the hundreds of thousands of audience members who have made The Muny’s storied past and inspiring future possible.”

“Muny 100 was a season we will all remember the rest of our lives,” said Muny Artistic Director and Executive Producer Mike Isaacson. “The passion and joy we received from the audience was palpable, and everyone on and backstage gave their extraordinary best. The only response I can have is profound awe and gratitude.”
 In addition, 6,804 guests attended The Muny’s Centennial Gala, An Evening with the Stars. When combined, total attendance for the seven-show summer season and An Evening with the Stars: 400,202.
VIDEO recap of 2018 Season: https://youtu.be/WsMENOI8yv4
100th Season attendance by show:
Jerome Robbins’ Broadway: 42,911
This monumental world regional premiere was a celebratory start to our centennial season! Scenes from some of Robbins’ biggest hits, including West Side Story, On the Town, Peter Pan, The King and I and Fiddler on the Roof showcased the talent of Tony Award-winning director and choreographer, Jerome Robbins. In its first ever staging since its original Broadway production and national tour, it enchanted audiences.
The Wiz: 49,486
In its first Muny production in 36 years, this feel-good favorite had audiences clicking their heels in the aisles all night long. Sparkling with heart-pounding soul, unforgettable gospel and infectious rock rhythms, this reimagined familiar favorite had audiences ready to “Ease on Down the Road” to meet The Wiz!
Singin’ in the Rain: 56,385
Known for its splashy production numbers and snappy dialogue, this timeless Muny favorite was a downpour of pure delight. The forecast predicted sunny smiles and dazzling dancing, and stars Corbin Bleu, Berklea Going and Jeffrey Schecter splashed right into audiences’ hearts.
Jersey Boys: 54,766
The story of the magic behind the music of international sensation Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons arrived at The Muny in style in its world regional premiere. The star-studded cast even captured the heart of real-life Four Seasons member Bob Gaudio, who stopped by to give our production his heartfelt blessing.

Annie: 69,638
Everyone’s favorite plucky, freckle-faced orphan did not disappoint! Audiences took a stroll down “Easy Street” to follow the story of Annie’s journey from a “Hard Knock Life” to her forever home. With songs and kick-lines that entertained the entire family, this production was a multigenerational hit!
Gypsy: 43,712
Fans were awestruck by the countless showstoppers and striking backstory of famous burlesque dancer Gypsy Rose Lee. The hidden hardships and highlights of show business came center stage with a heart-stirring performance by Beth Leavel as Momma Rose in this cherished classic. We loved letting them entertain us all night long!

Meet Me In St. Louis: 76,500
Zing, zing, zing went our heartstrings! Meet Me In St. Louis was the perfect finale to our majestic centennial season. Showcasing a boy-next-door romance and a close-knit, Midwestern family, this production was the perfect ribbon on a monumental season…right here in St. Louis.

The Muny’s 101st Season announcement will take place at Muny Magic at The Sheldon on October 17 and 18 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available now, online at muny.org, by phone 314-534-1111 or at The Muny Box Office.
 
The Muny’s mission is to enrich lives by producing exceptional musical theatre, accessible to all, while continuing its remarkable tradition in Forest Park. As the nation’s largest outdoor musical theatre, we produce seven world-class musicals each year and welcome over 390,000 theatregoers over our nine-week season.
Celebrating 100 seasons in St. Louis, The Muny remains one of the
premier institutions in musical theatre. For more information about The Muny, visit muny.org

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing EditorA STAR WAS BORN: It was as if scripted in a movie. You’ve heard of that classic moment in the 1933 movie “42nd Street” when an understudy takes over for an injured diva. Well, it really happened right here in St. Louis one summer 46 years ago at The Muny.
On Aug. 14, 1972, MGM musical star Ann Miller was playing Reno Sweeney to Michael Callan’s Billy Crockett in “Anything Goes.” The classic Cole Porter romantic romp was underway when right after the song “Friendship” during a scenery change, Miller was conked on the head by a steel boom. Callan had followed her off-stage, then found her on the floor, dazed and bruised.

