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TheatreWorks Announces 50th Season: World Premiere Musical, More

TheatreWorks Announces 50th Season: World Premiere Musical, More

Theatre enthusiasts packed the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts last night to hear Founding Artistic Director Robert Kelley and Executive Director Phil Santora of TheatreWorks Silicon Valley reveal the lineup for the company's 50th season, which launches this summer. Kelley's 50th and final season as Artistic Director of TheatreWorks Silicon Valley includes triumphant returns of TheatreWorks favorites, bold premieres developed at the company's annual New Works Festival, and celebrated works from the nation's leading playwrights.

Among the works announced are a World Premiere musical (the company's 70th World Premiere), plus a Regional Premiere from America's most popular playwright, the West Coast Premiere of a rollicking musical revue, the Northern California premiere of a soaring drama about one of the first women astronaut-trainees, a Tony-winning musical masterpiece, a riotous TheatreWorks favorite, an acclaimed tour-de-force solo performance, and a quirky comic drama about communication. Kelley will retire at the conclusion of the season, ending what is believed to be the longest current tenure of any LORT (League of Resident Theatres) Artistic Director in the nation.

For more information or to purchase subscriptions ($115 - $591) the public can call 650-463-1960 or visit Subscriptions are on sale now; single tickets will go on sale in spring 2019. Special pricing is available for seniors (65+), educators, and patrons 35 and under.

TheatreWorks' 50th season launches with The Language Archive (July 10 - Aug. 4, 2019). Written by Julia Cho, whose Aubergine captured rapturous praise and multiple awards, this whimsical tale follows a linguist focused on restoring dying languages, who fails to communicate in his own language. Winner of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for Women Playwrights, The Language Archive was produced Off-Broadway by Roundabout Theatre Company, earning accolades from critics including Talkin' Broadway, which called it "Passionate...wise and wonderful." It will be directed by Jeffrey Lo.

It will be followed closely by TheatreWorks Silicon Valley's 2019 New Works Festival (Aug. 7 - 18, 2019) at which leading playwrights and composers from across the country share developing work with audiences, presenting book-in-hand readings and sing-throughs of new plays and musicals.

Following the New Works Festival is the return of TheatreWorks favorite The 39 Steps (Aug. 21 - Sept. 15, 2019). Adapted by Patrick Barlow from the book by John Buchan and the movie by Alfred Hitchcock, this outrageous and outlandish comic thriller turns the Hitchcock classic on its head in a hilarious spoof chockablock full with chicanery, espionage, dastardly murders, double-crossing secret agents, and devastatingly beautiful women. Requiring only four actors to play dozens of parts, this imaginative farce stretches the boundaries of theatrical invention. The 39 Steps played at London's Tricycle Theatre in August 2006 and was so successful it gained an immediate transfer to the West End, where it won the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy and ran for nine years. Its Broadway production by Roundabout Theatre Company was nominated for six Tony Awards including Best Play in 2008. TheatreWorks presented a wildly popular production in 2011, which set attendance records and was declared "A madcap homage that revels in full-throttle theatricality," by The Mercury News.

In the fall, TheatreWorks will present the West Coast Premiere of Mark Twain's River of Song (Oct. 2 - 27, 2019). Developed by the creators of TheatreWorks favorites Fire on the Mountain and It Ain't Nothin' but the Blues, Randal Myler and Dan Wheetman, this rousing new musical charts a journey down the Mississippi River, sharing the humorous and heartwarming stories of one of its most famous residents, Mark Twain. Featuring soaring spirituals and foot-tapping folk tunes, including "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child," "Follow the Drinking Gourd," and "Deep River Blues," its 2019 world premiere at Milwaukee Repertory Theatre was called "Infectious, moving and merry!" by Broadway World and "A quintessentially American, homespun delight," by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

For the holidays, TheatreWorks presents the company's 70th World Premiere, the new musical Pride and Prejudice (Dec. 4 - 29, 2019), directed by Robert Kelley. Based on Jane Austen's iconic novel, this exhilarating work features book, music, and lyrics by Paul Gordon, whose musicals include TheatreWorks favorites Jane Austen's EMMA and Daddy Long Legs, and the Tony-nominated Broadway musical Jane Eyre. A favorite from TheatreWorks's 2018 New Works Festival, this romantic comedy for the ages follows headstrong Lizzie Bennet and haughty Mr. Darcy as they discover the irresistible power of love.

