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Stage Capsule Reviews

Reviews and previews of upcoming shows.

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8-Track: The Sounds of the '70s Each decade, radio's definition of "oldies" refreshes itself in accordance with the key demographic's nostalgic sweet spot. These days, the Boogie Woogie Bugle Boys of the world have been cut for the Elton Johns and — shudder — Billy Joels. Nobody knows more about tonguing said sweet spots than the American Heartland Theatre, where this tribute, studded with more than 50 hits, is precisely calibrated to please. Expect some disco, some Eagles and some "I Write the Songs" (likely the first song ever performed at both the populist Heartland and the tradition-guarding Quality Hill in the same season). Through Aug. 12 at the American Heartland Theatre, 2450 Grand, 816-842-9999. (Alan Scherstuhl)

Private Lives One of Noel Coward's most popular plays, Private Lives has been toasted or damned by critics as a thin, idea-less confection. But in the Kansas City Actors Theatre's revival, it reveals itself as a more cruel and prickly piece of work than you might expect. It's carried off with professional elegance, with dashing tuxes and a stately set, and it's worth the time of theater hounds, anglophiles and anyone who finds bons mots and wife beating equally hysterical. As a divorced couple smashing back into each other's lives, Melinda McCrary and Robert Gibby Brand are each a tart joy, and they swap Coward's insults with jolly sadism. When they start beating the hell out of each other, though, they seem too careful, and the audience stews, stymied at whether it's possible to laugh yet still be a good person. Through Aug. 26 at the City Stage in Union Station, 18 W. Pershing, 816-235-6222. (Reviewed in our July 12 issue.) (Alan Scherstuhl)

Twice Upon a Time: The Lorax and the Emperor's New Clothes Seussical writers Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, the team behind this world-premiere musical, have written Broadway tunes that flatten out Dr. Seuss' poetry. With neither the words to rely on nor much set to speak of, the tale of the Lorax and his vanishing Truffula forest is left almost entirely to the imagination. Then, for reasons presumably more pragmatic than artistic, this bare-bones Lorax is paired with a lengthy, plot-stuffed take on The Emperor's New Clothes, which offers better songs, some fun performances and a more confusing narrative. Through Aug. 5 at the Coterie Theatre in Crown Center, 2450 Grand, 816-474-6552. (Reviewed in our July 5 issue.) (Alan Scherstuhl)

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