By Lynn Venhaus

STAGE: Familiar face in “Hadestown”

It’s opening night for “Hadestown” at the Fabulous Fox! And a St. Louisan, Nathan Lee Graham, is now touring as Hermes, the role originated on Broadway by Tony winner Andre de Shields. The Tony-winning musical – eight awards including Best Musical in 2019 — will play here through Oct. 23.

Forbes Magazine described it as “an epic celebration of music, togetherness and hope.”

I’ll be there tonight, and will talk about the show on KTRS Radio The Big 550 Wednesday at 10:35 a.m. with Wendy Wiese and guest host Cordell Whitlock.

I had the opportunity to interview Graham, a Hazelwood Central and Webster University graduate (Sargent Conservatory), for the Webster-Kirkwood Times. Here is the link:

Eliza Shlesinger


“Iliza Shlesinger: Hot Forever” is her sixth Netflix stand-up special now available. The comedian, actress and television host won NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” – the first woman and youngest winner – on NBC in 2008. She’ll be competing in the first “Celebrity Jeopardy!” semifinal on Sunday, too.

Watch the trailer:

Want more? Her specials are “War Paint” in 2013, “Freezing Hot” in 2015, “Confirmed Kills” in 2016, “Elder Millennial” in 2018, and “Unveiled” in 2019.

TV: Not Ready for Prime Time

On this day in 1975, the late-night comedy sketch and variety show “Saturday Night” premiered with George Carlin as the celebrity host from Studio 8H at the NBC Studios in New York City. There were two musical guests – Janis Ian and Billy Preston. The name would be changed to “Saturday Night Live,” and SNL became a late-night institution and captured the pop culture zeitgeist with catch phrases and iconic characters.

Now in its 48th season, there have been 932 episodes. Lorne Michaels is the current executive producer, having his first run from 1975 to 1980, then returned in 1985.

SNL has won 87 Emmy Awards from 252 Primetime Emmy nominations, the most received by any television program. In TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Shows of All-Time, it is ranked 10th.

Fun Fact: I have seen every episode since that first one, watching the show with my college roommates and then-boyfriend at my first apartment in Normal, Ill., senior year at Illinois State University. The show was such a hit, bars in town would have it on TVs, and if you were at a party, everyone would stop to watch it. Thanks to VHS tapes and DVRs, I’m able to keep up with the show, even if I did not watch it live.

FOOD: St Louis Taco Week!

Not just for Taco Tuesday but more! This week, Oct. 10-16, will showcase $5 taco specials at 35 participating restaurants.

Each restaurateur and chef will prepare their unique take with a taco special. Pick up a Taco Passport — participants will get stamped at participating locations throughout the week. Collect at least 4 stamps and be eligible for a very special grand prize drawing as well as smaller prizes.

For more info:

PLAYLIST: In memory of Angela Lansbury

Today, one of the great actresses of stage and screen passed on at age 96. Mame, Gypsy, Sweeney Todd, The Beauty and the Beast, The Manchurian Candidate and Murder, She Wrote – and on and on. She had 5 Tony Awards, three Oscar nominations, and so many other awards and nominations.

Here is her obituary:

Here is her Kennedy Center Honors tribute in 2000:

Here is one of her most iconic performances as Mrs. Potts in “The Beauty and The Beast”:

Word: “Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey” (SNL)

“When you go in for a job interview, I think a good thing to ask is if they ever press charges.”

By Lynn Venhaus
After years of putting her career first, a stand-up comic meets a guy who seems perfect: smart, nice, successful. Could he possibly be too good to be true?.

In the pantheon of all-time bad romances, comedian Iliza Shlesinger has a doozy to share. And as artists like to do, she has mined what happened to her for laughs.

The very funny lady is the only woman and youngest contestant, at age 25, to win NBC’s reality-competition show “Last Comic Standing,” in 2008, Since then, she has been a game show host, written comedy specials and acted in TV shows and movies, including last year’s “Spenser Confidential” and “Pieces of a Woman.”

In “Good on Paper,” she plays someone closest to resembling herself: Andrea, a comic who has focused on her career. The narrative is edited to include parts of her stand-up act, but as the character, working the comedy clubs.

