Tantalizing theater season awaits


The tantalizing 2013-2014 theater season is a ticket to wonder and awe.

Cane, fabric, wire, and paper disappear from conscious thought when life-size horse puppets take the stage, making the most committed skeptic believe these creatures are living, breathing, and full of heart in Theater League’s presentation of War Horse, Dec. 3-8, part of the Broadway in Toledo Series at the Stranahan Theater.

War Horse won the hearts of viewers and five 2011 Tony Awards including Best Play in this sometimes tragic tale of a young boy and the bond with his beloved horse Joey in the midst of World War I.

“It’s a quadruple crown: it’s entertaining, it’s educational, it’s funny, it’s touching,” said Mark Edelman founder and president of Theater League, a Kansas City, Mo.-based production company.

“The theatricality of South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Co. is amazing when you see it on stage and see it all come to life. Most people didn’t ever think about the other animals. There’s us and then there are the other animals put to the test when man makes a decision for better or worse,” Edelman said.

Broadway in Toledo opens with the time-treasured classic Hello, Dolly! starring Sally Struthers, Oct. 24-27. The 1964 Broadway production starring Carol Channing won 10 Tony Awards including Best Musical. Stepping away from classic and toward musical comedy, Rock of Ages, Feb. 6-9, is set on the Sunset Strip in 1987 and features 28 classic rock-and-roll hits including “Don’t Stop Believin’,” “We Built this City,” and “Wanted Dead or Alive.”

Moving from classic rock to rock-and-roll icons, Million Dollar Quartet, March 20-23, features a one-time jam session of young musicians Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash.

“You see these kids before the careers and the mistakes,” Edelman said. It’s a show that is attracting large numbers and earning great reviews across the country. “This show has done bigger on the road than on Broadway,” he said.

A memorable and timeless love story comes to life in the musical revival of West Side Story, May 1-4.

Theater League also will present three special engagements at the Stranahan this season: Cirque Dreams Holidaze, Dec. 1, is full of energy and cheer to recharge those weary of the holiday hustle and bustle. The perennial hit STOMP, Feb. 22 and 23, encourages audience participation in this percussive symphony of music and dance. American Idiot, March 2, winner of the 2010 Tony Award for Best Musical Show Album, is based on the album by Green Day and tells a darker story about kids who are slackers.

Across town, the historic Valentine Theatre is proud to present an eclectic season and a bit of a coup when the spooky, kooky Addams Family makes its Toledo premiere on Nov. 7. “It’s rare that we get the Broadway national tour before it runs the larger house,” said Matt Lentz, director of marketing and public relations.

The Valentine Broadway Series also includes Forbidden Broadway: Alive & Kicking! Nov. 22, a musical roast of Broadway shows; Godspell, Jan. 24, a new staged production of the musical retelling of parables from the Gospel of St. Matthew; Sweet Charity, March 2, a Neil Simon musical comedy about an unlucky romanticist, and Smokey Joe’s Cafe, March 30, a return engagement to rock the house with favorites including “Yakety Yak,” and “Spanish Harlem.”

The main stage also will welcome the Moscow Festival Ballet performing Cinderella on Jan. 10, Second City on Feb. 22, and The Ten Tenors: On Broadway, March 18.

The Valentine has added a new series mixing country and comedy, Lentz said. A Little Bit Country Music and Comedy will feature Southern Fried Chicks Cage-Free Comedy Tour, Nov. 24, an all-female comedy troupe, and Branson on the Road, March 22, a combination of humor, classic bluegrass, rockabilly, and gospel music.

Theater League is sponsoring the Children Series this season at the Valentine offering Angelina Ballerina on Sept. 21, Charlotte’s Web on Feb. 15, Five Little Monkeys on March 29, and Stuart Little, April 6.

Studio A, the intimate black-box theater, will host Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, Oct. 4-27, weekends only, and The Thing About Men, Feb. 21-March 9, weekends only.

It’s exciting to see theater expanding its repertoire. New groups are popping up and giving theatergoers more choices. Monroe Community Players Underground, an edgier black-box theater experience, will delve into drama, and present The Pillowman on Friday, in the Little Theater at Monroe County Community College Learning Resource Center Building A.

Actors Collaborative Toledo will perform three productions in various venues this season: Red, Sept. 26 in the Little Theatre at the Toledo Museum of Art; Standing on Ceremony: the Gay Marriage Plays, Oct. 11 at a location to be announced, and ‘night Mother, Jan. 25 at Trinity Episcopal Church, Adams and St. Clair streets.

Whether it is comedy, drama, musicals, conventional or unconventional productions, theatergoers will find plenty this season on professional and on community stages. Here are more morsels to tempt and to please:

Village Players Theatre’s year of comedy: Last of the Red Hot Lovers, showing through Saturday; Lettice and Lovage, Nov. 1-16; Queen of Bingo, Jan. 10-25; The Liar, March 7-22, and Proposals, May 9-24.

Toledo Repertoire Theatre: Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits, open through Sunday; Talk Radio Edgy Rep Reading, Oct. 12; Arsenic and Old Lace, Nov. 8-17; A Christmas Carol, Dec. 6-8 at the Valentine; Noises Off, Jan. 17-26; Love Letters, Feb. 14-16; The Glass Menagerie, April 11-20; Moonglow, May 8-11, and Young Frankenstein, the New Mel Brooks Musical, June 6-22.

Here are even more season samplings from the Toledo area: For the Devil Tells Me So, Oct. 24-Nov.1, Glacity Theatre Collective; War of the Worlds, A “Live” Radio Broadcast, Oct. 1-Nov. 2, 3B Productions at Maumee Indoor Theater, Maumee; The Odd Couple, Nov. 1-3, Monroe Community Players at Monroe County Community College Meyer Theater; Kids Say the Darndest Things, Dec. 6-15, Archbold Community Theatre, Giffey Hall, Ridgeville Corners, Ohio; Farndale Townswomen Society of A Christmas Carol, Dec. 6-15, Williams County Community Theater, Little Theater off the Square, Bryan, Ohio; M*A*S*H, Feb. 14-22, Oregon Community Theatre, Fassett Middle School, Oregon; Flamingo Court, Feb. 21-March 2, Genoa Civic Theatre; Rex’s Exes, March 7-16 Fremont Community Theatre, Fremont; The King and I, May 9-11, Waterville Playshop at Zion Lutheran Church, Waterville; and Towards Zero, May 9-18, Black Swamp Players at First United Methodist Church, Bowling Green.

Take a look at the theater calendar for the most complete list available at the time of publication.