Our critic weighs in on local theater.

Stage Capsule Reviews 

Our critic weighs in on local theater.

Aida In the relatively new tradition of sourcing classical operas for Broadway musicals -- Madama Butterfly becomes Miss Saigon, say, or La Boheme becomes Rent -- is Elton John and Tim Rice's take on Verdi's Aida. Opera fans will recognize the story's ill-fated lovers' triangle and the theme of love triumphing over bigotry and hatred. But as much as opera purists will probably gag at the score, it's certainly an appealing one. The composers know from a good pop song, and the show's most beautiful ballads (especially as sung by Heather Hedley on the original cast recording) trump anything John wrote for The Lion King or his last several records. April 26-May 1 at the Music Hall, 301 W. 13th St., 816-931-3330.

Go, Dog, Go! Theatre for Young America's new show is based on a vintage children's book by P.D. Eastman, whose credits include Mr. Magoo scripts and a collaboration with the genre's godfather, Dr. Seuss, on The Cat in the Hat Dictionary. Director Valerie Mackey takes advantage of the book's eye-popping illustrations and repetitious prose to create a physical romp that embraces all mixes of canine diversity. Assisting a show geared to the youngest of audiences are such TYA veterans as Parry Luellen and Chris Clegg. April 26-May 20 at Theatre for Young America, 5909 Johnson Dr. in Mission, 913-831-2131.

The Robber Bridegroom Though Alfred Uhry is best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning Driving Miss Daisy, he has at least one musical to his credit. The title character -- a gentleman by day and a felon by night -- sounds stripped from a Grimm fairy tale, complete with an evil stepmother and her entourage of dimwitted henchmen. Jay Coombes directs a large cast, who will attack the bluegrass-influenced musical score with some good old fashioned Southern hospitality. Through May 1 at the Barn Players Theatre, 6219 Martway in Mission, 913-432-9100.

The Stinky Cheese Man Any show featuring both local diva Cathy Barnett and the theater scene's reigning teen idol, Sam Cordes, elicits buzz. Such is the case with John Glore's adaptation of Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith's tweaking and blurring of such familiar characters from children's literature as Rumpelstiltskin and Cinderella, blended here into Cinderumpelstiltskin. Director Missy Koonce has the wit to pull off such tales within tales as "The Boy Who Cried Cow Patty," and William Hill's costumes are rumored to be mind-blowing. Through May 15 at the Coterie, 2450 Grand, 816-474-6552.

Swing! Though the resurgence in swing dancing a few years back hasn't maintained its luster, the form is no less fun to watch. After a year on Broadway and six Tony nods, Swing! is showing up at places like American Heartland Theatre. The show's creators, who have exuberantly seasoned it with such tunes as "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" and "Stompin' at the Savoy," were probably wise not to fit a trite story around the music and dancing. Among the largely unknown cast are some Kansas City actors, a couple from New York City, and Darryl Calmese and Brent Kuenning from the same theater's wonderful Smokey Joe's Cafe a couple of seasons ago. Through April 24 at the American Heartland Theatre, 2450 Grand, 816-842-9999.

A Young Lady from Rwanda Sonja Linden's new play joins an ever-growing list of dramatic interpretations of the 1994 Rwandan genocide that give voice to both the horror and the healing. The quietly effective performance of Kenya Brome as a survivor attempting to make sense of the tragedy is occasionally undermined by Linden's resistance to a straight narrative. Instead, we get inner monologues, chats with the audience and dialogue between Brome and Paul DeBoy as the employee of a refugee center intent on shaping her writings -- and sometimes all three in the same scene. The shifting theatrical styles tend to keep the audience at a distance from any emotional payoff. Through May 8 at the Kansas City Rep at H&R Block City Stage in Union Station, 30 W. Pershing, 816-235-2700.

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