Category Archives: Misc.

The RRoy Report Culture Roundup 2018

Right now a lot of longtime RReport readers are thinking, “Didn’t opera season just end? Ronnie didn’t write about the opera once. Did he not go? How did he get out of it? And didn’t the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival just end? He didn’t write about that either. Did he not go? How did he get out of it?”

OHMIGOD! DID SOMETHING HAPPEN TO LAURA? IS SHE IN A COMA? IS SHE DEAD? WHAT HAS HAPPENED? SHOULD I CALL THE POLICE?!!

Calm down, people. Laurie’s fine. We did indeed attend the opera and Shakespeare this month, it’s just that it’s been such a crazy, busy month (what with Shakespeare and the opera and a dozen other things) that I haven’t had the time — or the motivation — or the strength — to report on these things.

My apologies that these reviews are coming too late for you to make an informed decision as to whether to attend these shows yourself, but let’s be honest, if you’re coming to me for advice on whether to see an opera or a Shakespeare play, you’re seriously ill-informed.

And so, in the order that I saw them…

La Traviata

La-Traviata-Opera-Theatre-St.-LouisOur first opera of the season and I honestly don’t remember much about it. The wife really liked it. It’s a classic — music by Guiseppe Verdi, so it’s good that I saw it even if it didn’t leave much of an impression.

I do remember we saw this with Christine and Emma and that was a good thing because it helps to get through TWO INTERMISSIONS if you have other people to talk to.

Hold on while I read the synopsis…Oh, now I remember. So, in comic books there’s this movement where people get all upset if the hero’s girlfriend dies in an attempt to build up the hero. Let me tell you something, comic books didn’t invent this trope – it happens in opera all the time. “La Traviata” is about a courtesan who falls in love with a guy and they run off to the country but his dad doesn’t approve so she breaks them up and then she gets sick and they are reunited on her deathbed and you know the rest because it’s a tired, old plot. Although maybe it was new when this was first performed in 1853.

Good show but probably my least favorite of the four (I think it was Laurie’s favorite, so there you go).

Orfeo & Euridice

OTSL_ShowArt18_OE_Final-600x600Remember what I said about how many operas feature men grieving over dead/dying girlfriends? Well, that’s what this show is all about. It starts out with Orfeo lamenting the death of his beloved Euridice. His cries reach the ears of Amore, the goddess of love, and she lets him go to the underworld and bring his wife back — there are conditions, of course, that complicate matters.

I enjoyed this one because (a) I’m a sucker for stories based on ancient myths; (b) it was the shortest of this season’s shows; (c) there was only 1 intermission (d) I was amused by the weird, joyous, colorful, totally out-of-place hippy-trippy ending that was tacked onto it.

On the downside, because the plot was so thin they filled the space with dancing. It was decent dancing but, still — dancing.

An American Soldier

AmSoldier_KeyArt_Final-1-600x600Every year Opera Theatre of Saint Louis includes a new opera in the set of four. This year it was this show based on the true story of Danny Chen, a U.S. soldier who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound while serving in Afghanistan. He had been brutally treated by his fellow soldiers before his death.

As you might imagine, this was a very powerful and painful show to watch. The story begins in the courtroom as the ghost of Danny watches helplessly as his superior officer is put on trial. Things then flash back and fourth to Danny with his girlfriend and mother, to his brief, tortured time in the military.

I was impressed by this show but it really was 2.5 hours of unrelenting tragedy and anguish.

Romeo & Juliet 

2018-Season-Poster-FINAL-225x300We took a brief pause from an opera sandwich last weekend to attend this year’s Shakespeare Festival St. Louis performance of The Bard’s classic “Romeo & Juliet.” (We literally attended opera Friday/Shakespeare Saturday/Opera Sunday. I don’t recommend that much concentrated culture to anyone. I spent my rare free time watching “Luke Cage Season 2” just to decompress.)

