When it’s live, anything can happen, says The Repertory Theatre’s veteran artistic director Steven Woolf. This season, The Rep will showcase that exciting element of live theater during two productions that take audiences backstage. The new lineup also will feature a range of dramatic, comical and mysterious plays. LN recently spoke with Woolf for an inside look at the mainstage season and Studio Theatre series.
Tell us about the opening show.
We are doing Cabaret (Sept. 11-Oct. 6), a landmark musical with lots of famous songs, but it also tells a really personal story of people falling in love as the whole social fabric of Germany is shifting. It’s a spectacular and canny musical with great singing and dancing. Nathan Lee Graham, a St. Louis native and Webster Conservatory graduate (who also has appeared in the films Zoolander, Sweet Home Alabama and Hitch), will be exotic as the emcee. And Liz Pearce is playing Sally Bowles. She’s a knockout with a big voice. We’re also very excited to have Marcia Milgrom Dodge directing. She was nominated for a Tony Award for her production of Ragtime on Broadway.
Describe your next show, Fly, based on a true story.
Fly (Oct. 16–Nov. 10) is based on the Tuskegee Airmen’s story of overcoming issues of race and prejudice during World War II. What makes it unique is the ‘Tap Griot,’ a storyteller who tap dances in metaphors their fears and triumphs. It’s a muscular, powerhouse tap. Then, there also are video sequences. I don’t know that it’s really been done like this before anywhere. People really will be talking about this one.
Talk about your upcoming production of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, the longest-running play of all time.
We have done two or three Agatha Christie plays before, but this will be our first time for The Mousetrap (Dec. 4–29). Agatha Christie onstage is great fun all the time, and she crafts a great ‘whodunit.’ This one is set during a snowstorm, fitting for the holiday season. If people have read it or seen it, they often forget ‘whodunit,’ so it is great fun to try and figure out who is the killer.
What else is on tap for this season?
Opus (Jan. 8–Feb. 2) is a backstage look at a famous string quartet that is booked to play a special show at the White House. The drama is in the internal relationships of the quartet in a world that people don’t know much about. It’s great drama and great music. Other Desert Cities (Feb. 12-March 9) is the story of a family living the good life in Palm Springs, and the daughter has written a tell-all book about this family that puts it in some level of crisis. The politics are very current, and it’s a really unforgettable show.
How will you cap off the season?
We will close with Noises Off (March 19–April 13)—maybe the best modern farce written. It takes place onstage and backstage as a group of ragtag players is touring the English countryside with a play. You see what happens onstage; then, we also flip the set to see what’s happening backstage. It’s phenomenally funny. All the things that you think might happen backstage, happen. And you see how they have to overcome it and pretend nothing’s happening when they go back onstage. It’s truly laugh-out-loud funny.
Speaking of backstage, what goes on behind-the-scenes during The Rep’s plays?
It’s not like Noises Off, we would hope. Our performers are relaxing in the dressing rooms and green room. It’s live theater, so things do happen and you can’t stop and edit the tape. But that’s what so exciting about live theater.
Talk about this year’s Studio Theatre series?
First is Freud’s Last Session (Oct. 30–Nov. 17), a fun, fictional conversation about religion between Freud and C.S. Lewis. Freud is agnostic, and Lewis is a Christian, so their conversation is just fascinating. Then, we will have The Other Place (Jan. 22–Feb. 9), which was on Broadway last year, about a woman who is headed into some level of dementia. She’s trying to figure out what’s happening to her as she works for a company who sells drugs that take care of that very illness. And world-premiere Soups, Stews and Casseroles: 1976 (March 12–30) is written on commission for us by Rebecca Gilman. It is set in a Wisconsin town where the main industry is cheese, and the company is about to be taken over by large corporation. It focuses on what that change means to the community.
From Page to Stage
The Short List of Agatha Christie Works Adapted Into Plays
Alibi (1928; based on the novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd)
Love from a Stranger (1936; based on the short story Philomel Cottage)
Tea for Three (1939; based on the short story Accident)
The Mousetrap (1950; based on the short story Three Blind Mice)
And Then There Were None (2005; based on the novel And Then There Were None)
The Mysterious Affair at Styles (2012; based on the novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles)