theaters keep the drama alive

If variety really is the spice of life, New Orleans audiences are in for a flavor-filled spring as local theaters offer dramas, musicals, original works and time-tested classics. Some are turning to partnerships as a way to keep the entertainment coming in a tight economy.

Such is the case at Southern Rep, where managing director Marieke Gaboury says partnering enables local companies to pool resources and share their work. From Feb. 24 to March 7, Southern Rep partners with Junebug Productions, Tulane University’s Department of Theatre and Dance and the Ashe Cultural Arts Center to put on “Ameriville,” a production that draws on the experiences of New Orleans.

Next, the NOLA Project joins with Southern Rep to put on a comedic tale, “With a Bang.” In May, Southern Rep takes a trip to Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre, where the two companies join for a production of “Grey Gardens,” the musical tale of Big Edie and Little Edie, two of Jackie O’s flamboyant relatives. The season closes with the regional premiere of an off-Broadway hit, “The Piano Teacher,” back at Southern Rep’s home base.

Over at Le Petit, manager Gary Solomon says the theater group has had a good year after completing a management revamp. Spring brings a slew of musicals, including “13,” a pop-rock story; “Title of Show,” an off-Broadway favorite taking place on the theater’s Muriel Cabaret Stage; and the above-mentioned “Grey Gardens.”

The Anthony Bean Community Theater and Acting School is celebrating its 10th anniversary, and founder Anthony Bean says he’s committed to keeping the organization strong even though it’s been a struggle. On March 26, the theater opens “You Don’t Even Know Me,” a powerful musical that Bean says examines the stereotypes many people hold about African-American males. In June, the classic “Our Town” takes center stage, featuring what Bean calls a diverse cast, giving a new twist to an old favorite. In August, Bean’s hip-hop play “504” returns after a successful tour.

The Jefferson Performing Arts Society’s productions have given lots of young local talent a chance to perform. In March, JPAS offers at its Metairie location the crowd-pleasing Broadway musical “The Producers.” This marks the first time the play will be put on in New Orleans with a local cast rather than a touring company. At the Westwego Performing Arts Theatre, “The Sicilian Bachelor” will make its debut. The season winds up with a JPAS Theatre Kids! Production of “101 Dalmations,” also at the Westwego location. The play is drawing such interest from young actors that it may be double cast, spokeswoman Anna Toujas says.

Those looking for a more intimate experience will find lots on tap at Le Chat Noir. Proprietor Barbara Motley says local audiences won’t want to miss Ricky Graham’s updated “2010 Renew Review,” which skewers all things New Orleans. The show runs from Feb. 26 to March 21 and is followed by a two-night production of “How I Learned About Sex,” which deals with facts and fiction about the omnipresent three-letter-word.

Other spring highlights include: “When Pigs Fly,” songs, dances and sketches from a gay perspective; “Matt & Ben,” a look at the Damon/Affleck duo (played by two women); an appearance by local Lisa Picone, a graduate of Yale Cabaret Academy; and “Auntie Mame,” a staged reading of the classic play starring Jeff Roberson’s Varla Jean Merman as Mame and Ricky Graham as her sidekick, Vera Charles.

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