Metro Theater Company presents the world premiere musical at the Grandel Theatre

World premiere musical adventure originates at Metro Theater Company with anticipated off-Broadway transfer in Fall 2023

Metro Theater Company (MTC), St. Louis’ premier professional theater for youth and families and St. Louis’ third-oldest professional theater company, continues its 2022/23 50th Anniversary Season with the world premiere musical, Spells of the Sea, live at the Grandel Theatre February 10 – March 5 and virtual streaming February 16 – March 5 at metroplays.org. Tickets are $20-$36 (including ticketing fees) and available through MetroTix. 

Due to a breakthrough COVID-19 case within our cast, we are postponing the opening of Spells of the Sea until Friday, February 10 at 7 pm. If you have tickets for the February 5 performance, we will gladly reschedule your tickets to a date of your choice.

Current MTC donors are invited to contact Individual Support and Events Manager Sarah Rugo to exchange your tickets at srugo@metroplays.org. All other patrons may contact either Eleanor Marsh, School Bookings and Audience Services Manager at eleanor@metroplays.org or MetroTix at 314.534.1111 to reschedule.

Our originally scheduled donor reception on February 5 has been moved to Saturday, February 11–following the 1 pm performance.

School matinees will still be offered February 8, 9, and 10.

As a result of the change to our opening date, the start date for streaming will be changing as well. MTC will update our website with those details and contact all ticketed streaming patrons as soon as that start date is finalized.

Spells of the Sea in-person performances run through March 5. Thank you for your understanding and help us wish our cast member a speedy recovery!

At the center of Spells of the Sea is Finley Frankfurter, the 15-year-old daughter of a heroic fisherman, but who herself so far has been terrible at fishing. H.S. Crank is a grumpy old lighthouse keeper who has been sitting for 20 years in the dark. Together, this unlikely pair begins an adventure through the ocean to find ingredients to make the Elixir of Life, an elusive remedy that will save Finley’s father from a mysterious illness. On their journey, the pair encounter mermaids and pirates, whirlpools and their worst fears, and finally a new understanding of the meaning of family, friendship, and trust in yourself. 

Spells of the Sea is Metro Theater Company’s first project in its 50-year history with a commercial production partner. Presented by special arrangement with award-winning commercial producer Megan Ann Rasmussen ProductionsSpells of the Sea is based on the book, music, and lyrics by Guinevere “Gwenny” Govea, with additional creative contributions by Anna Pickett. Gwenny began Spells of the Sea in quarantined isolation in Austin, Texas and developed it into an enchanting podcast during the pandemic. Now, this unique tale breathes new life as an epic musical adventure on stage at the Grandel Theatre. 

Photo by Jennifer A. Lin

“Metro Theater’s 50-year history of creating work that celebrates the emotional wisdom of young people makes this theater the perfect place to create a new musical for families,” said Megan Ann Rasmussen, president of MAR Productions. “They value young people, families, community, and theater that uplifts and strengthens. I can’t think of a better place to make its world premiere.”
The production features innovative olfactory design incorporated into the story, creating a complete ambiance for audiences of all ages at key moments in the musical. After Metro Theater Company’s world premiere, Spells of the Sea makes its way to commercial stages outside of St. Louis, with an anticipated off-Broadway transfer for the fall of 2023.

Spells of the Sea continues Metro Theater Company’s legacy of bringing the best new voices to the stage. Gwenny Govea is an award-winning actor, writer, and composer, who recently graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. She and Anna Pickett are shining young talents in musical theater whose careers are lifting off, both on stage and off. In Metro Theater Company’s world premiere production of Spells of the Sea, Gwenny plays Finley Frankfurter and Anna serves as assistant director. The production also reflects MTC’s commitment to create new work that responds to the emotional intelligence and needs of young people with respect and joy. 
During Metro Theater Company’s world premiere run, three theme weekends will be offered to help young audiences embrace the fun of the story. Costumes are welcomed each weekend, and themed photo booths with props are available for guests to enjoy being a princess, a pirate, or a mermaid each weekend. 

Spells of the Sea is directed by MTC Artistic Director Julia Flood. Musical direction is by Deborah Wicks La Puma. The cast, which features performers from St. Louis and across the country, includes Molly BurrisSyrhea ConawayHannah GeiszJon GentryGuinevere Govea,Noah LasterMitchell ManarColin McLaughlin, and Tyler White. A full listing of Spells of the Sea design and production team can be found online at https://www.metroplays.org/spells-of-the-seaSpells of the Sea is 70 minutes with no intermission. It’s recommended for ages 8 and up!  

Who/What 

Metro Theater Company by special arrangement with Megan Ann Rasmussen Productions presents the world premiere of Spells of the Sea

When  

February 10 – March 5, 2023

Sundays at 2 p.m.  |   Fridays at 7 p.m.  | Saturdays at 1 p.m. & 4 p.m.

Socially distanced performances: Every Saturday at 4 p.m. 

Audio Description performance by MindsEye: February 25 at 4 p.m.

ASL-interpreted performance by DEAF, Inc.: February 26 at 2 p.m.

Where

Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square, St. Louis, MO 63103

Tickets

$20-$36 (including ticketing fees). Tickets are available now through MetroTix at 314-534-1111 or https://www.metroplays.org/spells-of-the-sea.

Theme Weekends

Enjoy fun photo booth opportunities in the lobby of the Grandel Theatre. Costumes are welcomed, but not required. 

Princess Weekend: February 10-12

Pirate Weekend: February 17-19

Mermaid Weekend: February 24-26

Virtual Streaming

February 16 – March 5, 2023

Online virtual streaming begins at $20 and is available through the MTC website, https://www.metroplays.org/spells-of-the-sea.  (The video for the virtual streaming is from an early February filmed performance.) 

Virtual streaming is a part of PNC Arts Alive funding’s of the MTC Remote initiative – MTC’s online streaming of mainstage productions that ensures digital accessibility across the St. Louis region and beyond.

Pay-What-You-Wish Tickets

Metro Theater Company is committed to ensure that economic barriers do not prevent families from experiencing its programs. MTC offers pay-what-you-wish tickets for live performances and virtual streaming. Details at https://www.metroplays.org/spells-of-the-sea.  

Pay-What-You-Wish in-person performances: February 10 at 7 p.m., February 11 at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Pay-What-You-Wish streaming: February 16-18 

School Groups & Group Sales

School groups can enjoy live performances or virtual field trips at heavily discounted rates, with streaming tickets available for $5 or less and in-person tickets available for $10 per student. Group sales of 10 tickets or more receive a 40% discount. Full details at https://www.metroplays.org/group-sales.  

Support

Spells of the Sea is presented by National Endowment for the Arts, Thornock Family Fund, and Mid-America Arts Alliance.

Metro Theater Company’s 2022-23 Season lead institutional support comes from The Shubert Foundation, Regional Arts Commission, Emerson, Kranzberg Arts Foundation, Whitaker Foundation, PNC Arts Alive, Crawford Taylor Foundation, Missouri Arts Council, The Opportunity Trust, Arts & Education Council, Trio Foundation of St. Louis, Edward Jones, the Saigh Foundation , and RGA.

For tickets or more information on Spells of the Sea, visit metroplays.org/spells-of-the-sea.

________

About Metro Theater CompanySince 1973, Metro Theater Company has been creating productions that respect young people’s intelligence, tell compelling stories, stimulate curiosity, and provoke thoughtful reflection. The Company has reached a total audience of more than two million and has a national reputation for excellence in the field of professional theater for young audiences. Metro Theater Company has received major honors and awards, both locally and nationally. The company is led by Artistic Director Julia Flood and Managing Director Joe Gfaller. For more information, please visit http://metroplays.org

About Megan Ann Rasmussen Productions Megan Ann Rasmussen is the president of MAR Productions. For more than 20 years she has served as an award-winning producer, director, and educator, creating theater that uplifts and strengthens. She is thrilled to help bring Spells of the Sea to life and celebrate the voices of Gwenny Govea and Anna Pickett. Megan Ann’s Broadway credits include A Beautiful Noise: The Neil Diamond Musical (INVESTOR) and Joy: The Musical (CO-PRODUCER), a new show with Tony award-winning producer Ken Davenport. Additional credits include Barry Manilow’s Harmony (INVESTOR), The Griswold’s Broadway Vacation (INVESTOR), Kinky Boots (Off-Broadway | INVESTOR), True North (regional | INVESTOR), and Heaven Come Home (regional | PRODUCER). Her directing credits include Senora Tortuga and Cinderella Eats Rice and Beans: A Salsa Fairy Tale. Megan Ann served as president of Theater for Young Audiences/USA and delegate to the International Association of Theater for Children and Young People. She taught theater at three universities in Utah and was founder and producing artistic director of The Firehouse Theatre for Youth. Megan Ann’s articles and photos can be seen in Stage of the Art and TYA Today. She is the founder of the new podcast Bit by Bit, Broadway’s only podcast dedicated to the producer/investor relationship. For more information, please visit https://meganannrasmussen.com

By Lynn Venhaus
A poorly executed musical revue, “Side by Side by Sondheim” is miscast and misguided.

The Repertory Theatre of St Louis’ production hasn’t jelled yet, and on Feb. 3, the result was a tepid tribute to one of the greatest composers and lyricists in Broadway history.

