By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
Fa la la la la! Local stages are the gift that keeps on giving this holiday season. We have merry, bright and thoughtful holiday productions opening and continuing, so pick from the pile of presents under the tree – “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “A Christmas Carol,” “A Christmas Story,” “All is Calm.” “Away in a Basement: Church Basement Ladies Christmas” and a “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” parody.
Comedies and dramas are presented by college theater departments: “The Crucible” at Saint Louis University, “Beyond Therapy” at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and “The Three Sisters” at Webster University.
For adult comedies pondering life, “Every Brilliant Thing” wraps up its run, “An Act of God” starts.
You are certain to find something that suits your tastes. Go see a play!
Alan Knoll in “An Act of God.” Photo by Eric Woolsey“An Act of God”
New Jewish Theater
Nov. 29 – Dec. 16
Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Wool Studio Theatre
Jewish Community Center, 2 Millstone Campus, Creve Coeurwww.newjewishtheatre.org
314-442-3283.
What It’s About: Delivering a new and improved set of Commandments, God’s introduction of the revised laws is positive, insisting on separation of church and state, and encouraging us to believe in ourselves, not some elderly white guy in the sky. He sets the record straight, and he’s not holding back.
Director: Edward Coffield
Starring: Alan Knoll
 
“All Is Calm”Ann K Photography“All Is Calm”
Mustard Seed Theatre
Nov. 15 – Dec. 16
Thursdays through Sundays
Fontbonne Fine Arts Theatre
6800 Wydown Blvd.www.mustardseedtheatre.com
314-719-8060
What It’s About:  Celebrate the power of peace in this acapella musical based on the true story of soldiers during World War I who for one night, put down their arms and played soccer instead of exchanging bullets.
Director: Deanna Jent
 “Away in the Basement: A Church Basement Ladies Christmas”The Playhouse @ Westport
Nov. 8 – Jan. 6
635 Westport Plaza in Maryland Heightswww.playhouseatwestport.com
MetroTix: www.metrotix.com or 314-534-1111
What It’s About: An all-new holiday show is set in 1959, on the day of the Sunday School Christmas Program. During holiday preparations, the down-to-earth ladies are creating their own memories from Christmases past and present. Content to do things the way they have always been done, yet pondering new ideas, the reality of everyday life hits home as they plan the Sunday School Christmas Program.
As the children rehearse in the sanctuary, several of the ladies are in the kitchen finishing up the treat bags filled with apples, peanuts and ribbon candy while the others put the final touches on the nativity pieces. As they mend old bathrobe costumes, discuss the politics of who’s going to play the various roles, little do the ladies know what surprises are in store for them.
Known for their hilarious antics and subtle charm, they are once again called upon to step in and save the day!
Directors: Lee Anne Mathews and Emily Clinger, with music direction by Joseph Dreyer
Cast: Rosemary Watts, Lee Anne Mathews,
Of Note: Performances are Sundays and Tuesdays at 2 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays at 2 p.m., Saturdays and Wednesdays at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Additionally, tickets will be available at the Playhouse @ Westport Plaza box office one hour prior to show time. Groups of 10 or more can call 314-616-4455 for special rates.
All five installments of the musical comedy “Church Basement Ladies” are inspired by the books of author/humorists Janet Letnes Martin and Suzann Nelson, including the bestseller “Growing Up Lutheran.”
“Beyond Therapy”
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
Nov. 28 – Dec. 2
Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Dunham Hall Theater
618-650-2774
www.siue.edu
“A Christmas Carol”
Nov. 29 – Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m.
Lindenwood University
Schediegger Center for the Arts, St. Charleswww.lindenwood.edu
What It’s About: An annual tradition, presenting Charles Dickens” “A Christmas Carol,” timeless tale of Ebenezer Scrooge on a journey through time and space, forced to confront his past, present and future through the aid of his spiritual guides.
“A Christmas Story”
Curtain’s Up Theater
Nov. 29 – Dec. 2
Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Alfresco Art Center, 2401 Delmar in Granite City
www.curtainsuptheater.com

 
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Nov. 28 – Dec. 23
Mainstage, Loretto-Hilton Centerwww.repstl.org
314-968-4925
What It’s About: “You’ll shoot your eye out”! An adaptation of the classic holiday film, “A Christmas Story” is about Ralphie Parker’s quest to get a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Filled with small-town family vignettes and colorful characters,
Director: Seth Gordon
Starring: Charlie Matthis, as nine-year-old Ralphie, and Ted Deasy, as the grown-up Ralph who narrates the play.
Brad Fraizer is The Old Man, Laurel Casillo is Mother, Spencer Slavik is younger brother Randy, Jo Twiss is Miss Shields. Tanner Gilbertson, Gigi Koster, Ana McAlister, Rhadi Smith and Dan J. Wolfe are featured child performers.
Of Note: The show had an acclaimed run at The Rep in 2009. “A Christmas Story”
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
“The Crucible”
St. Louis University Theatre
Nov. 29 – Dec. 2
Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Xavier Hall, 3373 West Pine Mall
314-977-3327www.slu.edu/utheatre
Tickets through Metrotix.com or 314.534-1111 or at the door
What It’s About:  The 1953 Tony Award winner for Best Play is a powerful drama about the Salem witch trials. The story of one Puritan community reveals the destruction caused by mass hysteria and socially sanctioned violence.
Director: Lucy Cashion
“Every Brilliant Thing”R-S Theatrics
Nov. 16 – Dec. 2
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m.
Kranzberg Arts Center black box theatre
www.r-stheatrics.com
What It’s About: When a six-year-old starts a list of every brilliant thing in life to encourage her despondent mother, little does she know that the list will take on a life of its own and thread its way throughout the girl’s life. Hilarious and heartbreaking, this one-woman show reminds us to celebrate the beauty in our lives and in those we love.
Starring: Nancy Nigh
Ron james photo“The Holiday Stop-Motion Extravaganza Parody”
Nov. 30 – Dec. 8
St. Louis Shakespeare’s Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre
Regional Arts Commission,  in University City
Friday and Saturday, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 – 8 p.m. show; Dec. 2 – 2 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 5 and 6, 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, Dec. 7 and 8, 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.
www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3739606
What It’s About: Join Rudolph, Santa, Hermey, Bumble, the Miser Bros and other wonderful misfits as they parody your favorite 1970s childhood holiday shows by Rankin/Bass. If you’ve ever had aspirations of becoming a dentist, this parody is for you! This parody includes: “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “The Year Without Santa Claus.”
Director: Suki Peters
Of Note: Magic Smoking Monkey is partnering with Shriner’s Hospital to help make the holidays merry and bright for children in the St. Louis area.  Bring a new, unwrapped toy to the box office with you on any night of the performance to be entered in a special drawing to win 4 tickets to a future Magic Smoking Monkey production.
 “It’s a Wonderful Life”
Wentzville Christian Church Theatre Group
Nov. 29 – Dec. 1
Thursday and Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at noon and 6 p.m.
Wentzville Christian Church, 1507 Highway Zwww.wentzvillecc.org
What It’s About: In our American culture It’s a Wonderful Life has become almost as familiar as Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The story is a natural for a stage adaptation: the saga of George Bailey, the Everyman from the small town of Bedford Falls, whose dreams of escape and adventure have been quashed by family obligation and civic duty, whose guardian angel has to descent on Christmas Eve to save him from despair and to remind him-by showing him what the world would have been like had he never been born-that his has been, after all, a wonderful life.
“It’s a Wonderful Life Radio Play”
Nov. 29 – Dec. 1
The Bankside Repertory Theatre Company                                                                                          The Jacoby Arts Center
627 E. Broadway in Alton
www.banksiderep.com
What It’s about: This beloved American holiday classic comes to captivating life as a live 1940s radio broadcast. With the help of an ensemble that brings a few dozen characters to the stage, the story of idealistic George Bailey unfolds as he considers ending his life one fateful Christmas Eve.
Starring: Spencer Sickman, Caitlin Mickey, Mindy Steinman Shaw, Scott Grady, Jack Dearborn, Steve Potter, Lorian Warford, Lorian Warford, Olivia Steele, and Nick Trapp.
“The Three Sisters”
Webster University’s Conservatory of Theatre Arts
Nov. 28 – Dec. 9
Wednesday through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Emerson Studio Theatre at the Loretto-Hilton Center
Webster University campus.www.webster.edu
314-968-7128
What It’s About: Adapted by Sarah Ruhl, the Chekhov play is about three sisters trapped in a provincial Russian town after the death of their father, and lament the passing of better times and long for the excitement of Moscow. One of them has married a local teacher; another has become a teacher herself; the third has settled for a dull job in the local telegraph office. Their principal interest is focused on the officers of the local regiment, of which their father had been commandant, men who bring a sense of sophistication and the world outside to their suppressed existence. In the end the fateful pattern of their lives is made clear –their dreams will be denied but, despite all, there must always be hope, however futile, and the ways of the world are to be accepted, if not understood
Actor Miles Barbee, provided photo“Tribes”
St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Nov. 30 – Dec. 16
Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.
Gaslight Theatre, 358 N. Boyle.
314-458-2978www.stlas.org
What It’s About: Billy was born deaf into a hearing family. He was raised inside its fiercely idiosyncratic and politically incorrect cocoon. He has adapted brilliantly to his family’s unconventional ways, but they’ve never bothered to return the favor. It’s not until he meets Sylvia, a young woman on the brink of deafness, that he finally understands what it means to be understood.
Director: Annamaria Pileggi
Starring: Miles Barbee, who is deaf; Ryan Lawson-Maeske, Bridget Bassa, Elizabeth Townsend, Greg Johnston and Hailey Medrano.
Of Note: This comedy-drama by Nina Raine was staged in London in 2010 and off-Broadway in 2012, winning the Drama Desk Award for Best New Play.
William Roth, founder and artistic director of St. Louis Actors’ Studio, has announced that they will donate $2 of each ticket price to Deaf Inc, St. Louis. Deaf Inc is dedicated to providing effective communication access to the deaf, hard of hearing and hearing individuals in the St. Louis area. For more on this organization, visit www.deafinc.org.
