One could judge Theatre Under The Stars to be “old school” for programming the venerable warhorse that is Oklahoma!, especially after learning that TUTS Artistic Director Dan Knechtges first fell in love with the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic after watching the 1955 film adaptation—on Betamax.
But with this season marking two landmark anniversaries—50 for TUTS, 75 for the musical—it seemed natural to pull out all the stops to produce an updated, racially and ethnically diverse take on the familiar story of a woman caught between a farmer and a cowman.
“I really love the optimism of the music,” Knechtges says. “Basically, there’s going to be bad things that happen to us, but you have to be strong to survive—it’s a powerful reassurance.”
Folded into the cast are 21 Houston Ballet dancers ready for supercharged company numbers and smaller scenes that flesh out the inner turmoil of Laurey and Curly and Jud through new choreography by HB Artistic Director Stanton Welch. It’s a first-ever collaboration that both companies agree is long overdue.
“When the dancing is as spectacular as the singing and the acting,” Welch says, “that’s the perfect triple threat.”
Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train | 4th Wall Theatre Company | Sept. 6-29
Holed up in prison on New York’s Rikers Island, two men accused of murder grapple with faith, justice, and redemption in this darkly comic play from Pulitzer-winning playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis.
Skeleton Crew | Alley Theatre | Sept. 7-Oct. 7
Set in 2008 on the precipice of the Great Recession, this drama follows four mouthy Detroiters as they hash out the future of their American Dream in the breakroom of an imperiled auto-stamping plant. How will each survive if the factory closes?
The Book of Will | Main Street Theater | Sept. 8-Oct. 7
Shakespeare’s been dead for three years, and cheap knockoffs of his work are being peddled all across London. Enter two of his buds, who decide to grapple with the Bard’s legacy and legend as they work to compile his complete works into the authoritative First Folio.
Swimming While Drowning | Stages Repertory Theatre | Oct. 3-21
Driven from home by his homophobic father, Angelo Mendez finds himself sharing a room with street punk Mila, another 15-year-old, at an LGBTQ homeless shelter. What follows is a touching, funny coming-of-age story that weaves together dialogue, poetry, and spoken word.
The Phantom of the Opera | Broadway at the Hobby Center | Nov. 7-18
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Tony-studded musical from 1986—still the longest-running Broadway show ever—has lost precisely none of its thunderous glitz and glam over the decades. So strap in for this unorthodox story of a Parisian starlet caught in a torrid love affair with her disfigured singing coach.
First Suburb | Catastrophic Theatre | Nov. 16-Dec. 9
Company favorite Chana Porter drops into the world of five preteens suspended amid the grungy, angsty depths of ’90s suburbia when a violent incident jolts them from their pubescent ennui. Expect all the black lipstick and cassette tapes you could ask for from this world premiere.