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A Theatre Lover's Guide to DC/Capital Area Theatres - September Offerings

There are two things you should know about me: I am a musical theatre lover, and I love to schmooze with actors and composers. I am very fortunate to live in the DC area where our theatre community is growing by leaps and bounds. There are so many productions opening in September in DC, Maryland and Virginia theatres, my head is spinning trying to figure out which ones I will see. After reviewing dozens of theatre schedules, these are my "must-sees". At the bottom of this article, I have listed other shows that are playing during this very busy month. Hopefully, you'll make the trip down to the DC area to see some of these wonderful productions.

Page-to-Stage Festival, from September 5th through 7th, at The Kennedy Center, in Washington, DC.

Looking for some FREE theatre on Labor Day Weekend, and want to get a sneak preview of shows that will be performed by over 40 DC area theatre companies? Then get in line early for The Kennedy Center's 8th annual Page-to-Stage Festival, This 3 day marathon not only offers open rehearsals of plays and musicals, but also free play readings by playwrights and composers and librettists from the DC area, and all over the country. There is limited seating, and it's first-come, first serve, so come early! The 3 day festival runs from 2pm - 10 pm every day. The doors open 30 minutes prior to each performance.

What are two I'm especially looking forward to:

(1) Bouncing Ball Theatrical Productions' musical It Closed on Opening Night, is

described as, "a revival of the 1977 Broadway belly-flop When I Just Can't Say It Anymore, The Musical!, It's described as, "A showgirl misses her chance to leave the stage and lead a decent life. Plagued by multiple book writers, overzealous producers, and a fading diva, the production proves nothing is scarier than a bad musical." The show is directed by the very talented director Shirley Serotsky, with the music and lyrics by Christian Imboden, and a book is by Shawn Northrip. Shawn's Titus X was a huge hit at this year's Capital Fringe Festival. Sounds like fun - doesn't it?

(2) Catholic University Benjamin T. Rome School of Music's gorgeous Magnum Opus

Written by Michael Oberhauser and Directed by Jay D. Brock. Described as, "The one-act opera deals with Robert, a struggling playwright who undertakes a Faustian bargain with two sexy Greek Muses and trades his sanity for creative inspiration". I have seen it three times, and it was a hit at this year's Capital Fringe Festival. It's a theatrical experience you won't forget! Great singing and wonderful music. Can't wait to see it again!

Currently Running

Wittenberg, through September 13th at Rep Stage at Howard Community College in Columbia, Maryland.

I saw David Davalos' laugh-filled comedy at The Arden Theatre Company in Philadelphia last year, and fell in love with it. It's wacky and off-the wall and funny as hell. How's this for a premise? Dr. Faustus and Martin Luther are battling it out - philosophically - and poor, depressed Hamlet is caught in the middle. It's outrageous and beautifully written, and I can't wait to see what this award-winning theatre company will do with one of my all-time favorite shows. Producing Artistic Director Michael Stebbins plays Martin Luther (Isn't it great when the Artistic Director can cast himself in such a juicy role?), Seth Reichgott plays Dr. Faustus, and Michael Feldsher plays the melancholy -  but princely Hamlet. Michael Feldsher and Emily Clare Zempel round out the cast. Tony Tsendeas directs.

Zero Hour, through September 27th, at Theater J, in the Jewish Community Center, in Washington, DC.

I've been waiting all year to see Jim Brochu play three-time Tony Award winner Zero Mostel in Zero Hour. How many times did I play and scratch those LP original cast recordings of Fiddler on the Roof and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum? Hundreds of times! I loved Zero Mostel the actor, performer, and the painter. And, I admired the man who was blacklisted and made a big comeback on the Big White Way. He was a real character - a funny, creative, nasty genius. Watch a clip from the show here:

I sat in the The Actors Temple Theatre - a small performance space in an old historic synagogue on 47th Street in NYC on a very miserable, slushy night, laughing and then crying my eyes out when I saw Jim and his partner, Steve Schalchlin, play themselves in their "musical comedy in two lives"- The Big Voice: God or Merman. After the show ended, and I regained my composure, I schmoozed with Jim and Steve, and I said to Jim, "Why don't you bring your Zero show to DC? When he asked me where, I said Theater J would be a great place". Little did I know that it would actually happen!  So, I can't wait to watch Zero Mostel come back to life in the intimate Aaron and Cecile Goldman Theater, and, I can't wait to sit down and record an interview with the great Jim Brochu, and zero in on Jim's career and Zero's life. We have lots to talk about. 

Dirty Blonde, through October 4th at Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia.

