King of Hearts Based on the 1966 anti-war movie about a naive young soldier who becomes involved with the escaped inmates of a French lunatic asylum on the final day of World War I, this stage adaptation sets out to capture the film's whimsical, Fantasticks-like tone. But by the time it reached Broadway in 1978, it had morphed into an overcostumed, overstaged, unwieldy mess and quickly flopped. Composer Peter Link now licenses the original simplified version, complete with a duffel bag's worth of his bright tunes. Curtain Call Repertory Theatre has filled out its usual solo piano accompaniment with a seven-piece orchestra, which is probably a good idea, seeing as how former St. Louisan Link will attend this weekend's June 3 and 4 performances. When he does, he'll see that in the title role, Josh Beyers' bonhomie is infectious. Performed through June 5 at the Carousel House in Faust Park, 15185 Olive Boulevard, Chesterfield. Tickets are $15 ($13 in advance). Saturday night's performance, which includes a pre-show reception with Link, costs $25. Call 636-346-7707. (Dennis Brown)
Kiss of the Spider Woman The exposed stone walls and dilapidated ceiling of the ArtLoft Theatre add appropriate environmental touches to New Line Theatre's production of Kander and Ebb's unusual musical mixture of politics, movie fantasy, torture and love. Set in an Argentine prison in 1976, the story focuses on the relationship between inmates Molina (Scott Tripp) and Valentin (Nicholas Kelly), one jailed for a homosexual encounter with a minor, the other for being a revolutionary. Splendidly sung by Tripp and Kelly, the haunting music is at its best when it explores the pair's relationship. As the film star who occupies Molina's daydreams, Stephanie Brown looks great and dances even better. Sadly, the male chorus that needs to support her isn't up to the task. The ending is awkwardly written and seems nearly impossible to stage; director Scott Miller does his best, but he's fighting a script that really works better as a movie. Through June 18 at the ArtLoft Theatre, 1529 Washington Avenue Tickets are $15-$18 ($10-$15 for students and seniors). Call 534-1111. (Deanna Jent)
Rigoletto Giuseppe Verdi had only 40 days to write Rigoletto. But because it was written so quickly, the score is very straightforward, telling the jester's tragic story in bold, unambiguous melodies. In spite of Andrew Porter's sometimes-stilted translation, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis plays to Rigoletto's musical strengths -- the love songs are bright and frothy; the dramatic arias dark and tragic. Arrive early for the preview lecture, a delightful and educational tour de force delivered by rehearsal pianist Miah Im. Through June 25 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $29-$101. Call 314-968-4925. (Lew Prince)
Romeo and Juliet Reviewed in this issue.
A Streetcar Named Desire There's always a reason to be glad you saw Tennessee Williams' eloquent tragedy of imagination and lies. This current version benefits from Ryan Holshouser's quirky performance that portrays Stanley Kowalski as a victim. As the desperate Blanche DuBois, Kimberly Sansone has many fine moments, especially her seduction scene with the New Orleans newsboy. But what's fundamentally wrong here is that the production has been staged in the round. Director Gary F. Bell also designed the set; he more than anyone should be aware that there is simply too much playing space. Everything that happens in Streetcar is predicated on the fact that Stanley and Stella live in a cramped French Quarter apartment. Here there's no sense of claustrophobia, no feel for the Quarter. It's left to the actors to work twice as hard for half the effect. Performed by Stray Dog Theatre through June 12 at the Little Theatre at Clayton High School, 1 Mark Twain Circle, Clayton. Tickets are $18 ($15 for students and seniors). Call 314-531-5923. (DB)
The Tempest Reviewed in this issue.