Spring Arts Preview 2014: Theater

Mark Evans plays Elder Price in the national tour of "The Book of Mormon." (Credit Joan Marcus)
Mark Evans plays Elder Price in the national tour of “The Book of Mormon.” (Credit Joan Marcus)

Writer Matthew Dinaro gives readers a rundown of the best theater Boston’s got to offer this spring season.

MARCH

‘Flashdance: The Musical’
Through March 23
Citi Emerson Colonial Theater
106 Boylston St., Boston
$34-$124, 866-348-9738
www.citicenter.org

Here’s the hit British musical adaptation of the 1983 film that like, totally made leg warmers a thing. Featuring the famous songs from the film, like “Maniac,” it stays mostly true to its source material and its promise that pluck and persistence can turn a hopeful amateur into a star remains just as charming as it was more than 30 years ago.

‘Hello Again’
Through March 29
Calderwood Pavilion
527 Tremont St., Boston
$36-$45, 617-933-8600
www.bostontheatrescene.com

This musical by Michael John LaChiusa follows 10 archetypical characters with names like The Whore, The Soldier, The Writer, etc., each representing a different decade of the 20th century, as they search for love, with varying results, and time inevitably marches on. The play is presented cabaret-style, affording an uncommon intimacy between audience and actor—perhaps even mirroring the character’s aspirations.

‘Tongue of a Bird’
Through March 30
Arsenal Center for the Arts
321 Arsenal St., Watertown
$20-$36, 617-923-8487
www.newrep.org

This play centers on Maxine, a search and rescue pilot whose latest mission takes her back to her childhood home in the Adirondack region of New York State and forces her to confront her own traumatic past. We get the sense that she is not only looking for a missing stranger but her own child self, who may prove even harder to find.

‘The Whale’
Through April 5
Calderwood Pavilion
527 Tremont St., Boston
$25-$60, 617-933-8600
www.bostontheatrescene.com

Charlie has become the “Whale” of this play’s title because, in the wake of a traumatic past, all he can manage is to sit on the couch vegetating and getting fatter. But now, with his health declining, he’s about to make one last attempt to reach out to his teenage daughter—as you might guess, their relationship is not great.

‘The Seagull’
Through April 6
Boston University Theater
264 Huntington Ave., Boston
$15-$75, 617-266-0800
www.huntingtontheatre.org

This celebrated play by Russian author Anton Chekhov involves a set of relationships too complex to sum up here, but the main one is a “Hamlet”-esque triangle between has-been actress Irina and her lover, the broadly popular novelist Boris, along with her son Konstantine, an avant-garde playwright. The tensions between them are as artistic as they are personal.

‘Brundibar and But the Giraffe’
Through April 6
Center Square Theater
450 Mass. Ave., Cambridge
$20-$61, 866-811-4111
www.centralsquaretheater.org

Playwright Tony Kushner adapted “Brundibar” from an opera of the same name written for kids to perform at the Terezin concentration camp during the Holocaust, adding to it his own work, “But the Giraffe,” to recreate this show. Despite the dark context of the genesis of “Brundibar,” its message is hopeful, and the show is appropriate for the whole family.

APRIL

‘Rich Girl’
March 28 through April 26
Lyric Stage
140 Clarendon St., Boston
$29-$61, 617-585-5678
www.lyricstage.com

In this comedy by Victoria Stewart, Claudine falls in love with Henry, a classic “starving artist,” but her hard-nosed mother Eve, a popular financial guru who may or may not be inspired by Suze Orman, is convinced he’s only into her daughter for her money—that is, Eve’s money. Is she right, or just paranoid in the wake of her relapsing breast cancer?

‘Becoming Cuba’
March 28 through April 26
Calderwood Pavilion
527 Tremont St., Boston
$15-$60, 617-266-0800
www.huntingtontheatre.org

The Huntington Theater’s playwright-in-residence, Melinda Lopez, provides this brand new play taking place in 1898 Cuba, not long before the Spanish-American War. Pharmacist Adele has no interest in taking sides in the political upheaval sweeping her society, but eventually the circumstances force her to ultimately choose between family and country. The question is, how much sacrifice is political freedom really worth?

