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A Talent to Bemuse

Stages gets Noel Coward's words right, but his spirit wrong

As for the on-stage accompaniment, Steven Jones was adept, playful and unflagging on piano and Richard Wilke did a game job on woodwinds, ranging from flute to saxophone, despite the occasional stumble.

While Coward's domain was the worldly and rather elegantly decedent, I suspect Stages is aiming at a more middlebrow crowd. They've devised an entertainment for Nescafe society (as Coward called the Las Vegas audiences who came to his cabaret act), and although the evening is benignly pleasant, it carries little of the spark and bite of Noel himself.

Noel, Noel plays through January 1 at Stages Theater, 3201 Allen Parkway. 527-8243.

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