A Theatre Lover's Guide to DC/Capital Area Theatres – January 2011 Offerings and My 2010 Favorite Productions

Happy New Year everyone!

As we welcome in a new year of great theatre in the nation’s capital, I thought it would be fun to do one of those “Best of 2010" lists as well as preview what’s opening in January on DC area stages. So let’s raise our glasses and offer a toast to all those theatre companies who gave us great productions in 2010, and to the upcoming 2011 theatre season!

MY FAVORITE 2010 PRODUCTIONS IN THE DC AREA:

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There were hundreds of productions mounted on DC area stages in 2010. Here are my personal favorites (in alphabetical order):

A Christmas Carol at Toby’s Dinner Theatre of Baltimore

A Man of No Importance at Keegan Theatre

Antony and Cleopatra at Synetic Theater

Candide at Shakespeare Theatre Company

Chess at Signature Theatre

Hairspray at Toby’s Dinner Theatre of Columbia

High Fidelity at Landless Theatre Company

Into The Woods at The Theatre Lab - School of Dramatic Arts

Les Miserables at Act Two @ Levine

Master and Margarita at Synetic Theater

My Name is Asher Lev at Round House Theatre

Oklahoma! at Arena Stage

Othello at Synetic Theater

Passing Strange at The Studio Theatre

Perez Hilton Saves The Universe at Landless Theatre Company

RENT at Toby’s Dinner Theatre of Columbia

Side Show at Teatro 101

Sophisticated Ladies at Arena Stage.

Sycamore Trees at Signature Theatre

South Pacific at The Kennedy Center In Washington, DC.

The Dancing Princesses at Imagination Stage

The Happy Elf at Adventure Theatre and Montgomery College

The Odd Couple at Theater J

The Stephen Schwartz Project at Musical Theater Center

Violet at Teatro 101

You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown at No Rules Theatre Company

JANUARY 2011 MUST-SEES

(1) THE ARABIAN NIGHTS, FROM JANUARY 14TH TO FEBRUARY 20TH IN THE FICHANDLER AT Arena Stage, IN WASHINGTON, DC.

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Tony Award-winning Director Mary Zimmerman (for Metamorphoses) whose production of Candide is packing them in at Sidney Harman Hall at The Shakespeare Theatre Company – has adapted the “Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night" and is bringing The Arabian Nights to Arena Stage’s Fichandler where the popular Oklahoma! played to sold out audiences and received rave reviews. I know the show will be visually stunning, because every show I’ve seen that Mary has directed has been beautifully designed.

“In ancient Baghdad, a courageous young girl postpones her execution by weaving magical tales for the troubled king. Genies and jesters, lovers and thieves spring to life from Scheherazade's imagination – allowing her to win the king's heart even as she secures her freedom."

The cast of The Arabian Nights includes Barzin Akhavan (Harun Al-Rashid), Usman Ally (Madman), Terence Archie (Greengrocer, Robber),David DeSantos’ (King Shahryar), Minita Gandhi (Slave Girl), Allen Gilmore (Scheherezade’s Father, Ishak of Mosul), Susaan Jamshidi’s (Butcher, Sympathy the Learned), Ronnie Malley’s (Poor Man, Musician), Luis Moreno (Clarinetist, Sage), Maureen Sebastian’s (Dunyazade, Azizah), Nies cole Shalhoub (Perfect Love, The Other Woman), Louis Tucci (Jafar, Sheik Al-Fadl), Stacey Yen (Scheherezade), and Evan Zes’ (Sheik Al-Islam, Abu Al-Hasan).

The Creative Team of The Arabian Nights includes Set Designer Dan Ostling, Costume Designer Mara Blumenfeld, Lighting Designer T.J. Gerckens, Original Composition and Sound Design by Andre. The production is in association with Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Kansas City Repertory Theatre, and Lookingglass Theatre.

Watch a preview video of The Arabian Nights here:

Watch Director Mary Zimmerman talk about The Arabian Nights here.

(2) THE DROWSY CHAPERONE, FROM JANUARY 14TH TO JANUARY 29TH AT THE ALDEN THEATRE AT THE McLEAN COMMUNITY PLAYERS (‘MCP’), IN McLEAN, VA.

