best october theater

13 best plays and performances showcase Houston's grand return to in-person shows

13 top stage performances showcase Houston's return to in-person shows

TUTS: Rock of Ages
Are you ready to rock? Theatre Under the Stars strums out Rock of Ages. Photo by Melissa Taylor
HGO: Carmen
HGO's Carmen brings a sizzling return to opera at the Wortham Center.  Photo by Lynn Lane
Stages: Hook's Tale
Captain Hook tells his own side of the Peter Pan story at Stages.  Photo by Melissa Taylor
Alley Theatre: Sweat
The Alley Theatre returns to live performances with the award-winning Sweat. Photo by Lynn Lane
Main Street Theater presents Darwin in Malibu
Feel the comic evolutionary good vibes of Darwin in Malibu at Main Street Theater.  Photo by Ricornel Productions
TUTS: Rock of Ages
HGO: Carmen
Stages: Hook's Tale
Alley Theatre: Sweat
Main Street Theater presents Darwin in Malibu

Houston theater lovers should prepare themselves for a veritable feast of live, in-person performances in October — as the majority of local companies return.

For those missing being in the room where all the drama, comedy and music happen, wait no more. We could spend every other night in the theater in October. From fairytale retellings to rocking musicals, thought-provoking comedies to timely drama, live theater is back in Houston. 

Shows are listed by earliest closing date.

Rock of Ages from Theatre Under the Stars (now through October 17)
As airy as a head banger’s big hair, don’t expect overly intricate musical themes from this crowd-pleaser, but do expect a lot of fun.

Small-town girl and city boy, both living in a lonely world, meet in LA at a downtown rock club where everyone sings and dances to the best and worst of the ’80s. Come for the silly love story, stay for the outrageous costumes and wigs, sing along to all your favorite mashed up ’80s power ballads.

Hook’s Tale at Stages (now through October 17)
There might be two sides to every story, but for the Peter Pan mythos those sides have started to resemble an ouroboros, with so many retelling and re-imaginings. However, this new work from award winning playwright and screenwriter John Leonard Pielmeier might have them all beat.

For this first world premiere from a Stages season full of them, we get Neverland from the good Captain Hook’s point of view.

This soaring production brings both human complexity and fairytale magic to the characters we thought we knew. Learn the real story behind this much maligned seafaring man and the boy who never grew up. Watch out a certain misunderstood crocodile: While she may or may not be a man-eater, she certainly is a thief of scenes. 

Nevermore: Tales of Edgar Allan Poe at Classical Theatre Company (now through October 17)
For their opening show, Classical embraces that October spirit and their lucky 13th season with a collection Poe’s works including “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “William Wilson,” and “The Raven.”

Adapted for the stage by Chris Iannacone and company artistic director, John Johnston, who also directs, this chilling evening from the master of psychological fear will be arranged like a concert set list until the horrors reach their nevermore crescendo.

Pipeline from Firecracker Productions (now through October 23)
After some intriguing streaming theatrical offerings last season, the innovative company returns to in-person theater with this acclaimed play by Dominique Morisseau, staged in a new-to-us venue, Houston Warehouse Studios.

Exploring current education issues with characters that always feel true and authentic, the play follows inner-city educator Nya as she chooses to send her son, Omari to a private school upstate.

Darwin in Malibu at Main Street Theater (now through October 24)
In this cerebral comedy, God, death, science, and California beach lifestyle get hashed out when the very dead Charles Darwin, Thomas Huxley, and Samuel Wilberforce somehow find themselves in a Malibu afterlife to continue their great debate on evolution and the Bible.

Along the way, they discover the joy of chilling on a beach deck, while partaking in some very good smoothie thanks to a mysterious young woman who refuses to take sides.

Sweat at Alley Theatre (now through October 24)
Houston’s oldest company begins its 75th anniversary season with the very timely Pulitzer Prize winning play by Lynn Nottage about the life of factory workers in early 2000s Reading Pennsylvania.

The production is built together from a unique collaboration with another Houston theatrical staple, Ensemble Theatre. Alley artistic director Rob Melrose helms the play with Ensemble’s artistic director Eileen J. Morris associate directing.

Look for some powerful and wrenching performances from a stellar cast mix of Alley company members and Ensemble favorites.

Dear Jack, Dear Louise at A.D. Players (now through October 31)
For what they’re calling the Season of Triumph, a lineup of shows focused on human triumph amid struggles, A.D. Players begin with a Ken Ludwig’s new work based on his parent’s love story during World War II.

Beginning as letters between U.S. Army Captain Jack Ludwig and actress and dancer Louise Rabiner, the relationship blossoms between the two while the war keeps them apart. Ken Ludwig’s presence suggests this story has a happy ending audiences might yearn for in our own isolating times.

A Doll’s House, Part 2 from 4th Wall Theatre (October 14-November 6)
In Lucas Hnath’s Tony-nominated sequel to the Ibsen masterpiece, A Doll’s House, Nora returns to her family after 15 years of change and evolution on her own. 4th Wall founders, the married creative team Kim Tobin-Lehl and Philip Lehl will play the estranged couple, Nora and Torvald Helmer.

72 Miles to Go at Alley Theatre (October 15-November 14)
While this new play from The Americans screenwriter Hilary Bettis had its off-Broadway world premiere recently, it was originally developed at the Alley as part of the Alley All New festival.

Now it returns for a full production that reopens the Neuhaus stage. The 72 miles of the title represents the distance between Tucson, Arizona and Nogales, Mexico and a recently deported mother and her American-born husband and children. 

The play follows this one family as they grow and change together and apart.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Stages (October 15-November 14)
Get swept up in the most cutthroat completion of them all — the middle school spelling bee — in this Tony Award-winning musical comedy that allows for audience participation.

With judges as awkward as the students, we get to remember the joy and struggles of growing up. In this bee, everyone’s a favorite and an underdog. But do heed that greeting/warning from Stages: “Juice boxes and public humiliation: welcome back to the sixth grade.”

The Revolutionists from Dirt Dogs Theatre (October 22-November 6)
The company returns to the MATCH stage once more with this historical revisionary comedy from one of the most produced playwrights in the U.S., Lauren Gunderson.

In this funny, wild and female-centric take on the French Revolution, playwright Olympe de Gouges, assassin Charlotte Corday, Marie Antoinette, and Haitian rebel Marianne Angelle exchange life and political philosophies, but the revolution eventually comes for everyone. 

Carmen from Houston Grand Opera (October 22-November 7)
No less than one of the most popular operas in history will do for HGO’s powerful return home to live performances at the Wortham Center.

Mezzo-soprano and HGO Studio alumna Carolyn Sproule plays the beautiful bohemian Carmen, who beguiles the soldier Don José, sung by incredible tenor Richard Trey Smagur.

Though we know his jealousy will ultimately destroy them both, we can’t look away from one moment of Bizet’s masterpiece. Bass-baritone Christian Pursell in his HGO debut as the bullfighter Escamillo and Houston favorite and HGO Studio alumna soprano Heidi Stober as Micaela are ensnared by the passion of the two lead characters.

Into the Woods from Garden Theatre (October 23-31)
There’s a new theater kid on the block, Garden Theatre, hoping to make a fairytale debut with a unique vision of the Sondheim contemporary classic at MATCH.

Leaning into the storybook narrative, this production will set the musical in a library during children’s story time. The cast will then create the magical woods set using everyday items found in any library.