The Arkansas Repertory Theatre, not to be held back by bad weather, released the details of its 39th season this afternoon, a diverse lineup that includes Tony and Pulitzer winners alongside “Elf.” As Artistic Director Robert Hupp says in the announcement, “It’s a season of entertainment, for sure, but it’s also a season of firsts for The Rep and our audience: The new season features engaging plays and musicals, many brought to life for the very first time in our state, all created in our intimate home on Main Street. Three popular and crowd pleasing, over the top musicals complement three amazing plays that embody the best of our art form.”
The season will kick off in September with David Bryan and Joe DiPietro’s “Memphis,” based on the life of WHBQ DJ Dewey Phillips, host of the famous “Red, Hot and Blue” show and the first DJ to play Elvis on the radio. “Wait Until Dark” will premiere in October; it’s the play that inspired the Audrey Hepburn film and which Hupp calls a “retro suspense classic.” Next up, over the holidays, is the adaption of the 2003 Will Ferrell film “Elf,” followed by the award-winning post-Civil War drama, “The Whipping Man,” a new adaptation of “Mary Poppins” (“One of the biggest musicals we’ve ever undertaken,” says Hupp”) and, in June, “August: Osage County,” the Pulitzer and Tony winner that inspired the film. Video and press release below:
THE 2014-2015 MAINSTAGE SEASON
Sept. 5 – Sept. 28, 2014
A regional theatre premiere at Arkansas Rep, Memphis is a new musical with music and lyrics by David Bryan and lyrics and book by Joe DiPietro loosely based on Memphis disc jockey Dewey Phillips, one of the first white DJs to play black music in the 1950s.
Appearing on Broadway from October 19, 2009 to August 5, 2012, Memphis garnered eight 2010 Tony Award nominations, and won four 2010 Tony Awards, including Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score, Best Orchestrations and Best Musical.
Set in the 1950s in the musically-rich Tennessee city, Memphis tells the story of a local DJ with a passion for R&B music and an up-and-coming singer that he meets one fateful night on Beale Street. As their careers rise, their relationship is challenged by personal ambition and the pressures and prejudice of the outside world.
From the first notes of its opening number “Underground” right up to a rousing finale called “Steal Your Rock ‘n’ Roll,” Memphis delivers one energetic song after the next, with electrifying singing and dancing along the way.
“When I first saw Memphis on Broadway, I couldn’t wait for the day we could tell this story on our stage,” says Hupp. “Imagine how pleased I was when the producers contacted us about creating one of the first regional theatre productions of Memphis in the country. It’s a story we all know; it’s the telling of it that will get you on your feet: brash and exciting with music and dancing that will reach and grab you from start to finish.”
WAIT UNTIL DARK
Oct. 24 – Nov. 9, 2014
Just in time for Halloween, a masterfully constructed thriller will take Rep audiences from one moment of suspense to another toward an electrifying, breath-stopping finale in the Broadway hit, Wait Until Dark by Frederick Knott.
Knott’s play inspired the 1967 Hollywood film of the same name, with both the play and film garnering multiple Tony, Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations for many of the actors involved – including the film’s star, Audrey Hepburn. The film also ranked tenth on Bravo’s “100 Scariest Movie Moments.”
A sinister con man and two ex-convicts are about to meet their match. They have traced the location of a mysterious doll to the Greenwich Village apartment of Sam Hendrix and his wife, Susy. With murder afoot, a deadly game of cat and mouse ensues, as Susy discovers the only way to play fair is to play by her rules.
“It’s been years since we’ve had a thriller in our line-up,” says Hupp. “This retro suspense classic still packs a punch, still brings a gasp, still gets you clutching the arm of the person sitting beside you. Wait Until Dark is scary fun.”
Dec. 5 – Dec. 28, 2014
Adapted by Thomas Meehan (The Producers) and Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone) from the popular 2003 film starring Will Ferrell, with a score by Tony®-nominated songwriting team of Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin (The Wedding Singer), Elf turns one of Hollywood’s most beloved holiday hits into a hilarious and heartwarming musical that towers above the rest.
