Way back in the days when I was a lad, Labor Day marked the beginning of the school year. Now, of course, school districts and universities get their fall semesters underway a couple of weeks earlier.
Similarly, Labor Day to me psychologically is the unofficial start of a new theater season, so let’s use that as a benchmark to take a look at what’s coming up on local stages between now and New Year’s Day.
• The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis kicks off its 2013-14 season with a presentation of the Kander & Ebb classic, Cabaret, one of the most daring and successful musicals of the late 20th century. Marcia Dodge will direct this sophisticated descent into Nazi Germany from Sept. 11 through Oct. 6. Next on The Rep’s Mainstage will be Fly, from Oct. 16 through Nov. 10. Based on the experiences of the Tuskegee Airmen, it delineates the lives of four courageous black pilots training to fly combat aircraft during World War II. Then, Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap provides holiday entertainment Dec. 4 to 29. And The Rep’s Studio series begins with Freud’s Last Session, a dramatic look at a meeting between Sigmund Freud and notable atheist-turned-Christian writer C.S. Lewis, Oct. 30 through Nov. 17.
• The refurbished Fox Theatre, showing off a gleaming, newly remodeled ceiling in the 1929 structure, opens its season on Sept. 20 with a weekend of another long-running Kander & Ebb standard, Chicago. The season continues with a new production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice collaboration, Evita, Oct. 8 to 20, followed by a pair of musicals based on movies, Sister Act, Nov. 19 to Dec. 1; and Elf, running Dec. 17 to 29. Beauty and the Beast has a three-day run Nov. 1 to 3, and A Christmas Carol takes the stage Dec. 5 to 8.
• Peabody Opera House begins its five-show Broadway season on Nov. 15, when a revival of Stephen Schwartz’ Godspell opens a three-day run.
• STAGES, which has sold out most of its performances this summer, closes its 2013 season Sept. 6 through Oct. 6 with a presentation of Lerner and Loewe’s masterpiece, My Fair Lady, which has been performed just once (1989) in STAGES’ history. Christopher Guilmet and Pamela Brumley will portray Professor Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle, respectively.
• The Black Rep, presently searching for a new home after the Grandel Theatre was sold, will present Daniel Beaty’s acclaimed one-man show, Emergency, Sept. 5 to 15, at the Hotchner Theatre at Washington University. Ron Conner will portray 40 characters in the tale about a slave ship sailing into present-day New York City harbor.
• HotCity Theatre stages a new production of Joe Orton’s first full-length play (from 1964) when it presents Entertaining Mr. Sloane Sept. 6 to 21. Then the troupe, which focuses on contemporary programming and new play development, will produce a comedy by William Missouri Downs titled Kosher Lutherans from Dec. 6 to 21, about a Jewish couple who masquerade as Christians when they learn that the mother of the baby they are adopting is from the backwoods Bible Belt.
• Stray Dog Theatre reprises one of the biggest hits from its first decade when it begins its 2013-14 season with the return of Evil Dead the Musical. That’s followed up Dec. 5 to 21 with a “touching, funny and highly imaginative retelling of the Christmas story” titled The Butterfingers Angel, Mary & Joseph, Herod the Nut and the Slaughter of 12 Hit Carols in a Pear Tree, which may be shorter than its name.
• New Line Theatre opens its 23rd season of “adventurous, alternative musical theatre” with the regional premiere of the musical thriller, Night of the Living Dead, from Oct. 10 through Nov. 2. Artistic director Scott Miller says it’s “based on the iconic 1968 George Romero film that reinvented the zombie movie for contemporary culture.”
• New Jewish Theatre gets its new season underway Oct. 3 to 20 with a production of The Good Doctor, Neil Simon’s take on Anton Chekhov. That’s followed Dec. 5 to 22 by a one-woman show titled Hannah Senesh, taken from the actual diary of the Israeli heroine who parachuted behind Nazi lines to save Hungarian Jews.
• Mustard Seed Theatre begins its season Sept. 5 to 15 when it presents The Purpose Project: Thao’s Library, the story of two unlikely friends, one of whom is a Vietnamese woman who was born with life-threatening birth defects from Agent Orange. Its second show, running Nov. 8 to 24, is titled All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914, an a cappella musical celebrating the power of peace.
• St. Louis Actors’ Studio’s seventh season opens Sept. 20 to Oct. 6 with a production of Suzan-Lori Parks’ Top Dog Under Dog. The company’s second show, running Nov. 8 to 24, will be a production of NickySilver’s fractured tale, Pterodactyls.
• R-S Theatrics, with its focus on works new to the region, presents Parade, a Tony Award-winning musical by Alfred Uhry and Jason Robert Brown, Sept. 6 to 15. From Dec. 6 to 15, the company will stage Oh Hell!–An Evening of Two One-Acts, including David Mamet’s Bobby Gould in Hell (a character from his Speed-the-Plow) and Shel Silverstein’s The Devil and Billy Markham.
• Insight Theatre Company concludes its 2013 season Sept. 12 to 29 with a presentation of Thornton Wilder’s classic work, Our Town, at Heagney Theatre on the campus of Nerinx Hall High School.
• Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble calls its 2013-14 series the “Season of the Monster.” Stephen Mallatratt’s venerable ghost story, The Woman in Black, will be presented Oct. 30 through Nov. 9.
• Dramatic License Productions presents The Best of Broadway Sept. 13 to 15 as part of its DLP Cabaret Series. That’s followed Oct. 31 through Nov. 17 with a production of Tuesdays with Morrie, and then A Holiday Musical Revue Dec. 13 to 15.
• St. Louis Shakespeare offers a new production of The Comedy of Errors from Oct. 18 through 26.
• OnSite Theatre’s final show of its 2013 season will be a new work titled The Trivia Job, written by Dan Rubin and directed by Anna Pileggi, opening in October and inspired by the perennially popular trivia nights.
• West End Players Guild opens its 103rd season Sept. 27 with the St. Louis premiere of Lee Blessing’s Lonesome Hollow, a futuristic story about sex offenders consigned to privately-run gulags. In November, the troupe will present Harold Pinter’s dark comedy, The Hothouse, followed in December by a presentation of Medal of Honor Rag, a parry-and-thrust debate between a Vietnam veteran and his psychiatrist.
• New companies will be busy, as well: Tesseract Theatre begins its season with a production of Jean Anouilh’s Antigone Nov. 1 to 10. Theatre Lab will offer a 24-hour play festival in November, and Encore! Theater Group’s season includes future production of David Mamet’s Oleanna, Toyer by Gardner McKay and a work titled Dear Linda, Signed, Me.
So, if you’re looking for something to do most any weekend this fall, consider an evening of live theater. The performers, directors, designers and staffs all will thank you for your participation.