best april theater
Legally Blonde and Steel Magnolias headline can't-miss Houston theater in April
As April dawns, Houston performing arts artists and audience could use a bit of spring theatrical renewal.
Thankfully this month, the curtain rises on stages full of musical fun, mystery, soaring opera, two plays featuring puppet children and one show that hilariously and intentionally goes very wrong.
Look for a wild time on Houston stages and powerful stories to bring us drama, comedy, song and much-needed joy.
The Oldest Boy at Main Street Theater (now through April 23)
Billed as a play in three ceremonies, this Sarah Ruhl play mediates on questions of love, family, culture and spirituality. An American mother and a Tibetan father have a three-year-old son believed to be the reincarnation of a Buddhist lama, a spiritual master.
When a Tibetan lama and a monk come to their home unexpectedly, asking to take their child away for a life of spiritual training in India, the parents must make a life-altering choice that will test their strength, their marriage, and their hearts. We always expect the unexpected with a play by Sarah Ruhl, so look for an intriguing mix of music, ceremony, dance and puppetry.
In preparing for this production, MST cast and creative crew met with monk and teacher Gala Tulku Rinpoche of the Drepung Loseling Institute of Texas: Tibetan Buddhist Temple and Meditation Center in Houston.
Legally Blonde: The Musical presented by Theatre Under the Stars (April 4-16)
Let’s bend and snap our way over to the Hobby Center for Elle Woods’ most blonde-tastic journey of self and legal discovery.
Based on the iconic Reese Witherspoon film, this musical gives song (with music and lyrics by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin) to all Ellie’s trials and occasional tribulations to win a guy by getting into Harvard Law. (What, like, it’s hard?)
Along the way, she wins her case and finds her own legal power. No word yet on the most important casting news, who plays purse-dog and prominent legal advisor, Bruiser Woods.
Wolf Play at Rec Room (April 6-29)
Making its Houston debut, this critically acclaimed recent play by Hansol Jung gives us an absurdist yet moving take on the difference between family and pack.
In the story, a young South Korean boy finds himself “re-homed” after his adoption in an American home fail to go through. Video game designer, Robin, wants a kid. But she’s not doing it the old-fashioned way. She’s found him online.
Her professional boxer wife, is not on-board, and the impacts of Robin’s decision ripple through her newly formed family creating consequences animal in nature. In a howling bit of theatricality, the boy is represented onstage as a puppet operated by a narrating “wolf” played by an actual human actor.
Sherlock Holmes and the Case of Jersey Lily at Alley Theatre (April 14-May 7)
The genius fictional detective meets the real playwriting genius Oscar Wilde in the mystery-comedy by Katie Forgette that imagines the games afoot to inspire Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest.
When Wilde’s muse, actress Lillie Langtry (a.k.a the Jersey Lily) presents Holmes with what seems like an open and shut case, Holmes and Watson must face their greatest foe in exposing a much more sinister conspiracy.
The Alley’s resident Sherlock, Todd Waite, dons the deerstalker and pipe once more for the twisty comedy.
The Play That Goes Wrong at A.D. Players (April 19-May 14)
This West End and Broadway smash that literally goes smash, crash and boom throughout the performance, has its first Houston-grown production. The show finds some of our favorite local actors honing their comic timing as they play the very earnest, enthusiastic but pretty bad and accident-prone actors putting on a manor mystery.
The title says it all in this show within a show where the set becomes the ultimate raging and raving diva, and the actors and crew just try to hold on and survive until the curtain call.
Steel Magnolias from Garden Theatre (April 21-April 30)
Sit yourself down in a styling chair at Truvy's in-home beauty parlor for a big-hair up-do, and know the added laughs, tears and the most high-quality Chinquapin, Louisiana gossip will be on the house.
Look for all the Saturday regulars including bride to-be Shelby, her mother M’Lynn, former town first lady, Clairee and everybody’s favorite rich grump Ouiser. The height of feel-good and ugly-cry theater, Steel Magnolias and its stories of family and steel-strong friendship always brings southern charm to a stage.
Theater trivia: Steel Magnolias actually began as an off-Broadway sensation in the ’80s before it became a blockbuster movie.
Tosca from Houston Grand Opera (April 21-May 5)
HGO closes out its bold ’22-’23 season with two daring choices. First up is Puccini’s masterpiece and one of the most beloved operatic tragedies. Tamara Wilson, an HGO studio alumna who has become an international opera star, takes the title role of Floria Tosca.
She's an Italian singer faced with impossible choices as her artist love Cavaradossi (star tenor Jonathan Tetelman making his company debut) as been unjustly imprisoned by the villainous Baron Scarpia (Grammy-nominated baritone Rod Gilfry).
Tosca tries to save Cavaradossi’s life by striking a terrible bargain with Scarpia, but he betrays her—and her revenge comes too late. Frequent HGO collaborator John Caird directs this thrilling production.
To Kill a Mockingbird present by Broadway at the Hobby Center (April 25-30)
We usually only see a touring play on the Broadway at the Hobby Center lineup every few years. When one does hit town, we know we’re in for a stunning production, and this Aaron Sorkin adaption of Harper Lee’s seminal novel, certainly qualifies.
The 2018 New York production went on to earn the record as the highest-grossing American play in Broadway history. Set in Alabama in 1934, this story of racial injustice and childhood innocence centers on small-town lawyer Atticus Finch.
The cast of characters includes Atticus’s daughter Scout, her brother Jem, their housekeeper and caretaker, Calpurnia, their visiting friend Dill, and a mysterious neighbor, the reclusive Arthur “Boo” Radley.
The touring cast boasts Emmy Award-winning actor Richard Thomas as Atticus Finch and the original and Oscar-nominated “Scout” from the film, Mary Badham, in the role as “the meanest old woman who ever lived” Mrs. Dubose.
Salome from Houston Grand Opera (April 28-May 12)
Oscar Wilde gets a second and very different name-check this month as HGO brings the Richard Strauss’s erotic psychodrama–a description rarely used for an opera–based on Wilde’s scandalous one-act play.
Acclaimed soprano Laura Wilde (we’re guess no relation) makes her HGO debut as the wild child princess, who does that Seven Veils dance for her stepfather, King Herod, in exchange for the head of John the Baptist.
This production, making its U.S. premiere, will also feature important company debuts from Ukrainian-Canadian conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson and Spanish director Francisco Negrin.
Wilson will be taking the podium following an international tour with the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra, which she founded in 2022. Look also for bass-baritone Ryan McKinny as Jokanaan (John), tenor Chad Shelton as Herod, and soprano Karita Mattila as Herodias.