It was a good show but long. I think the problem with R&J is that everyone knows the story and knows the beats so you just want to get on with it — balcony scene, fight, poison — but these people just won’t… stop… talking.

Granted, that’s an issue with all of Shakespeare, but most of the time you’re not familiar enough with the story to know what’s coming next and so you sit there and take it. But with R&J I’m just sitting there thinking “take the poison! take the poison already!”

But then, maybe I was just tired.

Regina 

Regina_Original-600x600We wrapped up “June: Month of Culture” with a Sunday night performance of “Regina.” I actually enjoyed this show even if I did begin snoring early in Act 1 (I told you I was tired). Once I was nudged back into consciousness, I did get into it.

It’s about a woman who is working with her brothers on a big business deal. They need the cooperation of her ailing husband but he’s not interested. Toss in various subplots involving other family members.

The performers, set design and costumes were impressive, but that’s true of all the OTSL shows. “Regina” isn’t your typical opera. It’s more of a musical/opera hybrid. There is a lot of spoken dialogue (unheard of in most opera) and the singing was more song oriented than just people singing dialogue. It also featured a variety of musical styles, from ragtime to gospel to musical to opera. It was different. I liked it. Almost enough to forgive the TWO INTERMISSIONS.

*****

And now, for the first time in weeks, I have nothing to do on a weekend. I would like to thank Hollywood for not releasing anything this week except “Uncle Drew,” thus giving me time to get caught up.

 

 

 

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Lewis & Clark Meet The Star-Lord

Dear Greater St. Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau:

I’m about to give you a multi-million dollar idea. You’re welcome.

I would’ve written earlier but I didn’t find out about this until last week and last week I was busy writing about other things.

Are you aware that Peter Jason Quill, aka Star-Lord, leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy, was born right here in beautiful St. Charles, Missouri? I wasn’t aware of it myself until recently, and since I don’t know what the nerd quota is on the Greater St. Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau, I figured I should make you aware.

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This is BIG. We can’t ride on Lewis and Clark’s coattails forever. It’s past time for St. Charles to get its tourism mojo out of the 19th century and aim for the stars.

And this is totally legit. Historians argue about whether or not L&C really began their journey in St. Charles. No one is questioning that when Peter Quill was sucked up into a spaceship as a child, he was in St. Charles when it happened.

How can we cash in on this pop culture gift from Marvel Comics? Pay attention.

1. We Need A Statue

Aren’t you tired of living in the shadow of the St. Louis Arch and all that bragging about it being the “Gateway to the West?” St. Charles is now the “Gateway to Knowhere,” baby. That is so much cooler.

And aren’t you tired of St. Louisans always acting like they’re better than we are?  You know who the native son superhero of St. Louis is? The Whizzer.  That’s right. A character so lame that he appeared as a crazy person for about 10 minutes in “Jessica Jones” season 2 before they killed him.

In pop culture terms, we are totally kicking St. Louis’ ass now. But only if we act on it.

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Look, that Lewis, Clark and Seaman statue in Frontier Park is great. It’s huge, people flock to it and have their photos taken with it. It’s a landmark you put in all the brochures. I’m sure it was worth every cent we paid for it.

Now, imagine if we put up a statue of someone people cared about.

A giant-size Star-Lord statue would bring in the masses. Have you been to Comic-Con? Have you seen the crowds? People would love it. Plant a tree next to it and name it Groot. Find a friendly taxidermist in town and pay him to keep up a steady supply of life-like Rocket Raccoons. I’m practically giving you a license to print money.

You may be thinking, “A statue to honor a fictional character? How stupid is that?”

Have you been to Metropolis, Illinois? Or Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, home of the Rocky Balboa statue? Or Fargo, Wisconsin, home of the Marge Gunderson statue? Or Detroit, Michigan, home of the Robocop statue? And do I even have to mention that Star-Lord’s movies have probably made more at the box office than all those other characters combined? (well, at least Fargo and Robocop)

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2. Star-Lord Fest

By last count, St. Charles hosts 600 festivals a year on the riverfront. Why not one more?

