By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
There is a sparkle that emanates, not just because of the outward snazzy sequined
outfits and shimmery set in New Line Theatre’s “La Cage Aux Folles,” but also inward
from the all-male drag chorus, Les Cagelles. Their unbridled enthusiasm for a
show celebrating “Be Yourself” is obvious, and underneath their wigs and cosmetic
enhancements, it’s endearing.

In fact, one strongly feels the liberation of the drag chorus, supporting players and in the tour-de-force performance from Zachary Allen Farmer as the drag diva Zaza/Albin. That palpable sense of freedom is one of the production’s most enduring qualities.

Set in the 1980s on the French Riviera, Georges (Robert
Doyle) and Albin (Farmer) have lived as a married couple for years and work
together – Georges runs the nightclub downstairs and Albin is the star
performer Zaza. They have raised the now-grown Jean-Michel (Kevin Corpuz) as
their son since birth, in their own version of a loving nuclear family. Biologically,
he’s Georges’ son, born from a one-night dalliance with a woman who has chosen
not to be an integral factor in the boy’s life.

When Jean-Michel becomes engaged to Anne (Zora Vredeveld), her
ultra-conservative parents, politician dad Dindon (Kent Coffel) and mom (Mara
Bollini), are invited to dinner, prompting panic, for fear of exposing their ‘alternative’
lifestyle to disapproval, and ultimately, difficulties for Jean-Michel.

The ensuing melodrama and potential disasters are more akin
to an episode of “I Love Lucy” – and it’s all because of trying to hide who
they really are. But then, what the hell – dignity eventually reigns. In the
meantime, wackiness ensues for plenty of side-splitting laughs, with co-directors’
Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor’s deft touch.

Focusing on characters who are loud, proud and know who they are is the hallmark of “La Cage Aux Folles” in all its art forms, from the hilarious 1973 French play by Jean Poiret, to the French film adaptation in 1978 to the Tony-winning Jerry Herman-Harvey Fierstein Broadway musical in 1983 to the American movie version in 1996 “The Birdcage” to the Tony-winning Broadway revivals in 2004 and 2010.

It’s not a new view, by any means. You would think by now,
people wouldn’t have to keep defending themselves, but homophobia still exists
in the most insidious and cruel ways in the 21st century. Therefore,
“La Cage Aux Folles” remains timely, and important, and most importantly, fun.

As always, “La Cage” boldly stands up to hypocrisy, ignorance and self-righteous prigs with sharp social commentary wrapped in light-hearted comedy and hummable music. This delectable confection as a crowd-pleaser is a brilliant offense, and Fierstein’s smart script is redolent with both zingers and heartfelt moments.

But this cast emphasizes it with their own perceptible
feeling of family, that intangible quality that sells the show, and underlined
by the confident directors.

Zora Vredeveld, Kevin Corpuz, Kent Coffel and Mara Bollini. Photo by Jill Ritter Lindberg.Farmer triumphantly leads this family in one of his finest performances. The actor, with multiple St. Louis Theater Circle nominations spanning seven years, has long since proven his versatility. He has been moving before – as the loner in “The Night of the Living Dead” and the slighted genius Leo Szilard in “Atomic,” and charming — the protective dad in “The Zombies of Penzance” and befuddled Sir Evelyn Oakleigh in “Anything Goes,” and comical as the iconoclast “Butkowski” and villain in “Celebration,” but the high-wire demands of Zaza/Albin go beyond the physical and present the biggest challenge.

Farmer is believable as this temperamental drama queen,
both in carriage and conviction. He looks fabulous, rocking the outfits – especially
that gorgeous lilac gown in the show-stopping “I Am What I Am,” notably after a
real-life 163-lb. weight loss. He projects effeminate airs, but not in a campy,
cartoonish way – they are organic to his character.

Because he isn’t merely window-dressing, Farmer’s transparency
showing the quicksilver mood swings — the hurt, the love and the defiance — ring
true. That makes him genuinely affecting as a transvestite man, while pushed to
the sidelines by convention, who refuses to be a cliché.

Robert Doyle and Zak Farmer. Photo by Jill Ritter Lindberg.Farmer is so sensational that perhaps Georges suffers in
comparison. As written, the part is in the parlance of a ‘straight man’ in a
comedy duo, and Robert Doyle is rather bland in the role, more in the shadow of
the very flamboyant characters. A few of the early songs seem a little shaky –
the duet “With You on My Arm” and “Song on the Sand,” but it could have been a
lower range issue on opening night. In the second act, “Look Over There” was
much more assertive.

