Theaters raise the bar in quality entertainment

“Chicago” will come to the Saenger Theatre in October.

Both the quantity and diversity of local live entertainment have grown in the past year, thanks in large part to the revival of New Orleans’ grand dame of Broadway-style shows, the Saenger Theatre.

Back in business, in its renovated glory on Canal Street the Saenger now regularly packs in audiences hungry for big-name touring shows such as “The Book of Mormon” and “Sister Act.” The theater’s upcoming calendar is likely to keep them coming.

Roof-raising rock ‘n’ roll will fill the Saenger as “Memphis, the Musical” takes the stage (March 11-16). The story of a white radio DJ and a black nightclub singer who is angling for a big break is funny, touching and exploding with great music. Winner of four Tony Awards including Best Musical, the show is a likely crowd pleaser.

In May, a much different tale comes to the theater in the form of “War Horse.” This moving and imaginative drama features life-sized puppets that are incredibly effective in portraying this powerful story of loyalty and friendship.

The Saenger will launch its new season in October with a string of blockbusters, including “Chicago,” “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Dirty Dancing.”
Check neworleans.broadway.com for many more details.

As Broadway shows play out on the big stage, an interesting variety of smaller productions is on tap around the city. Southern Repertory Theatre, for instance, continues its offering of high-quality, professionally produced plays, which it lately has presented in several settings.

Fresh off its staging of the clever and oh-so-funny “The Totalitarians” at Mid-City Theatre, Southern Rep takes a sharp turn as it tackles what is considered to be Tennessee Williams’ last great play.

“The Night of the Iguana” brings together several unlikely souls, all involved in their own personal struggles as they attempt to connect with one another. Southern Rep’s artistic director, Aimée Hayes, stars with Mike Harkins, Idella Johnson and Bob Edes Jr. in Williams’ tale of anguish and yearning. “It’s one of those nights in your life when everything is on the line,” Hayes says of the work.

The presentation of “Iguana” (March 13-April 6 at The Art Klub, 519 Elysian Fields Ave.), will coincide with the annual Tennessee Williams Literary Festival, which takes over the French Quarter March 19-23.  

The festival also will include another Williams classic, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” presented by The NOLA Project at Le Petit Théatre du Vieux Carré.
See tennesseewilliams.net for more details.

Speaking of classics, read any Shakespeare lately? It’s a good time to refresh your memory and reserve your tickets for the Shakespeare Festival at Tulane. This year’s event offers a new take on “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (June 14-July 12) as technology helps transport the audience into a magical forest for an evening of mirth.

The festival also will remount “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)” (June 22-July 19), which takes the audience on an uproarious and irreverent romp through all of the Bard’s plays.
See neworleansshakespeare.org for the full lineup of performances slated in Lupin Theatre on the Tulane University campus.



From “Under the Boardwalk” at Rivertown Theaters: Michael Taravella, Frank Von Hoven III and Marc Fouchi


If an evening of fun in the suburbs is more to your liking, you’ll want to check the calendar of Rivertown Theaters for the Performing Arts in Kenner. Enjoy the lovely theater setting and the diva of all farces this month as artistic directors Gary Rucker and Kelly Fouchi present “The Ladies of the Camellias” (March 14-29).

The witty and funny adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ 19th-century novel imagines a meeting of famous theatre divas Sarah Bernhardt and Eleonora Duse, and the result is plenty of clever, sharp-tongued dialogue.

Rivertown follows that in May with the hilarious “Young Frankenstein, the Musical” and in September with “Shrek, the Musical.”
See rivertowntheaters.com for more information.

Another live entertainment venue that has come on strong during its short existence is the Stage Door Canteen in the National World War II Museum. With the authentic look and feel of war-era establishments where a GI could enjoy big bands and dancing, the Stage Door completes the package with top-notch performances of comedy and music of the times.

The upcoming calendar includes “The Rat Pack Now” tribute show in June; “Jump, Jive & Wail: The Music of Louis Prima” in July; and Big Band Favorites of the ‘40s and ‘50s in August and September, featuring the Victory Big Band and guest vocalists singing the music of Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney and more.

For a funny and entertaining twist on the music of the times, check out Stage Door Canteen’s presentation of “The Andrews Brothers” on weekends beginning April 4.
See nationalww2museum.org for the full schedule.

 

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