By the Boards: Dennis Brown on the STL Theater Scene August 13-16


Those who look forward to a weekly fix of musical theater may be disappointed that the Muny summer has ended, but we're not done with musicals just yet. Two musicals open this week and one is closing.

Clearly the flashiest, most publicized opening is Mary Poppins at the Fox. Even as the show continues to sell out in New York, the national company arrives in St. Louis complete with its two original Broadway stars, Ashley Brown and Gavin Lee. It used to be that the stars of a Broadway show felt an obligation to tour. But now the New York runs are briefer. (Most stars are unwilling to sign up for more than six months, and then it's off to the next movie.) So the Disney organization was smart to add some star power to the tour, thus elevating it to the level of an event.

I'm looking forward to the musical not because I'm a fan of the 1964 film but rather because the production was co-directed by Sir Richard Eyre, a British director of infinite fascination. Among his many credits, Eyre took a dull play titled Compleat Female Stage Beauty and transformed it into Stage Beauty, one of the more intriguing films of recent years. Surely he will bring an original eye to Mary Poppins.

This week's less-known opening is Something's Afoot at Insight Theatre Company in Webster Groves. A 1970s product of the Goodspeed Opera House, Something's Afoot did not enjoy the success of either Annie or Man of La Mancha, both of which began their long lives at that Connecticut summer theater. But Something's Afoot has found frequent stagings through the decades (even a brief one on Broadway in 1976) at summer and community theaters. The show is a spoof of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None (a.k.a. Ten Little Indians). If you're looking for a musical thriller, this might be right up your shadowy alley.

The Drowsy Chaperone wraps up its run at Stages St. Louis this weekend. This affectionate spoof about an imaginary 1928 musical is so infectious, it invites us to play along. When the national company played the Fox two years ago, I wrote a fanciful review for RFT that bought into the show's premise. I wrote at length about how I had seen that (imaginary) musical at the Muny when I was a child. All in jest, of course. Harry Hamm, who reviews for KMOX radio, was the only person who ever called me on it. Good for him. Oh, well: Some shows don't need reviewing; they just need to be seen. The Drowsy Chaperone is one of them.


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