TheatreWorks launches the New Year with the triumphant tour de force, The Pianist of Willesden Lane (Jan. 15 - Feb. 9, 2020), starring celebrated pianist Mona Golabek in a show created and directed by virtuoso pianist/writer/actor Hershey Felder. This marks the fifth collaboration between Felder and TheatreWorks, which has presented Felder's solo shows Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin; Hershey Felder, Beethoven; and Our Great Tchaikovsky to record-breaking audiences and will premiere his newest work, Hershey Felder: A Paris Love Story, in April. Based on the novel The Children of Willesden Lane, written by Golabek with Lee Cohen, The Pianist of Willesden Lane tells the inspiring true story of Golabek's mother, a young Jewish pianist escaping the Holocaust. Traveling via the Kindertransport, her mother flees Nazi-occupied Austria for a children's home on Willesden Lane in London, later surviving the London Blitz. Combining vivid storytelling with masterful performances of classics by Bach, Beethoven, and Rachmaninoff, this musical journey has captivated audiences across the country in critically-acclaimed, sold-out runs. The Los Angeles Times called it "an arresting, deeply affecting triumph," while the San Francisco Chronicle gave the solo show its highest rating, saying it is an "astonishing tour de force...stunningly good."

Spring brings the Northern California Premiere of Laurel Ollstein's They Promised Her The Moon (Mar. 4 - 29, 2020), an audience favorite also developed in Palo Alto at TheatreWorks' 2018 New Works Festival. In They Promised Her the Moon, Ollstein tells the incredible, true story of Jerrie Cobb, a world record-holding female aviator who dreamt of flying among the stars. At the height of the Space Race, Cobb and her female peers in the Mercury 13 program trained to become astronauts, ready to join their male counterparts in space and change history, but they never got the chance. Of its Off-Broadway showcase production, The Huffington Post said, "This story of strength and resilience is beautifully told in this insightful play." It will be directed by TheatreWorks Director of New Works Giovanna Sardelli.

TheatreWorks will celebrate its 50th birthday in April 2020 with the return of one of Kelley's favorites which he will once again helm: the timeless hit musical Ragtime (April 1 - 26, 2020). Featuring the Tony Award-winning book by Pulitzer Prize finalist Terrence McNally (Master Class, Kiss of the Spider Woman, The Rink) and the Tony Award-winning score by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens (Once on This Island, Anastasia, Seussical The Musical), this musical is based on E. L. Doctorow's best-selling novel. This sweeping and stirring musical masterpiece paints a portrait of America at the dawn of the twentieth century, interweaving the lives of three families-white, African-American, and immigrant-finding their places and pursuing the American Dream in a rapidly changing world. Ragtime's original 1998 Broadway production, deemed a "A colossal hit" by New York Post, and received four Tony Awards. TheatreWorks's 2002 production of Ragtime received rapturous accolades, with The Mercury News calling it "A masterpiece."

The final selection of the season offers the Regional Premiere of Lauren Gunderson's The Book of Will (June 3 - 28, 2020), directed by Robert Kelley in the conclusion of his 50th and final season as TheatreWorks's Artistic Director. Recognized by American Theatre magazine as one of the most sought-after playwrights in the country, prolific Bay Area-based Lauren Gunderson, whose Silent Sky received a TheatreWorks production in 2014, writes a love letter to the theatre. In this absorbing, amusing, fast-paced drama, two of William Shakespeare's friends struggle to collect and publish the First Folio, a volume of his life's work, following the Bard's passing. Premiering at The Denver Center for the Performing Arts, The Book of Will won the 2018 Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award. It was lauded by critics as "A delightful literary jaunt" by Chicago Daily Herald and "Wonderful entertainment...hilarious and poignant," by Chicago On Stage.

