Reviewed in this issue
Grease There was a time when this sassy musical send-up of the 1950s told a simple, even moralistic, tale about the kids at Rydell High. But over the decades Grease has been tinkered with, first by the movie, then the 1990s revival. Now Stages St. Louis has made even more changes. This current production ignores Danny Zuko, Sandy Dubrowski, Frenchy and the other teens pretty much altogether. Instead of plot, we get a series of production numbers, some charming, some not. But they so dominate the proceedings that by evening's end the cast along with the story they're trying to tell is pretty much lost among the overload. Produced by Stages St. Louis through August 20 at the Robert G. Reim Theatre, 111 South Geyer Road, Kirkwood. Tickets are $45 ($42 for seniors; rush seats for students and seniors $15 at the door). Call 314-821-2407 or visit www.stagesstlouis.org.
Menopause The Musical This sassy musical revue parodies songs of the '60s and '70s, focusing on issues of aging and hormone imbalance (to give you an idea: A disco medley includes "Night Sweating" and "Stayin' Awake"). Sandra Benton is a powerhouse singer whose Tina Turner brings down the house. Brooke Davis scores with "Puff the Magic Dragon" and Lee Anne Mathews delivers a sultry "Tropical Hot Flash," while Rosemary Watts has fun with the raciest number, a tribute to self-love. The only problem with music director Joe Dreyer's slick 90 minutes is that it's too loud. Open-ended run at the Playhouse at West Port Plaza, 635 West Port Plaza (second level), Page Avenue and I-270, Maryland Heights. Tickets are $44.50. Call 314-469-7529 or visit www.playhouseatwestport.com.
MOments...I Am What You Are The Washington Avenue Players Project presents another "devised" work, bringing together text, visual images and music from an ensemble of writers and actors. MOments focuses on the life and stories of Mo Monahan, featuring her experiences with diets, Oprah show and Pintos (the cars, not the beans). Directed by Todd Schaefer, who also provides a beautiful soundscape and well-staged transitions, the piece unfortunately resembles one of Mo's hated Diet Bars: It looks tasty but the filling is bland. The scenes rarely move beyond stereotype: Gay men love Barry Manilow and the Emerald City; women in the '80s had no rights and were easy targets. The best part of the production is the music, nicely harmonized by Monahan, Alison Helmer and Terry Love. It's a sort of Lydia Lunch meets Peter, Paul and Mary. Through August 19 at the ArtLoft Theatre, the ArtLoft Theatre, 1529 Washington Avenue. Tickets are $15. Call 314-412-5107 or visit www.thewapp.com.
Much Ado About Nothing Reviewed in this issue
Thom Pain (based on nothing) Will Eno's acerbic monologue play claims to be "based on nothing," but the familiar opening line of Thomas Paine's The Crisis "These are the times that try men's souls" certainly captures the spirit of this work. Performed by Joe Hanrahan (no stranger to one-man shows), Thom Pain begins as a stand-up routine but moves slyly into an intriguing examination of the struggles of life. Staged in a downstairs room at Café Balaban, this After Midnight production battles the distracting noises of the restaurant. The deliberately disjointed script ranges from macabre tales of childhood woes to heartfelt deliberations on true love. Director Larry Dell matches Hanrahan's deadpan delivery nicely with the text, but some parts that need to seem spontaneous seem scripted, and the emotional climax lacks intensity. Through August 26 at Café Balaban, 405 North Euclid Avenue. Tickets are $15. Call 314-487-5305 or visit www .midnightcompany.com.
You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown Reviewed in this issue