Magic and musicals take the stage; Theater: Center Stage plans a provocative season, while 'Titanic' and 'Martin Guerre' come to town.

THE BALTIMORE SUN

From a controversial performance artist to Rodgers and Hammerstein, from the gritty sensibility of Eric Bogosian to a hit musical about a sinking ship, area theaters will usher in the new century with a little of everything this season.

Musical lovers have a mix of old and new to choose from, starting at the Lyric Opera House on Sept. 21, when Richard Chamberlain plays Captain von Trapp in the Broadway revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "The Sound of Music." In December, Maury Yeston and Peter Stone's 1997 Tony Award-winning musical, "Titanic," sails into the Mechanic Theatre, which will also present the 1998 Tony-winning revival of Kander and Ebb's "Cabaret" next June. Meanwhile, you can catch a pre-Broadway musical, "Martin Guerre," the newest show by the creators of "Les Miserables," at Washington's Kennedy Center in December.

There's a wide variety of nonmusical fare as well. "Griller," Eric Bogosian's account of a dysfunctional suburban family, will be produced at Center Stage in November (the author doesn't appear in the play, but his unexpurgated style is unmistakable). In February, the theater transforms its upstairs Head Theater into a cabaret setting for Brendan Behan's 1958 political barroom drama, "The Hostage."

Leading off the hard-hitting dramas in Washington is "Hot 'n' Throbbing," Paula Vogel's examination of pornography and domestic violence, which has already opened the season at Arena Stage. Warren Leight's 1999 Tony winner about his jazz musician father, "Side Man," arrives at the Kennedy Center in November, with Andrew McCarthy heading the Broadway cast, and "Wit," Margaret Edson's 1999 Pulitzer winner, shows up there at the end of February, starring Judith Light as a professor battling ovarian cancer.

For something lighter, this year is Noel Coward's centennial, and Everyman Theatre is launching its season with his rarely performed comedy, "Nude with Violin." New York will celebrate with the Broadway premiere of the late playwright's "Waiting in the Wings," scheduled to open on Coward's birthday, Dec. 16; Lauren Bacall and Rosemary Harris star as retired actresses.

Theatergoers will also be treated to some newer European comedies. Yasmina Reza's French play about three male friends, "Art," winner of the 1998 Tony, will play the Mechanic in February, and "A Couple of Blaguards," by Irish brothers Frank ("Angela's Ashes") and Malachy ("A Monk Swimming") McCourt, arrives at Ford's Theatre in Washington on Wednesday, with Malachy playing himself.

Then there are the shows that cross, or even defy, traditional categories. The Lyric has several, from magicians Penn & Teller to "Oops! The Big Apple Circus Stage Show." And at the Theatre Project, which specializes in defying tradition, "Preaching to the Perverted" will mark the Baltimore debut of performance artist Holly Hughes.

Finally, several shows with Baltimore connections are bound for New York. August Wilson's "Jitney," seen at Center Stage last winter, is scheduled to reach off-Broadway's Second Stage in April, and native Baltimorean Anna Deavere Smith's "House Arrest," which debuted at Arena Stage in 1997 as a full-cast production, will be reworked into a one-woman show at the Public Theater in March.

Baltimore Shakespeare Festival, dates and location to be announced; 410-837-4143

January: "The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (abridged)"

June: "Hamlet"

Center Stage, 700 N. Calvert St.; 410-332-0033

Sept. 24-Oct. 24: "An Ideal Husband," Pearlstone Theater

Oct. 29-Nov. 6: Off Center Festival, Pearlstone and Head theaters

Nov. 18-Dec. 19: "Griller," Pearlstone Theater

Jan. 7-Feb. 13: "for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf," Pearlstone Theater

Feb. 18-April 2: "The Hostage," Head Theater

March 24-May 7: "Macbeth," Pearlstone Theater

April 28-mid-June: to be announced, Head Theater

Everyman Theatre, 1727 N. Charles St., 410-752-2208

Sept. 17-Oct. 10: "Nude with Violin"

Nov. 19-Dec. 12: "The Last Night of Ballyhoo"

Feb. 11-March 12: "The Glass Menagerie"

April 28-May 21: "The Beauty Queen of Leenane"

Gordon Center for Performing Arts, 3506 Gwynnbrook Ave., Owings Mills; 410-356-7469

