- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 6, 2006

OPENING

• The Christmas Foundling — Journeyman Theatre Company. A baby boy is orphaned in the California Sierras on Christmas Eve and two miners agree to raise him. Opens Saturday at H Street Playhouse. 800/494-TIXS.

NOW PLAYING

• Cinderella — Olney Theatre Center — ***. Sparkly accessories and sparkling performances rule the night in writer-director Mark Waldrop’s version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic. This smartened-up, modern take contains the cherished fairytale elements of the Disney movie and the television versions, but also keeps in mind that times and attitudes have changed. And it moves like an intricately designed children’s toy, bright and ingenious. Plus, Cinderella and the prince sign autographs after every show, enchanting every little girl. Through Dec. 31. 301/924-3400.

• King of Cool: The Life and Music of Nat King Cole — MetroStage — ***1/2. Singer Jimi Ray Malary and a tight three-piece jazz band pay tribute to Nat “King” Cole in an elegant, accomplished revue, a musical bio of the late performer. Mr. Malary does not impersonate the singer, but gives audiences a velvety flavor of his career, backed by musical director William Knowles on piano, Yusef Chisholm on bass, David Cole on guitar and a rhymed narrative by David Scully. No doubt: MetroStage is the place to have a cool Yule. Through Dec. 23. 703/548-9044.

• The Little Prince — Round House Theatre Bethesda — **. Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s fable of an aviator downed in the desert, who is transformed by a mystical meeting with a golden-haired boy who recounts his travels across the stars, has captivated readers of all ages since its publication in 1943. Yet a stage adaptation capturing the book’s delicate power and resonance has proved elusive. That’s true of this highly theatrical adaptation, sometimes garish, sometimes grating, always glacially slow of pace. Its heavy-handed artiness and often overly literal translation of the book sap the tale of its fragile magic. Through Sunday. 240/644-1100.

• The Long Christmas Ride Home — Studio Theatre — *. Too much ho, ho, ho? Dim that seasonal delight by seeing Paula Vogel’s interminable wretchedness-fest, a depressing one-act holiday memory piece that looks back on a dysfunctional family’s Christmas visit to grandma’s. With elements of Noh theater, Bunraku puppetry and Japanese woodblock art, the production looks beautiful and the acting is solid. But this is not really a play; it’s just reworked snippets from older works, random thoughts and a sampling of the playwright’s interests — a bizarre and dreary My Space page. Through Dec. 24. 202/332-3300.

• She Loves Me — Arena Stage, Fichandler Theater — ***. Arena’s production of the old-fashioned, melodic 1963 musical — a tale of two employees of a Budapest perfume shop in the 1930s who clash at work but fall in love through pseudonymous letters — is flowery and romantic. Rather than fiddle with it, director Kyle Donnelly taps into its enduring vitality with young, new talent and a smattering of old pros. It’s old school in the best sense, in which songs convey character and lightly push the plot to a satisfying ending that takes place on that giddiest of days, Christmas Eve. Who could ask for a better wrapped package? Through Dec. 31. 202/488-3300.

• Son of a Bush — Gross National Product —**. Gross National Product’s new political comedy show is a sometimes endearingly low-tech deflation of inside-the-Beltway maneuvers, election-year posturing and the Bush administration. GNP does not bring anything new to the table, instead resorting to Dick Cheney’s gun mishaps and Bushisms we have seen parodied a million times before. Extended indefinitely on Saturdays at the Warehouse Theater. 202/783-7212. MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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