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Magdalene Emerging playwright Sara Kumar tackles the New Testament in Magdalene, presented by Paragon Arts and the University of St. Thomas Center for Faith and Culture. The story is told from the point of view of Mary Magdalene as she moves from debauchery to redemption. This is an ambitious project, with a cast of 22, but it lacks dramatic flair and fresh insights. We see Mary Magdalene in the throes of sin so many times that it is tedious. The good news, paradoxically, is that the Devil steals the show. Richard Hubscher is a ballet dancer, and, in tattered formalwear, his pantomime, sinuous movements, silent reactions and seductive mien, replete with reflective green nails, lend quality and distinction to the production. Magdalene is directed by Stewart Hawley, and he has failed to create the acting ensemble essential to a pageant; the acting styles are all over the lot. But the central flaw is the writing, as Kumar gives us narrative without drama. Through May 20. Obsidian Art Space, 3522 White Oak, 713-412-8478. — JTT

One Kiss: The Music of Sigmund Romberg Hungarian transplant Sigmund Romberg composed some of Broadway's most luminous melodies during its '20s golden age. His lush, operatic songs are in fine hands with Bayou City Concert Musicals' intimate showcase, the fifth such cabaret production at Ensemble Theatre's Performance Centre. The lively shows, produced by BCCM's Artistic Director/founder Paul Hope, an Alley Theatre vet and real Broadway baby whose showbiz knowledge runs deep and true, have an intoxicating taste of Manhattan nightlife. While there's no fancy supper-club menu, dishes of mixed nuts do stand-in and there's a bar that pours premium adult beverages, so we're never too far from swank. It's laid-back and informal, as if we're being entertained at home. Hope, standing at a lectern, is our personable emcee for Romberg's musical journey, telling tales of old Broadway and leading us joyously through the life and work of this dean of American operetta, whose peerless, timeless melodies fit effortlessly into the Great American Songbook. You can't really appreciate Romberg without Rombergian singers, willing to give these sumptuous melodies their all. Hope always showcases the best show singers in town for his cabarets, and One Kiss is no exception, plying us with some Houston favorites. I'm still humming the haunting "Lost in Loveliness" from The Girl in Pink Tights, sung by Susan Draper and Tye Blue. Everybody gets to shine in these shows. Among the highlights: Rob Flebbe's ardent "Serenade" ("Overhead the Moon Is Beaming") from Student Prince; John Gremillion wrapping his baritone around the stirring "Riff Song" from Desert Song; Susan Shofner portraying a singing figurehead in the comic "Girl on the Prow" from New Moon; the statuesque Danica Dawn Johnston's sultry rendition of "Stout-Hearted Men," also from New Moon; and a showstopping, jazzed "Lover Come Back to Me" from Beth Lazarou, accompanied by the original orchestral track that Streisand used. Other featured notable artists are Janet Berzins, Amanda Passanante, Alex Stutler and Doug Threeton. Last performance May 21. 3535 Main, 713-465-6484. — DLG

Travelsty Two couples travel around the country, singing about various states or cities, and through the alchemy of talent and showmanship turn this slight material into a totally entertaining two hours of pure pleasure. The setting is cabaret, with the talented four-piece band G Sharp and the MBT 3, and refreshments are available. The concept is minor, but the skits that bridge the songs — all original writing — range from merely pleasant to absolutely hilarious. Three of the skits had punch lines that seemed to come out of the blue, but paid off so well I was blown away. The gifted performers are Rebekah Dahl and Brad Scarborough, married in real life and founders of The Music Box Theater, and Cay Taylor and Luke Wrobel, and after journeying cross-country with them, I'm calling them by their given names. All are attractive, and work well together in harmony and in the choreography supporting the songs. Rebekah is tall and blond, Cay is medium height and dark, Luke looks like an American David Niven, and Brad has movie star looks but excels here as a comedic actor. He plays briefly several singers in a skit about Record #17 of Tony Bennett's Duets — it's fast-paced and huge fun. A recurring thread has them all in a car, Luke driving and Brad in the passenger seat, with the ladies behind. They also travel by rail and, hilariously, by plane. Videos accompany the opening and closing songs and add fun, but the show's triumph is the ensemble acting that creates a sense of friends off on a madcap odyssey. Four strong performers and a witty script weave familiar pop hits into a thoroughly pleasurable evening, a must-see for cabaret aficionados and for music lovers of any stripe. Through August 5. 2623 Colquitt, 713-522-7722. — JJT

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