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Posted at 10:53 AM ET, 07/ 1/2010

On stage in July

By Stephanie Merry

Charlie Ross returns to Woolly Mammoth with "One Man Lord of the Rings." (Lisa Hebden)

Get ready for a Broadway invasion this month. From "Mary Poppins" to "Avenue Q," big-name musicals are taking over area stages.

Those who grew up watching Julie Andrews in "Mary Poppins" and can recite her lines by heart may want to check their expectations at the door for the theatrical version at the Kennedy Center. The plot was tweaked before opening in London and premiering on Broadway. Still, expect an ample dose of sugar plus dramatic spectacles, including the umbrella-toting nanny floating above the audience.

Charles Ross honed his abridgement skills with "One Man Star Wars Trilogy," and now he's back at Woolly Mammoth Theatre to reprise his version of Frodo's fateful quest in "One Man Lord of the Rings." Ross distills the super-size epic into 65 minutes, during which he alternates between pretty-boy archer with luscious locks and lethargic talking tree with the greatest of ease.

There may be time to kill until Signature's next season, but the theater has a little something to hold people over. Its eclectic Sizzlin' Summer Cabaret series features everything from jazz age ditties sung by Sandy Bainum to Bob McDonald's homage to Broadway baritone John Raitt.

The National Players are known for their approachable, family-friendly shows, and their next production is no exception. "Forever Plaid," the off-Broadway musical, follows a group of squeaky-clean 1950s musicians whose untimely ends keep them from fulfilling their potential -- until they get a miraculous second chance.

Capital Fringe Festival is celebrating its fifth anniversary, and the extravaganza of offbeat theater returns with crowd-pleasing companies from past years. Among the 100-odd productions stretching over more than two weeks, the Rude Mechanicals' all-female adaptation of Shakespearean theater with "No Gentlemen of Verona" is worth catching, as is the popular Dizzy Miss Lizzie's Roadside Revue, which is staging an edgier version of the Irish legend "Finn McCool."

Studio Theatre's 2ndStage takes a stab at "Passing Strange," a lyrical coming-of-age tale set to a rock score. The show infused Broadway's 2008 theater slate with fresh air and, despite a short run, garnered rave reviews.

Although "Avenue Q" is a puppet show, you'll want to leave the kids at home. The Tony-winning musical features a mix of "Sesame Street" lookalikes and real actors for an irreverent look at the disconnect between the dreams and realities of living in New York.

And the final Broadway import of the month: "Dreamgirls." The musical, which made a big splash when it opened in 1981, securing a handful of Tony Awards, has enjoyed a resurgence thanks to the star-studded film adaptation. The show follows an all-female music group, reminiscent of the Supremes, as they rise to fame in the 1960s.

-- Stephanie Merry

By Stephanie Merry  | July 1, 2010; 10:53 AM ET
Categories:  Theater  
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