By Lynn Venhaus
Christ Memorial Productions’ presentation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic “Oklahoma!” won eight Best Performance Awards for choreography, music direction, lighting, costumes, acting and Best Featured Dancer while Kirkwood Theatre Guild’s production of the George and Ira Gershwin 1920s musical-screwball comedy “Nice Work If You Can Get It” won seven, including Best Large Ensemble Musical Production, Best Director and five acting awards, from Arts For Life Sunday.

It was KTG’s sixth win for musical production since 2000. Both shows had been nominated for 17 awards apiece. “A New Brain,” which was a local community theater premiere for Hawthorne Players, won Best Small Ensemble Production.

Arts For Life is a nonprofit organization that encompasses 140 communities and 8,460 square miles in St. Louis city, county and St. Charles County in Missouri and Madison, Monroe and St. Clair counties in Illinois.

Founded in 1994 by Lucinda Gyurci as a group dedicated to the healing power of the arts, AFL has honored community theater musicals for performances and achievements since 1999 (BPAs), plays since 2015 (Theatre Mask Awards) and expanded awards in youth musical theater in 2013.

Best Small Ensemble Musical “A New Brain”

But this is the first time AFL did not host a live gala. Because of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the ceremony was re-imagined as a pre-recorded virtual celebration. The 21st annual BPAs took place June 14, which was the original date, but transitioned to a streaming format broadcast on Facebook and YouTube.

AFL President Mary McCreight said the coronavirus safety measures in place and restrictions on gatherings in St. Louis County were factors in the decision to cancel the live show but still have some sort of event.

“We wanted to provide an opportunity for our local arts community to come together online and celebrate the many outstanding achievements of the previous year,” McCreight said.

Performances from nominees for large ensemble musicals, two small ensemble musicals and five youth productions premiered on AFL’s YouTube channel for 10 days leading up to the awards, and are now available there, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnCSL5RPbHTrhbc0mbHcWnA

There were 15 community theaters and 10 youth-only groups who participated last year. More than 60 judges in the Theatre Recognition Guild scored 46 shows — 19 large ensembles, 3 small and 24 youth, featuring 939 roles. For 2019, there were 154 individual nominations from 22 groups, with 36 percent first-time nominees and 65 percent first-time winners.

Goshen Theatre Project, which led all groups with 18 nominations, won five youth awards overall for “Les Miserables School Edition,” including Best Youth Musical Production, Supporting Actress Natalie Cochran as Eponine, costume design (Terry Pattison), lighting design (Halli Pattison and Blake Churchill) and Bennett English as Best Youth Musical Performance as Jean Valjean.

Other multiple winners in the youth categories were Riverbend Theatre, which won three for “The Drowsy Chaperone” — director (Kristi Doering), music direction (Michael Frazier/Alison Neace) and lead actor (Jayson Heil as the Man in Chair), and Young People’s Theatre, which won two for “Newsies” – best supporting actor (Will Dery as Les) and set design (Brisby Andrews and Gary Rackers).

Norbert Leo Butz

Thirty-three awards honoring excellence during 2019 were announced by past winners and members of the AFL board of directors, with two special guest presenters — Norbert Leo Butz, two-time Tony Award winner who grew up in St. Louis, and Hana S. Sharif, the Augustin Family Artistic Director of The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis.

Butz, who also announced the youth musical production winner, told the audience to believe in themselves, even when it’s hard, and follow their dreams, noting he had supportive parents and “great” teachers.

“Believe in yourself and keep on being grateful. Stick to it,” he said from his home in New Jersey. “(Performing arts) feeds our soul, our minds, our hearts.”

AFL donated to Butz’s charity, The Angel Band Project, which uses music therapy to help victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence and advocates for rights of survivors. For more information, visit www.angelbandproject.org

Jennifer Kerner

Four special honors were given out to Jennifer Kerner for her inclusion efforts, Bennett English for Best Youth Musical Performance as Jean Valjean in Goshen Theatre Project’s “Les Miserables: School Edition,” Kayla Dressman for Best Featured Dancer as Dream Laurie in  CMP’s “Oklahoma!” and Diane Hanisch, the BPA musical director/conductor for the past 20 years, who won a national Spotlight Award from the American Association of Community Theatres, presented by Quiana Clark-Roland. A Lifetime Achievement Award was not designated this year.

