Khnemu Menu-Ra and Antonio Rodriguez: Origins of Love

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Khnemu Menu-Ra and Antonio Rodriguez

Origins of Love

The St. Lou Fringe Festival, St. Louis, MO, 6/25/2015

Reviewed by Chuck Lavazzi for Cabaret Scenes

Khnemu-Menu-Ra-Cabaret-Scenes-Magazine_212Origins of Love was a smartly theatrical cabaret starring a pair of actors well known on the local theater scene: Khnemu Menu-Ra (pictured) and Antonio Rodriguez. With a narrative thread assembled from the works of Shakespeare and a song list that ranged from Stephen Sondheim to Trent Reznor to the Lebanese-British singer-songwriter Mika, Origins of Love rang an impressive variety of changes on the theme of love and its discontents.

A well-designed cabaret show will often feel like a one-act play, with a dramatic throughline and possibly the sense, by the end, that you have gone on a journey with the performers.

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This was exactly that kind of show. It opened with Menu-Ra (pictured), who carried the majority of the show, performing Bottom’s dream speech from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, then moved smoothly and logically to Sondheim’s “Invocation” (cut from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum) and finally “High Flying, Adored” from Evita. That last song was performed as a duet with pianist and Musical Director Leah Luciano, whose skill as a singer and musician was also essential to the success of the evening.

From there, the selections from Shakespeare were used to segue among segments on various aspects of love, from juvenile sexual conquest to dark obsession and finally to lighthearted acceptance. The show was filled with impressive moments, including Menu-Ra’s performance of the title song (from Stephen Trask’s score for Hedwig and the Angry Inch) and Rodriguez’s hilarious “As We Stumble Along” (The Drowsy Chaperone). Luciano also had a nice solo on “I’d Rather Watch You,” a clever 1920s pastiche from Joshua Schmidt and Jason Loewith’s score for the 2008 musical adaptation of Elmer Rice’s The Adding Machine.

Kimberly Lawson was credited as the director of Origins of Love. I don’t know how much of this show was hers and how much was Menu-Ra’s, but between them they produced one of the stronger cabarets I’ve seen recently.

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And I’ve seen some pretty darned good ones.

Origins of Love was presented as part of the St. Lou Fringe Festival in the Grand Center Arts District of St.

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Louis during the last two weeks of June.

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For more information on the festival:

Chuck Lavazzi

Chuck Lavazzi is the producer for the arts calendars and senior performing arts critic at 88.1 KDHX, the host of The Cabaret Project’s monthly open mic night, and entirely to blame for the Stage Left blog at He’s a member of the Music Critics Association of North America and the St. Louis Theater Circle. Chuck has been an actor, sound designer, and occasional director since roughly the Bronze Age. He has presented his cabaret show Just a Song at Twilight: the Golden Age of Vaudeville, at the Missouri History Museum and the Kranzberg Center.