The young engaged couple – Corpuz and Vredeveld – also are
secondary to the daffy proceedings because of the big personalities unleashed
here. They have a sweet dance interlude and competently convey their roles, but
really, the focus is pulled more towards the outrageous goings-on.

Tielere Cheatem as Jacob. Photo by Jill Ritter Lindberg.As the mercurial butler Jacob, Tielere Cheatem is dandy cavorting
in whirlwind prima donna mode. Strutting like a peacock, all attitude and
motion, Cheatem is a nimble laugh-riot making numerous scene-stealing entrances
in a procession of increasingly over-the-top outfits. His comic timing is
impressive.

When a pompous bigoted politician is set up for comeuppance, you know good humor will result, and the expressive Coffel milks it for laughs. And Bollini, as the snobbish wife and mother, is a good sport.

Both also play progressive restaurateurs M. and Madame
Renaud, and their “Masculinity” scene giving Albin tips on how to be macho is a
standout.

Lindsey Jones and Zak Farmer. Photo by Jill Ritter Lindberg.Lindsey Jones is used effectively as Jacqueline, a chic
restaurant owner whose place is the setting for some fireworks and several
terrific numbers – “La Cage aux Folles” and “The Best of Times.”

As previously mentioned, the spirited Les Cagelles are a
high point with their ebullience and energy — Jake Blonstein, Dominic
Dowdy-Windsor, Evan Fornachon, Tim Kaniecki, Clayton Humburg and Ian McCreary are
gleeful as real accomplished showmen.

Photo by Jill Ritter Lindberg.Fornachon, as the dominatrix Hanna, is quite comfortable
cracking a whip. A running gag is his ‘physical’ relationship with nightclub stage
manager Francis (Joel Hackbarth).

As a cohesive cast, it does not matter who’s really gay or
straight, all are convincing and display a commitment to their characters by
not relying on superficial stereotypes.

Behind the scenes are several unsung heroes – namely, stellar costume designer Sarah Porter, whose work is stunning. She also guided the make-up and wig applications with outstanding results.

Sara Rae Womack and Michelle Sauer choreographed the peppy musical numbers, moving Les Cagelles well in the provided space.

Nicolas Valdez’ work as music director is also exceptional –
he leads the Jerry Herman score with vitality, and the vocalists enunciate the
lyrics well. Herman, who crafted such iconic shows as “Hello, Dolly!” and “Mame,”
succeeded here with a traditional score but with a definitive light touch.

Valdez’ band – Kelly Austermann on reeds, Ron Foster on trumpet, Tom Hanson on trombone, Clancy Newell on percussion and Jake Sergos on bass – is a finely tuned ensemble that created a smooth, effortless flow of upbeat tempos and poignant ballads. They are hidden behind a scrim, which worked out well.

Next to the grand “I Am What I Am,” my favorite number was “The
Best of Times,” delivered crisply as a robust, sentimental tune summing up the
show’s poignancy – and a swell sing-a-long moment.

Rob Lippert’s colorful scenic design had plenty of pizzazz –
a functional combination of glitzy showplace and living quarters. And his
lighting design competently alternated between daylight and nightlife. Ryan Day’s
expert sound design is consistently good.

There is an obvious joy and compassion in this work, and because everyone involved is having such a good time, it carries over to the audience. After all, love is love is love is love.

None of us need permission to be who we are, but “La Cage Aux Folles” reminds us that we are all free to be you and me. And that’s mighty fine any time.

Photo by Jill Ritter LIndbergNew Line Theatre presents “La Cage Aux Folles” March 1 through March 23, Thursday through Saturdays at 8 p.m. at The Marcelle Theatre in the Grand Arts District. For tickets, visit Metrotix.com or call 314-534-1111. For more information, visit www.newlinetheatre.com

By Lynn Venhaus Managing Editor THE BIZ IN SHOW: Congratulations to the recipients of this year’s St. Louis Arts Awards, which took place Jan. 21 at the Chase Park Plaza Royal Sonesta Hotel. Arts honorees included: Chris Hansen, executive director of the Kranzberg Arts Foundation, received Arts Innovator of the Year; Carrie Houk of the Tennessee Williams Festival, Arts Startup of the Year; Noémi and Michael Neidorff, Excellence in Philanthropy; Ken Page, Lifetime Achievement in the Arts; Brent Benjamin, Saint Louis Art Museum, Excellence in the Arts; Sue Greenberg, Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts, Champion for the Arts; and Amy Freet, Ferguson-Florissant School District, Art Educator of the Year.

Bryan Batt and Carrie Houk at A&E Arts Awards.

Nominations are sought from the community every spring by
the Arts and Education Council, who convenes a selection panel made of past
honorees, arts patrons, artists and others to review the nominations and select
the honorees.

