By Lynn Venhaus
Patsy Cline was that rare artist who made a deep connection with anyone who listened to her sing.

A similar effect happens with actresses Diana DeGarmo and Zoe Vonder Haar, who are a delightful combo of sweet and salty, smooth and sassy, silky and spirited, in the jukebox musical “Always…Patsy Cline,” now playing at Stages St. Louis through Sept. 5.

Raised in Georgia and now living in Nashville, DeGarmo has returned to her country music roots in a thoroughly engaging performance.

She sleekly inhabits Cline, who is considered the most popular female country singer in recording history. DeGarmo emulates Cline’s richly textured, emotive voice, and effortlessly delivers 27 numbers, including five with Vonder Haar, who plays Cline’s fan-turned-friend, Louise Seger.

DeGarmo, who was the runner-up on Season 3 of “American Idol” at age 16 in 2004, which Fantasia Barrino, 19, won (a total of 65 million votes were cast for both), has since pursued a music and musical theatre career, appearing on Broadway and in national tours.

Diana DeGarmo as Patsy Cline, Photographed by ProPhotoSTL

Previously in St. Louis, she was impressive as Doralee Rhodes in the first national tour of “9 to 5: The Musical,” which stopped at the Fox Theatre in February 2011, and also at the Fox in 2014 as the Narrator in the revival tour of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” Her husband, Ace Young, was Joseph. (She met Young, who was on American Idol’s fifth season, when they were cast in “Hair” and have been married since 2013).

She is poised and commanding as she interprets one hit song after another, showcasing her range and control. The vocals on the ballads “Crazy,” “I Fall to Pieces” and “Sweet Dreams” are particularly lush, tugging on your heart strings.

She has fun changing tempos with the more down-home numbers, such as “Stupid Cupid” and “Shake Rattle and Roll.”

DeGarmo projects an elegance, which is enhanced by Brad Musgrove’s gorgeous vintage costume designs, and she is exquisitely lit by lighting designer Sean M. Savoie.

She has a dynamic chemistry with feisty firecracker Vonder Haar, the veteran fan favorite who has played Louise twice before. Vonder Haar won the St. Louis Theater Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical for the first time (and would go on to win that same award for Stages’ “The Full Monty” two years later).

It’s a good match. Seger, a colorful Texas housewife, was a devoted fan who first saw Patsy on “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts” in 1957, when she won after singing “Walkin’ After Midnight.” Living near Houston, she attended the singer’s show at the Esquire Ballroom in 1961, and they connected as friends, writing letters and talking on the phone until the singer’s tragic death at age 30 in a plane crash in 1963.

Playwright Ted Swindley fashioned the interviews Seger did for the biographies “Patsy Cline: An Intimate Biography” and “Honky Tonk Angel: The Intimate Story of Patsy Cline” into the source material for his 1988 two-woman tribute revue, “Always…Patsy Cline,” which is the epitome of a crowd-pleaser. It is licensed by Cline’s family and estate.

Zoe Vonder Haar as Louise Seger, photographed by ProPhotoSTL

From Seger in “Country Weekly”: “The person inside me recognized the person who lived inside her. It was truly eerie.”

Patsy joined Louise and her friends and after the show accepted an invitation to Louise’s home for a late-night breakfast. “It was like I was living in a dream. There was Patsy Cline in my kitchen helping me fix bacon and eggs. She took her shoes off and wore an apron I gave her.

“She told me about her life, her hopes, her dreams. We discussed loves lost, loves found, loves yet to be.

“We talked about her troubled marriage and the pain she endured being away from her children. It was just two people baring their souls.

“We both sang and harmonized old Gospel songs and hillbilly tunes. We sat there and smoked and sang until 4:00 in the morning.”

Louise rushed Patsy to the airport, expecting never to hear from her again. But within two weeks, Louise received her first in what was to be many letters and phone calls they would exchange.

“I often would receive calls at 1:00 in the morning. She’d be singing in some town wanting a friend to talk to.”

Of course, this was 60 years ago, before entertainers had security, a ‘team’ and ‘people.’ It was just two women bonding at a kitchen table.

While Swindley took some poetic license, the story is true – a glamorous celebrity who grew up without privilege and her plain-spoken, music-lovin’ pal.

From the moment she sashays on to scenic designer James Wolk’s vintage 1950s-era kitchen set, Vonder Haar, a St. Louis treasure, is a funny and sincere Louise. She engages the audience as comic relief with her folksy charm, coming across like a neighbor joining you for a kaffee klatch.

This memoir, which opens the theater company’s 35th anniversary year, is the most popular show in Stages’ history. This is the third time it’s being presented, after back-to-back runs in 2013 and 2014, which demonstrates again how endearing and charming it is. It was as warmly received Aug. 11 as it was seven and eight years ago.

The cozy show, first at Stages’ former home at Kirkwood’s Community Center, then moved intact to The Playhouse at Westport Plaza, is opening their new venue, the Kirkwood Center for the Performing Arts. The Ross Family Theatre seats 529 comfortably.

Artistic Director Michael Hamilton has recreated the production, capitalizing on the actress’s strengths. The premise is simple – showing Cline singing at the Grand Old Opry and other locations, with Louise listening to her on the radio, which was a communication lifeline for people back then.

A simpler time, a touch of nostalgia, admiration for a career cut way too short, but spotlighting music that continues to warm hearts to this day.

The lively band, conducted by music director Jeremy Jacobs, who also plays the piano, is an expert blend of Steve Hitsman on steel pedal guitar, Dave Black on electric and acoustic guitars, Kevin Buckley on acoustic guitar and fiddle, Eric Grossman on bass and Joe Meyer on drums. Their tight sound is mighty in an alcove perched behind a scrim.

Original orchestrations for the band and vocals were crafted by August Eriksmoen and Tony Migliore.

While the songs take center stage, the fascinating tale of a close friendship between kindred spirits is what resonates, drawing an audience in, one who welcomes the warm embrace of harmony in music and life.

Diana DeGarmo as Patsy Cline, photographed by ProPhotoSTL

Stages St. Louis presents “Always…Patsy Cline” through Sept. 5, performance times vary, at the Ross Family Theatre inside the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center at 210 Monroe St. ASL interpreting and audio description by MindsEye will be available for the Aug. 20 show. For more information, call 314-821-2407 or visit www.StagesSt.Louis.org. Follow Stages on Facebook and Instagram.

STAGES St. Louis Artistic Director and co-founder, Michael Hamilton, has announced that he will be retiring at the end of the 2021 Season.

“From our opening season in 1987 to our launch into the stunning new Kirkwood Performing Arts Center, every moment at STAGES has been an extraordinary one for me. As I explore and embrace the next chapter in my life, my heart will always remain at STAGES,” said Artistic Director Michael Hamilton. “It is truly a life legacy that I am incredibly proud of. But I am particularly proud and grateful of all the
extraordinary people that I met and worked with in my 35 years at STAGES. That is something I will be able
to keep in my heart for the rest of my life.”

A co-founder of STAGES St. Louis, Michael has directed over 100 productions in his 35-year STAGES history and has been the creative force behind the company’s most iconic productions that patrons have come to know and love. For his work at STAGES, Michael has been honored with multiple awards including the Art & Education Council’s 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award (with Jack Lane) and both Kevin Kline and St. Louis Theatre Circle Awards for Outstanding Director of a Musical. Michael’s list of award-winning productions
include FOOTLOOSE (2005); THE FULLY MONTY (2007); PROMISES, PROMISES (2010); ANYTHING GOES
(2015); and MAN OF LA MANCHA (2019).

Additionally, Michael’s acclaimed production of ALWAYS…PATSY CLINE (2013) was not only transferred to the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, but also played a record-breaking eight-month run at the Playhouse at Westport Plaza.

