St. Louis Stage Capsules

Dennis Brown and Paul Friswold suss out the local theater scene.

 The 1940's Radio Hour Director William Whitaker remarks in the program notes for this Washington University Performing Arts Department production that "there's very little plot here." So little, in fact, that a strong gust of air could blow it all away. Fortunately, the cast and mini-big band onstage forestall any danger of plot dispersal. The stars and crew of WOV's Mutual of Manhattan Variety Cavalcade prepare for their annual Christmas radio broadcast as a blizzard rages outside and World War II drags on. Harried producer Clifton A. Feddington (David Weiss) blusters as showtime approaches, his bibulous crooner, Johnny Cantone (Reynolds Whalen), shows up half in the bag and his comic, Neal Tilden (Antonio Rodriguez), schemes to move up in the show's pecking order. Whalen plays the cad with a devilish charm, and Rodriguez has the nasal patter of the radio comic down pat. Bombshell Ginger Brooks (Kaylin Boosalis) turns a commercial for Eskimo Pies into foreplay, carefully shepherding her chewing gum from mouth to hand and back every time she steps up to the microphone. It's a fast-paced, funny show that rewards the careful observer — every character is doing something, even when they're supposedly "background" players (show up fifteen minutes early to enjoy the cast "showing up to work"). The Zoot Doubleman Big Band (led by Lisa Campbell-Albert as Zoot) is absolute dynamite. And then there's Ann Collier (Julia Mancini), the soul of WOV, who breaks your heart and fills it back up again on "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Through October 14 at the Edison Theatre in the Mallinckrodt Student Center at Washington University, 6445 Forsyth Boulevard, University City. Tickets are $15 ($9 for students and seniors). Call 314-935-6543 or visit ascc.artsci.wustl.edu/~pad/.

— Paul Friswold

Blithe Spirit Noel Coward subtitled this comedy about séances and apparitions as "an improbable farce." What's really improbable is that a slightly creaky, 66-year-old drawing-room comedy should still elicit so many genuine laughs from a mostly young student audience. But as directed by Larry D. Quiggins, this student production about a fight to the death between one man's two wives — one of whom already has been dead for seven years — is nearly as blithe as its title. It's great fun, especially when Madame Arcati (Sarah Childs Porter), one of the theater's true eccentrics, is onstage conversing with the spirit world. We no longer live in an age where audiences want plays to talk on all night long, but this is a felicitous opportunity to catch up with an infrequently staged exercise in improbability. Performed by Lindenwood University Department of Theatre through October 13 at Jelkyl Theater, 209 S. Kingshighway, St. Charles. Tickets are $10 ($8 for seniors, $6 for children). Call 636-949-4878.

— Dennis Brown

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Reviewed in this issue. I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change An intrepid group of local producers is trying to make a long-run go of this sketch-y evening that chronicles, spoofs and sometimes even satirizes mating rituals from the first date to the final farewell. They just might pull it off, because — as staged with verve by St. Louis theater veteran Bobby Miller — this musical revue is rambunctious, breezy and just ribald enough to keep viewers chortling from beginning to end. An ideally suited ensemble (Michael Jokerst, Alan Knoll, Chopper Leifheit, Lee Anne Mathews, Laurie McConnell, Rosemary Watts) cavorts through a fast-paced evening of mostly humorous skits that allow everyone a chance to shine. Sitting through the show is like chewing a wad of bubble gum: After a few hours it begins to lose its flavor. But the sheer act of watching so many people have so much fun — both onstage and in the audience — bespeaks success. Open-ended run at the Playhouse at Westport Plaza, 635 Westport Plaza (second level), Page Avenue and I-270, Maryland Heights. Tickets are $41 to $46. Call 314-469-7529.

(DB)

The Rat Pack — Live at the SandsReviewed in this issue.

 
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