By Lynn Venhaus
The sights and sounds of nights gone by are such a welcome sentimental journey on the exciting new online Muny Mondays.

But the variety show is not all a “Remember When” montage, and that is what sets it apart. With a fresh batch of pixie dust, the Muny’s second episode of its smash hit Summer Variety Hour Live more than met expectations after such a sensational series launch July 20.

Rob McClure and Maggie Lakis

If you were curious as to how they could top the inaugural show, now that we know the formula, one look at the lineup beforehand answered that quickly. Tony nominee Taylor Louderman singing live under the Culver Pavilion! Tony nominee and fan favorite Rob McClure, versatile veteran of six Muny shows, singing “Suddenly Seymour” with his wife Maggie Lakis, who has been in two Muny musicals, from their home in Philadelphia. McClure’s Muny debut was “Little Shop of Horrors” in 2011, so that was fitting. The cast of 2017’s spectacular “The Little Mermaid,” lead by Commodore Primous III as Sebastian, reuniting to sing a buoyant “Under the Sea.” I mean, the deck was stacked.

The best way to describe the ebb and flow of the carefully curated selection of acts is to compare it to a multi-course gourmet dinner especially crafted to include favorite dishes, comfort food, bold choices and unique taste treats, every bite bursting with flavor.

When the “Wow” factors were unveiled — those unforgettable Muny moments that you will always recall with awe, so grateful to have experienced it in person – they blew me away. It isn’t hard to pick five, ten or 20 out of your head if you are a regular. (We probably share some of the same ones – we’ll have to compare notes).

And this supersonic flash came from two performers I saw in ensembles but did not know their names: Nkeki Obi-Melekwe and Chloe O. Davis. I will never forget them now.

Nkeki Obi-Melekwe

Nkeki soared singing “If You Knew My Story” from “Bright Star” during her time, a selection to reinforce color-blind casting. Nkeki, a Michigan graduate, appeared in the Muny’s 2017 “All Shook Up” and went on to play Tina Turner in “Tina the Musical” in London’s West End in April 2019, then move to Broadway in October.

If you are unfamiliar with “Bright Star,” the musical by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, it came out the same year “Hamilton” did and lost the Tony Award for Best Musical to the landmark show in 2016.

Chloe O. Davis, a dancer who grew up in St. Louis and was in “All Shook Up” and “The Wiz” in recent years, was featured in “My Tribute to Black Broadway and Black Choreography: I Thrive Now Because You Dared Then,” a dance she conceived and choreographed.

As she used Forest Park as her stage, she gave us a history lesson that stirred “all the feels.” She created the styles of famous black choreographers, using audio and visual clips in addition to her dance moves – East St. Louis’ international icon Katherine Dunham, George Faison, Debbie Allen, Hope Clarke, Gregory Hines, Donald Byrd, Bill T. Jones and Camille A. Brown among them.

Chloe O Davis

Moving. Powerful. Elegant. Truly a shining moment.

A delightful song-and-dance interlude was courtesy of three dynamos Maya Bowles, Trevor Michael Schmidt and Gabi Stapula, whose high-spirited “There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This” from “Sweet Charity” captured our anxiety and their eagerness to get back to the business of entertaining. These chorus gypsies reminded us how ensemble cohesiveness is so important to any big splashy musical.

Gabi also works with the Muny Teens, and their fun-loving mashup of “Bring On the Monsters” from “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical” and “Drive It Like You Stole It” from “Sing Street” again showcased how talented some local students are – and their sunny dispositions. I’m a big fan of the 2016 movie “Sing Street,” which is writer-director John Carney’s third film about the transforming power of music (“Once” and “Begin Again”), and its stage adaptation was set to open on Broadway in April after rave reviews off-Broadway.

The power ‘hour’ also featured behind-the-scenes stories about what’s happening at The Muny, including being able to pull off the stunning fireworks at the Centennial Gala, and the amusing game show throwback Munywood Squares. With interesting fun facts, hosted by Gordon Greenberg and featuring nine Muny performers in the Zoom grid,  including E. Faye Butler, J. Harrison Ghee, Ann Harada, Raymond J. Lee, Vicki Lewis, Steve Rosen, Jeffrey Schecter, John Scherer and Christopher Sieber. This week’s good sport contestants were photographer Phillip Hamer and Muny company manager Sue Greenberg. Fun remembering the raccoon who waddled on to the stage in “The Addams Family” in 2014!

Taylor Louderman

On an intermittent rainy night, star Taylor Louderman was accompanied by four socially distanced musicians, to sing live the power ballad “Astonishing” from “Little Women.” Always nice to include a female empowerment song, this one from Louisa May Alcott’s timeless and timely heroine, Jo March. From Bourbon, Mo., 60 miles southwest of St. Louis, Taylor went from Muny Teen to Tony nominee as Regina George in “Mean Girls.” She made her Broadway debut in 2012’s “Bring It On!,” has been in seven Muny shows and won the St. Louis Theater Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical for last summer’s “Kinky Boots.” (And this year, finished her bachelor’s degree that she had started at Michigan in 2009 and was married five weeks ago to Brooks Toth).

