Stage Capsule Reviews

Our critics weigh in on local theater

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers The best you could say about Theatre Under the Stars's stage adaptation of the burly 1954 MGM musical is that it's harmless. This lackluster, tired and predictable version has been on life support since 1982, when it opened and closed on Broadway after five performances. You'd think the producers would've had mercy and pulled the plug, but they persevered and kept tinkering -- and this is what their years of persistent toil have produced? I doubt the original show could have been any less distinctive. Certainly, the film was no great shakes to begin with, except for the incredibly muscular choreography by Michael Kidd, which -- to eternal consternation -- was discarded for the stage, replaced by Patti Colombo's lukewarm routines, which have no life or character in them. Come to think of it, none of the seven brides or brothers has any life or character in them, either. From the goofy outdoorsman trying to act dignified after decorum lessons from feisty first bride Milly (Michelle Dawson, a Miss Manners in buckskin), the brothers are absolutely the same down the line. Same holds for the brides, who first squeal at the men's pursuit, then give in so languidly. Trying to give a semblance of drama to this wispy frontier comedy, soaring pop anthems have been tacked onto the original dePaul and Mercer score, but they only trip up the musical's meager momentum. The show's most memorable features are its grand and clever settings and costumes. Through March 25. Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby, 713-558-8887.

Valhalla "I believe that the world should be beautiful." No, that's not Blanche DuBois sighing so plaintively -- it's mad, gay King Ludwig of Bavaria (Godfrey Plata) pleading for not only beauty but lots more gold lamé, in Paul Rudnick's politically incorrect phantasmagoria, presently on delightful view thanks to Joe Watts's Theatre New West. In Rudnick's madcap whirl, Ludwig isn't really mad, but my, oh my, is he gay. The terribly misunderstood king goes from dreaming of castles in the air to actually building them. "You're no good at reality; go mad," he's advised by hunchbacked princess Sophie (Beth DeLozier), who then offhandedly adds, "I wish I could shrug." Parallel to Ludwig's witty, wicked story is that of James (the ultra-smooth Houston Hayes), a gay boy from small-town Texas who dreams of "out there," a place to find happiness. While his sexual adventures include true love Henry Lee (John Dunn) and a pre-wedding fling with Henry's fiancée, James reaches an apotheosis on army patrol at Neuschwanstein, Ludwig's rococo wet-dream of a castle. Underscored by the radiant operatic strains of Wagner (although smoother sound mixing would immensely enhance the mood), the two men's tales coalesce in a grand fantasy where a modern yenta tour guide (Holly Wilkison) yammers hilariously about Ludwig's plush, erotic subterranean surroundings as "Bed, Bath and Beyond." The young, talented cast of six (including Michael Shukis) plays with effortless guile. Realize your dreams, says Rudnick. No matter how nuts they may seem to others, they're the only road to happiness. It's a premise that holds true for anyone, not just mad kings and sexy bad boys from Texas. Through March 31. Midtown Arts Center, 3414 LaBranch, 713-522-2204.

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