Dayton’s promising 2014-15 arts season overflows with an array of shows intended to engage on a variety of levels, but it can be tough to determine what to see as the months roll along. The following arts guide definitely proves the magnitude of what’s in store, but here are six diverse area premieres to keep in mind.
Buyer & Cellar
Feb. 12-March 1, 2015, Loft Theatre
Hello, gorgeous. Jonathan Tolins’ absolutely hilarious and surprisingly touching one-man comedy “Buyer & Cellar,” which recently wrapped a hit run Off-Broadway at the Barrow Street Theatre originally starring the impeccable Michael Urie (“Ugly Betty”), receives its regional premiere at the Human Race Theatre Company. The play concerns Alex More, a struggling L.A. actor who gets an unexpected boost when he’s offered a job working inside the elaborate, memorabilia-adorned basement of Barbra Streisand’s Malibu home. Loosely inspired by Streisand’s book “My Passion for Design,” “Buyer & Cellar” is tailor-made for Streisand devotees while addressing evergreen themes of friendship, loyalty and sacrifice.
Dead Man Walking
Feb. 27 and March 1, 2015, Schuster Center
The Dayton Opera supplies the local premiere of Jake Heggie’s riveting 2000 adaptation of “Dead Man Walking,” based on the best-selling book by Sister Helen Prejean, memorably adapted into an acclaimed 1995 Academy Award-winning film starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. The opera, featuring a libretto by Tony-winning playwright/librettist Terrence McNally (“Master Class,” “Ragtime”) and intended for mature audiences, will be a collaborative endeavor with the University of Dayton’s “Rites. Rights. Writes.” initiative. In fact, Prejean, well-known for her opposition to the death penalty, will speak Feb. 26 at UD. Heggie will be on campus in late January for a public discussion of the opera and will also conduct a master class.
Fix Me, Jesus
March 13-22, 2015, Dayton Playhouse
Longtime Dayton Playhouse FutureFest adjudicator Helen Sneed’s new play “Fix Me, Jesus” will have its regional premiere at the Playhouse following an Off-Broadway production at Abingdon Theatre Company. The play, set entirely in the dressing room of Neiman Marcus, concerns the highs and lows of an up-and-coming politician within the Texas Democratic Party trying to reassess her life. Considering the Playhouse and Sneed’s unwavering support of new works, “Fix Me, Jesus” seems like an inevitable theatrical marriage with broad appeal.
Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, 2015, Victoria Theatre
The Dayton Contemporary Dance Company chose Pittsburgh-based Kiesha Lalama to be the first choreographer in the organization’s history to stage an entire evening of work. In turn, the world premiere of Lalama’s “HeartShakes,” a compelling and humorous exploration of love and relationships, is shaping up to be a signature event based on an impressive recent preview. Searing emotion from the dancers heightened by the soulful songs of Grammy-nominated rock group Alabama Shakes provide the necessary ingredients for this captivating thrill ride you will not want to miss.
Peter and the Starcatcher
June 9-14, 2015, Schuster Center
The curious backstory of The Boy Who Never Grew Up fuels this incredibly imaginative tale written by Rick Elise (“Jersey Boys”) based on the best-selling book of the same name by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. The winner of five 2012 Tony Awards and the season finale of the Victoria Theatre Association’s Premier Health Broadway Series, the local premiere of “Peter and the Starcatcher” is sure to enchant multiple generations with its stellar stagecraft and wondrous whimsy. The stunning Act 1 finale alone will be worth the price of admission. Trust me.
Sondheim on Sondheim
April 17-26, 2015, Herbst Theatre
Wright State University has another strong slate ahead particularly accented by season opener “Fences” (co-directed by W. Stuart McDowell and Sheila Ramsey) and spring musical “Peter Pan” (directed by Joe Deer and starring Bruce Cromer as Captain Hook). Still, the organization’s regional premiere of 2010’s “Sondheim on Sondheim,” a wonderfully eye-opening, multimedia look at Stephen Sondheim’s distinguished career, deserves your attention. Conceived by Tony-winning librettist James Lapine (“Into the Woods”) and incorporating 100 video segments, this musical revue, to be presented within the intimacy of WSU’s black box Herbst Theatre, spotlights the greatest living composer of American musical theater in his own words. Covering 60 years of material, the revue offers fascinating, previously unheard commentary encompassing his humble beginnings guided by Oscar Hammerstein II and his groundbreaking musicals directed by Harold Prince. Bit by bit, you’ll learn more about Sondheim than ever before.
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