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Ballgame","url":"http://www.laduenews.com/arts-and-culture/features/article_da282923-2a63-5656-9f73-bc9003f54a28.html","permalink":"http://www.laduenews.com/arts-and-culture/features/a-whole-new-ballgame/article_da282923-2a63-5656-9f73-bc9003f54a28.html","canonical":"http://www.laduenews.com/arts-and-culture/features/a-whole-new-ballgame/article_da282923-2a63-5656-9f73-bc9003f54a28.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":2,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"byline":"Brittany Nay","prologue":"Women who made their mark on baseball are spotlighted in a new exhibition at the Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum.","supportsComments":true,"commentCount":0,"keywords":["cardinals hall of fame and museum","women in 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The first female franchise owner. The woman who inspired the Cardinals\u2019 famous and beloved team name. The lady who influenced the iconic birds-on-the-bat logo. St. Louis is home to an impressive number of women who left a legacy on the beloved game of baseball.

These history-making moments inspired the Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum to recently unveil the groundbreaking exhibition \u201cWomen in Baseball: How They Made History.\u201d The St. Louis Cardinals reported to spring training last week, so now is the perfect time to experience the notable baseball exhibition, open until the end of the 2017 season.

Visitors to the exhibition can delve into the female influence on America\u2019s favorite pastime through more than 100 rarely seen artifacts and an interactive display. As men left for battle at the beginning of World War II, women started to play into baseball\u2019s history, stepping up to the plate to fill the traditional male roles in the sport.

\u201cThe formation of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League [AAGPBL] in 1943 was motivated over concerns that Major League Baseball would be seriously impacted as men enlisted to serve their country,\u201d explains museum curator and manager Paula Homan. \u201cWe had already known of three women from St. Louis who played in the AAGPBL, but through research [for the exhibition], we learned of five more women who stepped up to the challenge of playing professional baseball.\u201d

The exhibition follows the journeys of local women who directly impacted the history of baseball, including St. Louis area professional female baseball players in the AAGPBL, a league that was a cross between softball and baseball and ran from 1943 to 1954. It had teams in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana and Illinois, and eight local women played for some of its franchises, including the Springfield Sallies and Peoria Redwings.

Among the game\u2019s most influential local women highlighted in the exhibit is Helene Britton, who became the first female owner of a Major League Baseball team from 1911 to 1917 after inheriting the St. Louis Cardinals from her uncle, Stanley Robison. \u201cGrowing up in a baseball family, Britton was well-prepared for her role as first woman owner of a team,\u201d Homan says.

Another woman making her mark on the sport was Allie May Schmidt, who inspired the Cardinals\u2019 signature birds-on-the-bat logo by creating cardinal bird cutout decorations for a 1921 dinner at which legendary manager and baseball innovator Branch Rickey was the guest speaker. \u201cRickey was so impressed with the decorations that he asked her father, Edward H. Schmidt, head of the art department at the Woodward & Tiernan Printing Co., to design a logo based on her work,\u201d Homan says. \u201cThe result was the team\u2019s birds-on-the-bat logo, which debuted on the uniforms in 1922.\u201d

A woman even inspired the Cardinals\u2019 beloved team name: As the St. Louis Perfectos stepped onto the field in their new red-trimmed uniforms for the season opener in 1899, an anonymous female fan was overheard remarking, \u201cWhat a lovely shade of cardinal \u2026 \u201d in referring to the trim, Homan says. \u201cIt was picked up by a sportswriter, and by 1900, the Cardinals name for the National League franchise was official.\u201d

Female fans and ambassadors also are highlighted in the exhibition, including Miss Redbird from the 1960s, the Cardinals Ball Girls of the 1980s and Team Fredbird, which is the current iteration. \u201cThese women served as ambassadors of the club, entertaining fans and sparking energy in the crowds,\u201d Homan says.

The artifacts for this special exhibition are some of the oldest, rarest items from the museum\u2019s own collection, as well as pieces on loan from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, the Missouri Historical Society and private collections, Homan notes. Among the most unique relics are Britton\u2019s family photographs, Schmidt\u2019s original hand-painted cardinal bird cutouts, and the glove and uniform tunic of Peoria Redwings pitcher and shortstop Rita Meyer Moellering of Florissant.

Exhibition visitors also can experience the AAGPBL game\u2019s evolution, including an interactive display that physically illustrates how the ball was reduced every few years to take it from a standard softball size to the same dimensions used by Major League Baseball today.

\u201cImagine being an athlete for a Major League game and being subject to changes in the ball size you used, as well as increasing distances to run between the base paths and to throw from the pitching mound to home plate,\u201d Homan says. \u201cThe game was a hybrid of softball and baseball, and in its final year, the AAGPBL athletes were very close to standards set for Major League Baseball today \u2013 all the while playing the game in a short-skirted uniform!\u201d

Looking back at these women and how they shaped baseball history is important, Homan notes. \u201cSometimes people don\u2019t know their actions have far-reaching results,\u201d she says, \u201cbut making the right decisions at the right time has made history over and over, regardless of age, race and gender.\u201d

Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum, 601 Clark St., 314-345-9880, cardinals.com/museum

\u201cWomen in Baseball: How They Made History\u201d Exhibit

Where: Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum, 601 Clark St., at Ballpark Village

When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through the 2017 Major League Baseball season; open through the seventh inning on home game nights

Cost: Adult, $12; senior/military, $10; child, $8; age 3 and younger, free

Info: 314-345-9880, cardinals.com/museum

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Story: Graeme, an avid fan of TV\u2019s hit series Game of Thrones, is determined to adapt the bloody fantasy show to the stage. To do so, he enlists the help of his best friend Paul as well as Bryony, his unrequited high school crush.

The trio put their act, such as it is, together and try it out on what they hope will be a receptive audience. When Graeme gets word that a certain theatrical producer going by the name A.L. Webber is in the audience, he becomes fevered with excitement. If Webber likes the show, a big contract can\u2019t be too far behind. Now, all Graeme needs is a smooth, polished production to impress the impresario. Anything\u2019s possible, right?

Highlights: Originally a hit in London\u2019s West End, Graeme of Thrones currently is on a North American tour that has brought it to The Playhouse at Westport Plaza, where cast members Ali Brice, Libby Northedge and Michael Condron do their best to find the comedy in the violent characters they portray.

Other Info: If you\u2019ve never seen a single episode of Game of Thrones, as is my case, Graeme of Thrones comes off primarily as one long inside joke. Even being totally in the dark, though, one can recognize the comedic talents of the intrepid trio of performers who valiantly slog through Graeme\u2019s homage-filled script.

Both Brice (Graeme) and Northedge (Bryony) were in the original cast of Graeme of Thrones when it opened in the West End, while Condron (Paul) appeared in two seasons of the HBO series as Bowen Marsh. They obviously have the requisite frenzy required to pull off this slapstick mayhem for the better part of 90 minutes.

Brice fills Graeme with equal parts wonder and clumsiness. Graeme is awkward and prone to failed attempts at enticing the unreachable Bryony, but his earnestness is appealing nonetheless. It\u2019s especially amusing to see his reactions when his more adventurous partners take their stage effort into uncharted waters.

Northedge is expert at raising her eyebrows sufficiently to warn more aggressive male members of the audience to keep their distance from the sundry female (and some male) roles she portrays. She also bravely saunters into sloppy slapstick with jelly donuts and other paraphernalia in this adult presentation (some anatomically exaggerated props account for that warning).

Condron is amusing as best friend Paul, who seems to make a muck of matters almost as much as Graeme but blithely soldiers on, hoping to find some artistic inspiration along the way. As with the other two, he\u2019s game for a swordfight or three with the flimsiest of props as they attempt to impress the mysterious guest \u2018producer\u2019 in the house.

The script was written by Dan Evans, musical director Toby Park and assistant director Andrew Doyle, with John Brittain serving as script consultant. Madeau Christou, Chris Clayton and Anisha Fields provide the inspired props and costume design, with production design courtesy of Gareth Risdale.

Max Perryment is responsible for the stirring, action-oriented additional music playing before the program as well as at certain intervals, and director Sam Bailey is responsible for guiding this madcap mayhem along its loosely-threaded plot line.

For a non-aficionado of the series that it parodies, Graeme of Thrones runs out of steam about two-thirds of the way into its story. Fans of the show, though, may find it considerably entertaining.

Play: Graeme of Thrones

Company: Emery Entertainment/Jack Lane

Venue: The Playhouse at Westport Plaza

Dates: February 22, 23, 24, 25, 26

Tickets: $50; contact metrotix.com or 534-1111

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

Photo courtesy of Paul Wilkinson Photography Ltd.

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Story: Legendary vocalist Billie Holiday saunters onto the stage at Emerson\u2019s Bar & Grill in Philadelphia near midnight one night in March 1959. It\u2019s about three months before \u2018Lady Day,\u2019 as she was called by her friend and tenor saxophone great Lester Young, would die from cirrhosis of the liver at age 44.

With a sly grin on her face, she joins her musical accompanist Jimmy Powers, who is seated at the piano and leads a trio that also features a drummer and bass player. Dressed in a blindingly white gown with matching white gloves, Lady Day launches into a series of tunes which she regularly interrupts with banter for the small but appreciative audience.

She talks to them about \u201cThe Duchess,\u201d her nickname for her mother and a woman who has had a vital influence on her daughter. Lady Day recounts her love of singing from when she was a little girl, when she was known by her real name of Eleanora Fagan, and how she once weighed 200 pounds. She talks about the man with whom she fell in love, a person her mother held in low regard as did most others of Lady Day\u2019s family and friends.

No matter. Lady Day loved him despite his dubious ways. She also notes off-handedly that she was raped when she was 10 years old, but that it wasn\u2019t even the worst thing to ever happen to her. She\u2019s lived a turbulent life, but has soldiered on, admiring the career of black singer Bessie Smith as she molded her own artistic ability to improvise jazz singing.

She\u2019s continued to perform, even in her days in Artie Shaw\u2019s band when, as a black woman, she was forced to eat dinner in the kitchen of Southern restaurants but not allowed to use a restroom.

She tells us she\u2019s been banned from playing in her favorite clubs in New York City while she drinks freely throughout the evening from a bottle of booze she keeps close by. Long-suffering Jimmy leads her into tunes as best he can, and then Lady Day takes over with powerful, persuasive riffs that reveal her considerable innate talent. Time, however, is running out on Lady Day.

Highlights: Alexis J. Roston delivers a bravura performance as the immensely gifted but tragically cursed Holiday, a singer whom Frank Sinatra once said was \u201cthe greatest single musical influence on me.\u201d Musical director Abdul Hamid Royal and Roston reprise their efforts from earlier productions in other cities in moving and expert fashion in Max & Louie Production\u2019s fascinating local presentation.

Other Info: Performed in one act and about 90 minutes, playwright Lanie Robertson's\u00a0Lady Day at Emerson\u2019s Bar & Grill has the feel of a documentary-style cabaret. With the setting shortly before Holiday\u2019s death, Roston excels both in interpreting Holiday\u2019s free-wheeling jazz vocal improvisations and in depicting the troubled singer describing her turbulent life, both in public and off-stage.

Roston portrayed Holiday in an award-winning production by the Porchlight Music Theatre in Chicago. She also performed the role in 2016 in Milwaukee along with fellow cast member and musical director Abdul Hamid Royal as Jimmy. \u00a0Royal just completed another turn as Jimmy in January at the Actors Theatre of Louisville.

Director Leda Hoffmann also has previously directed a presentation of the show at the Milwaukee Rep. Together with Roston and Royal, the trio is the moving force in Max & Louie\u2019s current presentation at Kranzberg Arts Center.

Royal and his band mates, namely drummer Kaleb Kirby and Ben Wheeler on bass, provide captivatingly precise musical support for Roston, who can shape a song much in the style of the original Billie Holiday herself. It\u2019s also worth noting the patience exhibited by the band during Billie\u2019s many meanderings under Hoffmann's meticulous guidance.

Beyond the music and singing, Roston inhabits Holiday\u2019s persona, conveying the singer\u2019s losing battle with alcohol and drugs with increasingly slurred speech and slovenly behavior that reaches its nadir when Billie returns to the stage with one glove rolled down, revealing hideous needle marks on her arm.

Dunsi Dai\u2019s scenic design smartly lays out the cozy confines of the Emerson nightclub, utilizing throughout Patrick Huber\u2019s incisive lighting design which puts the spotlight on Billie\u2019s singing and story-telling moments in accentuated fashion. Dorothy Jones\u2019 costumes reflect the times not only in Billie\u2019s gown but also in the handsome threads adorning the musicians.

Lady Day at Emerson\u2019s Bar & Grill is at times theater, cabaret, biography and American history lesson. At all times it\u2019s both entertaining and provocative, telling a tragic story from its proper musical perspective.

Play: Lady Day at Emerson\u2019s Bar & Grill

Group: Max & Louie Productions

Venue: Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand Blvd.

Dates: February 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, March 1, 2, 3, 4

Tickets: $35-$45; contact 534-1111 or maxandlouie.com

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

Photos courtesy of John Lamb

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\"cambodian
cambodian curry.59.jpg

It\u2019s almost 10,000 miles from St. Louis to Singapore. Is that too far to go for dinner?

Not for the curious diner. A long-anticipated visit to Singapore and two other stops in Southeast Asia focused on dining \u2013 from how things taste to where they come from. Food tourism, even for the rookie, is easy. It helps to do a little reading and research in advance. Anyone can take a food tour by walking into a market, whether it be a formal grocery store or just an area with lots of vendors, and watching what people are eating.

Singapore\u2019s a good place to begin. English is widely spoken here, and the cuisine is famously varied and delicious. Hawker centers are an early version of food courts, where all kinds of eats are available at very reasonable prices. They\u2019re everywhere, and Singaporeans argue happily over whose version of Hainanese chicken and rice is best \u2013 the mild, fragrant dish is a good choice for the gastronomically hesitant. Choose a seat at one of the outdoor tables, mark it with something \u2013 maybe a pack of tissues \u2013 and head for the stand you want. It\u2019s the local custom; your possessions will be safe in law-abiding Singapore.

Singaporean food comes from many cultures: Chinese, Malaysian, Indian and Western. The wondrously complex laksa, a seafood soup with rice noodles, is a can\u2019t-miss dish, and the best is often found in off-the-mainstream spots full of locals. Chili crab, another signature dish, is a whole crab cooked in a spicy tomato-based sauce with varying degrees of heat and sometimes a little sweetness, and it\u2019s found at upscale sit-down seafood restaurants.

Traveling to Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, in Vietnam, provides a very different experience. Motorbikes zoom past (ending up neatly parked on sidewalks), and people sit on low stools nearby as women cook pho, a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup, for breakfast and then serve it to their regulars \u2013 probably including the server who helped you with your hotel breakfast. It\u2019s a good city for food tours that get off the tourist path and into the neighborhoods.

One morning tour went to a pho restaurant before winding through a market and the surrounding neighborhood, ending in a green space to picnic on what was purchased. Among the wisdom offered was that those fresh greens that come on a plate with pho are torn up and added, not just to flavor the beef or chicken noodle soup, but to be eaten, as well. The tours come with lots of explanations of and chances to try beautiful exotic fruits like jackfruit and rambutan, those reddish spheres that look like they\u2019re covered in Velcro.

Another tour in the evening showed the best way to wrap up and consume the delicious Vietnamese pancake b\u00e1nh x\u00e8o and what constitutes the true Vietnamese b\u00e1nh m\u00ec sandwich, and explained why so many people are eating their dinners at restaurants that spill out onto the sidewalks. One such place served us fresh seafood, including conch with a garlic-butter sauce that put French escargot butter to shame.

Siem Reap, in Cambodia, is the base for visiting Angkor Wat and several other nearby temples of the same era. Its Old Market is jam-packed with household goods, tourist gifts and, of course, lots of delicious food. One morning, orange-robed monks were picking out new sunglasses. Prepare to be importuned at every step, although it\u2019s perfectly OK to ignore such behavior.

As for the food, there\u2019s a fair amount of coconut involved in Cambodian cuisine and very little that\u2019s deeply spicy-hot. Avoid Pub Street near Old Market, which is too much like tourist-laden Bourbon Street in New Orleans, and investigate the real thing.

The most authentic immersion for many might be found at Siem Reap Food Tours, run by Steven Halcrow, a former chef from Glasgow. Traveling around by tuktuk, the motorbike-rickshaw hybrids that are everywhere in Southeast Asian countries, a visitor can enjoy the quieter parts of town, including a spot that has its own garden next to the dining tables, and a visit to the real night market, not the tourist one, where, after purchasing an array of wares \u2013 curries, rice dishes, kebabs, fruits, sweets and more \u2013 diners sit cross-legged on low platforms to sip and savor a late-night meal.

Cuisine Wat Damnak, a restaurant praised by The New York Times, is owned by a French chef who uses local ingredients. The result? A $28 six-course tasting menu, expensive for these parts. That\u2019s balanced by a place like Marum, which trains orphans for the restaurant business. The service is careful; the d\u00e9cor, charming; and the food, marvelous \u2013 an average meal with a drink costs less than $10. Don\u2019t miss the chocolate cake made with the exotic Cambodian Kampot pepper and a passion-fruit sauce.

The food and culture are astonishing all across Southeast Asia, almost as overwhelming as the sights and history you experience at almost every turn.

\"freshwater
freshwater cambodian fish.51.jpg

IF YOU GO:

Singapore:

Singapore has lots of food blogs; two of my favorites are chickenscrawlings.com and camemberu.com.

To learn more about hawker centers, head to seriouseats.com and search for the site for the \u201cA Beginner\u2019s Guide to the Singapore Hawker Center\u201d article \u2013 a helpful handbook for the unfamiliar.

A pal sent me 15 minutes from the center of town to Original Katong Laksa in an office building called Roxy Square, 50 East Coast Road. Go in the ground floor entrance; it\u2019s on your right. There aren\u2019t tourists here: It\u2019s a simple little place with fluorescent lights and coolers for drinks, serving little beyond the laksa, a spicy noodle soup, which costs about $3. Not much English is spoken, but just saying laksa and choosing your drink will get what you want. Order at the counter, and choose where you sit. Original Katong Laksa closes in the late afternoon and is very busy on Sundays.

Chili crab at Red House Seafood (redhouseseafood.com), which has three locations, leans toward a sweet-spicy balance.

Ho Chi Minh City:

There are plenty of caf\u00e9s where you can drink the great Vietnamese iced coffee, c\u00e0 ph\u00ea \u0111\u00e1, and watch the world go by. Keep an eye out for the vendor in front of the Central Post Office with an immense platter of rolls on his head.

Saigon Street Eats (saigonstreeteats.com) gives great tours, with touches of sociology as well as food, including lessons in how to cross the mostly non-traffic-lighted streets.

Les Rives Authentic River Experience (lesrivesexperience.com) does a day tour up the Mekong to villages and farms. It\u2019s not officially a food tour, but the food provided is very good. It\u2019s luxurious by local standards but very worth it.

Siem Reap:

Siem Reap Food Tours (siemreapfoodtours.com) offers both a day tour and the evening one I described in this story.

Shopping in Siem Reap can be surprisingly good. Along Hup Guan Street south of the Old Market, there are a couple of blocks of handsome little buildings with interesting stores, like Trunkh CQ at #642 (trunkh.com).

\"hainanese
hainanese chicken and rice.43.jpg
"}, {"id":"ceb49d8e-f46e-11e6-8078-13d14c463fad","type":"article","starttime":"1487266740","starttime_iso8601":"2017-02-16T11:39:00-06:00","lastupdated":"1487267295","priority":40,"sections":[{"features":"arts-and-culture/features"}],"application":"editorial","title":"'Pump Boys and Dinettes' Is a Fun-Loving, Good-Time Romp: Musical Review","url":"http://www.laduenews.com/arts-and-culture/features/article_ceb49d8e-f46e-11e6-8078-13d14c463fad.html","permalink":"http://www.laduenews.com/arts-and-culture/features/pump-boys-and-dinettes-is-a-fun-loving-good-time/article_ceb49d8e-f46e-11e6-8078-13d14c463fad.html","canonical":"http://www.laduenews.com/arts-and-culture/features/pump-boys-and-dinettes-is-a-fun-loving-good-time/article_ceb49d8e-f46e-11e6-8078-13d14c463fad.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":1,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"byline":"by Mark Bretz","prologue":"Story: Welcome to a little stretch of Highway 57 in North Carolina, somewhere between the bustling metropolises of Frog Level and Smyrna. That\u2019s where you\u2019ll find a filling station run by Jim and L.M. which also employs Eddie and Jackson. Right next door is the Double Cupp Diner, where sisters Rhetta and Prudie Cupp brew coffee, serve up country dinners and bake the best pies this side of Raleigh.","supportsComments":true,"commentCount":0,"keywords":["westport plaza","playhouse at westport plaza","pump boys and dinettes","musical","review","country music","rockabilly"],"internalKeywords":[],"customProperties":{},"presentation":"","images":[{"id":"55458604-f3d1-11e6-a003-8b55cbcccbeb","description":"","byline":"","hireswidth":6135,"hiresheight":4067,"hiresurl":"http://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/5/54/55458604-f3d1-11e6-a003-8b55cbcccbeb/58a4db84939ee.hires.jpg","presentation":null,"versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"760","height":"504","url":"http://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/5/54/55458604-f3d1-11e6-a003-8b55cbcccbeb/58a4db848f6d6.image.jpg?resize=760%2C504"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"66","url":"http://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/5/54/55458604-f3d1-11e6-a003-8b55cbcccbeb/58a4db848f6d6.image.jpg?resize=100%2C66"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"199","url":"http://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/5/54/55458604-f3d1-11e6-a003-8b55cbcccbeb/58a4db848f6d6.image.jpg?resize=300%2C199"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"679","url":"http://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/5/54/55458604-f3d1-11e6-a003-8b55cbcccbeb/58a4db848f6d6.image.jpg?resize=1024%2C679"}}}],"revision":4,"commentID":"ceb49d8e-f46e-11e6-8078-13d14c463fad","body":"

Story: Welcome to a little stretch of Highway 57 in North Carolina, somewhere between the bustling metropolises of Frog Level and Smyrna. That\u2019s where you\u2019ll find a filling station run by Jim and L.M. which also employs Eddie and Jackson. Right next door is the Double Cupp Diner, where sisters Rhetta and Prudie Cupp brew coffee, serve up country dinners and bake the best pies this side of Raleigh.

Life seems to move at a nice, easy pace for the boys, who have a long-term project fixing Uncle Bob\u2019s Winnebago at a leisurely clip in between slow walks over to the Double Cupp for some java. Maybe Jim might ask Rhetta out for a date, but then cancel when he learns fishing season opens that same day, leading the fed-up Rhetta to warble Be Good or Be Gone. Or L.M. might wistfully recall The Night Dolly Parton Was Almost Mine.

You get the picture. These good ol\u2019 boys and gals may not have a lot of money, but they sure know how to make the most of what they do have: Good music and good times. Come on in and set a spell.

Highlights: First produced Off Broadway back in 1981 before it transferred to Broadway for 573 performances, Pump Boys and Dinettes is an easy-going, easy-listening good time in its current incarnation at The Playhouse at Westport Plaza.

Other Info: The show was conceived, written and performed originally by Jim Wann, John Foley, Mark Hardwick, Debra Monk, Cass Morgan and John Schimmel. Zipping along at about 90 minutes plus an intermission, Pump Boys and Dinettes fills its plate with a platter of lively, infectious country tunes tinged now and then with some rockabilly played on guitar, bass, drums, piano and accordion by the men, while the ladies find the music in some kitchen utensils.

More than 20 tunes are crooned by the ensemble consisting of four men and two women, although Ed Avila as Eddie stays mostly quiet in the background, sporting a pair of shades and a mean look that the audience seems to love.

Jessica Bradley belts out Rhetta\u2019s tunes with gusto and a down-home country style on the aforementioned Be Good or Be Gone, while Candice Lively displays a smooth, stylish voice as Prudie on The Best Man\u00a0and in harmony with Bradley on tunes such as Sister and Tips.

Chet Wollan helms the show as the overall-clad Jim, a genial sort who can get misty-eyed singing about his Mamaw or looking lively leading the group on the welcoming song, Highway 57, or the fast-paced Act I closer, Drinkin\u2019 Shoes.

Steven Romero Schaeffer is enjoyable as the wide-eyed, big-smiling Jackson, who delivers a humorous, soulful number about a fetching department store clerk named Mona. Brandon Filette plays a mean piano and an even funkier accordion as the soft-spoken but earnest L.M. while also serving as the show\u2019s music captain.

Erica Zaffarano fills the intimate Westport Plaza stage to the brim with her appealing set design which features an assortment of knickknacks that neatly capture the flavor of small-town America, with the filling station at stage right, the diner at stage left and a big ol\u2019 Pepsi vending machine in the center. If you think it\u2019s odd that Pepsi instead of Coke \u00a0is in a Southern setting, no worries: Watch carefully as Eddie tries to get a can of pop from the machine.

Curt Wollan directs this fun-loving, good-time romp in fine fashion, complemented by Dennis Curley\u2019s up-tempo musical direction and some fancy steps by the gals choreographed by Wendy Short Hays. A couple of obligatory ballads are interspersed between the faster numbers, but for the most part even those, such as Mamaw and The Night Dolly Parton Was Almost Mine, are entertaining.

The boys don\u2019t say much but they play some mean music, and the gals love \u2018em all the more for that. You will, too, if you reckon on having some fun.

Musical: Pump Boys and Dinettes

Company: Emery Entertainment/Jack Lane

Venue: The Playhouse at Westport Plaza

Dates: February 16, 17, 18, 19

Tickets: $50; contact metrotix.com or 534-1111

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

Photo courtesy of The Playhouse at Westport Plaza

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Story: So, there\u2019s this fella named Ron Huber, although most folks call him Ronnie. He lives in Minnesota, don\u2019tcha know, with his wife Irene, and they have a daughter, too. Irene is a swell lady; in fact she\u2019s \u201cspecial\u201d to hear Ronnie tell it, which led him to first ask her for a date back in high school. Still, a fella wants his privacy now and then.

For Ronnie that means driving in the winter out to his shack on a nearby lake, where he has a couple of holes dug for ice fishing. There\u2019s a big one down there, alright, so the legend goes, and Ronnie may as well catch it as anyone else, right?

Really, though, that shack is primarily a place where Ronnie can go to be alone and ponder the universe and whatnot. Wouldn\u2019t you know it, seems a fella can\u2019t get too much of that privacy, what with Irene traipsing out there to tell him about how boring life can be cooped up in a house all the time.

And their neighbor Cookie isn\u2019t the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but she sure likes to talk, and that wears on Irene. So, when Irene suggests she\u2019d like to sign up for an art correspondence course, Ronnie reluctantly tells her to go for it, if it makes her happy.

There are plenty of other visitors, too, such as Ronnie\u2019s brother Duff (Duffer); his friend Junior Swansen, who runs a bait shop with his son Junior the Third; and even a pair of evangelistic ministers named Chairman Francis and Chairwoman Shumway, who venture onto the ice to snare a potential believer, although they aren\u2019t exactly dressed for a Minnesota winter, you know.

Sure, you got to know that with a big snowstorm bearing down according to the fellas on the radio, Ronnie better be certain that he has enough beer and chow to last out the blizzard. Maybe he can catch that legendary fish, too.

Highlights: Kevin Kling, once proclaimed the \u201cMinnesota Story Laureate\u201d by the mayor of Minneapolis, knows the people in the Land of 10,000 Lakes like the back of his useless right hand. Director Adam Grun and his ensemble of locals cast the current West End Players Guild production of Kling\u2019s The Ice Fishing Play into some pretty entertaining waters, with a serious message on the winds to boot.

Other Info: One of the best aspects of this presentation is reading Mark Abels\u2019 clever news release, which captures the flavor and spirit of the hearty folks who live due north of The Lou. It really should have been included in the program along with the cast bios and the brief piece about playwright Kling.

That article comes closer to the Minnesota dialect than just about anyone in the cast, although a couple of them make a half-hearted attempt at going Fargo, notably Colleen Backer as Irene and Scott DeBroux as Duffer. Perhaps a dialect coach would have been a good investment to enhance the presentation.

As for comedy, though, there\u2019s no question that Grun has assembled a team that can utter wonderful lines such as \u201cGive a skunk a job\u201d and a seemingly endless litany of schools, \u201cprivate and parochial,\u201d closing because of the storm, with their droll delivery and priceless timing.

Colin Nichols anchors this rendition with an affecting portrayal of common man Ronnie, whose ruminations can run as deep as the water in that lake he\u2019s fishing. Nichols shows that Ronnie\u2019s love for Irene may not be gooey romantic but instead can withstand any turbulence life may throw at them.

He has an easy chemistry as well with DeBroux as Duffer and Moses Weathers as Junior, who comes close to stealing the show with his hilarious appearance in the second act.

That act is far superior to the initial one, which rather plods along aimlessly until the story finds its true direction after intermission. While Kling takes too long to get to the point of his winsome fable, it\u2019s well worth experiencing the pathos and innate humanity of The Ice Fishing Play once it fully arrives.

Backer delivers her dialogue with her customary panache, and DeBroux brings a rough charm to Duffer as well as provide a myriad of angler-oriented props, one of which Duffer utilizes to play a practical joke on his serious brother.

Michael Pierce and Shannon Lampkin add some amusing moments as the zealous and ill-equipped evangelists Chairman Francis and Chairwoman Shumway, respectively, and George Nichols has a nice scene as a rather quiet young man. Abels and Michael Monsey have the cadence, if not the accent, down solid as a pair of local lads named Tim and Paul doing the morning radio show that Ronnie uses for background noise in his lonesome shack.

Grun makes wise use of the stage to stretch out entrances and exits for characters visiting Ronnie\u2019s place, and Zachary Cary\u2019s set design is simple but effective, accentuated by DeBroux\u2019s props. Nathan Schroeder adds some nice touches with his lighting, J.D. Wade provides an eerie sound design that underscores Ronnie\u2019s bouts with existentialism and Tracey Newcomb-Margrave\u2019s costumes complement the setting.

Aficionados of Coen Brothers films will recognize character types that populate The Ice Fishing Play, minus the violence but not the charm. It\u2019ll make you think and touch your heart just as much. You betcha.

Play: The Ice Fishing Play

Group: West End Players Guild

Venue: Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 Union Blvd.

Dates: February 16, 17, 18, 19

Tickets: $20; contact 367-0025 or WestEndPlayers.org

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

Photos courtesy of John Lamb

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Story: Thirty-five-year-old Jean Louise Finch reflects back on her childhood in Maycomb, Alabama as she recalls the memorable year of 1935, and particularly that summer. Known as Scout at the time, she spent most of that season with her older brother Jem (Jeremy) and a new young neighbor, Charles Baker \u201cDill\u201d Harris, who told them he was staying with his aunt until school started again.

The major pre-occupation for the kids was catching a glimpse of the reclusive Arthur \u201cBoo\u201d Radley, a young man who lived with his father, venturing out only occasionally at night. Soon enough, Scout discovers little gifts, trinkets for her and Jem, often left in the hollow of a big tree near the Radley home.

Her widowed father, an attorney named Atticus Finch, makes a modest living doing legal work for the town\u2019s impoverished residents, sometimes being paid in food from area farmers for his efforts. He tells Scout that every attorney has a career-defining case once in his or her life. For him, it\u2019s his defense that summer of Tom Robinson, a poor black man who has been accused of rape by an impoverished young white woman named Mayella Ewell.

When Scout tells her father that the kids in school, as well as their parents, are contemptuous of Finch is representing a black man, Atticus tells her that \u201cYou never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view\u2026until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.\u201d

Defending Tom Robinson is the case that Atticus Finch believes will define his career, his principles and his life. Before all is said and done, it will also do much to explain how his daughter grew up to become the woman she is.

Highlights: To celebrate its 50th anniversary, The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis has filled its 2016-17 season with classic works by Stephen Sondheim, Charles Dickens and Arthur Miller. It continues this memorable season with a strong presentation of To Kill a Mockingbird, the 1990 drama adapted by Christopher Sergel from Harper Lee\u2019s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. The Rep\u2019s version should please most devotees of Lee\u2019s enduring story about basic human kindness.

Other Info: Director Risa Brainin has made several excellent choices as well as one puzzling gaffe for The Rep\u2019s presentation. The inclusion of black gospel songs is important for two reasons: First, it puts a stronger focus on the racism prevalent in The South in the \u201830s and the suffering long endured by its black citizens.

Second, it avoids a classical sound design that might compare unfavorably to the iconic score written by Elmer Bernstein for the memorable 1962 film version of To Kill a Mockingbird, which also featured a screenplay by Horton Foote, direction by Robert Mulligan and an Oscar-winning portrayal by Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch.

That latter name provides its own set of problems for anyone who is cast in the 1990 theatrical version of Lee\u2019s novel. Peck\u2019s performance is indelibly etched in the American psyche and a formidable force for comparison by any actor.

Jonathan Gillard Daly, whose career began at The Rep in 1977, does excellent work in the titular role of the attorney, even if he isn\u2019t as memorable as Peck. He\u2019s particularly strong in the courtroom scene in the second act as he interrogates a number of witnesses about the alleged rape.

That scene includes two other outstanding performances, those of Rachel Fenton as the lonely, hardscrabble Mayella Ewell and Alan Knoll as her hard-drinking, angry and unrepentant father Bob Ewell.

The former delivers a heart-rending, affecting turn as a girl whose loneliness leads to an ill-fated meeting with the black laborer Robinson as well as her subsequent testimony, where she lashes out at all of her imagined slights at the hands of \u2018fancy\u2019 town folks whom she suspects think they\u2019re better than her. It\u2019s an achingly effective interpretation.

The genial Knoll goes against type casting as the vicious Ewell, who attacks like a wounded animal when he\u2019s on the stand, snarling at any suggestion made by Finch, such as whether he\u2019s left-handed as opposed to Robinson, whose only good hand is his right one, an important distinction noted by Atticus during the trial.

There\u2019s also excellent work done by Kaylee Ryan as Scout and Charlie Mathis as Dill, two youngsters whose poise and savvy on stage belie their youth. Young Kaylee captures the mannerisms of the tomboyish Scout as well as her natural curiosity and innate goodness, which are shrewdly copied by Lenne Klingaman as the adult Jean Louise, the story\u2019s sagacious on-stage narrator.

Kaylee\u2019s twin brother Ronan Ryan is solid as Scout\u2019s protective older brother Jem and Tanesha Gary is precise in her studied reading in the role of Calpurnia, the Finches\u2019 maid. Christopher Harris shines in two roles, as the embarrassed farmer Walter Cunningham and as the elusive and heroic Boo Radley.

Local performers Jerry Vogel and Whit Reichert contribute excellent portrayals as the town\u2019s well-meaning Sheriff Heck Tate and fair-minded Judge Taylor, respectively, while Amy Loui does well in the role of the Finches\u2019 amiable neighbor, Miss Maudie Atkinson.

Cynthia Darlow plays the mean-spirited neighbor, Mrs. Dubose, with just enough hint of something going on in her own life to warrant reflection of Atticus\u2019 advice about other people\u2019s clothes, and Terrell Donnell Sledge has an excellent scene as the good-hearted but star-crossed Tom Robinson.

A real puzzler is having the youthful-looking Ben Nordstrom play Boo Radley\u2019s father, even though Harris looks older as the \u201cson.\u201d It\u2019s a casting choice that simply makes no sense, given that Reichert could easily have portrayed that minor role and looked much more convincing. Nordstrom, however, is very good as Maycomb County\u2019s slick and callous prosecuting attorney.

Michael Keck and Kimmie Kidd do well as Reverend Sykes and Robinson\u2019s wife Helen, and Keck composed and musically directs the stirring gospel numbers that are sung by Keck, Kidd and ensemble players Miriam Dance, Melissa Harris, Alicia Reve Like, Jason J. Little and Felicia Rogers, who swell the gospel group with their soaring voices and troubled faces.

Another careful choice in the production is Narelle Sissons\u2019 scenic design, which is dominated by the Radley tree at stage left. That\u2019s significant, in that the children\u2019s pursuit of the \u201creal\u201d Boo Radley permeates the novel, the film and the play as much as the story depicts the savagery of racism. More problematic is the decision to move furniture and other props in and out as the drama unfolds, which can be as distracting as it is artistic.

Michael Klaers adds the pensive lighting design and Devon Painter\u2019s costumes hearken to the Great Depression in the clothes of the poor as well as the finer threads worn by County Prosecuter Mr. Gilmer and the bow tie sported by the eccentric Dill.

As moving as To Kill a Mockingbird continues to be, it also calls to mind an observation made by the late film critic Roger Ebert, who criticized \u201cthe clich\u00e9 of the honest white man standing for a helpless black.\u201d

Still, To Kill a Mockingbird has never been out of print since it first was published in 1960, and in 2003 the American Film Institute named Atticus Finch as \u201cthe greatest movie hero of the 20th century.\u201d The Rep\u2019s well-wrought presentation of the tale's theatrical adaptation is a fitting addition to the story\u2019s lasting legacy.

Play: To Kill a Mockingbird

Company: Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

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

Dates: Through March 5

Tickets: $18-$81.50; contact 968-4925 or www.repstl.org

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

Photos courtesy of Jerry Naunheim Jr.

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Story: Doug wakes up and stumbles out of the bedroom in the apartment where he has spent the night. He seems out of sorts, fidgety and unsure of what to do next. He turns on the TV and then just as quickly shuts it off, hiding the remote control in the process.

When Beth comes into the living room, he notices that she\u2019s wearing his Star Wars T-shirt. She\u2019s much more interested in discussing the previous evening and their return to the apartment she shares with an overly tidy young woman named Kim. Doug, though, seems pre-occupied with that Star Wars shirt.

The more that Beth makes amorous advances toward Doug, the further he shies away from her. While they agree that their sex the previous night was sensational, Doug seems less than enthused about resuming love-making in the true light of morning. He has a myriad of reasons that he gives Beth, none of which seem to make very much sense, and most of which annoy and frustrate her.

What\u2019s the story here? Does Doug actually find Beth attractive or not? By all outward appearances she looks and sounds great, and yet he backs off repeatedly. He isn\u2019t married and he isn\u2019t seeing anyone at the moment, he says, but still there\u2019s something that is bothering him deep down.

Maybe Beth knows what is really on Doug\u2019s mind after all. Maybe she has issues as well. Maybe Doug and Beth can figure out who they really are and what they actually want, both as individuals and as a pair. It might be the way they get by.

Highlights: St. Louis Actors\u2019 Studio teams up once again with playwright Neil LaBute, who has lent his name to the company\u2019s highly successful New Play Festival the last few years, for an amusing rendition of a one-act comedy by LaBute from 2015.

Other Info: Without giving too much away, LaBute\u2019s premise for his 90-minute comedy is realistic enough to give his script an explanation and sufficient ballast to make it work pretty well for the most part.

It\u2019s a difficult show to appreciate initially, primarily because the first 30 minutes are almost intolerably turgid, at least under Nancy Bell\u2019s direction. The primary fault for that, however, belongs to the playwright, who has his two characters engage in a torturously slow verbal pas de deux that brings to mind Sisyphus pushing that boulder up a hill.

After that frustrating and annoying beginning, more substantive humor kicks in as LaBute reveals the real motives behind his characters. Bell does a fine job positioning her two players in ways that maximize the awkwardness in their moves and language, which is critical to the plot\u2019s development.

Sophia Brown makes for a very sexy and compelling Beth, spending much of her time clad only in that Star Wars T-shirt and a pair of briefs, courtesy of costume designer Carla Landis Evans. For that matter, Andrew Rea as Doug doesn\u2019t wear much, either, beyond the pained expression of uncertainty on his face, which he does quite well and quite often.

Both performers are convincing as they sketch out their characters as conceived by the often off-kilter LaBute, who can be considered misogynistic and even perhaps sadistic in some of the characters he presents in his various works, which often can be mean-spirited at first blush.

With The Way We Get By, LaBute keeps his audience off guard and fidgeting wondering where he\u2019ll take these two hapless and lonely souls next. While both Beth and Doug talk about their natural ability at sexual conquests, there\u2019s something going on in their psyches which indicates they are searching uneasily for more.

Brown is very good revealing Beth\u2019s vulnerabilities, whether in discussing her persnickety roommate, whose parents own the apartment shared by the two young women, or in her uncertainty about what Doug, or any man , might want.

Rea is effective at being maddeningly evasive for much of the story, holding Doug\u2019s cards ever so close to his chest as Doug contemplates how best to extricate himself from this situation that is both irresistible and uneasy to him.

Bell coaxes convincing and complex performances out of both of her players to mine LaBute\u2019s eccentric tale for all of its surprising twists and turns once the production\u2019s tepid beginning is left behind.

Patrick Huber\u2019s set is an oddly colored design that seems off just enough to match the conflicting emotions felt by the two characters, with some prop peculiarities provided by Evans such as an old stereo to accentuate the \u2018different\u2019 nature of this randy, contemporary story that nevertheless has traditional roots.

The unnamed sound designer calls on The Beatles to open and close this interesting presentation in appropriately upbeat fashion. That\u2019s a good touch because the show is, after all, a comedy, and we the audience would therefore prefer a happy ending. It\u2019s the way we get by.

Play: The Way We Get By

Company: St. Louis Actors\u2019 Studio

Venue: Gaslight Theater, 358 North Boyle

Dates: February 16, 17, 18, 19, 23, 24, 25, 26

Tickets: $30-$35; contact 1-800-982-2787 or ticketmaster.com

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

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\"The

The Millinery Shop, 1879-86 (oil on canvas) by Edgar Degas

\u201cDegas has been cast, in the docudrama of art history, as the memorializer of certain beloved, incessantly posterized subjects \u2013 ballet dancers and bathing women foremost, with horses and milliners affectionate also-rans,\u201d the late polymathic writer John Updike once observed of the Frenchman Edgar Degas, who lived from 1834 to 1917.

In just two days, the second of those affectionate also-rans \u2013 millinery, the production of women\u2019s hats and other headwear \u2013 earns a brilliant spotlight in \u201cDegas, Impressionism and the Paris Millinery Trade,\u201d an exhibition gracing the Saint Louis Art Museum (SLAM) until May 7.

Overseeing that exhibition with Esther Bell, curator-in-charge of European painting at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, is Simon Kelly, SLAM\u2019s curator of modern and contemporary art, who reflects with pardonable pride on it, despite suffering from jet lag following his return from Amsterdam on museum business.

\u201cThe exhibition includes, for the first time, signature examples of Degas\u2019 oil paintings on the theme of millinery, as well as important millinery pastels \u2013 for example, the late Chez la Modiste, Degas\u2019 last pastel on the millinery theme, which is coming from the Mus\u00e9e d\u2019Orsay and is shown in the U.S. for the first time in 35 years,\u201d says Kelly, referring to the French institution housing the world\u2019s largest collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist art. \u201cThis is a spectacular pastel with strong abstract elements, and I\u2019m very glad that we can reunite it with a preparatory charcoal drawing that is coming from a collection in Australia.

\u201cWe will also be showing Degas\u2019 richly colorful painting Woman Trying on a Hat, also known as Woman Arranging Her Hair, and the related large-scale pastel coming from the Courtauld collection [a London gallery famed for its French Impressionist and post-Impressionist works]. The painting will be shown in the U.S. for the first time ever.

\u201cIn terms of provenance, Woman in a Blue Hat \u2013 from a private collection in Asia \u2013 is particularly interesting, as this is a pastel that was once in the collection of the great couturi\u00e8re Jeanne Lanvin, who began her working life as a milliner.\u201d

The exhibition includes 60 paintings and pastels from roughly 1875 to 1914, the height of the millinery trade in Paris, and a pre-opening press release from SLAM provided this overview: \u201cThe exhibition situates Degas\u2019 output within the context of the work of his fellow Impressionists who were also fascinated by hats, including \u00c9douard Manet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Mary Cassatt and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.\u201d

Kelly \u2013 who, impressively, holds an undergraduate degree from Cambridge and a doctorate from Oxford, where he taught art history \u2013 also details artful complements to the paintings and pastels.

\u201cThe exhibition has 40 period Parisian hats by the most noted milliners of the day, including Madame Georgette, Caroline Reboux and Jeanne Lanvin,\u201d he says. \u201cThese have been borrowed from major institutional hat collections, like Les Arts D\u00e9coratifs, Mus\u00e9e du Louvre and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

\"8
8 Degas.jpg

\u201cAn important aspect of the show was to place the millinery paintings and pastels of Degas within the broader visual culture, and to do this, it was crucial to include key period examples of Parisian hats, from 1870 to 1914. In the exhibition, we will see connections in terms of hat designs and materials \u2013 whether plumes, artificial flowers or ribbons \u2013 between the hats that appear in Degas\u2019 images and actual hats.\u201d

The observation from Updike quoted earlier originally appeared in The New Republic in 1988 and concerned a monumental 12-gallery Degas retrospective held late in the \u201980s at New York\u2019s famed Metropolitan Museum of Art. Kelly, who subsequently served at that institution, contrasts SLAM\u2019s new exhibition with the earlier one.

\u201cThe 1988 retrospective was a once-in-a-lifetime retrospective exhibition that covered all aspects of Degas\u2019 output,\u201d he says. \u201cWe felt that we could make the greatest contribution to scholarship by focusing on a particular aspect of Degas\u2019 work \u2013 namely, his millinery imagery.

\u201cThis was an area of Degas\u2019 output that had not been explored as extensively as other subjects, like the dancers or racetrack scenes. There had also never been an exhibition on the millinery theme. We developed new research around these images, whether through technical analysis like X-radiographs, examination of related studies or discussion of critical reception.\u201d

Almost perforce, H.W. Janson and Anthony F. Janson\u2019s monumental History of Art sketches interactions among the Impressionists cited in SLAM\u2019s pre-opening press release, stating, for instance, that Toulouse-Lautrec greatly admired Degas.

Conversely and amusingly, the Jansons also quote Cassatt, from a March 15, 1904, letter to the director of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts: \u201cWe have been since dubbed \u2018Impressionists\u2019 a name which might apply to Monet but can have no meaning when attached to Degas\u2019 name.\u201d

Of the Impressionists, Updike himself, in the observation cited earlier, dubbed Degas \u201cthe only one whose pencil and charcoal drawings rank, in their delicate precision and firm roundedness, with those of the Renaissance.\u201d

Not unkindly, Updike also characterized Degas as \u201ca fusser, a bricoleur, a studio assembler of effects\u201d \u2013 in short, an artist peculiarly suited to our cut-and-paste, sampled-and-resampled era \u2013 and noted of the painting Young Spartans that Degas cherished it so much that \u201che kept it prominently displayed in his studio and worked at it off and on for 20 years.\u201d

\"ONT162848\"

The Shop Girl, 1883-85 (oil on canvas) by James Jacques Joseph Tissot

Given his expertise, Kelly has previously written about such Impressionists as Monet, Manet and Renoir, but feels \u201cparticularly drawn to Degas\u2019 paintings,\u201d he confesses. \u201cI love SLAM\u2019s Milliners painting, but I think my favorite would be the At the Milliner\u2019s picture that is coming from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

\u201cThat work has a strange and enigmatic quality to it, largely because of the reflected face of the woman shopper as a blank, abstract void. The picture seems very modern and also highlights the often-overlooked importance of Degas as a colorist.\u201d

Locally aiding Kelly on \u201cDegas, Impressionism and the Paris Millinery Trade\u201d was SLAM research assistant Abigail Yoder, whose contribution to the exhibition he credits.

\u201cAbby has helped me in a range of ways \u2013 for example, in assisting in preparing loan letters and exhibition labels,\u201d says Kelly. \u201cShe has contributed a very useful chronology to the catalog, as well as some catalog entries. She also has developed a specialty in 19th-century flower culture, which has been helpful for research on flowered hats.\u201d

The new SLAM exhibition should not only prompt an appreciation of the past but also spark a reflection on the present.

\u201cHat styles during the Victorian and Edwardian eras were extremely varied, ranging from small toques to huge confections of flowers, feathers and even entire birds,\u201d states Fashion: The Definitive History of Costume and Style, a gorgeous tome on the topic published by Dorling Kindersley in 2012. \u201cUntil well into the 20th century, most women, regardless of social status, did not think of leaving the house without a hat.\u201d

Times change, of course, and in 2017, the halcyon days of pillboxes and berets, trilbies and tam-o\u2019-shanters, cloches and cartwheel hats, seem like ancient history except for atypical occasions or special events like Kentucky Derby parties \u2013 such that another reference, Jenny Levin\u2019s Harper\u2019s Bazaar Great Style from 2007, includes no entries at all on women\u2019s hats or headwear.

In that regard, Kelly speculates on what contemporary branch of haute couture the Impressionists might take as a topic if they were practicing their art in 2017.

\u201cToday, Degas and his fellow artists would probably have been fascinated by shoes,\u201d he says. \u201cAs an accessory, shoes have the same kind of importance today as hats did in the 19th century. They have the same kind of cachet and designer appeal \u2013 as well as expense!\u201d

1 Fine Arts Drive, St. Louis, 314-721-0072, slam.org

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Story: A minstrel warbles Welcome to the Renaissance but life is tough for the Brothers Bottom, Nick and Nigel, in England in the year 1595. They are members of a troupe of actors who struggle to make ends meet. Nick is all the more annoyed because their former colleague, Will Shakespeare, is now basking in the glow of enormous popularity and raking in big bucks as a result.

Desperate to write a hit to improve the family fortunes for his wife Bea and bachelor brother Nigel, Nick absconds with the meager savings Bea has tucked away and hires a prognosticator named Thomas Nostradamus. A nephew of the legendary soothsayer, Thomas claims to also have his uncle\u2019s knack for predicting the future.

He tells Nick that the \u201cnext big thing\u201d in theater will be \u201cthe musical.\u201d When Thomas explains that in a musical an actor recites lines in character and then promptly bursts into song to move a story\u2019s plot forward, Nick thinks Thomas is a bit off his nut. Convinced by other events predicted accurately by the seer, though, Nick goes forward with the idea of creating the world\u2019s first musical.\u00a0

A Jewish merchant named Shylock, who\u2019s after Nick for rent money but also is interested in \u201cshow business,\u201d decides to back Nick\u2019s venture. Meanwhile, Nigel has fallen for Portia, daughter of the fanatical minister Brother Jeremiah, and Portia is smitten with Nigel as well.

Nigel\u2019s powerful poems affect not only Portia but also draw the attention of Will, who realizes that maintaining his own good fortune is dependent upon latching onto Nigel\u2019s beautiful writings.

While Bea works to convince Nick that she\u2019s his \u201cright-hand man\u201d and can accomplish anything a man can , and as Nigel struggles to satisfy his creative drive while also being faithful to his brother\u2019s company and Portia\u2019s love, Will schemes to steal Nigel\u2019s script for Nick\u2019s bold new venture and make it his own.

It\u2019s called Omelette, the Musical, and is based on Nostradamus\u2019 vision of \u00a0entertainment's future, which also includes reference to something Danish. At least, to Nostradamus, it sounds like Omelette. What else could it be?

Highlights: Something Rotten! is fresh off its two-year run on Broadway that closed New Year\u2019s Day 2017 and is now on a subsequent national tour that began last month. This likable, joyous musical brings a load of laughs and an infectious score to the Fox Theatre in rousing, raucous fashion.

Other Info: Conceived by Karey Kirkpatrick and his brother Wayne, Something Rotten! is filled to the brim with a head-spinning number of allusions to both musical theater and the works of Shakespeare. An entry on Wikipedia lists several dozen musicals that are referenced in even the slightest way in the clever music and lyrics penned by the Kirkpatricks.

The book written by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O\u2019Farrell also includes a plethora of Shakespearean allusions, whether in the names of the show\u2019s characters or in sundry situations that occur on stage.

While the set designed by Scott Pask is evocative of the late 16th century, with an amusing lighting design by Jeff Croiter most effective on the numbers featuring \u201crock star\u201d Will Shakespeare, it\u2019s the comedy and music that move Something Rotten! along most effectively.

The humor in the book is mined precisely by a trio of actors reprising their roles from the Broadway version, namely Rob McClure as Nick, Josh Grisetti as Nigel and Adam Pascal as Will. McClure, a perennial favorite here for his roles in various productions at The Muny, brings to mind Steve Carell in both his delivery and appearance as the flustered Nick Bottom.

McClure\u2019s sure comic touch anchors this consistently funny show, although it\u2019s true that the name-dropping in Something Rotten! can be overdone at times and become a bit too cute.

Grisetti is highly likable as Nigel, the soft-spoken, hesitant and more talented of the Bottom brothers, playing charmingly off Autumn Hurlbert\u2019s blonde and brave Portia, a woman who recognizes the depth of Nigel\u2019s talents.

Maggie Lakis, McClure\u2019s wife, is a fitting match as his on-stage spouse as well, projecting Bea\u2019s character with some clever physical humor, and Pascal makes for a swell villain of sorts as the overly self-assured, vainglorious Shakespeare, the object of Nick\u2019s poorly controlled disdain.

Adding copious laughs in supporting roles are big and burly Blake Hammond as audience-favorite Thomas Nostradamus and Scott Cote as the mincing religious crusader Brother Jeremiah, a man with a penchant for torture. Jeff Brooks plays the oft-ostracized Shylock, Joel Newsome is Nick\u2019s exasperated producer Lord Clapham and Nick Rashad Burroughs is the genial minstrel who sings the show\u2019s captivating opening number, Welcome to the Renaissance.

There are several appealing and engaging numbers in this witty musical, including one titled A Musical that pays homage to dozens of famous musical theater classics, from Annie to A Chorus Line, from Les Miserables to South Pacific and from The Sound of Music to Chicago. It\u2019ll keep you guessing what you recognize and what you\u2019ve missed in dizzying fashion.

The raucous rock number, Will Power, is another highlight, with Pascal as The Bard gyrating on stage in front of stylin\u2019 \u201cbackup boys\u201d played by Daniel Beeman, Drew Franklin, Ralph Meitzler and Con O\u2019Shea-Creal. The Act I closer, Bottom\u2019s Gonna Be on Top, is a bit flat and disappointing, but the big Act II show-stopper, Something Rotten!/Make an Omelette, is reminiscent of the Springtime for Hitler number in The Producers, for all the right reasons.

Casey Nicholaw\u2019s direction is sprightly and brisk, and his clever, quick choreography keeps the production energized and entertaining in whimsical style. Gregg Barnes contributes the amusing costumes, especially Will\u2019s \u2018glam\u2019 look, while Josh Marquette adds the humorous hair design.

Brian Kennedy is music director and conductor of the lively musical score, with arrangements by Glen Kelly, orchestrations by Larry Hochman and music supervision and vocal arrangements by Phil Reno.

Welcome to the Renaissance and the sometimes ribald, occasionally risqu\u00e9 and mostly rewarding romp known as Something Rotten!

Musical: Something Rotten!

Group: Touring Company

Venue: Fox Theatre, 527 North Grand

Dates: Through February 19

Tickets: From $25 to $88; contact 534-1111 or metrotix.com

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

Photos courtesy of Jeremy Daniel

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Story: Ten different women express their thoughts about their husbands or lovers to the women, or men, who have replaced them in the hearts of their former true loves. The women describe what attracted them to their mates in the first place as well as what the new lovers might watch for in the behavior of their new-found loves.

Highlights: Tesseract Theatre presents 10 different performers in this one-act, 90-minute production that focuses exclusively on a series of monologues delivered by one character at a time.

Other Info: Because of unforeseen complications, Tesseract artistic director Taylor Gruenloh was unable to produce the troupe\u2019s previously announced presentation of The Vagina Monologues in its February slot. Instead, the company has turned to this drama written by Samantha Macher that is subtitled Sound Advice for My Former Husband\u2019s Wife or Mistress.

Macher, who is a playwright-in-residence at SkyPilot Theatre Company in Los Angeles, has enjoyed numerous productions of To the New Girl. Several, including Tesseract Theatre\u2019s current show, have supported domestic abuse and family service centers.

Tesseract\u2019s presentation benefits The L.E.A.D. Institute (Leadership through Education and Advocacy for the Deaf), whose mission is to provide leadership through education, advocacy, crisis intervention services, counseling and other direct services for deaf, hard of hearing, deaf/blind and late-deafened victims, survivors and their families.

Unfortunately, To the New Girl as directed by Katie Palazzola is presented in straightforward, repetitive and monotonous fashion in this Tesseract version. The 10 different speakers each come out, one at a time, to speak their pieces about what the woman (or man in one case) might expect in her new lover.

One after another they talk, with an inscription on the screen behind them indicating who the object of their discourse might be. Once each actress completes her speech, she remains silently somewhere on stage as the next performer takes the spotlight.

There just isn\u2019t much to challenge an audience in this static fashion, although occasionally there are moments of wit or poignancy in the script that enter the presentation. The best skit by far is the very last one, in which Dorothy LaBounty tells a nurse who has more or less taken her place in the heart of her Alzheimer\u2019s-afflicted husband of \u201c57 years, 58 in August.\u201d LaBounty speaks with a sureness of her love as well as an understanding of her husband\u2019s plight in an affecting vignette.

Others in the cast who take their turn on stage, with varying degrees of success, include Rae Stassi, Jan Niehoff, Elizabeth Rajchart, Taleesha Caturah, Charity Faith Hope, Marie Kelly, L\u2019Oreal Stevenson, Bre Love and Ashley Netzhammer.

Brittanie Gunn provides the lighting, while interpreters Michelle Henley, Loretto Freeman, Tera Briggs and Chris Cook Phelps sign for the hearing-impaired from beyond stage right.

Additional performances of To the New Girl are scheduled February 10, 11 and 12 at Tesseract\u2019s new home, the .ZACK Arts Incubator, 3224 Locust Street.

Play: To the New Girl

Group: Tesseract Theatre

Venue: .ZACK Arts Incubator, 3224 Locust Street

Dates: February 10, 11, 12

Tickets: $10-$17; contact metrotix.com or 534-1111

Rating: A 2.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.

Photos courtesy of Taylor Gruenloh

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Story: It\u2019s Christmas Eve 1879 and Nora Helmer is giddy with delight about the numerous gifts she has bought for her family as Christmas Day approaches. She\u2019s more than happy to show her husband Torvald some of the presents. He looks on amusedly as his \u201clittle fritter bird\u201d talks about what she\u2019s been able to purchase for their sons, him and herself thanks to the money he has given her.

Torvald refers to Nora as his \u201cprized possession\u201d and his \u201clittle singing bird,\u201d a curio piece of sorts he enjoys showing off in elite company. With his impending promotion to the position of bank manager, Torvald anticipates living the good life for quite a while.

What he doesn\u2019t know is that years earlier Nora had forged a signature in order to acquire enough money to take Torval to Italy, where he recovered from a serious respiratory condition. She tells her friend Kristine Linde, a widow who\u2019s newly arrived back in town seeking employment, that she saved Torvald\u2019s life but no one else must ever know her criminal secret.

Upon hearing news of Torvald\u2019s upcoming position, a lowly bank employee named Nils Krogstad appears at the Helmer home. He\u2019s had his own troubles with the law and is desperate to hold on to his menial job to support his family. He knows, however, what Nora has done and threatens to blackmail her if Torvald follows through on his intention to dismiss lowly regarded Krogstad.

When Torvald hears about Kristine\u2019s predicament, he says that she\u2019s arrived at a fortuitous time as a position has recently opened. He\u2019s not so generous with Krogstad, though, something with which his good friend Dr. Rank is in agreement. Knowing that Krogstad intends to blackmail her, Nora is frantic to keep her husband from learning the truth. What she doesn\u2019t know is how Torvald will react to her news and what he really thinks of his own wife.

Highlights: A Doll\u2019s House, with perhaps the most \u201cscandalous\u201d climax in 19th century drama, has been a staple for companies to perform since its premiere 138 years ago. Stray Dog Theatre\u2019s current presentation is a richly textured and faithful rendition to the spirit of Ibsen\u2019s classic work, bolstered with finely etched characterizations by an ensemble of players who benefit from artistic director Gary Bell\u2019s meticulous and carefully measured direction.

Other Info: Bell and his cast work from an adaptation by Irish writer Frank McGuinness, who retains Ibsen\u2019s incisive observations through the telling dialogue of his characters. Ibsen himself said that his milestone drama was not a feminist manifesto but rather an observation about the need of all people to express themselves freely in their pursuit of personal fulfillment.

The Stray Dog interpretation takes place on a set cleverly designed by Robert Lippert, a thorough description of which can be found in the program notes along with a comment about Eileen Engel\u2019s costumes. The set alludes to the work\u2019s title as well as fills the stage with elegant furniture of the era, while Engel\u2019s costumes handsomely adorn the characters with the subtle exception of Krogstad, whose hard life is epitomized in his well worn clothes.

Tyler Duenow\u2019s lighting emphasizes the dark nature of the story that also is accentuated in the sonorous sound design offered by Justin Been.

Nicole Angeli paints a telling portrait in her portrayal of Nora, one that subtly evolves in the course of the three-act, two-and-a-half-hour drama. At first she is giddy with delight at the \u201capproval\u201d of her husband over how she manages to procure so much merchandise with the allowance he gives her. Angeli\u2019s face is somewhat empty, a Barbie-doll countenance that reflects her \u201ckept\u201d state until the worldly, lonely Kristine remarks that her friend is much \u201clike a child.\u201d

Angeli has continued to improve her acting skills in recent years by taking on a variety of challenging roles. Nora offers a wondrous example of how she precisely calibrates her performance to shape her character\u2019s perceptibly changing persona in the course of the play.

The pinnacle of that transformation takes place in the production\u2019s overly long finale, which shines a spotlight on Angeli\u2019s finely crafted interpretation before tedium slowly encompasses the finale. A less overwrought approach to the ending by director Bell and his team could improve that minor glitch.

Ben Ritchie hones his portrayal of Torvald, a man oblivious to any depth in his \u201cprized possession\u201d of a wife, by showing an audience how Torvald keeps himself first and foremost in his own thoughts at all times. Ritchie is subtle enough to demonstrate Torvald\u2019s conviction that he actually does love his wife albeit expressing that emotion in the abusive, accepted style of the times.

Bell elicits excellent performances from his fine ensemble as well. Rachel Hanks shines as the weary Kristine, who craves a job to help define her individuality as well as escape the loneliness that suffocates her. She shares a wonderfully poignant scene with Stephen Peirick, who etches an affecting portrait of Krostad, giving him more humanity than the villainous role often achieves.

John Reidy makes Dr. Rank a compellingly compassionate character in his own right, conveying the physician\u2019s aching love in quietly understated fashion. Melanie Kozak and Tina Renard do well as the Helmers\u2019 dutiful maid and observant nanny, respectively, as do Simon Desilets and Joe Webb as the Helmers\u2019 two young sons.

By 21st century standards, A Doll\u2019s House can seem unintentionally humorous. That\u2019s why it\u2019s crucial to understand just how revolutionary Ibsen\u2019s writing was two centuries ago as he dramatically depicted the impact emotional and social suppression can have on those relegated to the back rooms of society.

Stray Dog\u2019s version pays fitting homage to the spirit of Ibsen\u2019s penetrating and prescient observation of the human condition, still stinging after all these years.

Play: A Doll\u2019s House

Company: Stray Dog Theatre

Venue: Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee Avenue

Dates: February 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18

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

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

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\u2018GREY GARDENS,\u2019 \u2018FOLLIES\u2019 TOP NOMINATIONS FOR FIFTH

ANNUAL ST. LOUIS THEATER CIRCLE AWARDS CEREMONY

Awards Ceremony Will Be Held March 20 at Viragh Center for the Arts at Chaminade

ST. LOUIS, January 27, 2017 -- Max & Louie Productions\u2019 presentation of Grey Gardens and The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis\u2019 production of Follies, which kicked off The Rep\u2019s 50th anniversary season, with 11 and 10 nominations, respectively, lead a glittering array of talent nominated for the fifth annual St. Louis Theater Circle Awards. The awards honor outstanding achievement in locally produced professional theater for the calendar year 2016.

This year\u2019s ceremony will be held on Monday, March 20 at the Skip Viragh Center for the Arts on the campus of Chaminade College Preparatory School, 425 South Lindbergh Blvd. Tickets are $15 apiece and can be obtained by contacting Brown Paper Tickets at www.brownpapertickets.com or at the Viragh Center box office on the night of the event.

The awards event will include two new categories devoted exclusively to opera productions created by local professional opera companies. Nominees from Opera Theatre Saint Louis, Union Avenue Opera and Winter Opera St. Louis are among the contenders.

The 2017 presentation will feature nominees from six companies being represented for the first time in consideration of St. Louis Theater Circle Awards. Those companies are ACT INC, Equally Represented Arts, Winter Opera St. Louis, Young Liars, the Tennessee Williams Festival and Variety Children\u2019s Theatre.

Top contenders for awards besides Grey Gardens and Follies include The Drowsy Chaperone at Stages St. Louis, 42nd Street at The Muny and A Midsummer Night\u2019s Dream at Shakespeare Festival St. Louis. The Rep leads all companies with 24 nominations, followed by 12 nominations for St. Louis Shakespeare. Max & Louie Productions, Stages St. Louis, Stray Dog Theatre and The Muny each had 11 nominations, while Shakespeare Festival St. Louis garnered 10 nominations.

In all, 27 local companies received nominations in 33 categories for comedy, drama, musical and opera. There are 119 individuals up for awards, led by local actor Will Bonfiglio, who is nominated in a record four different categories.

With Love Caterin again will cater the event, offering pre-ordered food as well as drinks will be available on a cash basis. Tickets for the pre-ceremony buffet must be reserved and paid for in advance. Menu description and buffet tickets can be obtained at 314-637-7907 or www.withlovecatering.com.

The mission of the St. Louis Theater Circle is simple: To honor 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.

Nominations for the St. Louis Theater Circle Awards are divided into categories for musicals, dramas, comedies and opera. More than 120 local professional theatrical productions were presented in the St. Louis area in 2016.

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

Outstanding Ensemble in a Comedy

As You Like It, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

The Dispute: A Spectacle for Lovers and Fighters, Young Liars

The Heir Apparent, St. Louis Shakespeare

A Midsummer Night\u2019s Dream, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Remember Me, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy

Katie Donnelly, As You Like It, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

Rachel Hanks, As You Like It, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

Shannon Nara, Five Women Wearing the Same Dress, Stray Dog Theatre

Nancy Nigh, boom, R-S Theatrics

Margeau Steinau, The Heir Apparent, St. Louis Shakespeare

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy

Will Bonfiglio, As You Like It, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

Isaiah DiLorenzo, The Heir Apparent, St. Louis Shakespeare

Evan Fornachon, Brighton Beach Memoirs, ACT INC

Stephen Pilkington, A Midsummer Night\u2019s Dream, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Shane Signorino, The Heir Apparent, St. Louis Shakespeare

Outstanding Actress in a Comedy

Nancy Anderson, A Midsummer Night\u2019s Dream, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Cara Barresi, As You Like It, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

Lindsay Gingrich, Five Women Wearing the Same Dress, Stray Dog Theatre

Elizabeth Van Pelt, boom, R-S Theatrics

Maggie Wininger, Educating Rita, West End Players Guild

Outstanding Actor in a Comedy

Will Bonfiglio, Buyer & Cellar, Stray Dog Theatre

Joe Hanrahan, Thom Pain (based on nothing), Midnight Company

Tom Kopp, Educating Rita, West End Players Guild

Andrew Kuhlman, boom, R-S Theatrics

Zac O\u2019Keefe, Brighton Beach Memoirs, ACT INC

Outstanding Director of a Comedy

Gary F. Bell, Buyer & Cellar, Stray Dog Theatre

Rick Dildine, A Midsummer Night\u2019s Dream, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Chuck Harper, The Dispute: A Spectacle for Lovers and Fighters, Young Liars

Donna Northcott, The Heir Apparent, St. Louis Shakespeare

Ellie Schwetye, As You Like It, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

Outstanding Production of a Comedy

As You Like It, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

Buyer & Cellar, Stray Dog Theatre

The Dispute: A Spectacle for Lovers and Fighters, Young Liars

The Heir Apparent, St. Louis Shakespeare

A Midsummer Night\u2019s Dream, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Ensemble in a Drama

Arcadia, West End Players Guild

Manifest/Destiny, West End Players Guild

Miss Julie, Clarissa and John, The Black Rep

The St. Louis Rooming House Plays, Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis

Trash Macbeth, Equally Represented Arts

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama

Kirsten De Broux, Kindertransport, Mustard Seed Theatre

Sydney Frasure, The Glass Menagerie, Upstream Theater

Anita Jackson, The St. Louis Rooming House Plays, Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis

Alicia Reve Like, Miss Julie, Clarissa and John, The Black Rep

Kristin Rion, Arcadia, West End Players Guild

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama

Will Bonfiglio, Old Wicked Songs, New Jewish Theatre

Jason Contini, The Glass Menagerie, Upstream Theater

Leo Ramsey, American Buffalo, St. Louis Actors\u2019 Studio

B. Weller, Ivanov, St. Louis Actors\u2019 Studio

Eric Dean White, Driving Miss Daisy, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Actress in a Drama

Lavonne Byers, Golda\u2019s Balcony, New Jewish Theatre

Michelle Hand, Macbeth, St. Louis Shakespeare

Linda Kennedy, The Glass Menagerie, Upstream Theater

Dael Orlandersmith, Until the Flood, The Rep

Rachel Tibbetts, Cuddles, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

Outstanding Actor in a Drama

Charlie Barron, Richard III, St. Louis Shakespeare

J. Samuel Davis, Driving Miss Daisy, New Jewish Theatre

John Pasha, Disgraced, The Rep

Michael James Reed, I\u2019m Gonna Pray for You So Hard, Blue Rose Stage Collective

Kelvin Roston, Jr., Twisted Melodies, The Black Rep

Outstanding Director of a Drama

Lucy Cashion, Trash Macbeth, Equally Represented Arts

John Contini, American Buffalo, St. Louis Actors\u2019 Studio

Joe Hanrahan, Cuddles, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

Tim Ocel, Old Wicked Songs, New Jewish Theatre

Wayne Salomon, Three Tall Women, St. Louis Actors\u2019 Studio

Outstanding Production of a Drama

American Buffalo, St. Louis Actors\u2019 Studio

Disgraced, The Rep

The Glass Menagerie, Upstream Theater

Old Wicked Songs, New Jewish Theatre

Trash Macbeth, Equally Represented Arts

Outstanding Set Design in a Play

Kristin Cassidy, Burrow, Young Liars

Kristin Cassidy, Wilson Webel & Lucy Cashion, Trash Macbeth, Equally Represented Arts

Christie Johnston, American Buffalo, St. Louis Actors\u2019 Studio

Robert Mark Morgan, A Christmas Carol, The Rep

Peter and Margery Spack, Golda\u2019s Balcony, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Costume Design in a Play

Dorothy Marshall Englis, A Christmas Carol, The Rep

Dorothy Marshall Englis, A Midsummer Night\u2019s Dream, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Jennifer \u201cJC\u201d Krajicek, Macbeth, St. Louis Shakespeare

Meredith LaBounty, Trash Macbeth, Equally Represented Arts

Michele Friedman Siler, The Heir Apparent, St. Louis Shakespeare

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Play

Rob Denton, A Christmas Carol, The Rep

Patrick Huber, Ivanov, St. Louis Actors\u2019 Studio

Kathy Perkins, Miss Julie, Clarissa and John, The Black Rep

Nathan Schroeder, Macbeth, St. Louis Shakepeare

John Wylie, A Midsummer Night\u2019s Dream, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Sound Design in a Play

Ted Drury, Macbeth, St. Louis Shakespeare

Tom Mardikes, Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Swing, The Rep

Rick Sims, Twisted Melodies, The Black Rep

Rusty Wandall, A Christmas Carol, The Rep

Rusty Wandall, A Midsummer Night\u2019s Dream, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Set Design in a Musical

Luke Cantarella, Follies, The Rep

Dunsi Dai, Grey Gardens, Max & Louie Productions

Robert Mark Morgan, The Wizard of Oz, The Muny

Scott C. Neale, Georama, The Rep

Peter and Margery Spack, Yentl, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Costume Design in a Musical

Amy Clark, Follies, The Rep

Jennifer \u201cJC\u201d Krajicek, Grey Gardens, Max & Louie Productions

Andrea Lauer, 42nd Street, The Muny

Brad Musgrove, The Drowsy Chaperone, Stages St. Louis

Margaret E. Weedon, Georama, The Rep

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Musical

Rob Denton, 42nd Street, The Muny

Tyler Duenow, Richard O\u2019Brien\u2019s Rocky Horror Show, Stray Dog Theatre

John Lasiter, Follies, The Rep

Sean M. Savoie, The Drowsy Chaperone, Stages St. Louis

Michael Sullivan, Grey Gardens, Max & Louie Productions

Outstanding Musical Director

Sue Goldford, American Idiot, New Line Theatre

Brad Haak, Fiddler on the Roof, The Muny

Brad Haak, Follies, The Rep

Neal Richardson, Grey Gardens, Max & Louie Productions

Ben Whiteley, 42nd Street, The Muny

Outstanding Choreographer

Stephen Bourneuf, Sister Act, Stages St. Louis

Denis Jones, 42nd Street, The Muny

Dana Lewis, The Drowsy Chaperone, Stages St. Louis

Ralph Perkins, Follies, The Rep

Lara Teeter, Disney\u2019s Beauty & the Beast, Variety Children\u2019s Theatre

Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical

42nd Street, The Muny

The Drowsy Chaperone, Stages St. Louis

Follies, The Rep

Grey Gardens, Max & Louie Productions

Sister Act, Stages St. Louis

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical

Taylor Louderman, Aida, The Muny

Laurie McConnell, Company, Insight Theatre Company

Corinne Melancon, The Drowsy Chaperone, Stages St. Louis

Anna Skidis Vargas, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Stray Dog Theatre

Donna Weinsting, Grey Gardens, Max & Louie Productions

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical

Will Bonfiglio, Grey Gardens, Max & Louie Productions

Zachary Allen Farmer, Celebration, New Line Theatre

Edward Juvier, The Drowsy Chaperone, Stages St. Louis

Terry Meddows, Grey Gardens, Max & Louie Productions

Luke Steingruby, Richard O\u2019Brien\u2019s Rocky Horror Show, Stray Dog Theatre

Outstanding Actress in a Musical

Shanara Gabrielle, Yentl, New Jewish Theatre

Debby Lennon, Grey Gardens, Max & Louie Productions

Sarah Porter, Tell Me on a Sunday, New Line Theatre

Jonalyn Saxer, 42nd Street, The Muny

Emily Skinner, Follies, The Rep

Outstanding Actor in a Musical

Michael Baird, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Stray Dog Theatre

Zachary Allen Farmer, Atomic, New Line Theatre

Corey Fraine, Bat Boy: The Musical, Stray Dog Theatre

Adam Heller, Follies, The Rep

David Schmittou, The Drowsy Chaperone, Stages St. Louis

Outstanding Director of a Musical

Justin Been, Bat Boy: The Musical, Stray Dog Theatre

Michael Hamilton, The Drowsy Chaperone, Stages St. Louis

Denis Jones, 42nd Street, The Muny

Annamaria Pileggi, Grey Gardens, Max & Louie Productions

Rob Ruggiero, Follies, The Rep

Outstanding Production of a Musical

42nd Street, The Muny

The Drowsy Chaperone, Stages St. Louis

Follies, The Rep

Georama, The Rep

Grey Gardens, Max & Louie Productions

Outstanding New Play

Nancy Bell, Remember Me, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

West Hyler, Matt Schatz & Jack Herrick, Georama, The Rep

Dael Orlandersmith, Until the Flood, The Rep

Tammy Ryan, Molly\u2019s Hammer, The Rep

Maya Arad Yasur, Suspended, Upstream Theater

Outstanding Achievement in Opera

Christine Brewer, Doubt, Union Avenue Opera

Andriana Chuchman, Shalimar the Clown, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

Stephen Lord, Macbeth, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

Neil Nelson, Tosca, Union Avenue Opera

Melody Wilson, Doubt, Union Avenue Opera

Outstanding Production of an Opera

Ariadne on Naxos, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

Doubt, Union Avenue Opera

Macbeth, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

The Merry Widow, Winter Opera Saint Louis

Shalimar the Clown, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

Members of the St. Louis Theater Circle include Steve Allen, stagedoorstl.com; Mark Bretz, Ladue News; Bob Cohn, St. Louis Jewish Light; Tina Farmer, KDHX; Chris Gibson, Broadwayworld.com; Harry Hamm, KMOX; Michelle Kenyon, snoopstheatrethoughts.com; Gerry Kowarsky, Two on the Aisle (HEC-TV); Chuck Lavazzi, KDHX; Judith Newmark, St. Louis Post-Dispatch; Ann Lemons Pollack, stlouiseats.typepadcom; Lynn Venhaus, Belleville News-Democrat; and Bob Wilcox, Two on the Aisle (HEC-TV). Eleanor Mullin, local actress and arts supporter, is the group\u2019s administrator.

For more information, contact stltheatercircle@sbcglobal.net or \u2018like\u2019 The St. Louis Theater Circle on Facebook.

###

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Story: Sam has a good job working in the financial sector, but he\u2019s very careful about his situation. That\u2019s because \u2018Sam\u2019 isn\u2019t the name given to him by his Iraqi father Ali and Puerto Rican mother Sara, who are both devout Muslims, unlike their more secular son, Abdul Sami. While Sam isn\u2019t ashamed of his heritage, he believes that some people would look at him differently if they knew his background.

He even married a Caucasian American woman, but that didn\u2019t work out and now he\u2019s divorced. As is the custom in the old country, Sam\u2019s father consults with his local cleric, Imam Rafi, to find a suitable mate for his son. Sara is skeptical to a point, knowing how Sam\u2019s first marriage went south, but she also yearns for him to have a wife.

Imam Rafi arranges a meeting for Ali, Sara and Sam with a widowed Iraqi immigrant named Musa and his daughter, Yasmina. Musa is a learned man who had been a dentist in his native land but now makes a living as a taxi driver in America. Yasmina is fiercely independent with her own strong views and bristles at the notion of this thinly veiled \u2018set-up,\u2019 but agrees to do so for her father\u2019s sake.

After some awkward small talk among the imam and their parents, Sam and Yasmina are left alone in her living room. Sam notices a series of paintings that he admires and learns that Yasmina is the artist. He also observes a necklace she wears, but she is elusive when he asks her about it. For her part, Yasmina is annoyed that Sam has changed his name to escape his heritage.

When Sam tells Yasmina he\u2019ll get her the name of an attorney who might help her with incorporating a not-for-profit organization for which she volunteers, it gives him an excuse to see her again and try to get their relationship moving in a better direction. Yasmina eventually finds that she is attracted to Sam, but she harbors a troublesome secret from her past that haunts any elusive happiness. Can Yasmina and Sam find a future together?

Highlights: A luminescent performance by Parvuna Sulaiman in the title role propels this socially relevant if predictable tale by playwright Rohina Malik. Mustard Seed Theatre\u2019s production follows on the heels of the play\u2019s sold-out and extended world premiere last year in Chicago.

Other Info: Mustard Seed\u2019s web site states that the troupe\u2019s mission and vision are \u201ccommitted to high-quality productions exploring issues of faith and social justice and creating a safe arena for civil dialogue on difficult issues.\u201d For 10 years, no company in the St. Louis area, and perhaps in the entire country, has more consistently championed the causes of sundry and diverse cultures as effectively as artistic director Deanna Jent and her colleagues.

As one would expect, the caliber of those presentations has ranged from so-so to superior. Yasmina\u2019s Necklace falls somewhere in the middle of that spectrum, succeeding more as a social awareness message than as highest-caliber literature. That\u2019s primarily because often Yasmina\u2019s Necklace looks and sounds like the pilot for an ABC-TV sitcom that the network could run between Modern Family and The Real O\u2019Neals.

The two-act play has been referred to as a romantic comedy and it\u2019s easy to understand why. The first half is filled with an abundance of hearty laughs, as the loving but overbearing parents of Sam and Yasmina sound like many other American families portrayed on TV. They are exactly that, of course, as American as anyone else in this nation built by immigrants, a point made subtly by Malik.

There\u2019s a much darker side to the script, however, in the secret behind the jewelry in the play\u2019s title. So much so that\u2019s it\u2019s difficult to accurately give an easily defined definition to the scope of Malik\u2019s script. Her dialogue ranges from the corny and predictable to the serious and harrowing, but never is devoid of hope and optimism even in the most perilous of scenes, a strength that serves Yasmina\u2019s Necklace well.

Kyra Bishop\u2019s well-conceived set design delineates key differences in the homes of the two families. The living room of Ali and Sara at stage left is filled with sleek, modern furniture and a distinctly middle-class look, while Musa\u2019s abode adjoining it at stage right is more modestly decorated. The latter is highlighted by several stark, troubling paintings that hearken to Yasmina\u2019s nightmares.

Zoe Sullivan\u2019s sound design alludes to the characters\u2019 rich Middle Eastern heritage, and Jane Sullivan\u2019s costumes emphasize the women\u2019s modest attire respectful of their Islamic faith while the men sport a more casual look. Michael Sullivan\u2019s lighting is most effective accentuating Yasmina\u2019s memory scenes, while Meg Brinkley\u2019s props complement Bishop\u2019s design.

Jent keeps the presentation moving at a well-modulated pace, although Malik\u2019s script can veer into melodrama at times. There\u2019s an additional problem with some of the casting. Chuck Winning as Ali, e.g., looks nowhere near old enough to be playing the father of Adam Flores\u2019 character Sam.

The strength in Mustard Seed\u2019s interpretation is Sulaiman\u2019s powerful and affecting performance in the title role. She delivers her comic lines with a dry, amusing touch. She truly shines, however, in more dramatic scenes with Flores and with Ethan Joel Isaac as Amir, Yasmina's childhood friend who became a physician committed to helping his people. Sulaiman must carry the burden of the play\u2019s integral moments and she does so with convincing ballast.

Flores is a steady complement to Sulaiman\u2019s perceptive Yasmina as the laid-back Sam. He moves assuredly from the sillier comic scenes with Sam\u2019s parents to the more sophisticated dialogue with Yasmina, while sharing an easy chemistry with Sulaiman.

The supporting cast delivers fine performances by Amro Salama as the well-meaning Musa, and Winning and Maritza Motta Gonzalez as Sam\u2019s loving albeit meddling parents Ali and Sara. Jamie Zayas is amusing as the matchmaking Imam Rafi and Isaac does well as the dutiful Amir in flashback scenes with Yasmina in their war-torn nation.

Yasmina\u2019s Necklace may try to do too much within the two acts and two hours of its script. It offers, though, an important reminder in these troubled times of how similar all people truly are in their hearts.

Play: Yasmina\u2019s Necklace

Company: Mustard Seed Theatre

Venue: Fontbonne Fine Arts Theatre, Big Bend at Wydown

Dates: February 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, 10, 11, 12

Tickets: $30-$35 (or Pay with a Can/Pay What You Can on Thursdays); contact www.mustardseedtheatre.com or 719-8060

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

Photos courtesy of John Lamb

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