With many regional theaters and touring companies announcing their 2013-2014 theater seasons, we thought it would be a great time to count down some of the most highly anticipated productions to grace South Florida stages in the coming year. Here’s a look at 10 potential highlights from Jupiter to Coral Gables.
10. Making God Laugh, Dec. 4-29 at Actors Playhouse
Any play whose title is inspired by a Woody Allen quote has me at “hello.” Taken from Allen’s joke that “if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans,” this comedy follows a mother, father and their three children across three holidays separated by decades: Thanksgiving 1980, Christmas 1990 and New Year’s Eve 2000. In the process, as the characters’ lives take unexpected routes, the play touches on the housing crisis, the dot-com boom and Y2K in the context of a family that could just as easily be any of ours.
9. The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, Jan. 7-12, 2014 at Kravis Center
The most unique offering in the Kravis Center’s solid Kravis on Broadway series, “Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess” is the latest incarnation of Gershwin and Heyward’s groundbreaking 1935 opera, the first major piece written for an entire cast of African-American trained singers. Updated in 2011 for Broadway, the story about a disabled beggar and a woman in an abusive relationship included some key changes that have suited the work well; it went on to win Best Revival of a Musical at the 2012 Tonys.
8. Chess: The Musical, March 21-April 5, 2014 at Slow Burn Theatre Company
I know what you must be thinking: Nothing screams “Broadway pizzazz” quite like a couple of people playing a protracted, deliberate, cerebral game of chess. This 1984 musical is, of course, about much more than that, touching on Cold War strife between the U.S. and Russia in the context of a chess-centric love triangle. It was written by ABBA’s Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, more than a decade before their hit “Mamma Mia!”
7. Other Desert Cities, Feb. 16-March 2 at Maltz Jupiter Theatre
This shattering, uncomfortably authentic drama by “Brothers & Sisters” creator Jon Robin Baitz received its South Florida regional premiere this past January at Actors Playhouse in what may go down as one of the best productions of this year. If any other regional theater could match it in excellence, it’s the Maltz, which will break from its musical-heavy season to stage this domestic melodrama in the arid Southwest. It’s about a family torn apart by politics, their pasts and secrets that bubble to the surface over a Christmas holiday in 2004.
6. Assassins, Jan. 30-Feb. 23, 2014 at Zoetic Stage at the Arsht Center
“Sweeney Todd” may be the darkest musical in Stephen Sondheim’s oeuvre, but it has a worthy competitor in 1990’s “Assassins,” a musical revue of songs sung by, and about, the handful of individuals who have attempted, or succeeded, to kill American presidents. A cast of up to 13 has performed this show in the past, through numerous Broadway and regional adaptations, and characters include President Garfield, John Hinckley, Lee Harvey Oswald and John Wilkes Booth. The first musical to be produced by the award-winning Zoetic Stage, this looks like a potent play to revisit in this time of polarizing gun control debate.
5. Mr. Marmalade, March 28-April 13, 2014 at Outre Theatre Company
Continuing to take a chance on controversial work, Boca Raton’s Outre Theatre Company has scheduled a surrealist comedy so black it must be seen to be believed. The main character of “Mr. Marmalade” is a 4-year-old girl with an imaginary friend. Pretty normal, except that the friend is a cocaine and pornography addict who beats up on his personal assistant. Meanwhile, the girl’s only real friend was the youngest suicide attempt in her state’s history. The play was written by emerging talent Noah Haidle; don’t hold his recent work on the lousy Hollywood buddy film “Stand Up Guys” against him.
4. Old Times, Jan. 31-March 2, 2014 at Palm Beach Dramaworks
The only professional theater in South Florida these days to produce the works of the great Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter, Palm Beach Dramaworks tackles his 1971 drama “Old Times,” a disturbing triangle about a long-married couple, Kate and Deely, who are visited after 20 years by Kate’s old friend Anna, who apparently had something of a history with Deely as well. Her appearance prompts conflicting memories that could change the present and future of these three lost souls. This mysterious play has received a number of intriguing theories from critics; one of its great attributes is that it lets viewers decipher it themselves.
3. Once, Feb. 4-9, 2014 at Arsht Center
Theater producers wasted little time in adapting the Irish film “Once” – an Academy Award winner and one of the warmest romances of the Aughts – for the stage, building more songs and a theatrical structure around the terrific songs originally written by the movie’s actors, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova of The Swell Season. The minimalist set of this Broadway tour – just a bar flanked by chairs on either side – directs the majority of the focus on the great music and the story, about two people who fall in love while pursuing a dream of making music together. “Once” went on to win Best Musical at the 2012 Tonys, and this marks its South Florida premiere.
2. Rose and the Rime, April 23-May 18, 2014 at Arsht Center
The House Theatre of Chicago, the great regional company behind such previous Arsht Center re-mountings as “The Sparrow” and “Death and Harry Houdini,” returns with an updated show originally presented in 2009. It’s about an infertile Michigan town, crippled by a generation-long blizzard, whose one young person, Rose, can save the city from a witch’s curse. House Theatre productions are always high on spectacle, and this one will feature new aerial choreography and magical special effects.
1. The Book of Mormon, Nov. 26-Dec. 22 at Broward Center for the Performing Arts
When it came to selecting the most anticipated show of the season, this was no contest. The winner of nine Tony Awards last year, “South Park” scribes Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s caustic and pee-yourself-hilarious skewering of Mormonism has been Broadway’s hottest ticket for more than two years and running; your changes of getting one are roughly like that of winning the lottery. It’s playing for a full month at the Broward Center – an unusually long run for a Broadway Across America tour – and all of those shows will sell out too, so buy your tickets now.