“Is there a doctor in the house?” A call went out from the stage and 15 doctors responded. The show was cancelled and Miller taken to Deaconess Hospital with a mild brain concussion and loss of equilibrium. She spent 23 days there.With Miller out but not wanting to cancel the week, Muny brass sought a replacement. They plucked Pat St. James, a senior at Webster University, from the ensemble. She rose to the occasion.
St. James, whose parents were local broadcast celebrities Clif and Nance St. James, was praised for her soaring performance. She later thrived in a musical theater career.
But in 1999, she switched gears, earning a degree in theology and ordained an Episcopal priest. She was married to David Roberts, and they lived in Atlanta with their two children, Oliver and Julia. At age 61, after a four-year battle with cancer, she died on Dec. 5, 2010.
Her moment in the sun became a Muny legend.
“Anything Goes” may have been Miller’s first appearance at The Muny but it wouldn’t be her last. She would be persuaded to return in the next decade, for ‘Sugar Babies” with Mickey Rooney in 1984.
Miller starred in “Kiss Me Kate,” “Easter Parade,” “On the Town,” “Stage Door,” “Room Service” and “Mulholland Drive” (?!?).Side Note: I actually saw Pat St. James as Reno Sweeney that week at The Muny. Everyone was abuzz.
(“Anything Goes” photo from Muny archives, from left, Pat Paulsen, Pat St. James, Michael Callan.)
***HELLO, USA!: Congratulations to Madison Johnson of St. Louis, who has been cast in the national tour of “Hello, Dolly!” that begins in late September. She is part of the ensemble and understudy for Minnie Fay.This tour of the Broadway revival, which won four Tony Awards in 2017, will feature Betty Buckley as Dolly Levi and Lewis J. Stadlen as Horace Vandergelder. Stadlen, a three-time Tony nominee, has been in several Muny shows, including “The Producers,” “Damn Yankees,” “Meet Me in St. Louis” and “Fiddler on the Roof.”
Madison has been part of the Muny ensemble the past six years, recently playing Lucille Ballard in “Meet Me in St. Louis.” She was Kristine in “A Chorus Line” last summer and Frenchie in 2014’s “Grease.” She started at age 7 as a Muny Kid. A graduate of Whitfield School and Elon College, she moved to New York City in 2016.
***
SIX DEGREES OF ST. LOUIS: John David Washington is starring in “BlackkKlansman” as undercover cop Ron Stallworth, who wrote the book that Spike Lee has adapted into this acclaimed film.

He was signed by the St. Louis Rams in 2007 after he was not drafted in the NFL Draft. Later cut from the Rams, he was a running back for the Hamburg Sea Devils, a German team playing in the NFL Europe League. Fun fact: Eldest son of two-time Oscar winner Denzel Washington.
Photo: Adam Driver and John David Washington
***GO SEE A PLAY! POLL: The St. Louis Fringe Festival’s local headlining act is an original musical written and composed by Colin Healy called “The Gringo.” The world premiere will be performed four times from Thursday, Aug. 16 through Sunday, Aug. 19, at the .Zack, 3224 Locust.
It’s about how art can bring a community together. Set in Miami, a local street artist is wrongfully gunned down by police. As told through the lens of a successful painter, this community faces injustice and rapid gentrification. They learn what it means to fight for your home.
The cast includes Gheremi Clay, Kevin Corpuz, Robert Crenshaw, Evann De-Bose, Riley Dunn, William Humphrey, Omega Jones, Tim Kaniecki, Alicia Revé Like, Brittany Losh, Samantha Madison, Gabby McNabb, Carly Niehaus, Janine Norman and David Zimmerman.
Healy directs, with Bradley Rohlf assistant director; Christopher Page-Sanders choreographer and Carly Uding costume design.Tieliere Cheatem contributed the artwork. On opening night, they will give this portrait away that has been signed by the cast and the crew. Tickets available at Metrotix.com

