Stage Capsules

Week of June 14, 2007

Anna KareninaColin Graham's 56th world-premiere opera production was his last — the long-time artistic director of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis died this past spring — but it may well be his best. Librettist-director Graham and American composer David Carlson created this moving adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's romantic novel. Given that the score was written with them in mind, it's no surprise that the cast — most notably soprano Kelly Kaduce — turn in masterful performances of Carlson's challenging but appealing music. Eloquently minimalist sets and lighting underline this production's superb stagecraft. Through June 21 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $29 to $95. Call 314-961-0644 or visit www.opera-stl.org. 151; Lew Prince

Circus Flora: MarrakeshOstensibly the plot for this year's version of St. Louis' very own one-ring circus is inspired by the old Charlie Chan mysteries, but it seems to be more closely linked to the board game Clue. None of which matters at all. Better to ignore the plot and devote your energy to being dazzled by the spectacle: high-wire and trapeze artists, equine acrobats, Aleysa the human Slinky, an endearing dog act, even an elephant. Bring it all together under one tent, and the result is too much high-flying fun to be pinned down by words. Through June 24 in the red-and-white tent adjacent to Powell Hall in Grand Center. Tickets are $8 to $30. Call 314-531-6800 or visit www.circusflora.org.

Dennis Brown

Guys and DollsFrank Loesser's paean to Broadway has lost its sense of direction. This Black Rep staging might as well be set in New Orleans as in Times Square. The classic musical about the search for the perfect crap game is at its brightest in individual performances — among them, Roz White Gonsalves' long-suffering Miss Adelaide, Sophia Stephens' plaintive Sister Sarah and singing gamblers Drummond Crenshaw and Kelvin Roston Jr. But it's J. Samuel Davis' infectiously entertaining Sky Masterson that saves the night. Every time Davis enters, he's like a Saint Bernard to the rescue. Performed through June 30 at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square. Tickets are $27.50 to $40 ($5 discount for students and seniors; $10 rush seats available for students 30 minutes before showtime). Call 314-534-3810 or visit www.theblackrep.org.

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Into the WoodsReviewed in this issue.

La traviata Opera Theatre offers a sumptuous setting for Verdi's tragic tale of love, redemption and death. In her "dream role," Ailyn Perez applies a buttery, full-timbred soprano to some of opera's richest and most evocative melodies. Tenor Dimitri Pittas, Alfredo to Perez's Violetta, melds voices effortlessly and naturally with the diva and with baritone James Westman, who plays his father. Bring plenty of Kleenex for Violetta's death scene. Through June 23 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $29 to $95. Call 314-961-0644 or visit www.opera-stl.org.

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Laughing WildThis absurdist two-character Christopher Durang harangue was weird enough when first staged two decades ago. Now all the 1980s references — to Alan Alda, to then-New York Mayor Ed Koch, to talk-show maven Sally Jessy Raphael — make the comedy oddball-retro. Under the direction of Bob Mitchell, Rory Flynn as The Man comes across as an actor doing his earnest best with a lot of words. But if there's any acting in Rory Lipede's Woman, I missed it. She is rage personified, so much fun to watch that she can chew up a 35-minute monologue and leave you wanting more. Her seemingly effortless work is knock-down fabulous. Performed by Vanity Theatre through June 17 at the Theatre at St. John's, St. John's United Methodist Church, 5000 Washington Place (at Kingshighway). Tickets are $10 to $15. Call 314-571-5959.

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A Little Night Music Reviewed in this issue.

The MikadoStage director Nick Canty ups the ante on Gilbert & Sullivan's operetta by modernizing the plot, wryly resetting the action in contemporary Japan. The chorus gains Godzilla, a sumo wrestler and a guy in a Pokémon suit, while Nanki-Poo is reborn as an Elvis impersonator — and somehow it all works. The production flies on an unintrusive updating of W.S. Gilbert's torrent of punny lyrics and excellent performances: Patrick Miller is smooth as Nanki-Poo and Katherine Jolly twitters and chirps as Yum-Yum with schoolgirl glee, but Matt Boehler as Poo-Bah and Myrna Paris as Katisha steal the show. This Mikado is breezy entertainment for opera buffs and newcomers alike. It's even kid-friendly. Through June 23 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $29 to $95. Call 314-961-0644 or visit www.opera-stl.org.

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Much Ado About Nothing As Beatrice and Benedick, two of Shakespeare's favorite would-be-but-not-quite lovers, Jenny Mercein and Gregory Woddell share some tender and affecting moments. But here's the rub: In staging Shakespeare you can change eras, but you take a great risk in altering careers. This version plays out in the wild, Wild West; nothing wrong with that. But for the play to be fully realized, Benedick and his cronies must remain soldiers (cavalry officers, perhaps?); they should not have become laid-back trail hands. Instead of clear-cut characters, we get irrelevant saloon brawls. It all makes for a mindlessly pleasant divertissement, but the Bard should be more than mindless. Performed by the Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis through June 17 (except Tuesdays) on the Emerson Stage on Art Hill in Forest Park. Admission is free. Call 314-531-9800 or visit www.sfstl.com.

(DB)

You Can't Take It With YouReviewed in this issue.

 
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