With 2022’s marvelous Mardi Gras now a happy memory and Covid slowly but surely being brought under control, New Orleans’ spring theater season will get to blossom fully for the first time in three years. Here are some of the shows that will be opening between now and Jazzfest. I hope you’ll get to see some — or all — of them!
The venerable Le Petit Théâtre Du Vieux Carré returns with The House That Will Not Stand (through Mar. 20). Marcus Gardley’s adaptation of Federico García Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba, reset in an Esplanade Avenue mansion in the early 1800s, examines plaçage, an arrangement by which free women of color entered into contractual agreements to serve as mistresses of rich white men.
Seen off-Broadway in 2018, I felt its mix of low comedy and high drama was pitched by its director at too consistent an emotional level. I thus look forward to seeing how Abigail Jean-baptiste will handle a cast led by such local stalwarts as Tommye Myrick and Troi Bechet. More information at https://www.lepetittheatre.com/listings/events/the-house-that-will-not-stand.html
Le Petit follows House with Tribes (Apr. 8-May 1, inc. a week off for Easter), an award-winning British drama by Nina Raine about a family in which one of the sons is deaf. The father, an academic, has raised his son only to read lips. When Billy meets a young woman who teaches him Sign Language, it leads, despite some soap opera-ish elements in Raine’s script, to a thoroughly involving dramatic showdown. (https://www.lepetittheatre.com/listings/events/tribes-by-nina-raine.html)
Over in the Marigny, musician/performer Esquizito returns to the stage with the premier of his adaptation of the written work of New Orleans icon Danny Barker. Three Vignettes of The District is a trilogy of tales (The Naked Dance, Beansy’s Boudoir, and Whitefolks Weber) taken from Barker’s posthumous publication, Buddy Bolden and the Last Days of Storyville.
Previously, Esquizito has adapted and staged other stories from the collection as well as the first volume of Barker’s memoirs, A Life In Jazz. He declares, “Bringing to life the infamous and forgotten characters of New Orleans’ Red Light District is a terrific gas!”, adding “And of course, Danny Barker is the most fascinating character of them all!”
Three Vignettes of The District plays Friday, March 11, at 8:00pm, and Sunday, March 13, at 5:00pm at Café Istanbul, inside the New Orleans Healing Center, where Esquizito last performed a Barker adaption, Clark Wade – a Jazzy Tragedy, as part of InFringe 2019. Seating will be socially distanced and limited with tickets available at the door.
Two other musical legends appear in One Night with Billie & Ella (Mar. 18-27) at the WWII Museum’s Stage Door Canteen. Written and directed by Brittany Williams, whose Tell It To Me Sweet for The NOLA Project last fall was a delight, the show promises “banter, jokes, jazz, and blues” as well as such classics as God Bless the Child, Stormy Weather, and more.
Chloé Marie Johnson stars as Ella Fitzgerald, Kathleen Moore as Billie Holiday, with Harry Mayronne serving as Musical Director. The show will have a live 3-piece band accompanying the singers. (https://www.nationalww2museum.org/programs/one-night-billie-ella)
Phil Melancon, Rich Look and Larry Beron celebrate the unhinged genius of the Prince of Parody in Everybody Likes A Smart Ass — Sam Adams Revived. Songs ranging from Moonlight of the Industrial Canal to Never Put Canaries In Your Panty Hose, demonstrate how Sam’s lyrical ear and fluid brain painted the town with an Orleanian tomfoolery.
Everybody Likes A Smart Ass plays at 7:00pm on March 10 at Prytania’s Canal Place Theaters, and March 12 & 17 at Monkey Hill Bar (6100 Magazine St.). For more info, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (504) 202-0986.
Running March 23-27, the Tennessee Williams & New Orleans Literary Festival (https://tennesseewilliams.net/) is back celebrating the 75th anniversary of A Streetcar Named Desire and featuring, among many others, Michael Cerveris, Augustin J Correro, Brenda Currin, Rickie Lee Jones, Errol Laborde, Glen Pitre, Kathy Randels, Nathaniel Rich, Kalamu Ya Salaam, Oliver Thomas, and Poppy Tooker.
