Now that virtually all metro Atlanta theater companies have announced their 2013-14 schedules, it’s time to look at some of the likely highlights of the coming year. Here is a completely biased look at 13 of what we expect to be the heavy-hitting shows of the new season, ones we’ve already marked on our calendar, in order of their opening dates. Trust us, though, there could be a lot more on this list.
“Les Miserables” (Aurora Theatre)
Now through September 8
It couldn’t be any timelier: the Oscar-winning movie (based, of course, on the Tony-winning musical) is fresh in everyone’s mind. This production, which Aurora is calling the most elaborate in its history, comes on the heels of the company’s wildly successful “Clyde ‘n Bonnie: A Folktale” last year, but this is on a much grander scale. A sprawling musical based on the Victor Hugo novel, “Les Miserables” stars Bryant Smith of “Clyde ‘n Bonnie” as Valjean, Kevin Harry as Javert and Natasha Drena, the spark plug who won a Suzi Bass Award for Aurora’s “Annie Get Your Gun,” as Fantine. Justin Anderson directs. Aurora, you had us hooked with Natasha — even for a three-hour musical about the perils of stealing a loaf of bread.
“Spunk” (True Colors Theatre)
September 17-October 13
“Spunk” is written by George C. Wolfe, based on three short stories by Zora Neale Hurston dealing with love, revenge and redemption. Kenny Leon’s True Colors routinely offers some of the most robust acting and directing in the city, and we fully expect them here. Blues artist Chic Street Man is handling the music.
“Choir Boy” (Alliance Theatre Hertz Stage)
September 20-October 13
A number of upcoming productions at the Alliance could easily make this list, most notably the fall opener, the Barry Manilow musical “Harmony.” But after his dynamic “In the Red and Brown Water,” we’ll follow playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney anywhere. “Choir Boy,” a co-production with the Manhattan Theatre Club, is a coming-of-age story about a young man trying to fit in at the all-black Charles R. Drew Prep School for Boys.
“Third Country” (Horizon Theatre)
September 20-October 20
This world premiere examines the relationship between Noura, a refugee, and Sasha, a resettlement worker in the Deep South. Based on actual events that took place in Clarkston, “Third Country” is a pet project from the gifted Suehyla El-Attar.
Saiah’s fall project
Not much is known about this project yet, including its title or dates, but Saiah (led by “30 Under 30” subject Marium Khalid and her husband, Phillip Justman) is basing it on the Civil War, with “Watership Down” as an inspiration. Like Serenbe Playhouse, Saiah’s work is as much about the text as the experience.
“The Sleepy Hollow Experience” (Serenbe Playhouse)
Speaking of Serenbe Playhouse, the company will venture outside of its summer series for its first fall production. We expect this experimental version of the spooky tale to be right up Serenbe’s alley, with live horses and a real sense of event. We don’t expect actual headless horsemen, however. Brian Clowdus directs.
“Six Degrees of Separation” (Actor’s Express)
January 8-February 9, 2014
Actor’s Express will mount some promising offerings in its 26th season, including “Venus in Fur” and “Pluto,” a new work by former Atlantan Steve Yockey. But we’re most excited about the Express’ adaptation of John Guare’s wonderful “Six Degrees of Separation.” We imagine that the central role of Ouisa Kittredge will be played by Tess Malis Kincaid and that she’ll be wonderful. But we could easily see Carolyn Cook in the role as well.
“The Only Light in Reno” (Georgia Ensemble Theatre)
January 9-26, 2014
Georgia Ensemble Theatre’s upcoming season includes the musical “Camelot” and “F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby,’” but this world premiere should generate just as much excitement. Topher Payne (right) is the busiest playwright in Atlanta, and he has deepened into a dependable, edgy one. It’s Reno in 1960, and the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe and Montgomery Clift are in town as “The Misfits” is being filmed. All hell breaks loose — or so we hear and hope.
“The Book of Mormon” (Broadway Across America)
January 28-February 9, 2014
Finally! It’s still a Broadway rage, and now Atlantans can see what all the fuss is about. Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of “South Park,” have teamed up with Robert Lopez of “Avenue Q” fame to craft a musical about two Mormon missionaries who travel to Uganda to spread the word but are not able to connect with a village worried more about poverty, AIDS and war. “The Book of Mormon” won nine Tony Awards in 2011, including Best Musical.
“The Red Badge of Courage” (7 Stages)
February 27-March 23, 2014
7 Stages has a slew of exciting productions on tap, including world premieres of “The Navigator” (at the Goat Farm Arts Center), “Mass Transit Muse” and the season-ending “The Secret History of Love.” But this battle-heavy collaboration with Kennesaw State University, complete with puppets, animation and live actors, promises to be highly theatrical.
“Once” (Broadway Across America)
March 4-9, 2014
Those who fell for the Oscar-winning film are likely to feel the same way about this lovely stage adaptation, the winner of the 2012 Tony Award for Best Musical. A street musician hailing from Dublin, Ireland, about to give up on his dreams, meets a young woman who becomes a muse to him. The movie’s musical numbers are mostly intact, including “Falling Slowly.” One gnawing question: how on earth will the intimate feeling of New York’s Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre be duplicated in the enormous Fox Theatre?
“Dividing the Estate” (Theatrical Outfit)
April 2-27, 2014
At the center of this comedy-drama by Horton Foote is matriarch Stella Gordon, whose children aren’t happy with the way she handles the family finances. Foote knows the South, as does director Tom Key, so this is one to look forward to. We can only hope there’s a role here for Jill Jane Clements.
“Lasso of Truth” (Synchronicity)
March 20-April 13, 2014
A rolling world premiere with California’s Marin Theatre Company, this sounds irresistible. Carson Kreitzer’s “Lasso of Truth” is described as a romp through the history of sexual politics, capturing the beginning of Wonder Woman and her impact. We are so there already.