Friday, 08 March 2019 16:31

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of March 8, 2019

Written by 

New to the list this week: La Cage aux Folles at New LIne and Norma at Winter Opera.

 


New This Week:


La Cage aux Folles
Photo by Jill Ritter Lindberg

New Line Theatre presents the musical La Cage aux Folles Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 PM through March 23. "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. Come join us on the French Riviera for a night of love, laughs, illusions and truths, and the triumph of family over bullies and bigots." Performances take place at the Marcelle Theater, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive, three blocks east of Grand, in Grand Center. For more information, visit newlinetheatre.com or call 314-534-1111.

My take: I have always been a great admirer of this show. Although it's over thirty years old now, La Cage feels relevant all over again in a time when obsessive culture warriors are denouncing loving long-term relationships like that of Georges and the flamboyant Albin as an existential threat to family life when, in fact, they are an affirmation of it. Jerry Herman's score is one of his strongest, with a French pop-music flavor reminiscent of Jacques Brel or Edith Piaf. Songs like "The Best of Times", "With Anne on My Arm", and "La Cage Aux Folles" are both irresistible and unforgettable. And the book by Tony–award winning playwright Harvey Fierstein is both witty and wise. The current New Line production apparently benefits from what Lynn Venhaus calls a "tour-de-force performance from Zachary Allen Farmer as the drag diva Zaza/Albin." Mark Bretz agrees, calling Mr. Farmer's work "triumphant."


Norma
Photo by Convergence Media

Winter Opera St. Louis presents Bellini's drama Norma Friday at 7:30 PM and Sunday at 3 PM, March 8 and 10. "The priestess Norma has an affair with Pollione, an officer occupying her lands. Soon Pollione becomes tired of Norma and takes up with the younger priestess Adalgisa. Norma's people cry out for rebellion against the occupying forces." Performances take place at The Skip Viragh Center for the Arts at Chaminade College Preparatory School, 425 S. Lindbergh. For more information, visit winteroperastl.org.

My take: The great soprano Renata Scotto once referred to the title role of Norma as "the Everest of opera," and with good reason. It's a big part, and not just because of its length; its wide emotional and musical range requires a daunting combination of vocal flexibility, physical stamina, solid acting ability, and a dynamic stage presence. Winter Opera has a strong performer in that role in the person of Christine Lyons, and she's backed up by a solid supporting cast. The production is not without its flaws, but worthwhile nevertheless.


Held Over:


Avenue Q
Photo by John Flack
 

The Playhouse at Westport Plaza presents the musical Avenue Q running through March 17 (extended from March 3rd). "Part flesh, part felt and packed with heart, AVENUE Q is a laugh-out-loud musical telling the timeless story of a bright-eyed college grad named Princeton. When he arrives in the city with big dreams and a tiny bank account, he has to move into a shabby apartment all the way out on AVENUE Q. Still, the neighbors seem nice. There, he meets Kate (the girl next door), Lucy (the slut), Rod (the Republican), Trekkie (the internet entrepreneur), superintendent Gary Coleman (yes, that Gary Coleman) and other new friends! Together, they struggle to find jobs, dates, and their ever-elusive purpose in life." The Playhouse at Westport Plaza is at 635 West Port Plaza. For more information: www.playhouseatwestport.com.

My take: A smart, hip, and very funny parody of Sesame Street, Avenue Q is also an entertaining (if R-rated) story of college-educated twentysomethings--both flesh and foam rubber--coming to grips with the economic, political and sexual facts of life. The show is good, not-so-clean fun and always worth seeing. This production is "outrageously funny" (Calvin Wilson, STLToday). "A blend of national and local talent brings zest, exquisite precision and rampant enthusiasm to this delightful version of the Tony Award-winning musical melange of puppeteered optimism at its finest," writes Mark Bretz at Ladue News.


The Ugly Duckling

The St. Louis Family Theatre Series presents the Lightwire Theatre Company production of The Ugly Duckling Sunday at 2 pm, March 3 and 9, and Friday at 7:30 pm, March 10. "Lightwire Theater brings a classic tale to the modern stage in an unforgettable theatrical experience. Lined with electroluminescent wire, the beloved story of The Ugly Duckling plays out on stage through a cutting-edge blend of puppetry, technology and dance. With dazzling visuals, poignant choreography and the creative use of music from classical to pop, this production brings this story into a new and brilliant light. " Performances take place at the Florissant Civic Center Theatre at Parker and Waterford in Florissant, MO. For more information, call 314-921-5678 or visit www.florissantmo.com

My take: I don't normally list children's theatre here, but Lightwire's show appears to be something all ages can enjoy. Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale has been updated to include a ninja-style battle between the duckling and an alley cat looking for a bit of duck dinner, and if the video promos I have seen are any indication, the visuals are stunning. The Advocate calls it "a total delight." Take the kids and check it out.

Media