Stage Capsule Reviews
Hairspray With the national tour of the musical adaptation of John Waters’ 1988 film, Kansas City will see that rare breed: nonstop entertainment laced with a meaningful message. As chubby hipster Tracy Turnblad topples the barriers against fat kids and black kids on a ’60s-era TV dance show, she also enjoys the added benefits of a newly glamorous mom and a hot boyfriend. If the cast of the touring version is half as good as the Broadway production, audience members will be walking around with goofy smiles for days on end. Through April 10 at the Music Hall, 13th and Central, 816-931-3330.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch The one performance of the past couple of years that has elicited unanimous raves from the local theater crowd is that of Justin Van Pelt in Eubank Productions’ version of the rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Van Pelt (who made an impressive Unicorn debut in December’s Convenience) is back for three weeks as the bitter yet lovable “internationally ignored song stylist.” The genius of John Cameron Mitchell’s creation is that Hedwig’s a perpetual victim — of copyright infringement, thwarted love, and botched sexual-reassignment surgery — but you pity her at your own peril. Through April 10 at Just Off Broadway Theater, 3051 Central, 816-224-3004
Measure for Measure Brimming with corruption, extremism and religious fervor, the last production of the UMKC Department of Theatre’s season could have been written the day after last November’s elections. But Measure for Measure is instead from the canon of the ever-topical William Shakespeare. Among its other contemporary themes are the assessment of the distance between extremes and the eye-for-an-eye debate between Angio and Claudio. April 8-17 at the UMKC Performing Arts Center, 4949 Cherry, 816-235-6222.
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle The irrepressible, eccentric heroine of Betty McDonald’s series of children’s books is brought to life here by local actor Bonita Hanson. What makes the show doubly intriguing is the challenge her upside-down house must have been to the set designer and the show’s co-star, Bat Boy‘s unforgettable Seth Golay. Through April 15 at Theatre for Young America, 5909 Johnson Dr. in Mission, 913-831-2131.
The Stinky Cheese Man Any show featuring both local diva Cathy Barnett and the theater scene’s reigning teen idol, Sam Cordes, elicits buzz. Such is the case with John Glore’s adaptation of Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith’s tweaking and blurring of such familiar characters from children’s literature as Rumpelstiltskin and Cinderella, blended here into Cinderumpelstiltskin. Director Missy Koonce has the wit to pull off such tales within tales as “The Boy Who Cried Cow Patty,” and William Hill’s costumes are rumored to be mind-blowing. April 12-May 15 at the Coterie, 2450 Grand, 816-474-6552.
Swing! Though the resurgence in swing dancing a few years back hasn’t maintained its luster, the form is no less fun to watch. After a year on Broadway and six Tony nods, Swing! is showing up at places like American Heartland Theatre. The show’s creators, who have exuberantly seasoned it with such tunes as “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and “Stompin’ at the Savoy,” were probably wise not to fit a trite story around the music and dancing. Among the largely unknown cast are some Kansas City actors, a couple from New York City, and Darryl Calmese and Brent Kuenning from the same theater’s wonderful Smokey Joe’s Cafe a couple of seasons ago. Through April 24 at the American Heartland Theatre, 2450 Grand, 816-842-9999.
You Can’t Take It With You Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy artfully straddles the line between preposterous lunacy and believable absurdity. It’s frequently staged by high schools because its large roster of characters can accommodate a bunch of thespians. Mix up twirling ballerinas, an explosives-obsessed nerd and a bohemian grandpa and you’ve got a genuinely witty classic that has probably inspired most TV sitcoms of the past 50 years. Through April 10 at the Chestnut Fine Arts Center, 234 N. Chestnut St., Olathe, 913-764-2121.