Chris has been active in the local theatre scene for over 30 years. In addition to his acting work, he's also contributed as a director, writer and composer. Though, initially a film buff, he grew tired of the sanitized, PG-13 rated blockbusters that were being continually shoved down his throat by the studios. An opportunity to review theatre in St. Louis has grown exponentially with the sudden explosion of venues and talent in the region. He now finds himself obsessed with witnessing those precious, electric moments that can only happen live, on stage.
BWW Reviews: St. Louis Actors' Studio's Intimate and Engaging Production of KING LEAR
June 19, 2013
Shakespeare's KING LEAR can be interpreted in any number of ways. But, at it's heart, it's the tale of two families that are torn apart when their patriarchs misjudge their own offspring. King Lear turns the division of his kingdom into a test of love among his three daughters, while the Earl of Gloucester carelessly allows a note forged by his bastard son Edmund to destroy his relationship with his other son, Edgar. St. Louis Actors' Studio is presenting a slightly more scaled down and intimate production of this work that focuses our attention keenly on the story, as well as on the fine performers who populate this excellent cast.
BWW Reviews: The Muny Opens Season with Funny Production of SPAMALOT
June 19, 2013
Torrential rains beforehand, a late start, and even technical issues couldn't dampen the enthusiasm of the cast SPAMALOT, which is currently playing The Muny. I brought my young son along to the show since he'd enjoyed the movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, that it's based on, and I'm happy to report that he laughed at the silliness on display repeatedly. I myself have issues with this hodgepodge of scenes cobbled from the cult film, and in fact, it is the additional elements that book writer and Python member Eric Idle included, along with a couple of fresh songs he's written with frequent collaborator John Du Prez, that really stand out to me in this parody/homage. One thing's for sure, a game cast led by John O'Hurley delivered a hilarious presentation under less than ideal conditions this past Monday at the Muny.
BWW Reviews: Stray Dog Theatre's Spellbinding Production of SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION
June 10, 2013
Stray Dog Theatre returns to their roots during their 10th anniversary season by presenting the first play they ever produced; John Guare's SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION. Since this is a play set in 1990, it's particularly interesting to view it through the lens of the information age that we live in today. Guare's work emphasizes the importance of making personal connections with others, and we've definitely overachieved in the sheer volume of connections we have the ability to make these days, we've just managed to make them less personal, which really defeats the purpose. And, that's is why this work is still so vital and engaging.
BWW Reviews: Stages St. Louis Presents Stunning Production of ALWAYS...PATSY CLINE
June 9, 2013
ALWAYS...PATSY CLINE is a wonderful show, brimming with good humor and a great selection of classic country tunes. More than just a tribute show, this musical offering actually has a story to tell to go along with its superb collection of material covered by the iconic singer. But, what really makes this show successful are the performances by the cast and the band, all of whom do absolutely impeccable work. With the entire run sold out, or nearly so, this review is just confirmation of what a lot of you already know; this is exceptional, must-see entertainment produced by Stages St. Louis.
BWW Reviews: New Line Theatre's Hilarious Production of BUKOWSICAL
June 6, 2013
Scatological, unpredictable, and oddly whimsical at times, BUKOWSICAL is not easily defined or categorized, and that's actually part of its appeal to me. Spencer Green (book, lyrics) and Gary Stockdale (book,lyrics and music) have concocted an interesting musical stew, some of which details the life and times of writer Charles Bukowski, and some of which seems to be skewering the entire idea altogether. For instance, the man himself doesn't bring to mind anything remotely resembling a warm and fuzzy character, and yet the music for this piece is incredibly sunny and upbeat. This makes for a fascinating juxtaposition between the lyrical content and the music that accompanies it. In fact, the words are often graphic and vulgar, but, at times, they're also surprisingly erudite and witty. These contradictions alone act to sum up Bukowski's complicated existence and ultimate status as a wordsmith. New Line Theatre's production captures this drunken genius in all his splendor. You may be shocked by what you see or hear, but I guarantee you won't forget it. This is cutting edge theatre at its finest.