A&E Council has recognized more than 175 artists,
educators, philanthropists, corporate citizens and arts groups since 1992.

Bryan Batt, who starred in “Mad Men” and appeared as Edna Turnblad in “Hairspray” at The Muny, will be returning in May for the Tennessee Williams Festival, Carrie Houk said. Exciting news to come! ***DOWN-HOME DIVA:  Grammy-winning artist, world-class soprano and proud resident of Lebanon, Ill., Christine Brewer can be seen in Doug Cuomo’s opera “Doubt” on PBS.

Christine Brewer of Lebanon, Ill.

The Minnesota Opera production is airing on the “Great
Performances” program and is now available for streaming on pbs.org/gperf and
PBS apps. Check local listings for programming. PBS Local is Ch. 9 KETC
and Ch. 8 WSIU in Carbondale.
The opera is based on playwright John Patrick Shanley’s acclaimed 2005 Broadway
play, which was later adapted into an Academy Award-nominated film in 2008
starring Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

The Union Avenue Opera company produced “Doubt” here in the summer of 2016, with Brewer as Sister Aloysius.

Brewer was on hand to introduce a showing and participate in a Q&A Jan. 27 at The Hettenhausen Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of her alma mater, McKendree University, in Lebanon, Ill. The opera also stars Adriana Zabala as Sister
James, Matthew Worth as Father Flynn and Denyce Graves as Mrs. Miller

 Great Performances
Executive Producer David Horn said “Doubt’ is a powerful story that has
resonated with Broadway and movie audiences alike. Minnesota Opera has brought
the story to life in an exciting new way, highlighting the company’s depth of
talent and willingness to take on the challenge of an emotionally charged new
work.”

In 1964 at a Bronx Catholic Schools, a battle of wills is ignited when Sister James shares her suspicion that Father Flynn, the progressive pastor, may be abusing the school’s only African-American student. Sister Aloysius, the school’s iron-fisted principal, embarks on a personal crusade to discover the truth. Brewer will return to the Union Avenue Opera stage this summer as the Mother Abbess in “The Sound of Music.” Performance dates are July 5, 6, 12 and 13. ***NO DAY BUT TODAY: The Fox Network has confirmed that the original Broadway cast of  the landmark musical “Rent” will be on the “Rent Live!” telecast Sunday, Jan. 27, from 7 to 10 p.m. on KTVI (ch. 2 local).

The original 1996 cast includes Tony winner Idina Menzel
who played Maureen Johnson, Tony nominee Adam Pascal as Roger Davis, Tony
nominee Daphne Rubin-Vega as Mimi Marquez, Anthony Rapp as Mark Cohen, Jesse L.
Martin as Tom Collins, Fredi Walker as Joanne Jefferson, Taye Diggs as Benny
and Wilson Jermaine Heredia in a Tony-winning turn as Angel.

Original Broadway Cast 1996The live cast will include Vanessa Hudgens as Maureen
Johnson, Brennin Hunt as Roger Davis, Tinashe as Mimi Marquez, Jordan Fisher as
Mark Cohen, Tony nominee Brandon Victor Dixon as Tom Collins, Kiersey Clemons
as Joanne Jefferson, Mario as Benny and Valentina as Angel, with Tony nominee
Keala Settle as the “Seasons of Love” soloist.

Jonathan Larson’s musical about a group of friends
surviving in New York City at the during the AIDS crisis won the 1996 Tony
Award for Best Musical and a Pulitzer Prize, among many others. A film
adaptation was released in 2005, featuring most of the original cast.

Original director Michael Greif is helming the TV version.  Producers include Julia and Al Larson, Jonathan’s
sister and father.

 ***FIT AND FAB: Conquering Mount Olympus, St. Louisan Derik Scott, 30, is the Reigning Titan after competing Jan. 24 on NBC’s “The Titan Games,” which is hosted by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Scott, a lawyer and professional mixed martial-arts fighter, grew up in Jefferson and south St. Louis counties. He is a 2006 graduate of Lindbergh High School and attended Lindenwood University, where he competed on the diving team and graduated in 2009.

Derik Scott of St. Louis

He earned his law degree from Baylor University and lived
in the Dallas area, moving back to the ‘Lou in 2015. This past summer, he moved
again, taking a job as general counsel with a chain of fitness centers.

His parents, Kevin and Dana Scott, owned Scotts Gymnastics
in Crestwood. He won his first national championship at age 7.

The 10-episode athletic competition show began Jan. 3 and is
produced by the team behind “America’s Ninja Warriors.”

