Theatergoers have much to look forward to this fall, as directors, casts and crews across the Natural State prepare for an ambitious season.
The Arkansas Repertory Theater recently opened its 37th season with a powerhouse of a play: Shakespeare's "Henry V" (Sept. 5-23). Avery Clark — who starred in The Rep's warmly received productions of "Hamlet" and "The 39 Steps" — takes center stage in the history play, directed by Bob Hupp, producing artistic director. "Henry V" is the Bard's tale of war, politics and the influence of power.
Next, The Rep's Summer Musical Theater Intensive produces this year's Young Artists Production of "Singin' on a Star" (Oct. 24-Nov. 3), with kids from around the state who studied singing, dancing, acting, and costume and makeup design with Rep professionals. Conceived and directed by Nicole Capri, resident director at The Rep, "Singin' on a Star" is "all about the actor's journey from stardust to stardom."
Just in time for the holidays is The Rep's production of Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" (Nov. 28-Dec. 30).
The Weekend Theater's season offers plenty of cerebral and emotional fare, as well. If you've got a hankering for some Tony Award-winning theater, look no further than "Good People," by celebrated author and Bostonian David Lindsay-Abaire (Fridays and Saturdays through Sept. 22). This blue-collar story centers on Margie, a Southie single mother struggling with modern lower-middle class life as she cares for her mentally disabled adult daughter.
Next up at Weekend Theater is Arthur Miller's adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's "Enemy of the People" (Oct. 5-6, 12-13, 19-20), directed by Miguel Salazar. The play, set in a small town, examines what happens when greed trumps public health, as a physician discovers that the town's lucrative mineral baths are being poisoned by local industry. In a fascinating delineation of the nature of money in politics, the work shows how the simplest truths in life can be converted by profiteers to shore up the interests of a plutocracy.
Joe Pintauro's "Raft of the Medusa," directed by Ralph Hyman, is up next (Nov. 2-3, 9-10, 16-17). The play's action takes place in a single AIDS support group session, and focuses on the scourge of AIDS and its effect on the collective psyche. Closing out 2012 is the coming-of-age classic, "The Outsiders," by S.E. Hinton, directed by Ryan Whitfield (Nov. 30-Dec.1, 7-8, 14-15).
Every fall seems to bring with it something with the word "Cirque" attached and this season is no exception. "Cirque Holidaze," with its cast of more than 30 international artists, comes to Robinson Center Music Hall (Nov. 27-29), promising, a news release says, "gingerbread men flipping midair, toy soldiers marching on thin wires, snowmen daringly balancing, icemen powerfully sculpting, penguins spinning and reindeer soaring high above a landscape of holiday wonderment."
The University of Central Arkansas hosts "Shrek: The Musical" at Reynolds Performance Hall (Nov. 5). And Reynold's "Celtic Crossroads in a Celtic Christmas" (Dec. 9), an amalgam of Irish music, jazz, gypsy, and bluegrass, is likely to keep the audience energized.
Up in Northwest Arkansas, the Walton Arts Center and its TheatreSquared company started off the season with Michael Frayn's celebrated comedy "Noises Off" (through Sept. 23) at Nadine Baum Studios. The L.A. Theater Works brings its production of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" to Baum Walker Hall on Oct. 26. Everybody's favorite big green ogre hits the stage with "Shrek: The Musical" (Oct. 30-Nov. 4). "Letters Home" (Nov. 11) uses actual letters written home by U.S. soldiers to make personal the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Billy Elliot The Musical" (Dec. 4-9), based on the hit film, is the tale of a boy overcoming enormous odds to follow his dream to become a dancer. TheaterSquared closes out 2012 with Tennessee Williams' only comedy, "Period of Adjustment" (Dec. 6-30).