For a chance to win two tickets to one performance, enter our poll drawing!Poll Question: What Is Your Favorite Show About Art? “Art”
“Is He Dead?”“Red”“Sunday in the Park with George”“Sight Unseen”
Submit your selection to [email protected] by noon on Wednesday, Aug. 15. Please include your phone number. You will be notified that afternoon if you won, and you can select what performance so that tickets can be arranged. The show is at 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and Sunday at 2 p.m. Thanks for participating.
Winner of our two tickets to “Meet Me in St. Louis” was Chuck Brinkley. Thank you, Muny!
“Meet Me in St. Louis” received the most votes as the favorite local movie shot in or made about St. Louis.
***TRIVIA TIME-OUT: Oscar winner Shelley Winters, whose career spanned five decades, was born Shirley Schrift on Aug. 18, 1920, in St. Louis to Jewish immigrant parents. Her father, a tailor, moved the family to Brooklyn when she was a child. She died at age 86 in 2006.
Once nicknamed “The Blonde Bombshell,” she later became known for forceful dramatic roles.For what movie performances did she win her two Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actress?Answer: “The Diary of Anne Frank” in 1959, as a shrill Mrs. Van Daan, and “A Patch of Blue” in 1965, in which she played a slatternly mother cruel to her blind daughter.
Her breakthrough role on stage was as Ado Annie in “Oklahoma!” five years into the run, and she was noticed in “A Double Life” starring Oscar winner Ronald Coleman in 1947.But after a dissatisfying number of movie roles, she finally got the role of her lifetime in “A Place in the Sun” with Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor.
Some of her other big movies were “A Night of the Hunter” in 1955 and “The Poseidon Adventure” in 1972. Earlier, she had returned to studying at the Actors Studio and became a big advocate of the Lee Strasberg method.
A lifelong progressive Democrat and outspoken on feminist issues, she became quite a raconteur on talk shows during the 1970s and ‘80s. Her two tell-all autobiographies created quite a stir, as she had some high-profile leading-men dalliances.
Fun fact: She roomed with Marilyn Monroe when they were just starting out in Hollywood.
Happy Birthday, Shelley! (She would have been 98 Monday).Photo at right: Marilyn Monroe, Robert Mitchum and Shelley Winters.
***ICYMI: A movie adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony-winning “In the Heights” is planned for summer release 2020. Jon M. Chu, who helmed the new romantic comedy “Crazy Rich Asians,” will direct.Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cats” will be made into a movie, and production is to start in November. Stars signed so far are Tony winners James Corden and Ian McKellen, along with Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson and Grammy winner Taylor Swift.
***WORD/DOWN MEMORY LANE: “Would you shut your phones off for Christ sakes?” – Stanley Tucci, during the Aug. 14, 2002, performance of “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune” at the Belasco Theatre on Broadway. An audience member’s cell phone kept ringing. Calls for a ban on cell phones at NYC’s theatres grew louder, and a law was put into effect in 2003.
***Have any tidbits for this people column? Contact Managing Editor Lynn Venhaus – [email protected]
.All photos from archives or submitted. Featured image is of St. Louis native Shelley Winters.

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
By wrapping up its Centennial Season with a sweet nostalgic slice of Americana, the Muny has tugged at our hearts and reminded us to treasure our traditions.
This “Meet Me in St. Louis” makeover is a richly textured tapestry significant to St. Louis – one that you can see and feel. With a freshly revised book and new orchestrations, the Muny has connected the ordinary Smith Family’s quaint story to emotionally resonate through the ties that bind us.
A tight-knit cast and tip-top crew wore their hearts on their sleeves opening night, offering a gift to the region that spends its summers in the nation’s oldest and largest outdoor theater. You could sense the love for our town onstage, backstage and in the audience.