‘Not By Bread Alone’
April 1 through April 6
Paramount Center
559 Washington St., Boston
$25-$89, 617-824-8400
www.artsemerson.org

This piece of theater from Israel’s Nalaga’at Theater Ensemble features a cast of entirely blind and deaf actors who tell stories through sign, motion and words as they wait for a loaf of bread to bake in the oven—an actual loaf of bread you can smell baking. What does it all mean? This one will undoubtedly be a unique experience.

‘The Book of Mormon’
April 1 through April 27
Boston Opera House
539 Washington St., Boston
$50-$225, 800-745-3000
www.ticketmaster.com

This Broadway monster hit is back again. For those of you who live under a rock, it’s about two enthusiastic but naive Mormon missionaries in Uganda who find their simplistic faith challenged by the dire social problems they witness. Put that way it may sound grim, but this is by the “South Park” guys, so it’s full of humor both smart and juvenile.

‘The Shape She Makes’
April 5 through April 27
Oberon
2 Arrow St., Cambridge
$25-$35, 617-547-8300
www.americanrepertorytheater.org

As much a work of dance as theater, this world premiere work by choreographer Susan Mishner and playwright Jonathan Bernstein focuses on an 11-year-old girl struggling to understand the legacies of her neglectful parents in her own life. That’s pretty heavy stuff for a pre-teen, but hey, at least she’s not prematurely twerking or something.

‘Of Mice and Men’
April 25 through May 4
Calderwood Pavilion
527 Tremont St., Boston
$25, 617-933-8600
www.bostontheatrescene.com

Boston Children’s Theater presents a dramatic adaptation of John Steinbeck’s Depression-era tale. Amidst the radical uncertainty of the economy in the ‘30s, two migrant workers, one of whom is mentally handicapped, find solace in their friendship, but it ends in a violent and troubling act of love. It’s serious stuff for such young actors, but that also makes it an exciting opportunity.

MAY

‘Sontag: Reborn’
May 6 through May 18
Paramount Center
559 Washington St., Boston
$25-$89, 617-824-8400
www.artsemerson.org

Actress Moe Angelos is the writer and performer of this biographical play on famed public intellectual Susan Sontag, adapted directly from Sontag’s own journals, which, by her own admission, were crucially connected to her published writings. Covering a wide swath of her life from her teenage to peak years, it captures the mix of insecurity and ambition that drove her work.

‘Into the Woods’
May 9 through June 7
Lyric Stage
140 Clarendon St., Boston
$25-$65, 617-585-5676
www.lyricstage.com

Stephen Sondheim’s 1986 musical “Into the Woods” was both a deconstruction of and a loving tribute to the fairy tale as a story form. All the stock characters are here, but they’re not quite how you remember, and we begin to wonder if biggest lie in any of those stories wasn’t the myth and magic, but the bit about the “happily ever after.”

‘Carrie: The Musical’
May 9 through June 7
Calderwood Pavilion
527 Tremont St., Boston
$25-$55, 617-933-8600
www.bostontheatrescene.com

Kudos to SpeakEasy Stage Company for doing “Carrie” in the spring. Flowers are blooming, birds are singing, love is in the air—it’s the perfect time for blood, hysteria and supernatural terror! Based on the Stephen King book, “Carrie” tells the tale of a teenage social pariah who discovers she has serious psychic powers, after which things basically get pretty bonkers.

‘The Tempest’
May 10 through June 15
Loeb Drama Center
64 Brattle St., Cambridge
Prices TBA, 617-547-8300
www.americanrepertorytheater.org

Teller, the taciturn member of comedy magic duo Penn and Teller, designed the magical effects for this production of Shakespeare’s last finished play. The island setting is changed to a spooky Dust Bowl circus, and songs by Tom Waits are also featured. We’re pretty sure you’ve never seen this already eccentric, mysterious play presented quite like this—it’ll be an aesthetic treat.

‘Smart People’
May 23 through June 21
Calderwood Pavilion
527 Tremont St., Boston
$15-$60, 617-266-0800
www.huntingtontheatre.org

This play by Lydia R. Diamond follows the lives of four people at Harvard as they wrestle with the big problems of life, including love, success and self-actualization. How much does being a “smart person” really matter? Diamond toys with the idea that all the supposedly self-determining choices we appear to make might already be hard-wired in us, already beyond our control.



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