- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 30, 2003

OPENING

• Allegro — Signature Theatre. The “revised and re-imagined” version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1947 musical, which tells the life story of a doctor and his struggles to balance the demands of his job with a personal life. Opens Tuesday. 703/218-6500.

• George Gershwin Alone — Ford’s Theatre. The life and music of “America’s composer.” Opens Tuesday. 202/347-4833.

• Jumpers — The Washington Shakespeare Company. The Tom Stoppard whodunit comedy that pits a troupe of acrobatic detectives against a hapless professor. Opens tomorrow at Clark Street Playhouse. 800/494-8497.

• Stomp — Warner Theatre. The Broadway hit show in which eight artists make music out of everyday objects. 8 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 5 and 9 p.m. Saturday, 3 and 7 p.m. Sunday. Opens Tuesday. 202/432-SEAT.

NOW PLAYING

• Camelot — Arena Stage — ***1/2. Arena Artistic Director Molly Smith clearly has an affinity for Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s majestic 1960 musical based on T.H. White’s book “The Once and Future King,” about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. She has staged one of the most resonant and poignant “Camelots” ever seen, not only revitalizing this tuneful warhorse, but also re-inventing the show for modern sensibilities. Through Sunday. 202/488-3300. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Crowns — Arena Stage — ****. This exuberant, soulful musical play, written and directed by Regina Taylor, is blowing the roof off Arena Stage’s Kreeger Theatre. The show is based on Michael Cunningham and Craig Marberry’s book, “Crowns,” which was inspired by the authors’ mothers and combines elegant black-and-white photographs with interviews about black American women and their church hats. A fired-up cast of six depicts the book’s many church women and the men in their lives. Miss Taylor’s simple plotline takes on the form of a day-long church service. The music evokes moments of glory, the cast is uniformly exceptional, and Emilio Sosa has designed chapeaux that would make the Cat in the Hat pea-green with envy. “Crowns” may be about faith, community, and keeping moving during hard times, but it is also about “hattitude.” You’ll never view hats as mere head coverings again. Through Feb. 14. 202/488-3300. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Fur and Other Dangers — Source Theatre — ***. Kitty karma runs amok in this riotous comedy by local playwright Allyson Currin, part of Source Theatre’s winter repertory series. It is 1961 and things are going fine for motormouth social climber Genevieve Purdee (Toni Rae Brotons) of Rooftop, Tenn., until she hits a cat with her daddy’s car. Her lack of remorse — and her fear and hatred of cats — triggers a chain of feline payback that stretches from 1961 well into the 1980s. With fresh, dedicated performances by an up-and-coming young cast, “Fur” is a whiskery delight. Playing in repertory with “Dark Matters” through Saturday 202/462-1073. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• If Only in My Dreams — American Century Theater — ***. American Century Theater’s throat-catching revue, a salute to World War II soldiers and their loved ones back home, brings lovingly to life the seasonal spirit and patriotism that mingle in wartime holidays. Whether you’re hawk, dove or owl, you will no doubt be moved by this bittersweet show, which reprises many 1940s musical standards, right down to “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition.” The eight cast members are in fine voice, handling the often wistful holiday melodies with grace and delicacy. Through Saturday. 703/553-8782. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Meet Me in St. Louis — Toby’s Dinner Theatre — ***. This isn’t a show for the sugar-sensitive. Based on the 1944 Vincente Minnelli film, “Meet Me in St. Louis” captures all the sweeping changes and gentle constancy of turn-of-the-20th-century America with lollipop sweetness. As usual, Toby’s exceeds expectations of what can be done in the round at a dinner theater. In this production, it’s a fully operational trolley car and a scene in which the company spins around on skates. Through Feb. 15. 410/730-8311. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• A Midsummer Night’s Dream — The Shakespeare Theatre — ****. Director Mark Lamos’ update of this most popular of Shakespeare’s plays is wildly witty, and works in ways that such improvements rarely do. Winged and sooty modernist fairies tumble and turn in the air, swimming through the mists of time. Oberon and his disgruntled queen Titania materialize as towering giants, taking on more human forms as they weave their wondrous spells. Children love the play for its nonsense and will not be damaged in the slightest by the small sprinkling of the Bard’s bawdy japes. Through Sunday. 202/547-1122. Reviewed by T.L. Ponick.

• Miss Nelson Has a Field Day — Imagination Stage — **. Joan Cushing turned a picture book by Harry Allard and James Marshall into a joyous and award-winning 2002 musical, “Miss Nelson is Missing,” about a beloved teacher at Smedley Elementary School. Miss Cushing has returned to adapt “Miss Nelson Has a Field Day,” and while the show does have its dynamic moments, it lacks the bounce and fun of the first musical. Through Jan. 11. 301/280-1660. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• Mister Roberts — American Century Theater — *1/2. Director Jack Marshall gets high marks for reviving this touching comedy, which was a gigantic Broadway hit in 1948 before going on to become an even bigger movie in 1955. The play stands beautifully on its own, however, and comparisons to the movie are not the problem: There isn’t anything ailing this production that more rehearsal, a better set and charged connections between the actors couldn’t cure. When a live goat has the best comic timing in the bunch, you know something’s amiss. Through Jan. 31. 703/553-8782. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• The Taming of the Shrew — Royal Shakespeare Company — ***. Discipline and devotion is what sets the RSC apart and is one of the myriad joys of their production of Shakespeare’s “Shrew,” under the astute direction of Gregory Doran. From the set to the zesty Celtic music to the impassioned performances, this is one “Shrew” you won’t mind spending time with. The battle of the sexes comedy is running in repertory with John Fletcher’s “The Tamer Tamed,” a sequel to “Shrew” written in 1611. It is the first time the plays have been paired in 370 years. Through Sunday at the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater. 202/467-4600. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

• The York Realist — Studio Theatre — **1/2. Peter Gill’s tender and acutely observant play about male lovers and class distinctions in England in the early 1960s was a smash hit in London in 2002. It’s getting its American premiere at the Studio Theatre, impeccably but bloodlessly directed by Serge Seiden. The kitchen-sink drama loses a bit in its transfer across the pond. It’s firmly rooted in place — an isolated village in Yorkshire — yet the sets and the actors’ accents seem generically Old Blighty. Lacking, too, is any hint of sexual chemistry between the two men. “The York Realist” is well-acted and competently staged, and oozes sincerity out of every Yorkshire pore. There is nothing horribly wrong with it, but there isn’t anything particularly gripping, either. Through Jan. 11. 202/332-3300. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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