If you are a Mae West fan, and love feathers and boas, why not come on up to Arlington, Virginia! Whenever Emily Skinner is on the stage or in a concert hall, I run to see her. Emily IS Mae West and also plays Mae's die-hard fan Jo, in this year's Tony Award winning Regional Theatre - Signature Theatre's - funny, and heartwarming production of Claudia Shear's five-time Tony nominated play, directed by Jeremy Skidmore, that is playing in the intimate ARK theatre. Not only is Emily a wonder, but her co-stars three-time Helen Hayes Award nominee Hugh Nees and three-time Helen Hayes winner J. Fred Shiffman also give fabulous performances. It's a great time in the theatre. Come early and get dinner or lunch in Shirlington, where there are several wonderful restaurants within a 5 minute walking distance from the theatre.

The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!) through October 18th at MetroStage, in Alexandria, Virginia.

We've been waiting two years for this hilarious production to return to MetroStage. The Eric Rockwell and JoAnne Bogart laugh-filled parody uses the same silly plot about "not paying the rent" in the styles of Rodgers & Hammerstein, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Kander & Ebb, Stephen Sondheim and Jerry Herman. Two-time Helen Hayes Award winner, Donna Migliaccio, soon-to-be Emma Goldman in the Broadway-bound Kennedy Center production of Ragtime, and actor Bobby Smith, recreate their Helen Hayes nominated performances from the 2007 production, and are re-joined by original cast member Jeanine Gulisano-Friday. Matthew Anderson and Doug Lawler round out the cast. Directed again by Larry Kaye and choreographed by Nancy Harry, I can't wait to see what new tricks are up their sleeves. I laughed myself silly when I saw it two years ago. If you like lots of corn, this is your show. Aw, shucks!


Opening Soon

Sweeney Todd, from September 4th through November 8, 2009, at Toby's - The Dinner Theatre of Columbia, in Columbia, Maryland.

It's the best deal in town, not only because for $52 or less you can get a scrumptious all-you-can-eat buffet and a show (Toby Orenstein is a good Jewish mother who knows how to feed her guests with tasty food and lots of it!), but because Toby's productions have won numerous Helen Hayes Awards. And, when you win accolades over "the big boys" like The Kennedy Center, Studio Theatre, Arena Stage and Signature Theatre, and you are still in business for 30 years, you must be producing exceptional work, and doing something right.

I love Sweeney Todd, and I love all kinds of pie, except the ones that have a little priest baked into them, and I think Stephen Sondheim's score is so cleverly tongue-in-cheek - and, don't faint Sondheim detractors - MELODIC. So, I can't wait to see how Helen Hayes Award winner Toby Orenstein stages Sweeney Todd in the round. And what a cast she has! Toby's regular and Helen Hayes Award nominee Russell Sunday leads the talented cast as Sweeney, and is joined by Lynne Sigler as Mrs. Lovett, David Bosley-Reynolds as Judge Turpin, Jessica Ball as Johanna, Jeffrey Shankle as Anthony, April Blandin as the Beggar Woman, Andrew Horn as The Beadle, and Jamie Foreman as Tobias. You couldn't ask for a better cast, venue and director. It will be scrumptious!

First You Dream, September 10th through the 27th, at Signature Theatre, in Arlington, Virginia.

They threw the Kander and Ebb Festival in 2008, and now Signature Theatre brings in some of my favorite Broadway singers - Heidi Blickenstaff, Julia Murney, James Clow, Norm Lewis, and have teamed them with Signature favorite Eleasha Gamble, and Matthew Scott, who appeared in Signature Theatre's production of Ace, to bring a new Vegas-like cabaret/concert to the intimate but larger MAX Theatre. The show is called First You Dream: The Music of Kander and Ebb. It's going to be musical theatre heaven when these incredible performers are accompanied by an 18-piece orchestra, singing songs from their shows and diverse songbook.

Billy Crystal: 700 Sundays, from Sept 9th to the 17th, at The National Theatre, in Washington, DC.

Finally, Billy Crystal brings his Tony Award winning 700 Sundays to the nation's capital. Billy will be gracing The National Theatre stage for only 10 performances, playing those heart-warming, funny, and jazzy characters that helped him win raves from the NYC critics and play to sold-out houses in NYC. Not much more to say except, "We've been waiting for you, Billy!"

The Picture Of Dorian Gray, from September 9th through October 4th at Round House Theatre, in Bethesda, Maryland.

