The New Year is here. And the seven-month second part of the 2017-2018 theatre shines with fresh offerings. Call them new too, or certainly so little familiar that they may seem new.
Among 19 such, there are two world premieres, depictions of real people, five musicals including a multi-Tony Award winner, comic takes on Shakespeare and the French Revolution. Bluebarn, Chanticleer, Nebraska Shakespeare, the Playhouse, The Rose, and UNO Theatre are where it’s happening as well Shelterbelt and SNAP in what could be their final seasons at their long-famed California Street venue.
This month, the world premieres are at Shelterbelt and The Rose. Across Rhodes, “a play with song” by Omaha’s Amy Elizabeth Schweid debuts at Shelterbelt while The Rose’s The Meaning of Maggie addresses the reality of a family coping with serious illness. That script is by Iowa’s Victoria Stewart based on Megan Jean Sovern’ s novel.
Another look at family life emerges in a generic community called Middletown, created by Will Eno and offered by Chanticleer in January. Plus two elderly lady inhabitants of a different kind of community, an assisted living facility, get nasty during the Playhouse’s Ripcord. David Lindsay-Abaire, noted for off-the-wall scripts, created that.
Bluebarn kicks off a three-play sequence of two-actor scripts, running from February through June, first with David Ives’ Venus in Fur. There a theatre producer aims to mount his adaptation of the similarly-named novel by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. Things get steamy between him and an auditioning actress when they break the boundaries between fantasy and real life. Likewise in February, a playwright is a character in UNO’s production of The Revolutionists. She is among three other women during guillotine-times; also present for the Lauren Gunderson comedy are Marie Antoinette and Charlotte Corday. Clearly a deliberate preamble to April’s Marat/Sade on campus.
At the Playhouse the same month is darkly stirring Parade with beautiful and dynamic songs by Jason Robert Brown and a powerful script by Alfred Uhry. Brown won a 1999 Tony for this. So did Uhry, whose focus has often included Jewish people in Atlanta (e. g., Pulitzer Prize-winning Driving Miss Daisy.) Here he deals with a true story from 1913 about Jewish New York transplant Leo Frank in the Deep South being accused, tried and lynched for murdering a young girl. Frank was innocent.
Real people are also the characters of David Rush’s Nureyev’s Eyes about a friendship that could have emerged when the legendary dancer sat for a portrait by painter Jamie Wyeth. It takes shape in March at Bluebarn.
There are also three musicals that month. SNAP re-introduces the song-cycle Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens by Bill Russell and Janet Hood, seen there almost 20 years ago. It celebrates the lives of real AIDS victims, a preamble to the June production of Bruce Ward’s fictional The Lazarus Syndrome. Dark but also deliberately comic is the March visit to Urinetown: The Musical by Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis. Chanticleer offers this free-flowing satire which pisses on municipal politics, corporations, capitalism and more while parodying The Threepenny Opera and Les Miz.
Contemporary but in a much more lighthearted way, Wonderland: Alice’s Rock and Roll Adventure takes over The Rose’s stage. Yep. This is plucked from Lewis Carroll and punked up by Rachel Rockwell and Michael Mahler (no relation to Gus). Sure, it’s groovy for kids, as is that month’s James and The Giant Peach coming to fruition at the Playhouse sprouting from Roald Dahl’s story. The songs are by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul who won Oscars for La La Land’s lyrics.
Shelterbelt’s April offering is Don Nguyen’s Three to Beam Up. Uh-huh. Viz a U.S. starship. This one on collision course with 2018. Traveling further back in time, Nguyen re-wrote this 1999 adventure which debuted at this quadrant of the planet.
A Shakespeare trip takes off in May when Brigit Saint Brigit offers a spin on the bard in The Shakespeare Revue, a romp with song and dance and scattered send-ups created of yore for England’s Royal Shakespeare Company.
Brit-based laughs are anticipated at Bellevue Little Theater that same month when Robin Hawdon’s farcical Perfect Wedding starts to unravel on the morning of a nuptial day. I say!
Maytime, two women perform in Bluebarn’s The City in the City in the City by Matthew Capodicasa. Multiples abound including the roles. No surprise, given the title. Evidently there are levels within levels below levels in this adventure which was revealed not long ago at The Great Plains Theatre Conference.
Katori Hall wrote about a mysterious woman in The Mountaintop, explored in May at the Playhouse. Dr. Martin Luther King is portrayed in this historical fiction which evidently examines destiny and mortality.
A different King is at the center of Shakespeare’s rarely seen King John taking the stage On The Green late in June. Hanging around in his court is ever-fractious mother Eleanor of Aquitaine whose other son Richard Lionheart is evoked but not seen. Nothing here about the Magna Carta.
And as the summer sun portends sweltering so too does the July production of Dairy Maid-Right by Omaha’s Ellen Struve. Compassion for a child migrant is at the center of what may be the final Shelterbelt production in its 25-year history in the Gifford Park neighborhood.
Of course, in the new year, there are new productions of the familiar. Musicals such as The Fantasticks in Bellevue, Sondheim’s Company at Chanticleer, George M. Cohan-based Give My Regards to Broadway staged by Circle Theatre, Singin’ In The Rain sung and danced at the Playhouse and Disney’s Newsies offered by The Rose.
No crystal ball is needed to discover more about these and other stage adventures. Just peer at websites. They tell all.