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Providence theater 2011 :: Tony-winners, classics and Edgar Alan Poe

by Joe Siegel
Contributor
Monday Jan 10, 2011
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Tony winning musicals, classic revivals, topical comedies and striking original work mark the Providence theater calendar for the first half of 2011. This week brings the 2008 Best Musical In The Heights to the Providence Performing Arts Center for a week-long run. At end of the month the adventurous Gamm Theatre puts a 1950s spin on Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House; then in February the Trinity Rep offers a new production of Arthur Miller’s political allegory based on the Salem Witch Trials, The Crucible.

In upcoming months look for Alice Ripley repeating her Tony-winning role as the emotionally unstable housewife in Next to Normal; an intriguing new play about Edgar Alan Poe; a new production of the popular Broadway comedy Steel Magnolias; the off-Broadway hit Becky Shaw; the premiere of the newest play by satirist Christopher Durang; the return of The Lion King; a new production of West Side Story; and four classic musicals for the summer.

Here’s our list with links to the theater companies for further information:


Witches, southern belles and Edgar Alan Poe

Providence’s prestigious Trinity Repertory Company will present Arthur Miller’s classic The Crucible, beginning February 4 and running through March 13.

In Miller’s 1953 play, inspired by the McCarthy HUAC hearings, fear stalks the people of Salem, Massachusetts. Is it the work of the devil? Or has hysteria, malice, and one young woman’s lust started a chain of events that will undo a whole community?

The cast features Trinity’s acclaimed stable of actors, including Mauro Hantman, Anne Scurria, Stephen Thorne, Barbara Meek, Joe Wilson, Jr., and Fred Sullivan, Jr. The show will be directed by Brian McEleney, who has appeared in numerous Trinity productions.

Yellowman, from playwright Dael Orlandersmith, debuts February 25 at Trinity. This love story takes place in a small South Carolina town and features Joe Wilson, Jr. and Rachel Christopher. The show runs through April 3.

Next is the popular Broadway and regional theater hit Steel Magnolias, from playwright Robert Harling, that debuts on April 15 and runs through May 15. This heartwarming story, which is likely best-known from its hugely successful film version, concerns group of Southern belles features Rachel Warren as Truvy, Anne Scurria as Ouiser, Barbara Meek as Clairee, Janice Duclos as M’Lynn, Alexandra Lawrence as Annelle, and Madeleine Lambert as Shelby.

On May 6, Trinity presents a new work -- The Completely Fictional - Utterly True - Final Strange Tale of Edgar Allan Poe. The show runs through June 5. Company member Stephen Thorne wrote the script. Curt Columbus directs a huge ensemble cast, including Stephen Berenson, Phyllis Kay, Lauren Lubow, and Brian McEleney as Edgar Allan Poe.


A slew of Tony-winners

Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC) has a blockbuster slate of shows, beginning with the 2008 Tony-winning Best Musical In The Heights, running from January 11-16. In The Heights is about a community of hard-working immigrants seeking a better life and trying to find their place in their new country.

PPAC presents the smash Disney musical The Lion King, February 1 through 20.The score includes Elton John and Tim Rice’s Oscar-winning song "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" and "Circle of Life." The multi-Tony Award-winner, which is still selling out on Broadway, marked the celebrated Broadway debut of director Julie Taymor, whose name is in the headlines these days for helming the problem-plagued, still-in-previews musical version of Spider-Man.

On March 4 - 6, PPAC presents Blue Man Group, best known for their wildly popular theatrical shows and concerts which combine comedy, music, and technology to produce a totally unique form of entertainment.

Next to Normal, the winner of three 2009 Tony Awards including Best Score, will be presented from March 22 through the 27th. Next to Normal is an emotional powerhouse of a musical about a family trying to take care of themselves and each other. The national tour also features Alice Ripley repeating her powerful Tony Award-winning turn as a housewife coping with bi-polar disorder.

Lighter fare comes with Monty Python’s Spamalot, the winner of the 2005 Tony Award for Best Musical. The crowd-pleaser opens on April 15 and runs through the 17th. Faithfully based on the now-classic Monty Python comedy Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Spamalot spins the tale of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table and their quest for the Holy Grail in a hilarious, irreverent manner.

