What a great week to be a theater lover in the Brazos Valley. StageCenter and The Theatre Company are opening new productions, Navasota Theatre Alliance ends its run of Steel Magnolias today and Unity Theatre in Brenham heads for a second weekend with its Rodgers and Hammerstein tribute show A Grand Night for Singing.
StageCenter in Downtown Bryan opens its new season Thursday night with The Desk Set, a 1955 play by William Marchant. The play may be more than 60 years old, but the issues are as current as today.
Bunny Watson is in charge of the reference library for a major broadcast network in New York City. She knows the answer to just about every question or at least knows how to find it quickly. The network secretly is planning a merger with another company and orders two computers to help its employees take on extra work. With the computers comes efficiency expert Richard Sumner. He is surprised that Bunny his match and they spar and, of course, fall in love.
Shirley Booth played Bunny on Broadway, but was passed over for the 1957 film, which starred Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Like me, you may have seen the movie and loved it, but the play differs somewhat from the film. You'll just have to go to StageCenter to see the difference.
Desk Set will run Thursday through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. through Oct. 21. Adult tickets are $15, while student and senior tickets are $12. All tickets for Thursday night performances are $10. They are available online at www.stagecenter.net or at the door, if any remain. StageCenter is located at 201-B W. 26th St. in Downtown Bryan, above Mr. G's Pizza.
Director Molly Painter said, "The Desk Set is the kind of classic production that never loses its charm and appeal. While the fashions and technology of the 1950s may have changed through the years, the characters and situations haven't. People still spend most of their day at the office, learning to work with many different kinds of people, building relationships and relying on, or sometimes cursing, technology.
"I like the story of The Desk Set because our heroine isn't a naïve 20-something with very little life experience; the lead is an incredibly intelligent, poised and confident woman who has worked her way up to a management role and gained the respect of her employees in the process. She knows how to hold her own. It's a role that Katharine Hepburn played in the movie version, so that should tell you something about the strength of the character."
She said, "Audiences can expect to be transported back to 1955 where they'll meet smart, likeable characters who enjoy working together, despite some personnel changes and obstacles that inevitably pop up.
"The show is a comedy, and most notably, a smart comedy; I've never had to look up so many word pronunciations for a show!"
Painter said, "I couldn't have asked for a more wonderful group of people to work with on this show. The cast has been working really hard and taking a great interest in the show and the time period.
"Our lead roles are played by Karen Sparks and Michael Prince. Karen was recently in StageCenter's The Dixie Swim Club as Dinah, and Michael has been in several Theatre Co. productions, such as Passion/Assassins and Big River. The other cast members have great theater experience from our community and elsewhere, and they all bring a lot of heart to the show."
Others in the cast are Micaela Eagle, Donna Lee Sullins, Scott McDuffie, John "Buck" Stephen, Annette Brittain, Max Lampo, Kelley McKethan, Lucas Ybarra and Shervonne Smithey.
In addition to Painter, others on the crew are Micaela Eagle and Kelley McKethan, assistant directors; John "Buck" Stephen, curtain; Jennifer Hargis, graphics and programs; Alan Bryant, Sean Buchanan, Bill Chollett, Chaz Macklin, Keith Painter, Molly Painter and Shervonne Smithey, Emmarac engineers; Larry Ezzell, lighting design; the Knit Pickers of Alexander Methodist Church, muffler/scarf knitters; Molly Painter, music, props and set design; Chaz Macklin, New York City mural; Maggie McGrew, director and cast, painting and set construction; Alan Bryant, photography; Vicki Carter and Stephen Woodruff, sound; and Annette Brittain and Shervonne Smith, stage managers.
You may have seen Painter on stage at StageCenter before, but this is her directorial debut. "This is my first time directing after being bitten by the theater bug a few years ago. I've always loved theater and used to imagine what it would be like to be on stage or to have a say in the production of the show.
"After being on stage several times and loving it, someone planted a seed that I should try my hand at directing.
"A lot of work goes into directing, especially in a small community theater where it's all hands on deck, but I can honestly say I've enjoyed every minute of it. It's really been a dream come true, and this show and this cast have made it extra special for me."
Painter said The Desk Set is appropriate for ages 13 and older.
A beastly beautiful show
One of the most beloved musicals of the past 25 years comes to The Theatre Company in Bryan this week. Disney's Beauty and the Beast begins a three-weekend run Friday night and performances are sure to sell out.
In fact, Theatre Company artistic director Adrienne Dobson said, "Buying tickets ahead of time is definitely encouraged; it's sure to sell out!"
