Ace Greater love hath no regional theater than that it transform itself into an out-of-town tryout venue for another regional theater. In a gesture of supreme generosity, the Rep kicks off its 40th season by exposing St. Louis viewers to all the problems in Ace, a new musical dreamscape about fathers and sons and free skies, presumably (and pointlessly) set in St. Louis in the 1950s. If you enjoy seeing a work-in-progress, this is the show for you, because it's likely being overhauled nightly. If you prefer to see a finished product, you'll have to travel to Cincinnati next month to see Ace at the Playhouse in the Park, where it will surely be a triumph. Through October 1 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.
Mahalia: A Gospel Musical The Black Rep's musical bio of gospel legend Mahalia Jackson is straightforward Sunday-school fare, with Mahalia bearing witness to the power of God every step of the way. Unfortunately, her faithful life doesn't make good drama at least not in the hands of playwright Tom Stolz, who gives the actors too many words and not enough action. The liveliest moments come when Mahalia (Roz White Gonsalves) butts heads with any of the characters played by Pamela D. Mallory. The music is easily the best part of the production: Gonsalves' rich contralto easily mimics Mahalia's, and it's clear from the audience reaction that her singing strikes chords of recognition. Mallory and music director Malcome L. Speed accompany Gonsalves and lend their voices to several of the gospel numbers. Through September 24 at Washington University's Edison Theatre, 6445 Forsyth Boulevard (in the Mallinckrodt Student Center), University City; September 29-October 1 at the Orthwein Theatre, 101 North Warson Road (on the campus of the Mary Institute and Country Day School), Ladue. Tickets are $30 ($25 for students and seniors; $10 rush seats available for students, 10 minutes before showtime). Call 314-534-3810 or visit www.theblackrep.org.
Menopause The Musical This sassy musical revue parodies songs of the '60s and '70s focusing on issues of aging and hormone imbalance (to give you an idea: A disco medley includes "Night Sweating" and "Stayin' Awake"). Sandra Benton is a powerhouse singer whose Tina Turner brings down the house. Brooke Davis scores with "Puff the Magic Dragon" and Lee Anne Mathews delivers a sultry "Tropical Hot Flash," while Rosemary Watts has fun with the raciest number, a tribute to self-love. The only problem with music director Joe Dreyer's slick 90 minutes is that it's too loud. 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 or visit www.playhouseatwestport.com.