The past season saw the second shoe drop in Palm Beach County. Boca Raton’s 37-year-old Caldwell Theatre Company closed its doors, soon after Florida Stage ended its operations, and area theatergoers are still reeling from both abrupt losses.
Add Broward County’s now-defunct Promethean Theatre ― or rather subtract it ― and the theatrical landscape is substantially thinner as we head into a new performance season.
On the other hand, Lou Tyrrell’s Theatre at Arts Garage in Delray Beach is back with a full season of new plays, echoing his developmental efforts at Florida Stage. A completely new company, Outré Theatre Co., debuts in Mizner Park in November, where Parade Productions returns for its second season. And Maltz Jupiter Theatre and Palm Beach Dramaworks are readying promising fare, coming off of their most successful seasons ever.
So there are definite signs of life on the theater scene, despite continuing economic concerns. Here is how the season is shaping up, company by company:
Flexing its artistic and financial muscles, the Maltz Jupiter opens with an ambitious production of Peter Shaffer’s dramatic tale of inspiration and jealousy, Amadeus (Oct. 30-Nov. 11). Then it focuses on what it built its reputation on ― musicals ― with such likely crowd-pleasers as The Music Man (Nov. 27-Dec. 16), Singin’ in the Rain (Jan. 8-27) and Thoroughly Modern Millie (March 5-24), with a Pulitzer Prize-winning drama of faith and the lack of it, Doubt, sandwiched in the season (Feb. 5-17).
Palm Beach Dramaworks loves to present Pulitzer Prize winners as well, so it begins its season with a one-two punch of Lanford Wilson’s two-hander romance, Talley’s Folley (Oct. 12-Nov. 11), and Edward Albee’s powerful A Delicate Balance (Dec. 7-Jan. 6), featuring Tony Award winner Maureen Anderman. In time for Black History Month, the troupe revives Lorraine Hansberry’s portrait of racial prejudice, A Raisin in the Sun (Feb. 1-March 3), followed by Eugene Ionesco’s absurdist look at a royal endgame, Exit the King (March 29-April 28), and Brian Friel’s memory play of the clogging Mundy sisters of rural Ireland, Dancing at Lughnasa (May 24-June 3).
Heading into its sophomore season, Manalapan’s Plaza Theatre de-emphasizes its musical revues in favor of popular comedies. It launches with Alfred Uhry’s touching Pulitzer Prize winner of racial tension between chauffeur and passenger, Driving Miss Daisy (Oct. 19-Nov. 18), Murray Schisgal’s LUV (Dec. 6-30), a three-way marriage-go-round on a New York bridge, and Chapter Two by Neil Simon (Jan. 17-Feb. 10), a tale of romance the second time around.
West Boca’s Slow Burn Theatre Company continues its menu of offbeat musicals, opening with the regional premiere of the foul-mouthed Tony-winning puppet show, Avenue Q (Oct. 26-Nov. 4), followed by the cult favorite Side Show (Feb. 1-10), a fact-based fable of conjoined twins. As challenging as they are, they pale next to the scrappy troupe’s third show of the season, Stephen Sondheim’s operatic masterwork, Sweeney Todd (April 12-21).
The Boca Raton Theatre Guild continues to attract area Equity performers to its community theater-turned-professional company. It opens with A.R. Gurney’s comedy of canine love, Sylvia (now through Oct. 14) featuring Patti Gardner, then presents its version of the Kander-Ebb cynical musical Chicago (March 1-17) with Gardner, Avi Hoffman and Ken Clement.
This season, the Theatre Guild will share its Sugar Sand Park playhouse with The Women’s Theatre Project, the company that has long shared a director, Genie Croft. WTP produces plays by women playwrights with all-female casts, a policy which is limiting, but they often find area premiere scripts such as Delval Divas (Nov. 2-18), about “pink” collar criminals in a Delaware correctional facility, and The Interview (Jan. 4-20), a play about mothers and daughters and the legacy of human suffering.
Across town in Boca’s Mizner Park, the self-described “unconventional, outrageous and out of the ordinary” Outré Theatre Co. debuts with a menu of attention-getting shows and a multi-media style. Its inaugural show will be Andrew Lippa’s Roaring 20’s musical, The Wild Party (Nov. 23-Dec. 9), followed by An Iliad (April 5 – 23), a contemporary take on the Homeric epic poem, featuring the ubiquitous Avi Hoffman. Lastly, the troupe expects to produce tick, tick … BOOM!, the late Jonathan Larson’s autobiographical rock musical of his artistic struggles (dates to be announced).
Back for a second year and sharing the Mizner Park Studio Theatre space is Kim St. Leon’s Parade Productions, which will build its season around Davie actor-playwright Michael McKeever. He appears in the one-man comic monologue The Santaland Diaries (Dec. 13-23), based on David Sedaris’s adventures as a department store elf, then is the writer of The Whole Kaboodle (Feb. 2-24), an evening’s worth of McKeever’s most popular short plays.
