New Line Theatre, “the bad boy of musical theatre,” announces its 32nd season of adult, alternative musical theatre, including the wild musical comedy JESUS & JOHNNY APPLEWEED’S HOLY ROLLIN’ FAMILY CHRISTMAS, at the Grandel Theatre, Nov. 30-Dec. 16, 2023; followed by the deliciously outrageous SWEET POTATO QUEENS, at the Marcelle Theater, Feb. 29-March 23, 2024; and the season closes with the epic Gothic romance DRACULA, at the Marcelle Theater, May 30-June 22, 2024.

Auditions for the 2023-24 season will be held June 12 and 19, 2023, at the Marcelle Theater. For more info, click here.

SEASON TICKETS

Season tickets are on sale now, and single tickets will go on sale in September. New Line’s fall show will be at the Grandel Theatre, and the other two shows will be in the company’s home, the Marcelle Theater, in Grand Center, St. Louis’ arts district.

To order season tickets for the three mainstage shows, Jesus & Johnny Appleweed’s Holy Rollin’ Family Christmas, Sweet Potato Queens, and Dracula, go to http://www.newlinetheatre.com/purchase/index.php.

There are three kinds of subscriptions. The First Look Subscription contains tickets for only the Thursday preview for each show. These tickets cannot be exchanged for other dates. Each Regular Subscription includes one ticket for each show in the season. You can use each ticket for any performance date during the run of that show. Each Flex Subscription includes three Flex tickets that you can use at any time for any show during the entire season — use all three tickets for one show or spread them out over the season, however you want! The deadline for ordering season tickets is October 30, 2023.

THE 2023-2024 SEASON

JESUS & JOHNNY APPLEWEED’S
HOLY ROLLIN’ FAMILY CHRISTMAS
World Premiere
Nov. 30-Dec. 16, 2023
Grandel Theatre

What happens when a family’s secrets are all revealed on one outrageous, pot-fueled Christmas Eve in 1959?

Poor Harry Goodson is about to find out, as he’s visited overnight by his dead twin brother Gerald, Jesus Christ, Sandra Dee, and Johnny Appleweed, and he finally learns what his family already knows, that the answer to all his problems is marijuana!

A wacky companion piece to the unintentionally hilarious 1936 scare film Reefer Madness, this new musical is a tongue-in-cheek response to the War on Drugs, a comic look at what a little pot and a little truth can do to a normal, average, Midwestern, American family at mid-century, just as America plunges into the chaos of the 1960s.

The New Line production will be directed by Scott Miller and Chris Kernan, with music direction by Brett Kristofferson, costume design by Sarah Porter, scenic design by Rob Lippert, lighting design by Matt Stuckel, and sound design by Ryan Day.

For more info, click here.

SWEET POTATO QUEENS®
Regional Premiere
Feb. 29-March 23, 2024
Marcelle Theater

What’s the best medicine for feeling beat up by the world?

Get ready for the outrageous, high-powered, Southern rock musical that tells the true story of “Boss Queen” Jill and her closest friends in Mississippi, and how they learn to grab life by the sequins, feathers and tiaras to live their lives out loud, on their own terms.

This new musical is based on the wildly successful Sweet Potato Queens books by New York Times bestselling author Jill Conner Browne, with music by pop icon Melissa Manchester, lyrics by hit country songwriter Sharon Vaughan, and a book by Rupert Holmes (The Mystery of Edwin Drood).

A New Line subscriber saw the show in L.A. and brought it to the attention of New Line Artistic Director Scott Miller, who decided it was a perfect fit for New Line. There are currently six thousand registered Sweet Potato Queens chapters in over twenty countries around the world.

The New Line production will be directed by Chris Kernan and Scott Miller, with choreography by Kernan, costume design by Sarah Porter, scenic design by Rob Lippert, lighting design by Matt Stuckel, and sound design by Ryan Day.

Produced by arrangement with Theatrical Rights Worldwide, New York.

For more info, click here.

DRACULA
Regional Premiere
May 30-June 22, 2024
Marcelle Theater

How much would you give up for love?

Broadway songwriter Frank Wildhorn (Bonnie & Clyde, Wonderland, Jekyll & Hyde) delivers his most epic score for this riveting, fast-paced, Gothic rock opera, faithful to the iconic novel but with some unexpected twists and turns.

As much a tragic love story as a thriller, this terrifying and passionate retelling of the famous story dives deep into the powerful, shattering emotions of these characters and these complicated relationships, as only musical theatre can. For Dracula, Wildhorn reunites with his Bonnie & Clyde lyricist Don Black, for one of the wildest and most emotional rides you’ve had in the theatre in a long time.

Once again, New Line will take a show that was badly served in New York and savaged by the critics, strip it down, take it seriously, and prove what a powerful piece of theatre it can be when it’s focused on human emotions instead of flashy special effects. Since its debut, the show has become an international sensation in productions around the world.

The New Line production will be directed by Scott Miller and Chris Kernan, with music direction by Dr. Jenna Lee Moore, choreography by Kernan, costume design by Sarah Porter, scenic and lighting design by Rob Lippert, and sound design by Ryan Day.

Produced by arrangement with Music Theatre International, New York.

For more info, click here.

ABOUT NEW LINE THEATRE

New Line Theatre is a professional company dedicated to involving the people of the St. Louis region in the exploration and creation of daring, provocative, socially and politically relevant works of musical theatre. New Line was created back in 1991 at the vanguard of a new wave of nonprofit musical theatre just starting to take hold across the country.

New Line has given birth to several world premiere musicals over the years and has brought back to life several shows that were not well served by their original New York productions. Altogether, New Line has produced 95 musicals since 1991, and the company has been given its own entry in the Cambridge Guide to American Theatre and the annual Theater World. New Line receives support from the Regional Arts Commission, the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency, the Kranzberg Arts Foundation, and the Grand Center Arts District.

New Line continues its partnership with the Webster University Department of Music and their Bachelor of Music in Music Direction for Musical Theatre degree program.

For more information, visit www.newlinetheatre.com.

By Lynn Venhaus

The crème de la crème of local female vocal talent displays why they have earned those reputations in a lusty version of “Nine,” an exotic Felliniesque musical being presented by New Line Theatre March 2-25.

Based on filmmaker Federico Fellini’s 1963 semi-autographical angsty-existential-fantasy masterpiece “8 ½,” Tony-winning composer-lyricist Maury Yeston has tackled the age-old conundrum about a woman’s relationship to a man in an expressive, emotional score. Ballads are rueful, company numbers are vigorous in this 1982 musical. Yeston, who started this project in college in 1973, also won a Tony for the 1997 “Titanic” musical.

New Line’s glamorous production has a cast of 13 females who are connected to celebrated director Guido Contini, a womanizer going through a midlife personal and professional crisis.

Set at a Venetian spa in the early 1960s, an exasperated Luisa Del Forno (Lisa Karpowicz) has gone there with her preoccupied husband Guido (Cole Gutmann) to save their troubled marriage. Karpowicz makes you feel her pain, and her best number is the poignant “My Husband Makes Movies.” After all her sacrifices and his infidelities, she sings a mournful “Be On Your Own.”

The cast of “Nine.” Photo by Gerry Love.

He’s a cad, the boy who never grew up, and while smart and chic, she’s more of a caretaker. He does seem to care, but obviously has commitment issues, and they really don’t have much spark left. Contini (you’ll never forget his name because they say it over and over) brought all this misery on himself and is caught in a web of his own lies.

Discovered by the paparazzi, Guido tells reporters he is there to direct his latest film. Three previous movies have flopped, and the pressure is intense. His tough film producer, Liliane La Fleur (a flamboyant Kimmie Kidd-Booker), wants him to make a musical.

Gutmann conveys Guido’s desperation as he tries to come up with his next big picture, spinning tall tales and improvising with a riff on Casanova. His macho meltdown is precipitated by his turning 40, writer’s block, and his shabby treatment of people.

Has he run out of things to say? As the chaotic circus of his life flashes before our eyes, we see what the women have meant to him and what they have put up with – which makes him mostly unsympathetic. Can he change into a better person?

As the magnetic Guido, Gutmann is obsessive and frantic interacting with his mother, wife, teacher, temptress, mistress, muse, younger self, and other people who cross his path.

Cole Gutmann as Guido Contini. Lisa Karpowicz, at left, is Luisa. Photo by Gerry Love.

Gutmann has a rich melodic voice and the confident stage presence to pull off this conflicted character, but because the center of attention is often a jerk, it’s not that easy to emotionally connect to Guido, no matter how famous, important, handsome, and charming he is.

