The arrival of the national tour of the Broadway smash hit in May will undoubtedly be the most sought-after event of Spokane’s spring theater season.
Meanwhile, plenty of other big shows are coming to town in the next six months, including one with an onstage swimming pool; another with a beloved crew of singing nuns; and another directed by the actress who starred in it 50 years ago and brought home an Oscar.
That’s Patty Duke, who will direct the Interplayers Professional Theatre’s version of “The Miracle Worker” – five decades after she originated the role of Helen Keller on Broadway and on screen.
It’s an event which should make national news.
Here’s a look at what’s on the way through the rest of the season, in chronological order:
• “Don’t Dress for Dinner,” Jan. 14-30, Spokane Civic Theatre’s Main Stage – A French bedroom farce written by Marc Camoletti, as a sequel to his other hit comedy, “Boeing Boeing.” Thomas Heppler directs.
• “Spring Awakening,” Jan. 19, INB Performing Arts Center, a Best of Broadway add-on show – It might sound a little odd on paper: A musical based on an 1891 play, with songs by indie-rocker Duncan Sheik, about 19th century German teenagers coming to grips with their sexuality. Yet this controversial show pulled it off well enough to sweep the 2007 Tony Awards.
It will stop in Spokane for only one performance – compared to 16 for “Wicked” – but among fans of serious, provocative musicals, it’s every bit as anticipated.
• “Opus,” Jan. 20-Feb. 5, Interplayers – A critically acclaimed 2006 play by Michael Hollinger about a string quartet which must replace a key member right before a White House performance. The New York Times summed it up – only partially facetiously – as “sex, drugs and chamber music.” Patrick Treadway has one of the lead roles.
• “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” Jan. 28-Feb. 20, Spokane Civic Theatre’s Firth Chew Studio Theatre – William Finn’s tuneful and hilarious musical about kids competing at a spelling bee won a pair of Tonys in 2005 and was a hit last summer for the Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre.
This version will be in the much more intimate – and probably more fitting – downstairs space at the Civic. Kathie Doyle-Lipe directs.
• “Legally Blonde,” Feb. 10-13, INB Performing Arts Center, Best of Broadway series – The touring Broadway musical comedy, based on the novel and 2001 movie about a sorority girl who becomes a Harvard law student, became a Broadway hit in 2007 and was nominated for multiple Tonys.
• “Nunsense,” Feb. 18-March 6, Spokane Civic Theatre’s Main Stage – Way back in 1990, Jean Hardie brought down the house as the feather-boa-wearing Mother Superior in the production that started the “Nunsense” juggernaut rolling at the Civic.
Hardie will make her return as the Mother Superior in this revival, which also features some other comic actresses who have donned the wimple in the past: Kathie Doyle-Lipe, Abbey Crawford and Patricia Brady, plus newer-to-the-habit Jillian Wylie. Troy Nickerson directs.
• “Privilege,” Feb. 24-March 12, Interplayers – If the name Paul Weitz rings a bell, it’s because he’s the writer-director behind the films “About a Boy,” “In Good Company,” “American Pie” and, now, “Little Fockers.” He’s also the playwright behind this 2005 dramedy about two well-off Manhattan kids whose father is arrested for insider trading.
Don’t be too alarmed about that “Little Fockers” credit; this script is apparently more subtle. The New York Times called “Privilege” “delicately funny” and a “touching hymn” to brotherly love.
• “Mark Twain Tonight!” March 12, INB Performing Arts Center, a Best of Broadway add-on – Twain is on a roll, 100 years after his death. He has a new autobiography and the estimable Hal Holbrook is back on the road bringing him to life.
• “9 to 5,” March 24-27, INB Performing Arts Center, Best of Broadway series – The national tour of the 2008-2009 Broadway hit, with music and lyrics by Dolly Parton. It’s based on the 1980 movie about a trio of put-upon office workers and their lecherous boss.
• “Metamorphoses,” March 25-April 17, Spokane Civic Theatre’s Firth Chew Studio Theatre – A series of mythological vignettes by playwright Mary Zimmerman, adapted from the ancient Roman poet Ovid. You’ll see King Midas, Narcissus, Orpheus and Eurydice, among many others.
All of the action takes place in and around a swimming pool. Yes, there will be an onstage pool, deep enough for swimming.
Zimmerman’s play made a big splash off-Broadway in 2001 and on Broadway in 2002. Yvonne A.K. Johnson directs.
• “Cotton Patch Gospel,” March 31-April 16, Interplayers – This is the story of the life of Jesus, as set in rural Georgia. Harry Chapin wrote the music, just before his 1981 death. Expect a bluegrassy sound with a Southern twang.
• “The Sisters Rosensweig,” April 8-23, Spokane Civic Theatre’s Main Stage – Wendy Wasserstein’s groundbreaking 1992 play about three sisters and their uncommon lives. Marianne McLaughlin directs.
• “Cats,” April 23-24, INB Performing Arts Center, Best of Broadway add-on – The return of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s singin’ and dancin’ cats.
• “The Miracle Worker,” May 5-21, Interplayers – Duke will experience a full-circle moment when she directs, for the first time, the play that brought her stardom. She originated the role of Helen Keller on Broadway in 1959 at the age of 12 and won an Oscar for the movie version at age 16.
This is William Gibson’s Tony-winning drama about Keller and her teacher, Annie Sullivan.
• “Frost/Nixon,” May 13-June 5, Spokane Civic Theatre’s Firth Chew Studio Theatre – Peter Morgan’s 2006 dramatization of the famous interviews between David Frost and Richard M. Nixon ran on Broadway in 2007 and was made into a Ron Howard film in 2008.
• “Wicked,” May 18-29, INB Performing Arts Center, Best of Broadway series – The hotly anticipated national tour of this re-telling of the “Wizard of Oz” story from the perspective of the Wicked Witch of the West. The show opened on Broadway in 2003 and is still playing to sold-out houses more than seven years later.
It’s the first visit of “Wicked” to Spokane. Single tickets (as opposed to series subscriptions) should go on sale soon. Keep an eye out for an announcement.
• “The Full Monty,” May 20-June 19, Spokane Civic Theatre’s Main Stage – The raucous – and surprisingly tuneful – story of a group of laid-off steelworkers who decide to make money by emulating the Chippendales, based on the 1997 British film comedy.
The musical ran on Broadway from 2000 to 2002 and has become a crowd-pleasing staple at regional theaters around the country.