By Lynn Venhaus
Guaranteed to put a spring in your step and a song in your heart, “Eubie!” is a sparkling and joyous tribute to one of the groundbreaking talents of the 20th century.

The Black Rep’s third time presenting a musical revue of American musician and composer Eubie Blake’s greatest hits is musical theater of the finest caliber.

The convivial cast, high-spirited choreography, cheerful musical numbers, elegant costumes, and silky-smooth orchestra combine for an uplifting production.

The musical extolling the talents of James Hubert “Eubie” Blake over his long, lauded career, especially his achievements in the early 1900s that helped spark the fabled Harlem Renaissance in the ‘20s and ‘30s, was the of the toast of the 1978-1979 Broadway season, nominated for three Tony Awards, including Eubie’s score and Gregory Hines’ performance. Blake died in 1983 at 96 years old.

With his 1921 musical, “Shuffle Along,” he and lyricist Noble Sissle helped break down racial barriers because it was the first Broadway musical written, directed by and starring black Americans. It also helped shape American musical theater as we know it today.

In 2006, his album “The Eighty-Six Years of Eubie Blake” from 1969 was included in the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry by the National Recording Preservation Board. They annually select music that is “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Coda Boyce. Photo by Phillip Hamer

This effervescent cast has individual standouts but really comes together as an ensemble to celebrate Eubie’s contributions in ragtime, jazz, and popular music. Director Ron Himes’s thorough knowledge of the piece and the song styles helps expertly extract the very best from the cast, which has five performers making their Black Rep debut (DeAnte Bryant, Serdalyer Darden, Carvas Pickens, Tamara PiLar, and J’Kobe Wallace).

Himes deftly stages the group numbers – ‘Shuffle Along,” “I’m Just Simply Full of Jazz,” “High Steppin’ Days,” and “Roll Jordan” with polished and buoyant dance designed by master choreographers Heather Beal and Vivian Watt. Such verve!

Noteworthy in the Black Rep’s last musical, “Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope” in 2019, the multi-faceted Robert Crenshaw stars and designed the tap choreography, He dances with such joy, that when he’s performing a solo number, it’s extraordinary, especially in “Low Down Blues” and “Hot Feet.”

In perhaps Blake’s most well-known song, “I’m Just Wild About Harry,” Crenshaw joined Evann De-Bose, Coda Boyce, Samantha Madison and PiLar for a rousing rendition.

Crenshaw opened the show with Boyce and Venezia Manuel, performing the jolly “Charleston Rag” and “Good Night Angeline” in the prologue.

J’Kobe Wallace. Photo by Phillip Hamer

Boyce, so good in “The African Company Presents Richard III” at the Black Rep last year, shows off her vocal chops in “Craving for That Kind of Love” and her playful moves in “Baltimore Buzz” with Manuel and lithe Bryant and Wallace.

The acrobatic moves of Bryant and Wallace are eye-popping and crowd-pleasing, and add pizzazz to the music numbers, Wallace is especially impressive in “Dixie Moon” and “Got to Get the Getting While the Gittin’s Good.”

Newcomer Darden has a good time with “I’m a Great Big Baby” and other solos of note include PiLar in “Daddy,” and De-Bose in “Memories of You.”

PiLar has a terrific duet with powerful-voiced Pickens in “My Handyman Isn’t Handy Anymore.”

They both have a good time with the cast in a fun, very theatrical number “If You Never Been Vamped by a Brownskin, You’ve Never Been Vamped At All,” where they take on roles of The Vamp, wife, husband, judge, bailiff and jury.

Taijah Silas is part of the 11-person ensemble, and they all move with vigor and enthusiasm.

Phillip Hamer Photo

Music Director Joe Dreyer, who also plays piano, is a virtuoso musician, and seamlessly leads a superb orchestra of Chris Tomlin on tuba, Bernard Long on drums, Anthony Wiggins on trumpet and Harvey Lockhart on saxophone. They are behind a scrim, but they breeze through the music catalogue with aplomb.

The musicians are part of this dream team that delighted in delivering a beautiful lesson in music appreciation of an earlier era.

The sound design by Justin Schmitz is splendid, and so is the look of the production, with impressive lighting design by Jasmine Williams and scenic design by Tim Jones setting the atmosphere through the decades.