There’ll be readings, cocktails, theater of all sorts, walking tours, and, of course, the annual “Stella Shout” as well as the LGBTQ+ themed Saints+Sinners Literary Festival (https://www.sasfest.org/) for which yours truly will be interviewing David Pevsner about his recently published memoir Damn Shame.
Debuting as part of the TW Fest (and running until Apr. 9) will be the Tennessee Williams Theatre Company of New Orleans’s Covid-delayed For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls, an evening of three send-ups of Williams’ oeuvre. Christopher Durang penned the first two (Desire, Desire, Desire and the titular comedy) which spoof the master dramatist’s most iconic works (Glass Menagerie, Streetcar Named Desire, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) by taking delirious aim at Blanche, Big Daddy, Maggie, Stanley, and the whole Wingfield family. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s Swamp Gothic, a loving mashup of Suddenly, Last Summer and Swamp Thing comics, rounds out the bill with promises of a spooky and noir-ish finale.
Augustin J Correro directs TWTCNO’s grand re-opening which is sure to be 90-minutes of nonstop, wild and wacky fun (especially so since Tracey Collins is featured in the cast). Southern Belle plays at the Lower Depths Theatre on Loyola University‘s campus. More info and tickets at https://www.twtheatrenola.com/productions
Opening a few weeks after Saints+Sinners, Fairykind (Apr. 15-May 2) could certainly be part of it. This musical fantasy in two acts follows Emerald, a young woman of the Everworld, as she pursues what she hopes may be the reality of her recurring Fairykind dream. Facing countless obstacles along the way, from dubious traveling companions to a wicked Enchantress to riddles in song, Emerald must discover her own identity, not only for her sake, but for the sake of the Everworld. Fairykind is an adventure for all who are willing to seek the Magic that has been lost.
Written and directed by Trey Ming, whose The Night Fiona Flawless Went Mad was a highlight of 2019, Fairykind performs in The Twilight Room at the AllWays Lounge (Tickets and more info at www.SlottedSpoonProductions.com)
A slightly more conventional musical can be found in Jefferson Parish when JPAS presents Shrek The Musical at the Jefferson Performing Arts Center (Mar. 11-20). This ogre fairy tale features an unlikely hero who finds himself on a life-changing journey alongside a wisecracking Donkey and a feisty Princess who resists her rescue. Throw in a short-tempered bad guy, a cookie with an attitude and over a dozen other fairy tale misfits, and you’ve got the kind of mess that calls for a real hero. Luckily, there’s one on hand…and his name is Shrek.
Kristopher Shaw directs a large cast headed by Enrico Cannella, Micah Richerand Desonier, Josiah Rodgers, and Scott Sauber. More info at https://www.jpas.org/performance/shrek-the-musical/
JPAS stays in fairy tale mode with its next offering, Cinderella (Apr. 8-10 and 22-24). This new Broadway adaptation of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s classic musical includes such beloved songs as In My Own Little Corner, Impossible/It’s Possible, and Ten Minutes Ago, alongside an updated libretto by Douglas Carter Beane. (https://www.jpas.org/performance/cinderella/)
Rivertown Theaters for the Performing Arts in Kenner also has some traditional but not stodgy musicals lined up. First up is The Drowsy Chaperone (Mar. 11-27) which tells the story of a modern day musical theater addict, known simply as “Man in Chair”. To chase his blues away he drops the needle on his favorite LP, the 1928 musical comedy, “The Drowsy Chaperone.” From the crackle of his hi-fi, the musical, about a pampered Broadway starlet who wants to give up show business to get married, magically bursts into life on-stage in his apartment.
