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

Local Spotlight: Haunted Restaurant

Yes, Papa Vito’s restaurant in downtown Belleville is in a haunted historic building. It has a colorful history, but more importantly, the ghosts remain active. I was just there Saturday evening at a birthday party, and we heard from employees who have had encounters.

Here’s the backstory published in the Belleville News-Democrat today:

https://www.bnd.com/living/article267998297.html?utm_source=pushly&intcid=pushly_2462030

Streaming: Halloween movies for tonight (and anytime you want something spooky)

This is a good comprehensive list of what’s available on the streaming services – classics and new horror films:
https://www.tvguide.com/news/best-halloween-movies-to-watch-2022-hbo-max-netflix-hulu-disney-plus/?ftag=NLS-04-10aaa1a&mid=14045866&cid=2365088847

Theater: Shining Local Star

What a delightful young woman! I was thrilled to be able to write about Berklea Going for last week’s Webster-Kirkwood Times. The Nerinx Hall graduate and Muny veteran of 19 summers is in the national tour of “Frozen” and will be at the Fox as soon as her run in “42nd Street” at the Goodspeed Opera House is over this weekend. Here is my feature on this talented St. Louis native

Here is my feature in Friday’s print edition of the Webster-Kirkwood Times:

https://www.timesnewspapers.com/webster-kirkwoodtimes/i-want-to-take-it-all-in/article_8bf8c7a4-5601-11ed-b8f2-db9cc1105a7c.html

Food: The McRib Farewell Tour

Yes, the McRib is available at participating McDonald’s starting today – but it’s a limited time, and yes, the final countdown.

https://www.mcdonalds.com/us/en-us/product/mcrib.html

Playlist: Who You Gonna Call?

Ray Parker Jr. performed his classic “Ghostbusters” song on “The Talk” today.

Word: “It’s as much fun to scare as to be scared.” – Vincent Price

May you have a safe and fun Halloween!

By CB Adams

Every so often, The Muny and the St. Louis Symphony come together like Peaches & Herb: “Reunited, and it feels so good…”

These two cultural cousins know how to celebrate. That was definitely the vibe at Power Hall on October 2 when these two local cultural titans combined talents for “A Little Sondheim Music,” a concert to celebrate composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim, a titan of different sort. The last time the Symphony and Muny combined forces was to celebrate the The Muny’s 100th birthday.

With Mike Isaacson, the Muny’s Artistic Director and Executive Producer, at the helm as host and master of ceremony, the lively event perked along through a well-curated roster of songs from Sondheim’s career. This was no jukebox jaunt through Sondheim’s songbook. It was a journey into Sondheim’s impressive range of songs and characters, some of which aren’t among his greatest hits.

So, along with the familiar titles from “Follies,” “A Little Night Music,” “Company” and “Sweeney Todd,” the audience was also to treated to selections from the lesser-known “Saturday Night,” “Evening Primrose” and “Anyone Can Whistle.” Another entire concert or two could be created from Sondheim’s deep cuts from other shows. To borrow a line from “Send In the Clowns, “…well, maybe next year.” (hint, hint).

In his opening, Isaacson quoted the three guiding principles that Sondheim hewed to during his career: content dictates form, less is more and God is in the details. To which Sondheim also added, “All in service of Clarity, without which nothing else matters.”

Bryonha Marie in rehearsal. Julie Merkel photo.

Clarity ruled the afternoon performance and elevated the achievements of Sondheim rather than mourn his passing last November at age 91. Lending their vocal talents to the celebration were some of Broadway’s brightest babies:  Ben Davis, Bryonha Marie, Matthew Scott, Emily Skinner and Elizabeth Stanley. Their talents were on full display, whether performing individually, in duets or as an ensemble. And it would be unfair if not impossible to cite any one performance as a standout because they were all standouts.

Ask 10 audience members what their favorite was, and you’d probably get 10 different answers. My own personal favorite was Skinner’s interpretation of “Send In the Clowns.” Her use of pauses and emphasis provided new insight into the lyrics’ meanings and to the rueful ruminations of the character Desirée in “A Little Night Music.”  I’m just a sucker for that song.

Clarity was certainly one of the concert’s throughlines. Songs such as ”If You Can Find Me, I’m Here,” sung by Scott, and “Broadway Baby,” sung by Marie, exemplify Sondheim’s ability to pack an entire show’s worth of characterization into a single lyric. And Scott interpreted his song by channeling an inner Dustin Hoffman, ala “The Graduate,” and Marie delivered sass, sashay and plenty of boop-oop-a-doop to hers.  

Each Sondheim song is its own mini-musical. All of the performers tapped into this with brio and moxie, moving across the narrow strip of stag and conjuring the spirit of the actual musicals. Even if you didn’t know the show, you understood it from the song itself. That’s part Sondheim genius, part musical magic and part high-caliber performance from the artists.

Rehearsal photo of the two Bens – Davis and Whiteley. Photo by Julie Merkel.

Cases in point: Davis, fresh off this last summer’s successful Muny production of “Sweeney Todd,” reprised his take on the chilling “My Friends” by pivoting from fetishistic heavy petting of cutlery to the abrupt declaration, “At last, my arm is complete again!” Dexter should be so lucky.

And Stanley provided a disarmingly plaintive interpretation of “In Buddy’s Eyes” from “Follies” that reworked the breathless suffering usually associated with this song – written for an older character – into an ironic conscience examination of someone younger.

