Houston theatergoers will see an eclectic mix of programming in Stages Repertory Theatre’s 2019-2020 season, announced yesterday. That’s fitting for a company that’s been transforming itself over the last decade as it’s brought newer and more contemporary voices to its offerings. At the same time, the season also offers the crowd-pleasing, rousing musicals and comedies that have come to define summers at Stages.
Next season, Stages opens its brand new theater, The Gordy, one block south of its current location. Housing three theaters, the space is the culmination of a $32 million capital campaign. The 2019-2020 season will open in Stages’ current home on Allen Parkway before segueing into the new Gordy space mid-year.
The Doyle and Debbie Show, July 12-September 8
Kicking off the season is The Doyle and Debbie Show, billed as a comedic musical sendup of country music duets. (The parody sounds — on the surface — a little like 2014’s musical Pete ‘n’ Keely, which had charming music and terrific performances.) The Chicago Sun-Times called it “90 minutes of goofy perfection — clever, hilarious, wacky, and brilliantly performed... .” Done in with a nod to mockumentaries like This is Spinal Tap and Best in Show and with a satirical slant on country music, the show should hit that musical comedy/crazy shenanigans sweet spot that Stages does with such effervescence.
Sister’s Back to School Catechism: The Holy Ghost and Other Terrifying Tales, August 21-October 13
Running concurrently with Doyle and Debbie is another Stages comedy stalwart. Late Night Catechism’s latest iteration finds the formidable and irrepressible Sister back on stage for Sister’s Back to School Catechism: The Holy Ghost and Other Terrifying Tales. Included in the curriculum is an examination of “Catholic-approved” ghost and goblin stories – and a Halloween contest. Lovers of the series won’t want to miss this incarnation, which brings Denise Fennell back in the starring role.
Life Could Be a Dream, September 6-7
Stages takes its show on the road in September, for a two-night performance of Roger Bean’s musical Life Could Be a Dream, which transports audiences back to the crooning acts and Doo-Wop sounds of the 1960s. Wanna-be stars Denny and the Dreamers enter the Big Whopper Radio Contest, hoping to hit it big. The show features classic hits like "Earth Angel" and "Only You." Bean gave the world The Marvelous Wondrettes, and this jukebox show should offer the same charm along with a ’60s soundtrack. It’ll be performed at Miller Outdoor Theatre, where it should be a crowd-pleaser that’s perfect for Houston’s sultry summer nights.
Salt, Root and Roe, October 4-20
October brings the U.S. premiere of Salt, Root and Roe by Welsh playwright Tim Price, who The Guardian called “a talent to watch.” It’s the story of 80-year-old twin sisters Anest and Iola, living on a remote coast of Wales who have agreed to face death together. That’s complicated by the coming of Anset’s daughter Menna, who wants her mother to face life, instead. With the show, Stages continues its partnership with Upstream Theater in St. Louis, and the play stars Stages favorite Sally Edmunson.
Miracle on 34th Street: A Live Musical Radio Play, November 16-December 15
Ushering in the holidays are two family friendly offerings. Miracle on 34th Street: A Live Musical Radio Play presents the classic story of a replacement Santa Claus in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade who claims to be the real Kris Kringle. Brought to life in a radio studio, complete with a live Foley artist and musical numbers, it’s an intimate look at this big-hearted story with a nod to the storytelling of yesteryear. (Audiences who caught A.D. Players presentation of It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play will be immediately familiar with the set-up.) The San Diego Union-Tribune raved “this Miracle summons the warm glow of the season — no applause sign required.”
Panto Hansel and Gretel, November 20-December 15
Lovers of Stages Panto holiday tradition will delight over Panto Hansel and Gretel, which turns the beloved fairy tale on its head. In this version, Houston parents leave their social media-obsessed children in the woods to fend for themselves, while they pursue dreams of theater stardom. There will be cheering and booing and general frivolity in what should prove a rollicking holiday bon-bon.
The Fantasicks, January 24-March 15, 2020
January brings Stages into its new home at the Gordy and the company opens the space with a classic musical and a Stages tradition. The Fantastiks is the longest-running musical in history and a timeless story of lovers, meddling parents and how adversity creates strong bonds. With delightful whimsey and instantly recognizable songs, this show should be a must for lovers of musical theater. Stages presented the show as part of its very first season, and the musical opened the company’s first season in the Allen Parkway location. It’s entirely fitting the show now inaugurates Stages’ era at the Gordy, where it plays on the Sterling Stage.
Water by the Spoonful, February 7-23, 2020
Water by the Spoonful raises the curtain on the Gordy’s Lester and Sue Smith Stage in February. Quiara Alegria Hudes’ Pulitzer Prize-winning drama follows an Iraq war veteran and former addict, estranged from his mother, who finds solace in an online chat room. An examination of the necessity of human connections, Variety called it “a combination poem, prayer, and app on how to cope in an age of uncertainty, speed, and chaos.”
Honky Tonk Laundry, March 6-April 19, 2020
Honky Tonk Laundry, a light-hearted romp by Roger Bean, arrives in March. Lana Mae inherits the Wishy Washy Washeteria from her grandmother, and she’s determined to turn it into the town’s best honky tonk. Featuring country music classics like “I Fall to Pieces” and “These Boots Are Made for Walking,” the show features big dreams and good fun, wrapped up in a package Broadway World said “blows the roof off the place.”
Sensitive Guys, March 20-April 5, 2020
MJ Kauffman’s Sensitive Guys looks at how two student-led groups on a small, liberal arts campus are working to mitigate sexual assault on campus. But the Men’s Peer Education Group and the Women’s Survivor Support Group clash amid a shocking allegation. The plot should prove timely and compelling for audiences, even as the play explores some heavy topics.
Hook’s Tale, April 10-May 3 2020
A reimagining of the Peter Pan story comes alive in Hook’s Tale, a play by John Leonar Pielmeier. Told though a long-lost journal of the much-maligned Captain Hook, it’s a romp through one of the world’s most beloved stories. Donald Corren, who played tennis great Bobby Riggs in Stages’ 2017 production of Balls, stars as Hook.
Circle Mirror Transformation, May 1-17, 2020
The regional premiere of Annie Baker’s Circle Mirror Transformation arrives in May, telling the story of the participants of a six-week drama class who arrive in a small Vermont town. Variety called it a “beguiling little play” that shines a spotlight on what it means to live lives of courage.
Airness, June 12-28, 2020
Closing the season is Airness, Chelsea Marcantel’s play about a group of champion air guitarists who are challenged by an ambitious newcomer named Nina. Just as much an examination of what is real as it is a love letter to rock and roll, the Chicago Reader called it "unmitigated pleasure."