Tickets are $20 for adults, $17 for seniors and students and $7 for children 12 and younger. Tickets for Saturday matinees are $15. If you want to go, get your tickets online now: www.theatrecompany.com. Nothing is worse than a child in tears at the theater because mom and dad or grandma and grandpa waited until the last minute to try to get tickets.
Dobson said, "Beauty and the Beast is a beautiful story for all ages."
Beauty and the Beast had its debut in the old Music Hall in downtown Houston before moving to Broadway.
Dobson said, "When Beauty and the Beast made its debut on Broadway, it kicked off an era of spectacular Disney musicals. Lion King followed soon after, and is still running strong today.
"Coming soon to Broadway is Frozen, which is playing currently in Denver, Colorado.
"But Beauty and the Beast changed the game for Disney and what they could bring to the Broadway stage.
Dobson said, "This was one of my favorite movies growing up. Most women my age grew up identifying with Belle more so than other Disney princesses, because of her intelligence and heart.
"As a fellow bookworm, I always found Belle to be an inspiring figure. She's not afraid to stand out from the crowd and stand up for what she believes in.
"Berkley Jones, last seen at The Theatre Company as Wednesday Addams, does a remarkable job of bringing Belle to life."
Dobson said, "I was a part of the cast in 2004 when The Theatre Company brought Beauty and the Beast. I have wonderful memories of the people and the production, as did Randy Wilson, and we knew it was the right time to bring it back.
In addition to Jones as Belle, others in lead roles include: Paul Early as the Beast; Nathan Kocmoud as the prince; Daniel Timothy Hill as Maurice; Scott Mills as Gaston; Andrew Armstrong as Lefou; Benjamin Ikwuagwu as Monsieur D'Arque; Roger Pine as Lumiere; Zack Brattin as Cogsworth; Armineh Davis as Babette; Amy Henss as Mrs. Potts; Matthew Winn as Chip; and Stacy Erskine as Madame de la Grande Bouche.
Others in the cast are Camilla Busselberg, Christina Freeman, Janie Kate Jordan, Jacki Kilgore, Christiana Kocmoud, Caleb Ryan Coke, Lucas Dickson, Anna Hale, Asher Hinton, Katy Sutton, Lily Van Zandt, Corey Barron, Shiloh Bartee, Henry Bradford, Jasia Correa, Oliver Gorman, Gigi Greene, Kelsie Kullman, Mandy Kullman, Chaz Macklin, Riley Mae McMahon, John McMullen, Kathryn Morgan, Royce Pine, Camille Powers, Caroline Powers, William Shirley, Macie Steer, Steve Tinkle, Ryan Topf, Joshua Weirich, Madelyn Weirich, Taylor Williams and Brooke Wollam.
That's almost 50 talented actors on stage. Dobson said, "Working with such a large cast definitely requires a lot of coordination, but our production team has been doing a great job.
"Chris Hoffman has been leading them in non-stop music rehearsals, and Ellen Wilcox has created some incredible dance numbers.
"It's a big cast, but a very dedicated cast, and they are looking and sounding better than ever! Most of our cast doubles as villagers and enchanted castle objects, so they hardly get to rest once the curtain opens."
Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. The Theatre Company is located behind JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts in Bryan's Tejas Center.
In addition to Dobson as director, the crew includes John Greene, producer; Robin Sutton, stage manager; Ellen Wilcox, choreographer; Chris Hoffman, music director; Becky Dickson and Shannon Van Zandt, costume designers; Woody Lee, light designer; Chaz Macklin, set designer; Lucas Dickson, Kathryn Morgan and Amy Pope, painting; Patric Morgan, sound; Cody Arn, lightboard; Mandy Mershon, assistant stage manager; Skye Finley, assistant set design; Sophia Amstalden, Katia Amstalden, Carly Bartee, Luis Codiz, Ginny Garrison-Tate, Brittney Green, Linda Hale, Susan Harty, Karen Kullman, Terry Noack, Ronda Nutt, Kathy Oelze, Sandy Peck, Misti Steer, Robin Sutton, Erin Topf and Karen Winn, costume crew; Taylor Christenson and Jessi de Silva, hair and makeup; Ann Collins, properties; and Josiah Kocmoud and Brandon Topf, spotlights.
Special thanks goes to Chris Benner, Daniel Harrison, Bethany Harrison and Matthew Winkler.
Watson Wealth Management, David M. Watson, is underwriting Beauty and the Beast.
