If you don’t watch carefully, South Florida theater companies will move around on you. Celebrating its 25th season, Stage Door Theatre has relocated from Margate to Lauderhill, a move westward and a little south, but also a move up in the world to the gorgeous new $11.6 million, 1,100-seat Lauderhill Performing Arts Center.
And the nomadic Primal Forces troupe has moved back to Boca Raton from the Empire Stage space it occupied briefly. Although artistic director Keith Garsson sounded sheepish announcing he would be producing a Neil Simon play (The Gingerbread Lady) in his season, he now seems prescient with an homage to the late, highly commercial writer, in the edgy company’s new digs as the professional resident adult company of Sol Theatre.
Speaking of Boca, the new works-oriented Theatre Lab is staying put on the Florida Atlantic University campus, but all eyes are on new artistic director Matt Stabile, taking over for Lou Tyrrell, formerly of Florida Stage and Arts Garage. Talk about big shoes to fill.
Palm Beach Dramaworks and GableStage had announced plans to co-produce Paula Vogel’s provocative drama Indecent, but the Spirits of Bi-County Cooperation never materialized. So if you are willing to shuttle up and down I-95, you can see two different productions of the play, in October and January.
If you are sniffing around for some unifying themes in this season’s productions, you will notice a new emphasis on puppetry. FAU Theatre Lab’s Stabile has already injected them into his first show, Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter, and fully expects to find opportunities in the other scripts he directs.
The Maltz promises a puppet-fueled Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, unlike any version you may have seen previously. And newish company Lightning Bolt could hardly mount Little Show of Horrors without an increasingly large series of blood-thirsty plants or the tour of another Disney show – The Lion King, coming to the Kravis Center in late April – relies on director Julie Taymor’s puppet ingenuity.
So here, from the top of Palm Beach County to the bottom of Miami-Dade, is the theater line-up for the 2018-19 season:
The Maltz Jupiter Theatre, Palm Beach County’s premier resident company, continues to tackle major musicals with a flourish, but also balances its season with drama. It opens with the sentimental tale of Southern belles at a beauty shop, Steel Magnolias (Oct. 28-Nov. 11), directed by Marcia Milgrom Dodge (Gypsy, Fiddler), with an all-female cast that includes Broadway veterans Alison Fraser and Crista Moore. Considerably edgier is A Doll’s House, Part 2 (Feb. 24–March 10), Lucas Hnath’s sequel to the landmark Ibsen drama, featuring yet another Broadway fixture, Mary Stout.
The Maltz’s musical line-up leads with Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (Nov. 27 – Dec. 16), but re-imagined with Puppet Kitchen puppets (The Wiz), and directed by John Tartaglia (Avenue Q). Next up is the ABBA pop rock musical Mamma Mia!, for an ambitious four-week run (Jan. 15-Feb. 10), and the classy, classic West Side Story (March 26-April 14), directed by Marcos Santana and choreographed by Al Blackstone – the duo that collaborated on Disney’s Newsies.
As its name suggests, Palm Beach Dramaworks usually spotlights dramas, often classic American ones, but this season is the company’s most diverse yet, with a brand-new work, a musical and an out-and-out comedy. It begins with Paula Vogel’s Indecent (Oct. 19-Nov. 11), a look back at the 1923 premiere of Sholem Asch’s controversial God of Vengeance. Next is a new family drama by Lyle Kessler (Orphans) called House on Fire (Dec. 7-30), followed by a musical tale of redemption, The Spitfire Grill (Feb. 1-24).
Dramaworks has a weakness for Pulitzer Prize winners and this season it salutes the late August Wilson with his saga of a Negro League baseball player turned Pittsburgh garbageman, Fences (March 29-April 21), followed by John Guare’s rollicking comedy of the travails of a zookeeper and songwriter wannabe, The House of Blue Leaves (May 17-June 2).
It is all musicals in the Kravis Center’s On Broadway series, beginning with Rock of Ages (Nov. 6-11), the tale of a heavy metal rocker told with ’80s music hits, then the Tony-winning revival of Jerry Herman’s Hello, Dolly! (Dec. 11-16), with Betty Buckley as the conniving matchmaker and Lewis J. Stadlen as her marital prey. Next, the musical biography of Emilio and Gloria Estefan, On Your Feet! (Jan. 8-13), followed by a new staging of the Victor Hugo revolutionary classic, Les Misérables (Feb. 12-17).
