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

Casting Announcement: “All Is Calm” at Mustard Seed Theatre

Luke Steingruby is pleased to announce that he will once again perform in the fourth and final iteration of All Is Calm at Mustard Seed Theatre.

Mustard Seed gives a last hurrah to World War I
By Judith Newmark St. Louis Post-Dispatch Mar 29, 2016 (0)
2015 All is Calm
At Mustard Seed Theatre, members of the 2015 cast of “All Is Calm” portray World War I soldiers of different nations.
On Veterans Day, Mustard Seed Theatre will open its fourth — and last — production of “All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914.”

The a cappella musical about World War I has become a holiday tradition for some theatergoers. In 2013, Mustard Seed’s first production of “All Is Calm” garnered five St. Louis Theater Circle Awards and big audiences. People warmed to the story of Christmas Eve, 1914, when some soldiers on both sides of the Western Front put down their weapons to mark the holiday. They sang carols (in their own languages), shared food, drink and tobacco, even played a little soccer. It didn’t last long, and it never happened again.

Mustard Seed plans to stage the perennially popular musical only once more, however. This year’s production will run Nov. 11 to Dec. 4. After a while, “artists need to do something new and challenging,” explained artistic director Deanna Jent. She added that the switch will allow Mustard Seed to present other musicals in seasons ahead.

Once again, Jent will direct “All Is Calm,” and Joe Schoen will return as music director. The ensemble includes performers from previous seasons: Charlie Barron, Steve Isom, Greg Lhamon, Gerry Love, Ben Nordstrom, Antonio Rodriguez, Luke Steingruby, Kelvin Urday and Jeffrey Wright.

“All Is Calm” is the second production of Mustard Seed’s 2016-17 season — the troupe’s 10th anniversary season.

 

Mustard Seed Theatre performs at Fontbonne University’s Fine Arts Theatre, 6800 Wydown Boulevard. Single tickets to its shows are $25-$30; 2016-17 season tickets are available, too. For more information, visit mustardseedtheatre.com.

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St. Louis Theater Circle Nominations

With 30 nominations across many categories, the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis brings a substantial presence into the 2016 St. Louis Theater Circle Awards.

Now in their fourth year, the awards honor outstanding work in St. Louis professional theater. The awards are voted on by members of the Circle, an organization of critics who cover theater here. (I am one of the founders.)

The Rep received the most nominations, followed by the Muny with 15 and Stray Dog Theatre with 14. In all, 21 theater companies received nominations for 50 different shows that played here in 2015.

In many categories, the nominations go to individual artists. This year, two of them received three nominations each.

Rob Lippert is nominated for outstanding set design in a musical for “Dogfight” and “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” at Stray Dog Theatre and for “Heathers” at New Line Theatre. Rusty Wandall is nominated for outstanding sound design in a play for “Angel Street” and “I and You” at the Rep and for “Antony and Cleopatra” at Shakespeare Festival St. Louis.

In a curious twist, married actors Kari Ely and Peter Mayer are nominated for parallel awards in a pair of dark comedies that played at the St. Louis Actors’ Studio. Ely, who played Martha in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” is nominated for outstanding actress in a comedy, and Mayer, who played a grouchy resident of an assisted-living center in “The Gin Game,” is nominated for outstanding actor in a comedy.

To make things more complicated, the couple’s onstage partners, William Roth and Linda Kennedy, are nominated in the same categories.

The nominees are:

Outstanding supporting actress in a comedy

Betsy Bowman, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Shinnerrie Jackson, “Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Erin Kelley, “The Killing of Sister George,” Max & Louie Productions

Shannon Nara, “The Killing of Sister George,” Max & Louie Productions

Jeanitta Perkins, “The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler,” St. Louis Shakespeare

Outstanding supporting actor in a comedy

John Bratkowski, “The World Begun,” Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Michael Brightman, “Mr. Marmalade,” West End Players Guild

Jeffrey C. Hawkins, “Peter and the Starcatcher,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Pete Winfrey, “Bad Jews,” New Jewish Theatre

John Wolbers, “Wild Oats,” St. Louis Shakespeare

Outstanding actress in a comedy

Lavonne Byers, “The Killing of Sister George,” Max & Louie Productions

Kari Ely, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Suzanne Grodner, “Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Linda Kennedy, “The Gin Game,” St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Em Piro, “Bad Jews,” New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding actor in a comedy

John Feltch, “Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Peter Mayer, “The Gin Game,” St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Antonio Rodriguez, “Bad Jews,” New Jewish Theatre

William Roth, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Jeremy Webb, “Buyer and Cellar,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding supporting actress in a drama

Em Piro, “Sight Unseen,” New Jewish Theatre

Kelly Taffe, “Safe House,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Jennifer Theby-Quinn, “Afflicted: Daughters of Salem,” Metro Theater Company

