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\"7
7 in-plain-sight_21-40_cmyk.png

\u201cWhenever I tell friends, family or anyone who will listen that I work with homeless people, I get the same response: \u2018There are no homeless people here,\u2019\u201d\u00a0Pam Struckhoff says.

Struckhoff, who serves as director of program services at St. Charles\u2019 Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service, knew better \u2013 and with a new four-month photographic project, that nonprofit is striving to document the abiding error of the response she cites.

\"Joachim
Joachim and Ann Care Service hosts "In Plain Sight," a photography competition among homeless individuals to capture their everyday living situations.

The project, \u201cIn Plain Sight \u2013 Homelessness Exposed,\u201d launched in mid-April. In it, the nonprofit distributed 100 cameras to the same number of homeless citizens in Lincoln, St. Charles and Warren counties \u2013 its service area \u2013 to record their lives from day to day.

Subsequently, with the cameras returned, eight judges chose 20 photos for public exhibition until Aug. 20 at the St. Peters Cultural Arts Centre, starting next Thursday, June 29. From those 20 photos, visitors to the project\u2019s website (inplainsight.live) can vote, by donation, on their favorites, with utilitarian, needs-based prizes going to the top shutterbugs. All 20, suitably framed, also will go on auction at a ticketed Aug. 19 event to fund Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service programs.

Struckhoff relates a specific and quite telling inspiration for the project.

\u201cOn an extremely hot day in July 2016, I drove into a gas station at a busy intersection of St. Charles,\u201d she says. \u201cI would say at least a thousand cars go by there a day, and there was a man sitting on the bench, not near the entrance, who looked tired and was sweating profusely.

\u201cI knew he was homeless because I had stopped by there many times before to talk to him and see how he was doing. When I shared that as an example to people \u2013 that I had seen him there \u2013 I would hear, \u2018Really? I\u2019ve never seen him.\u2019 Yet there he was, every day of the week and weekends, because that\u2019s where he could find work.\u201d

Karen Grant, director of development at the nonprofit, enthusiastically recounts the initial reaction to Struckhoff\u2019s inspiration.

\"Joachim
Joachim and Ann Care Service hosts "In Plain Sight," a photography competition among homeless individuals to capture their everyday living situations.

\u201cWhen she proposed the idea, we envisioned the awareness it could bring to help those in need and knew we had to do it,\u201d Grant says. \u201cI think our executive director, Jack Lipin, thought it was a little crazy, but that\u2019s exactly what the care service needed \u2013 something different to catch people\u2019s attention, something to bring homelessness into view of different circles than those we usually frequent.\u201d

Struckhoff, meanwhile, provides more details about the project\u2019s procedures.

\u201cThe individuals who participated in the project were given disposable cameras, 27-frame count,\u201d she says. \u201cThey were instructed to take pictures of their daily lives and asked to think about what they wanted people to know \u2013 people who know nothing about homelessness or who think they know but really don\u2019t \u2013 about them and the issue of homelessness.

\u201cThe majority of the individuals chosen were those we\u2019ve been working with on the streets.\u00a0\u2026 The homeless we work with come from all walks of life. Some had homes and money \u2013 and then the rug was pulled out from under them. Some have family and some have no one.\u201d

Grant expands somewhat on her colleague\u2019s overview of the nonprofit\u2019s good works.

\u201cThe care service has embraced the most vulnerable in St. Charles, Lincoln and Warren counties since 1981 by providing assistance and building connections with the community to overcome the cycle of poverty,\u201d she says.

\u201cWe\u2019re locally unique in our ability to address both short-term and long-term homelessness and hunger issues. The care service has seen countless families and individuals succeed at stabilizing their crisis situation and work their way to self-reliance.\u201d

\"Joachim
Joachim and Ann Care Service hosts "In Plain Sight," a photography competition among homeless individuals to capture their everyday living situations.

Struckhoff notes specific metrics on homelessness that support the project, some of them from a yearly census of sheltered and unsheltered homeless individuals mandated each January by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

\u201cThe care service has been working with those who are homeless or in crisis for over 36 years, and in April 2016, we began a street-outreach program which assisted in identifying over 120 unduplicated homeless men, women and children in our service area,\u201d she says. \u201cWe also participate in the annual Point-in-Time Count, which in 2017 identified 578 persons who are homeless in St. Charles, Lincoln and Warren counties.\u201d

Grant praises the counties\u2019 communities for their assistance.

\u201cThanks to the generous support of area businesses and individuals, as well as funding from local, state and federal government, the care service assists over 2,000 of the poorest households in our area each year, representing more than 6,000 individuals,\u201d she says, adding \u201cnearly half are children.\u00a0\u2026

\u201cIn an area of the state that\u2019s considered among the most affluent, there\u2019s a grave misperception that homelessness and hunger don\u2019t exist here. Sadly, there are close to 60,000 individuals going hungry in our tricounty area, one-third of whom are children, and the care service is a charity of last resort. Those who work, volunteer and support the care service can attest to the pain that poverty causes for so many of our residents.

\u201cAnd during the times when we have no funding to help, we simply have to turn people away. Nothing is more heartbreaking than to have to turn away a human being in need, let alone a child, because of the lack of funding or the capacity to serve them.

\u201cYet that\u2019s the reality we face.\u201d

Struckhoff provides specifics on how funds from the Aug. 19 auction will go to battling homelessness and hunger.

\u201cProceeds will be used to deliver our programs and services to those we serve who are homeless or on the verge of becoming homeless,\u201d she says. \u201cSpecifically, the funds will be used for things like rent, deposits and utility assistance to obtain and maintain housing as well as case management.\u201d

Grant says feedback on the photo project has so far been positive.

\u201cI don\u2019t think people believe we should hide homelessness \u2013 I just think people aren\u2019t aware that it\u2019s there,\u201d she notes. \u201cWe\u2019re very fortunate to live in such a caring and generous part of the country. People often want to help, but perhaps don\u2019t know how. I believe that if people know about the need and know how they can personally make a difference, they will.

\u201cSo often, those in poverty don\u2019t have a voice. As a community, we have to be their voice. This exhibit is a means of turning up the volume so people can hear.\u201d

Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service, 4116 McClay Road, St. Charles, 636-441-1302, jacares.org

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\"Abraxas\"
Abraxas

2014 ROBERT SINSKEY VINEYARDS, ABRAXAS \u2013 LOS CARNEROS, CALIFORNIA

Grape: 43 percent Riesling, 29 percent Pinot Blanc, 17 percent Pinot Gris, 11 percent Gew\u00fcrztraminer

Owner/Winemaker: Robert Sinskey/Jeff Virnig

Aged: Stainless steel fermentation

Approximate Retail Price: $26

TASTING NOTES:

Color: Pale straw

Aroma: Pear, honeysuckle, almond and white pepper

Taste: Crisp upfront fruits with apple, lime and pineapple leading to a round mouthfeel and a dry finish with mineral and citrus notes

The name Abraxas appears in various ancient mystical contexts, and for the wine of the same name, Robert Sinskey Vineyards grows four grape varietals in the single Scintilla Sonoma Vineyard.

Those four varietals ripen differently, with the gew\u00fcrztraminer harvested first, on or around Aug. 18, and the riesling last, on Sept. 9. Because so much can happen weather-wise during the course of picking those varietals, though, they demand close attention.

Robert Sinskey moved from New York to help his father, who was retiring from medicine and had started growing grapes. His father believed lighter-bodied wines, such as pinot noirs, would be more popular, which led his passion for such wines to bloom. He initially grew and sold his grapes to Arcadia Winery, which kept asking for more.

Sinskey\u2019s father bought more vineyards to satisfy demand, culminating in a total of 115 acres. Then, in 1995, Chalone Wine Group bought Arcadia, and Sinskey\u2019s father found himself with no home for his grapes, so he hired one of the ex-Arcadia winemakers and started making wine. What began as his son helping at the winery turned into a 25-year obsession. He now owns more than 200 acres in Carneros (south of Napa/Sonoma, a cooler region) and the Stag\u2019s Leap District.

Sinskey and Jeff Virnig, Robert Sinskey Vineyards\u2019 winemaker, believe the care of the land and soil to be most important to making good wines, so they started converting the vineyards to organic with biodynamic whole farm practices dating back to 1991. They similarly believe in vineyard ecosystems using farm animals such as sheep to graze the grass between the vine rows and predatory birds to benefit the natural habitat.

Because Sinskey seeks to make wines of character that pair well with food, unsurprisingly, he married Maria Helm, an acclaimed chef. She now oversees the winery\u2019s culinary side, teaches classes and also has written a couple of cookbooks: The Vineyard Kitchen: Menus Inspired by the Seasons and Family Meals: Creating Traditions in the Kitchen.

Food Pairings: This Abraxas blend pairs great with pork, sausages of all sorts, pickled foods, seafood, chicken and the ever-hard green vegetables and salads.

Certified Sommelier Stanley Browne owns Robust Wine Bar in Webster Groves and Downtown at the MX, as well as Snax Gastrobar in Lindenwood Park.

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Story: Davis has been struggling to make his late father\u2019s St. Louis restaurant a thriving enterprise, something it hasn\u2019t been for quite some time. Having grown up around the establishment, Davis knows many of the clientele, including some older gentlemen whom he warily believes are part of the \u201cmob\u201d in The Lou.

So, when one of those seniors approaches Davis about doing a termination \u201cjob\u201d for $200,000, Davis readily agrees, in part because he\u2019s afraid of the mob but also so that he can use that money to bolster his business. He enlists the aid of his slow-witted brother Jeremy, and soon enough the two of them have kidnapped a man named Carl and put him bound and gagged in Davis\u2019 unfinished basement.

Having not thought out their scheme past the kidnapping, the brothers go about the crime haphazardly. While Davis is out, his wife Andi unexpectedly throws a wrench in the works by walking downstairs unannounced and finding Jeremy and the victim there.

She\u2019s appalled to learn from Jeremy what the two kidnappers have in mind, while Jeremy is flummoxed by Andi\u2019s appearance. He\u2019s further dismayed when Andi\u2019s aggressive sister Piper shows up to do her laundry in Andi\u2019s basement. Davis returns home to find an angry wife, an accusatory sister-in-law and a brother who hasn\u2019t explained anything satisfactorily to either of them.

Davis tells Andi and Piper who Carl is and why he\u2019s there. Are they going to buy into the kidnapping? Does anyone really believe that the old mobster will make the payoff if Davis does indeed kill Carl? And do any of them have the slightest feeling of guilt about what is transpiring? Stay tuned.

Highlights: Stray Dog Theatre artistic director Gary Bell directs a skilled cast in the world premiere presentation of local playwright Stephen Peirick\u2019s latest comedy with generally entertaining results.

Other Info: Peirick has premiered three of his plays on local stages, including Wake Up, Cameron Dobbs at West End Players Guild in 2012 and Four Sugars in Stray Dog\u2019s New Works Laboratory in 2014. Like Monsters, those works demonstrate Peirick\u2019s knack for dialogue and creating funny situations.

While Monsters can be entertaining, Peirick\u2019s gift for witty dialogue can also be his weakness when he strains to keep the laughs coming. At such times, Monsters stylistically is more like an average TV sitcom than a clever stage production; all that\u2019s missing is a laugh track.

That\u2019s not to dismiss Monsters out of hand, however. Each of the characters is well written and developed, and there are genuinely humorous lines and moments sprinkled throughout the comedy\u2019s two acts. By restricting the number of characters to five, Peirick is able to shape each of those roles into characters rather than caricatures.

He has some surprises up his sleeve as well, which add to the suspense of his tale and are plausible within its context. Indeed, the plot is solid enough. What would help is bolstering of the characters, particularly the two brothers, into roles that can be funny without seeming too often forced.

Best of the performances is Eileen Engel\u2019s portrayal of Piper. Engel is a hoot as the tough-talking, inquisitive and deadpan Piper, who reacts realistically to the outrageous situation she encounters and asks pertinent questions about the crime and what it might mean to her specifically. Seeing the diminutive Engel browbeat the lumbering Kevin O\u2019Brien as the oafish Jeremy is especially funny.

Michael Wells sparkles in the role of the mostly mute Carl, reacting primarily with his eyes and some futile gyrations while he\u2019s tied to a chair. When he does get a chance to speak, Peirick gives the character well-written lines that Wells delivers amusingly and realistically (at least, I think so). His dialogue is a highlight of the show.

Sarajane Alverson astutely presents Andi as the iron-willed ruler of the household, who knows her husband well and doesn\u2019t think he\u2019s up to pulling off such a caper because he\u2019s not that much of a thinker. She has her own surprises, too, another indication of how Peirick is able to write convincing situations, even if the comedy is strained and stretched at times.

As the inept brothers, Jeremy Goldmeier as Davis and O\u2019Brien as Jeremy shine with the physical humor in their parts, kind of like The Keystone Kops go bad. Goldmeier captures Jeremy\u2019s good intentions, albeit through illegal and immoral means, and amusingly shows how the struggling entrepreneur defers to his savvy wife about most matters.

O\u2019Brien could tone down the ineptitude of Jeremy a bit and still have plenty of opportunity to show the younger brother\u2019s timidity and deference to pretty much everyone. Still, his gestures and expressions can be humorous in their\u00a0 execution.

Bell keeps the story moving and the actions of the players clearly defined on a well-conceived set designed by Justin Been, a shabby-looking \u201cunfinished basement\u201d with stairs from the main floor in the rear, a utility room with the washing machine off-stage left and a closet at stage right with some clever touches, including stored-away Christmas decorations and a bare light bulb.

Costumes designed by Bell are highlighted by Piper\u2019s attire of sleeveless leather vest, boots and skirt and Andi's pajamas, while Tyler Duenow\u2019s lighting differentiates between the main stage and the closet to heighten suspense. Been, Bell and Robert Kapeller fill the stage with an abundance of props to enhance the cluttered look of the set.

Monsters are lurking everywhere in Peirick\u2019s promising comedy. Check out for yourself what might go \u2018bump\u2019 in the night.

Musical: Monsters

Company: Stray Dog Theatre

Venue: Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee Avenue

Dates: June 22, 23, 24

Tickets: $20-$25; contact 865-1995 or www.StrayDogTheatre.org

Rating: A 3.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.

Photos courtesy of John Lamb

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\"RosalitasHiRes-01.jpg\"
RosalitasHiRes-01.jpg

West County Tex-Mex aficionados have had a new reason to celebrate since April, when a second location of Rosalita\u2019s Cantina debuted in Des Peres, featuring Mexican classics combined with modern specialties and an assortment of margaritas.

The new Rosalita\u2019s \u2013 joining the first one, which opened in 2010 in downtown St. Louis \u2013 fills a space previously occupied by Casa Gallardo. It comes from siblings Seamus, Bill, Sean and Tim McGowan of McGowan Brothers Development.

In addition to Rosalita\u2019s, the McGowans own and operate Blondie\u2019s, Lucas Park Grille, Flannery\u2019s Pub and the Library Annex. Although the brothers moved to St. Louis in 1997, they grew up in Houston, and Rosalita\u2019s pays homage to the Tex-Mex style of food they enjoyed during their time in Texas.

\u201cOur downtown location has been extremely successful,\u201d Tim McGowan says. \u201cWe\u2019d like to branch out and do 10 to 12 more around the region in the next 10 to 12 years, very much like Casa Gallardo or Chevys did back in the day. This will be our beta test.\u201d

Clayton\u2019s Castle Design led the renovation of the Des Peres space, which features 300 seats throughout a few separate dining areas, as well as an additional 158 seats on an expansive patio complete with a fireplace and its own bar. Indoor d\u00e9cor includes hanging star-shaped lanterns around the bar, indoor plants and festive draperies.

Executive chef Jesse Mayer, who previously cooked at local restaurants including The Tavern and Lucas Park Grille, oversees the menu. Top sellers include sizzling chicken fajitas served on a skillet with onions, peppers, guajillo chilis, pico de gallo, sour cream, guacamole, lettuce, cheese, flour tortillas, rice and beans \u2013 a great meal before seeing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat from STAGES St. Louis.

The Des Peres location introduced more than 10 new items, including buttermilk-fried, sweet-tea-brined quail served atop bourbon-jalape\u00f1o creamed corn; shrimp diablo with spicy diablo-butter sauce served with creamy succotash and a puffed black-bean masa cake; and pepita-crusted salmon with butternut-squash hash, citrus guacamole and crispy pickled red onions.

Unlike its downtown counterpart, the new Rosalita\u2019s also will feature a Sunday brunch with a menu that includes a chicken-and-waffle sandwich, huevos rancheros, stuffed blueberry pancakes, biscuits and gravy and horchata French toast. Depending on how well they sell, the new dishes may be incorporated into the downtown location in the future.

From the full bar, tipplers can choose from a menu of specialty margaritas that includes five house margaritas, frozen blends, margarita towers for big groups and more. A large selection of tequilas features high-end varieties that can be incorporated into any drink or ordered neat.

\u201cWe\u2019re looking forward to being out here in the county, sharing our food with folks who haven\u2019t made it downtown,\u201d Tim McGowan concludes. \u201cDes Peres was excellent to work with and couldn\u2019t be a better partner. We\u2019re excited to be a part of the community.\u201d

Rosalita\u2019s Cantina, 12796 Manchester Road, Des Peres, 314-441-7060, rosalitascantina.com

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Story: Ariel, youngest of King Triton\u2019s seven daughters, is a mermaid who yearns to know more about the world beyond the sea. She regularly visits the surface in search of human \u201cstuff\u201d which she can add to the collection in her grotto, much to the dismay of her father.

One day she rescues a handsome prince who has been thrown overboard during a turbulent storm. She saves him and then disappears under water, but he remembers her distinctive, beautiful voice. The prince is under pressure from his guardian, Grimsby, to marry before he becomes king, succeeding his late father. Prince Eric, however, finds all the princesses vying to become his wife uninteresting.

While King Triton instructs Ariel\u2019s music tutor, Sebastian, to keep an eye on his wayward daughter, her evil aunt Ursula sends her minions Flotsam and Jetsam to entice Ariel to her banished chamber. Ursula offers to use her magical powers to transform Ariel into a human for three days, with her voice being kept by Ursula as collateral. If Ariel can't convince the prince to kiss her by the end of that period, her voice will permanently belong to her conniving aunt.

Can Ariel get Eric to fall in love with her in the absence of her haunting voice? Will Triton be able to save her from the snares of his wicked sister? Can Ariel\u2019s friends Flounder the fish and Scuttle the seagull aid her in her quest? Her three-day adventure as a human may well turn perilous before it concludes.

Highlights: A spectacular video design by Matthew Young and an array of dazzling, stunning costumes designed by Robin McGee make this incarnation of The Little Mermaid a swimmingly enchanting edition of The Muny\u2019s annual children\u2019s show.

Other Info: First produced on Broadway in 2008, The Little Mermaid made its Muny debut in 2011, before video designs became as prominent as they are now. Young\u2019s usage of the imposing Muny background screen, augmented by Nathan Scheuer\u2019s colorful lighting design, makes this two-act, frolicsome musical based on the 1989 Disney animated film and the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale vibrant and visually highly appealing, steeped in all of its nautical splendor.

That background screen enables Michael Schweikardt to focus his scenic design on elements such as Prince Eric\u2019s ship and the kitchen at the royal palace, where Chef Louis futilely tries to complete his piece de resistance with a dish featuring the elusive Sebastian. The nautical abode of King Triton is more manageable at the front of the stage thanks to Young\u2019s atmospheric contribution in his handsome video display.

Also impressive are the resplendent costumes created by Robin McGee, none more spectacular than the violet, multi-legged appearance of Ursula, who \u2018walks\u2019 with the aid of four hidden performers in eight legs as Emily Skinner strikes terror in the hearts of aquatic types everywhere with Ursula\u2019s formidable force.\u00a0 Ursula represents the combined creative efforts of Puppet Kitchen Productions, Inc., which built the tentacles, along with McGee, Schweikardt and Skinner.

A number of performers enhance the tale with fine singing on numbers such as Ariel\u2019s ballad Part of Your World, Sebastian\u2019s calypso dance tune, Under the Sea, and the amusing Positoovity, which is filled with Scuttle\u2019s humorous malapropisms. Emma Degerstedt, James T. Lane and Jeffrey Schecter are responsible, respectively, for those appealing tunes.

Contributing to the musical merriment is choreographer Josh Walden, whose lively moves are augmented by delightful contributions by The Muny Ensemble and The Muny Youth Ensemble, all of whom perform enchanting dances and stylish turns on the expansive stage. Director Marsha Milgrom Dodge ensures that everything proceeds smoothly while maintaining a steady pace designed with the children in the audience in mind.

Add the well-designed sounds conceived by John Shivers & David Patridge, John Metzner\u2019s wig design and the intriguing work of Puppet Kitchen Productions, Inc. and you have the recipe for a well-executed children\u2019s production.

The show\u2019s book by Doug Wright is filled with amusing word play such as \u201csquid pro quo\u201d that can be appreciated by adults and older kids, and the lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Salter fit Alan Menken\u2019s bouncy, pop musical score while keeping in mind the youth of their primary audience. Musical director Charlie Alterman elicits a lively rendering of that score from The Muny orchestra.

Degerstedt shares an easy chemistry with Jason Gotay as Prince Eric to make their relationship work, and Gotay shows his own vocal skills on numbers such as Her Voice. Skinner and Lane accentuate the show with a pair of performances that are deliciously devious and delightful, in turn, as the cunning Ursula and dutiful Sebastian, with the former belting out Poor Unfortunate Souls like a cabaret trouper.

Schecter is another crowd favorite as the busybody Scuttle and Spencer Jones received a huge ovation on opening night as the lovelorn Flounder. Jerry Dixon is properly paternal as the sober King Triton, Richard Watson is amusing as the prim and proper Grimsby and Frank Vlastnik hams it up as Chef Louis while also portraying Prince Eric\u2019s pilot.

Will Porter and Kevin Zak are greatly greasy as Ursula\u2019s venal gofers, Jetsam and Flotsam, performing fine puppetry in their roles. Ariel\u2019s vapid sisters, all decked out in a rainbow array of McGee\u2019s finest outfits, are smoothly etched by Stephanie Bissonnette as Aquata, Halle Morse as Andrina, Berklea Going as Arista, Scarlett Walker as Atina, Emma Gassett as Adella and Marina Kondo as Allana, doing their fishy best on the amusing number, Daughters of Triton.

Dodge makes sure that her cast and creative team do justice to Andersen\u2019s enduring fairy tale, as well as the musical hit machine known as Disney Films, with this appealing Muny version of the classic story.

Musical: The Little Mermaid

Company: The Muny

Venue: The Muny in Forest Park

Dates: Through June 29

Tickets: Free to $90; contact 314-534-1111 or metrotix.com

Rating: A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.

Photos courtesy of Phillip Hamer and Eric Woolsey

\u00a0

\u00a0

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Story: \u201cMad Padraic\u201d is an Irish terrorist so crazed and dangerous that he has been banned from the IRA. He claims that his only friend for the past 15 years is his beloved cat, Wee Thomas, whom he dotes upon back home when he\u2019s returned from spreading violence and bloodshed throughout Ireland.

So his father Donny is understandably dismayed when local dimwitted teen Davey pops by with the news that Wee Thomas has been bloodied and beheaded on a nearby road. Donny accuses Davey of running over the cat with his bicycle, which Davey denies in less than forceful fashion.

Panic-stricken, Donny and Davey attempt to find another black cat which hopefully they can persuade Padraig is Wee Thomas. Davey finds instead an orange one with the tag \u2018Sir Roger\u2019 on its collar, then takes to applying black shoe polish to its fur. No one will notice, right?

Meanwhile, Padraig\u2019s comrades Christy, Brendan and Joey in their splinter group from the IRA are planning to kill Padraig in an ambush they\u2019ve set up. What they haven\u2019t counted on is Davey\u2019s warrior sister, Mairead, who\u2019s made a reputation locally for her deadly shooting, blinding a number of poor cows with her practice.

Padraig is enraged when he returns home, having heard news about Thomas\u2019 \u201cillness\u201d in a phone call from his dad while Padraig was torturing a lad named James. The maniacal terrorist comes back to Inishmore and determines to kill his father and Davey to avenge Thomas\u2019 death once he learns that the cat is actually dead.

What he doesn\u2019t anticipate is the arrival of Mairead, who just happens to have a huge crush on the killer. She\u2019s not the brightest young woman, but she does have a way with a weapon and might be able to talk her way into joining Padraig\u2019s splinter group. What could possibly go wrong?

Highlights: Theatre Macabre marks its debut as the area\u2019s newest professional theater company with a nifty little rendition of Martin McDonagh\u2019s deliciously dark comedy about life in the strife-torn Ireland of the 1990s.

Other Info: Artistic director Elizabeth Knocke acknowledged in a pre-show welcome the considerable guidance and assistance of Ryan Scott Foizey\u2019s Theatre Lab company in helping get Theatre Macabre\u2019s initial effort off the ground.

It appears that all hands involved were paying attention because this production of The Lieutenant of Inishmore reveals the play\u2019s considerable comic potential while also delivering the goods on the grisly and gruesome elements one might expect from a company with such a moniker.

McDonagh\u2019s dark and drastically funny play premiered in 2001 at the Royal Shakespeare Company in London. As with other efforts of his, including The Pillowman, The Cripple of Inishmaan and The Beauty Queen of Leenane, it\u2019s filled with colorful characters who convey McDonagh\u2019s command of colloquial language as well as clever plot lines.

For this fledgling effort by Theatre Macabre, director Nick Kelly extracts a lode of ghastly humor inherent in McDonagh\u2019s script through some captivating performances. Especially delightful is Larissa White\u2019s inspired portrayal of the cockeyed Mairead. Watching White react in exaggerated physical fashion to offhand comments by Charlie Barron\u2019s Padraig is priceless and well worth the price of admission.

Barron amusingly mines the humor in Padraig\u2019s garish, psychopathic ways, veering from sadistic torturer to weeping animal lover with a single phone call from dear old dad. Like White\u2019s Mairead, his Padraig is as casual about inflicting death as he is caring for his beloved Wee Thomas, with no paradox remotely impressed upon him.

Chuck Brinkley and Mark Saunders are entertaining from the start as Donny and Davey, respectively, highlighted in a scene when both of them demonstrate their love of eating shoe polish. Chuck Winning is calmly menacing as Christy, who decides to eliminate Padraig and his psycho ways. Brock Russell, Jake Blonstein and Jackson Harned are good in supporting roles as Brendan, Joey and James, respectively.

Lighting designers Tony Anselmo and Kevin Bowman keep the set too dark, it seems, in several scenes, presumably to accentuate the harrowing aspects of Padraig\u2019s torture. Sound designer Ted Drury adds some aural gruesomeness to the proceedings as well as a range of Irish tunes, and the cast seems to have listened well to dialect coach Teresa Doggett, judging from their cadence.

Winning\u2019s appropriately squalid set design features a motley collection of ragtag furniture in Donny\u2019s modest abode, augmented with several amusing props provided by Annalise Webb, including a headless, bloody cat \u2018corpse.\u2019 Kelly\u2019s direction keeps the one-act play moving briskly while covering the entire performance area, utilizing a door and some windows at the back of Winning\u2019s set for quick entrances.

Costume designer Sarah Porter has the right look for these scruffy malcontents, too. The real highlights, though,\u00a0 are the eye-popping and arresting special effects conceived by Valleri Dillard which magically and quickly convey the carnage.

Theatre Macabre has wisely chosen a playwright as gifted and compelling as McDonagh to announce its presence on the St. Louis theater scene. Wee Thomas himself doubtless would be pleased.

Play: The Lieutenant of Inishmore

Group: Theatre Macabre

Venue: Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand at Olive

Dates: June 22, 23, 24, 25

Tickets: $20; contact metrotix.com or 534-1111

Rating: A 4.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.

Photos courtesy of Nicola Muscroft

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Story: It\u2019s 1952 and the most powerful man in New York City isn\u2019t the mayor. It\u2019s J.J. Hunsecker, a one-time vaudevillian-turned-newspaperman who now fills his daily column in the New York Globe with gossip which is consumed voraciously by 60 million Americans every day via syndication.

J.J. has the goods on everyone, whether they be politicians, performers or businessmen. Regardless of their status, J.J. has spies who get the dirt on his targets and keep them at his mercy. Yet despite his tyranny, people crave to have their name in his column, ordering their press agents to pique J.J.\u2019s interest with a tidbit or two that can make a restaurant a success if it\u2019s mentioned or a nightclub a flop if it isn\u2019t.

Struggling agent Sidney Falcone is under pressure from his only remaining client, The Voodoo Club, to get some ink in Hunsecker\u2019s column. One night, Sidney meets a young actress named Susan who turns out to be Hunsecker\u2019s younger sister. She\u2019s in love with a brash pianist named Dallas Cochran, who bristles at begging Hunsecker for anything and is annoyed that Susan won\u2019t tell her brother about their romance.

Susan enlists the aid of Sidney to help win J.J. over to Dallas, pretending she knows the agent from a mutual acting class when Hunsecker sees her and Sidney together. At her request, J.J. takes a liking to Sidney, convinces him to change his pen name to Falco and proceeds to help Sidney build up his clientele. He also sees that Dallas gains some notoriety.

When Hunsecker learns, though, that Sidney and Susan have been tricking him, he seeks revenge against Sidney as well as trying to ruin Dallas. Can the two young men and Susan combat Hunsecker\u2019s bullying behavior? Or will the agent and the musician be the latest to end up on the gossip monger\u2019s infamous enemies\u2019 list?

Highlights: New Line Theatre captures the rhythm of Marvin Hamlisch\u2019s jazz/rock musical score as well as the biting social satire about the dark side of the 1950s in John Guare\u2019s book in its current production of The Sweet Smell of Success.

Other Info: Guare based the musical\u2019s book on a story and screenplay by Ernest Lehman, who according to Vanity Fair was once an unhappy press agent who had helped fill a pipeline of information, often dirty, to legendary New York Daily Mirror columnist Walter Winchell, on whom Hunsecker is based. At its height, Winchell\u2019s column was read by 50 million people through its syndication by King Features Syndicate. Another 20 million listened to his Sunday evening radio broadcast.

Winchell had a reputation for being vengeful and petty, but also had a huge following, thus causing aspiring entertainers, entrepreneurs and politicians to both quake and salivate at the thought of being mentioned in his column. Lehman adapted his story into a 1957 film noir starring Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis. The musical debuted on Broadway in 2002, with lyrics by Craig Carnelia, book by Guare and music composed by Marvin Hamlisch.

The score has appealing jazz and rock motifs running throughout and works very well when delivered by a small combo such as the New Line Band conducted by pianist Jeffrey Richard Carter. It features soulful playing by trumpeter Kaela Barnett, keyboardist Sue Goldford, Steven Johnson on reeds, percussionist Clancy Newell and Jake Stergos on bass. They\u2019re seated stage left, just a little removed from a piano piece on Rob Lippert\u2019s scenic design where Sean Michael as Dallas belts out a tune or two in a nightclub.

Michael is one-half of the romantic duo that includes Ann Hier as Susan. Hier\u2019s beautiful, sultry voice blends well with Michael\u2019s on the duet, Don\u2019t Know Where You Leave Off as well as a reprise of Michael\u2019s number, I Cannot Hear the City.

Matt Pentecost is convincing as the struggling Sidney, who\u2019s not above using his cigarette-girl squeeze Rita as bait to curry a favor when he wants one. Pentecost has an easy style with a tune, too, as demonstrated on I Could Get You in J.J., while Sarah Porter showcases her terrific voice when Rita warbles Rita\u2019s Tune solo in the second act.

The show\u2019s staccato pace, though, revolves around the ruthless, hard-driving Hunsecker. New Line\u2019s go-to guy for many of its major roles is Zachary Allen Farmer, and he propels this presentation with a steely-eyed portrayal of the sinister, sadistic gossip columnist, who just may have unhealthy thoughts about his sister. It\u2019s a sleazy portrayal that accentuates this dark, dirty story.

Kimi Short and Kent Coffel do well in supporting roles as Hunsecker\u2019s loyal secretary Madge and his nefarious, venal cop comrade, Lt. Kello. Jason Blackburn has a juicy little part as Hunsecker\u2019s nasty competitor, Otis Elwell.

A bevy of talented singers and dancers comprise the New Line ensemble of \u201cNew Yorkers,\u201d which enhances choreographer Taylor Pietz\u2019s lively and atmospheric dances. They include Mara Bollini, Alison Helmer, William Pendergast, Michelle Sauer, Christopher Strawhun and Sara Rae Womack as well as Blackburn and Coffel.

Lippert\u2019s rather simple design includes references to the Art Deco style of the \u201850s as well as a lighting design that illuminates sundry nightclub marquees, with everything lit in an undertone of blue. Porter\u2019s costume design has some curious touches, such as Sidney continuing to wear humdrum shoes even with his new suit and the relative scarcity of white shirts among the men, but the suits and Rita\u2019s outfit fit the parts.

Directors Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor make wise use of the Marcelle Theater stage to tell this sordid but gripping tale in tightly focused fashion, including usage of an elevated section in Lippert\u2019s design at stage right where the ensemble impishly observes Hunsecker\u2019s seedy ways. Kimi Short\u2019s props and Elli Castonguay\u2019s sound design further embellish the style of the show.

New Line\u2019s rendition of The Sweet Smell of Success -- which garnered a single Tony Award, for John Lithgow as Best Actor in a Musical, for its Broadway production \u2013 is a well-wrought execution of a fascinating look at what some people remember as the \u2018good old days.\u2019

Musical: The Sweet Smell of Success

Company: New Line Theatre

Venue: Marcelle Theater, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive

Dates: June 22, 23, 24

Tickets: $15-$25, plus specials for high school and college students, educators and military (see New Line\u2019s Facebook page or www.newlinetheatre.com); contact 534-1111 or metrotix.com

Rating: A 4.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.

Photos courtesy of Jill Ritter Lindberg

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Story: A solitary man, referred to as an 'immigrant,' walks into a room where an audience is seated. His shadow is cast long on either side of him as he stands in front of a wall filled with wavy lines. He drops his bag and walking stick and begins to speak to those gathered.

He says that he isn\u2019t from here and thus, he isn\u2019t home. He notes, however, that he isn\u2019t homeless in the traditional sense. He\u2019s more in search of answers to this great hurly-burly known as life and has stopped by to share his observations.

He has a way with words, which actually intrudes from time to time as he pauses, considers how a particular syllable sounds, and then begins again. Or, maybe, he\u2019ll hear how he is speaking, wonder about his throat and its physical condition, and ponder aloud the beauty in the art of human communication.

Occasionally he\u2019ll delve into his own background, which is a melancholy one for the most part. He isn\u2019t looking for pity, though, or even commiseration. He simply is thinking aloud and ruminating about what it all means. Perhaps we can help him. Perhaps not.

Highlights: Actor Joe Hanrahan and director Sarah Whitney collaborate cohesively on this meandering little existential exercise in The Midnight Company\u2019s curious and poetic presentation of a Will Eno story.

Other Info: Artistic director Hanrahan and his Midnight Company obtained the local rights to this one-man, one-hour show, sub-titled Monologue for a Slightly Foreign Man, penned by New York playwright Eno, which originally premiered off-Broadway in 2012. Hanrahan previously has twice performed another of Eno\u2019s efforts, Thom Pain (based on nothing), which also reveals Eno\u2019s flair for language and his cogitations on existence.

There is minimal action in this 60-minute conversational travelogue, which covers a great deal of territory in the world of language if not a geographic landscape. Hanrahan and Whitney are greatly aided by Bess Moynihan\u2019s intriguing lighting design, which accentuates the character\u2019s solitary state with looming shadows on either side of the set as well as a surrealistic background inserted by Moynihan.

Also abetting the performance are violinist and musical arranger Amy Greenhalgh and tuba player Jeff Hoard, whose solo performance of a well-known Bacharach/David tune concludes the performance on a precise note.

The character is lonely but not obsessively so as conveyed by Hanrahan. He revels in making little references to a former lover, recalling to the most minute detail aspects about her that caught his fancy and warmed his often aching heart.

Hanrahan is especially effective when he stops his soliloquy to concentrate on the physical aspects of his voice, listening to the sounds that emanate from within which shape his character\u2019s phrases. It\u2019s idiosyncratic but also underscores the eccentricity as well as sharp intelligence of this seemingly foreign character.

Whether the character is an \u201cother\u201d or a lost soul or an empty vessel seems less relevant than what he has concluded about his species. Hanrahan sometimes makes surprisingly violent gestures, such as hitting himself repeatedly with the stick, but also conveys whimsy when he shows us a Superman box lunch that is among the speaker\u2019s simple possessions.

Who exactly is this guy? And what precisely does he hope to accomplish? He jokes directly with the audience every once in a while, he rapturously recalls fond moments in his own life, but then his thoughts once again fade into sadness. Whitney moves Hanrahan around the modest stage like a solitary thought darting throughout a troubled mind.

Eno is an admirer of the works of Samuel Beckett, and this play has more than its share of absurdity. One can\u2019t help feeling some empathy, however, for our quirky host in this no-man\u2019s-land of a setting. This Title and Deed remains both mystical and mysterious, but worth perusing.

Play: Title and Deed

Company: The Midnight Company

Venue: Avatar Studios, 2675 Scott Avenue

Dates: June 22, 23, 24, 25

Tickets: $15; contact brownpapertickets.com

Rating: A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.

Photos courtesy of Elizabeth Henning

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Story: Vitellia, daughter of the deposed Roman emperor Vitellio, is determined to get back to a life of luxury and power by marrying the new emperor Tito. When she learns that Tito\u00a0plans to marry a foreign princess named Berenice, she angrily enlists the help of Tito\u2019s friend Sesto (who secretly loves Vitellia) to assassinate the ruler.

Tito subsequently announces that he won\u2019t be marrying Berenice but instead proposes to Sesto\u2019s sister, Servilia. This further\u00a0infuriates Vitellia and also upsets Servilia, who is in love with the nobleman Annio. When Tito learns about Servilia\u2019s love for Annio, he withdraws his proposal to her. Annio tells Vitellia that Tito now will likely take Vitellia for his bride.\u00a0 However,\u00a0she has already moved forward with the plan to assassinate him, which she fears is too far underway to be stopped.

After the Capitol is set on fire Tito is reported to be dead, but he survives the murder attempt. Sesto is arrested for the crime and condemned to death. Tito looks to show mercy to his friend, but Sesto refuses to implicate Vitellia or anyone else, so Tito reluctantly orders his death. Finally, though, overcome with guilt, Vitellia confesses her role in the assassination plot. Tito must decide between execution and clemency for the offenders.

Highlights: Superior singing and a stirring reading of Mozart\u2019s lively score by outgoing Music Director Stephen Lord accentuate Opera Theatre of Saint Louis\u2019 melodious production of Titus, considred by some scholars to be Mozart\u2019s final opera.

Other Info: Performed just once before by OTSL in 1996, Titus was selected by Lord for his final appearance as OTSL Music Director before becoming Music Director Emeritus for the 2018 season. The wealth of rich, moving music in Mozart\u2019s score, written shortly before his death in 1791, make it easy to understand why Lord would select this particular piece. It offers a number of invigorating\u00a0and heartfelt arias for the talented OTSL cast to execute, which they do so throughout with accomplishment.

With Lord leading members of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra in brilliant and lively musical support, stage director Stephen Lawless elicits a number of winning vocal achievements that transcend the rather pedestrian story that had been adapted by Caterino Mazzola from a libretto by Pietro Metastasio. That original Metastasio libretto had also been used for several previous musical works before Mozart composed the music for Titus.

The OTSL presentation takes place on a set dominated by a giant facsimile of an eagle looming above the stage in Leslie Travers\u2019 imposing scenic design, one given additional drama in the conflagration of Rome so dramatically illustrated with Christopher Akerlind\u2019s lighting. Travers also provides the period finery adorning the players in her costume design.

There is truly wonderful operatic singing performed by the cast which includes tenor Rene Barbera in the title role. Equally impressive is mezzo-soprano Cecelia Hall in the role of Sesto. Both performers engage the audience with voices well attuned to the spirited Mozart music.

Admirable performances are turned in by bass-baritone Matthew Stump, making an impressive OTSL debut as Publio, prefect of the Praetorian Guard, and by soprano Laura Wilde, who delivers an amusing performance as the petulant and self-centered Vitellia. Like Hall, Wilde is a former Gerdine Young Artist, demonstrating the caliber of talent that OTSL program delivers.

Mezzo-soprano Emily D'Angelo makes a sparkling OTSL debut as the good-hearted Annio, while soprano Monica Dewey acquits herself well in her debut OTSL performance as Servilia, who agrees to marry Tito after she informs him that she is in love with Annio and would wed the ruler only if ordered to do so.

Titus (La Clemenza di Tito) is a fitting tribute not only to the musical genius of Mozart but also to the creative strengths and artistic leadership of Stephen Lord, emblematic of his long and illlustrious career with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

Opera: Titus (La Clemenza di Tito)

Company: Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

Venue: Browning Mainstage, Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road

Dates: June18, 22, 24(m)

Tickets: $25-$129; contact 961-0644 or www.ExperienceOpera.org

Rating: A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.

Photos courtesy of Ken Howard

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\"LemmonsHiRes-01.jpg\"
LemmonsHiRes-01.jpg

Last month, a renowned restaurant family revived Lemmons, an old St. Louis mainstay in South City that closed in 2014 after a dozen years in business.

As Lemmons By Grbic, the former pizza parlor and bar returned to life courtesy of the Grbics, who acquired Lemmons in August of that year, completely renovated it and then adopted a vibrant new food menu with a fresh Balkan-American twist.

The neighborhood eatery comes from siblings Erna, Senada and Ermin Grbic and their parents, Ermina and Sulejman Grbic. Grbic Restaurant on Keokuk, which opened in 2002, has gained an avid following with its authentic Bosnian specialties.

\u201cOur dad purchased it with the intention of turning it into a sports bar,\u201d says Erna of the new operation. \u201cSince then, we\u2019ve gone through a lot of ideas as far as what Lemmons could become. He eventually stepped away from it and said, \u2018Go ahead and do what you want to do,\u2019 so we took his original idea and put more of our flavors into it. We\u2019re putting a spin on Balkan food with a Balkan-American menu that appeals to first- and second-generation Bosnians, as well as the larger community all around.\u201d

While Erna runs the event coordination and marketing side of both businesses, her siblings tackle both front- and back-of-house duties. Senada, who serves as executive chef at Lemmons and sous chef at Grbic, received formal culinary arts training from Chicago\u2019s Le Cordon Bleu, while Ermin studied culinary arts and restaurant-management programs at Forest Park Community College.

The approximately 5,000-square-foot space features a buildout from top to bottom conducted during the past three years, leaving only the original brick walls intact. The dining room and bar together seat around 99 patrons.

\u201cErmin is really rustic in his style, Erna is modern and I\u2019m vintage-farmhouse style, so we incorporated it all,\u201d Senada says. \u201cEveryone had their hand in everything, and it came together really nicely.\u201d

The interior exudes a casual loungelike feel reminiscent of its previous incarnation. Pops of yellow highlight the lemony theme, with several furnishings designed and constructed by Ermin. Burkart\u2019s Woodworks supplied materials for the bar, trim and some tables, alongside imported furniture from Sarajevo, the capital and biggest city of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In the kitchen, Senada works tirelessly with her family to create dishes that pay homage to both their Bosnian background and classic Lemmons favorites.

\u201cI\u2019m being true to my roots but getting more modern and creative,\u201d says Senada, who has full creative control with this venture, whereas Grbic focuses entirely on traditional Eastern European cuisine. \u201cIt\u2019s essentially American-European fusion.\u201d

Take, for instance, the list of flatbreads on house-made dough, which hearken back to Lemmons\u2019 time serving Black Thorn Pub-recipe pizza. One such option features heavy Balkan influence in its unique toppings: feta, \u0107evapi (a grilled, skinless, sausagelike dish of minced meat), onions and mozzarella. Another, a sandwich, comes with their dad\u2019s recipe for chicken \u2013 lovingly dubbed \u201cBabo\u2019s Chicken,\u201d babo being Bosnian for \u201cfather\u201d or \u201cdad\u201d \u2013 and ajvar, or roasted red pepper and eggplant relish. Either of those dishes (or some other dish from the menu) would make a great meal before catching a performance of Insight Theatre Company\u2019s Next to Normal.

\u201cLemmons has been around [for some time], so we\u2019re pulling a lot of history in the creation of the menu,\u201d Erna says. \u201cA lot of people aren\u2019t getting their original Lemmons dive bar, but we\u2019re hoping to call back to those old memories and feelings. People can have a taste of some of that old-school Lemmons in a completely new setting.\u201d

To that end, the Grbics perfected their own crispy buttermilk-brined fried chicken over the course of more than 100 trial-and-error tests \u2013 even consulting with a past-life Lemmons cook in an attempt to fill in a few vague parts of the original process. Beyond that, patrons should expect Balkan flair in nearly every item on the menu, from a Vegeta-seasoned burger on a Bosnian-style bun from Sana Inc. & Bakery to the fluffy u\u0161tipci (deep-fried dough balls) the Grbics grew up eating with an assortment of dips and spreads.

Behind the full bar, a dozen local taps are tied to a custom cooler and short keg lines. The beverage program also features a selection of wine and cocktails, including raspberry mojitos and house-made limoncello.

Lemmons By Grbic, 5800 Gravois Ave., St. Louis, 314-899-9898, lemmonsrestaurant.com

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Story: A young child discovers a colorful hat on an empty stage. Up pops The Cat in the Hat, who proceeds to create a story that demonstrates how \u201cthinks\u201d can imagine a world.

The Cat in the Hat gives the boy the role of JoJo, son of the mayor and his wife in the world of Who, a planet that exists on a speck of dust that is discovered by Horton the Elephant. Horton is a kindly sort but ostracized for his demeanor\u00a0by the Sour Kangaroo, the monkey Wickersham Brothers and others in the Jungle of Nool. He\u2019s the object of admiration, though, of his good-hearted neighbor, Gertrude McFuzz, she of the solitary feather on her tail.

Horton takes it upon himself to protect the Whos, but the monkeys\u00a0steal the clover containing the world of the Whos away from Horton. It\u2019s picked up by a black- bottomed eagle named Vlad Vladikoff, who drops it in a field \u201c100 miles wide.\u201d The resolute Horton is determined to find that\u00a0single, unique\u00a0clover, but as he nears investigation of clover #3 million, he loses hope.

He sees his friend, the cocky Mayzie La Bird, on a nest nearby. Mayzie convinces Horton to sit on her nest while she takes a \u201cvacation\u201d that goes on for nearly a year. Horton eventually is sold, perch and all, to the Circus McGurkus and is inadvertently visited by Mayzie. She tells him he can keep her egg, so Horton determines to take care of the egg lest it be alone.

Later he is put on trial by the Citizens of the Jungle of Nool for essentially being different. When Gertrude finds Horton, she brings with her the clover with the Whos, who make a mighty noise to verify their existence to others. The Sour Kangaroo and others conclude that maybe Horton is OK after all.

Highlights: A spirited cast guided by artistic director Michael Hamilton keeps the pace snappy and the fun going full throttle in Stages St. Louis\u2019 lively \u201cTheatre for Young Audiences\u201d production of Seussical.

Other Info: The 75-minute, one-act musical, based mostly on the books Horton Hears a Who, Horton Hatches the Egg and Miss Gertrude McFuzz by Dr. Seuss, is a shortened version called Seussical for Young Audiences that premiered at Kansas City\u2019s Coterie Theatre. The original, two-act Seussical musical debuted on Broadway in 2000, with music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, who together wrote the book based on an idea conceived by them and Eric Idle.

Hamilton keeps the show moving briskly, certain to keep the attention of most kids in attendance. Also helping in that regard is a colorfully rendered set designed by James Wolk that is filled with illustrations from various Dr. Seuss books in\u00a0its brightly festooned background.

Ellen Isom\u2019s choreography is engaging and entertaining in its own right as she puts the 10-player ensemble through some amusing motions. Costumes designed by Garth Dunbar are whimsical in style and execution, including colorful \u201csneaker pumps\u201d adorning the \u201cbird girls\u201d and Sour Kangaroo, while Jeff Behm provides supplemental lighting to enhance the presentation.

The energetic, effervescent cast is led by Ryan Cooper as the wise-cracking Cat in the Hat, along with a few other characters such as the dastardly Vlad Vladikoff and the lumbering judge Yertle the Turtle. Cooper is a delight throughout, whether mingling with the audience or exhorting other characters to run with their \u201cthinks.\u201d

Leah Berry displays her beautiful voice on some ballads warbled by Gertrude McFuzz, while April Strelinger struts and cavorts as the good-time Mayzie La Bird. Galyana Castillo showcases her impressive voice as Sour Kangaroo, castigating Horton as the Biggest Blame Fool, while Anthony Arpino smoothly renders all of the virtues of the kindly, warm-hearted Horton.

Colton James Kastrup does a fine job as the lad who finds the hat on stage and also as JoJo, the determined young Who who befriends Horton. The mischievous monkey Wickersham Brothers are amusingly portrayed by Jacob Scott and Kyle Pollack, with Sarah Larson and Claire Logan doing splendid back-up vocals and\u00a0dances as the Bird Girls.

Stages offers an informative and enjoyable student program for kids seeing this sprightly version as well as games and crafts at the \u201cpre-show experience,\u201d followed by a meet- and-greet with members of the cast at the show\u2019s conclusion. Kids will have a good time, for sure, but Hamilton\u2019s smooth guidance makes Seussical entertaining for all ages.

Musical: Seussical

Company: Stages St. Louis

Venue: The Playhouse at Westport Plaza, 635 Westport Plaza

Dates: June 15-18, 20-25, 28-30, July 1-2; 11 a.m. daily, plus 1:30 pm. June 17, 23, 24, July 1

Tickets: $18-$24; contact 821-2407 or stagesstlouis.org

Rating: A 4.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.

Photos courtesy of Peter Wochniak

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\"Stir
Stir Crazy 061617

Changing up people\u2019s expectations was on order for Stir Crazy Fresh Asian Grill when it took on a new owner. \u201cUpon the change of ownership in December 2016, we embarked on improving the menu first thing,\u201d that new owner, Greg Georgas, says. \u201cThe food at Stir Crazy has been [excellent], but it lacked variety. So we\u2019ve added food people will like every day and not just every month or so.\u201d

For regulars who already have a few favorites on the menu, these new additions mean a lot more choices, allowing customers to try something different every day of the week. With a wider assortment to sample, occasional visitors to the restaurant are likely to become regulars. \u201cWe\u2019ve added a lot more to munch on,\u201d Georgas shares. \u201cDuring the daytime, Stir Crazy gives people the opportunity to have a great lunch in a fun atmosphere. Dinner is great for families and their children, who can enjoy seeing the fire woks burning and food being cooked.\u201d

The fire woks he speaks of are Stir Crazy\u2019s biggest draw. The open kitchen concept allows dining to become a spectacle as families admire the flames flying high and chefs tapping their utensils on the cooking surface. Currently, the special menu additions appear in only three locations across the nation. \u201cThe restaurant service needs to be [at a certain level], and Creve Coeur qualifies,\u201d Georgas explains. He highlights another appeal of the Pan-Asian restaurants. \u201cThe Fresh Market Bar is filled with the freshest vegetables we can find,\u201d he says. \u201cYou get to choose your own, along with either shrimp, beef or chicken protein; add noodles. Then, we cook it up for you and bring it to your table.\u201d

Lunch specials include the all-you-can-eat market bar for $9.99 on Monday through Friday. \u201cWe also have a new South Sea Super Mega Margarita, with everything you can think of in 25 ounces for only $5,\u201d Georgas says. \u201cWe\u2019re excited to own the Stir Crazy brand! It\u2019s a national brand in the making.\u201d

WHAT TO TRY

Appetizers: Chicken Yakitori, Duck Tacos, Foie Gras Beef Sliders, Boom Boom Shrimp or the Shrimp Shumai.

Specialties: Oriental Chicken Salad, Vietnamese Pho Sho Soup or the Ahi Tuna Poke with ginger-lime sauce.

Grilled: Japanese Steak with two 5-ounce filet mignon medallions.

Creve Coeur Pavilion, 10598 Old Olive Street Road, Creve Coeur, 314-569-9300, stircrazy.com

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Story: At first glance, the Goodmans seem like a typical American suburban family. In the morning, husband Dan grabs some breakfast on his way to work\u00a0and his wife Diana makes sandwiches for the children\u2019s lunches. Natalie is a high school student with a talent for playing the piano, while her older brother Gabe seems to revel in making mischief for his mother, who clearly loves him.

That\u2019s not a true picture, though. For 16 years Diana has suffered from bipolar disorder brought about by the traumatic death of her son as an infant. She\u2019s held fast to his memory since then and has even \u201cgrown\u201d him into a teenager. While her husband and daughter love her, Dan\u2019s own psychological health is frazzled by years of trying to get Diana on the road to mental health. As for Natalie, she resents playing second fiddle to a brother who died before she was born, as she tells Henry, a fellow student who has a crush on her.

Diana has spent years under the observation of Dr. Fine, who prescribes a smorgasbord of varied medications in an attempt to control her disorder. After Diana abandons the drugs, Dan takes her to Dr. Madden, who attempts to help Diana without prescriptions, even to the extent of using hypnosis and eventually electroconvulsive therapy.

Through it all, Diana holds fast to her son and to her delusions as she struggles to find some sort of happiness in her life. But can she ever come to peace with the past?

Highlights: Insight Theatre Company is kicking off its 10th anniversary season with a fine version of this rock musical that was a surprise winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Other Info: Mental illness is an unlikely subject for a musical, but Next to Normal garnered 11 Tony Award nominations in 2009,\u00a0earning wins for Best Original Score, Best Orchestrations and Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical. It features music by Tom Kitt and lyrics and book by Brian Yorkey.

Kitt\u2019s musical score is punctuated with driving rock riffs that propel the downbeat story in exhilarating fashion, beginning with the major opening number, Just Another Day. Choreographer and assistant director Trace Turner helps shape an energetic performance by Spencer Davis Milford as Gabe, who essentially speaks only to Diana but who permeates the stage with gymnastic leaps of enthusiasm as her lovable \u2018problem\u2019 child.

Robbie Ashurst\u2019s scenic design is an eerie combination of an innocuous-looking stage that is filled on both sides with shelves containing empty photo frames and with a back wall covered with windows of varying sizes and heights, giving it a \u2018rabbit hole\u2019 appearance for Diana\u2019s fantasies and troubled world.

Debby Lennon as Diana strongly displays her distinctive and powerful voice on tunes throughout the show\u2019s two acts, such as ballads like I Dreamed a Dance or more frenetic numbers such as My Psychopharmacologist and I. Yorkey\u2019s sophisticated and intelligent lyrics prove a winning match for Kitt\u2019s compelling melodies, and director Edward Coffield elicits believable performances out of his studied cast.

John Flack is convincing as the dutiful but wary Dan, who stays with his wife despite her ongoing and formidable challenges, too often to the detriment of their daughter. Libby Jasper excellently conveys the frustrations and anger of Natalie, who carries an emotional burden beyond the angst of any teen and strikes back when her mother continues her precipitous decline.

Ryan Scott Foizey, who portrayed Gabe in New Line Theatre\u2019s presentation of Next to Normal a few years ago, is very good as Diana\u2019s psychotherapists, Dr. Fine and Dr. Madden, especially humorous when Diana envisions Madden as a rock star. Max Bahneman completes the cast as Henry, Natalie\u2019s staunchest supporter whose admiration makes the advancement to love when her family life seems to decline even further.

Conductor Ron McGowan leads a spirited four-piece band in a fierce interpretation of Kitt\u2019s compositions, with guitarist Aaron Brown, drummer/percussionist Michael Ferguson, Devon Smith on bass and McGowan at the keyboard.

Coffield gives everyone plenty of room to maneuver on the .ZACK Incubator stage, the new home of Insight Theatre, although sightlines can be a problem for audiences in certain areas trying to see far stage right. Pacing is measured throughout, giving the show an even keel even if the subject matter is anything but.

Charlotte Wester adds the complementary lighting design, noteworthy in the ECT scene, Laura Hanson is costume designer and James Blanton provides sound design.

Next to Normal is dark much of the time, but creators Kitt and Yorkey try to present Diana\u2019s bipolar condition in a raucous, rock fashion that accentuates the harrowing existence within her mind. Insight\u2019s rendition is a success both in its delivery of the musical moments as well as a finely acted production.

Play: Next to Normal

Company: Insight Theatre Company

Venue: .ZACK Incubator, 3224 Locust Street

Dates: June 15-18, 22-25

Tickets: $20-$35; contact insighttheatrecompany.com or 556-1293

Rating: A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.

Photos courtesy of John Lamb

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Story: Originally a concept album, Jesus Christ Superstar is a musical with no book (lyrics only) that looks at the final week in the life of Jesus Christ from the vantage point of Judas Iscariot, one of his 12 disciples and the man who betrayed him.

Superstar covers Holy Week from Palm Sunday through Good Friday and the crucifixion of Jesus, as the growing popularity of the \u201cmessiah\u201d worries the Roman rulers of Palestine as well as the Jewish high priests.

As Judas grows disenchanted with Jesus and his association with prostitute Mary Magdalene and believes that Jesus is straying from his original teachings, the unhappy apostle reveals to authorities where Jesus will be, setting in motion Jesus\u2019 arrest and a convoluted series of trials leading to the prophet\u2019s execution.

Highlights: The Muny opens its 99th season with its fifth production and just the second since 1996 of the revolutionary rock opera written by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice in 1970. Knockout performances by Ciara Renee as Mary Magdalene and Ben Davis as Pontius Pilate propel the presentation.

Other Info: As Muny artistic director and executive producer Mike Isaacson points out in his program notes, Jesus Christ Superstar was the top-selling album in the United States in 1971, eclipsing even Carole King\u2019s megahit, Tapestry. The double \u201cbrown album\u201d became a \u201cworld-wide phenomenon,\u201d written by two upstart British lads named Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, who had a penchant for adapting biblical tales (their Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is being performed right now at Stages St. Louis).

Superstar later was adapted into a musical both in London\u2019s West End and on Broadway. It first played The Muny in 1985. Since its inception, Jesus Christ Superstar has been controversial, applauded for its musical originality while occasionally lambasted for what some consider blasphemous views about the human aspect of Jesus without referencing his divinity as professed by Christians.

The musical ends on Good Friday, not with the resurrection on Easter Sunday, although the current production at The Muny includes a closing scene of radiant white \u201clight\u201d which dominates the stage.

In any event, director Gordon Greenberg has made some quizzical choices, as is his prerogative. For example, unless I missed it, the signature, elongated saxophone solo in the middle of Judas\u2019 lament, Damned for All Time, is deleted, although that might be music director Colin Welford\u2019s decision.

Also, while Mary Magdalene traditionally sings I Don\u2019t Know How to Love Him to a sleeping Jesus, in this version he gets up and embraces her at one point. And we even have a child participate in the 39 Lashes segment in the Trial by Pilate number in which Roman soldiers usually attack Jesus.

While Constantine Maroulis unquestionably possesses a strong and soaring voice, he seems too often to be overly emotive in the role of Judas, focusing on shaping Rice\u2019s lyrics to his satisfaction rather than embracing the intelligence, wit and cleverness of Sir Tim\u2019s literary abilities. That would seem to work better on American Idol, on which Maroulis was a finalist, although most of the audience appeared fine with his stylings.

Renee does a superior job in the role of Mary Magdalene, displaying a powerful and persuasive voice on the hallmark ballads Everything\u2019s Alright and I Don\u2019t Know How to Love Him. As Pontius Pilate, Davis gives a tutorial on how to clearly and firmly enunciate every single word in his lines. He underscores Rice\u2019s lyrics rather than trying to upstage them, which works brilliantly.

Greenberg has Christopher Sieber perform the arch King Herod\u2019s Song kind of like Tom Jones in Las Vegas, even with a hint of the melody for It\u2019s Not Unusual. Here, King Herod\u2019s Song is augmented with a bevy of showgirls accompanying Sieber in his gaudy green outfit fashioned by costume designer Tristan Raines.

There\u2019s plenty of wonderful choreography offered by Jon Rua, which fills the immense Muny stage with lively gyrations that underscore the intoxicating effects of Jesus\u2019 words on the proletariat of the day, including the title number with Maroulis decked out in a pristine white suit.

For the most part, music director Welford and his orchestra pay proper homage to Lloyd Webber\u2019s invigorating score, from the overture to the final chords, in rousing, infectious style, although there are times when songs seem to end awkwardly to allow for applause by the audience, thus interrupting the flow of the production.

Bryce Ryness delivers the goods as Jesus, shaping his lyrics with conviction and understanding while Jesus contemplates what is about to transpire. There are solid supporting performances by Nicholas Ward and his rumbling bass as the high priest Caiaphas, Mykal Kilgore as the busybody priest Annas, Douglas Lyons as the opportunistic Simon Zealotes and Andrew Chappelle as the loyal but weak Peter.

The video design by Greg Emetaz is mostly superfluous, although it adds a touch of whimsy on King Herod\u2019s Song, and the sound design by John Shivers & David Patridge thunders ominously in the Good Friday afternoon scene. Nathan Scheuer\u2019s lighting is spectacular for the finale, brightly illuminating the looming wooden design created by Paul Tate dePoo III.

Opening night was marred by a series of annoying sound problems that had performers singing in and out of audible volume, but that doubtless already is fixed.

Greenberg\u2019s mixed bag of goodies in his direction of Jesus Christ Superstar has something for everyone, whether they\u2019re looking for theology, creativity or rocking entertainment. That\u2019s the ongoing gift of Jesus Christ Superstar.

Musical: Jesus Christ Superstar

Company: The Muny

Venue: The Muny in Forest Park

Dates: Through June 18

Tickets: Free to $90; contact 314-534-1111 or metrotix.com

Rating: A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.

Photos courtesy of Phillip Hamer and Eric Woolsey

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Story: Compser Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice take a light-hearted look at the Old Testament story of Joseph, one of the 12 sons of Jacob, whose status as \u2018favorite son\u2019 makes him a marked man by his jealous brothers. When Joseph is presented with a \u201ccoat of many colors,\u201d his\u00a0siblings have had enough. They sell him into slavery in Egypt, telling their father that dear Joseph has died.

While working his way up the servile ladder, Joseph\u2019s penchant for interpreting dreams eventually catches the ear and eye of the pharaoh, who is so impressed with his forecasting powers that he makes Joseph his second-in-command.

Years after sending him away for a life as an indentured servant, Joseph\u2019s brothers hear of his good fortune while they suffer through a famine back home. They journey to Egypt and ask for mercy, which the benevolent Joseph fortunately provides them before he is happily reunited with his father.

Highlights: First written in a shorter form by Lloyd Webber and Rice while they were college students, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is a snappy, snazzy paean to all manner of musical genres.

Director/choreographer Stephen Bourneuf leads an effervescent Stages troupe that keeps the fun times rolling in a high-stepping, fast-moving rendition filled with infectious rhythm and an abundance of good cheer to rousingly kick off Stages\u2019 31st season.

Other Info: This second go-round for Joseph at Stages (the first production was in 2008) is a delightful combination of song styling and energetic dancing, courtesy of Boureuf, who himself was a member of the original Broadway cast of Joseph in 1982. It\u2019s propelled by a snazzy, sensational performance by Kirsten Scott as the Narrator.

Scott is at home whether stylishly relating Joseph\u2019s story, beginning with the Prologue, or joining in with the troupe on ingratiating numbers such as Go, Go, Go Joseph to close Act I or introducing the Song of the King in Act II. The latter features Brent Michael Diroma doing a credible impression of Elvis, the \u2018king\u2019 from the American Memphis, with both his acting and singing as the fun-loving Pharaoh, who expects swooning by all of his female admirers.

Jeff Sears displays a beautiful voice as the genial Joseph as well as the good humor required for the role, whether warbling ballads such as Any Dream Will Do or helping the king decipher his sleepy stories in Pharaoh\u2019s Dream Explained.

Steve Isom is a righteous and well-meaning Jacob, even if he does favor one son a tad more than the others, getting the show rocking with Jacob And Sons. As for Joseph\u2019s brothers, one of the strengths of the Lloyd Webber/Rice collaboration \u2013 which began as a 15-minute pop cantata in 1968 before being expanded a few years later following the success of their Jesus Christ Superstar album \u2013 is its mixture of various musical genres, each led by a different performer.

The country-themed One More Angel in Heaven, e.g., is humorously led by Brad Frenette as Levi, explaining the disappearance of Joseph to Jacob. Jeremiah Ginn as Reuben heads the droll French cafe number, Those Canaan Days, while Jason Eno\u2019s deep voice belts out the appealing Benjamin Calypso number.

Bourneuf\u2019s immensely entertaining moves make maximum use of the Reim Theater stage, which is brilliantly illuminated with Sean Savoie\u2019s\u00a0arresting lighting design. Costume designer Brad Musgrove dresses the players in amusing attire for the Song of the King number as well as the flashy and totally delightful Joseph Megamix at the end, when the players showcase their individual talents. Mrs. Potiphar looks enticing, too, as Molly Tynes does her best Mrs. Robinson impression.

Several amusing props fill James Wolk\u2019s entertaining scenic design, including a camel for comic relief. The players synchronize flawlessly with Lisa Campbell Albert\u2019s musical direction, while Stuart Elmore\u2019s orchestral design makes the most of the foot- tapping, finger-snapping Lloyd Webber musical score.

There\u2019s lots to enjoy with nary a stumble in Stages\u2019 joyous, glorious salute to the pop rock splendor of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Musical: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Company: Stages St. Louis

Venue: Reim Theatre, Kirkwood Civic Center, 111 South Geyer Road

Dates: Through July 2

Tickets: $25-$60; contact 821-2407 or stagesstlouis.org

Rating: A 5 on a scale of 1-to-5.

Photos courtesy of Peter Wochniak

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