Living in Los Angeles, she is auditioning for film and television roles but not having much luck and is getting angsty. She meets Dennis (Ryan Hansen) at the airport, and coincidentally, he sits next to her on the flight back home. Soon, he has ingratiated himself into her life.

Dennis, while not exactly her type physically, seems attentive and always there for her. He is a bit dorky but appears to talk a good game. He said he is in hedge fund management, a Yale graduate and recently bought a house in Beverly Hills. None of that is true – and in fact, most everything he says is a lie.

When she finds herself ‘catfished’ – or in her words, ‘cuddlefished,’ and everything starts to unravel, she and her pal, bar owner Margot, wonderfully played by comedian Margaret Cho, focus on a mission to expose his deceit.

The movie gets a bit wobbly in the resolution, but in the final act, there is a twist that enlivens this incredulous account up. Hansen excels at portraying a duplicitous dweeb. He’s certainly got some explaining to do.

Director Kimmy Gatewood astutely plums some indignities that women in a traditionally male-dominated field must endure. The crackerjack timing of Cho and Shlezinger helps propel the story considerably.

With her knack for recognizing universal truths among women, particularly when it comes to guys, Shlesinger has turned her painful reality into a relatable and amusing romantic comedy.

Rebecca Rittenhouse is in fine support as a lovable actress, Serrena, who is the flavor of the month with casting directors. Naturally, she drives the insecure Andrea crazy with jealousy.

While Dennis’ red flags become easy to spot, the best bits are not from his ruse – but the career hurdles Andrea faces trying to make it in showbiz. Now that would make a terrific series, like Pete Holmes did in “Crashing” on HBO.

Iliza Shlesinger, Margaret Cho, Rebecca Rittenhouse in “Good on Paper”

Shlesinger, who has already proven that she is a likeable performer who has something to say, is able to showcase all her talents as a writer, stand-up comic and actress in “Good on Paper.”

“Good on Paper” is a 2021 romantic comedy based on a true story by writer Iliza Shlesinger. She stars in the film, as does Ryan Hansen, Margaret Cho and Rebecca Rittenhouse. Directed by Kimmy Gatewood, the film is rated R for language throughout, sexual references, and brief drug use and nudity, and runs 1 hour, 32 minutes. Streaming on Netflix starting June 23. Lynn’s Grade: B.

By Lynn Venhaus
A deeply personal story of loss, “Pieces of a Woman” is a young mother’s tough year-long journey of grief. It’s a hard watch, nevertheless marked by remarkable performances.

When a Boston couple on the verge of parenthood endures the sudden loss of an infant, we are in for an unraveling of both of their lives, which will resonate with anyone who has faced a trauma.

Martha (Vanessa Kirby) begins a heartrending year-long odyssey of mourning that fractures relationships with loved ones as she learns to live alongside her loss.

Hungarian partners Kata Weber wrote the screenplay while Kornel Mondruczo directed, based on their similar experience, and they bring out the gut-wrenching impact of such an unimaginable tragedy.

The movie begins with an intense 23-minute home birth scene that goes tragically awry. The midwife (Molly Parker) is vilified and sued. The young couple’s rough patch is exacerbated by her domineering mother (Ellen Burstyn).

Stage actress Vanessa Kirby, who played Princess Margaret in “The Crown,” announces that she is an actress to watch. While her character Martha’s harsh odyssey is a wobbly one, you don’t doubt her commitment, and she’s heartbreaking.

Shia LaBeouf is fine as Sean, the supportive husband whose help is shunned by his shattered wife. The supporting cast includes comedian Iliza Shlesinger as Martha’s sister Anita, Benny Safdie as her husband and Sarah Snook as the family attorney.

This intimate portrait may lack some cohesiveness but is a painful foray into the healing process and a bruising human experience.

“Pieces of a Woman” is a drama directed by Kornel Mondruczo starring Vanessa Kirby, Shia LaBoeuf and Ellen Burstyn. Rated R for language, sexual content, graphic nudity and brief drug use, the movie runtime is 2 hours, 5 minutes. Lynn’s Grade: B. In theaters and on Netflix Jan. 7.