Reviews and previews of upcoming shows.

Stage Capsule Reviews 

Reviews and previews of upcoming shows.

Christmas All Over the Place 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. 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.

Every Christmas Story Ever Told As labored, pandering messes go, this has its moments, mostly involving Ron Megee, who seizes every chance he can to shine in a show otherwise bereft of highlights. Ripped from The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged), Every Christmas Story sends actors dashing satirically through libraries of familiar Christmas tales. Megee stars with the funny Martin English and the grating Ken Remmert. Digging deep into his gift — that unique alloy of abandon and elegance — Megee makes each of his many characters here memorable, hitting grace notes that no one else would have thought of and bringing delights the script never could. Through Dec. 31 at the American Heartland Theatre, 2450 Grand, 816-842-9999. Reviewed in our Nov. 30 issue.

The Great American Trailer Park Musical Director Cynthia Levin is smarter and has much more heart than the script, which means the hardscrabble honky stereotypes in this surprisingly sweet comedy don't chafe — in fact, they charm. Even the most ridiculous scenes bear trace elements of the social realism that makes the Unicorn our premier theater for plays that actually mean something. The story's thin — adultery among the double-wides — and about a third of the songs are go-nowhere vamps. But lots of good gags hit ("White trash? Nobody who works on a tan 365 days a year wants to be called white anything"); the costumes are top-notch; and fantastic performances from Cathy Barnett, Jessalyn Kincaid, and Karen Errington not only patch over the problems but also burn this park to the ground. Through Dec. 31 at the Unicorn Theatre, 3828 Main, 816-531-7529, ext.10. Reviewed in our Dec. 14 issue.

A Scarrie Carrie Christmas Carol Late Night Theatre's fa-la-la-la-lating of Stephen King and Brian DePalma's lurid classic, Carrie, is all splatter-paint pleasure, a send-up that's as compelling as a story as it is a pop-culture joke machine. Chadwick Brooks' excellent Carrie is somehow both shrieky and understated. Phil Kinen's script lances the originals while simultaneously celebrating what worked so well in them. And Kimberly Queen is John Travolta. As if all that weren't treat enough, directors Kinen and Ron Megee also add a satiric Christmas Carol ending and that gorgeous, glam-rock marvel Spencer Brown singing "Live and Let Die." Through Dec. 31 at Late Night Theatre, 1531 Grand, 816-235-6222. Reviewed in our Dec. 7 issue.

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

12 Days of Schtickmas Another silly, all-ages Christmas show from the Martin City Melodrama. 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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