Opening Night and all Sunday and Thursday performances will be sign-interpreted for our deaf patrons. Email [email protected] for details.
For more on Miles Barbee, visit www.milesbarbee.com.
Shannon Cothran and Alicia Reve Like“Wonderland: Alice’s Rock n Roll Adventure”
Metro Theatre Company
Dec. 2 – Dec. 30
The Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square in Grand Center
www.metroplays.org
What It’s About: Part rock concert, part theater, all of your favorite characters as Metro Theater Company presents this new, wild and wondrous take on Lewis Carroll’s beloved, poetic tale of self-actualization. A cast of actors/musicians plays an eclectic mix of everything from soul and rock to punk to ska as Alice chases through Wonderland in search of her own inner musical voice. A fun, hip, and refreshing fusion of music, theatre and poetry, it is the search for one’s authentic self, asking how can you march to the beat of your own drummer when you’re still writing the song? It places Alice in a strange, new world, where she conquers her fears and uses her musical skills to defeat the Jabberwock.

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
Something so simple yet so profound, “Every Brilliant Thing” harnesses the euphoria of a fresh outlook, the childlike wonder of a new discovery and the bittersweet touchstones of love, loss and laughter.
This bracing 65-minute monologue mixes comedy and tragedy into a potent aperitif, for this timeless message is especially poignant this holiday season.
The narrator is the adult daughter of a mother whose chronic depression altered her emotional development and life perspective. She was 7 when her mother first attempted suicide.
In the intimate setting of the Kranzberg Arts Center black box theater, Nancy Nigh takes us on the narrator’s heart-wrenching and humorous personal journey through the lens of her own creative balm.

It started as a child’s sunny list of life’s very best offerings to cheer up her despondent mom — 1. Ice cream, 2. Water fights, 3. Staying up past your bedtime and being allowed to watch TV, 4. The color yellow, and so on. Then turned into a lifeline, a burden and a security blanket during adolescence, college, marriage, bumpy roads and eventually, peace and acceptance.
The list is as broad as 11. Bed and 1006. Surprises – who can argue, right? – and as specific as 2390. People who can’t sing but either don’t know or don’t care and 1654. Christopher Walken’s voice.
The list eventually grew to a million, with entries as clever as 123321. Palindromes, as funny as 7. People falling over, as adorable as 575. Piglets, as pleasurable as 9997. Being cooked for, and as nostalgic as 315. The smell of an old book.
It’s quite a feat. And compulsive list-makers can identify, as well as people who feel helpless when they can’t protect, control or prevent family members from harm.
Alone surrounded by the audience, Nigh is crucial to the mood. To make us comfortable, she must be both vulnerable and strong, relaxed yet firm.
After all, the rollercoaster ride of emotions will affect us in a deeply personal way – and she must be a safety net. And vice versa — we’re hers.
Audience interaction and participation are essential elements that keep the one-woman show unpredictable and improvisational.
The one-act play was first produced in England, at the 2013 Ludlum Fringe Festival, and started out as a short story called “Sleevenotes” by Duncan McMillan. For the stage, he involved comedian Jonny Donahue, who was filmed for the 2016 HBO presentation.
The play’s specialness is its authentic lived-in quality, mixing the merry and the morose in such a way to connect us all.
Free of any artifice, Nigh guides us without missing a beat. The narrator is not merely reciting a litany of her favorite things, therefore we tag along through key turning points in her life.
The narrator becomes the director, telling a few people what to say and where to move. Some are just called on to read list entries. Nigh does so effortlessly, with an easy charm.
She also conveys the narrator’s bravery, for the hardest things to talk about are things we should talk about – and this play allows us to, for catharsis can come out of crushing sadness. She has earned this accomplishment.
Director Tom Kopp keeps Nigh on the move, so she’s not for long in any one corner. The staging is in the storytelling. Taking part is very natural – not awkward or embarrassing, or cringe-inducing.
A nice touch is how important music is to the people in the story, from her father’s influential record collection to the sublime sounds of Curtis Mayfield’s “Move on Up.”
McMillan’s descriptive writing has woven in research about clinical depression, and the shadow of suicide lingers. As heart-wrenching as it is humorous, the play has an ebb and flow, not unlike the song ‘Sunrise, Sunset.”
Yet it never feels less than real, and there is no sugar-coating. If it triggers anything, an usher lets you know beforehand that it’s OK to leave for a bit.
In an uplifting and inspiring way, the play urges us to celebrate the small pleasures of life. Now. Don’t wait for moments – let them in, be open to them.
How can you not smile at 521. The word plinth, or 536. Winning something?
“Every Brilliant Thing” is a comforting and joyous reminder of the random moments that make a life.
Above all, this R-S Theatrics’ presentation stresses kindness. Above all, kindness. We know that this play hits too close to home for so many. We all want to say things may not always be brilliant, but they do get better – before it’s too late. The program includes information on CHADS Coalition for Mental Health, resources, crisis hotline numbers and tips.