Cassia Thompson, “Safe House,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Elizabeth Van Pelt, “Rapture, Blister, Burn,” West End Players Guild

Outstanding supporting actor in a drama

Will Cobbs, “Safe House,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

John Flack, “Sublime Intimacy,” Max & Louie Productions

Andrew Kuhlman, “One Flea Spare,” Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

Michael James Reed, “All the Way,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Chris Tipp, “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead,” Stray Dog Theatre

Outstanding actress in a drama

Shirine Babb, “Antony and Cleopatra,” Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Emily Baker, “Sight Unseen,” New Jewish Theatre

Danielle Carlacci, “I and You,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Amy Loui, “The Amish Project,” Mustard Seed Theatre

Lisa Tejero, “The Kiss,” Upstream Theater

Outstanding actor in a drama

J. Samuel Davis, “Bashir Lazhar,” Upstream Theater

Brian Dykstra, “All the Way,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Daniel Morgan Shelley, “Safe House,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Jerry Vogel, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” Upstream Theater

Eric Dean White, “The Kiss,” Upstream Theater

Outstanding new play

Nancy Bell, “The World Begun,” Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Shualee Cook, “An Invitation Out,” Mustard Seed Theatre

Neil LaBute, “Kandahar,” St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Ken Page, “Sublime Intimacy,” Max & Louie Productions

Alec Wild, “Off the Record,” OnSite Theatre

Outstanding lighting design in a play

Joseph Clapper, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” Upstream Theater

Patrick Huber, “Sublime Intimacy,” Max & Louie Productions

Bess Moynihan, “One Flea Spare,” Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

Peter E. Sargent, “Angel Street,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Nathan Schroeder, “Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play,” R-S Theatrics

Outstanding sound design in a play

Paige Brubeck and Evan Sult, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” Upstream Theater

Fitz Patton, “All the Way,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Rusty Wandall, “Angel Street,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Rusty Wandall, “Antony and Cleopatra,” Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Rusty Wandall, “I and You,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding costume design in a play

Beth Ashby, “An Invitation Out,” Mustard Seed Theatre

Dorothy Marshall Englis, “The Winslow Boy,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

JC Krajicek, “The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler,” St. Louis Shakespeare

Cyndi Lohrmann, “The Killing of Sister George,” Max & Louie Productions

David Toser, “Angel Street,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding set design in a play

Wilson Chin, “Angel Street,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Scott C. Neale, “Antony and Cleopatra,” Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Paul Shortt, “Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Peter and Margery Spack, “Safe House,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Mark Wilson, “An Invitation Out,” Mustard Seed Theatre

Outstanding supporting actress in a musical

Eileen Engel, “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” Stray Dog Theatre

Heather Headley, “Into the Woods,” the Muny

Sydney Mancasola, “La Rondine,” Opera Theatre of Louis

Sarah Porter, “The Threepenny Opera,” New Line Theatre

Zoe Vonder Haar, “The Full Monty,” Stages St. Louis

Outstanding supporting actor in a musical

Dan Fenaughty, “Anything Goes,” Stages St. Louis

Joneal Joplin, “The Fantasticks,” Insight Theatre Company

Rob McClure, “Beauty and the Beast,” the Muny

Milton Craig Nealy, “The Full Monty,” Stages St. Louis

Sam Weber, “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story,” the Muny

Outstanding actress in a musical

Julie Cardia, “Anything Goes,” Stages St. Louis

Shannon Cothran, “Dogfight,” Stray Dog Theatre

Erin Dilly, “Into the Woods,” the Muny

Joyce El-Khoury, “Emmeline,” Opera Theatre of St. Louis

Anna Skidis, “Heathers,” New Line Theatre

Outstanding actor in a musical

Andy Christopher, “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story,” the Muny

Ben Davis, “Oklahoma!,” the Muny

Evan Fornachon, “Heathers,” New Line Theatre

Gerry Love, “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” Stray Dog Theatre

Jordan Shanahan, “Rigoletto,” Union Avenue Opera

Outstanding musical director

Jeffrey Richard Carter, “The Threepenny Opera,” New Line Theatre

Charles Creath, “Once on This Island,” the Black Rep

Michael Horsley, “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story,” the Muny