I guarantee you, “Guardians of the Galaxy Days” would draw far more people to St. Charles than Lewis and Clark Days. Or the Irish Festival. Or Oktoberfest. Or MOsaics. Or the Ice Carving festival. Maybe not as many people as the Festival of the Little Hills or Christmas Traditions. But who knows? It might.

Aren’t we a little tired of all the olde tyme stuff? Who doesn’t want to see Main Street filled with women painted green? Or men with blue skin and red fins on their heads? Or furries in raccoon suits? The possibilities are endless.

You could even make it partly a music festival. Bring in some classic rock cover bands to perform on the stage in Frontier Park (You could probably get KSHE to sponsor it). Or heck, get the original artists if they’re still alive. Many of them would probably appreciate the exposure.

And who knows, maybe you could get Chris Pratt to come to town for the festival. James Gunn might be up for it.

OK, St. Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau, the ball is in your court — because God knows nothing I write here is ever going viral — so make this happen.

cc: St. Charles Chamber of Commerce

 

 

 

 

On Stage: The Phantom Of The Opera

So how do you follow up the phenomenal success of the phenomenon that was “Hamilton?”

Why, you bring in one of the classics, of course.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera” has returned to the Fox stage for a 12-day run. This latest production boasts new scenic design, choreography and staging. I couldn’t tell much difference from the last time it was in town aside from some of the set designs. This version did feature more pyrotechnics than I recall and probably the tallest Phantom I’ve ever seen on stage.

 

Phantom-masquerade-Slideshow17-18Season6_1024x540-872c250046 (2)

“The Phantom of the Opera” runs through May 20 at the Fox Theatre.

The story, based on a novel by Gaston Leruox and transformed into a musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe, remains the same. A mysterious, disfigured man calling himself “The Phantom” (Quentin Oliver Lee) torments the owners and players of the Paris Opera House in the late 19th century. He’s particularly keen on a young singer named Christine (Eva Tavares). While she appreciates the vocal lessons, she’s more interested in her old friend Raoul (Jordan Craig).

This latest production delivers all the flash, color, elaborate costuming and set design, and audacious singing that you’d expect from “Phantom.” The show has the same drawbacks it has always had — I still can’t understand people when they’re all singing different things at the same time. But I’ve seen the show enough now that I’ve learned to accept it.

The costumes, sets and music are all first-rate. The actors, dancers and musicians deliver strong performances — Lee is one of the best phantoms I’ve seen. Put it all together and it’s easy to see why “The Phantom of the Opera” is considered one of the best musicals out there.

“The Phantom of the Opera” runs through May 20 at the Fox Theatre. www.fabulousfox.com

 

Gone: Bob Dorough

Forty days and forty nights,
Didn’t it rain, children.
Not a speck of land in sight,
Didn’t it, didn’t it rain.
But Noah built the ark so tight
They sailed on, children.
And when at last the waters receded
And the dove brought back the olive tree leaf,
He landed that ship near Mount Ararat
And Noah’s children grabbed his robe and said,
“Hey Dad, how many animals on this old ark anyway, huh?”

Elementary, my dear, two time two is four.
Elementary, my dear, two time three is six.
Elementary, my dear, two time four is eight.
Elementary, my dear, two time five is ten.

Two times one is two, of course.
And it must occur to you,
You get an even number
Every time you multiply by two.

Conjunction Junction, whats your function?

And the shot heard ’round the world
Was the start of the Revolution.
The Minute Men were ready, on the move.
Take your powder, and take your gun.
Report to General Washington.
Hurry men, there’s not an hour to lose!

Et cetera, et cetera, ad infinitum, ad astra, forever and ever,
With zero, my hero, how wonderful you are.

schoolhouse-rock-live-at-arkansas-arts-center-childrens-theatre-800

Oh, we were suffering until suffrage,
Not a woman here could vote, no matter what age,
Then the 19th Amendment struck down that restrictive rule. (Oh yeah!)

