ON STAGE

An occasional update of New York theater openings

* Buttons on Broadway (Ambassador Theatre): The Catskills are back on Broadway in the form of comedian Red Buttons, who steps onto the same stage where he was arrested for performing bawdy vaudeville routines decades ago. The comic, who knows his audience ("Good evening, fellow members of AARP"), performs all his signature routines: his famous lists; the "Ho! Ho!" theme song; and his classic, "Sam, You Made the Pants Too Long." He sings a little too much (including a Japanese folk song he learned during the making of "Sayonara"), and he reminds us one time too many of his Oscar, but when he's just telling jokes, Buttons is still very funny.

* Hundreds of Hats (WPA Theatre): The WPA has provided a loving remembrance of Howard Ashman (one of its cofounders) with this delightful musical revue. The lyricist, who died of what was diagnosed as AIDS in 1991, is best known for his work with Alan Menken on the Disney animated classics "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast," and "Aladdin." This show for the most part eschews the well-known numbers, and concentrates on songs cut from those scores, as well as his contributions for such shows as "Little Shop of Horrors," "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater," and others more obscure or unproduced. Michael Mayer's staging is inventive and amusing, and a talented cast turns each number into a mini-musical.

* American Ballroom Theatre (Joyce Theatre): One of our most elegant dance companies celebrates its 10th anniversary season with a program consisting of several selections from their full-length work, "Sheer Romance"; the sultry "Tango"; and two world premieres: "Swingin' Blues," performed to blues and swing songs from the 1940s, and Geoffrey Holder's "Rodgers and Ella With Hart." The latter is a gorgeous series of numbers danced to Ella Fitzgerald's recordings of Rodgers and Hart songs. This is an evening of dance to lift your spirits, and should persuade even the most stubborn couch potato to enroll in ballroom dance lessons.

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