The Sum of Us is a comedic drama that imagines a liberal's worst nightmare: a father who's actually too accepting of his gay son's lifestyle.
Harry and Jeff have about as good a relationship as a father and his adult son living under the same roof can have; there's plenty of joking around, albeit against a background of loneliness: Harry's a widower, and Jeff feels lost as he cruises the gay bars of Melbourne.
But they have each other. When father and son share a drink, Harry raises his glass and says, "Well, up your bum"; believe it or not, it's an affectionate moment. Harry insists on meeting Jeff's dates and at one point tells one young squire about the time he went to a prison-themed gay bar (in Australia, no less) with his son and had a marvelous time trading quips with "two blokes, nice lads."
Everything's rolling along like the RV in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert until Dad goes too far: His eager explanation of how he bought gay porn magazines to understand his son's impulses is the first clue. Asking his son's date how he'll take his coffee tomorrow morning ices it -- Harry is overbearing; he's a male, Australian yenta whose meddling is ruining his son's love life.
Or is it, really? What does Harry truly have in mind for his boy? Check out David Stevens' The Sum of Us when a new troupe, the Olympus Theatre, performs it on the stage at Novak's at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through January 24 (4146 Manchester Road, $15, 314-776-6358, www.hometown.aol.com/olympustheatre). And get ready for a barnburner: Olympus is staging a drag version of Steel Magnolias in March. -- Byron Kerman
When Smokey Sings
We hear violins
The impact Smokey Robinson has made on modern music cannot be understated. From his earliest recordings with Motown, when he helped build the bridge that crossed the gap between R&B and pop music, to his work as a producer and writer in the '70s, to his coining of that oft-used term "Quiet Storm" (actually the name of his 1975 solo album), Smokey Robinson has shaped the course of popular music for more than 40 years. Artists as diverse as Bob Dylan and Brit new-wavers ABC have praised Smokey in verse and song, and with good reason: Mr. Robinson knows how to write, record, produce and, above all, sing a beautiful love song. Need proof? He penned both "My Guy" (for Mary Wells) and "My Girl" (for The Temptations)! Smokey performs dozens of his greatest hits at the Fox Theatre (527 North Grand Boulevard, 314-534-1111) at 7:30 p.m., in concert with the estimable Gladys Knight. Tickets are $42.50 to $57.50. -- Paul Friswold
Judy, Judy, Judy
Pills and thrills
A Judy Garland retrospective sounds like something you'd see at a gay expo, not a history expo -- but then again, no other movie fits in so perfectly with the current World's Fair-centennial craze then Garland's classic 1944 musical, Meet Me in St. Louis. So it makes sense that when St. Charles Community College was planning History Expo 2004, a star tribute was born.
On Friday, an evening of Judy-rific entertainment begins at 5 p.m. with a German dinner (acknowledging St. Louis' significant German population circa 1904). A brief lecture on the life and times of Judy follows, then the film screening at 7 p.m., then a live "Best of Judy" musical tribute performance (minus a male Judy imitator, unfortunately).
Admission to the dinner, held inside the Student Center, is $10; the movie and musical performance in the nearby Donald D. Shook Fine Arts Building are free. The campus is located at 4601 Mid Rivers Mall Drive in St. Peters. Call 636-922-8050 for reservations. -- Rose Martelli
Dance St. Louis is proud to welcome the internationally renowned Dance Theatre of Harlem to our town for performances at 8 p.m. Friday, January 16, and Saturday, January 17, at the Fox Theatre (527 North Grand Boulevard). The second half of the company's much-anticipated program is the brand-new blues ballet St. Louis Woman, a spirited story of love and luck set around a famous 1890s-era St. Louis racetrack. If that weren't enough, the ballet features music by Broadway and Hollywood icons Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen. Tickets range in price from $39 to $68 and can be purchased from MetroTix by calling 314-534-1111 or visiting www.metrotix.com. -- John Goddard
It Was a Very Good Year
The year 1968 was a turbulent one, marked by monumental social and political events that irrevocably altered the course of history -- more so than you probably realize. Mark Kurlansky, author of such brilliant tomes as Cod and Salt, has documented the global events of that year and their ramifications in his fascinating new fact sandwich, 1968: The Year That Rocked the World. It's a remarkably detailed book that moves quickly and smoothly through the year, hinting at the subtle interconnectedness of diverse events in the immaculate style for which Kurlansky is widely praised. The author reads from his book at 7 p.m. at Left Bank Books (399 North Euclid Avenue, 314-367-6731, free). -- John Goddard