MILWAUKEE: Artistic director Mark Clements has announced Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s 2015–16 season. It will include three world premieres, a new play by Ayad Akhtar (a Milwaukee-raised writer just getting his first production at the Rep) and a lavish revival of Dreamgirls.
“The plays we have selected for next season reflect our continued commitment to producing theater that is both enlightening and entertaining with strong, substantive stories,” said Clements in a statement.
Added managing director Chad Bauman in a statement, “The plays selected for next year offer us the opportunity to engage with our community in important ways and to continue the deep, meaningful conversations that emerge from the work on our stages.”
At the Rep’s larger stage, the Quadracci Powerhouse, the season will kick off with Dreamgirls (Sept. 22–Nov. 1), starring local favorite Nova W. Payton; Clements will direct. Agatha Christie’s popular mystery The Mousetrap is next at the Quadracci (Nov. 17 –Dec. 20). Clements will then direct John Steinbeck’s classic Of Mice and Men (Jan. 19–Feb. 21, 2016).
The Quadracci is next the site of a world premiere commission, Australian writer Joanna Murray-Smith’s American Song, also directed by Clements (March 15–April 10, 2016). Murray-Smith’s play, which stars local star Jim DeVita, is about an ordinary man who turns on the TV news and knows his happy life is about to take a shocking turn.
The mainstage season concludes with a new production of August Wilson’s classic Fences, directed by Penumbra Theatre founder Lou Bellamy (April 26–May 22, 2016).
In the Rep’s more intimate Stackner Cabaret, the season begins with the world premiere of Back Home Again: On the Road with John Denver, a revue created by Randal Myler and Dan Wheetman; Myler previously created or co-created such similar shows at Low Down Dirty Blues and Hank Williams: Lost Highway. The show will run Sept. 11–Nov. 8.
Next at the Stackner is the return of the popular Guys on Ice, a comic musical about Northern Wisconsin ice fishers by Fred Alley and James Kaplan. It will run through the holidays, Nov. 13–Jan. 17, 2016.
Then Angelo Parra and Joe Brancato’s revue The Devil’s Music: The Life and Blues of Bessie Smith will rock the Stackner, Jan. 22–Mar. 20, 2016. Zonya Love will star in the title role (Smith, not the Devil). Rounding out the Stackner season is a new revue inspired by women in music throughout history, Kevin Ramsey’s Sirens of Song (March 25–May 29, 2016).
In the still more intimate Stiemke Studio, the season includes two recent acclaimed offerings from Off-Broadway: a run of Benjamin Scheuer’s acclaimed one-man musical The Lion (Sept. 30–Nov. 8) and a production of Pulitzer winner Akhtar’s penetrating new thriller The Invisible Hand (Feb. 24–April 3).
The season also includes such special offerings as A Christmas Carol at Milwaukee’s Pabst Theater (Dec. 1–24) and the “Rep Lab” short play festival, offered Jan. 8–11, 2016 in the Stiemke Studio.