That’s particularly disappointing because of The Rep’s previous presentation of its Sondheim masterpieces “Follies,” in 2016 and “Sunday in the Park with George” in 2012.

Phoenix Best, Paul HeeSang Miller, Saidu Sinlah and Amy Spanger are the quartet of singers that rarely appear as a cohesive unit. Think of it less as side by side and more as standing by themselves and not in sync with the others.

Their ‘70s-style Vegas dance moves, designed by Heather Beal, are at different stages and they often appear lazy and repetitive as they ‘do their own thing.’

Not sure where the disconnect began, especially when you have 28 songs spanning Sondheim’s landmark canon. Perhaps the addition of an older, seasoned vocalist or two would have helped ground it – the revue cast has shifted over the years, and once had a female trio, not duo. And the two here are not up to any kind of heavy lifting together for the vocal demands of Sondheim.

Given Sondheim’s penchant for games and puzzles (the film “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” is dedicated to him, and he makes a brief appearance), the mystery is thus: Have these singers ever been in a Sondheim show? Seen one?

Was there a vision for the production other than let’s slap-some-Sondheim tunes together? Reggie D. White, the new associate artistic director, took charge of this runaway train, which seems like an afterthought, and it never felt polished or had much pizzazz the entire runtime.

The range of unprepared musical numbers is the most blatant misstep. Occasionally, the harmony works, but mostly, we have singers not able to stick the landing, which is criminal with Sondheim.

Yes, his music is challenging and complicated. You need singers at the top of their game, but you also need singers who feel the emotional level of his work. He’s all about the feels. You can’t fake it. Finish the hat, dammit!

The man reinvented the modern musical, and we’re reducing his music to punch lines? That seems the focus here — let’s milk as much for laughs as possible, the bawdier, the better.

This revue is two hours and 15 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission. The sections are tied together by a narrator, who explains a common theme or background about a song. Or nuggets like how Oscar Hammerstein was a mentor.

Veteran pro Alan Knoll is charming and witty as the narrator, knowing how to work a crowd. He provided interesting tidbits about Sondheim’s recurring themes, particularly marriage. He was a late addition to the cast, hence, the notecards. (The program originally listed Miller as the narrator).

Sondheim’s collaborations with other composers – Jule Styne, Leonard Bernstein, Mary Rodgers, and Richard Rodgers among them – are an important part of the narrative here. And Knoll points out his lesser-known works, for laughs.

But it shouldn’t be all Shecky Greene-yucks without the perspective of the man’s greatness. This cast seems incapable of grasping his lyrical complexities and the level of sophisticated music, especially when they are in sequined and gaudy outfits going through awkward motions. (White satin hot pants, really?)

Costume Designer Oona Nateson has found a theatrical grab bag of ubiquitous black apparel augmented by shiny fabrics, leather pants and unnecessary sequins, some of it ill-fitting for their frames. The junior high talent show called and needs their hot pink satin disco shirt back.

After Sondheim’s death at age 91 on Nov. 26, 2021, the world put his loss in perspective and the tributes haven’t stopped.

His work should never be a museum piece – it should be as vibrant as ever – witness “Company” winning a Tony last year for Best Revival of a Musical and an acclaimed version of “Into the Woods” that kept being extended until recently, with plans of it touring (I saw this sublime stunner at the St. James Oct. 1, with Patina Miller, Joshua Henry, and Gavin Creel. It’s a must-see for the ages.). Locally, we had two superb “A Little Night Music” presentations last year, at Union Avenue Opera and Stray Dog Theatre, and the Muny’s resplendent “Sweeney Todd,” which we will be talking about for years to come.

So, the lack of nuance in favor of a good-time variety hour reminiscent of one of those summer replacement shows networks were fond of back in the 1960s and 1970s, is perplexing.

Could we not be entertained merely by exquisite vocals transporting us to various times and places? The sense of wonder and human connection that often arises when a Sondheim show delivers a moment is nowhere to be found here.

To my surprise, Tre’von Griffith is listed as the music director, and I had more faith in his ability to interpret Sondheim’s genius. Did the creatives underestimate the time necessary to put it all together?

Sadly, the songs from “Company” and “West Side Story” seem the most adversely affected, like when those singing “Tonight” can’t hit the upper notes, and it is painful. The women’s duet, “A Boy Like That” is OK until it veers into a wobbly rendition of “I Have a Love.”

The women forgot lyrics to “Getting Married Today,” which is performed slower in tempo than usual, lacking the punch of the original.

Amy Spanger is entrusted with singing “Another Hundred People,” and several other big numbers that she is incapable of nailing, and it’s a travesty. The weakest link of the four, she has difficulty staying on key and enunciating, and instead, often goes for broader dance moves – and tugging at her too-tight sequined mini-dress.

During “Broadway Baby,” the LED screen shows some of her Broadway roles behind her, including Roxie Hart in “Chicago,” as if to remind us she’s been on a big stage before. Her list of credits is extensive, that’s why it’s so hard to believe she can’t hit notes. Her casting is a head-scratcher as she is clearly out of her depth.

Paul HeeSang Miller started strong, with Company’s restored gem “Marry Me a Little,” and so did Saidu Sinlah with “I Remember,” from “Evening Primrose,” but he faded fast, incapable of rising to the occasion the rest of the show.

The four don’t seem to have much chemistry and relied on the vaudeville-type schtick for laughs.

Because of these lackluster renditions, you find yourself thinking of better versions that you’ve heard before. I’m just grateful this is an earlier revue, so they don’t ruin “Into the Woods,” “Assassins,” “Sunday in the Park with George,” “Sweeney Todd” and “Merrily We Roll Along” in any way.

Phoenix Best, who benefits from a comedic approach to some numbers, delivers an effective “I’m Still Here” and “Send in the Clowns,” but tended to go louder when unsure during other numbers. Her solos were often introduced with her making an entrance to build up the drama.

The women often relied on ‘kittenish,’ playing up the double entendres in “Can That Boy Foxtrot,” which was cut from “Follies.”

In a slinky leotard, Best stretched out “I Never Do Anything Twice” from the film, “The Seven-Percent -Solution,” using a chaise lounge to drape herself over.

And the crowd-pleaser, “You Gotta Get a Gimmick” by the strippers in “Gypsy,” draws laughs over the women’s well-placed percussion.

Those unfamiliar with “Follies” get a lesson on different musical styles, especially vaudeville, but then Spanger attempts “Losing My Mind,” and it was my clench-fist time. I may have blurted out “Please don’t let her sing this” instead of just thinking it to myself. (Sorry to my neighbors).

The guys singing “Bring on the Girls” is nearly laughable.

Paul HeeSang Miller, Amy Spanger. Photo by Philip Hamer

When the show delves into the lesser-known works, expectations are lowered, but the butchering of “Pretty Lady” from “Pacific Overtures” by all four was excruciating. Was anyone on key?

The production design by Camilla Tassi consists of slides showing Sondheim at various stages of his life, and the New York milieu, which is so important to his work.

If you are a Sondheim fan, one can appreciate accompanists Stephen A. Eros and Kris Pineda, whose piano work is stellar.

The sound, designed by Sharath Patel, however, has some rough moments.

But the whole affair smacks less of collaboration and more self-preservation than any serious performance piece. When they move four chairs around on the set, I was reminded of the deck of the Titanic, where the band played as doom closed in around them.

This production should not be considered an introduction to Sondheim, for you can find multiple tributes online that celebrate his artistry in better ways.

The outstanding documentary, “Six by Sondheim,” is currently streaming on HBOMax, and can be rented on various video on demand platforms. This is a sensational piece that tells you all you need to know, and is time much better spent than at COCA.

One wonders why this show replaced another Sondheim revue, “Putting It Together,” from 1992, which had been on The Rep’s schedule.

But this is a colossal waste of resources – there needed to be an assistant costume designer, assistant sound designer and two assistant directors?

The man who won eight Tony Awards, an Academy Award, eight Grammy Awards, a Olivier Award, a Pulitzer Prize, a Kennedy Center Honor, and a Presidential Medal of Freedom deserved better.

If you are not going to give Sondheim his proper due, then what’s the point? Maybe start by hiring singers who have the compatible vocal range for the songs?

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents “Side by Side by Sondheim” from Jan. 29 through Feb. 19 at the Catherine Berges Theatre at the Center for the Creative Arts (COCA). For more information or tickets, visit www.repstl.org.

Phoenix Best, Saidu Sinlah, Amy Spanger, Paul HeeSang Miller. Photo by Philip Hamer.

By Lynn Venhaus

Challenges.
As we march through the third winter of the pandemic, we’re still adjusting to a ‘new normal,’ whatever that is. The regional professional theater companies have had more than their share of challenges, as COVID-19 outbreaks continue to affect rehearsals and performances.

Bravo to everyone trying to create art in trying times. We learn as we go, as we try to adapt, follow the rules for safe practices and try to fit in multiple shows that seem to be scheduled in clusters. Shining a spotlight on those who are doing their very best is important.

