St. Louis Stage Capsules

Dennis Brown and Paul Friswold encapsulate the local theater scene.

Enchanted April Four miserably unhappy British women share a one-month lease on a medieval castle in Italy. Just as you would hope for in a cozy, feel-good story like this, the experience is transfiguring: By evening's end, love reigns supreme. This oversimplified stage adaptation of the 1922 novel by Elizabeth von Arnim tests our tolerance for sentiment; nevertheless, the production has many virtues, including a scenic design by Tim Poertner that tries to instill a sense of vibrancy that the words lack. As Lottie, the mystical life force who demands that happiness descend upon the palazzo, Julie Venegoni delivers a performance of substance and conviction. She takes a character riddled with incredulity and makes her endearing. Performed by Act Inc. through August 3 at the Fontbonne University Fine Arts Center Theatre, 6800 Wydown Boulevard, Clayton. Tickets are $18 ($15 for students and seniors). Call 314-725-9108 or visit www.actinc.biz.

(DB)

The Full Monty A good musical comedy leaves you exhilarated; a great musical comedy leaves you exhausted. The Full Monty may be a pretty good musical comedy on its own, but under the direction of Michael Hamilton, it's a tears-in-your-eyes, sides-aching knockout. Unemployed Buffalo steelworker Jerry (Michael Halling) is in danger of losing joint custody of his son, Nathan (Kyle P. Gunby), unless he can come up with back child support. He hatches a get-rich quick scheme that hinges upon assembling a troupe of regular-guy strippers. Halling imbues Jerry with a rough-edged charm that's equal parts desperate enthusiasm and nagging doubt. Jerry's best friend, Dave (Nicholas Kohn), is unreceptive to the stripping thing (he's a stout fellow, in all senses of the word). Kohn is a fluid dancer for a big man, and he has killer sense of physical comedy. The two make an eminently likable team; their duet "Big Ass Rock," about the best ways to kill yourself, is a blackly humorous triumph. As Jerry and Dave vacillate in their commitment to the plan and each other, the rest of the troupe — the staid Harold (Marc Kessler), the downtrodden Horse (Keith Tyrone), the dim but loving Ethan (Matthew Skrincosky) and the magnificently awkward Malcolm (Zachary Halley) — struggle to find themselves. The pacing is crisp, the comedic timing spot-on, the singing lovely. The requisite show-ending striptease is sexy, funny, life-affirming and so overwhelmingly Broadway fantastique that the crowd roared deliriously at the moment of truth. Performed by Stages St. Louis through August 19 at the Robert G. Reim Theatre, 111 South Geyer Road, Kirkwood. Tickets are $46 ($43 for seniors; rush seats for students and seniors $15 at the door). Call 314-821-2407 or visit www.stagesstlouis.org.

Paul Friswold

I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change An intrepid group of local producers is trying to make a long-run go of this sketch-y evening that chronicles, spoofs and sometimes even satirizes mating rituals from the first date to the final farewell. They just might pull it off, because — as staged with verve by St. Louis theater veteran Bobby Miller — this musical revue is rambunctious, breezy and just ribald enough to keep viewers chortling from beginning to end. An ideally suited ensemble (Michael Jokerst, Alan Knoll, Chopper Leifheit, Lee Anne Mathews, Laurie McConnell, Rosemary Watts) cavorts through a fast-paced evening of mostly humorous skits that allow everyone a chance to shine. Sitting through the show is like chewing a wad of bubble gum: after a few hours it begins to lose its flavor. But the sheer act of watching so many people have so much fun — both onstage and in the audience — bespeaks success. Open-ended run at the Playhouse at West Port Plaza, 635 West Port Plaza (second level), Page Avenue and I-270, Maryland Heights. Tickets are $41 to $46. Call 314-469-7529.

(DB)

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat The treacly music of Andrew Lloyd Webber and the doggerel Tim Rice foists off as lyrics doesn't entirely dampen the Muny's production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Liz Callaway, acting as the narrator, radiates class and a studied enthusiasm throughout — though never more so than when she came to the rescue of Joseph (Eric Kunze) after his microphone went on the fritz right before "Close Every Door." Armed with the Callaway-supplied hand mic, Kunze himself carried the moment, starting the song over and singing the banalities with a conviction that was genuinely moving. Too bad it was the only moment of real empathy in the production. The rest of the show is bombast and glitter, oceans of glitter. That said, one would have to be dead to not relish David Hibbard's spectacular number as the Pharaoh, who bears more than a passing resemblance to the other King in the other Memphis, Elvis. Hibbard's homage is exceptional, in voice and in moves: His swivel hips are weapons of mass distraction. But once Pharaoh has left the building, so has the excitement — and there's still 30 minutes to go. Through August 5 at the Muny in Forest Park. In addition to the free seats, tickets cost $9 to $62. Call 314-361-1900 or visit www .muny.org.

(PF)

The Man with a Load of MischiefThe mischievous man in the title is not a man at all; it's the colorful name of a nineteenth-century pub in rural England. A rakish nobleman has a hard time of it when he tries to seduce the prince regent's mistress, so he sets his serving man to the same task. The 83-year-old play is appealingly performed by the three leads — Kirsten Wylder, Andrew Michael Neiman and Colin Nichols — but your enthusiasm for the cat-and-mouse intrigue will depend on your tolerance for discourse, of which there is much. Performed by Act Inc. through August 5 at the Fontbonne University Fine Arts Center Theatre, 6800 Wydown Boulevard, Clayton. Tickets are $18 ($15 for students and seniors). Call 314-725-9108 or visit www.actinc.biz.

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