You see a pronoun was made to take the place of a noun,
‘Cause saying all those nouns over and over
Can really wear you down.

Verb! That’s What’s Happening!

Mother Necessity
With her good intentions,
Where would this country be
Without her inventions?

When you’re in the dark and you want to see,
You need uh… Electricity, Electricity
Flip that switch and what do you get?
You get uh… Electricity, Electricity
Every room can now be lit
With just uh… Electricity, Electricity

Three is a magic number.
Yes it is, it’s a magic number.
Somewhere in the ancient, mystic trinity
You get three as a magic number.
The past and the present and the future,
Faith and hope and charity,
The heart and the brain and the body
Give you three.
That’s a magic number.

It takes three legs to make a tripod or to make a table stand.
It takes three wheels to make a vehicle called a tricycle.
Every triangle has three corners,
Every triangle has three sides,
No more, no less.
You don’t have to guess.
When it’s three you can see it’s a magic number.

A man and a woman had a little baby.
Yes, they did.
They had three in the family.
That’s a magic number.

Figure eight as double four,
Figure four as half of eight.
If you skate, you would be great,
If you could make a figure eight.
That’s a circle that turns ’round upon itself.

Place it on its side and it’s a symbol meaning
Infinity…

Remember Lucky Seven Samson, that’s my natural born name.
If you should ask me again, I’d have to tell you the same.
You’ll wake up tomorrow, you’ll be glad that I came
‘Cause you’ll be singin’ one of the songs that I sang.
So keep a happy outlook and be good to your friend,
And maybe I’ll pass this way again.
Maybe!

Bye.

On Stage: Hamilton

I was into “Hamilton” when “Hamilton” wasn’t cool.

Well, that’s not exactly true. My niece was really into it early on though. She was obsessed with some rap musical about Alexander Hamilton and my reaction was, “That can’t possibly be entertaining,” and “Which president was he anyway?”

Turned out I was wrong (not the first time) and Anna Jane was ahead of the curve. Soon “Hamilton” was all over the place. It was the biggest thing to hit Broadway since, well, the last big thing to hit Broadway. And now it’s arrived in St. Louis for a three-week run at the Fox Theatre.

Hamilton Company - HAMILTON National Tour (c)Joan Marcus_preview

                     The Hamilton National Tour is on stage through April 22 at the Fox Theatre.                              Photo (c) Joan Marcus

For those of you not familiar with the biggest thing on Broadway, it is the brainchild of playwright/actor/composer Lin-Manuel Miranda. Miranda was inspired to write the musical after reading a biography of Alexander Hamilton by author Ron Chernow. The show opened in 2015 and went on to win 11 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, as well as the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

It is insanely popular, as evidenced last night by the huge crowd trying to get through the front doors at the Fox. My apologies to anyone I may have trampled on the way in.

Alexander Hamilton, you may recall from high school American History class, was one of the nation’s founding fathers. He served as George Washington’s right-hand man and was the first Secretary of the Treasury. He never became president but he did get his picture on the 10 dollar bill.

What makes “Hamilton” unique is it reveals this historical drama through a modern lens, mixing up hip-hop, pop and traditional show tunes with an ethnically diverse cast. It’s high-energy music and rapid-fire lyrics keep the audience enthusiastic and challenged to keep up.

It also covers a great deal of story — from the American Revolution to the early days of nation building. Boring political disputes are turned into engaging rap battles. The show also deals with Hamilton’s complex and sometimes tragic home life. And there’s dueling. And King George stops in for a hilarious couple of songs.

The incredibly talented cast includes Austin Scott as Hamilton; Nicholas Christopher as his rival Aaron Burr; Julia K. Harriman as wife Eliza; Sabrina Sloan as Angelica, the other Schuyler sister; Carvens Lissaint as George Washington; Chris De’Sean Lee as Thomas Jefferson and LaFayette; and Peter Matthew Smith as King George.

They are all terrific, as is the show. Good luck getting tickets if you don’t have them. You will want to be in the room where it happens.