But Gutmann’s soulful delivery of his numbers – especially “Guido’s Song” and “I Can’t Make This Movie” — and his willingness to show the guy at his worst, makes you appreciate his skills. It’s a very demanding, energetic role, as he is on stage about 95 percent of the time.

The drama does have humorous moments but the book by Arthur Kopit seriously attempts to make a statement on artists, the creative process, and one’s demons and desires. Yet, it’s mostly a psychoanalysis of a self-absorbed talent, a male-centered fantasy and it runs hot and cold.

The story flips from real to invented, often taking place in Guido’s head, as he explores his past and present relationships.

Co-directors Scott Miller and Chris Kernan capitalize on the strength of the performers in their minimalist staging, keeping in mind the necessary surrealism. Kernan also choregraphed the movements to be functional, simply depicting moods and attitudes.

The ensemble moves the story forward with added oomph, starting with the exquisite harmonies in the opening “Overture Delle Donne.”

Because it’s about filmmaking, the company delivers melodramatic versions of “Not Since Chaplin,” “Western di Guido,” “Bible di Guido,” and “Documentary di Guido,” plus Guido’s exaggerated “The Script” and “The Grand Canal.”

Guttman is strong leading “The Bells of St. Sebastian,” which shows off the belters to close the first act. In keeping with the plot thread about how the Catholic religion affected his childhood, “Kyrie eleison” (“Lord, have mercy”) is repetitively sung.

Cole Gutmann, Ann Hier Brown. Photo by Gerry Love.

Throughout the two acts, which run 2 hours and 15 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission, the women sit on a striking black and white set cleverly designed as cubes by Rob Lippert, moving off the steps onto the tiled floor for various processions in a dream-like way.

Like a black-and-white film, this work contrasts darkness and light, and this staging uses that aesthetic to its advantage. Lighting designer Matt Stuckel heightens the shadows effectively.

Costume Designer Sarah Porter has outfitted the women in cosmopolitan black apparel that reflects their characters’ personalities and the period styles, while Gutmann’s all-black attire comfortably suits the role.

Music Director Jenna Lee Moore, making her New Line debut and playing keyboard, deftly leads a cohesive orchestra – Tyler Davis on cello, John Gerdes on brass, Lea Gerdes and Joseph Hendricks on reeds, Mallory Golden on violin, and Clancy Newell on percussion.

Ryan Day’s sound design works well at The Marcelle.

The spa sojourn doesn’t turn out as planned. Guido’s mistress, the young and sexy Carla Albanese, shows up. Sarah Wilkinson is a fireball, agile in movement and frisky in “A Call from the Vatican.” She nimbly maneuvers her slinky, satiny mini-dress with bike shorts underneath. Lovely as well in voice, she tugs at the heartstrings in “Simple.”

His muse, actress Claudia Nardi (Ann Hier Brown) has previously been an inspiration, so she is called again in that capacity. However, their relationship is complicated, and she holds her ground. Brown’s luscious mezzo soprano is sublime in “A Man Like You” and the plaintive “Unusual Way.”

Kimmie Kidd-Booker as Liliane. Photo by Gerry Love.

Another highlight is big personality Kidd-Booker, hamming it up and interacting with the audience in her robust “Folies Begeres.” After all, Liliane is a former showgirl, and Kidd-Booker is a scene-stealer as a diva.

Guido’s mother is played sentimentally by Stephanie Merritt, featuring her outstanding operatic voice. As an apparition, she is tender towards her genius son, yet she is aware of his faults. Merritt may be younger than the role calls for, but she appropriately projects the loving mother’s nurturing side and dazzles in the title number, “Nine.”

A seductive Sarah Lueken plays the local prostitute Saraghina from Guido’s youth, seen costumed as a nun. She made an indelible impact on him at age 9, and he must face that truth. Her rousing “Be Italian” is provocative, and the company joins in the naughty fun, using tiny tambourines for effect.

Gillian Pieper is sardonic as Stephanie Necrophorus, a writer and film critic not enamored by Guido neither as a man or a visionary and is downright hostile as she disapproves.

Much of the action takes place in the spa. Kathleen Dwyer is the hospitable manager Mama Maddelena, and a flirty, comical Annabella, while Kay Love is the ethereal Our Lady of the Spa, giving off a spiritual vibe. Then there are spa workers and guests, who are chorus and dancers – Olga (Julia Monsey), Renata (Chelsie Johnston), Diana (Kat Bailey) and Juliette (Brittany Kohl Hester).

Monsey is also Lina Darling, Liliane’s bodyguard. Hester is also the voice of little Guido, and sings the significant “Getting Tall.”

Normally, a little boy is featured in the cast, but New Line uses Hester’s fine vocals and a portrait instead as the young Guido. Like the 2003 Broadway revival, they have dropped “The Germans at the Spa.”

This tale has been an awards magnet and conversation piece since the iconic film debuted 60 years ago, and then became a musical in 1982, revived in London in the ‘90s, then on Broadway in 2003 and film adaptation of the musical (and original film) in 2009. It’s one of those unorthodox works that you may not comprehend completely at first glance, but perception deepens in time and repeat viewings.

It remains maestro Fellini’s chauvinistic source material, nevertheless.

Fellini’s elegant Italian film won two Oscars, for Best Foreign Language Film and for costume design in 1964, and was also nominated for best director, screenplay, and art direction-set decoration (black and white).

Sarah Wilkinson, Gutmann. Photo by Gerry Love.

The musical, and New Line’s interpretation, forego other male characters, trims the women to manageable cast size, cuts the constant smoking and omits Guido’s snazzy hat that Marcello Mastroianni wore.

1963 was a very different time for women, so it’s good to have some cuts, such as the harem scene, Mastroianni’s disturbing whip-cracking, and revisions in dialogue.

However, I wished the playwright would have kept the movie’s best line: “Happiness consists of being able to tell the truth without hurting anyone.”

(An aside: my college film professor adored Fellini, so I was introduced to his films as a student. I struggled with his ideas and images back when I was a teen, but upon watching as an adult, it’s a stirring avant-garde work, and Claudia Cardinale takes your breath away. If you are an HBOMax subscriber, the original “8 ½” in glorious black-and-white and the filmed musical “Nine” are available streaming).

The 1982 musical received 12 Tony Award nominations and won five, including Best Musical, Tommy Tune as director, Yeston for score, Liliane Montevecchi for featured actress as Liliane Le Fleur, and William Ivey Long for costume design. Receiving nominations: Raul Julia as Guido, Karen Akers as Luisa, Anita Morris as Carla, Kopit for book, Thommie Walsh for choreography, lighting design and scenic design.

The 2003 Broadway show earned nine Tony Award nominations, winning for Best Revival and Jane Krakowski for featured actress as Carla, with Antonio Banderas as Guido, Mary Stuart Masterson as Luisa, Chita Rivera as Liliane, director, lighting design and orchestrations nominated.

The film version of the musical, directed by Rob Marshall and starring Daniel Day-Lewis as Guido, was not well-received in 2009, but earned four Oscar nominations for Penelope Cruz as Carla, Maury Yeston for the original song “Take It All,” costume design and art direction.

This cinematically inspired musical, because it’s not typically structured, is more difficult than many other modern theatricals, and is not often produced. While its themes are intriguing, it can be frustrating for those unfamiliar with how the plot unfolds. Yet, the characters are passionate and the music sophisticated, so performers willing to risk the challenge can make their mark.

The focus in New Line’s crisp performance is the sense of collaboration instead of coming across as distant. This cast exhibits sincerity, brings out colors and feelings not always apparent, and appears to be on ‘Cloud Nine’ embarking on this journey.

Photo by Gerry Love.

“Nine” runs March 2 – 25 at The Marcelle Theatre in the Grand Center Arts District, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive. Shows are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8 p.m. For more information, visit www.newlinetheatre.com, and for tickets, they can be purchased at metrotix.com or by calling 314-534-1111.

ST. LOUIS THEATER CIRCLE AWARDS RETURN FOR IN-PERSON GALA APRIL 3, 2023

TO HONOR OUTSTANDING WORK IN LOCAL PROFESSIONAL THEATER IN 2022

The Muny leads with 21 nominations, Stages St Louis has 19, The Black Rep 17 and Stray Dog Theatre 15

First In-Person Gala Since 2019 Due to Coronavirus Pandemic

ST. LOUIS, February 6, 2023 – After a four-year hiatus of not holding an in-person ceremony due to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 through 2022, the St. Louis Theater Circle Awards will return April 3, 2023  in a ‘live’ ceremony beginning at 7 p.m. at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the campus of Webster University. The previous two events were streamed online by HEC Media.

