By Randall Jobe
Houston audiences can beat the summer heat by taking advantage of air-conditioned local playhouses presenting a wide variety of spectacular productions ranging from lavish musicals to comic feel-good shows. All of our local theatres depend on your ticket purchases and attendance to keep their doors open and that precious cool air up and running.
A.D. Players presents West Side Story, with book by Arthur Laurents, featuring the original Leonard Bernstein score, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and Jerome Robbins’ iconic choreography. “Say it loud and there’s music playing. Say it soft and it’s almost like praying.” There is no more recognizable love tragedy than Romeo and Juliet. West Side Story takes that tale and sets it in the upper west side of Manhattan in the mid 1950s. In the middle of two rival gangs from different sides of the tracks, we find Tony and Maria falling in love. Through July 28. The George Theater, 5420 Westheimer Road. Tickets: ADPlayers.org or 713-526-2721.
Ensemble Theatre Houston presents Josephine Tonight, a regional premiere with book and lyrics by Sherman Yellen and music by Wally Harper. A musical biography of showbiz legend Josephine Baker, Josephine Tonight draws on the early life of the internationally known singer, actress, and nightclub sensation who wowed audiences in America and Europe in the first quarter of the 20th century, and reveals the relationship of the young Josephine and her laundress mother who steers her towards success and guides her to remember her roots. Through July 28. 3535 Main Street. Tickets: EnsembleHouston.com or 713-520-0055.
Main Street Theatre presents You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, celebrating the comic strip, Peanuts. The family musical celebrates the gang’s escapades with kites, school, and unrequited love. Through July 28. Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston, 3400 Main Street. Tickets: 713-21-4533.
Main Street Theatre also presents Noel Coward’s Private Lives, one of the most sophisticated and entertaining comedies ever written. Elyot and Amanda, one married and now divorced, meet again while honeymooning with new spouses at the same hotel and discover the old flame still burns hotly. Within days of being reunited once again their fiery romance alternates between passionate fits of love and anger. Of course, the new spouses are none too pleased about all the chaos. Through August 11. Main Street Theater, 2540 Times Blvd. Tickets: 713-524-3622.
The Catastrophic Theatre presents Speeding Motorcycle, directed by Tamarie Cooper and Jason Nodler with words and music by Daniel Johnston. An all-time Catastrophic favorite returns! The original rock opera, based entirely on the songs of legendary outsider musician Daniel Johnston, was originally performed to rave reviews in 2006 and received glowing coverage in the New York Times. Speeding Motorcycle takes audiences into the astounding, heartbreaking world of one of America’s most compelling cult musicians. The story concerns a man named Joe Boxer who loses his mind when he’s rejected by the woman he loves so she can marry an undertaker and become his assistant. Joe decides the only way to be with her is to die, so she’ll prepare his body for the burial. That’s the first half of the story: He resolves to die. The second half is his afterlife, after the funeral. What does he do next? Through August 4. Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston, 3400 Main Street. Tickets: MatchHouston.org or 713-521-4533.
Theatre Suburbia presents Murderous Crossroad, a comic Agatha-Christie style interactive mystery by David Landau. The year is 1923 and the unsuspecting audience members are passengers on board the HMS Victoria as it crosses the English Channel. The famous Inspector Churrot has tracked down a homicidal mastermind hiding out on board. Meanwhile, the ship is the vessel of matrimony of
The Alley Theatre moves full steam ahead this summer with the classic thriller, Murder on the Orient Express. This plot-twist masterpiece has captivated mystery lovers from television, radio, and film, and now audiences have the chance to experience this lush mystery live onstage. Playwright Ken Ludwig (The Three Musketeers) adapts the classic thriller that features renowned detective Hercule Poirot and a cast of characters sure to have the audience guessing just who did it. Don’t miss your chance at being at the scene of this masterpiece crime featured in ExxonMobil’s Summer Chills series. Suitable for ages 12 and up. Through August 25. 615 Texas Avenue. Tickets: AlleyTheatre.org or 713-558-8887.
The Music Box Theater presents Feelin’ Groovy 5, a new production of favorite tunes and greatest hits from the ’60’s and ’70s. Presented by the resident cast of excellent performers, this show features Rebekah Dahl, Brad Scarborough, Luke Wrobel, Kristina Sullivan, and Cay Taylor. Enjoy this cabaret-style show in a relaxed atmosphere with snacks and beverages. Through August 31. 2623 Colquitt. Tickets: TheMusicBoxTheater.com or 713-522-7722.
Stages Repertory Theatre presents The Doyle and Debbie Show. After failed marriages and tabloid scandals, Doyle Mayfield recruits a new singing partner, also his third Debbie, in an attempt to regain his former stardom. But when Debbie’s star starts to rise, the comeback becomes a setback for this has been legend. Featuring original songs: “When You’re Screwing Other Women (Think of Me)”, “Barefoot and Pregnant”, and “ABC’s of Love”, this brilliant parody is a hysterical tribute to country music and its beloved iconic duos. Through September 8. 3201 Allen Parkway. Tickets: StagesTheatre.com or 713-527-0123.
Mildred’s Umbrella presents Museum of Dysfunction XI: The Best of a Decade of Short Plays. From a collection of plays spanning 10 years comes this new weird selection of short plays. This year, Mildred’s Umbrella goes back into the files to bring their top picks from #decadeofdysfunction. Whether it’s your first time or your eleventh time, join in the celebration of the dark, quirky and absurd collection of 20 short plays by emerging and established playwrights, presented over two weekends. July 25 through 27. Spring Street Studios, 1824 Spring Street. Pay what you wish ($25 suggested). Tickets: MildredsUmbrella.com or 832-4623-0409.
Broadway at the Hobby Center presents Rent. In 1996, an original rock musical by a little-known composer opened off Broadway and forever changed the landscape of American theatre. Two decades later, Jonathan Larson’s Rent continues to speak loudly and defiantly to audiences across generations and all over the world. And now, this Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning masterpiece returns to the stage in a vibrant 20th anniversary touring production. A reimagining of Puccini’s La Boheme, Rent follows an unforgettable year in the lives of seven artists struggling to follow their dreams without selling out. With its inspiring message of joy and hope in the face of fear in this timeless celebration of friendship reminds us to measure our lives with the only thing that truly matters: love. August 6 through 11. Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby Street. Tickets: TheHobbyCenter.org or 800-982-2787.