Everything’s coming up in theater: New shows to keep an eye on

Jean Valjean and the “Les Mis” crew are back in town next week.

Theater listings

March

‘Next to Normal’
Through April 15
Calderwood Pavilion, Boston Center for the Arts
527 Tremont St., Boston
$25-$55, 617-933-8600
www.speakeasystage.com
This Pulitzer Prize-winning 2010 Broadway hit, backed by a pop-rock score, peers through the veil of an average suburban family torn asunder by the mother’s bipolar disorder. Though dark, it’s not without hope, affirming through the family’s trials the power of love to withstand life’s obstacles and cast a clarifying light on what’s truly important.

‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’
Through April 8
Boston University Theatre
264 Huntington Ave., Boston
$15-$89, 617-266-0800
www.huntingtontheatre.org
This 1982 August Wilson musical drops in on legendary 1920s blues singer Ma Rainy as generational and racial tensions blow up to fatal proportions during one of her recording sessions. The scenario becomes a microcosm of the historical, social and political tensions of an era that saw both increased acceptance and increased exploitation of black artists by whites.

‘Ameriville’

March 13-18
Paramount Theatre
559 Washington St., Boston
$25-$65, 617-824-8400
www.artsemerson.org
New York troupe Universes explores the state of our Union in a “modern-day variety show” that’s part musical theater, part human interest report from the front lines, part poetry slam, part gospel, part hip-hop, part jazz and all heart. Beginning with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the crew branches out to the present economic situation, including the Occupy Movement.

‘Hookman’
March 23-April 14
Calderwood Pavilion, Boston Center for the Arts
527 Tremont St., Boston
$10-$25, 617-933-8600
www.companyone.org
This “existential comic horror slasher” by young playwright Lauren Yee should hit home with all you undergrads, since it touches on all those freshman year college hallmarks: Weird roommates, homesickness, way too much Facebook use and a murderous psycho on the loose who just killed your best friend, which no one has noticed due to said Facebook addiction. Wait a sec …

‘The Luck of the Irish’
March 30-April 24
Calderwood Pavilion, Boston Center for the Arts
527 Tremont St., Boston
$15-$65, 617-266-0800
www.huntingtontheatre.org
In this play by Kirsten Greenidge, Lucy and Rex, a black couple in 1950s Boston desiring to move into an all-white neighborhood, hire an Irish couple as decoy buyers. Years, later, the Irish couple reappears, demanding to be “given back” the house purchased in their name,
which is now in the hands of Lucy and Rex’s grandchildren. Awk-werrrrd!

‘The Temperamentals’
March 30-April 28
Lyric Stage Company
140 Clarendon St., Boston
$27-$60, 617-585-5678
www.lyricstage.com
This play by John Marans tells the story of gay lovers Harry Hay, a communist, and Rudi Gernreich, an Austrian fashion designer, who co-founded the Mattachine Society, one of the earliest American gay rights organizations, in 1950, when many of the Stonewall rioters were still kids. “Temperamental” used to be a wonderfully delicate euphemism for “gay.”

‘Les Miserables’
March 13-April 1
Boston Opera House
539 Washington St., Boston
$30-$150, 866-523-7469
boston.broadway.com
“Les Mis,” with its unflinching depiction of life among the poor and marginalized in early 19th century France, was hardly the first example of social realism on Broadway, but it was the most successful, proving that a hit musical can be a great work of literature, and paving the way for socially probing hits like “Rent” and “Next to Normal.”

April

‘Tigers Be Still’
April 13-May 5
Black Box Theatre
Boston Center for the Arts
527 Tremont St., Boston
$20-$30, 617-933-8600
www.zeitgeiststage.com
In this play, twentysomething Sherry Wickman moves back home after completing a Master’s degree in art therapy, taking a job as the substitute art teacher at her old school. She’s not too happy about this, and the oddball beha-vior of the people around her isn’t helping. Also, a tiger has escaped from the zoo. At least he’s free!

‘The Miracle Worker’
April 13th through May 13th
Wheelock Family Theatre
200 Riverway, Boston
$20-$30, 866-811-4111
www.wheelockfamilytheatre.org
Wheelock Family Theatre presents the story of Annie Sullivan’s relationship with Helen Keller. Before Sullivan came along, Keller, born deaf and blind, was an uncontrollable child, but with Sullivan’s help, she learned to communicate and make peace with her disabilities. Audree Hedequist (pictured) plays Keller.

May

‘Assassins’

May 4-10
Boston University Theatre
264 Huntington Ave., Boston
$10-$12, 617-933-8600
www.bu.edu/cfa
Stephen Sondheim composed this 1990 musical about John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald — why are assassins always known by their full names? —deeply troubled but fascinating men whose lives are absorbing studies of the sociopathic side of the American psyche. Awkward material for a musical? Perhaps, but Spider-Man is more awkward.

Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’
May 9-June 9
Boston Opera House
539 Washington St., Boston
$30-$110, 800-982-2787
boston.broadway.com
This beloved adaptation of the 1991 animated film blew up Broadway when it debuted in 1994, inaugurating a remarkable 13-year run. Its mammoth success led to successful adaptations of “The Lion King,” “Tarzan” and “The Little Mermaid.” But what about “Oliver and Company?” Billy Joel’s not busy, is he? Get on it, Disney! Bieber could play Oliver!

‘Xanadu’
May 11-June 9
Calderwood Pavilion, Boston Center for the Arts
527 Tremont St., Boston
$25-$57, 617-933-8600
www.speakeasystage.com
You may know “Xanadu” as the so-bad-it’s-genius roller-disco fantasy trainwreck from the ’80s starring Olivia Newton-John, and this is indeed a theatrical adaptation of that film, but unlike the film, it knows it’s awful, and the results are hilarious. You may want to break out your old skates after seeing this, the results of which may be even more hilarious.

‘Woody Sez’
May 5-26
Loeb Drama Center
64 Brattle St., Cambridge
Price TBA, 617-547-8300
www.americanrepertorytheater.org
A lot of folkies have been strip mining Woody Guthrie’s unused lyrics lately, and we’re sick of it. Write your own dang songs! Fortunately, the American Repertory Theatre is putting Guthrie’s words back in his own mouth with this biographical play on the mid-20th century folk legend, which features classics like “This Land is Your Land” and “Bound for Glory.”



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