“When Michael and Jack asked me in my role as Kirkwood’s Director of Parks and Recreation to rent the Robert G. Reim Theatre for the first STAGES Season in 1987, I don’t think any of us imagined what would come of that meeting,” said STAGES Board President Dave White. “But Michael had a vision and knew what he could do with that stage at the Reim. Seeing the growth of the organization from that point is one of the proudest parts of my career. Under Michael’s direction, STAGES has absolutely raised the bar for
what theatre looks like in St. Louis.”

“As the saying goes, there will be very big shoes to fill with the departure of Michael Hamilton,” said Mosbacher Family Executive Producer Jack Lane. “But, I have no doubt that there is a future artistic leader of STAGES out there waiting for us. As we enter our new phase in the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center, STAGES is setting sail onto a national platform that no doubt will unfold in dynamic new ways and be embraced by both our loyal patrons and newcomers alike.”

Jack added, “We are also pleased to announce that we are establishing The Michael Hamilton Artistic Fund, where contributions will support the advancement of artistic needs at STAGES.”

The entire STAGES family wishes Michael the best in his well-deserved retirement and thanks him for his steadfast leadership and dedication to the mission of STAGES for 35 years. A national search has begun for the new Artistic Director role.

The organization looks forward to the curtain rising again with the return of Michael’s critically-acclaimed and audience-loved production of ALWAYS… PATSY CLINE (August 6-September 5) this upcoming season, followed by the STAGES premiere of JERSEY BOYS (September 24-October 24).

For more information, please follow STAGES on Facebook and Instagram or visit the organization’s website. STAGES St. Louis is the region’s foremost not-for-profit company committed to preserving and advancing the art form of Musical Theatre through excellence in performance and education.

Michael Hamilton

In 2021, STAGES celebrates its 35th year of producing Broadway-quality theatre, as well as the grand opening of our new
home, the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center. STAGES Performing Arts Academy is regionally renowned for its innovative and multi-disciplinary programs that transform lives through immersion in the Musical Theatre arts. Celebrating its 16th year, it is also the
only such program in the St. Louis region to be connected to a professional theatre company. Whatever the age or experience level, whether a new or continuing student, aspiring performing artists throughout the St. Louis region have the opportunity to explore and cultivate their talent at STAGES, and set the stage for life changing experiences.

For more information or to register today please call 636.449.5775 or visit us online at www.StagesStLouis.org.
Two-show subscription purchases for the 2021 Season will go on sale on May 17. Single ticket sales begin June 1. For more information, please call 314.821.2407 or visit www.StagesStLouis.org.

            COVID-19 Pandemic Results in Production Streamcast by HEC Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

The mission of the St. Louis Theater Circle is simple: To honor St. Louis professional theater. Other cities around the country, such as Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco and Washington D.C., pay tribute to their own local theatrical productions with similar awards programs.

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

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

Outstanding Ensemble in a Comedy

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

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy

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

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy

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

Outstanding Actress in a Comedy (tie)

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

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

Outstanding Actor in a Comedy

Will Bonfiglio, Fully Committed, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Director of a Comedy

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

Outstanding Production of a Comedy

Brighton Beach Memoirs, New Jewish Theatre

Indecent

Outstanding Ensemble in a Drama

Indecent, Max & Louie Productions

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama

Carly Uding, Translations, Black Mirror Theatre

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama

J. Samuel Davis, District Merchants, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Actress in a Drama

Donna Weinsting, Salt, Root and Roe, Upstream Theater

Outstanding Actor in a Drama

Gary Wayne Barker, District Merchants, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Director of a Drama

Joanne Gordon, Indecent, Max & Louie Productions

Outstanding Production of a Drama

Indecent, Max & Louie Productions

Outstanding Set Design in a Play

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

Outstanding Costume Design in a Play

Felia Davenport, District Merchants, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Play

Patrick Huber, Indecent, Max & Louie Productions

Outstanding Sound Design

Phillip Evans, Indecent, Max & Louie Productions

Outstanding Set Design in a Musical

Mary Engelbreit and Paige Hathaway, Matilda, The Muny

Outstanding Costume Design in a Musical

Sarah Porter, La Cage aux Folles, New Line Theatre

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Musical

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

Outstanding Musical Director

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

Outstanding Choreographer

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

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

Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical

Matilda, The Muny

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical

Taylor Louderman, Kinky Boots, The Muny

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical

Tielere Cheatem, La Cage aux Folles, New Line Theatre

Outstanding Actress in a Musical

Kendra Kassebaum, Guys and Dolls, The Muny

Outstanding Actor in a Musical

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

Outstanding Director of a Musical

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

Outstanding Production of a Musical

Such Sweet Thunder, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis,

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

Outstanding New Play

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

La Boheme

Outstanding Achievement in Opera (tie)

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

Roland Wood, Rigoletto, Opera Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding Production of an Opera

La Boheme, Union Avenue Opera

Special Award

Ken and Nancy Kranzberg

Members of the St. Louis Theater Circle include Steve Allen, stagedoorstl.com; Mark Bretz, Ladue News; Bob Cohn, St. Louis Jewish Light; Tina Farmer, KDHX; Michelle Kenyon, snoopstheatrethoughts.com; Gerry Kowarsky, Two on the Aisle (HEC Media); Chuck Lavazzi, KDHX; Sarah Bryan Miller, St.Louis Post-Dispatch; Judith Newmark, judyacttwo.com; Ann Lemons Pollack, stlouiseats.typepadcom; Tanya Seale, Broadwayworld.com; Lynn Venhaus, PopLifeSTL.com; Bob Wilcox, Two on the Aisle (HEC Media); and Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch.Eleanor Mullin, local actress and arts supporter, is the group’s administrator. 

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

                                                            ###

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
“Grease” may be the word, but I have one for the Stages St. Louis production:
Vivacious!

This funny and nostalgia look at 1950s teenagers and the
decade’s burgeoning rock and roll culture bursts with ebullient performers who
deliver the beloved songs with panache.

Those songs never get old. “Summer Nights,” “We Go
Together,” “Greased Lightning,” “Born to Hand Jive” and “You’re the One That I
Want” are among the catchy show tunes in the style of Buddy Holly, Little
Richard and Elvis Presley that entice sing-a-longs. (And eager audiences are
ready).
Integrated with the snazzy dance numbers choreographed by Tony Gonzalez, and
costumes to match, they capture the look and sound of a bygone era — but also
a universal feeling.

And certainly not that we were all the cool kids. Far from
it.

By now, the worldwide smash hit is as familiar as your
senior year in high school. So why do people return over and over to watch high
school shenanigans?

Photo by ProPhotoSTL“Alone at the Drive-In Movie,” “Beauty School Dropout,” “Those
Magic Feelings” and “It’s Raining on Prom Night” touch on all the fretting that
comes with being a teen, no matter what generation.

Maybe it’s that sense of trying to fit in, to belong. That
underneath that tough T-Birds exterior are guys desperate to figure it out —
masking those insecurities (on display so well in James Dean’s “Rebel Without a
Cause”). And the Pink Ladies really wanting to be Gidget, but not letting on
they are afraid they don’t measure up.

On the surface, it is all fun times, that sweet flush of
youth during a more innocent time – but dealing with grown-up issues AND
hormones.

“Greaser” Danny Zuko (Sam Harvey) fancies “good girl” Sandy Dumbrowski (Summerisa Bell Stevens) one summer, and lo and behold, she transfers to his public high school, not the Catholic one. Whoa. Kind Frenchy (Lucy Moon) invites Sandy to hang out with the Pink Ladies, but rough-and-tough Rizzo (Morgan Cowling) is not nice to the new girl. Rizzo has her own issues with boyfriend Kenickie (Jesse Corbin), but school isn’t a high priority with anyone except  Patty Simcox (Aisling Halpin) and nerd Eugene (Brad Frenette).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            “Grease” is a cultural phenomenon nearly 50 years old — and has been revised multiple times, with the most significant changes made in the 1978 movie, then adopted for a 1993 London stage version, which incorporated four chart-topping songs from the movie written by Barry Alan Gibb, John Farrar, Louis St. Louis and Scott Simon. This is the version Stages has the rights to, and it makes a difference.

