South Florida theater is in an exciting place as the 2023-24 season begins. Immersive theater productions, thanks to the groundbreaking past work of Juggerknot Theatre Company and Area Stage’s innovative productions of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Little Mermaid,” have inspired other companies to try new ways of staging shows.
And a host of world premieres – from Moisés Kaufman, Nilo Cruz, Vanessa Garcia, Christopher Demos-Brown, Edwidge Danticat, Aurin Squire, Marco Ramirez, Carmen Pelaez, Rogelio Martinez, William Hector and more – will bring fresh, refreshingly diverse stories to our far-flung stages.
Here is just some of what’s in store for the season.
Miami debut at Actors’ Playhouse
“Sweet Goats and Blueberry Señoritas,” Nov. 8-Dec. 3, Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre, Coral Gables.
Actors’ Playhouse the Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables is kicking off its season with the Florida premiere of a play by two celebrated Cuban-American, Miami-raised writers: Richard Blanco, who read his poem “One Today” at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, and playwright Vanessa Garcia, whose career is soaring amid one world premiere after another (her “1,000 Miles” debuts at Fort Lauderdale’s New City Players in March).
“Sweet Goats” was commissioned by and had its world premiere at Maine’s Portland Stage in January, with Miami native Ashley Alvarez starring as Beatriz, a Cuban-American baker wrestling with whether she should stay in Maine or go back to Miami to mend fences with her estranged mother.
The musical crowd pleaser in Actors’ Playhouse’s season will obviously be “Legally Blonde The Musical” (Jan. 31-Feb. 25), because in our pink-saturated Barbie world, there’s no such thing as too much Elle Woods. But if musicals with meaning are more your style, don’t miss Jeanine Tesori and Tony Kushner’s “Caroline, or Change” (March 27-April 14). It’s a brilliant, semi-autobiographical work about personal and societal evolution, a Louisiana-set story inspired by the relationship of a young Jewish boy and the black woman working as his family’s maid.
“Peter Pan,” May 7-12, Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Miami; “Funny Girl,” Nov. 16-26, and “Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” March 5-17, Broward Center for the Performing Arts, Fort Lauderdale; “Jagged Little Pill,” Feb. 20-25, Kravis Center for the Performing Arts.
Favorites like “Hamilton” (March 13-24 at the Arsht, April 10-21 at the Kravis), “Les Misérables” (June 18-23 at the Arsht) and “The Book of Mormon” (Dec. 12-17 at the Broward Center) are returning. But why not experience something different?
The version of “Peter Pan” coming to the Arsht Center isn’t your great-grandparents’ “Peter Pan.” The beloved story of the flying boy who refuses to grow up has the same famous score, but this is a new adaptation by Native American playwright Larissa FastHorse.
The Broward Center schedule features a pair of spectacular musicals in “Funny Girl” (with Miamian Katerina McCrimmon as Fanny Brice and Grammy-winning pop star Melissa Manchester as her mother) and the lavish Tony Award-winning “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” (based on the spectacular Baz Luhrmann movie and featuring such time-traveling numbers as “Lady Marmalade,” “Single Ladies,” “Material Girl,” “Bad Romance,” “Rolling in the Deep” and dozens more).
Or take a road trip up to West Palm Beach to see “Jagged Little Pill” at the Kravis Center. Alanis Morissette’s music is used in telling the story of an imperfect American family, and it’s the work of such deep-bench Broadway talent as director Diane Paulus and book writer Diablo Cody.
Miami New Drama
“Las aventuras de Juan Planchard,” Oct. 17-Dec. 17, and “Dangerous Days,” April 4-28, Miami New Drama world premieres at the Colony Theatre, Miami Beach; “The Museum Plays,” beginning Jan. 11 (open-ended), Miami New Drama world premiere at the Rubell Museum, Miami.
Moisés Kaufman, the playwright-director known for “The Laramie Project,” “Gross Indecency,” “33 Variations” and the recent Broadway Musical “Paradise Square,” will premiere his first play written in Spanish – “Las aventuras de Juan Planchard” – at Miami New Drama, the company he co-founded with artistic director and fellow Venezuelan Michel Hausmann. Based on the best-selling novel by Jonathan Jakubowicz, the play (which will have English supertitles) explores the excesses of those who profited from the destruction of Venezuela’s democracy – and the country itself.
“Dangerous Days,” another world premiere by Nicholas Griffin based on his book “The Year of Dangerous Days,” journeys back to Miami in the 1980s as unparalleled Miami Herald police reporter Edna Buchanan – who became as famous as many of the larger-than-life characters she immortalized – discovers the police coverup of a black man’s murder.
For its third world premiere, Miami New Drama is going off site to Miami’s Rubell Museum. “The Museum Plays” are inspired by a half-dozen works of art that will be on display as the plays are performed. Those short pieces are by Edwidge Danticat, Marco Ramirez, Carmen Pelaez, Aurin Squire, Rogelio Martinez and Christopher Peña.