Tickets at $23 apiece will soon be available at the box office of The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis at www.repstl.org or 314-968-4925, and also at the box office one hour before the ceremony.

Nominees in more than 30 categories will vie for honors covering comedies, dramas, musicals and operas produced by local professional theater and opera companies in the calendar years 2022. Approximately 90 productions have been considered for nominations for this year’s event. This compares to roughly 120 productions normally considered in one year alone prior to the pandemic.

Three productions – “Chicago” at The Muny, “A Christmas Carol” at The Rep, and “Head Over Heels” at New Line Theatre – were ineligible because the same production was presented within the last three years at the respective venues.

Nationally recognized playwright, theater producer, and long-time advocate for the arts Joan Lipkin will be honored with a special award for lifetime achievement.

The eighth annual award ceremony, which was to have been held at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the campus of Webster University, was cancelled in February 2020 due to the escalating number of cases of COVID-19. Instead, that event, honoring outstanding local theater productions for the year 2019, was held virtually in a highly polished presentation produced by HEC Media and streamed on HEC’s YouTube channel and web site.  A ninth annual ceremony similarly was streamed on HEC Media for the combined years of 2020 and 2021.

The nominees for the 10th annual St. Louis Theater Circle Awards are:

Bronte Sister House Party, SATE. Photo by Joey Rumpell

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

Cassidy Flynn, “Brontë Sister House Party,” SATE 
Hannah Geisz, “The Lonesome West,” West End Players Guild 
Jilanne Klaus, “Barefoot in the Park,” Moonstone Theatre Company 
Bess Moynihan, “Brontë Sister House Party,” SATE 
Valentina Silva, “The Rose Tattoo,” Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis

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

Ted Drury, “The Lonesome West,” West End Players Guild 
Joel Moses, “Brontë Sister House Party,” SATE 
Bradley Tejeda, “The Rose Tattoo,” Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis 
Chauncy Thomas, “Much Ado About Nothing,” St. Louis Shakespeare Festival 
Eric Dean White, “Hand to God,” St. Louis Actors’ Studio 

Molly Burris, Dear Jack Dear Louise

Outstanding 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 
Rayme Cornell, “The Rose Tattoo,” Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis 
Claire Karpen, “Much Ado About Nothing,” St. Louis Shakespeare Festival 
Rachel Tibbetts, “Brontë Sister House Party,” SATE

Jeff Kargus, Jason Meyers, “The Lonesome West” Photo by John Lamb

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

Mitchell Henry-Eagles, “Hand to God,” St. Louis Actors’ Studio 
Jeff Kargus, “The Lonesome West,” West End Players Guild 
Ryan Lawson-Maeske, “Dear Jack, Dear Louise,” New Jewish Theatre 
Jason Meyers, “The Lonesome West,” West End Players Guild 
Stanton Nash, “Much Ado About Nothing,” St. Louis Shakespeare Festival

Joe Clapper, Behind the Sheet, Photo by Philip Hamer

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Play 

Amina Alexander, “Stick Fly,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis 
Jesse Alford, “The Rose Tattoo,” Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis 
Joe Clapper, “Behind the Sheet,” The Black Rep 
Jasmine Williams, “Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea,” The Black Rep 
John Wylie, “Much Ado About Nothing,” St. Louis Shakespeare Festival

Outstanding Sound Design 

Lamar Harris, “Behind the Sheet,” The Black Rep 
Pornchanok (Nok) Kanchanabanca, “House of Joy,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis 
Jackie Sharp, “Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea,” The Black Rep 
Rusty Wandall, Kareem Deanes, “Much Ado About Nothing,” St. Louis Shakespeare Festival 
Amanda Werre, “Dear Jack, Dear Louise,” New Jewish Theatre

Joel Moses in “Laughter on the 23rd Floor,” New Jewish Theatre, Photo by Jon Gitchoff

Outstanding Costume Design in a Play 

Dorothy Marshall Englis, “Much Ado About Nothing,” St. Louis Shakespeare Festival 
Liz Henning, “Brontë Sister House Party,” SATE 
Liz Henning, “Rodney’s Wife,” The Midnight Company 
Oona Natesan, “House of Joy,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis 
Michele Friedman Siler, “Laughter on the 23rd Floor,” New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Set Design in a Play 

Dahlia Al-Habieli, “House of Joy,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis 
Dunsi Dai, “Dear Jack, Dear Louise,” New Jewish Theatre 
Bess Moynihan, “Rodney’s Wife,” The Midnight Company 
Kyu Shin, “Stick Fly,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis 
Josh Smith, “Much Ado About Nothing,” St. Louis Shakespeare Festival 

Riley Carter Adams, right, The Bee Play, New Jewish Theatre. Photo by Jon Gitchoff.

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

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 
Rachel Tibbetts, “Rodney’s Wife,” The Midnight Company 
Sumi Yu, “House of Joy,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis 

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

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

Summer Baer, Michael James Reed “Proof,” Moonstone Theatre Company.

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

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

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

Kevin Brown, “Jitney,” The Black Rep 
Jeff Cummings, “Behind the Sheet,” The Black Rep 
Olajuwon Davis, “Jitney,” The Black Rep 
Joel Moses, “The Christians,” West End Players Guild 
Stephen Peirick, “The Normal Heart,” Stray Dog Theatre 

“Jitney,” The Black Rep, Phillip Hamer photo

Outstanding New Play 

“Bandera, Texas,” by Lisa Dellagiarino Feriend, Prism Theatre Company 
“Brontë Sister House Party,” by Courtney Bailey, SATE 
“The Good Ship St. Louis,” by Philip Boehm, Upstream Theater 
“Roll With It!” by Katie Rodriguez Banister and Michelle Zielinski, The Black Mirror Theatre Company 
“Winds of Change,” by Deanna Jent, St. Louis Shakespeare Festival

Outstanding Achievement in Opera 

Daniela Candillari, “Carmen,” Opera Theatre of Saint Louis 
Thomas Glass, “Harvey Milk,” Opera Theatre of Saint Louis 
Karen Kanakis, “La Rondine,” Winter Opera Saint Louis 
Robert Mellon, “Falstaff,” Union Avenue Opera 
Sarah Mesko, “Carmen,” Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

Union Avenue Opera’s production of A Little Night Music on August 17, 2022.

Outstanding Production of an Opera 

“Awakenings,” Opera Theatre of Saint Louis 
“Falstaff,” Union Avenue Opera 
“The Gondoliers,” Winter Opera Saint Louis 
“Harvey Milk,” Opera Theatre of Saint Louis 
“A Little Night Music,” Union Avenue Opera

Outstanding Musical Director 

Cullen Curth, “Jerry’s Girls,” New Jewish Theatre 
Jermaine Hill, “The Color Purple,” The Muny 
Walter “Bobby” McCoy, “In the Heights,” Stages St. Louis 
James Moore, “Sweeney Todd,” The Muny 
Andrew Resnick, “The Karate Kid – The Musical,” Stages St. Louis 

The Karate Kid – The Musical, Phillip Hamer photo.

Outstanding Choreographer 

Dena DiGiacinto, “A Chorus Line,” Stages St. Louis 
Keone and Mari Madrid, “The Karate Kid – The Musical,” Stages St. Louis 
Patrick O’Neill, “Mary Poppins,” The Muny 
Josh Rhodes, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” The Muny 
Luis Salgado, “In the Heights,” Stages St. Louis

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

Tami Dahbura, “In the Heights,” Stages St. Louis 
Melissa Felps, “Something Rotten!” New Line Theatre 
Nicole Michelle Haskins, “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

Marshall Jennings, Melissa Felps “Something Rotten!” New Line Theatre

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

Luis-Pablo Garcia, “In the Heights,” Stages St. Louis 
Clayton Humburg, “Something Rotten!” New Line Theatre 
Jeffrey Izquierdo-Malon, “Something Rotten!” New Line Theatre 
Marshall Jennings, “Something Rotten!” New Line Theatre 
Jordan Wolk, “Assassins,” Fly North Theatricals

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Musical 

Tyler Duenow, “Ride the Cyclone,” Stray Dog Theatre 
Bradley King, “The Karate Kid – The Musical,” Stages St. Louis 
John Lasiter, “Sweeney Todd,” The Muny 
Sean M. Savoie, “A Chorus Line,” Stages St. Louis 
Sean M. Savoie, “In the Heights,” Stages St. Louis

“In the Heights,” Stages St. Louis, Photo by Phillip Hamer.

Outstanding Set Design in a Musical 

Edward E. Hayes, Jr. and Greg Emetaz, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” The Muny 
Anna Louizos, “In the Heights,” Stages St. Louis 
Derek McLane, “The Karate Kid – The Musical,” Stages St. Louis 
Michael Schweikardt, “Sweeney Todd,” The Muny 
Josh Smith, “Ride the Cyclone,” Stray Dog Theatre

Outstanding Costume Design in a Musical 

Eileen Engel, “A Little Night Music,” Stray Dog Theatre 
Eileen Engel, “Assassins,” Fly North Theatricals 
Samantha C. Jones, “The Color Purple,” The Muny 
Brad Musgrove, “In the Heights,” Stages St. Louis 
Alejo Vietti, “Sweeney Todd,” The Muny 

Anastacia McCleskey, “The Color Purple,” Phillip Hamer photo.

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

Carmen Cusack, “Sweeney Todd,” The Muny 
Jeanna De Waal, “Mary Poppins,” The Muny 
Eileen Engel, “Ride the Cyclone,” Stray Dog Theatre 
Melissa Felps, “Urinetown,” New Line Theatre 
Anastacia McCleskey, “The Color Purple,” The Muny 

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

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

Stephen Henley, The Balladeer, Fly North Theatricals.

Outstanding Ensemble in a Comedy 

“Brontë Sister House Party,” SATE 
“Heroes,” Albion Theatre 
“Laughter on the 23rd Floor,” New Jewish Theatre 
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” St. Louis Shakespeare Festival 
“Much Ado About Nothing,” St. Louis Shakespeare Festival 

Outstanding Ensemble in a Drama 

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

The Christians, West End Players Guild, Photo by John Lamb

Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical 

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” Stray Dog Theatre 
“A Chorus Line,” Stages St. Louis 
“The Color Purple,” The Muny 
“In the Heights,” Stages St. Louis 
“Sweeney Todd,” The Muny

Outstanding Director of a Comedy 

Robert Ashton, “The Lonesome West,” West End Players Guild 
Eddie Coffield, “Laughter on the 23rd Floor,” New Jewish Theatre 
David Kaplan, “The Rose Tattoo,” Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis 
Keating, “Brontë Sister House Party,” SATE 
Bruce Longworth, “Much Ado About Nothing,” St. Louis Shakespeare Festival

“Rodney’s Wife,” The Midnight Company, Photo by Joey Rumpell

Outstanding Director of a Drama 

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

Outstanding Director of a Musical 

Lili-Anne Brown, “The Color Purple,” The Muny 
Scott Miller, “Something Rotten!” New Line Theatre 
Bradley Rohlf, “Assassins,” Fly North Theatricals 
Rob Ruggiero, “Sweeney Todd,” The Muny 
Luis Salgado, “In the Heights,” Stages St. Louis

“Much Ado About Nothing,” St Louis Shakespeare Festival

Outstanding Production of a Comedy 

“Brontë Sister House Party,” SATE 
“Dear Jack, Dear Louise,” New Jewish Theatre 
“The Lonesome West,” West End Players Guild                   
“Much Ado About Nothing,” St. Louis Shakespeare Festival 
“The Rose Tattoo,” Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis

“The African Company Presents Richard III,” The Black Rep, Photo by Phillip Hamer

Outstanding Production of a Drama 

“The African Company Presents Richard III,” The Black Rep 
“Behind the Sheet,” The Black Rep 
“Good People,” Stray Dog Theatre 
“Jitney,” The Black Rep 
“The Normal Heart,” Stray Dog Theatre

Outstanding Production of a Musical 

“Assassins,” Fly North Theatricals 
“The Color Purple,” The Muny 
“In the Heights,” Stages St. Louis 
“Ride the Cyclone,” Stray Dog Theatre 
“Sweeney Todd,” The Muny

“Ride the Cyclone,” Stray Dog Theatre, Photo by John Lamb

Special Award 

Joan Lipkin, for lifetime achievement 

Joan Lipkin

The mission of the St. Louis Theater Circle is simple: To honor outstanding achievement in St. Louis professional theater. Other cities around the country, such as Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., pay tribute to their own local theatrical productions with similar awards programs.

Members of the St. Louis Theater Circle include Steve Allen (stagedoorstl.com); Mark Bretz (Ladue News); Bob Cohn (St. Louis Jewish Light); Tina Farmer (The Riverfront Times); Michelle Kenyon (snoopstheatrethoughts.com and KDHX); Gerry Kowarsky (Two on the Aisle, HEC Media); Chuck Lavazzi (KDHX); Rob Levy (Broadwayworld.com); Judith Newmark (judyacttwo.com); Lynn Venhaus (PopLifeSTL.com); Bob Wilcox (Two on the Aisle, HEC Media); and Calvin Wilson (St. Louis Post-Dispatch). Eleanor Mullin, local performer and arts supporter, is group administrator.

For more information, contact stltheatercircle@sbcglobal.net or ‘like’ the St. Louis Theater Circle on Facebook.

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 Silva, “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

By Lynn Venhaus

“I believe it’s called ‘Miser-ahh-bluh’!”

Brimming with references to many modern musicals, the spoofy, goofy “Something Rotten!” is a humdinger of a regional professional theater premiere from New Line Theatre. After all, it has an exclamation point in the title, so it must be special!

It is!

Fresh, funny, and frisky, the cast accepts their mission to have fun with the fluff, and the tight-knit ensemble is downright giddy frolicking in some of the most original show tunes in the past decade.

Besides the peppy song-and-dance numbers, the crowd-pleasing show provokes oodles of laughter and features an expertly tuned high-energy ensemble all-in with the snappy repartee and fun hijinks.

With its scaled-down setting and a smaller cast, this upbeat show flows smoothly on the Marcelle Theatre’s intimate stage. Scenic designer Rob Lippert used Shakespeare’s famous Globe Theatre as his guide, and director Scott Miller builds the action on two levels.

“Something Rotten!” opened on Broadway in 2015 and received 10 Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical, with Christian Borle winning the only one, as Best Featured Actor in a Musical as William Shakespeare. This is the regional professional premiere.

Written by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell as both a love letter to literature and a send-up of musical comedy, it never takes itself too seriously.

Karey and brother Wayne Kirkpatrick penned a clever music score and lyrics that the New Liners deliver in a zippy and zany style that has the audience engaged at “Welcome to the Renaissance,” the opening number.

The time is 1595, and William Shakespeare is an idol-like bard. Meanwhile, brothers and playwrights Nick (Chris Kernan) and Nigel (Marshall Jennings) Bottom crave the same rock-star celebrity and fame. They are desperately in need of a hit but disaster plagues their endeavors.

Then one day, Nick listens to a soothsayer, Thomas Nostradamus (not THE Nostradamus, but his neophyte nephew), who predicts that musicals will be the next big thing.

When Nostradamus guesses Shakespeare’s next hit will be “Omelette,” wackiness then ensues.

The book’s cheeky wit comes through when principals engage in wordplay and display their sterling comic timing. It’s as if everyone is winking while they are smiling.

As the downtrodden Nick, Kernan confidently leads the ensemble. A versatile performer, he delivers “God, I Hate Shakespeare” and “Bottom’s Gonna Be on Top” with aplomb and “Make an Omelette!” showcases his character’s despair and stubbornness.

An ebullient Jennings, as the talented but shy brother Nigel, works well with Kernan, and they deftly land the theater-insider quips. When conflicts arise, their clash is believable.

Jennings and Melissa Felps are a charming romantic pair. As the Puritan lass Portia, Felps is radiant, and their strong voices soar in the ballads, blending beautifully in “I Love the Way” and are bouncy in “We See the Light.”

Jason Blackburn is comical, delivering double-entendres as Portia’s overbearing, religious zealot father Brother Jeremiah, who does not approve of his daughter’s relationship.

In one of his best performances, Clayton Humburg swaggers like a rock star as the egomaniac Shakespeare, encapsulating all the preening cliches in his “Will Power” introduction and has fun with the sly references. He’s amusing in his lament, “Hard to Be the Bard.”

Carrie Wenos uses both her comedic and vocal skills as Nick’s supportive wife Bea, a burgeoning feminist, and has fun with “Right Hand Man.”

And as Nostradamus – not “THE” soothsayer but his nephew Thomas – Jeffrey Izquierdo-Malon has a daffy debut that’s part Monty Python, part Marx Brothers.