“Hamilton” runs through April 22 at the Fox Theatre. www.fabulousfox.com

   

 

 

 

On Stage: The Color Purple

The empowerment of women is a hot topic in today’s world, and “The Color Purple” brings the subject to life in meaningful, heartfelt fashion.

Based on the 1982 novel by Alice Walker, “The Color Purple” was made into a film in 1985. A musical version arrived on Broadway in 2005 with book by Marsha Norman and  and music and lyrics by Stephen Bray, Brenda Russell and Allee Willis.

THE COLOR PURPLE Photo 3_preview

Carla R. Stewart, Adrianna Hicks and the North American Tour cast of “The Color Purple.”    Photo by Matthew Murphy, 2017

Set in rural Georgia in the early 1900s, “The Color Purple” tells the story of Celie (Adrianna Hicks), who while just a teenager has already had 1 child with 1 on the way — both courtesy of her father (J.D. Webster). Celie never sees the children as they are immediately taken away to parts unknown as soon as they are born.

Celie’s only friend is her sister Nettie (N’Jameh Camara), but they are soon separated when Celie is given away to Mister (Gavin Gregory) for his bride. Mister would rather have Nettie, but Pa sweetens the deal with Celie by throwing in a cow.

Mister treats Celie more like a slave than a wife, complete with beatings to keep her in line. Mister’s son Harpo (J. Daughtry) hooks up with the independently-minded Sofia (Carrie Compere), who will not be treated in a similar fashion.

The final major player in this drama is Shug Avery (Carla R. Stewart), a jazz singer and former lover of Mister. When she comes back to town for a visit, her stay with Mister and Celie has major repercussions in all their lives.

“The Color Purple” is a powerful tale told without compromise. The first act is almost relentlessly bleak but things do turn around for Celie in the second half. The set design is sparse but effective. The actors offer compelling performances and have tremendous voices, even if the songs aren’t that memorable — with a few exceptions such as Sofia’s defiant “Hell No!” and Shug’s sexy “Push da Button.”

“The Color Purple” runs through April 1 at the Fox Theatre. www.fabulousfox.com

At The Movies: Tomb Raider

Way back in 2001 Angelina Jolie brought video game adventurer Lara Croft to life with the release of “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.” Jolie made two “Tomb Raider” movies before everyone involved lost interest. They were decent, but not particularly impressive or engaging, action-adventure films.

Seventeen years later, Alicia Vikander steps into the role for a fresh start and a new adventure. The latest “Tomb Raider” is a decent, but not particularly impressive or engaging, action-adventure flick.

Lara is the daughter of wealthy Richard Croft (Dominic West), who disappeared some years ago and now Lara must find and rescue him. Wait. Didn’t I review this movie last week?

tombraider

Richard went missing while searching for the tomb of Himiko, an ancient queen with strange mystical powers. Richard wanted to find the tomb before the evil Trinity organization does because if it gets to the corpse first they will do something evil with it — because that’s what evil organizations do.

Lara unearths a clue to her father’s whereabouts and, with help from ship captain Lu Rein (Daniel Wu), tracks him down to a deserted island. She and Lu are immediately captured by an expedition party sent by Trinity and led by  Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins).

There’s a lot of running and chasing in this movie. It starts off with a bike chase, followed by Lara being chased around by a trio of young punks, then being chased through the jungle by Trinity agents. She spends a lot more time running than tomb raiding, but I guess “Lara Croft: Runner” wouldn’t be quite as big a draw.

I can’t say this new “Tomb Raider” is better or worse than the original. There is some beautiful scenery, your standard traps-in-the-tomb excitement, some decent action — but that was also true of the first one. Vikander is the real draw here as she has great screen presence. But then, so did Jolie.

“Tomb Raider” is a very by-the-numbers adventure movie with a twist at the end that makes no sense to me. It’s clearly set up as the start of a franchise but we’ll see how long “Lara Croft 2.0” will carry on.