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Stage Capsule Reviews

Reviews and previews of upcoming shows.

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Hey There, Harvey Girl The Mystery Train gang, which winningly transforms the Union Café into a railroad crime scene, again presents murder with appetizers. As always, the script comes from local talent, and it's threaded with Kansas City history. This time, the cheerfully unpredictable story is something about the decorous Harvey Girls traveling in an Old West dining car. Real-life diners are invited to interrogate cast members, make sense of the clues and solve the crime. (Some will have scripts themselves.) The audience participation makes a fine time finer; as funny as Wendy Thompson's lines are, hearing your neighbors embellish (or butcher) them and then watching the quick-witted cast improvise responses is half the pleasure. Through April 1 at the Hereford House, 2 E. 20th St., 816-813-9654.

Married Alive! Out to prove there's still something fun about marriage, the American Heartland Theatre's new musical, a world premiere by Sean Grennan and Leah Okimoto, gives us two married couples — one newlywed-fresh and the other puttering along — and all their tuneful troubles, from baby stress to empty-nest syndrome to (let's hope) what the hell have we done with our lives? Promising song titles: "Oh, Knocked Up" and "It Starts With Socks." Through April 16 at the American Heartland Theatre at Crown Center, 2450 Grand, 816-842-9999.

Say Goodnight, Gracie Oh, God, you New Theatre devils. Overland Park's thoroughly professional and often sparkling dinner theater offers this wistful one-man show about the life of George Burns. Suspended in a limbolike state after his death, the play's Burns (Joel Rooks) is unable to gain admittance to heaven until he, according to press materials, "gives the Command Performance of his lifetime for God." If you think demanding a free show before giving up the good stuff is churlish of God, you understand how we feel about having to pony up for dinner before getting to see these rock-solid New Theatre shows. Through April 9 at New Theatre Restaurant, 9229 Foster in Overland Park, 913-649-7469.

Your Hit Parade: The American Songbook With Barry Manilow joining Rod Stewart and La Streisand in hamming egocentrically through songs beloved by everybody's grandparents, now's a fine time to hear classics done right: with intelligence, restraint and the understanding that the songs matter most. Quality Hill Playhouse's ace arranger J. Kent Barnhart has given us a long string of cabaret shows in which both songs and singers shine. This time, his piano is rounded out with bass and drums, and he's promising chestnuts such as "Dream" and "How High the Moon." Through April 2 at Quality Hill Playhouse, 303 W. 10th St., 816-421-1700.

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