The Smiths’ upper-middle class life at 5135 in Kensington Avenue was not different than countless others, but through their typical goings-on, they faced change, and that impending family transition from their comfortable routine to the uncertainty of a big metropolis is what drives their 1903-1904 story through seasons along the Mississippi River.
Sally Benson’s memoirs, “The Kensington Stories.” eventually became the beloved classic movie musical “Meet Me in St. Louis.” Even with its MGM-Hollywood pedigree, that unique turn-of-the-century site-specific history makes it ours alone – not Kansas City, Chicago or Indianapolis.
That civic pride resulted in the Muny presenting stage versions in 1960, 1965 and 1977 – before Broadway adapted it in 1989, and a variation has been staged four more times, including a dull one its last time in 2009.
The stage adaptation wasn’t special enough, and not even close in comparison to the movie. When the film opened in 1944, it became the studio’s biggest hit next to “Gone with the Wind” and nominated for four Oscars, including Best Song (“The Trolley Song”). Margaret O’Brien won a Juvenile Academy Award as Tootie. The film is now preserved in the National Film Registry (Library of Congress) and 10th on American Film Institute’s Greatest Movie Musicals in History list.
It’s closing line, “Right here in St. Louis,” became the Muny’s tagline for their 100th anniversary, and the show’s inclusion inevitable.
But this production has some surprises in store. To make this one memorable, Artistic Director and Executive Producer Mike Isaacson called on Gordon Greenberg to revamp the book by Hugh Wheeler. Greenberg is a veteran Muny director whose writing work includes the “Holiday Inn” Broadway adaptation.
He has inserted many local references to heighten the hometown feel. He had us right away when Grandpa talks about the St. Louis Cardinals beating the Chicago Cubs. Other mentions of neighborhoods and long-distance phone calls to Clayton were big crowd-pleasers.
No matter how corny you think the romantic entanglements are, the Smith kids’ excitement about seeing their hometown prepare to become the center of the universe is contagious.
The simple framework of children growing up is secondary to the time and place, as our forefathers are honored for their vision that included the biggest World’s Fair yet, and the first Summer Olympics in the U.S. And we continue to enjoy the fruits of those labors.

The world was watching when the Louisiana Purchase Exposition celebrated the 100th anniversary of the U.S. expansion under Thomas Jefferson. More than 60 countries and 43 states participated from April 30 to Dec. 1 in Forest Park and nearby locations. So many contributions of long-lasting impact came from those seven months in 1904, and the work preceding it.
That’s what director Marcia Milgrom Dodge brings out as the characters express love for the city and family, friends and neighbors during daily routines and holiday rituals.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith (real-life married couple Stephen R. Buntrock and Erin Dilly) have five children: Rose, Esther, Alonzo Jr. “Lon,” Agnes and Tootie (Liana Hunt, Emily Walton, Jonathan Burke, Elle Wesley and Elena Adams, all in Muny debuts). Anna Smith’s father, retired doctor Grandpa Prophater (local legend Ken Page) lives with them. Alonzo Sr. is a lawyer and they live comfortably enough to afford a housekeeper, Katie (Kathy Fitzgerald).
This cast injected individual pizzazz into a show that’s still boxed in by the period’s social mores. Let’s face it, the schmaltz factor is high, and the two oldest girls’ boy troubles are trivial.
There is the potential to view the characters as spoiled in the way the older daughters maneuver the guys and bratty Tootie causes mayhem while they all whine about moving to New York City, but if they didn’t gripe, we wouldn’t have any dramatic conflict, would we? And the performers are winsome.
Rose’s intended fellow, the earnest Warren Sheffield, is well-played by Michael Burrell, and Dan DeLuca, as the proverbial boy-next-door John Truitt, matches Emily Walton’s adventurous zest as Esther.
Jonathan Burke is an impressive Lon Jr., getting ready for Princeton and dating the worldly Lucille Ballard (St. Louis regular Madison Johnson, looking swell in a Gibson hairstyle). He is a marvel of movement in the dance number, “The Banjo,” innovatively staged by choreographer Josh Walden. Jeff Jordan is a good sport as a gangly uncoordinated dance partner, Pee Wee Drummond.
Music Director Charlie Alterman glides through old standards and the stand-out numbers written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane – “The Boy Next Door,” “The Trolley Song” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” which Walton beautifully delivers.
An earlier song list was trimmed to thankfully cut the bloat, and John McDaniel’s new orchestrations provide some zing. McDaniel, a St. Louis native, is a Grammy and Emmy-winning composer, conductor, pianist and producer. He was the band leader on Rosie O’Donnell’s talk show from 1996 to 2002 and has returned to conduct the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra five times and worked on “Pirates!” during the Muny’s 2012 season.
They included a dandy song Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote but cut from the movie, “Boys and Girls Like You and Me.”