PPAC’s season concludes with West Side Story, which will be presented from April 26 through May 1. Directed by its two-time Tony Award-winning librettist Arthur Laurents, West Side Story remains as powerful, poignant and timely as ever. The Bernstein and Sondheim score is considered to be one of Broadway’s finest and features such classics of the American musical theater as "Something’s Coming," "Tonight," "America," "I Feel Pretty" and "Somewhere." The new Broadway cast album of West Side Story recently won the 2010 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album.


Nora updated

The Gamm Theatre in Pawtucket launches the new year on January 20 with A Doll’s House, Henrik Ibsen’s landmark play for the ages, directed by Fred Sullivan, Jr. (Glengarry Glen Ross, The Glass Menagerie) and adapted by Tony Estrella. In this version, it’s Christmas Eve 1959 and sweet, cheery Nora Helmer is reveling in her role as wife and mother... until a knock at the door threatens to destroy her doll house of a world forever. Blackmailed for a forgery she committed years ago to save her husband’s life, Nora must make a life-changing decision that has shocked and divided audiences for more than a century.

The cast features Jeanine Kane, Steve Kidd, Tom Gleadow, Rebecca Gibel, and Joan Batting.

Paul, from British playwright Howard Brenton, debuts at the Gamm on March 17 and runs through April 17. The road to Damascus, A.D. 34. Saul of Tarsus has built a fierce reputation snuffing out the followers of a growing religious cult. So when its recently crucified leader, Yeshua (Jesus), appears to him in a flash of light, Saul does an about-face, changing his name to Paul and devoting his life to spreading the good news. But what if Paul’s vision were the result of an epileptic fit or a well-meaning hoax? Brenton’s intriguing secular take on the evolution of a belief was produced to acclaim and controversy at London’s National Theatre in 2005.

Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them, debuts on May 5 and runs until June 5. From the screwball imagination of American playwright Christopher Durang (The Marriage of Bette & Boo, Beyond Therapy), an uproarious new comedy about America’s ongoing "war on terror." A young woman, Felicity, wakes up to a strange man, a hangover, and a whole lot of questions: Is her new husband, Zamir (who claims to be Irish), a terrorist, a crazed alcoholic, or both? Is her father’s hobby of butterfly collecting for real, or is it a cover for his involvement in a right-wing shadow government? Is her mother a theater-loving eccentric, or is she actually insane?


Bad dates and Mae West

Warren’s 2nd Story Theater continues its 2010/2011 season on January 21 with Becky Shaw, by Gina Gionfriddo. The show runs through February 6. Gionfriddo’s comedy of bad manners concerns a blind date gone wrong and its repercussions on a dysfunctional upper middle family.

Neil Simon’s The Good Doctor, runs from March 11 through the 27th. Dirty Blonde, Claudia Shear’s ode to Mae West, runs from April 29 through May 15.


Four musicals

Theatre By The Sea in Matunuck presents four Tony-winning shows for their Summer 2011 season. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee opens in previews on June 1 and 2, with regular performances June 3 through the 19th. This funny, touching and interactive story focuses on six quirky adolescent overachievers who are vying for the spelling championship of a lifetime.

Man of La Mancha previews June 22 and 23 and runs from June 24 through July 16.This musical masterpiece, which brought us the enormously popular hit "The Impossible Dream," is a musical within a play in which Miguel de Cervantes has been imprisoned by the Spanish Inquisition. Seeking to save his uncompleted novel from confiscation, he dramatically pleads his case by reenacting the story of Don Quixote of La Mancha: the passionate and poignant tale of a noble knight who lives in a world of madness and cannot see that chivalry has died.

Hairspray previews July 20 and 21 runs from July 22 through August 13.Winner of eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, this big fat Broadway sensation is filled with show-stopping tunes including "You Can’t Stop the Beat," "Without Love" and "Good Morning Baltimore."

The Drowsy Chaperone previews August 17 and 18 and runs from August 19 through September 4. The hilarious show-within-a-show begins when a die-hard musical fan decides to play his favorite cast album, a 1928 smash hit called The Drowsy Chaperone and the show magically bursts to life right in his apartment. Audiences are instantly immersed in the uproarious wedding day with a Broadway bride, a celebrity groom - and of course a "drowsy" chaperone.


Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.

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