“The Color Purple” at Actor’s Express, “Winnie-the-Pooh” at the Alliance and an updated, musical version of “Love’s Labour’s Lost” by the actor-musicians of the new Zero Circle Theatre Company anchor this week’s curated BEST BETS column. Pictured (from left): Alexandria Joy (Tinker Bell), Aaron Schilling (Peter Pan), Jeremy Gee (Captain Hook), Karley Rene, Cullen Gray and Destiny Freeman in “Peter Pan” at Serenbe Playhouse. Photo by BreeAnne Clowdus.

**  INDICATES AN ENCORE ATLANTA SPRING/SUMMER TOP PICK. 

Recommended

Kevin Harry as Mister and Latrice Pace as Celie. Photo: Casey Gardner

** The Color Purple. THROUGH JULY 29. At Actor’s Express. Alice Walker’s landmark, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel became a musical at Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre in 2004, and on Broadway in 2005 and 2015. The Express telling hews most closely to the more intimate 2015/17 revival. The story follows the hardscrabble journey of a rural Georgia woman named Celie, who fights adversity and finds strength, love and the power of her own voice over a 40-year span. Atlanta-based actor-director-educator David Koté directs. His cast features Latrice Pace as Celie, Jasmyne Hinson as Shug Avery, Kevin Harry as Mister and Kayce Grogan-Wallace as Sophia. $22-$44 and selling briskly … don’t wait. 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday. Also at 2 p.m. July 7. In the King Plow Arts Center, 887 W. Marietta St. in West Midtown. Details, tickets HERE or at 404.607.7469.

Love’s Labour’s Lost. JULY 5-8. Six performances only. Everything about the new Zero Circle Theatre Company sounds exciting: Edgy productions that speak to today’s issues, projects that are actor-musician driven, actors that play instruments functioning as live onstage orchestras. We’re going with our gut in recommending this inaugural production (the same bunch produced last summer’s well-received A New Brain). This Love’s Labour’s Lost is a 2013 musical version of the Shakespeare comedy (score by Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson’s Michael Friedman). It re-examines privilege in America and the division between well-educated, angsty 20-somethings and the working class, the townies, the rest of us. The script comes from Alex Timbers, a Tony Award nominee for Peter and the Starcatcher. Patrick Schweigert directs, with musical direction by Daniel Hilton. $15. 8 p.m. Thursday-Friday; 2:30 + 8 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. Performed at Aurora Theatre’s Harvel Lab (Lawrenceville). Free, covered, attached parking in city deck at 153 E. Crogan St. Tickets HERE

Kanga (Maria Rodriguez-Sager) and Roo (CJ Cooper). Photo: Greg Mooney

Winnie-the-Pooh. THROUGH JULY 15. The Alliance Theatre‘s 50th anniversary season opens with this fanciful family musical based on the A.A. Milne books. Journey through the Hundred Acre Wood with Pooh, Piglet, Rabbit, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo and Owl as one adventure (or misadventure) turns into another, friendship and simplicity triumph, and a certain donkey’s birthday is celebrated. The cast is led by Atlanta actors Isake Akanke (Synchronicity’s Eclipsed), Grant Chapman (Actor’s Express’ Angels in America), Maria Rodriguez-Sager (Theatrical Outfit’s Christmas at Pemberley) and Joe Sykes (Angels in America). $15; $10 ages 6-17; $5 ages 3-5; age 2 and under free. 10 + 11:45 a.m. Tuesday-Friday; 10:30 a.m., 1 p.m. + 3:30 p.m. Saturday; and 3 p.m. Sunday. Rich Theatre, Woodruff Arts Center, 1280 Peachtree St. NE. Details, tickets HERE. Note: The High Museum of Art exhibition, Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic, runs through Sept. 2. High details, tickets HERE. For either the musical or the exhibit, call 404.733.5000. Discount tickets for the musical at PoshDealz.com.

[FOR THE LOVE OF POOH + THE HUNDRED ACRE WOOD]

Opening this week

A Midsummer Night’s Dream. IN PREVIEWS. OPENS SATURDAY. Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse. ‘Tis the Midsummer season. The new company Shakespeare Kennesaw recently finished its run of the comedy, and September brings an outdoor version from the Alliance Theatre. At the Tavern, Kenneth Wigley (Theseus, Oberon) and Dani Herd (Hippolyta, Titania) lead a large band of storytellers in a tale about two pairs of lovers (one requited, one not so much) and a ragtag group of thespians who stumble upon a chaotic fairy kingdom. J. Tony Brown directs. Pub menu and libations available. $15 preview July 5; $20 preview July 6. Regularly $21-$42. Through July 29. 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; 6:30 p.m. Sunday. 499 Peachtree St. NE (parking suggested in the Emory University Hospital Midtown deck across the street). Details, tickets HERE or at 404.874.5299, Ext. 0.

Still running

Photo: Center for Puppetry Arts

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type. THROUGH JULY 29. At the Center for Puppetry Arts. Cows that type? Chickens on strike? Check out Farmer Brown’s topsy-turvy barnyard in this adaptation by the Center’s Jon Ludwig and Jason Hines. It’s based on the Caldecott Honor-winning children’s book published in 2000. The comedy uses marionette, rod and shadow puppets and is appropriate for age 4 and up. The cast/puppeteers are Dolph Amick, Brian Harrison, Mandy Mitchell, head puppeteer Amy Sweeney and Tim Sweeney. $19.50. 10 a.m. + noon Tuesday-Friday; 11 a.m. + 1 p.m. Saturday; 1 + 3 p.m. Sunday. 1404 Spring St. NW. Details, tickets HERE or at 404.873.3391.