BWW Reviews: The Black Rep's Funky and Fresh Production of THE WIZ
June 6, 2013
While I'm well acquainted with L. Frank Baum's classic tales of the land of Oz, and I've certainly seen numerous stage adaptations of his work, I'd never had the opportunity to see THE WIZ, unless you count the film version (and I don't), until now. After viewing the Black Rep's splendid production I'm happy to report that it's a tune-filled spectacle that brims with color and movement. It has an Afrocentric, funky mid-1970's era vibe (book by William F. Brown, most of the music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls) that actually makes it seem more hip than you would expect.
BWW Reviews: Lively and Fun ANYTHING GOES at the Fox Theatre
June 1, 2013
The award-winning revival of ANYTHING GOES (music/lyrics by Cole Porter, original book by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse, with a revision by Howard Linday and Russel Crouse, and an update by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman) arrives at the Fox Theatre in splashy and resplendent fashion, with a plethora of catchy musical numbers and a game cast. I've seen this musical several times before, it is a community theatre staple after all, but this production easily blows them all away. Sure, it's a period piece, and a bit old fashioned in some regards, but it perks along nicely thanks to an energetic cast and engaging direction and choreography. Even if you have seen it before, this presentation is well worth seeing, and a splendid time is guaranteed for all.
BWW Reviews: Upstream Theater's Triumphant Production of AN ILIAD
May 30, 2013
Writers Lisa Peterson and Denis O'Hare have concocted an intriguing take on Homer's The Iliad (translation by Robert Fagles) with their brilliantly interactive work, AN ILIAD. The distinction comes from the fact that this play not only utilizes the basic historical information contained within that classic Greek epic, but also confronts us with the sad truth that war has become a constant in our lives, and that some things are simply out of our control whether we like it or not. This amazing piece of theater is brought to the stage by Upstream Theater, and it's brought to life by actor Jerry Vogel. It's an experience that absolutely demands your time and attention as a theater-goer.
BWW Reviews: Max & Louie Productions' Splendid MRS. MANNERLY
May 29, 2013
There's something about playwright Jeffrey Hatcher's writing style that I can connect with. Maybe it's the fact that he peppers his dialog with so many references to 1960's era television fare that I can't help but be drawn back to my own childhood. Sure, I spent a lot of time outdoors, but there were certain prime hours of the day when the re-runs on the local independent channels were not to be missed (not by me,anyway). Now, I never wanted to or had the desire to ever attend a manners class, but as we can see by the way most humans behave these days, maybe it wouldn't be a bad thing if everyone did. Max & Louie Productions has put together a wonderful staging of Hatcher's MRS. MANNERLY, which takes a humorous look at a that point in our past when etiquette somehow became antiquated, and it's a superbly performed and directed presentation that shouldn't be missed.
BWW Reviews: The St. Louis Actors' Studio Hilarious and Moving Production of TALKING HEADS
May 25, 2013
TALKING HEADS started life as a series of BBC television monologues before it became a play (actually a couple of them), and if you're expecting a rather static work you'll be pleasantly surprised by these compelling, poignant, and sometimes hilarious vignettes. Author Alan Bennett (as both writer and performer he was a member of the famous Beyond the Fringe revue, which included the late Peter Cook and his partner in crime, Dudley Moore) has put together a fascinating career that includes stage plays, screenplays, novels and radio plays, and this particular collection showcases his ability to craft intriguing and engaging situations and characters. The St. Louis Actors' Studio's current production is distinguished by a wonderful cast and fine direction, making it a must-see presentation.
BWW Reviews: The New Jewish Theatre's Giddy Delight of SCHLEMIEL THE FIRST
May 24, 2013
SCHLEMIEL THE FIRST is a giddy delight, with songs and laughs barreling along at a frenetic pace. Based on the play by Isaac Bashevis Singer (conceived and adapted by Robert Brustein), this Klezmer musical (composed by Hankus Netsky and Zalmen Miotek, with lyrics by Arnold Weinstein) is guaranteed fun from start to finish, and The New Jewish Theatre has put together an exceptional production that is well worth your time and attention.
