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Arkansas theaters packed with variety

From 'Mary Poppins' to 'Million Dollar Quartet.'


GREAT BALLS OF FIRE: Tony Award-winning musical "Million Dollar Quartet" comes to the Maumelle Performing Arts Center April 24-26 image
  • GREAT BALLS OF FIRE: Tony Award-winning musical "Million Dollar Quartet" comes to the Maumelle Performing Arts Center April 24-26.

Arkansas has a slew of opportunities for theatergoers of all ages this spring, with Broadway musicals, Shakespearean classics, riveting dramas and children's books come to life.

First off, if you still haven't seen the Arkansas Repertory Theatre's "Mary Poppins," you've got three weeks left. The fun-for-the-whole-family Broadway adaptation of the Disney classic plays through April 12. The play is billed as "the Rep's biggest production yet" and wows audiences with memorable songs, show-stopping dance numbers and, of course, flying nannies.

More Broadway performances hit the stage April 24-26 with "Million Dollar Quartet" at the Maumelle Performing Arts Center, presented by Celebrity Attractions. This Tony Award-winning musical tells the true story of how Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins came together for a riotous recording session. Meanwhile, Walton Arts Center presents a Tony Award winning Broadway adaptation of the 2007 film "Once," about an Irish musician inspired by his muse to chase his dreams.

Next up at The Rep is "Project Elan" (May 5-16), which brings together over 60 alumni of The Rep's Summer Musical Theater Intensive program to present a new musical written by Director of Education Nicole Capri along with seven SMTI alumni. The show focuses on the millennial generation, changing times and the unchanging dynamics of love. Closing out The Rep's season is the critically acclaimed "August: Osage County" (June 3-21), a dark comedy that won the Pulitzer Prize and countless other awards, and was made into a feature film in 2013. The play presents the story of an Oklahoma family parsing through secrets as they come to terms with their relationships and their aspirations.

Three quality dramas touching on relevant social issues play at The Weekend Theater this spring, starting with the award winning "Last Summer at Bluefish Cove" by Jane Chambers (through March 28). Here, a woman leaves her husband to find a group of lesbians on vacation and falls in love, soon discovering the hardships faced by gay people in 1980s America. "Karski's Message" (April 10-25) by local playwright, lawyer and historian Phillip McMath tells the story of a Polish resistance fighter who met with President Franklin Roosevelt to give first-hand accounts of the Holocaust. Wrapping up The Weekend Theater's season is Carson McCullers' "The Member of the Wedding" (May 15-30), winner of the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award and the Donaldson Award for best play in 1950. Another World War II-related drama, the play shows us the war through the eyes of a 12-year-old tomboy in a racially divided Southern town.

Community Theatre of Little Rock presents "The Winning Numbers," written and directed by local playwright and actor S. Christopher Boggs April 24-26. The play pits several office employees against each other as they vie to win the lottery. The Community Theatre is also staging a musical adaptation of the beloved and wonderful Dolly Parton film "9 to 5" (June 5-21), in which three women plan revenge on their horrible sexist boss.

Gearing up for its annual run, Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre promises to make all your midsummer nights' dreams come true with performances of the bard's timeless comedies: "The Merry Wives of Windsor," "The Merchant of Venice" and "As You Like It" (with the latter adapted for young audiences). The company also performs the classic musical "Fiddler on the Roof." It will be playing across the state: UCA's Donald Reynolds Performance Hall, The Village at Hendrix, outdoors in North Little Rock's Argenta District, Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville and at the Rockefeller Institute atop Petit Jean. Performances run June 4-28.

In Northwest Arkansas, TheatreSquared and the Walton Arts Center team up to present "Superior Donuts," a comedy drama by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Tracy Letts ("August: Osage County"), in which a grumpy old owner and an entrepreneurial young assistant tackle conventions to form an intergenerational and interracial friendship. It's being staged April 2-26. More details are forthcoming, but the two will also collaborate for the Arkansas New Play Festival June 18-28, which will include a fully staged new work, reading performances and conversations with playwrights and cast.

The Walton Arts Center also will produce a duo of children's theater performances, including "Spot" (April 12), a stage adaptation of Eric Hill's children's book about an adventurous dog, and "The Gruffalo's Child" (May 16) performed by London's Tall Stories theater company and adapted from the picture book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.

And as always, Murry's Dinner Playhouse will be serving up laughs, drama, and show-themed meals with a trio of shows: "Farce of Nature," a "Southern fried farce" set in Mayhew, Arkansas, plays March 17-April 11: "The Rainmaker" (April 14-May 16) joins magic and romance together for an uplifting drama; and "A Mighty Fortress is Our Basement" reunites the "Church Basement Ladies" May 19-June 20 to bring you an all-new musical comedy with "love, life, and a casserole."

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