Kerner’s recognition was for her advocacy on inclusion and helping to make the live theater experience accessible to all individuals. Kerner, a local singer and actress, works to help place people with developmental disabilities in jobs. She has guided local theater companies in providing sensory-friendly performances and has worked to create comfortable environments for those on the autism spectrum and those with sensory processing disorders.

McCreight was thrilled about Hanisch’s national award.

Diane Hanisch

“This award is designed to help pay tribute to an individual for long or special service. It recognizes outstanding dedication, service and contribution to your organization. It is for someone who has made a significant impact on the quality of your organization. Diane has done just that with per professionalism and charm. She is a gem! Not only can she calm the nerves of a 12-year-old singing a solo, but others who are singing in front of 700 people for the first time. She arranges and writes the music, gathers her professional band, and conducts the show with aplomb. Diane cares as much about our legacy as anyone involved on the Arts for Life Board. No one is more deserving,” she said.

The annual Youth Scholarships, which are awarded to two students pursuing a degree in the arts, were announced, with Alaina Bozarth, a graduate of Metro East Lutheran High School, and Josiah Haan, a graduate of Fort Zumwalt High School, each given $500. Bozarth plans to major in musical theatre at Belmont University in Louisville, Ky., and Haan plans to major in technical theatre and design at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo.

Other ensemble nominees include “Hello, Dolly!” from Wentzville Christian Church, “Oklahoma!” from Monroe Actors Stage Company and “The Bridges of Madison County” from Alpha Players of Florissant for Best Large Ensemble and “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” from O’Fallon TheatreWorks for Best Small Ensemble.

For Best Youth Production, in addition to “Les Miserables,” nominees include “The Drowsy Chaperone” from Riverbend Theatre, “Matilda” from Gateway Center for the Performing Arts, “Newsies” from Young People’s Theatre and “Spring Awakening” from Gateway Center for the Performing Arts.

CMP’s Oklahoma!

For the record books, Kimberly Klick won her sixth BPA for choreography for CMP’s “Oklahoma!”. She had previously won for CMP’s “Mary Poppins” and “The King and I,” plus “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” “Big the Musical” and “Fiddler on the Roof” for other companies. It was her 10th overall, including wins for Best Featured Dancer in “Brigadoon” in 2000, Lead Actress for Millie in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” 2006 and Jo in “Little Women” in 2008, and Cameo Actress in “Titanic” 2003.

It was three in a row for Jonathan Hartley, who won for lighting design of “Oklahoma!” and had won last year for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at DaySpring Center for the Arts; he won for set design for DSA’s “Little Shop of Horrors” in 2017. Stephanie Fox won her third in four years for choreography in Gateway Center for the Performing Arts shows – “Spring Awakening” 2019, “Carrie the Musical” 2017 and “Thoroughly Modern Millie” 2016. Terry Pattison also won her third for costume design since 2017: “Peter Pan,” “The Lion King Jr.” and “Les Miz,” all for Goshen Theatre Project, and won set design for “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” in 2018.

Joe Paule Sr. won his third for musical direction, for CMP’s “Oklahoma!”, following CMP’s “The King and I” in 2014 and Hawthorne Players’ “The Producers” in 2010. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award last year. It was the second award for Michael Frazier and Alison Neace for musical direction, this year for Riverbend Theatre’s “The Drowsy Chaperone” and for Alton Little Theatre’s “The Spitfire Grill” in 2011.

Other multiple winners included two for Alpha Players of Florissant’s “The Bridges of Madison County” for Lead Actor (Cole Guttmann) and Cameo Actress (Chelsie Johnston) and Take a Bow Showcase for “Annie” – juvenile performer (Leontine Rickert) and duo/group (Matthew Joost and Carole Ann Miller).

Winners Will Shaw and Kimmie Kidd-Booker in “Nice Work If You Can Get It”

In the acting categories, Mike Huelsmann’s award for Best Featured Actor as Jud Fry was his third, after Lead Actor as Javert in Take Two Productions’ “Les Miz” (2013) and as part of Best Duo/Group in Looking Glass Playhouse’s “Young Frankenstein” 2015. Kimmie Kidd-Booker’s award for Best Featured Actress as Estonia Dulworth in “Nice Work If You Can Get It” was her second win, after Best Featured Actress in “The Wiz” in 2014. George Doerr IV won his second, as Igor in Alfresco’s “Young Frankenstein,” after winning Best Actor in 2017 for Alfresco’s “The Rocky Horror Show.”