“Two Sisters and a Piano,” Jan. 18-Feb. 11, Miami New Drama at the Colony Theatre on Miami Beach; “A Park in Our House,” Nov. 9-12, and “The Night that Degas Visited Miami,” March 14-17, Arca Images world premiere production at Miami-Dade County Auditorium’s On.Stage Black Box in Miami.
As he demonstrated last season with the exquisite version of his Pulitzer Prize-winning “Anna in the Tropics” at Miami New Drama, Cuban-American playwright Nilo Cruz is an artistically adroit director of his own work. This season, theater lovers in Miami will have three opportunities to savor the poetic beauty of his storytelling as his words and staging intertwine.
At Miami New Drama, he’ll direct an English-language production of his “Two Sisters and a Piano,” a play about a pair of sisters under house arrest in Havana in 1991. For Arca Images, which has produced 15 plays written and directed by Cruz, his “A Park in Our House” will be presented in November, followed by the commissioned “The Night that Degas Visited Miami” in March. Both Arca Images productions will be in Spanish, with live English simultaneous translations.
“The Lehman Trilogy,” March 15-April 14, and “Laughs in Spanish,” May 17-June 9, at GableStage in the Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables.
Producing artistic director Bari Newport has assembled an ambitious, wide-ranging GableStage season, one that includes a solo show (“How I Learned What I Learned,” with Melvin Huffnagle as Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson), a satirical recent Broadway play (“The Thanksgiving Play” by Native American playwright Larissa FastHorse) and a searing play-with-music (“Old Wicked Songs” by Jon Marans).
Arguably the most challenging play in GableStage’s season, which artistic director Bari Newport will direct, is “The Lehman Trilogy” by Stefano Massini, adapted by Ben Power. Actors David Kwiat, Brandon Morris and Mark H. Dold will portray multiple characters in a three-part play that traverses 164 years as it traces the founding, rise and spectacular 2008 collapse of the global investment firm Lehman Brothers.
The most Miami-centric play in GableStage’s season is Alexis Scheer’s “Laughs in Spanish,” which had its world premiere at the Denver Center. Set in a Wynwood gallery during Art Basel, the wildly funny play by New World School of the Arts grad and former Miamian Scheer will be staged by Victoria Collado.
Immersive theater at The Kampong
“G7: 2070,” Oct. 19-21, world premiere at The Kampong, Miami.
Imagine, if you will – and playwright William Hector did – that 50 years into the future, the leaders of a climate-changed world have gathered to negotiate, spar, scheme and just maybe save the planet.
Perched on the Atlantic Coastal Ridge and surrounded by a flooded Miami, the Kampong of the future will draw two leaders each from seven altered nations: The People’s Republic of China, The Union State of Russia, The European Papal Federation, The Oriental Republic of Uruguay, The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, The Walt Disney Nation and The United States of America.
Each theatergoer – 70 per performance – will align with one of the nations to pitch in on saving the planet. Victoria Collado, who staged the complex immersive hit “The Amparo Experience,” will direct the piece, which will unfold in different Kampong structures and on its lush grounds.
“Clyde’s,” Nov. 2-19, and world premiere of “Wicked Child,” Jan. 11-28, Zoetic Stage productions in the Carnival Studio Theater at the Arsht Center, Miami.
Miami’s Zoetic Stage opens its season with Lynn Nottage again with “Clyde’s,” the two-time Pulitzer Prize winner’s Broadway comedy about a truck-stop sandwich shop staffed by former prisoners and the boss who works relentlessly to keep them under her elaborately manicured thumb.
David Rosenberg’s “Wicked Child” is one of two Zoetic world premieres this season (the other is “Cuban Chicken Soup When There’s No More Café,” Elena Maria Garcia and Stuart Meltzer’s follow-up to their hit play “¡FUÁCATA! A Latina’s Guide to Surviving the Universe”). Workshopped at Zoetic’s Finstrom New Play Festival, “Wicked Child” centers on the repercussions within a secular Jewish family when a successful New York lawyer decides to join the Israeli Defense Force.
Not a world premiere but something new for Zoetic is its immersive production of the dancing-toward-doom musical “Cabaret,” pairing Carbonell Award winners Lindsey Corey as the effervescent yet self-destructive singer Sally Bowles and Elijah Word as the mesmerizing Emcee.
Carnival Studio Theater
“La Gringa,” City Theatre production Nov. 30-Dec. 17, and “The Addams Family,” Area Stage production Feb. 7-25, both in the Carnival Studio Theater at the Arsht Center in Miami.
In addition to Zoetic Stage, the Arsht Center’s Carnival Studio Theater is home to two other impactful, award-winning companies.
City Theatre complements its popular, nationally known Summer Shorts Festival (set for June 6-23, 2024) with an end-of-the-year full-length play. Carmen Rivera’s comedy “La Gringa,” which follows a young woman born and raised in New York as she takes her first trip to her extended family’s home in Puerto Rico in search of her identity. The play has been running for more than 25 years at New York’s Repertorio Español, making it the longest-running Spanish-language play in Off-Broadway history. City will present the bilingual version, with supertitles.
