Opening Tonight: All Is Calm

Tickets are on sale and are going very quickly for Mustard Seed Theatre’s award winning show, All Is Calm.  The Christmas Truce of 1914 is a poignant example of choosing peace and compassion in a time of great distress…a lesson that seems ever so relevant right now.  Tickets are still available, and the run has been extended one additional week, but the show will likely sell out.  GET YOUR TICKETS WHILE YOU STILL CAN.

ALL IS CALM

All is Calm - Flyer

PERFORMANCE DATES 11/11/2016 – 12/4/2016

 

Back for a 4th (and final) year, this a capella musical ponders a moment of peace in the middle of war, featuring excerpts from soldiers’ letters and diaries. Opening on Veterans Day, November 11, the production will feature:

Paul Cereghino, Kent Coffel, *Steve Isom, Steve Jent, Greg Lhamon, Gerry Love, *Antonio Rodriguez, Luke Steingruby, Kelvin Urday, Jeff Wright

.

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CAST AND CREW

Paul Cereghino

Kent Coffel

*Steve Isom

Steve Jent

Greg Lhamon

Gerry Love

*Antonio Rodriguez

Luke Steingruby

Kelvin Urday

Jeff Wright

 

Director: Deanna Jent

Music Director Joe Schoen

Vocal Coach: Richard Lewis

Stage Manager: Traci Clapper

Assistant Stage Manager:  Morgan Fisher

Lighting Design: Michael Sullivan

Set Design: Kyra Bishop

Costume Design: Jane Sullivan

Props: Meg Brinkley

Box Office Manager:  Tanya Tweedy

Poster Design:  Zoe Sullivan

Snoop’s Theatre Thoughts Review: The Rocky Horror Show

Frank is working on an important project that he’s about to reveal on this very evening–his “creature”, the scantily clad, extremely physically fit Rocky Horror (Luke Steingruby)

“Rocky Horror” at Stray Dog is a Crowd-Pleaser, But It Works Better if You Know The Show”
October 24, 2016 by Michelle Kenyon (“Snoop”)
The Rocky Horror Show
Book, Music, and Lyrics by Richard O’Brien
Directed by Justin Been
Choreographed by Zachary Stefaniak Shaffner
Stray Dog Theatre
October 13, 2016

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Michael Juncal (center) and cast Photo by John Lamb Stray Dog Theatre
Michael Juncal (center) and cast
Photo by John Lamb
Stray Dog Theatre
I have a confession to make–I had never seen The Rocky Horror Show before. I hadn’t even seen the movie, the cult classic Rocky Horror Picture Show, even though I had seen several clips and heard some of the songs. I felt at a distinct disadvantage when seeing the latest production at Stray Dog Theatre. Although it’s a well-staged production with a great cast and reflective of Stray Dog’s usual excellence, I think a show like this would appeal best to those who are more familiar with the material.

The point of a show like Rocky Horror is more the experience than the actual plot. It’s a funny spoof of old-fashioned horror films, with hilariously over-the-top characterizations and some fun songs and raucous, raunchy humor, but that’s not all it is. It’s an interactive show, really, and the audience participation is what makes it work best. The audience gives energy to the performers, and the whole entertainment value is enhanced, especially when audience members are reciting lines along with the performers, singing along with the songs, and shouting responses at the characters on stage. The program wisely contains instructions that differentiate the play from the film, so things like throwing things and squirting water are not permitted, but dressing up, singing along, and talking back are encouraged. It’s the kind of experience that made me wish I had seen the film, because I was just watching a lot of the time, rather than participating because I didn’t know what was supposed to happen next, and this show is best when the audience is fully engaged.

