By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Dangerous Liaisons. Director Regan Adair's short but productive stint running Richardson Theatre Centre hit its zenith with this lush version of the heavy-breather about lust, betrayal and revenge among French nobility. Mark Shum and Meridith Morton seethed with passion as lovers and rivals. Every element—acting, costumes (also by Adair), set design and sound—hit the (erogenous) zone.
Diaries of a Barefoot Diva: And Other Tales and Stories From the Ghetto. This new musical written by and starring Fort Worth actress Sheran Goodspeed Keyton premiered at Jubilee Theatre and knocked audiences out with its feel-good, sing-great story of a budding filmmaker struggling to pursue her dream. Joe Rogers and Aaron Petite's score combined hip-hop rhythms and bluesy ballads that suited the big voices of Keyton and her co-star, Robert Rouse.
Every Trick in the Book. Classical Acting Company should do more comedy. This flirty Feydeau farce featured the company's lead actress, Emily Gray, who was a stitch whipping her double-bustled behind between her onstage lover, played by Mark Shum, and her husband, played by Neil Carpenter.
Fat Pig. Neil LaBute's play tells of the doomed romance between a handsome guy (Ian Leson) and a lovely but overweight woman (the remarkable Christina Vela). He loves her and she loves him. But his creepy friends just won't let him get past the "she's too fat" thing. Kitchen Dog's production probably sparked more after-show discussion among couples than anything else on a stage this year.
Hank Williams: Lost Highway. The bio-musical about the country music legend, played by out-of-towner Van Zeiler, would have been just another pleasant but forgettable Dallas Theater Center import except for the phenomenal performance by Mississippi Charles Bevel, an actor and blues singer of incomparable skills. Just watching and listening to Bevel in the role of narrator Tee-Tot felt like a rare privilege.
Pageant. It's not unusual to see men in drag among the Uptown Players, but this musical directed by Coy Covington played with the horrors of beauty pageants by having the guys play it deadly seriously, making it even funnier. Cameron McElyea was the standout as the homely and humble Miss Great Plains.
Rocky Horror Puppet Show. Collin County Community College staged one of the most lavishly designed musicals of the year with this half-human, half-puppet production featuring original creature designs ranging from oversized rod puppets to bizarre robotic contraptions. A jaw-droppingly impressive spectacle.
Take Me Out. Balls-out acting and full-frontal nudity marked WaterTower's strong local premiere of Richard Greenberg's Tony winner about a gay big-leaguer. Clay Yocum's astonishing turn as the hillbilly pitcher with a killer fastball was the acting equivalent of pitching a no-hitter.
The Women. The snappy and stylish revival at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas of Clare Boothe Luce's all-female 1930s comedy ranks among the year's best for its excellent casting of 20 of Dallas' best professional actresses, 10 of them older than 40. That's more women on one stage than most theaters cast in an entire season.