Ever-advancing years don't make this any easier to admit: My first exposure to a Broadway show was Disney's Beauty and the Beast almost a decade ago...and it was fairly awesome. No offense meant to fans of the story or the production; it's just that a high school senior typically has more pressing concerns and an embarrassing fake reputation to uphold rather than pledge fandom to a stage production featuring dancing candelabra and a lovesick, "thinking man's" Wookie. From the vocal performances to the special effects to the set designs, it just spun my little jock heart and mind into a tizzy of magical theatrics and endless amorous possibilities. Therefore, the opening double performance Friday at Bass Performance Hall couldn't come more highly recommended. And talk about a multidimensional message: Guys, if you're hideously unappealing, you can still score some hot action and thus be transformed into a sexy stud; and ladies, don't be turned off by a rich ugly dude, because he could turn into a physically beautiful person you won't be ashamed to be seen with if you give yourself to him. Bass Performance Hall is at 525 Commerce St. Call 817-212-4280, or visit www.casamanana.org. --Matt Hursh
Playing It Gay
Nudity--and lots of it--unnerved Casey Robinson more than the prospect of playing a gay character in Love! Valour! Compassion!, Terrance McNally's comedy/drama about five gay friends who spend one summer together. "Plus, I'd never done a part with such intense intimacy," says Robinson, who plays bad boy Ramon in Uptown Players' latest production. Scott Meek, the other straight cast member playing gay, says the dancing scared him most. "I've never done a lick of dance, much less ballet," he says of the climactic scene in which the friends perform an excerpt from Swan Lake. Still, both men expressed some trepidation at playing gay characters. "One of the biggest challenges for a straight actor to play a gay man is to not fall into any stereotypes," Meek says. Eric McCormack, who plays Will on NBC's gay-themed blockbuster Will and Grace, has said the same thing to countless interviewers, adding that he worried about being stereotyped forever in his acting career. "Conquering fear is what made me choose this part," Robinson says. See the fearless and funny performances of Robinson, Meek, Regan Adair, Mark Shum and Bryan Donovan in the Dallas premiere of Love! Valour! Compassion! from August 13 through September 4 at the Trinity River Arts Center, 2600 Stemmons Freeway. Get tickets ($22 to $25) at www.uptownplayers.org or 214-219-2718. --Annabelle Massey Helber
Earl David Reed is nothin' special. Who hasn't met at least one Connecticut-raised African-American stand-up comedian who's also a drive-time country music disc jockey in Salt Lake City? C'mon, Earl, can't you give us something new? Well, if you're one for sameness, come by Hyena's Comedy Night Club in Arlington, 2525 E. Arkansas Lane, and catch Reed's act. Admission is $10, and there's a two-item minimum purchase. It's 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. August 13 and 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. August 14. Only those 18 and up will be admitted. Call 817-226-5233. --Mary Monigold
To see some sensitive aesthetes duke it out Tennyson-style, come to Club Clearview's Art Bar where homegrown poets go up against each other in a contest in which competitors must be both lyrically and theatrically gifted since the scores are based just as much on performance as on the poetry. Walk-ups are welcome, if you think you have skills, or just spectate. The poetry slam goes from 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, and admission is $2. Art Bar is in Deep Ellum at 2803 Main St. Call 214-939-0077. --Mary Monigold
Making a Splash
Will these three plays sink or swim?
The latest trend from the theater world to escape from New York City arrives in Dallas just in time for the hottest month of August: plays in the swimming pool. And you know that if it was a hit in the Holiday Inn rooftop pool in Manhattan, then it's destined to have a long, successful run in a North Dallas athletic club's lap pool. Ground Zero Theater presents Pool Plays at Signature...A Splash Act featuring three one-act productions with aquatic themes. Tugboat Love by Robin Rice Lichtig is a romantic comedy set in New York Harbor involving a tugboat, a sea gull and that big copper statue that was a gift from the French and turned puke green. Dipping Hereafter by Rich Orloff mixes metaphors about the afterlife with hanging out underwater. And Splashes in the Gene Pool by Seth Kramer follows the wily adventures of two prehistoric lungfish as they contemplate evolution. Romance, religion and evolution--what more could you ask for? (Besides air conditioning.) The plays star not-necessarily-washed-up actors Maura Murphy, James Gilbert and Richard Houghton under the starboard direction of Captain Lindsay Huntoon. Who knows? There could be some great talent swimming within these theater troupes. But since the dress code calls for shorts and flip-flops, don't bet the pool on it. If you're looking for professional theater, then chances are you're going to end up all wet. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Signature Athletic Club, 14725 Preston Road. Additional performances August 20 and August 21. Tickets are $10 or $25 for Friday's champagne gala. Proceeds benefit the Prestonwood Rotary Club. Call 972-680-4430 or visit www.poolplays.com. --Jay Webb