Capsule Reviews

Dennis Brown and Deanna Jent suss out local theater

Aug 4, 2004 at 4:00 am
Guys and Dolls Reviewed in this issue.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch What's a girly boy to do when his sex-change operation is botched? Form a rock & roll band! Todd Schaefer shows off an amazing voice in this confessional concert piece, which features a kick-ass band and great cross-gender supporting work from Stephanie Brown. After a strangely slow opening, Schaefer's performance savvy kicks in and this Hedwig takes off. Schaefer succeeds with a variety of musical styles -- soulful ballads, funky honky-tonk and metal/punk noisefests. But the heart of the play is Hedwig's failed love affair with Tommy, and here Schaefer's acting rings true. Playing both Tommy and Hedwig, he creates a fabulous sense of dialogue. A confusing ending clouds an otherwise bright performance: Hedwig seems to have an epiphany, stripping away her wig, makeup and clothes, but the audience is left to guess at what caused her transformation. It's a bit like an Uh-Oh Oreo -- strangely vanilla at both ends, but creamy-licking-good in the middle. Staged by the New Line Theatre and the Washington Avenue Players Project through August 21 at the ArtLoft Theatre, 1529 Washington. Call 314-534-1111. (Deanna Jent)

Jekyll and Hyde Last year Glenn Guillermo directed a vest-pocket version of this 1997 musical gothic thriller for Curtain Call Rep. This go-round he's helming a much more elaborate production -- which, ironically, serves to heighten the show's flaws. Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse's adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novella about the duality of man is undermined by an overly expository book. Yet in between some dense talk, several of Wildhorn's pop melodies are impressively sung. Among them, Patrick Ryan (a severe Dr. Jekyll) does well by the soaring "This Is the Moment." As the doomed Lucy, Leah Schumacher brings a simple poignancy to "Someone Like You." She's also effective in the duet "In His Eyes," sung in tandem with Kay Love, who once again brings a lyrical sweetness to the ingénue role. Performed by Spotlight Productions through August 8 at the Marquette High School Theater, 2351 Clarkson Road. Call 636-938-2362. (Dennis Brown)

The Sound of Music Stages St. Louis answers the musical question: "How do you solve a problem like Maria?" with Sherri L. Edelen, whose superb singing voice and delightful character discoveries make her Maria a joy from start to finish. Mark Halpin's scenic design and Lou Bird's costumes effectively contrast the opulent world of the Von Trapp household and the serene beauty of the abbey. The children are engaging and fun and, of course, musically advanced for their years. It's slow going at times -- some of the scenes exist only to hide the furniture moving behind them. But if you're a fan of the feisty Maria or fantasize about singing with a huge family while wearing matching outfits, this production will satisfy. David Schmittou as the freezer-father turned good (Captain Von Trapp) warms up nicely during the Austrian folk dance he shares with Maria. It's a story of Good and Evil, with Church, Family and National Pride slugging it out against the Nazi Empire, and it runs through August 15 at the Kirkwood Community Center, located at 111 South Geyer Road. Call 314-821-2407. (DJ)

The Wizard of Oz This extravagant community-theater staging of the classic 1939 movie manages to balance scene-for-scene familiarity with fun unpredictability. Director Brad Schwartz, musical director Mary Sutherland and choreographer JT Ricroft have conceived the production as a jack-in-the-box out of which pleasant surprises continually pop. The cast of 50 includes an all-purpose chorus that functions as a Kansas tornado, talking trees, poppies, black crows, even the rainbow over which Dorothy (Lauren Weinberg) journeys. There are toe-tapping bunnies, Rollerblading monkeys and a scene-stealing Toto. At intermission we watched as a mother had to drag her protesting daughter out to the lobby; the child was so rapt, she didn't want to leave her seat. It's that kind of a show. Performed by the Clayton Community Theatre through August 8 at Clayton High School, One Mark Twain Circle. Call 314-534-1111. (DB)