You would not much recognize the original 1971 stage version,
which has been sanitized from Jim Jacobs’ and Warren Casey’s initial effort
about working-class high schoolers in a Polish part of Chicago, based on
Jacobs’ alma mater in Cicero.

Photo by ProPhotoSTLThe duck-tailed, hot-rodding Class of 1959 of Rydell High
resembled those ruffians, and the gum-snapping and hip-shaking Pink Ladies were
a combination of bad and mean girls. The raunchier version has been toned down,
but there are still the themes of peer pressure, teen pregnancy, gangs, class
conflict, and good old garden-variety teen rebellion.
This cast, with a few who have been out of high school for some time, seem to
gel well. They sure can shake, rattle and roll in their musical numbers, and
exaggerate their characters for comic effect. Their school and home scenes,
under Michael Hamilton’s smooth direction, delve deeper into social
interaction, with different conversations and motives at play.

While it’s obvious the cast is older, “Grease” isn’t a
production that hinges on authenticity. Just go with the fantasy.

(After all, back in my day, most of these people would have
been considered juvenile delinquents, not people to emulate. And changing into
a sexy siren to get a guy? Oh dear. When would that fly today?)
“Grease” did not become a massive hit because everyone’s enamored with
hooligans. The modest musical parodying the 1950s had an eight-year run on
Broadway and two popular revivals in 1994 and 2007, plus the movie is the no. 1
movie musical of all-time, not to mention all the productions in schools,
regional and community theater.
People can identify with awkward adolescence and ‘types’ – if you don’t
recognize yourself, you know others who do. The supporting cast is appealing,
particularly Patrick Mobley as shy Doody, eager to be a chick magnet with his
guitar, and merry Brooke Shapiro as Jan, desperate to have a beau.

Photo by ProPhotoSTL

Moon is terrific as Frenchy, and “Beauty School Dropout” is
one of this show’s highlights, in staging, choreography and costumes. Showing
off her powerful pipes, Kendra Lynn Lucas is a showstopper as the Teen Angel.
She also doubles as Miss Lynch, but in a rather confusing development is flirty
with students.

Steve Isom evokes those early rock ‘n roll disc jockeys in
his on-air patter and hosting dance contest duties as Vince Fontaine.

Julia Johanos is admirable as a stylish Marty, who acts worldly
older on purpose, while Collin O’Connor is amusing as Roger of ‘Mooning” fame.
Frankie Thams tries to be a rowdy Sonny.

Summerisa Bell Stevens is a radiant Sandy, and after
impressive turns as Sophie in “Mamma Mia” and Doralee in “9 to 5,” she
demonstrates her vocal talents once again. She is at her best with “Hopelessly
Devoted to You.”
I didn’t feel the pairings of Danny and Sandy and of Kenickie and Rizzo were
all that convincing, but their singing and dancing skills were dandy. Harvey
did a nice job with the ballad “Sandy,” and as much as Rizzo’s mean-spirited
“Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee” annoys me, her “There Are Worse Things I Can Do”
was fine.

The rest of the energetic ensemble includes Bryan Purvis as Peggy-Sue, Madison Tinder as Doreen, Matthew Weidenbener as Frankie, Erik Keiser as Junior, Zach Trimmer as Johnny Casino and Tiger Brown as that fleet-footed Cha-Cha Di Gregorio. Lisa Campbell Albert did her usual stellar job as musical director, with orchestral arrangements by Stuart M. Elmore.

The cast certainly looks the part in their stunning vintage
outfits, tailored to perfection by resident costume designer Brad Musgrove and
his crew. His choice of fabrics is spot-on and he has created looks that could
be straight out of the movies “Pillow Talk” and “A Summer Place,” or McCall’s
magazine, complete with bobby sox and saddle shoes.

Scenic Designer James Wolk makes interesting use of the
space with two staircases so that transitions are smooth, and he has built a
car – a red convertible that serves its purpose. He had me at hi-fi and 45s. Sean
M. Savoie’s lighting design enhances it beautifully.

This “Grease” does what it’s supposed to do – present a time, a place and a feeling, and as a bonus, has the groove and meaning audiences want.

Stages St. Louis presents “Grease” through Aug. 18. Many shows are sell-outs but tickets are available Aug. 13, 14 and 18. For more information or tickets, visit www.stagesstlouis.org

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
One of the most versatile and lauded actors in St. Louis, John Flack is
spending his summer working at what he loves, adding another comedy, drama and
musical to his extensive repertoire.

He has been a member of Actors’ Equity, for 30 years,
“right here in St. Louis,” and is grateful to be working in the profession.

“My real dream is to continue to be cast in any professional theatre production that will have me so I can have a job doing what I love while working with people I adore.”

Currently appearing in the critically acclaimed “Indecent,”
presented by Max and Louie Productions, he will be in a satirical romp through
American history, “The Almost True and Truly Remarkable Adventures of Israel
Potter,” July 18 – 27 at Bluff City Theater in Hannibal, Mo. Rehearsals start
July 2.

Then, he’ll play the Captain of the Inquisition in “Man of
La Mancha” in September, his only musical with Stages St. Louis this summer.

“Man of La Mancha” runs Sept. 6 to Oct. 6 and concludes
Stages’ 33rd season, its final one before they move into a new
Performing Arts Center in Kirkwood.

Flack has been working with Stages since 1990, when he
played the title role in “Snoopy!”
Ever since, he’s demonstrated his musical versatility in both comedy and drama,
playing such roles as the Underling, the butler in “The Drowsy Chaperone,” and
440-year-old Merlin in “Camelot.”

“I’ve been in about 65 (Stages musicals),” he said.

“I’m so grateful to Michael Hamilton and Jack Lane, and the
team at Stages, how they value the artists. Stages gives us Equity performers more
work weeks than any company in St. Louis in the summer. They make it possible
for us to get health insurance, and live and work here,” he said.

“Oklahoma” at Stages St. Louis 2018. Photo by Peter WochniakAnother benefit of being part of a company is the
friendships forged. For “Indecent,” he was fortunate to work with his longtime
friend, Ellen Isom, who choreographed the show. They’ve been friends since
1991.

“She is not only one of the absolute treasures of St. Louis
theater, but she’s first a terrific human being,” he said.

John has been active in several regional professional theaters, including The New Jewish Theatre, Upstream Theater, The Black Rep, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis and the former HotCity.

As Saul Mortera in “New Jerusalem” at New Jewish Theatre, with Rob Riordan.He appeared in three shows at The Muny — “My One and Only” (2008) and “Meet Me in St. Louis” and “Camelot” in 2009.

In 2015, St. Louis Post-Dispatch Go! Magazine List named him Best St. Louis Stage Actor.

“Indecent” is one of his biggest challenges – and one of
the finest productions he’s been part of to date, he said.

John plays The Elder: Otto, and then as part of the
ensemble, he performs various characters Yekel, Peretz, Schildkraut, Immigrant,
Bartender, Judge McIntyre and older Asch.

“What a role!” he said about Otto.

But he has seven others too. “I am on stage the entire
time,” he said.

Making each character different as part of the ensemble is
the daunting task.

“That’s the biggest challenge. They are from different times,
and to make sure they have different dialects. The play spans 50 years,” he said.
“They are all old guys like me. That’s the one thing they have in common.”

When the characters speak their native language, they speak
perfect English, but when they speak a second or third language, they speak
English with an accent.

A fierce indictment of censorship as well as a celebration
of art and love, “Indecent” combines theater, music, dance and poetry to make
an impact in an era of chaos. Flack is among the seven actors and three
musicians who play roles that span continents and decades.

By Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel,
“Indecent” is the true story of a groundbreaking scandalous play and the
courageous artists who risked their careers and lives to perform it. During its
2017 run on Broadway, it won

Sholem Asch’s drama, “God of Vengeance” debuted
on Broadway in 1923 at a time when waves of immigrants were changing the face
of America. A love story that celebrated Yiddish language and unconventional
passion, it was forced from the stage by a reactionary, fearful public.  Its fate, and that of the actors who
cherished it even as they confronted the horrors of the Nazi onslaught, are the
subject of “Indecent.”

