The Last One-Nighter on the Death Trail If you like Cabaret, Gypsy, Follies and other backstage musicals, this new one from Our Endeavors Theater Collective will tickle your funny stick and make you tap a toe. The cast of eight wrote the tunes themselves (along with other collaborators), and director Christine Vela researched the world of Depression-era vaudeville for months before writing the libretto. In the show, a troupe of "disappointment acts" hangs around a stage door, hoping for the big break that never comes. We watch them rehearse new bits and find out the secrets that have kept them on the "death trail" of crumbling theaters coast to coast. Even if they can't sing like Mama Rose or Sally Bowles, the cast has some whizbang moments. Patrick Johnson is the Fatty Arbuckle type exhorting everyone to "Laugh! Laugh! Laugh!" VaVa Veronica (Lydia Mackay) can't keep her clothes on and does nasty things with her sax (hey, you gotta have a gimmick). Skeeter (Erin McGrew) wants everyone to quit talking dirty. The "Countess" (Lulu Ward) takes a shine to Trixie (Lainie Simonton), a mysterious waif who stumbles into the act. Steeped in nostalgia, the show also has a distinctly modern edge. There's even a cinematic surprise in Act 1. Designed to the nth (as all OETC's shows are), this one's a three-ring circus of music, dance, film, comedy and pathos. Through May 14 at Frank's Place at Dallas Theater Center, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd. 214-327-4001. Reviewed this week. (Elaine Liner)
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Ragtime From E.L. Doctorow's 1975 best seller came the 1997 Broadway musical from playwright Terrence McNally, lyricist Lynn Ahrens and composer Stephen Flaherty. In Lyric Stage's production, more than 30 singers crowd the stage, belting out the score's 30 Scott Joplin-inspired, dramatically syncopated anthems. At the turn of the 20th century, America's music and culture were a-changing. Immigrants and blacks struggled for equality with whites. The East Coast elite fought the unions and weathered scandals like the infamous love triangle among Harry K. Thaw, Stanford White and "girl in the swing" Evelyn Nesbit (that era's Monica Lewinsky). Three main plot lines take frequent detours into subplots based on real events in American history. Flags wave. Guns go off. Mobs fight. A Model T rolls onstage. Looking over it all is the Statue of Liberty. It's a grand show with big performances by 22-year-old Kia Dawn Fulton (as the tragic maid, Sarah), Wendell L. Holden Jr. (as pianist-turned-revolutionary Coalhouse Walker) and Brian Gonzales (as a poor Latvian Jew who becomes a movie pioneer). Continues through May 7 at the Irving Arts Center's Dupree Theater, 3333 N. MacArthur Blvd., Irving. 972-252-2787. Reviewed this week. (E.L.)