Fall Arts Preview 2013

Part I of II

 The cast of Ford’s Theatre production of “The Laramie Project"
Scott Suchman.
The cast of Ford’s Theatre production of “The Laramie Project"

NOW PLAYING Miss Saigon—Here’s a way to kick off a 24th-anniversary season: remount and re-imagine a full-blown production of “Miss Saigon,” one of the most iconic big-theme, big-deal Broadway musicals of the “Les Miz,” “Phantom of the Opera,” “Cats” and “Evita” era.

That’s what Signature Theater’s not-shy-of-a-challenge artistic director Eric Schaeffer has done, staging the first production of the Viet War set, but “Madame Butterfly” echo musical in 15 years, running at the MAX Theatre through Sept. 22. Schaeffer, who directs the production, described as “environmental,” says Signature is “pulling out all the stops in this production with a terrific cast, full-size orchestra and a set that engulfs the entire theatre.

It stars Diana Huey as the bar girl Kim, Jason Michael Evans as the American GI Chris and Thom Sesma in the bravura role of The Engineer.

The Beauty Queen of Leelane—Martin McDonagh is back and the Round House Theatre in Bethesda has him, with its production of “The Beauty Queen of Leelane” through Sept. 15, directed by Jerry Skidmore. Irish to the core and contemporary to the core, “Beauty Queen” is about a lonely spinster living with her bigger-than-life, manipulative mother. Featuring Kimberly Gilbert and Sarah Marshall—two of D.C. theater’s finest actresses as daughter and mother.

A Few Good Men—Skidmore also directs the ongoing production of Playwright Aaron Sorkin’s 1989 military courtroom drama “A Few Good Men,” which became the basis for a hit movie, starring Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson. It’s now a Keegan Theatre production through Sept. 7.

Brokeology—Theater Alliance begins its 11th season with playwright Nathan Louis Jackson’s “Brokeology,” a powerful drama about a widower battling his own illness and trying to raise two sons. Now through Sept. 8 at the Anacostia Playhouse. Shakespeare Free For All—The Shakespeare Theatre Company has been doing Shakespeare Free For All’s for 23 years and continues the tradition with a production of the Bard’s fabulous and popular (the director of “The Avengers” recently filmed it in black and white) comedy “Much Ado About Nothing,” after the original direction of Ethan McSweeny. Jenny Lord directs this comedy which stars Kathryn Meisle as Beatrice and Derek Smith as Benedick, one of the Bard’s most attractive battling couples, right alongside Petruchio and Kate. Now through Sept. 1 at Sidney Harman Hall. Check the STC website for times and how to get free tickets.

SEPTEMBER BRINGS IN THE SHOWS Donna McKechnie at Olney—Probably not a coincidence, but Donna McKechnie, the sparkling Broadway star who was the original Cassie in “A Chorus Line” appears at the Historic Stage at the Olney Theatre Center in her cabaret show, “Same Place, Another Time,” Sept. 1 at 7 p.m., even as “A Chorus Line” is being performed here.

Wagner and Tristan and Isolde usher in the new Washington Opera Season—Washington National Opera Artistic Director Francesca Zambello celebrates the new WNO season with big works by both Richard Wagner and Guiseppi Verdi, who are having their bicentenaries.

It’s Wagner, with his epic “Tristan and Isolde,” and we do mean epic that starts the season with music Zambello describes as “romantic and hypnotic.” “I chose it,” she said, “as the gateway for us to experience the breadth of Wagner’s styles as we build towards our ‘Ring’ Cycle in the spring of the 2015-2016 season.” (Verdi’s “The Force of Destiny”, with Zambello directing, will follow, beginning Oct. 12.)

