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Best Musical Theater Production 

Radamisto, Opera Theatre of St. Louis

In this category, we included opera along with conventional fare. Why? Because we heard far too many citizens wrinkle their noses and say, "I don't like opera" when they have a world-class organization presenting superb work on their doorstep every May, though folks who do like opera won't turn up their noses at Rogers & Hammerstein or Porter or Sondheim -- go figure. Our nominee for the best in St. Louis was the Opera Theatre of St. Louis' gleaming, incandescent, mannered and creatively offbeat Radamisto. Stunning voices make this Handel opera tragic and compelling. St. Louis audiences may not have appreciated the beauty of a countertenor, or cross-gender vocalizing, but this was a memorable evening and the standout of an interesting season. The production also featured the year's best set: Featuring two enormous sliding walls with spikes jutting toward centerstage, this remarkably simple modernist set was evocative and menacing, accenting a bravely daring production. St. Louis had some surprising variety in the musical realm this year, and it wouldn't be fair not to mention other thoroughly enjoyable productions. The Rep's Into the Woods scored a home run. Sondheim's fantasia was cohesive and energetic. Guys and Dolls at the Conservatory of Fine Arts at Webster University was a beaut -- so impressive to see this done without arch winks and nods. Even without a pit orchestra, this Damon Runyon epic rolled lucky sevens all night. Remember those folks who "don't like opera"? Well, Puccini's classic La Bohème, at Union Avenue Opera Theatre, provided plenty of drama and humor, not to mention stunning voices. Finally, New Line Theatre's Out on Broadway 2000 gender-reversed Broadway and cabaret standards and provided dreamy entertainment. All that was missing was the clink of ice cubes and a blue haze of cigarette smoke.

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