Reviews and previews of upcoming shows.

Stage Capsule Reviews 

Reviews and previews of upcoming shows.

A Christmas Carol Could even that hooded and horrifying Ghost of Christmas Future have guessed that Charles Dickens' slight, sentimental Christmas ghost story would outshine even Great Expectations or David goddamn Copperfield in the public imagination 163 years after its composition? This is the Kansas City Repertory Theatre's 26th stab at it, and the troupe has again assembled a grand cast: Gary Neal Johnson as Scrooge, with Kathleen Warfel, Merle Moores, Mark Robbins and Rusty Sneary in other roles. Here's a story you know like the house you grew up in: Outside it, you may not remember every bit, but once you're in, you'll recognize what's behind every corner. Ghost of Christmas Future says the good money's on this happening next Christmas, too. Through Dec. 24 at the Spencer Theatre in UMKC's Performing Arts Center, 4949 Cherry, 816-235-2700.

Christmas All Over the Place The title implies that somebody has to do some cleaning up — "There's Christmas all over the place! Get a mop!" — and the show's inventive staging almost guarantees it. Inspired by New York's Paper Bag Players, Theatre for Young America's holiday throw-down is like a gifted kids' art class brought to life: The show's wiggle-worms and musical fir trees are built from paper bags, craft paper and cardboard boxes. This celebration of creative recycling is appropriate for kids of preschool age and older. Mornings and afternoons through Dec. 30 at Union Station's City Stage, 30 W. Pershing Rd., 816-460-2083.

Christmas in Song Now that J. Kent Barnhart and Quality Hill Playhouse have remembered that all God's children got rhythm, Christmas in Song is better than ever — maybe the best Christmas show in town. Many of the songs are unfamiliar, but the arrangements are lively. Barnhart's singers all excel: Matt Leisy's tenor is gliding and golden, Elaine Fox's opera-trained pipes shine light on her songs, and radiant newcomer LeShea Wright is a soul-drenched gospel singer with a voice both plush and raw. Through Dec. 25 at Quality Hill Playhouse, 303 W. 10th St., 816-421-1700. Reviewed in our Nov. 23 issue.

Monkeys With Hand Grenades Of the three different shows offered at Comedy City, Monkeys is the most anarchic, despite being the only one with a script. Aimed at grown-ups (as opposed to CC¹s popular keep-it-clean improv game shows, which run every weekend), Monkeys offers rapid-fire sketch comedy, attempting to cram 30 separate plays — each written by and starring the troupe — into just 60 minutes. The quality varies from show to show, but the smart, sharp cast guarantees at least a couple of killer bits; on their best nights, they¹re a delight. Second Friday and Saturday of each month at 10 p.m. at Comedy City, 300 Charlotte, 816-842-2744.

A Number Last October, UMKC's production of playwright Caryl Churchill's sex-and-imperialism comedy Cloud 9 set us reeling. Now, just as we've righted ourselves, the Barn Players — our most esteemed community-theater company — offer up A Number, Churchill's slightly sci-fi life-of-a-clone drama. No surprise that it's scarifying: a cloned young man discovers not only that he's a clone but also that there's plenty more of him out there. Oh, and his original is headed home. The second entry in the troupe's not-for-the kiddies "Barn Alternative" series, this production marks the play's Kansas City debut. Chris McCoy directs; we still smile about his Frog Kiss in this summer's Musical Theatre Festival. Through Dec. 10 at the Barn Players, 6219 Martway in Mission, 913-432-9100.

A Scarrie Carrie Christmas Based on Carrie, Brian DePalma's classic coming-of-age snuff film, Late Night Theatre's bloody and beloved revival of its 2003 production features all the songs and pop-culture gags you would expect. The original show marked a high point for Late Night, but, with a promising cast and Phil Kinen returning as writer and director, this time might top it. Most inspired gender-bent casting: Chadwick Brooks as Sissy Spacek as Carrie, Kimberley Queen as John Travolta as that pig's-blood guy, and De De Deville returning as the girls' gym coach. Through Dec. 31 at Late Night Theatre, 1531 Grand, 816-235-6222

Songs for a New World Kansas City¹s unofficial yearlong celebration of Jason Robert Brown, the youngish musical theater composer, culminates with this audacious 1995 song cycle, which covers 500 years of American life in a series of stirring numbers. The cast is led by Damron Russell Armstrong, who was designed by God expressly for musical theater. The ensemble is led by musical director and pianist Daniel Doss — if he¹s involved, it¹s worth checking out. Through Dec. 9 at Union Station¹s City Stage, 30 W. Pershing Rd., 816-460-2020.

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing The Coterie's streak of thoughtful, inventive children's shows stops dead with this manic and maddening botch of Judy Blume's classic novel. More interested in period music and outfits (in this case the early '70s) than in the story's emotional center, Tales strands the narrator, Peter (a likable Steven Eubank), whose plain-spoken, truth-telling monologues hardly register. And a set constructed out of giant Tinker Toys is, like most of the show, wholly at odds with Blume's realistic portrayal of growing up. Through Dec. 29 at the Coterie Theatre at Crown Center, 2450 Grand, 816-474-6552. Reviewed in our Nov. 23 issue

Terror on the Toyland Express Since its inception, the Mystery Train has staged clever, interactive mysteries set on dining cars headed to or from Union Station in various eras of Kansas City¹s past. This time, things get weirder: The train is a Lionel electric, chuffing around the mayor¹s Christmas tree in front of Union Station, and the murderer, the victim and assorted other passengers are all toys. Was the culprit Post-Partum Barbie, Murder-Me Elmo or just a lack of batteries? Whatever the solution — and, after playing along with the actors, you will be asked to provide one — we¹ve hit on one sure-fire clue indicating this could be good: George Forbes, one of the city¹s most compelling actors, heads the cast. Through Jan. 6 at the Hereford House, 2 E. 20th St., 816- 813-9654.

12 Days of Schtickmas Another silly, all-ages Christmas show from the Martin City Melodrama, that troupe of last-century throwbacks that has for 22 years specialized in over-the-top vaudevillian comedy. Its holiday show is best-known for the set piece "Water Glass Symphony," a musical goof that might have killed on Ed Sullivan. What keeps the shows selling out, though, are the good spirits, the sight gags and the chance to boo and hiss in a way that'd get you booted from the Unicorn. Reservations are recommended. Through Jan. 1 at Metcalf South Mall, 9601 Metcalf in Overland Park, 913-642-7576.


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