Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: St. Louis

Love? Actually...
R-S Theatrics
Review by Richard T. Green

Also see Richard's review of Kindertransport


Eileen Engel and Lindsay Rae Gingrich
Photo by Michael Young
When you read that R-S Theatrics is putting on an evening of musical numbers and musical one-acts, you should immediately understand two things:

  1. It will be an evening full of real and true and powerful emotions, like everything they do. And,

  2. It will an evening full of deep and complex meaning and ideas. (Also, like everything they do.) It will be like seeing the light and dark sides of the moon, both at the same time.

And that's what we have here—a first act that's labeled "cabaret," in which, on this particular night, Kelvin Urday sang a towering song about jealousy and Omega Jones and Eileen Engel sang a great number from Spamalot ("The Song That Goes Like This"), which, admittedly, requires neither deep thought nor complex emotion. Sarajane Alverson and Lindsay Rae Gingrich performed the women's duet from Rent, especially nice when their voices combined near the end. The particular duets and solos in act one are chosen by the audience from fish bowls, before the performance.

But soon things get real (even as they seem more artificial).

After a 10-minute intermission, there's Steven Serpa's high-charged opera Thyrsis & Amaranth—it's also high-pitched. But it's truly beautiful: a short classical idyll with Lindsay Rae Gingrich and Eileen Engel. The piece premiered in 2011 at the Studio at Billings Forge in Hartford, Connecticut, and is directed here by R-S co-founder Christina Rios. And (after the initial shock of the stratospheric vocal register wears off) all those silvery, high-altitude musical notes seem to lift us up above some great emotional vista, merely as one bridesmaid harbors a secret love for another. It's only about 20-25 minutes long, but jammed full of thought and feeling and meaning. Maybe all operas should be condensed down to this length.

In this magnificent little story, Ms. Gingrich is the lovelorn half of the singing duo and Ms. Engel is blissfully unaware. And both of them put so much grand, honest, sweeping feeling into the segment, it feels like we've seen into their hearts for miles and miles. It is the high point of the evening (the high point of the week, as far as I'm concerned), as they exult and agonize in a remote corner of a wedding reception.

The final piece will be quite familiar to fans of NPR's (and Chicago Public Radio's) "This American Life." 21 Chump Street is a very fine rock-opera one-act based on the radio feature about an honors student in Florida who falls in love with an undercover narcotics cop, who ruins his life by buying her a small bag of marijuana. With the delightful Kelvin Urday as Justin and Natasha Toro as the mysterious Naomi, and some great back-up singers too, this Kafkaesque story seems destined to become a musical theater staple. Music and lyrics just happen to be written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, of Hamilton fame.

So, yes, in this particular case I'm telling you that Lin-Manuel Miranda deserves second billing beneath Steven Serpa. There, I said it.

Love? Actually...Through September 18, 2016, at the Westport Playhouse (by Fuzzy's Tacos), on the northeast side of Westport Plaza. For more information visit www.r-stheatrics.com.

Cast
Sarajane Alverson: Narrator, etc.
Kevin L. Corpuz: Derek, etc.
Eileen Engel: Amaranth, etc.
Lindsay Rae Gingrich: Thyrsis, etc.
Omega Jones: Tevin, etc.
Phil Leveling: Andrew, etc.
Natasha Toro: Naomi
Kelvin Urday: Justin, etc.
Colleen Backer: Cameo

Production Staff
Director: Christina Rios
Musical Director: Leah Luciano
Stage Manager/Assistant Director: Alex Moore
Assistant Stage Manager: Angel Eberhardt
Production Manager: Colleen Backer
Choreographer: Taylor Pietz
Scenic Designer: Keller Ryan
Lighting Designer: Nathan Schroeder
Costume Designer: Amy Harrison
Sound Designer: Mark Kelley
Technical Advisor: Scott Schoonover
Sound Board Operator: Sam Toskin
Production Interns: Amy Riddle & Sydney Scott
Pianist: Leah Luciano
Percussion: Devin Lowe
Guitar: D. Mike Bauer
Electric Bass: M. Joshua Ryan
Violin: Shaylynn Sienkiewicz
Cello: Alexander Schutt
Artistic Director: Christina Rios
Associate Managing Director: Alex Moore


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