Jeff Wright

HEAR YE: Local singer-actor Jeffrey M. Wright will be a guest performer at the CabaretFest in Provincetown, Mass., late May/early June. More details to come.

Alexandra Kay

Local singer-actress Lexi Krekorian returns to her roots, coming in from L.A. to play on Saturday, Feb. 16, with her Alexandra Kay Band at the Silver Creek Saloon & Grill, 2520 Masscoutah Ave., in Belleville. Matt Wynn will open the show that begins at 8:30 p.m. Cover is $5.

Lexi, aka Alexandra Kay, can be seen in the original Netflix reality series, “Westside.” She is from Waterloo, Ill.

The Zombies of PenzancePhoto by Jill Ritter Lindberg

***THE SINGING DEAD: The script, full piano-vocal score and live original cast recording of ‘The Zombies of Penzance” are now available on Amazon.com.

New Line Theatre’s world premiere of this comic-horror opera adaptation of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance” was in October 2018, with new text by Scott Miller and music adaptation and orchestration by John Gerdes. It contains adult language and adult content.

The cast album features the entire original St. Louis cast and band, recorded in front of a live audience at the Marcelle Theater in the Grand Center Arts District, recorded and mixed by New Line sound designer Ryan Day.

The show’s writers are also
accepting requests for production rights.

New Line’s original Zombies of
Penzance cast included Sean Michael as Frederic, Melissa Felps as Mabel,
Zachary Allen Farmer as Major-General Stanley the Zombie Hunter, Dominic
Dowdy-Windsor as the Zombie King, Kent Coffel as Zombie Sam, with Mara Bollini,
Robert Doyle, Matt Hill, Lindsey Jones, Tim Kaniecki, Kyle Kelesoma, Melanie
Kozak, Sarah Porter, Christina Rios, and Kimi Short.

The Zombies of Penzance band
included Nicolas Valdez (Conductor/Piano), John Gerdes (French Horn), Lea
Gerdes (Reeds), Joseph Hendricks (Bassoon), Emily Trista Lane (Cello), Twinda
Murry (Violin), Kelly Austermann (Reeds), and Hope Walker (Reeds).

The show was directed by Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor, with music direction by Nicolas Valdez.***

GO SEE A PLAY POLL: Want to see “Avenue Q” at the Playhouse at Westport? We are giving away two tickets for the Thursday, Jan. 31, performance. To enter this drawing, send your name, phone number and your answer to the question on Favorite Musicals About Neighbors by noon on Tuesday, Jan. 29 to: lynnvenhaus@gmail.com All entries will be placed into a drawing, and winner will be notified that afternoon.What Is Your Favorite Musical About Neighbors?Avenue Q The Fantasticks Fiddler on the Roof In the Heights Promises, Promises Rent

Send your choice to Lynn Venhaus, lynnvenhaus@gmail.com, by Tuesday. Jan. 29, at noon.***WORD: What do you say when you receive three Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor for “A Star Is Born”?

Oscar nominees Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper“Everyone who worked on this film truly risked putting themselves out there — in the hope that in doing so people will connect and feel something deep and personal — the way films have made me feel since I was a kid.  When I got this opportunity I knew I had to risk it all because I may never get another chance — so to be here today in a place where people who have seen the film are talking about how it makes them feel, something deep — that simple human thing — that we need each other — and the Academy to recognize that this morning — I just am so grateful.” – statement from Bradley Cooper***

Awards March 25

THEATER PROM: More than 100 shows were produced by 40 companies during the calendar year for consideration for the St. Louis Theater Circle Awards. Nominations for the seventh annual ceremony were announced Jan. 25.Circle members recently voted for five nominees in 34 categories each — 54 shows received nominations, presented by 23 companies, and 120 artists recognized.

I am a founding member, and published the list here. https://stllimelight.com/2019/01/25/evita-streetcar-lead-st-louis-theater-circle-nominations/

The awards will be presented on Monday, March 25, on the Browning Mainstage at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus, home of The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. Admission remains $15 per person, and tickets can be purchased through www.brownpapertickets.com. Instead of a pre-show dinner, appetizers and drinks will be available from Llewellyn Catering***

Nominations for the Theatre Mask Awards (plays) and Best Performance Awards (musicals) will be announced at the 10th annual AFL Trivia Night this Friday, Feb. 1 at St. Joseph’s Parish Center in Manchester. Go to this page to sign up and for more information. The 70s theme is just for costumes (optional) and tables.http://www.artsforlife.org/trivia-night-1.htmlTRIVIA TIME-OUT: Whether you are a RENT-head or not, you must admit that “Rent” changed the cultural landscape when it opened on Broadway April 29, 1996, after being workshopped and off-Broadway. The night it was to be unveiled to the public, Jan. 25, 1996, composer-writer Jonathan Larson was found dead from an aneurysm (later diagnosed Marfan Syndrome). At the New York Theatre Workshop, the cast went on to sing-through the score for a closed audience of Jonathan’s family and friends instead.After its move to the Niederlander Theatre, it spent 12 years there and is the 11th-longest running musical of all-time. And it also pioneered the Broadway ticket lottery. Here are a few questions – test your knowledge (Answers Below):

