Company Some 1970s musicals sound positively quaint today (heard Pippin lately?). Not this Stephen Sondheim-George Furth gem about a toxic Manhattan bachelor, Bobby (Donald Fowler), being talked into marriage by his 10 married friends. With a score packed with Sondheim classics--"Being Alive,'' "Another Hundred People,'' "Marry Me a Little,'' "Side by Side by Side,'' "Ladies Who Lunch''--this show shows off the composer's complex but satisfying way with melodies and lyrics. Furth's book inserts a few too many talky stretches of dialogue, but just when it starts to feel slow, another great song comes along. The large cast at WaterTower Theatre includes some of the area's top singer-actors, including R Bruce Elliott, Jennifer Green, Bob Hess, Linda Leonard, Kristina Baker, Mary-Margaret Pyeatt, Paul Taylor and Amy Askins. Jaunty go-go choreography is by Jerry MacLaughlin. Terry Martin directs. Scott A. Eckert directs the musicians and handles keyboards. The all-black set by Randel Wright suggests the tall, window-lit canyons of the Upper East Side. All in all, as sophisticated an evening as any musical theater lover could hope for. Through June 20 at WaterTower Theatre in Addison. 972-450-6232. Reviewed this issue.
Miss Saigon Don't be fooled by its billing as part of the Dallas Summer Musicals' "Broadway hits'' series. This touring production of the sung-through show about a Vietnam-era romance isn't even close to Broadway caliber. It is all non-Equity, meaning a cast of recent college drama grads who lack the polish and depth to carry off a musical as big as this one. And it's minus the one big set piece that made the original production worth seeing: the helicopter that descends in the finale at the fall of Saigon and plucks American soldiers off the embassy roof. Now we get a black-and-white filmed projection of a chopper. Pretty cheap and not at all convincing. (Perhaps the real 'copter is a union member.) The Alain Boublil-Claude-Michel Schonberg score (with lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr.) is loud and repetitive. The acoustics in the Fair Park Music Hall are lousy, as usual, garbling most lyrics in thundering amplification. At the performance reviewed, the leading role of Kim, the virginal bar girl, was played by Jennifer Hubilla, who uses one facial expression for every emotion. The role of The Engineer, who's supposed to be a menacing character who runs a Hanoi brothel while dreaming of a life in the USA, was played by Johann Michael Camat as a campy clown, about as menacing as Big Bird. The 90-minute first act is jammed with 14 songs; the 80-minute second act, only nine, and they sound exactly like the tunes in Act 1. Bland and done on the cheap, this one just doesn't fly. A special 2 p.m. performance on June 6 will be subtitled in Mandarin. Through June 6 at the Music Hall at Fair Park. 214-631-2787.
Violet The title character (played by Ashley Puckett-Gonzales) is a 25-year-old farm girl who believes her facial scar is a curse from God. Hoping for a healing from a TV evangelist, Violet rides a bus from North Carolina to Oklahoma, only to discover that her much-beloved preacher (John Reba) is as phony as the wizard of Oz. She gets back on the bus to Arkansas to find a GI, Monty (Michael Newberry), whom she bedded on the trip west. But a black soldier (Markus Lloyd) falls in love with her instead. Set in 1964, this is one confused excuse for a musical. The 19 songs imitate country, bluegrass, gospel and cliché show tunes that require the singers to hold every vowel five seconds too long. The story touches on serious topics such as inter-racial romance, religion, self-image, father-daughter issues, maternal abandonment and, in the background, lurks the Vietnam war. With such unfocused, humorless material, not even a couple of decent performances can save this production, which was directed by Cynthia Hestand. Young Lizzie Cochran as the younger version of Violet makes her flashback scenes the best of the very long evening. But she's such an assured, mature, intelligent Violet at 12, it's puzzling to find the older version acting like a mentally challenged religious freak. Through June 20 at Plano Repertory Theatre, Courtyard Theatre, H Avenue between 15th and 16th streets, Plano. 972-422-7460. Reviewed this issue.
Pump Boys and Dinettes Check your cynicism at the door, settle in at one of the comfy tables and order a cold drink to enjoy this musical that's as light as a butter-flake biscuit. The waitressing Cupp sisters (Jenny Thurman, Arianna Movassagh) and their friends (Willy Welch, Gary Floyd, John Venable, Jon Kruse, Hayden Oliver) at the next-door gas station off Highway 57 don't get many customers. So they spend a couple of hours singing about such things as fishing, driving a Winnebago to Florida, hustling for tips and what makes grandmas so great. As corny as a hush puppy and as sweet as a tub of nanner puddin', this show offers feel-good wholesomeness and a couple of toe-tapping tunes. The cast is terrific, particularly the big-belting Thurman and newcomer Gary Floyd, who, like Gomer Pyle, looks goofy as all get-out until he surprises the audience with a polished, impressive singing voice. Through June 6 at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, 5601 Sears St. 214-828-0094. Reviewed May 20.
Stones in His Pockets Like Greater Tuna with an Irish brogue, this little play by Belfast playwright Marie Jones uses two actors (James Crawford, Michael Turner) to play 15 characters, including women, children, Americans, Brits and the denizens of a tiny Irish village. A big-budget movie shoots on location in County Kerry, and the locals get cast as extras. When tragedy interrupts the filming, conflicts arise between the Hollywood types and the country folk. Crawford and Turner are adept at quick changes of accents and mannerisms, making it easy to follow their sudden shifts of character. The play goes soggy toward the end, but the good performances (including their two-man "Riverdance") make up for it. Continues through June 5 at Theatre Three, 2800 Routh St. in the Quadrangle. 214-871-3300. Reviewed May 13.