The new year is bursting with intriguing theater productions spanning a wide range of genres. Five local shows are opening on the same date, Friday, Jan. 10, with another debuting on Jan. 17.
The crowded field will make for some tough choices, but it certainly gets 2014 off to a fast theatrical start. Here's a look at the offerings:
Children and 'Shrek'
Children's Theatre of Annapolis showcases a lively version of the stage adaptation of the Oscar-winning animated film "Shrek."
"Shrek the Musical" runs Jan. 10-26, and the 25-member cast, all ages 12 to 18, create a fantasy kingdom filled with irreverent twists on familiar storybook characters. The company brings vibrant life to the tale of swamp-dwelling ogre hero Shrek, who rescues the temperamental princess Fiona and finds love.
Premiering on Broadway in 2008, the musical with a score of 19 songs won both Tony and Drama Desk award nominations. The Children's Theatre production is choreographed by Jason Kimmell and directed by Gerrad Alex Taylor, with music directed by Emily Sergo. Shows are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays at Children's Theatre of Annapolis, Bay Head Road. For tickets call 410-757-2281 or childrenstheatreofannapolis.org.
One woman's 'Bad Dates'
Bay Theatre's one-woman comedy, "Bad Dates," stars artistic director and co-founder Janet Luby, who regales audiences with hilarious tales of post-prime-time dating experiences. Bay's Jan. 10 opening night excitement will be doubled thanks to a new venue — at Chesapeake Arts Center's Studio 194 Theatre in Brooklyn Park.
After the closing of Bay Theatre's West Street Annapolis location last spring and a well-received Nov. 4 Wine and Words event, Luby brings playwright Theresa Rebeck's comedy to the stage for three weekends, Jan. 10-26. Directed by Richard Pilcher, "Bad Dates" tells the story of Haley Walker who enters the dating scene while raising a teen, running a business and evading past mistakes.
Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets at $24 plus $4 surcharge can be ordered at chesapeakearts.org or baytheatre.org. Bay's future performances will be determined by audience turnout at this venue.
Colonial's edgy 'Coyote'
Also on Jan. 10, theatergoers in search of thought-provoking entertainment might attend the opening of Colonial Players' edgy prison drama, "Coyote on a Fence."
This powerful drama is about two men on death row in adjoining cells of a maximum security prison: seasoned prisoner John Brennan, who writes and edits the prison newspaper, and Bobby Reyburn, who has burned down an African-American church. Introducing audiences to a world we have never visited, this play contains extreme language and racial slurs.
The show runs Jan. 10-25, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. and one Sunday evening performance, Jan. 19 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students and seniors, and may be purchased at thecolonialplayers.org or by calling 410-268-7373. Check Colonial Players' web page for a half-price special for opening weekend and the Jan. 19 evening show.
Another choice for savvy fans is Compass Rose Theater's family drama based on Thomas Wolfe's autobiographical "Look Homeward Angel" opening Jan. 10 and continuing through Feb. 16 in the company's third season.
Compass' production of the show by playwright Ketti Frings is the coming of age story of novelist Thomas Wolfe from his humble beginnings in the American South of 1910. Frings' three-act drama adaptation of Wolfe's novel won her the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award. For ticket information, call 410-980-6662 or go to compassroseheater.org.
'Over the River' to Bowie
Also opening Jan. 10 at Bowie Playhouse is Prince George's Little Theatre's production of Joe DiPietro's family comedy "Over the River and Through the Woods," with performances Jan. 10-11, 17-18 and 24 at 8 p.m., and Jan. 12 and 19 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for seniors and students 18 and under. Call 301-937-7458 for information.
A week later, on Jan. 17, Dignity Players presents a probing drama about a writer-teacher and her student in "Collected Stories" performed at the Unitarian Universalist Church off Bestgate Road through Feb. 1.
Dignity Players will entertain while enlightening audiences in this story about teacher and successful writer Ruth Steiner and her protegee Lisa Morrison, who journeys from student to successful short story writer.
After Lisa writes a novel based on Ruth's affair with a poet, the women deal with the dilemma of whether events in a person's life are suitable for another's use in their creative process. Dignity's production stars Carol Cohen as Ruth and Sarah Wade as Lisa.
Performances are Jan. 17-18, 24-25, 30 and Feb. 1 at 8 p.m., and Jan. 19 and 26 at 3 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at dignityplayers.org or by calling 410-266-8044, ext. 127.