Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, nicknamed "The Rep," begins its 31st mainstage season tonight, Sept. 10, with the murderous musical, Sweeney Todd.
Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's operatic classic of 1979, based on Christopher Bond's potboiler play about a barber taking revenge on Lonon hypocrites by helping bake "the worst pies in London..." Edward Stern, artistic director of Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, directs the musical, opening Sept. 12 and running through Oct. 10 on The Rep's mainstage.
Ken Roberson will choreograph Sweeney, which features Thom Sesma (Chu Chem, Miss Saigon national tour) as the Demon Barber. Also in the cast are Brigid Brady (Johanna), Pamela Myers (Mrs. Lovett), Alison Bevan, Bill Bush, Tony Capone, Robert Creighton, Ray Friedeck, Joneal Joplin and Tom Souhrada.
Designing the show are David Gallo (sets), James Scott (costumes) and Peter E. Sargent (lighting). Larry Pressgrove serves as musical director.
Here's the rest of the Rep 1997-98 season:
Ambition Facing West
Anthony Clarvoe, a playwright of Croatian/Italian background (and a Rep favorite), writes about a Croatian family moving West across America, thus exploring "ethnic identity, family expectations and the pursuit of personal dreams." The show runs Oct. 15-Nov. 14 and is directed by Melia Bensussen. The Skinflint
The Rep's holiday show is a musical-comedy adaptation of Moliere's The Miser, with book & lyrics by Barbara Field and music by Hiram Titus. Updated to 1929, this world premiere runs Dec. 3-Jan. 2, 1998 and is directed by Susan Gregg.
Complex, brilliant, scary and flawed Maria Callas holds students in thrall at a master class for tenors and upcoming divas. Terrence McNally's comedy drama continues on Broadway with Dixie Carter, but the Rep's version runs Jan. 7-Feb. 6, 1998. Victoria Bussert directs.
Likely to be a Tony contender for best play this season, David Hare's 1995 drama shows two former lovers, Tom and Kyra, separated by age and class. Katherine Leask and Robert Eliot will star in this production, directed by Steven Woolf, the Rep's artistic director. The Olivier Award-winning Best Play runs Feb. 11-March 13, 1998.
An Ideal Husband
Recently revived on Broadway, Oscar Wilde's social satire shows an upright man with one skeleton in his closet nearly undone by a vulgar woman after his connections and wealth. Wilde's 1895 play runs March 18-April 17, 1998 and is directed by John Going.
A Question Of Mercy (Oct. 29-Nov. 16)
David Rabe's drama, under consideration for this year's Pulitzer Prize when the play was staged at New York Theatre Workshop, concerns a doctor who tries not to get involved in an AIDS patient's assisted suicide. For all the calm, precise planning, the euthanasia does not go off as planned. The play is based on an autobiographical magazine article by Dr. Richard Selzer.
Other plays by Rabe include The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel (1971), Sticks And Bones, Goose And Tomtom and Those The River Keeps. Rep artistic director Steven Woolf directs.
Old Wicked Songs (Jan. 21-Feb. 8, 1998)
Martin Platt directs this two-character drama, set in Vienna, about an aging, eccentric singing teacher trying to re-spark a love of music in a neurotic young prodigy. Jon Marans' play ran Off-Broadway in 1996 and played in London with Bob Hoskins as the teacher.
Other works by Marans include Child Child and co-authorship of the musical, Gold Diggers.
The Compleat Works Of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged) (March 11-29, 1998)
A manic sprint through the works of the world's greatest playwright, scripted by the Reduced Shakespeare Company (Jess Borgeson, Adam Long & Daniel Singer) of San Francisco. Pamela Hunt directs this farcical take on Titus Andronicus (a cooking show), Othello (a rap musical) and the History Plays (a football game).
Asked about the season, repertory Of St. Louis spokesperson Judy Andrews told Playbill On-Line that although the Rep tries to choose plays that please its subscribers, they also shouldn't be lumped in with "the Midwestern mindset" that some people might ascribe to theatres of its type: "In our 30 years, we've never done a Neil Simon play. We do Shakespeare, a lot of Shaw, and we foster new writers like Anthony Clarvoe, whose Brothers Karamazov premiered here, or Hiram Titus and Barbara Field."
For tickets and information on the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, call (314) 968-4925.
--By David Lefkowitz<