It's called Around the World in 80 Days at Lamb's Players Theatre, but it should be called "Around the World in Two Hours." That's how long (or not so long) it takes to tell Jules Verne's sprawling 1873 story of Phileas Fogg's trans-global quest. It's a whirlwind telling, with change of scenery that's more imaginary than real, and almost no props (save for a very inventive "elephant" and a snow sledge that swings like a pendulum).
Laura Eason's adaptation of Verne's novel and artistic director Robert Smyth's staging must get props for ambition: London, Dover, Calais, Brindisi, Suez, Bombay, Calcutta, Yokohoma, Hong Kong, San Francisco and New York all on one stage. But the story is earnest and as light as gossamer, with an impeccably confident Fogg (Lance Arthur Smith) upstaged by his more frantic but likable valet Passepartout (Bryan Barbarain) and a Snidely Whiplash (minus the mustache twirl) of a Scotland Yard man (Jon Lorenz) who keeps turning up like a bad penny. Kaja Amado Dunn is sweetness personified as the Indian girl rescued from a funeral pyre, and though her character and Smith's Fogg enjoy no particular chemistry, you just know they're going to end up together.
It's difficult to place much emotional investment in any of the adventures that comprise this episodic around-the-world trek. As soon as something seems to be at stake in one of the exotic locales, our heroes and heroine are snatching their suitcases, kicking up their heels and on their way again, racing to catch a coach, a train or a boat. (At least they don't have to race to catch the elephant—they just negotiate to buy the beast.) If the pacing feels hurried, you can hardly blame director Smyth or the cast members—after all, Verne had 37 chapters to tell this tale.
The played-straight show could use much more tongue in cheek and tendency to spoof, as it does with a clever Star Trek reference in Act 2 and a running joke about absent balloons (you'll have to be there). Jackie Chan tried to have fun with this story in a 2004 film and flopped. At least Lamb's has that turkey beat, and you don't have to sit through 80 days of movie previews beforehand.
Around the World in 80 Days runs through Nov. 18 at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado. $26- $60. lambsplayers.org
A Hammer, A Bell, and A Song to Sing: What was originally a show celebrating the music of Pete Seeger became a broader piece about the folk music of social and political change in America. San Diego Repertory Theatre staged it nearly a year ago and is bringing it back now, with additional material. It opens Nov. 3 at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown. sdrep.org
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots: It's the hotly anticipated world premiere of a musical, based on the 2002 album of the same name by The Flaming Lips, about a girl who must choose between two guys and—you guessed it—battle some pink robots. Opens Nov. 6 at La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.com
Zombie Prom: A musical comedy about a high-school student who commits suicide by nuclear waste and comes back as a zombie to graduate and be with the girl he loves. Presented by Carlsbad Community Theatre, it runs Nov. 2 through 4 at Avo Playhouse in Vista. carlsbadcommunitytheatre.com
The Sugar Witch: In the San Diego premiere of this Southern gothic drama, a woman tries to rid a Florida family of a curse that their own grandmother placed on them. Through Nov. 3 at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. onstageplayhouse.org
The Night of the Iguana: In the 1940s, a minister has been expelled from his church and, separately, accused of statutory rape, and now he's in Mexico and entangled with a handful of women who have problems of their own. Presented by the Southwestern College School of Arts and Communication, it runs through Nov. 4 in Mayan Hall at the college's Chula Vista campus.
Over the River and Through the Woods: When Nick tells his two sets of grandparents that he's been offered a job on the other coast, they try to keep him around by dangling a hot chick in front of his face. Through Nov. 4 at the Broadway Theatre in Vista. broadwayvista.com
Spider Baby the Musical: In this return-engagement adaption of a 1964 cult horror flick, three inbred siblings terrorize a couple of relatives who visit with malicious intent. Through Nov. 4 at 10th Avenue Theatre, Downtown. spiderbabythemusical.com
Words By: Ira Gershwin and the Great American Songbook: A musical tribute to George Gershwin's older brother, who penned the lyrics to numerous classic tunes from the 1920s through the 1950s. Through Nov. 18 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
Around the World in 80 Days: It's 1872 and smart guy Phileas Fogg sets out to prove he can get around the globe in less than three months. How quaint! Through Nov. 18 at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org
miXtape: Generation X was torn between disillusionment and hope in this cavalcade of music from the 1980s. Produced by Lamb's Players Theatre, it runs through Nov. 25 at the Horton Grand Theatre, Downtown. lambsplayers.org
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas: A Texas brothel is under a siege launched by a pesky TV reporter. Through Dec. 2 at Coronado Playhouse. coronadoplayhouse.com
Once Upon a Wedding: Zaniness abounds during a wedding gone horribly wrong, and it does so while patrons dine aboard a boat making its way around Mission Bay, beginning at the Bahia Resort Hotel. Runs on various dates through Dec. 13. onceuponaweddingthemusical.com
Crime Pays: A radio game show with dastardly overtones, served up with dinner, is presented by Mystery Cafe at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill. mysterycafe.net