By Lynn Venhaus
Holiday, celebrate! It will be so nice if you take the time to see a play over the next few days. Stray Dog Theatre’s New Works Laboratory is presenting a fresh slate of one-acts, SATE gives us existential question to ponder in their final performances of “No Exit” and Next Generation Theatre Company opens the first community theatre production of “Newsies.”
Both the Black Rep and The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis kick off their seasons with musicals Wednesday – The Black Rep opens its 42nd with the spirit-stirring hand-clapping good time “Crowns” while The Rep opens its 52nd with the Andrew Lloyd Webber masterpiece “Evita.”
So take a holiday, celebrate with theater. In the words of Madonna, “It’s time for the good times, Forget about the bad times, One day to come together, To release the pressure, We need a holiday.” Go See a Play!
“Crowns: The Gospel Musical”
The Black Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Sept. 5 – 23
Edison Theatre at Washington University
Box Office: (314) 534-3807
What It’s About: Crowns refers to hats worn by black women. Hats become a springboard for an exploration of black history and identity as seen through the eyes of a young black woman who has come down South to stay with her aunt after her brother is killed in Brooklyn.
Hats are everywhere, in exquisite variety, and the characters use the hats to tell tales about everything from the etiquette of hats to their historical and contemporary social functions.
Director: Linda Kennedy
Cast: Anita Jackson leads the cast as Mother Shaw, with Maureen Williams as Wanda, Amber Rose as Velma, Leah Stewart as Mabel, Eleanor Humphrey as Jeannette, Myke Andrews as The Man and Tyler White as Yolanda.
Of Note: Director Linda Kennedy says: “The mothers and grandmothers, women of the church, were the glue that held us all together. They helped to raise us and helped make us accountable for our actions. We feared them then but are so grateful to them now. One of the greatest gifts a child can receive is the opportunity to sit and listen to and learn from an elder.” Rounding out the behind the scenes team will be the stage manager, Tracy D. Holliway-Wiggins, set designer, Dunsi Dai, lighting by Joe Clapper, and costumes by Daryl Harris.
“An Evening of One-Acts”
Stray Dog Theatre New Works Laboratory
Thursday through Saturday, Aug. 30 – Sept. 1, 8 p.m.
Tower Grove Abbey
2336 Tennessee Avenue, St. Louis
What It’s About: The evening consists the one-act plays “Marge” by Lawrence E. Mooney, “Lights in the Sky” by Courtney Taylor, “Joyland” by Karen Saari, and “Life Ever After” by Alyssa Ward.
With the New Works Laboratory, the audience, performers, and writer all take part in the play development process. The writer creates the script, the actors translate the page to the stage, and audience members exchange immediate and uncensored reaction to the play, providing all with insight into further development of the product.
Playwrights with a unique vision, innovative subject matter, and diverse perspectives are thus given a voice which otherwise might never be afforded to them in the contemporary world of performing arts.
Directors: “Marge” – Lavonne Byers, “Lights in the Sky” — Kevin O’Brien, “Joyland” –Stephen Peirick, and “Life Ever After” – Miles Bledsoe.
Casts: “Joyland” – Sarajane Alverson and Sara Rae Womack; “Lights in the Sky” – Stephen Henley and Luis Castro; “Life Ever After” – Chrissie Watkins, Maria Bartolotta, and Jonathan Hey; and “Marge” – Jan Nieoff, Jonathan Hey, Dawn Schmid and Simon Desilets.
Of Note: Tickets are free. To reserve yours, please visit: www.straydogtheatre.
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Sept. 5 – 30www.repstl.org
What It’s About: The incandescent Eva Perón’s rise from poverty to power electrified the world – and made her an iconic political celebrity. Winner of seven Tony Awards, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s tour-de-force musical revels in the glamour, charisma and controversy that defined the First Lady of Argentina. With its unforgettable anthem “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” and kaleidoscope of sights and sounds, “Evita” dazzles with pure passion.
Director: Rob Ruggiero, with music direction by Charlie Alterman and choreography by Gustavo Zajac.