R-S Theatrics presents “Every Brilliant Thing” Nov. 16 – Dec. 2, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 7 p.m. in the Kranzberg Black Box, 501 N. Grand Blvd. For tickets, visit. www.r-stheatrics.com or call 314-252-8812.
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By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
So, how does one find inspiration to play Mother Teresa? Rachel Tibbetts thought of a popular TV sitcom.
In “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” at Mustard Seed Theatre, she plays Mother Teresa and two other characters – St. Thomas and Loretta.
“Mother Teresa is such a blast. I am approaching her as Mother Teresa meets ‘The Golden Girls,’” she said.
“I’ve really enjoyed playing three characters. I love the challenge of playing with physicality and voice to move from character to the next.”
The irreverent dark comedy explores the afterlife of former apostle Judas, wanting to know if sin or grief or grace will prevail, and runs from Oct. 1 to Oct. 28, Wednesday through Sunday, with no Friday performance. It is recommended for mature audiences.

The Last Days of Judas IscariotTibbetts is not the only cast member with multiple roles or who switches genders — 27 diverse characters are woven into a courtroom in downtown Purgatory, part of a jury trial to determine if Judas should remain in Hell. After all, who’s to blame/at fault for his notorious place in history, damned for all-time, his lawyer argues.
The historical and Biblical characters are sinners and saints. The play by Stephen Adly Guirgis was originally staged off-Broadway at The Public Theatre in 2005, directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Guirgis went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 2015, for “Between Riverside and Crazy.”
Her longtime friend and colleague Carl Overly Jr. portrays attorney El-Fayoumy.
“Carl and I get to have so much fun on stage together. It’s also very exciting to be included in an ensemble that beautifully reflects our community,” she said.
Adam Flores, resident artist at Fontbonne University, directed the production. Locally, it is the second time a regional company is tackling the show — HotCity Theatre staged it in 2006.
Besides Tibbetts and Overly, the ensemble includes: Courtney Bailey Parker, Rae Davis, Graham Emmons, FeliceSkye, Carmen Garcia, Chelsea Krenning, Jesse Munoz, Ariella Rovinsky, Chandler Spradling, Chris Ware and Eric Dean White.
Active in regional theater for more than 10 years, Tibbetts has become one of St. Louis’ most versatile artists working today.
Little Thing Big Thing with Joe HanrahanIn the past three years alone, Tibbetts has played a nun on the run, a faux vampire, a German matron trying to make sense of the World War II fallout, Athena goddess of war, a spoiled social climber in hell, Lady Macbeth, an exotic secret agent in a Hitchcock movie parody, a Spanish painter and Harvard star-mapper.
She is a founding member of Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble, and has been in productions at The Midnight Company, ERA (Equally Represented Arts) Theatre, R-S Theatrics, Tennessee Williams Festival, Young Liars and West End Players Guild.
While she has been able to portray many memorable roles, one of her all-time favorite experiences was this past winter, when she played trailblazing ‘astronomer’ (data entry clerk) Henrietta Swan Leavitt in Laurwn Gunderson’s play “Silent Sky” in the West End Players Guild production.
Silent Sky, with Michelle Hand, Jamie Pitt and Rachel Tibbetts. Photo by John Lamb“I don’t know if a day has gone by since we closed where I haven’t thought about this particular line: ‘Because wonder will always get us there.’ Every aspect of working on ‘Silent Sky’ was truly an experience of wonder – the script, the director, the cast, the production ensemble,” she said.
“My grandmother passed away while working on the show. She was always supportive of me as an artist. My heart hurt, and still does, from her death, but working on the show gifted me healing,” she said.
No Exit. Photo by Joey RumpellShe has dedicated her work this year to “Grams.” And she has kept busy.
Tibbetts doesn’t only act — she directed “Run-On Sentence” for SATE this spring. With Lucy Cashion, she co-directed a new adaptation of “Antigone” at the women’s prison in Vandalia, which was a collaboration between Saint Louis University and Prison Performing Arts.
As a co-producer, she is working on a new translation of “Doctor Faustus, or the Modern Prometheus” for SATE, which opens Oct. 31. She co-produced the second annual Aphra Behn Emerging Artists’ Festival with SATE this spring.
She also filmed a movie based on Anton Chekhov’s “Platonov” with ERA Theatre and Sleepy Kitty.
Theater takes up most of her waking life.
After earning a B.A. in theatre from Oklahoma State University, she found an internship opportunity with the Delaware Theatre Company’s education department.
“I had an interest in education as well,” she said, noting that she has worked with Young Audiences of St. Louis and is a graduate of the Community Arts Training Institute at the Regional Arts Commission in 2006-2007.
This year, she marked 13 years with Prison Performing Arts and is currently their Director of Youth Programs.
“It’s very much an honor to create and collaborate with the adult and youth artists in all of our facilities,” she said.
“I have been lucky enough to have always had a job in the arts since college, and I’m very grateful to make my living doing what I love to do,” she said.
Maggie Conroy and Rachel in ERA’s “Trash Macbeth” 2016She moved to St. Louis in 2003. After getting a divorce in 2006, she discovered SATE through her friend Kim. She accompanied her to a training session and met founder Margeau Baue Steinau, and two years later, she met another kindred spirit, founder Ellie Schwetye.
