Reviews and previews of upcoming shows.

Stage Capsule Reviews 

Reviews and previews of upcoming shows.

Bye Bye Birdie No matter what steps Kansas City, Missouri, Parks and Rec takes -- spraying, spaying, setting traps -- there's no stopping the first rule of summer: Leave grassy public space unattended long enough, and you can be sure a musical will break out. This time it's the story of that Elvis-like crooner Conrad Birdie and the trouble he (and his hips) stir up in small-town U.S.A. First rule of Bye Bye Birdie: The longer the scene changes, the more you have to hear that "We love you, Conrad" song, so let's hope the crew has its act together. Free show, though. Aug. 5-7 at Gladstone Amphitheatre, 76th St. and Troost.

Damn Yankees If what Lola wanted was another run-through of the old Abbot, Alder and Ross perennial, she's in luck. (Maybe perennial is the wrong word. It's more like a hazing, right? Summer can't be called summer until it's been wrung through this Faust tale.) But even if it's dimmed with familiarity, its pleasures remain substantial: good jokes; a score you can hum along with even if you've never caught the show before; and, in "Two Lost Souls," a song that's as gorgeous as it is sentimental. Maybe a confused Tommy Shaw will show up and shred some. Weekends, July 22 through Aug. 7 at the Barn Players, 6219 Martway in Mission, 913-432-9100.

The Dinosaur Musical You trembled when the creatures in Jurassic Park learned to open doors, so what hope have we now that they've mastered the old one-two rock step? It's family fun with thunder lizards as the Coterie explores the rift between vegetarian and carnivorous dinos. A pair of leaf-loving sauropods hole up in the Paradise Hotel -- called, by director Ernie Nolan, an "art-deco heaven" -- to sing, tell stories and deny their impending extinction. Through Aug. 7 at the Coterie Theatre at Crown Center, 2450 Grand, 816-474-6552.

From My Hometown is a good-hearted but lunkheaded show that seeks to pass off Crown Center as the Apollo Theatre. Young soul singers Philly, Memphis and Detroit -- each from his namesake city and singing in its style -- loiter in Harlem, round-robining through whatever oldies the producers can afford the rights to use. The three leads dazzle, especially Leonard Stalling's Detroit, but only he has grit in the spirit of the original songs, and everyone is ill-served by arrangements and choreography that are much too showbiz. Otis Redding damn sure never made with the jazz hands. It's all more about the tyranny of boomer nostalgia than anything else. Through Aug. 21 at American Heartland Theatre, 2450 Grand, Crown Center, 816-842-9999. (reviewed in the July 13 issue)

Funny Girl If your first thought is that the New Theatre Restaurant is probably safer taking on La Streisand's Funny Girl than Yentl or Prince of Tides, wipe away the chintzy '68 film version. Funny Girl is a show first and foremost, the hatched-for-the-stage story of early 20th-century comedienne Fanny Brice, played here by professional coastal pop chanteuse Farah Alvin, who will sing, dance and fall in love. Locals get to dance, too, we hear. They'll also bus your table and take your order, secure in the knowledge that people who feed people are the luckiest people, except for the out-of-town stars put up in swank JoCo digs by dinner theaters. Through Aug. 28 at the New Theatre Restaurant, 9229 Foster in Overland Park, 913-649-7469. (reviewed this issue)

Johnny Butts Here's something new: While tracking the rise and fall of a mentally ill rock star, this original rock parable staged by Lawrence's E.M.U. crew winds up exploring medical ethics -- does treatment of mental problems change who we are? When, at his chart-topping peak, Johnny Butts seeks medication for his problems -- the imaginary girlfriend with the speaking part, for example -- the world prefers him untreated. Writer-director Andy Stowers seems to have found rich, ambitious material. As for the new songs and live band, we'll have to wait and see. Aug. 4-6 at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire in Lawrence, 785-843-2787.

Let's Do It Beyond melody and rhyme, the key to Cole Porter's genius was his ability to make everything at once dirty and sophisticated. Before he wrote "Let's Do It," that biologists' tour-de-force that isn't really about falling in love, was it a word to giggle at? That Porter feeling -- being sexy, grown-up and clever all at the same time -- is what we used to call adult, back before video stores dirtied it up. Showcasing Jim Korinke, Melinda MacDonald and J. Kent Barnhart, Quality Hill's revue tries to reclaim the word. Wear something nice. Through Aug. 7 at Quality Hill Playhouse, 303 W. 10th St., 816-421-1700.

A Midsummer Night's Dream To benefit KCK's Alcott Arts Center, the Wyandotte Players attempt to muster up the romance and mystery of the Bard's most fantastic comedy ... in a parking lot just a couple of blocks off Interstate 70. Let's hope they have as much sparkle and moondust as they have chutzpah. Still, tricky as it sounds, this kind of transformation -- muscling a dead urban space into an enchanted forest -- is emblematic of the Alcott Center's broader artistic mission. The center bills it a "festival," promising food and music and preshow entertainment. Bring five bucks, something to sit on, and any SCA garb you have lying around. Aug. 6-7 outside the Alcott Arts Center, 180 S. 18th St. in Kansas City, Kan., 913-449-2301.

The Why At last, a lash of danger in this summer of cheerful musicals. The Minds Eye crew -- a daring bunch lugging ballsy shows all the way out to KCK -- takes on this searing comic-tragic exploration of school shootings and the media. Author Victor Kaufold was only 18 when he finished his acute script. As teen Robert (Bryan LaFave) unloads to a counselor, the rest of the cast troop through, done up as all the recognizable types we see on TV after something like this happens: reporters, "experts," victims, Eddie Vedder. This is satire with fangs -- and heartache. Through Aug. 6 at Alcott Arts Center, 180 S. 18th St. in Kansas City, Kan., 913-897-2348.

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