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Wednesday, February 26, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Theaters’ upcoming season include ‘Wicked,’ ‘White Christmas’

Buy a ticket, park yourself in your theater seat and watch the following unfold:

• Four actors playing 150 characters in a Hitchcock spoof.

• One of the most critically acclaimed musicals of all time, direct from Lincoln Center.

• A full production of “White Christmas,” for the first time ever in Bing Crosby’s hometown.

And those are just a few highlights of Spokane’s new theater season, which opens in September.

Here’s a look at Spokane’s three major theater institutions and what they have in store over the next several months:

Interplayers Professional Theatre

There have been times over the last decade when it looked like Interplayers would never reach its 30th birthday – yet on Sept. 9, it opens a full and artistically ambitious 30th anniversary season.

“I think we’re doing fine,” said Reed McColm, the artistic director. “We’re always needing help, but subscriptions and donations are up this year. …

“We’re feeling reinvigorated. We’re spending more money on productions, which is a real risk, but it’s something we need to do to improve.”

The marquee production comes at the end of the season: Patty Duke directing the play that made her a star, “The Miracle Worker.” This has the potential to be a theatrical event of national significance.

Interplayers also has an intriguing fall schedule, beginning with “Together Again for the Next Time” (Sept. 9-25), a sequel to last season’s surprise family comedy hit, “Together Again for the First Time.”

McColm warns that there’s already turmoil in rehearsals.

“The director and writer are just at war,” he said, deadpan.

McColm is both writer and director. He also wrote and directed last year’s show, which accomplished something astonishing in theater – it was the rare, unknown, locally written play that turned into a big audience draw.

The first play ended with an engagement and this one will be about the wedding. Most of the same characters will be back for round two.

The first play was made into a Lifetime channel TV movie and McColm said the second play may eventually end up there as well.

The second play of the season, “The 39 Steps” (Oct. 14-30), has been a long-running phenomenon in London and Broadway. It’s a comedic – and highly theatrical – version of the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock spy thriller.

The twist: All 150 characters are played by four actors.

“The suspense is double-edged,” said McColm. “Will Richard Hannay (the main character) survive? And will the actors get through the evening?”

Interplayers’ holiday production will be “The Honky Tonk Angels Holiday Spectacular” (Nov. 24-Dec. 11), a sequel to last year’s country musical “Honky Tonk Angels,” which was a tuneful hit for Interplayers.

Expect the same formula: familiar country hits, this time with a holiday theme.

The rest of the season includes “Opus,” about a string quartet (Jan. 20-Feb. 5); “Privilege,” about two New York brothers whose father is accused of insider trading (Feb. 17-March 12); “Cotton Patch Gospel,” a Harry Chapin musical based on the gospels (March 31-April 16); and “The Miracle Worker” (May 5-21).

Best of Broadway series

The monster hit of WestCoast Entertainment’s national-tour lineup will no doubt be “Wicked,” which arrives at the end of the season (May 18-29).

It has been, without a doubt, the show most requested by Spokane audiences, according to Lerria Schuh of West Coast Entertainment.

Yet theater aficionados are even more excited by the first show of the season, “South Pacific” (Oct. 6-9). That’s because this is the acclaimed Lincoln Center revival version (just aired on PBS).

Also, those classic Rodgers and Hammerstein songs will be performed by a 26-piece orchestra, the largest orchestra of any touring musical on the road (the average is probably under 10).

Need another reason? “South Pacific” is on almost every critic’s short list for best musical of all time.

“It’s quite a coup to get it here,” said Schuh. “We could only get it for five performances. We would have loved to have it longer.”

Next up is “Stomp” (Nov. 5-6), the percussion-dance show that has played Spokane several times. The cast has been working on “new surprises and new noises,” said Schuh.

The most provocative offering will be “Spring Awakening” (Jan. 19), the Duncan Sheik musical about 19th century German teens struggling with issues such as sex, rape and suicide.

“It’s beautifully done,” said Schuh. “It deals with issues that teens face today, and talks about them in a 19th century setting.”

She said it will carry a “for mature audiences” advisory.

The rest of the season includes “Legally Blonde: The Musical” (Feb. 10-13); “9 to 5: The Musical” (March 24-27); “Cats” (April 23-24); and “Wicked” (May 18-29).

Best of Broadway is also presenting two other shows this fall, Liza Minnelli on Oct. 15 and the Capitol Steps on Oct. 27.

All shows are at the INB Performing Arts Center.

Spokane Civic Theatre

The season begins with a rock ’n’ roll musical, “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story” (Sept. 24-Oct., 24).

This London and Broadway hit features all of Holly’s hits played live on stage. It also tells the story of his too-short life.

Brian Gunn plays the legendary, bespectacled rocker.

“It’s different for us at the Civic,” said executive artistic director Yvonne A.K. Johnson. “It’s not so much a musical as it is a play with music.”

And it requires lead actors who can rave on like the Crickets.

The smaller Firth Chew Studio Theatre opens with “The Cemetery Club” (Oct. 22-Nov. 14) by Ivan Menchell, which Johnson said is a “heartwarming” comedy about three widows who visit their husbands’ graves.

Then comes a show that Johnson has been coveting for a while: the stage version of “White Christmas” (Nov. 19-Dec. 19), based on the classic 1954 Bing Crosby movie.

“I’ve tried to get the rights for this for years,” she said.

This means, of course, that some lucky area actor (yet to be cast) will get to wrap his vocal cords around Bing Crosby’s biggest hit song.

The Main Stage schedule continues with “Don’t Dress for Dinner” (Jan. 14-30), “Nunsense” (Feb. 18-March 6), “The Sisters Rosensweig” (April 8-23) and “The Full Monty” (May 20-June 19).

The Studio Theatre schedule also includes “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” (Jan. 28-Feb. 20), “Metamorphoses” (March 25-April 17) and “Frost/Nixon” (May 13-June 5).

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