My mother’s feeling much better, the heat wave has finally waved goodbye, and all that remains before I return to New York is to post the weekly Wall Street Journal drama-column teaser. This time I report on my recent visit to St. Louis, where I saw the Muny Opera’s outdoor production of Mame and St. Louis Shakespeare’s air-conditioned Henry V:
It was my bad luck to arrive in the middle of a 12-alarm heat wave. The temperature rose to 102 degrees, and it was still foully hot and chokingly humid by the time I reached my seat, toting a soft-sided cooler full of prophylactic fluids. I wilted almost immediately, but the rest of the 9,000-strong crowd took the weather in its stride….
I found it fascinating to behold the near-scientific exactitude with which the Muny approaches the problem of producing musicals for extremely large audiences. The costumes are brightly colored, the sets big and bold (I especially liked Steve Gilliam’s elaborate rendering of Mame’s art-deco apartment). Paul Blake and Diana Baffa-Brill, the director and choreographer, kept the stage patterns eye-catchingly simple. The theater itself has flawless sight lines, and a state-of-the-art sound system projects the dialogue all the way to the very last row of the cheap seats (I checked)….
I was in town too early for the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, whose season opens on Sept. 7 with “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” Fortunately, St. Louis Shakespeare, a classical company founded in 1984, was already up and running with an estimable “Henry V.” Robin Weatherall, the director, is better known as a composer (he had a 17-year run with the Royal Shakespeare Company), but you couldn’t tell it from this vigorous, unmannered production, played in traditional costumes on the open stage of the Grandel Theatre, a midtown church that has been converted into an attractive performing space….
No link, of course, so to read the whole thing go out and buy a copy of today’s Journal, or go here to subscribe to the Online Journal (by far the preferable alternative–great paper, great arts coverage, great deal).
Now I’ve got to catch a plane. See you Monday!