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Stage Capsule Reviews

Reviews and previews of upcoming shows.

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As You Like It Expect garlands and jerkins aplenty as Avila University offers up that most amenable of titles and most unapologetic of crowd pleasers. Just so we're clear: This one's the Shakespeare comedy involving angry dukes, an enchanted forest and great heaps of cross-dressing (which doesn't exactly narrow things down, does it?). It's the story of Rosalind-in-drag and weary cynic Jaques. And it's the source of the "All the world's a stage" speech. How about we just say that, pound for pound, As You Like It is, more than almost any other piece of writing in the language, crammed with the sublime? Through Nov. 20 at Goppert Theatre on the Avila University campus, 11901 Wornall, 816-501-3699.

The Big Funk The funk we're talking here is depression, not the landing of the mothership, so don't show up in a diaper. Lawrence's ambitious E.M.U. Theatre crew brings us an earlier work of John Patrick Shanley, whose Doubt nabbed a Pulitzer and whose Moonstruck continues to grate in Oscar montages. This not-for-the-kiddies show presents jigsawed scenes of five characters searching for mental peace in a tumultuous media landscape. It digs into how people cope with all the lies, advertising and bullshit. Not to spoil anything, but a giant jar of Vaseline figures into things. Through Nov. 19 at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire, 785-843-2787.

Big River Huck and Jim again roll on down that old Mississippi and through our collectively imagined past, arriving as always at that curious vanishing point where pain becomes nostalgia. Our disgust at this country's early inhumanity blends with our gut belief that, somehow, things back then were simpler and maybe even better. Evocative songs and heaps of Mark Twain's barbed aphorisms always make the trip pleasant, despite some occasional thematic roughness; let's hope the Olathe cast has firm hands on the tiller. Through Nov. 20 at the Chestnut Fine Arts Center, 234 N. Chestnut in Olathe, 913-764-2121.

Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story A class-A crowd pleaser guaran-damn-teed to make you hiccup the Holly songbook all the way home from Hallmark Land. The script is silly, but the show's achievement is the way it evokes that thrill of creation. Sure, "Peggy Sue" couldn't have come together as quickly as it does here, but there's joy in watching it form, even if the process is radically accelerated. As Holly's Crickets, David Bendena and Ry Kincaid seem constantly pleased at the untrained racket they're making; as Holly, Wichita native John Mueller is exactly life-sized, capturing the dreamy shyness of a bright, artistic Texan without being showy. All of them play great, loose rock and roll, but the show is stolen by Tim Scott, hilarious as the MC the night the music died. Through Jan. 8 at the American Heartland Theatre at Crown Center, 2450 Grand, 816-842 -9999. (Reviewed in our Nov. 10 issue.)

Christmas in Song This year's Quality Hill Christmas cabaret boasts local stalwarts Melinda MacDonald — so good doing it to Cole awhile back in Let's Do It — and Matt Leisy, KC's boy on Broadway. Everyone does their damnedest to freshen up "O Holy Night" and "Winter Wonderland"; half the show is holy, half secular, so ACLU types should wait until intermission. Through Dec. 24 at Quality Hill Playhouse, 303 W. 10th St., 816-421-1700.

Funny Money Ray Cooney's farce, another solid New Theatre show, is about a regular guy making off with illicit cash. This one stars William Christopher, best known as Father Mulcahy from M*A*S*H but hardly known at all for his mysterious work as "Additional Voices" on The Smurfs. How did we miss him? Was there some even-tempered blue minister we've forgotten who'd offer consolation whenever Brainy went off about "this smurfing war"? If you know, please write us, care of this paper. Through Feb. 5 at the New Theatre Restaurant, 9229 Foster in Overland Park, 913-649-7469.

Stuart Little E.B. White's other book gets a loving, faithful treatment from the Coterie. Today's entertainment for kids would jeerily snot all over this story of a little mouse crossing this giant country, but it charms even those who aren't so little. Lessons to be learned: Being small doesn't mean you're unimportant, shows for kids can engage grown-ups, cats can kill you. Beverly Cleary's mouse may have a motorcycle, but White's story crushes her book like a grape. Through Dec. 30 at the Coterie Theatre, Crown Center, 2450 Grand, 816-474-6552.

The Toughest Kid in the World Theatre for Young America brings back its big-boys-don't-have-to-hit musical, this time both to the Union Station City Stage and to local elementary schools, where, one hopes, it might straighten some of those young punks out. Through songs and humor, a troubled teenager learns to handle anger and conflict without resorting to violence. Sounds perfectly sensible to us, but we all know some Bush-doctrine-heeding parents will be bitching. Theatre for Young America tells us the best seats are available Saturdays. Bring a Bugs Meany type and make a day of it. Through Nov. 19 at Union Station's City Stage, 30 W. Pershing Rd., 816-460-2020.

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