“I am the artist who I am and have had the opportunities I’ve had because of them,” she said.
She considers working with her SATE family “fun, exhilarating and challenging.”
“Ellie and I focus on creating an environment where people can experiment and have fun. It’s also extremely important to us to create a community where everyone – on stage and off – feel like both themselves and their work matter,” she said.
“And I’m really proud of the magic our coven creates – our coven being Ellie, myself, Bess Moynihan and Liz Henning (resident designers),” she said.
Ellie Schwetye and Rachel Tibbetts accepting award for Best Ensemble – Comedy for “First Impressions” at 2018 St. Louis Theater Circle Awards. Photo by Gerry LoveShe and Ellie are the yin and yang.
“Ellie and I work well because we complement each other. We definitely are two different individuals in many ways, and I love that about us. It creates a relationship, both personal and professional, where we can continually grow from working with — and just knowing –each other,” she said.
Because wonder will always get us there.
Here are Rachel’s answers to our Take Ten Questions:
Why did you choose your profession/pursue the arts?
I was obsessed with the movie “Annie” as a little girl. I had the red dress. We owned the record. I would wander around the house singing, “Amaya, Amaya, I love ya Amaya,” because I couldn’t pronounce the word tomorrow. My mom tells me that there are moments where she wanted to get rid of the record because I just wouldn’t stop, but she didn’t, and I am thankful.
My parents always encouraged me to pursue the arts.
They were always taking me to see plays and musicals, but beyond the doors of our homes (my dad was in the Air Force and we moved a lot), I was pretty shy. I finally started taking theatre classes in middle school. It really helped me find my voice and a community. I was lucky to have an incredible drama teacher in high school and she also encouraged me.
2, How would your friends describe you?
Recently, a very dear friend, described me as a love-magnet. I love this. I think they would also describe me as loopy and they know what they mean.
How do you like to spend your spare time?
“Watching the ‘Real Housewives’ and then gossiping about the Real Housewives with my friends Andrew and Carl, hanging at the Crow’s Nest with Bess.”
What is your current obsession?
“Stranger Things.” I can’t leave Target without purchasing a new t-shirt. I now have a one tee limit anytime I leave there. I love everything about that show because it reminds me of everything I loved about my childhood – “E.T.,” “The Goonies,” “Ghostbusters.”
What would people be surprised to find out about you?
“I’m not afraid of spiders. And maybe that I’m 40.”
St. Louis Theater Circle Awards 2018, SATE winners of Best Ensemble – Comedy and Best New Play for “First Impressions”Can you share one of your most defining moments in life?
“In 2006, I got divorced and I was really searching for something, so a good friend of mine, Kim, invited me to join her for a Monday night training with Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble. Then, I met Margeau. And two years later, I met Ellie. I am the artist who I am and have had the opportunities I’ve had because of them.”
Who do you admire most?
“My mom and dad, Paul and Judy. They are the kindest people I know. And they make me laugh so much.”
What is at the top of on your bucket list?
“To see Kendrick Lamar in concert.”
What is your favorite thing to do in St. Louis?
“Eat cheese and drink margaritas at Mi Ranchito.”
What’s next?
“The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” with Mustard Seed Theatre – actor; “Doctor Faustus, or the Modern Prometheus” – co-producer; and “First Impressions” – directing a remount performance at the women’s prison in Vandalia, Mo.
Her parents are moving here in December, so she has that to look forward to, too.
The Cherry Sisters Revisited. Rachel is bottom row, middle.MORE ON RACHEL TIBBETTS
Name: Rachel TibbettsAge: 40Birthplace: Rapid City, South DakotaCurrent location: Where St. Louis City and Maplewood meetFamily: Paul and Jude, my parents, and my fur kids: Lyric, Monroe, and RubyEducation: B.A. in Theatre from Oklahoma State UniversityDay job: Director of Youth Programs for Prison Performing ArtsFirst job: Server at Simple Simon’s Pizza in Enid, Okla.First role: Cobweb in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”Favorite roles/plays: Effie/”The Cherry Sisters,” Every role in “R+J: A Telephone Play,” Horatio in “Remember Me,” Henrietta in “Silent Sky”Dream role/play: I don’t have one.Awards/Honors/Achievements: Best Ensemble in a Comedy for “The 39 Steps” (St. Louis Theater Circle) and SATE won “Best Production of a Comedy for “As You Like It” and Best Ensemble in a Comedy/Best New Play for “First Impressions.”
Favorite quote/words to live by: “Because wonder will always get us there…” –  from Lauren Gunderson’s “Silent Sky”
A song that makes you happy: “Thriller” by Michael Jackson, and with modern technology we can listen to it whenever we want.
“Judgment at Nuremburg” with Joe Hanrahan. Photo by Joey Rumpell.

 
More than one dozen St. Louis-area theatre companies will unite to showcase the very best in local performance art at Making a Scene: A St. Louis Theatre Expo, presented by PNC Arts Alive, hosted Saturday, Sept. 29 at The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis.
