ALBANY — The curtain has risen on a new season of theater in the Capital District. The 2023–24 season is under way with plays and musicals, inviting theatergoers to immerse themselves in the vital art form.
Family shows, revivals, the return of beloved classics, and new shows are arriving at Proctors Theatre.
“The goal for us here is to make sure that we have something for everyone year after year,” said Jean Leonard, head of programming for Proctors.
From Dec. 5-10, the Tony-winning “Girl From the North Country” will creatively reimagine Bob Dylan’s classic music. Proctors’ iconic Broadway series will feature generational fan favorite productions of “Annie,” “SIX,” and “Beetlejuice,” running from January through June. Returning to Proctors for the first time in several years is the classic musical “Les Misérables.”
The season will come to a close with “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical,” telling the inspirational story of the life and success of the legendary rock star Tina Turner.
“More and more, people are looking for ways to reconnect with their family and friends. Coming to see a show, concert or comedian — laughing and crying together — that’s part of how we reconnect after what’s been a long couple of years,” said Leonard.
The Curtain Call Theatre is celebrating its 32nd season.
“We always try to do something fun around the holiday season because people have family and friends coming in and they want to get together,” said Curtain Call Theatre’s artistic producer Carol Max. “We see a lot of new faces around the holidays.”
The comedy “Boca” welcomes audiences to a convivial retirement community in the sunshine state, from Nov. 30 through Dec. 17.
“This show will be for everyone,” said Max. “It’s high comedy.”
“Wait Until Dark,” from March 14-30, is a thrilling new adaptation with a twist.
“Audiences will be on the edge of their seats with this one,” Max said.
The wise and thought-provoking comedy “Be Here Now” by Deborah Zoe Laufer will run from April 18 through May 5. Running from May 23 to June 9, the popular play “Native Gardens” tells the story of two sets of feuding neighbors. “Becoming Dr. Ruth” will end the season in July and August.
The heart of America will be explored at the Capital Repertory Theatre (theREP) in their new season.
“You really have an opportunity this year to get a vision of what makes us who we are. It’s a look at the various facets of America,” said Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill, the producing director for theREP.
The lively musical “Million Dollar Quartet Christmas” will run from Nov. 24 through Dec. 24. From March 8-31, Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Sweat” is a “‘wrenching” but “inspiring” look at the devastating impacts of the loss of work for steel workers in America’s Rust Belt.
From April 26 to May 12, the riveting play “Three Mothers” shows the unbreakable bond formed between three women and their commitment to the Civil Rights Movement after their children were victims of vicious hate crimes in the 1960s.
Housed at theREP, The Black Theatre Troupe of Upstate New York (BTTUNY) will feature on Feb. 1-11 a special production in honor of Black History Month called “The Mountaintop’’ by Katori Hall. The play fictitiously examines an evening in Martin Luther King Jr.’s life prior to his assassination on April 4.
BTTUNY will take the stage with “One-Act Jamboree” from June 6-16. “One-Act Jamboree” features a collection of new, exciting works from New York playwrights. People of all ages, including children, were encouraged to submit their writing.
“We have to encourage our kids to start writing,” said Jean-Remy Monnay, BTTUNY’s producing artistic director. “A lot of them have the talent, but no one encourages them to be playwrights or writers.”
“Back to the Past” on June 8-9 shows a group of Black students who go on an adventurous, educational journey to meet both famous and overlooked Black historical figures such as Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Bessie Smith, Marcus Garvey, and Matthew Henson. Monnay described the play as “powerful.”
“I can’t wait to put that out there for the audience and for children in the audience to learn about the history and the people in the past,” he added.
TheREP’s season will close with a July through August production of the award-winning “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.”
With awareness for continuing education in the region, theREP is taking their program On the Go directly into schools. In March, a new work based on local hero Henry Johnson called “Henry Johnson: Ballad of a Forgotten Hero” will debut.
Playhouse Stage Company’s similar mission of arts education will be on display this year with productions featuring characters that are meant to be played by young actors. From late February into March, the Playhouse Stage Company is performing a musical called “Grace for President” every weekday for Women’s History Month.
“The content of the music is something right out of a civics class. It’s a wholesome and positive opportunity to expose kids to a civics lesson with the magic of live theater,” said Owen M. Smith, producing artistic director
After “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” kicks off the Playhouse Stage Company’s seasonal show lineup in December, the Tony Award-winning musical “Spring Awakening” in April is a new production that aligns with their goals of incorporating young actors into the theater.
“We have a dynamite lineup of kids from counties all across the Capital Region who are just the best of the best young performers. We think of the themes of that show as being adult-oriented, but the fact is that all of the content that’s touched on in the show are things that teenagers are dealing with every day,” said Smith.
“The Marvelous Wonderettes” will take audiences on a nostalgic musical journey June 28 through July 21, leading into the company’s signature summer show “Legally Blonde” in July and August.
“It’s a really heartwarming and fun show. It’s the perfect summer fare, because it’s just fun from start to finish,” Smith said.
Because viewing and attendance habits have drastically changed since the COVID-19 pandemic, the theaters have noticed how avid attendees and dedicated companies have had to shoulder more of the responsibility within the artistic communities.
With Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday approaching, Smith encouraged, “Think of the arts, because it’s really easy for the arts to get lost as a charitable cause. We don’t have broad funding to sustain the arts.”
“We have a very loyal following, and I’m grateful to the community for supporting us the way they have. I’m confident we will be back, but I do think it will take us another year and a half to get there,” observed Mancinelli-Cahill.
“COVID-19 does affect everybody, every local community, and every artist. It will get better, and hopefully next season will be even better,” said Monnay. “We’re doing better now with our audience than we did the season before, but not where we really want to be yet. It’s affecting everybody.”
Max is hopeful despite the setbacks theaters have faced.
“Being able to keep our artistic organizations alive is part of what makes our region feel alive,” agreed Lenoard.
“I don’t think people realize how much effort, energy and time goes into a show,” said Smith. “We want to see more and more people having their artistic work valued and getting paid for it, because that’s what’s going to make it the best work possible. Art is worth compensating for.”
All of the theaters encourage audience members to become subscribers and to buy their tickets directly from their sites. For information regarding the upcoming seasons and tickets, visit: proctors.org, capitalrep.org, blacktheatretroupeupstateny.org, curtaincalltheatre.com, and playhousestagecompany.org.