This year, I was fortunate to see 63 shows, not counting touring, college or community theater, and I appreciate the local theater companies working with me when my dear sweet uncle/father figure was in hospice and eventually passed on in mid-summer, and how they fit me in, sometimes at the end of a run, and then when some health issues arose for me in December, helping me to juggle a crazy schedule. (Unfortunately, after spending 10 days in the hospital in January, I can speak about nightmare ER experiences all too well. Life happens, and I appreciate the consideration.) Through my podcast, PopLifeSTL, we were able to interview local professionals to help promote their productions, and while we recently took a three-week break, we’re back at it, and happy to support the arts.

So, I finally finished my annual Lynn’s Love of Theatre Awards, aka “The LOTTIES,” for 2022, a few weeks later than intended. I don’t follow a rigid format of capping off recognition. Some categories may have 5, others 8 or more. If it looks like everyone gets a trophy, so be it. The folks mentioned are deserving of honors.

This is my own list. It is separate than my voting in the annual St. Louis Theater Circle Awards and nominations, which will be announced soon (Monday, Feb, 6 on KWMU noon to 1 p.m.). I am one of the founding members. Our awards ceremony will be on Monday, April 3, at The Loretto-Hilton Center at Webster University. Yes, theater prom will return! Exciting.

I’ve been selecting the LOTTIES since 2014. I am attempting to go back and put Lotties of years’ past into my website archives, so they are all in one place here. Stay tuned…But in the meantime, I wanted to recognize what I thought was excellence in 2022. Granted, I missed a handful of productions, but overall, was impressed with outstanding work from our best and brightest. It is thrilling when you see live theater achieve its grand goals. (And I will never take it for granted ever).

I am privileged to witness such creative spirits at work here. This weekend, I return to seeing theater after a rather crazy and unplanned January that included an outpatient procedure that went awry and resulted in internal bleeding to deal with, which meant two hospital stays. But I’m getting stronger every day, and eager to return to sitting in auditoriums, watching live theater. I regret I had to miss several shows, but again, life…ob-la-di, ob-la-da.

I look forward to an exciting year ahead, and I am very appreciative of all the well-wishes. Onward and upward.

Photo by Philip Hamer

EVENT OF THE YEAR: “The Karate Kid – The Musical” at Stages St. Louis.

St. Louis was ready for its close-up. A pre-Broadway world premiere at the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center had east and west coast creatives, stars and glitterati convening for a musical in the works for a Broadway debut. The effort was impressive, and it was fun to be a part of its creative birth.

Photo by Joey Rumpell

PRODUCTION OF THE YEAR: “Bronte Sister House Party” at SATE.

A very original play by Courtney Bailey, directed by Keating, designed by Bess Moynihan and Liz Henning, was one of the most fun theatrical experiences of the year. This world premiere was the tonic I needed after a death in the family, and I am so grateful that I was able to see it at the end of its run (THANK YOU).

Every element came together for an interactive event that percolated with good humor and delightful creative touches. The Brontë sisters of Victorian literary fame (Charlotte, Emily, and Anne) are trapped in a purgatorial time loop where they must throw a fabulous house party every night for eternity. Only when they reach The Point of Celebratory Reverence, the highest point of celebration that a party can achieve, will they be released. An absurd, feminist revisionist tribute to all the women artists who’ve created under pressure and still had it in them to throw a good party. What a terrific ensemble – Maggie Conroy, Rachel Tibbetts, Cassidy Flynn, Bess Moynihan, Joel Moses, Vicky Chen and LaWanda Jackson — and a kicky dance party.

COMPANY OF THE YEAR: The St. Louis Black Repertory Theatre “The Black Rep.” They raised the bar with a line-up that included the profound and insightful “Between the Sheet,” August Wilson’s “Jitney” and “The African Company Presents Richard III,” not to mention the shimmering “Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea.”

ARTIST OF THE YEAR: Ron Himes. Forty-six years after founding The Black Rep,he remains at the top of his game – he directed “Between the Sheet,” “Jitney,” and “The African Company Presents Richard III” and starred in “Jitney,” and at The Rep, in “Stick Fly.”

THE SHOW MUST GO ON CITATION: The Muny, after storm devastation, Put on “Legally Blonde” a night later! What a herculean effort.

MVPs of 2022
Summer Baer
Molly Burris
Olajawon Davis
Eileen Engel
Melissa Felps
Liz Henning
Joel Moses
Bess Moynihan
Ben Ritchie
John Wolbers
Metro Theatre Company’s outreach and traveling efforts to provide youngsters with theatrical opportunities that matter.

Jeffrey Kargus and Jason Meyers “The Lonesome West”

Best Supporting Performer in a Comedy, Female or Non-Binary Role

Cassidy Flynn, “Bronte Sister House Party,” SATE
Valentina Silvia, “The Rose Tattoo,” Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis
Tielere Cheatem, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” St Louis Shakespeare Festival
Bess Moynihan, “Bronte Sister House Party,” SATE
Jilanne Klaus, “Barefoot in the Park,” Moonstone Theatre Company
Hannah Geisz, “The Lonesome West,” West End Players Guild

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, St Louis Shakespeare Festival

Best Supporting Performer in a Comedy, Male or Non-Binary Role

Bradley J. Tejeda, “The Rose Tattoo,” Tennessee Williams Festival St Louis
Joel Moses, “Bronte Sister House Party,” SATE
Eric Dean White, “Hand to God,” St Louis Actors Studio
Chauncy Thomas, “Much Ado About Nothing,” St Louis Shakespeare Festival
Ted Drury, “The Lonesome West,” West End Players Guild
John Wolbers, “Laughter on the 23rd Floor,” New Jewish Theatre
Ryan Burns, “Bandera, Texas,” Prism Theatre Company

Molly Burris and Ryan Lawson-Maeske in “Dear Jack, Dear Louise”

Best Performer in a Comedy, Female or Non-Binary Role

Colleen Backer, “Hand to God,” St Louis Actors’ Studio
Molly Burris, “Dear Jack, Dear Louise,” New Jewish Theatre
Rachel Tibbetts, “Bronte Sister House Party,” SATE
Maggie Conroy, “Bronte Sister House Party,” SATE
Claire Karpen, “Much Ado About Nothing,” St Louis Shakespeare Festival
Rayme Cornell, “The Rose Tattoo,” Tennessee Williams Festival

Hand to God

Best Performer in a Comedy, Male or Non-Binary Role

Mitchell Henry- Eagles, “Hand to God,” St Louis Actors’ Studio
Isaiah di Lorenzo, “Every Brilliant Thing,: St Louis Shakespeare
Jeff Kargus, “The Lonesome West,” West End Players Guild
Jason Meyers, “The Lonesome West,” West End Players Guild
Ben Ritchie, “Laughter on the 23rd Floor,” New Jewish Theatre
Ryan Lawson-Maeske, “Dear Jack Dear Louise,” New Jewish Theatre
Stanton Nash, “Much Ado About Nothing,” St Louis Shakespeare Festival

The Bee Play

Best Supporting Performer in a Drama, Female or Non-Binary Role

Rachel Tibbetts, “Rodney’s Wife,” The Midnight Company
Coda Boyce, “The African Company Presents Richard III,” The Black Rep
Alex Jay, “Jitney,” The Black Rep
Donna Parrone, “Romeo and Juliet,” St Louis Shakespeare
Alex Jay, “The African Company Presents Richard III,” The Black Rep
Riley Carter Adams, “The Bee Play,” New Jewish Theatre
Sarajane Alverson, “The Normal Heart,” Stray Dog Theatre
Rachel Hanks, “The Christians,” West End Players Guild
Summer Baer, “Rodney’s Wife,” The Midnight Company

Summer Baer, Michael James Reed “Proof”

Best Supporting Performer in a Drama, Male or Non-Binary Role

Cameron Jamarr Davis, “The African Company Presents Richard III,” The Black Rep
Joey Saunders, “The Normal Heart,” Stray Dog Theatre
Michael James Reed, “Proof,” Moonstone Theatre Company
Joseph Garner, “The Christians,” West End Players Guild
Jeffrey Wright, “The Normal Heart,” Stray Dog Theatre
Wali Jamal Abdull, “The African Company Presents Richard III,” The Black Rep

Good People

Best Performer in a Drama, Female or Non-Binary Role

Jennifer Theby Quinn, “Iphigenia in Splott,” Upstream Theatre
Chinna Palmer, “Between the Sheet,” The Black Rep
LaVonne Byers, “Good People,” Stray Dog Theatre
Summer Baer, “Proof,” Moonstone Theatre Company
Kelly Howe, “Rodney’s Wife,” The Midnight Company

Jitney at the Black Rep

Best Performer in a Drama, Male or Non-Binary Role

Joel Moses, “The Christians,” West End Players Guild
Jeff Cummings, “Between the Sheet,” The Black Rep
Kevin Brown, “Jitney,” The Black Rep
Erik Petersen, “Romeo and Juliet,” St Louis Shakespeare
Olajuwon Davis, “Jitney,” The Black Rep
Stephen Peirick, “The Normal Heart,” Stray Dog Theatre
John Wolbers, “Rodney’s Wife,” The Midnight Company

Winds of Change St Louis Shakespeare Festival

Best New Play

“Bronte Sister House Party” by Courtney Bailey, SATE
“Winds of Change,” by Deanna Jent, St Louis Shakespeare Festival
“St Louis Woman,” by Joe Hanrahan, The Midnight Company
“Roll With It!,” by Katie Rodriguez Banister and Michelle Zielinski, The Black Mirror Theatre
“Bandera, Texas,” Lisa Dellagiarino Feriend, Prism Theatre Company