Supporting player Ben Nordstrom’s spotlight moment was delightful, as he sang “Under the Anheuser Bush” as the Christmas Ball band singer.
(Fun fact: That is a popular beer garden song commissioned by the brewery in 1903, and an instrumental version was used in the 1944 movie).
The vibrant vintage look sharpened the focus, with outstanding work by scenic designer Michael Schweikardt and video designer Matthew Young, who highlighted the bygone era with beautiful vistas.
Costume designer Tristan Raines and wig designer Leah J. Loukas immersed the players in exquisite detail. The youth ensemble’s Halloween costumes provided merriment as they scampered through the crowd.
Lighting designer Rob Denton spectacularly illuminated the World’s Fair, which elicited audible appreciation. Sound designers John Shivers and David Patridge captured the old-timey feel.
In two extraordinary moments, “Meet Me in St. Louis” crystallized the past, present and future of our crown jewels — Forest Park and The Muny, all in the shadow of our treasured landmarks.
The “Skinker’s Swamp” picnic scene, where video projection showed The Palace of Fine Art (now the St. Louis Art Museum) under construction, along with the Ferris Wheel, in a muddy field. Awestruck Esther and John rode that famous trolley to his baseball practice first.
The grand finale was breathtaking – as the anticipation of the World’s Fair built, to reveal the Smith Family standing on a bridge overlooking the Grand Basin, with thousands of festive lights. It was a vivid tableau that continued in a fireworks-festooned curtain call.
Sometimes, we see magic happen under the stars in Forest Park, just as our ancestors did in the 20th century. Hope about the future has been a running theme in all seven shows this season, and “Meet Me in St. Louis” became the cherry on top.
After the fireworks light up the sky for the last time Aug. 12, we move onto the second century.
Look around the park now – majestic remnants mark our heritage. It’s a stunning sight, recalling happy golden days of yore, as is the Muny’s love letter to the community we cherish.
This unabashedly sentimental production conjured up many personal memories and feelings about what Forest Park, the Muny and St. Louis mean to me. I don’t think I was alone in this regard, judging the audience’s reaction
“Meet Me in St. Louis” is presented from Aug. 4 to Aug. 12 nightly at 8:15 p.m. at The Muny in Forest Park. For more information or for tickets, visit www.muny.org.
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Photos by Phillip Hamer
 

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
RISING STARS: Seeing talented teenagers passionately follow their dreams is such a thrill. The Fox Performing Arts Charitable Foundation is ahead of the game, for it fosters, promotes, and encourages young people in the St. Louis region to discover and participate in the joy and wonder of live performances.
Besides the St. Louis Teen Talent Competition, the Fox Performing Arts Charitable Foundation also produces a variety of other performing arts programs that focus on youth including Kids’ Night at the Fabulous Fox, Broadway Master Classes, Educational Encores, and is a producing partner of the 2nd Annual St. Louis High School Musical Theatre Awards.
This Sunday, they are sponsoring a free event that will feature 25 entertainment acts, including finalists from the 8th Annual St. Louis Teen Talent Competition and nomineees from the 2nd Annual St. Louis High School Musical Theatre Awards:

The High Schooll Musical Theatre Awards representatives include: Outstanding Lead Actress winner Maggie Kuntz and nominees Paige Terch. Meg Gorton and  Sydney Jones
Outstanding Lead Actor nominees Tony Merritt and Jared Goudsmit.
Outstanding Supporting Actress nominees Annelise Laakko, Natalie Brown and Haley Driver.
The Teen Talent Showcase representatives include pianists John Yanev and Robyne Sieh, singers Morgan Taylor, Josh Royal, Bennett English and Jennifer Ferry; dancers Arielle Adams, De’Jai Walker, Madison Alexander, Megan Mayer, Brooke Reese, Hillary Zgonina, Kelsey Carnes and DessaRae Lampkins; alto sax player Kameron Huff and TBD (Lilliana Matthews, Aaron Moore, Everett Remstedt, Allan Stacy and Jalen Thompson.
The Rising Stars Showcase featuring the Stars of Tomorrow will take place on Sunday, Aug. 5, at 2 p.m. at The Sheldon Concert Hall, 3648 Washington Blvd., St. Louis. Admission is free and it is open to the public. For more information, visit: www.foxpacf.org.
 
