Capsule Reviews

Dennis Brown and Deanna Jent suss out local theater

42nd Street The Muny has saved the best for last, and even the heavens know it. The staccato lightning that filled the black sky over Forest Park Monday night was an ideal complement to the thunder that emanated from the vast stage as nearly a 1,000 tapping toes plowed their way through the opening number of this season-closing backstage musical. Don't expect the lavish sets that made the 1980 and 2001 New York productions visual feasts; here there aren't even any glittering Broadway lights. Instead the viewer must focus on the performers -- which works fine, because a bevy of 42nd Street veterans have come together to mount a crisp, vibrant and thoroughly entertaining evening. Mark Jacoby sets the tone with a commanding portrayal of austere producer Julian Marsh. As his petulant leading lady, Beth Leavel is a hoot. What a savvy, meticulous performance -- and wouldn't she be great next summer when the Muny revives Hello, Dolly! Performed through August 15 in Forest Park. Call 314-534-1111. (Dennis Brown)

Amadeus Reviewed in this issue.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch What's a girly boy to do when his sex-change operation is botched? Form a rock & roll band! Todd Schaefer shows off an amazing voice in this confessional concert piece, which features a kick-ass band and great cross-gender supporting work from Stephanie Brown. After a strangely slow opening, Schaefer's performance savvy kicks in and this Hedwig takes off. Schaefer succeeds with a variety of musical styles -- soulful ballads, funky honky-tonk and metal/punk noisefests. But the heart of the play is Hedwig's failed love affair with Tommy, and here Schaefer's acting rings true. Playing both Tommy and Hedwig, he creates a fabulous sense of dialogue. A confusing ending clouds an otherwise bright performance: Hedwig seems to have an epiphany, stripping away her wig, makeup and clothes, but the audience is left to guess at what caused her transformation. It's a bit like an Uh-Oh Oreo -- strangely vanilla at both ends, but creamy-licking-good in the middle. Staged by the New Line Theatre and the Washington Avenue Players Project through August 21 at the ArtLoft Theatre, 1529 Washington. Call 314-534-1111. (Deanna Jent)

Saving the best for last: 42nd Street electrifies 
the Muny.
Saving the best for last: 42nd Street electrifies the Muny.

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The Sound of Music Stages St. Louis answers the musical question: "How do you solve a problem like Maria?" with Sherri L. Edelen, whose superb singing voice and delightful character discoveries make her Maria a joy from start to finish. Mark Halpin's scenic design and Lou Bird's costumes effectively contrast the opulent world of the Von Trapp household and the serene beauty of the abbey. The children are engaging and fun and, of course, musically advanced for their years. It's slow going at times -- some of the scenes exist only to hide the furniture moving behind them. But if you're a fan of the feisty Maria or fantasize about singing with a huge family while wearing matching outfits, this production will satisfy. David Schmittou as the freezer-father turned good (Captain Von Trapp) warms up nicely during the Austrian folk dance he shares with Maria. It's a story of Good and Evil, with Church, Family and National Pride slugging it out against the Nazi Empire, and it runs through August 15 at the Kirkwood Community Center, located at 111 South Geyer Road. Call 314-821-2407. (DJ)

unSENSored The fun thing about a performance piece is that you never know what's going to happen next. And there's often an accompanying nervousness as you wonder if you're going to become a participant in the show. That doesn't happen here, beyond the viewer being asked to think. But at least no one has to go home covered in the tar-like goo that slowly envelops the holes in Jasin Lifshin's body during the 45-minute show. Lifshin portrays Oscar Knox, a Warhol-esque artist for whom the medium might well have become the message. When people stop listening to that message, Knox is prepared to go to extreme lengths to be taken seriously again. In a one-act evening that meshes art, video and live performance, unSENSoredspeaks to the artist's right to be heard, even as it compels the viewer to challenge what he's hearing. Performed by Flux Art/Theatre August 14 at Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts, 3151 Cherokee Street. Call 314-772-3628. (DB)

 
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