St. Louis Theaters Plot Their Returns

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every way that people gather, from bars and restaurants to concerts and sporting events. Live theater, of course, is not immune to the need for social distancing, but several local theater venues and companies are already plotting their return. Here’s a roundup of where things stand now.

The Fabulous Fox Theatre (527 N. Grand Blvd.) was rounding the final turn of their annual US Bank Broadway Series when the stay-at-home order arrived, resulting in some postponements and some cancellations. Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, originally slated to run in mid-March, has been rescheduled for December 22-27. Interest in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats is no-doubt at an all-time high after the arrival last December of Tom Hooper’s infamously bizarre film adaptation, but unfortunately a new date for the show’s planned mid-April run could not be found and the show has been canceled, though the Fox hopes to get it added to a future Broadway Series lineup.

Perhaps the biggest heartbreaker is Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash Hamilton, which was scheduled for May 5-June 7 and has now been postponed. The Fox is currently working on rescheduling the show; keep your eyes on for updates.

At least so far, this hasn’t impacted the 2020-2021 US Bank Broadway Series slate, announced in mid-March just days before the stay-at-home order took effect. The lineup includes Mean Girls (September 22-October 4), based on the hit Lindsay Lohan movie penned by 30 Rock’s Tina Fey; a new production of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s classic My Fair Lady (October 14-25); the Tony Award-winning jukebox musical The Cher Show (November 17-29); the live adaptation of Disney’s animated smash Frozen (February 10-21, 2021); the soul revue Ain’t Too Proud—The Life and Times of the Temptations (March 2-14, 2021); the first national tour of The Prom (April 6-18, 2021), a 2018 Broadway feel-good hit about four Broadway stars teaming up to help a lesbian teen attend the prom at her conservative school; and Pretty Woman: The Musical (April 27-May 9, 2021), adapted from the classic Garry Marshall film that made Julia Roberts a star. The lineup also includes a smattering of special short engagements, including A Christmas Carol (December 3-6), Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (December 18-19), Jesus Christ Superstar (January 26-31, 2021), the Blue Man Group (March 19-21, 2021), Anastasia (May 14-16, 2021), and Hairspray (May 21-23, 2021). Season passes (which do not include the special engagements) are available now from the Fabulous Fox, with individual show tickets going on sale at a later date to be determined.

Of course, the Fox also hosts concerts. A mid-April appearance by Chaka Khan was canceled, but appearances by soul legend Gladys Knight (June 19) and Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman John Fogerty (July 12) are currently still listed on the Fox website. At this stage, of course, that could still yet change.

Summer in St. Louis means shows under the stars at The Muny (1 Theatre Drive), but COVID-19 has resulted in changes there as well. The venerable opera house’s 102nd season was to launch a seven-show schedule on June 15th with Chicago, but an announcement at the end of April slid opening day back to July 20th, with a promise to review and confirm that start date by June 8th. The schedule has been pared back to just five shows, with Sweeney Todd and Disney’s Mary Poppins pushed back to 2021. The newly modified schedule now features Chicago (July 20-26), The Sound of Music (July 29-August 4), the Gloria Estefan jukebox musical On Your Feet! (August 7-13), Smokey Joe’s Café (August 15-21), and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (August 24-30).

If all had gone according to plan, this week the 5th Annual Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis would be saluting the legendary local playwright behind A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The festival, whose theme this year was to be “Tennessee Williams & Italy,” was to include a lavish production of Williams’ Tony Award-winning The Rose Tattoo at the Grandel Theatre (3610 Grandel Square), as well as The St. Louis Rooming House Plays, an innovative presentation of Williams’ one-act plays where various rooms at the Stockton House in Grand Center would hold different plays for audience members to wander between and immerse themselves in.

The poster for the 5th annual festival, as originally planned.

The “Tennessee Williams & Italy” slate was too ambitious to restage in the fall, but fear not: it has now been rescheduled as the 6th Annual Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis, taking place next May at the Grandel. In its place is an all-new iteration of the “5th Annual” event featuring Something Wild, which captures Williams’ time in the St. Louis theater company The Mummers. The event will run October 22-November 1 at the Link Auditorium (4504 Westminster Pl.) which is, interestingly enough, site of The Mummers’ former home. Other events at the festival include two tweaked takes on The Glass Menagerie, the aforementioned St. Louis Rooming House Plays, and the one-man show The Man in the Overstuffed Chair. Stay tuned for more details at as the festival approaches.

The timing was lucky for the St. Louis Actors’ Studio, who managed to get through all but one of the runs planned for the company’s “2 to Tango” series of two-character plays. The one that had to be postponed, unfortunately, was kind of a big one: the world premiere of Comfort by famed playwright, screenwriter, and film director Neil LaBute. As we wait for the announcement of new dates, LaBute and STLAS are offering a fine consolation prize: “Ten X Ten,” a series of LaBute-penned monologues performed by the likes of Bill Pullman, Judith Light, Richard Kind, and St. Louis native Jenna Fischer, among others. The monologues are free to stream for a limited time via special links posted to the studio’s Twitter feed at @stlas1.

Screencaps from “Ten X Ten,” courtesy of STLAS’ Twitter.

The Actors’ Studio is still looking ahead, having recently announced the theme (“Dramedy”) and lineup for their 14th season this fall. The slate aims to start in September with Paula Vogel’s And Baby Makes Seven (September 18-October 4), about a family awaiting a newborn baby while dealing with the three imaginary kids they already have. Young Jean Lee’s Straight White Men (December 4-20) offers up a Christmas-set family drama that explores white male privilege and the anguish that can still languish underneath. Robert Askins’ Hand to God (February 19-March 7) finds a Christian puppeteer grieving over the loss of his father finding that his puppet suddenly has a life of its own. The season closes April 16-May 2 with a double-feature of two-character one-act plays: Edward Albee’s The Zoo Story, where a vagrant on a park bench regales a wealthy man with a tale of a trip to the zoo, and Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter, featuring a pair of bickering hitmen awaiting their next kill. All performances are at the Gaslight Theater (358 N. Boyle); keep an eye on for further details. | Jason Green

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