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Capsule Stage Reviews: Broadway at the Box, Camelot, Don Giovanni, Fishing, The Lion in Winter, The Mountaintop, Showboat

Broadway at the Box The Music Box Theater is a repertory group of three women and two men — they sing, they dance, they act, they reminisce about their childhoods, they do solos and they do ensemble numbers, all this with such a sense of togetherness, of fun, of personal enjoyment that their talent and enthusiasm cascade into the audience and wrap it in a warm embrace. Luke Wrobel handles a large section of the evening as Tevye singing "I Wish I Were a Rich Man" and as Don Quixote singing "The Impossible Dream," and in between logs time in a hilarious impersonation of Andrew Lloyd Webber, and as an amusingly brutal casting director, and shares a duet of "There's Nothing like a Dame" with Brad Scarborough, the other male member. Scarborough sings "Till There Was You" and "Walk Like a Man" and leads an entertaining skit about a theater critic who reviews a performance before it occurs thanks to time travel. Rebekah Dahl shines as lead singer in "The Age of Aquarius," and Kristina Sullivan provides an intelligent, subtle and compelling rendition of "Send in the Clowns." Cay Taylor nails the haunting "I Dreamed a Dream," and received one of the evening's several standing ovations. The band (Donald Payne, Mark McCain, Long Le and Glenn Sharp) is a rich contributor to the overall success of the show. The Music Box is a cabaret theater, so drinks are available. Through April 6. 2623 Colquitt, 713-522-7722. — JJT

Camelot Is there a wittier, more sophisticated and clever Broadway musical lyricist than Alan Jay Lerner? He's what the old-timers would call a "wordsmith" — forging together themes, a show's tone and its period flavor; appropriating character into the song; and then making everything rhyme. Wedded to his marvelous lyrics for Camelot (1960) are those scrumptious melodies by Frederick Loewe. Not since their last phenomenon, My Fair Lady (1956), had a musical's songs had such quality, wit and rightness about them. But a show must have a book, and Lerner supplied this glorious-to-hear musical with a gigantic ho-hum. Cobbled together from T.H. White's The Once and Future King, it's an unwieldy tapestry with too many competing panels. The show was in trouble since the out-of-town previews, where it ran a boggling four and a half hours. Cutting down the fat invariably led to cutting some of the muscle, and the show has never recovered from such drastic weight loss. This new production presented by Theatre Under The Stars is a sprightly medieval pageant with the fastest tempi around. Chunks of dialogue have been removed, which speeds things up, but sometimes what remains are nebulous connections between the beautiful songs; we have to fill in the blanks, or else the time's filled in by innocuous, unmemorable choreography provided by director Richard Stafford. Designer John Iachovelli's physical production looks great, with the requisite romanesque arches and pennants to ease the eye, and Marcy Froelich's costumes are all shimmering velvets and sparkly armor. The ubiquitous amplification sounds tinny and cramped, but the show moves impressively with the finely crafted leading roles. Robert Petkoff channels his inner Richard Burton, speak-singing his songs, and his Arthur matures nicely from antic schoolboy to melancholy ruler. Margaret Robinson adds a lovely, giddy quality to young Guenevere, hopping about with glee in "The Simple Joys of Maidenhood," and ages gracefully into the part of almost-adulterer. (In Lerner's version, the illicit lovers share a kiss, and that's all. Doesn't seem like enough evidence to burn her at the stake, but that's Broadway's view of merrie olde English justice.) Sean MacLaughlin is tall and solid as Lancelot, strikes a romantic figure, plays conceit well and falls into Guenevere's arms with conviction, if not much passion. Compact and muscular, Adam Shonkwiler is an energetic ball of evil as Mordred, bringing needed spirit into Camelot's peaceful kingdom. He spits out his "Seven Deadly Sins" as if shooting poison. The show retains the power to move us, thanks largely to Loewe's atmospheric music and Lerner's sublime way with words. It glows with rousing chorus numbers, love songs and ditties. TUTS adds enough wool to keep this tapestry looking like new. Through February 3. Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby, 713-558-8887. — DLG

Don Giovanni Houston Grand Opera shoots off fireworks in a return of the classically elegant Gören Järvefelt production of Mozart and da Ponte's masterpiece Don Giovanni (1787). With a cast of young, energetic and beautifully voiced singers who know their way around the stage as well as they do through this difficult but masterful score, Mozart sparkles and elevates as intended. Mozart called Giovanni an opera buffa, and da Ponte labeled it "comic drama," and there's certainly lots of ironic fun in it, among the wailings and revenge so gloriously sung by the women seduced by this unrepentant profligate. Not least, of course, is the Don himself. Unlike Donna Elvira, who's conflicted in her love/hate toward her defiler, we, seduced by Mozart's music and da Ponte's wicked wit, are utterly charmed by this cad. He's one of opera's thoroughly bad boys, and we can't help ourselves in admiring his audacity, depravity and chutzpah. Austrian baritone Adrian Eröd, lithe and agile, sings a superb Giovanni, rich with tone and utterly believable in unmatched debauchery. He makes an effortless seducer, playful and terribly dangerous. Bass baritone Kyle Ketelsen, as buffo servant Leporello, matches him, a spot-on second banana. He whizzes through the tongue-twisting presto passages with alarming ease. American soprano Rachel Willis-Sörensen, a former HGO studio artist, as the perpetual griever Donna Anna, amazes with a powerhouse voice that rings with both velvet smoothness and steely strength. Russian soprano Veronika Dzhioeva, turns the pathetic Donna Elvira into a nearly sympathetic role by the virtue of her dark and dreamy voice. Abandoned by the Don, she trails after him, first seeking revenge, then flipping into acceptance. She wants this cad back. Her voice says it all. Tenor Joel Prieto, as puppy dog Don Ottavio, glides through his two demanding arias with amazing breath control and sweet, sweet tone. His plangent singing conveys innocence and a young man's ardor. Zesty peasants Zerlina and Masetto, foils for the Don, are portrayed with earthy fire by Swedish soprano Malin Christensson and American bass baritone Michael Sumuel. American bass Morris Robinson, appearing concurrently as stoic Joe in Showboat, is terrifyingly commanding as the living statue of the Commendatore. He booms out his pronouncements of doom with thunderous clarity and chilling finality. HGO supplies the vocal fireworks in a surfeit of riches, supplemented by the exemplary conducting of legendary Trevor Pinnock, one of music's leading authorities on early music. He keeps this work flowing with grace and power, letting it breathe where necessary or pant with abandon when appropriate. Mozart's musical last days of sexual outlaw Don Giovanni is a pinnacle of operatic art. Come to think about it, it's the pinnacle of any art. HGO does it proud. Through February 10. Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas, 713-228-6737. — DLG

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