Stages St. Louis

The Rep, The Muny, Stages St. Louis

Stages St. Louis hopes its current production of “Sister Act” will do what the Whoopi Goldberg character in the movie did for her Catholic convent choir: Shake it up — at least where its audiences are concerned.

The theater company’s patrons are not very diverse. Executive Producer Jack Lane, describes the Stages St. Louis audience this way: “suburban, white.”

Attracting more theater-goers of color, while addressing important social-justice concerns on the front burner in St. Louis right now, is important to St. Louis’ larger theater companies, which include the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, The Muny and Stages. Adding more minority patrons could help with the perennial issue of aging subscribers and donors. But it’s also a way to stay relevant at a time when St. Louis is more riveted than ever on race.

From left: Jeff Sears (Brian Howard), Kari Ely (Georgette Howard), Edward Juvier (Albert), Zoe Vonder Haar (Judy Steinberg), and Stacie Bono (Rebecca Steinberg) in STAGES’ 2016 production of "It Shoulda Been You."
Peter Wochniak ProPhotoStl.com

Picture the “perfect” wedding day: the sun is shining, no one spills anything on dresses or tuxedos, and there is no family discord about who is walking who down the aisle.

ProPhoto STL

The story is a familiar one: Jerry, Dave, Harold, Ethan, Malcolm and “Horse” are unemployed steelworkers in dire need of some extra cash. To make ends meet, they enter the…male entertainment business.

Maybe it’s not so familiar. But in musical theatre, the steelworkers’ story presented in “The Full Monty” is a fan favorite. First made as a film in 1997, “The Full Monty” became a musical just three years later and quickly broke box office records. It won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2001 and ran for 770 performances.

Actor Ben Nordstrom
Durrie Bouscaren

He’s a two-time Kevin Kline Award-winner, and a well-known star of the Muny’s “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story" and numerous Stages St. Louis shows including “How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying.” Plus, he has years of New York and regional experience.

But actor Ben Nordstrom doesn’t hesitate to play second fiddle. Or third. Or a mere chorus guy named “Mike” in the The Muny’s current production of “Oklahoma,” which is also his home state.

Fun Home website

Updated 6/8/2015:  On Sunday night, “Fun Home," which was produced by St. Louis-based Fox Theatricals, took home five Tony awards, including the Tony for best new musical. Nominated for 12 awards in Broadway’s biggest night of the year, the musical also took home awards for best actor in a musical for Michael Cerveris, best score, best book and best director for Sam Gold.

“Fun Home” is based on a graphic memoir by Alison Bechdel.

It’s about a woman who grew up in the family funeral home business, whose father’s death takes her on an emotional but comic journey. The saga includes her own coming out as a lesbian only to find out her father wants to come out, too.

STAGES St. Louis opens its 29th season with its 100th production, the musical revue “Smokey Joe’s Café.” The show features songs from the legendary rock and roll songwriting team, Jerry Lieber and Mike Stroller.

“Smokey Joe’s Café” debuted in November 1994 at the Doolittle Theatre in Los Angeles and quickly became a Broadway staple in 1995 after opening at the Virginia Theatre. The production ran on Broadway for 2,036 performances. It has been nominated for seven Tony Awards and in 1996, the original cast won a Grammy for the “Best Musical Show Album.”

Provided by the Actors Studio

The St. Louis Theater Circle, a group of local theater critics, released its 2015 award nominees on Friday. 

“It was, I think, a terrific year,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch theater critic Judith Newmark told “Cityscape” host Steve Potter on Friday. “It was a year in which we lost one theater — that’s always going to happen. There also are some new people on the horizon. And it was a year in which, I think Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, which is a free event that draws huge crowds, really came into its own with a double production of ‘Henry IV’ and ‘Henry V.’”

Peter Wochniak

St. Louis native Shepherd Mead used his own experiences to write his satirical best-seller “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” His work was then turned into a musical, and Stages St. Louis is bringing it back to St. Louis.

Cast members Heather Ayers, Betsy Dilellio and Ben Nordstrom talked about the musical comedy, in which window washer J. Pierrepont Finch (played by Nordstrom) moves up to vice president of advertising at the World Wide Wicket Co.

Zoe Vonder Haar and Jacqueline Petroccia as Louise Seger and Patsy Cline in Stages' presentation of “Always…Patsy Cline.”
Peter Wochniak | Pro Photo STL

From the minute Patsy Cline’s biggest fan demands “How y’all doin’?” you just know it’s just a matter of time before she’s side-by-side with the singer, doing the swim to “Stupid Cupid.” Watch out, front row and bald-headed men, the spotlight's headed your way too.

Zoe Vonder Haar and Jacqueline Petroccia as Louise Seger and Patsy Cline in Stages' presentation of “Always…Patsy Cline.”
Peter Wochniak | Pro Photo STL

After a highly successful run of “Always … Patsy Cline” in 2013, Stages St. Louis is staging an encore production of the show through August 31 at the Playhouse at Westport Plaza. 

Jacqueline Petroccia stars as country music legend Patsy Cline once more, a role she has played a total of four times. Her performance with Stages St. Louis last year garnered her a St. Louis Broadway World Award for best actress.

(Courtesy of Peter Wochniak)

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.

Eliza Doolittle (Pamela Brumley) and Henry Higgins (Christopher Guilmet)
Provided by Stages

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Last Friday morning at the Kent Center for the Performing Arts, the cast, crew and artistic staff of the upcoming Stages St. Louis production of “My Fair Lady” gradually arrived and readied themselves for a last rehearsal there. After the weekend, the cast moved to the Reim Theater in Kirkwood for final tech and dress rehearsals before the musical opens on Sept. 6.

The Kent Center
Provided by Stages

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: As its 27th season nears its end, Stages founders Jack Lane and Michael Hamilton reflect on how the company evolved from a fledgling theater company that held rehearsals in small rooms at the top floor of the Reim to one that has a full-time staff of 30 (plus 40 part-time instructors) and now is housed in a state-of-the-art, 22,000-foot facility in Chesterfield.

Peter Wochniak

Legally Blonde, The Musical opens tonight at the Robert G. Reim Theatre, continuing Stages St. Louis' 27th season.

Michelle London plays Elle Woods, a southern California girl who decides to "get serious" and follow her college boyfriend to Harvard Law. Ben Nordstrom returned to St. Louis to play Emmett Forrest. They talked with host Steve Potter to discuss the judgments we make based on people's clothes, defying expectations and their roles in the musical.

Legally Blonde, The Musical opens tonight, Friday July 19 and runs through August 18, 2013.

Seven standing ovations later, the St. Louis Beacon got a chance to talk to Jack Lane, the executive producer and co-founder with Michael Hamilton of Stages St. Louis, about Stages' new show, "Promises, Promises." Lane, a native New Yorker and former actor co-founded the nonprofit Stages in 1987. Growing from a budget of $50,000 to a $3.5 million budget now, Stages has blossomed into a mainstay of the local theater scene.