BWW Reviews: HotCity Theatre's Intriguing Production of MAPLE AND VINE
May 9, 2013
With his work, MAPLE AND VINE, playwright Jordan Harrison presents an interesting choice for the modern family struggling to cope with the modern world. They are given a chance to let go of all their connections to the information highway and head back in time to 1955. For some, this is the opportunity to start life anew, albeit, in a time that's fraught with issues of its own. HotCity Theatre is presenting an excellent production of this Serling-esque piece, and it's the kind of must-see experience that I always recommend; one that makes you laugh and think.
BWW Reviews: Black Rep's Premiere Production of SMASH/HIT!
May 9, 2013
I'm still not sure exactly how I feel about the Black Rep's latest premiere production, SMASH/HIT!, although there is certainly a lot of potential to the story, and various elements that make up the plot, it's not completely cohesive. There's an awful lot to digest here in this drama that contains music, which might be better served as a complete musical (or as a less musical drama), instead of winding up neither fish nor fowl. But, I can't honestly say that I can't recommend this show, because it is engagingly acted, contains some catchy tracks, and has fine overall direction. It's a mixed bag, but it's a mixed bag worth seeing for yourself.
BWW Reviews: St. Louis Actors' Studio's Terrific WAITING FOR GODOT
April 26, 2013
I'm a big fan of the St. Louis Actors' Studio because they always seem to manage to mix the old with the new in intriguing fashion during their theme based seasons, and you can wind up catching a classic like WAITING FOR GODOT along the way. It's always a fun and engaging ride no matter what they offer up, and this time around they're presenting the absurdly profound work I just mentioned. Playwright Samuel Beckett's wacky characterizations and dialogue, along with it's see-through symbolism, is given a wonderful presentation by the company, with excellent performances and expert direction.
BWW Reviews: Rockin' Good Time at the Fox with MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET
April 26, 2013
It's true that on December 4, 1956, Sun Records was host to an incredible meeting of four gentleman (Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis) who would go on to lay the foundation for Rock 'n' Roll, but a listen to the actual recording made that day prove that it was a much simpler affair than what's presented in the stage musical MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET. Still, the inspiration that story provides (book by Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux) makes for a rockin' good time, and this award-winning show is fun from start to finish.
BWW Reviews: Mustard Seed Theatre's Outstanding Production of JANE EYRE
April 26, 2013
Playwright Julie Beckman does wonderful work in adapting Charlotte Bronte's novel, JANE EYRE, for the stage. It's so literate that the characters even voice their thoughts, giving way at times to some much needed humor for this sad, but hopeful Gothic tale of loss and romance. Mustard Seed Theatre's production of this play is superb, with excellent performances buoyed by incisive direction and lush interior design.
BWW Reviews: Stray Dog Theatre Continues Stellar Season with GYPSY
April 25, 2013
GYPSY is the penultimate stage mother musical, but it's also a look at the decline of vaudeville and the rise of burlesque during the depression, and it's ultimately a look at how the famous stripper, Gypsy Rose Lee, made her debut in show business. Jules Styne (composer), Stephen Sondheim (lyricist), and Arthur Laurents (book) have constructed a sturdy classic that's interesting to watch at a time when reality television has essentially revived the Ted Mack Amateur Hour, and all the baggage that comes with that. Stray Dog Theatre continues their stellar season with a rousing production of this popular standard.
BWW Reviews: The New Jewish Theatre's Fascinating Production of CONVICTION
April 10, 2013
Oren Neeman's CONVICTION, as translated and adapted by actor/writer Ami Dayan, is a brilliant tour de force. This tale, told in historical flashbacks, is an intriguing piece that focuses our attention on a priest who forsakes his vows to return to the roots of his true faith and be with the woman he loves. This staging, in the round by director Joe Gfaller, keeps us on our toes as characters weave their way through this fascinating and engaging story. The New Jewish Theatre's current production is a smartly played treat that's another example of must-see theatre.
BWW Reviews: The Black Rep's Powerful Production of THE WHIPPING MAN
April 4, 2013
THE WHIPPING MAN is a fascinating and intriguing look at religion and the aftereffects of emancipation that's set in the days following the end of the Civil War. It examines a subject unfamiliar to most, and that's the fact that there were slaves on plantations that were raised in the Jewish faith. This interesting twist gives this engaging and powerful story an educational depth that both informs and entertains. Playwright Mathew Lopez's work gets its St. Louis premiere with an excellent production by the Black Rep.
BWW Review: Stunning and Touching WAR HORSE Plays the Fox Theatre
March 17, 2013
Nick Stafford's adaptation of the novel, WAR HORSE, by Michael Morpurgo is an awe-inspiring and jaw-dropping spectacle brought to life by the Handspring Puppet Company. It's a fascinating and heart-wrenching tale that follows a horse named Joey and a boy named Albert, who will go to great lengths, even joining the Army, to try and locate him. The stagecraft employed for this production is remarkable. The combination of a kind of puppetry where the puppeteer is nearly invisible, dramatic projections for backdrops, and a sharp cast and director, add up to a total theatrical experience that's well worthy of your time and attention. The current touring company now playing the Fox Theatre (through March 24, 2013) is definitely up to the task at hand.
BWW Review: The Rep's Moody and Engaging Production of DOUBLE INDEMNITY
March 17, 2013
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis closes their season with a bang, literally, presenting a dramatically atmospheric production of novelist James M. Cain's classic work, DOUBLE INDEMNITY (lovingly adapted by David Pichette and R. Hamilton Wright). It's a script that overflows with double entendres, and is populated by the kind of hard boiled characters you would expect from this famous piece of pulp fiction. It even manages to outdo Billy Wilder's film noir version to a degree because it doesn't have to deal with the censor's deep cuts that left the movie a lot less racy and edgy than the book. Suffice to say, this is an incredibly cool, and surprisingly amusing, presentation that is another example of the kind of must-see theatre the Rep consistently produces.
BWW Reviews: The Rep's Sizzling Production of VENUS IN FUR
March 14, 2013
VENUS IN FUR is currently being presented in the Studio Theatre by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, and it's an erotically-charged, sizzling presentation that's powered by incisive direction and exceptional performances. I can't speak highly enough of this smoldering tale. It unfolds with a myriad of twists and turns that serve to heighten the dramatic tension considerably. I can only say that this is an effort that demands to be seen, and I recommend it wholeheartedly.
BWW Reviews: St. Louis Actors' Studio's Premiere of DAY OF THE DOG
March 14, 2013
Playwright Daniel Damiano's DAY OF THE DOG is a quirky little dramatic comedy that explores a fractured family's dysfunction through their relationship with an aggressive canine. There are a number of good laughs, and a lot of therapeutic interactions, that occur as this premiere production by the St. Louis Actors' Studio unfolds. It's still a work in progress in some regards, but it's done well, with an excellent cast doing a fine job interpreting their roles, and solid direction.
BWW Reviews: Dramatic License Production's Comical Farce BOEING,BOEING
March 6, 2013
Playwright Marc Camoletti's BOEING, BOEING (translated by Beverly Cross) has had its share of success over the years, running for nearly 20 years in Paris, and being turned into a Jerry Lewis and Tony Curtis film in 1965, before being revived on Broadway in 2008. Now, Dramatic License Productions is presenting their take on this swingin' sixties farce, and they've put together an excellent presentation. The cast is terrific, the story is cute, and the direction is sharp as a tack. This amusing play is well worth your time and attention.
BWW Reviews: New Line Theatre's Powerful Production of NEXT TO NORMAL
March 4, 2013
I remember seeing NEXT TO NORMAL at the Fox Theatre a while back and being impressed by the show, especially since so many things that happened to the lead character were/are taking place in my own life. But, New Line Theatre, for me, sets the local standard for musical theatre in our burgeoning arts community, and they've put together a superior staging of the play that hits even closer to the bone, and part of this is due to intimacy of the theatre itself, but a major reason is the fact that it's blocked and staged in a manner that brings the message of the play clearly in focus. New Line Theatre's production of NEXT TO NORMAL is easily the best show I've seen this year so far. It has a terrific cast, a top notch band which is augmented with strings, and brilliant direction. This is a show you must see, even if it may hit home a little deeply with its subject manner.
