Reviews and previews of upcoming shows.

Stage Capsule Reviews 

Reviews and previews of upcoming shows.

Absurd Person Singular Kansas City's singular Mark Robbins directs and acts in this dark yuletide farce, in which three British couples of varying stations celebrate three consecutive Chirstmases. At each party, our perspective is limited to the kitchen, meaning we get more kvetching than celebrating. Despite big, door-slamming laughs, what concerns playwright Alan Ayckbourn is how the classes chafe as the British social system sorts itself out. What concerns us are the excellent performances from Robbins, Vanessa Severo, Merle Moores, Kip Niven and, as the Hotcrofts, the poorest and most annoying of the couples, the smartly over-the-top Cinnamon Schultz and Brian Paulette, who seem to have developed their own comically incomprehensible half-British pidgin. Through Jan. 8 at Union Station's City Stage, 30 W. Pershing Rd., 816-235-6222. (Reviewed in our Dec. 15 issue.)

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.

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 in our Nov. 17 issue.)

Elves and the Shoemaker Theatre for Young America returns with the sweet old story of the elves who aid the cobbler in the night and — wait a second. Is this right? We have to say shoemaker now? Don't kids have dictionaries? Christ, if we're going to update the Grimms willy-nilly, why not make the shoemaker Nike CEO Phil Knight and the elves Indonesian preteens bleeding from their hands? Regardless, much of the original cast — about whom we've heard good things — is back with a story that TYA promises will teach the whole family gentle lessons about the meaning of the season. Through Dec. 30 at Union Station's City Stage, 30 W. Pershing Rd., 816-460-2020.

Painted Alice In this clever rejiggering of Alice in Wonderland, writer William Donnelly and director Joseph Price chuck great gobs of nonsense at us. Much of it sticks. Our Alice this go-round is a painter suffering a creative block; her wonderland is a fantasia of artists' fears and neuroses made literal. The fantasy sequences — which take place against a splatter-paint set of spinning walls, kaleidoscopic lighting, projected video and everything else the Unicorn's talented stage crew can muster — are lashingly funny. But the play's "real life" opening stiffs, and Donnelly's conclusion feels facile, despite Price's exquisite staging of the final moments. In the title role, Alyson Schacherer hasn't figured out a way to elevate Alice's pouty concerns into something more universal. It hardly matters, though. As the comic embodiment of an artist's troubles, Nathan Darrow, Katie Gilchrist and Teri Adams each earn their laughs. The hilarious Adams, in particular, shines — most of her exits spur thrilled applause. Through Dec. 31 at the Unicorn Theatre, 3828 Main, 816-531-7529, ext.10. (Reviewed in our Dec. 7 issue.)

Valley of the Dolls More an addled appreciation than a spoof, this drag treatment of Jacqueline Susann's schlock-and-awe classic bolts amusingly through Susann's over-the-top plotting and is peppered with Dionne Warwick songs and a number of bizarrely inventive set pieces. Writer-director Ron Megee's affection for the material results in jokes that are better than the Late Night norm as well as some surprisingly affecting performances. Gary Campbell, in some kind of drag hat trick, plays Patty Duke playing Neely O'Hara, who is herself Susann's monstrous swipe at Judy Garland. Instead of making fun of all the pill-fueled freakouts, the cast relishes them, really acting, gobbling dolls like whales sucking down plankton. Gorgeous gowns, too, of course. Through Dec. 31 at Late Night Theatre, 1531 Grand. 816-235-6222. (Reviewed in our Dec. 1 issue.)


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