Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre recently announced its new season of plays and musicals, which features three world premieres. On May 22-23, 2012, the Alliance Theatre presented the annual “Taste of the Season” event for its patrons. In addition to offering guests a preview of the 2012-2013 seasons for the Alliance and Hertz stages, the program offered a look at the Family series as well. After the show, guests were given a “taste” of local restaurants in the lobby. Restaurant partners such as The Flying Biscuit, DaVinci’s Pizzeria, and The Melting Pot participated in the event.
The show opened with a song and dance from the American premiere of the musical Zorro, but the highlight of the evening was clearly a humorous and heartfelt reading by playwright and Alliance Theatre Artist-in-Dialogue Pearl Cleage. Reading a monologue from her new play What I Learned in Paris, which makes its world premiere in September, Cleage effortlessly made the audience excited about the Alliance Stage’s season opener.
During the rest of the program, audiences were treated to scenes from other plays to be presented throughout the year. Chris Moses and Danielle Deadwyler provided fun glimpses of Charlotte’s Web and The Real Tweenagers of Atlanta: The Final Assembly from the Family Series.
As a reunion of sorts from the acclaimed August: Osage County from two seasons ago, Atlanta actresses Brenda Bynum, Tess Malis Kincaid and Carolyn Cook participated in raucous game of Bingo from the recent Broadway hit Good People. Courtenay Collins and Steve Coulter gave an intriguing look at the new family drama Apples and Oranges, written by Alfred Uhry, author of Driving Miss Daisy. Giving a heart-wrenching performance, John Stewart delivered a scene from The Whipping Man. Mike Lew, winner of the Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Award, also spoke about his new play Bike America.
The Alliance Theatre will present three musicals during the season: Christmas with the Chalks on the Hertz Stage along with Zorro and Next to Normal on the Alliance Stage. Mary Brienza, Kathryn Markey and Leenya Rideout were both hilarious and charming, previewing their show Holidays with the Chalks with “The Car Song.” With many holiday shows to choose from throughout Atlanta, Holidays with the Chalks looks like it will be a welcome addition for adults.
To end the event, Artistic Director Susan V. Booth came on stage to introduce the regional premier of the Pulitzer Prize Winning Next to Normal. The show follows Diana Goodman and her family as they deal with her bi-polar disorder. Booth’s brief spill on the show was full of passion for this ground-breaking piece of theatre. Then David Bryant Johnson appeared onstage as Diana’s son Gabe and the moment fizzled.
Clearly not understanding the lyrics of “I’m Alive,” Johnson hopped around the stage trying to sing to individual members of the audience. To make matters worse his voice could not hit the notes of the song. The second song performed, “Superboy and the Invisible Girl,” was a decent choice. It is definitely powerful to watch in the musical, but to those unfamiliar with the story, the songs meaning could be a little confusing. Lyndsay Ricketson was perfect portraying Diana’s daughter Natalie and Johnson did better with an onstage partner.
Perhaps a better performance choice to introduce Next to Normal would have been “You Don’t Know/I Am the One.” For those interested, you can check out the Original Broadway Company’s performance at the 2010 Tony Awards by clicking here. This thrilling scene gives a glimpse into the struggles of the Goodman family and showcases the brilliance of writers Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt.
I love Next to Normal (see my blog regarding the National Tour) and couldn’t be more excited about the Alliance Theatre’s upcoming production. I just hope that those attending the “Taste of the Season” event with no prior knowledge of Next to Normal will give it a chance despite the miscalculated preview. Next to Normal is one of the best new musicals out there, and it’s safe to say that the Alliance Theatre will give it first-class treatment.
With an exciting new season planned, the Alliance Theatre is proudly urging audience members to “Be in on it.” For full descriptions of the 2012-2013 season line up, please visit the Alliance Theatre’s website. Individual tickets are not yet on sale, but season subscriptions are available online or by calling 404-733-4600.
By Andrew Wesley