Plantation’s Mosaic Theatre is the standout in theater-depleted Broward County. It opened with Gogol’s The Diary of a Madman (continuing through Oct. 14), the puckish political satire about a lowly civil servant driven bonkers by bureaucracy. Next up is Irish playwright Conor McPherson’s stage adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s The Birds (Nov. 15-Dec. 9), followed by two allegorical dramas by Rajiv Joseph, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo and Animals Out of Paper (Feb. 7-March 17).
With two theaters to fill in Coral Springs, Broward Stage Door Theatre has a season of eight mainstream, familiar shows. They include such musicals as the perennial Fiddler on the Roof (Dec. 7-31) and Damn Yankees (Jan. 18-Feb. 10), then a pair of composer retrospective revues, The World Goes ‘Round (Dec. 20-Jan. 28) and Jerry’s Girls (March 1-24); a trio of comedies, Rumors (Oct. 19-Nov. 11), Six Dance Lessons In Six Weeks (Nov. 9-Dec. 2) and Beau Jest (April 5-28), plus a thriller, Deathtrap (Feb. 8-March 3).
Resident companies in Miami-Dade are dominated by Carbonell champ GableStage, which regularly produces recent provocative hits from New York, off-Broadway and on, and this season from London, too. For instance, its season opener will be the cat-and-mouse audition mind game by David Ives, Venus in Fur (Nov. 10-Dec. 9), followed by a new 90-minute version of Hamlet adapted by Miami’s own Tarell Alvin McCraney for the Royal Shakespeare Company (Jan. 12-Feb. 10). Next will be an odd couple drama, Amy Herzog’s 4000 Miles (March 16-April 14) and the attention-getting Cock by Mike Bartlett, about an unexpected, alternative romantic triangle.
As befits its name, Coral Gables’ New Theatre has two world premieres on its schedule this season ― Robert Caisley’s Eugene O’Neill Award finalist Happy (Nov. 30-Dec. 16), about euphoria envy, and artistic director Ricky J. Martinez’s Road Through Heaven (Feb. 1–17), which explores the limits of unconditional love. Uncharacteristically, New is also scheduled to mount a couple of long-established scripts, Educating Rita by Willy Russell (Oct. 12-28) and Agnes of God by John Pielmeier (Feb. 1-17).
Actors Playhouse also keeps an eye on Broadway and has the clout to obtain the area premiere rights to some of the Great White Way’s recent hits. Their season opens with Stephen Schwartz’s Godspell (Oct. 10-Nov. 4), hopefully more successful than the recent Broadway revival, followed by The Last Five Years, Jason Robert Brown’s non-linear look at a disintegrating relationship. The new year begins with Other Desert Cities (Jan. 16-Feb. 10) by Jon Robin Baitz, about an explosive family reunion, then Lin Manuel Miranda’s Tony-winning musical In the Heights (March 6-April 7) and Ken Ludwig’s The Fox on the Fairway (May 8-June 2), a comedy on the country club golf world.
Zoetic Stage, in residence at the Arsht Center’s studio space, unleashes its permanent company of actors on three diverse plays. For starters, there is Doug Wright’s Pulitzer and Tony-winning I Am My Own Wife (Oct. 4-21), about a Berlin transvestite and persistent survivor, featuring Tom Wahl. Then the company unveils the area premiere of Zach Braff’s (Scrubs) comic All New People (Jan. 10-27), about an accidental friendship that arises from a moment of crisis, and The Savannah Disputation (April 11-28) by Evan Smith, a tale of two daffy Catholic sisters and their encounter with a door-to-door evangelist.
The Arsht Center’s Broadway in Miami series is packed with musicals that either are based on movies or which have since been made into films. The former includes Mary Poppins (Jan. 1-6) and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (April 2-7), and the latter is represented by Rock of Ages (Oct. 9-14) and Les Miserables (Feb. 26-March 3). Not yet a movie, but likely to become one, is the series fifth subscription show, Tony-winning best musical Memphis (May 7-12). Non-subscription bookings include the percussive Stomp (Dec. 4-9) and the African political spectacle, Fela! (March 19-24).
The comparable Broadway series at the Broward Center saves its best for last, ending its series of national tours with the epic melodrama of World War I, War Horse (May 7 – 19), with larger-than-life-size equine puppets. The rest of the series mixes area premieres with frequent visitors ― Million Dollar Quartet (Nov. 6-18), Sister Act (Dec. 18-30), Agatha Christie’s BBC Murders (Jan. 15-Feb. 3), a collection of the murder mystery maven’s short stumpers, Flashdance (March 5-17) and The Addams Family (April 9-21). Off subscription is yet another chance to see Wicked (Jan. 30-Feb. 17), the Wizard of Oz prequel.
Kravis on Broadway has a couple of South Florida exclusive shows, like the tour of the underwhelming Catch Me If You Can musical (Nov. 13-18) and a newly conceived revival of Frank Wildhorn’s Jekyll & Hyde (March 26-31), starring American Idol and Rock of Ages alum Constantine Maroulis. The rest of the series includes the ever-popular Jersey Boys (Dec. 19-Jan. 6), Mary Poppins (Jan. 29-Feb. 3), Elton John’s moving tale of a boy ballet dancer wannabe, Billy Elliot (March 5-10) and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (April 23-28).