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It’s one of my favorite musicals of all time – very original, funny, silly, and nostalgic with loveable kooky characters – with a hilarious book by Bob Martin and a wonderful jazzy score by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison. I saw the Broadway production five times. What a coup that MCP is presenting the first DC area production of the five-time Tony award-winning musical The Drowsy Chaperone!

The great news is that Wade Corder is directing the show. His work on Ruthless! at Dominion Stage and The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!) at The Elden Street Players were both hysterical. From Wade, “The Drowsy Chaperone does what a musical is supposed to do: It transports you to another world. And we are excited about transporting our audiences to that world as well, a world of mix-ups, mayhem and just plain fun".

Joining Wade are Musical Director Paul Nasto and Choreographer and Assistant Director Amanda Cane. The cast stars Claire O’Brien, who is making her D.C. debut as ingénue Janet Van De Graaff, Larry Baird as the Man in the Chair, Duane Monahan as Robert Martin, the very funny Lisa Anne Bailey as the Drowsy Chaperone (a great casting choice), Jordan Hougham as Kitty, Justin Latus as George, Quinn McCord and Jarrett Goldfedder as Gangsters, Allen McRae as Feldzieg, Jennifer Pagnard as Mrs. Tottendale, Christopher Thorn as Adolpho, Byron Wilkerson as Underling, and Genevieve Williams as Trixy. The ensemble members are Christopher Borton, R. Kieth Flores, Shannon Kingett, and Kristin Otto.

"It all begins when a die-hard musical-theater fan plays his favorite cast album - a 1928 smash hit The Drowsy Chaperone. As he listens, the musical magically comes to life in his apartment. And, with him, the audience is immersed into a delightful, uproarious tale with glamorous brides, tap-dancing groomsmen and a madcap group of fellow characters." 

(3) RETURN TO HAIFA, FROM JANUARY 15TH TO JANUARY 30TH AT THEATER J, IN WASHINGTON, DC.

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Israeli theatre company The Cameri is returning to DC with Return to Haifa which will be part of the Voices From a Changing Middle East: Portraits of Home Festival. The Cameri had a huge hit when it brought its production of Hamlet in 2007, which played to sold out houses at Signature Theatre. It will be exciting to me to hear Hebrew spoken on the stage because I speak the language.

Return to Haifa is based on Palestinian author Ghassan Kanafani’s novella of the same name and adapted for the stage by Israeli playwright Boaz Gaon. It tells the story of Sa’id and Saffiyeh, who return to the home they fled during the tumultuous days leading up to Israel’s War of Independence, and learn the fate of the baby they left behind. The show is directed by Israeli Director Sinai Peter who returns to Theater J after directing Pangs of the Messiah (2007) and The Accident (2009). The cast is comprised of Jewish-Israeli and Arab-Israeli actors Rada Adin, Suheil Hadad, Erez Kahana, Rozina Nemtzeanu Oz Ami and Nessim Zohar. Klyph Stanford has designed projections and lights for the show and Michelle Elwyn is the properties designer. The show will be performed in Hebrew with English subtitles provided.

(4) MIRANDY AND BROTHER WIND, FROM JANUARY 21ST TO FEBRUARY 13TH AT ADVENTURE THEATRE, IN GLEN ECHO, MD, AND FROM FEBRUARY 25TH TO MARCH 13TH AT ATLAS PERFORMING ARTS CENTER, IN WASHINGTON, DC.

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Adventure Theatre and The African Continuum Theatre Company join forces to present the World Premiere of Mirandy and Brother Wind, adapted by Adventure Theatre’s Artistic Director Michael J. Bobbitt from the book of the same title by Patricia C. McKissack, and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. It’s the first African-American show Adventure Theatre has produced. Jennifer Nelson directs the production that has music and lyrics by John L. Cornelius, whose jazzy score I really enjoyed when I saw his Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings, last in March 2009 at Howard University.

What’s exciting is that Adventure Theatre has received a $30,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for musical theatre as part of Adventure Theatre’s new series to diversify audiences called ‘African-American Adventures’ - 5 new children’s musicals, based on fictional African American children’s books.

“Who will take the cake? Why, Mirandy of course. The junior cake walk happens soon and Mirandy needs a dance partner. Who can high step and kick the best? Why Brother Wind! But how can Mirandy captured him? Grandmother Beasley says, "Can't nobody put shackles on Brother Wind, chile. He be special. He be free. Leave it to Mirandy, she’ll catch him; she'll grab hold of that Brother Wind and win that delicious cake! Through her journey to capture Brother Wind, Mirandy learns something special - freedom and kindness."

Three time Helen Hayes Award nominee and one of my favorite actresses/singers Felicia Curry plays Mirandy. Joining Felicia are Eric Williams (Monroe), Ayanna Hardy (Orlinda), Lynne Streeter Childress (Grandma), Ma Dere (Jeri Marshall), Calvin McCullough (Brother Wind/Mr. Jessup), Jesaira Glover (Ms. Geneva/Poinsetta), Chris Mueller (Santa/Moon Racer), and Jobari Parker-Namdar (Ezel). What a cast filled with some of the best singers/actors in the DC area! Darius Smith is The Music Director. Fabian Barnes choreographs.

(5) A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, FROM JANUARY 25TH TO 30TH AT SYNETIC THEATER IN CRYSTAL CITY, IN ARLINGTON, VA.

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I saw Synetic Theater’s production of A Midsummer Night's Dream 7 times, and I am so glad that it will be returning this month for a brief return engagement in Synetic’s new Crystal City location.

“If you missed it the first time, are looking for a great holiday gift, or just want to see it again, don't miss your chance to experience the joy of this fantastical, playful game of love, mistaken identity and the supernatural".

Alex Mills returns in his pliable performance as Puck. Joining him are the Helen Hayes Award-winning ensemble of the 2009 production: Irina Tsikurishvili as Titania, Scott Brown as Lysander, Irina Koval as Hermia, Marissa Molnar as Helena, Ryan Sellers as Peter Quince, Chris Galindo, Konstantine Lortkipanidze, Katie Maguire, and Vato Tsikurishvili as the Mechanicals, Natalie Berk as Peaseblossom, and Irina Kavsadze as Mustardseed. Joining them for this production are Ben Cunis as Oberon, Dan Istrate as Bottom, Peter Pereyra as Demetrius, Brynn Tucker as Mote/Hippolyta, and Katherine Frattini as Cobweb/Snake.

Watch a preview video from the 2009 production here, and see some of the magic that will await you in this fairy dust and charm-filled production. The Bard would have been proud!

(6) BLACK WATCH, FROM JANUARY 26TH TO FEBRUARY 6TH AT Shakespeare Theatre Company’S SIDNEY HARMAN HALL, IN WASHINGTON, DC.

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After hosting Mary Zimmerman’s critically acclaimed production of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide, Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Sidney Harman Hall hosts and launches the international tour of the National Theatre of Scotland’s production of. Black Watch, winner of the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play in 2009. Friends who have seen the production in London tell me it’s one of the greatest productions they have ever seen, so I am eagerly awaiting its DC run.

Black Watch was written by Gregory Burke and was based on interviews with former soldiers of the Black Watch regiment of the British Army serving in Iraq during 2004. In October of that year, the US army requested that British forces be moved out of the British controlled Multi-National Division to replace forces that were temporarily being redeployed for the Second Battle of Fallujah. Despite objections from London’s Parliament, The Black Watch was attacked by insurgents and three of its men were killed by a car bomb.

“Hurtling the eyes of those on the ground, Black Watch reveals what it means to be part of the legendary Scottish regiment, what it means to be part of the war on terror and what it means to make the journey home again. John Tiffany’s production from the National Theatre of Scotland makes powerful and inventive use of movement, music and song to create a visceral, complex and urgent piece of theatre".

Watch a preview video with highlights from the show and an interview with director John Tiffany here.

(7) LET ME DOWN EASY, THROUGH FEBRUARY 13TH IN THE KREEGER AT Arena Stage, IN WASHINGTON, DC.

