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It has been probably twenty years since I watched the 1992 film Newsies, starring a 17-year-old Christian Bale as Jack Kelly – the leader of what would become known as the “Newsboys Strike of 1899.” Aside from starring the future Oscar-winning actor, and being directed by Kenny Ortega, there isn’t much I remember about the box office failure – which recouped less than $3 million dollars of its $15 million budget. However someone at Disney believed in the potential of the story, and the fantastic music of Alan Menken, and in 2011 it opened at the Paper Mill Playhouse to critical acclaim. In 2012 it would land on Broadway, winning Tony Awards® for Best Score and Best Choreography. And now the national tour is making its way around the country, and has landed at the Fabulous Fox Theatre in St. Louis.
Wicked plays the Fabulous Fox Theatre in St. Louis from December 9 – January 3! Performances are Mon.-Fri. at 7:30pm, Sat. at 2pm & 7:30pm, Sun. at 1pm & 6:30pm, Thur. Dec.10, Dec. 24 & Dec. 31 at 1pm, and Wed. Dec 30 at 1pm. Tickets are $40 to $200, and the running time is 2 hours and 45 minutes with 1 intermission. Purchase tickets at Metrotix, or visit the Fabulous Fox website for more details.
Wicked is the untold story of the witches of Oz, based on the best-selling novel by Gregory Maguire. It is here we learn how they became known as “The Wicked Witch of the West” and “Glinda the Good,” back when the two shared an unlikely friendship at Shiz University. The show has won over 100 awards worldwide, including the Grammy® for Best Musical Show Album (Original Broadway Cast Recording) and three Tony® Awards: Best Actress in a Musical (Idina Menzel), Best Costume Design (Susan Hilferty) and Best Scenic Design (Eugene Lee).
Sequels and prequels are always a touchy subject. Especially when they are based off of a timeless classic, like The Wizard of Oz (1939). There is so much pressure to get things right, as fans of the original property are counting on you to leave their coveted work of art unscathed. That goes double when your show is based off of a best-selling novel that pays homage to your beloved property. It’s a risky endeavor, but when done right it really pays off. And Wicked is an example of when it pays off big time.
Without a doubt, one of the most fun shows you can see live is Mamma Mia! You just can’t beat the energy of the ABBA music, being performed right in front of you by talented musicians, with vocals from an extremely talented cast. It’s like going to a rock concert and a musical, all at once. And that is why Mamma Mia! has been seen by over 60 million people over the past 16 years, making more than $2 billion dollars worldwide.
Most theatre-goers will be familiar with the story (which was also turned into a film starring Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan, and Stellan Skarsgård) of Sophie (Kyra Belle Johnson), a 20 year old bride-to-be, searching for her father to give her away at the wedding. The problem is that she’s never met him, and doesn’t even know who he is. Her mother Donna (Erin Fish) has never spoken of him, keeping her memories in a diary that has been locked away for the past two decades. That is until Sophie finds it, uncovering that her father could be one of three men who Donna had a summer fling with: Sam (Chad W. Fornwalt), Bill (Ryan M. Hunt), or Harry (Andrew Tebo). It seems the only way to get her dad to the wedding is to invite all three prospects to the island where she lives, ensuring at least one of them will do the job.
I’d like to say that I was surprised by just how amazing New Line Theatre‘s opening show of their 25th season was. But I can’t. Because honestly, at this point, what else did I expect? Is it a surprise when show after show, year after year, Scott Miller finds another musical that failed on or off Broadway, and breaths the breath of life back into it – reviving it from it’s eternal slumber and makes it into the wonderful piece of art it was always destined to be? The answer is no; It should come as no surprise. Heathers, based on the 1988 film starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater, is another inconspicuous movie destined to become a musical.
If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll notice that the story stays fairly true to its source material. However the musical does offer more insight into just how Veronica (Anna Skidis) infiltrated the infamous “Heathers,” the popular group of well-to-do princesses after which the title is named. There’s Heather Chandler (Sicily Mathenia), the alpha of the group, Heather McNamara (Larissa White) and Heather Duke (Cameisha Cotton).Veronica abandons everything she knows about being an outcast, becoming one of the “cool kids” at the expense of losing friends like Martha Dunstock (Grace Seidel) – referred to by the Heathers as “Martha Dumptruck.” It was just another day at Westerburg High School until JD (Evan Fornachon) showed up, eventually beating the crap out of a couple of jocks who give him trouble: Kurt Kelly (Clayton Humburg) and Ram Sweeney (Omega Jones). An unexpected romance blossoms between Veronica and JD after a falling out with the Heathers at a party, as the two of them impart their own brand of justice to combat the evils of high school villainy.
Watching a huge production of a play or musical can be great. But there is something magical that happens when you enter an intimate venue like The Gaslight Theatre in the Central West End. Inside there are only ninety-nine seats, meaning the worst seat in the house is only a few rows away from the stage. You don’t have to worry about seeing or hearing the actors, and there is nothing to detract from the art which is being created before your eyes. Which is a good thing, because you wouldn’t want to miss a second of this beautifully dark and chilling story.
The Pillowman was written by Martin McDonagh, and debuted in 2003 at the Cottesloe Theatre in London, England. It earned the honor of receiving the 2004 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play, two Tonys, and both New York Drama Critics’ Circle and Drama Desk Awards. The play revolves around a short story writer named Katurian (Jason C. Klefisch), living in a totalitarian state, who is detained for questioning about recent child murders which bear a striking similarity to his stories. He eventually finds out that his brother Michal (Nick Kelly) is also being held, as their lives are placed in the hands of detectives Tupolski (Eric Dean White) and Ariel (Darian Michael Garey). The question is, are the two brothers being held unfairly, or is their something to the hard-nosed detectives’ antics?
There are only four characters in the entire play, but don’t let that scare you away. That is twice as many as appeared in Theatre Lab’s first ambitious project, The Sunset Limited. And what incredible actors were chosen for the roles. Jason Klefisch is fantastic as Katurian, who you aren’t quite sure what to think of at first. His stories are dark and twisted, yet the audience isn’t so quick to pin any guilt on him. The actor gives it his all as he turns in a gut-wrenching performance, running the gamut of emotions. Alongside him is Nick Kelley as his brother Michal for much of the show. Kelley is faced with not only performing some heavy material, but also portraying a character who has special needs. He does an excellent job with the balancing act, making his character’s actions never less than believable. He is also tasked with bringing levity to the show, while never coming across derogatorily or insensitively.