Carmen Jennifer Dudley brings solid acting skills and impressive castanet technique to her portrayal of the tragic libertine in a low-key and naturalistic interpretation that relies more on the beauty of Georges Bizet's melodies than on the sheer vocal power normally associated with opera. Opera Theatre of St. Louis' staging of this sexy and satisfying version of this nineteenth-century masterpiece is brisk and sure-handed. The ensemble singing is wonderful. The orchestra is lush. There is much splendid cleavage. And it's all done in English. Through June 26 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Call 314-961-0644 for performance schedule. (Lew Prince)
Cavalleria Rusticana and Sister Angelica Reviewed in this issue.
Gypsy Stages St. Louis has opened its season with the kind of show that gives this company the most trouble: a book-heavy musical that requires real direction. Despite memorable songs by Jule Styne, comic lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and an abundance of colorful sets and costumes, this is possibly the longest two hours and 50 minutes you'll spend in a theater all summer. In the title role, Christy Morton successfully conveys the poignancy of the shy waif who develops into striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee. As the indefatigable Mama Rose, Zoe Vonder Haar works like a Trojan, but her brassy portrayal owes less to predecessors like Ethel Merman and Angela Lansbury than it does to Babe Buchanan. Diehard conservatives might enjoy this surface production; everyone else should bring a sack lunch. Through June 27 at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road, Kirkwood. Call 314-821-2407. (DB)
Jesus Christ Superstar For those who prefer a less gory account of Jesus' final days than the recent Mel Gibson opus, this high-kilowatt update of the 1971 musical fulminates with attitude. Here Darth Vader meets the cast of West Side Story, and the disciples resemble the Flying Karamazov Brothers. If, 31 years later, some of the Superstar songs really do begin to sound like tunes from Godspell, hey, there are always a few curmudgeons who don't know how to love it. But anyone who adores Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is sure to be thrilled by this reverberating, echo-chamber rendition of the passionate spectacle that started Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber on the royal road to knighthood. Through June 6 at the Fox Theatre, 527 North Grand Boulevard. Call 314-534-1111. (DB)
Man of La Mancha Popcorn, punch and a carousel ride at intermission are the best part of the ticket package at Curtain Call Repertory Theatre's production in Faust Park. Supporting players Maureen Riordan, Lynda Waters and Dan Boyer have great harmony and earnestness. Julie O'Neill sparkles as Aldonza, the whore with a golden heart. Dennis Shelton's Don Quixote is tentative and weak-voiced. Kevin Jones as sidekick Sancho Panza struggles with his solos. The small band adapts nicely to the intimate space, paying real attention to volume and following the singers with precision, and the cast works hard to keep the staging smooth on the crowded stage and tries to bolster Shelton's and Jones's efforts with nods of encouragement. But the quest is never really believable: Without a charismatic Don Quixote or a lovable Sancho Panza, the show is truly an impossible dream. Through June 6 at the Carousel House, 15185 Olive Boulevard, Chesterfield. Call 314-346-7707. (DJ)
Raisin Reviewed in this issue.