Capsule Stage Reviews: January 1, 2015

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

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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