The musical is based on what Puccini opera?Anthony Rapp, who originated the role of Mark
Cohen, went to high school with stage and screen star John Barrowman and comic
actor Andy Dick in what northern Illinois town?Four cast members were nominated for Tonys, but
who won?The cast of “Rent” performed “Seasons of Love” on the
opening day of the 1996 Democratic convention (Aug. 26). A year later,
President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary took Chelsea to see it for her 17th
birthday.
Another Broadway legend was inspired by seeing it when he turned 17 – Lin-Manuel
Miranda. He called it a revelation.
Here is the cast of “Rent” singing at the Chicago convention: https://youtu.be/WlOWRrXqTr4

Answers: 1. “La Boheme” 2. Joliet, Ill. 3. Wilson Jermaine Heredia, who played Angel. (Adam Pascal, Daphne Rubin-Vega and Idina Menzel were also nominated.) ***

Broadway fan David Letterman

MEMORY LANE: Friend to the Broadway theater community, David Letterman’s talk show “Late Night” debuted on Feb. 1, 1982, filmed at the NBC Studios in Rockefeller Center.

He moved to CBS on Aug. 30, 1993, broadcasting “Late Show” from the historic Ed Sullivan Theatre in mid-town Manhattan, in the heart of the Broadway theater district, and retired May 20, 2015. With his 33 year-tenure, he became the longest running talk show host ever.

Known for often presenting new musicals in thrilling live
performances, that mantel has moved to his successor, Stephen Colbert’s show in
the Ed Sullivan Theatre, and also Seth Meyer’s late-night show on NBC.
Letterman also involved local theaters and performers in comedy bits, and Broadway
stars were frequent guests.

When Letterman retired, Playbill published an article “Letterman Loves Broadway!” and included clips of some show performances, including “American Idiot,” “Catch Me If You Can,” “Nice Work if You Can Get It,” Spring Awakening,” “Jersey Boys,” “Lion King,” “Wicked,” “Million Dollar Quartet,” “The Producers,” “Spider-Man,” and “Young Frankenstein,” with revivals of  “Anything Goes,” “Cabaret,” “Hair,” “West Side Story,” “South Pacific” and “How to Succeed.”

Here is the article link with the video clips. “Matilda,” “Pippin” and “Rocky” have been removed, but all the mentions above are still there.

http://www.playbill.com/article/letterman-loves-broadway-see-more-than-two-dozen-thrilling-musical-performances-from-the-late-show-video-com-349539

New Line Theatre, “the bad boy of musical theatre,” has announced that one of the most popular shows in the company’s long history is returning — the outrageous rock musical “Cry-Baby,” based on the iconic John Waters film, a wild and wacky fable about class, justice, and rock and roll, featuring classic songs like “Girl, Can I Kiss You With Tongue?”, “The Anti-Polio Picnic,” “Screw Loose,” “Baby, Baby, Baby, Baby (Baby, Baby),” “I’m Infected,” and many more.

The show will run Sept. 26-Oct. 19 at the Marcelle Theater in the Grand Center Arts District,  to open New Line’s 29th season. The other two shows in the season have not been announced.

It’s 1954. Everyone likes Ike, nobody likes communism, and Wade “Cry-Baby” Walker is the coolest boy in Baltimore. He’s the bad boy with a good cause — truth, justice, and the pursuit of rock and roll. Wayward youth, juvenile delinquents, sexual repression, cool music, dirty lyrics, social rejects, and at the center of this world are the star-crossed lovers, Cry-Baby and the square rich girl Allison, the good girl who yearns to be bad in Cry-Baby’s arms.

Fueled by hormones and the new rhythms of rock and roll, she turns her back on her squeaky clean boyfriend Baldwin to become a “drape” (a Baltimore juvenile delinquent) and Cry-Baby’s moll. At the other end of the topsy-turvy moral meritocracy of 1950s America, Baldwin as king of the squares leads his close-harmony pals against the juvenile delinquents, who are ultimately arrested for arson, sending the drapes all off to prison. 

It’s Romeo and Juliet meets High School Hellcats. Director Scott Miller says, “After a disastrous original run on Broadway, we proved that this razor sharp, wickedly funny show is so much better than people thought. The authors commissioned new orchestrations just for New Line, and we brought the show back to life. Now, productions are happening around the country, which is so wonderful.”

