NEW MUSICALS AMONG POTENTIAL GEMS
Don’t think of summer as theater’s cooling-off period. Nowadays there’s too much heat on too many stages to consider it the slow season. For more evidence that July and August aren’t time to stop feeding your theatergoing habit, here are five locales, in and out of town, with the summertime potential to warm your drama-loving heart.
Arena Stage had a big success as a musical testing ground in 2008 with “Next to Normal.” That crucial retooling of Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey’s show about the impact of mental illness on an American family allowed the production to move on to Broadway and eventually garner a Pulitzer Prize. Now the theater hopes it can further burnish its reputation with “Dear Evan Hansen,” a new musical starring Ben Platt (“Pitch Perfect”) as a young man whose wishes come true, at a price.
The book is by Steven Levenson, the score is by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (“A Christmas Story”) and the director is Michael Greif, who not only shepherded “Rent” to Broadway acclaim, but also ably guided “Next to Normal.” We’ll see whether Arena remains his lucky charm.
Dear Evan Hansen July 10Aug. 23 at Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth St. SW. 2024883300. www.arenastage.org.
In 1998, Signature Theatre’s artistic director, Eric Schaeffer, took a gamble, staging the American premiere of “The Fix,” a swing-for-the-fences satirical musical that one of its creators, Dana P. Rowe, described at the time as “The Addams Family Goes to Washington.” It had had a lackluster debut the year before at London’s Donmar Warehouse, and the results in Shirlington, although better received, didn’t scare up much outside interest in the show.
Now Schaeffer is at it again. After staging two other musicals by Rowe and his longtime collaborator, John Dempsey — “The Witches of Eastwick” and “Brother Russia” — he’s bringing back “The Fix” as the opening act of his 2015-16 season. Given the return of the real-life presidential follies, this could be a well-timed reprise.
The Fix Aug. 11Sept. 20 at Signature Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington. 7035737328. www.signaturetheatre.org.
The summer’s premier theatrical event occurs next month on Broadway, with the arrival of “Hamilton.” Following a ballyhooed sold-out run at off-Broadway’s Public Theater, this remarkable musical, with book and score by Lin-Manuel Miranda (who’s also the star), is already an odds-on awards-season favorite. Let’s hope tourist-driven Broadway is as receptive to the inventive delights of this groundbreaking work as were the crowds that clamored for tickets in the East Village.
The sophomore Broadway effort from Miranda, composer and star of “In the Heights,” and director Thomas Kail, “Hamilton” recounts, through a vibrant hybrid score of hip-hop, pop and show tunes, the life and times of founding father Alexander Hamilton. It’s at once lots of fun and deeply serious, an exhilarating conjoining of rap and scholarship that forges a meaningful connection between the Americas of yesterday and today.
Hamilton Performances begin July 13 at Richard Rodgers Theatre, 226 W. 46th St., New York. 8772502929. www.ticketmaster.com.
The Contemporary American Theater Festival, that pastorally situated annual purveyor of new work in the West Virginia panhandle, has on its ambitious five-play agenda a piece it commissioned on the subject of the dissident Russian feminist group whose guerrilla theater ran legally afoul of that country’s president, Vladimir Putin.
“We Are Pussy Riot” is playwright Barbara Hammond’s drama about the women of Pussy Riot, who, to humanitarian outrage, were sent to labor camps for their protest pieces criticizing Russian politics and society. The director is the formidable Tea Alagic, who collaborated with dramatic Tarell Alvin McCraney on his widely praised Brother/Sister play cycle.
We Are Pussy Riot July 10Aug. 2 at Contemporary American Theater Festival, Shepherdstown, W.Va. 8009993283. www.catf.org.
Call any stage that six-time Tony winner (!) Audra MacDonald chooses to appear on the locus of an event. In bucolic western Massachusetts, site of the long-running Williamstown Theatre Festival, she will be starring with husband Will Swenson (“Hair”) in a revival of Eugene O’Neill’s bittersweet love story “A Moon for the Misbegotten.”
Gordon Edelstein directs the pair, in what is sure to be closely watched for its Broadway transfer potential. How far off, after all, can Tony No. 7 be?
A Moon for the Misbegotten Aug. 523 at Williamstown Theatre Festival, Williamstown, Mass. 4135973400. www.wtfestival.org.