“It’s a lovely script, beautifully written and poetic, and it’s very prescient for our time,” he said.

“Indecent” by Max and Louie ProductionsProducing Artistic Director Stellie Siteman issued a
statement: “As a proud member of St. Louis’ vibrant LGBTQ, Jewish, and Theatre
communities, I can think of no better play at this moment in time that
dramatizes a message of inclusion, tolerance and love. The belief in the power
of art is a clarion call to action.”

Joanne Gordon directed. Ron McGowan is the musical
director. Ellen Isom choreographed. Besides Flack, “Indecent” stars Alyssa
Avery, Zoe Farmingdale, Katie Karel, TJ Lancaster, Judi Mann, Kris Pineda and
Tim Schall.

“It’s a wonderful cast, really a delightful group. I love
working with these people,” John said. “And the music is tremendous.”

He is also a fan of the renovated Grandel, where the show
has been staged.

“It’s a great space, and we have a lot of positive energy
here,” he said.

John Flack won a St. Louis Circle Award as Don.

He has worked with Max and Louie Productions before, in Ken
Page’s original play, “Sublime Intimacy.” Page not only wrote it but directed
the show in 2015.

“Sublime Intimacy” was the tale of five friends who were elevated,
touched and changed by their love of a dancer and his dance overlaps,
intertwines and informs each other.

John won a St. Louis Theater Circle Award for playing Don,
an ex-Hollywood actor – Outstanding Actor in a Supporting Role in a Drama.

As Dan in “Next to Normal” He has been nominated
four times for St. Louis Theater Circle Awards, for two HotCity productions –
as Ned in “The Normal Heart” in 2014 (which also tied for Outstanding
Production of a Drama) and Charles Busch’s “The Divine Sister” in 2012, and as the
husband Dan in Insight Theatre Company’s “Next to Normal” musical in 2017.

With Eric Dean White in “The Normal Heart
 “Max and Louie
Productions like to present an eclectic mix,” he said. “Stellie and De love to
bring plays that they are passionate about to a St. Louis audience.”

 A mere few days
after “Indecent” closes June 30, he starts rehearsals on Tuesday, July 2 for “The
Almost True and Truly Remarkable Adventures of Israel Potter,” directed by
Herbie Barnes, at the Bluff City Theater in Hannibal, Mo.

He joins an ensemble cast featuring Donna Weinsting,
Jennelle Gilreath-Owens, Brian Kim and Eric Geller, all playing multiple
characters, while Erick Lindsey is Israel Potter.

Based on a novel by Herman Melville, who supposedly rescued
a tattered journal from the trash in 19th century London. Potter, a
simple farmer, is drafted into the fledgling Continental Army of the United
States of America on the eve of his wedding. He’s captured by the British,
imprisoned in England and then escapes, wanting only to return to his waiting
bride and a peaceful life in America. What ensues instead is a madcap series of
improbable events that thrusts him into one grand adventure after another,
preventing his return home.

The order this summer is drama, comedy then musical – more
memorable additions to the resume.

What’s best about building an acting career in St. Louis is
the variety of work.

As Clarence Darrow in “Never the Sinner” at New Jewish TheatreJohn said St. Louis is great for not pigeonholing an actor.
If you want to do comedy but have been mainly cast in dramas, you can. Unlike
other cities where you get typecast and they think you can only do one thing.

Lavonne Byers and John Flack in “The Divine Sister”

“We feel very lucky in St. Louis to work on different stages,” he said.

Here is our “Take Ten” Questionnaire with John Flack

1. Why did you choose your profession/pursue the arts?

“Wait a minute… I had a choice? I don’t remember it that
way. In an early attempt at adulting, I tried three different career paths
outside of the arts. Each one ended in failure, disappointment, and heartache.
Then I needed a job, so I auditioned for a singing waiter gig on the old
Admiral riverboat. When that job ended, I auditioned for the next (Imaginary
Theatre Company at The Rep); and so-on and so-on. I’ve just been putting one
foot in front of the other, following my heart’s desire and staying a step
ahead of creditors ever since.”

2. How would your friends describe you?

“I don’t have financial wealth, but I am blessed with an
incredible wealth of dear friends and family. I don’t mean this to be glib or
cute; but I think one of the reasons I’ve been so fortunate in this regard is
because I was taught by my parents that what others think of me (or anything
else, really) is none of my business.”

3. How do you like to spend your spare time?

“I have a love/hate relationship with spare time. As a
free-lancer, empty space on my calendar is frightening to me, so I try to keep
as little open space as possible. When I do have spare time, I like to do
nothing. Take a break. Sit. Breath. Go on a hike with the dog. And, of course,
nap.”

4. What is your current obsession?

“Dachshunds. And napping.”

5. What would people be surprised to find out about
you? 

“Considering my obsession, people might be very surprised
to learn that I like all dogs, not just Dachshunds. But I really, really like
wiener dogs.

6. Can you share one of your most defining moments in life?

“Oh, no! Why are all of my “defining moments” so
embarrassing? I’m going through them in my mind, and I think they ought stay
there. I really don’t think any of them are appropriate for print. Let’s go out
for cocktails, and I’ll tell you one or two choice ‘moments’ off the record.”

7. Who do you admire most?

“Those who remain calm, kind, and dignified under difficult
circumstances large and small.” 

8. What is at the top of on your bucket list?

“Travel, travel, and more travel. Next up: The Eastern
Pacific rim next Spring. I can’t wait!”

9. What is your favorite thing to do in St. Louis?

“Eat. The restaurant scene in St. Louis is on fire. In
fact, it reminds me a lot of the theatre scene here in that there are so many
creative, energetic people doing what they love with a strong commitment to the
art and passion for excellence. Plus, I love food.”

10. What’s next? “The Almost True and Truly Remarkable
Adventures of Israel Potter” at Bluff City Theatre in Hannibal, Mo., then
“Man of La Mancha” at Stages St. Louis. I ask you, am I a lucky guy?

As Col. Pickering in Stages St. Louis’ “My Fair Lady” along with good friend Zoe Vonder Haar.MORE ABOUT JOHN FLACK:

Name: John Flack
Age: 56
Birthplace: St. Louis
Current location: St. Louis
Family: Married to Michael Marvaso
Education: Parkway West High School (for you curious STL locals), attended The
Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University
Day job: Equity Actor — which means I also have a list of side hustles the
length of my left arm
First job: Busboy at Le Soupcon, Famous-Barr
First role: Snoopy in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” Parkway West
Jr High. Did you happen to catch it?
Favorite roles/plays:  Snoopy in
“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” Parkway West Jr High and Scarecrow
in “The Wizard of Oz” Variety Club Theatre.

Dream role/play: Oh! So many! But my real dream is to continue to be cast in
any professional theatre productions that will have me so I can have a job
doing what I love while working with people I adore.
Awards/Honors/Achievements: Four Theatre Circle Award nominations, one award;
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama: Ken Page’s “Sublime
Intimacy”, Max & Louie. Judy Award 2018 – Best Actor in a Drama: Rabbi
Mortera, “New Jerusalem”, New Jewish Theatre. St. Louis Post-Dispatch
– Go! Magazine List 2015 – Best St. Louis Stage Actor. Riverfront Times 2007 –
Best Actor in a Play; Quentin, “After the Fall”, Muddy Waters
Theatre.

Favorite quote/words to live by: “Row, row, row your
boat, gently down the stream; Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, Life is but a
Dream.”

A song that makes you happy: “Linus and Lucy” –
Vince Guaraldi Trio

John Flack in “Sublime Intimacy”Max and Louie Productions presents “Indecent” June
20-30 at The Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square, St. Louis, Missouri 63101.
Reserved seating is on sale at Metrotix.com or by phone, 314-534-1111, or at
the box office an hour before showtime. Visit www.maxandlouie.com for
more information.