BWW Review: Hilarious THE BOOK OF MORMON at the Fox Theatre
March 1, 2013
It would be easy to be either immediately won over by the hype surrounding this show before ever seeing it, or to be disappointed once you had, because it couldn't possibly live up to it. That's why I go into these things with reasonable expectations. I'm already a fan of Trey Parker and Matt Stone (South Park, Team America, Cannibal! The Musical, etc) and Robert Lopez (Avenue Q, Phineas and Ferb, etc), and I can certainly appreciate the work they did creating the book, music and lyrics for this show, THE BOOK OF MORMON. But, I do think you have to be attuned to their particular brand of humor in order to fully appreciate it. Poking fun at religion is certainly nothing new for any of them, and they've always brought a sense of the conventions of musical theatre to whatever art form they've tackled, and with THE BOOK OF MORMON they've produced something which is both terribly funny and catchy as well.
BWW Reviews: HotCity Theatre's Intriguing Production of CONNECTED
February 13, 2013
CONNECTED, by Lia Romeo, is a fascinating look at the cyber world we live in today and how it directly affects our younger generation. They're growing up in a world where anything that can be captured on video can go viral, for better or worse. Romeo's work plays out in four vignettes, all of which touch on themes of loneliness and deception. Alternately amusing and heart-breaking, CONNECTED features a young and talented cast playing multiple roles.
BWW Reviews: Stray Dog Theatre's Riotous Production of PSYCHO BEACH PARTY
February 13, 2013
Playwright Charles Busch has created a number of entertaining and offbeat works, and PSYCHO BEACH PARTY is no exception. Focusing on the exploits of the Gidget-like 'Chicklet Forrest', the play combines elements that evoke the psychological horrors of Alfred Hitchcock, while also poking fun at teenage surfer films and the slasher genre. It's a zany and outlandish potpourri that's a compelling laugh riot.
BWW Reviews: The Rep's Exceptional Production of SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
February 13, 2013
Director/Playwright Jon Jory has neatly adapted Jane Austen's SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, maintaining the crux of the novel while streamlining it for the stage. It's a compelling and engaging presentation that utilizes a single set to tell its tale, and there are a number of noteworthy performers gracing the stage. All in all, this literary classic is well served by an excellent cast and sharp production.
BWW Reviews: The New Jewish Theatre's Engaging and Lively Production of SPEED THE PLOW
February 8, 2013
I'm a big fan of the works of playwright David Mamet, and with his play, SPEED THE PLOW, he takes aim at the cutthroat world of Hollywood. It's a fascinating look at what sells and what doesn't when you're talking about the big screen. And, it also shows how friendships can be pushed to the brink by perceived betrayals. Marked by solid performances from the cast, the play is funny and telling in equal measure. The current production by The New Jewish Theatre is nicely constructed and executed, as well as providing ample food for thought.
BWW Reviews: St. Louis Actors' Studio's Provocative THE GOAT OR, WHO IS SYLVIA?
February 3, 2013
Playwright Edward Albee has a knack for writing intriguing and provocative works, and THE GOAT OR, WHO IS SYLVIA? certainly fits the bill. It's subject matter is controversial, affecting, and powerful, inviting much conversation and discussion like great theatre should. Full of disconcerting moments and betrayals, it's just another example of the author's brilliance in provoking a response from anyone who views it. The St. Louis Actors' Studio has assembled an excellent cast to bring this show to life, and sell-out crowds are proof that this is an absolutely must-see production.
BWW Reviews: The Fox Theatre's Colorful Production of PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT
February 1, 2013
Part of my job is to be a critic, so I criticize positively, and sometimes negatively, the shows that I get to see. But part of my job is also to report, and when an audience responds enthusiastically to a show, whether I find fault with it or not, I have to be honest and make mention of that fact. Such is the case with the musical remake of the 1994 movie PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT, which I think is a great film. Here, it's been turned into a so-so jukebox musical, filled with familiar tunes, mostly from the disco era, but also including some country tunes, a few 80's numbers, and a couple of 60's songs.
BWW Reviews: The Black Rep's Stellar Production of THE PIANO LESSON
January 29, 2013
With this fourth foray into his Pittsburgh cycle, playwright August Wilson crafts another masterwork with THE PIANO LESSON. Wilson's play, once again, captures an era rich in detail in African American history, and ponders the meaning of the word legacy, and how it applies to different individuals. The Black Rep's current production is very nicely crafted and performed, and if you haven't seen it yet, there's still time. It's certainly a journey well worth taking.
