Kansas City theater companies announce plans for 2016-17 seasons

James More is one of the artists in the touring production of “Illusionists — Live From Broadway,” part of the 2016-17 Kansas City Broadway Series.
James More is one of the artists in the touring production of “Illusionists — Live From Broadway,” part of the 2016-17 Kansas City Broadway Series. Luar-Magic

A classic British musical, a classic American drama, a new musical that might be Broadway-bound and new works by emerging writers are on tap for Kansas City Repertory Theatre’s 2016-17 season.

Here’s how it breaks down:

▪ “Evita,” by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, Sept. 9-Oct. 2 at the Spencer Theatre. Eric Rosen, the Rep’s artistic director, will stage the production.

The show, arguably the best written by Lloyd Webber and Rice, uses the life of Eva Peron, first lady of Argentina and the wife of President Juan Peron in the 1940s and ’50s, as its point of departure. The show is sung through, with minimal spoken dialogue.

As is his wont, Rosen will try to bring the show to life in a fresh light and draw appropriate parallels to modern politics.

“I saw a picture of Hillary (Clinton) and she was using a portrait that looked exactly like Eva Peron,” Rosen said. “It starts in a movie theater and ends in a movie theater, and there’s all this meta-theatrical stuff that would make me interested in taking it apart and trying to make something new.”

The production, he said, would incorporate archival footage and photographs.

▪ “The Invisible Hand,” by Ayad Akhtar, Oct. 14-Nov. 13 at Copaken Stage. Jerry Genochio, director of production at the Rep, will stage the show. Akhtar’s “The Who & the What,” about a Pakistani-American family in Atlanta, was staged by the Rep in 2014.

“The play is about an American banker who finds himself in Pakistan, abducted by an insurgent terrorist group … and the banker tells his captors how to manipulate the international currency markets,” Rosen said. “It’s about terrorism and America’s impact on the Middle East and banking. It’s like a very, very smart version of ‘Homeland.’ 

▪ “The Fabulous Fitches,” a new musical by David Gursky (music), Robert Cary (lyrics and book) and Benjamin Feldman (book). The show, directed by Scott Schwartz, runs Jan. 27-Feb. 19, 2017, at the Spencer.

“This is a brand new, very funny musical — kind of an homage to screwball comedies of the 1930s and ’40s,” Rosen said. “It takes place in Palm Beach … but it really is a laugh out-loud, rude and contemporary comedy. Every ‘ism’ you can imagine is skewered in the show.”

Schwartz, the son of Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz, directed “Jane Eyre” and “Golda’s Balcony” on Broadway. His off-Broadway credits include “Tick, Tick … Boom!” and “Bat Boy: The Musical.”

Rosen said the show is being developed with a New York producing partner, and the ultimate goal is to get it to Broadway.

“It’s the largest musical we’ve ever done,” Rosen said. “This is something I’ve wanted us to be doing in terms of launching these bigger, commercial musicals. It’s huge — 16 musicians, 16 or 18 actors. Very big show, lots of fun.”

▪ “Constellations,” by Nick Payne, Feb. 24-March 26, 2017, at Copaken Stage. Rosen will direct this show.

“It’s a very smart romance, a two-hander charting a romantic relationship over time,” he said. “The woman is an astrophysicist specializing in string theory, and as you move on you realize that metaphor is very relevant to the story. … It’s like ‘Copenhagen’ meets ‘Love Letters.’ It’s smart and beautifully moving.”

▪ “A Raisin in the Sun,” by Lorraine Hansberry, March 17-April 9, 2017, at the Spencer Theatre. No director has been hired for this show yet. The classic about a black family moving into a white neighborhood in the 1950s was staged by the Rep in 2006.

“It’s one of the great American plays, one of the important plays that everybody should see, and that’s one thing the Rep is here for,” Rosen said. “I think the Rep is taking a continued leadership role in the national conversation about race and gender.”

To do a “broadly appealing, widely recognized title of an important play by the most important African-American woman playwright” will help the Rep build its educational mission, Rosen said. Currently, about 10,000 students a year see shows at the Rep.

“We’re trying to get that up to 15,000 over the next three years,” he said.

