The smarty-pants world of legitimate theater is about to get turned inside out. The Alley Theatre and all its la-di-da Shakespeare-spouting, Tom Stoppard-loving actors are putting on a musical. Of course, this is no ordinary, run-of-the-mill silly festival of songs. The Alley is mounting a full-scale production of Stephen Sondheim's Tony Award- winning A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. As far as musicals go, the theater couldn't have made a better choice. Loosely based on the 2,000-year-old comedies by Roman playwright Plautus, Forum is a character-driven tribute to burlesque, and it just might be the funniest farce ever put to music. It also might be a better fit with the Alley than you might think -- after all, its clowning company of actors are, as resident member Paul Hope puts it, some of the most "accomplished farcers" in Houston.
But can these "straight" actors sing? "They all can more than carry a tune," says Hope, who's been doing musicals with other theaters throughout his career. And luckily, the show doesn't demand "heavy legitimate singing." Even the costumes sound funny. Hope, who plays Miles Gloriosus, a famous captain looking for a bride, wears dead-squirrel shoes, an alligator scarf and a self-portrait on his helmet. He says, "It's my favorite costume ever." Opens at 8 p.m. Friday, May 14. Through Sunday, June 6. 615 Texas. For information, call 713-228-8421 or visit www.alleytheatre.org. $19 to $42. -- Lee Williams
How does a son tell his mother he's gay? If he's the main character in Stages Repertory Theatre's new production, Convenience, he sings, sings, sings. "I think music reaches us in an emotional way where pure dialogue sometimes falls short," says Gregg Coffin, who wrote the "pop operetta." Singing isn't all the son does, though. He also transforms into his spaceman alter ego to do battle with the Traitor King, the embodiment of his abandoning father. And whether or not you've got an alter ego to help you out, Conveniencehas a lesson for everyone: The next time you have awkward news to share with the 'rents, just belt out a melody. Opens at 8 p.m. Friday, May 14. Through Sunday, June 6. 3201 Allen Parkway. For a full schedule, call 713-527-0123 or visit www.stagestheatre.com. $10 to $30. -- Travis Farr
Did you think the Lord of the Rings hoopla would end with those super-deluxe special- edition boxed DVD sets? Not so fast, my precious. Indeed, the Middle Earth vibe grooves on with concerts around the world, with not only the film's theme songs but compositions by musicians who've recorded their own Tolkien-inspired CDs. Houston is getting in on the act with a program offered up by Maggini, our young and hip strings-only ensemble. The group will perform LOTR soundtrack selections, along with Mozart's "Night Music," under the magic wand of conductor Marlon Chen. Aspiring hobbits in attendance get to hobnob with the musicians over a glass of wine and heavy hors d'oeuvres after the concert. And people, let's dress properly for this one: Hooded cloaks are acceptable, but leave those Star Trek uniforms at home. 7 p.m. Thursday, May 13. Stude Concert Hall, Rice University campus, entrance no. 8 (off University Boulevard). For information, call 800-558-4686 or visit www.maggini.org. $55. -- Greg Barr
Word on the Street
Here comes the mother of all musicals
An opulent postcard from Broadway's "kid, yeh gonna be a stah!" days, 42nd Street is often dubbed "the musical for people who love musicals." Of course, it could also be called the musical for people who hate musicals -- what, you don't suddenly break out in song when you're on your way to church? In 1980, 42nd Street was adapted from a 1933 film into a big Broadway show about, well, a big Broadway show. The story shares the goings-on behind the scenes of a production, including a diva breaking an ankle and a young wide-eyed girl going from nowhere to becoming a star. Expect dazzling tap and chorus numbers performed by the 54-person cast, including that classic number, "We're In The Money." 8 p.m. Thursday, May 13. Through Sunday, May 23. Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby. For a full schedule, call 713-629-3700 or visit www.broadwayacrossamerica.com. $25 to $66. -- Steven Devadanam
As a former Arizona lightweight boxing champion, Joey Medina knows a thing or two about punch lines. As a star in The Original Latin Kings of Comedy, he knows how to take a jab at people of all ethnicities. And as a live performer, he knows how to make you laugh time and time again. Medina brings his madcap antics to town this weekend, where you can expect a solid one-two combo of preplanned material and improvisational crowd teasing. (If he sets his sights on you, we suggest you grin and bear it.) 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Friday, May 14. Through Sunday, May 16. The Comedy Showcase, 11460 Fuqua. For a full schedule, call 281-481-1188 or visit www.thecomedyshowcase.com. $13. -- Keith Plocek