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Our critics weigh in on local theater

Shopping! The Musical. Some theater types want to be Hamlet; others want to be Liza Minnelli. The smiling, hardworking performers in this new musical revue definitely fall into the latter category. Lyricist-composer Morris Bobrow uses his infectious, irreverent humor to great effect as he pays homage to the highs and lows of our compellingly crass commercial culture. He uses the small, cramped theater in a straightforward manner — four center-stage stools and an amusing backdrop provide the set. The accomplished accompanist Ben Keim keeps things lively on one side of the stage behind an upright piano. The actors lead us through songs that bring to mind Jerry Seinfeld's sharp observations on mundane modern life: "Shopping in Style" extols the virtues of Costco, and "Serious Shopping" imagines a man trying to buy lettuce from a riotously over-the-top grocery cult. The musical runs just over an hour, yet it still has a few rough spots. The mid-show sketch "Checking Out" gives us a limp comedic premise that we've seen before on sub-par sitcoms, and the piece "5 & 10" is a mix of awkward nostalgia and pitch problems. Nevertheless, this is a clever collection of tunes performed with an unabashedly cheesy enthusiasm that would make Liza proud. In an open-ended run at the Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (between Powell and Mason), S.F. Tickets are $25-29; call (800) 838-3006 or visit www.shoppingthemusical.com. (Frank Wortham) Reviewed June 14.

43 Plays for 43 Presidents
La Val's Subterranean Theater, 1834 Euclid (at Hearst), Berkeley, 510-234-6046.
Beach Blanket Babylon
Club Fugazi, 678 Green (at Powell), 421-4222.
Beckett in Winter
Off-Market Theater, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), 896-6477.
Beyond Therapy
Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 433-1226.
Big City Improv
Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 433-1226.
Burn This
Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason (at Geary), Suite 601, 989-0023.
The Circle
American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary (at Mason), 749-2228.
Death of a Salesman
Actors Theatre San Francisco, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 296-9179.
Emperor Norton, The Musical
Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 433-1226.
First Look New Plays Festival
Zeum Theater, 221 Fourth St. (at Howard), 820-3320.
GayProv
Off-Market Studio, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), 896-6477.
Improv Revolution
Off-Market Theater, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), 896-6477.
Jersey Boys
Curran Theatre, 445 Geary (between Taylor and Mason), 551-2000.
Killing My Lobster Faces the Music
ODC Theater, 3153 17th St. (at Shotwell), 863-9834.
Love, Chaos & Dinner
Pier 29, Embarcadero (at Battery), 273-1620.
Luma Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St. (at Capp), 863-7576.
Murder Mystery Dinner
The Archbishop's Mansion, 1000 Fulton (at Steiner), 563-7872.
Pillowman
Berkeley Repertory's Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison (at Shattuck), Berkeley, 510-647-2949.
Rock & Roll Theatresports Tournament
Bayfront Theater, Fort Mason, Bldg. B (Marina & Buchanan), 474-8935.
Rose
Traveling Jewish Theatre, 470 Florida (at Mariposa), 285-8282.
Strangers We Know
Magic Theatre, Fort Mason, Bldg. D, Marina & Buchanan, 441-8822.
Tings Dey Happen
The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.
Women on the Way Festival
Dance Mission Theater, 3316 24th St. (at Mission), 826-4401.

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