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Make Merry 

The other sopranos

Scott Schoonover wants you to get intimate with an opera singer. Schoonover is the musical director of the Union Avenue Christian Church. Back in 1995, he got the crazy notion that the small, acoustically excellent sanctuary of his church would be the perfect place in which to stage an opera. He was right, and Union Avenue Opera Theater was born. Every spring, Schoonover and his crew morph the pulpit of this stern and lovely old church into a stage and orchestra pit.

Their first production this season is Franz Lehár's The Merry Widow, a tuneful landmark. Its titillating plot and sensuous score, using the new harmonic colors developed by Claude Debussy and Richard Strauss, made Widow the first modern international hit. Within a year of its 1905 premier in Vienna, the show was being performed worldwide. There were five simultaneous productions in five languages in Buenos Aires alone. Its popularity triggered the first opera-merchandise craze -- Merry Widow cigarettes, hats and corsets flooded stores. The fantastic popularity of Widow and the equally fantastic opportunities to make money from her instigated an incredible maze of pirated productions, overlapping rights and ownership disputes that would keep some lawyers busy for their lifetimes. It also made formulating international copyright laws an absolute necessity and Lehár a millionaire at the age of 35.

The Merry Widow is sung in English by a cast of UAOT veterans. Performances are presented at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, June 6 and 7, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, June 8. A discussion with Dr. Glen Bauer, director of music history and literature at Webster University, is offered at 7 p.m. opening night. Audio description is available for the visually impaired, and tickets cost $18-$25. Union Avenue Christian Church is located at 733 North Union Boulevard, one block north of Delmar Boulevard. For more information, call 314-361-2881 or e-mail -- Lew Prince

Now Whore This
Best Little Musical in Town

You may have seen it on film with Dolly Parton, Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise or caught the big-budget stage version with Ann-Margret, but anyone familiar with bawdy entertainment knows it's best handled by outlaws.

In this case, it's the New Line Theatre players who'll be bringing us their "no-holes-barred" version of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, scheduled for 8 p.m. each Thursday-Saturday, June 5-28, at the ArtLoft Theatre, 1529 Washington Avenue. Tickets are $15-$18. To find out how KMOV-TV's Larry Conners' square peg fits into one of these holes, visit New Line's Web site, -- Tom R. Arterburn

Rich Read

Daniel Stolar has transformed his experiences of hanging with the obnoxious trust-fund babies who attended Ladue's John Burroughs School with him into one of the pieces in The Middle of the Night, his new story collection. Stolar, whose parents and grandfather were St. Louis aldermen, dropped out of the Yale School of Medicine to pursue writing. That story about growing up among the exclusive set is loaded with references to St. Louisiana, including Tropicana Lanes, Meadowbrook Country Club and MAJIC-108. Stolar reads from and signs his book at 7 p.m. Friday, June 6, at Left Bank Books (399 North Euclid Avenue, 314-367-6731, free) and 2 p.m. Saturday, June 7, at Borders Books & Music-Creve Coeur (11745 Olive Boulevard, 314-432-3575, free). -- Byron Kerman

I Slam, Therefore I Is

WED 6/4

Slam poetry takes conventional poetry off the page and injects a sense of streetwise style and confrontation that can leave a club audience dazed. On the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month, the Red Sea (6511 Delmar Boulevard, 314-776-7370) features verbose troubadours plying their mad skills on the open-mic for cash prizes.

It'll be all business at 8 p.m. this Wednesday -- that's when the qualifying rounds to determine which four of the previous winning competitors will represent St. Louis at the 2003 National Poetry SLAM (in Chicago, August 6-9) go down. Admission to the SLAM Poetry Grand Slam is $5, and the proceeds help cover expenses for the 2003 team. -- Rob Levy

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