Old favorites, new productions take center stage

A new production of “Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol,” which was staged at the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre in 2013, returns to the theater Nov. 28 to Dec. 21.

Published: Thursday, August 28, 2014 at 8:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, August 26, 2014 at 1:28 p.m.

The last dancer has spun across the Gainesville Community Playhouse's stage in its joyous production of “A Chorus Line,” and only an echo remains of the laughter heard all summer at the Hippodrome's “The Great American Trailer Park Musical.” It's time for a new theater season. As Terrence Mann said, “Movies will make you famous. Television will make you rich. But theater will make you good.”

How good?

Hippodrome Theatre

Consider the shows on tap in Gainesville beginning with the Hippodrome's season. Starting Sept. 5, the Hipp collaborates with the University of Florida's Department of Theatre and Dance in its production of Bruce Norris' “Clybourne Park.” Directed by UF's Ralf Remshardt, “Clybourne Park” has won just about every theater award handed out for excellence, including the Tony, the Olivier, and the Pulitzer Prize. A sharp, funny comedy, it takes a cue from Lorraine Hansberry's classic “A Raisin in the Sun” with the first act taking place in 1959 when a black family moves into a white neighborhood, while the second act unfolds in 2009 in the same house in a now predominantly black neighborhood.

When the Halloween season approaches, there's no scarier place to visit than the Hippodrome, known for its Halloween horror plays. This year, it's “Slasher” by Allison Moore.” Lauren Caldwell, its director, promises to have audiences screaming, laughing and shocked with an insider's view of behind-the-scenes shenanigans at a Hollywood slasher movie. “Slasher” runs Oct. 17 to Nov. 9.

And because it's November, Christmas season is just around the corner with The Hipp once again alternating two holiday shows from Nov. 28 to Dec. 21. If you guessed “A Christmas Carol” will be one of the productions, here it is in an adaptation of the Dickens' classic by Jacqueline Goldfinger. Once again, The Hipp's resident Scrooge will be played by Rusty Salling. His sidekick, Gregg Jones, figures to be playing Jacob Marley again, too. What would Christmas be without them?

The co-show for the season is “Winter Wonderettes,” a musical with The Marvelous Wonderettes, who will be leading the fun with a holiday celebration featuring songs like “Jingle Bell Rock, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “Winter Wonderland.”

Ring in the new year Jan. 9 to Feb. 1 with Christopher Durang's funny send-up of Chekhov as melancholy turns into mayhem in “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.” The Tony-award winner takes place in a Bucks County farmhouse where Vanya and his sister, Sonia, are visited by their Hollywood star sister, Masha, and her boy-toy, Spike. There is talk of selling the family house in this broadly acted comedy, which starred David Hyde Pierce on Broadway.

From Feb. 20 to March 15, The Hipp will host “Mr Burns, A Post-Electric Play” by Anne Washburn. Described as “a dark comedy set 100 years into the future, a new civilization uses current pop culture references including TV's longest running hit show, 'The Simpsons,' to frame the present.”

A world premiere follows from April 10 to May 3 with Jon Jory's “The Two Musketeers.” Billed as a clever send-up of Alexandre Dumas' “The Three Musketeers,” it tells of the trials and innovations of a small theater group that had to cut one musketeer from its production for want of cash. There's plenty of fun, sword-play and romance in this witty adventure comedy.

The Hipp has not yet divulged what its closing show will be other than to say it will be a toe-tapping musical. Stay tuned: The final word is sure to be leaked before the month of June.

Gainesville Community Playhouse

Cross a few streets and you'll find yourself at that jewel box of a theater, the Vam York, where the Gainesville Community Playhouse has lined up an enticing season of shows beginning with the musical that has charmed audiences ever since it was introduced worldwide. Based on Victor Hugo's novel with music by Claude-Michel Schönberg, original French lyrics by Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel, and with an English-language libretto by Herbert Kretzmer, “Les Miserables” will light up the stage with its tale of Jean Valjean, the escaped prisoner whose travails bring him to the aid of a poverty-stricken young woman and to the ranks of French revolutionists in a rousing musical drama. Filled to overflowing with familiar songs like “Bring Him Home,” “Do You Hear the People Sing,” and “One Day More,” “Les Miz” has become a worldwide favorite. It runs Sept. 26 to Oct. 19.