The critics were unanimous in their praise for New Line’s American regional premiere of “Cry-Baby” in 2012. Judith Newmark wrote in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “If you just want to have a great time, then pick up tickets for New Lilne’s latest giddy extravaganza, Cry-Baby. You’ll laugh too hard to catch all the hilarious lyrics.” Mark Bretz wrote in The Ladue News, “A glorious and infectious American regional premiere by New Line Theatre. Under Miller’s devoted and painstaking direction, this Cry-Baby rocks the room with an effervescent energy, exploding across the stage.” Richard Green wrote for BroadwayWorld, “I couldn’t stop smiling and laughing through this stage-musical version of John Waters’ film, though I have to admit I never really tried. From the opening chords, which (of course) sound like some 1950s movie about teen rebels, we know we’re in for a counter-cultural extravaganza.” Chris Gibson at BroadwayWorld wrote, “At times, it’s like watching a throwdown between Little Richard and Pat Boone over who really sings ‘Good Golly, Miss Molly’ the best. This is a rockin’ good show! Go see Cry-Baby and enjoy!”

Open auditions will be held in June. Details will be posted to the New Line website.

Season tickets will go on sale in May. The season will include two more shows which will be announced soon.

ABOUT NEW LINE THEATRENew 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. The company 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 86 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 funding from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.

New Line is very proud to announce that season tickets sales for the 2018-2019 season skyrocketed, a massive 258% increase over last season! New Line’s 28th season also includes “La Cage aux Folles” in March, and the St. Louis premiere of the new rock musical “Be More Chill” in June.

For other information, visit New Line Theatre’s full-service website at www.newlinetheatre.com. All programs are subject to change.

In October, New Line Theatre premiered Gilbert & Sullivan’s comic horror operetta The Zombies of Penzance, and so many of our patrons asked if they could get a copy of the script or music.
NOW YOU CAN!
Both the script and the full piano-vocal score for The Zombies of Penzance are now available on Amazon.com. And soon (possibly before the end of the year), a live cast recording will be available as well, both on CD and streaming services!
You knew those zombies couldn’t stay dead!
Also, Scott Miller and John Gerdes, who created The Zombies of Penzance, are licensing the show for further productions, and inquiries have come in from companies across the country, including two Gilbert & Sullivan societies!
You can read more about The Zombies of Penzance, its (totally not true) backstory, and its incredible reception, here.
You can check out the Zombies of Penzance script here.
You can check out the Zombies of Penzance piano-vocal score here.

And if you’re a longtime New Line fan, you might also be interested in The Poster Art of New Line Theatre, a very cool book book of all our posters over the last 28 years, also available on Amazon.
And the 1995 original cast album of New Line’s world premiere vampire musical In the Blood, is now available on CD for the first time, and streaming soon, on Amazon, along with  the show’sscript and vocal selections.
AMAZON SMILE
And just a reminder, when you shop at Amazon, go to smile.Amazon.com instead (and bookmark it) — it’ll ask you to choose a charity (you’ll choose New Line Theatre), and then whatever you buy on the site will kick back a small donation to New Line! It really adds up!
And check out the many books and other musical theatre material by artistic director Scott Miller on his Amazon Author Page.
UPCOMING SHOWS
The New Line season continues in March with an all-new, intimate take on the classic La Cage aux Folles, and the season closes in June with the hot new rock musical Be More Chill, based on the bestselling novel, which opens on Broadway in March. And we’re close to announcing a really exciting 2019-2020 season!
Read more about La Cage aux Folles here.
Read more about Be More Chill here.
ABOUT NEW LINE THEATRE
New Line Theatre, “the bad boy of musical 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 86 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 funding from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.
For other information, visit New Line Theatre’s full-service website at www.newlinetheatre.com. All programs are subject to change.
 
 

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
Science Fiction, meet Musical Comedy, New Line Theatre-style, with a touch of Midnight Movie Madness.
Artistic Director Scott Miller co-directs musicals with Mike Dowdy-Windsor, and has certainly proven over the years that he beats to a different drummer. Hence, this calling card — an original and clever “The Zombies of Penzance,” where he makes the walking dead kick in a chorus line and put moves on sheltered single ladies.
These silly components make this quirky world premiere a dip into Monty Python territory. Miller has substituted singing and dancing zombies for musical comedy pirate characters, using the same structure of Gilbert and Sullivan’s famous comic opera, which makes it funnier. It may be one-joke, but it’s laugh-out-loud fun.

