Washington Post critic Nelson Pressley says Gilbert and Sullivan’s “H.M.S. Pinafore” at Olney Theatre Center is a “perfect summer escape.” The “fabulous pajama party,” courtesy of Chicago’s Hypocrites, “features (a) a mixed-use area where audience and cast happily share space; (b) a pillow pit at center stage for soft moshing — kids and adults plainly love it; and (c) a talented cast of musician-clowns playing guitars, ukuleles, banjo, fiddle and even toy piano while they happily slash through the satirical operetta. . . . It wouldn’t be such fun if the cast couldn’t really play both the puckish wit and the jaunty tunes of Gilbert and Sullivan. But they can — in pajamas, keep in mind, and always with an instrument in hand.” In repertory with “The Pirates of Penzance” through Aug. 19 at Olney Theatre Center.
“‘Hamilton’ may have taken three years to reach the Kennedy Center Opera House from its birthplace off-Broadway,” says Marks, “but it feels as if Lin-Manuel Miranda’s masterwork had an appointment on the Potomac from the start. When Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson start rapping about the national debt and states’ rights, you know this hip-hop musical is so made for Washington that it could occupy its own monument on the Mall. . . . And it’s not just any musical, but a work that’s both cool and wonky and without a doubt one of the great musicals of all time.” Through Sept. 16 at the Kennedy Center.
Marks is less positive about “Dave,” the world-premiere musical comedy at Arena Stage: “The ingredients are all there for a delightful romp through executive time — an utterly charming leading man; a well-matched, Broadway-tested composer and lyricist; an intuitively gifted director — and an ideal backdrop for sharp-elbowed, contemporary political satire. . . . But this visually dynamic show — in a Washington tryout phase at Arena much like ‘Next to Normal’ and ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ before it — needs to address some of the early-draft issues that leave a theatergoer with a middling impression, courtesy of a weaker second act that dissipates its impact with campiness and easy laughs, and resolves itself too tritely.” Through Aug. 19 at Arena Stage.
“Doubtless the best version of this 2005 musical you are ever going to hear,” The Post’s Peter Marks wrote when director John Doyle’s streamlined staging of this musical opened on Broadway in 2015. The show is based on Alice Walker’s best-selling novel (which became the 1985 Steven Spielberg movie with Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey) about a black woman’s slow self-awakening in the Jim Crow South. Doyle cut 30 minutes off the running time of the original musical, and the rousing gospel-blues songs helped power the production to the 2016 Tony Award for best revival. Through Aug. 26 at the Kennedy Center.