Coming attractions on 2017-18 stages

  • by Richard Dodds
  • Wednesday April 12, 2017
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Seasonal greetings continue, this week with news of 2017-18 productions from two more theatrical presenters: SHN, with a slate of seven touring musicals; and Berkeley Rep, with a season that will include both parts of Angels in America and a new musical about the Temptations.


Life after 'Hamilton'

The country's founding fathers will be vacating the Orpheum Theatre in August, making way for a musical comedy about the founding fathers of musical comedy. Something Rotten!, which finished a two-year Broadway run in January, will open the SHN season with it tongue-in-Aguecheek look at the birth of song-and-dance entertainment in the 16th century as a way to undercut Shakespeare's popularity. The book, music, and lyrics are by Broadway newcomers, but director-choreographer Casey Nicholaw can count Book of Mormon, The Drowsy Chaperone, and Spamalot among his many credits.

Four recent or current Broadway musicals with antecedents as movies will follow. An American in Paris, arriving in September at the Orpheum, is based on the 1951 Gene Kelly-Leslie Caron film about a World War II veteran who stays on in Paris to paint, find romance, and dance to Gershwin songs. Director-choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, known for his work with major ballet companies, won a Tony Award in 2015 for the musical's choreography.

Aladdin, due at the Orpheum in November, has been one of Disney's most successful screen-to-stage enterprises (its director is the above-mentioned Nicholaw) as its Broadway run continues into its fourth year. Arriving in May 2018 at the Orpheum, The Color Purple is the tour based on the recent Broadway revival from acclaimed downsizing director John Doyle (Sweeney Todd), working from the musical first seen in 2005, and itself based on Stephen Spielberg's movie and Alice Walker's novel. That School of Rock, coming to the Orpheum in June 2018, should become a stage musical isn't much of a leap, since the 2003 Jack Black movie it's based on is about a renegade substitute teacher who turns his young students into rock musicians. The surprise is that the score is by Andrew Lloyd Webber in what has become his biggest Broadway commercial hit since Phantom of the Opera.

In the spirit of Jersey Boys, Motown the Musical, and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, now comes On Your Feet: The Emilio and Gloria Estefan Musical, arriving in September 2018 at the Golden Gate, which tells the couple's career story through their music. For the final musical of the season, opening in October 2018 at the Golden Gate, it's back to the movies for Waitress, an indie 2007 film about an unhappily married waitress, an unexpected pregnancy, an affair with her gynecologist, and a pie-baking contest. Singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles made her Broadway songwriting debut with Waitress, which continues its Broadway run.

Current subscribers can renew now for the seven-show season, which includes first dibs on a February return of Book of Mormon, while season tickets go on sale to new members on May 3. Details are at


Stephen Spinella and Joe Mantello were among the stars of the first full production of Angels in America co-directed by Tony Taccone in 1992, who will direct both parts of Tony Kushner's play as part of Berkeley Rep's 2017-18 season. Photo: Schwartz/Thompson

'Temptations' & 'Angels'

There may be Broadway aspirations for Ain't Too Proud �" The Temptations, a world premiere that will open Berkeley Rep's 2017-18 season in August. It's the story of the Detroit harmonizers set to their hits, with direction by Des McAnuff, who had a big hit turning the Four Seasons saga into Jersey Boys.

Another big Berkeley Rep event will come in March, when the theater presents the first major Bay Area production of Tony Kushner's Angels in America in more than 20 years. Its two parts, Millennium Approaches and Perestroika, will be presented in repertory under Tony Taccone's direction. It was the Berkeley artistic director who first commissioned the work for San Francisco's Eureka Theatre, and he co-directed the world-premiere performances of the entire piece in 1992 in Los Angeles.

Nilaja Sun returns to Berkeley Rep as part of its upcoming season in her new solo show Pike St., in which she plays multiple characters as a crisis nears for its central character. Photo: Melissa Friedman

Taccone is also directing the world premiere of Imaginary Comforts, or the Story of the Ghost of the Dead Rabbit starting in October. The play by Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket) is a fantasy exploration of ordinary people trying to make sense of a chaotically comedic world. Gears shift in November with Lillian Hellman's 1941 anti-fascist drama Watch on the Rhine, which combines espionage, blackmail, and one family's efforts to stay out of the fray.

Rounding out the season are two recent works that return popular artists to the theater. Aubergine playwright Julia Cho's new play Office Hour will arrive in February with a tense story of a university instructor's paranoia about a live-shooter situation that resonates off the actions of a mysterious student. Nilaja Sun, whose No Child was seen at Berkeley Rep in 2008, returns in May 2018 with her solo show Pike St. that focuses on a single mother in New York �" while she also plays three generations of a Puerto Rican family as well as various friends and neighbors �" whose family faces a life-or-death situation in the face of a coming storm.

Five- and seven-play season subscriptions are now on sale. More information is available at