StageCenter season full of comedy and drama

The main dancers of Adopted are, from left to right, top, Kyla Dehaven and Raimie WWest; second row, Arianna McNeese-Garcia, Abby Dang and Ellie Ji; bottom row, Oceana Parker and Sarah Kate Stolz. Based on the classic Broadway musical Annie, Adopted will be presented by Suzanne’s School of Dance for three performances in Rudder Auditorium on Saturday and May 28. Admission is free.

StageCenter, this area's oldest community theater, announced its upcoming season last week and what a fantastic season it will be, full of great drama and classic comedy.

At Wednesday night's preview party, StageCenter also unveiled a new logo.

StageCenter began in 1964 and has produced shows in a variety of locations. Now, StageCenter is located at 201-B W. 26th St. in Downtown Bryan, above Mr. G's Pizza. Theater officials are looking for a new home, hopefully in Downtown Bryan.

The new season will kick off with The Desk Set by William Marchant, a 1955 comedy that starred Shirley Booth on Broadway. The play is the basis for the classic 1957 movie of the same name, starring the incomparable Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.

Molly Painter will direct the production. The play will run Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Oct. 5-21. Auditions will be Aug. 14 and Aug. 15.

The play is set in the reference department of a large television and radio company in mid-town Manhattan. Bunny Watson heads the all-female staff of the department with reliable efficiency. The staff is full of knowledge or at least can find needed answers quickly. Soon, mid-century technology enters the picture and change ensues. Efficiency expert Richard Sumner arrives to install two computers to handle the functions of the reference department. The comedy centers on the interaction of humans with technology.

Younger audiences weaned on technology will enjoy seeing how it was at the dawn of computers, while older people will remember those emotionally charged times, perhaps with great fondness.

The second show of the season combine two of my favorite things: Sherlock Holmes and Christmas. Mandy Mershon will direct The Game's Afoot, or Holmes for the Holidays by the award-winning playwright Ken Ludwig.

Performances will be Nov. 30 through Dec. 16. Auditions will be Oct. 9 and Oct. 10.

The play focuses on William Gillette, a real-life actor at the dawn of the 20th century who was best-known for his portrayal of Arthur Conan-Doyle's most famous creation. It is Christmas Eve and Gillette and his mother play host for the weekend to four fellow actors, Felix and Madge and Simon and Aggie. A murder occurs and Gillette must put on his Sherlock Holmes persona to try to solve it.

Ludwig is a prodigious author and director. Among his shows are Lend Me a Tenor, Crazy for You, Moon Over Buffalo, the musical adaptation of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the adaptation of Twentieth Century. His hysterical comedy, Leading Ladies, plays June 1 through June 18 at Unity Theatre in Brenham.

Opening up the new year will be Tennessee William's personal favorite drama, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, directed by Leah Fletcher. The show will run Feb. 28 through Feb. 24. Auditions will be Dec. 4 and Dec. 5.

You probably have seen the 1958 movie starring Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor, with Burl Ives recreating his Broadway role as Big Daddy, but you may not have seen the drama on stage, where it is at its most powerful.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is set in the Mississippi Delta on the planation of wealthy cotton-grower Big Daddy Pollitt. The play revolves around the relationships of the Pollitt family, especially son Brick and his wife, Margaret, known as "Maggie the Cat."

Themes of the play include lies, deception and death. It definitely is not a comedy, but it is drama that will stick with you long after the curtain closes.

Perhaps to lighten the new year, StageCenter will present Woody Allen's Play It Again,Sam, helmed by actor-director Jay Thompson, a veteran of StageCenter, Navasota Theatre Alliance and The Theatre Company.

Play It Again, Sam will run April 5 through April 21, with auditions on February 19 and Feb. 20.

Allen was an up-and-coming comedian when he wrote and starred in Play It Again, Sam in 1969. The New York Times raved, "Hilarious ... a cheerful romp. Not only are Mr. Allen's jokes and their follow ups, asides and twists audaciously brilliant, but he has a great sense of character."

Allen plays nebbish film critic Allan Felix who is besotted with actor Humphrey Bogart. Felix calls on Bogie to help him get a girl.

The play was turned into an eponymous 1972 film starring Allen, Diane Keaton and Tony Roberts.

The New York Post said, "A funny, likeable comedy that has a surprising amount of wistful appeal."