▪ KC New Works Festival, April 21-May 21, 2017, at Copaken Stage. The plays are “What Would Crazy Horse Do?” by Larissa FastHorse, and “Man in Love,” by Christina Anderson, a native of Kansas City, Kan.

Rosen described the playwrights as “huge rising stars among people like us who do plays like this. We want the Rep to be an important place for writers to emerge.”

FastHorse’s play is a fictional narrative based on a real event in which the two remaining members of a dying tribe meet a woman in the Ku Klux Klan who wants to project a gentler image of the notorious organization.

“It really makes you start to think about what race means to people who think their race is disappearing or people whose race is actually disappearing,” Rosen said.

Rosen described Anderson’s piece as a serial-killer play.

“It’s epic and scary and feels like a 1930s thriller,” he said.

The festival will also include a third play, so far unannounced.

“In terms of the Rep’s leadership and commitment to diversity and inclusion, we scored two of the most important women-of-color writers, plus (the Rep’s resident playwright) Nathan Jackson,” Rosen said. “We are killing it on the diversity front.”

The Rep will also stage its annual holiday shows — “A Christmas Carol” at the Spencer and “Santaland Diaries” at Copaken.

Find out more at kcrep.org.

Broadway series

Theater League and Broadway Across America will again offer a joint season ticket to shows at the Music Hall and the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

The regular season includes:

▪ “Illusionists — Live From Broadway,” Nov. 15-20 at the Music Hall. This is literally a magic show featuring the talents of seven masters practiced in the arts of illusion, deception and “escapology.”

▪ “The Phantom of the Opera,” Feb. 8-19, 2017, at the Music Hall. Yes, the perennial Andrew Lloyd Webber hit is still out on the road and will likely find a responsive audience in KC, just as it always has.

▪ “Beautiful — The Carole King Musical,” March 28-April 2, 2017, at the Music Hall. The legendary songwriter’s life is the subject of this bio-musical. The good news, of course, is that it includes her hits — “Chains,” “(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman,” “Beautiful,” “I Feel the Earth Move” and many more.

▪ 42nd Street,” the Broadway show based on the 1933 movie, May 2-7, 2017, at the Kauffman Center.

▪ “Fun Home,” May 30-June 4, 2017, at the Kauffman Center. Playwright Lisa Kron and composer Jeanine Tesori based the award-winning musical on Alison Bechdel’s 2006 graphic novel memoir about Bechdel’s relationship with her gay father. The award-winning show has been described as the first Broadway musical with a lesbian protagonist.

In addition to the subscription package, Theater League is bringing back “Stomp” as an extra show that patrons can swap for one of the shows on the regular season; it runs Jan. 13-14, 2017. And Broadway Across America is bringing back “The Book of Mormon” Dec. 6-11.

Learn more at theaterleague.com.

Kansas City Actors Theatre

Kansas City Actors Theatre will offer a 12th season of four shows at the H&R Block City Stage at Union Station. Specific dates have not yet been released.

The season kicks off in August with Herb Gardner’s 1985 Tony-winning Broadway drama “I’m Not Rappaport.” Dennis D. Hennessey, co-owner of the New Theatre, directs a cast that includes Victor Raider-Wexler, Granvile T. O’Neal, Cheryl Weaver, Mark Robbins, Amy Attaway, Matthew Lindblom and Logan Black.

The second production will be Tennessee Williams’ classic “A Streetcar Named Desire,” winner of the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for drama. Sidonie Garrett, artistic director of the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, will stage the show. It features Cinnamon Schultz as Blanche DuBois.

The season continues in January 2017 with award-winning British playwright David Hare’s “Skylight,” winner of the 1996 Olivier Award, which will feature John Rensenhouse and be directed by Darren Sextro.

The season concludes with “The Realistic Joneses” by Will Eno. The dramatic comedy about two suburban couples who share a last name and inhabit identical homes has been described as having the quality of a dark sitcom. It ran on Broadway in 2014. John Rensenhouse will direct. The cast includes Jan Rogge and Brian Paulette.

Tickets will go on sale in April at kcactors.org.