The new season scheduled for Washington’s National Theatre seems more promising, at this point, than the Washington Nationals season. The National Theatre will present seven musicals and five non-musicals, including a return of The Illusionists and Blue Man Group to our town; the Washington Nationals’ season presents a firm grip on fourth place in the National League East.
The National season starts with Mike Birbiglia’s one-actor play The New One — the title doesn’t describe the play; it describes the baby girl born to Birbiglia and his wife, the poet Jennifer Hope Stein. Birbiglia packs plenty of observational humor into the play before it turns dark. Birbiglia suffers from REM Behavior Disorder, which makes him do violent and unpredictable things in his sleep. How can he have an infant in his home? Greg Evans of Deadline calls the play “remarkable” and “terrific”. From September 24-29, 2019.
And then: Escape to Margaritaville, a celebration of life so laid back it slips into unconsciousness. Tammy wants a bachlorette weekend before she weds her loathsome fiancée; her bestee Rachel agrees to go with her to — well, to Margaritaville — so that she can study a nearby volcano. Local lounge lizard Tully focuses his attention on Rachel, while the sweet but dim bartender Brick seems to have a thing for Tammy. It turns out that — well, you can guess how it turns out. Book by Greg Garcia and Mike O’Malley, with music and lyrics from the oeuvre of the incomparable Jimmy Buffett. “This jukebox musical is the theatrical equivalent of sipping on a frozen drink while lying on a beach chair in the blazing sun,” says Frank Scheck of the Hollywood Reporter. “It’s not good for you, but it feels good.” From October 8-13 of this year; no word as of yet whether the National will be serving adult beverages to theatergoers.
Jonathan Larson may or may not have been the first to recognize that the nineties, with its recklessness, poverty and disease, resembled the setting of La Boheme, but he certainly used his art to draw this parallel to our attention. The latest tour of Rent, the work which resulted from his observation, will be coming to the National November 12-17, 2019. “Jonathan Larson, the supremely talented artist who with his book, lyrics, and music captured all this like lightning bugs in a jar, first lit up The New York Theatre Workshop and then Broadway with his work,” said Susan Galbraith in this review for DCTS. Rent will run from November 12 to 17, 2019.
Are you a moron when it comes to the history of Latin folks on this continent? I know I am. Fortunately, John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons is coming to the National November 21-23 of this year. “Latin History is never a slog. At moments it even brings to mind something of Hamilton’s high-energy Schoolhouse Rock sensibility: Leguizamo knows that one of the best ways to teach is to entertain,” says Vulture’s Sara Holdren. “By leaning merrily into didacticism, he actually avoids feeling preachy: This is the game we signed up for, after all.”
In December The Illusionists are back in town. “Imagine a 2.5 hour remix of David Blaine’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it card trickery, Criss Angel’s baffling video segments, and Harry Houdini’s classic escapist illusions, set to a pounding musical score,” said DCTS’ Ben Demers in this review when The Illusionists came to the Kennedy Center two years ago. The Illusionists — Magic of the Holidays will run from December 3-8, 2019.
The National Theatre will close out the year with two classical musicals. From December 10-15 of this year, the National will be running Fiddler on the Roof, the 10-Tony-Winning musical about the patiently-endured tribulations of Tevya, a humble milkman in a Jewish village in the middle of Russia at the dawn of the twentieth century. The Tony-winning director Bartlett Sher directs this production, the original of which became the longest-running Broadway musical of all time.
Right after that, we’ll see Jersey Boys — the astonishing story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, set to the music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. ” As rock hagiographies go, this one is grittier and more truthful than most,” Terry Ponick said for DCTS in this review. “True to the genre, the show portrays our guitar heroes as tough down-and-outers who almost miraculously achieve escape velocity from their hopelessly brutalized urban moonscape, laced as it is with fusillades of the F-bomb and periodic stints in the slammer. How do they do it? With hard work and passionate self-belief, all joined at the swiveling hip with uncommon musical talent and synergy.” And, of course, there is all that remarkable music. Des McAnuff directs this show, which won the 2006 Tony for best musical. From December 17, 2019 to January 5, 2020.
Suppose you were about to become King of England — and you couldn’t speak a sentence without stuttering. That’s the dilemma that George VI — the father of the current Queen — faced. So, in deepest secrecy, he went to see a speech therapist, just as you or I might. The story broke years later, and resulted in David Seidler’s The King’s Speech, which will run at The National between February 11 and 16 of next year. Seidler’s play preceded the Oscar-winning movie of the same name, and is in many ways more interesting. “[T]he stage version allows Seidler more room to explore the story’s political background,” says Michael Billington of The Guardian. “[T]he nub of the play lies in the relationship between the stammering Bertie and the therapeutic Lionel which works better than in the film because we get more detail.”
So after the Second World War, a man comes home to Cleveland from his shattering experiences in the South Pacific and tries to start his life as a musician. He learns of a nationwide competition to find an all-veteran band; the winner will play in a Broadway musical. He puts together a crew, then fulfills a promise to a dead buddy by looking up his wife. It turns out she has a terrific voice, and she joins his band. Then he discovers that the “competition” is a means to exploitation. This is Bandstand, and it will run at The National March 3-8, 2020. ” Bandstand is a musical that treads the razor’s edge – is it a romance or is it a veterans’ salute? It is both, and makes no apologies,” says Tulis McCall of New York Theater Guide. This Richard Oberacker – Rob Taylor musical will be directed by Andy Blankenbuehler, who gave us the fabulous choreography in Hamilton.
When spring comes, young hearts turn to thoughts of chocolate. Specifically, the sort of chocolate that Willie Wonka makes, which, if you remember, has its good elements and its bad elements. But Charlie Bucket has won one of five golden passes to Willie’s chocolate factory, and he imagines himself to be the luckiest kid in America. From the pen of famed storyteller Roald Dahl comes Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which will have, The National promises, new music from the songwriters of Hairspray. From April 7 to 26 of next year.
When Jay Leno took over The Tonight Show, one of the first guests he featured was Blue Man Group. After the Blue Men performed their unforgettable antics, Jay chortled, “this isn’t your father’s Tonight Show,” echoing a well-known ad for Oldsmobile. Well, Jay’s long retired from the show but the Blue Men are still around, and from May 8-17, 2020, they will be at the National. “What’s truly special about Blue Man Group is that they combine comedy, technology and music to deliver original and thought-provoking vignettes,” Keith Loria said in this DCTS review of a 2014 appearance at the National. “The Blue Men never speak, seem permanently poker-faced and approach the world with childlike curiosity.”
Finally, what better way to celebrate summer than with Summer: The Donna Summers Musical. This bio-musical, put together by the team that constructed Jersey Boys, tracks the life of LaDonna Adrian Gaines from her early days in Boston through her life as the Queen of Disco to her last days fighting against cancer. “I’m going on record,” says Donna Herman of New York Theater Guide, “I thoroughly enjoyed myself and was very pleased to have seen it.” The National will be playing Summer from July 22 to August 2 of next years.
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