Turns out zombies have personalities in sync with pirates! Stranger things have happened, so just go with it, and enjoy the playful spirit. I mean, songs have titles like “Eat Their Flesh,” “Poor Walking Dead,” and “Hail, Zombies!” We can’t be serious, no matter how straight the characters play their predicaments.
The 1879 comic opera “The Pirates of Penzance,” by the British team of librettist W.S. Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan, was given new life in a Joseph Papp 1981 revival that won Kevin Kline the Tony as the swashbuckling Pirate King. It spawned many imitations and parodies, and a 1983 feature film. Here, you think of both those cartoonish roles and the roaming zombies that rule movie and TV screens, particularly this time of year.
The flimsy 19th century plot should be played for laughs – Frederic, 21, is released from his apprenticeship from tender-hearted pirates, but a technicality – he is a Leap Day baby — means he must serve another 63 years, but his true-love Mabel agrees to wait. We’re not talking “The Great Gatsby” level tragic romance.
Now, New Line has rewired the “Slave of Duty” to be a fresh zombie! Frederic is a new flesh eater, a pawn in the other zombie maneuvers as they aim their mark on Major-General Stanley and his nubile brood.
Let the wackiness ensue with Miller’s smart book and quick-witted lyrics, using Gilbert’s template. Listen carefully for laugh-out-loud humor, utilizing contemporary snarkiness.
St. Louis composer and orchestrator John Gerdes reconstructed Sullivan’s music, and it’s a mighty fine re-working. In music director Nicolas Valdez’s capable hands, he conducts a snazzy nine-piece band, including Gerdes on French horn, Lea Gerdes on reeds, Joseph Hendricks on bassoon, Emily Trista Lane on cello, Twinda Murry on violin and Kely Austermann/Hope Walker on reeds. Valdez is on keyboards. Their efforts are exquisite – love those strings!
Dowdy-Windsor, an oft-nominated director with Miller for St. Louis Theater Circle Awards (and winner for “Bonnie & Clyde”), also has a keen eye and sharp attention to detail.
The pair has moved the cast around – you hear the flesh-eaters before the heavily made-up zombies shamble through the audience to the Stanley home. Yet, this is not intended to be slick staging, but a motley crew invasion with a rag-tag feel.
Those dastardly decaying dudes have their eyes on Stanley’s bevy of beauties. However, Major-General Stanley, who professes to be a zombie, is actually a great zombie hunter.
Zak Farmer is as sharp as ever as the fearless father, but what stands out is his impeccable delivery of the difficult songs, particularly the often parodied “Major-General’s Song,” which is now “Modern Era Zombie Killer,” and “When the World Went Bad.” His impressive performance indicates how deceptively hard farcical fun is.
The charade will be up soon enough, but in the meantime, romantic entanglements are on the minds of those frisky young ones, who wish they were not at a disadvantage.
Dominic Dowdy-WindsorWith his strong voice, Dominic Dowdy-Windsor delivers superb vocals as the Zombie King, including the solo “Oh Better Far, to Live as Dead,” and his many duets and company numbers. Given the confines of the part, he can’t swashbuckle like the role model Pirate King, and I wish he could have more swagger.
Sean Michael and Melissa FelpsSean Michael, as the dullard Frederic, and Melissa Felps, as a rather colorless Mabel, are saddled with a drippy romance that’s the show’s centerpiece. Voices are fine and so is their earnestness, but those roles remain insipid. Their lack of chemistry doesn’t help either. (The 1981 revival starred Rex Smith and Linda Ronstadt).
So, the supporting cast’s efforts enliven the puffy piece.
The ladies play the giggly girly magnets up to a point, then reveal they’re no helpless ingenues. That’s a nice twist.
With Lindsay Jones as Kate, Christina Rios as Edith, Kimi Short as Isabel and Mara Bollini, Melanie Kozak and Sarah Porter as other daughters, you knew they weren’t going to be powder puffs, but amp up their grrrl power. Armed already with gorgeous voices, they are demure to a point, but then turn into warrior princesses.
Kent Coffel goes all in as Zombie Sam, playing everything for laughs – and he’s a delight. Other goofy zombies Robert Doyle, Matt Hill, Tim Kaniecki and Kyle Kelesoma physically turn into animated creatures.
Scenic designer Rob Lippert paid homage to George A. Romero, director of the 1968 cult classic, “The Night of the Living Dead,” the granddaddy of zombie lore,  in his ornate home interior, a cool touch. The set has the period look, but also a show within a show accents.
Costume designer Sarah Porter has outfitted everyone in appropriate garb for the tonal shifts — the frilly feminine dresses and petticoats for the girls and the natty Zombie attire for the guys. Kenneth Zinkl’s lighting design emphasizes the bewitching tone while Ryan Day’s sound work makes all those fast-paced lyrics easily understood.
These zombies might not terrify, after all, but they certainly provide a fun, frothy look in a lighter vein — at both vintage opera and the horror archetypes who proliferate this time of year. Barbara, they are coming — only armed with songs, dances and feelings.
One can’t resist the pull of brainy and talented people who set out for a road not taken before.
“The Zombies of Penzance” is presented by New Line Theatre Sept. 27 – Oct. 20, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. at The Marcelle Theater, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive in Grand Arts Center. For more information, visit newlinetheatre.com and for tickets, call 314-534-1111 or go to MetroTix.com
Photos by Jill Ritter Lindberg
 

