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The Lion King Courtesy of Galexa Energy Broadway, Disney's The Lion King roars into town with its menagerie of spectacle, stagecraft and human emotions grafted onto a pride of lions, showcasing what inventive minds can accomplish with unlimited funds and unlimited imaginations. Animal puppetry is brought to exciting life by human actors. The giraffes and the elephants are remarkably realistic, while others, such as the prancing oryxes and the menacing and seductive cheetah, convince through movement. There are singers and tom-tom drummers in the loges, birds fluttering in the sky, and the animals parade down the aisle and enter to crowd the stage with delight. The plot is old lion/young lion, but the drama comes from the love between the boy lion Simba and Mufasa, his father and ruler. His uncle, Scar, is crippled with envy, and he has the hyenas on his side, a marvel of fascination — evil, adroit, brilliantly imagined and crafted, and all too human. A young lioness, Nala, is a pal to Simba in the first Act, and becomes more in Act II, when the lions have grown to maturity. An amusing hornbill, Zazu, watches over Simba, and Simba is befriended by a meerkat, Timon, and a warthog, Pumbaa; they are eminently likable and amusing. This musical is also a ballet, and the choreography by Garth Fagan is striking and hugely important. The songs are wonderful, especially the exuberant "I Just Can't Wait to Be King," the evil "Chow Down" and the haunting "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" The music and lyrics are by Elton John and Tim Rice, the direction and costume design are by Julie Taymor, and she and Michael Curry designed the entrancing masks and puppets. A brilliant collaboration of theatrical geniuses has created an awesome blockbuster of overwhelming pleasure. Through August 12. Hobby Center, 800 Bagby, 800-952-6560. — JJT

Tamarie Cooper's DOOMSDAY REVUE (the greatest musical ever) Tamarie Cooper, co-founder of The Catastrophic Theatre, brings her annual musical comedy revue to DiverseWorks in a colorful, splashy production. The set, designed by Kirk Markley, is a handsome, elegant skyline of skyscrapers, soon overtaken by bedlam as Cooper enters to start the merry antics — she not only holds the stage, she owns it with a vengeance, and doesn't leave it for 90 minutes of uninterrupted frivolity. This revue is ostensibly about the end of the world, but is really about energy and enthusiasm and irreverence for all the graven images of our culture. The witty costumes, by Kelly Switzer, are part of the unrelenting fun, especially The Dancing Cupcake and the multi-limbed giant roaches. Tamarie's plans for a blockbuster musical are interrupted by forecasts of imminent doom, and every doomsday prediction from the Mayan calendar to the Rapture comes in for skewering. There is an inspired sequence involving Barbie dolls, including Prostitute Barbie. A brilliant sequence nails the teenage angst of being the outsider; the wit here is incisive, gentle and sweet. And who knew there was so much humor in the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse? Musical theater is there to rebuild the world, with zombies from Cabaret, Into the Woods, Phantom of the Opera, Annie, Hair and Fiddler on the Roof. All the very talented actors play multiple roles and sing and dance. Tamarie can do no wrong, and her skill and professionalism shape this motley bag of concepts into a cohesive whole. A large, triumphant cast brings to life a revue of great humor, considerable wit and inspired foolishness, guaranteeing an evening of delightful enjoyment. Through August 25. Catastrophic Theatre at DiverseWorks, 1117 East Fwy., 713-522-2723. — JJT

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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