After two postponed productions and a third delayed by a week, the Maltz Jupiter Theatre opened in late March with critical acclaim for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and for its renovated and expanded playhouse. With much of the stress of construction deadlines over, producing artistic director Andrew Kato paused long enough to discuss the new, improved theater and the upcoming first full season there.
“It was a very complicated process, putting an existing building together with a new building. We basically doubled our square footage,” he told Palm Beach ArtsPaper by phone. “So perhaps the idea of getting it done in the time frame that was allotted may have been a little optimistic.”
Although it added to his frustration, Kato has no complaints about the delayed opening of the theater over an occupancy permit issue.
“Rightfully so, when you have 569 guests in your home, you want to be able to certify that it’s a safe place to be in. To be able to get that certification, the city wants things done the way they want them,” he says. “I have to compliment the town of Jupiter. They were very helpful to us. And in fact, the theater will be closing again on May 9 for two weeks so that we can expand our fire panel, so we can integrate the additional elements that come into the building to our fire panel.”
The new three-story façade to the theater is visually stunning, though the classrooms and offices for the conservatory of student training in the space, as well as an expanded costume shop, are still to come. The mainstage auditorium appears similar to the former one, but look closely and you may notice the addition of 42 seats and an orchestra lift at the front of the theater that drops down into the trap system. “That’s mostly for loading equipment, believe it or not, not for revealing the orchestra like they do at Radio City Music Hall,” says Kato.
The stage area has been increased to Broadway dimensions, to accommodate future New York-bound tryouts. Kato has not yet reached out to Broadway producers to market the use of the facility to them, though he has already received some inquiries about its availability. Currently, he is learning the ropes of operating the new Maltz Jupiter.
“I have 15 vendors that I have to have classes from in order to learn how to turn off water valves, adjust speaker levels, all the things or running the building,” he says. “How to use the new toy.”
Still to come in future construction phases are a second performance space devoted to plays and new work development, as well as a dining experience dubbed Scenes. Kato says it will be an amenity for donors rather than a public restaurant, “catered and themed to the shows most likely.” Completion timing of both is dependent on further funding.
The new Maltz’s first full season begins Oct. 25 with a three-week run of Jersey Boys. The jukebox biography of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons was originally scheduled for January of this year at Roger Dean Stadium. Asked if he was disappointed or relieved that the ballpark production never happened, Kato says, “Both. Obviously, ‘Jersey Boys’ could have been very financially helpful to us to get through the pandemic. That was the disappointment, because it’s a recognizable title that we could have developed new audiences with. The relief came (because) the elements that were needed to create an outdoor show were too onerous for us to be able to accomplish properly.”
Next will be A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (November 29-December 18), the ancient Roman farce with music and lyrics by the late Stephen Sondheim. “That’s just a romp and you know our love for Sondheim, and so we’re taking another step into his canon,” says Kato. “Coming out of COVID, I just thought, ‘Give the audience a little breathing room. Give them a little comedy tonight.’ ”
It will be followed by the other show postponed from the past season, Sweet Charity (Jan. 10–29), a bittersweet musical about a lovelorn dance hall dame for hire, what Kato calls a tale of “unrequited love and perseverance.” The long-designated Hispanic director-choreographer Marcos Santana (West Side Story) “has definitively set this in Harlem in the ’60s and I believe that our Charity Valentine may be Black or Hispanic,” Kato notes.
The Maltz will continue its commitment to non-musicals as well with David Lindsay-Abaire’s Good People (Feb. 12–26), about an impoverished single mother on Boston’s South Side. Like many of Kato’s favorite plays, it has a “very strong main character with strong convictions,” and surprise turns in the plot. “It starts out very, very funny and it gets very, very dark by the end. I think that makes for a great thrill ride.”
The season will wrap with Oliver! (March 14–April 2), the Tony Award-winning musical version of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. The family-friendly musical with a large ensemble of youngsters is meant, in part, to help jump-start again the theater’s Goldner Conservatory of Performing Arts. The training program had been put on pause during COVID and is now operating on a limited basis in Juno Beach. “A show like ‘Oliver!’ actually introduces the theater to younger people, who then may say, ‘Oh, you have a conservatory?’ So a show like ‘Oliver!’ helps rebuild the school.”
Meanwhile, other area theater companies and presenters have announced their plans for the 2022-23 season.
