Springing Toward Summer

The theatre scene in Memphis no longer lies down for the dog days.

by Hadley Hury

ocking the rafters for a five-week run, through May 24th at Playhouse on the Square, is Return to the Forbidden Planet, a sly musical spoof that spins elements of both Shakespeare’s The Tempest and the classic 1950s outer-space flick, along with skewed lines here and there from other Shakespearean plays.

The show is all camp silliness – a romp through the invaluable detritus of pop culture – but apparently of a high order: Return to the Forbidden Planet won the Olivier Award (the British equivalent of a Tony) for Best Musical. The Playhouse production is directed by Scott Ferguson, who staged The Rocky Horror Show there last summer and is the creator of Schoolhouse Rock Live! The choreographer is Jay Rapp, assistant director is Anne Marie Caskey, and the able cast includes: Michael Detroit, Kevin Jones, Roger Eaves, Tracy Liz Miller, John Manness, and Carla McDonald.

Ann Sharp in a scene from the Theatre Memphis production of Noises Off.

Noises Off opens on the Theatre Memphis main stage Thursday evening, April 24th, and runs through May 17th. The British farce by Michael Frayn is directed by TM executive producer Michael Fortner, and concerns a play-within-a-play that becomes the play itself. The show exaggerates what happens to actors behind the scenes when everything that can go wrong does. Noises Off earned Frayn a Tony nomination in 1984.

It’s very fast and very Brit. The name of the production the cast is trying to present is Nothing On, an inane bedroom farce. In Act I, their final dress rehearsal becomes a wrestling match among the actors and various props (such as a plate of sardines that takes on a life of its own). Act II takes place backstage, where the frustrated actors turn on one another in murderous slapstick fashion. In Act III, all cues are ignored, the set malfunctions, and key actors do not show up.

The cast includes Louise Casini, Brett D. Cullum, Hugh Fraser, Jack Kendall, Jeanna Juleson, Brian Mott, Art Oden, Ann G. Sharp, and Jenn Welch. Jim Seemann is scenic designer and Henry Hampton technical director.

Based on the classic story by Wind in the Willows author Kenneth Grahame, The Reluctant Dragon continues at Circuit Playhouse through May 10th.

It’s the tale of a nontraditional dragon who prefers a nice cup of tea, a book of poetry, and a cozy afternoon nap to breathing fire and terrorizing villagers. Youngsters may learn something about the pleasures of making friends with someone who is “different,” as the dragon and a little boy who is his pal come to humorous terms with St. George, dragonslayer extraordinaire.

The 3rd Annual Tennessee Williams Festival will be held at the McCoy Theatre at Rhodes College on three weekends, July 9th through the 26th.

The events include two full-length productions, Williams’ The Glass Menagerie and the Tom Stoppard version of Chekhov’s The Seagull; presentations from the 10-Minute Play competition; a performance of a musical setting of some of Williams’ poems; a reading of some of his poems by his brother Dakin; and a lecture. The annual Festival honoree this year will be the late actor and impresario Ellis Rabb.

The cast for Menagerie – Williams’ lyrical but exacting treatise on truth and illusion – includes Karen Riss as Amanda, Brian Mott as Tom, Michele Summers as Laura, and Art Oden as The Gentleman Caller. The Seagull features Christina Wellford Scott, Tony Isbell, M. Michele Somers, and Cy Carter.

Of the Festival’s first eight productions, Bennett Wood has directed two and Jerry Chipman four.

Andy Saunders directs The Amorous Flea for Germantown Community Theatre; the production opens for a three-weekend run on May lst. Musical director is Renee Kemper.

Since its off-Broadway debut in 1964, this musical comedy, adapted by Jerry Devine and Bruce Montgomery from the classic Moliere farce School for Wives, has become a favorite of regional and community theatres.

The GCT cast includes Karl Chambless, Victoria M. Loving, Arlyn Mick, Christopher J. Howerton, and Alicia L. Butler.

Director Miriam Ragland will hold auditions for a Circuit Playhouse production for Peter Schaffer’s drama Equus, scheduled July 10th - August 9th. Auditions will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 16th, at TheatreWorks, 2085 Monroe. Needed are two women age 40-plus, 2 men age 40-plus, and 6 men and women of any age. Prepared monologues will be accepted but are not required; there will be cold readings from the script. n

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