By Christine Dolen
In this something-for-everyone theater season, we'll be getting the stripped-down Sondheim of Sweeney Todd and the spectacle of Wicked; the bawdy puppets of Avenue Q, the high-flying naughtiness of Spiegelworld's Absinthe and the boy-band spirituality of Altar Boyz; a bunch of provocative recent-vintage plays and a slew of world premieres. Who wouldn't be happy?
Well, maybe not people who dig wild experimentation, lovers of big-budget classics or those who wish the Coconut Grove Playhouse would be back in action by now. But everyone else? Yeah.
Between Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County and Fort Lauderdale's Broward Center, Broadway fanatics should be content this season (unless they were hoping for Jersey Boys or The Color Purple, neither of which is headed this way). Miami gets Tony Award-winning director John Doyle's reimagined Sweeney Todd (Jan. 1-6); the made-for-adults, Sesame Street-inspired Avenue Q (May 13-18); and the mad goofiness of Monty Python's Spamalot (March 4-9). The ever-popular Wicked comes back to Fort Lauderdale (March 12-April 6), and Broward also gets the high-kicking holiday splendor of The Radio City Christmas Spectacular (Nov. 8-Dec. 2) and the clever faux nostalgia of The Drowsy Chaperone (Jan. 1-13).
And if that's not enough musical entertainment for you, Actors' Playhouse in Coral Gables is tackling the edgy Urinetown (through Nov. 11), Altar Boyz (Jan. 16-Feb. 10) and Footloose (March 5-April 6).
You say you love world premieres? Rejoice. The Arsht Center is unveiling two commissioned pieces, Octavio Campos' The Bugchasers and Marc Joseph's Refugee, in the Studio Theater from Oct. 25-27. The entire season at Coral Gables' New Theatre boasts one world premiere after another; it began last month with David Caudle's Likeness and will end with another still-to-be-announced debut (April 3-May 4). Miami's edgy Mad Cat is doing a pair of world premieres: Marco Ramirez's Mr. Beast in November, Barton Bishop's Up, Up, Down, Down in February.
Davie-based Michael McKeever will see the world premiere of his farce Suite Surrender in the new $10 million home of Boca Raton's Caldwell Theatre Company (Jan. 13-Feb. 17). At Manalapan's Florida Stage, where new work is king, three world premieres are on the schedule: Deborah Zoe Laufer's End Days (through-Nov. 25), Roger Hedden's The Count (Jan. 25-March 2) and Jessica Goldberg's Ward 57 (March 21-April 27).
That edge that so many hard-core theater lovers crave is popping up everywhere this season: in Nikkole Slater and Danai Gurira's In the Continuum (through Nov. 18), David Harrower's Blackbird (March 1-30), Conor McPherson's Shining City (June 21-July 20 2008) and Defiance (Aug. 16-Sept. 14) at GableStage in Coral Gables; Adam Rapp's Faster and Stephen Adly Guirgis' The Last Days of Judas Iscariot at Miami's Ground Up & Rising (exact dates aren't set yet); Neil Labute's Wrecks at Plantation's Mosaic Theatre (June 12-29); Richard Greenberg's The Violet Hour at Promethean (March 14-30); John Patrick Shanley's Pulitzer Prize-winning Doubt at the Caldwell (Dec. 2-Jan. 6); and in the place that is likeliest to become a South Florida scene this season, the handsome wood-and-glass Spiegeltent, which will house the adults-only circus Absinthe (along with other shows and music events) when it comes to Miami Beach's Collins Park (Dec. 20-Feb. 13).
Comedy (particularly of the edgy variety) is on tap, too: Douglas Carter Beane's The Little Dog Laughed at GableStage (Dec. 29-Feb. 3); Sarah Ruhl's The Clean House, a venture into grown-up theater by Miami Shores' PlayGround Theatre (May 29-June 22); Jeff Daniels' Guest Artist (Nov. 29-Dec. 23) and Shanley's Dirty Story (Feb. 28-March 23) at Mosaic.
And in the don't-miss miscellaneous category, Miami's M Ensemble continues its August Wilson cycle with Jitney Nov. 8-Dec. 16; Pulitzer winner Nilo Cruz will get two of his plays (Ana en el trópico, Jan. 18-23, and Lorca con un vestido verde, Feb. 29-April 16) done in Spanish at Teatro 8 and A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings done in English by the PlayGround Theatre (through Nov. 18); and several Broadway stars (Christine Andreas Jan. 29-Feb. 3, Bernadette Peters March 8 and Martin Short March 16) bring their solo shows to the Carnival Center.
Christine Dolen is The Miami Herald's theater critic.
* The Anti-Muppets: Parents, do not make the mistake of taking the kiddies to see the Tony Award-winning Avenue Q. Though clearly a descendant of Sesame Street, it's an adult musical featuring straight and gay young professionals (and puppets) dealing with the challenges of post-collegiate life in the big city. See it May 13-18, 2008, as part of the Broadway Across America -- Miami series at the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts.
* Ignore the Title: Urinetown is a musical that deservedly made it from the fringe to Broadway, despite its turn-off title. It's a clever, musically sophisticated send-up of political oppression and theater itself. Catch it till Nov. 4 at Actors' Playhouse in Coral Gables.
* A Shocking Secret: David Harrower's Blackbird explores the painful aftermath of a disturbing relationship between an older man and far younger woman. It's the kind of challenging, provocative play that is director Joseph Adler's forte, and he'll present it March 1-30, 2008, at GableStage in Coral Gables.
Wicked returns to Fort Lauderdale this spring. Photo: Joan Marcus