The Alliance Theatre‘s 2013-14 season will be bookended by new musicals, but it’s what’s happening on the more intimate Hertz Stage that is, arguably, most exciting.
The Hertz will host new plays by three former winners of the epically vital Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition: Tarell Alvin McCraney (In the Red and Brown Water, 2008), Kenneth Lin (…,” said Said, 2006) and Meg Miroshnik (The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls, 2012). The Hertz season also introduces metro audiences to 2014 Kendeda winner, Madhuri Shekar, of the University of Southern California.
The lineup celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Kendeda program, which gives playwrights in the nation’s best graduate schools a chance for their first professionally produced productions and demonstrates the Alliance’s commitment to fostering new plays and the next generation of playwrights.
In addition to the Hertz productions, the Alliance will produce eight readings, one each month throughout the season, at the Woodruff Arts Center and around Atlanta. These will be new scripts by former Kendeda winners and finalists. The annual Festival of New Plays, which features readings of plays by the 2014 finalists, takes place Feb. 4-6, 2014.
The mainstage season opens Sept. 6 with Harmony — A New Musical by Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman. It ends in May with the musical Tappin’ Thru Life, written and narrated by longtime dancer Maurice Hines.
Harmony, which has existed in one form or another since 1997, tells the story of the Comedian Harmonists, a music and comedy ensemble of six young men in 1930s Germany. Their sophisticated blend took the world by storm until their religious backgrounds — a mix of Jews and gentiles — put them on a collision course with history. The staging of Harmony is a co-production with Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles. Some might recall Manilow’s earlier musical, Copacabana, which is based on his famous song and played the Fox Theatre on a national tour in 2000.
Tappin’ Thru Life retraces the lives of Maurice Hines and his late brother, Gregory, with song and dance. The production features the tapping Manzari Brothers and the Diva Orchestra, an all-female, nine-piece big band.
It total, the Alliance season features two musicals, three world premieres, one American premiere, and new work by playwrights Lynn Nottage and Atlanta’s Janece Shaffer. Here’s a closer look:
Harmony — A New Musical. Sept. 6-Oct. 6. Music by Barry Manilow. Book and lyrics by Bruce Sussman. A new musical with an original score that celebrates 1930s’ Comedian Harmonists, an extraordinary group of friends that sought harmony in the most discordant chapter of human history.
By the Way, Meet Vera Stark. Oct. 16-Nov. 10. By Lynn Nottage (Intimate Apparel, Crumbs From the Table of Joy). The Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright takes an irreverent look at racial stereotypes in 1930s Hollywood, when headstrong maid and budding actress Vera Stark lands a groundbreaking role in a new Southern epic.
A Christmas Carol. Nov. 29-Dec. 29. Rosemary Newcott again directs this annual musical, multicultural gift for Atlanta audiences.
The Geller Girls. Jan. 15-Feb. 9. By Janece Shaffer (Bluish, Managing Maxine). Shaffer’s fifth world premiere at the Alliance is a romantic comedy about two Jewish sisters whose lives are forever changed by Atlanta’s Cotton Exposition of 1895.
Tappin’ Thru Life. April 2-May 4. By Maurice Hines. Hines, a lifelong performer (Sophisticated Ladies, Eubie, a Tony nominee for Uptown … It’s Hot!), narrates the story of his career in tap. Along the way, he pays tribute to his late brother, Gregory Hines, and the singers who inspired him, from Frank Sinatra to Lena Horne.
Choir Boy. Sept. 20-Oct. 13. A U.S. premiere by Tarell Alvin McCraney. A coming-of-age story about a confident, charismatic boy named Pharus and his struggles at an all-boys private prep school for African-American young men. It’s a place where gospel music is a tradition as old as the school itself. A co-production with Manhattan Theatre Club. Since 2008’s In the Red and Brown Water, McCraney’s work has been produced in New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., greater San Francisco and London, among other cities.
Warrior Class. Oct. 25-Nov. 17. By Kenneth Lin. A critically acclaimed political thriller in which an Asian-American candidate is being groomed for a big Republican race in New York City, unless a former girlfriend publicly besmirches his sterling reputation. In recent years Lin has become one of the most widely commissioned and produced Asian-American writers in America.
In Love and Warcraft. Jan. 31-Feb. 23, 2014. A world premiere by Madhuri Shekar, winner of the 2014 Alliance/Kendeda competition. The story: Evie is a master of relationships. That’s why she has a waiting list of classmates willing to pay her top dollar to fix their relationships. How? She uses all the skills and tactics she picked up on her way to becoming one of the best World of Warcraft players in the world. Her own relationships? That’s another story.
The Tall Girls. March 7-30, 2014. A world premiere by Meg Miroshnik. Sometimes basketball is the only way out. Even for a girl. Even in the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. When a mysterious young man gets off the train in Poor Prairie, a few things are clear. He’s teaching at the high school, he knows the game and he has the only inflated basketball in town.
THEATRE FOR YOUTH AND FAMILIES SERIES
The Grimm Lives of the Inbetweens. Oct. 28 and Nov. 4, with additional dates for school groups. By Scott Warren, in collaboration with Atlanta middle-schoolers. A fairy-tale mashup of knights on bicycles, princesses with braces, bullies and jocks, and so much more. This new musical builds on the interactive history of the Middle School series. On the Mainstage.
Shrek the Musical. Feb. 22-March 9, 2014. Music by Jeanine Tesori, book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire. The onetime Broadway musical becomes a family-friendly one-act with the ogre Shrek and the Princess Fiona begrudgingly finding common, uh, swamp. On the Mainstage.
Season tickets go on sale Friday at www.alliancetheatre.org/seasontickets or 404.733.4600. Single tickets go on sale July 1.
Kathy Janich, Encore Atlanta’s managing editor, has been seeing, covering or working in the performing arts for most of her life. Please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.