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
Although Peter Allen did not get a Hollywood ending, his remarkable true-life
story of how he skyrocketed to fame through sheer talent, drive and his
ebullient personality deserves a splashy musical as good as Stages St. Louis production.

“The Boy from Oz” is the kind of glitzy material that the
company has excelled at for 33 seasons, their intimate stage a canvas for
crowd-pleasing flashy numbers and lavish costumes, with added poignancy that
tugs at our heartstrings. Allen died of AIDS-related throat cancer in 1992; he
was 48.

You may not recognize the name, but you have heard Allen’s
songs, and this show reminds us of his catchy pop hits and power ballads, which
he often wrote for other artists (Olivia Newton-John, Melissa Manchester, Rita
Coolidge).

The Stages production is the Midwest premiere of this rarely
produced musical, although Hugh Jackman won a Tony in 2004 for Leading Actor in
a Musical in the first Australian production ever mounted on Broadway.

Born in a small bush town, Aussie Allen became one of the greatest showmen of the 1970s and ‘80s, and in the title role, David Elder makes him unforgettable. With his charming smile and boundless energy, Elder glides into the role with ease – singing and dancing with oodles of pizzazz, from tender love songs to the era’s disco beats.

Elder’s bravura performance is a stunning display of sass, class and Energizer Bunny motion. Winning over the crowd from his first appearance as the adult Peter, he dynamically captures the life force that Allen was, daring to say: ‘I am who I am, and you can’t ignore or stop me.’ It’s one of the most muscular and joyous lead performances of the year.

As Allen’s fame grew, he was a regular on the talk show
circuit, brightening up those couches, often wearing his trademark Hawaiian
shirts. I recall how genuine he seemed as an entertainer, although extremely
flamboyant – he clearly loved the glamour of showbiz, opened at Carnegie Hall,
danced with the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall and sang on the Academy
Awards.

This musical, with a snappy book by Martin Sherman and Nick
Enright, emphasizes his life as tailor-made rags-to-riches name-in-lights legend.
The cheeky wit is endearing as Elder narrates Allen’s first-person story.

To chronicle his life, original producers Ben Gannon and Robert
Fox used Allen’s own music and lyrics: “Best That You Can Do” (1981 Oscar
winning song known as “Arthur’s Theme” co-written with Burt Bacharach, Carole
Bayer Sager and Christopher Cross), “I’d Rather Leave While I’m in Love,”
“Everything Old is New Again,” “Love Don’t Need a Reason,” “I Honestly Love
You” and “Don’t Cry Out Loud” among them.

Corinne Melancon and David Elder. Photo by Peter Wochniak“Not the Boy Next Door” turns out to be a fun number between
mother and son. Reliable veteran Corinne Melancon, who seemingly can play any
kind of role, from the pious Mother Superior in “Sister Act” to strong-willed
single mother Donna Sheridan in “Mamma Mia!” during her frequent summers at
Stages, provides affection and pride as Peter’s mother Marion Woolnough, strong
in voice and characterization.

And it’s not just Elder who is sensational, but two debuts are noteworthy. While his Allen interpretation is a slow build – I mean, he doesn’t start at 11, Michele Ragusa is an astonishing Judy Garland, feisty right out of the gate, quickly becoming a patron favorite and stealing the show with her well-timed quips, mannerisms and powerful vocals. Garland’s husband, Mark Herron, discovered Allen in of all places, Hong Kong.

Ragusa soars in “All I Wanted Was the Dream” and “Don’t
Wish Too Hard,” and the moving “Quiet Please, There’s a Lady on Stage” with
Elder.

Garland’s daughter and his future wife, Liza Minnelli, is played with panache by Caitlyn Caughell. She assumed the role after Sarah Ellis (St. Louis Theater Circle nominee as Laurie in “Oklahoma!”) was injured and needed surgery.

She portrays the right mix of bravado and vulnerability as Liza embarks on her own celebrated career, shows her mettle in “Come Save Me” and “She Loves to Hear the Music” with the ensemble. The couple, who divorced after seven years of marriage, remained friends for life, and Elder and Caughell convey that bond.

Michele Ragusa as Judy GarlandZach Trimmer portrays Peter’s longtime love, Texas model
Greg Connell, who died of an AIDS-related illness in 1984. He’s not a warm and
fuzzy character, so their relationship appears to have some holes in the
retelling. The pair share two affecting duets, “If You Were Wondering” and “Love
Don’t Need a Reason.”

Two boys, Ben Iken and Simon Desilets, alternate playing an
eager young Peter, who just wants to entertain, singing and dancing for small
change. Versatile mainstage mainstay Erik Keiser excels as Peter’s first
singing partner, Chris Bell, in their “brother act,” first appearing on
Australian Bandstand as The Allen Brothers. They would have a successful
touring cabaret act and appear on TV.

As is customary at Stages, Steve Isom plays several roles,
from Peter’s abusive alcoholic dad Dick Woolnough to his brusque manager Dee
Anthony.

The ensemble is as energetic and enthusiastic as Elder is,
and their showstopping grand finale, the 1976 salsa-flavored disco hit, “I Go
to Rio,” is a rousing number in which dancers make quite an entrance in Brad
Musgrove’s elaborate sequined costumes. Musgrove, who never met a sequin he
didn’t like, outdoes the Follies here in spectacular shiny silver-and-white outfits.
The costumes received their own applause, as did Dana Lewis’ robust choreography.

James Wolk’s scenic design is straightforward, allowing the
music numbers to be the focus, and there is a lovely nighttime New York skyline
through an apartment picture window. Sean M. Savoie’s brightly colored lighting
design complements Wolk’s set beautifully.

Director Michael Hamilton emphasizes the vivacious side of Peter while not forgetting the sorrow. He crisply stages the Judy-Peter-Mark-Chris number “Only an Older Woman” with as much oomph as he does with the exuberant ensemble numbers “Sure Thing Baby” at the Copacabana and “When I Get My Name in Lights.” Stuart Elmore’s orchestrations work well, while music director Lisa Campbell Albert varies the tempo to suit each singer.

“Caught between the moon and New York City” will always
define Allen for me. It’s just one of those phrases that you’ll always remember
with a smile, especially if you have fallen in love with the city like he did. And
he’s impossible to forget after seeing his story, “The Boy from Oz.”

David Elder and Ben Iken as old and young Peter AllenStages St. Louis presents “The Boy from Oz” May
31-June 30 at the Robert G. Reim Theatre in the Kirkwood Community Center, 111
S. Geyer Road, St. Louis, 63122. For more information or to purchase tickets,
visit www.StagesStLouis.org or
call 314-821-2407.

STAGES St. Louis is thrilled to announce casting for its 33rd Season: THE BOY FROM OZ, GREASE, MAN OF LA MANCHA, and its Emerson Family Theatre Series production of Disney’s 101 DALMATIANS.

“The tagline at STAGES is ‘Experience The Story’ and our 2019 Season stays true to these words offering something special for everyone,” expresses Associate Producer Andrew Kuhlman.

THE BOY FROM OZ May 31 – June 30 Music and Lyrics by Peter Allen Book by Martin Sherman and Nick Enright Direction and Musical Staging by Michael Hamilton Choreography by Dana Lewis Musical Direction by Lisa Campbell Albert Scenic Design by James Wolk Costume Design by Brad Musgrove Lighting Design by Sean M. Savoie.

The Midwest Premiere of THE BOY FROM OZ follows the dazzling and hilarious Australian singer-songwriter, Peter Allen, from his humble beginnings performing in backcountry pubs to his international stardom beside such Hollywood icons as Judy Garland and her daughter Liza Minnelli. Featuring such beloved Peter Allen hits as “Don’t Cry Out Loud”, “I Honestly Love You”, and the show-stopping “I Go To Rio”; THE BOY FROM OZ is a showbiz celebration of life, love, and being fabulous.

