Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are DeadTom Stoppard leapfrogged to the forefront of international celebrity with this verbose comedy about chance, fate and destiny. Shakespeare's two most hapless victims, the ever-interchangeable R and G (Robert Strasser and Derek Simmons -- or is it Derek Simmons and Robert Strasser?) take center stage in an evening of word games and verbal jousting. Some of the patter is only a step removed from routines like Abbott and Costello's "Who's on first?" Other lines ("Eternity is a terrible thought; where's it all going to end?") are original and snappy. But even brilliance can be overdone. Stoppard's two leading men go on and on and on and.... Performed by The Tin Ceiling Theatre Company through December 13 at The Space at Cherokee and Compton, 3159 Cherokee Street. Call 314-210-7764. (DB)
Ruthless! The MusicalTo what extremes would you have gone to play the title role in a grade-school production of Pippi Longstocking?This shameless spoof of old movies (The Bad Seed, All About Eve) is best summed up in one of its early lines: "Life is a bitch and it starts in third grade." The songs are hardly memorable. But if you're into behind-the-scenes homages (Gypsy is the musical of choice), the show provides lots of smiles. As nine-year-old Tina, Chelsea Jo Pattison is great fun; as her mother with a hidden past, Mallory Hawks is a marvel of manner and timing. But why do spoofs always seem to run too long? Too bad the show's authors weren't a little more ruthless about trimming their material. Performed by the Webster University Conservatory of Theatre Arts through December 12 at Stage III, Webster Hall, 470 East Lockwood Avenue, Webster Groves. Call 314-968-7128. (DB)
Drummond Crenshaw and Coco Soul in Tell Me
Somethin' Good, through December 19 at the Grandel Theatre.
Tell Me Somethin' GoodThe Black Rep gets a jump on its 2005 season with yet another revival of this affectionate musical revue that begins in the 1950s and fast-forwards through the decades. By evening's end, girls who begin the evening in pleated skirts (remember the ones with French poodles?) end up looking like drill sergeants. Not that this notion of a musical is interested in making a statement -- the priority here is sound, from Jackie Wilson's "Lonely Teardrops" to Barry White to Isaac Hayes, all propelled by a spirited cast of eleven and a five-man band that would be the envy of any prom-dance steering committee. Performed by the St. Louis Black Repertory Company through December 19 at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square. Call 314-534-3810. (DB)