Sweeney Todd. Photo by Philip Hamer

Best Musical Director

James Moore, “Sweeney Todd,” The Muny
Walter “Bobby” McCoy, “In the Heights,” Stages St Louis
Andrew Resnick, “The Karate Kid: The Musical,” Stages St Louis
Jermaine Hill, “The Color Purple,” The Muny
Colin Healy, “Assassins,” Fly North Theatricals
Cullen Curth, “Jerry’s Girls,” New Jewish Theatre
Tre’ von Griffin, “Midsummer Night’s Dream, St Louis Shakespeare Festival
Zach Neumann, “Ordinary Days,” Tesseract Theatre Company
Tim Clark, “Urinetown,” New Line Theatre

A Chorus Line at Stages St Louis. Philip Hamer

Best Choreographer

Keone and Mari Madrid, “The Karate Kid: The Musical,” Stages St. Louis
Luis Salgado, “In the Heights,” Stages St. Louis
Dena DiaGiacinto, “A Chorus Line,” Stages St. Louis
Patrick O’Neil, “Mary Poppins,” The Muny
Heather Beal, “Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea,” The Black Rep
Josh Rhodes, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” The Muny

In the Heights at Stages St Louis

Best Supporting Performer in a Musical, Female or Non-Binary Role

Kate Baldwin, “The Karate Kid: The Musical,” Stages St. Louis
Amanda Robles, “In the Heights,” Stages St. Louis
Melissa Felps, “Something Rotten!,” New Line Theatre
Janelle Gilreath, “Urinetown!,” New Line Theatre
Sarah Gene Dowling, “A Little Night Music,” Stray Dog Theatre
Tami Dahbura, “In the Heights,” Stages St. Louis
Nasia Thomas, “The Color Purple,” The Muny
Grace Langford, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” Stray Dog Theatre
Dawn Schmid, “Ride the Cyclone,” Stray Dog Theatre
Rachel Bailey, “Triassic Parq: The Musical,” Stray Dog Theatre

“Something Rotten!” at New Line Theatre

Best Supporting Performer in a Musical, Male or Non-Binary Role

Jordan Wolk, “Assassins,” Fly North Theatricals
Clayton Humburg, “Something Rotten!,” New Line Theatre
Marshall Jennings, “Something Rotten!,” New Line Theatre
Kevin O’Brien, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” Stray Dog Theatre
Luis-Pablo Garcia, “In the Heights,” Stages St. Louis
Jeffrey Izquierdo-Malon, “Something Rotten!,” New Line Theatre
Mykal Kilgore, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” The Muny
Evan Tyrone Martin, “The Color Purple,” The Muny
Bryce Miller, “A Little Night Music,” Stray Dog Theatre
Shea Coffman, “Legally Blonde: The Musical,” The Muny

The 25th annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Stray Dog Theatre

Best Lighting Design in a Musical

Bradley King, “The Karate Kid: The Musical,” Stages St. Louis
John Lasiter, “Sweeney Todd,” The Muny
Sean M Savoie, “In the Heights,” Stages St. Louis
Sean M. Savoie, “A Chorus Line,” Stages St. Louis
Jason Lyons, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” The Muny
Tyler Duenow, “Ride the Cyclone,” Stray Dog Theatre

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at The Muny. Philip Hamer photo

Best Set Design in a Musical

Anna Louisoz, “In the Heights,” Stages St. Louis
Derek McLane, “The Karate Kid: The Musical,” Stages St. Louis
Michael Schweikardt, “Sweeney Todd,” The Muny
Ann Beyersdorfer, “Camelot,” The Muny
Rob Lippert, “Something Rotten!,” New Line Theatre
Edward E. Hayes, Jr. and Greg Emetaz, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” The Muny

Stray Dog Theatre’s A Little Night Music

Best Costume Design in a Musical

Samantha C. Jones, “The Color Purple,” The Muny
Brad Musgrove, “In the Heights,” Stages St. Louis
Leon Dobkowski, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” The Muny
Eileen Engel, “A Little Night Music,” Stray Dog Theatre
Eileen Engel, “Triassic Parq The Musical,” Stray Dog Theatre
Robin L. McGee, “Mary Poppins,” The Muny
Sarah Porter, “Urinetown,” New Line Theatre
Alejo Vietti, “Sweeney Todd,” The Muny

“Forget Me Not” at St Louis Actors’ Studio

Best Lighting Design in a Play

Patrick Huber, “Forget Me Not,” St Louis Actors’ Studio
Jasmine’ Williams, “Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea,” The Black Rep
Bess Moynihan, “Bronte Sister House Party,” SATE
John Wylie, “Much Ado About Nothing,” St Louis Shakespeare Festival
Joseph Clapper, “Between the Sheet,” The Black Rep
Jesse Alford, “The Rose Tattoo,” Tennessee Williams Festival St Louis

“Between the Sheet” at the Black Rep

Best Sound Design in a Play

Lamar Harris, “Between the Sheet,” The Black Rep
Kareem Deanes and Rusty Wandall, “Much Ado About Nothing,” St Louis Shakespeare Festival
Zeck Schultz, “Bronte Sister House Party,” SATE
Jackie Sharp, “Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea,” The Black Rep
Lamar Harris, “Jitney,” The Black Rep

Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea at The Black Rep

Best Costume Design in a Play

Daryl Harris, “Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea,” The Black Rep
Liz Henning, “St Louis Woman,” The Midnight Company
Liz Henning, “Rodney’s Wife,” The Midnight Company
Michele Fredman Siler, “Laughter on the 23rd Floor,” New Jewish Theatre
Andre Harrington, “The African Company Presents Richard III,” The Black Rep
Oona Natesan, “House of Joy,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

St Louis Woman, The Midnight Company

Best Set Design in a Play

Bess Moynihan, “Rodney’s Wife,” The Midnight Company
Josh Smith, “Much Ado About Nothing,” St Louis Shakespeare Festival
Margery and Peter Spack, “Dontrell, Who Was Kissed by the Sea.” The Black Rep
Jamie Bullens, “Jitney,” The Black Rep
Rob Lippert, “Laughter on the 23rd Floor,” New Jewish Theatre
Dunsi Dai, “Dear Jack Dear Louise,” New Jewish Theatre
Margery and Peter Spack, “The Last Stop on Market Street,” Metro Theatre Company

Dynamic Duos

Liam Craig and Whit Reichert, “Much Ado About Nothing,” St Louis Shakespeare Festival
Molly Burris and Ryan Lawson-Maeske in “Dear Jack Dear Louise,” New Jewish Theatre
Jeff Kargus and Jason Meyers, “The Lonesome West,” West End Players Guild
Nicole Michelle Haskins as Sofia and Gilbert Domally as Harpo in ‘The Color Purple” at The Muny
Matt Pace and Brien Seyle, original music for “Much Ado About Nothing,” St. Louis Shakespeare Festival

Best Performer in a Musical, Female or Non-Binary Role

Anastacia McCleskey, “The Color Purple,” The Muny
Carmen Cusack, “Sweeney Todd,” The Muny
Isabel Leoni, “In the Heights,” The Muny
Eileen Engel, “Ride the Cyclone!,” Stray Dog Theatre
Jeanna de Waal, “Mary Poppins,” The Muny
Lauralyn McClelland, “A Chorus Line,” Stages St Louis

Stephen Henley as The Balladeer in “Assassins”

Best Performer in a Musical, Male or Non-Binary Role

Ben Davis, “Sweeney Todd,” The Muny
Jovanni Sy, “The Karate Kid: The Musical,” Stages St. Louis
Stephen Henley, “Assassins,” Fly North Theatricals
Ryan Alvarado, “In the Heights,” Stages St. Louis
Corbin Bleu, “Mary Poppins,” The Muny
Danny McHugh, “A Chorus Line,” Stages St Louis

“Laughter on the 23rd Floor” at New Jewish Theatre

Best Ensemble in a Comedy

“Bronte Sister House Party,” SATE
‘Laughter on the 23rd Floor,” New Jewish Theatre
“Hand to God,” St Louis Actors’ Studio
“The Residents of Craigslist,” ERA Theatre
“Heroes,” Albion Theatre
“The Rose Tattoo,” Tennessee Williams Festival St Louis

Rodney’s Wife by The Midnight Company. Photo by Joey Rumpell.

