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Capsule Stage Reviews: Broadway at the Box, Broke-ology, Company, Jersey Boys, Waiting for Godot

 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

Broke-ology A father has medical problems, and two sons cope with his increasing need for care while pursuing their own lives and interests. Playwright Nathan Louis Jackson has created a family drama and filled it with humor and kitchen-sink realism. We first meet in the 1980s the father, William King, portrayed by Broderick "Brod J" Jones, along with his wife, Sonia, portrayed by Autumn Knight, and we see the genesis of a tightly knit, loving family and the vitality of William as a young man. The action leaps forward 26 years, with William now verging on decrepit but reluctant to admit his failings. His vitality has been inherited by his two sons, Malcolm and Ennis. Malcolm, played by Joe "Joe P" Palmore, is home from Connecticut for a visit, or perhaps longer. Ennis, portrayed by L.D. Green, is becoming a father by his girlfriend. Sonia died 15 years earlier. The actors playing the brothers create a real sense of family, and the camaraderie, competitiveness and bickering between these two are gripping. The pathos of the subject matter elicits a general feeling of empathy, and good feelings abound. A secondary theme is inserted episodically to justify the title — shortness of money leads to compromises and restricted choices. Jackson has substantial credits to his name and a true gift for comedic expression, but Broke-ology is poorly constructed and seems to go nowhere, except to a predictable, melodramatic and sentimental ending. Director Eileen J. Morris has showcased the inspired vitality of the sons and found the warmth in Sonia and the likability in William. The play itself is a frail craft but is paddled safely through shoals by the enormous vigor of two young and brilliant actors. Through April 14. Ensemble Theatre, 3535 Main, 713-520-0055. — JJT

Company Bracing and potent as a vodka stinger, Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's mordant, multiple Tony Award-winning "musical comedy" on marriage, commitment and New York City is the ultimate That '70s Show. The musical (1970), dry and abrasive as sandpaper, ushered in the decade and ushered in Sondheim as possible king of Broadway. He had to wait, though, until the following year, when Follies finally bestowed the crown upon him. Texas Repertory Theatre supplies plenty of grit, visual polish and a well-rounded cast to keep this classic show spiky and full of attitude. Perpetual bachelor Bobby (Brandon Grimes, a smooth song-and-dance man), best friend of five conflicted married couples, refuses to settle down. He's so close to his married friends that when they burn, he gets seared. Harry and Sarah (John Dunn and Lendsey Kersey) compete literally in a man-versus-woman karate duel; Peter and Susan (Andrew Ruthven and Lauren Dolk), seen by Robert as loving and perfect together, are getting a divorce; David and Jenny (David Walker and Jennifer Stewart) believe they're too staid to be swinging and youthful; Paul and Amy (Zach Varela and Katie Harrison), living together for two years, are finally getting married, prompting the show's comic highlight, Amy's neurotic patter song "Getting Married Today"; Larry and Joanne (Steven Fenley and Judy Frow) are older, richer and much married, giving the hard-drinking Joanne the caustic showstopper "The Ladies Who Lunch," which Frow spits out in a stinging, acid rage. Bobby's girlfriends are a triptych of '70s stereotypes: April, the clueless airline stewardess (Haley Hussey, in a beautifully shaded performance); sweet Kathy (Amy Garner Buchanan), who can wait no longer for vacillating Bobby to make up his mind; and downtown grunge girl Marta (Christina Stroup), who lives for a good time. Bobby sees only the faults and not the pleasures in wedded bliss. He makes lame excuses for his lack of commitment, he expects a future wife to be an amalgam of his women friends, and he sleeps around and can't remember his bedmates' names; he's probably gay. It's either/or for "Bobby baby, Bobby bubi," but there's not much positive reinforcement from the couples, yet his "Being Alive" epiphany is as much of a happy ending as anything you'll find in a Sondheim show. Although you'd never call a Sondheim score rough, this one about the joys (!) of modern marriage can scour your skin off with its velvety tunes. George Furth's book is a bitchy blowtorch, and Sondheim's disco-era music and ironic lyrics are incomparable: "Being Alive," "Another Hundred People," "The Ladies Who Lunch," "The Little Things You Do Together." Sondheim and Furth's biting and funny X-ray of modern marriage, a classic of grown-up Broadway, is a show not to be missed. Under Texas Rep's adroit handling, this is Company you want to spend your time with. Through April 7. Texas Repertory Theatre, 14243 Steubner Airline, 281-583-7573. — DLG

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