Stage Capsule Reviews
The BFG As entertaining as it might be, The BFG isn’t about Badass Fearful Gangstas. The acronym stands for Big Friendly Ghost, the affable colossus who delivers dreams to children by blowing through their windows. In this children’s story by Roald Dahl, the BFG is a runt among the behemoths ruling the land, and if that doesn’t set him apart, the big lug has an equally big heart — as opposed to other giants, who dine on “human beans.” Through May 16 at Crown Center, 2450 Grand Ave., 816-474-6552. (Michael Vennard)
The Killings at Kamp Tittekaka Late Night Theatre has put aside its gender-bending interpretations of movies like Carrie for an original Ron Megee script about a serial killer terrorizing a group of horny pubescent kids at a summer camp in the late 1950s. Employing a workable blend of Late Night veterans and newcomers, Killings at Kamp Tittekaka contains such alternative-theater staples as raunchy double entendres and gratuitous scenes of the cast in its underwear. And it’s no surprise that the funniest bits are the meanest and most socially inappropriate, including the thrashing of “the boy with polio” and a dig at The Passion of the Christ that would really piss off Mel Gibson. Through May 29 at Late Night Theatre, 1531 Grand Ave., 816-235-6222.
Lend Me a Tenor Playwrights’ comedic skills — when they traffic in farce — are often overlooked as being too silly for their own good. But Ken Ludwig’s deliciously wigged-out Lend Me a Tenor is one of the genre’s better offerings. Opening this week in conjunction with the fiftieth anniversary celebration of the Bell Road Barn Playhouse in Parkville, the show features an egomaniacal opera star at its center whose accidental overdose of tranquilizers and booze causes those around him to believe he has expired. After a wanna-be tenor takes over for the sleeping giant, the complications are unsurprisingly but hilariously chaotic when the swill hound awakens. Doug Ford directs. Through May 15 at the Bell Road Barn Playhouse, 8700 River Park Dr. in Parkville, 816-587-0218.
Little Shop of Horrors The meek meets the monstrous in Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s frothy musical at the Blue Springs City Theatre. Based on the cheap 1960 horror film starring a then-unknown Jack Nicholson, it’s an oddly sweet tale of a plant-store nerd whose quest for love is complicated by a man-eating horticultural nightmare and a sadomasochistic dentist. The musical’s panache is aided by a hip girl group that serves as a doo-wopping Greek chorus and by one for-sure great song, “Suddenly, Seymour.” Through May 9 at the Blue Springs Civic Center, 2000 Northwest Ashton Dr., 816-228-0137.
Marx Madness Having staged the Marx Brothers’ vehicle Coconuts and a musical salute to their patented silliness called A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine, the Martin City Melodrama & Vaudeville Co. returns to the well. Marx Madness samples classic bits from movies such as Duck Soup and adds original music to a story about three middle-aged actors who rediscover their comic edge at the bottom of vaudeville trunk. Tim Cormack, who has tackled Groucho before from more of an actor’s sensibility than that of an impersonator, returns as the bespectacled hysteric. Through June 3 at the Metcalf South Shopping Center, 9635 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park, 913-642-7576.
Menopause the Musical Until the last twenty minutes of what is essentially a musical-comedy salute to hot flashes, the jokes in this production are stale or stolen outright. And reading between the lines reveals not-so-funny insight into such social embarrassments as water retention and marital infidelity. So it is without warning that the show later takes a measurable turn into the joys of self-pleasure. The cast, especially Chavez Ravine, is pardonable, managing to reheat these leftovers. With her tangy, delicious Tina Turner take-off, Ravine — a terrific singer with mammoth stage presence — steals the show without an ounce of regret. Through June 27 at American Heartland Theatre, 2450 Grand Ave., 816-842-9999.
Miss Nelson Is Missing Adapted by Washington, D.C., political satirist Joan Cushing, Miss Nelson Is Missing forces Theatre for Young America’s preschool-and-up audiences to consider which is the lesser of two evils. There’s the pleasantly uncomplicated title character, who teaches in Room 207 until, one day, she doesn’t; and there’s her snarly substitute, Miss Swamp, whose crimes against nature include giving out too much homework. Playing both roles is the versatile Heidi Gutknecht, whose charges include Late Night Theatre alumni Damron Russel Armstrong, Justin Shaw, Jessalyn Kincaid and Ry Kincaid. Directing the musical is Valerie Mackey, who promises a surprise ending. Through May 21 at Theatre for Young America, 5909 Johnson Dr. in Mission, 913-831-2131.
The Producers With a big second-act number called “Springtime for Hitler,” a chorus line of elderly babes on walkers, and flamboyantly swishy gay guys, The Producers can lay claim to offending everyone. Or not. Mel Brooks certainly surprised everyone by creating a dazzlingly old-fashioned Broadway spectacle from his classic comedy film about two failing producers’ efforts to stage the worst musical ever made. Now that Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick are set for a new movie, audiences like those seeing this Theater League touring production at the Music Hall will rely on able replacements like Andy Taylor to keep Brooks’ madly profane and insanely funny show on its feet. Through May 9 at the Music Hall, 301 W. 13th St., 816-931-3330.