Summer looms and with it a precipitous drop-off in Bayou City theatergoing opportunities. Though a few intrepid companies continue producing into the dog days, most are hibernating, incubating, and of course fundraising. We in the audience, meanwhile, are left idle, theater-starved, and with nothing better to do than handicap the 2014-15 season. But that’s okay. Most of the city’s major theater companies have already announced next season’s schedules (although not all, see below), and it’s not too early to predict what the must-see shows might be. Herewith, a highly speculative list.
To those who in past seasons have lamented the dearth of world premiere and/or locally commissioned productions, all we can say is—lamentations will continue. The lack of support for world premiere and/or locally commissioned works remains the Achilles heel of the Houston theater scene. The Alley, which in past years has at least attempted such premieres, appears to have scaled back its ambitions, perhaps in response to its yearlong decamping to UH. Still, next April’s production of Tristan & Yseult, produced by a well-regarded and exciting company from Britain, Kneehigh, is at least a nod to the new. The world is not so full of All My Sons revivals, so we’re looking forward to that too, as well as the season’s sole star turn, by Elizabeth Ashley, who stars opposite Hallie Foote in dad Horton’s The Old Friends, yet another go-round with a Texas family confronting “legacy, loyalty, and the meaning of happiness” (hat tip: press release).
The hands-down most exciting roster of plays next season belongs to Stages Repertory Theatre, which boasts seven regional premieres, not to mention a world premiere (of a play that pits Rapunzel against zombies, but still). High on the long list of productions we’re looking forward to are David Adjmi’s contemporary take on Marie Antoinette—we don’t care what the New York Times says—and Aaron Posner’s contemporary take on Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull, Stupid F****** Bird—and not just because of what the Washington Post says.
Fly, Ensemble Theatre’s production of Trey Ellis and Ricardo Khan’s play about the Tuskegee Airmen is also on our radar, as is Cloud Tectonics, Jose Rivera’s magical realist tragedy as staged by Mildred’s Umbrella Theater Company. And since no season of great playgoing is complete without a Catastrophic Theatre production, we can’t wait for Lisa D’Amour’s Detroit— about two couples whose meeting over a backyard barbecue may indeed prove, well, catastrophic. Following on the heels of Detroit at Catastrophic is the world premiere of Houston playwright Miki Johnson’s The Economist, which was inspired by Neutral Milk Hotel’s beloved album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.
There’s no shortage of exciting work on its way in this genre, which isn’t surprising given Houston theater’s long tradition of strongly mounted musicals, although here again we’d love to see a world premiere every now and then (and more concert versions of musicals a la New York’s Encores series). As it is, we’re happy that TUTS is bringing Kinky Boots to town, albeit almost two years after the Cyndi Lauper musical won its Best Musical Tony, and that the Broadway series at the Hobby Center will host Once, albeit almost three years since it won the Tony, as well as a critically acclaimed revival of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes, albeit… you get the idea.
Lovers of musicals interested in traveling a bit further afield (or who’ve already seen Broadway on … Broadway) should beat a path to Stages’ door, where they’ll be mounting Jerry Herman’s rarely revived Mack and Mabel. And lovers of dance and theater dare not miss what will likely prove to be the season’s most fascinating pairing of the two, the Scottish Ballet’s production of Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire, a full-length ballet set to a New Orleans jazz-esque score. The only thing wrong with this Society for the Performing Arts offering? You have to wait a year to see it.
Next time: a report on the 2014-15 seasons of other companies if and when they are announced, including Main Street Theater, TUTS Underground, Queensbury Theatre (formerly the Country Playhouse), Texas Repertory Theatre, Bayou City Theatrics, Classical Theatre Company, Theatre Southwest, and Black Lab Theatre.