- The Washington Times - Friday, October 9, 2009

NOW PLAYING

Ferdinand the BullImagination Stage — ★★★½ The flower-sniffing and kindhearted horned hero of Munro Leaf’s 1936 picture book “Ferdinand the Bull” has been brought to the stage in a stampede of color, music and flamenco dance in the rich musical adaptation by Karen Zacarias and Deborah Wicks La Puma. Miss Zacarias expands on the simple story by adding characters and additional plot entanglements without detracting from the sweetness of its central character or the main theme that standing up for who you are takes bravery beyond fighting. Ferdinand (Ricardo Frederick Evans) is a bull of a different stripe. The boy Danilo (Andrew Boza) is a kindred spirit — his overbearing, militaristic father Duque (Michael John Casey, hilariously loopy) wants him to be a toreador. But Danilo was born to dance. How Ferdinand and Danilo get out of the bullring and into their true selves is the main thrust of this anti-bullfighting tale. Through Nov. 1. 301/280-1660.

Jersey BoysNational Theatre — ★★★½ This evolution of a pop supergroup may seem at first glance to be just another jukebox musical — an energetic showcase of hit songs enlivened by Broadway-style choreography and performed by actors who have a fleeting resemblance to the famous singers they’re imitating. Yet as a production polished to sequined sheen by director Des McAnuff, “Jersey Boys” is different on several levels. This documentary-style show traces the turbulent story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, who went from harmonizing street punks to ‘60s sensations and a berth in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Mr. Valli (Joseph Leo Bwarie) may sing like an angel, but he and the other members of the group were no saints. Problems with drinking, gambling, booze and broads plagued the group, as well as personal betrayals of “Sopranos” dimensions. Oh yes, there’s also the music. If you’re a die-hard Four Seasons fan, the pitch-perfect renditions of “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Stay” and “Working My Way Back to You” will transport you back to a time of transistor radios and beach-blanket bingo. Through Dec. 12. 800/447-7400

The Quality of LifeArena Stage at Crystal City — ★★½ Arena Stage’s first show of the season does not come across as a play, but a cable talk show on an unusually atmospheric set. Not to denigrate the human suffering permeating Jane Anderson’s drama. It’s just that the way these issues are presented seems pat and manufactured. To say the cast goes beyond the confines of the script is an understatement. Annette O’Toole is astounding as the chatty, conflicted Dinah. As her husband, Kevin O’Rourke brings gentle comedy to Bill’s reticence. Johanna Day comes off like the sexy earth mother who has it all together until she makes you see the heartsickness of Jeannette. Stephen Schnetzer’s Neil is the play’s soul a man almost on the outskirts of life who still seeks undiminished passion. Through Oct. 18. 202/488-3300.

MoonlightStudio Theatre — ★★½ Harold Pinter’s wife, Lady Antonia Fraser, once noted that the playwright penned “Moonlight” as a livid meditation on the death of his mother. With Mr. Pinter’s own death last Christmas Eve, this melancholy and mournfully funny work takes on a deeper ache. As staged at Studio by Joy Zinoman, “Moonlight” becomes a gloomy tribute to death and disconnection. All of this unfolds in scenes that have a certain distant, decorous quality. There are no confrontations or expressions of impotent anger. Plenty of sourness is present, but the production lacks the epic sweep of sorrow and regret. Through Oct. 18. 202/332-3300

The Musical of MusicalsMetroStage — ★★★★ First presented in 2007, this razzle-dazzler hasn’t dimmed one watt. And with the addition of Matthew A. Anderson to the original cast of Janine Gulisano-Sunday, Bobby Smith and Donna Migliaccio, the star power and unabashed joy have even increased. Directed with high-energy cheekiness by Larry Kaye, “Musical of Musicals” lovingly parodies 50 years of Broadway conventions and song styles in less time than it takes to sit through “Les Miserables.” Through Nov. 1. 703/548-9044.

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

Compiled by Jayne Blanchard

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