Capsule Reviews 

Our critics weigh in on local theater

Cowgirls -- So these three gals walk into a bar, right? Only these gals are some kinda chamber music group called the Coghill Trio, and they've been booked for this honky-tonk's grand reopening because of a wacky misunderstanding that they're a country band called the Cowgirl Trio. So these uptight New England ladies have to learn to be country real quick-like in order to save the bar from being taken over by the bank, because they're apparently the only musicians currently anywhere near Kansas. Maybe it's because the ol' country-singing bar owner sees something deep inside each and every one of those gals just dying to get out. Something like ... a cowgirl. If you think this premise sounds like pure musical-comedy gold, you're not half wrong. You're much more wrong than that. Cowgirls is plagued by the kind of jokes and mugging you'd find in an average sitcom, only broader, with lots of flailing arms and homespun wisdom. The flimsy script is just there to set up the musical numbers, which would be all right if the songs were any good. The best of the country tunes are just okay, and the sentimental numbers make you want to hang some chicken wire in front of the stage, just to be on the safe side. (Through June 12 at the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts, 925-943-7469 or DLRCA.org).

Let's Go to the Movies -- It's no surprise that a community theater in Lafayette thought it would be a good idea to put together a musical revue of cinematic songs as a season closer and call it Let's Go to the Movies. What is a surprise is that this light fare turns out to be a hilarious evening's entertainment that the most jaded urbanite could enjoy. This is not because the aforementioned concept is some stroke of genius -- far from it -- but because of a happy accident. The director originally slated to create the show for the Town Hall Theatre Company bailed at the last minute, and Venus Rising founder Kevin Morales was called in to come up with a new show as quickly as possible -- the catch being that it had to feature songs from films and be called Let's Go to the Movies. So what does Morales do? He writes a play about a guy who has to write a musical revue called Let's Go to the Movies. If the first act is funny, the second really rolls out the belly laughs, building on the first and on itself to marvelous effect. The songs are worked naturally enough into various audition and brainstorming scenes, and if some of them are pretty cheesy, it doesn't matter, because they're rendered in such an over-the-top way. It ain't Shakespeare, but it is a thoroughly enjoyable evening of musical comedy as promised, and then some. (Through July 18 at the Berkeley Rep's Roda Theatre, 510-647-2949 or www.berkeleyrep.org)

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