Other underwriters include: Lynn Holleran and Charles Bowman, orchestra and technical; Sandy Peck, costumes; Kent Moore Cabinets, Casey and Rachel Moore, and Terri Burger, sets; and Joe and Kristi Orr as well as Jay and Courtney Morgan, marketing.
Dobson said, "Audiences can expect to see an all-star cast of Theatre Company favorites, along with some very talented new faces.
"Every cast and crew member has been working tirelessly to get this show up and running, and the results are going to be beautiful!
"The costume team in particular, led by Becky Dickson and Shannon Van Zandt, are producing works of art. The final moments of Be Our Guest, when the stage is filled with enchanted characters, will be particularly breathtaking."
A wild ride
Shakespeare as you probably never have seen him comes to Texas A&M Wednesday when the amazing Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts presents Q Brothers -- Q Gents.
The academy website says, "The Q Brothers return to high school in their hip hop reimagining of Two Gentlemen of Verona. Proteus and Valentine are high school football stars at Verona College Prep who learn a thing or two about love, learning and loyalty. Over 20 characters are played by two actors who never leave the stage in this 75-minute wild ride."
The performance will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Rudder Theatre on the Texas A&M campus. General admission tickets are $7, while student tickets are $5. They are available at the MSC Box Office on the first floor of Rudder Tower, online at boxoffice.tamu.edu or at 979-845-1234.
The website continues, "The Q Brothers, GQ, and JQ, have created and appeared in award-winning, internationally acclaimed productions with company members Jackson Doran and Postell Pringle, including Othello: The Remix and Funk it Up About Nothin' -- both musical, hip-hop 'ad-RAP-tations' of Shakespeare's classics -- and A Q Brothers' Christmas Carol, written with Doran and Pringle, based on the Dickens classic.
"They like to take classic works and translate them into modern contexts, while staying true to the original stories. Doing it this way, they believe they are paying homage to the original authors, and it makes their timeless stories more accessible to modern day audiences.
"Their plays are in rhyme, and performed over original music spun by a live deejay. They call them 'Add-Rap-Tations.'
"The Q Brothers also conduct hip hop workshops for children of all ages, and have worked with Connecticut College, Lehigh University, Lollapalooza Music Festival, Austin City Limits Music Festival, the Latin School of Chicago and Chicago Public Schools."
For more information, go to academyarts.tamu.edu.
The Community Chamber Concerts brings the world to Bryan-College Station during its season opener Tuesday night at First Presbyterian Church in Bryan.
The Zorá String Quartet will perform at 7 p.m. The concert is free and includes free child care and a reception with the artists after the concert.
Members of the quartet are from China, Thailand, South Korea and Spain. Dechopol Kowintaweewat, violin; Seula Lee, violin; Pablo Muñoz Salido, viola; and Zizai Ning, cello comprise the Zorá String Quartet.
In 2015, the quartet earned three major awards: the Young Concert Artists International Auditions, the Grand Prize and Gold Medal of the Fischoff Chamber Music Competition, and First Prize in the Coleman Chamber Music Competition in California. They also were awarded the Sander Buchman Debut Prize of Young Concert Artists and five concert prizes. As a result of winning the Fischoff Competition, they toured the Midwest and appeared at the 2016 Emilia Romagna Festival in Italy. In 2016, they were chosen as the Quartet in Residence at the Curtis Institute of Music.
The New York Times said, "From the first phrase of the opening movement, played by the Zorá String Quartet with rich sound and wistful beauty, I knew this would be an eloquent and probing performance."
First Presbyterian Church is located at 1100 Carter Creek Parkway in Bryan.
The Community Chamber Concerts are a gift to the Brazos Valley by the Friends of Chamber Music.
• Today -- Steel Magnolias, Navasota Theatre Alliance, 104 W. Washington Ave. in downtown Navasota, 2 p.m. Tickets are $7 to $14 and are available by calling 936-825-3195 or online at navasotatheatre.org.
• Through Oct. 15 -- A Grand Night for Singing, a tribute to Rodgers and Hammerstein, Unity Theatre, 300 Church St. in downtown Brenham, 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 4 p.m. Sundays. $30. (tickets.unitybrenham.org)
• Oct. 13 and 14 -- Laugh Out Loud! improvisation show, Brazos Valley TROUPE, 29th Street Studio, 3702 E. 29th St. in Bryan's Town & Country Center. (bvtroupe.com)
• Oct. 20 through 22 -- Lights, Camera ... Action!, Brazos Valley TROUPE, 29th Street Studio, 3702 E. 29th St. in Bryan's Town & Country Center. (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 email@example.com. Deadline is noon Tuesday before the weekend you want it to run.