The virtual program included the following production team: directors Mary McCreight and David Wicks Jr., video supervisor Kim Klick, visual designers Colin Dowd and Bethany Hamilton, voice-over announcer Ken Clark and host Karen Fulks.

A list of winners is included here, below.

AFL’s Theatre Mask Awards was originally set for April 4, then moved to July 18, but now will also be a virtual celebration. The 2020 TMAs will honor excellence in community theater productions of dramas and comedies during 2019 in a live interactive viewing event at 11 a.m. Saturday, July 18, on the AFL Facebook page and YouTube Channel. The awards show will be recorded beforehand and the content will remain on social media.

On March 16, McCreight suspended all public activities of the AFL organization because of the public health crisis. The extension has been extended until further notice. Both TRG and TMA branch judges and participating groups will receive announcements on future developments. As the region re-opens, social distancing and wearing face coverings continues. At this time, all AFL performance venues remain closed.

“I am incredibly grateful to all of our constituencies – the board, judges, participating groups, audience members and donors – for their commitment to AFL and their engagement and unwavering support of our local theatre community during these uncertain times,” McCreight said.

Any company that won can have a representative pick up their trophies on July 19 from 1 to 3 p.m. in the parking lot of Clayton Community Theatre, which is located at the Washington University South Campus Theatre, 6501 Clayton Road, St. Louis, MO 63117.

Riverbend Theatre’s The Drowsy Chaperone

A souvenir program is available to download online: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1YlomcYjVNqDNqmPTCrYGSjnAtDwkn9QT/view

A limited number of copies will be available for purchase as well.

For more information, contact AFL TRG Secretary Kim Klick at [email protected]

To see a list of the 2019 nominees and winners, as well as the awards history 1999-2019, visit the website: www.artsforlife.org

Follow AFL on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

2020 Best Performance Award Winners:

Best Musical Production Large Ensemble: “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” Kirkwood Theatre Guild

Best Musical Production Small Ensemble: “A New Brain,” Hawthorne Players

Best Youth Musical Production: “Les Miserables: School Edition,” Goshen Theatre Project

Best Director: Dani Mann, “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” Kirkwood Theatre Project

Best Musical Direction: Kathy Eichelberger and Joseph Paule Jr., “Oklahoma!” Christ Memorial Productions

Best Choreography: Kimberly Klick, “Oklahoma!” Christ Memorial Productions

Best Lead Actor: Cole Guttmann, “The Bridges of Madison County, “Alpha Players of Florissant

Best Lead Actress: Jaclyn Amber, “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” Kirkwood Theatre Guild

Best Featured Actor: Mike Huelsmann, “Oklahoma!” Christ Memorial Productions

Best Featured Actress: Kimmie Kidd-Booker, “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” Kirkwood Theatre Guild

Best Supporting Actor: Caleb Long, “Oklahoma!” Christ Memorial Productions

Best Supporting Actress: Dianne M. Mueller, “Oklahoma!” Christ Memorial Productions

Best Actor in a Comedic Role: George Doerr IV, “Young Frankenstein,” Alfresco Productions

Best Actress in a Comedic Role: Margery Handy, “The Wizard of Oz,” Alton Little Theater

Best Cameo Actor: Jacob Streuter, “Jesus Christ Superstar,” Looking Glass Playhouse

Best Cameo Actress: Chelsie Johnston, “The Bridges of Madison County,” Alpha Players of Florissant

Best Actor in a Non-Singing Role: Will Shaw, “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” Kirkwood Theatre Guild

Best Actress in a Non-Singing Role: Maria Wilken, “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” Kirkwood Theatre Guild

Best Duo/Group: Matthew Joost and Carole Ann Miller, “Annie,” Take A Bow Showcase

Best Set Design: Matt Dossett, “The Little Shop of Horrors,” Monroe Actors Stage Company

Best Lighting Design: Jonathan Hartley, “Oklahoma!” Christ Memorial Productions

Best Costume Design: Krysta Wenski, “Oklahoma!” Christ Memorial Productions

Best Juvenile Performer: Leontine Rickert, “Annie,” Take a Bow Showcase

Best Youth Director: Kristi Doering, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” Riverbend Theatre

Best Youth Music Direction: Michael Frazier and Alison Neace, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” Riverbend Theatre

Best Youth Choreography: Stephanie Fox, “Spring Awakening,” Gateway Center for the Performing Arts

Best Youth Lead Actor: Jayson Heil, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” Riverbend Theatre

Best Youth Lead Actress: Alli McDonald, “Once Upon a Mattress,” St. John’s UCC Performing Arts Camp

