CompanyThe minute the lights come up and the entire student cast stands onstage singing "Bobby, Bobby...," there's a sense of exhilaration. This little-seen Stephen Sondheim-George Furth meditation on marriage is a far cry from The Little Shop of Horrors-type musical that colleges often do. Now that the show is back on Broadway, we might have expected the licensing agent to pull the rights. They didn't, and it's great fun to hear the score sung live and mostly sung well. Mike Dowdy might have been more at home as Scrooge last December than as Robert, but that's what student productions are for. A special nod to Shonelle McGill, who makes surprising good sense of the cynical "Ladies Who Lunch." Despite the intrusion of some sanitized lyrics, director Stacy M. Snyder has mounted an intelligent and thoughtful production. Performed by Lindenwood University's Department of Theatre through March 17 at the Jelkyl Theatre, Roemer Hall, 209 South Kingshighway, St. Charles. Tickets are $10 ($8 for seniors, $6 for children). Call 636-949-4878 or visit www.lindenwood.edu. Dennis Brown
The Unexpected GuestA sign at the theater entrance warns, "This is an old-fashioned Agatha Christie play. Cigarettes will be smoked, guns will be fired." Fans of Christie's work will no doubt be delighted that there's also a foggy night in a country manor, a murdered husband, a houseful of suspects and a thorny plot. Everyone from the widow, Laura (Liz Wienke), to debonair neighbor Julian Farrar (David Gibbs) to the retarded half-brother of the deceased (Jan, played by John Wolbers) to the greasy male nurse, Angel (Charles Heuvelman), appears capable of doing the deed. Complicating matters is Michael Starkwedder (Sean Ruprecht-Belt), the titular guest who rearranges the murder scene in the opening moments to help what he perceives to be a damsel in distress (Laura). Things warm up nicely when Wolbers appears, blunt and threatening; and Robert Ashton adds a forceful weight to his role as Inspector Thomas. But the cast appeared to lose its timing late in the second act and the dénouement landed with a thud rather than the satisfying bang Christie's work demands. Presented by the West End Players Guild at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 North Union Boulevard. Tickets are $15 ($12 for students and seniors). Call 314-367-0025 or visit www.westendplayers.org.