Capsule Reviews

Wicked The story of the Wonderful Wizard of you-know-where is re-imagined as a lavish musical by composer Stephen Schwartz and writer Winnie Holzman (adapted from Gregory Maguire's novel, which was based on L. Frank Baum's books). Now the focus is on the ladies. We find out why Glinda the Good Witch of the North (Kendra Kassebaum) tries so hard to keep the Munchkins away from the green-tinged Wicked Witch of the West (Stephanie J. Block). And just who was the witch on whom Dorothy's house fell after the cyclone carried "the wretched little farm girl" away from Kansas? And how did the Scarecrow lose his brains? And the Tin Man his heart? With a score more tuneful than The Lion King or Peter Pan and performers in the leads who out-sing and out-act their Broadway counterparts, this is the show of the year. At last, a touring company with energy and talent! For the first time ever, the audience at the Music Hall rushes back to their seats at intermission, eager for the second act. Don't miss a word, a note of this production. Bring the kids and Auntie Em. This is a musical the whole family will love and remember. Through October 23 at the Music Hall at Fair Park, 909 First Ave., 214-631-2787. Reviewed this week. (Elaine Liner)

The Woman in Black Just in time for Halloween, WaterTower Theatre in Addison presents an eerie tale of a man whose encounter with a mysterious figure haunting a deserted mansion off the coast of England leaves him on the verge of a breakdown. When lawyer Arthur Kipps (Terry Martin) is sent to sort through a dead woman's papers, he spends a scary night in the remote house. A spectral figure of a woman in a black veil keeps appearing, and he hears the phantom sounds of horse hooves and a child crying. The experience leaves him so shaken, he writes it all down and hires an actor (Brian Gonzales) to coach him through a reenactment he hopes will exorcise the terror. The two-man play by Stephen Mallatratt, based on Susan Hill's 1983 novel, gradually moves from the rehearsal of Kipps' story to the performance in which the actor takes on the role of the lawyer. As Gonzales becomes Kipps, Martin switches in and out of several other roles, each with a slightly different but very specific rural British accent. Directed by James Lemons, the production keeps it simple, with no whizbang effects other than some bone-rattling sounds, scary music andwait, was that a figure in that window, or was she in the doorway? Gonzales and Martin are pros at holding the moments of suspense just long enough to keep the audience on the edge of the seats. As ghost stories go, it's a good one acted well enough to send a shiver or two through the bones. Through October 30 at WaterTower Theatre at the Addison Theatre Centre, 15650 Addison Road, 972-450-6232. (E.L.)

The Who's Tommy The Beatles had Sgt. Pepper, and The Who had Tommy, a 1969 concept album about a "deaf, dumb and blind kid" who plays pinball with "supple wrists" and who attracts a rabid cult of fans. Tuned up for Broadway in the early 1990s, Tommy now takes on the look and sound of a big Vegas revue. It should, that is. The Uptown Players' production is hampered by major audio problems. The singers' head-mikes don't work. The band sounds both muffled and too loud. In a theater this small, the audience shouldn't have to strain to hear, but somehow the acoustics have gone dead. Handsome Casey Robinson in the title role displays youthful rage as the 21-year-old Tommy, finally sprung from his self-induced catatonia--but what's he singing about? Through October 23 at Trinity River Arts Center, 2600 Stemmons Freeway, Suite 180, 214-219-2718. Reviewed October 6. (E.L.)

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