Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Theater Review: Fine Performances in Union Avenue Opera's 'Lost in the Stars'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Theater Review: Fine Performances in Union Avenue Opera's 'Lost in the Stars'

Article excerpt

Union Avenue Opera closes its season next weekend with a work of great social significance, Kurt Weill's "Lost in the Stars." With a book and lyrics by Maxwell Anderson, it's based on Alan Paton's 1948 novel "Cry, the Beloved Country." Set in South Africa, it's an exploration of racial attitudes, fathers and sons, loss, despair and hope.

UAO's production, seen on Friday night at Union Avenue Christian Church, has a simple but effective set, designed by Roger Speidel, constructed of corrugated metal walls framed by tall posts. Director Shaun Patrick Tubbs has made good use of his large cast and limited space, having members of the chorus bring on and remove the few props and chairs as needed.

The central character is the Rev. Stephen Kumalo, an Anglican priest who ministers in the village of Ndotsheni in South Africa's Province of Natal. He goes to Johannesburg to look for his son, Absalom, who went there to work but hasn't written his parents in a year. When he finally tracks him down, he finds that Absalom has been paroled from jail, and is living with his pregnant girlfriend, Irina. Worse is to come: Absalom joins two other men in a robbery and kills a white man, Andrew Jarvis. Telling the truth in court, he is condemned to hang. While he awaits the hour of his son's death, though, Kumalo receives comfort from an unexpected source.

Kenneth Overton's Kumalo had a big, resonant baritone and a sympathetic presence that held the stage; he looked and sounded right for the part, and had no problem being convincing in his spoken dialogue. As Irina, who marries Absalom in prison, mezzo-soprano Krysty Swann made a big impression, singing powerfully in the role's range of styles and bringing dramatic conviction to her role.

The cast is large and talented. Mezzo Melody Wilson, seen most recently in the leading role of Fenena in UAO's production of Verdi's "Nabucco," offered something completely different -- a hootchie-kootchie song, with staging to match -- as the wanton Linda. …

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