Still playing on Broadway is Waitress (March 5-10), the saga of a lovelorn pie-baking expert with songs by Sara Bareilles, and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock (March 27-31), about an irresponsible rocker who impersonates a teacher and turns his young students into a rock band. The Kravis Broadway season wraps with Disney’s The Lion King (April 24 – May 5), an extravagant retelling of Hamlet on the African plain.
Primal Forces, which has roots in Boca Raton, returns there this season, taking up residency in the home space of Sol Theatre. Keith Garsson has again found a few edgy, offbeat plays, starting with Breadcrumbs (Nov. 30-Dec. 23), a time-bending drama featuring Angie Radosh and Jackie Laggy. Next up is Emily Mann’s Having Our Say (Jan. 11-Feb. 3), about two ground-breaking African-American sisters (Avery Sommers, Karen Stephens) looking back over their lives.
In the company’s third slot is Blonde Poison (Feb. 15-March 10) with Lourelene Snedeker, a Holocaust drama about a young girl in Nazi Germany, but was she an accomplice or a victim? Primal’s season wraps with a departure of sorts, the late Neil Simon’s dark comedy The Gingerbread Lady (March 22-April 14), with Patti Gardner as the title alcoholic cabaret singer.
Boca’s Wick Theatre has a full lineup of ambitious musicals and revues, beginning with Gilbert and Sullivan’s operetta of bumbling corsairs, The Pirates of Penzance (Oct. 18-Nov. 11), starring Broadway’s Sean McDermott (Miss Saigon). Despite its bad luck with box office name casting, The Wick has enlisted All in the Family’s Sally Struthers to play crabby Miss Hannigan in Annie (Nov. 29-Dec. 23), followed by the Fanny Brice musical Funny Girl (Jan. 17-Feb. 24), with Stephanie Maloney in the lead.
Gershwin fans will be pleased to hear that the Wick will be mounting a production of Crazy for You (March 14-April 14) and then ending its season with Always, Patsy Cline (April 25-May 19), the story of the country-western star and her biggest fan, with Lourelene Snedeker as the latter.
FAU Theatre Lab, the professional company on the Boca university’s campus, serves up a trio of new works under its new artistic director, Matt Stabile. If you go back to the days of Florida Stage, you may recall the work of Tammy Ryan (The Music Lesson). Her latest, Tar Beach (Nov. 30-Dec, 16), a tale of two female teens in New York in the summer of ’77, the season of Son of Sam and a city-wide blackout. Next is David Meyers’ Southeastern premiere of We Will Not Be Silenced (Feb. 8-24), about resistance by German college students to the rise of Hitler. Thirdly, Leah Sessa plays the title role in Jennifer Lane’s Harlowe (March 29 – April 14). No, not Jean, but a young woman suffering from physical trauma, learning to live with the pain from her bathtub.
Comfortably ensconced in their new 1,100-seat playhouse in Lauderhill, Stage Door Theatre has a season of classic and contemporary musicals. A couple of con men get conned in David Yasbek’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Oct. 12-Nov. 4), followed by the ethnic retelling of the adventures of Dorothy Gale and Toto, The Wiz (Dec. 7-31). Speaking of con men, there will be Mel Brooks’ pair of flim-flamming impresarios, The Producers (Jan. 18-Feb. 10), then the Gershwin jukebox musical, My One and Only (March 1-24). The love story from beyond the grave Ghost, The Musical (April 12-May 5) may be a con and the season ends with a tale of a spunky Jazz Era lass looking for love, Thoroughly Modern Millie (May 24-June 16).
Island City Stage, Wilton Manors’ gay-themed theater, has a show business season planned, beginning with Buyer & Cellar (Nov. 1-Dec. 2), about an actor who takes a job manning the shopping mall in Barbra Streisand’s basement. Next is a world premiere by Michael Leeds, Bette and Barry, From Bathhouse to Broadway (Jan. 10-Feb. 10), a fantasy onstage reteaming of Midler and Manilow. Then comes From White Plains (March 21-April 21), about bullying publicly exposed at the Oscars and Veronica’s Position (May 31-June 30), a cocktail made of a fading female star, a right-wing senator, her gay assistant and an ill-conceived production of Hedda Gabler. Shake well.