Best Youth Supporting Actor: Will Dery, “Newsies,” Young People’s Theatre

Best Youth Supporting Actress: Natalie Cochran, “Les Miserables School Edition,” Goshen Theatre Project

Best Youth Costume Design: Terry Pattison, “Les Miserables School Edition,” Goshen Theatre Project

Best Youth Set Design: Brisby Andrews and Greg Rackers, “Newsies,” Young People’s Theatre

Best Youth Lighting Design: Halli Pattison and Blake Churchill, “Les Miserables School Edition,” Goshen Theatre Project



By Lynn VenhausManaging EditorWe Are Family — that’s the running theme of several productions opening or continuing their runs: “August: Osage County” at Kirkwood Theatre Guild, “La Cage Aux Folles” at New Line Theatre, “Farce of Habit” at KTK Productions and “Well” at Mustard Seed Theatre.And also the family that you make — “Company” at Over Due, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” at Theatre Guild of Webster Groves, “Avenue Q” at the Playhouse at Westport and “The Glitter Girls” at Webster Groves.The Carole King musical “Beautiful” comes to the Fox for a limited run and “Nonsense and Beauty” opens at The Rep’s Studio Theatre.Whether it’s deep-diving drama or lighthearted comedy, or catchy musicals that you are in the mood for, GO SEE A PLAY!

Photo by Lori Biehl“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”O’Fallon Theatre WorksMarch 1-3 and 8-10Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m.O’Fallon City HallTickets: www.ofallon.mo.usTickets are on sale now at the Renaud Spirit Center and at the box office, which opens one hour before each show.What It’s About: Winner of the Tony and the Drama Desk Awards for Best Book, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is a musical comedy with a funny book by Rachel Sheinkin and a vibrant musical score by William Finn.

An eclectic group of six adolescents vies for the spelling championship of a lifetime. While candidly disclosing hilarious and touching stories from their home lives, the tweens spell their way through a series of (potentially made-up) words, hoping never to hear the soul-crushing, pout-inducing, life un-affirming “ding” of the bell that signals a spelling mistake. Six spellers enter; one speller leaves! At least the losers get juice boxes.

A riotous ride complete with audience participation, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is a fast-paced crowd-pleasing comedy.

Director: Melissa Boyer, with music director Wendi Dicken and choreographer Cameron Bopp.Starring: Ann Hier Brown, Mark Killmer, Benni Jillette, James McKinzie, Ben Ketcherside, Josh Towers, Hayden Hays, Mia Porcelli and Stefanie Kluba. 

“August: Osage County”Kirkwood Theatre GuildMarch 8 – 17Roger G. Reim Theatre111 S. Geyer Roadwww.ktg-onstage.org314-821-9956What It’s About: Winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award for Best New Play, “August: Osage County” centers around the Weston family, brought together after their patriarch, world-class poet and alcoholic, Beverly Weston, disappears. The matriarch, Violet, depressed and addicted to pills and “truth-telling,” is joined by her three daughters who harbor their own deep secrets. More family arrives, equally well-trained in the Weston family art of cruelty. Bursting with humor, vivacity and intelligence.

“Avenue Q” The Playhouse at Westport PlazaJan. 25 – March 17www.playhouseatwestport.com

What It’s About: Part flesh, part felt and packed with heart, “Avenue Q” is a laugh-out-loud musical telling the story of Princeton, a college grad who moves into the city with big dreams and a tiny bank account. He and his Avenue Q neighbors struggle to find jobs, dates and their life’s purpose.

Director: Lee Anne Mathews, with Music Director Charlie Mueller

Starring: Andrew Keeler, Brent Ambler, Jennifer Theby-Quinn, Kevin O’Brien, Grace Langford, Illeana Kirven, April Strelinger

Of Note: For mature audiences. “Avenue Q” won three Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

Sarah Bockel as Carole King.“Beautiful – The Carole King Musical”Fox TheatreMarch 12-17Performances are Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m., and Sunday at 1 p.m. Matinee March 14 at 1 p.m.What It’s About: The life of composer Carole King.

“Company”Over Due TheatreMarch 1-3, 8-108 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. SundayOlivette Community Center9723 Grandview314-210-2959www.overduetheatrecompany.com

What It’s About: First produced in 1970, Company was nominated for a record-setting fourteen Tony Awards and won six, including Best Musical. Company takes an unvarnished look at marriage through the eyes of Bobby who, unmarried on his thirty-fifth birthday, finds himself lost in the company of his married friends. With his trademark wit and sophistication, Stephen Sondheim examines the flawed nature of human relationships as Bobby journeys towards the realization that, in spite of all of his friends’ failings, there is no point in “Being Alive” unless he has someone with whom to share it.