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When Anna Deavere Smith comes to DC it’s always a celebration and when it’s announced that she will be performing in one of her works - the tickets sell out quickly. You can only imagine how difficult it will be to snag tickets when she performs in Let Me Down Easy – her one-woman production, which Anna conceived and wrote.

So now Arena Stage launches the national tour of Second Stage Theatre’s production Let Me Down Easy, directed by Leonard Foglia (Master Class and Thurgood). Anna Deveare Smith plays 23 people she has interviewed at some point in the last 10 years and says exactly what they said – an assemblage of stories. She plays all these characters, from a heavyweight boxer to a former supermodel, and from Texas Governor Ann Richards to legendary cyclist Lance Armstrong

From Anna Deavere Smith: “To write Let Me Down Easy, I interviewed over 300 people on three continents," says Smith, a Baltimore native. My goal is to learn as much about a person as possible by studying the way they speak. My portrayals of the more than 20 people in this one-woman show are all drawn from the words of people who speak to the vulnerability of the human body, the resilience of the spirit, the price of care. The Let Me Down Easy journey began when I was invited to be a Visiting Professor at the Yale School of Medicine. My first thought was, ‘Really, me, a clown, to create something in such a serious elite environment?’ I walked away from the experience with an increased compassion for doctor and patient alike. The stories stayed in my heart and became the basis of this play."

Watch a video of Anna Deavere Smith talking about Let Me Down Easy here.

ALSO OPENING IN JANUARY 2011

January 5th to February 13th, Marcus, or The Secret of Sweet, at The Studio Theatre, in Washington, DC.

January 6th to 30th, Magic, at The Washington Stage Guild, in Washington, DC.

January 7th to 16th, Lyme Park, at The Hegira at Round House Theatre, in Silver Spring, MD.

January 8th to 22nd, Ernesto Lecuona’s María la O & Ruggiero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci [Clowns], at The In Series, at Source, in Washington, DC. 

January 8th to 30th, A Shadow of Honor, at Keegan Theatre, in Washington, DC.

January 12th to February 5th, Aquarium, at Imagination Stage, in Bethesda, MD.

January 13th to January 30th, Winter Carnival of New Works, at Madcap Players, in Washington, DC. 

January 14th to February 12th, Beyond the Horizon, at American Century Theater, in Arlington. VA. 

January 14th to February 13th, The Velveteen Rabbit, at The Puppet Company, in Glen Echo, MD. 

January 17th to 30th, #NewPlay Festival, at Arena Stage, in Washington, DC.

January 18th to March 6th, Cymbeline, at Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Lansburgh Theatre, in Washington, DC. 

January 19th to February 6th, Tynan, at Studio Theatre, in Washington, DC.

January 20th to February 19th, Requiem for a Heavyweight, at Heritage-O’Neill Theatre, in Silver Spring, MD. 

January 20th to March 13th, His Eye is on the Sparrow, at MetroStage, in Alexandria, VA.

January 21st to February 13th, The Carpetbagger's Children, at Ford’s Theatre, in Washington, DC.

January 25th to March 6th, The Comedy of Errors, at The Folger Elizabethan Theatre, in Washington, DC.

January 25th to 30th, Stomp, at The Warner Theatre, in Washington, DC.

January 25th to February 12th, Under the Shadow of Wings, at Ambassador Theater, at Mead Theatre Lab at Flashpoint, in Washington, DC. 

January 27th to March 6th, I Left My Heart: A Salute to The Music of Tony Bennett, at Toby’s Dinner Theatre of Columbia.

NOW OPEN AND PLAYING THROUGH JANUARY & FEBRUARY 2011

Through January 1st, Paul Morella Performs A Christmas Carol, In The Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab, At Olney Theatre Center, In Olney, MD.

Through January 1st, Seasonal Disorder, at Washington Improv Theatre (‘WIT’), at Source, in Washington, DC.

Through January 2nd, A Christmas Carol, at Ford’s Theatre, In Washington, DC

Through January 2nd, A Christmas Carol, at Toby’s Dinner Theatre of Baltimore, in Baltimore, MD.

Through January 2nd, Black Nativity, at Theater Alliance at H Street Playhouse, in Washington, DC.

