Our critic weighs in on local theater.

Stage Capsule Reviews 

Our critic weighs in on local theater.

Amelia Bedelia Over the course of thirty Amelia Bedelia books, author Peggy Parish put her titular housekeeper in the employ of various dotty families. The domestic's most notable trait is her literal, concrete take on the world; she's the kind of person who, when told to strike a match, hits one with a hammer. For Theatre for Young America's production, playwright Karen Abbot has melded a few of Amelia's adventures into one hourlong tale that director Evan Gamsu says plays like classic farce. Working for a couple with an infant and an eye toward a wealthy acquaintance's estate, Amelia, played by Ashlea Christopher, will no doubt complicate matters. Through Nov. 20 at the City Stage at Union Station, 30 W. Pershing, 816-460-2020.

Cinderella It's hard to believe that the Cinderella story has roots in a legend that goes back 1,000 years. She's so skillful at making lemonade from the lemons she's given, she could be a Teen People cover girl. While the New York City Opera offers Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical version this month with such twists as having drag performer Lypsinka play the wicked stepmother, puppeteer Paul Mesner makes his version a homage to his heroine's back story that updates her attitude in fresh and funny ways -- sort of like Lindsay Lohan as a marionette. Through Nov. 14 at Unity Temple on the Plaza, 707 W. 47th St., 816-235-6222.

The Diary of Anne Frank The two-year-old Poke In the Eye Productions is challenging audiences with director Therese Riley's take on Wendy Kesselman's 1997 adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank, which a Curtain Up reviewer found superior to the 1955 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett. To the story of Frank, the inspirational heroine whose familiy hid from the Nazis in an Amsterdam attic, this version adds newly discovered diary entries and accounts from Holocaust survivors that are brutal yet stirring. Nov. 12-13 and Nov. 19-20 at Corinth Dance Center Studios, 4047 Somerset Dr. in Prairie Village, 913-383-1900.

OOPS! Got milk? Neither does the children's-theater branch of the Martin City Melodrama & Vaudeville Company, called Martin City Jr., which opens its second season with OOPS!, a world premiere musical by the troupe's associate artistic director, Jon Copeland. Copeland and Martin City founder Jeanne Beechwood star in the piece, which follows the adventures of Princess Daisy (surely not the Judith Krantz character of the same name), whose travels from the planet Milky Dud to save the world from a milk shortage land her mistakenly on an Earth plagued, let's hope, by the persnickety lactose-intolerant. Through Nov. 14 at Martin City Melodrama & Vaudeville Co., Metcalf South Shopping Center, 9635 Metcalf in Overland Park, 913-642-7576.

Picasso at the Lapin Agile Fans of the old Steve Martin, who would do his stand-up wearing a gag arrow-through-the-head, were somewhat surprised by his growth as a writer. Before his acclaimed novel Shopgirl and his lucid New Yorker essays, he dazzled many with his witty play, Picasso at the Lapin Agile, now being staged by the University of Missouri-Kansas City's Theatre Department. Set in a realistic Paris bistro, the story broaches the fantastic in its invention of a meeting between two seemingly disparate geniuses, Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein. What's sublime is that their interaction reads true, and what's predictably silly is a visit late in the show from Elvis Presley. Through Nov. 14 at the Spencer Theatre, 4949 Cherry St., 816-235-6222.

Picnic William Inge unleashed one of the sexiest male characters ever put onstage with Hal, a handsome drifter whose carnality rattles a small town not unlike Inge's native Independence, Kansas (where, in fact, the 1954 movie version of Picnic was filmed). Inge was famously tortured by his homosexuality, so perhaps Hal was the template for the man he never was or had. A good part of the town's female population certainly responds, including the straight-laced spinster librarian, whose psychosexual meltdown late in the play advances the argument to act on one's animal instincts. Nov. 12-27 at the Olathe Community Theater, 500 East Loula, 913-782-2990.

The Ritz Cracker Suite The Martin City Melodrama & Vaudeville Company thumbs its nose at Tchaikovsky with its spoof of his Christmas perennial, "The Nutcracker." Brimming with parodies of both holiday standards and classic compositions, the show twists familiar images such as the nubile nutcrackers by seasoning the chorus line with a couple of Mouseketeers and tweaks the ballet's most famous sequence with something called "The Dance of the Sugar Prune Fairies." Director Jeanne Beechwood has made a couple of interesting casting choices: Marcie Ramirez and David Reyes, who have given compelling performances at, respectively, Quality Hill Playhouse and the Unicorn. Nov. 12-Jan. 2 at Martin City Melodrama & Vaudeville Co., Metcalf South Shopping Center, 9601 Metcalf in Overland Park, 913-642-7576.

The Tall Tale of Pecos Bill If the image of cowboys sitting around a campfire conjures up only the flatulence scene from Blazing Saddles, Theater for Young America offers a corrective with a slice of Western folklore dating back to those late-night poetry jams. Directed by Val Mackey, the show features Paul Orwick as the titular legend, whose résumé includes throwing a lasso around the Big Dipper and creating the Mojave Desert by regurgitating a heap of quicksand. In a salute to that ancient theatrical genre in which cowboys appeared in vaudeville shows, the production also features original compositions by Kansas City's Cheryl Benge. Through Nov. 19 at Theater for Young America, 5909 Johnson Dr. in Mission, 913-831-2131.

'Twas the Night Before Christmas Creatures are indeed stirring at the Coterie this holiday season in Lowell Swortzell's biographical play about the creation of the classic poem and its author, Clement Clark Moore. Rumor has it that, despite penning such jolly lines as "His eyes, how they twinkled; his dimples how merry," Moore was actually a dour academic. (One Vassar professor confidently doubts that Moore even wrote it.) Plowing forward anyway, the Coterie's show finds the author, played by Tom Woodward, on Christmas Eve circa 1822, surrounded by the family that inspired his tale. Nov. 16 through Dec. 30 at the Coterie, 2450 Grand, 816-474-6552.


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