Friday, August 7, 2009

New shows, classics mix in 2009-10 seasons

Published in The News Tribune and The Olympian Aug. 6-7, 2009

The 2009-10 theater season in the South Sound is the year of “Rent.” Three different theaters are doing the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical, a hard-hitting look at sex, drugs, corruption and AIDS that is joyful and uplifting despite themes of poverty, rebellion and desperation. And the music is fantastic. See it at Tacoma Musical Playhouse Jan. 22-Feb. 14, at Capital Playhouse in Olympia March 11-April 3, and at Encore! Theatre in Gig Harbor May 7-23. With that many performances, there’s no excuse for not seeing it at least once this season, and if there’s a contemporary musical that’s a must-see, it’s “Rent.”

The first major decision Scott Campbell made when he took the helm at Tacoma Little Theatre was that in a time of economic depression we need comic relief. So he planned an all-comedy schedule for the 2009-10 season, starting with a sure-fire winner, Neil Simon’s “The Star-Spangled Girl,” opening Aug. 28 and running through Sept. 27. This madcap comedy is set in San Francisco during the Summer of Love, 1968, and swirls around an unlikely romance between a radical publisher and an all-American girl from Arkansas.

In a rare theatrical collaboration, TLT’s Campbell is partnering with his former boss, Marcus Walker from Lakewood Playhouse, to do a joint production of the blue-collar classic “A Tuna Christmas,” the sequel to “Greater Tuna,” the two-person/20-character comedy that Walker and Campbell performed last season at Lakewood Playhouse. This one will run Dec. 11-20 at TLT and Nov. 22 to Dec. 6 at Lakewood Playhouse.

Other TLT shows include “Lend Me a Tenor,” “A Christmas Story,” “Over the River and Through the Woods,” “Noises Off” and “Major Barbara.”

Harlequin Productions in Olympia continues to offer provocative theater with its lineup of comedies, dramas, original musicals and Shakespeare. And once again they will premiere a play by the great playwright Israel Horovitz. Remember last year’s “Sins of the Mother”? The new one is called “Six Hotels.” Four actors play 24 characters in six separate stories that take place in six different hotels all over the world. The Harlequin Web site describes it as “a rollicking mix of art, politics, relationships, comedy, drama, and the general struggle to become actual human beings.”

Lakewood Playhouse is going with a lineup of proven hits this year, starting with the Agatha Christi murder mystery “The Mousetrap” (Sept. 18-Oct. 11) and following that with the heartfelt and inspiring true story “Tuesdays with Morrie” about the relationship between a student and his teacher who is dying of ALS (Oct. 23-Nov. 8). Also scheduled are the musicals “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and Gilbert and Sullivan’s “H.M.S. Pinafore.” Then, for a change of pace, the classic comedy “You Can’t Take It With You” and Steinbeck’s great drama “The Grapes of Wrath” – and a bonus performance of this year’s hit punk-rock musical “Angry Housewives.”

Tacoma Musical Playhouse’s mainstage shows include regional premieres and new revivals of old favorites. The season opener is the surprise hit musical and TMP staff favorite that just closed on Broadway, “Curtains,” featuring music by Kander and Ebb, the great composer/lyricist team from “Cabaret” and “Chicago.” Other TMP shows for the upcoming season are “Guys & Dolls,” “The Wedding Singer,” “Flower Drum Song,” and the new Elvis musical “All Shook Up.”

Following a grand opening gala Aug. 28, Centerstage in Federal Way opens its season with the world premiere of “Contact” based on the novel by Carl Sagan. This is a musical version of Sagan’s novel with a score by Peter Sipos and lyrics by Amy Engelhardt. It has been adapted for the stage by Centerstage artistic director Alan Bryce.

These are but a few of the exciting theatrical productions lined up for the upcoming year. Others of note include “The Importance of Being Earnest” at Olympia Little Theatre and at Paradise Theatre in Gig Harbor, and Theater Artists Olympia’s “The Brain from Planet X.” Please note that all schedules are subject to change. For more information, visit the theater Web sites.

All Saints Theatrical Repertoire Association

Breeders Theater

Capital Playhouse


Encore! Theater

Harlequin Productions

Lakewood Playhouse

Manestage Theatre

Olympia Little Theatre

Paradise Theatre

Tacoma Little Theatre

Theater Artists Olympia

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