Waiting in the Wings

Normally, the second half of South Florida's theatrical season comes up rosier than the first; this is the time of the tourists, when artistic companies present their most interesting offerings and try to appeal to a broader audience in terms of age and interests. Unfortunately, this year -- partly owing to ACME's, the Miami Actor's Studio's, and the Florida Shakespeare Festival's financial problems and uncertain futures, which leave their schedules very much up in the air -- the next six months promises a few bright spots on the boards, but not nearly enough to get my blood simmering.

Of course, the BIG event is unveiled on March 28, at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, when Miss Saigon debuts in the area. You can reserve tickets now, and make sure you have excellent seats from which to watch that now-famous helicopter prop land on the stage in the middle of an exquisitely choreographed production number.

Five Guys Named Moe, starting February 15, and the newest revival of Guys and Dolls, opening March 1, should provide the highlights of the Jackie Gleason Theater's lineup, because I'm sure every soul on the planet has seen the other two scheduled shows: Cats and Les Miserables.

So go the big extravaganzas, brought to you by folks with thick wallets. But what about local lights, with less cash to throw around? Well, speaking of light, those truly inspired, cutting-edge producers, the Miami Light Project, will be presenting Spalding Gray, the famous monologist, showcasing his newest work, Gray's Anatomy at the Colony Theater on March 3-5. I wouldn't miss hearing this genius at work on stage for anything. Nor would I miss a chance to see Tony Award winner Len Cariou play Ernest Hemingway in the celebrated one-man show Papa at the Caldwell Theatre Company from January 30 to March 30.

Less fascinating, but probably still worth checking out, will be Ali, a one-man show about the boxer, which debuts February 15 in Coconut Grove Playhouse's Encore Room, and Neil Simon's relatively new Jake's Women on the main stage of the Grove Playhouse (slated to start its run March 1). If you like bilingual light comedy, in the mode of the television show ¨Que pasa, U.S.A.?, then you'll want to catch the new play by the author of that TV show, Luis Santeiro; the play is called The Rooster and the Egg and it begins May 10 at the Playhouse.

From the Actor's Playhouse, Prom Queens Unchained, a campy, original work scheduled for May 11, could be loads of fun, and the Lunatic Theatre's production of Sam Shepard's Fool for Love could be explosive (although the traveling company hasn't settled on a location or opening date as of this writing). Jeanne Talbot from Mondo Miami promises two more innovative works in the same vein as her successful A Criminal Sorority, but again, dates, names of works, and places are still up in the air.

New Theater's production of To Gillian, on Her 37th Birthday, a romantic ghost story with great meaning, opens on February 25 and should provide a memorable evening, since the play is excellent and director Rafael de Acha usually selects an equally gifted cast. Not so certain are the Bridge Theater's interesting debuts of Latin American plays translated into English. El Macho, a tale of the ultimately unfaithful husband, premiering March 18, and Burning Patience, about a poet's role in a budding romance, opening June 3, could be excellent works -- but let's hope J.D. Steel, the Bridge Theater's artistic director, doesn't severely diminish the merit of both plays as he did with the first offering of his season, Under a Mantle of Stars, by hiring a clearly amateurish cast.

Certainly, a lot of other shows are opening around town, such as the usual array of tried and true offerings like The Odd Couple, Funny Girl, Kiss Me Kate, A Chorus Line, Lend Me a Tenor, et cetera. Most of these scripts I could quote you by heart, but the productions may merit yet another visit.

The biggest news of the upcoming season will probably concern not the opening of a single show, but an entire company: the Miami Skyline Theatre at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts. After three years of hiring staff and performers, organizing, and fundraising, the producers insist they'll finally unlock their doors February 18 with Once Upon a Mattress, that princess and the pea musical thang, which to me is a less-than-inspired choice. For Skyline, I'm looking forward to the debut on June 4 of their brand new musical creation, Lucky Guy, and also to their July 2 offering, Ariel Dorfman's Death and the Maiden. Concerning the latter work, it will be interesting to see how a more "intimate" play works on the big stage at Gusman.

Of course, things change all the time, and new companies spring up (especially on the Beach) with little advance notice. I certainly hope such surprise theatrical events begin to appear soon and give this coming season a bit more sparkle. Still, we have come a long way from a decade ago, when the only thing opening would have been Miss Saigon and perhaps one or two other musicals. Blessings must be counted regularly.


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