The 2018–19 theater season is gearing up and in some cases has already bolted out of the gate.
The season will debut two multimillion-dollar theater facilities: the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center’s Byers Theatre and the new home of the Alliance Theatre at the Woodruff Arts Center.
ArtsATL theater critics Andrew Alexander and Jim Farmer discuss some of the productions they’re most looking forward to — in order of opening date:
(Through September 2, Atlanta Lyric Theatre)
It’s remembered, sadly, by some Atlantans solely for its malfunctioning pyramid on its world premiere opening night in 1998 at the Alliance Theatre, but this underrated musical (a four-time Tony winner) has always been a guilty pleasure of mine. The tale of an ill-fated love triangle between Nubian princess Aida, Egyptian princess Amneris and soldier Radames is highlighted by an exquisite, multilayered score, with music and lyrics by Elton John and Tim Rice. I expect to sing along to “Elaborate Lives” very loudly. — JF
A Doll’s House, Part 2
(September 1–30, Actor’s Express)
An upcoming collaboration between Actor’s Express and Aurora Theatre, A Doll’s House, Part 2 is a terrific new work by Lucas Hnath that I saw on Broadway last year with the amazing Laurie Metcalf, picking up where the Henrik Ibsen classic play ends. Its central character Nora, who has left her family, is still complex and fiercely independent. No one can outdo Metcalf, but the lead role here will be played by Tess Malis Kincaid, so my expectations are high. — JF
(September 5–30, Serenbe Playhouse)
Actors famously take on Hamlet at the pinnacle of their careers. Actresses take on Arkadina. The richly complex character — equal parts pathetic, powerful, funny, sad, perceptive and blind — will be performed by Atlanta actress Park Krausen in Serenbe Playhouse’s site-specific adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull. It was standing room only and an extended run for Serenbe’s summer production of Titanic. Time to line up again to see shipwrecked lives of a very different sort. Not to be missed. — AA
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
(September 5–October 21, the Alliance Theatre at Atlanta Botanical Garden)
The Alliance season opens with one of the last major off-site productions before the company heads home to its renovated main stage at the Woodruff Arts Center in early 2019. The last step is a doozy, and things bode well for A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Although the 2016 Lookingglass production of Moby Dick was a disappointment, Dream director David Catlin of Chicago’s Lookingglass Theatre Company still has expectations high because of the way his company wowed Atlanta audiences with Lookingglass Alice in 2010. The stars may be aligning for some late-summer magic in the garden. — AA
(September 14–23, City Springs Theatre Company)
42nd Street is the debut offering of the new City Springs Theatre Company in Sandy Springs. With Brandt Blocker (formerly of Atlanta Lyric Theatre) and Natalie Barrow leading the company, City Springs should make a sizable, big budget splash. Atlanta’s own Shuler Hensley — a Tony Award winner for Oklahoma! — heads up a dynamic local cast. — JF
(September 21–October 21, Horizon Theatre)
Horizon Theatre offers the Atlanta premiere of playwright Carla Ching’s Nomad Motel. Ching — who has written for television shows including USA’s Graceland, AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead, Amazon’s I Love Dick, Hulu’s The First and AMC’s Preacher — was curious to imagine what might result if a lonely “motel kid,” a child from a poor, immigrant family raised primarily in hotel rooms, met a lonely “parachute kid,” a child from a wealthy Asian family sent to the US alone to attend high school in preparation for an American university education. In reviewing Pittsburgh’s City Theatre’s recent production, the Pittsburgh Gazette said Nomad Motel “engages us in a fresh way, so the recognition creeps up, culminating . . . in an ultimate exchange about the tribulations of parenthood.” — AA
Nina Simone: Four Women
(September 25–October 21, True Colors Theatre)
Nina Simone is a difficult and risky artist to try to convey in any medium, so it will be especially interesting to see how the complicated, elusive artist emerges in True Colors’ upcoming production of Nina Simone: Four Women. As with Theatrical Outfit’s 2017 musical Simply Simone, Four Women features an all-female cast singing Simone’s songs, but here the actresses play the four women from Simone’s famous protest song Four Women as they meet in the rubble of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church. The writer, Christina Ham, who sought to avoid the pitfalls of the typical biopics and jukebox musicals, places the emphasis firmly on Simone’s activism, an especially fitting approach for the current moment. — AA
Waiting for Godot
(September 27–October 14, 7 Stages)
7 Stages has a long relationship with Waiting for Godot, having produced the play several times during the theater’s estimable 40-year history, most recently in 2004. The upcoming remount of Beckett’s classic is especially noteworthy: 7 Stages founder Del Hamilton returns to the stage as Vladimir, and Don Finney plays Estragon. Expect expert touches of humor and pathos. 7 Stages’ current coartistic director Heidi S. Howard directs. — AA
(November 13–December 9, Alliance Theatre)
Shows return to the Alliance’s Hertz blackbox space well before the unveiling of the newly renovated main stage in January, and in that realm, I’m especially looking forward to Atlanta actress Mary Lynn Owen’s new one-woman show Knead about a woman trying to decipher her mother’s nearly incomprehensible bread recipe. — AA
Men With Money
(March 7–April 7, 2019, Aurora Theatre)
This world-premiere musical, penned by Bill Nelson, is about three bachelors in New York looking for riches and success — and, for two of them, husbands. It will be directed by Justin Anderson and choreographed by Ricardo Aponte, both of whom (after Newsies) are at high points in their young careers. This should be right in Aurora’s wheelhouse. — JF
I Love To Eat
(April 10–May 5, 2019, Theatrical Outfit)
To be directed by Clifton Guterman, this one-man show really intrigues me. Written by James Still, it’s about cook/culinary icon James Beard, set in a Greenwich Village kitchen with plenty of anecdotes, flashbacks and character insight. The play itself doesn’t seem to have been staged much since its 2011 bow, but with reliable character actor Bill Murphey starring as Beard, I’m hungry for this already. — JF
Come From Away
(June 25–30, 2019, Fox Theatre)
Broadway Across America has a dandy 2018–19 season with the likes of Waitress, Dear Evan Hansen and School of Rock, but the one I most look forward to is Come From Away. It takes places just after 9/11, where 38 planes have to land in Gander, Newfoundland. It’s one of the most moving, humane musicals I have ever seen, and I can’t wait for a second visit. I do hope, however, that it doesn’t lose its intimacy in the huge Fox Theatre. — JF
Also on our radar:
The Electric Baby, September 14–30, Weird Sisters Theatre Project.
Nell Gwynn, September 27–October 21, Synchronicity Theatre.
The Atlanta Black Theatre Festival, October 3–6, Porter Sanford III Performing Arts Center.
Portrait of a Queen: Tribute to Aretha Franklin, October 5–6, Marietta’s Theatre in the Square.
The View Upstairs, October 25–November 10, Out Front Theatre Company.
Brother Coyote and Sister Fox, October 30–November 11, Center for Puppetry Arts.
A Man for All Seasons, November 10–25, Shakespeare Tavern.
An Octoroon, January 26–February 24, 2019, Actor’s Express.
Angry, Raucous and Shamelessly Gorgeous, March 20–April 14, 2019, Alliance Theatre.
Angry Fags, March 28–April 14, 2019, 7 Stages.
Bullets Over Broadway, April 11–28, 2019, Georgia Ensemble Theatre.
10th-anniversary season at Serenbe Playhouse, Summer 2019, Serenbe.