Capsule Reviews

Dennis Brown and Deanna Jent suss out local theater

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Great Day in the Morning Reviewed in this issue.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch The St. Louis debut of this Obie Award-winning off-Broadway musical offers 90 minutes of confessional cabaret helmed by a trashy transsexual who was permanently scarred by a botched sex-change operation (no, not on her face). Bradley Calise gives a brave performance as Hedwig Schmidt, the East German drag queen in desperate pursuit of the "other half" of her/his personality. The show abounds in camp humor and double-entendre, yet the evening -- punctuated by rock, heavy-metal, country and even theater-influenced songs -- has a heft to it. In time Hedwig comes to personify anyone and everyone who ever felt shortchanged by life and had to make the most of what they were given. The cast is filled out by Nicole Trueman as Hedwig's put-upon husband and a pickup band led by musical director Kad Day. Performed by Vanity Theatre July 29 at 8 p.m. and July 30 at 8 and 11 p.m. (the final show is to be followed by a swingin' party) at the Soulard Theatre, 1921 South Ninth Street. Call 314-481-4413. (Dennis Brown)

The Music Man America's favorite Fourth of July musical arrives in Forest Park nearly a month late, and some of Iowa's corn-fed, roly-poly characters seem to be on the Atkins diet. Nevertheless, vibrant choreography by Liza Gennaro -- who seems to have borrowed the best from Onna White's original 1957 dances and some new twists from the recent Susan Stroman-directed revival -- keeps the show twirling at a brisk pace. In a production noted for its unlikely surprises, the evening's musical high point occurs when (ready for this?) ten-year-old Jimmy McEvoy brings down the house singing "Gary, Indiana." And "Marian the Librarian" is a more dynamic dance number than the rousing "Seventy-Six Trombones." Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is how fresh and funny Meredith Willson's book still is after all these decades. In supporting roles, James Anthony brings delightful bluster to Mayor Shinn and Annie McGreevey sparkles as Mrs. Paroo. Performed by the Muny through August 1 in Forest Park. Call 314-534-1111. (DB)

The Sound of Music Reviewed in this issue.

St. Nicholas Nobody spins yarns like the Irish, and Conor McPherson's extended piece of blarney about vampires is storytelling at its most compelling. Joe Hanrahan's solo performance as a disheveled, dashing yet self-destructive Dublin theater critic who gets entangled with creatures of the night is even more riveting in this revival than it was when first seen at McGurk's last April. Hanrahan's Irish accent is a little thicker this go-round, but the story points are even clearer. Act One is a tale of unrequited infatuation, but Act Two travels into unfamiliar terrain. "Were they real or were they a dream?" our critic asks about the vampires. Like most truly haunting tales, they're probably a bit of both. Performed July 28 and 29 at Café Balaban, 405 North Euclid Avenue. Call 314-487-5305. (DB)

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