See Rock City & Other Destinations: Slight But Entertaining

The setup:

A pleasant pastiche of musical vignettes ambles its way onto the stage of Theatre LaB Houston, to take us on a tour of some memorable locations, and some more easily forgotten.

The execution:

There's always something miraculous about the variety and showmanship that Artistic Director Gerald LaBita crowds onto the small stage of Theatre LaB Houston, and See Rock City & Other Destinations is no exception. Linda Phenix directed and choreographed the events here, and keeps the pace brisk and the energy flowing, and she is aided in no small part by Theatre LaB regular Beth Lazarou, who swoops across the stage like a hummingbird and can make riveting even a line like "I can see my house from here." Her personality adds significance to the slightest of material -- and there is some of that here.

The music by Brad Alexander is sweet and serviceable, and the book by Adam Mathias delivers its share of humor but carries little bite -- I half-hoped that a waitress (Lazarou) taking a joyride in a stranger's car might discover just how ill-advised that was. The lyrics, also by Mathias, are not especially memorable, although I'm afraid "You are my bitch" will resonate for a bit. The cast includes Scott Lupton as the stranger who gives a waitress a ride, and also, with Josef Anderson, as one of two buddies on a trip to Coney Island -- this section was vividly staged and the writing showed nuance and invention. Anderson also portrayed a lonely guy watching for aliens, a running gag where the payoff went "pop" instead of exploding.

Lazarou was joined by Jessica Janes and Shondra Marie as sisters delivering the ashes of their dad into Alaskan waters -- all are good and the humor skillfully etched the three personalities. Janes also plays a bride at Niagara Falls having second thoughts, and Marie was good as a woman taking her grandfather to the Alamo. The grandfather is played by Jimmy Phillips, and his musical recollection of memories is the most poignant and moving element in the show. John Dunn has a minor role here as a co-visitor, and Dunn also plays a Niagara Falls tour guide, and nails this role, with polished reactions and sophisticated aplomb.

Because the writers seek merely to provide pleasant entertainment, there is little incentive to rise to heights, and the tendency to add zest by turning a character into a cartoon has not been totally resisted. Since the material is so slender, it might take movie-star charisma from the actors (Lazarou has it and Dunn comes within striking distance) to persuade us we are watching something important, and some of the cast, though talented, don't quite generate this electricity.

The verdict:

A pastiche of unrelated episodes at various famed locations delivers some low-key charm, amiable humor and an occasional foray into the unexpected, enhanced by music and lyrics.

See Rock City and Other Destinations continues through April 29 at Theatre LaB Houston, 1706 Alamo. For information or ticketing, call 713-868-7516 or visit