David Elder is Peter Allen, Sarah Ellis is Liza Minelli, Michele Ragusa is Judy Garland and Corinne Melancon is Marian Woolnough

DAVID ELDER (Peter Allen) David is thrilled to return for his 6th show at STAGES! Broadway credits include CURTAINS (Bobby Pepper), 42ND STREET Revival (Billy Lawlor, Outer Critics Circle, and Astaire Award Nominations), KISS ME, KATE (Bill Calhoun/Lucentio), TITANIC: The Musical (Frederick Fleet, the Lookout), ONCE UPON A MATTRESS starring Sarah Jessica Parker (Sir Harry u/s), DAMN YANKEES starring Jerry Lewis (Bomber on Broadway, Joe Hardy on the National Tour), Disney’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (Salt, Beast u/s), and GUYS AND DOLLS starring Nathan Lane (Guy, Crapshoot specialty). Film and TV credits include ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, CRADLE WILL ROCK, JEFFREY, and “Guiding Light”.

MICHELE RAGUSA (Judy Garland) Michele is thrilled to be making her STAGES debut! Broadway credits include YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (Elizabeth), URINETOWN (Pennywise), RAGTIME (Evelyn), TITANIC, A CLASS ACT, and CYRANO. Off-Broadway credits include ADRIFT IN MACAO (Primary Stages/ Lortel and Drama League nominations/Barrymore Award), TITANIC: 20th Anniversary Concert (Lincoln Center), and CRAVING FOR TRAVEL (Playwrights Horizon). Regional credits include BULLETS OVER BROADWAY (Helen), MAME (Mame), HELLO, DOLLY! (Dolly Levi), LEND ME A TENOR (Maria), ANNIE (Hannigan), BOEING, BOEING (Gabriella), THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE (Mrs. Meers), FUNNY THING … FORUM (Domina), THE KING AND I (Anna), SPAMALOT (Lady/Lake), SWEENEY TODD (Beggar Woman), SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (Lena), INTO THE WOODS (Witch), KISS ME, KATE (Kate), THE DROWSY CHAPERONE (Chaperone), COMPANY, MARY POPPINS (Winifred Banks), GUYS AND DOLLS (Adelaide), and THE FULL MONTY (Vickie).

SARAH ELLIS (Liza Minnelli) Sarah is thrilled to be reuniting with her STAGES family! Recent credits include the Broadway 1st National Tour of A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER.  Favorite regional credits include Laurey in OKLAHOMA! (STAGES), Dyanne in MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET (Riverside and Geva Theatres), and Molly in GHOST: The Musical at Fingerlakes MT Festival, where she will be returning later this summer to play Nellie in SOUTH PACIFIC. Other regional credits include Ogunquit, Pittsburgh CLO, North Shore Music Theatre, KC Starlight, Westchester Broadway Theatre, Florida Studio, and WV Public.  NYC credits include THE ROAD TO RUIN, DEAR JANE, and STARDUST ROAD: The Hoagy Carmichael Musical.  Sarah is a frequent Guest Artist with the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra and holds a BFA from Penn State (WE ARE!).

CORINNE MELANÇON (Marion Woolnough) Corinne happily returns to STAGES after appearing in last season’s I DO! I DO! and MAMMA MIA!  Broadway credits include 11 years in MAMMA MIA! (where she appeared as Donna, Tanya, and Rosie), KISS ME, KATE, JEKYLL & HYDE, BIG, A CHRISTMAS CAROL, MY FAIR LADY, and ME & MY GIRL.  Other NY appearances include Carnegie Hall and Radio City Music Hall.  Corinne has appeared in the International Touring company of GRAND HOTEL and on film as Lady Beaconsfield/Guinevere in JEKYLL & HYDE.  Additional STAGES credits include Violet in 9 TO 5, the title role in THE DROWSY CHAPERONE (St. Louis Theatre Circle nomination), Mother Superior in SISTER ACT, Charlotte in A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, Nickie in SWEET CHARITY, Tracy in HIGH SOCIETY, Rose in BYE BYE BIRDIE, and Lucille in NO, NO, NANETTE.  Favorite regional credits include Vera in MAME, Judith in HAY FEVER, Velma in CHICAGO, and Mona in DAMES AT SEA.

GREASE July 19 – August 18 Book, Music, and Lyrics by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey Additional Songs by Barry Alan Gibb, John Farrar, Louis St. Louis, Scott Simon Direction and Musical Staging by Michael Hamilton Choreography by Tony Gonzalez Musical Direction by Lisa Campbell Albert Scenic Design by James Wolk Costume Design by Brad Musgrove Lighting Design by Sean M. Savoie.

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 you won’t want to miss!

SUMMERISA BELL STEVENS (Sandy Dumbrowski) Summerisa is thrilled to be returning to STAGES St. Louis, where she was recently seen as Sophie Sheridan in MAMMA MIA! and as Doralee Rhodes in 9 TO 5 (2018 Broadway World Award for Best Actress). Favorite regional credits include Swing/Tara u/s and Alison Prager u/s in HALF TIME (Paper Mill), Velma and “Somewhere” Soloist in WEST SIDE STORY (Paper Mill & Riverside Theatre), DeLee in SMOKEY JOE’S CAFÉ (Merry-Go-Round & Riverside Theatre), and Amber in HAIRSPRAY (Tuacahn). Summerisa holds a BFA in Musical Theatre and a Minor in Ballroom Dance.

SAM HARVEY (Danny Zuko) Sam is a born and raised Nebraska Cornhusker and proud AMDA NY graduate. He is also very excited to be taking on the iconic role of Danny Zuko this summer at STAGES after just coming off the 10th Anniversary Tour of ROCK OF AGES (Stacee Jaxx). NYC and Off-Broadway credits include BAYSIDE! The Musical! (Zack Morris) and THE LOVE NOTE (Peter). International credits include BROADWAY CHRISTMAS WONDERLAND (Lead Vocalist) and ROCK OF AGES (Drew). Sam performed regionally in GREASE (Kenickie) and THE SOUND OF MUSIC (Rolf). Love to his family and beautiful wife.

MORGAN COWLING (Betty Rizzo) Morgan is extremely grateful and excited to be making her STAGES St. Louis debut as a Pink Lady! She toured the country as Meg Giry in the original cast of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (25th Anniversary Tour). Off-Broadway and NYC credits include Sherri Walters in MARRY HARRY (The York Theatre), Lecy in ONCE WE LIVED HERE (Urban Stages), and BULL DURHAM (Workshop). Regional credits include OKLAHOMA! (Goodspeed Musicals), HELLO, DOLLY! (Ford’s Theatre), THE MADNESS OF MAY (Thalian Hall), and Disney’s WISHES (Disney Cruise Line, OC). A Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts alum, Morgan’s Australian credits include GUYS AND DOLLS, SEUSSICAL, and THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO.

JESSE CORBIN (Kenickie) Jesse has worked extensively regionally and in New York City with favorite credits including Tony Manero in SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, Danny in GREASE, Enjolras in LES MIZ, and Joseph in JOSEPH … DREAMCOAT. Other career highlights include appearing in the North American premiere of Tim Rice’s FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, debuting the spectacular THE FIRST NOEL at The Apollo Theatre in Harlem, and starring in the Off-Broadway, two person production of THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE. Jesse recently debuted his solo show in NYC at Haswell Green’s and just released a collection of original songs! MAN OF LA MANCHA September 6 – October 6 Written by Dale Wasserman Music by Mitch Leigh Lyrics by Joe Darion Direction and Musical Staging by Michael Hamilton Choreography by Dana Lewis Musical Direction by Lisa Campbell Albert Scenic Design by James Wolk Costume Design by Brad Musgrove Lighting Design by Sean M. Savoie

A romantic and inspiring musical adventure, MAN OF LA MANCHA tells the epic story of seventeenth-century author Miguel de Cervantes and his immortal literary creation Don Quixote. This poignant tale of ultimate heartbreak and unimaginable triumph features a lushly melodic score that includes the rapturous “Dulcinea”, the rousing title song, and the classic Broadway anthem which dares us all to dream “The Impossible Dream”.

