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Arts Annie, get a rope

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The Majestic's Broadway season is half-moribund, but there's still reason to smile, Sunshine

Another year, another Annie. Yes, everyone's favorite musical of the Great Depression - and ruthless exploitation of the proletariat by Daddy Warbucks - sings its little heart and eyes out this winter in the Broadway in San Antonio series at the Majestic Theatre. While other cities offer in their Broadway Series trenchant comic performances (New Orleans had planned Dame Edna before Hurricane Katrina crashed the party) or impossibly beautiful reinterpretations of traditional works (Tempe's Swan Lake by Matthew Bourne), San Antonio sees the return of a show with enough sugar to paralyze diabetics from here to Boerne. Featuring such puke-inducing songs as "You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile," Annie would normally be a sure thing for Lamest Touring Production to hit San Antonio.

Unfortunately, the zillionth national tour of Joseph and His Technicolor Dreamcoat must claim that dubious honor. Based loosely - very loosely - on the Biblical tale of Jacob and his sons, Andrew Lloyd Webber's Joseph has been transmogrified from a slender, passably charming children's show into an overpriced Broadway behemoth and community-theater perennial. The addition of two pop stars to the cast, Patrick Cassidy and American Idol's Amy Adams, can't possibly justify another trip to San Antonio. Are we really clamoring for another chorus of "Go, go, go, Joseph!"? Get ready for a Technicolor yawn.

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Julie Taymor's Lion King sings and dances its way into your pocketbooks this season as part of Broadway in San Antonio at the Majestic Theatre.

At least Webber's oft-touring Evita, scheduled for a November stop at the Majestic, justifies the evening-length treatment of its title character. A musical biography of Argentina's most enigmatic political figure, Evita traces the life story of Eva Peron as she clawed, slept, and shimmied her way to First Lady before succumbing to breast cancer at age 33. A mostly sung-through score features the camp favorite "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina." (The accompanying arm gestures are not optional.)

Fortunately, there are some brighter spots in the season. Movin' Out, the Billy Joel/Twyla Tharp toe-tapper, opens in October, and reviews generally indicate that the audience won't vomit. It's one of a flood of so-called "jukebox" musicals that have of late inundated the Great White Way: shows that take "hit" songs of a bygone era and shoehorn them into a trite, feel-good, critic-proof story. The mother of all jukebox musicals, Mamma Mia!, at least had a self-deprecating wit to it; but by the end of the evening, it devolved into an ABBA concert, as if acknowledging that the story was always pointless (the joke's on us, I guess). But Mamma's misbegotten descendants, including the Beach Boys-inspired Good Vibrations and the sputtering Lennon, show the very limited scope of the form. Movin' Out, which follows a group of college chums through two decades of Vietnam, drugs, and (of course) rock 'n' roll, at least had the excellent sense to lasso the astoundingly talented Twarp as choreographer for Joel's music. This production should be worth the trip.

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The Twyla Tharp-Billy Joel collaboration Movin' Out

After hitting every other city in America, The Lion King finally (OK, I'll say it) roars into San Antonio next April. A Broadway version of the Elton John and Tim Rice animated film, Lion King is helmed by Julie Taymor, best known to American audiences as the auteur director of the films Frida and Titus. Much of her work in the theater, however, is based on her experience in East Asian puppet theater, and her Lion King stunned audiences and critics with its blend of Asian, African, and American theatrical techniques. Even though the show is scheduled to be parked at the Majestic for five weeks, it will likely be a sell-out. Get tickets early.

The season opener, Cirque Dreams, isn't properly a Broadway show at all, but somehow it managed to lead off the series anyway (and will have closed by the time this column runs). Normally, this would be cause for a rant about truth-in-advertising, but the show is so visually appealing that we'll let it slide this one time. A Cirque Du Soleil knock-off but without the pretense, Cirque Dreams is exactly the sort of thing we'd like to see more of downtown: original productions that are making their first trip to the Alamo City, not their 10th. In the meantime, we must face the Broadway season bravely and with a smile since (as a certain cherubic orphan likes to say) you can bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, there'll be sun.

By Thomas Jenkins


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