Five productions will be mounted at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts and three will be staged at Palo Alto's Lucie Stern Theatre. In chronological order, the TheatreWorks Silicon Valley 2019/20 season is as follows:

A Whimsical Parable

The Language Archive

By Julia Cho

Directed by Jeffrey Lo
July 10 - August 4, 2019 (opening night: July 13)


A quirky, comic drama about communication-its potential and its limits-this romantic parable for our times features a linguist at a loss for words, especially the vocabulary of the heart. Balanced delightfully between affection and adversity, it is the whimsical, life-affirming chronicle of a brilliant scientist who fights to preserve the dying languages of far-flung cultures, only to neglect the promise and passion of his own. It will be directed by Jeffery Lo, who has helmed TheatreWorks hit productions of The Santaland Diaries.

Julia Cho's plays include Aubergine, Office Hour, The Language Archive, The Piano Teacher, Durango, The Winchester House, BFE, The Architecture of Loss, and 99 Histories. Her work has been produced at The Public Theater, Playwrights Horizons, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, New York Theatre Workshop, Long Wharf Theatre, South Coast Repertory, and East West Players, among others. Her honors include the Will Glickman Award for Aubergine and the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for The Language Archive.

An Uproarious Spoof

The 39 Steps

Adapted by Patrick Barlow
Based on the book by John Buchan

From the movie of Alfred Hitchcock

Directed by Leslie Martinson

August 21 - September 15, 2019 (opening night: August 24)


TheatreWorks' acclaimed hit comedy returns in a hilarious, high-speed spoof of Alfred Hitchcock's silver-screen classic. Mingling mystery and laughter, this irresistible Broadway smash hurtles a notorious fugitive and a spellbound blond from a raucous London music hall to Scotland's most remote highlands-and a den of devious spies. Along the way it creates trains, planes, moors and more in a wildly funny flight to the heights of theatrical invention.

Patrick Barlow is an English actor, comedian, and playwright. His plays include an Olivier Award-nominated adaptation of A Christmas Carol, a reframing of Milton's Comus, and a spoof of Ben Hur. His comedic alter ego, "Desmond Olivier Dingle," is the Founder, Artistic Director, and Chief Executive of the two-man National Theatre of Brent, which has performed on stage, television, and radio since 1980.

A Rollicking Musical Journey
Mark Twain's River of Song

By Randal Myler and Dan Wheetman

Directed by Randal Myler

October 2 - 27, 2019 (opening night: October 5)

West Coast Premiere


Book passage on a riverboat down the mighty Mississippi, teeming with rousing traditional songs and the poignant stories of the Big Muddy's favorite son, Mark Twain. Told with wry humor and surprising emotion, played on a parade of guitars, banjos, and harmonicas, this music-filled journey will have audiences tapping their feet as it warms their hearts. From the creators of TheatreWorks hits Fire on the Mountain and It Ain't Nothin' but the Blues.

Randal Myler and Dan Wheetman received Tony Award nominations (Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical) and a Drama Desk nomination for their musical It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues (presented by TheatreWorks in 2009). The pair also collaborated on Fire on the Mountain (TheatreWorks 2015), the John Denver holiday musical Back Home Again, Appalachian Strings, Mama Hated Diesels, and Lowdown Dirty Blues. In addition to the pair's collaborations, Randal Myler's work includes the Off-Broadway hit Love, Janis; Hank Williams: Lost Highway; The Immigrant; and others. A former John Denver band member, Dan Wheetman is a writer, performer, and musical director whose work has appeared at leading theatres across the country.

An Exhilarating Musical for the Holidays
Pride and Prejudice

Book, Music, and Lyrics by Paul Gordon

Based on the novel by Jane Austen
Directed by Robert Kelley

TheatreWorks's 70th World Premiere

December 4 - 29, 2019 (opening night: December 7)


To ring in the holidays, the Tony-nominated creator of TheatreWorks hits Jane Austen's EMMA, Daddy Long Legs, and Jane Eyre debuts an unforgettable musical of Jane Austen's beloved classic. This romantic comedy for the ages brings a witty, satirical edge and a contemporary beat to its engaging score. Let the battle of the sexes begin as a delightfully liberated Lizzie Bennet and a dashing, disdainful Mr. Darcy discover the irresistible power of love.