Fort Lauderdale’s Broward Center has a blockbuster Broadway season, including two recent Tony-winning shows – Hamilton (Dec. 18-Jan. 20), perhaps you’ve heard of it? And Dear Evan Hansen (March 26-April 7), the saga of a teenage lie that goes viral. Both will be hard-to-get tickets, but worth the effort.
The Broward series opens with Phantom of the Opera (Oct. 10-21), the longest-running show ever on Broadway, followed by The King and I (Nov. 20-Dec. 2), the recent revival of Fiddler on the Roof (Feb. 20-March 3), Anastasia (April 23-May 5), which is a hit in New York despite its reviews, and A Bronx Tale (June 12-23), based on Chazz Palminteri’s one-man show and movie.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Center, Slow Burn presents a slate of musicals, though not as edgy as they used to offer. For instance, they open with Freaky Friday (Oct. 18-Nov, 4), an age-swapping comedy, and You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown (Feb. 28-March 10), a “warm puppy” musical based on the Peanuts characters.
Then again, who else would produce Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Nov. 8-25), an out-there look at gender issues, as is Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (June 13-30). Also on Slow Burn’s plate are such screen-to-stage shows as Legally Blonde (Dec. 13-30) and 9 to 5 (March 20-April 14) and Frank Wildhorn’s cult favorite, Jekyll & Hyde (Jan. 31-Feb. 17).
Miami’s Arsht Center has several shows this season that duplicate the Kravis schedule, like Hello, Dolly! (Nov. 20-25), Les Misérables (Feb. 5-10), Waitress (Feb. 26-March 3), School of Rock (April 9-14) and The Lion King (May 8-26). The standout exclusive is Come from Away (June 18-23), the moving tale of the citizens of Gander, Newfoundland, who hosted planefuls of stranded passengers after 9/11. And its holiday treat is Irving Berlin’s White Christmas (Dec. 25-30).
The resident company of the Arsht is Zoetic Stage, which invites us to take a bite of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Oct. 11-28), in a new version by its resident playwright, Michael McKeever, then draws on our imagination with the Tony-winning tale of autism, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Jan. 17-Feb. 3). Next is a South Florida premiere, Every Brilliant Thing (Feb. 14-March 3), about a man compiling a list of the best things in the world. Finally, the company’s annual foray into the trunk of Stephen Sondheim features his masterwork, Sweeney Todd (March 14-April 7).
Sharing the Arsht Studio space, at least briefly, is City Theatre, known for its 10-minute play festivals. For the month of December (6-23), it pops up with an evening’s worth, Winter Shorts.
In Coral Gables, Actors’ Playhouse is all excited about its world premiere musical, Havana Music Hall (Oct. 10-Nov. 18), featuring the sounds of that once-vibrant capital of Cuba, in what the theater insists is a pre-Broadway engagement. It is followed by a knockabout British comedy, One Man, Two Guvnors (Jan. 23-Feb. 10), based on Goldoni’s Servant of Two Masters.
Next is the raucous Tony-winning musical Memphis (March-April 7), followed by a rare journey into drama, John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer winner Doubt (May 15-June 9), about possible priest-student sexual abuse.
Finally, but hardly least, is perennial Carbonell Award-winning GableStage, with its usual provocative line-up of recently acclaimed plays from New York, like Joshua Harmon’s Admissions (Oct. 13-Nov. 11), about racial politics in college entrance decisions. Next is Actually (Nov. 24-Dec. 23), a steamy look at a freshman hook-up and the foggy issue of consent, followed by GableStage’s production of Indecent (Jan. 26-Feb. 24). Lucy Kirkwood’s The Children (March 16-April 14), which explores the potential for disaster in our nuclear age, was a Tony nominee for Best Play early this year. And Sarah Burgess (Dry Powder) takes on the current political scene in Kings (May 18-June 16).