The GCP's holiday show, “G.I. Holiday Jukebox,” is a musical set during World War II and is reminiscent of the days when the USO entertained the troops. It's a happy show featuring some of the best songs from that era, paying tribute to the likes of The Andrews Sisters, Bing Crosby and Spike Jones. It runs Nov. 28 to Dec. 21.

“Born Yesterday,” that deliciously funny comedy by Garson Kanin, will usher in 2015 at the GCP. The story of a junk dealer who hires an erudite professor type to educate his girlfriend, who is big on body curves but short on education, “Born Yesterday” was a hit both as a Broadway play and as a movie. The show runs Jan. 30 to Feb. 15.

“Little Shop of Horrors,” the campy musical based on the 1960s cult horror film, will play at the GCP from March 17 to April 19. Seymour, a nerdy florist and the show's hero, buys a plant he names for the girl he loves but the plant turns into a people-eater, something of a deterrent to romance. High in the litany of amusing songs is the lament “Suddenly Seymour.”

If you love a funny mystery, set aside the dates from May 29 to June 14. “The Game's Afoot,” directed by Esteban Alvarez III, will take the stage with its tale of a Broadway star, so proud of his portrayal onstage as Sherlock Holmes, he invites fellow cast members to his Connecticut home for a weekend of fun. When someone is found murdered, however, mystery is mixed with comedy for an upbeat, fanciful whodunit.

Closing out the GCP season from July 16 to Aug.9, the Vam York Theater welcomes the well-loved musical “The Wizard of Oz.” Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion will all be on hand to sing the show's familiar songs and to take the whole family with them “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

UF School of Theatre and Dance

The UF School of Theatre and Dance, which will have begun its season with an auspicious collaboration of “Clybourne Park” at The Hippodrome in early September, returns to home base at the McGuire Pavilion's Black Box Theatre for Martin McDonagh's comical play “Cripple of Inishmaan,” directed by David Young. In this comedy set in 1934, a lonely young crippled man seeks a better life when a Hollywood crew appears on the west coast of Ireland to film a movie. The show runs Sept. 26 to Oct. 4.

“Sweeney Todd,” Stephen Sondheim's great musical, acknowledged by some to be his masterpiece, arrives at the Constans Theatre Oct. 24 for a run extending to Nov. 2. Directed by Tony Mata, “Sweeney Todd” is known worldwide for its tale of a barber and the bloody doings that occur when he seeks justice after years of false imprisonment. The show is famous for its music hall numbers, beautiful melodies, and for Mrs Lovett's “inventive” meat pies. A special Halloween performance of “Sweeney Todd” is on hand that you are advised not to miss.

The year 2015 begins with Mary Zimmerman's fascinating play “Metamorphoses.” Directed by Charlie Mitchell, “Metamorphoses” is based on Ovid's 15-volume work revealing how bodies change into different forms that express the true nature of each character. In this episodic play performed at the side of a pool of water on the Constans stage, stories are told of King Midas and Phaeton's therapy session, among others. The show runs Jan. 23-29.

“Gator Tales,” an original new play by Kevin Marshall, directed by Marshall, opens with a world premiere at the Black Box Theatre on Feb.13 and runs through Feb. 22. Written in conjunction with Professor Samuel Proctor's Oral History Project and the Alachua County African-American History Project, the live performance brings to life the voices of those who first struggled for civil rights.

A play about mistaken identity? Who has done it better than William Shakespeare and where will you find it better performed than at the Black Box Theatre with Judith Williams directing the bard's “The Comedy of Errors”? About two sets of identical twins who have been separated since birth until they unknowingly arrive in the same town, “The Comedy of Errors” is a challenging play of disarray, romance and fun. It runs April 3-11.

