Some Enchanted Eveningis missing something -- not surprising, considering that the director quit halfway through rehearsals, leaving the cast to do its own direction and even build the set. The multitiered, blue-and-green, no-frills set would be practical with its many entrances and exits if the cast weren't afraid of it. The stairs become a hazard, especially for the women in their high heels, making their noisy entrances anything but graceful. At times, cast members even seem scared of one another. When they do connect during this evening of Rodgers and Hammerstein tunes, it often seems contrived. Marla Diane Gideos loosens up in Oklahoma's "Can't Say No." An energetic Shane Blanford connects with "Maria" from The Sound of Music. Stephanie Cohen switches between tickling the ivories and providing the most powerful voice of the evening. Songbird Kendra Tarbill looks gorgeous in the second act, when cast members change from "grocery store casual" to more formal attire. Reminiscent of classic beauties, this voluptuous redhead knows how to charm with a playful smile or a sensual snuggle. Despite the lack of direction, the voices of this ensemble blend well, weaving between Rodgers and Hammerstein songs with many beautiful moments. Given a good polishing, this raw talent could shine, but at the moment, the show is more a singing showcase than a production. (Through January 30 at Lake Worth Playhouse, 713 Lake Ave., Lake Worth, 561-586-6410)
Enchanted April lives up to its name, with enticing characters and an engaging plot. Lotty Wilton (Cary Anne Spear) finds herself dissatisfied with her tyrannical husband and her humdrum existence. She finds escape through an ad in the paper -- a rentable castle in Italy. Her heart aflame with possibility, she ropes a reluctant fellow churchgoer, Rose (Laura Turnbull), into the vacation scheme. Needing two others to help pay the bills, Lotty and Rose entice the lonely and beautiful modern girl, Lady Caroline (Annie Reilly), and a rigid, gray-haired drill sergeant of a woman named Mrs. Graves (Pat Nesbit). The unfolding of the relationship among these strangers is poignant and moving. Spear is priceless, turning from a flighty victim to a natural and exuberant group leader. Turnbull evolves from a repressed wife into a blooming young woman ready to accept love. Reilly and Nesbit play character roles, but both show growth, especially Nesbit, who skillfully employs body language, speech, and a tight-lipped smile to unveil Mrs. Graves' more vulnerable side. (Through February 13 at Caldwell Theater, 7873 N. Federal Hwy., Boca Raton, 561-241-7380.)
The Boys Next Door is a heart-warming look at the lives of four mentally challenged men who live together. The actors brilliantly depict four unique, charming, and quirky personalities. Arnold (Michael Collins), in a colorful mismatched wardrobe and large black glasses, constantly spells out the injustices of life, threatening to move to Russia. A chubby and lovable Norman (Jason Scott Quinn) always has a donut hiding somewhere; he learns about love and dancing with an equally plump and challenged Sheila (Kelly Legratta), who toddles about shyly with a big bow on her head. Lucien (Brandon Morris) stoops over as he walks, pushing up his glasses, often carrying an entire set of Department of Agriculture manuals while mumbling the alphabet. Barry (Jeffrey Bower) seems the best-adjusted but is schizophrenic; he thinks he's a golf pro, but he shuts down when his father (Gordon McConnell), a harsh, abusive man, pays a surprise visit. Author Tom Griffin has crafted the play skillfully, allowing the audience the liberty to laugh while gaining respect for a diverse and often misunderstood group. (Through February 6 at Palm Beach Dramaworks, 322 Banyan Blvd., West Palm Beach, 561-625-6010.)
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