“Farce of Habit”KTK ProductionsMarch 8 – 17Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. St. John the Baptist Church 4200 Delorwww.kurtainkall.org314-351-8984 What It’s About: This absurdly funny Southern-fried romp takes us back to the Reel ‘Em Inn fishing lodge where this bizarre family guides you through a new series of preposterous events in “Farce of Habit.” Add to the original characters a gaggle of nuns on retreat, a nationally known relationship guru, a shy retiree and a couple of women who may (or may not be) who they claim to be. Throw in an approaching “storm of the century” and the fact that there is an axe murderer on the loose and you will be laughing your way through the lunacy of another Jones, Hope and Wooten comedy.

“The Glitter Girls”Alton Little TheaterMarch 1- 10Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.2450 North Henry in Alto618.462.6562www.altonlittletheater.org.

What It’s About: A brand new play economically described as “Steel Magnolias” meets “Survivor,” with a big dose of quirky humor thrown in for good measure. A strong ensemble play, which questions the wisdom of sudden wealth and the bonds of friendship.

Of Note: Sunday, March 10 is sold out.

Robert Doyle and Zak Farmer. Photo by Jill Ritter Lindberg.“La Cage Aux Folles”New Line TheatreFeb. 28 – March 23Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.Marcelle Theater, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drivewww.newlinetheatre.com

Tickets: MetroTix.com

What It’s About: What happens when the son of a middle-aged gay couple brings home the daughter of an arch-conservative politician — and her parents — for dinner? Musical comedy ensues.

“La Cage Aux Folles” takes place on the French Riviera for a night of love, laughs, illusions and truths, and the triumph of family over bullies and bigots.

Based on the 1973 French play and its 1978 film adaptation, “La Cage Aux Folles” tells the story of a middle-aged show business couple, grappling with aging, fidelity, kids, and holding on to their dignity when the world around them would rather strip it away. At the center is Georges, a St. Tropez nightclub owner, and his husband Albin, who is also the club’s erratic headliner Zaza. When Georges’ son gets engaged to the daughter of a right-wing politician, we see the politics and culture wars of 2019, at their most ridiculous and most fevered, onstage right in front of us.

Director: Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor, with music direction by Nicolas Valdez and choreography by Michelle Sauer and Sara Rae Womack.Starring: Zachary Allen Farmer (Albin/Zaza), Robert Doyle (Georges), Kevin Corpuz (Jean-Michel), Tielere Cheatem (Jacob), Zora Vredeveld (Anne), Kent Coffel (M. Dindon), Mara Bollini (Mme. Dindon), Lindsey Jones (Jacqueline), Joel Hackbarth (Francis), and as the notorious Cagelles – Jake Blonstein, Dominic Dowdy-Windsor, Evan Fornachon, Tim Kaniecki, Clayton Humburg, and Ian McCreary..

Of Note: In its original 1983 production, the show was a safely old-fashioned musical comedy. But in its 2008 London revival and 2010 Broadway revival, the show was transformed from a lightweight comedy into a more serious story with a lot of laughs.

The original 1983 Broadway production ran four years and 1,761 performances. The show received nine Tony nominations and won six, including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book — beating out Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George. It’s been revived on Broadway and in London multiple times.

. ©Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr.“Nonsense and Beauty”The Repertory Theatre of St. LouisEmerson Studio TheatreMarch 6 – 24www.repstl.org314-What It’s About: In 1930, the writer E.M. Forster met and fell in love with a policeman 23 years his junior. Their relationship, very risky for its time, evolved into a 40-year love triangle that was both turbulent and unique. Based on a true story, Nonsense and Beauty captures the wit and wisdom of one of the last century’s great writers. This world premiere was developed as part of The Rep’s 2018 Ignite! Festival of New Plays.Director: Seth GordonStarring: Jeffrey Hayenga, Robbie Simpson, John Feltch, Lori Vega and Donna Weinsting.

“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”The Theatre Guild of Webster GrovesMarch 1-3, 7-10Shows at 8 p.m., except Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. 517 Theatre Lane, Webster GrovesTickets are available only at the door (cash or check). Sorry, we do not take advanced reservationswww.theatreguildwg.org 314-962-0876

What It’s About: Ken Kesey’s iconic counter-culture novel is set in a psychiatric hospital, where convicted criminal McMurphy winds up. He challenges authority and changes patients’ lives. This is the play adaptation, which was turned into an Oscar-winning film.