The merry ensemble – Robert Doyle as Shylock and Lord Clapham, Chris Moore as a Minstrel and Peter Quince, Mara Bollini as Francis Flute, Kent Coffel as Robin Starveling, Brittany Kohl Hester as John Snug, Ian McCreary as Tom Snout, Maggie Nold as Helena and a psychic, and Alyssa Wolf as Miranda and an astrologer — are plugged into presenting the low-brow Mel Brooks’ type humor as well as the ‘higher brow’ theatrical and Shakespearean jokes.

Music Director Mallory Golden capably conducts band members Joe Akers on trumpet, Jack Catalanotto on guitar, John Gerdes on bass, Joe Hendricks on reeds and Des Jones on percussion while she plays keyboards. The band is strategically placed under the balcony.

Sarah Porter’s playful costume design allows the performers to move while wearing such period attire as puffy pants and petticoats.

Ryan Day’s sound design and Matt Stuckel’s lighting design seamlessly enhance the action.

Choreographer Alyssa Wolf’s crisp and snappy dance routines really shine, but the standout is “A Musical,” a hilarious pastiche of Broadway hits. “It’s Eggs!” is a rib-tickler too.

By the time the show wraps up with a reprise of “To Thine Own Self” and “Welcome to America,” your sides may ache from laughing and you may notice you have been grinning for over two hours.

“Something Rotten!” is a must-see comedic gem, a well-cast, well-staged show that’s a bright spot in local theater this fall.

New Line Theatre presents “Something Rotten!” from Sept. 23 through Oct. 15, at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, at The Marcelle Theatre, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive, in the Grand Arts District. For more information, visit www.newlinetheatre.com

Nostradamus. Photos by Jill Ritter Lindberg.

And Some Weekend Happenings, Too

By Lynn Venhaus

Video: “Night of the Living Dead”

Criterion Collection

It’s that time of year for spooky movies, and “Night of the Living Dead,” shot outside Pittsburgh on a shoestring budget and released in 1968, has now been released through the Criterion Collection. There’s a 4K USD disc of the film and two Blu-rays with the film and special features.

The film’s zombie plot and the guerilla filmmaking are part of film lore. Now a horror master, George A. Romero directed and co-wrote with John A. Russo this landmark indie, at first relegated to midnight movie bookings but became a box office hit and is considered one of the most influential films of all-time.

The story is a simple one about a group of strangers trapped in a farmhouse find themselves battling recently dead flesh-eaters. Romero’s claustrophobic vision of a late 1960s America, along with his social commentary, changed the horror genre. He also broke ground casting black actor Duane Jones in the leading role.

For more info on all the extras, read: https://onvideo.org/criterion-collection-october-releases-3/

To read insights from Film School Rejects, visit this site: https://filmschoolrejects.com/26-things-we-learned-from-the-night-of-the-living-dead-commentary-1f0ef17cda1e/

Wilco


Music: Wilco “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”

To celebrate its 20th anniversary, Wilco has reissued its masterpiece “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”

Here’s the versions: https://wilco-reissue-store.com/

Now considered a “Chicago group,” we all know they started here in St. Louis, and Jeff Tweedy grew up in Belleville.

For more on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, check this out: https://www.thisisdig.com/jeff-tweedy-on-wilcos-yankee-hotel-foxtrot-reissue/

Food: Four Fall Inspired Flavors at Clementine’s Creamery

Mexican Hot Chocolate has rich dark chocolate, cinnamon, smoky heat from chipotle, and a touch of Tuaca. In the Naughty section.

Orange Ghoulius is a creamsicle-like ice cream made with orange juice and cream and laden with house-made colorful Halloween pretzel crisps.

Pumpkin Toffee Cake consists of natural pumpkin ice cream with warm notes of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and sprinkled with bits of toffee for added crunch and sweetness.

Vegan Boo-Berries is bursting with blueberries! It is a creation with bubbling baked blueberries and sprinkled with a crispy gluten-free crumble of rolled oats.

As participants in the National Domestic Violence Awareness Month giveback organized by STL Wine Girl, 15% of all pint sales of Vegan Boo-Berries will be donated to @thewomenssafehousestl through the month of October.

For more information, visit www.clementinescreamery.com

Theatre: Something’s Rotten

Must-see at New Line Theatre, Thursdays through Saturdays now through Oct. 15 at The Marcelle. Really fun show! Regional professional premiere. Here is my review:

https://www.poplifestl.com/new-line-theatres-crisp-something-rotten-is-fresh-fun-and-frisky/

New Line’s “Something Rotten!” Photo by Jill Ritter Lindberg.

Today’s Trailer: Action-Romantic Comedy “Shotgun Wedding”

Jennifer Lopez and Josh Duhamel star as an engaged couple at a destination wedding, and the guests are taken hostage by criminals. This rom-com comes out on Prime Video on Jan. 27, 2023. Amazon dropped the trailer yesterday.


Playlist: “Faith” George Michael

On this date in 1987, George Michael released the single, “Faith,” which went on to become the Billboard Song of the Year in 1988. It was from his debut solo album of the same name, released on Oct. 30, 1987, which is one of the best-selling albums of all time having sold over 25 million copies worldwide. The album won several awards, including Album of the Year, at the 31st Grammy Awards.

Cardinal Nation: Wild Card Games this weekend

Tickets are on sale for the Wild Card games, which are set for Friday afternoon and Saturday night at Busch Stadium, and if needed, Sunday night.

Friday’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies will be on ABC at 1:07 p.m. and Saturday’s game is set for 7:37 on ESPN2.

Weekend Happenings:

Belleville Chili Cook-off Friday and Saturday
Main Street, downtown square

For more than 39 years, the Greater Belleville Chamber of Commerce has hosted the Annual Chili Cook-off and has grown to over 50 vendors – individuals, local organizations, and area businesses.

Haunted Garage Horror Festival Oct. 7-9, Westport Playhouse

Last year’s Best of Fest, “Fresh Hell,” will screen on Friday evening. Who will take home this year’s Golden Piston Awards?

For a complete line-up of the fun and fright that awaits this weekend on the 40-foot screen at the renovated Westport Playhouse, read on:

https://www.hauntedgaragehorrorfest.com/

To hear more from fest founder Franki Cambeletta, listen to the PopLifeSTL.com Presents Podcast with co-hosts Lynn Venhaus and Carl “The Intern” Middleman:

Word: She’s got Bette Davis Eyes

“Without wonder and insight, acting is just a trade. With it, it becomes creation.” – Bette Davis

One of the legendary Hollywood stars of the golden era, Bette Davis died on Oct. 6, 1989, at age 81. She made over 100 movies during her 60-year career, won two Academy Awards and the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award in 1977. Ruth Elizabeth Davis was born in Lowell, Mass., on April 5, 1908

By Lynn Venhaus

Zeitgiest, meet “Urinetown.”

In this Twilight Zone reality we seem to live in now in the 21st century, the subversive “Urinetown” the musical has never seemed timelier. Or funnier. Or scarier.

What once was merely laugh-out-loud outrageous 20 years ago has morphed into a gasp-filled hit-nail-on-head satire where sleazebag politicians are even slimier, greedy corporate bastards are more cruel, ecological disaster seems more imminent and cries of revolution are not far-fetched but absolutely necessary.

This wicked musical comedy composed by Fairview Heights, Ill., native Mark Hollmann, with co-lyricist and book writer Greg Kotis, appears to grow more relevant as the gap continues to widen between the haves and have nots.

Resurrecting one of its past triumphs, from 2007, for the cross-your-fingers 30th season, New Line Theatre’s savvy choice allows a confident, polished ensemble to have fun romping through the ripe-for-parody American legal system, ridiculous bureaucracy, corrupt municipal politics, and foolish mismanagement of natural resources.

The time is 2027 and the focus is urination. Yes, that indispensable body function. But, because we’re in a near dystopian future, there is no such thing as a free pee – and we can’t squander flushes and there is a limited water supply.

If you gotta go, it will cost you. A severe 20-year drought has resulted in the government banning private toilets. Citizens must use public amenities that are regulated by a single evil company that profits from charging a fee to conduct one of humanity’s basic needs.

So, what happens if you disobey? You are punished by a trip to Urinetown, never to return. Egads!

A rabble-rouser emerges – Bobby Strong, and he launches a People’s Revolution for the right to pee. Let’s hear it for urinary freedom! As he does with every role, energetic Kevin Corpuz is passionate in his hero’s journey.

