Top theater events of 2014-15

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By: Christine Dolen, 09/19/2014

1. Theater Up Close series, Oct. 2-May 31, Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts’ Carnival Studio Theater in downtown Miami.

For variety, nothing beats the offerings of the four groups presenting shows at the Arsht’s black-box theater: Peter and the Starcatcher, a collaboration by the Arsht and the University of Miami’s Department of Theatre Arts; Detroit, Trust and Betrayal from Zoetic Stage; Into the Woods from the new DreamCatcher Theatre; and The Magnificents, a House Theatre of Chicago show that brings dazzling actor-magician Dennis Watkins (from Death and Harry Houdini) back to Miami.

2. Vanessa Garcia’s Cuban Spring, Oct. 10-Nov. 2, New Theatre world premiere at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center in Cutler Bay.

The South Florida playwright delivers a family drama about secrets and sacrifices. Her play centers on a pregnant “ABC” (American-born Cuban) woman who feels compelled to unearth truths that her husband and parents have been hiding.

3. Israel Horovitz’s My Old Lady, Dec. 3-Jan. 4, Palm Beach Dramaworks in West Palm Beach.

Palm Beach Dramaworks has a fine, varied season of plays coming up, but what makes My Old Lady most intriguing is having Oscar-winner Estelle Parsons in the leading role. She’ll play an elderly Parisian with a secret, a woman whose presence in an apartment inherited by a New Yorker of modest means keeps him from taking possession of the place.

4. Lauren Gunderson’s I and You, Jan. 16-Feb. 8, Theatre at Arts Garage in Delray Beach.

Artistic director Louis Tyrrell has chosen a three-show season by female playwrights (Sarah Treem’s The How and the Why and the world premiere of Allison Gregory’s Uncertain Terms are the others), but Gunderson’s award-winning play is the preseason standout. A chronically ill high school girl and a basketball star are put together for a presentation on Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, leading to a lively debate about poetry and life, as well as a surprise ending.

5. Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Choir Boy, Jan. 24-Feb. 22, GableStage at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables.

McCraney’s work has been produced three times by GableStage, but only The Brothers Size was a McCraney original (the others were adaptations of Shakespeare plays). Choir Boy, a big hit in London and now being produced all over the United States, is about a gay student at a prestigious black prep school who becomes the leader of its admired gospel choir, stirring tensions among his fellow students.

6. Ragtime, Jan. 28-Feb. 22, Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables.

Actors’ Playhouse is going edgy with the hit Off-Broadway rock opera Murder Ballad Oct. 8-Nov. 2, but its once-a-season big Broadway musical is an ambitious one: Ragtime, based on the sprawling E.L. Doctorow novel. The Terrence McNally-Stephen Flaherty-Lynn Ahrens musical explores the intertwining fates of a white, upper-class suburban family, a black musician and a Jewish immigrant at the dawn of the 20th century.

7. Disney’s Newsies, Feb. 3-8, Ziff Ballet Opera House at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Miami.

The Arsht Center is presenting more-familiar Broadway musicals this season — including Cinderella, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and Wicked, not to mention the smash hit Book of Mormon — but the based-on-the-movie Newsies about newspaper-sellers who stood up to their penny-pinching bosses in turn-of-the-century New York City arrives in South Florida as something fresh. The story gets a little sappy, but the dancing is truly spectacular.

8. Motown the Musical, Feb. 24-March 8, Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale.

Likewise, the Broward Center is hosting tried-and-true Broadway fare: Annie, a re-imagined The Phantom of the Opera, The Lion King and Anything Goes. But Diane Paulus’ circus-style version of Pippin brings real reinvention along with it, and Motown the Musical showcases the vast array of artists and hits that came out of Berry Gordy’s musical dream factory in Detroit.

9. Jonathan Larson’s Rent, Slow Burn Theatre production April 9-26, West Boca Performing Arts Theatre in Boca Raton, and April 30-May 3, Aventura Arts & Cultural Center in Aventura.

Slow Burn Theatre is branching out big-time this season, doing an array of musicals (Carrie, Bonnie & Clyde, Rent, Little Shop of Horrors) at its original Boca Raton home, taking Bonnie & Clyde and Rent to Aventura, and doing long runs of The Marvelous Wonderettes and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at the Broward Center. Carbonell Award-winning director Patrick Fitzwater has proven himself adept at all kinds of musicals, but we’re eager to see his take on Jonathan Larson’s La Boheme-inspired rock musical about artists striving to live and thrive in New York.

10. Michael McKeever’s Daniel’s Husband, May 28-June 28, Island City Stage world premiere at the Empire Stage in Fort Lauderdale.

Gay marriage may be a Florida reality by the time the play by the Davie-based McKeever debuts at Island City Stage, which is also doing another world premiere (Michael Aman’s POZ) this season. McKeever’s timely, funny, moving play explores the consequences of present-day reality in which rights are denied to some.

About Vanessa Garcia

Vanessa Garcia is a writer and mulit-media artist