When a young orphan who mistakenly crawls into Santa’s bag of gifts is raised in the North Pole, unaware that he is actually a human, his enormous size and poor toy-making abilities eventually cause him to face the truth. As he embarks on a journey to New York City to find his birth father and discover his true identity, Buddy strives to win over his new family and help New York remember the true meaning of Christmas.
“Funny and touching, Elf is a musical with a big heart that is just perfect for families this holiday season,” says Hupp.
THE WHIPPING MAN
Jan. 23 – Feb. 8, 2015
An extraordinary tale of loyalty, deceit and deliverance, The Whipping Man by Matthew Lopez opened off-Broadway in 2011 to critical acclaim, winning the 2011 John Gassner New Play Award from the NY Outer Critics Circle and becoming one of the most produced plays in the country.
On Passover, 1865, the Civil War has just ended and the annual celebration of freedom from bondage is being observed in Jewish homes across the country. One of these homes sits in ruins. As Jewish confederate officer Caleb DeLeon returns from the war, badly wounded, to find his family missing and only two former slaves remaining, Simon and John, the two men are forced to care for him.
As Caleb, Simon and John wait for the family’s return, they wrestle with their shared past as master and slave, digging up long-buried family secrets as well as new ones. With Passover upon them, the three men unite to celebrate the holiday, even as they struggle to comprehend their new relationships at a crossroads of personal and national history and to come to terms with the sordid legacies of slavery and war that threaten each of their future freedoms.
“Make The Whipping Man a new discovery. It will challenge your assumptions about our history, and the plot twists and turns will keep you on the edge of your seat,” says Hupp. “You’ll want to see why The Whipping Man has established itself as one of the most produced plays in the country.”
March 6 – April 5, 2015
With music and lyrics by the Academy Award-winning Sherman Brothers (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Jungle Book, Charlotte’s Web, The Aristocats), with additional music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe (Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure) and a book by Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey), Disney’s stage musical Mary Poppins is based on the similarly titled series of children’s books by P. L. Travers and the 1964 Disney film.
Including a score filled with timeless classics such as “Feed the Birds,” “Jolly Holiday,” “Step in Time,” “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and the Academy Award-winning “Chim-Chim Cher-ee,” the Broadway production opened in November 2006 and received nominations for seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical, six Drama Desk Awards, including Outstanding Musical and nine Olivier Award nominations.
The Banks family live in a big house in London on Cherry Lane, and things are not going well. The children, Jane and Michael, are out of control and in need of a new nanny. While the children have their own ideas about what sort of caretaker they should have, their parents—and in particular Mr. Banks—prefer someone strict for the job.
When a mysterious young woman named Mary Poppins appears on their doorstep, the family finds that she’s the answer to all their prayers. While Mary Poppins takes the children on many fantastic adventures, Jane and Michael aren’t the only ones she changes.
“Bringing Mary Poppins to the stage for the first time for Arkansas audiences is a special thrill,” says Hupp. “Like most of us, Mary Poppins has been a part of my life since I was a kid; we all remember the first time we met her and, even today, how many times do we wish someone would drift in from the sky to set everything right? Mary Poppins will be one of the biggest musicals we’ve ever undertaken, and will be a special treat in our intimate theatre.”
AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY
June 5 – June 21, 2015
One of the most bracing and critically acclaimed plays in recent Broadway history, August: Osage County is a darkly comedic portrait of the dysfunctional American family at its finest—and absolute worst.
Written by Tracy Letts, August: Osage County was the recipient of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, in addition to winning five 2008 Tony Awards, including Best Play, three 2008 Drama Desk Awards including Outstanding Play, the 2008 New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play, the 2008 Drama League Award for Distinguished Production of a Play and the 2008 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Broadway Play.
When the patriarch of the Weston clan disappears one hot summer night, the family reunites at the Oklahoma homestead, where long-held secrets are unflinchingly and uproariously revealed, dramatizing three generations of unfulfilled dreams and leaving each family member changed forever.
“In my opinion, August: Osage County is the best play written in the last ten years,” says Hupp. “We’ve had the rights for a few years but feel we’re now ready to bring this dynamic, funny and powerful new play to life for our audience. Maybe you saw the movie, but you need to meet this family at The Rep.”