Mary Poppins

        Remember when theater in St. Louis took a sleepy hiatus before The Rep kicked off its  new season in September?  Apart from The Muny, culture from May through August was derived mainly from a good book or a trip to the museum.

    Well, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Stages, Act Inc. and a number of other professional companies have changed the landscape considerably. By my estimate, there are more than 40 professional productions scheduled to hit local stages between now and early September, when the ‘official’ theater season gets underway. Those Kevin Kline Awards really do generate buzz, don’t they?

    Listed below are a number of productions scheduled to play in the next few months.  Enjoy as many as you can!

At Opera Theatre of Saint Louis:

    Giacomo Puccini’s passionate love story, La boheme, returns to the Mainstage in the Loretto-Hilton Center at Webster University for the first time since 2002. It opens the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis season on May 23, rotating in repertory through June 27. Leading the cast are OTSL favorites Alyson Cambridge as Mimi, Amanda Majeski as Musetta, Timothy Mix as Marcello and newcomer Derek Taylor as the poet Rodolfo.

    Kelly Kaduce returns to the OTSL stage on May 30 for the title role in Richard Strauss’ Salome.  Based on the play by Oscar Wilde, Salome includes the Dance of the Seven Veils and other timeless music. Joining Kaduce in repertory performances through June 28 are Michael Hayes and Maria Zifchak.

    Mozart was just 19 when he wrote Il Re Pastore (The Shepherd King), about Alexander the Great’s attempt to restore a humble shepherd to his rightful throne, not taking into account the shepherd’s love for a shepherdess. The production debuts June 7 and runs in repertory through June 26, with newcomer Heidi Stober joining veteran OTSL performers Alek Shrader and Maureen McKay.

        Completing OTSL’s season is The Ghosts of Versailles, a new performing version of the 1991 work by John Corigliano that is co-produced by the Vancouver Opera and Ireland’s Wexford Festival Opera.  Maria Kanyova and James Weston are the stars and OTSL artistic director James Robinson stages this new edition of the story about Marie Antoinette, first produced by OTSL’s late artistic director, Colin Graham, at The Met in 1991.

At The Fox:

    The latter-day version of La boheme, the Broadway smash musical Rent, returns to The Fox for a six-day run June 2-7.

    And for something completely different, the touring production of the Broadway version of Walt Disney’s classic 1964 film, Mary Poppins, flies into The Fox for three supercalifragilisticexpialodocious weeks Aug. 13 through 30. The Cameron Mackintosh-Disney production is still among the top-grossing shows on Broadway in its third year of performances.

At Stages:

    Stages St. Louis opens its 23rd season May 29 with Seymour and his flesh-eating plant, Audrey II, in the campy musical, Little Shop of Horrors, the spawn of a goofy Roger Corman 1960s horror flick and one of the longest-running shows in Off-Broadway history. It runs through June 28.

    From July 17 through Aug. 16, Stages presents the regional premiere of the recent Tony Award-winning Broadway smash, The Drowsy Chaperone, with that unforgettable character, Man in Chair, who puts his beloved LP of a 1928 show called The Drowsy Chaperone on his turntable and finds himself in the center of all the Flapper action, more or less.

    Guys and Dolls returns to the Stages scene for the first time since 1995, playing Sept. 4 through Oct. 4. The production brings the colorful stories of Damon Runyon to musical life with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser.

    Stages’ children’s theater offering Aug. 5 to 16 will be the Lewis Carroll classic, Alice in Wonderland, replete with a Mad Hatter, March Hare, Cheshire Cat, White Rabbit and the little girl who tries to make sense of them all.

    That’s just for starters. If you’d like, try to check these productions out as well:

•  The Muny, 42nd Street, June 15-21; Annie, June 22-30; Meet Me in St. Louis, July 6-12; , Godspell, July 13-19; The Music Man, July 20-26; Camelot, July 27-August 2; Hairspray, August 3-9

•  Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, The Merry Wives of Windsor, free production in Forest Park May 20-June 14

•  St. Louis Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice July 17-26 and Twelfth Night August 7-16 at the Grandel Square Theatre

•  St. Louis Black Repertory Company, Blues in the Night, May 27-June 28 at the Grandel Square Theatre

•  New Jewish Theatre, The Last Five Years, May 27-June 14 at Clayton High School

•  Vanity Theatre and Dramatic License Productions, Doubt, July 30-Aug. 15 at Fontbonne University

•  Act Inc., Waiting in the Wings and Heroes in rotating repertory June 19 through July 12 at Fontbonne

•  Muddy Waters Theatre, Edward Albee’s The Lady from Dubuque, June 12-28 at the Kranzberg Theatre

•  Stray Dog Theatre, Everything in the Garden, also by Albee, June 4-20 at the Tower Grove Abbey

•  New Line Theatre, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, July 16-Aug. 8 at Washington University South campus

•  St. Louis Actors’ Studio, Martha Mitchell Calling, May 15-31 at Gaslight Square Theater; The Orange Girls, Collected Stories, July 16-August 2 at COCA

•  Avalon Theatre, Barrymore, June 25-July 12 at the ArtSpace in Crestwood Court

•  Echo Theatre, Nerve, June 5-21 at the ArtSpace in Crestwood Court

•  HotCity Theatre, New Play Festival, June 26-28 at the Kranzberg

•  First Run Theatre, The Playing Ground May 22-31, Short Play Festival June 19-28; You Know I Can’t Eat Buffalo Meat July 24-August 2 at DeSmet High School

•  Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble, Macbeth, at area parks all through July

•  Gitana Productions, Faces of Love from Afghanistan, May 22-June 7 at Saint Louis University.