Area Stage artistic director Giancarlo Rodaz will continue his exploration of immersive productions with “The Addams Family” (you’ll hang with the family in their spooky mansion).
Best in Broward
If you live in Broward and love theater, you’re probably aware of how the county’s companies are flourishing. But Miami-Dade arts fans owe themselves a visit to discover just how much the theater scene to the north has to offer.
Did you know that Wilton Manors has its own sizzling theater district on North Dixie Highway, right across the street from the great dinner-and-drinks spot Union Kitchen & Bar?
Island City Stage
The LGBTQ+-focused Island City Stage got there first, and this season’s highlights include the late Terrence McNally’s now-classic “Love! Valour! Compassion!” (Oct. 12-Nov. 5), Patricia Kane’s lesbian-themed musical “Pulp” (April 11-May 5) and Kris Andersson (aka Dixie Longate from “Dixie’s Tupperware Party”) in Charles Busch’s “Die, Mommie, Die!” (Aug. 29-Sept. 24, 2024).
New City Players
Also presenting its work in the Island City space is New City Players, whose season includes the world premiere of Vanessa Garcia’s “1,000 Miles,” a piece about the struggles of a woman trying to build a new life in a city 1,000 miles from home (March 7-24), and Tennessee Williams’ great “A Streetcar Named Desire,” which will be directed by Zoetic Stage’s Stuart Meltzer and star a trio of wonderful New City actors – producing artistic director Timothy Mark Davis, associate artistic director Elizabeth Price and content manager/costume designer Casey Sacco (July 11-Aug. 4).
Next door to Island City is The Foundry, home to the LGBTQ+ company Plays of Wilton and its indefatigable sparkplug of a leader, Ronnie Larsen. The playwright-producer-actor is starting his season with a new production of Michael McKeever’s sly comedy “Clark Gable Slept Here” starring McKeever and directed by Meltzer, who staged the 2014 world premiere for Zoetic Stage (the play runs through Oct. 15). The Dan Clancy-Lynn Portas musical “108 Waverly” about two gay couples who live in the same apartment 100 years apart follows (Nov. 2-Dec. 10), as does a run of Adam Sank performing his solo comedy “Bad Dates” (Nov. 5-15) and the return of Larsen’s own earlier hit “The Prisoners” (Dec. 14-30). And after the huge success of Jane Chambers’s “Last Summer at Bluefish Cove,” Larsen also has more shows planned under his Women of Wilton partnership with Thinking Cap Theatre’s Nicole Stodard.
Slow Burn Theatre
Regional company Slow Burn Theatre’s eclectic productions of big musicals in the Broward Center’s smaller Amaturo Theater are often of such high quality that some mistake them for touring shows. This season Slow Burn is starting with Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” (Oct. 13-29) and ending with “The SpongeBob Musical” (June 7-23), with “The Little Mermaid” (Dec. 15-31), “Sister Act” (Feb. 2-18) and “The Prom” (March 22-April 7) in between.
Thinking Cap Theatre
New this season to the Broward Center is Thinking Cap Theatre, producing artistic director/founder Nicole Stodard’s creatively bold, award-winning company. It will produce a pair of shows in the center’s Abdo New River Room: avant-garde Cuban-American playwright Maria Irene Fornés’s first play “Tango Palace” (Oct.-27-Nov. 3) and William Shakespeare’s biting battle of the sexes “The Taming of the Shrew” (March 22-April 3).
Best in Palm Beach County
If you’re a fan of new (or newer) work, Boca Raton’s professional Theatre Lab on the Florida Atlantic University campus should be a destination company. In addition to its New Play Festival (March 8-10), every production in Theatre Lab’s four-show season is a Florida or United States premiere, and Idris Goodwin’s “What’s Best for the Children” (April 10-28) is a couldn’t-be-more-timely world premiere about the first black chairman of a state schoolboard committee that’s about to vote on critical public education measures. Another don’t-miss play: Deborah Zoe Laufer’s “Rooted” (Jan. 31-Feb. 18), developed in part at Theatre Lab and directed by the playwright.
Palm Beach Dramaworks
A pair of world premieres is set for West Palm Beach’s Palm Beach Dramaworks, which will also honor its devotion to American classics with a production of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” (March 29-April 14).
Jenny Connell Davis’s “The Messenger” (Dec. 8-24) is about a Hungarian Holocaust survivor, a young American woman facing racial discrimination, and the battle between speaking out and self-preservation. Miamian Christopher Demos-Brown, whose “American Son” was produced on Broadway in 2018-19, has written a new play about cancel culture. “The Cancellation of Lauren Fein” (Feb. 2-18) looks at Lauren Fein and her wife Paula Muñoz, professors at a prestigious university; their 16-year-old black foster son; and how their lives are upended when Fein’s actions and the school’s diversity, equity and inclusion policies come into conflict.