Acrosstown Repertory Theatre

The Acrosstown Repertory Theater opened its new season with the Sam Shepard classic “True West” on Aug. 22. It's a tale of two brothers who are at each other's throats. As a screenplay is in the process of creation, a reconciliation is attempted, a producer arrives on the scene and an emotional climax rattles the house as the brothers fight for ascendancy. Directed by Mike McShane and acknowledged to be Shepards's finest play, “True West” continues through Sept. 7.

“Sherlock Holmes & the Adventure of the Suicide Club” will play at the ART Oct. 10-26. Directed by Bradley T. Hicks, this Jeffrey Hatcher mystery takes audiences into a secret London society where some of Europe's most powerful men gather to play the game of murder. Sherlock is among them which leads to the question: Is he a candidate for murder too? The play is part comedy, part mystery, and altogether intriguing.

Back for a repeat performance this holiday season is “Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol” by Tom Mula and directed by Carolyne Salt. The holiday story purports to tell the true story behind Dickens' “A Christmas Carol,” in which Marley makes heroic efforts to save Scrooge's soul and, in the process, saves his own. Four actors play all the characters in this send-up of Dickens' story, which runs Nov. 28 to Dec. 21.

A.R. Gurney's “Another Antigone” begins the new year from Jan. 23 to Feb. 8. Gurney puts together a tenured teacher and a Jewish student with challenging beliefs to create a funny, thought-provoking play in which a battle is fought over communal obligation and private conscience. The play raises many questions about anti-Semitism, academic integrity, and the trade-off between classical education and job placement, all with Gurney's rich dialogue and witty insights.

“Kimberly Akimbo,” David Lindsay-Abaire's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, takes center stage at the theater March 6-22. Directed by Jessica Arnold, “Kimberly Akimbo” is just a normal teenaged girl with normal teen problems: a dysfunctional family, feeling misunderstood, looking at first love, and dealing with a body that ages four times faster than it should. According to the New York Daily News, this show “gives a whole new meaning to the coming of age story.”

Rounding out the season from May 15 to June 6 is Shirley Lauro's emotionally direct “A Piece of My Heart.” Directed by Deborah Dickey, the play features six young women who go to Vietnam — an Army brat/Navy nurse, a wannabe rock star, now a USO performer, a Florence Nightingale-type nurse, a debutante and Vassar grad, a streetwise kid who wants to pay for school and protest the war, and a black WAC who finds racism in her department. All discover truths about themselves in this enduring play.

Santa Fe College

You've heard about the beautiful new Fine Arts Hall at Santa Fe College, but have you actually seen it yet? Get set to go as the Fine Arts Hall begins its second season of shows, many of them featuring musicians and dancers, and others showcasing actors who can do both.

The season at Santa Fe's Fine Arts Hall begins Sept. 5 with Gainesville's own multi-talented Malcolm Gets, star of stage, TV and concert halls. Accompanied by Santa Fe students, Gets will perform songs from well-known Broadway musicals.

If you are a long-time fan of TV's “American Idol,” you will remember the fiercely contested battle for the winner of season two. The suspense ended when Ruben Studdard beat out Clay Aiken in that heated but friendly competition. Studdard (sometimes called “The Velvet Teddy Bear”) has been singing for audiences worldwide since then. He comes to Santa Fe's Fine Arts Hall for two performances on the night of Sept. 19.

From Oct. 22-25, Theatre Santa Fe will perform “Am I Blue.” Terry Klenk is directing this upbeat comedy by Beth Henley, who is remembered for her award-winning “Crimes of the Heart.” In “Am I Blue,” Henley brings together a shy 18-year-old man and a high-strung, flaky young woman who, in her own way, is as insecure as he is. The two meet in a bar and a relationship begins.

On Dec. 6 at 2 p.m., you're invited to a children's holiday at Santa Fe with crafts and refreshments available in the Fine Arts Hall lobby, a grand holiday musical in performance on stage, and a gala visit by Santa Claus to all in the audience.

