When it comes to the Greater Boston theater scene, we have learned — with apologies to F. Scott Fitzgerald — that there is indeed a second act.
The theater community is making quite the comeback with a bountiful 2023-2024 season after the pandemic nearly brought down the curtain for so many production companies.
Jared Bowen recently spoke with Terry Byrne, theater critic and Boston Globe correspndent, and Chris Ehlers, style editor and arts critic at Edge Media, about the rundown of upcoming productions that’s created a paradox of choice.
Presented by Reagle Music Theater of Greater Boston through July 2 at the Robinson Theatre in Waltham
This “astonishingly good” production of a musical theater staple gets points for its incorporation of what Byrne describes as “this unbelievably moving dream ballet, which often gets cut in other productions,” all choreographed by director Rachel Bertone. Ehlers says he was “equally as bowled over by ‘Oklahoma!.’ ... I was amazed by what Rachel pulled off. It’s great to see a musical that is so lovingly recreated.”
Another strength of this production is that it has “an ensemble that is not all 25 years old,” according to Ehlers. “The age range is exactly what should be in a musical. There’s a cast of 40, there’s an orchestra of 25 [players] — it really is an old-fashioned musical. That is, [Bertone] got it perfectly right.”
“The Normal Heart”
Presented by New Repertory Theatre through July 9 at the Black Box Theater in Watertown
Byrnes describes this play, set during the height of the AIDS crisis, as “beautiful and intimate and unexpectedly ... incredibly contemporary.”
Bowen agreed, saying, “We’re reminded it’s salient to see it now in the wake of a pandemic and the ravages of disease there.”
“The Normal Heart” is just the first of three productions being staged through the New Repertory Theater this season, with “A Raisin in the Sun” (Sept. 5-Oct. 1) and a world premiere production titled “DIASPORA!” (Sept. 12-Oct. 15) both to follow.
“It’ll be interesting to see how the organization progresses from this [2022-2023] season, which I think is very much a starter season,” Ehlers said. “They’re very much testing the waters. They’re getting their legs back in the game.”
Presented by the American Repertory Theater in association with Shakespeare Theatre Company through July 30 at the Loeb Drama Center in Cambridge
“Evita” tells the story of Eva Perón, but Ehlers points out that Perón “really wasn’t a good person at all. And what this production gets right is that the musical is a cautionary tale. It is not meant to canonize her.”
The title character is played by Shereen Pimentel, who stands out in the production. “Her voice could literally cut through diamonds, and it’s the most effortless I have ever heard the role sung,” Ehlers said.
While Byrne agrees that the voices were “spectacular,” she found that “I never got any sense of the complexities of this woman, and that’s what I really needed.”
Presented by Apollinaire Theatre Company, Fridays and Saturdays August 4-August 19 outside Chelsea Theatre Works in Chelsea
This reimagining of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays is a free, immersive experience — presented by the Apollinaire Theatre Company, which previously presented a similar interactive production of “The Wizard of Oz.”
In this 90-minute outdoor staging of “Hamlet,” which is presented in both English and Spanish, “they use the area of the square in front of the theater to move the audience around a little bit,” according to Byrne. “It’s just a delightful way to experience a play.”
Unlike traditional theaters, Byrne says that the Apollinaire changes things up by inviting audiences into a pre-show beer garden and “encourag[ing] you to get takeout or go to any of the restaurants that are right across the street, bring the food [to the play]. It feels like an experience, an event.”
What’s coming next...
SpeakEasy Stage Company and the Huntington Theatre Company will bring “The Band’s Visit” to Boston late this year.
Based on a film of the same name, it follows the story of an Egyptian band who become stranded in a small Israeli town, and the cultural bridges the group builds with local residents. The off-Broadway national tour of the production was originally planned to come to Boston in 2020, but was canceled due to the pandemic. It will run Nov. 10-Dec. 10 at the Huntington Theatre.
SpeakEasy Stage Company will also partner with the Front Porch Arts Collective to stage “A Strange Loop” next spring, which recently won Best Musical and a Pulitzer Prize. Front Porch Arts is Boston’s premiere performing arts collective centering Black and Brown artists and stories, and Ehlers says that “it seems like everything we see that they do is just stellar.”