New Line Theatre is proud to announce that artistic director Scott Miller has published another collection of essays, “LITERALLY ANYTHING GOES: 14 ODDBALL MUSICALS AND WHAT MAKES THEM TICK.” Miller’s fifth book of deep-dive musical theatre exploration is a surprising and entertaining journey into more than a dozen quirky but fascinating musicals, some famous, some less so.
The shows surveyed literally span the history of the art form, and New Line has produced them all — “The Threepenny Opera,” “Anything Goes,” “The Nervous Set,” “The Fantasticks,” “Zorba,” “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” “The Robber Bridegroom,” “Evita,” “Return to the Forbidden Planet,” “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” “A New Brain,” “Reefer Madness,” “Bukowsical”, and “Love Kills” — proving that there have always been oddball musicals and oddball musical theatre writers eager to crash through the existing conventions to something new and different. Times haven’t changed as much as we think.
And if you think some of these shows don’t seem all that oddball to you, see if you feel the same way after you read the book. As Miller puts it, “Anything Goes is the old-fashioned family classic that really isn’t any of those things;” and “The Fantasticks is a deceptively complex, Beat-inspired, jazz fable.”
Miller’s other analysis collections include From Assassins to West Side Story, 1996, now in its 8th printing (covering Assassins, Cabaret, Carousel, Company, Godspell, Gypsy, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Into the Woods, Jesus Christ Superstar, Les Misérables, Man of La Mancha, Merrily We Roll Along, My Fair Lady, Pippin, Sweeney Todd, and West Side Story);Deconstructing Harold Hill, 1999, (covering Ragtime, Camelot, Chicago, Passion, The Music Man, March of the Falsettos, Sunday in the Park with George, and The King and I); Rebels with Applause, 2001, (covering Hair, Rent, Oklahoma!, Pal Joey, Anyone Can Whistle, Floyd Collins, Jacques Brel, The Cradle Will Rock, Songs for a New World, and The Ballad of Little Mikey); andSex, Drugs, Rock & Roll, and Musicals, 2011, (covering The Wild Party, Grease, Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Rocky Horror Show, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, I Love My Wife, Bat Boy, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and High Fidelity).
Scott Miller is a musical theatre composer, lyricist, bookwriter, historian, consultant, fanboy, and the founder and artistic director of New Line Theatre in St. Louis. He has written nine musicals, two plays, and seven books about musical theatre. For fifteen years, he co-hosted the radio show Break a Leg: Theatre in St. Louis and Beyond on KDHX, and now he hosts the theatre podcast Stage Grok, available on iTunes and at StageGrok.com.
The cover art for Literally Anything Goes was designed by St. Louis artist Matt Reedy.
Miller has also recently put together a novelty book of 400 questions about the musical theatre, to test your knowledge, your opinions, and your insights into our art form. The book is called It’s a Musical! 400 Questions to Ponder, Discuss, and Fight About, and it’s addictive. It’s the perfect gift for the musical theatre obsessive who has everything. His other books include Strike Up the Band: A New History of Musical Theatre, and Let the Sun Shine In: The Genius of Hair.
AMAZON SMILE
And just a reminder, when you shop at Amazon, go to smile.amazon.com instead (and bookmark it) — it’ll ask you to choose a charity (you’ll choose New Line Theatre), and then whatever you buy on the site will kick back a small donation to New Line! It really adds up!
ABOUT NEW LINE THEATRE
New Line Theatre, “the bad boy of musical 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 85 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 funding from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.
The 2018-2019 season includes the world premiere of The Zombies of Penzance in October, the classic La Cage aux Folles in March, and the new rock musical Be More Chill, based on the bestselling novel, next June.
Read more about The Zombies of Penzance here.
Read more about La Cage aux Folles here.
Read more about Be More Chill here.
For other information, visit New Line Theatre’s full-service website at www.newlinetheatre.com. All programs are subject to change.