Category Archives: Musical Theatre

Be More Chill

New Line Theatre is closing the current season with Be More Chill in a pre-Broadway version.

I attended Saturday evening.  While the rest of the run is sold out, some educator tickets and student tickets may be available each of the remaining evenings over the next two weekends.

I’ve been attending New Line shows for many seasons now, and I was employed by the company as Resident Music Director for three seasons.  My music-directing majors from Webster University have been involved for the last three years as well. (That’s the full disclosure.)

This production of Be More Chill is New Line’s finest work in some time.  The show feels organic, complete, totally satisfying, with acting and singing that are uniformly strong.  Mike Dowdy-Windsor and Scott Miller pulled together a stand-out, believable cast full of age-appropriate types with pipes and the ability to make the characters zip off the page.

The show is subversive in some ways, starting out with apparent stock characters who then become increasingly complex.  And the big moments are delivered in song, which I love indeed. One standout moment — gripping and haunting and lingering in my mind today — occurs early in the second act, when the sidekick to the lead comes face-to-face with his own reality, delivered in the tear-jerking “Michael in the bathroom.”  Kevin Corpuz has never had a better moment on stage.

Jayde Mitchell engagingly carries the show.  He has an appealing stage presence and a sweet voice that, after a few early moments of squishy intonation, locked right in.  His angst, his change in character, his moral dilemma — all carried the punch they needed to make this show work.

I was talking with Scott Miller after the curtain, and commented on how organic this show’s humor is.  He noted that the show is not funny intentionally, but that the humor derives from the all-too-natural human situation.  As I’ve commented before, Scott is brilliant at directing shows where normal people do abnormal things.

Nic Valdez, Webster BM in Music Directing for Musical Theatre ’19, is the music director.  The ensemble was rock solid, and the few choral moments were glorious.  The show was tight, with nary a slip of diction or a misplaced release.  Leading the whole production from the keyboard is Webster senior Marc Vincent, who with this show is making his first big outing leading the band while playing the show. His fingers barely leave the keyboard, and he’s brilliant.  I was one proud teacher Saturday evening.

Other reviews, this time by professionals:

My kids

Many of my Webster University voice students are engaged this summer in theatre work.

Jacob Flekier (BFA Musical Theatre ’19) is in 101 Dalmations at Stages in June, and then returns to Saint Louis to play Eugene Morris Jerome in Brighton Beach Memoirs at New Jewish Theatre in October.

with Jacob Flekier after his last show at Webster.

Cecily Dowd (Musical Theatre rising junior) is at Ozark Actors Theatre in Rolla, performing in My Fair Lady.

Noah Cornwell (Musical Theatre rising senior) heads to Hope, Michigan for a summer full of roles at the Hope Summer Repertory Theatre.

Phil Solheim (rising sophomore in Musical Theatre) is at Crane River Theatre in Kearney, Nebraska in Newsies.

Benjamin B. Love (BFA Musical Theatre ’19) appears at The Muny in 1776, playing the role of Leather Apron.  He heads to Minneapolis after that to rehearse for the China leg of Nickelodeon’s Paw Patrol Live tour, which takes him to multiple locations in China, October – January 2020.

with Ben Love after his final show at Webster.

Sarah Dao (Musical Theatre rising sophomore) is in Kansas City for part of the summer, in Pippin with Music Theatre Kansas City.

Magnus Kroken (Musical Theatre rising sophomore) goes to Shawnee Theatre in Indiana for a show.

My Music Directing major are staying busy too!


Back from Helena

I am returning home from Helena, Montana after a whirlwind weekend.  Fly in on Friday.  Adjudicate and catch a show on Saturday, thanks to Grandstreet Theatre.  Fly back to STL on Sunday.  Catch a concert at school Sunday evening.

And now Finals Week is here, with juries during the first three days of the week.

Grandstreet staff booked a room for me at The Sanders, Helena’s Bed & Breakfast.  The hospitality was wonderful.

I was especially delighted to find that the B&B is owned and operated by a great-grandson of one of the five Ringling Bros.  Given my newfound circus interests, I enjoyed seeing some artifacts, including original elephant headgear from the Ringling Bros, Barnum & Bailey Circus, photos and memorabilia, a show-ring saddle (now refurbished) from Alf. Ringling’s family, and loads of cards and prints.

Grandstreet Theatre hosts an annual scholarship competition for some of the 200 or so students in their youth program.  I spent the day adjudicating auditions, as part of a team of a local actress, and a Seattle-based stage director.  We made a great team!  The kids were so well-prepared thanks to the Grandstreet education staff, led by the wonderful Marianne Adams.

Saturday evening we took in a production of The Bridges of Madison County.  I had listened previously to the cast album, and I teach a couple of these songs, but this was a new show for me.  It’s quite effective.  And when “It all fades away” finally hits as his 11-o’clock-number, the show feels magical.  And when she sings the closing number, “Always better,” the tears flow yet again.

The solid cast in Helena made the most of a difficult score by Jason Robert Brown.

Love’s Labours

I attended this weekend a matinee of Love’s Labours Lost, presented by the Webster University Conservatory of Theatre Arts.  Five of my Webster voice students were in the show.

This show was exhilarating, fun, catchy, life-affirming.  (The show was a musical, based on the eponymous Shakespeare play.)

My two seniors:

Jacob Flekier.

Ben Love.

I love these guys so much, and I’m so happy for their choices, their growth, their drive, and their balance.

Proud teacher

Jett Blackorby, a senior at Jerseyville High School, starred as the title character in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in his high school production this weekend.

I was a proud voice teacher.  This kid is just super!