It will be time for the Women’s Voices Festival next January, but at Falls Church’s Creative Cauldron, every play in its 2017-2018 season will be an examination of the experiences of women — of all ages and stations.
The Creative Cauldron season will begin October 5 with the Beth Blatt-Jenny Giering musical, The Mistress Cycle. This sounds almost like Top Girls for women whose principal occupation involves sex. Tess, a struggling photographer in Manhattan, meets up with the sexually adventurous writer Anias Nin, Diane de Poitiers, the mistress of the 16th-century French King Henri II, Lulu White, a New Orleans madam from 1900 or so, and a 14-year-old 12th-century concubine named Ching. Matthew Murray of Talkin’ Broadway called The Mistress Cycle “captivating”. Matt Conner will direct the musical, which will run until October 29.
An iconic fictional girl whose life has been turned into a musical is the 19th-century Parisian urchin Madeline, Ludwig Bemelmans’s plucky, winsome Catholic boarding-school resident. In Madeline’s Christmas, all the kids in Madeline’s school have been brought low by the flu just as they enter the Christmas season — except Madeline. It is up to Madeline to brighten the mood, and her scheme is a doozy — involving a rug merchant who dabbles in magic. This is a reprise for Creative Cauldron; DCTS’ Kelly McCorkendale said of its 2014 production that it “rings in the holidays with magic and charm.” Conner will direct; from December 1-23 of this year.
From Madeline to Billie Holiday: Creative Cauldron’s first show of the new year will be Lanie Robertson’s Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill. This fictional recreation of one of the final performances of a woman who is arguably the greatest jazz singer in history is both critically acclaimed and widely produced. DCTS’ Steven McKnight, reviewing a production at the Anacostia Playhouse earlier this year, noted that “[t]he music is terrific [and] the story is memorable.” From February 8 to March 4, 2018; Conner will direct.
Next on the Creative Cauldron docket is the world premiere of an original musical: Witch, by Conner and his longtime collaborator Stephen Gregory Smith. (Conner writes the music; Smith writes the book, and they both write the lyrics.) Witch examines the life and times of powerful women who have been labeled witches, from the time of the Salem Witch trials to the present day. The company has not announced a director for this show, which will run from April 12 to May 6, 2018.
The company wraps up its season with Charlotte’s Web, based on the story of a clever and industrious spider’s efforts to save her best friend, a pig, from becoming the local diner’s blue-plate special. Adapted by Joseph Robinette, this musical features lyrics and music from Charles Strouse, the award-winning writer and composer who has Annie, among others, to his credit. “The story’s great gift is its capacity to reach audiences on many levels. To the youngest crowd, CW plays like a straight-up tale about friendship and helping—a ‘can this pig be saved?’ story,” says Jan Farrington of TheaterJones. “Wised-up preteens and high schoolers hear the notes of love and loss; for them, it’s an early meditation on life, death, and maybe even the food on their plates. For adults, it’s all that plus a bittersweet look at the fleeting nature of life—and how important it is to feel you’ve done something with that life. All these different audiences can be amused and moved on their own terms, and leave with something worth having.” The show will run from May 24 to June 17 of next year.