This cast has the vocal chops to entertain in lively fashion, and with nimble comic timing, hits the sweet spot between exaggerated naivete and cheeky irreverence. Jennelle Gilreath, effectively using a Betty Boop-Shirley Temple voice, is the child-like street urchin Little Sally.

Bobby leads the poor rebels – performed by local live wires Grace Langford as pregnant Little Becky Two Shoes, Ian McCreary as Tiny Tom, Chris Moore ss Billy Boy Bill, Christopher Strawhun as Robbie the Stockfish and Jessica Winningham as Soupy Sue.

They are part of a first-rate ensemble in such crisply staged musical numbers as “It’s a Privilege to Pee,” “Snuff That Girl,” “Run Freedom Run,” and “We’re Not Sorry.”

Not only do Hollmann and Kotis take on capitalism, social injustice and climate crisis, but also cleverly twist the great American musical art form itself, with resemblance to Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s “The Threepenny Opera” and the populist champ “Les Miserables.”

With silly characters modeled after old-timely melodramas, Kent Coffel is Officer Lockstock, Marshall Jennings is Officer Barrel, and Sarah Gene Dowling is tough urinal warden Penelope Pennywise, all having fun with their goofy over-the-top roles.

Kent Coffel, Marshall Jennings as Officers Lockstock and Barrel. Photo by Jill Ritter Lindberg

Bobby’s downtrodden parents, Joseph and Josephine Strong, are played by solid veterans Mara Bollini and Zachary Allen Farmer, also doubling as rebels, while fellow New Line regulars Todd Schaefer is the dastardly profiteer Caldwell P. Cladwell and Melissa Felps his darling daughter, Hope, who falls in love with Bobby. Both Schaefer and Felps play it straight, although they are winking to the audience the whole time as the heads of Urine Good Company, aka UGC.

Corpuz and Felps soar in “Follow Your Heart” while Bobby’s “Look to the Sky” and Hope’s finale “I See a River” showcase their skills.

Playing a caricature of an oily grifter and elected official Senator Fipp is Colin Dowd, doing his best Matt Gaetz impersonation, and Clayton Humburg is weaselly as Cladwell’s assistant Mr. McQueen. The “Rich” folk have fun with “Don’t Be the Bunny,”

Co-directors Scott Miller and Chris Kernan’s fresh take goes darker, which suits the capricious winds of an ever-evolving global pandemic that we have lived through for 27 months. Not to mention clinging to a democracy with fascist and authoritarian threats very much present. And hello, global warming.

Kernan’s choreography is a highlight, and music director Tim Clark keeps the tempo brisk. He conducts a tight band of Kelly Austermann on reeds, Tom Hanson on trombone, Clancy Newell on percussion and John Gerdes on bass while he plays keyboard.

The upside-down world we’re in is enhanced by Todd Schaefer’s grimy set, Sarah Porter’s astute costume design, Ryan Day’s sound design Kimi Short’s props,  and Kenneth Zinkl’s lighting design.

After an off-Broadway run, “Urinetown” opened on Broadway in 2001 and was nominated for nine Tony Awards, winning for best book, best music score and best direction. The fact that it’s stature has grown over the years is a reflection of our current time – and while that is rather frightening, this show continues to say something worth saying through its devilish use of heightened reality.

It’s holding up a mirror, even though it’s presented in a funhouse way, and that is indeed admirable.

In that spirit, leave your paranoia behind and get ready to laugh at the zingers launched with glee. New Line Theatre’s “Urinetown” is worth a sojourn as time keeps on slipping into the future.

New Line Theatre presents “Urinetown” June 2-25, with performances Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Marcelle Theatre. For tickets or more information, visit ww.newlinetheatre.com

Photos by Jill Ritter Lindberg

New Line Theatre, “the bad boy of musical theatre,” has announced its 31st season of adult, alternative musical theatre, including the wild musical comedy SOMETHING ROTTEN, running Sept. 22-Oct. 15, 2022; followed by the electrifying concept musical, NINE, based on Federico Fellini’s iconic film 8 1/2, running March 2-25, 2023; and the season closes with one of the great Stephen Sondheim’s earliest works, the hilarious farce, A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, based on the Roman comedies of Plautus, running June 1-24, 2023.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE… New Line will present a free, public reading of the new musical A REEFER MADNESS CHRISTMAS for one night only in January 2023 (exact date TBA), at the Marcelle Theater. The new musical has book, music, and lyrics by New Line artistic director Scott Miller. The reading is not part of the season subscription.

SEASON TICKETS

Season tickets are on sale now, and single tickets will go on sale in September. New Line’s mainstage shows will be in the company’s home, the Marcelle Theater, in Grand Center, St. Louis’ arts district.

To order season tickets for the three mainstage shows, Something Rotten, Nine, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, go to http://www.newlinetheatre.com/purchase/index.php.

There are three kinds of subscriptions. The First Look Subscription contains tickets for only the Thursday preview for each show. These tickets cannot be exchanged for other dates. Each Regular Subscription includes one ticket for each show in the season. You can use each ticket for any performance date during the run of that show. Each Flex Subscription includes three Flex tickets that you can use at any time for any show during the entire season — use all three tickets for one show or spread them out over the season, however you want! The deadline for ordering season tickets is August 31, 2022.

THE 2022-2023 SEASON

SOMETHING ROTTEN
Sept. 22-Oct. 15, 2022

It’s Shakespeare’s London. Or it’s Steven Spielberg’s Hollywood.
Or is it BOTH?

This smart, subversive musical comedy mashes up the crass commercialism of today’s Hollywood with the people and plays of Shakespeare’s London, to ask fascinating, funny questions about commercial success, popular success, artistic success, and personal success. And beneath the rapid-fire Shakespeare jokes, the show comically deconstructs itself and musical theatre as an art form, exploring what makes musicals tick and why we love them. The show was nominated for ten Tonys, nine Drama Desk Awards, and twelve Outer Critics Circle Awards.

Set in the 1590s, brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom are desperate to write a hit play but they’re stuck in the shadow of the Renaissance rock star Will Shakespeare. When a local soothsayer foretells that the future of theatre involves singing, dancing and acting, all at the same time, Nick and Nigel set out to write the world’s very first musical.

The New Line production will be directed by Scott Miller, with costume design by Sarah Porter, scenic design by Rob Lippert, and sound design by Ryan Day.

Produced by arrangement with Music Theatre International, New York.

A REEFER MADNESS CHRISTMAS
A Free Public Reading
January 2023
 (TBA)

What happens when a family’s secrets are all revealed on one outrageous, pot-fueled Christmas Eve in 1959?

Poor Harry Goodson is about to find out, as he’s visited overnight by his dead brother, Jesus Christ, Sandra Dee, and Johnny Appleweed, and he finally learns what his family already knows, that the answer to all his problems is marijuana!

Not really a sequel to the unintentionally hilarious 1936 “scare film,” this new musical is more like a wacky companion piece, a tongue-in-cheek response, a comic look at what a little pot and a little truth can do to a normal, average, Midwestern, American family at mid-century, just as America plunges into the 1960s.

The New Line reading will be directed by Scott Miller, featuring Zachary Allen Farmer as Harry, Nellie Mitchell as Bess, Isabel Garcia as Tammy, Chris Moore as Uncle Hugh, along with Colin Dowd, Sarah Gene Dowling, Brittany Hester, and Chris Kernan as the carolers.

New Line will present a full production of A Reefer Madness Christmas in fall 2023. More details to come….

NINE
March 2-25, 2023

Genius filmmaker Guido Contini is having a very messy nervous breakdown. And you’re invited!

Based on filmmaking legend Federico Fellini’s legendary (semi-)autobiographical film 8 1/2, this is a psychoanalytical roller coaster ride through the brain of a troubled, self-doubting genius. Underneath, it’s a story about creation and creators, the sacrifices and compromises and demons, and the mysterious, delicate process of making great art.

Nine follows Fellini avatar Guido Contini who suffers a monumental breakdown, just as he turns forty and cameras are ready to roll on his next film, which Guido hasn’t even written yet. The entire show unfolds inside Guido’s frantic, chaotic mind as the many women in his life begin to rebel against his casual use and abuse of them, and as he examines the many relationships in his life. Finally, Guido has to learn the hardest lesson of all for an artist – he has to grow up.

In fact, Fellini gave his film its title as a joke: his lead character was so blocked artistically that his story didn’t even get a real title (its original title was La Bella Confusione), just a number. Fellini had already directed six full-length films and one short film, and he had co-directed two films, so this was film number eight-and-a-half. But beacuse the stage musical was no longer artistic autobiography, the new title Nine refers to the age that Guido wishes he could return to, a simpler time free of responsibility.

