Stage is set for spectacular season at area theaters

Couldn’t get to Broadway to see award-winning musicals? Then head instead to Vero Beach and Melbourne theaters for both old chestnuts and the fresh stuff – mysteries, quirky comedies, dramas and musicals rest on the drawing boards for area theaters next seasons.

Vero Beach has the big kahuna – Riverside Theatre. It is, of course, a professional regional theater which holds auditions in New York City. Equity actor Warren Kelly, an audience favorite at Riverside, said actors line up around the block to audition for Riverside because of its sterling reputation. The actors will soon have an added bonus – enjoying rooms at the theater’s own Star Suites by Riverside Theatre, which is scheduled to open early next year.

The shows scheduled for next season include two Broadway blockbuster musicals – “Evita,” and “My Fair Lady.” Riverside launches the season with the rousingly rockin’ revue “Smokey Joe’s Café” and closes with the upbeat musical comedy “Legally Blonde.” The only play on the main stage this season is “The Last Romance,” a romantic comedy centered on love among the Medicare crowd.

With the success of the musical “Drood” last season, the theater is mounting another contemporary musical – “Next to Normal” – in its second stage theater, the Waxlax Stage. The other Waxlax production is the entertaining drama “Ghost-Writer.”

“It’s always exciting when we announce a new season,” said Allen Cornell, Riverside Theatre’s producing artistic director/CEO. “Riverside strives to create engaging and entertaining productions that represent a broad spectrum of theatrical choices, from the recent to the golden age of the Broadway musical.”

Cornell said they strive each year to progressively raise the bar on the level of their work.

“It’s exhilarating when we team with the finest professional actors, directors, designers and musicians in the business to create the best theatrical experience possible,” Cornell adds. “Riverside is a remarkable testament to the desire of our community to have a great theatre in a small town and I encourage everyone to celebrate the theatre’s 45th season.”

The play-reading committee at Vero Beach Theatre Guild chose a wide range of theater genres for the upcoming season, with shows that appeal to ladies who lunch, solid holiday fare, musical comedies and mysteries.

No need to wait until the fall – the season actually kicks off this summer with the annual reunion of five Southern women in the comedy “The Dixie Swim Club.” Another delightful group of belles closes the season with “The Savanah Sipping Society.” One of its freshest offerings is Steven Dietz’s contemporary play “Yankee Tavern,” in which 9/11 conspiracy theories run rampant in a New York City bar. The whodunits continue with “The Games Afoot or Holmes for the Holidays.”

Rounding out the season are Broadway’s eternal farce, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” and the lighthearted comedy “Miracle on South Division Street.”

Just a short drive north of here, Melbourne theaters also have plenty on tap.

“We at Melbourne Civic Theatre have everything you need in our 2018-2019 season,” said managing and artistic director Peg Girard, “music, laughter, soul-searching and suspense.”

Girard, who always likes to produce a drama each season, begins her season with an audience-pleasing musical, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” based on the 1988 movie with Steve Martin and Michael Caine.

MCT’s straight plays – a theater term for non-musicals – include the entertaining mystery “Sleuth,” and the off-beat comedy “Sylvia,” which has in its cast a woman who portrays a dog.  On the other side of the spectrum is the classic Henrik Ibsen drama “Hedda Gabler,” about an aristocratic woman in a loveless marriage to a pedantic academic.

The Henegar has a season filled with big musicals and a couple of dramas for its intimate second stage, Upstairs at the Henegar. Its overarching concept is the subject of “Home.”

“Home is the most important place in all our lives so this season we are inviting everyone to ‘Come Home to the Henegar,’” said Amanda Cheyenne Manis, Henegar’s artistic director,  “whether it is a literal home in ‘The Wiz’ or the home of simply being comfortable with yourself and your public persona as in ‘Red.’ In shows like ‘Willy Wonka’ and ‘Tarzan,’ the search for home and place of belonging is foremost to the story.”

Opposite of that, she said, both “Bonnie & Clyde,” based on the 1967 movie with Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, and “West Side Story,” based on Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” can show the effect not belonging can have on people.

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