Also providing clarity to the concert was the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Maestro Ben Whiteley, who has long been a member of the Muny artistic family. Host Isaacson thanked Whiteley “…who really created this program, bringing his incredible knowledge and passion to the creation of this program.”

The orchestra launched the performance with the opening overture to “Merrily We Roll Along” and was featured post-intermission with the overture to “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” as well as a smooth and graceful “Night Waltz” from “A Little Night Music” in the second half. These were a potent reminder of the beauty of Sondheim’s compositions and how much a fine performance of them deepens their impact.

Also in the second half was a special appearance by St. Louis native Ken Page who sang “Anyone Can Whistle” with a sage-like preciousness that did the Old Deuteronomy cat proud.

As the concert drew to a close, Isaacson quoted Sondheim who answered an interviewer’s question about what he hoped his legacy would be. “Oh, I just would like the shows to keep getting done. Whether on Broadway, or in regional theaters, or schools or communities, I would just like the stuff to be done. Just done and done and done and done and done.”

With a concert like “A Little Sondheim Music,” The Muny and the Symphony have ensured that at least one of those done’s was accomplished – and done to perfection. It doesn’t get much clearer than that.

Featured Photo: Ben Whiteley, Michael Baxter, Nicolas Valdez, Bryonha Marie, Ben Davis, Matthew Scott, Emily Skinner.. Photo by Julie Merkel.

Matthew Scott in rehearsal. Photo by Julie Merkel.

Collaborative Concert “A Little Sondheim Music” Oct 2. at Powell Hall

The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and The Muny announced details about their latest collaboration: the upcoming concert honoring the late Stephen Sondheim, A Little Sondheim Music on Sunday, October 2, at 3:00pm. Sondheim, who passed away in November 2021 at age 91, is credited with reinventing the American musical, both as a lyricist and composer, throughout his prolific career.

Hosted by Mike Isaacson, Artistic Director and Executive Producer of The Muny, with musical staging by Michael Baxter, and conducted by Muny veteran Ben Whiteley, the concert includes selections from many of Sondheim’s most beloved musicals, including Merrily We Roll AlongSondheim On SondheimInto the WoodsFolliesA Little Night MusicCompany, and Sweeney Todd. All lyrics and music by Stephen Sondheim, with various arrangers and orchestrators.

Performing with the SLSO are several veteran theater performers, whose credits include Broadway musicals, West End productions, Muny productions, television, and more: Ben Davis, Bryonha Marie, Matthew Scott, Emily Skinner, and Elizabeth Stanley. Broadway veteran and St. Louis native Ken Page also makes a special appearance.

Collaborations between the two organizations date back to at least 1919, when the SLSO provided entertainment for patrons of The Muny during summer performances including Robin Hood and The Mikado. The tradition of collaboration returned in 1994 when the SLSO performed on The Muny stage in a celebration concert titled “Gateway to the Gold,” a salute to the U.S. Olympic Festival. The SLSO and The Muny last performed together in 2018 as part of The Muny’s centennial celebration.

Tickets are on sale now for this unique concert partnership between two of St. Louis’ most storied and celebrated arts institutions. Tickets can be purchased by visiting slso.org or by calling the SLSO Box Office at 314-534-1700.

Mike Isaacson

A Little Sondheim Music: The Muny and SLSO Celebrate Stephen Sondheim

Sunday, October 2, 2022, 3:00pm

Ben Whiteley, conductor

Ben Davis, vocals
Bryonha Marie, vocals
Matthew Scott, vocals
Emily Skinner, vocals
Elizabeth Stanley, vocals
With special appearance by Ken Page

Mike Isaacson, host

Artist Bios:

Ben Davis recently received critical acclaim as Sweeney Todd in the Muny’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Davis received a Tony Honor for his work as Marcello in Baz Luhrmann’s Broadway production of La Boheme. His extensive credits, spanning from Broadway to London, include Encores! Call Me Madam opposite Carmen Cusack, Dear Evan Hansen, Violet, A Little Night MusicLes MisérablesThe Sound of Music, Kiss Me Kate for the BBC at London’s Royal Albert Hall and NBC’s, Annie Live. Concert credits include Philly Pops, RTÉ Orchestra, Tanglewood, Caramoor, and many others.

Bryonha Marie

Bryonha Marie has rapidly established herself as one of the brightest young stars currently on Broadway and in the classical crossover arena. Best known for her tour de force Broadway performance in Prince of Broadway, a career retrospective of the work of Harold Prince, Marie has also thrilled Broadway audiences as Serena in Porgy & Bess. Other Broadway credits include After Midnight (featured and principal cover for Patti LaBelle, Toni Braxton, k.d. lang, and Fantasia), the revival of Ragtime (Sarah’s Friend), and The Book of Mormon.

Matthew Scott has performed as Adam Hochberg in An American In Paris on Broadway and the National Tour; Sondheim On Sondheim with Barbara Cook and Vanessa Williams; and A Catered AffairJersey Boys, and Grand Horizons. On the West End he has performed as Lee in I Loved Lucy at the Arts Theatre. Regional credits include The Light In The Piazza (Barrymore Award); Saturday NightBeachesCompanySide by Side by SondheimChaplin (San Diego Critics Nomination), A Wonderful Life, RagtimeMy Fair LadyCarouselWest Side Story (Kevin Kline Award Nomination), Legally BlondeSwing!Les MiserablesSunset Boulevard, and Mamma Mia.

Emily Skinner has established herself as one of Broadway’s most engaging and versatile performers. She was most recently seen in Barrington Stage’s production of A Little Night Music where she received rave reviews for her fresh take on Desiree Armfeldt. Previously she appeared in the Broadway-bound musical Once Upon a One More Time at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, DC, and on Broadway as Georgia Holt, Cher’s Mother, in The Cher Show.

Heralded as one of the “Breakout Stars of 2020” by The New York Times, Elizabeth Stanley received Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle Award nominations, and a Grammy Award for her recent performance as Mary Jane Healy in the musical Jagged Little Pill, inspired by the music of Alanis Morissette, book by Diablo Cody, and directed by Diane Paulus. Stanley has dazzled Broadway audiences as Claire De Loone in the revival of On the Town (Drama Desk Nomination), Dyanne in Million Dollar Quartet, Allison in Cry Baby, and April in the Tony Award-winning revival of Company.

Ken Page is a St. Louis native with a career spanning over 45 years. He is most widely known as the voice of “Oogie Boogie” in the Tim Burton/Disney film The Nightmare Before Christmas and has recreated his role in sold out concerts live to film at The Hollywood Bowl on four occasions as well as at Brooklyn’s Barclay Center, Tokyo, Glasgow, London (with the London Philharmonic Orchestra), and Dublin. Broadway/UK credits include Guys & DollsAin’t Misbehavin’ (Emmy-winning NBC special, Drama Desk Award-Best Actor, Grammy Award), Cats as Old Deuteronomy (Original Broadway Cast, London Video Cast, Grammy Award), The WizAin’t Nothin’ But the BluesWizard of OzChildren of Eden (London West End Original Cast), My One and Only (London Palladium), Mr. Wonderful (Theatre Royal Drury Lane), and The Little Mermaid (Hollywood Bowl).

SLSO

About the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra

Celebrated as a leading American orchestra, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra is the second-oldest orchestra in the country, marking its 143rd year with the 2022/2023 season and its fourth with Music Director Stéphane Denève. The SLSO maintains its commitment to artistic excellence, educational impact, and community collaborations, honoring its mission of enriching lives through the power of music.

The SLSO serves as a convener of individuals, creators, and ideas, and is committed to building community through compelling and inclusive musical experiences. As it continues its longstanding focus on equity, diversity, inclusion, and access, the SLSO embraces its strengths as a responsive, nimble organization, while investing in partnerships locally and elevating its presence globally. For more information, visit slso.org.

About The Muny

The Muny’s mission is to enrich lives by producing exceptional musical theatre, accessible to all, while continuing its remarkable tradition in Forest Park. The country’s largest outdoor musical theatre produces seven world-class musicals each year and welcomes over 400,000 theatregoers over our seven-show season. Now celebrating 104 seasons in St. Louis, The Muny remains one of the premier institutions in musical theatre. 

The Muny

By Lynn Venhaus
As frothy as a cappuccino and sweet as cotton candy, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” took hold of The Muny stage as a swirling kaleidoscope of color, a glittery burst of cheer from a youthful ensemble that brings it home.

In the first full season after the challenging post-pandemic years 2020-2021, The Muny wraps up a groundbreaking summer with this beloved big, splashy musical that has been here six times. Last produced in 2012, the show first arrived in 1986 and returned in 1997, 2002 and 2007.

With its technical razzle-dazzle matched by the effervescent Muny Kids and Teens in the youth ensemble and children’s choir, the entire company looked like they were at the happiest place on earth.

That engaged the crowd, and the charismatic principals Jason Gotay as golden child Joseph, Jessica Vosk as the regal Narrator, and Mykal Kilgore as the swaggering Pharoah elevated the wispy material, delivering knock-out performances.

Narrator and Potiphar. Photo by Phillip Hamer.

However, the show is not without heartache and adversity – with a turnaround because of strength, perseverance, and blessings, for it is based on the Old Testament Book of Genesis tale of Jacob, his favorite son Joseph, his 11 other sons, and that famous coat of many colors.  

After Joseph’s jealous brothers sell him into slavery, he impresses the Egyptian noble Potiphar, but then rejects his wife’s amorous advances, and is thrown in jail. While locked up, Joseph’s talent for interpreting dreams is put to good use. He ingratiates himself with the Pharoah because he offers a solution to the country’s famine, and that stroke of fortune results in Joseph becoming the Pharoah’s right-hand man. He is eventually reunited with his family.

In the stylized re-imagining by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice, the story is told through song and dance.

Considered innovative in the 1970s, the musical comedy has expanded over time, and is now regarded as a family-friendly favorite staged by thousands of schools and groups in the U.S. and across the pond. 

The EGOT duo began this journey collaborating for the second time in 1968. Commissioned by a music teacher who was a family friend of Webber’s, their 15-minute pop cantata was performed at the Colet Court School in London. After more tinkering, it was recorded by Decca Records in 1969.

When their next piece, the rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar,” skyrocketed them to fame in 1971, the earlier musical was stretched to 35 minutes for the Edinburgh International Festival the next year. More modifications followed, and the modern format was staged in 1974. It was mounted on Broadway in 1982 and nominated for seven Tony Awards. Revivals, tours and a 1999 direct-to-video film starred Donny Osmond followed.

Like the other pop Biblical musical of that era, Stephen Schwartz’s “Godspell,” it is re-interpreted for every presentation. Consider this the theme park ride version, with the youngsters displaying as much energy as those attending summer cheerleading camps.

Photo by Phillip Hamer.

It’s a swell dance party, briskly performed in several celebratory scenes and elaborate pastiches – including countrified “One More Angel in Heaven/Hoedown,” the French-inspired lament “Those Canaan Days,” island-flavored “Benjamin Calypso” and the grandmaster flashy finale “Megamix.”

The pleasant pop-py tunes “Any Dream Will Do” and “Go, Go, Go Joseph.” are certain to be hummable on your way home.

Music director Charlie Alterman, who won last year’s St Louis Theater Circle Award for “Chicago,” is adept at lively shows with many moving parts and his orchestras are a treat to listen to — and he’s aware of the Muny’s pit challenges this season.

Of course, a show directed and choreographed by Josh Rhodes would seize the day. Rhodes, who is known for his athletic and acrobatic dances, returns after successes helming “Jersey Boys,” “Paint Your Wagon” and that stunning tap number to “Putting on the Ritz” in 2016’s “Young Frankenstein.”

This is a show that requires a special set of skills, and Rhodes’ crisp and snappy choreography is flat-out fun. He was aided by associate choreographer Lee Wilkins and dance captain Emilie Renier.

In its last national tour in 2014, the ingenious three-time Tony Award winner Andy Blankenbuehler directed and choreographed a fresh interpretation that ran at the Fox Theatre that spring. That show featured American Idol finalist Ace Young as Joseph and his wife, fellow finalist Diana DeGarmo, as the Narrator.

The role of Joseph is often filled by a pop star – and teen heartthrobs David Cassidy, Andy Gibb and Donny Osmond have played the lead before. (And first American Idol runner-up Justin Guarini, who has played various roles at the Muny, was Joseph in 2012.)

At the Muny, Jason Gotay has won over hearts as a charming leading man, appearing as Prince Eric in “The Little Mermaid,” Prince Topher in “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella” and as Jack in “Into the Woods.”

His strong velvety vocals emphasize he is no lightweight, heart-tugging in “Close Every Door.”  He commands the stage confidently, capably leading the large cast in the group numbers.

Mykal Kilgore as the Pharoah. Photo by Phillip Hamer.

However, the showstopper in this production is Mykal Kilgore.

One of my favorites since I saw him at the Muny Magic concert at the Sheldon in 2017, the affable Kilgore slays as the megawatt Pharoah. It’s as if James Brown and Little Richard had a baby.

 In a departure from the previous Elvis-like personas, Kilgore reaches back to his R&B roots for “Song of the King,” bringing the house down. The Pharoah’s stage time is brief, but his impact is mighty.

Jessica Vosk makes her Muny debut, playing a hands-on narrator who just doesn’t just observe the action from the sidelines, but propels it along. Here, she is a surrogate mother hen to the youngsters as she tells the tale.

Vosk has the powerful pipes to fill an arena and is well-suited for this grand production. She has played the role before, in the 50th anniversary show at the Lincoln Center, and is remarkably assured while the action bubbles up around her.

Other noteworthy debuts are multi-hyphenate Eric Jordan Young in the dual role of well-meaning Jacob and flamboyant Potiphar, and Darron Hayes as playful Judah, who takes the lead in “Benjamin Calypso.”

The adult choir is chock-full of Muny regulars, and some familiar castmates are playing brothers. Dynamic Harris Milgrim, a standout as Benjamin in last year’s “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” is again as Reuben in “One More Angel.”

Sean Ewing, in his third season at the Muny, is second son Simeon, amusing in “Old Canaan Days.”

Not all the hijinks work, for the mashups often are silly, and the gaudy pageantry can easily slide into trivial frivolity, but that’s the problem with the show itself. As the years ago on, they keep gilding the lily, adding more to an already over-the-top show. But it remains a huge crowd-pleaser.

And the joyous look on those kids’ faces on stage said it all. (I counted 40 in the youth ensemble and 14 in the children’s choir, in addition to the 19 in ensemble, not to mention principals.)

Photo by Phillip Hamer.

Edward E. Haynes Jr., the award-winning scenic designer for “Smokey Joe’s Café” last year, combines glitz, a Skittles rainbow of bold colors, and Egyptian symbols for the second act, in a whimsical set reminiscent of Tim Burton and the Marvel superheroes’ cinematic universe.

In a stunning backdrop, he references King Tutankhamen’s gold headdress in a giant piece anchoring a fancy staircase with neon piping..

Video designer Greg Emetaz is in sync with Haynes’ vision, and an extension of the gold-plated theme uniting the looks is on the LED screens.

Costume designer Leon Dobkowski references Vegas showgirls, exotic images and B.C. looks to create sparkly outfits and a sunny vibe. His elaborate headdresses are something special to see. The different gold fabrics stand out in garments, and kudos to wig designer Kelly Jordan for the Pharoah’s massive ‘do.

Jason Lyons’ lighting design capitalizes on the wonder and magical parts, and smartly ascertains between the dreamy sequences and the dark times.

It’s fitting that The Muny focused on home, family, relying on each other and connection for the last show of the 104th season, particularly after what they endured from mid-June to now with the double-whammy of back-to-back floods, extreme heat – even by St. Louis standards (oh you layered Edwardian Londoners in “Mary Poppins”!), and a new strain of COVID-19 on the rise in the region (but thanks to understudies and swings, the shows went on).

In his annual farewell address, Mike Isaacson, executive producer and artistic director since 2011, joked that the season was ‘biblical,’ and who could argue?

Known for its fizzy fun, “Joseph” delivered a spectacle to end the season on a high-spirited note.

If you think of the Muny in terms of a summer vacation, “Chicago” was nightlife fun, “Camelot” was a Renaissance Faire, “Mary Poppins” was a trip to the Magic House, “Legally Blonde” was a class reunion, “Sweeney Todd” was visiting the Louvre, “The Color Purple” was the Smithsonian and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” was a trip to Disneyland.

Until we meet again under the stars in Forest Park, here’s raising a glass to a summer tradition that I am grateful for, and will never ever take for granted.

Cast of ‘Joseph.’ Photo by Phillip Hamer.

The Muny presents the musical “Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” Aug.13-18 at 8:15 pm. Performances take place on the outdoor stage in Forest Park. For more information, visit www. muny.org.

Eric Jordan Young. Photo by Phillip Hamer.

By Lynn Venhaus

In its Muny premier, “The Color Purple” is a momentous experience — one that cannot be missed for its historic and landmark significance, but also because it’s one of the finest ever ensembles in its 104 seasons.

The cast takes us on an unforgettable emotional journey, and their glorious harmonies soar into the summer night.

Delivering a story of uncommon courage and grace in a harrowing account of deeply rooted cruelty and oppression, the core group of female principals makes us feel their sorrows, love, pain, and indomitable spirit.

To paraphrase Annie Lennox and Aretha Franklin, sisters are doing it for themselves (referencing a 1985 Eurythmics female empowerment song). And what a sisterhood it is!

In 1909, Celie is a humble, hard-working 14-year-old poor black girl living in rural Georgia, who has delivered two babies whose father is her father, and Pa (Duane Martin Foster) has taken them away.

Several years later, he makes a deal to give Celie to Albert “Mister” Johnson, an emotionally and physically abusive widower and farmer, to care for his unruly children and serve him and his family.

She spared her sister, Nettie, so that she could follow her dream of being a teacher. Unbeknownst to Celie for a long time, the compassionate Nettie winds up with a missionary family in Africa, and is eventually tracked down by Shug Avery, another important influence in Celie’s life.

Celie has gone from one house of horrors to another. This is unsettling, of course, but her unwavering faith sees her through these tough times, as do the people who raise her up. She has always found solace with her sister and in church, and as time passes, it is the community that relies on her that pays back her kindness.

While taking care of Mister’s home, the nurturing Celie meets the glamorous, worldly, and determined nightclub chanteuse Shug Avery. They eventually share a romantic relationship and deep bond despite the singer having an on-again, off-again affair with Mister and a marriage to Grady.

One of Mister’s grown children, Harpo, marries Sofia, and she is a strong-willed free spirit, known for her independence and speaking her mind, with her phrase: “Hell, no!” even a song title. She cannot be ‘tamed,’ but she loves Harpo. Sofia’s stance will bring her serious harm.

Over the course of several decades, what the women learn, how they grow and overcome obstacles will tug at our hearts, so that the mercy shown in the second act leads to triumph– and for the men too.

Marsha Norman wrote this tough adaptation of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning touchstone novel, a National Book Award winner in 1982, which told Celie’s story through letters she wrote to her sister and children.

Sisters Nettie and Celie “Our Prayer.” Photo by Phillip Hamer.

For director Steven Spielberg, Menno Meyjes adapted the book into a 1985 movie that garnered 11 Academy Award nominations (but famously did not win any). A new movie based on the musical is set for a December 2023 release.

The heart and soul of any version is Celie, and it’s no fluke that both actresses who played Celie on Broadway — LaChanze in the original 2005 production and Cynthia Erivo in the 2016 revival — won Tony Awards (Director John Doyle’s re-imagining also won the Tony Award for Best Revival).

In this powerhouse role, Anastacia McCleskey is transcendent, bringing out the dignity, heartbreak, and virtues of a true survivor of overwhelming trauma. This tour de force performance is deeply felt and delivered with remarkable strength and skill.

Her eyes glistening with tears, McCleskey became a bona fide star in her 11 o’clock number, “I’m Here,” in which she expresses self-love and perseverance, and left us in awe. The thunderous ovation that followed was one of the longest in memory. Goosebump moments, indeed.

When she leads the cast in the finale, a fervent reprise of “The Color Purple,” it’s impossible for the audience to not have been affected by this sublime show.

Yes, it’s gut-wrenching, but it’s also about healing, resilience, and the mighty power of love. Throughout our history, we have learned that we should never forget what’s happened before, those teachable moments that make us better people.

The score includes gospel, jazz, ragtime, blues, and African beats, with songs by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray that bring out the purpose, yearnings and period of these early 20th century lives.

“Mysterious Ways” number. Photo by Phillip Hamer.

The cast is stellar from leads to brief parts, evident from the Sunday church services depicted in “Mysterious Ways,” with Omega Jones belting out praise as the preacher and Alexis J. Rosten, Shantel Cribbs and Melanie Loren instant crowd-pleasers as the supremely talented trio of church ladies Doris, Darlene, and Jarene.

You will quickly discover what a joyful noise this ensemble will make, their strong vocals providing a sense of faith, hope and charity that church communities share.

Nasia Thomas, who stood out in last year’s “Smokey Joe’s Cafe,” is impressive as Celie’s beloved sister Nettie. You can feel a palpable bond between them, as if they were real sisters. Their duets are beautiful, especially the touching “Our Prayer.”

In the showy role as the irrepressible Shug, singer Tracee Beazer sashays across the stage with ultra-confidence. She leads the big splashy number “Push Da Button” but it’s her poignant ballads, “Too Beautiful for Words” and “The Color Purple,” that showcase her vocal strengths, as well as the exquisite “What About Love?”, a tender duet with Celie.

Nicole Michelle Haskins as Sofia and Gilbert Domally as Harpo reprise their roles from the acclaimed 2019 Drury Lane Theatre production in Chicago and endear as a dynamic couple — and as individuals. They have a fun, playful duet “Any Little Thing.”

Gilbert Domally, Nicole Michelle Haskins, Evan Tyrone Martin, Anastacia McCleskey. Photo by Phillip Hamer.

As the villain Mister, Evan Tyrone Martin inspires a gamut of emotions as the heartless husband perpetuating a long cycle of suffering. After he’s cursed and lost everything, “The Mister Song” begins his redemption.

Fine in supporting roles are Erica Durham as the colorful Squeak, Sean Walton as flashy Grady, and Jos N. Banks as lively Buster. Muny favorite Kennedy Holmes portrays Olivia and Rodney Thompson is Adam, Celie’s children.

The staging on a simple slab with different levels depicting various locales is a smart move by scenic designer Arnel Sanciano, which narrows our focus to the human interaction. Other accoutrements, such as Harpo’s sign for his juke joint and fields of purple flowers, are deftly handled on the LED screen by video designer Paul Deziel.

The creative team is new to the Muny but not the material. Director Lili-Anne Brown, music director Jermaine Hill and choreographer Breon Arzell were responsible for the Drury Lane Theatre production in fall 2019 that received seven Joseph Jefferson Awards nominations and won two — for directing and supporting role (Haskins).

Their collaboration has transferred well to the large outdoor stage. Every part of this exercise is told with attentiveness and passion.

The trio’s vision is brought vividly to life by the top-tier ensemble and their team, including outstanding craftsmanship by lighting designer Heather Gilbert and sound designers John Shivers and David Patridge. Production stage manager Jhanae Bonnick keeps everything at a brisk pace.

“Miss Celie’s Pants.” Photo by Phillip Hamer.

The costumes are a panoply of 40 years of style, with costume designer Samantha C. Jones dressing a church-going community in their Sunday best, what they wear to work and play in a Southern town, and how they dress up for a juke joint. Wig designer is Kelly Jordan.

With Celie designing pants in the second act, a striking array of comfortable yet stylish outfits are on display. That celebration number “Miss Celie’s Pants” marks such a turning point in the story and is one big smile.

If you believe, as I do, that if you spread light and love in the world, and are a good person, then the universe responds in kind. That is ultimately why Celie’s story resonates. Yes, she endured hell on earth, but she never gave up her belief in goodness, and finally realized her worth as a human being.

Purple symbolizes strength, transformation, power, wisdom and bravery, and all meanings can be applied here.

What an inspiration Alice Walker’s book was to the world 40 years ago, and continues to be, and what a distinguished accomplishment this show is for The Muny and St. Louis.

Nasia Thomas, Anastacia McCleskey, Rodney Thompson, Kennedy Holmes. Photo by Phillip Hamer.

The Muny presents the musical “The Color Purple” Aug. 3-9 at 8:15 p.m. nightly on the outdoor stage in Forest Park. For more information or tickets, visit www.muny.org.

Church Ladies. Photo by Phillip Hamer.

The Muny announced today that the Tuesday, July 26 performance of Legally Blonde The Musical, which opened last night, will be postponed due to flooding in Forest Park and on The Muny campus caused by record-breaking rainfall overnight.

The rescheduled performance will take place on Monday, August 1 at 8:15 pm. All tickets will automatically be rescheduled for Monday evening’s performance. Ticket holders may visit muny.org for more information. The Wednesday, July 27 performance will go on as scheduled.

“Above all else, our thoughts are with all other flood victims in the region,” said Kwofe Coleman, President and CEO. “Despite the shocking damage we found today on the grounds of The Muny, we are thankful to be able to reschedule tonight’s performance for Monday evening. I am personally grateful for everyone who adjusted so quickly and worked to make this happen.”

Tickets for tonight’s July 26, 2022 performance will be honored on the new date of Monday, August 1, 2022 at 8:15pm. If this date does not work for you, you may exchange your ticket in person at The Muny Box Office for a different performance of Legally Blonde.

Your Options:
A) Attend Monday, August 1 – no action required. Your current ticket will gain entry into the theatre.
B) Attend a different  performance of Legally Blonde – Exchanges can be made in person at The Muny Box Office, open daily 9 AM – 9PM
C) Should you be unable to attend another performance, refunds will be honored.

Have a mobile ticket? If you have downloaded your ticket, it will remain valid. If you have not downloaded your ticket yet to your phone, you will be sent a new ticket for Monday, August 1.

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we get The Muny campus ready for your arrival

To stay connected virtually, and to receive the latest updates, please follow The Muny on their social media channels, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The Muny’s 2022 Season includes Chicago (June 13-19), Lerner and Loewe’s Camelot (June 22-28), Disney and Cameron Macintosh’s Mary Poppins (July 5-13), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (July 16-22), Legally Blonde, The Musical (July 25-August 1), The Color Purple (August 3-9) and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (August 12-18).

The Muny’s mission is to enrich lives by producing exceptional musical theatre, accessible to all, while continuing its remarkable tradition in Forest Park. As the nation’s largest outdoor musical theatre, we produce world-class musicals each year and welcome over 350,000 theatregoers over our summer season. Celebrating 103 seasons in St. Louis, The Muny remains one of the premier institutions in musical theatre.

For more information about The Muny, visit muny.org.

Forest Park outside the Muny
Bathroom

By CB Adams

 Whether you’re a die-hard Muny season ticket holder, a Stephen Sondheim devotee, someone attracted to a dark Dickensian tale about a murderous Victorian barber, someone seeking a great night of musical theater, or anything in between, “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” is a must-see.

Fresh off the heels (or should we say umbrella) of “Mary Poppins” comes a show with a wholly different cut. It’s populated with hordes of the great unwashed, a steampunk-inspired set, love songs sung to razors and more dead bodies on stage than a Greek tragedy. And if that’s not enough, add in the music and lyrics by Sondheim (one of his greatest showpieces). Who else could have created a toe-tapping sing-along about meat pies made with human flesh?

“Sweeney Todd” originally opened in 1979 and, after sweeping the Tony Awards, has since grown into one of Broadway’s top-ten musicals – emphasis on musical because 80 percent of this show is sung. It is just now making its Muny premiere after a two-year pandemic-induced delay. It is definitely worth the wait.

Photo by Julia Merkle

This a muscular “go big or go home” production. Rob Ruggiero, director, and Mike Isaacson, artistic director and executive producer, leveraged their many talents and definitely chose the go-big option. They take full advantage of the Muny’s automated stage with its performer lifts, turntable and scenery wagons. A tip of the hat also goes to Jessica Hartman, associate director and musical staging, and James Moore, musical director, for their talents.

One of the challenges of “Sweeney Todd” is presenting the violence and carnage, which includes numerous throat slashings. The bloodletting is cleverly and effectively portrayed through lighting (thanks to design by John Lasiter) rather than with fountains of fake blood.  

As befits the big production values, this “Sweeney Todd” requires – and delivers – a powerful principal cast. Tony nominee Carmen Cusack, an audience favorite, plays the crafty, ambitious Mrs. Lovett. Cusack’s voice is equal to Ben Davis’s booming Sweeney Todd. Davis achieves a Todd who is complex, wounded and angry, and can still fill the stage with a larger-than-life presence. Julie Hanson’s bawdy Beggar Woman weaves throughout the scenes like an annoying fly with a Cockney accent, while Stephen Wallen’s corpulent The Beadle waddles about like an officious toady in service to Robert Cuccioli’s imperious, love-struck lech, Judge Turpin.

Photo by Phillip Hamer

Even a slasher show like “Sweeney Todd” has a love story at its heart. Riley Noland plays Johanna with a thin high voice that befits her role as captive and victim. Her duet with Jake Boyd as sailor boy/love interest Anthony Hope is an extended highlight of this production. Though the two interact mostly from afar, their love and attraction is palpable.

Lincoln Clauss’s Tobias Ragg is a standout. The Ragg character evolves from wig-wearing hawker of snake-oil hair tonic to sprite-like table server and finally to traumatized avenger. Clauss has the acting and vocal range to match.

This production also makes full use of a large ensemble chorus with a panoply of tatty, bedraggled characters who introduce and frame Sweeney Todd’s descent from a cruelly treated barber into a lusty lasher and ultimately tragic victim of his own revengeful scheming. And, there haven’t been this many raised fists on the Muny stage since “Les Misérables” was in town.

The ensemble sings the last chorus at the conclusion of “Sweeney Todd,” but it’s the audience, walking toward the exits and excitedly talking about this production’s wow factor, that gets the last word and best positive review.

Photo by Phillip Hamer

The Muny presents “Sweeney Todd” July 16 – 22 at 8:15 p.m. nightly on the outdoor stage in Forest Park. For tickets or more information, visit: www.muny.org.

Photo by Phillip Hamer
The cast of Sweeney Todd. Photo by Phillip Hamer

By Lynn Venhaus

When the titular character floats in using her umbrella, carried by the East wind to 17 Cherry Tree Lane in London, it’s a welcome jolt of joy — signaling that a merry time is ahead in this stage musical version of “Mary Poppins.”

And this vibrant, candy colored Muny production of the beloved magical nanny tale is as whimsical as you remember.

Director John Tartaglia makes it sparkly and this cast of 75 brings the magic that he is striving for in his sixth show, hoping to see smiles on a summer night.

The nostalgia factor is high, recalling the sublime Oscar-winning performance of Julie Andrews in the iconic 1964 Disney movie, which is based on P.L. Travers’ series of children’s books, eight of them starting in 1934.

Disney’s crowning live-action achievement was the highest-grossing film of 1964 and garnered 13 Oscar nominations, winning five: (actress, editing, original music score, visual effects, and song for “Chim Chim Cher-ee”). During Walt’s lifetime, it was the only one of his films to earn a Best Picture nomination.

With Travers’ permission, master producer Cameron Mackintosh turned the tale into an acclaimed stage musical in London in 2004, which opened on Broadway in 2006, and continued for more than six years. It closed on March 3, 2013, after 2,619 – the 24th longest-running show in Broadway history.

The show is a mix of the movie and the books. The sentimentality is part of its appeal, and this ensemble blends both freshness and fondness for the traditional qualities to please a new generation.

Jeanna de Waal is an ideal Mary, moving with ease, popping in and out with her grace and regal bearing.  She is a good sport for her spectacular flying segments, with seamless effects work by ZFX.

For a little extra insight into the mystical nanny, she projects an air of mystery, indicating there’s more than meets the eye. She also sings like a dream, smoothly cavorting in the newer song “Practically Perfect” and a reworked setting for “A Spoonful of Sugar.”

In fact, this is a cast of glorious voices.

The charismatic and charming Corbin Bleu uses his considerable song and dance skills as the lovable happy-go-lucky Bert. It’s a triumphant return to the Muny following his sensational turn as Don Lockwood in “Singin’ in the Rain” in 2018. He had dazzled critics and audiences alike, winning the St. Louis Theater Circle Award for Best Actor in a Musical. 

Photo by Phillip Hamer

Bleu, who first came to prominence as Chad in the “High School Musical” movies, works well with De Waal and the ensemble — and has a few cool moves I won’t spoil.

That score by Robert B. and Richard M. Sherman is unforgettable – and in fact, some Muny patrons sang along. But the musical is not a replica of the film, for “I Love to Laugh” has been omitted, as has “Sister Suffragette,” “Stay Awake” and “Fidelity Fiduciary Bank.”

With a few exceptions, the new songs by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe do not seem to be as catchy as the Sherman brothers’ collaborations. Even at a 2 hour and 35 minute-run time, “Anything Can Happen,” delivered in two parts, seems to drag on and on. A little editing of some numbers would have made for a tighter experience.

“The Life I Lead” has been replaced by “Precision and Order,” sung by the stern banker, George Banks. In Julian Fellowes’ book, George is revealed to have had a strict childhood, and the parents are more dysfunctional, with Winifred Banks a former actress who can’t seem to fit in to the elite society, and the two children, Jane and Michael, are naughtier.

The real-life husband-and-wife duo of Nehal Joshi and Erin Davie are splendid in vocals and their character development. Their new songs include “A Man Has Dreams” and “Being Mrs. Banks.” I do wish Mrs. Banks was still a suffragette, as Glynis Johns was so robustly in the film.

The kids are brattier – as played by Laila Fantroy and Gabe Cytron, so they are not likable, especially when acting entitled and wreaking havoc in the kitchen, but their growth results in more compassionate youngsters. Whew!

A new character, Robertson Ay, is a screwball addition, and Barrett Riggins, so deliciously wicked in “Camelot,” shines as the bumbling oh-so-not-helpful houseboy.

Chipper Jade Jones has the versatile three-peat of Katie Nanna, Mrs. Corry and Miss Smythe.

Photo by Phillip Hamer

Debby Lennon, two-time St. Louis Theater Circle Award winner, is a hoot as the “Holy Terror!” – aka George’s cruel childhood nanny Miss Andrew – who arrives to get everyone back in ship-shape after the breezy frolics with Mary. She is overbearing in “Brimstone and Treacle Parts 1 and 2.”

A masterful Darlesia Cearcy brings the house down as the Birdwoman at the park, with a superbly executed rendition and reprise of “Feed the Birds.”

Other high points include the jaunty stroll through the park “Jolly Holiday,” the robust showstopper “Step in Time,” a bubbly “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” at Mrs. Corry’s sweet shop and a wondrous “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” with the ensemble placed through the audience with red kites.

First seen in 2013 when the show was led by Muny fan favorites Jenny Powers and Rob McClure, this version is as enchanting, with Tartaglia’s penchant for puppetry giving an added ‘oomph.’

He has created another Muny moment with puppeteers swarming the stage with flocks of birds, produced by puppet designer Eric Wright of Puppet Kitchen International Inc. It’s a marvelous sight.

Tartaglia, such a bouncy personality as evident through his Muny performances (The Genie in “Aladdin,” The Cat in the Hat in “Seussical,” Hysterium in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum — St. Louis Theater Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical in 2017), has brought a sunny outlook to his productions here.

The director of “Matilda” 2019, Annie” 2018, “The Wizard of Oz” 2016, “Disney’s Tarzan” in 2014 and “Shrek” 2013 is again inspired by the tasks at hand, no doubt influencing his creative choices.

Photo by Phillip Hamer

A crackerjack production team has delivered an attractive look and encouraged high spirits throughout, even with performers dealing with oppressive summer heat. Music Director Brad Haak and Choreographer Patrick O’Neill focused on peppy musical and dance numbers for fluid movement (with a high percentage of youngsters in the audience).

The sights — Paige Hathaway’s production design, Robin L. McGee’s costume design, Kelley Jordan’s wig design and Alex Basco Koch’s video designs are true to the 1910 time of Edwardian London, but with pizzazz.

It’s also nice to see such local treasures as Zoe Vonder Haar (as Mrs. Brill), Whit Reichert (as Admiral Boom/Bank Chairman), Jerry Vogel (as Park Keeper, Von Hussle, ensemble), Rich Pisarkiewicz (Policeman/ensemble), and Lynn Humphrey (Miss Lark/ensemble) back together on the Muny stage.

Does “Mary Poppins” have the same appeal to today’s youths like the movie did for my generation? Not sure if it is a home run as much for them as it is for adults. Nevertheless, the audience left humming a happy tune.

Photo by Phillip Hamer

The Muny presents the musical “Mary Poppins” July 5-13 at 8:15 pm. on the outdoor stage in Forest Park. For more information, visit www.muny.org.

Cast photo by Philip Hamer