BWW Preview: Eleven Local Shows That We Can't Wait to See in 2020
How many jokes do you think the year "2020" will have? Here's one you probably already have heard: "My friend asked me where I see myself in the new year. How would I know? I don't have 2020 vision." Yeah, yeah, you can stop laughing now.
Whatever lame 2020 jokes will come our way, we have a lot to look forward to this year, especially when it comes to local theatre. It's going to be a busy season; here are some of the shows that I can't wait to see...
1. DEAR WORLD [freeFall Theatre; April 25-May 24]
This was #1 on my must-see list even before hearing the sad news of the passing of Jerry Herman. Mame may be Herman's under-appreciated masterpiece, while Hello Dolly is certainly his most popular work and La Cage Aux Folles his most important. But for my money, it doesn't get any better than DEAR WORLD, and I can't wait to see what the fine folks at freeFall do with it.
2. THE PEOPLE DOWNSTAIRS [American Stage; March 11 - April 5]
Natalie Symons is a local playwright hero, and I'm waiting for that description to change from "local" to "national." She's that good. Her past works--The Buffalo Kings, Lark Eden and Naming True--show so much promise, passion, heart and ballsy quirkiness (or quirky ballsiness) that certainly connected with me. She's a major voice, and THE PEOPLE DOWNSTAIRS, set in a Buffalo funeral home, looks like it can't miss. Featuring the beloved Matthew McGee and Allen Fitzpatrick, the latter giving one of the best performances of recent years in the Asolo Rep production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street last year.
3. A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM [Jobsite Theater; January 17-February 9]
Jobsite and Shakespeare go together like peanut butter and chocolate. And this year's offering--perhaps the Bard's most accessible and popular work--looks like a hoot. I saw Giles Davies in a production of MIDSUMMER almost a decade ago at freeFall, and he was the most physical Puck I had ever experienced. He's playing Bottom in Jobsite's 2020 production, and I'm sure it's worth admission price to see how he tackles that role.
4. 12 ANGRY MEN [Stageworks; March 20-April 5]
This can be one explosive drama, and some of the best actors in our area will be gathered together here as jurors in a murder trial that exposes their characters' prejudices, shortcomings and intolerances. Expect plenty of sparks, if not an emotional firestorm or two.
5. DOUBT: A PARABLE [Jobsite Theater; March 13-April 5]
John Patrick Shanley's brilliant Pulitzer Prize-winning drama will be given the A+ treatment at Jobsite, especially with two heavy-hitters in the leads.
6. NEXT TO NORMAL [American Stage; July 15-August 16]
One of the two or three best-written musicals of the past ten or so years, NEXT TO NORMAL stands as one of only a handful of musicals to win the Pulitzer Prize (there are nine to be exact). The show deals with serious themes in a very entertaining, non-preachy way. If you are in the mood for a deep musical about bipolar disorder, hallucinations and mental illness, all to the tunes of Tom Kitt's rollicking score, then this is surely a must. It's weighty stuff, so don't expect a Harold Hill to sing about "76 Trombones" in this one.
7. ANNA IN THE TROPICS [Stageworks; May 1-17]
Another Pulitzer Prize winner, this one set in Ybor City. They had me at "Ybor."
8. ASSASSINS [MAD Theatre; April 16-May 3]
Stephen Sondheim considers this his perfect musical. Whether or not you agree with perhaps Broadway's single greatest figure about this musical, you can't deny its power. MAD Theatre is the only local community theatre that can tackle a show this edgy and dark--where all the presidential assassins and failed assassins gather to tell their horrific tales. Yes, it even boasts a demented duet between John Hinkley (Ronald Reagan's shooter) and Squeaky Fromme (the Manson follower who pulled a gun on President Ford). It's a show so dark, it makes Cabaret look like State Fair.
9. CABARET [Richey Suncoast; March 5-15]
Speaking of CABARET...Let's see what Richey Suncoast does with this iconic Kander & Ebb musical about Berlin's Kit Kat Club just before the Nazis take over. It will be interesting to see their interpretation of this potentially frightening piece. Will they go for broke--politically brave or sexually adventurous, as some companies have done with this material? I have no idea; but I sure hope they have a to-die-for Emcee to gleefully capture our collective nightmares.
10. SUNSET BOULEVARD [Eight O'Clock Theatre; February 28-March 15]
Whether or not you're a fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber, this one promises to be big. And since I only know the score but have never actually seen the show, good or bad, I finally get my chance.
11. OZ [freeFall Theatre; June 27-July 26]
The brilliant Michael Raabe and Eric Davis join forces with their retelling of Dorothy's venture into the Land of Oz. With Raabe and Davis at the helm, and freeFall being freeFall (always creative, always pushing the envelope, always an entertaining risk), this has the makings for greatness.
Which of the above shows will live up to the hype? Which won't? I know there will be a hidden surprise or two this year, a show not on the above list that winds up blowing me away. I think I like those the most--finding a treasure when you least expect it. On that note, I wish all of you a very Happy New Year and a very Happy and Exciting Year of Theatre-Going! I'll see you there...