Capsule Reviews

Dennis Brown and Deanna Jent suss out local theater

Beauty and the Beast The Muny opens its 87th season with ebullient style. A winning combination of experienced Beauty and the Beast veterans and returning Forest Park favorites instills Disney's celebrated musical with charm and panache. Beginning with Sarah Litzsinger's graceful Beauty, all eight principal roles are well cast. (When's the last time you could say that about a Muny show?) Especially pleasing are James Clow's poignant Beast and Bruce Adler's talking clock. As the pompous Gaston, Nat Chandler has great fun lampooning his usual Lancelot-dull persona. Kudos to director Matt Lenz, who spent several years with the show on Broadway, for delivering a tight and engaging evening. This is a quality endeavor from top to bottom: Even the Muny's celebrated oaks enhance the magical mood, looming ominously over the Beast's forlorn castle. Performed through June 29 in Forest Park. Tickets are $8 to $58. Call 314-534-1111. (Dennis Brown)

Beauty and the Beast For 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)

Gloriana Reviewed in this issue.

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. (Deanna Jent)

Man of La Mancha If La Mancha is going to work in 2005, it needs a lighter-than-air touch. This version, unfortunately, is more earthbound than ethereal. The prerecorded music score seems to hamper the pace; it's as if the performers are compelled to slow down to sing the songs. Around-the-edge trimmings -- like the addition of snapping bullwhips -- cannot disguise the fact that key story points are unclear. In lieu of a point of view, we get a literal, by-the-numbers, on-the-beat staging. Audiences might go home having had a good time, but will they know why? Produced by Stages St. Louis through July 3 at the Robert G. Reim Theatre, 111 S. Geyer Road, Kirkwood. Tickets $20 to $42 ($10 rush for students and seniors). Call 314-821-2407. (DB)

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)

Nunsense The Theatre Guild of Webster Groves' summer fundraiser. The slender story of five nuns trying to raise money by putting on a show includes all the expected elements -- audience participation, silly names, groan-inducing jokes and tap-dancing nuns. Lisa Karpowicz has a dynamite singing voice and energizes her portrayal of Sister Robert Anne, while Judy Moebeck displays excellent comic timing as Sister Mary Amnesia. Laurie Debord finds the show's funniest moment when Mother Superior accidentally sniffs amyl nitrate. Director Barb Mulligan uses the tiny stage well, but she can't disguise Dan Goggin's predictable script and clunky transitions between dialogue and song. Through June 26 at the Theatre Guild of Webster Groves, 517 Theatre Lane, Webster Groves. Tickets are $15. Call 314-962-0876. (DJ)

Nunsense II: The Second Coming Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the theater, Dan Goggin resurrects his quirky quintet of singing nuns. If you loved the first one, you'll adore this. A few details are changed: Mother Superior gets drunk instead of high, the sisters dance a soft-shoe instead of a time-step and there's an actual Moment of Drama, when it seems as if Sister Mary Paul might have to leave. Designer Valerie Goldson has fun with lighting effects, and the four-piece pit band (led by Brad C. Jofeditz) is splendid. Director and choreographer Janet Strzelec spreads the action out over the large stage and creates some fun dance numbers, but her direction of the acting is lacking. Through June 26 at Dunham Hall Theatre on the campus of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, I-270 and Route 157, Edwardsville. Tickets are $15 ($12 for students, seniors and SIUE staff; free for SIUE students). Call 618-650-2774. (DJ)

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