The award-winning Aurora Theatre, one of metro Atlanta’s more successful companies, will stage three musicals — including 2008 Tony Award winner In the Heights — two comedies and a drama in it 2016-17 season.
The Lawrenceville company, a perennial Suzi Bass Award contender (Atlanta’s version of the Tonys), is led by co-founders Anthony P. Rodriguez and Ann-Carol Pence, partners in art and real life.
They oversee a 14-person staff and a $7 million two-theater complex with an annual budget of about $2 million. This season, which continues through June 5, features Stephen Sondheim’s morality tale Into the Woods (through April 17) and the 1996 Tony Award-winning comedy I’m Not Rappaport (May 5-June 5) on the mainstage, and the Nilo Cruz (Anna in the Tropics) drama Sotto Voce (April 15-May 8) in the Harvel Lab studio space.
Here’s a closer look at the 2016-17 mainstage season — which, happily, features three titles by women writers — known as the Signature Series. The Harvel Lab lineup will be announced next month.
In the Heights. JULY 21-AUG. 28. A co-production (as was this season’s Memphis) with Theatrical Outfit. You may, by now, have heard the name Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator and star of Broadway game-changer Hamilton. In the Heights, his first Broadway creation, won four 2008 Tony awards including best musical. It’s the story of a Latin community in Manhattan’s Washington Heights area, where the coffee from Usnavi’s bodega is light and sweet, the windows are always open and the breeze carries the musical rhythms of three generations. The neighborhood is on the brink of change — full of hopes, dreams and pressures — and the biggest struggles lie in deciding which traditions to keep. The book is by Pulitzer Prize winner Quiara Alegría Hudes (By the Spoonful). Justin Anderson, Aurora’s associate artistic director, will direct, with musical direction by Pence and choreography by Ricardo Aponte.
Women in Jeopardy. SEPT. 29-OCT. 23. This 2015 comedy by Wendy MacLeod, first produced at Geva Theatre Center in Rochester, N.Y., is described as Thelma & Louise meets The First Wives Club. It features a pair of middled-aged divorced women who find a friend’s new dentist-boyfriend suspicious and trade their wine glasses for spy glasses to ferret out the truth. Rochester City Paper called it “comedy gold,” and said “it borrows little bits from everything that’s come before it, but the result is refreshing and original, and somehow, the laughter comes easy.” No director has been announced.
Christmas Canteen 2016. NOV. 17-DEC. 23. This Aurora original, an audience favorite that often sells out, returns for its 21st season. The nostalgic musical variety show mixes sketch comedy with theatrical numbers and plenty of singing.
The Mountaintop. JAN. 12-FEB. 12, 2017. Playwright Katori Hall’s drama is a fictional depiction of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s last night on Earth, set entirely in Room 306 of Memphis’ Lorraine Motel on the eve of his assassination on April 4, 1968, assassination. The play debuted in London in 2009 and had a three-month Broadway run that was met with mixed reviews. No director announced.
New musical TBA. MARCH 9-APRIL 16, 2017. Perhaps the most intriguing slot on the schedule. You never can tell what the Aurora brain trust might gift us with. Recent entries included Hands on a Hardbody and Clyde ’n Bonnie: A Folktale. Stay tuned. We’ll let you know as soon as we can.
Split in Three. MAY 14-28, 2017. This new comedy from Atlanta playwright Daryl Lisa Fazio is set in 1969 Mississippi as the Supreme Court forces the last segregated school system to integrate. Two sisters are caught in the crossfire, especially when their long-lost Northern half-sister hits town. Split in Three had its world premiere (directed by Aurora’s Anderson) in spring 2015 at Florida Repertory Theatre in Fort Myers. “The results,” said the Fort Myers News-Press, “are haunting, funny, heartbreaking and deeply satisfying.”
Ticket prices for the 2016-17 Signature Series vary by performance. Season subscribers can renew now. Single-show tickets go on sale publicly July 5. Details, tickets HERE or at 678.226.6222.