Theater groups schedule and plan productions months, sometimes years, in advance of opening night. And so, with the tragic events this past week in France, it is a fitting coincidence that two local groups raise the curtain on 2015 with shows that pay homage to French satire and comedy.
Marcel Achard's 1961 comic whodunit "A Shot in the Dark" arrives Jan. 9 at Bowie Playhouse to begin Prince George's Little Theatre's 55th season. And on Jan. 16, Colonial Players opens another comedy, "The Liar" by 17th-century playwright Pierre Corneille, featuring one character who can't tell the truth and his servant, who can't tell a lie.
Set in the home of a prominent Parisian family, "A Shot in the Dark" involves a murder in which the main suspect is saucy French parlor maid Josefa, played by Erica Jureckson, who has been discovered in her bedroom with the body of her lover and a gun beside her.
Josefa willingly confesses, but her story changes each time she is questioned by magistrate Paul Morestan, played by Matt Leyendecker.
The English adaptation of Achard's comic mystery opened on Broadway in 1961 starring Julie Harris, Walter Matthau and William Shatner. (The 1964 movie, in which the Peter Sellers portrays Inspector Clouseau, is very different — a fact that audiences attending the Prince George's production should bear in mind.)
Performances will be at 2 p.m. Jan. 11 and 18; and at 8 p.m. Jan. 16, 17 and 23. There's also a matinee at 2 p.m. Jan. 24. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students 18 and under. Seniors or groups of 10 or more can purchase tickets in advance for $13 each. Call the box office at 301-937-7458 or go to pglt.org.
Colonial Players offers "The Liar" in an adaptation by David Ives that features Fred Fletcher-Jackson as Dorante, unable to tell the truth, and Jeff Sprague as Dorante's servant Cliton, who cannot lie. Director Steve Tobin urges audiences to savor the play's "language and laughs because it is funny and silly and as enjoyable as Sid Caesar, Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner."
"The Liar" runs Thursday through Sunday through Feb. 7. For tickets, call the box office at 410-268-7373.
There are other shows opening in January as well.
Children's Theatre of Annapolis is presenting "The Wizard of Oz." The cast features Julia Rach as Dorothy; Marisa Roper as Glinda and Auntie Em; Zachary Roth as the Tin Woodman and Hickory; Alexandra Baca as the Wicked Witch of the West and Mrs. Gulch; Austin Dare as the Cowardly Lion and Zeke; Jordan Sledd as the Scarecrow and Hunk, and Dakarai Brown as the Wizard and Professor Marvel.
Children's Theatre's Kelsey Casselbury said the troupe is "delighted to bring this classic to Annapolis, hoping to bring back memories for those already enamored with the musical, and introduce a whole new generation of young theatergoers to the classic tale."
Weekend performances through Jan. 18 will be held at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for children 12 and under and seniors 60 and older, and can be ordered at childrenstheatreofannapolis.com or at the box office at 410-757-2281.
From Jan. 30 to March 8, Compass Rose will present T.S. Eliot's "Murder in the Cathedral." The play tells of Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, whose struggles with King Henry II led to his assassination in 1170.
Admired for its poetically masterful handling of issues of faith, politics and the common good, Eliot's drama won the Nobel Prize for literature. For tickets, go to compassrosetheater.org or call 410-980-6668.
Also on Jan. 30, comedy continues at Bowie Playhouse with 2nd Star's "I Hate Hamlet" by Paul Rudnick. In this 1991 play, the ghost of actor John Barrymore returns to his former New York apartment to persuade current resident Andrew Rally to play Hamlet, an idea enchanting Rally's Shakespeare-admiring girlfriend, but not Rally, who would prefer doing a television series offered him.
Young people can enjoy their own opera at 10:30 a.m. Jan. 31 at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, when a 50-minute version of Humperdinck's "Hansel and Gretel" will be presented by the Annapolis Opera Company. Parents or grandparents can enjoy introducing their children to opera at $10 a ticket. Call 410-267-8135 to order.
Also opening this month is a new performance venue in Cape St. Claire: Main Street Hair Salon is being converted into The Shop, an art gallery and performance area complete with cabarets, singer and songwriter nights, and open mic nights.
The Jan. 17 opening, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., will feature light fare from local restaurants and music from DJ Leo Hylan.
Among performers in attendance will be baritone Bob Brewer, who will open shows at 7 p.m. Jan. 30 and 31 with his "Cabaret Potpourri." A Feb. 8 "Singer and Songwriter Night" will feature Lily and the Pearl at 7 p.m. And Valentine's concerts are scheduled for Feb. 13 and 14. For details, go to meetattheshop.com or call 410-757-6188.