Capsule Reviews

Dennis Brown and Deanna Jent suss out local theater

Beauty and the BeastFor this Opera Theatre of Saint Louis production, director Renaud Doucet and set designer André Barbe have created a hilarious and magical evening. Their fun and funny de-Disneyfication of the classic children's tale features the fabulous soprano Anna Christie in her stunning OTSL debut. She is joined by a talented group of singers performing in front of the one of the most enchanted stage sets and in some of the most extravagant costumes in OTSL's illustrious history. Baroque expert and conductor Jeannette Sorrell reveals every pleasure in André Grétry's score. Through June 24 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $29 to $101. Call 314-961-0644. (Lew Prince)

Company It's always a pleasure to hear Sondheim's harmonies sung well, and the ensemble assembled by K's Theatrical Korps does a fine job with his complex music. Unfortunately, Sondheim's clever lyrics and music aren't matched by George Furth's book, which provides a series of short vignettes filled with clichés about marriage and relationships. As the central character, 35-year-old bachelor Robert, Jeffrey Wright is initially tentative but comes into his own at the end of Act One with a stirring "Marry Me a Little." As the funky Marta, Karen L. Fulks steals the show when she belts out "Another Hundred People." The deft set changes keep the pace lively, but a nicer electric keyboard -- or a real piano -- would have provided more solid accompaniment. Through June 19 at St. John the Baptist Fine Arts Center, 4200 Delor Street. Tickets are $12 ($10 students and seniors, $8 children). Call 314-351-8984. (Deanna Jent)

Glen or Glenda: Live! For a decade now, the Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre has been one of the St. Louis area's guilty pleasures. Their spoofs of iconic movies have amused audiences of all ages. But it usually helps if you're already a fan of the movie being lampooned before you attend the takeoff. Glen or Glenda, Ed Wood's lamentable 1953 apologia about transvestitism is a film whose obscurity is well deserved. If Wood's exercise in mediocrity is one of your favorite movies, this is definitely the show for you. But if you don't know Glen or Glenda, you might find yourself a little confused by the buffalo stampede. Performed through June 18 at the Regional Arts Commission, 6128 Delmar Boulevard. Tickets $15 ($10 for students and seniors). Call 314-361-5664. (Dennis Brown)

Jim Ousley, Drew Bell and Jill Ritter in Glen or 
Glenda: Live!
Jim Ousley, Drew Bell and Jill Ritter in Glen or Glenda: Live!

Intimate Apparel Shimmering corsets courtesy of costume designer Reggie Ray create an eye-popping good time for the audience in this award-winning play. Lynn Nottage's intelligent -- though occasionally overwritten -- script unveils the unexpected romantic entanglements of 35-year-old Esther, who makes a living creating interesting underwear for women on both sides of the street (as it were). Linda Kennedy anchors the show and is well supported by a talented cast. While love ends badly for all the women in the play, there's a satisfying sense that Esther is down but certainly not defeated. This entertaining production, directed by artistic director Ron Himes, is the final show of the Saint Louis Black Repertory Company's 2005 season. Through June 25 at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square. Tickets are $25 to $37.50 ($10 rush seats for students available ten minutes before showtime). Call 314-534-3810. (DJ)

Kiss of the Spider Woman The exposed stone walls and dilapidated ceiling of the ArtLoft Theatre add appropriate environmental touches to New Line Theatre's production of Kander and Ebb's unusual musical mixture of politics, movie fantasy, torture and love. Set in an Argentine prison in 1976, the story focuses on the relationship between inmates Molina (Scott Tripp) and Valentin (Nicholas Kelly), one jailed for a homosexual encounter with a minor, the other for being a revolutionary. Splendidly sung by Tripp and Kelly, the haunting music is at its best when it explores the pair's relationship. As the film star who occupies Molina's daydreams, Stephanie Brown looks great and dances even better. Sadly, the male chorus that needs to support her isn't up to the task. The ending is awkwardly written and seems nearly impossible to stage; director Scott Miller does his best, but he's fighting a script that really works better as a movie. Through June 18 at the ArtLoft Theatre, 1529 Washington Avenue Tickets are $15 to $18 ($10-$15 for students and seniors). Call 534-1111. (DJ)

Man of La Mancha Reviewed in this issue.

Rigoletto Giuseppe Verdi had only 40 days to write Rigoletto. But because it was written so quickly, the score is very straightforward, telling the jester's tragic story in bold, unambiguous melodies. In spite of Andrew Porter's sometimes-stilted translation, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis plays to Rigoletto's musical strengths -- the love songs are bright and frothy; the dramatic arias dark and tragic. Arrive early for the preview lecture, a delightful and educational tour de force delivered by rehearsal pianist Miah Im. Through June 25 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $29 to $101. Call 314-961-0644. (LP)

Romeo and Juliet Charles Gounod's nineteenth-century simplification of Shakespeare's tragedy is the opera version of a chick flick, pruning much of the intrigue in the palaces of the warring Capulets and Montagues and focusing on the doomed romance of their offspring. Opera Theatre of Saint Louis specializes in luring up-and-coming singers by offering them a chance at bigger roles than they could get at more famous East Coast or European venues, and this youthfulness works to the company's advantage here, with Alyson Cambridge and Frédéric Antoun bringing bouncy naiveté, tenderness and unmitigated passion to the title roles. Through June 26 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $29 to $101. Call 314-961-0644. (LP)

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