Springtime brings Leonard Bernstein's classic musical “West Side Story ” to the Fine Arts Hall. Based on the time-honored tale of Shakespeare's “Romeo and Juliet,” Bernstein's musical places lovers, Tony and Maria, in current-day New York City's West Side, where warring gangs echo the feuds of the original Montagues and Capulets. Stephen Sondheim wrote the lyrics to Bernstein's beautiful score with songs like “Tonight,” “Maria,” “America” and “Somewhere.” With Evans Haile directing, “West Side Story” plays March 18-21.

On June 18 -20, Theatre Santa Fe will present “Invasion of Privacy” with Judith Chapman directing. The play is based on the story of the Marjorie Kinnon-Rawlings' landmark court case of the 1940s, which fought for a woman's freedom of speech and her right to privacy.

High Springs Playhouse

Not far down the road following a 30-minutes drive, you'll find the High Springs Playhouse, which goes into action with shows on Friday and Saturday evenings plus Sunday matinees. Its schedule for the new season includes comedies, mysteries, straight drama, a musical and an all-youth production.

Beginning Oct. 3-16, Leroy Clark's comedy “For the Love of Mike” strikes romantic chords as two people try to make a relationship work while putting aside their past baggage. Mike Libertore, a handsome fellow with the look of an Italian charmer, falls for Love Richards, a reserved secretary who is separated from her husband. Needless to say, there are complications.

Just in time for the holidays, High Springs gives audiences “The Best Little Christmas Pageant Ever” by Barbara Robinson. Running December 5-21, this holiday classic deals with a couple attempting to put on a church Christmas pageant despite the interference of those “children from hell,” the destructive, inventive and totally awful Herdman kids. This very funny holiday play is performed complete with Christmas carols.

“The Dixie Swim Club,” a comedy by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten, arrives on the High Springs stage Feb. 6 to March 1. The comedy follows the friendship of five Southern women who first met on their college swim team 33 years ago and who set aside one weekend every August to meet again and recharge their batteries. As the years pass, they rely on each other through relationships, marriage, divorce, children and aging. It's a touching tale of five women and 33 years of friendship.

Joe DiPietro, the 2000 Edgar Award winner for best mystery play, is the author of “Art of Murder,” which runs from April 10 to May 3 at High Springs. With thrills and chills plus lots of humor, “Art of Murder” elicits laughter and suspense in equal measure. It takes audiences on an emotional roller coaster.

That hardy, soul-lifting musical “Man of La Mancha” comes to the High Springs stage June 5-28. Written by Dale Wasserman, Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion, “Man of La Mancha is one of the enduring musicals of our time. It would be hard to find a theater fan who can keep a dry eye when the song “The Impossible Dream” is sung. As he tilts at windmills, the “Man of La Mancha” speaks to the heart of every audience.

It has become a tradition for the High Springs Playhouse to put on a youth production each year. The dates for the 2015 production are August 7-16. Performed entirely by actors ages 8 to 18, it promises to delight not just proud parents but audiences from all walks of life.

Actors' Warehouse

August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Fences,” which is considered by many theater-lovers to be his finest, inaugurates the second season of the Actors' Warehouse. About a family conflict involving a strong-minded former baseball player and his wife and son, its themes of love, trust and honesty have moved audiences over many years. Directed by Carol Richardson, “Fences” opens Friday and runs through Sept. 14.

“Tshepang,” by Lara Foot Newton, runs Oct. 24 to Nov. 2. Jan Cohen directs the story of Ruth, a silent woman who lives outside a South African town observing certain rituals. It is based on an event that took place in 2001 and incorporates 20,000 stories.

“Open Admissions,” by Shirley Lauro, running on the same dates as “Tshepanag' at the Actors Warehouse, is a confrontational play set in a college speech teacher's office where she faces a bright but illiterate black student, who demands to be taught and not just shuffled through the system. Although she tries to work with the student, she is frustrated by an inadequate educational system. S. Khaleel White is the director.

