The limited engagement is a part of the 2013-2014 U.S. Bank Broadway Series. Opening night (Nov. 1) is also “Kids Night at the Fox,” which means a free childs’ ticket is available with the purchase of each adult ticket (while supplies last; some restrictions apply).
The musical features the Academy Award®-winning score from the animated classic by Alan Menken (music) and Howard Ashman (lyrics). The show also features new songs from Menken (music) and Tim Rice (lyrics). The book is written by Linda Woolverton.
It’s difficult to know just what to expect when you are about to see a musical based on George A. Romero’s 1968 original horror classic – Night of the Living Dead. What you don’t want to see is a bunch of dancing zombies in musical numbers, or songs that take light of the desperate situation the characters are in. Luckily none of that is in the show, which sticks very close to the source material. New Line’s take is intense, creepy and full of slow-building tension.
Night of the Living Dead tells the story of seven strangers who happen upon an old farmhouse to take shelter from the zombie attack outside. Barbra (Marcy Wiegert) has been separated from her brother Johnny, and sent into a semi-catatonic state. Ben (Zachary Allen Farmer) happens upon Barbra, frightened and alone in the dark, and protects her as he takes charge of upstairs. Meanwhile Harry (Mike Dowdy) and Helen (Sarah Porter), along with their sick daughter Karen (Phoebe Desilets), are taking shelter in the basement along with a young couple – Tom (Joseph McAnulty) and Judy (Mary Beth Black). Although they often disagree on tactics and argue about who’s in charge, they all share the one goal – to survive until morning.
These are the words of a man known only as White (Zachary Allen Farmer), one half of the characters in “The Sunset Limited.” Written by Cormac McCarthy, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author responsible for “The Road” and “No Country for Old Men,” his second published play is an hour and thirty minute long conversation between two men who view the world very differently. White, a professor and atheist who earlier that day attempted to catch the Sunset Limited by jumping in front of it, was saved by a man who appeared out of nowhere. Black (Robert A. Mitchell), his savior, is an ex-convict and Christian who attempts to change White’s opinion of the human condition. Tackling a show like this is no small task, and an ambitious choice for Theatre Lab’s first production.
Farmer, who wowed audiences most recently as the lead in New Line Theatre’s “Bukowsical,” is fantastic in his poignant and thought provoking performance as White. The character is one who has given up hope, whose faith in God and humanity has vanished. You can feel the pain he has experienced through Farmer’s portrayal, as he meticulously brings McCarthy’s words to life in a series of powerful monologues.
The “yin” to Farmers “yang” is Bob Mitchell, a veteran of the St. Louis theatre scene and former artistic director of the NonProphet Theater Company. His masterful performance as Black pulls you in, as he tries to convince White that life is still worth living.
For those unfamiliar with the man without whom we would not have a Bukowsical, Charles Bukowski was a writer whose work focused on the misery of everyday life, women, and his muse – alcohol. And what kind of a musical would we have if it were not as honest as a man who once wrote, “Jesus Christ, some people are so dumb you can hear them splashing around in their dumbness?” Bukowsical is an adults only, rated R, not safe for work, M for mature type of show that never holds back. You know you are in for one hell of a show when a bright and colorful musical number starts off, “What’s the feeling you get, when you’re down on your luck, and you’re too drunk to f–k? BUKOWSICAL!”
Beside from it’s brutally honest and uncensored mentality, what makes the show so great is how seriously it is taken while being outrageous and laugh out loud funny. What I mean is that all the elements of a great American musical are there. The book and lyrics, written by Spencer Green and Gary Stockdale, are clever and quirky – always keeping the audience anticipating the next quotable line while perfectly carrying the story along. The music by Stockdale, and wonderfully performed by the New Line band, is as catchy and memorable as any Broadway show. Although I didn’t fully realize it while I was listening to it for the first time, as there was a lot to take in, the songs in the show are simply fantastic. As I listened back to the music of Bukowsical after the show, one after another was getting stuck in my head. I found myself tapping my toes long after the curtains were closed, and the recordings were turned off.
I didn’t know much about Anything Goes as I walked into the Fabulous Fox Theatre for the show’s opening night in St. Louis. Sure, I had heard the title song before, yet aside from that and what I read in preparation – I was entering with a clean slate. What followed was a missing gem from my theatre-going experience. A clever and delightful comedy that is packed with well-known songs and fantastic performances by several Broadway veterans. And for a show that first opened in 1934, this revival is as fun and current as anything else I’ve seen.
Written by distinguished writer and lyricist Cole Porter, the story takes place mostly at sea aboard the S.S. American. Young stockbroker Billy Crocker (JOSH FRANKLIN) has fallen in love with debutante Hope Harcourt (ALEX FINKE) who is out of his league. Meanwhile sultry nightclub proprietress and star Reno Sweeny (RACHEL YORK) is in love with Billy, yet he doesn’t even notice. She asks him to go to London with her, but he declines – sighting his job and Hope as the reasons he must stay. But in the morning when he goes to the cruise ship to give his boss Elisha Whitney (DENNIS KELLY) his passport, he finds that Hope is set to be married to nobleman Sir Evelyn Oakleigh (EDWARD STAUDENMAYER). Not only are they both on board, along with his boss and Reno, but are also joined by two stowaway gangsters: Public Enemy No. 13 Moonface Martin (FRED APPLEGATE) and his henchwoman Erma (JOYCE CHITTICK). A series of unexpected events lands Billy aboard the ship, where a hilarious case of mistaken identity ensues. He must try and blend in, all the while attempting to win over the woman of his dreams.