The incomparable Deborah Voigt—who starred in “Salome” here returns in the role of Isolde, with Ian Storey as Tristan (Clifton Forbis will perform Tristan Sept. 27.) WNO Conductor Philippe Auguin conducts, Neil Armfield, directs, with sets by Opera Australia, costumes by Jennie Tate. (Sept. 15, 18, 21, 24, 27)

Page-to-Stage New Play Festival—A sure signal that a new performance arts and theatre season is upon us is the arrival of the 12th Annual Page-to-Stage New Play Festival, with more than 40 theaters from all over the D.C. area. Performances are in venues throughout the center, in a series of free readings and open rehearsals of plays and musicals developed by local, regional and national playwrights, librettists and composers. It’s happening Aug. 31 through Sept. 2, and it’s a good chance for theater buffs to check the pulse and look into the future of the area theater scene. And to repeat: it’s free. Check the Kennedy Center website for details.

More Kennedy Center Shows The boys are back. Yes, it’s Elvis, Jerry Lee, Carl and Johnny, Presley, Lewis, Perkins and Cash, aka the “Million Dollar Quartet,” the hugely popular musical in which the four budding stars get together, bicker, play, sing and fight and play a whole lot of shaking rock and roll and country music at Sam Phillips Sun Records Studio in Memphis in 1956. The musical arrives at the Eisenhower Theater Sept. 24 through Oct. 6.

“Four Little Girls”—The Kennedy Center, Project Voice and Howard University, working with Duke Ellington School of the Arts and African Continuum Theater Company, present a free, staged reading of “Four Little Girls, Birmingham, 1963.” Written by Christina Ham, and directed by Tony Award winning actress and television star of “The Cosby Show,” Phylicia Rashad, takes place Sept. 15, 6 p.m., in the Family Theater in the Kennedy Center. The production commemorates the 50th anniversary of the bombing that took the lives of four young girls at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., only weeks after the 1963 March on Washington.

NSO With National Symphony Orchestra and Kennedy Center music director maestro Christoph Eschenbach conducting, the NSO begins its 83rd season with the annual Opening Ball Concert Sept. 29 at the Concert Hall. The evening will include legendary cellist Yo-Yo Ma performing Tchaikovsky’s “Rococo Variations,” and Carmen Carpenter, the dynamic young organist playing a finale of Saint-Saen’s “Organ Symphony.”

The NSO Pops Orchestra, directed by Steven Reineke, will kick off with “Cirque de la Symphonie”, Sept. 19 to 22, and then feature superstars Wayne Shorter, Vince Mendoza and the remarkable Esperanza Spalding, Sept. 26 in the Concert Hall. The Kennedy Center’s dance program will kick off with the highly original company KARAS, which, under founder and choreographer Sburo Teshigawara brings the North American Premiere of “Mirror and Music” Sept. 12 and 13 at the Eisenhower Theater.

FOUR RISING PLAYWRIGHTS At Arena Stage, Eric Coble’s “The Velocity of Autumn” focuses on 79-year-old Alexandra living with memories and explosives in her Brooklyn townhouse, and getting a visit from a long-lost son. Oscar winner Estelle Parsons and Tony Award winner Stephen Spinella make their Arena debuts, Sept. 6 through Oct. 20, with Molly Smith directing.

At Woolly Mammoth Theater, Lisa D’Amour’s Pulitzer Prize finalist “Detroit” about a collision between neighbors in Motor City gets going Sept. 9 and runs through Oct. 6, directed by John Vreeke for the city’s most consistently cutting-edge theater company.

Critically acclaimed playwright Amy Herzog’s play “After the Revolution,” which focuses on one family’s reaction to the blacklist starts at Theater J Sept. 7 and runs through Oct. 6, directed by Eleanor Holdsridge, and starring Nancy Robinette. “Agnes Under the Big Top” by Aditi Brennan Kapil, and directed by Michael Dove, starts the Forum Theater’s season Sept.5 to 28, a play in which six lives intersect in what’s described as a “comic adventure about immigrant life in America.” At the Round House in Silver Spring.

