Bristol Riverside Theatre moves into its third decade with a jam-packed season of three musicals, a heartwarming comedy and a contemporary drama. The 2017–2018 season features the Tony Award-winning musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee with music and lyrics by William Finn, book by Rachel Sheinkin, and conceived by Rebecca Feldman; Quartet by Ronald Harwood; the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Time Stands Still by Donald Margulies; the multiple Tony Award-winning musical The Producers with book by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan, and music and lyrics by Mel Brooks; and the madcap musical farce Triumph of Love based on the French farce play by Marivaux, with book by James Magruder, music by Jeffrey Stock, and lyrics by Susan Birkenhead.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee with music and lyrics by William Finn and book by Rachel Sheinkin opens the season on September 19–October 15, 2017 directed by Amy Kaissar. Six quirky and awkward adolescents face off in the battle of their lives. Telling tales from their home lives as they spell their hearts out, these fierce competitors hope to never hear the crushing “ding” of the bell that signals a mistake. Both tender and sarcastic, this joyful Tony Award-winning musical of overachievers’ angst brings audiences inside a spelling championship they’ll never forget.
Next up on October 31–November 19, 2017 is Quartet by Ronald Harwood a heartwarming comedy celebrating life, love and music. Cecily, Reggie and Wilf live in a home for retired opera singers, where they take part in an annual concert to celebrate Italian opera composer Giuseppe Verdi’s birthday. When opera great Jean Horton arrives just in time to sing at the concert, she’s asked to perform for the first time in over 20 years, and two friends and her ex-husband will do anything to make sure Jean takes this stage. Directed by Susan D. Atkinson, this funny and poignant play is a sweet ode to the art of growing old gracefully, culminating in a rousing, glorious finale.
Luner Lowdown: “While I am not sure if the region will laugh or cringe at “Spelling Bee” opening the season, it will still be a great one at BRT. With classics and contemporary, it should certainly meet audience expectations. As a photographer and former newspaper writer/editor, I am also thrilled with the choice to put on Time Stands Still”
The new year rings in with Donald Margulies’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play Time Stands Still, directed by Susan D. Atkinson, on January 23–February 11, 2018. Photographer Sarah and writer James work together as war correspondents. When a car bomb injures Sarah, she comes home to recuperate in the loft they share. It’s soon clear that she is eager to return to the action, while he’s relieved to be away from the terror and bloodshed. This Broadway hit play is a witty, intelligent look at ordinary life through the lens of war.
Spring brings back-to-back musicals both directed by BRT Artistic Director Keith Baker (featured right). First kicking off on March 6-April 1, 2018 is the ever-popular The Producers with book by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan and music and lyrics by Mel Brooks. The Producers opened on Broadway to historic, unanimous rave reviews, earning a record-breaking twelve Tony Awards. This laugh-out-loud musical is the story of scheming producer Max Bialystock and his mousy accountant Leo Bloom. They discover that under the right circumstances they could make more money producing a flop than a hit, never anticipating that their sure-to-offend musical will become a surprise sensation. This side-splitting tour-de-force spoofs grand, old-fashioned Broadway musicals while paying tribute to them all at the same time.
BRT closes the season with the farcical period-piece musical Triumph of Love with book by James Magruder, music by Jeffery Stock, and lyrics by Susan Birkenhead, running May 1-20, 2018. Love can make a woman do the strangest things. Set in the 18th century, this tongue-in-cheek musical follows the ruthless Princess Leonide as she literally wears the pants so her beloved Agis can return to his rightful throne. It’s not her fault if this deceptive dress-up causes the entire household to fall in love with her! With her confidante, Corine, by her side, Leonide must rescue her man before his stuffed-shirt uncle and sourpuss aunt find out who’s really beneath those ever-changing bodices and breeches. Based on the play by Marivaux, this madcap musical farce is a delightful celebration of springtime romance.
BRT continues to enhance the theater-going experience with pre-and post- performance programs during the run of each production, including: Post-Show Discussions (first Tuesday and Wednesday of each run); Opening Night (first Thursday of each run) featuring a post-performance reception; Friday Festival (first Friday of each run) featuring a guest speaker who provides background information on the production; Wine-Down Wednesday (second Wednesday evening of each run) featuring pre-show crudité, desserts, and wine complimentary of Got Wine?; Thirsty Thursday (third Thursday of each run) featuring unique beer selections from local breweries; and Theatre Theology (third Sunday of each run) featuring a post-show discussion on the religious themes and issues in the production.