OPENING THIS MONTH
A Chorus Line is at Olney Theatre August 1 through September 1.
August 5 for one show only, Taffety Punk presents its seventh annual Bootleg Shakespeare event, staging, rehearsing, and performing Love’s Labour’s Lost in a single day.
Keegan Theatre stages A Few Good Men, Aaron Sorkin’s play about a military cover-up at Guantanamo Bay. August 10 through September 7.
Theater Alliance presents the debut production in the Anacostia Playhouse, Nathan Louis Jackson’s Broke-ology. August 14 through September 8.
Signature Theatre’s production of the smash musical Miss Saigon plays August 15 through September 22.
Rorschach Theatre presents Neverwhere, a theatrical adaptation of the fantasy novel by Neil Gaiman. August 16 through September 15.
Round House Theatre’s The Beauty Queen of Lenane by Martin McDonagh runs August 21 through September 15.
When Carolyn Cole shyly approaches the stage and starts singing, eventually crescendoing into a killer high note, it’s hard to avoid transforming into a teenybopper American Idol audience member in the process, squealing and cheering in approval. The girl can wail.
Such frenetic applause wouldn’t be out of place. Signature Theatre’s Spin: A New Musical, part of its Siglab series of shows in workshop form, takes place in a universe similar to the Ryan Seacrest-hosted show. Cole plays Makalo, an unlikely contestant on a show called Idol Chatter, a singing competition that has yet to receive national attention though it’s hosted by a former boy-band singer, Evan Peterson (James Gardiner). It doesn’t give away much to say that Makalo (performing under the name Adonna) ended up on the show after seeking out the dad she never knew, and the musical, based on the Korean film Speedy Scandal, is as much about their attempts to piece a relationship together as it is an amusing satire of the music industry.
Still a work in progress, Spin, with a book from Brian Hill and direction from Eric Schaeffer, can be problematic at times. With almost 30 musical numbers, including a few too many expositional songs (like the “Family Tree” routine, in which Evan tries to explain a white lie to Makalo’s young son, Jesse), it could use some trimming. There are also some structural issues. An intensely choreographed medley, also named “Spin,” falls awkwardly after curtain call. One character, the photographer Danny (Stephen Russell Murray), has creepy promise at first as a sinister-seeming stalker, but the show hurriedly fits him into a more integral role later, a transition that feels abrupt. The show also has the tendency to be schmaltzy, particularly in the climactic “What If?” when Peterson looks back on the mistakes he’s made.
Given that demand for Book of Mormon tickets was so high when they first went on sale back in February that the Kennedy Center’s website crashed for two whole days, you might be under the impression that the only tickets harder to come by are passes to a White House event when your name is Salahi. But not so! Below, some ways to see the show the New York Times described as “blasphemous, scurrilous, and more foul-mouthed than David Mamet on a blue streak.”
1) Get in line. A few $25 standing room-only tickets will be available at the box office from 10 AM Tuesday through Saturday and from noon on Sunday. It’s advisable to arrive earlier than that, since lines will presumably be lengthy. Tickets are limited to two per person.
2) Call the box office or check the Kennedy Center’s website. Hard as it may be to believe, there are still a small number of limited-view and premium seats available, and the best way to find out is to call 202-467-4600 and ask.
3) Go to websites such as StubHub, where scalped tickets are plentiful. They’re also slightly less expensive now than they were a month or so ago, as people get more eager to unload them. Single tickets for tonight’s performance, for example, start at $150—which sounds like a lot but is considerably less than people were shelling out to see the show on Broadway—and there are tickets to other performances for under $100. Obviously, we should note that we do not condone scalping here at Washingtonian HQ.
And whatever you do, don’t forget to check back in tomorrow, when we’ll be posting our review here at After Hours.
At the heart of The Rocky Horror Show, says Shakespeare Theatre Company associate director Alan Paul, is the message that it’s okay to be different: “To anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider, which is basically everyone at some point, it says, ‘Don’t dream it—be it.’ Let your freak flag fly.” Paul and Studio Theatre managing director Keith Alan Baker are codirecting the campy musical at Studio to mark the 40th anniversary of its original London run as well as the 25th anniversary of Studio’s 2ndStage. Both men are adamant that their production—July 10 through August 4—will be different from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the 1975 movie that launched the careers of Susan Sarandon and Tim Curry while ingraining itself as a cult classic. “We’re making choices that are not what everybody knows from the movie,” says Baker. “We’re aiming to shock—this is not your grandmother’s Rocky Horror.”
Baker hesitates to give too much away, but the production will feature a two-level set by Giorgos Tsappas plus projections and video by Erik Trester. Adventure Theatre MTC’s Michael Bobbitt is the choreographer, while Mitchell Jarvis (Broadway’s Rock of Ages) stars as Frank N. Furter. The cast includes an 11-person ensemble whose costumes won’t leave much to the imagination. “We told them we were looking for people who weren’t inhibited,” says Baker. “There may be some . . . exposure, let’s say.” The directors, fusing what Paul describes as “two very different off-kilter imaginations,” aim to enhance some of the science-fiction themes from Richard O’Brien’s original stage show and encourage audience participation while paying tribute to what’s made the play popular. Says Paul: “It’s etched in people’s frontal lobes and in their hearts. With anything that’s so powerful over such a long period, you have an instant desire to do it because it’s given people so much joy.”