Artistic Director Blake Robison directs Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa' new adaptation of Oscar Wilde's creepy novel, which is coming to Round House Theatre. I hope it's a good reflection on his talents! It's a tale of a starving artist  - Dorian Gray - who paints a portrait of a friend who is quite handsome, and who makes a bargain with you-know-who, that will keep his appearance "unaged", while the painting reflect his true age. The playwright has put a "contemporary spin" on his adaptation. What will it be? I am eager to see some of my favorite actors in the cast - Clinton Brandhagen, Sean Dugan,  Julia Proctor, Roderick Hill, Kaytie Morris, Joel Reuben Ganz, and Tim Pabon. I can't wait to see the mood and look of the show created by the team of award-winning designers -scenic designer James Kronzer, costume designer Helen Q. Huang, lighting designer:Daniel MacLean Wagner, and sound designer Matthew M. Nielson. It's going to be a visual treat!

The Quality of Life, from September 11th to October 18th at Arena Stage in their Crystal City location, in Arlington, Virginia.  

Mad Men's writer Jane Anderson brings her re-written version of this play to Arena Stage's Crystal City location, to begin their new season. Described as, "Two wildly different couples - one New Age Liberal and the other Midwestern Conservative - meet one weekend in the wake of personal tragedies. Through laughter, debate, empathy and ultimately love, can these couples from opposite backgrounds join together to find their common ground?", it has a great cast: Annette O'Toole, who was in Smallville, JohAnna Day, who appeared in Proof on Broadway, and who won the Helen Hayes Award for playing Lizzie in Arena Stage'sThe Rainmaker, Kevin O'Rourke, who was in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof on Broadway, and Stephen Schnetzer, who was in The Goat: Or Who is Sylvia on Broadway, and last year's ravishing and poignant Legacy of Light. At Arena Stage. The real reason I am so excited is that the production is being directed by Lisa Peterson, whose Grey Gardens at The Philadelphia Theatre Company, starring Hollis Resnik and Joy Franz, was the most visually stunning production I have ever seen of this musical (Please, don't attack me, lovers of the Broadway production!. I can't wait to see what Lisa does with this incredible cast!  

Chess, from September 18th to September 25th at Stroyka Theater, at The Heritage Center, in Washington, DC.

I never tire of hearing Tim Rice's glorious lyrics and listening to Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Anderson's (formerly of ABBA) powerful and gorgeous music fromChess. "One Night in Bangkok","Nobody's Side", "Pity the Child", "Heaven Help My Heart", "You and I" and "I Know Him So Well", and "Anthem", are favorites of mine. And now, a New Theatre Company - Stroyka Theatre is presenting its version of the Broadway production of Chess, which added that great song, "Someone Else's Story, which I used to listen to Judy Kuhn sing over and over again, while riding the Metro. In fact, I'm listening to it now, for the 4th time today, while I am writing this. I needed something to put me in the Chess mood.

And, what a place to put on a show - at The Heritage Center, which is located within The United States Navy Memorial. I don't know much about this company, but I am so very eager to find out if Stroyka Theater and its cast make all the right moves. The recent PBS in concert  version  of Chess reminded me that this is one of the best scores written for a musical ever! As for Richard Nelson's book, we'll talk about that later...

Go, Dog. Go! at Adventure Theatre, from September 18th through November 8th at Adventure Theatre, in Glen Echo Park, Glen Echo, Maryland.

They were hounded by their patrons to bring it back, so Adventure Theatre has unleashed once again its adaptation of P.D. Eastman's much-loved children's storyGo, Dog.Go! by Allison Gregory and Steven Dietz. The lively music is by Michael Koerner, and the funny lyrics are by M. Koerner. The show is directed by Karin Abromaitis.

In their press release, Adventure Theatre says, "Go, Dog. Go! is a chaotic carnival of music and physical comedy. Kids are gonna howl. Green, Blue, Red and Yellow Dogs sporting spots and silly hats. Jackhammers: rat-a-tat-tat. Pillow fights: yikes and a bonk. Trampolines: yippee, zoing, zing. And cars--lots and lots of cars--going vroom, zoom".

Doesn't that sound like fun for the whole family?

This is a great place to bring the kids. Located in a park, there's a merry-go-round , picnic tables, and other activities to keep the kids busy and happy, and the show is darling!

A Midsummer Night's Dream from September 17th through October 10th at Synetic Theater, at the Rosslyn Spectrum, in Arlington, Virginia.

If you are visiting DC, MD, or VA, run and buy tickets to Synetic Theater's brilliant and wordless production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. They are bringing back last year's critically acclaimed production for 3 weeks only. Led by multi-Helen Hayes Awards winners husband and wife director and choreographer Paata and Irina Tsikurishvili, Synetic Theater produces high-energy, visually stunning productions. It's hard for me to describe what they do, so here is a description from their website: "Synetic Theater seeks to advance and enrich the theater arts through presentation and education in its unique performance style of a synthesis of the arts, fusing the classical elements of drama, movement, dance, mime, and music into a distinct form of non-realistic theater." Better yet, watch this:

Don't miss the magnificent performances of Irina Tsikurishvili as Titania, Irakli Kavsadze as Bottom, and Alex Mills as Puck, as well as the incredible Synetic Theater cast. You won't believe what you are seeing on the Rosslyn Spectrum Stage! It's breathtaking!