Director: Jessica Johns-Kelly.

Starring: Jerry Crump, Matthew Linhardt, Betsy Gasoske, Greg Savel, Tyler Crandall, Hal Morgan, Jason Blackburn, David Eiben, Christian Davis, Sherre Ward, Scott Ewers, Russ Leonard, Donald Kidd, Aaron Mermelstein, Noreen Ann G. Rhodes and Amie Bossi.

Of Note: This show contains content not suitable for children.

The Theatre Guild of Webster Groves is very old historic building with many steps and is not handicapped or wheelchair accessible.

“Twelfth Night”St. Charles Community CollegeMarch 6 – 10Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 10 a.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m.SCC Center Stage Theater in the Donald D. Shook Fine Arts Building on the campus at 4601 Mid Rivers Mall Drive in Cottlevillewww.stchas.edu636-922-8050 What It’s About: Stranded on the coast of Illyria, the quick-witted Viola assumes the disguise of a pageboy for Duke Orsino and finds herself at the center of an explosive love triangle in which identity, passion and gender all threaten to come undone. Bursting with vitality and romance, this delightful abbreviated version of “Twelfth Night” gives us one of Shakespeare’s most remarkable heroines matching wits with a host of captivating characters–from the love-struck Olivia to the puritanical Malvolio.

“Two Degrees”Tesseract Theatre CompanyMarch 8 – 17Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.The .ZACK, 3224 Locust in Midtownwww.tesseracttheatre.org

What It’s About: In a new play by Tira Palmquist, , Emma Phelps is a paleoclimatologist, focusing on ice in Greenland. In drilling and studying ice core samples, she sees first hand the symptoms of our changing planet, which makes the need to act all the more crucial and urgent. In addition to her growing sense of urgency for the planet, Emma, as a recent widow, experiences grief that compounds itself with each passing month. Now she’s been asked to come to Washington D.C. to testify in a Senate Committee regarding climate change legislation, and in this intersection of science and politics, of politics and the personal, she finds more than just a little is breaking up under the strain of change.

“Well”Mustard Seed TheatreFontbonne Fine Arts Theatre314-719-8060www.mustardseedtheatre.com

What It’s About: Lisa Kron’s experimental play intends to explore racial and religious integration and cultural concepts of health. She does not want to talk about her Mother, who unexpectedly joins her on stage. What could possibly go wrong?

Director: Deanna Jent

Starring: Lori Adams, Katy Keating, Alicia Reve Like, Carl Overly Jr., Robert Thibault and Leslie Wobbe.

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
The March winds are blowing in snow and ice, with productions starting strong,
and there is a mix of classic musicals, hard-hitting dramas and hilarious
comedies on local stages.

It’s the last weekend to catch the absorbing “Oslo” at the
Rep, the tenth anniversary “Rock of Ages” tour comes to The Fox, and “Avenue Q”
is extended at The Playhouse at Westport. New musicals opening include “The 25th
Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” “Company,” “La Cage Aux Folles.”
Wash U continues with “Angels in America” and SLU presents “The Misanthrope.”

“Well” opens at Mustard Seed Theatre, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s
Nest” at Theatre Guild of Webster Groves, and “The Glitter Girls” at Alton
Little Theatre. The Black Rep’s “Milk Like Sugar” continues at The Black Rep.

Roar back and go see a play!

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” O’Fallon Theatre Works March 1-3 and 8-10 Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. O’Fallon City Hall Tickets: www.ofallon.mo.us Tickets are on sale now at the Renaud Spirit Center and at the box office, which opens one hour before each show. What It’s About: Winner of the Tony and the Drama Desk Awards for Best Book, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is a musical comedy with a funny book by Rachel Sheinkin and a vibrant musical score by William Finn.

An eclectic group of six adolescents vies for the spelling
championship of a lifetime. While candidly disclosing hilarious and touching
stories from their home lives, the tweens spell their way through a series of
(potentially made-up) words, hoping never to hear the soul-crushing,
pout-inducing, life un-affirming “ding” of the bell that signals a spelling
mistake. Six spellers enter; one speller leaves! At least the losers get juice
boxes.

A riotous ride complete with audience participation, “The
25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is a fast-paced crowd-pleasing comedy.