JAMES PATTERSON (Cervantes/Don Quixote) James is excited to make his debut with STAGES. Most recent credits include Georges in LA CAGE AUX FOLLES at the Pioneer Theatre Company and Lumiere in Disney’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST at Theatre Under The Stars. James has appeared in the Broadway and National Touring productions of GIGI (Dufresne), MARY POPPINS (Park Keeper), THE DROWSY CHAPERONE, Disney’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (Beast, Gaston, and Lumiere understudy), CATS (Munkustrap), and STATE FAIR. Other credits include Dr. Livesey in TREASURE ISLAND and Lumiere in Disney’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (Fulton Theatre & MSMT), LE COMTE ORY (Metropolitan Opera), MAME (Kennedy Center), Barnaby Slade in SAIL AWAY(Carnegie Hall), Joshua Chamberlain in CHAMBERLAIN (MSMT), and Reverend Shaw Moore in FOOTLOOSE (Fulton Theatre). Website: jamespattersontheactor.com. James is a graduate of Tufts University and NEC.

PATRICK JOHN MORAN (Sancho Panza) Originally from NJ, Patrick took a quick $4 bus ride over the George Washington Bridge and now calls NYC home! National Tour credits include Francis Flute/ Master of the Justice in SOMETHING ROTTEN! and Asher/Baker in JOSEPH … DREAMCOAT. Regional credits include William Morris Barfee in THE 25TH ANNUAL … SPELLING BEE (Chicago Company/Drury Lane), Jacey Squires in THE MUSIC MAN (Cape Playhouse), Sancho Panza in MAN OF LA MANCHA (Flat Rock Playhouse), Hubie Cram in DO RE MI (Musicals Tonight!), Harry in MY FAIR LADY (Riverside Theatre), and Norman Bulansky in THE BOYS NEXT DOOR (Identity Theater Company).

AMANDA ROBLES (Aldonza) Amanda is a graduate of the University of the Arts and holds a BFA in Musical Theatre. She has recently been seen as Rita in a full workshop production of FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (Jerome Robbins Theater) under Sir Tim Rice and as Isabel/Tia Carmen in the World Premiere of AMERICAN MARIACHI (DCPA and The Old Globe). Amanda has also appeared at Walt Disney World’s Castle Stage in the opening casts of ELENA’S ROYAL WELCOME (Princess Elena) and MICKEY’S MOST MERRIEST CELEBRATION. Currently, she resides in New York City and continues to work in regional productions around the country.

Disney’s 101 DALMATIANS June 18 – June 30 Music and Lyrics by Mel Leven, Randy Rogel, Richard Gibbs, Brian Smith, Martin Lee Fuller, Dan Root Book Adapted and Additional Lyrics by Marcy Heisler Music Adapted and Arranged by Bryan Louiselle Based on the Screenplay by Bill Peet Based on the Novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith Direction and Choreography by Peggy Taphorn Musical Direction by Tali Allen Scenic Design by James Wolk Costume Design by Brad Musgrove Lighting Design by Sean M. Savoie

STAGES Emerson Family Theatre Series production returns this year with Disney’s 101 DALMATIANS. Join the evil Cruella De Vil and her two klutzy henchmen as they try to steal a litter of the cutest puppies ever to hit jolly old London Town. But not to worry – this fur-raising adventure ends happily with plenty of puppy power to spare! A musical treat for the entire family, Disney’s 101 DALMATIANS is sure to have audiences barking for more! This year’s Emerson Family Theatre Series also features 12 students from STAGES Performing Arts Academy. STAGES is offering a unique performance opportunity as the only Academy attached to a professional theatre in the region.

DENA DIGIACINTO (Perdita) Dena is thrilled to be back at STAGES St. Louis where previous credits include OKLAHOMA!, 9 TO 5, and JOSEPH … DREAMCOAT. She appeared on Broadway in the recent revival of A CHORUS LINE. Other favorite credits include EVITA (Riverside Theatre and National Tour), Disney’s THE LITTLE MERMAID, Disney’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, and THE WIZARD OF OZ (Variety Theatre), THE DROWSY CHAPERONE (Peninsula Players), MARY POPPINS (John W. Engeman Theater), and Irving Berlin’s WHITE CHRISTMAS (Pioneer Theatre Company).

DREW HUMPHREY (Pongo) Drew is thrilled to return to STAGES, where he was most recently seen in OKLAHOMA!; New York/Tour credits include the Broadway production of Irving Berlin’s WHITE CHRISTMAS (also Cast Recording), OF THEE I SING and LADY BE GOOD at Encores!, and the First National Tour of 42ND STREET. Regional credits include CRAZY FOR YOU (Bobby Child), SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (Cosmo), CATS (Skimbleshanks), THE MUSIC MAN (Tommy Djilas), and WEST SIDE STORY (Snowboy).  Drew received a BFA in dance from the University of Arizona. 

LARISSA WHITE (Anita) Larissa has appeared as Bonnie Parker in BONNIE & CLYDE, Dolly in THE THREEPENNY OPERA, Heather McNamara in HEATHERS, Heather (again) in AMERICAN IDIOT, physicist Leona Woods in ATOMIC, Angel in CELEBRATION, Alice in LIZZIE, and Elle in LEGALLY BLONDE. Her show WERDEN SIE MICH TOTEN was produced for Surfacing’s Emerging Playwrights Festival.

ERIC MICHAEL PARKER (Roger) Originally from Los Angeles, Eric is a NYC-based actor and singer. He is also a winner of the Kurt Weill Foundation’s Lotte Lenya Competition and has performed on stages from Tokyo to Rome. Some favorite credits include Freddy in MY FAIR LADY (Musical Theatre West), Harold Bride in TITANIC: The Musical (Moonlight Productions), Robert Martin in THE DROWSY CHAPERONE (Norris PAC), and, most recently, Mr. Collins in AUSTEN’S PRIDE, a new musical of the novel “Pride & Prejudice” (ACT of CT). 

STAGES St. Louis is the region’s foremost not-for-profit company committed to preserving and advancing the art form of Musical Theatre through excellence in performance and education. In 2019, STAGES celebrates its 33rd year of producing Broadway-quality theatre, presenting 140 performances from June through October to nearly 50,000 patrons.

STAGES employs a full-time staff of 23 overseeing a budget of $5.1 million. During the performance season, an additional 150 actors and crew members bring the productions to life. To date, STAGES professionals have produced 120 musicals, with over 3,700 performances, playing to more than one million patrons. Single tickets to STAGES’ 2019 Season are on sale now and prices range from $25 – $65. Subscriptions are still available and begin at just $120. STAGES’ Mainstage productions perform in the intimate, 377-seat Robert G. Reim Theatre at the Kirkwood Civic Center, 111 South Geyer Road in St. Louis, MO 63122.

For more information or to purchase tickets call 314-821-2407 or visit www.StagesStLouis. org.

New York Casting is done by Scott Wojcik and Gayle Seay of Wojcik/Seay Casting.

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
The game-changing musical “Oklahoma!” is celebrating its 75th anniversary, and Stages St. Louis has honored that legacy with a rollicking hoedown. Their colorful collaboration burns bright with vivid characterizations.
The ensemble’s good cheer emanates. Based on Lynn Riggs’ 1931 play, “Green Grow the Lilacs,” the first book musical by Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers focuses on romantic conflicts — between Laurey and her two suitors, Curly and Jud, and Ado Annie and two men she’s drawn to Ali Hakim and Will Parker.
Set on the Oklahoma territory in 1906, the musical reflects both its innocent time and the rugged pioneer spirit, the hands that built America. Director Michael Hamilton conveys a strong sense of community throughout, and the cast does its part, creating dynamic interactions in a small prairie town.

