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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

Otello After hearing Opera in the Heights' stirring production of Gioacchino Rossini's 1816 "lyric tragedy," based very loosely on Shakespeare's mighty drama, you will wonder, as did I, why this opera lies forgotten, a rarity among his many magnificent works (Barber of Seville, Italian Girl in Algiers, Semiramide, William Tell). OH revives this opera as if it were Lazarus. This is an extremely difficult piece to pull off since Rossini casts it with — count them — three treacherous coloratura tenors: Otello (Eric Barry), Rodrigo (Luke Grooms) and Iago (Brent Reilly Turner). Then there's Desdemona (Sarah Beckham), another filigree role; an agile bass part for Elmiro, Desdemona's father (Joseph Rawley); and a lovely if too brief mezzo role for Desdemona's maid, Emilia (Ann Sauder). There are countless vocal roulades and fireworks, runs up and down the scale, many high Cs, and, if I'm not mistaken, at least one incredible E above C for Rodrigo. That OH gave this work a distinctively spellbinding reading is just short of miraculous. (There's an alternative Emerald cast with Fabian Robles as Otello, Jessica Jones as Desdemona and Eric Bowden as Rodrigo that plays October 5 and 7.) Once you get over the shock that Shakespeare's minor character Rodrigo is now given more stage time than leading man Otello, you can relax into Rossini's masterful orchestration and sure dramatic stagecraft. OH updates the action to Venice in 1985, overlaying the basic misplaced love plot with a mafia backstory. There are enough open shirts and gold chains to prop a new season of The Sopranos. Eric Barry, as Otello, has Pavarotti heft but much better stage command as well as an equally impressive lyric tenor. Luke Grooms, as Rodrigo, gets the most difficult role, as each of his strenuous arias is loaded with high-flying treacherous fioritura. With the breath control of Houdini, he has to leap from one high note to the next like the most adept ibex. Hats off to Grooms. Sarah Beckham, as Desdemona, brings crystalline clarity to the downtrodden wife; Turner supplies silky sheen to Iago; and Sauder, with her deep-dish velvety mezzo, gives Emilia more character than does librettist Berio. Maestro Enrique Carreón-Robledo whips up this rare score with passion and finesse, as if he's been conducting this all his life, drawing volcanic roulades from the strings or the mellowest of whispers from the horns and reeds. The OH Chorus, which has some new faces this season, sounds very fine indeed. Rossini's old gem gets electric new polish. Through October 7. 1703 Heights Blvd., 713-861-5303. — DLG

Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure Steven Dietz's 2006 "adaptation" of William Gillette and Arthur Conan Doyle's 1899 play is rather false advertising, as it's technically a rewrite of two Holmes adventure stories, A Scandal in Bohemia and The Final Problem, with some of the old play's dialogue used as spackle to join the two stories together, which doesn't do much justice to the original. There's a tantalizing hint of steampunk gothic in the setting by Mark A. Lewis with brickwork at the back and up the sides, wooden scaffolding and metal Erector-set pylons , but that doesn't last long, for the atmosphere is quickly dispelled by rudimentary lighting that washes over Holmes's bleak London-like fluorescence. Lit up, even the subterranean gasworks are as bright and cheery as a diner. This doesn't help the antique sheen, although Donna Southern Schmidt supplies sumptuous period costumes. In a whirligig plot afoot with whiz-bang action and Holmesean dialogue, Holmes (Chip Simmons) and his "one fixed point," his dearest friend Dr. Watson (Blake Weir), are off on near-death adventures that include multiple disguises, a damsel in distress (Katherine Hatcher), a scoundrel (Marty Blair), blackmail, ransom, abduction, possible asphyxiation, a Cockney safecracker (Brad Zimmerman), the future King of Bohemia (Craig Griffin), sleuthing of the highest kind and shady parlor maids (Leslie Reese), all ending in a final, thunderous confrontation with evil Professor Moriarty (Jeff McMorrough) atop Switzerland's treacherous Reichenbach Falls. Fortunately, the ensemble cast plays the hell out of it, staying one step away from the precipice. They keep a knife-edge distance between parody and reverence, never actually winking at us, although we know they dearly want to. Simmons plays Holmes like an effete cat with a catnip dash of Noël Coward as he springs about with deft tread or suddenly turns to pounce on a point well made. He's odd, like some alien dropped into polite society, which in fact he is, as he unleashes his unworldly powers of observation and deduction. He's perfectly matched with Weir as a handsome, debonair Dr. Watson, who's always one step behind. Although the new play creaks, the crack ensemble cast keeps it well oiled. Through October 14. A.D. Players, 2710 W. Alabama. 713-526-2721. — DLG

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