Whether you’re looking to hear “76 Trombones,” get drawn into a thriller, laugh yourself out of your seat, or catch some award-winning dramas, you’ll most certainly find something up your alley with one of Arkansas’s many excellent production companies this season.
Heading up the Broadway fare is the Meredith Wilson classic “The Music Man.” Shirley Jones, who played Marian the librarian in the original film, will be hosting and playing the role of Marian’s mother, while Jones’ son Patrick Cassidy will play the title role of Harold Hill. Celebrity Attractions will present the musical Oct. 3-5 at the recently christened Maumelle Performing Arts Center (inside Maumelle High School), which is hosting performances while Robinson Center undergoes renovations.
Need more musicals? The University of Central Arkansas’s Broadway series at Reynolds Performance Hall will present a production of everyone’s favorite singing nun story, “Sister Act,” which features original music by eight-time Oscar winner Alan Menken, on Oct. 23, and the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville will show the throwback pastiche “Nice Work If You Can Get It” Oct. 21-26, which features several classics by George and Ira Gershwin originally heard in other films and plays.
Finally, if you haven’t seen it yet, there are still a few days left to catch “Memphis,” which runs through Sept. 28 at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre. This Tony award-winning musical about Memphis DJ Dewey Phillips will have you dancing in the aisles with its 1950s R&B soundtrack.
Also on the fall stage: The Rep’s production of Frederick Knott’s thriller “Wait Until Dark” (Oct. 22-Nov. 9). Knott is also famous for “Dial M for Murder,” which was later adapted for the screen and directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The finale of the film version of “Wait Until Dark” was recognized by Bravo as the No. 10 scariest scene of all time, so you might want to bring someone along to cling to. The Halloween performance is sure to sell out so make sure you get your tickets early.
The Weekend Theater promises a host of excellent dramas with a social justice bent this season, starting with “A Quiet End” by Robin Swados (Sept. 26-Oct. 11), a groundbreaking 1980s play that was one of the first to address the AIDS epidemic. It explores the lives of three men who live together in a Manhattan apartment and struggle in the face of their illness to find hope and meaning. Next up is Suzan Lori Parks’ Pulitzer-winning “Topdog/Underdog” (Oct. 31-Nov. 15), which follows two African-American brothers as they confront external racism along with internal demons. The heavy material is balanced with elements of dark comedy and exciting and dynamic performance. Closing out the season is Jon Robin Baitz’s “Other Desert Cities” (Dec. 5-20), about political divisions and long-forgotten secrets within a California family.
Drama lovers in Northwest Arkansas will get a chance to see TheatreSquared’s production of Little Rock Hall High School graduate David Auburn’s “Proof” (Oct. 16-Nov. 2), which won a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award for Best Drama in 2001. The play is laced with themes of mathematical obsession and unconventional romance.
For those looking for more light-hearted entertainment, TheatreSquared will also be presenting a stage adaptation of the screwball comedy-adventure “Around the World in 80 Days,” based on the Jules Verne classic. Phileas Fogg and company will be racing around the stage from Nov. 26 through Dec. 21.
Even though it’s only September, Walmart has taught us that it’s never too early to think about Christmas. Theatergoers looking for yuletide cheer during the holiday season should mark their calendars to see “Elf” at The Rep (Dec. 3-28). Yes, it’s that “Elf,” a musical adaptation of the well-loved 2003 Will Ferrell film featuring music by the Tony-nominated team of Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin. And, if you’re still looking to find the true meaning of Christmas, check out UCA Broadway’s production of the Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol” on Dec. 7 at Reynolds Performance Hall.
Perennial dinner-date favorite Murry’s Dinner Playhouse rounds out the fall theater season with three fun performances. Playing now through Oct. 4 is Tony- and Oscar-winner Tom Stoppard’s “Rough Crossing,” a romantic comedy play-within-a-play set on board a luxury liner in the 1930s. Later, Murry’s will present the Sherlock Holmes comedy-whodunit “The Game’s Afoot” (Oct. 7-Nov. 8) and the biographical Hank Williams tribute “Hank and My Honky Tonk Heroes” starring Jason Petty (Nov. 11-12).