by DICK KEREKES AND LEISLA SANSOM
September, when most theaters start their seasons, is one of the most exciting months of the year for theatre fans. We’ve presented highlights of the upcoming season from a critic’s perspective. You will also find a comprehensive listing of theatrical events in this issue for future reference.
STAGING THE SEASON
Three recent trends stand out. Shows that have been revived on New York stages are making it into this market much more quickly, especially if the revivals are successful and widely publicized. We are also seeing more new plays; many are cutting edge.
Two shows that opened on August 23 will continue through September 7. Shakespearean comedy is back with As You Like It in Theatre Jacksonville’s Summer Classics. Tickets are $15 for the general public, $10 for students. They have a great cast, and if you have seen a Laura Ripple-directed play, you know you will be seeing a deftly polished production. David Mamet’s 1984 Pulitzer-winning Glengarry Glen Ross is on stage at Player’s by the Sea; if you like cutting edge theatre, this is it.
Atlantic Beach Experimental Theatre is staging three musicals this season, a first for them. They open on September 6 with The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which was revived on Broadway last year. This version will be directed by Sam Fisher. ABET has an outstanding cast for the production.
St. Augustine’s Limelight will open Spamalot on September 12, with Dave Thomas in the lead. We had wondered who would be brave enough to undertake this very funny but also very expensive musical. We learned that 43 women’s wigs will be used, and Limelight is building some of the many elaborate costumes themselves, which will help recoup expenses through future rentals.
Players by the Sea loves wild and wooly musicals, as evidenced by many of their past shows, The Full Monty, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, and Reefer Madness just to name a few. Young Frankenstein, with music and lyrics by Mel Brooks and directed by Shirley Sacks, opens on September 13 and promises to be another side-splitting theatrical event.
The Alhambra Theatre, one of the oldest running dinner theatres in America, continues bringing in the stars, and Cindy Williams from TV’s Laverne & Shirley will arrive September 18 and remain for about a month in Weekend Comedy, which revolves around a generational clash in a vacation cottage.
No theatre group in this area loves farce more than Orange Park Community Theatre, and September 20 they will open Hotbed Hotel. While the title may sound salacious, you can probably take your grandparents to this one and not worry a bit, since farces are carefully constructed so that nothing but laugh after laugh ever really happens.
Theatre Jacksonville will be continuing their Guerilla Show Series on September 20-22 with Bully, an autobiographical, solo show by Jacksonville native Lee Kaplan, which has received critical acclaim in previous showings at Washington DC and New York fringe festivals.
Jacksonville’s nomadic theatre company, the 5 & Dime, will be using the Church of the Good Shepherd for Freud’s Last Session, a battle of wits between the world famous Dr. Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis, an Oxford professor and writer. This show debuted in New York last year and is reportedly very touching, with a lot of humor as well. At this writing, it is only scheduled for two showings, on September 27 and 28.
While September certainly offers a buffet of interesting theatrical choices, October and November will also bring appealing productions. The first event of the Artist Series for the fall season is The D* Word, created by Jeanie Linders, who previously wrote the long-running Menopause, The Musical. The D* Word, with four women singing about their situations in a very funny, 90-minute show, runs from October 4 to November 24 in the Terry Theater at the Times-Union Center and will be a great ladies-night-out choice.
On October 18 and 19, at the Cork Arts District, the 5 & Dime will premiere Eligies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens, a series of songs and monologues inspired by the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt and Edward Lee Master’s Spoon River Anthology. It will have a huge cast of 20 men and 11 women and possibly more. You can find details at thefiveanddime.org.
Also opening on the 18th, in the Studio Theatre of Players by the Sea is Quills, by Doug Wright, to be directed by Lindsay Curry. We have seen this black comedy about the Marquis de Sade before; it is filled with sex and gore, and promises an anti-censorship message. Enough said.
For more traditional theatre, the Alhambra will open South Pacific, with great songs and one of our favorite characters, Bloody Mary! It will be on stage from October 23 and remain through December 1.
If fashion is your thing, ABET’s October 25th opening of Love, Loss, and What I Wore by Nora and Delia Ephron is for you. This North Florida premiere is a show that uses clothing and accessories to tell funny stories we all can relate to.
Jacksonville University promises an evening of interesting theatre, featuring many of their talented students in a retelling of the Orpheus myth, which begins October 25 and continues through November 2. Directed by Deborah Jordan, with original music by JU professor Scott Watkins, this play by Sarah Ruhl is reportedly wildly imaginative. We love going to JU. The Swisher Theater is an excellent venue; JU wants the public to attend and keeps ticket prices very reasonably priced.
Football fans, the theatre world has not forgotten you! The Duval Critics will be donning the jerseys of their favorite team for the opening of Lombardi, on October 25 at Theatre Jacksonville. The late Vince Lombardi is a football legend, and this play by Eric Simonson is the story of his life and achievements. If you are an NFL fan, it is a must see.
November 1 will bring a revival at Limelight of The Bad Seed, an excellent drama last done by ABET several years ago. Players by the Sea will open The Whipping Man, a civil war drama, on November 8 on the Main Stage.
Orange Park Community Theatre will be closing out 2013 in a big way with the timely musical White Christmas that opens November 29 and plays through December 22.
In December we will see the Alhambra’s classic Christmas Carole, which begins December 3. We are hoping Gary Marachek will be back to reprise the role of Scrooge. This show is so popular that over half the tickets have already been sold. The Alhambra has not yet announced its next season, so we don’t know what they have planned for their New Year’s Eve event.
Flashdance, The Musical moves into the T-U Center for a December 10 to 15 run. Theatre Jacksonville brings us a romantic comedy from December 6 to 21, a North Florida premiere performance of Handle with Care. ABET will open Songs for a New World, by Jason Robert Brown on December 6, a musical revue with Zeek Smith as both director and musical director. And we are looking forward to playwright Ken Ludwig’s latest comedy, The Game’s Afoot or Holmes for the Holidays at Limelight in St. Augustine, opening December 13.
January 2014 has another hot musical scheduled at Players by the Sea with Beehive opening January 17, while the Artist Series will be bringing back the ever popular Blue Man Group beginning January 21.
The final two shows for the month of January bring up their curtains on the 24th. If you are a fan of Mae West or just want to learn more about this show business legend, you will want to see Dirty Blonde, a comedy with music, at ABET. Meanwhile down St. Augustine way, Limelight will be opening the classic comedy Butterflies Are Free.
Theatre is alive and thriving in North Florida with something for everyone’s theatrical taste. The Dual Critics will endeavor to review all the productions we have mentioned; you will find our reviews at folioweekly.com.