Chaim's Love Song Early in Martin Chernoff's "love song for life," elderly park devotee Chaim (Richard Lewis) tells young Iowa transplant Kelly (Katie Consamus), the "old jokes are best...because you already know when to laugh," and we seemed destined for an evening of schmaltzy goo. But by the end of the first act, Chaim's damning God at the top of his lungs, we know his wife doesn't love him and his children don't appreciate him. Stay with it: Director Deanna Jent keeps to the right side of this deceptively complex tale of an old man coming to terms with life's disappointments, finding the human warmth in the story and avoiding treacle. Kari Ely is the keystone of the play. Her work as Chaim's emotionally broken wife, Tzawrah, is elegant and haunting; the eventual opening of her private heart is hesitant, then a deluge, then triumphant. Lewis' lively Chaim is balanced nicely by Bob Harvey's goofy and gallant Oscar, a best friend without peer. Through September 28 at Clayton High School's Little Theatre, 2 Mark Twain Circle, Clayton. Tickets are $28 to $30 ($2 discount for seniors and JCC members). Call 314-442-3283 or visit www.newjewishtheatre.org.
— Paul Friswold
Frost/Nixon Many of this play's incidents are fabricated, but it's easy to be swept up in the tide of post-Watergate events that are chronicled here, because playwright Peter Morgan is a storyteller in the grand tradition. In recounting how Richard Nixon, America's most conspicuous pariah, agreed to sit for a series of marathon interviews with British telejournalist David Frost, the script comments on the power of television to manipulate our sensibilities. Although the production sometimes falls short, especially in its use of TV monitors, the play itself is both thought-provoking and shamelessly entertaining. Produced by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis through September 28 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $16 to $65 (rush seats available for students and seniors, $10 and $15 respectively, 30 minutes before showtime). Call 314-968-4925 or visit www.repstl.org.
— Dennis Brown
The Music Man There were quite a few kids in the sold-out audience, most of them old enough to vote — Meredith Willson's Music Man has that power to charm the years right off you, especially when it's wrapped up in cotton-candy color (Dorothy Marshall Englis' costuming is gloriously bright and fun) and delivered with such contagious exuberance. Graham Rowat plays flimflamming salesman Harold Hill with a cunning edge; watch his eyes shift to his mark when he's about to gull someone, then the knowing smile when he pulls it off. Edward Juvier gives Hill's old crony Marcellus a Zero Mostel-like glee, and delivers a hysterical "Shipoopi" as well. The only flaw is the use of synthesized horns — this is a musical that cries out for real brass and suffers without them. But Spencer Milford's charming and funny Winthrop and Abigail Isom's enchanting Amaryllis almost balance it out with sweetness and purity. These are real children giving grown-up performances — you can't take your eyes off 'em. Presented by Stages St. Louis through October 5 at the Robert G. Reim Theatre, 111 South Geyer Road, Kirkwood. Tickets are $46 ($24 for children, $43 for seniors; rush seats for students and seniors $15 at the door). Call 314-824-2407 or visit www.stagesstlouis.com. (PF)
Regrets Only Reviewed in this issue.
Sarafina Mbongeni Ngema's raucous musical about South African students standing up against apartheid in mid-'70s Soweto gets a thorough workout courtesy of a young and enthusiastic cast. Director Ron Himes and choreographer Keith Tyrone have paced the show so that even when the story falters there's more than enough action to keep your attention. Add a crack band and a luminous performance by Sharisa Whatley as Sarafina and you have one of the most exhilarating evenings to be experienced anywhere in St. Louis. Presented by the Black Rep through September 21 at the Orthwein Theatre, 101 North Warson Road, Ladue (on the campus of Mary Institute and Country Day School). Tickets are $25. Call 314-534-3810 or visit www.theblackrep.org. (PF)
Scorched Reviewed in this issue.