Donna Parrone has been involved with St Louis theater since moving here in the 1980's. She is one of the founders of HotHouse Theatre (now HotCity) and has been an actor, a producer, a director and an educator.
Elf, the stage musical based on the movie with Will Ferrell, opened at the Fox Theatre on Tuesday. Before we go any further I have to make a confession, I never saw the movie. Unlike the girl sitting next to me, I can’t tell you the movie is funnier. But here is what I can tell you.
When entering the theater at The New Jewish Theatre’s current production of Hannah Senesh, you are immediately engaged with the set, a graceful, ethereal concoction by Peter and Margery Spack, which seems at odds with a tale of death and war but very appropriate once we meet our young heroine, Hannah, played with buoyant appeal by Shanara Gabrielle. Hannah’s tale is told through her diary, which she kept from age 13 to 23, ending right before the Gestapo executed her for treason.
If you are looking for some toe-tapping entertainment this Thanksgiving, Sister Act, which opened Tuesday at the Fabulous Fox, is everything a musical should be. From the electric, shiny audition number at the top of the show, to the glitterfest at the end, Sister Act is tons of fun, shiny, sparkly fun!
At the beginning of Pippin, the Leading Player speaks to the audience and tells them “We have magic to do.” It’s what you hope for every time you see theater. It’s what keeps us acting, directing, designing, dancing and attending, the hope that tonight all the elements will come together and enthrall us, creating a bit of magic in an ordinary world. Last week, the Repertory Theatre of St Louis gave us some magic as they opened Fly, written by Trey Ellis and Ricardo Khan.
New Jewish Theatre opens their 17th season with Neil Simon’s The Good Doctor. More of a sketch comedy piece than a true play, the small vignettes of Anton Chekov’s short stories, represent slices of Russian life at the turn of the last century and are quilted together by a narrator, a writer who is auditioning some of his characters for us. David Wassilak plays the narrator and involves himself in several of the stories (either as the narrator character or as a specific character, it’s a bit unclear.)
I know everyone is probably making the same pun, but Stages St Louis’ closing show of their season, My Fair Lady is, without any doubts, absolutely “loverly.” The moment you enter the theater James Wolk’s set draws you in and sets you down in a London market street circa 1910. Costumes by Dorothy Marshall Englis are exquisite thorough-out, but the opening sets the tone so you are holding your breath to see what Eliza wears at her transformation.
Last year, Ron Conner led Black Rep casts in four out of five productions, and from the first, became one of my favorite actors to watch. This year he leads the Black Rep away from its twenty-six year home at the Grandel Theater to the A.E. Hotchner Studio Theater on the campus of Washington University and opens the new season with a sizzling one man show, Emergency. (The Black Rep was recently unceremoniously dumped from their long-time home. Hotchner will not be a permanent space for them, but was the perfect space for this particular show.)
If you like your comedy dark and twisted, irreverent and absolutely “for adults only,” you’ve probably been a fan of HotCity Theatre for ages; and their latest offering, Entertaining Mr. Sloane by Joe Orton, shouldn’t be missed. First, it’s a rare chance to see Orton’s first play, written in 1964. While no longer scandalous, it’s a great touchstone to see how far we have evolved. Second, it has some of the strongest technical elements I’ve seen to date in the Kranzberg Art Center’s black box theater. Third, the pre-eminent comic actor in town, Lavonne Byers, leads the able cast.
Summertime is in full swing and that means musicals! Stages St Louis and the MUN Y both do musicals all summer long, giving St Louis audiences tapping toes and entertaining ear worms. Last week, Stages opened their newest offering, Legally Blonde, the 2007 stage play based on a novel by Amanda Brown and the wildly popular movie starring Reese Witherspoon.
Little Shop of Horrors dwells on a short list of musicals that I really love and the Stray Dog production, which opened at Tower Grove Abbey last weekend, is a great example of why. If done well, Little Shop… cannot fail to please. This particular production, under keen and polished direction by Justin Been, succeeds gloriously. It is given a Stray Dog twist, in the guise of some alternative casting, which serves to enhance the tawdry setting of Skid Row.