Current VPA News

Joanna Penalva

Great music, classics, comedy, a carnivorous space alien and a high-flying partnership with New York’s 2 Ring Circus highlight the 2017/18 season of the Deparment of Drama in Syracuse University's College of Visual and Performing Arts. From Gershwin to Chekhov, from Paula Vogel to Isabel Allende, the season offers a rich and wide-ranging celebration of theatrical experiences.

“We are fortunate to have such talented faculty and students, all of whom want to engage with so many different kinds of theatrical experiences,” says department chair Ralph Zito. “As in recent seasons, we look forward to meeting the artistic challenges presented by these musicals and plays, and we are equally excited about sharing them with our audience.”

The season opens in style with the songs of George and Ira Gershwin and the delightful “Crazy for You.” With a boy-meets-girl-let’s-put-on-show story by Ken Ludwig, this romantic musical comedy played more than 1,600 performances on Broadway, where it earned the 1992 Tony Award for Best Musical and was deemed “riotously entertaining” by The New York Times’ Frank Rich.

The season-opening festivities will be followed by a gripping adaptation of Isabel Allende’s best-selling and critically acclaimed debut novel, “The House of the Spirits.” Set in an unnamed South American country, not unlike Allende’s native Chile, “The House of the Spirits” relates a time-bending tale of three generations of women from the Trueba family and their relationships with the family patriarch, Esteban. Originally commissioned and produced in Spanish by Repertorio Espaňol in New York City, “The House of the Spirits” was first performed in an English language version at the Denver Center Theatre Company and was honored with the 2011 American Theatre Critics Association Primus Prize.

The holiday season marks the return of the annual Syracuse Stage/Department of Drama co-production and the return of the beloved classic “The Wizard of Oz.” Adding an extra level of fun and excitement to this family favorite is choreography by 2 Ring Circus, a New York-based company that specializes in cirque-like acrobatics and has collaborated with theaters around the country.

From a classic American musical to a classic of the modern stage, the season continues in the new year with Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull.” Unrequited love and artistic aspiration drive the lives of Chekhov’s characters, especially Nina and Konstantin, the young couple in the play’s center. In Chekhov’s world, ambition and desire are not enough. Perseverance is what matters.

Paula Vogel (“How I Learned to Drive” recently at Syracuse Stage and the Tony-nominated “Indecent” currently on Broadway) wrote her 1992 Obie Award-winning play “The Baltimore Waltz” in response to her brother’s death from complications from AIDS. In the play, she imagines a wild European adventure for a brother and sister—Vogel and her brother had planned such a trip—that turns into a quest for a cure for a fictional disease. Though broadly funny, “The Baltimore Waltz” has been hailed by critics as “a profound and timeless play about death and grief and remembrance.”

The season closes with the ever-popular “Little Shop of Horrors.” With music by Alan Menken (“The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lion King” and many more), this quirky, comic musical ran for five years Off-Broadway before becoming a Broadway hit and a major motion picture.

The Department of Drama season runs Oct. 6, 2017, through May 12, 2018. Season subscriptions ($99) and flexible 4Packs ($60) are available through the Syracuse Stage Box Office (315-443-3275) or at Discounts are available for seniors, students and Syracuse University employees.

Crazy for You
October 6-15
Music and Lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin 
Book by Ken Ludwig 
Co-conception by Ken Ludwig and Mike Ockrent 
Inspired by Material by Guy Bolton and John McGowan 
Originally produced on Broadway by Roger Horchow and Elizabeth Williams 
Original Broadway Choreography by Susan Stroman
Directed and Choreographed by Brian J. Marcum
Musical Direction by Brian Cimmet

Take some of the greatest songs ever written for Broadway and Hollywood, mix them with a fabulous let’s-put-on-a-show style story and the result is the joyous Gershwin celebration “Crazy for You.” When a stage-stuck, wealthy, Manhattan ne'er-do-well named Bobby Child finds himself in a broken down Nevada mining town, he sets his sights on rescuing a bankrupt theater and loses his heart to the beautiful and talented Polly Baker. Boy meets girl, Times Square meets tumbleweed and great music meets great dancing. Who could ask for anything more?