Director: Melissa Boyer, with music director Wendi Dicken and choreographer Cameron Bopp. Starring: Ann Hier Brown, Mark Killmer, Benni Jillette, James McKinzie, Ben Ketcherside, Josh Towers, Hayden Hays, Mia Porcelli and Stefanie Kluba.

FRIDAY, FEB. 1, 2019 – This is a promotional photo for “Angels in America” by Washington University’s Performing Arts Department. Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr./WUSTL Photos “Angels in America, Part 1: Millennium Approaches” The Performing Arts Department at Washington University Feb. 22 – March 3 Thursdays and Fridays at 7 p.m., 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Edison Theatre Tickets: 314-935-6543 or visit pad.artsci.wustl.edu What It’s About: an epic that ranges from earth to heaven; focuses on politics, sex and religion; transports us to Washington, the Kremlin, the South Bronx, Salt Lake City and Antarctica; deals with Jews, Mormons, WASPs, blacks; switches between realism and fantasy, from the tragedy of AIDS to the camp comedy of drag queens to the death or at least the absconding of God.

“Avenue Q” The Playhouse at Westport Plaza Jan. 25 – March 3 www.playhouseatwestport.com

What It’s About: Part flesh, part felt and packed with
heart, “Avenue Q” is a laugh-out-loud musical telling the story of Princeton, a
college grad who moves into the city with big dreams and a tiny bank account.
He and his Avenue Q neighbors struggle to find jobs, dates and their life’s
purpose.

Director: Lee Anne Mathews, with Music Director Charlie
Mueller

Starring: Andrew Keeler, Brent Ambler, Jennifer
Theby-Quinn, Kevin O’Brien, Grace Langford, Illeana Kirven, April Strelinger

Of Note: For mature audiences. “Avenue Q” won three Tony
Awards, including Best Musical.

“Company” Over Due Theatre March 1-3, 8-10 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday Olivette Community Center 9723 Grandview 314-210-2959 www.overduetheatrecompany.com

What It’s About: First produced in 1970, Company was
nominated for a record-setting fourteen Tony Awards and won six, including Best
Musical. Company takes an unvarnished look at marriage through the eyes of
Bobby who, unmarried on his thirty-fifth birthday, finds himself lost in the
company of his married friends. With his trademark wit and sophistication,
Stephen Sondheim examines the flawed nature of human relationships as Bobby
journeys towards the realization that, in spite of all of his friends’
failings, there is no point in “Being Alive” unless he has someone with whom to
share it.

“The Glitter Girls” Alton Little Theatre March 1- 10 Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. 2450 North Henry in Alto 618.462.6562 www.altonlittletheater.org.

What It’s About: A brand new play economically described as
“Steel Magnolias” meets “Survivor,” with a big dose of quirky humor thrown in
for good measure. A strong ensemble play, which questions the wisdom of sudden
wealth and the bonds of friendship.  

“La Cage Aux Folles” New Line Theatre Feb. 28 – March 23 Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. Marcelle Theater, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drivewww.newlinetheatre.com

Tickets: MetroTix.com

What It’s About: What happens when the son of a middle-aged
gay couple brings home the daughter of an arch-conservative politician — and
her parents — for dinner? Musical comedy ensues.

“La Cage Aux Folles” takes place on the French Riviera for
a night of love, laughs, illusions and truths, and the triumph of family over
bullies and bigots.

Based on the 1973 French play and its 1978 film adaptation,
“La Cage Aux Folles” tells the story of a middle-aged show business couple,
grappling with aging, fidelity, kids, and holding on to their dignity when the
world around them would rather strip it away. At the center is Georges, a St.
Tropez nightclub owner, and his husband Albin, who is also the club’s erratic
headliner Zaza. When Georges’ son gets engaged to the daughter of a right-wing
politician, we see the politics and culture wars of 2019, at their most
ridiculous and most fevered, onstage right in front of us.

Director: Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor, with music
direction by Nicolas Valdez and choreography by Michelle Sauer and Sara Rae
Womack.
Starring: Zachary Allen Farmer (Albin/Zaza), Robert Doyle (Georges), Kevin
Corpuz (Jean-Michel), Tielere Cheatem (Jacob), Zora Vredeveld (Anne), Kent
Coffel (M. Dindon), Mara Bollini (Mme. Dindon), Lindsey Jones (Jacqueline),
Joel Hackbarth (Francis), and as the notorious Cagelles – Jake Blonstein,
Dominic Dowdy-Windsor, Evan Fornachon, Tim Kaniecki, Clayton Humburg, and Ian
McCreary..