Frank Rich wrote in The New York Times, “In Nine, his most ambitious show, director Tommy Tune provides the strongest evidence yet that he is one of or theater’s most inventive directors – a man who could create rainbows in a desert. Songwriter Maury Yeston, a newcomer to Broadway, has an imagination that, at its best, is almost Mr. Tune’s match. His score, giddily orchestrated by Jonathan Tunick, is a literate mixture of showbiz and operatic musical genres that contains some of the season’s most novel and beautiful songs. Together, Mr. Yeston and Mr. Tune give Nine more than a few sequences that are at once hallucinatory and entertaining – dreams that play like showstoppers.” Rich went on to say, “There’s so much rich icing on Nine that anyone who cares about the progress of the Broadway musical will have to see it.”

The New Line production will be directed by Scott Miller, with choreography by Chris Kernan, costume design by Sarah Porter, scenic design by Rob Lippert, and sound design by Ryan Day.

Open auditions will be held in June.

Produced by arrangement with Concord Theatricals, New York.

A FUNNY THINGS HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM
June 1-24, 2023

You think we’re confused by sex, gender, and love today?
Get a load of the Romans!

Master songwriter Stephen Sondheim and comic playwright and screenwriter Burt Shevelove took the classical Roman comedies of Plautus, mashed them together with American vaudeville, and came up with one of the great musical farces of all time, every bit as smart and subversive as Sondheim’s later shows. In 1962, this show satirized America’s hang-ups about sex; today, the show asks lots of complicated questions we’ve all been asking lately, about sex, gender, and more.

Sondheim was an honorary member of the New Line board for almost thirty years, and he was a regular New Line donor before his recent death. New Line has produced seven other Sondheim shows over the years.

The music critic for The New York Times, Anthony Tommasini, wrote about the show, “For all the talk of Forum harking back to the days of good, clean farce, theatrically it is an experimental work. It completely subverts the heritage of what is called the book show, handed down by Rodgers and Hammerstein, where the songs emerge from the plot. In Forum, the songs purposely interrupt the farcical plot, giving the audience a needed break from the madcap hysterics.” The show was nominated for eight Tony Awards and won six, including Best Musical, Best Producer, Best Book, and Best Director. There have been multiple Broadway revivals, in 1972 with Phil Silvers, and 1996 with Nathan Lane, and later in the run, Whoopi Goldberg. All three actors who have opened in the role of Pseudolus on Broadway have won Best Actor Tony Awards. On top of that, Jason Alexander played the role in Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, and he also won a Tony for Best Actor in a Musical.

The New Line production will be directed by Scott Miller and Chris Kernan, with choreography by Kernan, costume design by Sarah Porter, scenic design by Rob Lippert, and sound design by Ryan Day.

Produced by arrangement with Music Theatre International, New York.

THE 2022-2023 NEW LINE SEASON AT A GLANCE

Sept. 22-Oct. 15, 2022 – Something Rotten

January 2023 (TBA) – Free Public Reading of Reefer Madness Christmas

Mar. 2-25, 2023 – Nine

June 1-24, 2023 – A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

June 12, 2023 – Auditions for 32nd Season

June 19, 2023 – Auditions for 32nd Season

ABOUT NEW LINE THEATRE

New Line Theatre is a professional company dedicated to involving the people of the St. Louis region in the exploration and creation of daring, provocative, socially and politically relevant works of musical theatre. New Line was created back in 1991 at the vanguard of a new wave of nonprofit musical theatre just starting to take hold across the country. New Line has given birth to several world premiere musicals over the years and has brought back to life several shows that were not well served by their original New York productions. Altogether, New Line has produced 92 musicals since 1991, and the company has been given its own entry in the Cambridge Guide to American Theatre and the annual Theater World. New Line receives support from the Regional Arts Commission, the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency, the Kranzberg Arts Foundation, and the Grand Center Arts District.

New Line also continues its partnership with the Webster University Department of Music and their Bachelor of Music in Music Direction for Musical Theatre degree program.

New Line’s current season closes with the outrageous musical comedy URINETOWN, running June 2-25, 2022. For more information, visit www.newlinetheatre.com.

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By Lynn Venhaus

Thomas Edison said: “Genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.”

That ode to hard work is evident in New Line Theatre’s latest production of “Head Over Heels,” a most unusual romantic comedy-fantasy musical involving high-octane dance numbers with upbeat songs from the ‘80s new wave/pop rock all-female group The Go-Go’s — and a fairy tale storyline from the 16th century.

This creative burst of a show seems fresh – and a refreshing change of pace. How can you not want to sing along with “Vacation,” “Our Lips Our Sealed” and “We Got the Beat”?

With such a catchy hit song catalogue included, there is an exuberance that’s comparable to those early days of the U.S. New Wave when Belinda Carlisle (lead vocals), Jane Wiedlin (guitar and vocals), Charlotte Caffey (lead guitar, keyboards, and vocals), Gina Schock (drums) and Kathy Valentine (base and vocals) were considered part America’s sweetheart, part rebel girls.

Those girly Go-Go’s became the first multi-platinum-selling all-female band to play their own instruments and write their own songs. The feisty five were tailor-made for the music-video television revolution as they rose to fame after their 1981 debut album, “Beauty and the Beat,” was released.

Did I mention infectious hooks? We are reeled in with abandon. And two songs are included from Carlisle’s solo career – “Mad About You” and “Heaven Is a Place on Earth.”

Photo by Jill Ritter Lindberg

The cast is this unified blast of energy – a big bang of emotion as they cavort, smile, and lay on the charm. Oh, they got the beat, all right.

Because their run was unfortunately cut short in 2020, and the company has returned to live theater for a 30th season, there is a renewed spark and a collective celebratory vibe. They all look so happy to be on stage.

I first saw their regional premiere in the Before Times, right before a global coronavirus pandemic was declared and St. Louis went into lockdown. A lot has changed since then – death rate, highly transmissible variants, and political debates on public health safety vs personal rights – but – hey, The Go-Go’s were inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame!

The music and movements are like a tonic here – after all the drama and reality of the past couple of years, it’s such a relief to see people doing what they are passionate about, and our second chance to make a connection that is unique to the art form.

And this is a show ultimately about connection – how we need it, how we screw it up, and what is so satisfying about it.

For more than 700 days, we have forged ahead — through dark stages, no shows going on, intermittent stays at home, getting vaccines and boosters, adapting to protocols like wear a mask and show your vaccine card at the door when theater resumed — or not, given the surges and number of cases. Some of us tested positive, others luckier in avoiding it.

We are forever changed, and art will reflect that someday. But for now, it’s time to dance!

Melissa Felps, Dawn Schmid, Grace Langford. Photo by Jill Ritter Lindberg.

In “Head Over Heels,” the source material may be hundreds of years old, but it is far from creaky, if you look at it as young folks revolting against parental authority.

“The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia” by Sir Philip Sidney is the novel it’s based on, which proved fertile source material for certain plot elements of Shakespeare’s “King Lear,” “Hamlet” and “A Winter’s Tale.” There are various updates and editions.

What a combo plate this story is! It blends irony with old-timey morals – chew on that – and touches on gender politics while reinforcing that there are no rules in love and romance.

In 1580, a royal family wants to save their kingdom from extinction, but their journey is a rocky one. They discover “all you need is love,’ but in surprising – and sometimes shocking – ways.

And that changing with the times and letting go of traditions is a clarion call. During their escapades, they find out the key to their realm’s survival lies within each of their own hearts but is not always in the way they expect.

The humor attempts – wordplay, double entendre, nimble timing — helps the flowery language of a bygone era go down, so dispel any notion that this is stuffy.

The New Liners are back, baby! And with only two changes from the original cast –Colin Dowd, as the dutiful but very nervous servant Dametas, and Dawn Schmid, as spunky Mopsa, make those parts their own. They play a father-daughter duo – he’s the well-meaning dad who has tried to shelter his little girl from the world, while she’s ready to plant her flag.

The rambunctious ensemble includes comic and frisky turns by Grace Langford as Princess Pamela and Melissa Felps as her sister Princess Philoclea, with Clayton Humburg exceptionally good as her major crush Musidorus, a lowly shepherd boy (but also charming in disguise – but let’s not ruin the plot).

Photo by Jill Ritter Lindberg

The three main girls, as it turns out, are as much firebrands as the rock ‘n rollers who blazed trails for other females. Hmmm…maybe this match isn’t as unlikely as it sounds.

