best summer theater
Houston summer theater scorches with Alanis Morissette, Broadway smashes, AI dance, Motown, and more
July may be a scorcher, but it;'s super cool when it comes to cool local theater and touring shows — from revolutionary new takes on classics and musicals with a Texas twist.
From singing pirates to culinary witches, alien invasions to bickering lovers, Houston theater gives us enough shows for all our summer night.
TUTS: A Celebration of Houston Stories and Songs at Miller Outdoor Theatre (July 11-15)
Miller Outdoor Theatre is 100 years old this year, andTheatre Under the Stars has been part of that history for over a half a century. For their part of this continuing celebration of one of Houston’s great performing arts spaces, TUTS will produce a best-of show highlighting some of the great musical theater song standards they’ve sung over the years.
Stages’ own Mitchell Greco directs with a cast of some of Houston’s favorite musical theater actors including Mark Ivy, Courtney Markowitz, John Ryan, Raven Troup, and Christina Wells. They’ll take the stage along with students from TUTS Humphreys School of Musical Theatre and The River to celebrate the long partnership TUTS has had with Miller Outdoor Theatre since the musical theatre company began in 1968 with a production of Bells Are Ringing.
Present Laughter at Main Street Theater (July 15-August 13)
We just received our invite to what’s bound to be the most sophisticated theatrical party of the summer, but with Noël Coward as the guest of honor we know we’ll be laughing all the way through it. (We’ll be donning our evening gown and opera gloves in spirit because it’s pretty hot out there.)
In this Coward classic, aging bad boy actor Garry Essendine has a very comic midlife crisis as he juggles women, relationships, no business like show business and, worst of all, responsibility. MST regular and Houston fav Joel Sandel plays Garry with resident Noël Coward expert Claire Hart-Palumbo directing.
1776 presented by Theatre Under the Stars (July 18-23)
Before Hamilton, this Tony Award-winning late 1960s classic Broadway show gave musical voice to the founding fathers and mothers’ stories. (Abigail Adams even gets her own number.)
Now, this new production gives those founders a new face with a multiracial cast of female, transgender, and nonbinary actors playing the clashing personalities and philosophies that somehow laid the founding ideals of a new nation.
After its recent Broadway run, the production takes to the road with Houston being its only Texas stop. Among its talented and huge cast look for Texas native and former Friday Night Lights co-star Liz Mikel who plays Ben Franklin.
PowerPlay from NobleMotion Dance (July 21-30)
Not exactly theater, but we’re always ready to jump into the action when dance gets immersive as the case with Section 6, just one of three world premiere works from the innovative company.
Simulating an AI training program that’s sole objective is to learn human tendencies, in Section 6 twelve audience members will be invited onstage to encounter a movement experience where the “dancing companions” train the audience to be more human.
Also on the program will be Sidelined, a playful look at power dynamics, set in an absurd world where baseball umpires define the rules of the workplace. Rounding the trio will be Half-told Stories, which reveals a pivotal moment in the life of four women and features a collaboration with composer/multimedia artist Badie Khaleghian.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd at Alley Theatre (July 21-August 27)
The murder might be a classic Agatha Christie, but this adaption will actually be a world premiere adaptation by Mark Shanahan — who also directs.
The world’s second-most quirky detective, Hercule Poirot, is on the case for this twisty, dare we say "summer chilling" mystery that will see the Alley resident acting company and some recurring usual suspects at their most murderous — and probably playing-deadest.
The original Christie novel was so twisty it became one of her most controversial works. Alley artistic director, Rob Melrose says, Shanahan was able to “dramatize the innovation that Christie introduced all these years ago that shocked and surprised readers,” so keep those 97 years old spoilers away from us, please.
The Pirates of Penzance from Gilbert & Sullivan Society (July 22-30)
A crew of hearty singing and — once you get to know them — quite friendly pirates invade Hobby Center’s Zilkha stage this summer for Gilbert and Sullivan’s most popular operetta, and one suitable for the whole family.
In this story of star (and sea) crossed lovers, apprentice pirate Frederic falls in love with Mabel, the daughter of an English Major-General, and sworn pirate enemy. This is also the rare plot that hinges on leap year birthdays, so get set for silliness and a seas of amazing songs.
With the retirement of Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Houston’s beloved stage director Alistair Donkin in 2022, note Houston director Nicole Kenley-Miller now assumes artistic position with artistic director and principal conductor of Opera in the Heights, Eiki Isomura, serving as music director for the production.
Houston Shakespeare Festival at Miller Outdoor Theatre (July 27-August 5)
Every summer, we await the festival’s choice for a combo, usually one comedy and one tragedy or history play. This year’s duo does not disappoint with the Scottish Play (aka MacBeth) and Much Ado About Nothing.
Of all the tragedies, MacBeth is probably the most over-the-top fun with blood, gore, ambitious backstabbing royals, a witchy cooking show, roaming forests, OCD hand-washing and so many murders.
In Much Ado About Nothing, we’ll lose the witches and murders but royals behaving badly never goes out of Shakespearean style and the Will they or won’t they, meet-angry love story between Beatrice and Benedick has remained a romance for the ages.
Always…Patsy Cline at Stages (July 27-October 29)
Stages brings back one of its greatest and homegrown hits as the first show for its '23-'24 season.
Based on the true story of Cline’s friendship with Houstonian Louise Seger, a devoted superfan who met Cline while she was performing in Houston, the show weaves Cline’s hits into a story about their friendship that lasted until Cline’s death.
This production will surely be a doubly emotional one as this audience favorite was written by Stages’ founding artistic director Ted Swindley and will be directed by current A.D Kenn McLaughlin, who recently announced his retirement scheduled for the end this upcoming season.
The Honeycomb Trilogy from The Octarine Accord (July 29-August 13)
There’s a new theater company in town, and they’re making their theatrical ambitions known with not one, but three shows presented in repertory in just two weeks.
With a name inspired by Terry Pratchett’s comic fantasy novels, Octarine Accord will begin their theatrical focus of “reckless kindness and speculative fiction” with a trilogy of scifi/speculative linked plays by Mac Rogers, Advance Man, Blast Radius, and Sovereigns.
Together, they tell the story of two siblings over 20 years as aliens invade Earth changing human history forever. When the Trilogy was originally produced together in New York almost a decade ago, it garnered critical acclaim, but the daunting task of putting on all three plays together has limited its productions outside of NYC.
Now, with 50 primarily local artists making up the cast and creative team, this Houston production becomes one of the biggest local theatrical endeavors of the summer. The timing allows audiences to see all three shows in one day or to see them separately over the course of two weeks at MATCH.
Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations presented by Broadway at the Hobby Center (August 8-13)
Broadway at Hobby ends its '22-'23 season with this jukebox musical, musical bio of the the pioneering vocal group The Temptations. The show chronicles the groups’ humble Detroit beginnings to Motown stardom to world-wide fame.
Ain’t Too Proud uses The Temptations' songs to tell their story including “My Girl,” “Just My Imagination,” “Get Ready,” and “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.” In 2019, Ain’t Too Proud won the Tony Award for Best Choreography, so look for some stellar footwork to go along with those smooth harmonies.
Bonnie & Clyde from Garden Theatre (August 11-20)
One of the newer theater companies keeps the hits coming with balanced seasons of plays and musical. Closing out their 22-23 season , they present this Frank Wildhorn (Jekyll & Hyde, Civil War, Dracula) musical that became an international hit after a limited 2011 Broadway run.
At the height of the Great Depression, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow went from two small-town nobodies in West Texas to America's most renowned folk heroes and Texas law enforcement's worst nightmares.
With music by Wildhorn and lyrics by Andrew Lloyd Webber collaborator, Don Black, the show depicts the infamous duo’s rise and fall along with their tragic love story that became legendary.
Jagged Little Pill presented by Theatre Under the Stars (August 29-September 10)
TUTS begins their '23-'24 season a little early as they bring in this Broadway tour that uses Alanis Morissette’s music to tell the story of an American family in generational conflict and crisis.
Morissette’s songs pretty much became the soundtrack for the 1990s, but this show proves they work just as well in depicting the confusion and struggles of growing up in the 2020s. With a story about addiction, identity, sexual assault and loss of faith, it’s no wonder Oscar-winning writer Diablo Cody also won a Tony for Jagged Little Pill’s emotionally complex book.