After a year and a half of virtual, streaming, and occasional outdoor theater, we finally might be seeing that stage spotlight at the end of the tunnel, leading us back to live, indoor theater again.
With the summer winding down, here’s a roundup of those companies who have made formal announcements of their 2021-2022 seasons. Mark your calendars for the opening show and dates for each company, and check out our overview of a season of stage hits across Houston.
Broadway at Hobby Center opens with My Fair Lady September 14
As the curtain rises in New York once more, the big musical tours will also hit the road. One of the grandest, the My Fair Lady revival, dances through Houston before most of the local theaters open their seasons.
Broadway at Hobby Center marks the first of many companies who have rejigged the previously announced 2020-21 season, adding in new shows to keep lineups fresh while also giving us a chance to see those show we anticipated 16 months ago.
Look for the Tony sensation Hadestown next year along with Hamilton’s return. The season also brings the latest movies-into-musicals productions with Tootsie, Disney’s Frozen, and Mean Girls on the roll.
Ensemble Theatre opens with Respect: A Musical Journey of Women September 18
The historic and continually influential company just announced a season lineup of intriguing new work, crowd-pleasers, family fare, and musical stories that audiences have come to expect and love from Ensemble.
We certainly have to respect their choice of an opening show to bring them back to in-person productions. The inspirational show weaves 40 songs into stories of modern women’s work, relationships, family and dreams. (We’ll listen for a little Aretha along the way.)
The theatrical journey will continue throughout the season with A Motown Christmas more musicals, comedies, drama. A special local treat is The Lawsons a world premiere commissioned work from Meda Beaty, based on the real life love story of Houston’s Bill and Audrey Lawson, their civil rights leadership, and the founding of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church.
The season takes a bow with Sarah Sings a Love Song, a show that depicts the life and music of jazz great Sarah Vaughan while telling a 30-year spanning love story of a devoted couple.
Alley Theatre opens with Sweat October 1
For their 75th anniversary season the Alley has stacked its lineup with several world premieres, but even those might give us a slight case of deja vu. The Alley’s selected a mix of shows that never made it to the stage from spring 2020 as well as some initially announced for 20-21 before they reorganized to produce their free digital season.
The new year especially brings in world premieres from playwrights the Alley have nourished creative relationships through their Alley All New play development program, including High School Play: A Nostalgia Fest, a comedy about Texas drama competitions, and the new musical Noir by Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening) and Kyle Jarrow (SpongeBob SquarePants).
But the whole season begins with a unique collaboration with Ensemble Theatre with Alley artistic director Rob Melrose helming the acclaimed, and very timely play Sweat with Ensemble’s Eileen J. Morris associate directing.
Stages opens with Hook’s Tale October 1
Except for a few fan favorites, Stages is all in with world premiere plays and musicals for ’21-22, including four debuts from locally based playwrights.
The company offers a generous mix of comedies, dramas and musicals, with two holiday shows: a brand new Texas Panto, Panto Little Mermaid and a fan favorite from CTU (the Catechism theatrical universe), Sister’s Christmas Catechism.
The Gordy really gets rocking in April when the world premiere jukebox musical You Are Cordially Invited to Sit-In from local playwright ShaWanna Renee Rivon opens the Rochelle and Max Levit Stage. This will finally put all three Gordy stages in use, something that only happened before for one week before the pandemic shut down stages across the city.
Main Street Theater opens with Darwin in Malibu October 2
The Rice Village cultural staple picks up most of their announced ’21-22 season and moves it to ’21-22. Look for a season of cerebral comedies and novel reimagining of historical figures.
They’ve also added a sort of world premiere with the debut of the English translation of the play based on Nobel Prize-winning Latin-American writer Mario Vargas-Llosa’s autobiographical novel, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter.
