Guys and Dolls Reviewed in this issue.
La traviata Opera Theatre offers a sumptuous setting for Verdi's tragic tale of love, redemption and death. In her "dream role," Ailyn Perez applies a buttery, full-timbred soprano to some of opera's richest and most evocative melodies. Tenor Dimitri Pittas, Alfredo to Perez's Violetta, melds voices effortlessly and naturally with the diva and with baritone James Westman, who plays his father. Bring plenty of Kleenex for Violetta's death scene. Through June 23 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $29 to $95. Call 314-961-0644 or visit www.opera-stl.org.
— Lew Prince
Laughing Wild This absurdist two-character Christopher Durang harangue was weird enough when first staged two decades ago. Now all the 1980s references — to Alan Alda, to then-New York Mayor Ed Koch, to talk-show maven Sally Jessy Raphael — make the comedy oddball-retro. Under the direction of Bob Mitchell, Rory Flynn as The Man comes across as an actor doing his earnest best with a lot of words. But if there's any acting in Rory Lipede's Woman, I missed it. She is rage personified, so much fun to watch that she can chew up a 35-minute monologue and leave you wanting more. Her seemingly effortless work is knock-down fabulous. Performed by Vanity Theatre through June 17 at the Theatre at St. John's, St. John's United Methodist Church, 5000 Washington Place (at Kingshighway). Tickets are $10 to $15. Call 314-571-5959.
— Dennis Brown
A Little Night Music Even before the first note of Stephen Sondheim's lush waltz-time music is heard, as hues of turquoise and aqua light bathe the stage in cool anticipation, there's a sense that something magical is about to happen. It does. Sondheim's least-produced great musical receives a jaw-dropping, pitch-perfect production from Stages St. Louis. Directed with uncharacteristic restraint by Michael Hamilton, this witty, civilized and stylish fable about sexual follies on a smiling summer night is so elegant and sumptuous, the musical feels as if it's playing out in the center of a precious Fabergé egg. The entire cast excels, but none more so than Kari Ely. As Desiree Armfeldt, the Swedish actress who rediscovers romance when she least expects it, Ely finds the wit, irony and rue that define the evening. If you haven't seen Night Music in a while, prepare to be reminded of how thoroughly satisfying a mature musical can be. If you've never seen it, you couldn't hope for a more exquisite introduction. Through July 1 at the Robert G. Reim Theatre, 111 South Geyer Road, Kirkwood. Tickets are $46 ($43 for seniors; rush seats for students and seniors $15 at the door). Call 314-821-2407 or visit www.stagesstlouis.org.
The Mikado Stage director Nick Canty ups the ante on Gilbert & Sullivan's operetta by modernizing the plot, wryly resetting the action in contemporary Japan. The chorus gains Godzilla, a sumo wrestler and a guy in a Pokémon suit, while Nanki-Poo is reborn as an Elvis impersonator — and somehow it all works. The production flies on an unintrusive updating of W.S. Gilbert's torrent of punny lyrics and excellent performances: Patrick Miller is smooth as Nanki-Poo and Katherine Jolly twitters and chirps as Yum-Yum with schoolgirl glee, but Matt Boehler as Poo-Bah and Myrna Paris as Katisha steal the show. This Mikado is breezy entertainment for opera buffs and newcomers alike. It's even kid-friendly. Through June 23 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $29 to $95. Call 314-961-0644 or visit www. opera-stl.org.
Much Ado About Nothing As Beatrice and Benedick, two of Shakespeare's favorite would-be-but-not-quite lovers, Jenny Mercein and Gregory Woddell share some tender and affecting moments. But here's the rub: In staging Shakespeare you can change eras, but you take a great risk in altering careers. This version plays out in the wild, Wild West; nothing wrong with that. But for the play to be fully realized, Benedick and his cronies must remain soldiers (cavalry officers, perhaps?); they should not have become laid-back trail hands. Instead of clear-cut characters, we get irrelevant saloon brawls. It all makes for a mindlessly pleasant divertissement, but the Bard should be more than mindless. Performed by the Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis through June 17 (except Tuesdays) on the Emerson Stage on Art Hill in Forest Park. Admission is free. Call 314-531-9800 or visit www.sfstl.com.
Soldier Boy/The Little Frenchy Files In terms of plot and structure, playwright/ director Joe Hanrahan's Soldier Boy and The Little Frenchy Files share nothing besides a cast and the bare, white-walled set. Soldier Boy is an allegorical view of war through the ages. Despite the polemical nature of the dialogue, some subtle points are scored. But the play barely acknowledges that some wars are actually fought by men and women who believe they're making a better world (American Revolution, anyone?) and never addresses the conundrum that killing in the name of a greater good is morally troubling. But a moral quandary forms the heart of Little Frenchy Files, about a chimpanzee who has been retired from the circus and will die in a research laboratory — unless a philanthropist funds an experimental rehabilitation program. Together, the plays present a robust and tough portrait of the human heart: We'll kill for a buck, and we'll spare no expense to save a life, even a nonhuman one. At our best we're noble savages, at our worst merely savages. Performed by After Midnight through June 9 at Technisonic Studios, 500 South Ewing Avenue (in the St. Louis Business Center). Tickets are $15 ($10 for students and seniors). Call 314-487-5305 or visit www.midnightcompany.com.
— Paul Friswold