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Setting the stage

‘Jersey Boys,’ ‘Producers,’ ‘Patsy Cline’ launch promising season

People attend theater for a variety of reasons – and those reasons are amply covered in the region’s upcoming theater season.

Do you like Broadway musical blockbusters (as in “Jersey Boys” and “The Producers”)? Check.

Do you like theater-as- literature (as in “Of Mice and Men”)? Check.

Do you like rural slapstick (as in “Escanaba in Love” and “The McManus Comedies”)? Check.

Do you like warm holiday nostalgia (as in “White Christmas” and “It’s a Wonderful Life”)? Check.

Do you like complex Stephen Sondheim musicals (as in “Sweeney Todd” and “Into the Woods”)? Check.

Do you like country crooner Patsy Cline? Double check.

The fact that there will be so much live theater in the Inland Northwest in the 2012-2013 season is a theatrical miracle all by itself. Interplayers Theatre has been rescued and revived; the Lake City Playhouse in Coeur d’Alene is experiencing an artistic renaissance; the Spokane Civic Theatre is as strong as it has been in its 66-year history; and the Best of Broadway touring series is bringing in the show that fans have been craving the most.

In fact, let’s begin with those four high-pitched singers from Newark, since they’re the ones that will be packing the INB for more than two weeks.

Best of Broadway

No question about it, “Jersey Boys,” the 2006 Tony-winning musical about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, is the marquee show of WestCoast Entertainment’s Broadway package. It’s also bringing in the heavy metal musical “Rock of Ages” (Feb. 7-10), “West Side Story” (March 21-24) and “Flashdance” (April 11-14). And they’re also bringing in a rare non-musical, “War Horse,” the spectacular and moving drama of World War I (March 5-9).

But let’s spotlight “Jersey Boys,” which has the fall season to itself:

“Jersey Boys,” Oct. 17-Nov. 3, INB Performing Arts Center – When this Four Seasons musical premiered on Broadway in 2005, people figured it would be a hit with the home crowds in New York and New Jersey. But not many predicted it would turn into a global phenomenon.

Seven years later, productions of “Jersey Boys” are running in London, Las Vegas, Australia, South Africa, Singapore and, of course, Broadway, where it is approaching its 3,000th performance. And there are two national tours, the first of which is finally landing in Spokane.

Frankie Valli will be played by Nick Cosgrove, a Chicago singer/actor. Fresh out of Carnegie Mellon University, he was chosen to attend what the producers call “Frankie Camp.” He was, in his words, one of “20 Italian-looking dudes, all about five-eight or shorter, and all with these really high falsettos.” Cosgrove made the cut and is now channeling Frankie Valli, six days a week.

What has made Jersey Boys such a smash? Not just those great Four Seasons hits (“Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like a Man,” just to name the Big Three), but also the well-written, well-structured story of the band’s rise.

“The script is so well-written it’s almost like a movie script,” said Cosgrove, in a recent phone interview.

Spokane Civic Theatre

This season, the Civic will be leading with its strengths – big, splashy musicals – with its opening show “The Producers” and then with “The Drowsy Chaperone” (Feb. 22-March 17) and the crowd-pleasing “Grease” (May 17-June 16).

Yet executive artistic director Yvonne A.K. Johnson’s new season also features some edgier options downstairs in the Firth Chew Studio Theatre, especially with “Next to Normal” (Feb. 1-March 3), the Pulitzer-winning contemporary rock musical about a family in crisis. And the Main Stage also brings back Jeff Daniels’ lovable Michigan rednecks in “Escanaba In Love,” (Jan. 11-Feb. 2), a prequel to “Escanaba in Da Moonlight,” a previous Civic hit comedy. The Main Stage will also bring Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” to swashbuckling life (April 5-21).

Here are some details about the fall offerings:

“The Producers,” Sept. 21-Oct. 21, Civic’s Main Stage – The Tony-winning Mel Brooks musical comedy about a scheme to produce the biggest flop of all time, “Springtime for Hitler.” The problem? It fails to flop. Marianne McLaughlin directs.

“A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline,” Oct. 19-Nov. 18, Firth J. Chew Studio Theatre – One of two Patsy Cline musical revues in Spokane this fall (see below). This one originated in Vancouver, B.C. in the early ’90s. Jhon Goodwin directs.