George Manahan, “Emmeline,” Opera Theatre of St. Louis

Chris Petersen, “Dogfight,” Stray Dog Theatre

Outstanding choreographer

Stephen Bourneuf, “Anything Goes,” Stages St. Louis

Denis Jones, “Holiday Inn,” the Muny

Dan Knechtges and Jessica Hartman, “Hairspray,” the Muny

Susan Stroman and Ginger Thatcher, “Oklahoma!,” the Muny

Keith Tyrone Williams, “Once on This Island,” the Black Rep

Outstanding lighting design in a musical

Christopher Akerlind, “Emmeline,” Opera Theatre of St. Louis

Tyler Duenow, “Dogfight,” Stray Dog Theatre

John Lasiter, “Oklahoma!,” the Muny

Sean M. Savoie, “Once on This Island,” the Black Rep

Sean M. Savoie, “Anything Goes,” Stages St. Louis

Outstanding set design in a musical

Shoko Kambara, “The Barber of Seville,” Opera Theatre of St. Louis

Rob Lippert, “Dogfight,” Stray Dog Theatre

Rob Lippert, “Heathers,” New Line Theatre

Rob Lippert, “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” Stray Dog Theatre

James Wolk, “Anything Goes,” Stages St. Louis

Outstanding costume design in a musical

Eileen Engel, “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” Stray Dog Theatre

Andrea Lauer, “Into the Woods,” the Muny

Brad Musgrove, “Anything Goes,” Stages St. Louis

Sarah Porter, “The Threepenny Opera, New Line Theatre

Alejo Vietti, “Holiday Inn,” the Muny

Outstanding ensemble in a comedy

“Bad Jews,” New Jewish Theatre

“Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play,” R-S Theatrics

“The 39 Steps,” Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” St. Louis Actors’ Studio

“Wild Oats,” St. Louis Shakespeare

Outstanding ensemble in a drama

“All the Way,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

“Antony and Cleopatra,” Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

“One Flea Spare,” Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

“Safe House,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

“The Winslow Boy,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding ensemble in a musical

“Anything Goes,” Stages St. Louis

“Dogfight,” Stray Dog Theatre

“Into the Woods,” the Muny

“Heathers,” New Line Theatre

“The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” Stray Dog Theatre

Outstanding director of a comedy

John Contini,” Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Michael Evan Haney, “Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Sydnie Grosberg Ronga, “Bad Jews,” New Jewish Theatre

Jacqueline Thompson, “The World Begun,” Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Kirsten Wylder, “The 39 Steps,” Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

Outstanding director of a drama

Deanna Jent, “The Amish Project,” Mustard Seed Theatre

Jane Page, “I and You,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Ellie Schwetye, “One Flea Spare,” Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

Patrick Siler, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” Upstream Theater

Steven Woolf, “All the Way,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding director of a musical

Justin Been, “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” Stray Dog Theatre

Michael Hamilton, “Anything Goes,“ Stages St. Louis

Scott Miller, “The Threepenny Opera,” New Line Theatre

Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy, “Heathers,” New Line Theatre

Rob Ruggiero, “Oklahoma!,” the Muny

Outstanding production of a comedy

“The Gin Game,” St. Louis Actors’ Studio

“The Killing of Sister George,” Max & Louie Productions

“The 39 Steps,” Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” St. Louis Actors’ Studio

“Wild Oats,” St. Louis Shakespeare

Outstanding production of a drama

“All the Way,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

“I and You,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

“One Flea Spare,” Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” Upstream Theater

“The Winslow Boy,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding production of a musical

“Anything Goes,” Stages St. Louis

“Dogfight,” Stray Dog Theatre

“Heathers,” New Line Theatre

“The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” Stray Dog Theatre

“The Threepenny Opera,” New Line Theatre

2016 St. Louis Theater Circle Awards

The awards will be presented on March 21 at the Skip Viragh Center for the Arts at Chaminade College Preparatory School, 425 South Lindbergh Boulevard. They also will be carried live on HEC-TV; HEC and stltoday.com will stream the ceremony, too. The Circle Awards are open to the public. Tickets, $15, are available at brownpapertickets.com. For more information, visit the St. Louis Theater Circle on Facebook.

St. Louis Post Dispatch Review: “Dogfight” at Stray Dog Theatre

Most of the show takes place in San Fransisco on the night before Birdlace and his pals, shrewd Boland and innocent Bernstein (Luke Steingruby and Kevin O’Brien), ship out. 

Birdlace seems like a good guy, but the 3Bs, as they call themselves, are looking for trouble. They drink, get tattoos, get in fights – and play a cruel game, Dogfight. 

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Drama teacher Tom Murray hits a milestone at CBC

“Joseph” is the 120th show that Murray – a well-known St. Louis character actor in his own right – has directed at CBC.  That averages out to more than three productions a year over the 37 years he’s taught drama at the school.

“We counted about 85 (alumni) in Los Angeles who are working as actors or in a related field, and another dozen or so each in New York and Chicago,” Murray said.  Two popular St. Louis actors, Jim Butz and Luke Steingruby, are CBC alumni, too.

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St. Louis Post Dispatch Fall Preview

War: This season it comes with songs. “Dogfight,” from Stray Dog, aptly enough, follows three marines through a night of drinking and games before they go to Vietnam.

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