Directed by Gary Rucker, The Drowsy Chaperone stars Ricky Graham as “Man in Chair” (https://www.rivertowntheaters.com/event/The-Drowsy-Chaperone)
Next up is Nunsense 2 (Apr. 7-24), also directed by Rucker, which takes place six weeks after The Little Sisters of Hoboken staged their first benefit. The Sisters are back presenting a “thank-you” show for all the people who supported them in the past. But now, they’re a bit slicker, having been “bitten by the theater bug.” See what happens as chaos erupts prior to a rousing finale. (https://www.rivertowntheaters.com/event/Nunsense-2)
To our east, Slidell Little Theatre presents Ken Ludwig’s comedy Moon Over Buffalo (Mar. 11-20) which centers on George and Charlotte Hay, fading stars of the 1950s, who do everything in their power to make the great movie director Frank Capra cast them in his next film.
The fun continues with the ultimate jukebox musical Mamma Mia! (Apr. 15-May 1). All you Dancing Queens and Super Troupers should revel in 2 dozen ABBA songs that fuel a yarn about a young woman’s search for her birth father on a Greek island paradise just as she’s about to get married. (https://www.slidelllittletheatre.org/2021-2022-mainstage-season?pageid=172704)
Further north, in Mandeville, 30 by Ninety Theatre should keep you laughing with Noises Off (through Mar. 20), Michael Frayn’s comic masterpiece about a company of actors rehearsing a godawful sex comedy called “Nothing’s On”. Doors slamming, on and offstage intrigue, and an errant plate of sardines all figure in the plot of this hilarious play. (https://30byninety.com/shows/noises-off/)
Beth Henley’s Pulitzer Prize-winner Crimes of the Heart comes next at 30 by 90. This dramedy about three sisters in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, remains the ne plus ultra of Southern Gothic theater with its trio of seemingly eccentric siblings who are ultimately revealed to be very tender humans at their cores. (https://30byninety.com/shows/crimes-of-the-heart/)
I’m not too familiar with How the Other Half Loves, but it’s the play that made Alan Ayckbourn’s reputation and I’m looking forward to seeing it at Playmakers in Covington where it plays March 26-April 10.
As I prefer not to know too much about a play before I see it, I’ll just cut’n’paste this description and not even read it: “As Bob and Fiona clumsily try to cover up their affair, their spouses’ intervention only adds to the confusion. William and Mary Featherstone become hopelessly stuck in the middle which culminates in two disastrous dinner parties on successive nights, shown at the same time, after which the future of all three couples seems in jeopardy.”
Oops, I did read it and I just realized I saw it in London five years ago. Tis a funny one and I’m still looking forward to it. (https://playmakers-theater-05.webself.net/)
I know I haven’t seen If You Have Ghosts which plays March 13 at The Columns Hotel. Equal parts rock show, play, dance performance and vintage cocktail party, If You Have Ghosts plunges the audience into a world of luxury and sensuality, set to a soundtrack by Malevitus, Tiana Hux’s soul-spiked art rock outfit, and accompanied by local aerial troupe The Flying Buttresses.
The band invites attendees to don their finest cocktail hour ensembles and become guests at a gathering inside the stately home of a Garden District matriarch. There, beneath the scenic canopy of St. Charles Avenue oak trees, partygoers will enjoy craft cocktails from Seven-Three Distilling and hors d’oeuvres by Columns chef, Paul Terrebonne.
Once the party and performance get underway, guests become privy to the inner turmoil plaguing their hostess. The elegant atmosphere she’s created is repeatedly disrupted by her mischievous son and daughter and an encroaching swarm of shadowy spirits. It’s not long before a psychological battle of wills unfolds between the lady of the house, her children and those pesky ghosts. For ticketing info, visit @Malevitus on Instagram.
And if you want to see what such creative types might have looked like 200 or so years ago, plan to attend New Orleans Opera’s production of La bohème at the Mahalia Jackson Theater April 1 and 3. With Puccini’s gorgeous music, this is the original tale of two struggling young lovers, long before it was updated and became Rent. (https://neworleansopera.org/puccinis-la-boheme/)