Starting the StageCenter Summer will be Last of the Boys by Steven Dietz, set to run June 7 through June 23, 2018. Chaz Pitman has returned to Bryan-College Station and we are so much better for it. He recently starred as Mark Twain in Big River at The Theatre Company and now he will be on the other side of the footlights.

Auditions will be April 16 and April 17.

Last of the Boys, which premiered in 2004, is set in a abandoned California trailer park during the "final summer of the 20th century." Ben, a veteran of the Vietnam War, is the last resident of the trailer park. He is visited by his friend Jeter, who shared a life-changing moment with Ben outside Dak To, Vietnam, in 1967. The memories of that encounter bind them, but also, more than 30 years later, threatens to destroy their friendship.

Dietz use flashes of humor throughout the drama. Ben assumes the persona of then-Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara to cover up the terrible memories of that event on the road to Dak To.

The answers are never easy and the conclusion is ambiguous, but audiences will find it hard to ignore Last of the Boys.

StageCenter will conclude its 2017-2018 season with the classic Ben Hecht-Charles MacArthur 1932 comedy Twentieth Century. Directed by StageCenter veteran Jennifer Hargis, Twentieth Century will run Aug. 9 through Aug. 25, 2018. Auditions will be June 18 and June 19, 2018.

Twentieth Century is based on an unproduced play about Charles B. Millholland's experiences working with the legendary Broadway impresario David Belasco. In 1978, the play was turned into the popular musical On the Twentieth Century.

The play, to be presented by StageCenter, is set in the observation car of the New York Central luxury train 20th Century Limited (I have a picture hanging in my office), traveling from Chicago to New York City. Theater producer Oscar Jaffee is in desperate need of a Broadway hit and he tries to convince his former protégé Lily Garland, now a movie star, to return to be in his production.

In 1950, José Ferrer directed and starred in a revival opposite Gloria Swanson, who designed her own costumes. I hope she was ready for her close up!

In 2004, playwright Ken Ludwig, adapted a new Broadway version, starring Alec Baldwin and Anne Heche.

"We think you're going to love what we have in store!" Hargis said.

There still are opportunities to sponsor any of these wonderful productions and to purchase season tickets. Season tickets are $75 for adults and $60 senior patrons and students. For more information, go online to www.stagecenter.net.

If the upcoming StageCenter season doesn't get you excited about live theater in the Brazos Valley, then nothing will.

Big show

Suzanne's School of Dance in College Station is preparing its production of Adopted, based on the classic Broadway musical Annie. Performances will be at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. May 28 in Rudder Auditorium on the campus of Texas A&M University. Admission is free.

Every year, Suzanne's School of Dance puts on a performance that tells a story. In previous years, Suzanne's School of Dance has presented, among others, Chronicles of Narnia, Frozen and The Lion King.

This isn't a dance recital, but story-telling at its best.

Adopted will star Kyla Dehaven, Raimie West, Arianna McNeese-Garcia, Abby Jang, Ellie Ji, Oceana Parker and Sarah Kate Stolz. Andrew Roblyer of This Is Water Theatre will portray Daddy Warbucks.

Stolz danced the part of Clara in December at BalletBrazos' presentation of the The Nutcracker Ballet.

Raimie West plays Annie and is thrilled to be dancing this part. She has been dancing off and on since the age of 4, but did not become a serious dance student until 5 years ago when she got her first part in The Nutcracker Ballet. She is a junior and homeschools with Classical Conversations. She leaves in June to continue her dance training at the renowned Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. She will spend her senior year of high school training there full time in the hopes of receiving a spot in a professional ballet company after high school.

Suzanne's School of Dance, owned by Patrick and Bethany Sleebos, is the largest dance school in the area, with more than 400 students. It is the only dance school in town with a pre-professional ballet training program. Dancers from this program will open the Adopted show with excerpts from the ballet Esmerelda, choreographed by Kathy Ellison and Kerry Godkins.

Overtures

• Today -- Final performance of Clue-Less, Brazos Valley TROUPE, 29th Street Studio, 3702 E. 29th St. in Bryan's Town & Country Center, $12, groups of five people are $50, while groups of 10 people are $80. (bvtroupe.com)

• Every Sunday -- Open mics and poetry slams sponsored by Mic Check Poetry, 8:30 p.m. Revolution Café in Downtown Bryan, (miccheckpoetry.com)

Items for Arts Watch should be emailed to robert.borden@theeagle.com. Deadline is noon Tuesday before the weekend you want it to run.

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