Some theater has a reputation for being high-falutin', snobby, art-for-art's-sake, commerce-can-go-fuck-itself drama. None of that is the case with David Dillon's play Party -- which is theater, but not thee-ah-tah-- or its upcoming production by New Line Theatre at the ArtLoft Theatre (1527 Washington Avenue, 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays through August 23, starting Thursday, July 31, $20, 314-534-1111).
Party is a one-act about a night of drinking, truth-or-dare games and nudity (real, live, onstage, full-frontal and backside) amongst seven gay men. And New Line's decision to stage it this summer, only five years after it first staged the play to raging success, stems mostly, admits artistic director Scott Miller, from its ability to really put money in the bank. In fact, Party has been a cash cow in Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles, London and even Mexico since 1995.
Which shows just what a helluva good time Party proves to be. Says Miller, "I think the main thing people love about it -- and people really do love it -- is that it's so completely and unabashedly positive, and there's not a lot of that out there in gay theater. Gay theater is often about how hard it is to be gay, or how mean the straight world is. This is a bunch of gay people who are terribly happy." And nude, did we mention nude? -- Rose Martelli
Some Enchanted Musical
The fool's paradise of South Pacific
"There is nothin' like a dame," and there is no musical with the especial charms of South Pacific, the Rodgers & Hammerstein hit coming back to the Muny (8:15 p.m. August 4-10, in Forest Park, $8-$54, 314-361-1900). No other musical gives you a man wearing a bra made from two coconut halves. No other musical gives you a sexy number sung from within a primitive wooden shower ("I'm Gonna Wash that Man Right Outta My Hair," by the way, probably inspired all those this-shampoo-is-giving-me-an-orgasm Clairol Herbal Essences ads). When the Polynesian strains of "Bali Ha'i" waft forth from the Muny stage, you will ache for a chaise-longue and a drink served in a hollowed-out pineapple. -- Byron Kerman
"Bix!" not "Snikt!"
The original, non-mutant Wolverine
Bix Beiderbecke was the prototype for the troubled jazz musician. A nice Midwestern boy seduced by the seamy, sexy, gin-soaked realm of nightclub cutting sessions, flapper girlfriends and the lure of notes only he could hear (or play), Bix drank himself to death by the age of 28. But before his death, Bix and his silver cornet cut a swath through American music. His first real group, the Wolverine Orchestra, played "China Boy" for a full hour while two gangs brawled at the Stockton Club; he impressed everyone from Hoagy Carmichael to Milton Mezzrow with his forceful playing; and he left behind a handful of records that captured the jewel-like tone and clever phrasing that remains his hallmark. So powerful is Bix's legacy that there's a New Wolverine Jazz Orchestra, comprised of Australian musicians, who recreate the sound and feel of Bix's era. They play tonight at the Moolah Temple (12545 Fee Fee Road, 314-544-2263) from 7-10 p.m. Tickets are $15-$18, and you best bring your dancing shoes. -- Paul Friswold
Footloose, Fancy & Free
Don't let summer slip away without some elegance! Try "Ballet Under the Stars," a night of free outdoor dance at Faust Park in Chesterfield, 15185 Olive Boulevard (8 p.m., 636-537-1950, concessions available). The amphitheater will glow as fifteen dancers from the St. Louis Ballet bring to life Swan Lake (Act II) staged by Ellen Costanza. Also on the program are "Moonlight Sonata," set to Beethoven's famous work, and "Wake Up!" choreographed by company director Gen Horiuchi. -- Regina Popper