St. Louis Stage Capsules

Dennis Brown, Paul Friswold and Lew Prince suss out the local theater scene

The Last 5 Years Theater composer Jason Robert Brown has had the audacity to dissect his failed marriage in this two-character, semi-autobiographical song cycle. Playful yet serious, exuberant yet tender, simple yet labyrinthine — there has not been a more ambitious or rewarding musical in recent memory. Jamie tells his version of what went wrong in sequential order; Cathy starts at the end and sings her way back to happier times. Though there's not a lot of space onstage, actors April Strelinger and Jeffrey M. Wright find all the room they need between the lyrics. The Last 5 Years lasts only 85 minutes, but we leave the theater knowing we've seen something both joyous and artful. Produced by New Jewish Theatre through June 21 at Clayton High School's Little Theatre, 2 Mark Twain Circle, Clayton. Tickets are $28 to $30 ($2 discount for seniors and JCC members). Call 314-442-3283 or visit www.newjewishtheatre.org. (DB)

Little Shop of Horrors Director Michael Hamilton focuses the cast's efforts on the "comedy" more than the "horror" part of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken's horror-musical comedy, and that's fine — until we witness Seymour (Ben Nordstrom) feeding what appears to be three feet of lower intestine to blood-hungry plant Audrey II (voiced in delectable basso profundo by Geno Segers), under strobing lightning blasts. It's a shockingly graphic scene and a touch incongruous with the light tone previously established. But the show is overwhelmingly fun and family-friendly, mostly thanks to Nordstrom's endearingly nebbishy Seymour, a loose-limbed bundle of eye pops, open-mouthed gasps and spontaneous outbursts of repressed passion. Maria Couch's portrayal of his love, Audrey, is equally fantastic. Todd Dubail wrings every erg of sadistic glee from villainous dentist Orin Scrivello, and the murderous Audrey II is visually stunning in her growth and mobility; puppeteers Marc A. Petrosino, Monte J. Howell and Shaun Sheley do bang-up work bringing her to life. Presented by Stages St. Louis through June 28 at the Robert G. Reim Theater, 111 South Geyer Road, Kirkwood. Tickets are $48 ($28 for children, $45 for seniors; rush seats for students and seniors $15 at the door). Call 314-821-2407 or visit www.stagesstlouis.org. (PF)

Salome Combine Richard Strauss' serpentine 90-minute tone poem, a libretto derived from Oscar Wilde's scandalous play, suicide, regicide, seduction, incest, necrophilia and a rendition of the notorious "Dance of the Seven Veils" that puts Rita Hayworth to shame. Add brilliant vocal performances, especially soprano Kelly Kaduce's luminous tour-de-force — which climaxes in a blood-drenched, shuddering orgasm astride the severed head of John the Baptist — and you get the most mind-blowing piece of theater I've seen in all my years of reviewing opera for RFT. The free preview, which starts an hour before each night's performance, is highly recommended. Through June 28 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $25 to $117. Call 314-961-0644 or visit www.opera-stl.org. (LP)

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