The free event will run from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts (130 Edgar Road, on the campus of Webster University), and feature talks, demonstrations, pop-up performances, backstage tours, children’s craft activities and more. With numerous events happening throughout the building at any given time, visitors can create their own schedule as they explore the art of theatre. (See a schedule of events on the Expo’s online event page).
Featured speakers include local artistic directors, such as Michael Isaacson of The Muny, Steven Woolf of The Rep and Christina Rios of R-S Theatrics, as well as St. Louis-based actors and behind-the-scenes talents who make magic happen onstage.
Companies that will be on-hand to highlight their seasons include The Rep, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, STAGES St. Louis, Stray Dog Theatre, St. Lou Fringe Festival, New Jewish Theatre and Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble.
This is the second St. Louis Theatre Expo, following the inaugural edition in September 2016.
Support comes from PNC Foundation through the PNC Arts Alive initiative. A $20,000 grant will allow The Rep to hire videographers to film several of the Expo’s sessions, and then post those videos online as an educational resource for area students. Learn more about that grant here.

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
It’s back to school and back to work after vacation as summer winds down. It’s also back to the boards for local theater companies, as we do not have any openings, only shows returning for more performances.
The St. Louis Fringe Festival returns, as voices continue to be unleashed Thursday through Saturday in the Grand Arts Center.
Two showcases for primo voices have final performances this weekend, so you do not want to miss “The Light in the Piazza” and Kurt Weill’s “Lost in the Stars.”
And the drama goes on in Jean-Paul Sartre’s “No Exit” and “King Charles III.”
Go, See a Play!

Britteny Henry and James Reiss. Photo by Ron James.“King Charles III”
St. Louis Shakespeare
Aug. 17 – 26
The Ivory Theatre
7620 Michiganwww.stlshakespeare.org
314-361-5664
What It’s About: Mike Bartlett’s controversial 2014 play is “a future history” about what happens after Queen Elizabeth II dies, and the prince ascends to the throne after a lifetime of waiting. But how to rule? Who are these people beneath the crowns, the conscience of Britain’s most famous family and the unwritten rules of our democracy.
Director: Donna Northcutt
Cast: Colin Nichols, Jeremy Goldmeier, Andra Harkins, Britteny Henry, Lexie Baker, Michael Bouchard, Patience Davis, Hannah Pauluhn, Donna Postel, James Reiss, Jeff Lovell and William Pendergast.
Of Note: This is the first production of St. Louis Shakespeare’s 34th season.
Photo by Ron James
Kay Love as Margaret.“The Light in the Piazza”
R-S Theatrics
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 7 p.m.
Aug. 10 – 26
The Marcelle Theatre
3310 Sam Shepard Drive
www.r-stheatrics.org
What It’s About: Winner of numerous Tony Awards in 2005, this musical tells the story of a young American woman vacationing with her mother in Florence in the 1950s. When the woman falls for a local Italian man, uncomfortable truths come to light about what was past and what may be future.”
Director: Christina Rios, with music direction by Sarah Nelson
Starring: Kay Martin Love as Margaret, Macia Noorman as Clara, Tielere Cheatem as Fabrizio, Stephanie Merritt as Franca, Micheal Lowe as Guiseppe, Kent Coffel as Signor Naccarelli, Jodi Stockton as Signora Naccarelli and Avery Smith as Young Clara.
Ensemble includes Robert Doyle, Lindy Elliott, Anthony Randle, Melissa Felps, Ann Heir, Chris Kernan, Jason Meyers and Louisa Wimmer.
Of Note: St. Louis premiere.
“Lost in the Stars”
Union Avenue Opera
Aug. 17 – 25
Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.
Union Avenue Christian Church
733 Union at Enright.www.unionavenueopera.org
314-361-2881
What It’s About: Kurt Weill’s provocative work addresses the weighty moral issues of racism and injustice, more relevant now than ever in St. Louis. For his final Broadway score, Weill took “Cry, the Beloved Country” – a powerful, uncompromising social indictment of apartheid South Africa – and gave it a passionate voice.
Two aging men – a black country parson and a white British planter – are drawn into friendship by a shared grief. The parson’s faith is challenged by his son’s unintentional murder of the planter’s son, while the planter acquires faith through the loss of his son.
Director: Shaun Patrick Tubbs
Cast: Leader – Roderick George, Nita – Evan Adams*, Grace Kumalo – Jeanitta Perkins*, Stephen Kumalo – Kenneth Overton*, James Jarvis – Tim Schall*, Edward Jarvis – Charlie Mathis*, Arthur Jarvis – Stephen Peirick*, John Kumalo – Reginald Pierre*, Alex – Sherrod Murff*, Foreman – Ross Rubright, Mrs. Mkize – Rose Fischer, Hlabeni – Michael Hawkins, Mark Eland – Chuck Lavazzi*, Linda – Melody Wilson, Johannes Pafuri – Abraham Shaw*, Matthew Kumalo – Carl Overly, Jr.*, Absalom Kumalo – Myke Andrews*, Irina – Krysty Sawnn*, Burton – Anthony Heinemann and The Judge – Joel Rogier.
