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Places, please: 2017 Fall Arts theater preview

The curtain goes up for fall theater productions.

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KINKY BOOTS: The thigh-high musical goes up at Robinson Center Music Hall in October.
  • KINKY BOOTS: The thigh-high musical goes up at Robinson Center Music Hall in October.

The stage offerings in Little Rock this fall include, but are not limited to, an original chamber musical version of O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi"; a staged memoir from the woman responsible for the Bechdel Test; Alton Brown and science-wielding puppets; a Sherlock Holmes mystery; and David Sedaris' middle finger to holiday cheer. Below, we highlight a few productions in Little Rock and beyond.

The Arkansas Repertory Theatre's 2017-18 season, which started in August, is the first to be programmed by new Producing Artistic Director John Miller-Stephany. The season opened with Carson McCullers' "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter," which ran through Sept. 10. Next, the theater takes on another adaptation: "The School of Lies," David Ives' snarky rewrite of Moliere's already snarky "The Misanthrope." It's performed completely in rhymed couplets, rap battle-style, and runs Oct. 11-29.

The Rep has programmed two shows for the holidays, wildly different in tone and with staggered curtain times; you could catch both in a single day. Forgoing the available stage versions of O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi," lyricist Maggie-Kate Coleman, playwright Jeffrey Hatcher ("Tuesdays with Morrie," "Compleat Female Stage Beauty") and composer Andrew Cooke (on staff at The Rep's Education Department) have created a new chamber musical version, to premiere Nov. 29-Dec. 24. Over at the black box in the theater's education annex (518 Main St.), a sardonic antidote to all things Christmas, David Sedaris' "Santaland Diaries," hits the stage Dec. 6-24. For more information, visit therep.org or see the Arkansas Times' March 2 story, "Farther Down the Road."

There's still time to catch one of a few final performances of "Little Brother," which runs through Sept. 30 at The Weekend Theater. Josh Costello's play examines questions of morality through the eyes of a teenager caught up in a terrorist attack who runs afoul of Homeland Security. Following that, TWT takes on Richard O'Brien's "The Rocky Horror Show," Oct. 20-Nov. 5. John Cariani's nine-vignette exploration of love, "Almost, Maine," gets a run Dec. 1-16. For tickets or more information, visit weekendtheater.org.

Whether or not you've read the graphic memoir, make a point to catch The Studio Theater's take on Alison Bechdel's "Fun Home," running Sept. 14-24. The theater's one of the first group of community companies to produce the "family tragicomic," adapted for the stage by Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori. Following that is another Broadway smash, Christopher Durang's 2012 hit "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," Nov. 2-12, and a production of Hugh Martin and Robert Blane's "Meet Me in St. Louis," made famous by the 1944 MGM film version starring Judy Garland. It runs Dec. 1-17. See studiotheatrelr.com for more information.

There's a concurrent production of "Fun Home" running in Northwest Arkansas, too, at TheaterSquared's Walton Arts Center space through Sept. 17. Following that, the NWA company presents the world premiere of Amy Evans' Nina Simone-centric tale, "The Champion," Oct. 11-Nov. 5. For the holidays, TheaterSquared presents a live radio play version of "It's A Wonderful Life," Nov. 29-Dec. 31. See the full schedule at theatre2.org.

Celebrity Attractions, the production company that will bring touring Broadway shows like "The Lion King" to a newly outfitted Robinson Center Music Hall next spring, launches its run of "Kinky Boots" Oct. 13-15, followed by the Broadway production of Alton Brown's ("Good Eats") live show, "Eat Your Science," 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 18. Starting Nov. 29, Robinson hosts a touring version of Claude-Michel Schonberg's "Les Miserables," the stage version made famous by British producer Cameron Mackintosh. It runs through Dec. 3. Visit celebrityattractions.com for tickets.

University of Central Arkansas's Reynolds Performance Hall is home to two touring productions this fall: "The Wizard of Oz," 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 12, $27-$40. In December, a stage version of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 16.

Over at Murry's Dinner Playhouse, celebrating its 50th year in operation, "The Savannah Sipping Society," a comedy from Jamie Wooten, Jessie Jones and Nicholas Hope ("Dixie Swim Club," "The Red Velvet Cake War") gets a run Sept. 26-Oct. 21, followed by the Ken Ludwig mystery "Baskerville," an adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes tale, "The Hound of the Baskervilles," Oct. 31-Nov. 25. Murry's rounds out the year with "Harvey," the 1944 Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy from Mary Chase, Nov. 28-Dec. 31. Check out the full lineup at murrysdp.com.

Over at Argenta Community Theater, preparations for a March run of Stephen Sondheim's "Follies" is already underway (those familiar with Sondheim will understand why this has to happen now), but the theater will still find time for a Dec. 13-23 run of Judy Goss' adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic "A Christmas Carol." Check out the theater's other offerings at argentacommunitytheater.org.


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