BY SANDY STAGGS
British nannies will be flying all over the Upstate this season as several titan theatres open the new Broadway musical “Mary Poppins,” with two productions going umbrella to umbrella on Sept. 11 as the Spartanburg Little Theatre (now in its 70th season) and Abbeville Opera House/Greenwood Community Theatre (in a joint venture) premiere their versions of the Disney classic based on the books by P. L. Travers.
Carolina Curtain Call.Com predicts sellout crowds and box office records for these Mary Poppins, as well as for the Greenville Little Theatre (now in its 90th season) which has devoted the entire month of June 2016 for its show, and the Greer Children’s Theatre will debut its vision of the story in November. With Original Music and Lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, a book by Julian Fellowes and new Songs and Additional Music and Lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, “Mary Poppins” features a cast of about 40-50 actors easily.
And speaking of box-office records, The Warehouse Theatre will surely see huge ticket sales for its new rendering of “The Rocky Horror Show,” which was an enormous hit at SLT last month, in a six-week run with many midnight shows and VIP table seating.
And CCC predicts these musicals will be big hits this year: the Johnny Cash musical “Ring of Fire” by the Mill Town Players in September and again at the Little Theater of Gastonia in June 2016; “Memphis” and “Avenue Q” at SLT; “Little Women: The Musical” at GLT; “Heart & Soul” and “Sisters of Swing” at Centre Stage; and the world premiere of the Judy Garland musical “Chasing Rainbows: The Road to Oz” at the Flat Rock Playhouse in December.
Another popular musical this season is Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein” at FIRE Theatre Company in Fountain Inn and at Asheville Community Theatre both in October. And more macabre is in the mix with Clemson Little Theatre‘s “Carrie: The Musical” in June 2016.
Other shows that we are looking forward to include “The Addams Family” at Centre Stage, “La Cage aux Folles” — the first musical to win the Best Revival Tony twice — at Asheville Community Theatre, which is also producing “Art” and “Next to Normal”; and the Cole Porter classic “Anything Goes” at the Laurens County Community Theatre.
Dramas and Comedies
“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” by Christopher Durang is hands-down the most anticipated play of the season. The 2013 Tony winner for Best Play will debut in November in an Attic Salt Theatre Company production in Asheville and again in March at The Warehouse Theatre, which precedes it with the inspiration for this comedy, Checkhov’s “Uncle Vanya.”
And we have great expectations for Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” at the Abbeville Opera House; “A Visit from Scarface” at GLT; the world premiere comedy “Someone Else” at NC Stage Company; “Dracula” at Theatre Charlotte; “Fly,” an inspiring story about the Tuskegee Airmen at the Flat Rock Playhouse; “Kindertransport” at Centre Stage; and in March at SLT, The Dixie Swim Club, the first of two comedies by the NC writing team of Jones, Hope & Wooten. Catch their “The Red Velvet Cake War” at the Little Theater of Gastonia in February.
“The Miracle Worker” and “The Odd Couple” are being honored this year as the works turn 55 and 50 respectively. The Helen Keller story is on the SC Children’s Theatre bill in March and in Abbeville in April. “The Odd Couple” just closed the Abbeville summer season and will open Centre Stage’s new season in September.
The comedy/mystery “The 39 Steps” will play at GLT and in Hendersonville in October and Beth Henley’s “Crimes of the Heart” opens Aug. 20 at the Flat Rock Playhouse and again in August 2016 at Asheville Community Theatre.
Some of the most intriguing dramas and comedies are in Center Stage’s “Fringe Series” and in the 35 Below and Reader’s Showcase series at Asheville Community Theatre. Look for “The Night We Bombed Lincoln Towing” in Greenville and “I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers” in Asheville. And don’t forget Greenville Chautauqua’s History Alive Festival in June 2016.
Shakespeare Almost Snubbed
Shakespeare is completely absent from all regular season programming in the Upstate except Clemson Little Theatre‘s “The Seussification of A Midsummer’s Night Dream” which cleverly pairs the Bard with Dr. Seuss. But next summer we get “Julius Caesar” and “As You Like It” at the Upstate Shakespeare Festival and productions by Greenville Summer Shakespeare and Spartanburg’s Scrappy Shakespeare. However, several colleges have the Bard on the bill: “Othello” opens Oct. 1 at USC-Upstate and “Hamlet” opens in June 2016 at Bob Jones University. “Twelfth Night” occurs at Limestone College in October and Converse College in November in a production that transports the story to a 1960s beach party setting.
Other notable productions include: “Hair: The Musical” at Furman University in October; “Loot” by Joe Orton at Clemson in November; “The Children’s Hour and “Dogfight: The Musical” at USC-Upstate; “9 to 5: The Musical” at Limestone College and “Urinetown: the Musical” at Converse College both in April.
In the opera category, the Upstate offers “The Barber of Seville” by Asheville Lyric Opera and “Sweeney Todd” at Alverson Center Theatre in October; “The Fantasticks” by Spartanburg Repertory Company in November; and “Amahl and the Night Visitors” by GLOW Lyric Theatre in December. However, our money is on the world premiere of “Troiades” at Converse College in January.
Youth theater is vibrant this season at the SC Children’s Theatre with “Snow White and the Prince,” and “How I Became a Pirate” and “Mattie, Bogey & Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure,” both based on the books by local authors Melinda Long and Jean Hunt, respectively. Greer Children’s Theatre is also producing “Lion King, Jr.” and catch “Rapunzel” at Spartanburg Youth Theatre, “Bye Bye Birdie” at Asheville Community Youth Theatre, and “Prince Caspian” at the Academy of Arts in Taylors.
In addition to parades and “The Nutcracker,” check out some of these holiday shows: the American premiere of “Let it Snow” at Centre Stage; “Christmas on the Rocks” at The Warehouse Theatre; “Rock-n-Roll Christmas” by the Mill Town Players; “All is Calm, The Christmas Truce of 1914” at NC Stage Company; “Living Gallery: Dawning Light” at Bob Jones University; and “Barbra & Frank: The Christmas Concert that Never Was” at the Flat Rock Playhouse.
And finally, Broadway. The most anticipated show of the year is actually from last season: “Kinky Boots” is the 2014-15 season finale at the Peace Center and has music by Cindi Lauper, a book by Harvey Fierstein and 6 Tonys to boot. CCC is also looking forward to the Roundabout Theatre’s production of “Cabaret,” “The Sound of Music,” “Motown: The Musical,” “Newsies,” “Dirty Dancing: The Musical” and the return of “Jersey Boys.”