Reviews and previews of upcoming shows.

Stage Capsule Reviews 

Reviews and previews of upcoming shows.

Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story A class-A crowd pleaser guaran-damn-teed to make you hiccup the Holly songbook all the way home from Hallmark Land. The script is silly, but the show's achievement is the way it evokes that thrill of creation. Sure, "Peggy Sue" couldn't have come together as quickly as it does here, but there's joy in watching it form, even if the process is radically accelerated. As Holly's Crickets, David Bendena and Ry Kincaid seem constantly pleased at the untrained racket they're making; as Holly, Wichita native John Mueller is exactly life-sized, capturing the dreamy shyness of a bright, artistic Texan without being showy. All of them play great, loose rock and roll, but the show is stolen by Tim Scott, hilarious as the MC the night the music died. Through Jan. 8 at the American Heartland Theatre at Crown Center, 2450 Grand, 816-842 -9999. (Reviewed in our Nov. 10 issue.)

A Christmas Carol This is redemption you could set your watch by. The Kansas City Rep holds steady with its 25th production of Dickens' invention-of-Christmas classic, which adds up to 75 ghosts and God knows how many pounds of white, graveyardy powder. It's always sumptuously mounted, well-acted and as easy to take as spiked nog. Helping immensely is Gary Neal Johnson, always a wonderfully niggling and petty Scrooge, and one whose transformation comes as much from within as from Dickens' ectoplasmic deus ex machina. Through Dec. 26 at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, 4949 Cherry, 816-235-2700.

A Christmas Conundrum Yet another murder mystery staged by the Mystery Train, ensuring the following: a death aboard a train, which audience members will be charged with solving; a whimsical script with plenty of puns, many of which audience members will be charged with delivering; a bevy of characters with silly names and offbeat histories, several of whom audience members will be charged with becoming; and dinner from the Union Station Café, which audience members will simply be charged with. This one's set in 1952, at Christmastime, so expect a background of Kansas City history taking full advantage of the Union Station surroundings. Reservations are required. Through Jan. 7 at Union Station Café, 2200 Main, 816-813-9654.

Christmas in Song This rousing, savior-centric cabaret revue — hatched by director, singer and dryly funny master of ceremonies J. Kent Barnhart — is split between a holy first half and a wholly secular second. Both have plenty of highlights and come blessed with sterling arrangements, Barnhart's tasteful accompaniment, a (mostly) fresh crop of songs and Quality Hill Playhouse's reliably spectacular voices: those of elegant Melinda MacDonald, fine tenor Matt Leisy and soprano Stacey Uthe, who sets the air tingling about her. The pre-pop songs stir deeper than the lighter fare, and occasionally the show slumps into pop-classical doldrums. But mostly it's a treat, caroling to thrill to instead of endure. Through Dec. 24 at Quality hill Playhouse, 303 W. 10th St, 816-421-1700. (Reviewed our Nov. 17 issue.)

Disney's Beauty and the Beast This version of the old don't-judge-monsters-because-they-might-be-princes story dates back to just 1991, when Disney technicians planed off the rough edges and set the second act all a-clatter with singing flatware. The last Disney musical to achieve any amount of grace whatsoever, this one features the rousing Gaston song, at least four other memorable numbers and a plot point or two cribbed from Measure for Measure. Added plus: One of the heroine's parents actually survives! Through Dec. 11 at the Lawrence Community Theatre, 1501 New Hampshire, 785-843-7469.

The Eight: The Reindeer Monologues The reindeer get their scabrous say in this burst of yuletide deviance from the new (and wonderfully named) theater company Sparkle Peanut Productions. Santa, we learn, is a sort of bestial Bob Packwood, who sexually harasses his livestock and is at his jolliest only when engaged in carnal practices that alarm whether you rock the north or south side of the pole. Needless to say, this isn't for the kids. The decade-old script is steeped in O.J. and other '90s ephemera — "When the doe says 'No,' it means no" is a typical gag. Let's hope it's still tart. Fridays and Saturdays through Dec. 17 at the Corinth Dance Center Studio, 4047 Somerset Drive in Prairie Village, 816-679-5514.

Fool for Love When William Jewell College describes this as a "senior theater production by Megan Grimes," the school means seniors in college, not senior citizens taking it easy on account of the hips. (Kind of a shame; for a moment, we thought the seen-it-all characters in this Pulitzer-nominated Sam Shepard play might, for once, actually have seen it all.) Starring and directed by the young Grimes, the show is encouragingly ambitious. This being Shepard, be ready for tough talk and much mourning the fate of this country's open spaces. Dec. 2-3 at William Jewell's Peters Theater, 500 College Hill in Liberty, 816-415-7590.

Funny Money Ray Cooney's farce, another solid New Theatre show, is about a regular guy making off with illicit cash. This one stars William Christopher, best known as Father Mulcahy from M*A*S*H but hardly known at all for his mysterious work as "Additional Voices" on The Smurfs. How did we miss him? Was there some even-tempered blue minister we've forgotten who'd offer consolation whenever Brainy went off about "this smurfing war"? If you know, please write us, care of this paper. Through Feb. 5 at the New Theatre Restaurant, 9229 Foster in Overland Park, 913-649-7469.

Just Say Yes The TBA Players bring us only a show or so each year, but to their credit, it's always one nobody else is offering. This time it's the American premiere of Jack and Tom Sharkey's comedy Just Say Yes, the story of a self-help author forced to prove that his theories work by going all self-esteem Pygmalion on the biggest loser he can find. Word is that Tom Sharkey — who survives his co-writer brother — plans to fly out for the Friday, Dec. 2, premiere, so try to dress nice, people. Through Dec. 11 at Just Off Broadway Theatre, 3051 Central, 816-444-2459.

Painted Alice After kicking off the 2005 season with a pair of challenging but chilly dramas, the Unicorn lightens up with this William Donnelly comedy about an artist torn between creating for the love of creation and just doing it for the dollars. Then she goes to a wonderland — yeah, it's inspired by that Alice, here all grown and played by the talented Alyson Schacherer, whose crackerjack comic timing was the highlight of this summer's Blink Twice for Her. The Unicorn promises a "high-energy, multimedia production"; all we know is that director Joe Price recently brought us The Cripple of Inishmaan, 2005's best show by far, so it's safe to say that, opening weekend, we're on it like a bonnet. Dec. 2-31 at the Unicorn Theatre, 3828 Main, 816-531-7529, ext. 10.

Stuart Little E.B. White's other book gets a loving, faithful treatment from the Coterie. Today's entertainment for kids would jeerily snot all over this story of a little mouse crossing this giant country, but it charms even those who aren't so little. Lessons to be learned: Being small doesn't mean you're unimportant, shows for kids can engage grown-ups, cats can kill you. Beverly Cleary's mouse may have a motorcycle, but White's story crushes her book like a grape. Through Dec. 30 at the Coterie Theatre, Crown Center, 2450 Grand, 816-474-6552.

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