The Laramie Project at Ford’s Theatre Ford’s Theatre kicks off its season with something of a departure, the emotionally powerful “The Laramie Project” by Moises Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater project. It’s the play about the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man and resident of Laramie, Wyo., and the reaction of the community to what was considered a hate crime. Fifteen years later, the murder and Shepard’s story still echoes not only in Wyoming but across the country. The play is the third offering in the multi-year Lincoln Legacy Project, an effort to “generate dialogue around issues of tolerance, equality and acceptance.” Directed by Matthew Gardiner, Sept. 27-Oct.27.

The Embassy Series at 20 It’s hard to believe that the Embassy Series under founder Jerome Barry has been around for 20 years, building cultural bridges, exercising musical diplomacy and giving Washington audiences a chance to hear world class music from around the world in the city’s embassies, ambassador residences and international cultural centers.

The 20th season kicks off at the residence of the Indian Ambassador, with a unique program from international musical star Rudresh Mahanthappa, a composer and alto saxophone player with a sound that hybridizes progressive jazz and South Indian classical music. Mahanthappa is a second generation Indian-American who leads a quartet named Gamak, which features guitarist David “Fuze” Fiuczynski. The concert is set for Sept. 9 at 6:30 p.m.

The In Series’ “Taking Flight” Season Begins The In Series’ “Taking Flight” begins with a series tradition, a pocket-opera program at the Source Theater, a new and “edgy” adaptation of Mozart’s light and funny “Abduction from the Seraglio”.

Wolf trap A Dreamgirl and a dream girl of pop, the always original Lyle, doe-a-deer-a-female-deer, and Hobbits and Elves are among the treats awaiting fans of and visitors to the Wolf Trap outdoor summer series as it winds down.

There’s Jennifer Holliday in a four-night stint in “Dreamgirls” Aug. 22 to 25, the pop queen Carly Rae Jepsen with Hot Chelle Rae, Aug. 28, the like-no-other folk-country-beyond-category singer Lyle Lovett and his Large Band, Aug. 29, the Sing-A-Long Sound of Music Aug. 31, STS9 and Umphrey’s McGee Sept. 1, and last, but not least a screening of “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Fellowship of the Ring” with the City Choir of Washington and the World Children’s Choir.

Gala Hispanic “Cabaret Barroco: Interludes of Spain’s Golden Age”, kicks off the Gala Hispanic, Sept. 12 through Oct. 6, bringing to the stage an example of the interlude, a form and genre that combined cabaret, street performance and carnival during the golden age of Spanish theater. By Calderon de la Barca, Francisco de Quevedo and Bernardo de Quiros, directed by Jose Louis Areliano.

The Rat Pack at the Strathmore Music Center Strathmore starts off its season with an unusual offering. “Sandy Hackett’s Rat Pack Show” recreates some of the golden, flashy moments from the original Rat Pack, Las Vegas-style, that includes Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin and Joey Bishop. The pack also included at various times Peter Lawford and comedian Buddy Hackett, whose son Sandy has brought the pack back, Sept. 27.

Michael Kahn Directs Harvey Fierstein’s ‘Torch Song Trilogy’ at Studio Theatre That headline almost sums it up—Kahn, the artistic director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company, lending his directing gifts to a play that has become iconic. Beginning first as a series of one-act plays at La MaMa Etc in New York, it became a full-fledged play, written by and starring Fierstein in 1981. Performances start Sept. 4.

Faction of Fools Faction of Fools, a newish theater company specializing in old styles, especially Commedia d’ la arte, starts its new season with Moliere’s “Don Juan,” a play which should be right up the company’s stylish alley beginning Sept. 12.

The Shakespeare Theatre Company Measures Up “Measure for Measure,” a difficult Shakespeare play about love and power, vice and virtue opens the Shakespeare Theatre Company season under the direction of Jonathan Munby, who sets the play in a 1930s fascist state under the evocative hue of a cabaret culture, opens the season, Sept. 12 through Oct. 27. Miriam Silverman stars as Isabella, Scott Parkinson is Angelo and Kurt Rhoads is the powerful Duke.

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