The archival footage of past summer shows is a fond trip down memory lane, starting with Muny titans Beth Leavel and Ben Davis in 2015’s “Oklahoma!” Leavel, Tony winner for “The Drowsy Chaperone” and nominee for ‘The Prom,” is a frequent St. Louis Theater Circle Award nominee, winning for her Mamma Rose in 2018 “Gypsy.” Davis, seen last year as Sky Masterson in “Guys and Dolls,” has been nominated multiple times, and once joked during an interview that he is the ‘Susan Lucci’ of the Circle Awards.

Davis was in the now legendary production of “Spamalot” in 2013 as Sir Galahad. Host Mike Isaacson introduced “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” which holds the distinction of being the most popular song at funerals, pointing out how weather affected the show. I remember that on opening night June 17, a steady rain was falling after torrential downpours for days preceding it. So, there was little opportunity to rehearse outdoors. The audience for the show opener of the 95th season was so eager to see this Muny premiere that we came in droves with our umbrellas — and were mightily rewarded.

It’s a night I’ll never forget. During the curtain call, actor John O’Hurley, playing King Arthur, stopped the show to introduce Monty Python founder and show creator Eric Idle! Whoops, cheers and thunderous applause! Everyone on their feet. I turned to my companion and said: “We are in the presence of a Python!” Oh, be still my heart. It was pure bliss – he led us in “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” after mentioning this was the largest audience to ever see the musical and he wanted to see if we could get in the Guinness Book of World Records for our sing-a-long.

Oh, what a night! I had the good fortune to interview John O’Hurley later that fall when he was touring as Billy Flynn in “Chicago,” and we had a pleasant conversation about that enchanted evening.

Another splendid memory was shared with the incredible “We’re in the Money” from the extraordinary 2016 production of “42nd Street,” choreographed by Denis Jones, St. Louis Theater Circle Award winner. That curtain call – go see it on YouTube – as the cast cascaded down a staircase will go down as my favorite (next to “A Chorus Line”) in Muny history.

All these elements are what make summer nights special at the Muny, and spotlighting the world-class talent – from the musical theater majors from the best schools in the country to the stars with Broadway credentials — who come together in Forest Park – is one I like to emphasize. Years ago, seasons were headlined by ‘names’ – mostly from TV – and while recognizable, I much prefer having the best talent possible give us their all on that stage. Drama geek that I am, I read all the bios and notice who returns to the Muny, who creates magic on the stage, or is given the part of a lifetime.

And in that spirit, the Summer Variety Hour Live emphasizes how many parts make each show happen.

And it is a warm, familiar embrace at a time we all need a hug.

On July 20, The Muny 2020 Summer Variety Hour Live! drew more than 30,000 viewers from across the U.S. and around the world. This total sets a new, record-breaking first in The Muny’s live-streaming history.

On July 27, we were connected by the calypso beat of newly crowned EGOT winner Alan Menken, the banjo picking of brilliant Steve Martin, the Britpop synthesizer of ‘80s New Wave, the zaniness of silly comic geniuses, homages to Busby Berkeley and Broadway chestnuts, the triumph of a ‘local’ small-town girl with a dream, sweetness, sincerity, showmances and people who think sitting under those stars in St. Louis is like coming home.

These shows (5 total, 3 left) are exclusive, one-time-only streams and will not be available after the Thursday night airing. The July 30 re-airing will include audio description and captions. The link is: youtube.com/themunytv

The Muny’s online 2020 season is sponsored by World Wide Technology. Episode 1 was made possible by US Bank and Episode 2 by Edward Jones. They announce the next lineup every Wednesday.

By Lynn Venhaus
With magic to do and the ‘Lou turning its lonely eyes to them, the Muny blazed another trail Monday with its introduction of “The Muny Summer Variety Hour Live!”

The first episode was a nifty package of show tunes, personalities, bouncy sing-a-longs, behind the scenes with dedicated staff and several special live moments, all shared on social media in real time by an audience spanning coast to coast. (Latest figures: 25,000 tuned in!).

Oh, what a treat to be reminded of what makes the Municipal Opera so special for 102 years – and not only because it is the oldest and largest outdoor theater in the country, but because it is “our Muny,” right here in St. Louis. And summer isn’t really summer until the Muny opens.

Two of our hometown’s greatest showmen – Lara Teeter and Ken Page – entertained us in royal fashion, with Tony nominee Lara recreating a vintage musical dance he called “Take Me Away!” as his fleet feet took him throughout the great expanse of the Muny grounds one sunny day. He was joined by his son Charlie in the segment.

And live, from the Culver Pavilion, with four musicians socially distanced, the regal Ken Page sang “Memory,” the signature song from “Cats,” in a showstopper that was one for the ages. Night had fallen, and this stage legend gave an emotional powerful rendition. Chills. Leaky eyes.

Add it to the countless memorable Muny moments we have experienced over the years, even though it was remote. We all felt it sitting in our living rooms.

When host Mike Isaacson, Muny executive producer and artistic director, began this maiden voyage from backstage, he said: “We are together in real time.” He is always mindful of being entrusted with the Muny legacy.

I literally burst into tears. I didn’t realize how badly we, well me, needed such a pick-me-up. Oh sure, I have been a realist as to the why, but still wistful: “This would be opening night at the Muny,” I said to myself June 15, remembering the rainbow that came out after intense rainstorm right before the opening of ‘The Wizard of Oz” in 2016.

Tammy Duensing and I at the Muny 2017

And there are those Facebook memories that pop up, recalling how I felt about a production or selfies with my frequent Plus One, Tammy Duensing, whose belting rendition of the national anthem always gets compliments from the people in the seats around us.

In a year that is all about Plan B while trying to be safe and adapt to unprecedented times during a public health crisis, this savvy move to online specials was a ‘next best thing’ scenario, a balm for disappointment. And spoiler alert – this starburst of a show is longer than an hour (thank you!) and it has a 7-minute intermission. What a grand night for singing! And dancing. And laughs.

What a jolly time the “Munywood Squares” trivia interlude was, hosted by the outstanding director Gordon Greenberg, with such good sports as E. Faye Butler, Ann Harada, Vicki Lewis, John Scherer, Christopher Sieber, Steve Rosen, Raymond J. Lee, all Muny favorites. I was able to see contestants staffer Jaclyn Sales and Leon Dobkowski for the first time, who has designed some of the best costumes in recent years (Tarzan! The Wiz! Hairspray! Mamma Mia! Seussical!) and on the panel Jeffrey Schecter (Schecky) when he is not a whirling dervish being Scuttle or Cosmo or filling in as Pseudolus in “Forum.” And J. Harrison Ghee, who was so memorable as Lola in “Kinky Boots” last summer, looked like a million dollars. No signs of Quarantine 15.

E Faye Butler in “The Wiz.” Photo by Phillip Hamer

Because the world turned upside down six months ago when the coronavirus spread became a global pandemic, life as we know it has changed in nearly every aspect. “The new normal” means live theater is on hold, for the most part, and that meant postponing the Muny’s 102nd season line-up to 2021. While the extended break is another sad sign of many life changes in 2020, that didn’t stop the creative minds churning to see how little bits of summer tradition could be rescued.

Online programming became the go-to, and the Cast Party reunion gatherings on Monday were a wonderful opportunity to connect with people who have given me a great deal of joy that is etched in my memories. The Muny TV YouTube channel is a treasure trove of spectacular dance moments and lustrous voices on a warm summer night. They brought us the Muny Magic concerts from the Sheldon, which were a showcase for the incredible talent that graces the Muny stage, and exciting show/cast announcements the past few years.

Using playful retro colors and designs, this “Summer Variety Hour” throwback to 1970s staple TV programs was a merry way to celebrate the good times we share with family and friends – only they used modern technology to make it happen. Zoom and other virtual platforms have been our saving grace during the lockdown.

Through the Brady Bunch grid of the Zoom, The buoyant Muny Kids sang “Happiness” from “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” demonstrating the exuberance of young talent. Not to be outdone, the gifted and energetic performers, often seen in the ensemble, under the helm of the Colby Dezelick Dancers, came together from their home spaces, to perform a lively “We Go Together” from “Grease.” Colby’s been a fun fixture on the Muny stage – last seen as Angie the Ox in “Guys and Dolls” and the doctor in “Matilda” in ’19.

Muny veterans Jen Cody and Hunter Foster, who have been married for 23 years, performed “The Doctor Is In,” from “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” Scenes of their past work – including Jen as the Grandma in “The Addams Family” with Puggsley (Michael Harp) in one of that show’s funniest exchanges, and Hunter in a new production of “Pirates!” were shown.

Of course, you couldn’t have a Muny show without displaying the exquisite voices that fill the back rows of the 11,000 seats, and Emma Degerstedt as Ariel certainly did in the inspired “The Little Mermaid” in 2017, one of my favorite productions in the past decade. Her “Fathoms Below/Where I Belong” evoked my water-colored memories of a sweet shimmering show. It was lovely to see the lithe Muny ensemble dancers as well.

Ashley Brown, a Muny player during her college years who originated the role of “Mary Poppins” on Broadway, has a glorious voice, as exemplified in “The Sound of Music” and “Cinderella” at the Muny. She sang “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” from her mother’s home in Florida, as her infant daughter napped.

Through archived clips, we saw a rousing “A Brand New Day” from the resurgent “The Wiz” in 2018, featuring Danyel Fulton as Dorothy, Jared Grimes as the Scarecrow, James T. Lane as the Tin Man and Darius de Haas as the Cowardly Lion. And “Lida Rose” from “The Music Man” with the Barbershop Quartet of Ben Nordstrom, Adam Halpin, J.D. Daw and Joseph Torello harmonizing beautifully.

Mamie Parris and Matt Bogart in “Paint Your Wagon” Photo by Phillip Hamer

To close, 18 cast members of last summer’s reimagined robust “Paint Your Wagon!” sang a vigorous “How Can I Wait?” from all over America, including leads Matt Bogart and Mamie Parris, and supporting players Omar Lopez-Cepero, Bobby Conte Thornton, Maya Keleher, Allan K. Washington, Andrew Kober, Austin Ku, Raymond J. Lee, Rodney Hicks and others. What a perfect song to end an enchanted evening with hope and love. (And it knocked the score of “Hamilton,” which has been playing on constant loop in my brain, since July 3, out and became my new ear worm. Go to Muny TV to hear Mamie Parris in the show.)

This monumental effort to pull all these segments together is applause-worthy – and the hours it took to plan and executive I can only imagine. Everyone was in high spirits – connecting us all in a new, and welcome, way.

If you missed the first one, you have one more opportunity to see it, for Episode 1 will be re-broadcast at 8:15 p.m. Thursday, July 23. There will be four more episodes shown every Monday, then repeated Thursday. On Wednesdays, they will announce the plans for the next episode on social media.

I took this photo during the Birthday Bash, when we could go on stage. May 2018.

We are not sitting under the stars in Forest Park, but Munygoers share a special bond, and this endeavor was a unique experience that brought back fond memories. Like many of you, I have a lifetime of them, starting when my grandma took me when I was 10, a poor kid from a big family in Belleville, watching live theater in wide-eyed wonder. Theater would become a major part of my life, and my appreciation began across the river on those warm summer nights.

One of my favorite things about Episode 1 was how they highlighted the many employees who make Muny nights happen by their tremendous commitment to this outdoor slice of theater heaven. There is such passion in their work. I enjoyed the back story of triple-threat Corbin Bleu, as Don Lockwood in the splendid “Singin’ in the Rain” in 2018, getting to dance in the rain for the first time in his rubber shoes, as told by production manager Tracy Utzmyers. And for technical director Tim McDonald explaining how they make the rain happen for that show, and the previous two, in 2005 and 2011.

And my favorite thing about the Muny since 2009, when a Belleville News-Democrat editor asked me to review the season and I enthusiastically said yes, is the possibilities that a new opening night brings seven times a summer. Will they pull off a premiere or classic with uncommon flair? Will everyone rise to the occasion? What will be the night’s “Wow” moments? I remain in awe of the talent and sweat equity it takes to put on a show, and I am enriched by the storytelling and the performers who connect with me, no matter where I am sitting.

And some have become familiar faces that I look forward to seeking out on stage, and I am grateful for these opportunities to see where the directors’ and production team vision takes me. It’s a all about a community coming together in collaboration – that’s what live theater is and what we miss. (That, and the hugs!).

And thanks to some shining moments Monday night, I was transported to a happy place — and just being able to think about the possibilities ahead, is reason to smile. This is only intermission.

Take care. Stay safe. Be strong.

And thank you Muny and your sponsors, for serving us a refreshing summer tonic that was part nostalgia and part pizzazz, and all heart. It might not be perfect – what live event is? – but it’s important.

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
Radiant performers in a shimmering production of “The Little Mermaid” chased the gloom away on a chilly, gray day, as their contagious joy on the Touhill stage was a sight to behold.
The 10th anniversary musical by Variety – the Children’s Charity of St. Louis — Theatre celebrated their special achievement as the only production of this kind in the U.S. in royal fashion Friday evening, their third of six performances Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 18 – 21.
What Variety Theatre has done in the past decade is truly remarkable – involving an inclusive children’s ensemble who learns theater mechanics, confidence and performing skills alongside a professional adult cast – in a first-rate production. The good cheer that emanates from everyone involved is something special – and it’s one of the high points of my theater-going every year.

Director and Choreographer Lara Teeter’s vision for this anniversary revival was inspired, especially emulating ocean movement and boosting minor roles.  He kept everything bright and breezy.
This year’s production designs are of highest quality, with a breathtaking fantasy seascape set by Dunsi Dai that incorporated ethereal views from the scrim. Nathan Scheuer’s lighting design enhanced the warm, wonderful make-believe world under the sea – and simulated storms and the dangers down below as well.  Rusty Wandall’s sound design astutely captured sounds of sea, sand and sky.
With superb aerial work, Berklea Going, as spunky Ariel, appeared to be swimming, and her realistic rescue of a sinking Prince Eric (David Bryant Johnson) was a stunner.
The 18-piece orchestra, expertly led by musical director Mark Schapman, pulled us into Menken and Ashman’s lush musical score, and the peppy calypso beat ramped up the fun.
That island vacation sound is personified by the lively Sebastian, the red-suited crab who tries to keep headstrong Ariel out of trouble. In a star-making performance, newcomer Michael Hawkins was a delight in song, dance and showmanship – and very funny.
With his lead on the show-stopping number, “Under the Sea,” the vibrant characters swirling in action were so splendid that they received an enthusiastic – and lengthy – standing ovation.
This year’s high-spirited cast portrayed Disney’s enchanting animated characters with great verve, from the vivid sea creatures, chefs and maids to the principals in familiar roles they made their own. Their glistening outfits from Kansas City Costume burst with color and imagination.
When Disney transformed the 1837 Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale about a young mermaid who wants to live as a human into a full-length animated musical film in 1989, it was the start of a new era.
Composer Alan Menken and lyricist Howard Ashman, who died in 1991, wrote Broadway-caliber songs for their original movie score of “The Little Mermaid,” so adapting it for the stage seemed like a logical step. However, it didn’t make it to Broadway until 2008, with additional songs by Menken and lyricist Glenn Slater, and book by Doug Wright.
Ashman and Menken’s 1991 Oscar-nominated “Beauty and the Beast” came first to Broadway, in 1994 and enjoyed a 13-year run. As a special treat, Variety is fortunate to have the original “Beast,” three-time Tony nominee Terrence Mann, anchoring this production as King Triton.
With his glorious rich voice and commanding stage presence, the six-foot-tall Mann is sensational as the passionate and powerful ruler of the underwater kingdom, helping to make this show unforgettable.
His robust and regal performance is captivating, and even though he’s the marquee draw, Mann doesn’t allow himself to be center of attention, becoming an intrinsic part of the large ensemble as if it were his family.
A tip of the hat to the man who first became a star as Rum Tum Tugger in “Cats,” originated Javert in “Les Miserables,” and earned his third Tony nomination as Charlemagne in the Tony-winning 2013 revival of “Pippin.”
Along with the seamless integration of disabled youth in a children’s ensemble, as well as top-notch teens and adults, and dazzling production values, this is the best Variety musical yet. They feel like a family, for there is such warmth and affection expressed throughout the show.
From the adorable Ian Nolting as Flounder to the comical Alan Knoll as loyal Grimsby, the characters fit in both worlds.
The innovative flourishes to stand-out characters made them particularly memorable here. The agile Drew Humphrey, dandy as Scarecrow last year, charmed everyone as the wacky sidekick seagull Scuttle, and the nimble dance number “Positoovity” was a highlight in a show filled with them.
Joy Boland is a formidable villainess as wicked octopus Ursula, and her impressive sidekicks, Brandon Fink and Mason Kelso as evil electric eels Flotsam and Jetsam, were nimble foes.
Ariel’s lively Mer-Sisters were particularly strong, in songs and their comical family bickering – I looked forward to their appearance every time they sashayed out in their sequined outfits. complete with moving tails, and big-haired wigs.  The six spry siblings Chandler Ford as Aquata, Larissa White as Andrina, Corbyn Sprayberry as Arista, Dena DiGiancinto as Atina, Caitlyn Witty as Adella and Allison Newman as Allana were a hoot.
John Kinney as Chef Louis is another crowd-pleaser in madcap dinner number, “Les Poissons.”
Berklea Going was a likable Ariel, sweet-voiced and sincere, and she paired well with David Bryant Johnson as equally likable Prince Eric.
With its bright tempo, romantic story and charming characters, “The Little Mermaid” is a bubbly confection for children and adults alike. Variety’s production, infused with heart and humor, sparkled and shined.
Variety Theatre presents “The Little Mermaid” at 7 p.m. Oct. 18, 19 and 20, and also at 10 a.m. Oct. 19, 1:30 p.m. Oct. 20 and 1:30 p.m. Oct. 21 at the Touhill Center for the Performing Arts on the UMSL campus. For tickets or more information, visit www.touhill.org and www.varietystl.org.
 
 
 

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
St. Charles will literally become a ghost town when actors take over the streets during “Legends and Lanterns” this weekend and next. Strange things will be happening not only in neighborhoods but on local stages this week, too.
More Halloween spirit can be found in “Evil Dead: The Musical” at Stray Dog Theatre and “The Zombies of Penzance” at New Line Theatre.
The Bard gets spooky in “Macbeth,” and Rebel and Misfits starts its third Immersive Theatre Project Oct. 24 with a preview of “Macbeth: Come Like Shadows.”
The Bard also gets stormy in “The Tempest,” a gender-swap production from St. Louis Shakespeare.
For fantasy fun, Variety Club celebrates its 10th season with “The Little Mermaid” at the Touhill.
Times, they are a-changing for women in “A Doll’s House, Part 2,” now surprising audiences at The Rep, while a punk-rock, lesbian chef holds court in “Raging Skillet at The New Jewish Theatre.
The LGBTQ community is sharing their stories in “The Coming Out Festival” from the Q Collective. The tragic hate-crime death of Matthew Shepard is explored in “The Laramie Project” at Clayton Community Theatre.
Mustard Seed Theatre offers a provocative look at sin, grief and grace in “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot,” with 13 actors portraying 27 characters.
Fun, fantasy, comedy, drama, spooky or tragic — take your pick, but Go See a Play!

Amanda Brasher rehearses “Weird” by Nicholas Pappas in The Coming Out Festival.The Coming Out Play Festival
The Q Collective
Oct. 19 and 20
Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.
The Monocle on Manchester in the Grove
www.theqcollective.theater
What It’s About: Six one-act plays that explore the coming out experience.
 