Of Note: In its original 1983 production, the show was a
safely old-fashioned musical comedy. But in its 2008 London revival and 2010
Broadway revival, the show was transformed from a lightweight comedy into a
more serious story with a lot of laughs.

The original 1983 Broadway production ran four years and
1,761 performances. The show received nine Tony nominations and won six,
including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book — beating out Sondheim’s
Sunday in the Park with George. It’s been revived on Broadway and in London
multiple times.

“Milk Like Sugar”

 “The Misanthrope” Saint Louis University TheatreFeb. 28 – March 3Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.Kranzberg Arts Center Black Box501 N. Grand Blvd.Tickets through metrotix.com or 314.534-1111.

What It’s About: This Molière classic looks at the hypocrisy of society and the consequences of total honesty and will be directed by Lucy Cashion.Of Note: The additional Saturday matinee was scheduled due to the limited seating at the venue. A seating policy is in place for this production: unfilled seats will be released 7 minutes prior to the start of the show.Yourcooperation is appreciated.

“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” The Theatre Guild of Webster Groves March 1-3, 7-10 Shows at 8 p.m., except Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. 517 Theatre Lane, Webster Groves Tickets are available only at the door (cash or check). Sorry, we do not take advanced reservations www.theatreguildwg.org 314-962-0876

What It’s About: Ken Kesey’s iconic counter-culture novel
is set in a psychiatric hospital, where convicted criminal McMurphy winds up.
He challenges authority and changes patients’ lives. This is the play adaptation,
which was turned into an Oscar-winning film.

Director: Jessica Johns-Kelly.

Starring: Jerry Crump, Matthew Linhardt, Betsy Gasoske,
Greg Savel, Tyler Crandall, Hal Morgan, Jason Blackburn, David Eiben, Christian
Davis, Sherre Ward, Scott Ewers, Russ Leonard, Donald Kidd, Aaron Mermelstein,
Noreen Ann G. Rhodes and Amie Bossi.

Of Note: This show contains content not suitable for
children.

The Theatre Guild of Webster Groves is very old historic
building with many steps and is not handicapped or wheelchair assessable.

Photo by Peter Wochniak

“Oslo” Feb. 8 – March 3 The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis 130 Edgar Road, St. Louiswww.repstl.org 314-968-4925 What It’s About: The winner of the 2017 Tony Award for Best Play, this play by J.T. Rogers is set in 1993, when two bitter enemies shocked the world by shaking hands and agreeing to work towards peace. “Oslo” finds the unlikely story behind the historic event. The drama explores the secretive and precarious negotiations that made that moment possible and focuses on the Norwegian couple who brokered talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. Director: Steven Woolf Starring: Jim Poulos, Kathleen Wise, Rajesh Bose, Ben Graney, Jerry Vogel, Michael James Reed, Amro Salama, John Rensenhouse, Michelle Hand, Jonathan Gillard Daly, Jeff Cummings, Jim Shankman, Chaunery Kingsford Tanguay, Jack Theiling and Tom Wethington. Of Note: “Oslo” is recommended for adult audiences. The show contains strong adult language and weighty discussions about global politics and diplomatic relations.

“Rock of Ages” The Fox Theatre March 1-3 Friday at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at 2 and 7:30 p.m, and Sunday at 1 and 6:30 pm,. The Fox Theatre is at 527 North Grand in Grand Centerwww.fabulousfox.com What It’s About: Nominated for five Tony Awards®, including Best Musical, Rock of Ages” captures the iconic era that was the big bad 1980s Hollywood. Know What Love Is, Feel the Noise, and Take Your Best Shot at one of the Sunset Strip’s last epic venues, a place where the legendary Stacee Jaxx returns to the stage and rock-n-roll dreamers line up to turn their fantasies into reality. Featuring the music of hit bands such as Styx, Poison, Twisted Sister, and Whitesnake among many others, this Tenth Anniversary production features a dynamic new cast revisiting the larger than life characters and exhilarating story that turned the musical into a global phenomenon. This is one for the ages that will have you singing “Here I Go Again.”

“Well” Mustard Seed Theatre Fontbonne Fine Arts Theatre 314-719-8060www.mustardseedtheatre.com What It’s About: Lisa Kron’s experimental play intends to explore racial and religious integration and cultural concepts of health. She does not want to talk about her Mother, who unexpectedly joins her on stage. What could possibly go wrong?