Weathervane Playhouse has announced its upcoming 2019-2020 season of 10 productions that includes more musicals than in recent years — six. The rights to one big musical, whose title will be announced July 1, were offered late to the Akron community theater, which decided to replace a play with it for its 85th season.
The mystery title, to run April 23 through May 17, 2020, will be a regional community theater premiere. It ran for six years on Broadway and was the winner of six Tony Awards, including best musical. At Weathervane, the show will be directed by Artistic Director Melanie Pepe and choreographed by Kevin Lambes.
Weathervane has decided to forge ahead with more big musicals with larger technical challenges next season, after this season's "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" and "Dreamgirls" became the top two highest-grossing productions in the theater’s 84-year history. The theater also is in a stronger position to produce big musicals after beginning a $20,000 replacement of its sound system late last year.
Last year Weathervane replaced the actors' microphones and the house speakers with support from Audio-Technica of Stow, Clear Gold Audio, grants from the Lehner Family Foundation and Akron Community Foundation and donations from theater board of trustee members. Next, the sound board, onstage speakers and speakers in the orchestra pit will be replaced.
The theater has decided to focus on newer technology and bigger shows as one of the core things it does.
"We've been trying to figure out where our niche is," Pepe said. "This season is the season where we are setting our process for producing big musicals. It's something we want to do as we go forward.''
The theater's growth includes a record 596 subscription sales this season. Weathervane also reports it's on track to break its single-ticket sales record.
First up for the new season is the regional community theater premiere of "School of Rock," an Emerging Artists Series production running Aug. 2-18. The Andrew Lloyd Webber musical is based on the hit movie about Dewey Finn, a wannabe rock star who poses as a substitute teacher at a prestigious prep school and turns his class into a mind-blowing rock band.
The show will be directed by Susan Wallin, music directed by Ron Hazelett and choreographed by Marissa Leenaarts.
Here are the remaining shows:
• "The Who’s Tommy," Sept. 12-29. With music by Pete Townshend and book by Des McAnuff and Townshend, the show is based on the 1969 rock concept album about the pinball-playing, deaf, dumb and blind boy who triumphs over his adversities. Directed by Fred Gloor, music directed by John Ebner, choreographed by Josh Larkin.
• "And Then There Were None," Oct. 17-Nov. 3. The Agatha Christie thriller is one of her darkest tales and a masterpiece of dramatic construction. Director TBA.
• "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," Nov. 26-Dec. 22. The Emerging Artist production of the Webber-Tim Rice musical, a holiday family favorite, is back for its 18th season at Weathervane. Directed by Larkin, choreographed by Leenaarts.
• "Alias Grace," Jan. 16-Feb. 2, 2020. The book by Margaret Atwood, author of "The Handmaid's Tale," is adapted for the stage by Jennifer Blackmer. It's based on the true story of an Irish immigrant who worked as a maid in the mid-1800s and was convicted of murder. Directed by Pepe. Northeast Ohio premiere.
• "Memphis," Feb. 20-March 8, 2020. Book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro, music and lyrics by David Bryan. Inspired by actual events, the musical is about a white radio DJ in the 1950s who wants to change the world and a black club singer who is ready for her big break. The musical, which won four 2010 Tony Awards, will be directed by Richard Morris Jr. and music directed by Ed Ridley.
• "Radium Girls," March 26-April 5, 2020. Emerging Artist production. Written by D.W. Gregory, the play is inspired by a true story about girls in 1926 who began to fall ill from painting watches with radium. Directed by Robert Ellis.
• "Footloose," June 4-28, 2020. Music by Tom Snow, lyrics by Dean Pitchford, based on the screenplay by Pitchford. Newcomer Ren McCormack of Chicago is shocked when he discovers the small town he now calls home has made dancing and rock music illegal. Ren faces an uphill battle to change things, with the help of new friend Willard Hewitt and defiant teen Ariel Moore. Directed and choreographed by Leenaarts, with musical direction by Ebner.
• The 8x10 TheatreFest July 9-12, 2020. Weathervane celebrates the art of the short-format play with its 10th annual festival, which features eight 10-minute plays curated from submissions from across the globe.
Subscriptions start at $120. Call 330-836-2626 or see www.weathervaneplayhouse.com. Single tickets go on sale July 1.
Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at @KerryClawsonABJ or www.facebook.com/kclawsonabj.