Capsule Stage Reviews: Happily Ever at the Box, Life Could Be a Dream, Mr. Marmalade, Our Town, Tamarie Cooper's DOOMSDAY REVUE (the greatest musical ever)

 Happily Ever at the Box Fairy-tale archetypes get a scrumptious musical makeover from our favorite cabaret troupe, The Music Box Theater. In the tradition of their former shows, Music Box interlaces a little plot — here a mélange of fairy-tale types: princess, prince, wicked queen, godmother, narrator — with a wide array of songs to augment the story or delve deeper into the sketch-like characters. It's silly and fun, and when they open their mouths to sing we're blown away, as usual, with the polish and precision that these fabulous pros happily supply to any song. They sail through jazz, pop, and rock and roll with equal finesse and an unfailing theatrical style that is one-of-a-kind. Since this is a group effort, everybody gets to shine. It's a rare, wonderful display of musical and dramatic talent. The best news about MBT's latest show is the arrival of the delectable Kristina Sullivan, who joins the ultra-talented quartet already in place (Rebekah Dahl, Brad Scarborough, Cay Taylor and Luke Wrobel). A recent émigré from the duly lamented Masquerade Theatre, from where the founding Music Box four have hailed, she brings her radiant soprano, irrepressible comic chops and unalloyed stage presence to round out the mix. She's like the butter added into the béarnaise to give it sheen and body. All five actors are performers of the highest caliber, and it's difficult to beat their infectious camaraderie. Pulling it all together is the jazzy quartet led by music director Glenn Sharp, lead guitarist Mark McCain, bass guitarist Long Le and percussionist Donald Payne. These guys swing, too. From the musical sampler that includes such disparate works by Sara Bareilles ("Fairytale"), Queen ("Somebody to Love"), Dion ("Runaround Sue"), Disney ("Bibbidi Bobbity Boo"), The Rolling Stones ("You Can't Always Get What You Want") and the Beatles ("Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da"), the fab five at Music Box Theater weave a quilt whose quality is unparalleled. Wrap yourself up in it; you won't want to let go. Through October 13. 2623 Colquitt. 713-522-7722. — DLG

Life Could Be a Dream Another jukebox musical — the time is the '60s and the music is doo-wop — delivers nostalgia, charm and warm good feelings, but this time with a plot as well. The setting is a basement rec room where the slacker kids hang out, and, yes, "Get a Job" is amusingly staged, with the unseen mother chiming in on an intercom system. Denny (Adam Gibbs) is leader of the singing group, and he's the one with some show-business polish. Eugene (Mark Ivy) is a stereotypical nerd, and friend Wally (Dylan Godwin) drops in and joins the Denny and the Dreamers group; his trademark signature is enthusiasm. The group expands to include Skip (Cameron Bautsch), a mechanic from the wrong part of town; his trademark is to look hunky, which doesn't go unnoticed by Lois (Rebekah Stevens), whose uptight dad is a snob. The suspense is whether the group can get its act together to win a local contest being held the coming Saturday. Director and choreographer Mitchell Greco keeps the pace clipping along, and the voices are pleasant enough to carry the 20-plus songs, such as "A Sunday Kind of Love" and "Unchained Melody." Godwin has the greatest range, most intelligent rendition and impeccable phrasing. There are a lot of physical comedy and broad reactions, and these are appropriate and work well. The finale has a Chorus Line moment that lets us escape the basement and the irritating mother on the intercom. All this is created by Roger Bean, who wrote the long-running hit The Marvelous Wonderettes. This musical, intended for light summer fare, delivers on its promise, providing humor and nostalgia and letting us again relive the tuneful melodies of the '60s. Through October 14. Stages Repertory Theatre, 3201 Allen Pkwy., 713-527-0123. — JJT

Mr. Marmalade "How do I look?" asks goth babysitter Emily (Keshia Lovewell), salivating and pulling down her top in anticipation of her boyfriend's arrival. Her four-year-old charge Lucy (Monica Passley, in one hell of a performance) doesn't miss a beat. "Easy," she squeaks out with Borscht Belt precision. Watching Noah Haidle's R-rated comedy about precocious Lucy and how she copes with life through her imaginary friends, you think: Do kids really do this? Should kids do this? We don't know the exact origin of Lucy's vivid imagination, which can so easily conjure an adult playmate, Mr. Marmalade (Taylor Biltoft), who begins too good to be true, then turns dangerously sexual. Before the play is minutes old, Lucy suddenly blurts out in innocence, "How come you haven't touched me?...Is there someone else?" The question is practically obscene. What could very well be taken as child abuse or too painful for us to watch, Haidle turns inside out by having the children, Lucy and her real playmate, suicidal Larry (Louis Crespo Jr.), played by adult actors. The comedy can now be smart instead of snarky and objectionable — and still pitch-dark. Passley and Crespo do marvels with these roles, bringing wide-eyed wonder, deep-seated loneliness and bouncy playground charm to these children who see their world like adults but behave like tots, complete with tantrums, food fights, playing house and doctor, and manipulating obtuse Mom (Laura Chapman). When they eventually cast off their fantasy playmates, they find some kind of happiness with each other. The ensemble cast, under Scott McWhirter's sensitive direction, is foolproof. Biltoft is marvelously smarmy, suave when he's the husband from Heaven, enjoying a cup of Lucy's coffee and promising her a trip to Mexico; next, slovenly and abusive, lapping up cocaine from the living-room table and spilling out porn and sex toys from his briefcase. Danny Seibert plays Marmalade's secretary, Bradley, with exquisite aplomb, all prim and proper, except when he too is abused. Haidle's portrait of childhood revolves around desperately lonely kids who survive the world by creating a new one that is both funny and disturbing. The next time a youngster asks to play house, be on guard. Through August 25. Country Playhouse, 12802 Queensbury, 713-467-4497. — DLG

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