Paul Gordon (Book, Music & Lyrics) penned the music, lyrics, and book for the sensational TheatreWorks hit, Jane Austen's EMMA, and the music and lyrics to the TheatreWorks holiday favorite Daddy Long Legs. He also provided the music, lyrics, and book for Sense and Sensibility, which received its world premiere by Chicago Shakespeare in 2015. Gordon received a Tony Award nomination in 2000 for composing the music and lyrics for the acclaimed Broadway musical Jane Eyre. His other credits include writing music and lyrics for Greetings From Venice Beach and The Magnificent Ambersons. Gordon has written for, and collaborated with, numerous recording artists, including Bette Midler, Quincy Jones, Alanis Morissette, Smokey Robinson, and Dionne Warwick, has several hit songs to his credit, and is the recipient of nine ASCAP awards for songwriting.

A Triumphant Tour de Force

Mona Golabek in

The Pianist of Willesden Lane

Adapted and Directed by Hershey Felder

Based on the book The Children of Willesden Lane

by Mona Golabek & Lee Cohen

January 15 - February 9, 2020 (opening night: January 18)


Holding fast to dreams of concert success, a young Jewish pianist escapes Vienna via the Kindertransport, arriving in England at the outset of World War II. In a stunning, nationally-acclaimed performance, concert pianist Mona Golabek recounts her mother's poignant saga of hope and resilience, underscored with extraordinary music from Bach, Beethoven, and many more. Created by TheatreWorks favorite Hershey Felder, it celebrates the power of music to transcend even the darkest of times

Mona Golabek is an internationally-renowned concert pianist, actor, author, and radio host. She is the subject of several documentaries including More Than Music and A Concert for Mona. A Grammy nominee, Golabek has performed concerts across the globe, including performances at the Hollywood Bowl, the Kennedy Center, and the Royal Festival Hall. Golabek's recordings include the best-selling Carnival of the Animals, featuring the voices of Audrey Hepburn, Ted Danson, Lily Tomlin and others. An actor, pianist, writer, director, composer, conductor, and producer, Hershey Felder has created lauded shows about George Gershwin, Frederic Chopin, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Liszt, Leonard Bernstein, Irving Berlin, and Tchaikovsky. Felder's solo shows have been seen across America, at The Geffen Playhouse, Pasadena Playhouse, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Hartford Stage, San Diego Repertory Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, Old Globe Theatre, American Repertory Theater, and Cleveland Playhouse, as well as long runs at Chicago's Royal George Theatre and engagements at New York's Town Hall, 59E59, and the Streicker Center. Felder has become an enormous Bay Area favorite; audiences packed TheatreWorks' regional premiere of Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin, setting box office records which were shattered by Hershey Felder, Beethoven and Our Great Tchaikovsky. The upcoming World Premiere of Hershey Felder: A Paris Love Story in April 2019 marks Felder's fourth appearance with TheatreWorks.

Fighting to Fly
They Promised Her the Moon

By Laurel Ollstein

Directed by Giovanna Sardelli

Northern California Premiere

March 4 - 29, 2020 (opening night: March 7)


The space race, 1962. With the sky no longer the limit, astronauts circle the heavens and a world record-holding pilot stands ready to join them, forever altering the course of history. If only America will let her. This fascinating theatrical hit from TheatreWorks's New Works Festival chronicles the incredible true story of Jerrie Cobb, a woman who dreamt of stars, only to wake in a country that couldn't see the light. It will be helmed by TheatreWorks Director of New Works Giovanna Sardelli.

Laurel Ollstein (Playwright) is an award-winning writer, director and teacher. Ollstein's plays include Esther's Moustache, Dorothy Parker is in the Bath, OPA! The Musical, Unhappily Married in Valencia, Anatomy of a Brain Injury, and her acclaimed one-woman-show Laughter, Hope, and a Sock in the Eye. She is a founding member of Tim Robbins's The Actors Gang.

A Musical Celebration of the American Dream


Book by Terrence McNally

Music by Stephen Flaherty

Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens

Based on the novel by E. L. Doctorow

Directed by Robert Kelley

April 1 - 26, 2020 (opening night: April 4)


This timeless musical masterpiece celebrates the soaring sounds and hopeful spirit of America at the dawn of the last century. To the syncopated rhythms of an optimistic new age, this unforgettable theatrical tapestry interweaves the delights of vaudeville, baseball, and nickelodeon with the hurly-burly of labor rallies and racial unrest, tracing the lives of an enterprising Jewish immigrant, a courageous Harlem pianist, and an upper-class wife brilliantly combined in a jubilant, melting pot tribute to the American Dream. It will once again be helmed by Robert Kelley, who was lauded for his direction of this hit production in 2002.