 
 
“A Doll’s House, Part II”
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Oct. 11 – Nov. 4
Browning Mainstage, Loretto-Hilton Center
130 Edgar Roadwww.repstl.org
314-968-4925
Michael James Reed as Torvald and Photo by Peter Wochniak, ProPhotoSTL.comWhat It’s About: Lucas Hnath’s audacious sequel was written more than 135 years after Henrik Ibsen’s original. The familial drama remains a foundational piece of theater, with a still-controversial ending in which a married woman chooses to walk out on her family. But in 2017, Hnath took the themes and characters of that familiar classic and flipped them on their heads, imagining what would happen if protagonist Nora Helmer returned home 15 years after her dramatic exit.
Director: Timothy Near
Starring: Caralyn Kozlowski, Andrea Abello, Michael James Reed, Tina Johnson
Photo by John Lamb“Evil Dead: The Musical”
Stray Dog Theatre
Oct. 11 – 27
Thursday through Saturday; Added performance Wednesday, Oct. 24
Tower Grove Abbey
2336 Tennesseewww.straydogtheatre.org
314-865-1995
What It’s About: Based on the 1980s cult classic “Evil Dead” films, this campy show bursts with farce and blood. Five college kids take a trip to a remote cabin in the woods and encounter ancient evil spirits and revenge-seeking Candarian demons.
Director: Justin Been, with music direction by Jennifer Buchheit and choreography by Sam Gaitsch.
Starring: Riley Dunn, Dawn Schmid, Maria Bartolotta, Josh Douglas, Stephen Henley, Jennelle Gilreath, Kevin O’Brien, Corey Fraine and Christen Ringhausen.
Of Note: Some performances are sold out, and tickets are predicted to be limited during run. Wait lists will begin nightly at 7 p.m. (when the lobby opens) at the box office for any unclaimed seats and those will be handed out at 7:55 p.m.
The Splatter Zone is considered Signature Seating. With your purchase of a “Splatter Zone” seat you also receive an exclusive T-Shirt with just enough white space for us to create a one-of-a-kind souvenir.
Those adventurous enough to sit in the “Splatter Zone” are encouraged to dress down. Stray Dog Theatre is not responsible for property damage or loss resulting from the “Splatter Zone.”
“The Laramie Project”
Clayton Community Theatre
Oct. 11 – 21
Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Washington University South Campus Theatre (old CBC high school)
314-721-9228
www.placeseveryone.org
What It’s About: Based on the true story of gay Matthew Shepard, the 21-year-old victim of a hate crime in 1998 in Laramie, Wy., “The Laramie Project” unfolds through the words of people in Laramie who were interviewed by members of Tectonic Theater Company in the 18 months following Matthew Shepard’s death (Oct. 12, 1998), creating a portrait of the community and key individuals in the aftermath of the event and as the victim’s killers were brought to trial and convicted.
Director: Jim Danek
Starring: Jim Abels, Kelly Hunter, Jack Janssen, Mark Lull, Tim Naegelin, Elizabeth Penny, Tina Renard, Lucy Sappington, Rob Tierney, Johnathon Waller, Chrissie Watkins
Of Note: This is the 20th anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death.
In connection with its production, Clayton Community Theatre will be hosting post-show discussion of the issues raised in the play on Friday, Oct. 19. These conversations will be hosted by Denny Patterson, who has studied the Shepards, the Matthew Shepard Foundation, and their ongoing legacy.
Chris E. Ware and Jesse Munoz as Judas and Jesus. Ann K Photography“The Last Days of Judas Iscariot”
Mustard Seed Theatre
Oct. 10 – 28
Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m., No Friday
Fontbonne University Fine Arts Theatre
6800 Wydown Blvd.www.mustardseedtheatre.com
Tickets: MetroTix.com
314-719-8060
What It’s About: Set in Purgatory, the trial to determine Judas’ fate is underway. A defense attorney argues that the disgraced disciple should not be damned for all time, that others are culpable in the greater scheme of things, while an overzealous prosecutor thinks a special place in hell is just fine.
A jury will decide Judas’ fate, but not before a parade of high-profile witnesses take the stand
Director: Adam Flores, resident artist
Starring: Courtney Bailey Parker, Rae Davis, Graham Emmon, Carmen Garcia, Chelsea Krenning, Erick Lindsey, Carl Overby, Chandler Spradling, Arielle Rovinsky, Rachel Tibbetts, Chris E. Ware, and Eric Dean White
Of Note: Mature/adult subject matter, language and content. Not recommended for children.
There are no Friday performances. Thursday evening performances on Oct. 18 and 25 are Pay With A Can/Pay What You Can performances.
Photo by Ann K Photography
“Legends and Lanterns”
Historic Main Street in St. Charles
Oct. 20-21, 26-28
Saturday, Oct. 20 – 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 21 – noon to 5 p.m.; Friday, Oct. 26, from 5 to 8 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 27 – 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 28 – noon to 5 p.m.
What It’s About: This Halloween, St. Charles will become literally a ghost town. Historic Main Street will be invaded by a plethora of playful paranormal poltergeists from parts unknown. These notorious and infamous witches, villains, and spirits from lore and legend will unleash the magic of their enchanted lanterns to bring you eerie entertainment. But don’t worry, these friendly ghouls have more treats to offer than tricks, and they enjoy meeting “little monsters” of all ages.
Finding its inspiration from the past, Legends & Lanterns offers the vintage charm of Halloween in the 1910s-1930s, to the historical rituals and customs brought to the holiday by the Druids and Victorians, to the ethereal atmosphere depicted in American ghost stories and Brothers Grimm fairy tales.
As you explore every mysterious nook and cranny of Main Street, you’ll unearth various activities that will bring to “life” the backstories and origins of this beloved holiday, All Hallow’s Eve. It’s a little bit silly. It’s a little bit macabre. But it’s all fun.
Some of the programs include “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” “Writers Block: Unbound,” and “Eerie Jamboree.”
Pick-up your official Legends & Lanterns Passport at the Tourism Center (230 South Main Street), Scarecrow Glen, Hayride Locations, or Plaza del Dia de los Muertos.
The Little Mermaid presented by Variety – Children’s Charity St. Louis at Touhill at University of Missouri – St. Louis on Oct 23, 2014.“The Little Mermaid”
Variety Theatre
Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 18 – 21