Best Ensemble in a Drama

“The Normal Heart,” Stray Dog Theatre
“Jitney,” The Black Rep
“The African Company Presents Richard III,” The Black Rep
“Rodney’s Wife,” The Midnight Company
“The Christians,” West End Players Guild
“Between the Sheet,” The Black Rep

“Ride the Cyclone” at Stray Dog Theatre

Best Ensemble in a Musical

“Sweeney Todd,” The Muny
“In the Heights,” Stages St. Louis
“The Color Purple,” The Muny
“A Chorus Line,” Stages St. Louis
“Jerry’s Girls,” New Jewish Theatre
“Ride the Cyclone!” Stray Dog Theatre
“Triassic Parq The Musical,” Stray Dog Theatre
“Urinetown!,” New Line Theatre
“Ordinary Days,” Tesseract Theatre Company
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” St Louis Shakespeare Festival
“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” Stray Dog Theatre
“The Karate Kid: The Musical,” Stages St. Louis
“Something Rotten!” New Line Theatre

Much Ado About Northing, St Louis Shakespeare Festival

Best Director of a Comedy

Bruce Longworth, “Much Ado About Nothing,” St Louis Shakespeare Festival
Keating, “Bronte Sister House Party,” SATE
Andrea Urice, “Hand to God,” St Louis Actors’ Studio
Eddie Coffield, “Laughter on the 23rd Floor,” New Jewish Theatre
Robert Ashton, “The Lonesome West,” West End Players Guild
David Kaplan, “The Rose Tattoo,” Tennessee Williams Festival St Louis

The African Company Presents Richard III at The Black Rep

Best Director of a Drama

Ron Himes, “Jitney,” The Black Rep
Gary F. Bell, “The Normal Heart,” Stray Dog Theatre
Ron Himes, “The African Company Presents Richard III,” The Black Rep
Joe Hanrahan, “Rodney’s Wife,” The Midnight Company
Ellie Schwetye, “The Christians,” West End Players Guild
Ron Himes, “Between the Sheet,” The Black Rep

Jerry’s Girls at New Jewish Theatre

Best Director of a Musical

Rob Ruggiero, “Sweeney Todd,” The Muny
Luis Salgado, “In the Heights,” Stages St. Louis
Lili-Anne Brown, “The Color Purple,” The Muny
Bradley Rolf, “Assassins,” Fly North Theatricals
Gayle Seay, “A Chorus Line,” Stages St. Louis
Ellen Isom, “Jerry’s Girls,” New Jewish Theatre
Justin Been, “A Little Night Music,” Stray Dog Theatre
John Tartaglia, “Mary Poppins,” The Muny
Scott Miller, “Something Rotten!” New Line Theatre
Elisabeth Wurm, “Ordinary Days,” Tesseract Theatre Company

The Rose Tattoo, Tennessee Williams Festival St Louis

Best Production of a Comedy

“Bronte Sister House Party,” SATE
“Dear Jack, Dear Louise,” New Jewish Theatre
“Laughter on the 23rd Floor,” New Jewish Theatre
“Much Ado About Nothing,” St Louis Shakespeare Festival
“The Lonesome West,” West End Players Guild
“Hand to God,” St Louis Actors’ Studio
The Rose Tattoo, Tennessee Williams Festival St Louis

“The Normal Heart,” Stray Dog Theatre

Best Production of a Drama

“The Normal Heart,” Stray Dog Theatre
“Jitney,” The Black Rep
“The African Company Presents Richard III,” The Black Rep
“Good People,” Stray Dog Theatre
“Proof,” Moonstone Theatre Company
“Between the Sheet,” The Black Rep
“The Christians,” West End Players Guild

“Sweeney Todd” at The Muny. Philip Hamer

Best Production of a Musical

“Sweeney Todd,” The Muny
“In the Heights,” Stages St. Louis
“The Color Purple,” The Muny
“A Chorus Line,” Stages St. Louis
“Assassins,” Fly North Theatricals
“Urinetown!”, New Line Theatre
“Ordinary Days,” Tesseract Theatre Company
“Something Rotten!” New Line Theatre
“A Little Night Music,” Stray Dog Theatre

“The Christians,” West End Players Guild. Photo by John Lamb

ST. LOUIS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA’S MARCH CONCERTS INCLUDE THREE SLSO PREMIERES, CHORAL PERFORMANCES, GRAMMY AWARD-WINNING ARTISTS, AND A BON VOYAGE CONCERT FOR THE ORCHESTRA’S EUROPEAN TOUR

March 3-4: Assistant Conductor Stephanie Childress leads the orchestra in two SLSO premieres: Oswald Huỳnh’s Gia Đình (Family) and Joseph Haydn’s Keyboard Concerto No. 11 with frequent SLSO guest Peter Henderson; concerts conclude with Robert Schumann’s Symphony No. 3, “Rhenish”

March 10-11: Conductor Nicholas McGegan leads the SLSO in selection from Ludwig van Beethoven’s Egmont and the first SLSO performances of Felix Mendelssohn’s The First Walpurgis Night with the St. Louis Symphony Chorus

March 12: Grammy Award-winning duo, Indigo Girls, shares the stage with the SLSO

March 16: Music Director Stéphane Denève and acclaimed pianist Víkingur Ólafsson team up for a one-night-only bon voyage concert with the SLSO prior to the orchestra’s European tour; concert includes Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto, Sergei Prokofiev’s The Love for Three Oranges Suite, and Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances

March 19: Childress leads the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra in a free community concert featuring Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 and a movement from Johannes Brahms’ Violin Concerto with YO co-concertmaster Ayman Amerin

March 31: Folk and bluegrass pioneer Béla Fleck performs his latest album, My Bluegrass Heart

(February 2, 2023, St. Louis, MO) – Today, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra announced details for its concerts at Powell Hall throughout the month of March. Concerts include a one-night-only bon voyage concert for the orchestra prior to its five-city European tour with acclaimed pianist Víkingur Ólafsson; programs with Assistant Conductor Stephanie Childress and longtime collaborator Nicholas McGegan; a performance with the Grammy Award-winning duo Indigo Girls, and a presentation of celebrated folk and bluegrass music by artist Béla Fleck.

Tickets start at $15 for classical concerts, $10 for Youth Orchestra concerts, and start as low as $40 for other concerts. Tickets may be purchased at slso.org or by calling the Box Office at 314-534-1700. A full concert calendar is available at slso.org or on the SLSO’s mobile app available for iOS or Android. Both Saturday night classical concerts will be broadcast live on 90.7 FM KWMU St. Louis Public Radio, Classic 107.3, or online (stlpr.org). Audiences can attend a Pre-Concert Conversation, an engaging discussion about the music and artists on the program, one hour prior to each classical concert in the auditorium. 

The SLSO’s 143rd season runs through June 2023. For more information, visit slso.org

Schumann’s “Rhenish” Symphony

Friday, March 3, 2023, 7:30pm

Saturday, March 4, 2023, 10:30am*

Stephanie Childress, conductor

Peter Henderson, piano

Oswald HUỲNH                                      Gia Đình (First SLSO performances)

Joseph HAYDN                                       Keyboard Concerto No. 11, Hob. XVIII (First SLSO performances)

Robert SCHUMANN                              Symphony No. 3, “Rhenish”

*Refreshments courtesy of Kaldi’s Coffee and Eddie’s Southtown Donuts. Shuttle service available from Plaza Frontenac.

SLSO Assistant Conductor Stephanie Childress returns to lead the orchestra in classical concerts, following her April 2022 classical season debut. The March 3-4 concerts open with two pieces new to the SLSO but composed more than 230 years apart. The SLSO first performed Oswald Huỳnh’s Gia Đình (Family) as part of a yearly collaboration with the Mizzou New Music Initiative at the University of Missouri, in which the orchestra workshops scores by student composers. Childress asked Huỳnh—an initiative participant—to expand on his original work for full orchestra. Next, frequent SLSO collaborator and Maryville University professor Peter Henderson joins the orchestra for Joseph Haydn’s Keyboard Concerto No. 11, composed in 1784 and marked by a lively, gallant style. The concerts close with Robert Schumann’s Symphony No. 3, “Rhenish.” Written during a happy time in Schumann’s life, the symphony draws inspiration from Ludwig van Beethoven’s groundbreaking Symphony No. 3, as well as Schumann’s trip to the German Rhineland with his wife, pianist Clara Schumann.

Beethoven and Mendelssohn

Friday, March 10, 2023, 7:30pm

Saturday, March 11, 2023, 8:00pm

Nicholas McGegan, conductor

Sarah Price, soprano

Danielle Yilmaz, soprano

Victoria Carmichael, alto

Thomas Cooley, tenor

Enrico Lagasca, bass-baritone (SLSO debut)

St. Louis Symphony Chorus | Trent Patterson, guest director

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN                     Selections from Egmont

Felix MENDELSSOHN                            The First Walpurgis Night (First SLSO performances)

Frequent SLSO collaborator Nicholas McGegan returns for a dramatic musical pairing of works by Ludwig van Beethoven and Felix Mendelssohn inspired by famed author Goethe. Both feature calls for liberty—heroically in Beethoven’s Egmont, playfully in Mendelssohn’s The First Walpurgis Night. The St. Louis Symphony Chorus joins McGegan and the orchestra for the first SLSO performances of The First Walpurgis Night. A fixture at the SLSO for more than 30, this will be McGegan’s 37th classical program with the SLSO.

Indigo Girls

Indigo Girls with the SLSO

Sunday, March 12, 2023, 7:00pm

Stephanie Childress, conductor

Indigo Girls, vocals and guitar

Repertoire announced from the stage. This concert was rescheduled from May 2022.

On Sunday, March 12, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers—better known as the Indigo Girls—return to Powell Hall for a third collaboration with the SLSO. The power of unity, both in music and in life, has been an Indigo Girls calling card ever since they burst into the spotlight with their 1989 self-titled breakout album. Since then, the band has racked up Gold and Platinum records, taken home a coveted GRAMMY® Award, and earned the respect of high-profile peers. This performance was rescheduled from May 2022. The SLSO will honor tickets for the original concert date.

Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances

Thursday, March 16, 2023, 7:30pm

Stéphane Denève, conductor

Vikingur Ólafsson, piano

Sergei PROKOFIEV                                 The Love for Three Oranges Suite

Edvard GRIEG                                         Piano Concerto

Sergei RACHMANINOFF                      Symphonic Dances

For one night, the SLSO invites St. Louisans to hear a program with Music Director Stéphane Denève and acclaimed pianist Víkingur Ólafsson at its home in Powell Hall on Thursday, March 16, 2023—a bon voyage concert celebrating the SLSO’s return to international touring for the first time since 2017. Ólafsson will play Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto, the same piece he made his SLSO debut with in November 2021. The concert also includes music by two composers Denève greatly admires: music from Sergei Prokofiev’s satirical opera—the rarely-performed The Love for Three Oranges Suite; and Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances, an orchestral showpiece and a “desert island” work for Denève. On March 21, the SLSO embarks on a five-city tour that will see the same program performed at some of the world’s most-celebrated concert halls, including the Vienna Konzerthaus (Vienna, Austria); Centre for Fine Arts (Brussels, Belgium, as part of the Klara Festival); Muzikgebouw Eindhoven (Eindhoven, the Netherlands); Concertgebouw (Amsterdam, the Netherlands); and Auditorio Nacional de Música (Madrid, Spain).   

Stephen Childress

St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra

Sunday, March 19, 2023, 3:00pm

Stephanie Childress, conductor

Ayman Amerin, violin

Johannes BRAHMS                               Allegro non troppo from Violin Concerto

Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH                        Symphony No. 5

The St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra continues its three-concert season by featuring the winner of the annual YO Concerto competition. Ayman Ishmael Amerin, the YO co-concertmaster and junior at Fort Zumwalt West High School, will perform a movement from Johannes Brahms’ Violin Concerto. Then, the orchestra performs Dmitri Shostakovich’s most provocative work—his Symphony No. 5, noted for its over-the-top musical depiction of Soviet patriotism in response to official criticism of his earlier musical output. YO Music Director and SLSO Assistant Conductor Stephanie Childress leads this concert.

Béla Fleck’s My Bluegrass Heart

Friday, March 31, 2022, 7:30pm

Béla Fleck, banjo and vocals

Repertoire announced from the stage. This performance does not feature the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.

Folk and bluegrass pioneer Béla Fleck returns to Powell Hall to perform his latest work, My Bluegrass Heart, a 19-track album that took the 2021 Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album. Over the long and lauded course of his unique creative run, Fleck – the world’s premier banjo virtuoso and a celebrated musical adventurer – has both dug deep into his instrument’s complex global history and unlocked the breadth of its possibilities.

Bela Fleck

About the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra

Celebrated as a leading American orchestra, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra is the second-oldest orchestra in the country, marking its 143rd year with the 2022/2023 season and its fourth with Music Director Stéphane Denève. The SLSO maintains its commitment to artistic excellence, educational impact, and community collaborations, honoring its mission of enriching lives through the power of music.

The SLSO serves as a convener of individuals, creators, and ideas, and is committed to building community through compelling and inclusive musical experiences. As it continues its longstanding focus on equity, diversity, inclusion, and access, the SLSO embraces its strengths as a responsive, nimble organization, while investing in partnerships locally and elevating its presence globally. For more information, visit slso.org.

Top photo is SLSO guest Peter Henderson

By Lynn Venhaus
A taut and tense thriller that taps into our anxieties and fears during the past three years of the pandemic, “Knock at the Cabin” keeps one off-guard and on the edge.

While vacationing in a remote area, a girl, Wen (Kristen Cui) and her parents (Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge) are taken hostage by armed strangers who demand that the family make a choice to avert the apocalypse.

Its alarming scenario – sacrifice to avert the world’s end – grows tedious as the minutes tick by (1 hour, 40-minute runtime), but the viewer isn’t sure if we’re being played or is it convincing enough to think about doing the unthinkable. Therefore, it’s fraught with danger until the conclusion.

Supernatural specialist M. Night Shyamalan remains streaky as a director, but this is one of his more grounded works, on par with “The Visit” (2015) and “Split” (2016), if not his masterpieces “The Sixth Sense” and “Unbreakable.”

Based on the book, “The Cabin at the End of the World” by Paul Tremblay, co-screenwriters Shyamalan, Steve Desmond and Michael Sherman keep the focus tightly controlled. The cabin becomes a claustrophobic setting instead of its relaxing get-away-from-the-city intentions.

Shyamalan, who is a master at simmering tensions, has a strong cast to work with here.

Playing against type, Dave Bautista is gentle-giant Leonard, who says he is a school teacher but is a hulking, menacing presence leading a team of nervous enforcers who mean what they say.

These are not idle threats they speak, but what they say is so preposterous, it’s hard to believe that humanity rests on one family’s decision. However, they follow through with the gruesome details – and thankfully, we are spared most of the horrific visuals.

The four have intruded on a same-sex couple’s vacation with their adopted daughter. Daddy Eric (Groff) and Daddy Andrew (Aldridge) are used to being targeted, but they are fierce warriors regarding their family. They are not going to give up easily, no matter how many pleas from Leonard’s team.

Rupert Grint is Redmond, a hothead whose temper hurts their mission more than helps. Abby Quinn is Adriene, a nurturing type, and Nikki Amuka-Bird is Sabrina, a nurse, trying to be compassionate but firm.

Their words fall on deaf ears, as news reports visualize the grim reality of the outside world. Who do we believe?

Showing flashbacks of their relationship and their setbacks, Andrew and Eric are given a backstory that ties a few things together. The pair dote on their charming daughter, which makes the choices even more gut-wrenching.

The authentic performances, especially by Groff, best known as a Tony nominee in musical theater (“Spring Awakening,” “Hamilton”), but who also starred in David Fincher’s TV series “Mindhunter,” and Aldridge, a veterans of several television shows, help stick the landing.

Shayamalan uses his beloved Philadelphia again, and appears briefly in an air fryer infomercial, as he likes to pop into his own films.

It’s a satisfactory thriller for our times, and ramped up those uneasy feelings we’ve all had since the lockdown three years ago.

“Knock at the Cabin” is a 2023 horror, mystery thriller directed by M. Night Shyamalan and stars Dave Bautista, Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge and Kristen Cui. It is rated R for violence and language, and runs 1 hour, 40 minutes. It opened in theaters on Feb. 3. Lynn’s Grade: B.

Knock at the Cabin Trailer; Credit: Universal Pictures/YouTube; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gv_QhoUy-xc

By Lynn Venhaus
Maybe it was the wake-up call – the clock radio hitting 6 a.m. and Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” blaring bedside at the quaint B &B. And then again the next day, at precisely the same time.

From the get-go, you knew “Groundhog Day” wasn’t your usual comedy when it premiered on Feb. 12, 1993. It could have been a one-joke movie, but in the hands of an appealing cast led by Bill Murray, director Harold Ramis and screenwriter Danny Rubin, “Groundhog Day” turned out to be fresh, original and enormously entertaining.

Today it stands as not only one of the best comedies of the 1990s, but a romantic comedy for the ages.

The movie’s ingenious hook was taking a classic American winter custom and turning it into a personal hell, then salvation, for an arrogant Pittsburgh TV weatherman. In a perverse twist of fate, Phil Connors must repeat the same day over and over and over again. It happens when he’s covering the most famous groundhog in the U.S., Punxsutawney Phil, in a nearby Pennsylvania hamlet, to witness the annual ritual of whether or not he saw his shadow on Feb. 2. It’s the fourth year for the assignment, and he’s beyond amused, with frustration seething from every pore. Oh, the irony — he gets stuck in the small town when a blizzard that he forecast as going elsewhere heads his way.

Murray was a natural for the role of the condescending and vain weather guy, with his deadpan delivery style well-suited for such lines as “I am a god, not THE God.”

By the early 1990s, Murray was working infrequently, and his previous films, “What About Bob?” in 1991, “Ghostbusters II” in 1989 and ‘Scrooged” in 1988 had received mixed reviews. His ’80s glory days of ‘Stripes,” “Caddyshack,” “Ghostbusters” and “Tootsie” were behind him, but he proved he could still carry a movie and was a comic force to be reckoned with, but also charming in a romantic part, too.

When he’s testing his immortal powers, that’s when he really draws laughs, but he becomes downright cuddly when he decides to use his powers for good, not evil. Murray’s expert comic timing makes everyone around him better, too.

Andie MacDowell is radiant as the sweet producer wooed by the weatherman and wacky Chris Elliott is just plain funny as the cameraman Larry.

And then of course there’s Stephen Tobolowsky, a character actor so memorable as Ned Ryerson. Who can forget Ned’s nerdy ways? His talent show act in high school? Bing!



“Groundhog Day” has aged well. It’s a movie whose elements will make you smile whenever you think of them, and will still make you laugh after repeat viewings.