Called "one of the greatest contemporary playwrights the theater world has yet produced" by The New York Observer, Terrence McNally's prolific career in the theatre includes the plays Master Class (TheatreWorks 2000); Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune; Love! Valour! Compassion; It's Only A Play; Mothers and Sons; The Ritz; and Lips Together, Teeth Apart, and the books for musicals Ragtime (TheatreWorks 2002), Kiss of A Spider Woman (TheatreWorks 1997), The Visit, The Full Monty, The Rink (TheatreWorks 1987), and Anastasia. His films include adaptations of his plays Love! Valour! Compassion, The Ritz, and Frankie and Johnny, as well as his Emmy Award-winning Andre's Mother, The Last Mile, and Common Ground (written with Paula Vogel and Harvey Fierstein). McNally is a four-time Tony Award winner for his plays and recipient of the Dramatists Guild Lifetime Achievement Award. An acclaimed songwriting team, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty have created award-winning musicals including Ragtime (TheatreWorks 2002), Once On This Island (TheatreWorks 1993 and 2014), Seussical, Anastasia, My Favorite Year, Lucky Stiff, Rocky, and A Man of No Importance. Ahrens and Flaherty won Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Awards for Ragtime, an Olivier Award for Once On This Island, and an Outer Critics Circle Award for A Man of No Importance. The pair has also received nominations for two Academy Awards and two Golden Globes for their score for the Twentieth Century Fox feature film Anastasia, and Grammy nominations for Ragtime and Seussical.

A Love Letter to the Theatre

The Book of Will

By Lauren Gunderson

Directed by Robert Kelley

Regional Premiere

June 3 - 28, 2020 (opening night: June 6)


Robert Kelley concludes his 50th and final season as Artistic Director with this Regional Premiere which asks, "What if Shakespeare's lines had disappeared forever?" Amidst the clamor and color of Elizabethan London, this touching celebration of the theatre is a funny, heartwarming tale of lifelong collaborators struggling to assemble and publish the Bard's life's work-a lasting memorial to a lost friend. Facing a devious publisher, a cantankerous competitor, and their own insecurity, they illuminate this tale of love, loss, and laughter.

Lauren Gunderson has received national acclaim for her extensive body of work, which includes the plays The Book of Will (Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award); Silent Sky (TheatreWorks 2014); The Revolutionists; and others. She co-authored Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley with Margot Melcon, which was one of the most produced plays in America in 2017.

Since its founding in 1970, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley has become one of the nation's leaders in cultivating and producing new musicals and plays, developing and premiering 69 works by new and veteran artists and 167 regional premieres. The company's New Works Festival and Writers' Retreat programs attract authors and composers of national stature (Rajiv Joseph, Stephen Schwartz, Beth Henley, Paul Gordon, Marsha Norman, Henry Krieger, Duncan Sheik, Jules Feiffer, Joe DiPietro, and Andrew Lippa, among many others), providing an artistic home in which America's theatre artists can create new works. In addition, the company has developed scores of works which have gone on to both regional and Off-Broadway productions. A home for artists developing new works, it was at TheatreWorks that the 2010 Best Musical Tony Award-winner Memphis was first workshopped and received its world premiere.

TheatreWorks Silicon Valley is an Equity/LORT theatre, producing eight shows annually, playing to more than 100,000 patrons a year. TheatreWorks continues its dedication to the Bay Area community with increased audience services and subscriber benefits, Wednesday discussion nights, and opening night celebrations in which the community is invited to mingle with writers, cast, and crew. In addition, TheatreWorks offers many public services such as the education outreach program that reaches some 25,000 students annually with in-class workshops, student matinees, summer camps, the Young Playwrights Project, the acclaimed Oskar school tour, the Children's Healing Project at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, and has piloted a theatre program for the children at Ronald McDonald House.

For more information or to purchase subscriptions ($115 - $591), the public can call 650-463-1960 or visit Subscriptions are on sale now; single tickets will be on sale in spring 2019. Special pricing is available for seniors (65+), as well as patrons 35 and under.

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