Photo Maggie Kuntz, Dolly Levi in Cor Jesu’s “Hello,Dolly!” She went on to compete in the National Jimmy Awards.
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EXPLORE ST. LOUIS:  St. Louis will be rolling out the red carpet when throngs come to the city for the 100th PGA Championship Aug. 6 – 12 at the Bellerive Country Club.
Have you seen the four commercials that award-winning actor and St. Louis native Sterling K. Brown has done for the St. Louis Visitors and Convention Bureau? The 30-second segments are “Arch,” “Blues,” “Family Fun” and “Neighborhoods.”

Local actor, playwright and theater booster Stephen Peirick played Merriwether to Matt Lindhardt’s Lewis in the “Arch” commercial. He said Sterling was kind and introduced himself before they started working on the spot.
If you want to see the commercials or find out more about what’s happening here in August, check out www.explorestl.com.
 
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GO SEE A PLAY POLL: Meet at the Muny for “Meet Me in St. Louis,” the finale of the Muny’s Centennial Season! Those who send in their choice in the poll will be placed in a drawing for two tickets to any performance of “Meet Me in St. Louis” from Aug. 4 – 12 at the Muny in Forest Park.
“Meet Me in St. Louis” was a 1944 MGM movie before it was adapted as a stage musical in 1989, although the Muny presented it before that.in the 1960s and ’70s.
This 2018 production will feature a revised book by Gordon Greenberg and new orchestrations by John McDaniel is the first since 2009, and the eighth overall.
McDaniel, a Grammy, Tony and Emmy-winning producer, composer, conductor and pianist is from St. Louis. He was Rosie O’Donnell’s talk show bandleader from 1996 to 2002, and has worked with the Muny before, on the 2012 “Pirates!”
Poll Question for Ticket Drawing: What is your favorite movie that either takes place in St. Louis or was shot in St. Louis?
“The Game of Their Lives”“The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery”“King of the Hill”“Meet Me in St. Louis”“Up in the Air”“White Palace”
Send your selection by email to: [email protected] by 10 p.m. Friday, Aug. 3. Please include your phone number. The winner will be notified, and arrangements will be made with the Muny for the night you choose.
Our July 28 poll winner was Robert Kapeller of St. Louis. He won two tickets to “Evita” at The Rep on Sept. 7. As for the favorite girlfriends musical, “Wicked” won in a landslide.
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DOWN MEMORY LANE: The first time I saw the movie “Meet Me in St. Louis” was at a free showing at the downtown Famous Barr department store the summer of 1974. They had special events and exhibits in honor of the 70th anniversary of the World’s Fair in St. Louis and showed the movie for free in their ninth floor exhibition hall. (That’s what was transformed into the holiday world extravaganza at Christmastime.) At the movie, they sold specially-priced iced tea and hot dogs, two refreshments who made their debut in 1904.
Sally Benson’s “Kensington Stories” was the basis for the movie, and her family lived at 5135 Kensington in north St. Louis city. The house is long-gone but this is what it once looked like, pictured at left.
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TRIVIA TIME-OUT: Forty years ago, the first National Lampoon movie, “Animal House” premiered. This groundbreaking movie first shown on July 28, 1978 spawned many knockoffs and launched the careers of many young stars, including the first film by SNL breakthrough John Belushi. (And is very helpful in the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game).
Question: Who are the two people associated with the movie that have a local connection?
Answer: Writer Harold Ramis attended Washington University, Class of 1966, and used his college days as a member of Zeta Beta Tau for inspiration. He would go on to fame as a writer, actor (“Ghostbusters”) and director (“Groundhog Day”), and returned to his roots here. He served two terms on the Washington University board of trustees and was master of ceremonies for Homecoming in 1984. Here is a 1979 photo of him back in a Wash U frathouse.