West Palm Beach’s Palm Beach Dramaworks, founded in 2000, will be presenting a season of classic American plays, a world premiere and two Pulitzer Prize winners. The season opener is Amy Herzog’s 4000 Miles (Oct. 14-30), about a 21-year-old biker and his fragile 91-year-old grandmother. It will be followed by Twelve Angry Men (Dec. 9-24) by Reginald Rose, a former teleplay about a diverse jury that puts the American judicial system on trial. The season’s third production is a world premiere, The Science of Leaving Omaha (Feb. 3-19) by Carter W. Lewis, about an odd couple who meet and spend an evening exploring their lives in a Nebraska funeral home.
Actor-playwright Tracy Letts won a Pulitzer for his semi-autographical August: Osage County (March 31-April 16), the reunion of the highly dysfunctional Weston family. PBD’s season ends with Suzan-Lori Parks’ Topdog/Underdog (May 26-June 11), the Pulitzer Prize-winning tale of two brothers — Lincoln and Booth – and their simmering sibling rivalry.
Boca Raton’s Wick Theatre has announced a five-show 2022-23 season of mainstream musicals, beginning with Milk and Honey (Oct. 13-Nov. 6), Jerry Herman’s first Broadway score, about a group of American widows on a tour of Israel in search of romance. Next is Rodgers and Hammerstein’s version of the classic fairy tale Cinderella (Nov. 25-Dec. 24), with an updated libretto by Douglas Carter Beane. Reaching even farther back, the company will produce Cole Porter’s Anything Goes (Jan. 12-Feb. 12) from 1934, the toe-tapping tale of an ocean liner crossing the Atlantic with a madcap passenger list.
The previously postponed Damn Yankees is next (March 2-April 2), about a middle-aged baseball fan who sells his soul to Satan to help the woeful Washington Senators win the pennant. The Wick season concludes with Million Dollar Quartet (April 20-May 14), a fictional version of a real-life Sun Records jam session with Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley. Thank you very much.
A few blocks away in Boca is Sol Theatre, where Boca Stage will serve up three South Florida premieres and an unexpected, updated comedy classic from America’s most commercially successful playwright. First up will be The Thin Place by Lucas Hnath (Nov. 3-20), an offbeat ghost story centering on a woman who can see and communicate with the dead. The second production of the season is Alessandro Camon’s Time Alone (Jan. 6-22), about a grief-stricken widow and a young man serving a life sentence, who have an unexpected connection. Next up is Grand Horizons, by Bess Wohl (Feb. 10-26), about a couple married 50 years who suddenly decide to divorce, which leads to comic reactions from their family. And speaking of comedy, the Boca Stage season ends with Neil Simon’s classic laughfest, The Odd Couple (March 17-April 2), but the female version with opposites Florence and Olive moving in together and getting on each other’s nerves.
Fort Lauderdale’s Broward Center has a Broadway series that features four South Florida premieres. They include Six (Oct. 11-23), a rock concert by the six wives of England’s King Henry VIII; Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird (March 28-April 9), the Southern social drama of attorney Atticus Finch and his two kids, adapted to the stage by Aaron Sorkin; Tina: The Tina Turner Musical (Jan. 17-29), the biographical tale of the “Proud Mary” whirlwind; and Beetlejuice (June 13-25), the raucous musical about a dead couple who try to haunt the inhabitants of their former home.
Also on the series is the always welcome return of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton (Nov. 22-Dec. 11), the hip-hop blockbuster about the Founding Father, first secretary of the Treasury and lousy duelist. Plus, available to subscribers as add-on options are Riverdance’s 25th Anniversary Show (Jan. 13-15), Chicago (Feb. 14-19) and Mean Girls (May 2-7).
Celebrating its 30th anniversary season, the Kravis Center’s Broadway show line-up is heavy on movie-inspired musicals. The season leads off with 9 to 5: The Musical (Nov. 15-20), about a trio of female co-workers who turn the tables on their sexist boss, to a score by Dolly Parton. It will be followed by Disney’s Aladdin (Dec. 14-23), the Arabian tale of a lamp and three wishes, based on the animated film. Then there’s Tootsie (Feb. 7-12), about a difficult actor who cannot get hired until he dresses as a woman. Tootsie may not be pretty, but it will be followed by Pretty Woman: The Musical (March 7-12), the cable TV perennial movie, a contemporary take on the Cinderella legend.
Not based on a movie but popular on Broadway nevertheless are the three other musicals on the Kravis schedule. There’s Hadestown, winner of eight 2019 Tony Awards, based on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, but relocated to New Orleans (Jan. 3-8). And the long-running prequel to The Wizard of Oz, Wicked (March 29-April 9), which focuses on two witches-in-training before one went to the evil side. As well as Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations (April 26-30), which follows the tightly choreographed guy group from the streets of Detroit to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.