The Lion King. How do you turn a decent cartoon about African wildlife into a lame Broadway musical? 1) Puzzle carefully about the problem of costumes and sets. Pour millions of dollars and hours of mental energy into making your actors look like lions, hyenas, elephants, wildebeests, giraffes, and birds. Solve the problem brilliantly. Hire Julie Taymor to design the magnificent costumes and masks (and to direct the show). Hire Garth Fagan to choreograph elegant, exciting, Afro-Caribbean dance routines. Make sure Donald Holder lights the stage with an eloquent feeling for African distances and sunshine. In general make the show a visual feast. Then, 2) squint in confusion at the script, and 3) carve it up to make room for appalling songs by Tim Rice and Elton John. You'll have a profitable bunch of nonsense with more than one God-soaked number that sounds indistinguishable from bad Whitney Houston. The only cast member who can transcend this mess and give a stirring performance is Thandazile Soni, as Rafiki the monkey shaman, who gets to sing songs like "Nants' Ingonyama," by Lebo M and other African chants originated by Tsidii Le Loka on Broadway. Bob Bouchard is also funny as Pumbaa the warthog, and Derek Smith plays a perfectly arrogant, sinister Scar, the pretender lion king. Otherwise the show is forced and childish. Adults looking for good theater will be happier when the performers dance instead of trying to act. Through Nov. 21 at the Orpheum Theatre, 1182 Market (at Eighth Street), S.F. Tickets are $26-160; call 512-7770 or visit www.bestofbroadway-sf.com. (Michael Scott Moore) Reviewed Feb. 11.
Not a Genuine Black Man. It's not easy being green, but try being a black kid in San Leandro in the early '70s. When Brian Copeland got there -- just a few months after the Summer of Love, he points out -- it was one of the most viciously racist suburbs in America. Now it's officially the most diverse. "Take that, San Francisco," Copeland chides. He's earned this attitude, not just for going through his hell of growing up, but also for extracting from it such affirmative, hilarious stuff. Copeland's rightfully popular one-man show is wrought from pain and rage, but never really succumbs to bitterness. "Is that black?" he asks, and proves that it is. Some of his best stereotype-busting material doesn't feel especially new, but it does feel good. Besides, it's the stereotypes that have passed their expiration dates: Copeland's title comes from an accusation recently flung at him by a cranky listener who called in to his KGO radio program. This show is his response. With help from declarative lighting and David Ford's direction, Copeland creates an affecting hybrid of the dramatic monologue and the rollicking stand-up act. Through Nov. 27 at the Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd Street), S.F. Tickets are $15-22; call 826-5750 or visit www.themarsh.org. (Jonathan Kiefer) Reviewed June 2.
"Welcome to the Hypnodrome." For five years the Thrillpeddlers troupe has mounted old scripts from Paris' notorious Théâtre du Grand Guignol; director Russell Blackwood (with his former partner, Daniel Zilber) put on an annual revue called Shocktoberfest! featuring short plays about sadists and lunatics. Now the troupe has its own théâtre in a gloomy converted warehouse South of Market. The Hypnodrome is part theater, part Halloween fright-maze, and "Welcome to the Hypnodrome" is a production of three short Guignol plays intended to show off the space. Unfortunately, the plays are lame. Except for Jill Tracy and Ginette Baljour, and in one case Eric O'Brien, the actors seem stiff and bored, and nobody manages to cast a Gothic spell. Unless a director works this material into something camp-outrageous or funny, Guignol isn't worth reviving, and for some reason Blackwood has thrown no energy into creating a spectacle. Through Nov. 20 at the Hypnodrome, 575 10th St. (at Bryant), S.F. Tickets are $18-20, or $45-50 for two in a "Shock Box"; call 248-1900 or visit www.hypnodrome.com. (Michael Scott Moore) Reviewed Oct. 27.
Addicted: Mark Lundholm discusses his bad habits, from drugs to alcohol to the Internet, not to mention shopping, chocolate, and golf. See Web site for a schedule of performances. Through Nov. 14, $20-40, 771-6900. Marines Memorial Theater, 609 Sutter (at Mason), 877-771-6900, www.marinesmemorialtheatre.com.
Are We Almost There?: Morris Bobrow's rollicking, long-running musical comedy about the trials and tribulations of travel. Fri., Sat., 8 p.m., $20-22. Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 433-3040.