For example, here is the snappy repartee between the morning radio show personalities:
First D.J.: Okay, campers, rise and shine, and don’t forget your booties ’cause it’s cooooold out there today.
Second D.J.: It’s coooold out there every day. What is this, Miami Beach?
First D.J.: Not hardly. And you know, you can expect hazardous travel later today with that, you know, that, uh, that blizzard thing.
Second D.J.: [mockingly] That blizzard – thing. That blizzard – thing. Oh, well, here’s the report! The National Weather Service is calling for a “big blizzard thing!”
First D.J.: Yessss, they are. But you know, there’s another reason why today is especially exciting.
Second D.J.: Especially cold!
First D.J.: Especially cold, okay, but the big question on everybody’s lips…
Second D.J.: – On their chapped lips…
First D.J.: – On their chapped lips, right: Do ya think Phil is gonna come out and see his shadow?
Second D.J.: Punxsutawney Phil!
First D.J.: That’s right, woodchuck-chuckers – it’s
[in unison]
First D.J.: GROUNDHOG DAY!
Second D.J.: GROUNDHOG DAY!
So come along to Gobbler’s Knob! Watch “Groundhog Day” and you won’t need a chill pill!

The movie’s authentic winter look got me to thinking about other movies set in massive amounts of snow. Here are nine others that make the most of their frosty settings, if you want to go that direction.



Doctor Zhivago (1965) – If you have never seen this David Lean epic love story set during the Russian Revolution, put it at the top of your list — and clear some time, for it’s 3 hours and 17 minutes. Omar Sharif plays the hunky lead opposite gorgeous Julie Christie while Geraldine Chaplin is his dumped wife. Rod Steiger, Alec Guinness and a cast of thousands. “Somewhere My Love” is the haunting “Lara’s Theme” of the Maurice Jarre soundtrack.

Fargo (1996) – The frozen landscape of the twin cities, Minneapolis-St. Paul, is really the setting of the Coen Brothers’ finest film, and it becomes as memorable a character as William H. Macy’s hapless car salesman Jerry Lundegaard and Oscar winner Frances McDormand’s very pregnant police chief Marge Gunderson. The murder-for-hire scheme is dark, as far as black comedies go, but what a terrific twisted plot, and both Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare play two of life’s biggest losers on the wrong side of the law. You feel Jerry’s pain as he tries to scrape ice off his car when his plans begin to unravel.

Miracle (2004) – Every four years, February means Olympic stars are born. And who can forget the 1980 USA Hockey Team’s quest for the gold? Even if you already know the story, “Miracle” is one terrific sports movie. Kurt Russell gives one of his best performances ever as Coach Herb Brooks, and the backstory of how they assembled this team is compelling human drama. And these players are kids who spent their childhoods skating on frozen ponds, so of course there’s plenty of snow and ice to qualify this movie as a winter wonder.

A Simple Plan (1998) – Director Sam Raimi’s excellent adaptation of Scott Smith’s novel features a wintry Minnesota backdrop for a hot potato story. A never-better Bill Paxton plays Hank, who along with his ‘slow’ brother Jacob (Oscar nominee Billy Bob Thornton in a heart-breaking performance) and friend Lou (Brent Briscoe) discovers $4 million in a plane wreck. They decide to keep quiet and divvy up the money — which they reckon is from a drug deal — but naturally greed takes over, and very bad things start happening. It’s very Shakespearean in a relatable small-town way.

Cliffhanger (1993) – Sylvester Stallone does what he does best in this taut thriller set in the Italian Alps — superbly playing an action hero with some serious dilemmas. Director Renny Harlin’s visual style is dazzling here, and the adventure has a sense of urgency that keeps you on the edge of your seat. John Lithgow is notable as the villain, one of his better roles.

Jeremiah Johnson (1972) – Robert Redford is a mountain man who learns new ways to survive in the wilderness, circa 1830. Sydney Pollack directed this picture-postcard of a movie filmed in Utah. Will Geer, aka Grandpa Walton, is memorable as a trapper who teaches Jeremiah a thing or two.

Alive (1993) – If you think the plane crash on “Lost” was something else, you haven’t seen this amazing recreation of the horrific real-life accident stranding Uruguayan rugby players for 10 weeks in the remote Andes Mountains in 1972. Perhaps you recall what they had to do to survive. The movie, directed by Frank Marshall and written by John Patrick Shanley, focuses on the human drama. The cast features young stars Ethan Hawke, Josh Hamilton, Vincent Spano and in a small role, Josh Lucas.

Ice Age (2003) – OK, it’s animated, but it’s a clever and well-done family movie, featuring excellent voice work from comic actors as a motley crew trekking across the frozen tundras. Ray Romano is Manfred the Mammoth while John Leguizamo is Sid the Sloth and Denis Leary Diego the Sabertooth Tiger. It’s a fun prehistoric romp.

The Gold Rush (1925) – Charlie Chaplin is a prospector seeking gold in Alaska. Comic gems abound in this silent classic, most notable for eating the shoe.

Fargo

 The Tesseract Theatre Company has changed leadership structures and announced its new team of Creative Directors.

Tesseract Theatre has followed the more traditional model of theatre administration for over a decade now, with an Artistic Director choosing production material, a Managing Director overseeing production operations, and an Executive Director tackling the administrative identity of the company.

The company is now switching to a more ‘open forum’ type of management structure with the addition of Kevin Corpuz. ”It opens up for more collaboration,” says Corpuz, “and allows us to work more in tandem to help shape the new direction of the company.”

The new direction of the company involving the addition of musicals, like last November’s production of Adam Gwon’s Ordinary Days, something Tesseract never did in its first twelve years in St. Louis. “I found myself wishing the play would never end,” wrote Richard Green of Talkin’ Broadway of the production.


”We’ve always celebrated having a lot of voices in the room,” says Taylor Gruenloh, the founding Artistic Director of the company, now turned Creative Director alongside Corpuz, “but this feels more responsible. And guarantees a ‘check and balance’ system to everything. And not just to make sure that duties are being done and everything is done fairly in production, but that leadership can look out for one another, make sure everyone is still taking a breath and is reminded why we want to sacrifice our time to produce theatre in this community.”

Along with Gruenloh and Corpuz is Brittanie Gunn, a founding partner of the company. “We celebrate ensembles on our stage,” Gunn says, “and I think mirroring our management structure in a more ensemble-like fashion should allow us to find new experimental ways to take on production management and company administration.”

”I’m excited to help Tesseract do what it’s always done,” says Corpuz. “Which has been producing exciting shows in St. Louis. And I’m glad to help usher in the exploration of musical theatre inside this company.”

Corpuz will be featured in the musical The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown at Tesseract Feb. 17-26, directed by Gruenloh. And Gunn will be directing the hip-hop romance Welcome to Arroyo’s by Kristoffer Diaz this upcoming April. Both shows at the .Zack Theatre in Midtown on Locust.

Ordinary Days

The Midnight Company will feature two original cabaret shows as part of their 2023 season, and the first – JUST ONE LOOK, the story of the legendary singer Linda Ronstadt – will play at The Blue Strawberry on Wednesdays March 1, 8 and 15 at 7:30pm.  The show stars Kelly Howe as Ronstadt, and it’s written and directed by Midnight Creative Director Joe Hanrahan, and tickets, at $25, are on sale now at BlueStrawberrySTL.com or by calling 314-256-1745.  (In July, Midnight will present YOU MADE ME LOVE YOU, a very personal tribute to Judy Garland, at The Blue Strawberry.)

Hanrahan said “Jim Dolan of The Blue Strawberry and I have discussed incorporating a theatrical element into classic cabaret, and with the Linda Ronstadt show, we’re aiming to create that.”  Dolan said “Blue Strawberry is excited to be working with Joe Hanrahan and Midnight to present this show. As a longtime fan of Joe and Midnight’s work, we are honored to be a part of this production.”

After Linda Ronstadt’s long success on the pop music charts, she went on to triumphs on Broadway with Gilbert and Sullivan, 3 albums of the Great American Songbook with Nelson Riddle, Mariachi and lullaby albums, and much more.  She had 3 number 1 hit albums, and 10 albums in the top ten.  She recorded over 30 albums, and appeared as a guest on 120 albums by other artists – from Philip Glass to a duet with Homer Simpson.  There was a number 1 single,  3 number 2s, 10 top ten singles, 21 reaching the top 40, and two number 1 hits on the Country charts.  Ronstadt’s hits included Different Drum, Blue Bayou, Desperado, It’s So Easy, the title song of this show and many more.  Her worldwide album sales totaled more than fifty million, she won ten Grammy Awards, she’s a recipient of the National Medal of Arts, and she’s a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Hanrahan said “Both Kelly and I have a deep appreciation for the great music Linda Ronstadt delivered.  Both her rockers and her ballads are among our favorite songs.  We aim to remind people who she was, and to honor her work and her life.”

Her songbook featured collaborations with some of the biggest names in music, and her personal life included longterm relationships with, among others, Governor Jerry Brown of California when he was running for president, and George Lucas of STAR WARS.

In JUST ONE LOOK, Hanrahan will portray a veteran rock ’n roll journalist who finally gets to interview his unrequited love, Ronstadt, though she’s now retired to her hometown of Tucson, suffering from Parkinson’s disease.   In the course of the show, they remember her debut in Los Angeles, and Howe becomes the younger Linda, recalling her storybook career and singing her great songs.