A serious Zachary Allen Farmer plays the princesses’ controlling father, King Basilius, while Carrie Priesmeyer plays his roving-eye wife Queen Gynecia with an insouciant shrug. Girls will be girls, after all.

Graceful Tiélere Cheatem is the grand and mysterious Oracle Pythio, working his fabulous shimmery wardrobe and commanding the stage like he always does.

Rounding out the cast is ball of fire Kevin Corpuz along with the oh-so-lively ensemble — Evan Fornachon, Chris Kernan, Chris Moore, Maggie Nold, Michelle Sauer, Alyssa Wolf, and Sara Rae Womack keeping a full-steam-ahead pace that’s like one big spring break party.

Womack and Sauer teamed on the choreography that keeps everyone in motion for 11 dance numbers. Yes, eleven. That’s a lot for a show!

Mounting this production again means some new folks on the creative team – visionary director Scott Miller returns as the solo credit, then subbed as the music director and accompanist the first weekend while original music director Nic Valdez, St. Louis Theater Circle nominee for his work in 2020, returned for the final two weeks of the run.

The band, as always, is stellar – Adam Rugo on lead guitar, Jaylen Edwards on guitar, Clancy Newell on percussion and John Gerdes on bass.

A few changes to some costumes – superbly crafted by Sarah Porter and Courtney Gibson – but still the same kicky bright-color garments fashioned after medieval minstrels while giving the royal family a more regal appearance with lush textures and deep hues, gem tones.

Scenic designer Rob Lippert created an imaginative but simple set, so that people could romp around a fairy tale kingdom set in ancient Greece. He elevated natural elements for different height levels that helped with the blocking – such as rocks and forested nooks. Kenneth Zinkl’s lighting design expressed distinct moods between day and night.

How did this show ever come about? It took some bold veterans to enliven the musical comedy genre with some real cheeky moves. Jeff Whitty conceived it and wrote the book, which was adapted by James Magruder into a laugh-out-loud love story. Broadway composer Tom Kitt (“Next to Normal”) took care of the band and vocal arrangements.

“Head Over Heels” originally premiered at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2015, then opened on Broadway in 2018. The show was nominated for Best Musical by the Drama League and the Outer Critics Circle Awards.

And just in case you need a reminder, it contains adult content.

While New Line Theatre often offers a fresh take on musicals in need of a makeover or neglected ones who need resurrection, they have grabbed recent works who could benefit from the company’s spotlight, such as “Be More Chill” in 2019 and this cultish gem.

The night belongs to lovers, nonconformists and an ebullient cast who revel in the romance and adventure – and the twists! (And they twist!). Female independence never looked so bold, brave, boisterous, or beautiful.

Photo by Jill Ritter Lindberg

New Line Theatre presents “Head Over Heels” March 3 through March 26 (Thursday through Saturday) at 8 p.m. Performances take place at the Marcelle Theater, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive, three blocks east of Grand, in Grand Arts Center. For more information, visit newlinetheatre.com or call Metrotix at 314-534-1111 for tickets.

By Lynn Venhaus

Friendship is indeed one of life’s blessings, especially those lasting ones through the ebb and flows of the years. The French novelist Francois Mauriac once wrote that “No love, no friendship, can cross the path of our destiny without leaving some mark on it forever.” And this little musical theater gem, “The Story of My Life,” illustrates that theme beautifully.

New Line Theatre kicks off its 30th season with this deceptively simple yet poignant and profound work, an intimate and thoughtful reflection on the special people who change our lives. It runs Sept. 30 through Oct. 23, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. at the Marcelle Theater.

It particularly strikes a chord after what we’ve been through during the past 18 months, dealing with a coronavirus pandemic and periods of lockdown and quarantine during the public health crisis. The appreciation of and craving for connection has become an exclamation point.

“The Story of My Life” opened on Broadway in 2009 after earlier productions in Toronto and the Goodspeed Opera House. It was nominated for four Drama Desk Awards, including best musical.

With a keenly observed book written by Brian Hill and heartfelt music and lyrics by Neil Bartram, “The Story of My Life” follows the friendship of Alvin Kelby and Thomas Weaver, two lifelong friends since age 6 who grew up in a small town. Once inseparable, they are reunited after Alvin’s mysterious death.

Jeffrey M Wright as Thomas, Chris Kernan as Alvin. Photo by Jill Ritter Lindberg

While Thomas, a successful author, struggles to write Alvin’s eulogy, his deceased pal appears from the afterlife, and they take a sentimental journey, revealing moments big and small from their intertwined lives.

Alvin goes through the manuscripts and short stories in Thomas’ mind, some which found their way to being published and receiving acclaim.

The adage “write what you know” is what guides Thomas as he sums up his best friend. During the process, he finds his own story and comes to terms with his past.

New Line veterans Chris Kernan as Alvin and Jeffrey M. Wright as Thomas make for an appealing pair, ardently portraying the lifetime friends who chronicle their journey in vignettes – their story is told through stories.

And the two actors punctuate each other’s remembrances. Pouring their hearts and souls into the demanding roles, Kernan and Wright are passionate about making these two guys memorable.

With a deft touch, Scott Miller accompanies the pair on keyboard. He also directed the show with a smart no-frills approach that never feels static.

The score finds the magic in special moments that friends share during lengthy relationships – and addresses rough patches, too. There are four parts to “Saying Goodbye,” and each one is real.

Kernan and Wright meet the challenge of being on stage the entire 70 minutes, without an intermission, breathing life into these roles with insight and charm  

Tom’s book report, “1876” and a song after something Alvin said, “The Butterfly,” are just two highlights.

These parts are unlike anything else they have ever done, with Wright known for classic leading men roles like Nathan Detroit in “Guys and Dolls” and Nicky Arnstein in “Funny Girl,” and Kernan often supporting and humorous roles, like one of the dads in “Heathers” and St. Jimmy in “American Idiot,” and his award-winning Snoopy in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”

As the likable kids, who bond over their annual Christmas movie tradition “It’s a Wonderful Life,” they resonate at every turn in their lives.

Alvin, a cheerful sort despite being dealt a few George Bailey-like blows during his life, lost his mom at an early age. When his father begins ailing, he takes over running the bookstore instead of going off to college and adventures.

Thomas, a driven guy who communicates better on paper, is the one who grabs the opportunities afforded him and leaves town, rarely returning.

Alvin stays rooted in their town, running the treasure trove that is his father’s bookstore, “The Writers Block,” and misses his buddy, who is off to other crossroads. Nobody “gets” him like Thomas did. “You’re Amazing, Tom” Alvin sings.

As Thomas is off living a life he imagined, does he feel the same about how special their friendship has been?

Redolent with tender and touching moments, “The Story of My Life” includes many warm humorous bits too – starting with Alvin’s reminisce about their teacher, “Mrs. Remington.”

The show’s rich emotional depth effectively builds to a heart-tugging conclusion, ending with “Angels in the Snow.” Moist-eye alert – bring a tissue.

Scenic designer Rob Lippert’s minimalist set – full of books and the written word – and Kenneth Zinkl’s modest lighting design are impressive accents for a show that stands out without any bells and whistles.

An outstanding collaboration by all involved, “The Story of My Life” has a lot to say, and you’ll be glad you spent time getting to know Alvin and Thomas. Maybe you will recognize your own friends and your experiences along the way, like I did.

After all, George Bailey wisely learned: “Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.”

Holiday time or not, this show is a gift to theatergoers eager to feel “the feels” that only live theater can provide. And a reminder about humanity in a time of great uncertainty and division. It could not be more timely – and timeless.

Jeffrey M Wright, Chris Kernan. Photo by Jill Ritter Lindberg.

“The Story of My Life” runs through Oct. 23, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. at the Marcelle Theater, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive, three blocks east of Grand, in the Grand Center Arts District. For more information, visit www.newlinetheatre.com.

Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for students/seniors on Thursdays; and $30 for adults and $25 for students/seniors on Fridays and Saturdays. To charge tickets by phone, call MetroTix at 314-534-1111 or visit the Fox Theatre box office or the MetroTix website.

COVID-19 POLICY

All patrons will be required to wear masks in the lobby and theatre. The stage area will be safely distanced from the audience. In addition, the Kranzberg Arts Foundation now requires all patrons 12 years or older to show proof of their full COVID-19 vaccination or negative COVID-19 test upon entry for all ticketed events at all KAF indoor performance venues, including the Marcelle Theater.  

Photos by Jill Ritter Lindberg.