Ensemble – Evan Adams*, Sharifa Black*, Madeleine Buckley*, Erika Cockerham*, Laurel Ellison Dantas, Ebony Easter*, Rose Fischer, David Goldman*, Brittany Graham*, Michael Hawkins, Anthony Heinemann, Merry Keller, Lisa Khaimova*, Gina Malone, Randell McGee, Maika Miller*, Paul Herbert Pitts*, Joel Rogier, Ross Rubright, Mark Saunders, Moses Anthony Weathers* and Benjamin Worley*.
*Union Avenue Opera debut
Photo by John Lamb
“No Exit”
Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble
Aug. 15 – Sept. 1
Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m.
The Chapel
6238 Alexander Drive
www.slightlyoff.org
What It’s About: Jean-Paul Sartre’s existential play “No Exit” is about three damned souls are brought to the same room in hell by a mysterious Valet. Expecting medieval torture devises to punish them for eternity, they are surprised by the deceptively simple and relatively ugly room. As they are all introduced, none of them will admit the reason for their damnation. But Inez demands that they all stop lying to themselves and confess to their crimes. The play is an exploration into the human psyche and the invisible wounds we are capable of inflicting upon others, and ourselves.
Director: Bess Moynihan
Cast: Rachel Tibbetts, Shane Signorino, Sarah Morris, Katy Keating
Of Note “No Exit” is the source of Sartre’s famous quotation ‘L’enfer, c’est les autres’ or “Hell Is Other People.”
Photo by Joey Rumpell
“Race Cars and Romance”
St. Louis Fringe Festival National Headline Act
Aug. 23 – 25
The Grandel Theatrewww.stlouisfringe.com
What It’s About: A Fringe Family-Friendly Event starring “Something Rotten!’s” Kate Bailey and Ralph Meitzler, and directed by St. Louis native and Broadway star Brandon Bieber.
“Race Cars and Romance” is a fast-paced, hilarious rom-com that tells the story of a young woman mechanic fighting to earn professional respect in the male-dominated world of stock car racing. She is torn between her desires to find love in a traditional relationship and the reality of her agitated, greasy, masculine working conditions. Her fortunes turn for the better after an unexpected meeting with an old foe and down-and-out race car driver leads to a winning relationship on the track but troubled romance off the track. Meanwhile, traditional relationships are redefined when her best friend, the playful Louraine finds her first “respectful” relationship, former shop owner Paw Paw offers dear Grandma Myrtle appreciation that’s long overdue, and other colorful customers find their connections while keeping the oil change business in non-stop laughter.”
St. Louis Fringe Festival
Aug. 23 – 25, Thursday through Saturday
Grand Arts Centerwww.stlouisfringe.com
www.MetroTix.com
What It’s About: Original material – theater, dance, music, comedy, circus arts, performance art, cabaret and burlesque – are accepted for the annual festival. Tech is minimal and shows are often brief.
Fringe builds community by connecting uncensored, unjuried performing arts with accessible and affordable performances for audiences.
Venues: Kranzberg Art Center Black Box and Studio theatres, The Duet Gallery, The Grandel and .Zack.
Here is the line-up Aug. 23-25. For dates and locations, visit www.stlouisfringe.com
“Any Man in America” – Declaration Stage Company
“The Bothered” – Rogue Theatre Company
“Broadway Favorites” – Debut Theater Company
“The Countdown” – Open House Theatre
“The Devil’s Passion” – Bankside Repertory
“Ectopic: A Hypersexual Play” – Tesseract Theatre Company
“Grim Tales, Horific Vignettes” – Spooky Scary Productions
“Intervals” – Mill Hill Productions
#MeToo, Her Voice Must be Heard” – Until You’ve Walked in Her Shoes Inc.
“Now Playing Third Base for the St. Louis Cardinals…Bond, James Bond – The Midnight Company
“Pain” – Tony Marr Jr.
“Perennial Growth” – Whale of the People
“Political Snarkasm” – The Riccardi’s
“Race Cars and Romance” – National Headline Act
“Tall Tale Camp Tale” – On a Wing and a Prayer
“Til the Cold Winter’s Through – because, why not?

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

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

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
With its lush, unusual score and seductive setting, “The Light in the Piazza” is swoon-worthy in many aspects.
Regarded as demanding to present because of its music and dramatic complexities, this intricate musical heightens realism and challenges the most confident vocalist.
Its Tony-winning neoromantic score and orchestrations by Adam Guettel, grandson of icon Richard Rodgers, have more in common with opera and classical music than traditional showtunes, without any pop references.
Nevertheless, the cast of R-S Theatrics’ production rises to master the harmonies and embrace la dolce vita. Guided by music director Sarah Nelson, whose work is exceptional, with assured stage direction from Christine Rios, they project a confident grasp of the material.

