This Rogers and Hammerstein classic has all the songs you've grown to love for more than 60 years: "Some Enchanted Evening," "Cockeyed Optimist," "Bali Ha'I," and tons more. But at the core of this tune-fest is a strong stance against racial prejudice that must have been shocking when the show opened on Broadway in 1949. With two plotlines involving entrenched racism and miscegenation, it's not a subject that can easily be avoided by any audience member. The central love-struck roles of Emile de Becque and Nellie Forbush are handled with style and elegance by Greg Violand and Kayce Cummings. Most of the chuckles, however, are triggered by Tim Welsh, whose Luther Billis is a sailor in the weasely tradition of Phil Silvers as the similarly-named Sgt. Bilko. Under the direction of American musical guru Terri Kent, with choreography by MaryAnn Black and music direction by Jonathan Swoboda, this version has a splendid blend of fine voices along with romance, slapstick and the aforementioned cultural relevance. Even with one key performance that isn't up to snuff, it's another home run for the Porthouse company.
Through June 29 at Porthouse Theatre, on the Blossom Music Center campus, 1145 West Steels Corners Rd., Cuyahoga Falls, 330-672-3884
Guys and Dolls
Great Lakes Theater & Playhouse Square
Those lovable cardsharks, bone-shakers, horse-race touts and their dames are back again, filling the fictional streets of New York City with their tortured syntax and great songs, in Guys and Dolls. This co-production by Great Lakes Theater and PlayhouseSquare gets plenty of things right—including a couple juicy performances and some ensemble dance scenes that jolt the Hanna stage to life. But a surprising vacuum that develops around a couple of the main characters makes this theatrical hand less than a royal flush. More than 60 years old, G&D is a classic Broadway treat with a bulletproof book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, and legendary music and lyrics by Frank Loesser. Those creators were playing with a deck stacked with aces: the Damon Runyon-inspired characters who disdain contractions in their mashed-up lingo of real slang and made-up palaver. Kirsten Wyatt as Adelaide chews the scenery into a fine paste, squeaking and squealing with delight and rage as she tries to corral the ever-elusive Nathan. And while the male leads are less enthralling, the handsome production and the always-wonderful music make this a sure bet.
Through June 30 at the Hanna Theatre, 2067 East 14th St., co-produced by Great Lakes Theater and PlayhouseSquare,
Smokey Joe's Café
If you're looking for a pleasant diversion on a summer evening, you'd better put this show on your menu. But if you prefer musicals to have meaning and substance, this show may seem like just so much "Yakety Yak." Yes, the songs of 1950s-rock mavens Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller are back, and this production—directed by Scott Plate and choreographed by Gregory Daniels—works its tail off to deliver the goods. Many of the songs are familiar, such as "Stand By Me," "Jailhouse Rock," and Kansas City." However there are a bunch of other tunes that never received much airplay back in the day. And for good reason. The nine-person cast is in almost constant motion, with some standout singing and dancing. This is essentially a concert show, since virtually no words are spoken and there is no story line in evidence. But it's neat to see black and white folks together, singin' and dancin' their hearts out. Especially when that happened so rarely back in the Eisenhower era.
Through June 30 at the Cain Park Alma Theatre, corner of Lee and Superior in Cleveland Heights, 216-371-3000.