Next Onstage ...

What's the future look like? Only our theater critic knows for sure.

For most South Floridians, late summer means numbing heat, hurricanes, and back-to-school specials. But for those astute and lucky New Times readers, the dog days of August also herald a revived arts scene. Within a month or so, dozens of theater companies up and down the tricounty coast will be primping and priming for their season premieres. A glance at the upcoming stagings, and it appears that the healthy trend toward new, even local, plays and issue-driven stories continues, though classic drama makes an appearance at many a theater. Here's a peek at what lies behind some of the curtains this year:

The Broward Center for the Performing Arts (954-462-0222), as is to be expected, will host an array of touring musicals, beginning with Rent (August 27-September 1), followed by The Lion King, Jesus Christ Superstar, Aida, and Contact. The center gives over stage space to an impressive slate of comedians and comedy troupes.

Broward

Alvaro Diaz-Rubio

The Mosaic Theatre (954-577-8243) mounts an ambitious six-show season that kicks off with the wacky comedy The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) (September 12-29). After that the not-so-wacky Holocaust drama, A Shayna Maidel; David Mamet's The Woods; Nicky Silver's urban comedy Food Chain; William Finn's latest musical A New Brain; and John Steinbeck's classic Of Mice & Men.

Public Theatre of South Florida opens its fifteenth season with Jeffrey (October 4-27), a comedy about one gay man's crazed love life, and the season moves along strongly from there, with Lanford Wilson's The Fifth Of July and Pastrami on Rye, a world premiere set in a kosher deli in Hell. Then Edward Albee's Three Tall Women; a new family comedy, The Wearing of the Greenblatts; the Public's new play fest, An Evening of Winners; and the season finale, a new adaptation of Seneca's Oedipus.

One of South Florida's few acting ensembles, the Sol Theatre Project (954-525-6555), enters its second season with yet another tasty menu: Christopher Woods' Murmurs (opens September 20) is a series of twelve monologues from twelve different characters. On deck: As You Like It, Gertrude Stein and a Companion, the Obie Award-winning fantasy Marisol, and Sam Shepard's rock 'em sock 'em love story Fool for Love.

On The Boards Theatre Company (954-523-0506) celebrates its acquisition of a new space in Dania Beach with The Glass Menagerie (October 3-20), succeeded by the most ambitious play list in South Florida: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Arthur Miller's The Price, Christopher Renstrom's Widow's Walk, The Seagull, Julius Caesar, The Subject Was Roses, Congreve's The Way of the World, Measure for Measure, and The Miser. Whew!

Like New Theatre in Miami, the Hollywood Playhouse (954-538-5500) has already opened its season with Rachel & Julio (through August 25), which will be followed by Michael McKeever's Open Season, Avi Hoffman's latest romp Meshuggah-Nuns, and two musicals -- Phantom and Hello Dolly!


Palm Beach

Florida Stage (561-585-3433) sticks to its winning formula of contemporary, issue-oriented dramas, all either world premieres or Florida premieres. This year's lineup begins with a family comedy, The Last Schwartz (October 25-December 1), and continues with The Last Five Years, a romantic musical; The Cavalcaders, a bittersweet tale of a local barbershop quartet; and Constant Star, the story of civil-rights heroine Rosa Parks.

The Caldwell Theatre (561-241-7432) also keeps to its recent strategy -- well-crafted, well-mannered plays -- beginning with Terrence McNally's Master Class (October 25-December 15), a play about passion and opera and Maria Callas, last seen at the Coconut Grove Playhouse. After that, Park Your Car In Harvard Yard, The Countess, and a TBA.

The upstart Palm Beach Dramaworks (561-963-7997) returns after its initial season with a lineup of small-cast dramas to fit its teeny tiny theater in West Palm Beach: Driving Miss Daisy (November 1-24); two one-acters from Edward Albee, The American Dream & Zoo Story; James Yaffe's The Deadly Game; and Athol Fugard's The Road to Mecca.


Miami-Dade

The Coconut Grove Playhouse (305-442-4000) has thrown out a challenging lineup of musicals and topical dramas, a decided -- and happy -- departure from the safer programming of past seasons. The opener, Urban Cowboy, is a Broadway-bound musical based on the 1980 film, featuring music from same. Then comes Blue, a tale of an African-American family and the disruptive influence of a silky-voiced jazz crooner, with some star power from Leslie Uggams and Clifton Davis. The musical Romeo & Bernadette posits a time-traveling romance between a Renaissance Romeo and a mobster's daughter, while the Tin Pan Alley tunes of songmeister Al Dubin get a hearing in Boulevard of Broken Dreams. Lucie Arnaz (Desi's daughter) comes to town for Once Removed, Eduardo Machado's riches-to-rags drama about Cuban exiles struggling to make their way in Florida. Another name performer, Rue McClanahan, stars in Six Dance Lessons In Six Weeks. Two smaller projects are presented in the CGP's Encore Room: Yazmin Reza's The Unexpected Man (Reza's Art was a previous Playhouse hit), and Addicted: A Comedy of Substance, a one-man show about the hard road back from drug abuse.

Coral Gables' New Theatre (305-443-5909) is already well into its new season, which began this summer with Hamlet and continues now with Tom Walker (through September 17). Then comes Ybor City, a world-premiere romantic drama about Cubans in nineteenth-century America from our own Nilo Cruz; Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol; Richard Nelson's Madame Melville; and a crafty tale of art forgery, The Credeaux Canvas. The ever-popular TBA finishes out the season.

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