Costume Designer Marc W. Vital II’s exceptional craftsmanship captured the period’s glamour perfectly.

It’s rare when you get to experience not only the cast having the best time on stage, but the audience thoroughly engaged and enchanted with the vitality of those involved.

“Eubie!” closes the Black Rep’s 46th season on a high note.

Photo by Phillip Hamer

The Black Rep presents the musical revue “Eubie!” from May 3 to May 21 at the Edison Theatre on the Washington University campus. Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m. For more information, visit

Photo by Phillip Hamer.
Photo by Phillip Hamer

The season begins with the soulful musical revue, Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope, then August Wilson’s masterpiece, Two Trains Running. The season then moves into Ntozake Shange’s choreopoem Spell #7 ending with Marie and Rosetta. 

Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope September 4-22

Garnering a Grammy and Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical, Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope was the first musical revue in the history of Broadway to be written and directed by African-American women, namely Micki Grant and Vinette Carol.

First performed in 1971, the show’s themes of economic and racial injustice still ring clear today. With little dialogue in between performances, its poignant social commentary is weaved into an unbroken cycle of high-energy feel-good song and dance numbers that fuse gospel with jazz, soul and calypso. Its ability to shine a light on important issues whilst staying upbeat saw the show run for over 1000 performances during its run on the Great White Way.

Two Trains Running January 8-26

In August Wilson’s masterpiece, history unfolds around everyday lives against the backdrop of the civil rights movement. Long-time regulars gather at the local diner in Pittsburgh’s Hill District to gossip, flirt and play the numbers. The owner must decide whether to let the city take over his building or sell it to a shrewd, local businessman. Part of Wilson’s trailblazing American Century Cycle, Two Trains Running paints a compassionate & unforgettable portrait of ordinary people in the midst of transformation.

Spell #7 February 19-March 8

This striking choreopoem by the author of For Colored Girls, Ntozake Shange is set in St. Louis in a bar frequented by Black artists and musicians, actors, and performers. In a series of dreamlike vignettes and poetic monologues, they commiserate about the difficulties they face as black artists. The piece is framed by the narrator, Lou, a magician who wants to use his magic to help the characters come to terms with their blackness and rejoice in their identities.

Marie and Rosetta May 6-24

A huge influence on Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles and Jimi Hendrix, Sister Rosetta Tharpe was a legend in her time, bringing fierce guitar playing and swing to gospel music. “Marie and Rosetta” chronicles her first rehearsal with a young protégée, Marie Knight, as they prepare to embark on a tour that would establish them as one of the great duos in musical history.

Tickets for the 2019-2020 Season are currently available by season subscription and group sales only. For information or to purchase a subscription by phone call (314) 534-3807. To purchase season subscriptions online, visit General ticket on-sale dates for each show will be announced in the future.

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
“Try to remember the kind of September when life was slow, and oh so mellow”…Anyone?
I only recall Septembers with lots o’ activities and many good theater choices. Have we got them this week!
An Andrew Lloyd Webber masterpiece about celebrity and power, an American classic celebrating 75th anniversary, Disney wholesomeness, celebration of black women with the vocal gifts of Anita Jackson, and fresh young voices in St. Louis, capturing a time and place – shout out to Tre’von Griffith. And that’s just musicals. Drama from the great American playwrights Lillian Hellman opens, and a modern opera is offered, too.
Go See a Play!

“Bye Bye Birdie”
Ignite Theatre Company
Wednesday, Sept. 12
7 p.m.
Bayless High School
Special Sensory Performance
“The Children’s Hour”
The Theatre Guild of Webster Groves
Sept. 7 – 16
Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.
What It’s About:  Longtime friends Karen and Martha run a boarding school for girls. After a malicious youngster starts a rumor about the two women, the rumor soon turns to scandal. As the young girl comes to understand the power she wields, she sticks by her story, which precipitates tragedy for the women. It is later discovered that the gossip was pure invention, but it is too late. Irreparable damage has been done
Director: Barbara Mulligan
Cast: Jessica Johns Kelly, Nori Rhodes, Pepi Parshall, Patrick Ryan, Melanie Klug, Betsy Gasoske, Kaylee Ryan, Lydia Foss, Valletta Thurmon, Adrianna Misra, Sydney McClenning, Jesen Clendennen, Gracie Giles, Gentry Giles, Sophia Leritz and Christian Davis.
Of Note: Tickets are Adults $15, Seniors and Students $12, and are available at the door (cash or check). They do not take advanced reservations.
The Guild is a very old building, historic in fact, but because of this we are not wheelchair or handicap accessible. The Guild has a total of 31 steps.
Robert Stevens photo
“Crowns: The Gospel Musical”
The Black Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Sept. 5 – 23
Edison Theatre at Washington University
Box Office: (314) 534-3807
What It’s About: Crowns refers to hats worn by black women. Hats become a springboard for an exploration of black history and identity as seen through the eyes of a young black woman who has come down South to stay with her aunt after her brother is killed in Brooklyn.
Hats are everywhere, in exquisite variety, and the characters use the hats to tell tales about everything from the etiquette of hats to their historical and contemporary social functions.
Director: Linda Kennedy
Cast: Anita Jackson leads the cast as Mother Shaw, with Maureen Williams as Wanda, Amber Rose as Velma, Leah Stewart as Mabel, Eleanor Humphrey as Jeannette, Myke Andrews as The Man and Tyler White as Yolanda.
Of Note: Director Linda Kennedy says: “The mothers and grandmothers, women of the church, were the glue that held us all together. They helped to raise us and helped make us accountable for our actions. We feared them then but are so grateful to them now. One of the greatest gifts a child can receive is the opportunity to sit and listen to and learn from an elder.” Rounding out the behind the scenes team will be the stage manager, Tracy D. Holliway-Wiggins, set designer, Dunsi Dai, lighting by Joe Clapper, and costumes by Daryl Harris.
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Sept. 5 –
What It’s About:  The incandescent Eva Perón’s rise from poverty to power electrified the world – and made her an iconic political celebrity. Winner of seven Tony Awards, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s tour-de-force musical revels in the glamour, charisma and controversy that defined the First Lady of Argentina. With its unforgettable anthem “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” and kaleidoscope of sights and sounds, “Evita” dazzles with pure passion.
Director: Rob Ruggiero, with music direction by Charlie Alterman and choreography by Gustavo Zajac.
Cast: Michelle Aravena (Eva Perón), Pepe Nufrio (Che), Sean MacLaughlin (Juan Perón), Nicolas Dávila (Augstín Magaldi/Ensemble), Shea Gomez (Perón’s Mistress/Ensemble).
Ensemble: Maria Bilbao, Nathaniel Burich, Ben Chavez, Samuel Druhora, Carmen Garcia, Esmeralda Garza, Samantha Gershman, Julie Hanson, Keith Hines, Jose Luaces, Ben Nordstrom, Waldemar Quinones-Villanueva, April Strelinger and Tim Wessel.
Eric Woolsey Photo
Disney’s “Newsies”
Next Generation Theatre Company
Aug. 31 – Sept. 9
Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Florissant Civic Center Theatre
What It’s About: Disney’s Newsies tells the rousing tale of Jack Kelly, a charismatic newsboy and leader of a band of teenaged ‘newsies.’ When titans of publishing raise distribution prices at the newsboys’ expense, Jack rallies newsies from across the city to strike against the unfair conditions and fight for what’s right.
Based on the 1992 motion picture and inspired by a true story, “Newsies” features a Tony Award-winning score by Alan Menken (Little Shop of Horrors, Sister Act) and Jack Feldman and a book by Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein (Kinky Boots). Featuring the now classic songs “Carrying the Banner,” “Seize the Day,” and “Santa Fe,” Newsies is packed with non-stop thrills and a timeless message that is perfect for the whole family.
Director: Joe Elvis Baker, who is also choreographer, with music direction by Meredith Todd.
Cast: Main characters – Jack Kelly – Matthew Riordan; Crutchie – Matthew Cox; Davey – Jack Erbs; Les – Max Slavik; Katherine Plumber – Leigha Stockton; Joseph Pulitzer – Joel Hackbarth; and Medda Larkin – Brenda Bass.
Newsies: Race – Andrew Maroney, Albert/Crutchie Understudy – Corey Fraine, Romeo – Braden Stille, Henry – DJ Wojciehowski, Finch – Isaiah Henry, Specs – Rebekah Side, Elmer – Conrad Powell, Mush – Joel Brown, Jo Jo – Mia Polittle, Buttons – Andrea Brown, Sniper – Justin Harris, Splasher – Jess Gerst, Spot Conlon – Kellen Green, Scab 1 – Cami Dummerth, Scab 2 – Hayden Rodgers, Scab 3 – Justin Harris, Trey Ball, Elise Brubaker, Sabrina Furman, Gabby Diebold, Nya Martin, Kate Shaefer, Sarah Burke, Logan Brown, Aiden Kelly, Rebecca Walthall
Nuns: Mica Tharp, Elise Brubaker, Caitlin Sauors, Mackenzie Baum
Bowery Beauties: Devon Shipley, Nya Martin, Kate Shaefer, MacKenzie Baum
Stages St. Louis
Sept. 7 – Oct. 7
Robert G. Reim Theatre
Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road
What It’s About: Romance, conflict, comedy and colorful characters set in 1906 in the Oklahoma territory.
Director: Michael Hamilton
Starring: Blake Price as Curly, Sarah Ellis as Laurey, Con O’Shea-Creel as Will Parker, David Sajewich as Jud Fry, Lucy Moon as Ado Annie, Matthew Curiano as Ali Hakim, Zoe Vonder Haar as Aunt Eller, John Flack as Andrew Carnes, Leah Berry as Bertie Cummings, Mark MacKillop as Slim, Christopher Deprophetis as Ike Skidmore and Steve Isom as Cord Elam.
Of Note: “Oh, what a beautiful musical! Rodgers and Hammerstein’s timeless first collaboration was, in many ways, their most innovative. And while OKLAHOMA! completely changed the face of American musical theatre 75 years ago, it remains as fresh and vital today as it was then with its loving celebration of the American spirit. A stunning blend of drama, music, and dance, the exhilarating Rodgers and Hammerstein score contains such classics as “People Will Say We’re In Love,” “The Surrey With The Fringe On Top,” “Kansas City,” “I Cain’t Say No,” and the pulsating title tune, “Oklahoma!” A gold standard that set the bar for all great musicals that came after it.
Peter Wochniak Photo
“Three Decembers”
STL Opera Collective
Friday and Saturday, Sept. 7-8
7:30 p.m.
Kranzberg Arts Center
501 N. Grand
What It’s About: The secrets that have shaped a family’s relationships. Composer Jake Heggie’s deeply moving opera explores the emotional shrapnel, secrets and hard truths that take place over three decades in the life of a Broadway diva, who has long ignored her children, now adults, as she pursues her career. Her daughter is struggling with a failing marriage, and her son is facing the death of his partner. The libretto is by Gene Scheer. The beautiful score highlights the tangled emotions of this family as they come to grips with the secrets which have shaped their relationships.”
Cast: Stephanie Ruggles, Aleksander Dragojevic, Emily Truckenbrod, Curtis Moeller, Kurtis Shoemake
“VOICES: Sounds of America”
TLT Productions
Sept. 6 – 9 for five performances
What It’s About: A musical montage of monologues and songs by Tre’von Griffith and Lauron Thompson-Cosby that aim to bridge the gap between young and old, educate and inspire. The showed inspired by youth in St. Louis bring to life issues of race, self-esteem, identity and body image.
Of Note: This is the finale of their second season. The company founded by creative duo, Tre’von “TreG” Griffith and Lauron “Linnae” Thompson-Cosby, will end this season the way their inaugural season began. VOICES, possesses a timeliness the duo felt was worth revisiting. Identity, self-esteem, social justice, family matters and community are just a few of the subject matters addressed in this musical montage created by Griffith and Cosby.
“VOICES is one of our cornerstone works. It’s a compilation of our personal experiences and data generated from workshops done with youth in St.Louis. The workshops conducted, over the course of six years focused on life in this city and the daily issues teens face. We used a lot of their opinion to structure the show,” Griffith said.
Griffith and Cosby will be starring in this show alongside a core of TLT’s ensemble members.
It was last produced in 2017, at the Marcelle Theater.
Of Note: For more information visit or Tickets are also available at the door.