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Purlie: Black Rep Opens Season With Timely and Clever Musical on Jim Crow South

Categories: Arts

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Photo: Phillip Hamer
The Purlie cast sings and dances its way to outwitting plantation owner Ol' Cap'n.
How do you emasculate the institutionalized bigotry that held sway for centuries in the cotton fields of South Georgia? If you're the late playwright and activist Ossie Davis, you render it in such cartoonish dimensions that its barbarity is obvious, its absurdity indisputable.

At least that's what Davis hoped for with Purlie, his musical tale of a silver-tongued preacher who schemes to trick a white plantation owner out of a church. Based on Davis' earlier play, Purlie Victorious, the musical adaptation, now given expansive treatment as The Black Rep's competent season opener, is rife with caricatures from the Jim Crow South.

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The Rep's "Two Guvnors" Offers a Smorgasbord of Bawdy Laughs

Categories: Arts

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Jerry Naunheim Jr.
Raymond McAnally and Ruth Pferdehirt in the Rep's rollicking One Man, Two Guvnors.
Be careful where you sit during One Man, Two Guvnors, Richard Bean's hysterical, topsy-turvy comedy that marks the impressive launch of the fall season at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis.

Sit too close, and the evening's ebullient star, Raymond McAnally, is likely to pull you onstage, dragooning you to do his dirty work before impugning your sexual predilections, as he did a pair of silver-haired gents on opening night. Sit on the aisle, and you may find yourself wearing a straw hat, coerced into a seductive chair dance with a fella in frilly sleeves festooned with flowers.

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"Fiddler on the Roof": Stages St. Louis Pulls Off Brilliant Production of Classic Musical

Categories: Arts

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Peter Wochniak
Bruce Sabath and Paul Sabala in Fiddler on the Roof.
Stages St. Louis closes its main-stage season with that most traditional of musicals, Fiddler on the Roof, and like the show's opening number, "Tradition," director Michael Hamilton calls upon the Tony Award-winning show's estimable history to deliver a bright production, filled with sumptuous choreography and impressive musical numbers.

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Dramatic License's "Great American Trailer Park Musical" Is a White-Trash Blast

Categories: Arts

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John Lamb
A white-trash Trailer bash in Chesterfield.
Stripping," says Pippi, an exotic dancer on the run from her bad-seed boyfriend in David Nehls' crowd-pleasing tuner, The Great American Trailer Park Musical, "is like an all-you-can-eat waffle bar: You need to know when to walk away."

The same might be said of Dramatic License Productions' hilarious rendition of the show, which plays hard for laughs, serving up reheated white-trash stereotypes and a plot as thin as the strawberry syrup at IHOP. But like any good waffle bar, walking away is easier said than done. The show is an unabashed buffet, both salty and sweet, and while it definitely satisfies those twin cravings of the American diet, its empty calories may leave you feeling bloated when it comes time for the check.

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R-S Theatrics' "First Lady Suite" Is a Musical in Need of a Presidential Pardon

Categories: Arts

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Courtesy Michael Young
Mamie pours a stiff one in First Lady Suite.
If you've ever wondered how Mamie Eisenhower, lonely and a little tipsy on her birthday, responded to the Little Rock Nine crisis, allow playwright Michael John LaChiusa to enlighten you: She traveled back in time, by boat, to confront her philandering husband about his mistress/chauffeur, Kay Summersby.

Vain, childish, self-pitying and self-absorbed, Mamie is but one of the women trapped by the office of the presidency in First Lady Suite, LaChiusa's surreal and somewhat facile chamber musical now featured in a bumpy production by R-S Theatrics. Often employing the metaphor of flight, the show plays fast and loose with the veneers of fame, imagining the unknown and dreamlike inner worlds of these public figures as they hurtle through the air, freed from the confines of the White House.

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What the Hell is St. Louis Thinking?: "My Home Smells Like Beer and Pretzels" [VIDEO]

Categories: Arts

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via
Eau de St. Louis?
There was a time when the greatest obstacles to St. Louis' civic pride were skewed crime statistics and people hating our pizza.

But the death of Michael Brown focused a national spotlight elsewhere in St. Louis. From the county's militarized police forces to the heavy-handed response to protesters in the streets, the events in Ferguson exposed the historic distrust between north county's black communities and the predominately white police departments that patrol there.

In the still-developing aftermath of Brown's death, everyone is asking the same question local poet Henry Goldkamp did more than a year ago: "What the hell is St. Louis thinking?"


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Human Terrain: Mustard Seed's Probing Work on Iraq Conflict Leaves Lots to Think On

Categories: Arts

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John Lamb
Mustard Seed traverses The Human Terrain.
With combat troops lingering in Afghanistan through the end of 2016 and renewed U.S. airstrikes in Iraq, it may be decades before we can fully explore the cultural toll taken by our bloody adventures in the Middle East.

Americans may be tired of war, but that hasn't stopped a slew of early playwrights from trying to understand it, mining these conflicts to deliver a host of dramatically rich if commercially risky works to a war-weary public. Now comes The Human Terrain, a remarkably potent exploration of shared humanity and the limits of cultural understanding by Jennifer Blackmer, now having its world premiere at Mustard Seed Theatre.

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Fall's Best Bets for Arts in St. Louis

Categories: Arts

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Mark Andresen
Don't listen to the thermometer and its 90+ degree readings this week. Fall is right around the corner. Really! And so is another exciting season of St. Louis theater, gallery openings and other art happenings. Plan ahead with our annual Fall Arts Guide below...

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30 Years After Founding STL Shakespeare, Donna Northcott Takes a Curtain Call

Categories: Arts

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Kim Carlson
Donna Northcott wanted to direct The Liar.

How could she not? David Ives' hysterical adaptation of Pierre Corneille's 1643 farce simply crackles with comedic wit. Written in 2010 The Liar not only offered Northcott an opportunity to direct a fresh new work, but it also afforded her theater company, St. Louis Shakespeare, the chance to produce a play that's all but unknown to local audiences.

Alas, she had to pass on directing The Liar, handing it instead to Suki Peters so she could concentrate on last month's season opener, Hamlet. After all, this season is a big one for Northcott, filled with personal and professional landmarks. Not only does it mark her company's 30th anniversary, but with the March 2015 production of a Sarah Whitney's specially commissioned version of the War of the Roses trilogy (Henry VI), Northcott will have overseen the completion of the entire Shakespeare canon, making it one of only seven troupes in America to have done so.

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Insight Theatre Company's The Spitfire Grill Has the Spit, Lacks the Polish

Categories: Arts

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John Lamb
Get to know the locals in Gilead, Wisconsin.
Insight Theatre Company continues its seventh season with The Spitfire Grill, a feel-good tale of redemption that revolves around a diner in a struggling rural Wisconsin town and the few souls who still call it home.

Adapted from the 1996 film, the musical — long on flannel and earnestness, short on nuance and irony — is the sort of show that delivers its folksy charms as predictably as an order of eggs at your local greasy spoon: satisfying if you're in the mood, but they could probably use a little salt.

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