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Winter theater preview: The shows keep going on

Despite financial struggles, next few months promise more than a dozen major shows

April 8-11: From left, Kara Lindsay (Laura), Steve Blanchard (Pa), Melissa Gilbert (Ma), Alessa Neeck (Mary) and Carly Rose Sonenclar (Carrie) star as the Ingalls in “Little House on the Prairie, The Musical.” The Best of Broadway production lands in Spokane in the spring.  Photo courtesy of Carol Rosegg (Photo courtesy of Carol Rosegg)
April 8-11: From left, Kara Lindsay (Laura), Steve Blanchard (Pa), Melissa Gilbert (Ma), Alessa Neeck (Mary) and Carly Rose Sonenclar (Carrie) star as the Ingalls in “Little House on the Prairie, The Musical.” The Best of Broadway production lands in Spokane in the spring. Photo courtesy of Carol Rosegg (Photo courtesy of Carol Rosegg)

Theatergoers can look forward to some unusual sights on Spokane stages the next few months – an actress playing a dog, a man with a hangup about argyle socks – but nothing can surpass the naughty puppets of “Avenue Q.”

“Avenue Q” arrives as part of the Best of Broadway’s season Feb. 11 and, well, it ain’t no “Oklahoma!” Think of it as an ingenious R-rated musical cross between “Sesame Street” and “South Park.”

More on that below. Meanwhile, let’s marvel over the fact that – even though Spokane’s theater scene has shrunk over the last two years – you’ll still have 14 major shows to choose from over the next five months (and that doesn’t count college productions).

Those 14 plays span the gamut from old-fashioned musicals to psycho-sexual comedies to, yes, adult-themed puppet musicals.

Best of Broadway

“Avenue Q,” Feb. 11-14, INB Performing Arts Center – Think of it as an episode of “Friends” starring Henson-style puppets. The puppets are the denizens of a New York neighborhood, but unlike Bert and Ernie, they are preoccupied with hangovers and hookups.

These smart-aleck puppets must be doing something right: They won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2004 and ran on Broadway for 2,534 performances until last September.

“Little House on the Prairie,” April 8-11, INB Performing Arts Center – This musical adaptation of the beloved Laura Ingalls Wilder stories was a hit at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, where it premiered in 2008. Now it’s on national tour starring Melissa Gilbert in the role of Ma.

“Jesus Christ Superstar,” Jan. 26, INB Performing Arts Center – This isn’t part of the Best of Broadway season, but we include it here because it’s a one-show-only visit of the national tour featuring Ted Neeley, who played the title role in the movie version.

Tickets are available through TicketsWest outlets (800-325-SEAT,

Spokane Civic Theatre

“Curtains,” Jan. 15-Feb. 6, Main Stage – This backstage musical whodunit, a fresh Broadway hit, features plenty of catchy tunes by Kander and Ebb (“Chicago,” “Cabaret”). It’s set in 1959 and you can expect lots of big dance numbers.

The Civic’s version will be directed by Troy Nickerson and features Andrew Ware Lewis in the role made famous by David Hyde-Pierce.

“Sylvia,” Jan. 29-Feb. 21, Studio Theatre – This is A.R. Gurney’s edgy comedy about a man who brings home a stray dog against his wife’s wishes. The catch: The dog is played by a real actress. It plays out almost like a love triangle. Beth Carey stars as Sylvia.

“Steel Magnolias,” Feb. 26-March 21, Main Stage – Robert Harling’s crowd-pleasing comedy about the women of Truvy’s beauty parlor.

“Spitfire Grill,” March 19-April 11, Studio Theatre – A musical inspired by an indie film about the denizens of a rural diner in Wisconsin.

“Escanaba in da Moonlight,” April 9-25, Main Stage – A male-bonding comedy set in a hunting cabin in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Playwright Jeff Daniels (yes, the actor) loaded it with physical comedy, including, we hear, an inspired flatulence sequence.

“Lips Together, Teeth Apart,” April 30-May 23, Studio Theatre – Terrence McNally’s acclaimed drama-comedy about married two couples spending a summer weekend at Fire Island. Adultery and desperation ensue.

“Annie Get Your Gun,” May 21-June 20, Main Stage – This is Irving Berlin’s classic musical about sharpshooter Annie Oakley, featuring “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” The Civic will be doing the 1999 revival version – mercifully updated from the non-PC original.

For tickets, call (509) 325-2507 or (800) 446-9576, or go to Ticketswest.

Interplayers Professional Theatre

Interplayers continues to be hampered by financial difficulties, prompting a couple of changes in its January schedule, according to artistic director Reed McColm.

The originally scheduled musical “Honky Tonk Highway” has been replaced by the similar, but less costly, country musical “Honky Tonk Angels,” which has been pushed back a week to a Feb. 4 opening.

Rumor has it that the original opening weekend of Jan. 29 and 30 will be filled with an Interplayers fundraiser featuring Ellen Travolta and Jack Bannon. Watch for an announcement soon.

Here’s how the season looks as of now:

“Honky Tonk Angels,” Feb. 4-20 – A country musical about three women with Nashville dreams. Expect to hear familiar songs like “Stand By Your Man,” “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and “9 to 5.”

“Art,” March 11-27 – Yasmina Reza’s 1998 Tony-winning comedy about a man who buys a blank, white painting. His friends make fun of him – and Reza turns it into a hilarious exploration of the question, “What is art?” Jack Bannon, Roger Welch and Patrick Treadway are tentatively set to appear.

“Eleemosynary,” April 15-30 – Lee Blessing’s family drama-comedy about a grandmother, her daughter and her granddaughter, who are forced to rethink their relationships. The title? The granddaughter is a spelling bee champ who prides herself on spelling words like this one, which means “supported by charity.”

“Psychopathia Sexualis,” May 13-29 – John Patrick Shanley’s comedy is “not about sex, it’s about socks,” said McColm. Actually, it’s about a man who is about to get married but cannot perform sexually unless a pair of his father’s argyle socks are in sight. His psychiatrist hides them on the eve of the wedding and he and his friends desperately and comically try to get them back.

For tickets and information on all Interplayers shows, call (509) 455-PLAY.

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