Capsule Stage Reviews: December 25, 2014

Panto Rapunzel (With Zombies) There ain't no respect in Panto Rapunzel (and Zombies) at Stages Repertory. Nor any sass. Nor much of a vibe. Perhaps it's time to retire the Panto idea completely and give it back to the Victorians. This seventh incarnation is the lamest of all. Playwrights Jodi Bobrovsky and Joseph Blanchard, who do superlative work behind the scenes for Stages as scenic designer and master carpenter, struggle horribly in this kiddie show and display no flair at all in the art of putting on a show. The unfortunate actors are at a loss what to do with their tissue-paper roles except ham it up unmercifully, hoping perhaps that no one will notice the discomfort. Kids under four might not notice, but the tykes around me yawned during the musical pastiches, loved the crocodiles, applauded the irrepressible Ryan Schabach as Buttons (who wouldn't; he's adorable, though he's overburdened with an evil twin role) and laughed at the silly drag of Rutherford Cravens as Yura Biggenbottom. That's about it for the show's wit and charm. Even the comic antics of the great Carolyn Johnson go to waste in the thankless villain role of Texas Governor Dirk Berry, while the vocal chops of Kathryn Porterfield, which are sizable, are ill-served by her girl-power Rapunzel, locked in a corporate tower, a slave accountant. Like everyone around her, her character has nothing to do except act frantic, sing a pop song with additional, unfunny lyrics, and flee the zombies. Don't ask! The script's attempts at parody are feeble, and I will not bore you with details, except for a funny throwaway line uttered by Buttons to scare Beaufort the Possum (Joseph Redd): "Obama Care." Beaufort falls down in a swoon. That's it for laughs. Tiffani Fuller supplies some cleverly tacky costumes, while Courtney D. Jones supplies the needed high kicks to the sprightly choreography, the show's real highlight. This musical has no style, no consistency, no oomph. It'll run for a year. Through January 4. 3201 Allen Parkway, 713-527-0123. — DLG

Radio City Christmas Spectacular After seeing this plastic, manufactured show, you'll feel like you've been stomped on by 36 very shapely legs. 1-2-3-kick. You will like this show. 1-2-3-kick. You will be entertained. There is no stopping the relentless pursuit of the show's happiness, its unending joy. We will pummel you until you concede and have a merry Christmas. Even if we have to go all the way back to the '50s and take you with us, screaming in terror at the Day-Glo colors, those plaid red-and-green ensembles of the relentlessly cheery Radio City Singers, the 576 white teeth a-gleaming of those nonstop Rockettes, the robotic choreography, the prerecorded sound track, the faux religiosity of that Living Nativity, those awful "new" holiday pop songs, the persistent self-promotion. You can't stop this juggernaut. It fills the cavernous Hobby Center three times a day! The show's a mechanized marvel. One has to honor its automated efficiency, its state-of-the-art precision. Come to think of it, is there anyone alive onstage? Those phony smiles are computer-generated, if not prerecorded. As a throwback to another age — TV's Eisenhower era — Radio City doesn't offend, it's too blithely concerned for your own well-being to be bothered. We're here to show you a good time, damn it, and you're gonna have one! Oww, they kicked me again. Merry Christmas! Through December 28. Hobby Center, 800 Bagby, 800-982-2787 or 713-558-8887. — DLG

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D.L. Groover has contributed to countless reputable publications including the Houston Press since 2003. His theater criticism has earned him a national award from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN) as well as three statewide Lone Star Press Awards for the same. He's co-author of the irreverent appreciation, Skeletons from the Opera Closet (St. Martin's Press), now in its fourth printing.
Contact: D. L. Groover