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Here's a musical that overcomes an uninspired, predictable storyline with solid songs and vibrant production. Originally staged off Broadway in 1997 and making its South Florida debut, The Last Session tells the story of Gideon (Gary Waldman), a singer/songwriter who's given up his fight with AIDS. All that's left to do is down a shot glass full of pills and finish an unconventional suicide note, a musical recording to be left to his partner, Jack. The Last Session shows us one day in a Los Angeles recording studio with Gideon and his not-clued-in friends creating his final work. But wait! There's the X factor. One singer doesn't show, and he's replaced by Buddy (Dean Swann), a country-comes-to-town Baptist who -- like every off-the-shelf Bible thumper -- is uncomfortable with homosexuals and can't see shades of gray. Needless to say, friction ensues with a handful of unoriginal exchanges about what is truly sin and whether one person can judge another. Just when things can't seem to get more banal, Buddy and Gideon find common ground and, aw shucks, the suicide plan becomes less certain. Fortunately, musicals with humor and good songs don't necessarily have to set foot in new territory to become award-winning cult hits. This is a funny show. Some laughs are had with Buddy's najavascript:passCharacter('207')veté, but the best lines come from Tryshia's (Lyrehc Jordan) and Vicki's (Jeanne Lynn Gray) steady bickering. Overall, the acting is good enough to sell the jokes. The play's obvious strength lies in Steve Schalchlin's gospel-pop blended songs, which are in good hands. Waldman, who sings the most, is pleasant to listen to. But the standout number belongs to Jordan doing "Singer and the Song," which is a thrill in this intimate venue. The Last Session may be heavy-handed, but there's so much rhythm and zeal that it's hard not to get caught up in it. (Through June 19 at Hollywood Playhouse, 2640 Washington Street, Hollywood. Call 800-655-1773.)

Now Showing

The Good German: David Wiltse's 2003 drama about a German couple who shelters a Jewish publisher during the Hitler era features plenty of articulate debate about prejudice and personal responsibility, but all the talk never results in dramatic fire. Louis Tyrell's production is solid if not stellar, with a skilled acting ensemble backed by a production design of somber earth tones. The result is appropriately Germanic -- thoughtful, solid, and rather dull. (Through June 12 by Florida Stage, 262 S. Ocean Blvd, Manalapan 561-585-3433, 800-514-3837)

Lips Together, Teeth Apart: Terrence McNally's 1991 Lips Together, Teeth Apart invites you to wander through the body-strewn battlefield of the early war on AIDS. Sally and Sam (Patti Gardner and Oscar Cheda) find themselves spending July 4 at the beach house willed to Sally by her recently dead younger brother, David. Sam's sister Chloe and her husband John (Angie Radosh and Gordon McConnell) are along for the ride. As you'd expect, the play's four characters have packed along their own secrets from musty hetero closets. To really understand the play, you must hear from not just four characters, but five. The fifth is the play's setting -- Fire Island, where a vacation is like spending time in a gay oxygen tent without much to do except swim, eat, party, and fuck (not necessarily in that order). (Through June 5 at Palm Beach Dramaworks, 322 Banyan Blvd., West Palm Beach. 561-514-4042)

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Jason Cottrell

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