2020 theater predictions: a year of music, variety and female clout

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Contemplating the lineup of 2020 plays remaining this Pulsar season, there is much to get excited about. One reason is because some splashy musicals are on the way. I predict they will all make a splash at the box office.

In February, the MSU Department of Theatre offers the popular, two-sided, “Into the Woods.” In May, Starlight Dinner Theatre tackles the showy “Guys and Dolls.” Also in May, Peppermint Creek Theatre Co. is presenting the complex musical “Fun Home.”

In June, Owosso Community Players showcases the Mel Brooks and Tomas Meehan classic, “The Producers.” June is also when Riverwalk Theatre has the colorful “Shrek the Musical.”

I predict — with the variety of plays coming up — there will be something for everyone.

Riverwalk Theatre has the silly, two cops, three crooks and eight doors, “Unnecessary Farce,” starting Feb. 6. Lansing Community College Performing Arts has Sam Shepard’s intense drama, “True West” the last two weekends of February. In March, The Curtainless Theatre takes us to Rome in 44 B.C. for “The Tragedy of Julius Caesar.” Celebrating Christmas a little earlier this year, the SDT transports us to King Henry II’s medieval Christmas in “The Lion in winter.”

PCT scored “Cost of Living,” a 2018 Pulitzer Prize winner for drama, for its March play. It’s about two couples, with one of each pair being disabled. I predict the production of the emotional play will have a profound effect on those who see it.

Ixion Theatre’s March show, “The Skeleton Crew,” is about workers fearing unemployment— much like last year’s “Sweat” at Riverwalk. But since it’s written by Dominique Morisseau — author of last year’s “Sunset Baby” at LCC — I predict “The Skeleton Crew” will be a grittier production.

Many of the upcoming area plays have a focus on gender roles. I predict some standout female performances will shine through.

Starting Jan. 16, PCT presents “Gloria,” which features a plum role for an actress. This play is not to be confused with the titular 1980 Gena Rowlands movie. This “Gloria” focuses on a woman who violently reacts to the toxicity of her co-workers’ actions in a heated debate over who can cover the death of a popular celebrity. I predict the staged gun violence will be difficult to sit through.

Starting at the same time, Riverwalk’s “Boy Gets Girl” isn’t any ordinary love story. In it, Theresa Bedell is a successful New York City reporter whose life is upended by a disturbed admirer.

From Feb. 7 to March 1, Williamston Theatre has “900 Miles to International Falls.” In this futuristic drama, Tanya Freeman is the resilient mother who refuses to give up her son to the chaos. Starting April 3, WT has “The Mortal Hosts.” In the dramedy, two strong female characters (and a more docile male) are survivors of a Book of Revelations-like disaster.

In March, Riverwalk has “A Hotel on Marvin Gardens.” It’s a sardonic comedy about American greed using a Monopoly game as a metaphor for the interplay of its characters. The ring leader of the fiscal debacle is none other than a powerful female, KC.

In April, MSU has the gender bending “Marian, or the True Tale of Robin Hood.”

The same actress playing Lady Marian will portray Robin, and not all the Merry Men are played by men.

OCP’s April production is “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress,” a comedy about five bridesmaids in the same attire who get in touch with their real feelings.

WT’s May offering is a dark comedy about tornado survivors called “Alabaster.” The play has four cast members and they are all female. Like many of the season’s plays, “Alabaster” is about the power of women.

Finally, I predict the Pulsar judges will have a hard time narrowing down the best of 2020.

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