Ain't Misbehavin' Five singers, ten hands and fifty fingers spread rhythm around in abundance in this modestly ambitious tribute to prodigious songwriter Thomas "Fats" Waller. Drummond Crenshaw, Anita Jackson, Julia Nixon, Teressa Renee' Williams and especially the satin-smooth J. Samuel Davis bring energy and affection to Waller standards from the 1920s and '30s, including "The Joint Is Jumpin'," "Honeysuckle Rose" and "Keeping Out of Mischief Now." This revue starts out as a merry snapshot of the past, but by the time the ensemble sings the haunting "Black and Blue," the evening has become suffused with pain. Not even a toe-tapping finale can disguise the searing, unhealed scar at the show's spine. Performed by the Black Rep through February 4 at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square. Tickets are $17 to $40. Call 314-534-3810 or visit www.theblackrep.org.
Hana's Suitcase Reviewed in this issue.
Heartbreak House In George Bernard Shaw's indictment of national lethargy, the ship (of state) is headed for the rocks, and no one but the irascible Captain Shotover seems to care. This supernatural old salt is part sage, part madman, part prophet. While most of the other characters talk and talk as their nation drifts toward ruin, Shotover (portrayed with crusty panache by Thomas Carson) rants and rails with humor and insight. It's a daunting challenge to hold the audience's attention in a play beset by inertia; this production attacks the problem head-on by manifesting a stillness that allows Shaw's words and ideas to take center stage. Performed by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis through January 28 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $14 to $63 (rush seats available for students and seniors, $8 and $10, respectively, 30 minutes before showtime). Call 314-968-4925 or visit www.repstl.org.
Menopause The Musical Who knew hormone shifts could be so much fun? An energetic cast of four women "of a certain age" sing and dance their way through parodies of popular '60s and '70s songs whose rewritten lyrics tackle night sweats, memory loss and mood swings. Laura Ackerman has great comic timing in her rendition of "Puff the Magic Dragon," while Rosemary Watts has almost too much fun with her ode to sex toys ("You Are My Destiny"). Rochelle Walker does a great Tina Turner impersonation, and Lee Anne Mathews sings a sultry "Tropical Hot Flash." Designed to amuse and empower women who have "gone through the passage," the show ends with the audience joining the cast for a raucous kick-line celebration. Open-ended run at the Playhouse at West Port Plaza, 635 West Port Plaza (second level), Page Avenue and I-270, Maryland Heights. Tickets are $44.50. Call 314-469-7529.