The House of the Spirits
November 10–18
A new play with songs by Caridad Svich
Based on the novel by Isabel Allende
Directed by Celia Madeoy

Isabel Allende’s best-selling and critically acclaimed debut novel comes to vivid life in this powerful and poetic stage adaptation. In an unnamed South American country, a young woman endures a grueling imprisonment for unspecified political reasons. Her name is Alba and she is the youngest of three generations of women from the Trueba family. In her isolation and fear, she bears witness to dream-like memories of a family history shaped by the volatile patriarch Esteban. She wonders what the lives of her mother and grandmother can offer her now and asks how her plight can change the hard and harsh Esteban.

The Wizard of Oz*
November 29–December 31
By L. Frank Baum
With Music and Lyrics from the MGM Motion Picture Score
By Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg
With Background Music by Herbert Stothart
Book Adaptation by John Kane from the motion picture screenplay
Directed by Donna Drake
Choreography by 2 Ring Circus
Musical Direction by Brian Cimmet
Co-produced with Syracuse Stage

The Syracuse University Department of Drama and Syracuse Stage team up with New York’s 2 Ring Circus to create a dazzlingly acrobatic take on “The Wizard of Oz.” This stage adaptation contains all your favorite characters and songs from the Oscar winning movie score, including “Over the Rainbow,” “We’re Off to See the Wizard (Follow the Yellow Brick Road)” and more. The cirque-like feats of 2 Ring Circus make it an “Oz”—and a holiday family treat—like you’ve never seen before. Great songs and L. Frank Baum’s beloved characters make this musical a classic.

The Seagull
February 23 – March 4
By Anton Chekhov
Directed by Rob Bundy

“The comedy has three female roles, six male roles, four acts, a view of a lake, much conversation about literature . . . and five tons of love.” So wrote Anton Chekhov to a friend about The Seagull, the 1895 play that established his reputation as a playwright and catapulted the famed Moscow Art Theatre to prominence. It’s all quite simple: Medvedenko loves Masha who loves Konstantin who loves Nina who loves Trigorin who’s involved with Arkadina. Meanwhile, Paulina is married to Shamreyev, but she pines for Dr. Dorn.  What could go wrong? “So much love! Oh, that bewitching lake!”

The Baltimore Waltz
March 30 – April 8
By Paula Vogel
Directed by Katherine McGerr

Paula Vogel is a master of finding humor in life’s dark corners. “The Baltimore Waltz,” written as a kind of theatrical eulogy to her beloved brother who died of AIDS in 1988, is a satiric and at times whacky comedy that charts a tale of a schoolteacher named Anna who takes a wild, lust-filled, last grab at life trip abroad after contracting a (fictional) fatal malady. As she indulges in food and romance, her brother Carl embarks on an absurd pursuit for a possible cure inspired by the classic film “The Third Man.” Reality and fantasy intermingle in this daringly comedic and ultimately heart-stirring play about love, loss, and coping with grief.

Little Shop of Horrors
May 4 - 12
Book by Howard Ashman
Music by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Howard Ashman
Based on the film by Roger Corman, screenplay by Charles Griffith
Directed by Brian Cimmet
Choreography by Andrea Leigh-Smith

In 1982 a space alien invaded Off-Off-Broadway and in a quest for world domination quickly spawned iterations Off-Broadway, in London’s West End, on film, on Broadway, on tours throughout America, in countries around the world and, most insidiously, in high schools and community theaters everywhere. Born of a low budget 1960s science fiction movie, the carnivorous plant-like alien named Audrey II arrived in a vehicle called “Little Shop of Horrors” and came armed with an infectious 50s/60s pop-inflected musical score and a delightfully quirky love story. Horticulture never seemed so dangerous or so much fun. Warning: don’t feed the plants. 

*Drama subscribers will receive vouchers redeemable for tickets to “The Wizard of Oz.”