“The Twilight Zone” may seem like a curious inspiration for a musically fused theatrical evening entitled Café Chanson. But Ken Page, who created the production and is known for originating roles in Cats and Ain’t Misbehavin’ (along with voicing the Oogie Boogie character in Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas), draws on the classic television series for what he calls a “Rod Serling twist.” Says Page, “I always loved how a single 30-minute episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’ would leave you with a moral—something to take away. And the stories often involved time travel.”
Café Chanson, which runs at St. Louis’s Upstream Theater Jan. 11–27, features a World War II veteran in his nineties who travels across time and space to revisit the people in Paris he met while stationed there during the war. “He gets to see three or four people he had relationships with,” Page describes, “though, he doesn’t get nearly as involved as I just made it sound!” The veteran also observes a younger version of himself, but Page demurs as to whether or not the man manages to find love after all these years.
In writing and directing the show, Page was influenced by such Parisian locales as les Chevaliers du Temple, where he spent time during a stint performing Ain’t Misbehavin’ overseas. “We’ve staged it so that the audience gets to play the denizens of the cafe,” says the artist. “It’s From Here to Eternity meets A Farewell to Arms,” Page declares. “It’s fun for people of a certain age to look back on their lives and recall their happy memories. The whole thing is very French and romantic.”