by Matthew Falduto
Coralville – City Circle has started doing ‘theme seasons.’ For 15-16 it was the “British Invasion” season, and next year will be: “We Can Do It: A Season of Powerful Women.” Some of the 2016-17 plays fit that theme a little better than others. Annie Oakley from Annie Get Your Gun, sure! But Fiddler on the Roof? Well, the three daughters are independent minded, so okay… I guess I see it. But may I humbly suggest that the best way to do a season of powerful women is to choose a season of all female playwrights?
All that said, the plays City Circle has chosen are an exciting bunch. Fiddler (December 9-11, 16-18, 2016) and Annie Get Your Gun (April 28-30, May 5-7, 2017) are two classic musicals with great songs. I can’t tell you the number of times my wife and I have sung “Anything You Can Do, I Can Bo Better” to each other. “Tradition” and “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” from Fiddler are fun songs too. Fiddler will be directed by Eric Field, who is new to City Circle, lives in Muscatine and is a Speech and English teacher for the Columbus Junction school district. Annie Get Your Gun will be directed by theatre veteran Krista Neumann, who directed Spamalot for City Circle back in 2013.
Fiddler Fun Fact: Was Fiddler on the Roof inspired by this Marc Chagall painting?
The answer is maybe. Go here for more history.
Classic musicals are not all City Circle has to offer. They’re producing August: Osage County (October 14-16, 2016), a powerful drama, which was made into a movie with Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts in 2013 and was produced in Cedar Rapids in 2014 by the Urban Theatre Project. The show won a bunch of Tony awards, including Best Play. While it’s not my favorite as I find the characters too unlikable, it has a huge following, and many, many of my theatre friends love it. And it’s being directed by Liz Tracey, one of City Circle’s best directors. Liz has been doing musicals lately (1776!), but she loves dramas she can sink her teeth into.
The other modern show is the musical Next to Normal (February 10-12, 2017).Theatre Cedar Rapids (TCR) just finished an outstanding run of the show. I’m very excited to see what City Circle will do with it. It’s an amazingly powerful musical about mental health. And it won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama… though there was some controversy over its win. Go here and read about it if you like. If you’re back, let me just say that while I love two of the three finalists (Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo and In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play), Next to Normal is totally deserving. It will be directed by Kathryn Van Meter, a theatre professional who lives in Washington State. She was the choreographer for Next to Normal when it was being developed through the San Jose Rep Theatre 2012-2013, so she knows the show well.
They end the season with a teen musical as usual and this time they’re heading “Under the Sea” with The Little Mermaid (June 16-18, 2017). I admit I don’t know too much about the musical, but I do enjoy the movie on which the musical is based. You may have heard that TCR is producing The Little Mermaid later this month. However, their version has adults, not teens. Anne Marie Nest, an assistant professor of voice and speech at the University of Iowa Theatre Department, will direct.
Season subscription packages will be available beginning July 1 through the CCPA box office at 319.248.9370 or at www.coralvillearts.org; single tickets will go on sale at a later date.
The line up:
August: Osage County. October 14-16, 2016. Tracy Letts’ award-winning dark comedy is the tale of the ultimate dysfunctional family: Dad is missing, Mom is addicted to pills, and at least two of their three daughters are harboring secrets as everyone gathers in the Oklahoma house they grew up in. Just when you think things can’t get any stranger, they do. Originally developed and produced at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre, this play won the Tony for Best Play, and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Fiddler on The Roof. December 9-11, 16-18, 2016. This classic musical by Jerry Bock (music), Sheldon Harnick (lyrics) and Joseph Stein (book) tells the story of Tevye, a Jewish dairyman in Imperial Russia at the beginning of the 20th century, who struggles to hold on to his religious and cultural traditions despite pressure to change. Perhaps the most powerful pull is that of his independent-minded daughters, who wish to choose their husbands, instead of abiding by the tradition of the matchmaker. Funny, sweet, beautiful and heartbreaking, this is a show for everyone!
Next to Normal. February 10-12, 2017. This groundbreaking rock musical by Tom Kitt (music) and Brian Yorkey (book, lyrics), explores the effect that mental illness and its treatment can have on a family. As a suburban mother struggles with bipolar disorder, her family struggles, too. The show, which won three Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, also touches on issues of grief, drug abuse, suicide and ethics in modern psychiatry
Annie Get Your Gun. April 28-30, May 5-7, 2017. This classic musical tells the fictionalized story of sharp-shooter Annie Oakley, and her days as a performer in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. As she falls for Frank Butler, formerly the star shooter of the troupe, elements of the battle of the sexes come into play. The show, by Irving Berlin (music, lyrics) and Dorothy and Herbert Fields (book) is bursting with familiar tunes.This is a bright, funny musical about love and showbiz, and whether the two can coexist.
The Little Mermaid. June 16-18, 2017. City Circle’s annual teen musical is Disney’s story of an adventurous undersea princess who longs to break free of her environment and explore new worlds. The show is based on the Disney film of the same name, which was based on Hans Christian Anderson’s classic tale. Alan Menken wrote the music, the lyrics are by Glenn Slater and Howard Ashman, and the book is by Doug Wright.