Kelly Howe was nominated for Best Supporting Actress by the St. Louis Critics Circle for her role in The Black Rep’s SWEAT.  In St. Louis, she’s also been seen in TOMMY (Stray Dog), THE APHRA BEHN FESTIVAL (SATE) and RODNEY’S WIFE (Midnight.)

Joe Hanrahan, Midnight’s Artistic Director, directed Midnight productions of RODNEY’S WIFE and ST. LOUIS WOMAN in 2022.  For the Company, recent Hanrahan scripts have been ST. LOUIS WOMAN and ANOMALOUS EXPERIENCE in 2022, and NOW PLAYING THIRD BASE FOR THE ST. LOUIS CARDINALS…BOND, JAMES BOND and TINSEL TOWN in 2021.  Both of those scripts were nominated for Best New Play by the Critics Circle, with TINSEL TOWN receiving the award.  Previously Joe has also directed for The Black Rep (THE BROWNSVILLE RAID and NO CHILD), SATE (CUDDLES) and R-S (THE FLICK).  

Miranda Jagels Felix will Assistant Direct.  She directed Kelly Howe for THE APHRA BEHN FESTIVAL (SATE),  assistant directed and performed for THE GOOD SHIP ST. LOUIS (Upstream), performed in HAG-SEED (Prison Performing Arts) and will assistant direct UNCLE VANYA (The Actors Studio) in February.

The JUST ONE LOOK Band will be led by Music Director/Pianist Curt Landes. Curt has played with Chuck Berry, Albert King, Glenn Campbell, John Hartford and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, and has appeared at numerous national and local music festivals.  Tom Maloney will be on guitar and bass.  Tom was the Music Director the an international Johnnie Johnson tour.  He’s played with everybody from Jerry Vale to Homesick James, and recently co-wrote and produced Jeremiah Johnson’s #1 song on the Billboard Blues Chart, HiFi Drive.  And Mark Rogers will handle percussion and provide backup vocals.  Mark co-founded many local bands, including Street Corner Symphony, Walnut Park Athletic Club and The Heaters.  He proudly claims that he’s used the same drum set since 1968, and and the same milk can as a drum stool since 1973.

After JUST ONE LOOK, Midnight’s 2023 season will continue with THE ABSOLUTE BRIGHTNESS OF LEONARD PELKEY (May 4-20 at the Kranzberg Black Box), THE YEARS (July 13-29 at The Chapel), YOU MADE ME LOVE YOU (July 26, August 2 & 9 at The Blue Strawberry) and THE LION IN WINTER (October 5-21 at the .ZACK.)
For more information, visit midnightcompany.com.

By Lynn Venhaus

A heart-tugging story about love, loss, life, and friendship, “A Man Called Otto” has much to say about seeing the world differently through other people’s eyes, and what your ‘found’ family means in your life.

Otto Anderson (Tom Hanks) is a grump who’s given up on life following the loss of his wife and wants to end it all. When a young family moves in nearby, he meets his match in quick-witted Marisol (Mariana Trevino), leading to a friendship that will turn his world around.

The film is based on the bestselling 2012 novel “A Man Called Ove,” written by Fredrik Backman, which was made into a 2015 Swedish of the same name by Hannes Holm.

Tom Hanks is a handful here. The neighborhood crank that can’t be bothered by social graces. He’s downright glacier. But there is more to his story here, and thankfully, we go along for the ride.

With a terrific supporting cast – Mariana Trevino is the MVP of this journey, and she’s a force of nature as the kind neighbor Marisol. Without her as a counterpart, this would be a difficult, one-note story, for the story centers on a man who wants to end his life.

His soul mate, Sonya (a lovely Rachel Keller in flashback) has passed on after a tough setback, and numerous sorrows, and he’s retired from his engineering job of 40 years. But, with divine intervention, his attempts are interrupted by people who care.

People needing people – what is wrong with a theme like that? I’ll take sentimental over harshness any day.

Without giving too much away, Otto relents. He thaws, he helps people, and he’s the better for it.

With some much-needed humor, the film rewards us. So, it may not be ground-breaking, but it’s a crowd-pleasing, feel-good movie. And I’d say we need this right about now.

“A Man Called Otto” is a 2022 drama directed by Marc Forster and starring Tom Hanks, Truman Hanks, Mariana Trevino, Rachel Keller and Mike Birbiglia. Rated: PG-13 for mature thematic material involving suicide attempts, and language, it runs 2 hours, 6 minutes. It opened in local theatres Jan. 6. Lynn’s Grade: B+


Side by Side by Sondheim will awe audiences with a night of Stephen Sondheim’s best 

ST. LOUIS (January 5, 2023) – The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis (The Rep)- the leading regional performing arts theatre in the Midwest- will start the new year with Side by Side by Sondheim, a Sondheim revue (replacing Putting it Together: A Sondheim Review). The intimate and nostalgic production will begin previews on January 29 and will run from February 3 to February 19 at the Catherine Berges Theatre at the Center for the Creative Arts (COCA).  

Celebrate legendary composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim in a cabaret-style revue revisiting some of his most poignant, powerful and witty songs in the American musical theatre canon. This Tony-award-winning production features a variety of Sondheim’s most notable works, including rarely performed numbers straight from the cutting-room floor. Side by Side by Sondheim explores the breadth of Sondheim’s acclaimed career, including numbers from FolliesWest Side Story, CompanyAnyone Can WhistlePacific Overtures, Gypsy and more. 

Side by Side by Sondheim will mark the St. Louis directorial debut of Reggie D. White, The Rep’s recently hired Associate Artistic Director. White joins The Rep from New York City and brings with him more than two decades of theatre experience, including over 10 years of expertise as an award-winning artist, educator and arts advocate. 

“Musical theatre is how I began my career and I have loved Sondheim’s work for decades,” said White. “Side By Side is an especially wonderful piece because it introduces new listeners to his music, gives the most ardent lovers of his work a taste of his greatest hits and it reminds us all of the boundary smashing genius with which he created some of the most iconic musical theatre songs of the 20th Century. He gave us so many gifts over his career and this is such a beautiful way to keep his songs in our hearts.” 

Side by Side by Sondheim features four cast members. The role of Narrator will be played by Paul HeeSang Miller, whose Broadway experience includes Mamma Mia!, the first revival of Miss Saigon and the Tony award winning The King and IThe role of Man will be played by Saidu Sinlah. This will be Sinlah’s debut at The Rep, but St. Louisans may recognize him from the Muny’s performances of Aida and The Wizard of Oz. The role of Woman 1 will be played by Phoenix Best. Best’s Broadway credits include Dear Evan Hansen and The Color Purple Revival. The role of Woman 2 will be played by Amy Spanger. Spanger created the role of Susan in Jonathan Larson’s tick, tick… Boom and was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for her role of Holly in The Wedding Singer.  

Sound design for this production is by Sharath Patel, who boasts previous experience at The Rep with his sound design of The Mystery of Irma Vep in 2020. Heather Beal serves as the choreographer. Audience members may remember her work as choreographer of Feeding Beatrice at The Rep in 2019. The Projection Designer will be Camilla Tassi. Tassi’s design experience includes working at Carnegie Hall and the Berlin Opera Academy. Oona Natesan will return to provide Costume Design after designing costumes for House of Joy at The Rep earlier this season. The Lighting Designer will be Xavier Pierce, who was recently the Lighting Designer for Confederates at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival- a show that The Rep is producing this season. Tre’von Griffith returns to The Rep as the Music Director. Rep audiences may remember him as the Music Director for A Christmas Carol. Alerica L. Anderson will serve as the Music Coordinator and St. Louis audiences may recognize his work from the Pre-Broadway Premiere of The Karate Kid-the Musical at STAGES. 

Side by Side by Sondheim will also mark the first mainstage production of the new year performed at the Catherine Berges Theatre at the Center for the Creative Arts (COCA). This performance space is a state-of-the-art theatre built in 2020, and is part of The Rep’s initiative to bring theatre into the St. Louis Community.  

The Rep is pleased to offer several special offerings and accessible performances throughout the run of Side by Side by Sondheim. These include: 

Post Show Talkbacks, Feb. 9, 7 p.m & 15, 2 p.m. – Following the performance stick around for an informal discussion with members of the cast and creative team of the show. 

Audio Described Performance, Feb. 16, 2 p.m. – The Rep partners with MindsEye to offer live audio description for the final Thursday performance of all productions. 

American Sign Language (ASL) Interpreted, Feb. 18, 2 p.m. – An ASL interpreted performance will be offered on the final Saturday matinee. Interpreters will be inside the theater and sign along with what the actors are saying and expressing for the audience. 

Open-Captioned Performance, Feb. 19, 2 p.m. – The Rep offers open captioning, an electronic text display that shows what the actors are saying or singing, at the last Sunday show for all Mainstage performances. 

About The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis 

The Rep is the St. Louis region’s most honored live professional theatre company. Founded in 1966, The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis is a fully professional theatrical operation belonging to the League of Resident Theatres, The League of St. Louis Theatres and is a constituent member of Theatre Communications Group, Inc., the national service organization for the not-for-profit professional theatre. Visit www.repstl.org for more, and find The Rep on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube