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The theater season has everything, from daredevil productions to world premieres

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Fall 2019 Arts Guide

The Triangle guide to music, art, theater, dance, festivals and books in Fall 2019.

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In recent years, the Triangle theater community has earned a national reputation for being a particularly vibrant and progressive creative scene.

There’s plenty of cross-pollination among the area’s small indie theaters, midsize regional operations, university programs, and big touring venues. As such, audiences have a wide variety of options year-round, but particularly in autumn when the theater season traditionally kicks into gear.

The Durham Performing Arts Center attracted thousands of theater-goers and broke attendance records last year with the arrival of “Hamilton.” While “Hamilton” isn’t back this season, there are plenty of other big-name touring musicals heading this way. That includes the pre-Broadway world premiere of Harry Connick Jr.’s new production, “A Celebration of Cole Porter.” More on that in a bit.

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And, if you didn’t catch “Hamilton” the first go-round, it will make an unexpected return to DPAC’s 2020-21 season. Dates have not been announced yet, but if you’ve been considering season tickets at DPAC, that will help with your chances to getting “Hamilton” seats.

But until then, here’s a look at some of the local productions that have caught our eye.

‘A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder’

Gentleman’s Guide RLT.jpg
Tyler Graeper stars as Monty in the Raleigh Little Theatre production of “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder,” which won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2014. Brenna Berry-Stewart

The details: Aug. 16-Sept. 1, Raleigh Little Theatre, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh. 919-821-3111 or raleighlittletheatre.org

A dark and funny musical comedy in the key of “Sweeney Todd,” this Broadway hit won multiple Tony awards in 2014, including Best Musical. The show’s own lyrics provide a kind of thesis statement: “For those who doubt death can be funny, we’re here to tell you it can....” The comedy features 111 costume changes, according to a news release, and one actor plays eight different roles.

‘The Scottsboro Boys’

The details: Sept. 4-15, Theatre Raleigh, Kennedy Theatre, 2 E. South St., Raleigh. theatreraleigh.com

This daring and controversial musical tells the harrowing real-life story of nine African-American youths falsely accused of rape in 1930s Alabama, then incorporates elements of the minstrel show to address historical civil rights themes. It’s also one of the final collaborations between composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb (“Cabaret,” “Chicago.”)

‘Heads Will Roll’

The details: Sept. 5-21, West Point on the Eno park, 5101 N Roxboro St, Durham. littlegreenpig.com

Durham’s Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern is known for presenting daredevil theater in interesting ways – pop-up street performances, derelict warehouse shows, rowdy pub crawls. The company’s latest brings Shakespeare’s relatively obscure “Henry VI” to a procession of city park settings in a choose-your-own-adventure format. Those rascals!

‘Inherit the Wind’

The details: Sept. 13-29, The Justice Theater Project, Umstead Park United Church of Christ, 8208 Brownleigh Drive, Raleigh. thejusticetheaterproject.org

As part of its election-year cycle of thematically connected productions, the Justice Theater Project presents a new iteration of the classic play on the infamous Scopes “Monkey” Trial. The original production tackled McCarthyism in the 1950s, but this story always seems to find contemporary relevance.

‘Harry Connick Jr. — A Celebration of Cole Porter’

The details: Sept. 21-22 (three shows), Durham Performing Arts Center, 123 Vivian St., Durham. dpacnc.com

You may know Harry Connick Jr. for his crooning, his gig as an “American Idol” judge, actor, even a talk show host. He’s also a pianist, arranger and conductor. And he’s set to return to Broadway with his production that pays tribute to Cole Porter, whose work is part of the Great American Songbook. The Broadway production begins in December. But before then, the show will have its world premiere at the Durham Performing Arts Center. According to a news release, Connick will feature a “modern, multi-media presentation of some of Porter’s most beloved songs in an unprecedented and unique way.” Think “Kiss Me, Kate,” “I Get a Kick Out of You” and “I’ve Got You Under My skin.” In other words, when Connick gets nominated for a Tony Award again, you can say you knew him when.

‘The Roommate’

The details: Sept. 26-Oct. 13, Bulldog Ensemble Theater at the Durham Fruit & Produce Company, 305 S. Dillard St., Durham. bulldogdurham.org

“The Roommate,” a dark comedy from playwright Jen Silverman, tells the story of two 50-year-old women trying to start life over in Iowa City. Broadway World describes it as “a one-act about isolation, second chances and the consequences of our choices,” but that amidst the tragedy, the characters also find moments of laughter.

Aladdin Production Photo
“Aladdin” stars Clinton Greenspan (Aladdin) and Lissa deGuzman (Jasmine). It will be at DPAC Oct. 2-26, 2019. Deen van Meer

‘Aladdin’

The details: Oct. 2-26, Durham Performing Arts Center, 123 Vivian St., Durham. dpacnc.com

Forget this summer’s cinematic remake of “Aladdin,” and queue up instead for Disney’s latest hit touring musical, coming in on DPAC’s popular Broadway series. The production features all the big songs from the movie, plus some new musical numbers and plenty of high-end spectacle and stagecraft.

‘The Container’

The details: Oct. 10-27, Burning Coal Theatre, 224 Polk Street, Raleigh. burningcoal.org

A group of African immigrants look to find a better life in the West in this intriguing refugee drama from playwright Clare Bayley. The story’s central puzzle box is a shipping container — 20 feet by 40 feet and eight feet tall — in which the players and the audience share space. This looks to be a unique approach to environmental theater. Leave your claustrophobia at coat check.

‘Having Our Say: The Delaney Sisters’ First 100 Years’

The details: Nov. 8-17, North Carolina Theatre, A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater, 2 E. South St., Raleigh. nctheatre.com

Sisters and best friends Sadie and Bessie Delaney — each 100 years old and and counting — lead audiences through their incredible biographical adventures, from growing up in Raleigh through the Harlem Renaissance and into centenarian glory. This family drama is based on the real-life memoirs of the celebrated activists and trailblazers.

‘Ragtime’

The details: Nov. 20-Dec. 15, PlayMakers Repertory Company, 120 Country Club Road, Chapel Hill at UNC. playmakersrep.org

Nominated for 13 Tony awards, “Ragtime” is considered a 20th-century masterpiece, a headfirst dive into the core of the American experiment. Based on the 1975 novel by E.L. Doctorow, the story follows three disparate groups of Americans in New York City and features cameos by historical figures including Harry Houdini and Booker T. Washington.

‘Fruitcakes’

The details: Dec. 6-22, North Raleigh Arts & Creative Theatre. 7713-51 Lead Mine Road, Raleigh. nract.org

A holiday comedy about the weirder side of Yuletide fun, “Fruitcakes” features — and we quote — “three dozen Christmas trees, 10,000 outdoor Christmas lights, a chicken pox epidemic, two southern spinsters, an estranged old man, a lost cat named Tutti Frutti and a Christmas hog named Buster.” Can’t argue with that.

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