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The coming theater season brings a slate of greats

The 39 Steps,' 'Les Mis,' Shakespeare and more.

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'THE ALUMINIUM SHOW': Plays Little Rock March 29-31.
  • 'THE ALUMINIUM SHOW': Plays Little Rock March 29-31.

Arkansas's spring theater schedule will be hard pressed to match the one-two punch — both in box office and critical approval — of the fall's staging of "Wicked" by Celebrity Attractions and "Hamlet" by the Arkansas Repertory Theatre. The spring list of shows isn't just chock full of recognizable titles, which ought to prove more fun for the adventurous theatergoer.

For new theater rides, The Rep's comedy thriller "The 39 Steps" (June 10-26) looks to be most intriguing. The adaptation of the Alfred Hitchcock movie arrives in Little Rock with a briefcase full of good notices from productions at regional theater companies around the country. The show, touted as a spy novel with a dash of Monty Python, has a great theatrical trick at its center — the 150 characters in the show are played by 4 actors.

If a three-minute video is any indication, "The Aluminum Show" (March 29-31), coming to Little Rock thanks to Celebrity Attractions, should be a cross between "Stomp," "The Blue Man Group" and an alien abduction. You probably couldn't win the argument that "The Aluminum Show" is theater in a pure sense — but it's a dumb argument anyway.  

In the time it has taken you to read this far Neil LaBute has written a new play. The insanely prolific playwright keeps crankin' them out and impressive theater companies like Fayetteville's TheatreSquared keep putting them on stage. "Reasons to be Pretty" (April 15-May 1) is the third play in LaBute's trilogy about physical appearance.

"The Hanging of David O. Dodd" (March 11-26) at The Weekend Theater is a brand new Civil War tragedy written by Little Rock novelist, playwright and lawyer Phillip McMath. McMath's play tells the story of Dodd, the doomed 17-year-old Confederate soldier (a figure much loved by the daily newspaper) and a set of fictional women who await his fate.   

Revolution and singing urchins are at the heart of the ever-popular "Les Miserables" (May 3-8) coming to Fayetteville's Walton Arts Center as part of a 25th anniversary production tour. Revolution of the rock 'n' roll variety is at the center of The Rep's "Hairspray" (April 8-May 8). In case you were keeping score, John Waters' little Baltimore fable has been a film, a stage musical and then a film again. Weekend Theater's "The Last Night of Ballyhoo" (April 8-23) is set in 1939 and deals with "Gone with the Wind," the Atlanta social season and the impending world war.   

The future is all in the Arkansas New Play Fest (May 19-22), a series of staged readings of a yet-to-be determined slate of new work by writers from the state. This year the festival offers a promising, first-time collaboration between TheatreSquared, original producer of the New Play Fest, and The Rep. The Rep will stage its portion of the Fest in the brand new Argenta Community Theatre in North Little Rock.

The Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre, now in its fifth year, will take over Conway's Reynolds Performance Hall for productions of "Othello," "As You Like It" and "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" (June 16-July 3). New this year, the Shakespeare festival will also stage a play in North Little Rock: the Argenta Community Theater hosts "As You Like It" July 1-3. Shakespeare, of course, never goes out of style. 

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