Capsule Reviews

Footloose It's been 20 years since Kevin Bacon got the girls all gaga in Footloose. But there's good news for anyone with a hankering to get back to the big-haired '80s: The stage version of Footloose is alive and kicking up its shiny high heels at the Great Caruso Dinner Theater, where everything feels like a throwback to an easier time. Footloose is the sweetest sort of '80s confection. In it, Ren, a wild boy from Chicago, meets badass preacher's daughter Ariel, and together they make some trouble before they set a whole town dancing. Woven around this teen-angst fluff are some unforgettable '80s tunes, including "Let's Hear It for the Boy" and "Almost Paradise." If you enjoyed this sort of music two decades ago, the versions coming from director Michael Tapley's young and bouncy cast will get your feet tapping. Among the strongest members is Deanna Julian, who plays Rusty, Ariel's ditsy blond best friend. Julian knows how to squeeze laughs from the lamest jokes, and she makes a terrific partner for Kyle Green, who steals the show every time he ambles out as Willard, Rusty's thick-headed, skinny boyfriend who can't dance. Brooke Wilson is also terrific as Ariel. Though she's not nearly so self-destructive as Lori Singer's Ariel from the film, Wilson is a convincing actress whose beautiful, full-bodied voice turns silly songs like "Almost Paradise" into surprisingly moving pop schmaltz. Taken all together -- the dinner, the wine, the young and happy cast singing unforgettable pop tunes -- Footloose makes for a fun little night, even if Bacon and his tight-fitting jeans are nowhere to be found. Through November 21. 10001 Westheimer, 713-780-4900.

I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change! If only love trouble were as simple as Joe DePietro and Jimmy Roberts imagine it to be in their hugely popular musical revue I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change! The amusing bauble of a production now running at Stages Repertory Theatre gives us a sitcom-style world where men think Caddy Shack is the best film ever and women can't seem to find a decent guy to date. The fluffy show is certainly energetic enough to account for its likability; the music breezes happily along for two hours without ever getting bogged down by, say, depth of thought or original ideas -- which is perfectly fine, given the temperature outside. Structured around the rituals of courtship, the revue features four performers who play multiple roles as they march through the inevitable stages of love. Broadly speaking, Act I deals with the journey from dating to wedding, while Act II takes on the challenges presented by marriage. The play is a narrative in only the loosest sense of the word. There are no real characters, just songs. Despite a few potholes, the show is, most of all, easy and fun. And while the play says nothing new (or even all that true) about marriage or love, it certainly makes for a pleasant diversion. Through September 12. 3201 Allen Parkway, 713-527-0123.

Vagabondage Improv Comedy Troupe Vagabondage shows feature both games and long-form improv, giving the troupe an edge on both ComedySportz and Main Street Improv, which just do the standard 90 minutes of game-playing. Games played by practically every troupe in town -- like Three-Headed Oracle and Chain Murder -- aren't Vagabondage's strongest points. To be honest, nobody plays Three-Headed Oracle better than ComedySportz (but they call it Dr. Know-It-All). C-Sportz's tightness and polish with the game is stunning. And Main Street Improv's Chain Murder (which they call Murder Chain) is more fun. Vagabondage's live game show, the Blank Game, features the players as a panel of celebrity guests and audience members as contestants. The game requires a good-sized crowd, and there aren't always enough volunteers to make this portion of the show happen. No matter -- more time for long form, which is where Vagabondage shines. This type of improv could begin with a query like, "Name a childhood toy," which might lead, say, to vignettes about the troupe members' childhoods. Here, the cast -- especially Melissa Keller and host Randy Matthews -- consistently performs with zeal and originality. Every Saturday night upstairs at PJ's, 614 West Gray, 832-651-7814.

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Eric A.T. Dieckman
Lee Williams