The Rocky Horror Show, July 10 to Aug. 4 at Studio Theatre. Tickets ($43 to $48) are available online.
This article appears in the July 2013 issue of The Washingtonian.
Looking to navigate the undeniably rich but ever-puzzling terrain of the Capital Fringe
Festival this year? In preparation for the festival, which runs July 11 through 28,
we’ve broken down which of the 130 shows on offer to bookmark, categorized by musicals,
comedy, drama, and physical theater/dance, and ranked—as usual—by general quirkiness.
The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs: The Musical
When: July 11, 14, 17, 20, 23, and 28
Who: Timothy Guillot (after Mike Daisey).
Why: Remember that fairly newsworthy Daisey show about Apple and China? Timothy Guillot has made it into a musical, and that’s all we need to say.
Quirk Factor: 5/5
Cabaret XXXY: Who Do You Think You Are?
When: July 12, 16, 20, 24, 25, 26, and 28
Who: Pinky Swear Productions, Stephen Spotswood.
Why: Pinky Swear won the Best Fringe Musical award in 2011 for Les Femmes Fatales, and return for a third year with this ode to rock anthems and unabashed female sexuality.
Quirk Factor: 2/5
Disco Jesus and the Apostles of Funk
When: July 13, 17, 21, 25, and 27
Who: Vaughn Irving, Doug Wilder, and Paul Foreman.
Why: This disco-themed musical about the son of God and his bartender mother stars the amazing Felicia Curry and nine other singers. Plus you get to say “Disco Jesus.”
Quirk Factor: 2/5
1814! The War of 1812 Rock Opera
When: July 11, 14, 18, 20, 23, and 26
Who: Written and composed by David Dudley and Dave Israel.
Why: Because between Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and Hoover Comes Alive, historical rock operas are a thing now? Also because this is apparently the summer of Washington being destroyed by haters, and this musical depicting the Battle of Baltimore has shockingly good timing.
Quirk Factor: 1/5
OPENING THIS MONTH
The jukebox show Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story became one of the most successful West End musicals in history when it debuted in London in 1989, running for 12 years; a revival followed in 2007 and is still playing today. The show, about the ’50s rock-and-roll musician, includes the hits “Peggy Sue” and “That’ll Be the Day.” July 2 and 3.
Famed Chicago comedy troupe the Second City returns to Woolly with America All Better!!, inspired by the highs of 2013 (the economy’s upward swing, the progress of gay marriage, and the legalization of marijuana) compared with the lows of the recession. July 9 through August 4.
Studio stages The Rocky Horror Show 40 years after the cult musical's original London run. Mitchell Jarvis (Broadway's Rock of Ages) stars as Frank N. Furter, and the production's directed by Alan Paul and Keith Alan Baker with choreography by Michael Bobbitt. July 10 through August 4.
Forum presents a new work by writer, director, and Georgetown professor Natsu Onoda Power. The T Party features vignettes exploring stories of transgression, transgendered people, and theater. July 18 to 27.
Synetic reprises its popular A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a wordless adaptation of the Shakespeare classic by Paata and Irina Tsikurishvili. July 18 through August 4.
American Century stages I Do! I Do!, Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt’s 1966 musical about a 50-year marriage. July 19 through August 17.
The festival returns with five new plays—three world premieres—90 minutes from downtown DC at West Virginia’s Shepherd University. The slate includes Sam Shepard’s Heartless, which explores the human condition through a Los Angeles family; Scott and Hem in the Garden of Allah, a premiere by Mark St. Germain about F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway; and H20, a play by Jane Martin about an actor who wins the role of Hamlet. July 5 through 28.
The Fringe Festival returns with more than 135 groups presenting offbeat shows over 18 days, most of them at Fort Fringe headquarters (607 New York Ave., NW). This year’s lineup includes shows by Faction of Fools, Bowen McCauley Dance, Pinky Swear Productions, and Washington Improv Theater. July 11 through 28.
It’s been an eventful year for local theater companies when it comes to putting down roots. Just under a year ago, the H Street Playhouse announced it was moving across the river to Anacostia after being priced out of the H Street Corridor, and at the end of December, Rosslyn’s Artisphere evicted WSC Avant Bard as its in-residence theater company. This week it was announced that Woolly Mammoth, Cultural DC, and Keegan Theatre have all purchased their current spaces in Penn Quarter and Dupont Circle, while just yesterday news emerged that Montgomery County’s Round House Theatre is being forced to relinquish management of its Silver Spring black-box theater, possibly leaving companies such as Forum Theatre and Happenstance Theater homeless.
