the best of spring theater
11 best Houston stage shows bloom with love and laughs this spring
Every spring, Houston theaters bloom with dramatic, musical, and comic delights, as local companies bring their theatrical seasons to a close before beginning anew in the summer heat. This year it seems love, in a multitude of forms, pollinates the air on many stages, while other companies take inspiration from history or maybe engage in a bit of murder.
No matter your taste, here are the shows to catch when looking for a one-night spring fling, with no regrets in the morning.
The Weir at Main Street Theater (now until April 13)
Storytelling rules this rural Ireland pub as a group of local men swap ghost stories to impress a newcomer to the village, but she might have the most haunting tale of all to share. This dramatic yarn has been such a hit for Main Street, they’ve extended the run, but April 13 is that last chance to see.
Side Show at Queensbury Theatre (now through April 14)
Freaks take the spotlight in this tragically beautiful story based on the real life conjoined twin Hilton sisters, who toured in side shows and vaudeville in the 1930s. The musical follows them from rags to bitter sweet fame, while director Marley Singletary has found some of the sweetest voices in Houston to populate this theatrical carnival.
The Royale at Rec Room (April 10-27)
Drama and a bit of true Texas history take to the Rec Room ring in this award-winning play by Marco Ramirez inspired by the real-life story of legendary boxer Jack Johnson, the Galveston Giant and first African American world heavyweight boxing champion. Set ringside in Galveston, The Royale takes us into the turn of the century — the 20th century that is — as Jay “The Sport” Jackson battles more than just another fighter to become champ.
Toast from Catastrophic Theatre (April 11-May 5)
Take a contemporary trip through Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell in a play with no one playwright. The Catastrophic gang collaborates with experimental director Brian Jucha to bring this mind-bending journey to the stage, with each artist/actor getting a hellish circle to square for their own. We’re expecting a wild, trippy ride.
Ragtime from Theatre Under the Stars (April 16-28)
Based on the E.L. Doctorow novel and its huge cast of characters both fictional and historical, with a book by Terrence McNally, music by Stephen Flaherty, and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, the musical depicts the overlapping lives of African-Americans, Eastern European immigrants, the upper class and celebrities in early 20th-century New York. This show seems ripe for timely 21st-century connections.
Crimes of the Heart at Alley Theatre (April 12-May 4)
Family comes center stage with Beth Henley’s Pulitzer Prize winning contemporary classic, as three sisters unite in tragedy and comedy. The show is directed by Theresa Rebeck, who’s had several of her own plays produced at the Alley.
Murder for Two at Stages Theatre (April 24-June 16)
One piano, two actors, murder, mayhem and music. One actor plays the investigator the other plays all 13 suspects. This twisty fun take on the murder mystery play will leave audiences guessing through laughs at whodunit or at the very least sympathetically exhausted at all the character changes the actors dance through on stage. This could be the ultimate in spring fun.
Miss Saigon from Broadway at the Hobby Center (May 7-12)
The beloved late-’80s West End and Broadway smash hit, the Madama Butterfly-inspired Miss Saigon lands (yes, helicopter included) at the Hobby for spring. This new production, which just closed on Broadway a year ago, is said to have a renewed focus on the star-crossed love story of Kim and Chris, doomed to be torn apart by war.
Constellations at Alley Theatre (May 3-June 2)
Romantic relationships meets string theory and quantum mechanics in British playwright Nick Payne’s cerebral and emotional critical hit in New York and London. The Alley’s resident acting company members Elizabeth Bunch and Chris Hutchison, who happen to be married offstage, will play the constellations-crossed lovers.
Relatively Speaking at Main Street Theater (May 4-26)
For a more farcical take on love with a swinging ’60s point of view, head to Rice Village as Main Street Theater brings British icon and theater knight Sir Alan Ayckbourn’s first hit to their stage. Marriage, romance, sex, and mistaken identify bring the laughs in comedy of love errors.
Collected Stories from 4th Wall Theatre May 16-June 8
Award-winning playwright Donald Margulies’s take on the thorny subject of mentors/proteges friendships as well as writers writing about their fellow writers gets a dramatic airing and ends 4th Wall Theatre’s stellar 2018-2019 season on a dramatic high note.
News and Notes
The end of 2018 served up bad space news for a few theater companies with the closing of Classical Theatre’s Chelsea Market stage, which had also been used by Mildred’s Umbrella. Meanwhile, Obsidian Theatre announced they would leave their Heights space for MATCH. Since then, Classical moved to Queenbury’s blackbox space to mount a stunning production with a theater-as-play feel of the Renaissance drama from The Fair Maid of the West. Unfortunately, they were forced to cancel their season finale Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt after financial setbacks. They hope to include the work in their next season.
Mildred’s found a temporary home at the Alley Theatre’s Neuhaus stage for the successful regional premiere of the hilarious yet poignant The Hunchback of Seville. Mildred’s artistic director Jennifer Decker says they plan to bring their annual short play festival, Museum of Dysfunction, back to their old home at Studio 101, and then they’ll be on the move and partnering with other organizations and for a series of play reading festivals.
No word yet on when Obsidian will be back with cutting-edge drama and wild contemporary musicals, but we’ll be in our seats opening night whenever and wherever they land.