Hits from Flops finds the beauty in busts.

Flops House 

Hits from Flops finds the beauty in busts.

Last month's lackluster Showstoppers at Quality Hill Playhouse raised questions about whether the theater's cabaret-style revue format needed to be retooled -- or whether that particular show was simply a shaky exception to a tried-and-true rule. Hits from Flops, however, lends credence to the idea that with a different cast of characters, singing different parts, the form is perfectly fine. The show is a lark from beginning to end, and perhaps the richest and earthiest production J. Kent Barnhart and friends have ever staged.

The idea for the show is gold: mine good songs from failed shows that, for whatever reason, died in childbirth while the baby survived. Thus we get Irving Berlin's "I Love a Piano" from Stop! Look! Listen! and the raunchy "Everybody's Girl" from Kander and Ebb's Steel Pier, both belted out of the park by the radiant Karen Errington. And, from Alison Sneegas Borberg, a gorgeous "Meadowlark" from The Baker's Wife (which featured an unknown Patti Lupone) and a sultry "Blue Skies" from Betsy.

Michelle Miller (to whom I want to sing "Embraceable You") is a welcome newcomer to the series. She delivers crystalline versions of "On a Clear Day" (which was sung by a man in the original cast but became a woman's song once Streisand got her hands on the score) and "There Won't Be Trumpets" from the most misunderstood Stephen Sondheim show ever staged, Anyone Can Whistle. Barnhart, too, gives Working's "The Mason" a heartfelt sheen.

Sex -- or at least the promise of it -- figures prominently in the show. From Errington's bawdy refrain about never being a cowhand because she "can't keep her calves together" to Borberg's head-to-toe shiver matching one "up and down my spine," there's a pulse to this show that Showstoppers listlessly stumbled to find. And Barnhart's behind-the-scenes chatter is both historically interesting and unusually self-deprecating, a nice change from the Raytown chronicles of past shows. (One tale from his off-Broadway debut, about a crass New Yorker in the audience eating a chicken leg out of a brown paper bag, is hysterical.) The sparkle and polish of what the Playhouse does best is definitely back.

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