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The Local Companies & Beyond Downtown



A short walk from the lights and traffic of the Theater District, will find you in front of Lyric Stage at 140 Clarendon Street (in the YMCA Building), where the new season will include a World Premiere, four New England premieres and two Boston premieres.
The Lyric opens the fall season on September 13 with the New England premiere of Claudia Shear and James Lapine's "Dirty Blonde." Critically acclaimed in New York, "Dirty Blonde" swirls around the legendary Mae West and a modern day couple obsessed with every aspect of her life.

The Lyric season continues with the New England premiere of "The Gig" on October 18, following the lives of seven ordinary men who meet once a week to "jam." The holiday entry from Lyric will be "Epic Proportions," by Larry Coen and David Crane. Here we get a look at the making of a Hollywood epic from the perspective of
the unsung heroes -- the extras. "Epic" opens on November 22.

"Over The Tavern," a nostalgic comedy about growing up Catholic, opens January 3, followed on February 7 by "It's All True." This New England premiere takes a look at what happened when the government padlocked the doors of the theater of the opening night of "The Cradle Will Rock," and Orson Welles marched the actors and the audience down Seventh Avenue in search of another theater.

Lyric's World Premiere comes on March 14 with the legendary Arthur Laurent's new play "2 Lives." A cooperative production with The Huntington Theater Company, this is a retrospective look at the complicated life of 72-year-old playwright, Matt Singer, and his lover of 35 years, Howard Thompson. This story of aging, friends, family and betrayal will be directed by Huntington's Artistic Director, Nicholas Martin.

The final selection from Lyric will be the interesting musical "Side Show." Originally on Broadway in 1998, this is a show that had a hard time figuring out what it was. Or at least how to promote itself. Was it a bright musical, a strong character piece or a peep show look at the unfortunates who populate a traditional Side Show.

Inspired by the true story of Siamese twins, Daisy and Violet Hilton, who became musical stars during the Depression, "Side Show" is filled with great music and some incredibly dramatic moments. Despite its unusual subject matter, it is NOT a sad show.

Lyric's production marks the local professional premiere of the show as the Boston Conservatory presented their own production in 1997. I had the opportunity to see that production, thoughtfully directed by Neil Donohoe, and it blew me away. Knowing Lyric's remarkable reputation, this is the show I'm most looking forward to.


Up near The Prudential Center, the big news at Huntington Theatre Company is the world premiere of the new musical, "Marty," starring John C. Reilly. Reilly can currently be seen opposite Jennifer Aniston in "The Good Girl." This Christmas, he'll be hitting the big screen in the film version of the musical "Chicago" with Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renee Zellweger.

Based on the Academy Award winning film of the same name (screenplay by Paddy Chayefsky), music is by Charles Strouse ("Annie," "Bye, Bye Birdie," "Applause"), lyrics are by Lee Adams ("Bye, Bye Birdie," "Golden Boy") and book is by Rupert Holmes ("Mystery of Edwin Drood"). The production will be directed by Mark Brokaw and choreographed by Rob Ashford, fresh from his success of this past season’s "Thoroughly Modern Millie."

"Marty" will run from October 18 through November 24. The rest of the Huntington season includes: "A Month in the Country," September 6 - October 6; the World Premiere of "The Blue Demon," playing January 3 - February 2; the Boston premiere of "Breath, Boom," March 7 - April 6; and "Springtime for Henry," playing May 16 - June 15.


SpeakEasy Stage, led by Artistic Director Paul Daigneault, is one of Boston's gems. And as I have been saying for years, theater in Boston does not happen solely within the three block area tagged The Theater District. SpeakEasy exemplifies that to the hilt. Its productions are presented at the Boston Center for the Arts located in the South End at 539 Tremont Street.

The SpeakEasy season kicks off with the Boston premiere of the quirky off-Broadway musical, "Bat Boy: The Musical." Winner of the 2001 Lucille Lortel and Outer Critics Circle Awards for Best Off-Broadway Musical, "Bat Boy" is based on a supermarket tabloid article about a pointy-eared boy, half man-half bat, reportedly discovered in a West Virginia cave. The New York press agreed that it was "wacky" and "witty." "Bat Boy" plays October 4 - 26.

Posing unflinching questions about love and art is Neil LaBute's "The Shape of Things," presented by SpeakEasy from January 24 through February 15. LeBute previously wrote "Bash" and "In The Company of Men."

Next up will be the musical for people who love musicals. "A Class Act" is based on the life and career of Edward Kleban, the Tony Award-winning lyricist of "A Chorus Line." Although Kleban never had another show produced before his untimely death in 1987, he wrote hundreds of songs. The best of those are featured in this inspiring musical biography.

Rounding out the SpeakEasy season on a tongue-in-cheek note will be "Ruthless," from June 6 - 28. A musical parody of everything from "The Bad Seed" and "Gypsy" to "All About Eve, "Ruthless" is the backstage story of a young star, "born to entertain," who will stop at nothing, including murder, in her "ruthless" fight to the top!

SpeakEasy's concert series will present a two-night run of "Back to Bacharach and David" on November 10 and 11.

THE A. R. T.

Across the river in Cambridge, the season at American Repertory Theatre will include: "Uncle Vanya," "Child of Herakles," "La Dispute," "Highway Ulysses," "Pericles" and "Sound of a Voice."


North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly has presented “Ragtime,” “Footloose” and “The Wizard of Oz” so far. The season continues to “I Sent A Letter To My Love” through September 22, “Dracula: A Chamber Musical” from October 1 - 20, “Chicago” from October 29 - November 24, and their seasonal favorite, “A Christmas Carol” from December 6 - 22.


In Newton, the New Repertory Theatre is offering “Jerusalem” from September 18 - October 20, “A Skull In Connemara” from November 23 - December 15, “Waiting for Godot” from January 8 - February 9, “No Niggers, No Jews, No Dogs” from February 26 - March 30, and “Sweeney Todd” from April 23 - May 25.


Up in Lowell, Merrimack Repertory Theatre's season will include: the World Premiere of Craig Warner's "Fallen" from September 6 - 29; Stephen Malatratt's classic ghost story,"The Woman in Black" from October 11 - November 3; the Merrimack's new holiday tradition, "Sanders Family Christmas” from November 29 - December 22; Jon Marans' "Old Wicked Songs” from January 3 - 26; the adult comedy "Women Who Steal" by Carter W. Lewis from February 7 - March 2; Michael Healey's "The Drawer Boy” from March 14 - April 6; and Craig Wright's romantic comedy "The Pavilion” from April 18 - May 11.


Finally, ending downtown where we began in Part 1, how can we forget Boston's long-running uber-shows, "Shear Madness" and "Blue Man Group." The first is an ever-changing comedy-murder-mystery that the audience helps to solve, while the latter is a rocking, performance art experience where the cast all have blue heads. What's not to love? If you're among the few who haven't seen one or the other, then get your butts to the Charles Playhouse and see what all the fun's about.

For info, call:

American Repertory Theatre • 617-547-8300
Blue Man Group • 617-931-2787
Lyric Stage • 617-437-7172
Huntington Theatre Company • 617-266-0800
Merrimack Repertory Theatre • 978-454-3926
New Repertory Theatre • 617-332-1646
North Shore Music Theatre • 978-232-7200
Shear Madness • 617-426-5225
SpeakEasy Stage Company • 617-437-7731

(To read Part 1 of the Fall Preview, click here.)

-- OnStageBoston



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