BWW Reviews: Upstream Theater's Masterful CAFE CHANSON
January 29, 2013
Conceived, written and directed by renowned actor/writer/director Ken Page, CAFE CHANSON is a memorable production that's affecting and intriguing. It acts as both a tribute to the soldiers who have served our country with valor and conviction, as well as positing the idea of an afterlife that allows the dead to relive an experience from the past life before they pass over to the other side. This is a haunting and beautifully imagined work that cannot be recommended highly enough by me. Upstream Theater has, once again, provided an unusual and fascinating theatrical event that goes above and beyond the norm.
BWW Reviews: Mustard Seed Theatre's Amusing Pairing of MRS. SORKEN and THE DUCK VARIATIONS
January 29, 2013
Though at first it may seem like an odd pairing of one acts, there's actually a connection between playwright Christopher Durang's introductory work, MRS. SORKEN and David Mamet's THE DUCK VARIATIONS. Towards the end of Mrs. Sorken, a direct reference is made to the the plays of David Mamet, and his frequent use of the "f word". It's an ironic one, since this is one of the few pieces in which Mamet doesn't use that particular curse word. Mustard Seed Theatre's production of these two plays is very well done, and it features three incredibly good performances that make this pair well worth seeing.
BWW Review: The Rep's Touching and Heartfelt Production of 4000 MILES
January 22, 2013
While watching playwright Amy Herzog's wonderful play, 4000 MILES, I kept being reminded of my own relationship with my grandmother (on my mother's side of the family) who passed away many years ago (unfortunately, I never met my grandmother on my father's side). I secretly wished that I had been able to speak with her with the same amount of candor and openness that the character of Leo is able to in the play, but I was simply much too young, and she was far too reserved for that to have ever happened. That being said, the experience of watching these two interact was tremendously affecting, and something that will stay with me for a very long time. The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis has put together a great show that's both hilarious and extremely touching, and it features a terrific cast. I found it to be a marvelous production, and I highly recommend it.
BWW Reviews: Overblown FLASHDANCE THE MUSICAL Misses the Mark
January 16, 2013
It's a bit disconcerting when you see a play or musical that's set in an era you lived through. Kind of makes you feel a little older than you'd like to feel. In this case, it's the midwest premier of FLASHDANCE THE MUSICAL. I remember when director Adrian Lyne's film came out in 1983, and it was at a time when I was purchasing lots of cassettes (remember them?). So, I'm very familiar with the tunes that made up that soundtrack, and it's a little bit weird for me to be sitting through a new musical version of that movie. In some ways, it has a perfect plot for a musical, but unfortunately the characterizations are just too thin, and the musical itself too long, to be completely successful.
BWW Reviews: The Rhythmic Delights of STOMP
January 16, 2013
The last time STOMP came to the Fabulous Fox Theatre I made sure to bring along my son. I made a point of taking him this time as well, because their antics seem to absolutely delight him. I can understand why. If you've ever drummed on your steering wheel to a song on the radio, or absentmindedly tapped your pencil on your desk, creating your own rhythmic accompaniment, then you already grasp the concept at the heart of STOMP. Over the course of an hour and a half, a group of performers demonstrate how you can make music with just about anything, and in doing so, create a genuinely joyful noise. It's akin to taking the guy in office with the annoying habit of pounding on things, and elevating what he does to high art; but, it works like a charm.
BWW Reviews: The Rep's Must-See Production of GOOD PEOPLE
January 7, 2013
Sometimes bad things happen to good people. It's just the way life is. Things aren't always "fair" or even equitable, but that's just something we all have to understand and accept. In these tough economic times that we live in, it's a hard fact that everyone needs to be made aware of, and playwright David Lindsay-Abaire examines this issue in his brilliant play GOOD PEOPLE. I think it's a tremendously engaging work that absolutely demands to be seen. Thankfully, the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis has staged a must-see production of this play at a time when it's especially relevant, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. The casting and direction are spot on, and the message, told with humor and drama in a remarkably even balance, is one that is very important to all of us.