The problem, says Forum artistic director Michael Dove, is that Washington just doesn’t have the space for all the theater groups that have emerged in recent years. Five years ago when Forum was mulling a move from H Street to Silver Spring, there was already a sense that the Atlas District might be outpacing the H Street Playhouse (where Forum was then based) in terms of development, and jeopardizing its future in the neighborhood. “Even then it seemed a little scary, and so the offer to move to Silver Spring became very attractive,” says Dove. “It’s the old adage about art leading development in neighborhoods, but what sucks is that the arts sometimes get pushed out when that development happens.”
Theater Alliance, which used to be based at the H Street Playhouse, is staging its first show at the Anacostia Playhouse in August, but won’t be basing itself permanently east of the river. “I can see us producing numerous shows in Anacostia, but I don’t want to jump in blindly without building a relationship first,” says artistic director Colin Hovde. “It’s about starting a dialogue so people can see what kind of work we do, and how we can find ways to serve the community.” Scena Theatre, which was also formerly based at the H Street Playhouse, is staging its next production, Oscar Wilde’s Salome, at the Atlas Arts Center on H Street while considering options for a suitable long-term space. Starting in the fall, the company will produce staged readings of “ancient and modern classics” at non-theater venues across the city while it looks for a new home.
Round House Theatre, which for more than ten years has managed the 150-seat black box theater on Silver Spring’s Colesville Road, will end its management of the space in 2014, the company announced today. The news came just as Mayor Gray announced that I.M.P., promoters and operators of the 9:30 Club and Merriweather Post Pavilion, had been chosen as the winning bid to take over the historic Lincoln Theatre on U Street.
The Lincoln Theatre has offered performances only sporadically in recent years, despite having a storied history since it was built in 1922. The venue has hosted Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday, Nat King Cole, and many more luminaries of the jazz age, and was once the venue for President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s birthday party. It will now be another jewel in the crown of local promoter and I.M.P. chairman Seth Hurwitz. “It’s an honor and a thrill to be entrusted to bringing new life to such a wonderful old theater,” Hurwitz said in a statement. “Although we have been doing this for 33 years, we have added very few venues in our family roster. But this one we couldn’t pass up. The Lincoln is just too cool not to.”
In a mere 90 minutes at this year’s Source Festival, audiences can see plays about a unicorn harassing women in the street, a mermaid living in apparent captivity at the back of a supermarket, a woman who compares her relationship to modern art, and a family of men who move back into their matriarch’s uterus after the complexities of modern life become too overwhelming.
If it sounds quirky, it is, but one of the strengths of the festival’s format has always been its presentation of 10-minute plays, offering new and untested playwrights the chance to showcase their ideas alongside better-known ones and allowing writers the freedom to experiment with stories that might collapse under the weight of a full-length play. At a showcase titled “On the Cusp” presented last weekend, short plays by Jessica Huang, Sherry Kramer, Eric Pfeffinger, Peter J. Roth, David Mitchell Robinson, and Jami Brandli explored the beginnings and ends of relationships, from two chihuahuas debating the state of their owner’s relationship and the “scent of love” in Kramer’s Cake, to a man and a woman embarking on a complex and funny game of espionage in Roth’s Strangers on a Train.
Opening This Month
Round House Theatre
Patricia McGregor directs the local premiere of Becky Shaw, Gina Gionfriddo’s 2008 comedy about a couple set up on a bad first date. The New York Times called the Pulitzer Prize finalist “as engrossing as it is ferociously funny.” Through June 23.
Local playwright Jacqueline E. Lawton’s The Hampton Years explores the true story of two African-American artists tutored by an Austrian refugee during World War II. Through June 30. $25 to $60. Read our review.
The Source Festival returns with three full-length premieres, 18 ten-minute plays, and three artistic “blind dates,” or cross-genre collaborations. The full-length plays are by Jason Gray Platt, Joe Waechter, and Topher Payne, the ten-minute plays by writers including locals Renee Calarco and Stephen Spotswood. June 7 through 30.
American Century Theater
American Century presents Biography, S.N. Behrman’s 1932 play about an artist offered a large sum to write about her experiences making celebrity portraits. June 7 through 29.
Kennedy Center Opera House
Roundabout Theatre Company’s Tony Award-winning production of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes comes to the KenCen, featuring “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “It’s De-Lovely,” and “Let’s Misbehave.” Variety called the 2011 New York run “a daffy, shipshape romp.” June 11 through July 7.
Olney Theatre Center
Patrick Hamilton’s Angel Street gets a revival at Olney for the first time since 1950. Set in 1880s London, the play is about a husband intent on psychologically torturing his wife. It was the basis of Gaslight, the 1944 Ingrid Bergman/Charles Boyer movie. June 20 through July 14.
WSC Avant Bard
Caesar and Dada, a new play by Allyson Currin, who teaches playwriting at George Washington University, looks at the origins of the avant-garde movement and Dadaism’s impact on artists. June 22 through July 14.
The New York visual-theater company Wakka Wakka Productions presents Baby Universe, a science-fiction-inspired show incorporating puppetry, mime, and multimedia. The New York Times called it a “funny and poignant eco-fable” during a 2010 run. June 26 through July 14.
Rabbit Hole, David Lindsay-Abaire’s Pulitzer-winning drama about a couple haunted by the loss of their child, comes to Church Street. June 28 through July 21.