Black Pearl Sings!, from September 25th through October 18th at Ford's Theatre, in Washington, DC.

There's cause for celebration! Have you seen the renovated Ford's Theatre yet? It now has very comfortable seats, a gift shop and offers tours, and of course, you can see that presidential box where Lincoln got shot. To open their new season, Ford's is presenting Frank Higgins' Black Pearl Sings!, starring Tony Award Winner Tonya Pinkins, who is making her Ford's Theatre debut in the title role, with Erika Rolfsrud as Susannah. The show will be directed by Jennifer L. Nelson. "Susannah, a song collector for the Library of Congress, travels the country seeking little-known melodies. When she encounters Pearl in a Texas prison, she discovers dozens of musical treasures rooted in the African tradition. Pearl must decide whether to give away her ancestors' songs for a chance at her own freedom. Music unites strangers in a powerful story that illuminates America's racial divisions and the attempts of two women to bridge them." There's no better place to see a real American piece of theatre than the new and improved Ford's Theatre. Here's a preview.

Glorious! from September 25th through October 11th, at Dominion Stage, in Arlington, Virginia.

Dominion Stage is a small community theatre company in Arlington, VA, who puts on new works, so if you loved Souvenir, then you may want to wander into a new play about Florence Foster Jenkins, the woman with the voice that could break glass and drive dogs into a frenzy. Peter Quilter has written his version of the life of the singer-from-hell' and her performances and the friends and fans who surrounded her. I have no idea if this will be a clone of Souvenir¸ or if it will shed some new light or notes, on the fascinating artist

(I also use this word extremely lightly). The cast includes Mary Suib as Florence Foster Jenkins, Bradley Lyon as Cosme McMoon, her ever-suffering and encouraging accompanist, Jeff Murray as St. Clair, Lynn Ritland as Dorothy, Mary Ayala-Bush as Maria, Harlie Sponaugle as Mrs. Verrinder-Gedge. Who are these people? Learn about them here.

Watch this video of the Dominion Stage cast during a reading of the show and a clip from a production of Glorious at the Fulton Theatre in Lancaster, PA, starring actors Jonas Cohen as Cosme, and Nevo Roe Powers as Florence. Looks like fun. Looks like Souvenir. I'm going. See you there? 

Ferdinand the Bull, from September 26th to November 1st at Imagination Stage, in Bethesda, Maryland.

If you are looking for some great children's theatre, bring the kids to Imagination Stage, to see the musical version of Ferdinand The Bull. The show has book and lyrics by DC playwright Karen Zacarías, with music by Deborah Wicks La Puma, and directed by Kathryn Chase Bryer. They describe the show as, "Ferdy is an easy-going, flower-loving kind of bull, whose best friend, the star-struck pig Cochina, takes them to exciting Madrid. There, Ferdy meets the unhappy Danilo, a boy torn between his own dreams and his father's very different plans for him. Their dramatic encounter has a happy surprise ending and shows how hard --- but ultimately how important - it is to be true to one's self". Isn't that a great lesson to teach your kids and yourself? And, that's no bull. Would I steer you wrong?

Other Shows Opening in September

Scena Theatre

Dublin Carol by Conor McPherson 

Through September 20th

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

Eclipsed by Danai Gurira   

Through September 20th

Washington Shakespeare Company

Camille by Charles Ludlam 

Through September 27th

Venus Theatre

Why'd Ya Make Me Wear This, Joe?

By Vanda 

September 3rd through September 27th

Studio Theatre

Moonlight by Harold Pinter 

Opens September 9th

Toby's Dinner Theatre of Baltimore

Aida by Elton John and Tim Rice

September 10th through November 12th

American Century Theater

A Piece of My Heart by Shirley Lauro 

September 11th through October 10th

1st Stage

The Game of Love and Chance by Marivaux

September 12th through October 4th

GALA Hispanic Theatre

Lucido by Rafael Spregelburd 

September 17th through October 11th

Taffety Punk Theatre Company

Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare

September 18th through October 10th

Come visit DC. With more than 30 shows opening, the season's off to a great start. Be our guests! You'll have a monumental time.

Joel Markowitz writes about theatre in Washington, DC, Philadelphia, and New York for DC Theatre Follow Joel's Theatre Schmooze column here and his podcast interviews here.


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