St. Louis Stage Capsules

Dennis Brown and Paul Friswold suss out the local theater scene

Newly Reviewed
The Fantasticks The world's longest-running musical should be a sure thing. All you have to do is keep this sublime parable about lost innocence simple, and it will work — as it has for a half-century now. But director Victoria Bussert has cutesied it up with all sorts of "improvements." Despite her mistaken vision, some of the individual performers shine through. As an impetuous young romantic, the charming Cory Michael Smith leavens his sincerity with an appealing humor. The object of his love, Stella Heath, is piquant and lovely. And Brian Sutherland brings a wise, knowing demeanor to the Narrator, who doubles as the romantic bandit El Gallo. Their well-sung songs ("Try to Remember," "Soon It's Gonna Rain," "They Were You") remain sweet and tender. Performed by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis through April 11 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $15 to $73 (rush seats available for students and seniors, $10 and $15 respectively, 30 minutes before showtime). Call 314-968-4925 or visit — Dennis Brown

Five Guys Named Moe As the show begins, our lovesick hero (Anthony Tarvin Jr.) sits beside a radio tuned to a station "for night owls who have got the blues." He's nursing a bottle of beer, and he also must be smoking a little something, because suddenly, in a hallucinogenic haze his radio fills the stage. Out of this elephantine radio (cleverly designed by Chris Pickart) emerge five rejects from Nathan Detroit's permanent floating craps game. Each calls himself Moe; together, they spend the rest of the high-voltage, finger-snapping, suspender-plucking evening singing songs by R&B pioneer Louis Jordan. In no time at all, the blues give way to hoedowns, calypso sing-alongs (when's the last time you were in a conga line?) and choo-choo boogies. Even if you've never heard of Jordan, these five Moes — Drummond Crenshaw, Herman Gordon, Horace E. Smith, Gary E. Vincent, Sean Walton — will make sure that you have a high-stompin' romp. And when they slow down long enough to blend their voices on "Is You Is or Is You Ain't Ma' Baby," the sound is downright sublime. Directed by Ron Himes and performed by the Black Rep through April 25 at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square. Tickets are $17 to $43. Call 314-534-3810 or visit (DB)