The holiday favorite and Pride and Prejudice contemporary sequel, Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley is back. Setting the tone for the season is Darwin in Malibu, Crispin Whittell’s comedy on faith, science and plastic surgery imagines Charles Darwin, Thomas Huxley, and the Bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce, hanging out at a beach house in California.
Theatre Under the Stars opens with Rock of Ages October 5
Many of the dazzling shows that were scheduled for last season have been moved to the coming season, so get ready for ’80s headbangers (Rock of Ages), singing sea creatures (Disney’s Little Mermaid), hospitable Canadians (touring Come From Away), and a fake nun on the run (Sister Act).
Due to delays in its New York opening, the pre-Broadway tour of the 1776 won’t happen, so TUTS will sub in those favorite Jersey Boys next spring.
A.D. Players opens with “Dear Jack, Dear Louise” October 6
After the stresses of that last year and a half, the company looks to bring Houston audiences a season of shows about human triumph amid struggles.
They begin with a Ken Ludwig’s new play based on his parent’s love story during World War II. Things end with probably the most famous musical depicting the same period, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound Of Music.
Look for a world premiere holiday show, The Christmas Shoes, and the company will turn two of the plays from Metzler New Works Festival they streamed as remote works into full onstage productions, Apollo 8 and No One Owns Me. They’ll also offer new concert events in partnership with Artists Lounge Live.
Classical Theatre Company opens with Nevermore: Tales of Edgar Allan Poe October 6
The company that only produces work at least a century old brings us a futuristic season of horror and Sci-Fi.
They begin with a kind of world premiere, an evening of staged Poe tales adapted by Chris Iannacone and company artistic director, John Johnston.
They’ll also produce a show likely new to Houston audiences, the Czech Sci-Fi play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) by Karel Čapek, and then end the season with the H.G. Wells classic alien invasion story The War of the Worlds.
4th Wall Theatre opens with Doll’s House, Part 2 October 14
They had to wait a year, but one of Houston’s most acting-centric company celebrates their 10-year anniversary with a season of Houston premieres, and a lineup of very contemporary plays, many offering unique takes on urban life and media culture.
Fourth Wall moved the dates around, but kept the same roster of works that had previously announced for last season. They begin with Lucas Hnath’s acclaimed sequel to the Ibsen masterpiece, A Doll’s House and end with the makeup run of Stephen Adly Guirgis’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Between Riverside and Crazy, which they had to close in March 2020 after only a few performances.
Dirt Dogs Theatre opens with The Revolutionists October 22
The little company with a strong reputation for big performances will take to the MATCH stage once more with an eclectic mix of contemporary theater hits, starting with Lauren Gunderson’s funny, wild and female-centric take on the French Revolution.
Next year, look for intimate productions of the gritty cop drama “A Steady Rain” and Bruce Norris’s Pulitzer Prize and Tony winning homage to Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 play, A Raisin in the Sun, dubbed Clybourne Park.
Mildred’s Umbrella opens with El Huracán November 11
The female-focused company will present two shows this season.
The first, set on the eve of a hurricane tells the story of four generations of Cuban American women. Mildred's will gather an all Latinx cast and crew to bring it to the stage.
In the spring, Mildred’s will produce the multi-media world premiere He Cried for His Mother, based on interviews from Black American mothers, midwives, and doulas. The project is being partially supported by The National Endowment for the Arts.
Catastrophic Theatre debuts Drama Squad (part 3) September 24
The absurdist mainstays recently released a no-announcement announcement that they’re putting a return to their MATCH home and live, indoor theater on hold.
In a statement Catastrophic explained: “We have resisted the urge to promote performances we could not in good conscience promise to actually perform. We will not solicit season subscriptions in this uncertain time and will instead launch a second membership campaign to join our Catastrophic Army.”
While the company assesses their situation, they decided to unleash another round of Drama Squad, their outdoor variety show of original short work. For previous iterations, the company performed for limited audiences in private yards.
Now, they hope to bring the all-new Squad theatrical adventures to larger audiences in public outdoors spaces.