By Dale King
Autumn has officially arrived in South Florida, a sure sign that community theaters throughout Palm Beach County are readying their performance schedules for a new slate of programs. Most open this month.
Delray Beach Playhouse has launched its 72nd season, said executive director Kevin Barrett, who’s entering his second year at the helm of the showplace tucked away from civilization on the eastern shore of Lake Ida.
A bit north and east of that location, the Lake Worth Playhouse on Lake Avenue downtown has opened its 65th season in its center city digs.
Coincidentally, both entertainment spots will offer five mainstage plays this year, and began their 2018-19 seasons Oct. 5.
In Delray, Barrett continues to spiff up both the building and the roster of performances. Last year, the new boss added a cabaret component, something that will continue this year.
Also this season, he’ll bring in a three-show “Artists Lounge Live” segment, featuring Broadway performers covering the songs of famed artists. “They won’t be impersonating them; they will be doing the songs that made them famous,” he said.
The triad of lounge performances will include John Michael Dias doing Neil Sedaka Oct. 26-28; Evan Tyrone Martin singing “An Unforgettable Nat King Cole Christmas” Dec. 27-28 and “Elvis, My Way,” Feb. 22-24, featuring Brandon Bennett from Chicago’s Million Dollar Quartet.
Delray’s veteran artistic director Randolph DelLago will continue hosting his “Musical Memories” series and will also direct the five shows on the big stage.
Lake Worth continues its 20-year-old tradition of presenting three musicals as part of its five-play season, says Executive Director Stephanie Smith. “It works for us.”
Players are drawn mainly from the local area, she noted. “South Florida has many talented singers/actors. We choose our musicals and plays taking our known talent pool into consideration. We welcome all newcomers and are pleased to have returning talent.”
Delray’s Barrett opened with a murder mystery, an Agatha Christie whodunit called A Murder Is Announced. He said a poll of Delray audiences showed they like mysteries best of all shows – and he wants to hit them with a thriller right up front. The show runs through Oct. 27.
Next on the list is a comic musical with a hint of nostalgia and plenty of laughs. The 1940s Radio Hour, with music by Walton Jones, also brings with it a holiday flair that should engender yuletide and Hanukkah spirit among members of the audience. The show runs from Nov. 30 to Dec. 16.
Once the New Year arrives, DBP will memorialize one of the great playwrights, the recently deceased Neil Simon, with one of his best, California Suite. The show that leapt from popular stage show to star-endowed movie will play from Feb. 1 to 17.
Buoyed by the success of last year’s And the World Goes ’Round, a collection of tunes by John Kander and Fred Ebb – perhaps most famous for scoring Cabaret – Barrett is betting that Showtune, a revue of songs by Jerry Herman, will hit the right notes with the Delray audiences.
Featuring songs from Hello, Dolly, Mack & Mabel, La Cage aux Folles and Mame, among others, Showtune will haul into town March 22 and end April 7.
Barrett will stick his neck out with the season finale, Yazmin Reza’s Tony Award-winning God of Carnage, a study of two couples whose 11-year-old sons have gotten involved in a fight and who meet to discuss it, only to have their own behavior devolve. God of Carnage is an 80-minute drama, much shorter than the other shows. The play, originally written in French, has been translated by Christopher Hampton and will play from May 17 to June 2.
At LWP, the 2018-29 season began with the stage version of Mel Brooks’ raucous film Young Frankenstein. You might find yourself exclaiming, “It’s alive!” as you watch this adaptation, which runs through Oct. 21 at the downtown Lake Worth playhouse.
Next comes Barefoot in the Park, an early work from Neil Simon. It tells of a couple of newlyweds – he a straight-as-an-arrow lawyer, she a free spirit always looking for the latest kick. As a movie, it starred a very, very young Jane Fonda and Robert Redford. It will be playing here Nov. 15 to Dec. 2.
After that – Jan. 17 to Feb. 3 – is Camelot. Borrowing from the Arthurian legends, the classic Lerner and Loewe musical from 1960 became associated not long after that with the Kennedy Administration and became a popular film. Its score boasts now-classic songs such as “If Ever I Would Leave You,” “I Loved You Once in Silence,” “The Lusty Month of May,” and of course, “Camelot.”
A tense, intriguing mystery, Wait until Dark, makes its way to the Lake Worth Playhouse stage from Feb. 28 to March 17. The Frederick Knott play became a film starring Audrey Hepburn.
The season concludes with Sweet Charity, a delightful 1969 show (again by Neil Simon) that explores the turbulent love life of Charity Hope Valentine, a hopelessly romantic but comically unfortunate dance hall hostess in New York City. Its Cy Coleman-Dorothy Fields score includes well-known numbers such as “Hey, Big Spender,” “If They Could See Me Now,” “There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This,” “I’m a Brass Band” and “Baby, Dream Your Dream.”
Tickets for Delray Playhouse are available by calling 561-272-1281, ext. 5, or visiting delraybeachplayhouse.com. Lake Worth Playhouse tickets are available by calling (561) 586-6410 or visiting lakeworthplayhouse.org.