Capsule Reviews

Hairspray They can't stop the beat. No, they can't stop the beat. Don't try to make them stop because they can't stop the beat! Everything about this musical adaptation of John Waters' low-budget movie insists that you must love it. Must! From the 1970s pastels on the backdrops to the oversized flips in the hairdos. The characters are lovable, the music is lovable. It's all just too, too, too lovable. So why don't we? Might be that it's lacking not just some, but all of the insidious, perverse humor that Waters provided in the original film, which tore at middle-class attitudes and urban racism. Now it's all heaped with Disneyesque goodness. Even though there's still a big fat guy (John Pinette) in a dress playing the mom, he's neither Divine nor divine. Just sort of creepy. Keala Settle is a bouncy Tracy Turnblad, the chubby teen star looking for justice, but we detect some extra padding around her backside. Isn't that cheating? Continues through March 27 at the Music Hall at Fair Park, 469-429-1600. Reviewed this week. (Elaine Liner)

Hay Fever Noel Coward's 1925 comedy of bad manners finds the snooty, artsy Bliss family on the verge of breakdowns. Each of the four--mother, father, son and daughter--has invited a potential love match down to the country house for a weekend romp. When the guests arrive en masse, the romantic entanglements begin and nobody ends up with the person they thought they would. It's all good, smart, sexy fun, delivered with fizzy, over-the-top performances by a strong cast of gorgeous women (there are men onstage, but they're barely noticeable). We especially like Lynn Blackburn as the seductive Myra (out to nab father, but lusted for by son) and Francesca Olson as Miss Coryton, a daffy dollop of candyfloss who delivers lines like a Jazz Age Paris Hilton. Director Robin Armstrong keeps the pace at a full tilt, getting all three acts done in just two hours. Costumes, also by Armstrong, evoke the right period touches. Blackburn's slinky red gown is a stunner. Many, many good laughs in Theatre Britain's best show to date. Through April 3 at Trinity River Arts Center, 2600 N. Stemmons Freeway, Suite 180, 972-490-4202. Reviewed this week. (E.L.)

The Cherry Orchard Chop, chop, we say, as the cast of more than a dozen characters gathers to bid each other farewell one more time. And again. And yet again. Anton Chekhov's four-act meditation on the decline of the Russian aristocracy can be fun when played as farce (as he intended). Instead, Classical Acting Company, a troupe dedicated to performing plays no one is clamoring to see, does it as tragedy. Liubov is written as Auntie Mame from Moscow; here, she's a droopy old grouch. Accident-prone Trofimov should be a laugh riot; here he's just pitiful. Old Gayev should be goofy and light on his feet; here he seems in the early stages of dementia. When Old Firs, the decrepit family footman, is left behind in the locked mansion, it should be comical. Now we want to report them all for elder abuse. Director Susan Sargeant misses great comic potential in this century-old classic. The actors, including Classical Acting founders Matthew and Emily Gray, play it for weepies, denying the audience a shot at rediscovering Chekhov's still-fresh skewering of upper-class nonsense. We can't cry for the family's downfall unless they've made us laugh first. Through April 3 at the Arena Theater, Fannin Hall, Richland College, 12800 Abrams Road, 214-505-1655. Reviewed March 17. (E.L.)

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