The big news in Baltimore theater this season is the arrival of British-born Kwame Kwei-Armah, who is taking the helm as the new artistic director of Centerstage (700 N. Calvert St., 410-332-0033). Kwei-Armah, who replaces Irene Lewis, has said he's seeking to redefine the playhouse, and his first season reflects that intention.
Kicking things off, the Second City comedy troupe makes a second visit to the venue with an all-new topical show titled "Charmed and Dangerous," Sept. 15-Oct. 16.
Before that run ends, though, the season proper opens with Irish playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan's rarely seen 1775 comedy of manners, "The Rivals." The play, about a young couple's desperate attempts to earn money after living well beyond their means, may have a message for America today. It runs Sept. 28-Oct. 30.
After that comes David Mamet's seedy drama about a trio of petty urban thieves, "American Buffalo," which runs Nov. 2-Dec. 11. Another look at a young married couple's struggles, "Toni Morrison's Jazz," will get its world premiere Jan. 4-Feb. 5. It is adapted from Morrison's novel by Marion McClinton, who will also direct.
At the Hippodrome Theatre at the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center (800-343-3103), the beloved Rodgers and Hammerstein World War II-era musical romance, "South Pacific," sails into town Oct. 4-9. After that, the Tony Award-winning musical comedy about the ultimate clash of lifestyles, "La Cage Aux Folles," will be revived by a touring company, Nov. 1-6.
Also at the Hippodrome, the hit Broadway staging of the animated megahit, "Disney's The Lion King," makes a special return visit Dec. 7-Jan. 8. Also coming in the new year will be film star and best-selling author Carrie Fisher, performing her one-woman show "Wishful Drinking," Jan. 31-Feb. 12.
Feisty city stages
Baltimore City's Everyman Theatre (410-752-2208) kicks off its season Sept. 7-Oct. 9 with a revival of "A Raisin in the Sun," Lorraine Hansberry's groundbreaking play about a black family and the unexpected toll of a "dream deferred." A production of Noel Coward's droll comedy about a divorced couple's surprise reunion, "Private Lives," will follow, Nov. 2-Dec. 4.
The season starts Sept. 30-Nov. 6 at the Audrey Herman Spotlighters Theatre (817 St. Paul St., 410-752-1225) with a timely revival of Robert Anderson's tragic drama about homophobia at a boys' school, "Tea and Sympathy." The fanciful off-Broadway 1960 musical romance, "The Fantasticks," gets a new staging there Nov. 18-Dec. 18.
Playwrights Kathy Najimy and Mo Gaffney's ever-popular sketch comedy "Parallel Lives" opens the season at the Theatre Project (45 W. Preston St., 410-752-8558), where it runs Sept. 29-Oct. 15. Originally called "The Kathy and Mo Show," it was first performed by its creators at the Theatre Project 25 years ago.
Frederick Knott's drama about a psychopath's attempts to take advantage of an unsuspecting blind woman, "Wait Until Dark," is getting a staging now through Sept. 26, weekends only at the Vagabond Players (806 S. Broadway, 410-563-9135). It will be followed by a revival of Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak's hippie-era take on the Gospel According to Matthew, "Godspell," Oct. 14-Nov. 13.
The Strand Theater (1823 N. Charles St., 443-874-4917), which dedicates itself to providing a space for female artists, greets the fall with "Anna Bella Eema" by Lisa D'Amour. The drama, which tells of a young girl trying to cope with poverty, can be seen Oct. 7-22.
The Fells Point Corner Theatre (251 S. Ann St., 410-276-7837) opens its season with a revival of Edward Albee's 1994 Pulitzer Prize-winning memory play "Three Tall Women," Sept. 16-Oct. 16. That will be followed Nov. 11-Dec. 11 by a staging of the Douglas Carter Beane's 2006 off-Broadway comedy "The Little Dog Laughed," which looks at a theater agent's attempts to hide from the public her client's homosexuality.
"Dreamgirls," the Tony Award-winning 1981 Broadway musical about a fictional girl group in the Motown era, is being revived Sept. 8-Nov. 13 at Toby's – The Dinner Theatre of Baltimore (5625, O'Donnell St., 410-649-1660). Another 1980s musical favorite, "Annie," gets a Toby's revival for the holidays, Nov. 17-Jan. 22.
Howard and southward
The Rep Stage Company, Howard Community College's resident professional drama troupe, is presenting the regional premiere of "Or," Liz Duffy Adams' historical comedy about real-life Restoration playwright Aphra Behn, through Sept. 18. The company continues its 19th season with Anne Nelson's look at events surrounding the Sept. 11 tragedy, "The Guys," Sept. 9-11.
"The Guys" is part of Rep's so-called Salon Series, spotlighting intimate productions of interest. Also part of the Salon Series will be an anthology of works by Edgar Allen Poe titled "The Poe Show." It will coincide with Halloween, Oct. 21-24.
Back on its mainstage, the Rep company will stage William Luce's "Barrymore," which looks at the last days of doomed actor John Barrymore, Oct. 26-Nov. 13. It closes the year with a reading of more David Sedaris seasonal stories from the tome "Holidays on Ice," Dec. 16-19.
Toby's – The Dinner Theatre of Columbia (410-730-8311) has kicked off its season with the flashy Bob Fosse musical about murderous showgirls, "Chicago: The Musical," which runs through Nov. 6. A stage rendition of the old holiday movie musical "White Christmas" closes out the year, Nov. 10-Jan. 8.