Theater Critic Picks
These are the 12 can't-miss shows in Dallas-Fort Worth theater for January
New year, new you — and that includes being more culturally involved. Luckily there are a dozen plays and musicals (and even a dance piece) that can help you do exactly that.
Whether you're in the mood to revisit a classic Broadway musical about an optimistic orphan or ready to stretch your theatrical horizons with original new work by local artists, there's something onstage this month to fit the bill.
Here are the 12 shows to see, in order by start date:
Theatre Three, January 5-29
Newly appointed artistic director Jeffrey Schmidt helms this new comedy from SMU alumna and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Beth Henley, in which a pair of innocents heads to 1920s Hollywood seeking happiness on the silver screen. Along the way they encounter a wide variety of characters, acted by a supporting cast of four, and unbelievable hijinks. As Schmidt puts it, "Bodies will explode! Stripteases will be danced! Pies will be thrown!" Well alright then.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
The Firehouse Theatre, January 6-22
For its first show of 2017, Firehouse is focusing on character and improv with the Tony Award-winning musical about a group of misfits vying for glory, acceptance, and juice boxes. It's a solid cast, mixing Firehouse veterans with local familiar faces — including maybe yours. There's significant audience participation, so do your warm-ups and brush up on your spelling skills before settling into your seat.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
AT&T Performing Arts Center, January 11-22
Even if you're not familiar with Mark Haddon's novel, you're bound to appreciate the jaw-dropping design and direction of the stage adaptation, which tells a mystery through the viewpoint of a young man on the autism spectrum. The set, sound, and lighting design stunningly convey a unique journey through London, offering a glimpse into the inner workings of an extraordinary mind.
Second Thought Theatre, January 11-February 4
It's been a while since artistic director Alex Organ has helmed a STT show — three years, in fact — rather than starring in it, but he's the man behind this one-woman show by George Brandt. It's about a female fighter pilot navigating the clash between a career in the typically masculine world of modern warfare and the more traditional role of wife and mother. The woman also happens to be Organ's wife, top-notch actor Jenny Ledel.
Performing Arts Fort Worth Broadway at the Bass, January 17-22
Though the red-headed orphan first started singing about the sun coming out in 1977, 40 years later she's back in a whole new production. This tour has been crisscrossing the U.S. for three years now, under the direction of original lyricist and director Martin Charnin, and of course features a gaggle of adorable kids in addition to the two rescue pups playing Sandy.
Danielle Georgiou Dance Group, January 19-28
You can't classify DGDG as simply a dance troupe — it's a collaborative company that explores complicated themes through movement. The latest "examines the cyclic and savage laws of time, nature, and ritual," and was developed by Georgiou, Justin Locklear, Donovan Jones, Lori Honeycutt, and the DGDG company. On opening night be sure to bring a light source with you, as War Flower is participating in The Ghostlight Project's "Be a Light" event at 5:30 pm.
Stupid Fucking Bird
Stage West, January 19-February 19
Anton Chekhov's The Seagull gets a modern riff courtesy of Aaron Posner, who has been showered with acclaim for his adaptation. The Stage West production, a regional premiere which is headed up by Emily Scott Banks, is pretty stellar in its own right, featuring Garret Storms, Chris Hury, Kelsey Milbourn, and Randy Pearlman.
WaterTower Theatre, January 20-February 12
Who runs the world? Henrietta Swan Leavitt, a 19th-century astronomer who refused to bow to the male-dominated worlds of science and academia. Anastasia Munoz is Leavitt, who worked with other female scientists during the dawn of modern astronomy to uncover the world's secrets. Lauren Gunderson's new play is directed by Kelsey Leigh Ervi and features awesome DFW stage ladies Sarah Elizabeth Price, Marianne Galloway, and Shannon J. McGrann (Mitchell Stephens is the token male).
Lyric Stage, January 26-29
Local favorite Julie Johnson returns as the larger-than-life Mame Dennis in Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee's musicalization of Auntie Mame. Patrick Dennis' best-selling novel detailed the wild adventures his aunt orchestrated beginning in the 1920s, and the musical is only one of several adaptations. Jay Dias leads the orchestra for this concert version of the show, which also features Daron Cockerell as Agnes Gooch.
Dallas Theater Center, January 26-February 19
Lucas Hnath's play was one of the most produced in 2016, and now DTC is giving it a go. It's about a small congregation that grows into a mega-church (Dallas wouldn't know anything about those), except the pastor goes rogue with a sermon that spurs everyone to question faith and religion. DTC even includes a trigger warning, calling it a "dramatic show" that's "intended to provoke conversation." Let's hope so.
Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune
L.I.P. Service, January 27-February 4
What at first looks like a one-night stand between a waitress (Jenny Tucker) and a short-order cook (Jason Leyva) develops into a deeper conversation about age, attraction, and trust in Terrence McNally's two-person play. This sounds right up L.I.P. Service's alley: small cast, single set, difficult but rewarding themes, some nudity. Can't wait.
Ochre House Theater, January 28-February 18
Ochre House patriarch Matthew Posey has been busy filming movies and TV for the past two years, but he's back onstage and off with this new work. The writer and director joins eight other actors in a biting musical satire about fascism, supported by seven of the area's best musicians. It sounds weird and engaging and wonderfully Ochre House.