,Peter Pan. THROUGH AUG. 26. Serenbe Playhouse calls this a “world premiere musical pirate adventure.” If you’re so inclined, sail to the second star on the right and straight on till morning to revisit J.M. Barrie’s 1904 tale about Peter, Tinker Bell, the Lost Boys and Neverland. Complications arise when the Lost Boys get homesick, and Captain Hook returns seeking revenge. The story is by Roger Q. Mason, the score by London-trained, New York regular Ella Grace. Michael Alvarez, who works largely in Britain, directs. Serenbe, which does outdoor, site-specific shows, sets Peter Pan at its Mado Hideaway. All shows take place in the woods and require a walk along a sometimes muddy path. Appropriate footwear recommended. For mobility assistance (parking, accessibility cart, etc.) contact the box office. $13-$30. 11 a.m. Thursday-Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday. Serenbe is at 9110 Selborne Lane in Chattahoochee Hills. Details, tickets HERE or at 770.463.1110. Discount tickets at PoshDealz.com.

Coming up

Black Nerd. JULY 13-AUG. 4. Dad’s Garage Theatre Company. What happens when a black kid prefers listening to Weird Al over Kendrick Lamar, attending Dragon Con over seeing Jay-Z or watching Star Wars instead of Tyler Perry? This dark comedy follows a young man as he navigates the expectations of his black family and white friends, where race and geekdom collide. The script is the first solo work from Dad’s company member Jon Carr, who collaborated on the earlier Wrath of Con. $15.50-$29.50. Dad’s is at 569 Ezzard St. SE. Details, tickets HERE (you’ll save money if you buy online) or at 404.523.3141.

The Weird Sisters’ producing team (from left): Shelli Delgado, Julie Skryzpk, Kate Donadio MacQueen, Rachel Frawley.

Enchanted April. JULY 12-29. From the Weird Sisters Theatre Project. In 1922, two London housewives find themselves in dreary marriages and forgotten in a post-World War I society. They decide to rent an Italian villa for a ladies-only escape with two reluctant recruits. Things lost are soon found as the women clash, then begin to bond and bloom under the Mediterranean sun. Matthew Barber’s  romantic comedy is based on the 1922 novel by Elizabeth von Armin. The show had a four-month summer run on Broadway in 2003. Kate Donadio MacQueen directs. The cast: Josh Brook, Amanda Cucher, Shelli Delgado, Stephanie Earle, Asia Howard, J.L. Reed, Topher Payne and Holly Stevenson. $10 plus fees for July 12 preview; otherwise $15 plus fees. 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 7 p.m. Sunday. Performed at Out of Box Theatre,  585 Cobb Parkway South in Marietta. Tickets HERE.

Johnny Cash

Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash. JULY 12-28. Georgia Ensemble Theatre reprises last season’s jukebox musical about the Man in Black. Ring of Fire tells Cash’s story through his songs — from vintage country to rockabilly and ballads — including “Daddy Sang Bass,” “A Boy Named Sue,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Going to Memphis,” “Jackson,” “If I Were a Carpenter,” “I Walk the Line” and 32 more. The run continues GET’s partnership with the Chattahoochee Nature Center for a fourth consecutive summer and features the same cast as last season: Chris Damiano, Scott DePoy, Christopher Kent, Laura Lindahl and Mark W. Schroeder. $16.50 general admission lawn seating; $36.50 reserved table seating under the pavilion; $365 for a 10-person table. Cash bar (no outside alcohol or glass allowed). 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday (grounds open at 6:30 p.m.). 9135 Willeo Road, Roswell. Details, tickets HERE or at 770.641.1260.

Three Identical Strangers. JULY 10 ONLY. Atlanta premiere. The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival’s AJFF Selects series screens the Sundance-winning documentary about identical triplets separated at birth and reunited by fate. The reunion brings fame and celebrity but sets in motion events that lead to a secret with startling repercussions. Lawrence Perlman, a psychologist (and research assistant on a twins study examined in the film) speaks after the screening. $15 HERE. The documentary screens at 7 p.m. at UA Tara Cinemas, 2345 Cheshire Bridge Road NE (at LaVista Road). 

Jordan Patrick (from left), Julie Trammel Key, Aaron Schilling. Photo: BreeAnne Clowdus

Titanic. JULY 11-AUG. 12. The credo at Serenbe Playhouse often seems to be “go big or go home.” Carousel and Miss Saigon come to mind. Both might be outdone by artistic director Brian Clowdus’ ambitious plans for this Tony Award-winning 1997 Broadway musical, about the 1912 maritime disaster that killed 1,503 men, women and children. Clowdus’ staging features a cast of 40 (including regulars Niki Badua, Blake Burgess, Jessica De Maria, Chase Peacock and Robert Wayne) and a four-story Titanic replica that sinks nightly in Serenbe’s Inn Lake. All shows take place in the woods and require a walk along a sometimes muddy path. Appropriate footwear recommended. For mobility assistance (parking, accessibility cart, etc.) contact the box office. $35 and up. 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday. Serenbe is at 9110 Selborne Lane in Chattahoochee Hills. Details, tickets HERE or at 770.463.1110. Discount tickets at PoshDealz.com.

About Kathy Janich

Kathy Janich, Encore Atlanta’s editor, is a longtime arts journalist who has been seeing, working in or writing about the performing arts for most of her life. She's a member of the Theatre Communications Group, the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas, Americans for the Arts and the National Arts Marketing Project. Full disclosure: She’s also an artistic associate at Synchronicity Theatre.

View all posts by Kathy Janich