Newly Reviewed Footloose Stages St. Louis is having a terrific summer – in absentia. Its 2007 staging of A Little Night Music was more coherent and coolly elegant than the recent much-anticipated Opera Theatre of St. Louis version. And in 2005, Stages' high-spirited yet sultry take on Footloose was far superior to the aimless show currently on view in Forest Park. Clearly, the Muny is trying to tap into the same teen audience that it reached last summer with its delightful production of Hairspray. But Footloose (which is based on the 1984 movie of the same title about teenagers' right to undulate) lacks Hairspray's savvy. Most of these young performers are not shown to advantage; they don't yet know how to cope with negligible material. They would do well to observe the more experienced Dee Hoty, whose performance as the wife of the repressive town minister (a role she created on Broadway) shines like the proverbial beacon. Hoty is a poised professional whose every line conveys utter believability. As an aside — and in contrast to almost everyone else onstage — her costumes are so well tailored, you might wonder if she's wearing her own clothes. Though Hoty personifies sincerity, the show itself is a fraud. Although Footloose purports to be a paean to dance, it is a musical lacking in music. Apart from the energetic "Let's Hear It for the Boy" (exuberantly performed by Cathryn Basile), the only memorable song you'll hear all night is "The Star-Spangled Banner" — and you have to sing that one yourself. Through August 8 at the Muny in Forest Park. In addition to the free seats, tickets are $9 to $66. Call 314-361-1900 or visit www.muny.org.
Also Reviewed Promises, Promises This once-popular Neil Simon/Burt Bacharach/Hal David musical based on Billy Wilder's perfect 1960 movie satire The Apartment gets the Stages treatment – which means that, despite occasional moments where the acting personalities transcend the staging (most particularly, Ben Nordstrom and Brandi Wooten for ten blissful minutes at the top of Act Two) — for the most part, Promises, Promises winds up feeling (and sounding) like just about every other Stages St. Louis production. When this wistful musical premiered in 1968, it introduced a unique new pop score that moved Broadway music in a new direction. Here, alas, the once-driving melodies by Bacharach and David are about as exciting as listening to "The Best of Broadway" on Muzak. Through August 15 at the Robert G. Reim Theatre, 111 S. Geyer Road, Kirkwood. Tickets are $49 ($28 for children, $46 for seniors; rush seats for students and seniors $15 at the door). Call 314-821-2407 or visit www .stagesstlouis.org. (DB)