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Lone Star Love

Presented by Amas Musical Theatre at the John Houseman Theatre, 450 W. 42 St., NYC, Dec. 8-Feb. 6. Casting by Barry Moss.

Ripping Shakespeare from his Elizabethan setting and plunking him down in an incongruous time and locale does not necessarily produce theatrically valid results. The musical "Lone Star Love" attempts this oft-tried formula by transplanting the romantic and mercenary shenanigans of that lovable rascal Falstaff from "The Merry Wives of Windsor" to post-Civil War Texas. John L. Haber, whose program credit reads "conceived and adapted by," forces too much humor into the new setting rather than letting it flow freely. Much of his book is lifted wholesale from the Bard with only a few references altered. We're supposed to chuckle at the incongruity of farmhands drawling in iambic pentameter, but the jokes are mostly juvenile. "How dust thou?" asks a cowboy of a servant carrying a feather duster.

But the songs by Jack Herrick (with extra contributions from director Michael Bogdanov, Bland Simpson, and Tommy Thompson) make a juicy serving of country-western pie. Herrick is a member of the Red Clay Ramblers, who provide foot-stomping fun as part of the onstage orchestra and as scruffy members of Falstaff's ragtag retinue. Bogdanov and choreographer Randy Skinner turn Haber's limp rewrite of a classic comedy into a boisterous barn gathering, complete with a preshow buffet and an intermission on stage with lemonade and cookies.

Jay O. Sanders delights with unbridled lasciviousness as a blowhard Southern-fried Falstaff reminiscent of the cartoon rooster Foghorn Leghorn. Clarke Thorell has the firmest grasp on the right satirical style by underplaying the conventions of his character, a yodeling buckaroo. Harriett D. Foy pulls out every trick in the trunk to make Miss Quickly a sassy center of attention. Beth Leavel and Stacia Fernandez display full-throttle pipes as the merry wives, while Gary Sandy and Dan Sharkey bristle smartly as their spouses.

A yahoo to Derek McLane's homey barn set, Jane Greenwood's frontier costumes, and Jeff Croiter's sunshiny lighting.

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