The cast infuses the old-fashioned characters with plenty of personality, making them appealing to a modern audience. The characters don’t remotely resemble any contemporary archetypes, so they remain quaint caricatures, and the ensemble plays them broadly.
Blake Price, Sarah Ellis and Zoe Vonder Haar in “Oklahoma!”As Curly and Laurey, Blake Price and Sarah Ellis have a playful chemistry together as they tussle, clearly meant for each other, and their vocal ease is a high point of the show.
Price sets the tone with “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” and is a convincing charmer in “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top.” Their “People Will Say We’re in Love” is a superb rendition as they project yearning.
Ellis showcases a satiny soprano, outstanding on “Out of My Dreams” with the girls, and flawless both “People Will Say We’re in Love” and reprise.
But then there’s hired hand Jud (versatile David Sajewich), whose undercurrent of menace has some others on edge. Today, he’s viewed as a tragic figure who boils over in frustration and anger, misunderstood. You do feel sympathy for Jud, especially when Sajewich sings “Lonely Room.”
Sparks fly with the comical love triangle between lively Ado Annie, cowboy Will Parker and peddler Ali Hakim, who play their characters strictly for laughs.
Con O’Shea-Creal, with a winning smile and jaunty demeanor as Will, is convivial in “Kansas City,” an ebullient dance number unleashing rodeo spirit!
Newcomer Lucy Moon is the spunky boy-crazy lass Ado Annie and animated Matthew Curiano, with crackerjack comic timing, had the crowd on his side as the charming peddler stuck in the middle.
Zoe Vonder Haar, who has been part of Stages St. Louis for 31 of its 32 years, crackles as Aunt Eller. Her spunky delivery is another bright spot.
Stages’ veterans Leah Berry stood out as Gertie Cummings, with her distinctive laughter, while John Flack as crusty Andrew Carnes and Steve Isom as the lawman Cord Elam capably crafted lived-in characters. In Flack’s case, his shotgun-daddy character is a real “character” – he was straight out of Yosemite Sam’s playbook.
With their first collaboration, the legendary songwriting duo of Rodgers and Hammerstein set the gold standard with their innovations in 1943, seamlessly integrating music, dance, drama and comedy. They changed musical history and won a special Pulitzer Prize for their efforts.
The music effortlessly flows, and each number is crisply delivered and smooth as corn silk. Stuart M. Elmore handled the orchestral design while Lisa Campbell Albert oversaw the music direction.
The robust rendition of the title song brings out the community pride at being settlers in this new land. Since I learned it in fourth grade music class, it has always been one of my favorites, especially with the exquisite harmony and the modulated delivery.
Agnes DeMille’s landmark original choreography is honored by choreographer Dana Lewis. While the Dream Ballet is a beautiful component of this show, it’s a wee bit jarring when the Dancing Curly is a different guy – primo ballet dancer Nicholas De La Vega (who stood out in The Muny’s “Jerome Robbins’ Broadway” this summer) when Dancing Laurey is ballet-trained Ellis. Effortless nonetheless.
With the cast’s vitality shining through, the dance sequences fit the stage well. Costume designer Brad Musgrove has made eye-popping homespun costumes that stand out too.
The intimate staging at the Robert G. Reim Theatre works well for the large ensemble. Scenic Designer James Wolk’s work is stunning. His scrim and set evoked early American paintings and breathtaking vistas of what motivated pioneers to embark on an adventure. Sean Savoie’s exquisite lighting design accented every scene beautifully.
Steeped in Americana, this vigorous “Oklahoma!” honors our country’s love of the land, and our hard-working ancestors who believed in the American Dream and most definitely, the pursuit of happiness.
What a fitting way to end Stages’ 32nd season.
Photos by Tom Sakiyama

‘Grease,’ ‘Man of La Mancha’ and ‘101 Dalmatians’ at New Theatre Next Summer
Stages St. Louis is thrilled to announce its spectacular 33rd Season. The 2019 Season includes the dazzling and hilarious “The Boy from Oz,” the smash hit “Grease,” the romantic adventure “Man of La Mancha” and the Emerson Family Theatre Series production of Disney’s “101 Dalmatians.”
“With the 2019 Season, Stages turns its eyes to the staging of its final season at the Robert G. Reim Theatre in preparation for the move to a brand new state-of-the-art theatre in downtown Kirkwood. To honor this move, we wanted to celebrate the great artistic diversity inherent in any given Stages season” expressed Artistic Director Michael Hamilton.
“The Midwest premiere and rare North American production of the Australian hit ‘The Boy from Oz’ celebrates a life in the theatre, the very American ‘Grease’ us a oio-culture phenomenon celebrated and seen across the world by a cross-section of patrons both old and young; and ‘Man of La Mancha’ urges Stages audiences to continue to ‘dream the impossible dream’ which we believe will be fulfilled with the move to the new Performing Arts Center and the continuation of establishing Stages as a positive beacon of theatrical arts in our community” continued Hamilton.

“After the tremendous success of our 32nd Season, we are thrilled to offer an eclectic, exciting and energetic lineup of shows in 2019. These incredible titles offer something that will appear to every member of the Stages audience!” stated Executive Producer Jack Lane.
The fun kicks off May 31 and runs through Oct. 6, 2019.
Liza Minnelli and husband Peter Allen“The Boy from Oz”May 31 – June 30Music and Lyrics by Peter Allen, Book by Martin Sherman, Original Book by Nick Enright
Man of Dazzling and hilarious as the legendary Peter Allen himself, “The Boy from Oz” follows the Australian singer-songwriter from his humble beginnings performing in backcountry pubs to his international stardom beside such Hollywood icons as Judy Garland and her daughter, Liza Minnelli. Featuring such beloved Peter Allen hits as “Don’t Cry Out Loud,” “I Honestly Love You” and the show-stopping “I Go to Rio,” The Boy from Oz” is a showbiz celebration to life, love and to being fabulous.
“Grease”July 19 – Aug. 18Book, Music and Lyrics by Warren Casey and Jim Jacobs.Additional Music by Barry Gibb, John Farrar, Scott Simon and Louis St. Louis
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 you won’t want to miss.
 
 
“Man of La Mancha”Sept. 6 – Oct. 6Music by Mitch Leigh, Lyrics by Joe Darion, Book by Dale Wasserman
A romantic and inspiring musical adventure, “Man of La Mancha” tells the epic story of 17th century author Miguel de Cervantes and his immortal literary creation Don Quixote. This poignant tale of ultimate heartbreak and unimaginable triumph features a lushly melodic score that includes the rapturous “Dulcinea,” the rousing title song, and the classic Broadway anthem which dares us all to dream “The Impossible Dream.”
 
“101 Dalmatians”
June 18 – June 30Music and Lyrics by Mel Leven, Randy Rogel, Richard Gibbs, Brian Smith, Dan Root, and Martin Lee Fuller; Book Adapted by Marcy Heisler.
Join the evil Cruella De Vil and her two klutzy henchmen as they try to steal a litter of the cutest puppies ever to hit jolly old London Town. But not to worry – this fur-raising adventure ends happily with plenty of puppy power to spare! A musical treat for the entire family. Disney’s “101 Dalmatians” is sure to have audiences barking for more.
Stages St. Louis is the region’s foremost not-for-profit company committed to preserving and advancing the art form of musical theatre through excellence in performance and education. In 2019, Stages celebrates its 33rd year of producing Broadway-quality theatre, presenting 140 performances from June through October to nearly 50,000 patrons.
Stages opened in 1987 with a budget of $50,000 and a part-time seasonal staff of eight. Today, the company employs a full-time staff of 26 overseeing a budge of $4.7 million. During the performance season, an additional 150 actors and crew members bring the productions to life. To date, Stages professionals have produced 116 musicals, with over 3,700 performances, playing to more than one million patrons.
Subscriptions to the 2019 Season begin at $120 and will go on sale Dec. 3. Single tickets will go on sale April 1, 2019. Single ticket prices range from $25 to $65. Stages’ Mainstage productions perform in the intimate, 377-seat Robert G. Reim Theatre at the Kirkwood Civic Center, 111 S. Geyer Road in St. Louis, MO 63122. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 314-821-2407 or visit www.StagesStLouis.org