Blues in the Night: The Songs of Johnny Mercer As dapper as a princeling, as reliable — and gently appreciating — as a government bond, as dry as the martinis sold next door to his Quality Hill Playhouse, pianist and host J. Kent Barnhart is money in the bank. Let's imagine he wakes an hour before each show, tuxed and eager to offer a witty bon mot as he slides down a fire pole and lands right on his piano bench. This season opens auspiciously, with the songs of Johnny "Come Rain or Come Shine" Mercer. Joining Barnhart are Lauren Braton, the silver-voiced Melinda MacDonald, and the always-interesting Tim Scott. Through Oct. 21 at Quality Hill Playhouse, 303 W. 10th St., 816-421-1700.
City of Angels Like Old Country Buffets, most local community theaters dole out fatty, predictable fare so soft that patrons hardly even need to chew. The Barn Players, though, never shy away from spice and texture. Worth mastication, we hope, is this revival of Larry Gelbart's noir-parody City of Angels, a witty musical about hard-boiled detectives ... and the process of revision. As crime writer Stine adapts his novel into a screenplay, his characters live around him, acting out his changes and singing David Zippel's inspired (and Tony-winning) lyrics. The gags range from sophisticated to stupid, and the music from scats to romantic Hollywood swells. This might not be familiar, but it shouldn't be tough to swallow. Through Oct. 7 at the Barn Players, 6219 Martway, Mission, 913-432-9100.
Moonlight and Magnolias A comedy more ambitious than most American Heartland shows, Ron Hutchinson's Moonlight and Magnolias imagines Hollywood titan David O. Selznick (Craig Benton) corralling screenwriter Ben Hecht (William Grey Warren) and director Victor Fleming (Scott Cordes) into a frantic, marathon overhaul on the troubled script of a film already in production: Gone With the Wind. While the film's cast and crew sit around, getting paid to wait out the changes, Selznick and company hole up in an office to act out the script, playing all the characters themselves. Combining the gossipy fizz of a show-biz tell-all with the hyperactive silliness of those All of Faulkner in 40 Seconds-type shows, this has a chance to win over both the gag-loving Heartland faithful and the trivia-savoring Turner Classic Movies crowd. Through Oct. 14 at the American Heartland Theatre, at Crown Center, 2450 Grand, 816-842-9999.
A Star Ain't Nothin' But a Hole in Heaven Tearing into a wild, wide-ranging season with A Separate Peace on one end and Night of the Living Dead on the other, the Coterie Theatre is a children's theater aiming at young adults (and adult adults) more often than it does the clap-along and carpet-square set. The first show is something rare as well: a civil rights drama on the Kansas City stage that actually features African-Americans as its protagonists. (Anyone needing good-hearted honkies like Scout and Atticus Finch to guide you through the time period will get it at the Rep soon.) Judi Ann Mason's award-winning play, which is interested in both uprising and regret, offers the kind of thoughtful, truthful treatment of the subject that, for reasons unknowable, only a so-called children's theater can offer. Through Oct. 14 at the Coterie Theatre Crown Center, 2450 Grand, 816-474-6552.