New This Week:
Winter Opera St. Louis presents Rossini's comic opera L'Italiana in Algeri Friday at 7:30 PM and Sunday at 3 PM, January 25 and 27. Performances take place at the Dale Williams Fine Arts Center at Missouri Baptist University. For more information, visit winteroperastl.org.
My take: It's easy to forget that Opera Theatre of St. Louis is not the only opera company in town. Union Avenue Opera and Winter Opera don't have OTSL's budget, but Winter Opera does have the advantage of an auditorium designed for musical theatre, complete with a respectable orchestra pit, and their shows generally feature fine singers and a decent orchestra. The company has a pretty good track record with operetta as well, with a charming Student Prince last November and a truly delightful Merry Widow in 2016. And Rossini's 1813 comic opera isn't seen nearly as often as his other big hits.
Photo: Sarah Stone
Jazz St. Louis and The Cabaret Project present Lea DeLaria on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 and 9:30 pm, January 25 and 26. "Lea DeLaria seems to have achieved overnight stardom with her two - time, SAG Award winning, stand-out role as Carrie 'Big Boo' Black in the Netflix hit series Orange is the New Black. However, DeLaria's multi-faceted career as a comedian, actress, and jazz musician has, in fact, spanned decades. DeLaria has five records on the Warner Jazz and Classics label, and her book, Lea's Book of Rules for the World, is in its third printing at Bantam Doubleday and Dell." Performances take place at the Ferring Jazz Bistro on Washington just east of the Fox in Grand Center. For more information: thecabaretproject.org.
My take: Yes, Lea DeLaria is probably best known for her role in Orange in the New Black. But, as I wrote in my review of her appearance here in December 2017, she has had an impressive career in stand-up comedy, theatre, and music for many years now. With five jazz albums to her credit, she's a powerful vocalist with a great ear and an unfailingly accurate feel for what makes both musical and theatrical sense. She's also engaging and funny as hell as long as you're not put off by the f-bomb being dropped liberally.
Photo: Dunsai Dai
Max and Louie Productions presents Debby Lennon in the one-woman show Love, Linda through January 27. "Linda Lee Thomas was the Southern beauty who married and was the driving force behind legendary song writer Cole Porter at the dawn of the roaring twenties. Though Cole Porter was gay, their companionship and love lasted through 35 years of marriage and a spectacular, glamour-filled life. With innovative jazz arrangements, the timeless music and lyrics of Cole Porter weave through "Love, Linda" examining the darker sides of their life, while also celebrating the deep love that blossomed through their unconventional relationship." Performances take place at the Marcelle Theatre in Grand Center. For more information: maxandlouie.com
My take: Honestly, I'd be willing to recommend this simply on the basis of the many Cole Porter songs. But it also appears to be an excellent production. At Ladue News, Mark Bretz writes that "Debby Lennon shines under the tender guidance of director Ken Page in this classy, intriguing one-woman show about the socialite wife of songwriter Cole Porter in a well-wrought, musically rich presentation by Max & Louie Productions." Ms Lennon is, indeed, a local treasure, as anyone who had the pleasure of seeing her in Max and Louie's Souvenir can attest.
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents the St. Louis premiere of The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe through February 3. "Nine teenage girls prepare for battle on a soccer field. As they stretch and warm up together, the teammates' nonstop banter reveals how a collection of disparate personalities bonds to form a team. With its engrossing flow of dialogue and authentic characters, DeLappe's acclaimed new play distills the raw passion, confusion and wonder of adolescence into exhilarating theatre." Performances take place in the studio theatre at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information: repstl.org.
My take: "Director Melissa Rain Anderson," writes Mark Bretz at Ladue News, "shepherds her smartly collected cast in a whimsical ensemble effort which captures the spontaneity of youth with poignancy, charm and frequently funny dialogue in refreshing fashion." "DeLappe has an original voice that cries out to be heard," says Calvin Wilson at STLToday, "and 'The Wolves' is an experience unlike anything you've seen before." The studio theatre season at the Rep, brief though it may be, consistently delivers high quality theatre in an intimate setting.
Photo by John Gitchoff
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents the drama Alabama Story running through January 27th. "A determined librarian and a segregationist senator face off over an innocent children's book in 1959 Montgomery. Depicting the marriage of two rabbits – who happen to have different-colored fur – the story has Sen. E.W. Higgins calling for a book ban. But even as the pressure mounts, librarian Emily Wheelock Reed refuses to yield to censorship. Inspired by true events, Alabama Story is a stirring testament to free expression." Performances take place at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information: repstl.org,
My take: This is a splendid production of a show that reminds of us (and though we needed reminding these days) of the need to be vigilant against lunatic racism and attacks on free thought. Critics have expressed reservations about the credibility of a fictional subplot in the show, but overall Alabama Story is getting a big thumbs-up. At STL Today, Calvin Wilson at Review STL, "bring these topics to life in a way that not only enlightens – yet entertains and truly captivates. It's a show that should be seen, and one that we honestly need to see right now."
Photo by Peter Spack
The Black Rep presents the world premiere of Canfield Drive running through January 27. "In this World Premiere production, two high-powered news reporters from across the aisle are thrown together during a ratings frenzy in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. As they untangle the real cause of Brown's death, they struggle to keep their own secrets out of the spotlight. Created from diverse interviews of people from around the corner and around the world, Canfield Drive shines a light of hope as it wrestles with the greatest questions of our age. Canfield Drive, written by Kristen Adele Calhoun and Michael Thomas Walker, is a National Performance Network (NPN) Creation and Development Fund Project co-commissioned by 651 Arts in partnership with The St. Louis Black Repertory Company, and NPN." Performances take place at the Edison Theatre on the Washington University campus. For more information: theblackrep.org.
My take: No doubt about it, the death of Michael Brown turned over some big rocks in our national psyche, and some pretty nasty things came crawling out--in come cases, right into elected offices. As Paul Friswold writes in his review for the Riverfront Time, the playwrights "show more courage than most, walking right into the bloody mess of America's festering Achilles heel, racism. It's painful and honest and, ultimately, cathartic to watch because it doesn't take the easy way out." As Ann Lemmons Pollack writes on her blog, "this is our story. We have to be able to listen to what other people are saying about their experience. It may be uncomfortable to hear, but these things not only must be said, they must be heard."