Karen Allen, who played Katy, was born in Carrollton, Ill. Her mother was from Jerseyville and her father from Roodhouse, and she spent summers visiting her grandparents in Jersey County after his FBI work took them to other cities for her first 10 years. Her father went to Washington University after her parents married; they met at Illinois College in Jacksonville.
I interviewed the delightful and very active Allen two years ago when she was being honored by the St. Louis International Film Festival. She said she enjoys seeing cast members at film reunion events.

At left she is shown with Peter Riegert. “Animal House” was her first movie.
To read more about her life, here is my feature in the Belleville News-Democrat. https://www.bnd.com/living/magazine/article114225998.html
***WORD: Wise advice from the late great screenwriter, actor and director Harold Ramis:
“There’s a great rabbinical motto that says you start each day with a note in each pocket. One note says, “The world was created for you today,” and the other note says, “I’m a speck of dust in a meaningless universe,” and you have to balance both things.”
“No one will laugh at how great things are for somebody.”
“My only conclusion about structure is that nothing works if you don’t have interesting characters and a good story to tell.”
― Harold Ramis (1944 – 2014)
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WINNERS CIRCLE: Cinema St. Louis handed out awards for the St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase on July 22. This year’s event featured 107 films, and some advanced to the 27th annual St. Louis International Film Festival Nov. 1 – 11. These are the juried award winners that were written, directed, edited, or produced by St. Louis residents or films with strong local ties.
DOCUMENTARIES
Best Use of Music: Busking on the Wagon, Randy Shinn and Drew Gowran
Best Sound: Such and Such, Cory Byers
Best Editing: Gateway Sound, Justin Fisher and Patrick Lawrence
Best Cinematography: Lingua Francas, David Christopher Pitt
Best Local Subject: The Man Behind the Merferds, Phil Berwick
Best Direction: Lisa Boyd, An American Tragedy
Best Documentary Short: For a Better Life, Yasmin Mistry
Best Documentary Feature: Gateway Sound, Justin Fisher
EXPERIMENTAL
Best Experimental Film: Passages in Revisiting: I Hear Someone Playing Urheen, Xinyue Deng
NARRATIVES
Best Costumes: Shutter, Nancy Eppert and Maude Vintage
Best Makeup/Hairstyling: East Plains: Get Out!, Jessica Dana
Best Use of Music: The Wedding Song, Ben Stanton, Thia Schuessler and Will Dickerson
Best Sound: Strings, Ross Mercer, Ryan Kneezle and Theo Lodato
Best Production Design/Art Direction: Parallel Chords, Gypsi Pate
Best Special/Visual Effects: Dawn of Man, Vlad Sarkisov
Best Editing: MLM, Benjamin Dewhurst
Best Cinematography: Parallel Chords, Kyle Krupinksi
Best Screenplay: Foxes, Tristan Taylor and Garrick BernardBest Actor: Ayinde Howell, Foxes
Best Actress: Jackie Kelly, Mother of Calamity
Best Direction: Richard Louis Ulrich, Steve
Best Animated Film: Tiffanys, Caitlin Chiusano, Sean Esser and Zhara Honore
Best Comedy: Cabin Killer, Michael Rich
Best Drama: Saint Sinner, Brian Cooksey
Best Narrative Short: Foxes, Tristan Taylor
Best Narrative Feature: Parallel Chords, Catherine Dudley-Rose
To see the list of films selected for SLIFF, visit www.cinemastlouis.org
Pictured are Best Actor Aynde Howell of “Foxes” and Best Actress Jackie Kelly of “Mother of Calamity” on the Showcase program.
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Have any tidbits for the column? Please contact Lynn Venhaus at: [email protected]
Featured photo of ‘Meet Me in St. Louis” from Tams-Witmark. Harold Ramis photos from Washington University archives.
 
 

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.