Based on the 1992 box office hit which grossed over $230 million worldwide, Sister Act brings the character made famous by Whoopi Goldberg to the stage of the Fabulous Fox Theatre in St. Louis from November 19 to December 1.Deloris Van Cartier (TA’REA CAMPBELL) is an undiscovered diva with the dream to hit it big, as she auditions to sing in the nightclub of gangster Curtis Jackson (MELVIN ABSTON). After being rejected on Christmas Eve, she decides that she doesn’t need Curtis or his club to become famous. On her way out she witnesses the murder of an accused informant at the club-owner’s hands, sending her running into police custody for protection. With the help of officer Souther (CHESTER GREGORY), an old high school friend known as “Sweaty Eddie,” she takes refuge at a convent run by Mother Superior (HOLLIS RESNIK). There she tries to blend in amongst the sisters, meanwhile transforming a church on the brink of closure into a fabulous musical destination.
Sister Act is packed full of fantastic songs, which is no surprise with the talent of and Academy Award-winning composer Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin) responsible for the music. Rarely do you find a new musical full of not-yet-famous numbers that have you captivated, one after the next. Yet in this case, the show is overflowing with catchy numbers. The lyrics by Glenn Slater are wonderfully written, telling the story while keeping things lively and entertaining throughout.
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.
The Glamorous Fox Theater became a window to the past on Tuesday as it was opening night for “Evita”. A play scribed by Andrew Lloyd and Tim Rice which tells the sultry story of Eva Peron and her husband, Juan Peron. Eva is played by Caroline Bowman and Juan is played by Sean MacLaughlin. Both bring passion and life to historical figures that walked this Earth in a tremultuious time.Eva was born in a small village in Argentina. which is not discussed in the play at all but it does lend to her personality and why the “common man” took to her so easily. At the age of 15 (where the play picks up the story) she goes to Buenos Aires to try and become a singing/acting star. This portion of the act displays a wonderous set. A small night club with stars above and lively characters strewn through out the scene. A typical bunch you would see in small gathering hole. Each set had it own story to tell. Smoke machines in the background gave off a slight fog but with the lighting used gave each scene a mystique historic quality to it.
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.