Freddy’s 2016-2017 Richmond Theatre Season – Great Expectations
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All theatres have announced their 2016-2017 seasons. Is anything earth shattering coming our way? Perhaps. Several productions have piqued my interest. Check out my rundown below:
Virginia Rep – Politics as usual
In honor of this election year, Virginia Rep schedules a patriotic musical in 1776 and pairs it with the first musical success from the author of Hamilton.
1776 – Yes it won the Tony, but I dare anyone not in the theatre to sing a song from its score. Not in my top 20, it is a presidential election year and Scott Wichmann has been lobbying to play John Adams on stage well before he played John Adams on television.
This historical musical features a mostly older male cast (as did the Continental Congress itself). Debra Clinton directs her first musical on the November stage and knows how to jazz things up.
In the Heights - Lin Manuel Miranda’s first Broadway success is a bold choice. It is set in Spanish Harlem (about as far away from Monument Avenue as you can get) and features a cast of Hispanic actors (not in great supply in Richmond). New Artistic Director and show Director Nathaniel Shaw certainly must have a plan. I’m just hoping it’s not the same plan Hollywood used casting Natalie Wood in West Side Story.
Quill Theatre – Less Shakespeare
Quill (who gave up the golden name Richmond Shakespeare) will produce less Shakespeare this year than ever before. (Sorry, Bootlegs and “Complete Works” do not substitute for full runs). They will only do two. Macbeth (AGAIN) and …
Love’s Labour’s Lost – only super Shakespeare nerds know this play. Early Will and new for Richmonders. I say Hooray! Richmond is somewhat undereducated in its Shakespearean canon.
The Heir Apparent - David Ives reinterprets a French Restoration Comedy in rhymed verse. More great costumes and wigs! Quill follows in the tradition of the defunct but theoretically subsumed Henley Street Theatre Company, who produced both The Liar and The Servant of Two Masters under the leadership of James Ricks. (Quill – you should bring Ricks back to stage works like this.)
Assassins – Quill does its first musical and chooses one with a high degree of difficulty. Sondheim is the Shakespeare of Musical Theatre and this is one of his best. Quill puts this in the hands of the multi-talented Andrew Hamm who has a dream cast and will almost certainly bring something different to the table.
TheatreLAB – The year of the woman
The Lab has dubbed their season “Women at War.” The season features plays about women, directed and acted by women.
Mother Courage and Her Children – no professional theatre in Richmond has ever had the stones to produce Brecht. Bertolt Brecht was a master German poet and playwright who fled Nazi Germany and wrote plays disparaging the ridiculous absurdities of war and fascism. Highly political and devastatingly tragic, Brecht’s lyricism is a thing of beauty. Keri Wormold stages a mostly female version to open TheatreLAB’s season.
Firehouse Theatre – The Eclectic Company
Firehouse enters its second season under the leadership of Joel Bassin and the 23rd overall. The theme this year is “Breaking Through.” With Firehouse Fringe and Firehouse Studio programs, Firehouse Theatre is an artistic home, a thriving hub of creative activity, and a center for community engagement where new performance work is developed and produced.
Ubu 84 - A new theatrical experience created By James Ricks. A piece influenced by the cruel Absurdism of Alfred Jarry and the Socialist Futurism of George Orwell. Ambitious and obviously unconventional. Appropriate for our twisted current political climate.
Cadence Theatre – a Pulitzer and an Annie Baker a year
Last year it was Annie Baker’s Pulitzer winning The Flick, this year it’s the 2007 Pulitzer winner, The Rabbit Hole by David Lindsay-Abaire. Cadence sticks to its three production season, remounting the musical Violet and…
John – Annie Baker’s new play. In the last few years Richmond theaters have produced both her very curious, very long Pulitzer Prize winning play The Flick (in a limited run at the Byrd Theatre) and her underwhelming Body Awareness at RTP. Most interesting here will be to see what Cadence does with the play’s 3 ½ hour original length.
The Rabbit Hole – David Lindsay-Abaire’s disturbing play about the loss of a five year old boy to a car accident featuring the grieving relatives and the teenage driver who seeks forgiveness.
Local Playwrights – Bringing it Home
Bo Wilson gets a hometown festival this year. Firehouse Theatre has engaged him to be playwright in Residence and will develop a new script with him. The marvelous Gary Hopper will direct his The Boatwright there as well. Virginia Rep at Hanover Tavern will produce his The Charitable Sisterhood Christmas Spectacular.
David Robbins premiers his new play The End of War for Virginia Rep in February.
Actor Fatigue – a Comment.
Many of our theatre companies use the same actors over and over to diminishing returns.
We love musicals, but we value good singing over good acting.
Our directors are hit and miss in getting the deepest performances out of their casts.
There is no advanced professional acting training in the area. Many professionals in other disciplines take continuing education. Actors in major markets constantly take classes to perfect their skills. Why not in Richmond?
Actors are busy and most have day jobs. Seems a weekly forum where they can work material in front of their peers and a teacher makes sense.
The Companies focus on children’s education where the money is but show little interest in educating the professional community.
We need to work on that.
You find yourself smiling. You smile because the complications are adorable and you are touched.September 16, 2016
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