Cast: Michelle Aravena (Eva Perón), Pepe Nufrio (Che), Sean MacLaughlin (Juan Perón), Nicolas Dávila (Augstín Magaldi/Ensemble), Shea Gomez (Perón’s Mistress/Ensemble).
Ensemble: Maria Bilbao, Nathaniel Burich, Ben Chavez, Samuel Druhora, Carmen Garcia, Esmeralda Garza, Samantha Gershman, Julie Hanson, Keith Hines, Jose Luaces, Ben Nordstrom, Waldemar Quinones-Villanueva, April Strelinger andTim Wessel.
Next Generation Theatre Company
Aug. 31 – Sept. 9
Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Florissant Civic Center Theatre
What It’s About: Disney’s Newsies tells the rousing tale of Jack Kelly, a charismatic newsboy and leader of a band of teenaged ‘newsies.’ When titans of publishing raise distribution prices at the newsboys’ expense, Jack rallies newsies from across the city to strike against the unfair conditions and fight for what’s right.
Based on the 1992 motion picture and inspired by a true story, “Newsies” features a Tony Award-winning score by Alan Menken (Little Shop of Horrors, Sister Act) and Jack Feldman and a book by Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein (Kinky Boots). Featuring the now classic songs “Carrying the Banner,” “Seize the Day,” and “Santa Fe,” Newsies is packed with non-stop thrills and a timeless message that is perfect for the whole family.
Director: Joe Elvis Baker, who is also choreographer, with music direction by Meredith Todd.
Cast: Main characters – Jack Kelly – Matthew Riordan; Crutchie – Matthew Cox; Davey – Jack Erbs; Les – Max Slavik; Katherine Plumber – Leigha Stockton; Joseph Pulitzer – Joel Hackbarth; and Medda Larkin – Brenda Bass.
Newsies: Race – Andrew Maroney, Albert/Crutchie Understudy – Corey Fraine, Romeo – Braden Stille, Henry – DJ Wojciehowski, Finch – Isaiah Henry, Specs – Rebekah Side, Elmer – Conrad Powell, Mush – Joel Brown, Jo Jo – Mia Polittle, Buttons – Andrea Brown, Sniper – Justin Harris, Splasher – Jess Gerst, Spot Conlon – Kellen Green, Scab 1 – Cami Dummerth, Scab 2 – Hayden Rodgers, Scab 3 – Justin Harris, Trey Ball, Elise Brubaker, Sabrina Furman, Gabby Diebold, Nya Martin, Kate Shaefer, Sarah Burke, Logan Brown, Aiden Kelly, Rebecca Walthall
Nuns: Mica Tharp, Elise Brubaker, Caitlin Sauors, Mackenzie Baum
Bowery Beauties: Devon Shipley, Nya Martin, Kate Shaefer, MacKenzie Baum
Of Note: The performance on Sept. 2 at 2 p.m. will be a sensory friendly performance. This performance will have a few adjustments to create a welcoming environment for our entire community, such as the house lights being at half for the entire performance. If you would like more information regarding this performance or a “What to Expect” guide, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble
Aug. 15 – Sept. 1
Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m.
6238 Alexander Drive
What It’s About: Jean-Paul Sartre’s existential play “No Exit” is about three damned souls are brought to the same room in hell by a mysterious Valet. Expecting medieval torture devises to punish them for eternity, they are surprised by the deceptively simple and relatively ugly room. As they are all introduced, none of them will admit the reason for their damnation. But Inez demands that they all stop lying to themselves and confess to their crimes. The play is an exploration into the human psyche and the invisible wounds we are capable of inflicting upon others, and ourselves.
Director: Bess Moynihan
Cast: Rachel Tibbetts, Shane Signorino, Sarah Morris, Katy Keating
Of Note “No Exit” is the source of Sartre’s famous quotation ‘L’enfer, c’est les autres’ or “Hell Is Other People.”
Photo by Joey Rumpell
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, currently reviews films for Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio, covers entertainment for PopLifeSTL.com and co-hosts podcast PopLifeSTL.com…Presents, and writes features and news for Belleville News-Democrat and contributes to other publications. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association. She is a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle.