Before the annual stroll around The Galleria in search of holiday gifts both selective and silly, it’s time to contemplate what occurred on local stages in the past 12 months.
Story: At a carnival shooting gallery, the proprietor encourages a motley group of misfits to purchase guns and take aim on their frustrations by assassinating an American president. Historical eras overlap as disgruntled actor John Wilkes Booth commences the violence with the murder of President Abraham Lincoln to avenge the South’s loss in the Civil War.
Story: Two rival teen gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, have an ongoing feud in a turf war fought in New York City’s blue-collar, West Side neighborhood, circa 1957. Tony, former co-leader of the Jets, has dropped out of the European-American gang and is concentrating on his job at Doc’s drug store.
Story: Set “Once Upon a Time, in a Far-Off Kingdom,” a cluster of fairy tale characters profess their hopes and desires as relayed by a genial narrator. There’s Jack, whose mother wants him to sell his beloved but dry cow, Milky White, while she still commands a reasonable price. Cinderella, a lowly maid put upon by her demanding stepmother and imperious stepsisters, dreams of attending the royal ball at the prince’s palace. Little Red Riding Hood is eagerly looking forward to a visit to her grandmother’s house in the woods, while a baker and his wife lament they have no children.
Story: It’s the early 1920s, and Rose is determined to make her mark in show business. Not as an entertainer on the vaudeville circuit exactly, but rather as an impresario who knows what’s best for booking agents and small-time venues in the many cities she visits with her two daughters, Dainty June and Louise. Rose pushes her children to extreme limits in her efforts to make the younger of the two, June, a bona fide star.
While the local theater scene felt less ‘busy’ than the last few years, a couple hundred productions were available to patrons in search of something new—or something familiar and beloved—to entertain them. Of the approximately 135 productions I viewed this year, dozens were splendidly presented. The following list ranks the 11 productions that made the most impact—in one reviewer’s opinion—in this fabulous year:
The year 2012 was tumultuous in many respects, so perhaps fittingly Wicked is the title of the production that brings down the curtain on the last 12 months. A record drought plagued the St. Louis area, temperatures sweltered in an elongated summer and the area’s economy staggered toward a slow but steady recovery. All of this took place in the face of impending doom predicted centuries ago by the Mayan calendar.
Story: Ken Haller, a pediatrician by day and versatile performer at night, has packaged an abundance of nostalgia with a bit of American history and even sociology into 90 minutes of entertainment titled The TV Show! In addition to themes from various TV series, Haller dips as well into original musicals made for TV in the medium’s ‘golden age,’ and even offers up an amusing medley of melodies for TV commercials written by one Barry Manilow “before he was Barry Manilow.”
Story: Benjamin Barker, a 19th century London barber with a beautiful young wife and an infant daughter, is sent to an Australian penal colony on trumped-up charges by the venal Judge Turpin, who lusts after Barker’s wife Lucy. Subsequently, Turpin rapes Lucy, who poisons herself in despair while the judge then adopts her daughter Johanna as his ward. When Barker escapes prison some 15 years later, he is rescued at sea by a young sailor named Anthony Hope, who accompanies him back to London.
In this classic American updating of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, two young lovers risk the anger of their respective peer groups by falling in love on New York City’s West Side, circa 1957.
Story: George, indeed, is in the park throughout this two-act musical. In the first act, we observe 19th century French painter Georges Seurat, a post-Impressionist and father of the technique known as pointillism, working on his towering masterpiece, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, an exhaustive and extraordinary creation that consumed his life from 1884 to 1886. Seurat’s obsession with blending science and art motivated his theory that the human eye would meld disparate dots of hues together on a canvas to create the illusion of customary colors. He called this approach a ‘language’ utilizing perception and optical laws and the use of colors on his palette, all collectively referred to by Seurat as chromoluminarism.
Three couples find themselves united with the common bond of pregnancy, although their reactions differ greatly. Fate draws the three couples together as they experience the highs and lows of pregnancy and all its complications.
Save the date…It’s that time of the year, and we invite you to officially welcome summer with us. Elegant Entertaining Made Easy, LN design editor ALAN E. BRAINERD’s annual daytime soirée at NEIMAN MARCUS, takes place Thursday, June 9, at 10:30 a.m. Learn the art of preparing sophisticated and creative table settings, whether you’re entertaining formally or poolside, and enjoy delicious hors d’oeuvres from BUTLER’S PANTRY. The event will be held at Neiman Marcus Gift Galleries, Level One. There is no admission fee, but reservations are required. Call Jamie Thurston at 994-5022 to reserve your space.
Financial forecasters say that the Great Recession is winding down, with encouraging signs of an improving economy outweighing lingering negative effects such as high unemployment.
Play: “Marry Me a Little”
Opera: “A Little Night Music”
Play: Into the Woods
While 2008 is ending on a recessionary note economically, there’s little doubt that the St. Louis theater scene continues to grow, at least as far as the number of productions is concerned. In reviewing my notes about shows covered this year, I noticed that the number I saw in person, 128, was at least 85 short of the total presentations offered by touring, professional, community and college companies in the area. And that doesn’t count the dozens of performances offered by the burgeoning cabaret crowd.
11/14 CHEVALIER-MAURICE & ME Tony Sandler performs in homage to the widely admired entertainer in the last performance of the Cabaret St. Louis fall season at 8 p.m. at the Sheldon. $40; www.metrotix.com.
11/7 ORNAMENT PARTY Craft Alliance holds a party from 6 to 8 p.m. with complimentary refreshments and ornaments for sale made by local and national artists, including hand-blown glass balls, at their Delmar Loop location, 6640 Delmar Blvd.
Play: The Musical of Musicals…the Musical
How to begin to describe the theater experience in St. Louis in 2007? Certainly the growth in both the quantity and quality of offerings is apparent, with several new theater companies including the St. Louis Actors’ Studio and Mustard Seed Theatre joining more established troupes. The year also marked the opening of several new venues, including Tower Grove Abbey (home of Stray Dog Theatre), Gaslight Theater (home of the St. Louis Actors’ Studio) and Ivory Theater (where New Line Theatre, the NonProphet Theater Company and Hydeware Theatre all reside).