Through January 2nd, every tongue confess, in The Kogod Cradle, at Arena Stage, in Washington, DC.

Through January 2nd, Oy Vey In A Manger, at Theater J, in Washington, DC.

Through January 2nd, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, At Adventure Theatre, In Glen Echo, Md.

Through January 2nd, Superior Donuts, at The Studio Theatre, in Washington, DC

Through January 8th, The Foreigner, at The Bay Theatre Company, Inc., in Annapolis, MD.

Through January 9th, A Girl’s Guide To Washington Politics, at The Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, in Washington, DC.

Through January 9th, Candide, At Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Sidney Harman Hall, In Washington, DC.

Through January 9th, Junie B. In Jingle Bells, Batman Smells!, At Imagination Stage, in Bethesda, MD

Through January 9th, The Mouse Trap, at 1st Stage, in Tyson’s Corner, in McLean. VA.

Through January 16th, Annie at The Olney Theatre Center, in Olney, MD.

Through January 16th, South Pacific, In The Opera House At The Kennedy Center, in Washington, DC.

Through January 16th, The Nutcracker, at Synetic Family Theater In Arlington, VA.

Through January 23rd, Cinderella, At Toby’s Dinner Theatre Of Columbia, In Columbia, MD.

Through February 13th, Sunset Boulevard, At Signature Theatre’s Max Theatre, In Arlington, VA.

PHOTOS

(1) The cast of The Arabian Nights at The Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Photo by Kevin Berne.

(2) The Drowsy Chaperone artwork from The McLean Community Players presented by special arrangement with Music Theater International.

(3) Artwork from Theater J’s production of Return from Haifa by David Polonsky.

(4) Illustration from Adventure Theatre and The African Continuum Theatre Company's Mirandy and Brother Wind by Jerry Pinkney.

(5) Alex Mills as Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Synetic Theater. Photo by Graeme B. Shaw.

(6) Richard Rankin as Granty in the National Theatre of Scotland’s production of Black Watch, which will be playing at The Shakespeare Theatre Company from January 26th to February 6th. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

(7) Anna Deavere Smith in Let Me Down Easy at Arena Stage. Photo by Joan Marcus.

____

Joel Markowitz writes about theatre in Washington, DC, Philadelphia, and New York for DC Theatre Scene. Follow Joel’s Theatre Schmooze column here and his podcast interviews here. He is a regular guest on The Lunch and Judy Show radio program starring Judy Stadt on Positive World Radio Network and can be heard on WTBQ 1110 AM in NYC. Joel founded The Ushers Theatre Going Group in the DC area in 1990. The group is in its 21st season. Joel also writes a monthly preview of what’s about to open in DC area theatres for BroadwayWorld. His work can also be seen in “COLUMNS" and “PODCAST" on BroadwayStars.

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Joel Markowitz Joel Markowitz grew up in Buffalo, NY. At a young age, between shoveling snow and eating hot Buffalo wings, he fell in love with theatre, particularly musical theatre. Moving to the DC area after graduating from Syracuse University, Joel founded The Ushers Theatre Going Social Group, where he leads groups to performances in the DC area, and theatre weekends in NYC and Philadelphia. This year, The Ushers is celebrating its 21st anniversary. Joel also coordinates Broadway Bound Meetup groups in the DC, Baltimore, and VA areas.

In May 2011, Joel became the Editor and Senior Columnist for Maryland Theatre Guide, after writing his popular column Theatre Schmooze, and recording interviews with DC, Philadelphia, and New York actors, directors, and composers for DC Theatre Scene for 5 years. Joel is also a regular contributor on the weekly NYC radio program ‘The Lunch and Judy Show’ where he talks with host Judy Stadt about theatre in NYC and the DC area. Joel is a fan of Stephen Sondheim, William Finn, Jason Robert Brown and Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. His favorite musicals include Ragtime, The Secret Garden, Spring Awakening, Gypsy, The Light in the Piazza, Sweeney Todd, The Last Five Years, and In The Heights. He is a huge supporter of children's theatre. Joel is also a Buffalo Sabres fan, so you may see him at hockey rinks, as well as at stage doors, where he schmoozes with the stars.


 
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