And we’re off.
While we still might be remembering those excellent (and weird) live stage moments from 2019, Houston theater companies and presenters have already boxed up the ever-greenery, Santa beards, and Victorian hats of the December holiday shows to make way for a January filled with new Broadway musicals, innovative contemporary plays, and oh, yeah, the grand opening of Stages’ three theater space Gordy Campus.
So if you’re ringing in 2020 with a resolution to see more live theater, here’s some of the best drama, comedies and musicals to try this month.
The Color Purple presented by Society for the Performing Arts at Hobby Center (January 3 and 4)
The Tony-winning revival of the Alice Walker contemporary classic novel turned Oscar winning film comes back to town. The John Doyle-directed revival strips down the show to focus on the jazz, gospel, ragtime, and blues-influenced score as it follows the emotional and spiritual journey of hero Celie — as she loses everything, and through love and perseverance becomes the ultimate survivor.
Hello, Dolly! presented by Broadway at the Hobby Center (January 7-12)
American theater’s greatest matchmaker, the irrepressible Dolly Gallagher Levi, heads into town to find love for everyone, including herself. Will she land the curmudgeon millionaire Horace Vandergelder while benignly meddling in everyone else’s love life before the hijinks ends? We’ll bet a chorus of high-kicking waiters on it. Theater lovers just lost Hello, Dolly composer and lyricist Jerry Herman, so a night with Dolly might just be perfect celebratory wake for the musical theater giant.
Hamlet at Main Street Theater (January 9-19)
Prague Shakespeare Company Artistic Director Guy Roberts, a special guest on the MST stage for many seasons, takes on the role of director, actor, and adaptor for this unique take on arguably Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy. This one-man, 90-minute Hamlet uses the original text but offers only the events in the play that the justly melancholy Prince experiences himself. Hamlet, solely from Hamlet’s perspective, gives audiences new insights into the psychology and dynamics of one of theater’s most fascinating characters.
Samuel Beckett’s Ladies Night presented by Mildred’s Umbrella at Rec Room (January 9-18)
Check out a very different kind of ladies night, as Mildred’s presents this collection of four Beckett short plays rarely performed together but all focused on women: Not I, Rockaby, Come and Go, and Footfalls. Some of Houston’s fave actress — including Carolyn Johnson, Jenna Morris, Whitney Zangarine, Sally Burtenshaw, Arianna Bermudez, Callina Anderson, and Katherine Rinaldi — will be there to get their Beckett on.
The Realistic Joneses from 4th Wall Theatre at Studio 101 (January 17-February 8)
The strange plots, awkward and sometimes hilarious dialogue, and resonating emotional cores of Will Eno’s plays have become a favorite of many Houston companies when looking to go beyond the traditional. In one of his more realistic, but still surprising works, married 4th Wall founders Kim Tobin-Lehl and Philip Lehl play one-half of the Jones couples of the title. The production brings in New York television and theater star, Mr. Robot’s Vaishnavi Sharma, plus long-time Houston fav for quirky and nuanced roles Drake Simpson, to play the second set of Joneses, in this show about life, death and nosey neighbors.
Alley All New at the Alley Theatre (January 16-26)
The fifth-annual new play festival gives Houston audiences a fascinating, and absolutely free, look into the artistic process and sneak peek into what may well be the next big plays every theater wants to produce. These reading and workshop performances allow some of the most innovative and up and coming contemporary playwrights a chance to see their in progress work come to early life, while letting theater-lovers in on the creation.
Quixote Nuevo at Alley Theatre (January 17-February 9)
Artistic director Rob Melrose seems to be going for charming or Texas-centric with several of the selections for his first full season at the Alley. This first show of the new year might hit both qualities, along with some biting comedy. El Paso playwright Octavio Solis’s reimagining of Don Quixote gets a decidedly modern Texas spin. Set in a fictitious Texas border town, this Quixote still pursues the impossible dream and lost love. Directed by Austin based KJ Sanchez, the show stars Sesame Street’s Emilio Delgado.
The Fantasticks at Stages Theatre (January 24 – March 15)
Stages makes its historical move to the Gordy Campus, looking to the future with a nod to the past with this production. The company has produced the classic musical two times, in its very first season and then in its inaugural season in the Allen Parkway space. Try to remember such an allegorical and lyrical musical about romance, family relationships, and love that lasts.
The Green Book at Ensemble Theatre (January 23-February 23)
Not based on the film of the same name, instead playwright Calvin Alexander Ramsey took his inspiration directly from Victor Hugo Green’s historical travel guide. The play focuses on three travelers staying at a tourist home attend a lecture by Dr. W. E. B. Ensemble notes beyond the drama “the plays investigation of the impact of Civil Rights on contemporary American issues.”
The Band’s Visit presented by Broadway at the Hobby Center (January 28-February 2)
In this multiple-Tony-Award-winning musical based on the award-winning film, a ceremonial Egyptian police band takes a wrong turn on tour and ends ups in a small Israel desert town. The lost travelers and locals exchange secrets and truths through music. In a big casting coup, Israeli stage and screen star Sasson Gabay, who played the band’s conductor Tewfiq in the film, reprised his role on Broadway and has stuck around for the touring production.