Some of the lyrics are in Italian, and silky-smooth voiced Tielere Cheatem, as Fabrizio, is impressive, particularly in his fluid renditions of “Il Mondo Era Vuoto” and “Passeggiata.” His family, the Naccarellis, speak impeccable Italian and deliver richly textured vocals – Kent Coffel as Signor, Jodi Stockton as Signora, Stephanie Merritt as Franca and Micheal Lowe as Giuseppe.
Special mention must go to Italian language coach Myriam Columbo, for it feels organic.
It’s the summer of 1953, and the well-to-do Southern matron Margaret (Kay Love) returns to Florence, Italy, where she spent her honeymoon. With her innocent 26-year-old daughter in tow, her joy is tempered by the special needs of the developmentally delayed Clara (Macia Noorman), who was hit in the head by a Shetland pony at age 10. She matured physically but not emotionally/mentally. It is more subtle than obvious, but when Clara gets upset, she behaves like a petulant child.
The melodramatic story is adapted from a novella by Elizabeth Spencer, which became a turgid 1962 movie starring Olivia de Havilland, Rossano Brazzi, Yvette Mimieux and George Hamilton (?!? as Fabrizio). The 2005 Broadway show was nominated for 11 Tony Awards and won five. It had both fans and detractors, and I was one of its sharpest critics, particularly of the book by Craig Lucas.
Not a fan of the 2007 touring production, which was swallowed in the Fox, was devoid of sympathy for the mother and did not have an ounce of nuance in what I considered a duplicitous transaction.
Not so here – surprise! – because of the performances and the interpretation, although they can’t help that the book has some issues.
Several key elements soothed my misgivings, but mainly it was because of Kay Love’s splendid performance as the Southern matron Margaret, which is the lynchpin to the whole show.
Love earns our sympathy right away – it is a virtuoso performance that highlights her outstanding vocal talent while giving her a juicy role in which to shine. You feel her dilemma, and the emotional rollercoaster she endures. Her North Carolina accent is refreshingly soft and does not overpower her character,  thanks to dialect coach Mark Kelley.
All that guilt Margaret carries is shown on Love’s face, along with the regrets of a lackluster marriage, and a life, though comfortable, spent in service to others. She’s exasperated keeping tabs on an excited Clara, who encounters a young Florentine, Fabrizio. It’s love at first sight for both.
As Clara, Macia Noorman’s accent weaves in and out. Noorman and Cheatem work well together, but she seems more tentative in the duets and went sharp or flat more often in her vocals, particularly when paired with someone. However, her “Clara’s Interlude” is quite lovely.
Rios does not make this entanglement of two star-crossed families overwrought, rather keeps focus on the complicated romance and culture clash. As Margaret wrestles with the couple’s wedding plans, she must decide if she believes in love and her daughter’s happiness. Her husband Roy (Robert Doyle) is of no help, or empathy.
In addition to their superb vocals, the actors playing the Naccarelli family stand out. Kent Coffel plays the haberdasher father with such authority that you believe he is a Florentine of stature while a winsome Jodi Stockton has a nice motherly moment explaining the proceedings to the audience.
Stephanie Merritt gives considerable oomph to the tempestuous Franca so that she is not just a caricature, and soars in her number, “The Joy You Feel.”
While Love imbues her numbers with emotion, her rendition of the finale “Fable” is stunning, all the more remarkable because it follows a fabulous “Love to Me” sung by Cheatem. Love has a sweet duet with Coffel, “Let’s Walk,” before two families join together.
The power of the cast’s voices match the character demands, and Nelson’s musical work must be recognized, for the level of difficulty is understood.
The expressive orchestra adds so much, with Terri Langerak playing a glorious harp, Emily Lane on cello, Kelly LaRussa on violin, Jacob Stergos on bass and Nelson on piano. Their expert skill provided a luxurious sound that elevated this show.
The location also prominently figures into the presentation. Florence is an alluring city of Renaissance masterpieces in the Tuscany region of Italy, with its postcard Mediterranean landscapes, ancient history, and extraordinary art, culture and cuisine. It’s also a character.
The look and feel of this show combines tantalizing adventure with a traveler’s awestruck sense of wonder, providing atmosphere along with sense of time and place.
The piazza, a town square, is where we meet a very tight ensemble, crisp in purposeful movements and welcoming in demeanor. Chris Kernan, Jason Meyers, Louisa Wimmer, Robert Doyle, Melissa Christine, Lindy Elliot, Ann Hier and Anthony Randle are a compelling chorus.
Keller Ryan’s scenic design allows for this tableau to come alive with a captivating vibrancy while Nathan Schroeder’s lighting design provides a burnished glow.
They all look marvelous, too — chic fashion choices by costume designer by Ashley Bauman enhanced the characters’ personalities.
Margaret can’t help but be swept away by the scenic views and the teeming crowd, and neither could I. The intimate staging, the strong creative aspects and the level of talent add up to a must-see production.
R-S Theatrics opens its eighth season – The Season of the Not-so-Perfect Past — with the St. Louis premiere of “The Light in the Piazza” Aug. 10 – 26, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 7 p.m., at the Marcelle Theatre, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive, St. Louis, 63103. Tickets can be purchased through Metrotix.com. For more information, visit r-stheatrics.org.

 

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”