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Stage Capsule Reviews

Our critic weighs in on local theater.

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Baba Yaga In a gesture of theatrical glasnost, the Lawrence Arts Center opens its Family Theatre Series with Ric Averill's adaptation of the classic Russian fairy tale Baba Yaga: The Bony Legged Witch. Set in an archetypal fairy-tale world, complete with wicked stepmother and spindly crone, the musical features a cast of 25-plus, mixing students from the center's youth program with members of Averill's Seem-To-Be Players. The young heroine's eventual hot bath in a stewpot might make this too strong for children younger than 5. Oct. 23-24, Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire, 785-843-2787.

Good In Good, an examination of how outwardly decent, intelligent people were so easily persuaded to embrace the Third Reich, playwright C.P. Taylor subverts the story's obvious tragedy by turning it into a musical-comedy. Originally staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company in London, its subsequent Broadway run in 1982 moved critic Clive Barnes to call it "an incandescent evening in the theater that lights up the conscience." What makes UMKC's production so compelling is that it's directed by Barry Kyle, who has come to Kansas City with such credits as last year's all-female version of Richard III for London's Globe Theatre. Through Oct. 24, UMKC Performing Arts Center, Studio 116, 4949 Cherry, 816-235-6222.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow Other than those grisly urban myths about hook-limbed killers and inopportune organ transplants, few tales are as chilling as Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Rainbow's End Theatre launches its move from Mission Center Mall to the more urbane Gem Theater at 18th and Vine with this adaptation detailing Ichabod Crane's, well, adjustment difficulties and that deal with the Headless Horseman. The show's design team includes Kansas City Ballet costumer Lisa Harper and features as Crane Late Night alumnus Johnnie Bowls, who, in an interesting casting decision, happens to be African-American. Oct. 26-27 at the Gem Theater, 1601 E. 18th St., 816-474-0888.

Mother Trucker Recalling a panoply of seemingly unrelated films -- Kill Bill, Smokey and the Bandit and Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore -- Late Night Theatre's new musical comedy about a female trucker and her wheelchair-bound son proves that the corniest of clichés can create a batch of tasty fritters. Writer-director David Wayne Reed's show is both a parody of and homage to trailer-park pop culture. Among a talented cast that includes Late Night veterans Reed, Ron Megee and Gary Campbell, semiregular female company members Corrie Van Ausdal and Jessalyn Kincaid are the most fun. Through Oct. 30 at Late Night Theatre, 1531 Grand, 816-235-6222.

A New Brain No composer worth his mettle could resist turning life trauma into musical theater, as evidenced by William Finn's alternately brooding and spunky A New Brain. Eubank Productions tackles the Falsettoland author's autobiographical account of his brain-tumor diagnosis, though here, the guy's a gay songwriter for a children's television show. The cast, including Dustin Cates, Justin Van Pelt and Seussical's luminous Lauretta Pope, offers beautiful melodies such as "I'd Rather Be Sailing" and a message that Andre Bishop of New York's Lincoln Center (where the show was produced in 1997) called "a response ... not to the threat of death but to the joy of living." Through Oct. 23 at City Stage at Union Station, 30 W. Pershing, 816-460-2020.

OOPS! Got milk? Neither does the children's-theater branch of the Martin City Melodrama & Vaudeville Company, called Martin City Jr., which opens its second season with OOPS!, a world premiere musical by the troupe's associate artistic director, Jon Copeland. Copeland and Martin City founder Jeanne Beechwood star in the piece, which follows the adventures of Princess Daisy (surely not the Judith Krantz character of the same name), whose travels from the planet Milky Dud to save the world from a milk shortage land her mistakenly on an Earth plagued, let's hope, by the persnickety lactose-intolerant. Through Nov. 14 at Martin City Melodrama & Vaudeville Co., Metcalf South Shopping Center, 9635 Metcalf in Overland Park, 913-642-7576.

The Pirates of Penzance Even if the punny lyrics and rosy-cheeked patina of Gilbert and Sullivan's 125-year-old operetta feel a bit damp, the Kansas City Rep's production is admirably mounted. Director David Ira Goldstein's fondness for the material is evident in the show's unapologetic embrace of the quaint and old-fashioned, especially in the ensemble's musical numbers, which are often stirring in their sincerity. Wendy Lehr's performance as an ingenue in her own mind is delightful, and Timothy McCuen Piggee's Pirate King is nothing if not frank about being horny as a toad. Through October 24 at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, 4949 Cherry, 816-235-2700.

The Rocky Horror Show Minds Eye Theatre does the Time Warp yet again at Just Off Broadway with its return to Richard O'Brien's gender-euphoric cult classic. Though this musical homage to cheesy 1950s horror movies has long since lost its power to shock -- perhaps it's so out it's in -- its thirty-year presence on the pop-culture radar has undoubtedly been inspirational. It would be surprising if any potential audience members were still among the uninitiated into squeaky-clean Brad and Janet's foray into the sexually fluid world of Dr. Frank N. Furter and his glam posse, a group whose brazenness is now almost passe. Through Oct. 30 at Just Off Broadway, 3051 Central, 913-897-2348.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Pauline Flannery's creative ideas in her adaptation of the classic Robert Louis Stevenson story are much more fun than her script, which is as stuffy as a Tory. With two actors (Walter Coppage and a contained yet maniacal Scott Cordes) playing the mad doctor and his chemically induced alter ego, the play becomes more a comment on human duality or substance abuse than a true homage to the novella. Thanks to Jason Harris' eerie set design and David Kiehl's darkly techno sound design, audiences are advised to ignore the stilted dialogue and feast instead in its sensory pleasures. Through Oct. 31 at the Coterie, 2450 Grand, 816-474-6552

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