Capsule Reviews

Dennis Brown and Deanna Jent suss out local theater

Menopause The Musical Who knew hormone shifts could be so much fun? An energetic cast of four women "of a certain age" sing and dance their way through parodies of popular '60s and '70s songs whose rewritten lyrics tackle with night sweats, memory loss and mood swings. Laura Ackerman has great comic timing in her rendition of "Puff the Magic Dragon," while Rosemary Watts has almost too much fun with her ode to sex toys ("You Are My Destiny"). Rochelle Walker does a great Tina Turner impersonation, and Lee Anne Mathews sings a sultry "Tropical Hot Flash." Designed to amuse and empower women who have "gone through the passage," the show ends with the audience joining the cast for a raucous kick-line celebration. Open-ended run at the Playhouse at West Port Plaza, 635 West Port Plaza (second level), Page Avenue and I-270, Maryland Heights. Tickets are $44.50. Call 314-469-7529 or visit www.playhouseatwestport.com.
Deanna Jent

The Musical of Musicals — The Musical The Rep celebrates the holiday season with a gift of musical Trivial Pursuit: a show that tells the same simple story in the styles of five famous Broadway composers. Filled with puns that can be appreciated by all and inside jokes that will only be understood by connoisseurs, the breezy Musicalcaptures the quintessential features of Rodgers & Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Kander & Ebb. The simple production elements allow the complex lyrics to take center stage, giving the audience the chance to appreciate the layers of embedded references. Directed and choreographed by Pamela Hunt, and featuring four versatile performers: Matt Bailey, Joanne Bogart, Edwin Cahill and Kristin Maloney. Through December 29 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $14 to $63 (rush seats available for students and seniors, $8 and $10, respectively, 30 minutes before showtime). Call 314-968-4925 or visit www.repstl.org.
(DJ)

The Nutcracker In addition to falling snowflakes and a Christmas tree that appears to ascend like a rocket from Cape Canaveral, the Saint Louis Ballet's production features spinning hoops, twirling umbrellas and more hits than you'll find in a Rodgers & Hammerstein score. Tchaikovsky's fantasy about Clara's Christmas Eve adventures in the Kingdom of the Sweets is a marvel of melody. This affectionate production, choreographed by Gen Horiuchi, is accessible even to those who rarely partake of ballet. Such a felicitous blend of formal classicism with youthful innocence allows us all to believe in the magic of sugarplum fairies. Through December 19 at Washington University's Edison Theatre, 6445 Forsyth Boulevard (in the Mallinckrodt Student Center). Tickets are $35 ($25 for children, students and seniors). Matinee performances are condensed to one hour; the full ballet is performed at evening shows. Call 314-935-6543 or visit www.stlouisballet.org.
Dennis Brown

The Sisters Rosensweig Wendy Wasserstein's static soap opera about the reunion of three sisters in London is definitely not to be confused — even in its ambition — with Chekhov's masterful drama about those other three sisters who yearn to visit Moscow. Here any yearnings have been contrived by a playwright who functions as puppeteer, pulling the strings of straw-dog problems that can be neatly knocked down just before it's time to send the audience home. Instead of any semblance of life, these characters are consumed with a need to hug and sing. In this New Jewish Theatre production, some of the area's most talented actors succumb to an alarming amount of mugging and indicating — as if that's a way of instilling life into a lifeless script. (It's not.) Through December 17 at the Jewish Community Center, 2 Millstone Campus, Creve Coeur. Tickets are $20 to $25 ($2 discount for seniors and JCC members). Call 314-442-3257 or visit www.newjewishtheatre.org.
(DB)

Sonnets for an Old Century José Rivera's monologue poems explore multicultural politics, personal experience and the mystical forces of the universe that might "eat us or love us." The strongest performances come at the conclusion of both acts: Pamela Reckamp relates how a smog-filled day turned into a magical night of human connection, Rusty Gunther explores the experience of a Hispanic actor fighting prejudice, and AIDS and Kirsten Wylder remembers the "first time" various life-changing events happened. A diverse ensemble directed by Robert Mitchell and Margeau Baue Steinau creates movement and sound collages that support each poem. Staged in a funky former factory space, Sonnets is a refreshingly honest holiday newsletter, voicing truths about the guilt, fear and pain in our society while pointing to the "multiplicity of God" in all humanity. Presented by the Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble through December 17 at 2500 Ohio Avenue (at Sidney Street). Tickets are $15 ($12 for students and seniors). Call 314-835-7415 or visit www.slightlyoff.org.
(DJ)

 
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