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Most theatre goers are aware of the Kevin Kline Awards presented annually to recognize outstanding achievement in professional theatre in the greater St Louis area, but last spring I attended the Best Performance Awards celebrating St Louis Community Musical Theatre presented by a group called Arts for Life and I was astounded by the number of theatre companies that produce musical theatre in the St. Louis region, as well as Illinois and St Charles.
We all know of The Muny, our nationís oldest and largest outdoor theatre, founded in 1916. The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis usually produces a musical production. The nationally known Black Rep always includes musicals and Stages St. Louis produces terrific musicals, such as last summerís Promises,Promises and State Fair. The Fox Associates presents and produces Broadway Shows and have even won several prestigious Tony Awards.
The performances of the many community theatres range from the classical to the contemporary and even very adventurous productions such as those produced by Scott Miller's New Line Theatre. The New Line Theatre has produced world premiers such as "She's Hideous" and "Attempting the Absurd." As Denny Reagan, President and CEO of The Muny says, "The St Louis Musical Theatre is very strong. On any given night you might find a musical playing here directly from Broadway, a revival of a much loved classic, or an off-beat production of an off-off Broadway show. The audiences in St Louis are very savvy when it comes to musical theatre."
The longevity of some of the community theatre groups is also amazing. The Hawthorne Players of Florissant is over 60 years old and the Kirkwood Theatre Guild is 80 years old. Alton Theatre just began its 77th season. The quality of the productions of most the musical theatres is on a very high plain.
Mary McCreight, president of the board of Arts for Life reminded me not to forget how many hours of hard work, compassion, talent, and love go into each performance and that most of those involved have day jobs.
Several of the community theatre groups often feature youth in their productions. Christ Church Memorial Players recently produced "Annie" as did Alton Little Theatre. Variety the Children's Charity recently produced "Oliver" with professional child and youth actors as well as children faced with physical and mental challenges.
St Louisans have a wealth and breadth of both professional-and-community-produced musical theatre productions and I'm proud to live a city that keeps on singing and dancing regardless of the gloomy economic times.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Arts Aficionado Nancy Kranzberg has been involved in the arts community for some thirty years. She serves on numerous arts affiliated boards, including The St. Louis Art Museum, Laumeier Sculpture Park where she is the Co-Chair, The Sheldon Arts Foundation and the Sheldon Art Gallery Board, Jazz at the Bistro, The Missouri Mansion Preservation Inc., The Mid American Arts Alliance, and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. Nancy was named Women of Achievement and was awarded the Distinguished Alumnae Award at Washington University Nancy is a docent at the St. Louis Art Museum and is an honorary docent at Laumeier Sculpture Park. At age 60 she became a Jazz singer. She performs with the Second Half which features Chancellor Tom George on the piano.