Making joyful sounds of the season is Langston Hughes' “Black Nativity,” adapted by S. Khaleel White. From Dec. 11-21, the Actors' Warehouse will be filled with the sound of gospel songs as the story of the birth of Christ will be told in dialogue, narrative, pantomime, dance and folk spirituals.

David Mamet's drama “Race,” directed by Steven H. Butler, will be the theater's first play of 2015 running Jan. 2-Feb. 8. “Race” follows the work of three attorneys, two black and one white, who are offered the chance to defend a white man charged with a crime against a black woman. Mamet has said, “the theme is race and the lies we tell each other on the subject.”

“Doubt,” John Patrick Shanley's award-winning play, is next in line with Lester Smilowitz directing. The story of a rigid nun who suspects an admired parish priest of becoming familiar with an African-American scholarship student, has been seen not only on stages worldwide but in a movie version as well. The production runs March 27 to April 19.

Michael Frayn's challenging play “Copenhagen” takes the stage at the Actors' Warehouse from May 22 to June 7. Directed by Carlos Asse, it deals with the question of nuclear power and the possibilities inherent in building a nuclear bomb.

Closing out the season from July 10 ti Aug. 2 is Jonathan Larson's autobiographical musical, “Tick, Tick... Boom!” Larson, who is best known as the Pulitzer Prize and Tony award winner for his musical “Rent,” wrote this story of an aspiring composer on the eve of his 30th birthday. As he waits tables and ponders the success of friends who are settled in careers, while he is still trying to write the “great American musical,” Larson composes music for “Tick, Tick... Boom,” music filled with rock melodies and unique styles. Bryan J. Faux directs.

Star Center Children's Theater

Children's theater runs a full season at the Star Theater with Rhonda Wilson at the helm.

Disney's “The Little Mermaid” by Ashman and Menken (A. Partnership with Duval Fine Arts Academy) will run Sept. 19-29. The children onstage will show Ariel's journey “under the sea” with her aquatic friends in “The Little Mermaid Jr.” adapted from Disney's 2008 Broadway production.

“Milk Like Sugar” by Kirstin Greenridge follows Oct. 3-12. In this teen drama, Annie, on the eve of her 16th birthday, has to make a decision on whether to get a tattoo. Choices are made among adolescents living in the inner city.

Disney's “High School Musical Jr.” runs Nov. 14-23. It's that same smash hit musical seen on the Disney Channel brought to the Star's stage. Troy, Gabriella and all the students of East High deal with issues of first love, friends and family, not to mention classes and extra-curricular activities.

Adaptations from best sellers are next in line as the Star mounts “The Good Times Are Killing Me” by Linda Barry. The comic drama about growing up in the 1960s enjoyed a long Broadway run with its story about two small girls and the big issue of hurtful wounds caused by racism. It runs February 20-28.

“Children's Letters to God” is a musical based on a book by Stuart Hample and Eric Marshall. It follows the lives of young people who speak of beliefs, desires, questions and doubts common to everyone but expressed most disarmingly by children. Some scenes and songs are based on actual letters about sibling rivalry, divorce, loss of a pet, the difficulties of being unathletic and first love. The show runs March 6-15.

More song and dance take to the Star's stage with Regina Taylor's “Crowns.” A moving, celebratory play adapted from the book by Michael Cunningham and Craig Marberry, it's the basis for an exploration of black history and identity seen through the eyes of a young black woman who has come to the South from Brooklyn where contemporary ideals meet old traditions.

UF Performing Arts Center

You might think this is quite enough for a full to overflowing theater season that surpasses just “good.” Tell that to the folks at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, which is hosting four traveling theater productions over the coming months.

The Lerner & Lowe musical “Camelot” comes to the Phillips Center on Oct. 3-5. L.A. Theatre Works performs the drama “In the Heat of the Night” on Oct. 26-28. Kander & Ebb’s “Chicago” comes to the Phillips Center on Feb. 3-4, 2015. The popular “Jersey Boys,” which has been touring the country, takes up residence at the Phillips for six days, Feb. 24 to March 1.

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