That all said, Stray Dog’s production is extremely well-staged, well-cast, and technically impressive. The story follows naive newly engaged Brad (Kevin O’Brien) and Janet (Heather Matthews) after their car breaks down late one night and they stop at the nearest castle to use the phone. There, they encounter an unusual cast of characters led by cross-dressing mad scientist Dr. Frank N. Furter (Michael Juncal). Frank is working on an important project that he’s about to reveal on this very evening–his “creature”, the scantily clad, extremely physically fit Rocky Horror (Luke Steingruby). Along with his strange and enthusiastic household staff including “handyman” Riff Raff (Corey Fraine), housemaid Magenta (Maria Bartolotta), and “groupie” Columbia (Sara Rae Womack), Frank educates Brad and Janet about his life’s work, and about… well, quite a few other subjects. Led by an enthusiastic, deadpan Narrator (Gerry Love), the story is as over-the-top and campy as one would expect, with a catchy score of well-known song such as “The Time Warp”, “Sweet Transvestite”, and “Touch-A Touch Me”.

The cast here is well-chosen and they all seem to be having a great time on stage, from the leads to the ensemble. Juncal hams it up with gleeful mischief as Frank, Matthews plays the sheltered but increasingly fascinated Janet convincingly, and she’s well-matched with O’Brien as the comically uptight Brad, and Steingruby as the eager-to-learn new creation, Rocky. There are also strong performances from Fraine and Bartolotta as the scheming Riff Raff and Magenta, and Womack as the enthusiastic Columbia. Love is also a comic treat as the narrator, and the rest of the cast is excellent as well, performing the songs with impressive presence and energy.

The staging by director Justin Been and choreography by Zachary Stefaniak Shaffner is also clever and inventive. I especially liked how the ensemble members “became” Brad and Janet’s car. Robert J. Lippert’s multi-level set is colorful and detailed, and Eileen Engel’s costumes are striking and well-suited to the characters, from Frank’s corsets to the household staff’s unique outfits to the Narrator’s military garb. There’s also excellent lighting by Tyler Duenow and a top-notch band led by music director Chris Petersen.

Rocky Horror is a funny, shocking, larger-than-life comic horror story that isn’t for all audiences (it’s definitely not for the kids), but it can be a lot of fun. I do think it will be best appreciated by those who are familiar with the material and can add to the audience participation, which contributes greatly to the fun of a show like this. Stray Dog’s production, however, is entertaining even for those who haven’t seen it before. It’s worth seeing, especially if you know what to expect.

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Cast of The Rocky Horror Show Photo by John Lamb Stray Dog Theatre
Cast of The Rocky Horror Show
Photo by John Lamb
Stray Dog Theatre
Stray Dog Theatre is presenting The Rocky Horror Show at Tower Grove Abbey until October 29, 2016.

Snoop’s Theatre Thoughts

Belleville News-Democrat Review: The Rocky Horror Show

A tanned, blonde and muscular Luke Steingruby is a playful boy-toy as the lab creation Rocky. He not only looks the part but shows off his impressive vocal range in “The Sword of Damocles.”

‘Rocky Horror Show’ is alive and well in Stray Dog Theatre’s hands

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Review: The Rocky Horror Show

‘The Rocky Horror Show’: Back on a real stage
By Judith Newmark St. Louis Post-Dispatch Oct 21, 2016 (0)
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The only problem facing Stray Dog Theatre’s production of “The Rocky Horror Show” is this: Somebody might buy a ticket by mistake.

What on earth would an innocent make of Richard O’Brien’s goofy, vulgar musical, a Halloween-season staple that earned cult status on the midnight-movie circuit? A spoof of old horror and sci-fi movies with a score that parodies ’50s-era music, the lewd, lighthearted comedy could be pretty offensive — if you didn’t know what you were in for.

But nobody at Stray Dog seems confused. Under the direction of Justin Been, Stray Dog presents O’Brien’s original stage show, which debuted in 1973. (The wildly successful movie version, released two years later, stars Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick and Meat Loaf.) Been no doubt knew from the start that the audience would be filled with people who shout out lines and catchphrases, sing along with the songs and dress up in costumes like members of the cast.

They have a wonderful time. Even the Rocky “Virgins” seemed to know what was up; if nothing else, they must have guessed before the show, when members of the cast wandered around, lipsticking the letter “V” on their foreheads.

The story’s pretty simple. Two newly engaged naifs, Brad (Kevin O’Brien) and Janet (Heather Matthews), hunting for a phone when their car breaks down on a rainy night, stumble into the castle of Dr. Frank ’N’ Furter (Michael Juncal), an arcade of sexual abandon and weird “scientific” experiments. They make some amazing … discoveries.
Juncal — his shaven head looking sort of canine over a pearl choker and his meaty legs encased in fishnet hose — portrays a more downscale “Sweet Transvestite” than Curry did. But it works for this production. Improvising lines and bits, wobbling down the onstage staircase in “do-me” shoes and seducing one and all, Juncal gives the play its far-off-center center.

The whole cast has fun with him, with particularly impressive work from Maria Bartolotta and Corey Fraine as the decadent servants Magenta and Riff Raff. Bartolotta sings so beautifully that she makes the opening number, “Science Fiction,” sound like a real song instead of a parody. But, loud and crude as Magenta is, Bartolotta manages to communicate an unexpected tenderness. (It would be great to see her tackle Serafina in “The Rose Tattoo.”)

Choreographer Zachary Stefaniak Shaffner gets the whole cast moving in style, especially in the splashy numbers “The Time Warp” and “Hot Patootie.” Costume designer Eileen Engel dives straight for the cellar in a giddy celebration of sexy sleaze. And Chris Petersen’s instrumental quartet, squeezed into a center-stage nook between a pair of staircases, handles O’Brien’s many musical modes with aplomb.

With the new Fox production on TV and midnight showings at the Tivoli in the Loop, a live production might be just what you need for a true Rocky-fest. But if you want to catch it, act fast. Few tickets remain.

St. Louis Post Dispatch

KDHX Review: The Rocky Horror Show

Photo by John Lamb.

 

 

 

Stray Dog Theatre sashays into its sixteenth season with a bawdy, over-the-top (in the best way) production of The Rocky Horror Show. The show is pure fun, a counter-culture and audience-participation approved celebration of B-movies and flashy songs. The musical, delivered with a nod and a wink to a knowing audience, celebrates sexual liberation with hyper-charged 1970’s style and diva-esque attitude. What makes this particular production stand out is quality vocals and an attention to detail at every turn.

Set in 1969, the light as a feather story takes place in a time before cell phones or roadside service — important devices to the thin plot. The newly engaged Brad and Janet take a spontaneous road trip to share the happy news with their former professor. This uncharacteristic jump into the unknown turns out to be a life-changing moment, in a most comic and theatrically sexy way. After getting a flat tire in the rain, they decide to seek refuge in the ominous manor down the road and, as they say, “time meant nothing, never will again.”

Kevin O’Brien and Heather Matthews are simply peachy as the young lovers, but they’re completely overshadowed, in a good way, by their host and his entourage. Nothing in their conservative upbringing has prepared them for the sensually eccentric Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter, a vivacious and teasing Michael Juncal, and his band of merry phantoms and devotees.

A self-proclaimed “sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania,” he’s accompanied by Corey Fraine’s sinister, sneering Riff-Raff, Maria Bartolotta’s crazed, lustful Magenta, Sara Rae Womack’s wide-eyed and star-struck Columbia, and an entourage of Phantoms. Over the night, the good doctor gives Brad and Janet a liberal dose of the excitement they’ve been missing. The dichotomy creates a saucy conflict that only science fiction and a drag floorshow can resolve.

The focus is on the fun in this rendition of The Rocky Horror Show, there’s more than a touch of camp in the tone and gestures, but the quality of the singing takes the production up a notch. Visually, it took me about three seconds to adjust to Juncal’s bald Frank ‘N’ Furter, but vocally he is near perfection, with growls, purrs, and just the right amount of contemporary sass to own the character.

O’Brien and Matthews harmonize well, and each has a strong voice with a warm tone. Fraine hisses and snarls in key, while Bartolotta and Womack once again show great range and control, and Womack turns in a nice bit of tap as well. Michael A. Wells pulls double duty as Dr. Scott and Eddie, a full-throated rock ‘n’ roll rebel. Gerry Love is a humorous narrator with a penchant for evidence, and the ensemble is rounded out with leading quality vocalists and performers including Angela Bubash, Sarah Polizzi, and Tim Kaniecki, who really needs a role where he can show off his considerable dancing chops. Finally, Luke Steingruby’s Rocky is practically flawless, with an angelic voice, Charles Atlas muscles, blond hair, and a tan.

The production is enhanced by the company’s continued commitment to make the most of their space, equipment, and budget. The fantastic, multi-story set by Rob Lippert has multiple, intricately detailed levels that help with the storytelling. Clever choreography by Zachary Stefaniak Shaffner references the original and takes full advantage of the venue while adding a few fresh twists. Tyler Duenow’s lighting recreates numerous effects and adds dramatic tone, which is amplified by Chris Peterson’s musical direction.

Eileen Engel’s costumes are creatively true to the original vision and wonderfully flexible, with one glaring exception. Magenta’s primary costume is unfortunately frumpy and out-of-character, even with the lovely décolletage accent. Bartolotta is exceptionally talented and she makes strong choices as an actor, the costume stands out as incongruous with the role.

The company gets so much, so much more than right, however, and there’s a palpable joie de vie in the enthusiastic cast that instantly captures and draws the audience into the fun. Plus, singing along and shouting out familiar retorts is encouraged. The impact of the choices is surprisingly fresh and satisfying, particularly for a show whose characters are so specifically ingrained in pop culture.

Intentionally immersive from the moment the Usherette greets you in the lobby to the sing-and-dance along curtain call, The Rocky Horror Show, in performance at Stray Dog Theatre through October 29, 2016, is a sweet little treat you’ll be happy to indulge. If you want to join in on the fun you’ll need to get your tickets asap, as many performances are already sold out.

KDHX

Riverfront Times Review:  The Rocky Horror Show

Luke Steingruby is the hottest Rocky Horror ever, and that includes the film version. He’s built like a Greek god and he wears the smallest set of sparkly gold panties you’ve ever almost seen — is it any wonder he sets off the chain reaction of lust and sex that follows? (It is not.)

Stray Dog’s New Version of The Rocky Horror Show is Wonderful

The Rocky Horror Show

Book, music and lyrics by Richard O’Brien. Directed by Justin Been
Presented by Stray Dog Theatre through October 29 at Tower Grove Abbey (2336 Tennessee Avenue; http://www.straydogtheatre.org). Tickets are $20 to $25.
St. Louis is in dire need of a weekly midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. This became clear partway through the first act of Stray Dog Theatre’s terrific new production of The Rocky Horror Show. Director Justin Been’s conception is a combination of the stage and screen versions of this cult classic — the cast performs the original musical, and, as at film screenings, the audience is encouraged to sing along and shout out their favorite talk-back lines. Rocky Horror habitués come prepared to yell funny stuff at the actors in the film; the best comments often set up a character’s next line in call-and-response fashion. Audience members also deploy a host of props; for example, when a character calls for a toast, everybody throws toast at the screen.
In the Stray Dog version, talk-backs are welcome, but no audience props are allowed. It is admittedly a strange animal, this hybrid Rocky Horror, and it would be a lot more fun if audience members came ready to play. Instead, on the night I saw the show, a handful of people in the crowd delivered the classic lines well, but most of the house was in the dark about what to shout and when to shout it. The program gives some brief instructions — shout “asshole” when someone says Brad’s name, shout “slut” after someone says “Janet” — but even these were often delayed. And unfortunately, some dudes enjoyed braying “slut” too much, and too late. It was more disruptive than fun. St. Louis, which used to be a Rocky Horror stronghold, has apparently lost its way.
Even with that, though, the show is a corker. Magenta (Maria Bartolotta) opens the play with a rendition of “Science Fiction” that is both sweet and aching, setting the tone for the rest of the night. It’s a challenging song, but Bartolotta pulls it off effortlessly.
Kevin O’Brien and Heather Matthews are our Brad and Janet, who drive a car made out of the supporting cast of phantoms (they cleverly supply both headlights and windshield wipers) that breaks down during a storm. Director Been has devised several visually appealing moments like this wriggling automobile, and he tastefully augments them with digitally projected effects, such as the rain that flickers over the pair during their performance of “Over at the Frankenstein Place.” Matthews and O’Brien sing together beautifully, edging their hopeful voices with trepidation as rivers of smoke fall off the stage and flow into the crowd.
And then we’re at the Frankenstein castle, and the show really takes off. Scenic designer Robert J. Lippert has surpassed himself here — twin staircases climb up to multiple elevated walkways and secret passages. It’s as much playground as it is scenery, and the cast makes the most of it.
But it’s Michael Juncal who steals the show as Dr. Frank N. Furter, renegade scientist and freaky-deaky gay cross dresser. Juncal is bulkier and balder than the typical stage Frank, and he throws every inch of himself into the role. His “Sweet Transvestite” is campy, his “Charles Atlas” is engorged with lust, and his performance of “I’m Going Home” is a world-weary Götterdämmerung. He also fires back at sloppy crowd comments with the venom of a thwarted lover. If you’re gonna come at the queen, you best not miss.
If this reads like effusive praise, that’s because it is. There isn’t a bad moment or misstep in this show. Riff Raff (Corey Fraine) and Magenta are perfectly creepy and yet sweet together. Fraine’s angular frame is reminiscent of the great Richard O’Brien and he has similar timbre, but Fraine makes Riff Raff his own man. The Narrator (Gerry Love) is an authoritative creep (watch how he swabs people for biological samples in numerous scenes), Michael A. Wells kills as Eddie during “”Hot Patootie,” Magenta and Columbia (Sara Rae Womack) bring a much-appreciated wackiness to their roles (they’re a scream in “Touch-A Touch Me”) and Luke Steingruby is the hottest Rocky Horror ever, and that includes the film version. He’s built like a Greek god and he wears the smallest set of sparkly gold panties you’ve ever almost seen — is it any wonder he sets off the chain reaction of lust and sex that follows? (It is not.)
So go see it. But work on your lines before you do. This production is too good for your late quips and weak nonsense.
Riverfront Times

Talkin’ Broadway Review: The Rocky Horror Show

Luke Steingruby has sprouted golden blond hair to play the title role, a naïf in the body of a young David. His singing and acting are both top-notch too, as he transitions from uneasy boy-toy (with Frank) to eager adventurer (with Janet), and ultimately into his own troubled awakening.

The Rocky Horror Show
Stray Dog Theatre
Review by Richard T. Green

Also see Richard’s recent review Macbeth


Michael Juncal, Corey Frain (obscured),
Stephen Henley, Maria Bartolotta,
Sara Rae Womack, Heather Matthews,
Kevin O’Brien and Cast

Photo by John Lamb

One thing you can say about theater people: they don’t put out the Halloween candy till October.

This new staging of Richard O’Brien’s famed rock musical, which goes from 1950s rock to rock ballads to rock anthems and all the way to 1970s glam, is great fun, and super-danceable too, set in a towering madhouse of gothic castle. Justin Been directs, finding laughs in unexpected places, and altering the tenor of a couple of characters to make it fresh and new. Audience shout-outs are welcome, but leave the squirt-guns and lighters at home.

Michael Juncal, a performer of neverending wit and resolve, is Frank ‘N’ Furter, the evil genius at the center of it all. And he ad-libbed a “shout-out” of his own, right back at one exceedingly well-rehearsed fan in the audience, late in the action on the first Friday night, triggering a good laugh. This Frank goes wigless, which adds a sort of hardened, Bond-villain demeanor to the character, though it’s one Mr. Juncal is perfectly delightful in cultivating.

He sings with great resourcefulness too, though he and the rest of the cast are dwarfed in the vocal department by this show’s Janet Weiss (lovely Heather Matthews) and Magenta (lovely Maria Bartolotta). Corey Frain, who was so touching in Stray Dog’s recent Bat Boy, also makes an excellent high-tenor Riff Raff, and nails every dark moment of the original “handyman” (author Richard O’Brien) in the meantime.

But wait, there’s another O’Brien—this show’s Brad Majors, played by Kevin O’Brien. He starts out as an ultra-staid artifact of the 1950s: you can almost see the name “Levittown” emblazoned on his forehead, behind those horn-rimmed glasses. Then later, as most of us know, Brad must experience the sexual revolution, that many young baby boomers were already experiencing, when Rocky Horror first premiered in London in 1973. It’s a strangely powerful (and even disturbing) awakening in Kevin O’Brien’s iteration—just as stunning, but quite different, from Janet’s (Ms. Matthews’) own: she’s completely exuberant in her newly liberated “act two” self, until the morning after.