“White Christmas,” Nov. 16-Dec. 21, Main Stage – A revival of a huge Civic hit in 2010 and a stage adaptation of Bing Crosby’s famous movie. Johnson directs.

Interplayers Theatre

The 2012-’13 Interplayers season is especially gratifying, partly because it came so close to not existing at all. Local arts supporters Patty and Jerry Dicker bought out the mortgage on the Interplayers building in April, allowing this longtime institution to have a future.

Artistic director Reed McColm has put together an intriguing season that stays true to Interplayers’ original mission of presenting thought-provoking plays by contemporary playwrights, including Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s “boom,” (Jan. 24-Feb. 9) a dark comedy about a journalist who stumbles upon a scientist who plans a very big boom indeed. That will be followed by Deborah Zoe Laufer’s “Sirens” (Feb. 28-March 16) a romantic comedy set on a cruise ship; Stephen Karam’s “Speech/Debate” (April 4-21) about teenagers trying to decide whether to “out” their teacher; and local playwright Craig Rickett’s “Seeds of Change,”(May 9-26), a world premiere comedy.

Yet the season kicks off with more tuneful fare:

“Always … Patsy Cline,” now through Oct. 6 – By the time you read this, the Spokane theater season will have already begun with this, the most widely performed of the Patsy Cline musical revues. It was a hit for Interplayers in 2003, and this version stars singer/actress Cheyenne Nelson as the great country crooner. Ken Urso directs.

“Incorruptible,” Oct. 25-Nov. 10 – Here’s a comedy to look forward to: “A dark comedy set in the Dark Ages” by Michael Hollinger. A monastery in France tries to boost revenue by manufacturing some miracles, using “ancient relics,” dug up from their own graveyard. Patrick Treadway directs.

“It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play,” Nov. 29-Dec. 30 – You already know the story, but you’ll hear it in a refreshing new way. The classic Frank Capra script will be performed radio-play style, with six actors playing all the parts and creating all of the sound effects. Jeffrey Sanders directs.

Lake City Playhouse

Coeur d’Alene’s community theater is on a roll under executive director George Green, and the 2012-’13 season is characteristically ambitious. They’ll take on the acclaimed mountain-climbers’ drama “K2,” by Patrick Meyers (Jan. 4-20) and then they’ll tackle two of the toughest – but most rewarding – Stephen Sondheim musicals, “Sweeney Todd” (Feb. 8-March 3) and “Into the Woods” (May 31-June 29). Sandwiched in between will be Joe DiPietro’s comedy “Over the River and Through the Woods” (March 22-April 7) and Beth Henley’s beauty pageant comedy, “The Miss Firecracker Contest” (April 26-May 12).

Music dominates the fall season:

“Oklahoma!,” Sept. 14-Oct. 14 – The classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical that ushered in a new Golden Era of Broadway musicals.

“The Little Drummer Boy,” Nov. 16-Dec. 16 – Local writer Matt Harget has adapted the classic Christmas story about a little drummer boy at the Nativity.

Spotlight Series at the Fox

This series, at the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox, consists mostly of musical acts. Yet it includes one notable theatrical event, by one of the nation’s most famous touring theatrical troupes.

“Of Mice and Men,” Nov. 12, 7:30 p.m. – The Acting Company, based in New York, presents its touring version of John Steinbeck’s timeless tale of George and Lennie. This is the troupe that spawned stars such as Kevin Kline and Patti LuPone.

The McManus Comedies

Humorist Patrick F. McManus and actor Tim Behrens have long collaborated on a series of one-man comedies based on McManus tales. This fall, three of them will be performed in special performances at the Bing Crosby Theater and recorded for DVD release: “Scrambled McManus,” Oct. 4, “Pot Luck, Nov. 15 and “Poor Again, Dagnabbit,” Dec. 6, all at 7:30 p.m.

Ignite! Community Theatre

This troupe begins its eighth season in a new space, 10814 E. Broadway Ave. (the Spokane Valley Partners Building). They have a five-show season, which includes Beth Henley’s “Crimes of the Heart” (Feb. 8-24), Paul Rudnick’s “I Hate Hamlet” (April 12-28) and Christopher Durang’s “The Marriage of Bette and Boo” (June 14-30).

The fall shows will be:

“Rumors,” Sept. 28-Oct. 14 – Neil Simon’s classic farce.

“The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge,” Nov. 30-Dec. 16 – Scrooge reverts to his old ways and charges three ghosts with kidnapping.