Oct. 30: "The Second City: 40th Anniversary Tour"

Nov. 7: "The Spencers: Theater of Illusion"

Feb. 5-6: "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change"

Feb. 12: Re-creation of the 1940s radio show "Jubilee"

Lyric Opera House, 140 W. Mount Royal Ave.; 410-494-2712

Sept. 21-26: "The Sound of Music"

Oct. 8: "Midnight in Garden of Good and Evil -- The Concert"

Nov. 2-7: "Spirit: A Journey in Dance, Drums and Song"

Dec. 27-Jan. 2: "Defending the Caveman"

Jan. 18-23: "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat"

Feb. 1-6: "Penn & Teller"

Feb. 15-20: "Riverdance"

Feb. 29-March 5: "The Male Intellect -- an oxymoron?"

March 28-April 2: "Oops! The Big Apple Circus Stage Show"

May 9-14: "Buddy -- The Buddy Holly Story"

June 6-11: "Annie"

Morris A. Mechanic Theatre, 25 Hopkins Plaza; 410-625-4200

Sept. 21-on: "Tony n' Tina's Wedding," Scarlett Place, 250 S. President St.

Oct. 26-31: "Jekyll & Hyde"

Nov. 18-Dec. 5: "Beauty and the Beast"

Dec. 14-19: "Titanic"

Feb. 8-13: "The Civil War"

Feb. 29-March 5: "Art"

April 11-23: "Les Miserables"

June 6-18: "Cabaret"

Theatre Project, 45 W. Preston St.; 410-752-8558

Sept. 23-Oct. 10: "An Exquisite Dream of Fire" (Funkopolis)

Oct. 28-Nov. 6: "The King of Kings and I" (Jaffe Cohen)

Nov. 6-Dec. 19: "Bah-Humbug!" (PussyCat Theatre Company)

February: A new work by Medusa Theatre Company

March 2-11: "Preaching to the Perverted" (Holly Hughes)

March: "Esther" (Theatre Company Jerusalem)

April 12-16: "With Blood, With Ink" (Peabody Chamber Opera)

April 27-May 7: "Heartfield" (Co-produced with Towson University)

June 1-17: "Queer Cafe" (PussyCat Theatre Company)

Washington

Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth St. S.W.; 202-488-3300

Sept. 3-Oct. 17: "Hot 'n' Throbbing," Kreeger Theater

Oct. 8-Nov. 21: "The Royal Family," Fichandler Theater

Nov. 5-Jan. 2: "Radio Mambo: Culture Clash Invades Miami," Kreeger

Dec. 17-Feb. 20: "Guys and Dolls," Fichandler

Jan. 28-March 26: "Dinah Was," Kreeger

March 10-April 30: "The Miracle Worker," Fichandler

April 14-June 4: "Blue," Kreeger

May 19-June 25: "All My Sons," Fichandler

Ford's Theatre, 511 10th St. N.W.; 202-347-4833

Sept. 15-Oct. 31: "A Couple of Blaguards"

Nov. 2-14: "Siamsa Tire, The National Folk Theatre of Ireland"

Nov. 20-Jan. 2: "A Christmas Carol"

Kennedy Center, off Virginia and New Hampshire avenues N.W.; 800-444-1324

Sept. 14-23: "The Whiteheaded Boy," Terrace Theater

Sept. 29-Oct. 3: Shockheaded Peter," Eisenhower Theater

Nov. 3-28: "Side Man," Eisenhower

Dec. 23-Jan. 16: "Martin Guerre," Opera House

Feb. 24-27: "Brothers & Sisters," Eisenhower

Feb. 29-March 26: "Wit," Eisenhower

April 11-May 7: "Art," Eisenhower

June 13-July 9: "Lady Windermere's Fan," Eisenhower

July: "The Scarlet Pimpernel," Opera House

Continuing: "Shear Madness," Theater Lab

National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W.; 202-628-6161

Oct. 5-10: "Spirit -- A Journey in Dance, Drums and Song"

Nov. 16-Jan. 2: "Chicago"

Shakespeare Theatre, 450 Seventh Ave. N.W.; 202-393-2700

Through Oct. 24: "King Lear"

Nov. 9-Jan. 2: "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

Jan. 18-March 12: "Coriolanus"

March 28-May 14: "The Country Wife"

May 30-July 23: "Camino Real"

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