Touhill Performing Arts Center
University of Missouri – St. Louis
www.touhill.org
What It’s About: Sing, dance and swim along as we follow Ariel’s journey to walk on land and find true love. Celebrating its 10th anniversary, Variety Theatre is the country’s only production of its kind. Featuring an inclusive children’s ensemble performing alongside a professional adult cast, this Broadway classic is a must-see event.
Director: Lara Teeter
Starring Terrence Mann as King Triton; Berklea Going as Ariel; David Bryan Johnson as Prince Eric; Joy Boland as Ursula: Drew Humphrey, Alan Knoll, Ian Nolting, Dustin Crumbaugh, Michael Hawkins, Chandler Ford, Will Bonfiglio, Eileen Engel, Larissa White, Whit Reichert, Corbyn Sprayberry, Dena DiGiancina, Allison Newman, Caitlin Witty, JR Pruski, Jimmy Capek and Mason Kelso.
Of Note: In 2018, Variety Theatre was awarded the “Special Award for a Body of Work” by the St. Louis Theater Circle, an honor only presented when it is felt it is truly deserved.
“Macbeth: Come Like Shadows”
Rebel and Misfits Productions
Immersive Theatre Project
Oct. 24 – Nov. 10
Wednesday through Saturday at location patrons are bused to.
www.rebelandmisfitsproductions.com
What It’s About: Dive into a shocking world and discover the heart and dark underbelly of a story that you have undoubtedly come in contact with before, but never allowed full access to the dripping heat and intimacy pulled along by its characters. This is one of Shakespeare’s boldest and most passionate plays deeply imagined.
Who are the inhabitants?  Why do their souls choose the courses they embark upon?  What is behind the door? Immerse yourself in a world of direct interaction, walk into this complexly-woven tale, wade into its unlocked depths.
Co-Directors: Kelly Hummert, Sean Patrick Higgins with Jordan Woods assisting.
Starring: Sean Patrick Higgins, Jeffrey Cummings, Spencer Sickmann, Reginald Pierre, Paul Cereghino, Shane Signorino, Kelly Hummert, Aarya Locker, Phil Leveling, Patrice Foster, Joel Antony, Hailey Medrano, Tyler Cheatem, Cynthia Pohlson, Ali Linderer, Kevin Corpuz and Jordan Woods
Of Note: We invite you to meet these characters as you never have before. Drink with them.  Dance with them.  Share your secrets with them. They will, in turn, weave you into the fabric of the action. Come and experience this high-octane, dangerous, and sexy world, where nothing is ever quite what it seems.
Pick Up Location: 1615 South Broadway, St Louis, MO 63104 (parking lot near DB’s), buses will transport the audience to and from the location.
“The Naked Magicians”The Playhouse at Westport
Oct. 19-21 (5 shows)
Tickets: MetroTix at metrotix.com or by phone at 314-534-1111. Additionally, tickets will also be available at the box office one hour prior to show time.
www.playhouseatwestport.com
What It’s About: The Naked Magicians, the world’s naughtiest and funniest magic show, strips away the top hats and capes to promise full-frontal illusions with magic, muscles and endless laughs.
Starring: Mike Tyler and Christopher Wayne, two of Australia’s most famous magicians, w who have performed in seven countries and 200+cities. “Good magicians don’t need sleeves and great magicians don’t need pants,” Tyler said.
Of Note: They are back by popular demand after their sold-out performances last year. Post-show meet-and-greet tickets for an additional $20.
The show includes coarse language, sexual references and some nudity and is intended for audiences 18+. For more information, go to www.nakedmagicians.com.
“Raging Skillet”New Jewish Theatre
Oct. 4 – 21
JCCA Wool Theatre, Creve Coeur
www.newjewishtheatre.com
What It’s About: A tasty adaptation of celebrity Chef Rossi’s autobiographical memoir, “Raging Skillet” – is equal parts book launch, cooking demonstration, heaping helping of comedy and a side of Jewish mother guilt.  When Rossi’s Jewish mother discovers the microwave, home-cooked meals become a thing of the past. What starts as a rebellion against her Orthodox parents, chauvinism in the kitchen and the pressures of conformity ends with Rossi becoming New York’s #1 punk-rock, Jewish, Lesbian caterer. This hilarious and heartfelt new comedy is based on her true-life story.
Director: Lee Anne Mathews
Starring: Sarajane Alverson as Chef Rossi, Kathleen Sitzer as her mother, and Erin Renee Roberts as DJ Skillet, sous chef and part-time DJ.
Of Note: Talkback scheduled for Oct. 18.
There is food.
“Redemption of a Dogg”
Stifel Theatre
Friday, Oct. 19, at 8 p.m.
www.stifeltheatre.com
What It’s About: Je’Carvous Johnson’s new stage play examines the internal battle one man has between preserving his lifelong legacy and losing the love of his life, when he is faced with choosing fame and fortune over faith and family. It is set against a backdrop of Snoop Dogg’s greatest hits.
“The Rocky Horror Show”
Washington University
The Performing Arts Department
Oct. 19 – 28
Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.
Edison Theatre
314-935-6543
pad.artsci.wustl.edu
What It’s About: Cult classic rock musical. Newlyweds Brad and Janet have blown a tire. They abandon their car and stumble into Frank N Furter’s castle in Transylvania.
“Silent Sky”
Insight Theatre Company
Oct. 19 – Nov. 4
Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Kranzberg Arts Center, 510 N. Grand
314 – 556-1293
www.insighttheatrecompany.com
What It’s About: When Henrietta Leavitt begins work at the Harvard Observatory in the early 1900s, she isn’t allowed to touch a telescope or express an original idea. Instead, she joins a group of women “computers,” charting the stars for a renowned astronomer who calculates projects in “girl hours” and has no time for the women’s probing theories. As Henrietta, in her free time, attempts to measure the light and distance of stars, she must also take measure of her life on Earth, trying to balance her dedication to science with family obligations and the possibility of love.
Director: Maggie Ryan
Cast: Gwen Wotawa, Henrietta Leavitt; Alex Freeman, Peter Shaw; Jennifer Theby-Quinn, Margaret; Jenni Ryan, Willamina; and Chrissy Steele – Abigail.
Of Note: The true story of 19th-century astronomer Henrietta Leavitt explores a woman’s place in society during a time of immense scientific discoveries, when women’s ideas were dismissed until men claimed credit for them. Social progress, like scientific progress, can be hard to see when one is trapped among earthly complications; Henrietta Leavitt and her female peers believe in both, and their dedication changed the way we understand both the heavens and Earth.”
 
“The Tempest”
St. Louis Shakespeare
Oct. 12 – 21
Ivory Theatre
7620 Michigan
314-361-5664
www.stlshakespeare.org
What It’s About: A story of shipwreck and magic, “The Tempest” begins on a ship caught in a violent storm. Alonso, the king of Naples, is on board. On a nearby island, the exiled Duke of Milan, Prospero, tells his daughter, Miranda, that he has caused the storm with his magical powers.
Director: Patrick Siler
“Workers’ Opera”
Bread and Roses
Saturday, Oct. 20
Communications Workers of America Local 6300
Brunch Buffet & Performance Tickets are $20 in advance or at the door
Westport: 2258 Grissom Drive St. Louis, MO 63146
What It’s About: Written and performed by members of Service Employees International Union, Communications Workers of America, United Media Guild, Labor Engagement for the United Way, and others involved in the arts and organized labor.
Every sketch is full of good music, some history and lots of political humor featuring these workers-turned-actors.
Director: Kathryn Bentley, associate professor at SIU-Edwardsville and Artistic Director of the Black Theater Workshop. Music and script editing by Colin McLaughlin.

“The Zombies of Penzance”
New Line Theatre
Sept. 27 – Oct. 20
Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m.
The Marcelle Theater
3310 Samuel Shepard Drive in Grand Arts Center
Tickets: 314-534-1111
www.newlinetheatre.com
What It’s About: The world premiere of the rock musical, “The Zombies of Penzance: At Night Come the Flesh Eaters,” is based on Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance.”
Based on the conceit that the original draft, never seen before, was dated December 1878, Major-General Stanley is a retired zombie hunter, who doesn’t want his daughters marrying the dreaded Zombies of Penzance, for obvious reasons.
Co-Directors: Scott Miller and Mike Windsor-Dowdy. Miller has painstakingly reassembled these rediscovered materials into their original form, filling in the gaps with educated guesses based on other G&S shows and drafts. St. Louis composer and orchestrator John Gerdes is reconstructing Sullivan’s music.
Cast: Most of the cast from New Line’s public reading in January will return, with Sean Michael as Frederic, Melissa Felps as Mabel, Zachary Allen Farmer as Major-General Stanley the Zombie Hunter, Dominic Dowdy-Windsor as the Zombie King, with Mara Bollini, Kent Coffel, Robert Doyle, Matt Hill, Lindsey Jones, Tim Kaniecki, Kyle Kelesoma, Melanie Kozak, Sarah Porter, Christina Rios, and Kimi Short.
Of Note: New Line Theatre, “the bad boy of musical theatre,” opens its 28th season of adult, alternative musical theatre. New Line has shocked the music world by discovering a controversial, long-lost first draft by the legendary British team of librettist W.S. Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan, who together wrote 14 comic operas between 1871 and 1896.
One of the team’s best-known works, The Pirates of Penzance, originally debuted in New York in 1879, and was revived to great success in the early 1980s with Kevin Kline, Linda Ronstadt, and Rex Smith. What we now know is that there was an earlier, stranger draft of the show, which nobody knew about, with most of the same characters but a somewhat different plot.