By far the most experienced man on stage, Gerry Love, is a completely re-imagined Narrator, the stern voice of moral authority (played by Charles Gray in the 1975 movie version of this musical—Mr. Gray was also a Bond villain in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever, for those of you keeping track). Mr. Love’s Narrator is an Army officer from the American South, in camo-fatigues, collecting precious bodily fluids along the way as part of some super-secret government project.

Sara Rae Womack is excellent as Columbia, the human girl drawn into Frank’s own web of sin, and Michael A. Wells (who first performed in a Rocky Horror Show in 2003, if memory serves) is full of the spirit of Jerry Lee Lewis as Eddie (then later a great rueful and incisive Dr. Scott).

Luke Steingruby has sprouted golden blond hair to play the title role, a naïf in the body of a young David. His singing and acting are both top-notch too, as he transitions from uneasy boy-toy (with Frank) to eager adventurer (with Janet), and ultimately into his own troubled awakening.

Overall, it’s not as wistful as some previous productions, perhaps a bit more hard-driving and deterministic, as if the world-changing nature of the subject matter were a fait accompli. But everyone under Mr. Been’s direction (including the excellent cast of “phantoms”) sings and acts so well, it seems like they’ve had years to hone their characters, with all the combined knowledge and experience of every other Brad and Janet and Frank and Riff magically passed down to them in a liquid genetic solution of some kind.

But of course, that can’t really be true, can it? They’d have to have developed some futuristic transducer, of some sort, to defy time and space! And no such thing exists on this island Earth…

Before the show there are lots of great old movie trailers, putting us in the mindset of a 1950s drive-in, with “hair-raising” sci-fi previews. But somehow it’s the strange (authentic) ’50’s op-art cartoon ads for snacks at intermission that actually do scare us: leukemia-licious hot dogs and sugar-laden soft drinks, and big cups of popcorn, doused in pitchers of melted butter, dancing like clumsy monsters on the big screen.

The sci-fi previews are lovingly pieced together to remind us of the atmosphere of the times, during the Red Scare. It was not only an anti-Communist, right-wing movement that destroyed many careers, but it also became the subtext for movies like Invasion Of The Body Snatchers and Them. Movies like that inspired Rocky Horror, but here space aliens are blamed for a very different kind of “scare”: the whole sexual revolution to come in the ’60s and ’70s. It’s a show that perfectly captures that 1950s air of ruinous suspicion and post-war fear of moral ambiguity—all while managing to be a lot of silly, sexy fun.

Chris Petersen’s band is immaculate in all the many forms of rock ‘n’ roll the show demands, and that towering set becomes an impossible Matterhorn of dangers and delights, thanks to designer Robert J. Lippert.

Through October 29, 2016, with added performances the final weekend on Wednesday night and Saturday afternoon at the Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee Ave. For more information visit www.straydogtheatre.org.

Cast, in order of appearance
Usherette: Maria Bartolotta
Janet Weiss: Heather Matthews
Brad Majors: Kevin O’Brien
The Narrator: Gerry Love
Riff Raff: Corey Fraine
Magenta: Maria Barolotta
Columbia: Sara Rae Womack
Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter: Michael Juncal
Rocky Horror: Luke Steingruby
Eddie: Michael A. Wells
Dr. Everett Scott: Michael A. Wells
Phantoms: Angela Bubash, Ted Drury, Stephen Henley, Tim Kaniecki, Sarah Polizzi, Dawn Schmid

Artistic Staff
Director: Justin Been
Artistic Director: Gary F. Bell
Assistant Director: Robert M. Kapeler
Assistant Stage Manager: Angel Khann
Costume Designer: Eileen Engel
Choreographer: Zachary Stefaniak Shaffner
Lighting Designer: Tyler Duenow
Music Director: Chris Petersen
Scenic Designer: Rob J. Lippert

The Band
AJ Lane: Guitar
Bob McMahon: Drums
Chris Petersen: Music Director/Piano
M. Joshua Ryan: Bass

Talkin’ Broadway